The term husband, originally associated with the marriage covenant, is frequently used in the scriptures to identify those who labored in the vineyards and fields of Palestine. The title applied to these individuals was “husbandman.” The dictionary tells us that a husbandman is a specialist in the art of propagating, nourishing, protecting, cultivating, and judiciously managing the fruit of the field.
Indeed, the responsibilities associated with creating, developing, and managing either a family or an agricultural enterprise are in many ways similar. It is easy to see how the husband’s role and title would be adopted to describe those who tilled the ground, and in modern times applied to those who tend the flocks—animal husbandry.
Several scriptures link spiritual husbandry with the human family. The apostle Paul declared that we are “God’s husbandry.” (1 Cor. 3:9.) Jehovah used the term husband to describe his relationship with ancient Israel: “… I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; … I was an husband unto them.” (Jer. 31:32.)
Husband is surely a word rich in meaning. It is in accounts of the Creation that the term first appears. Our Heavenly Father referred to Adam and Eve as husband and wife, as he defined their basic relationship to each other. (Gen. 3:16–17; Moses 4:22–23.) Adam was told of his responsibility to respect divine law and provide for his family. Eve was to be a helpmate and “labor with him.” (Moses 5:1.)
This original source of power for the refinement and development of a husband resided in a priesthood covenant to obey the commandments of God. In turn Eve was to be obedient and responsive in support of her husband’s righteous leadership. Every husband can still reap the benefits of this blessing by keeping the eternal laws as they are revealed to him in his culture. (Alma 29:8.)
Emphasizing this spiritual foundation of marriage, the apostle Paul indicated to his generation that the husband is enjoined to be the head of his wife as “Christ is the head of the church. …” (Eph. 5:23.) A husband is responsible for his wife and to his Heavenly Father; he is to love his wife and be willing to sacrifice for her even as Christ gave himself for the church. (Eph. 5:25.) In this manner, the power of the priesthood can work through the divine channel of marriage and with love purify and cleanse the family unit, sanctifying it through removing that which is ungodly.
Within this priesthood-ordered pattern, wives are to submit themselves to their husbands even as their husbands submit themselves to the Lord. (Eph. 5:22–33.) The wife’s desire is to be to her husband, and her husband is to “rule over” her (Moses 4:22) in harmony with the rules governing the power of the patriarchal priesthood (D&C 121:41–44). The agency and individuality of wife and children must be held inviolate. Obedience is to grow from desire rather than force. (Moses 4:3; Hel. 14:30.)
Thus, the grave responsibility of every husband is to become one with the Lord so that his relationship with his wife will be one of “due benevolence,” a reciprocating and sensitive oneness where “the wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” (1 Cor. 7:3–4.) This provision emphasizes the importance of achieving and maintaining a state of moral maturity so the husband truly is capable of leaving father and mother and cleaving unto another in kindness and gentleness. (Moses 3:24.)
Repeatedly the scriptures sanction this holy relationship of marriage, which allows women legally to claim support from their husbands for their children and themselves. (See D&C 83:1–2.) Alma also speaks of the “sacred support” (Alma 44:5) that husbands owe to their wives and children, even to the risking of their own lives.
The Savior exhorted husbands to “pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.” (3 Ne. 18:21.) And Jacob observed that the Lamanites of his day were blessed because the husbands loved their wives, the wives loved their husbands, and the husbands and wives loved their children. (Jacob 3:7.)
Any other family relationship tends toward degradation, unhappiness, and destruction. This is witnessed by the accounts of wicked King Noah (Mosiah 11:14–15) and the atrocious behavior of a fallen people during Moroni’s day (Moro. 9:7–10).
The scriptural objective laid before every husband is to exhibit charity—the pure love of Christ, which encompasses but transcends all other love and is generated through obedience to divine law. (D&C 88:125.)
If a husband really desires a wife who will delight in his soul (D&C 25:14), if he wants to live in the joy of a delicious relationship such as young husbands in ancient Israel were encouraged to cultivate during their first year of marriage (Deut. 24:5) and then maintain forever through a continuing courtship (Prov. 5:18–19; Eccl. 9:9), it is possible. The perfect formula for such marital bliss and constant eternal companionship may be summarized in the following:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (See 1 Cor. 13:4–7.)
Bringing this Christ-like love into marriage is both the opportunity and the challenge afforded every husband as he exercises leadership in his own family.