Marriage Is Intended to Be Forever


Elder James A. Cullimore

My beloved brethren and sisters, as I stand before you here today I seek an interest in your faith and prayers as I deliver the things that I have in my heart.

Marriage in the temple for time and eternity should be the goal of every member of the Church, for marriage is ordained of God. Marriage is a commandment. Marriage was instituted by divine edict.

The Lord said: “And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.

“Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;

“And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.” (D&C 49:15–17.)

Marriage is a sacred relationship entered into primarily for the rearing of a family, in fulfillment of the commandments of the Lord.

Marriage with children, and the beautiful family relationship which can come of it, is the fulfillment of life. If things were as they should be, we would see a mother and father in a home having been married in the temple for time and eternity. The father honoring his priesthood, presiding in his home in righteousness. Father and mother loving each other and their children. Children loving and respecting each other and mother and father. All actively engaged in their church responsibilities. The Lord intended that marriage performed for eternity in the temple should endure forever. This was his plan. President Joseph Fielding Smith has said: “Marriage, as understood by Latter-day Saints, is a covenant ordained to be everlasting. It is the foundation for eternal exaltation, for without it there could be no eternal progress in the kingdom of God.” (Doctrines of Salvation [Bookcraft, 1967], vol. 2, p. 58.)

“What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9.) It is evident from the scriptures that marriage performed in the Lord’s way should not be dissolved.

It is sad, indeed, to see how lightly some take their marriage vows. There is great concern among the Brethren as to the increasing number of divorces in the Church today.

Even though the divorce rate among members of the Church is considerably less than the national rate, and the rate of divorce among those married in the temple is less than with those married civilly, yet the rate is alarmingly high.

Divorce is usually the result of one or both not living the gospel. I suppose this is the same reason divorce was finally permitted in the time of Moses, as referred to by the Savior as he answered the Pharisees, when he said: “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matt. 19:8.) And so in our day members do not abide by the law of the gospel in its fullness, and, as in the day of Moses, divorce is permitted, when deemed necessary, although it was never intended to be.

If, in marriage, both parties would make gospel standards and principles the basis of their marriage, few problems would arise they could not handle. When one or the other or both begin to compromise gospel standards, problems follow. Marriage is a sacred relationship, and good members of the Church would know that it is entered into primarily for the rearing of a family. Other important desires and plans in marriage should be well understood by both parties as well.

President McKay said, in reference to the seriousness with which we enter the marriage contract: “… to look upon marriage as a mere contract that may be entered into at pleasure in response to a romantic whim, or for selfish purposes, and severed at the first difficulty or misunderstanding that may arise, is an evil meriting severe condemnation, especially in cases wherein children are made to suffer because of such separation.” (Quoted in Blaine R. Porter, The Latter-day Saint Family [Deseret Book Co., 1966], pp. 402–403.)

Possibly to list some of the most common causes for which civil divorces are sought might be helpful in avoiding these problems: incompatibility, adultery, money matters, physical abuse, dishonesty, not living the gospel, infidelity, not honoring priesthood, desertion, constant bickering, apathy, drunkenness, uncontrolled temper.

Incompatibility has come to be such a common word, it seems to be the justification for many problems. I’m sure there are occasions where this is justified, but what is incompatibility? Doesn’t this indicate selfishness? Are we truly unselfish, do we love our neighbor as ourself when we are not compatible? Have we made every effort to compromise our likes and dislikes with those of our spouse? If we were truly living the gospel, there would be much less incompatibility.

President McKay said of incompatibility, “For a couple who have basked in the sunshine of each other’s love to stand by daily and see the clouds of misunderstanding and discord obscure the lovelight of their lives is tragedy indeed. In the darkness that follows, the love sparkle in each other’s eyes is obscured. To restore it, fruitless attempts are made to say the right word and to do the right thing; but the word and act are misinterpreted, and angry retort reopens the wound, and hearts once united become torn wider and wider asunder. When this heartbreaking state is reached, a separation is sought.” (Gospel Ideals [Improvement Era, 1953], p. 469.)

I have been shocked in learning the extent to which men are physically abusive to women. In the October conference of 1951 President McKay said, “I cannot imagine a man’s being cruel to a woman. I cannot imagine her so conducting herself as to merit such treatment. Perhaps there are women in the world who exasperate their husbands, but no man is justified in resorting to physical force or in exploding his feelings in profanity. There are men, undoubtedly, in the world who are thus beastly, but no man who holds the priesthood of God should so debase himself.” (Gospel Ideals, p. 476.)

The matter of disinterest, lack of voluntary expression, lack of affection are common causes for breakdown of marriage. President Harold B. Lee recently said this to a group of priesthood leaders: “I say to you brethren the most dangerous thing that can happen between you and your wife or between me and my wife is apathy, … for them to feel that we are not interested in their affairs, that we are not expressing our love and showing our affection in countless ways. Women to be happy have to be loved and so do men.” (Seminar for Regional Representatives of the Twelve, December 12, 1970, p. 6.)

To take lightly the law of chastity or to violate the moral teachings of the Savior is a sober matter. It seems incredible that priesthood holders and women who have been considered worthy to hold a recommend to the temple and be married therein are so often guilty of adultery, infidelity, and other sex sins.

In this day when so many women are working out of the home, as men and women work together, many homes are broken up by what at first starts to be an innocent association.

President McKay gave some sober direction to the men when he said, “A man who has entered into a sacred covenant in the house of the Lord to remain true to the marriage vow is a traitor to the covenant if he separates himself from his wife and family just because he has permitted himself to become infatuated with the pretty face and comely form of some young girl who flattered him with a smile. Even though a loose interpretation of the law of the land would grant such a man a bill of divorcement, I think he is unworthy of a recommend to have his second marriage performed in the temple.” (Gospel Ideals, p. 473.)

No matter what the reason for divorce, those usually hurt most are the children. Too often the children are robbed of the basic needs to prepare them for life.

President McKay said there are three fundamental things to which every child is entitled: (1) a respected name, (2) a sense of security, (3) opportunities for development. (The LDS Family, p. 406.) The possibility of any of these is lessened in divorce.

As Sister Cullimore and I went to the temple to be married, President George H. Brimhall [of Brigham Young University] called us into his office. He gave us some direction we have appreciated through the years. He said: “The four fountains that will keep your ‘Garden of Eden’ from becoming a desert are constant confidence, constant counsel, constant compromise, constant courtship.”

Important to any marriage is complete confidence—trust in all things. The confidence born of true love, never doubting, never questioning the integrity of each other. Someone has said: “Society is built upon trust, and trust upon confidence in one another’s integrity.”

To counsel with each other and make decisions together is so important to a happy marriage. Counsel which includes the whole family might build good family relationships.

Counseling with each other in all that is done will strengthen the bonds of marriage.

I suppose there is no surer need in marriage than constant compromise. It is through compromise that we grow closer to each other. As we acknowledge our own faults and recognize the virtues in the other and make the adjustments, we strengthen our marriage.

Henry Watterson has said: “I would compromise war. I would compromise glory. I would compromise everything at that point where hate comes in, where misery comes in, where love ceases to be love, and life begins its descent into the valley of the shadow of death. But I would not compromise Truth. I would not compromise the right.”

Constant courtship. President McKay has said: “The seeds of a happy married life are sown in youth. Happiness does not begin at the altar: it begins during the period of youth and courtship.” (Pathways to Happiness [Bookcraft, 1957], p. 49.)

Neither should courtship end at the altar. How important it is to constantly be conscious of our marriage and work at it every day we live, keeping alive our courtship by kind acts, thoughtfulness, and consideration always. Archibald F. Bennett, in his writings on family exaltation, expresses this beautifully: “Too many couples have come to the altar of marriage looking upon the marriage ceremony as the end of courtship instead of the beginning of an eternal courtship. Let us not forget that during the burdens of home life … that tender words of appreciation, courteous acts are even more appreciated than during those sweet days and months of courtship. It is after the ceremony and during the trials that daily arise in the home, that a word of ‘thank you,’ or ‘pardon me,’ ‘if you please,’ … will contribute to that love which brought you to the altar. … The wedding ring gives no man the right to be cruel or inconsiderate, and no woman the right to be slovenly, cross or disagreeable.” (The LDS Family, p. 236.)

May we keep sacred our marriage vows and live so that we might enjoy its eternal blessings, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.