“I see her hand in everything worthwhile that has happened in my life.” “She is among the sweetest, kindest, and wisest of all Latter-day Saint mothers.”
“I feel that I journey here below with an angel.”
These heartfelt tributes are only three of many that were received in letters from Latter-day Saint husbands as part of a special Ensign project—a survey among stake presidencies; bishoprics, and branch presidencies that was intended to reveal some specific things about what husbands really appreciate in their wives. In the examples and testimonies these men shared, we see women doing much more than simply “being there” as they support and sustain their husbands; we see companionships guided by the only sure sense of direction, an eternal perspective.
Because these husbands are aware of which kingdom they are seeking, the things they appreciate most in their companions are those things that further their progress toward that goal—a celestial relationship.
One of the attributes these husbands prize most highly in their wives is testimony. This is manifest in many ways. For example, almost without exception they appreciate their wives’ understanding of the demands on their time. One man’s statement is representative: “My wife never complains, no matter how often I have to be away from home. She knows the work is true and always encourages me to fulfill my assignments.”
One wife insists on helping her husband milk the cows so that he can get to his early morning meetings on time. Another considerate wife once took lunch to her husband and his fellow priesthood leaders between stake conference meetings, thus freeing a significant period of time for them to meet with a General Authority. A busy husband decided to let his home teaching go for a few more days when he realized that he hadn’t made appointments with his families on the evening that he had free. When he got home, however, “I was met with a list of appointments. My wife had remembered and had set up the appointments for that evening. At first my ego was a little deflated, but after I had finished the assignments, I felt relieved and grateful, grateful to my wife for her faithfulness.”
Many husbands have been humbled by the commitment of their wives. One remembers being deeply impressed when his wife, during a time of crisis, asked him to “talk to the Lord and prepare the way for us to receive our answer.” A Colorado father who could see his wife tending their three children, two of them under a year old, remembers, “I shed tears of joy and pride as I watched her, uncomplaining in any way.”
Many husbands appreciate how faithful their wives are in their own callings, further reassuring their husbands of their commitment to the gospel and their determination to build the kingdom of God. Indeed, this determination is a factor in the activity of many of these priesthood leaders themselves, for a surprising number of them were at one time either nonmembers or inactive priesthood holders. A not infrequent comment is this: “She absolutely would not marry me until I became worthy to go to the temple.”
One man, now a bishop, was deeply touched when his wife appealed to him to make himself worthy to baptize their daughter. He was able to baptize her shortly after she turned eight. Another husband recounted his wife’s insistence on absolute honesty and cleanliness of thought as the factor that turned his life around: “Many years ago I had polluted my mind with unclean thoughts and stories. One night at a party I told an off-color story, and she gave me her ‘special look,’ and said quietly, ‘This is not the man I married.’ Nothing more was said, nor was it needed.” From that point on he began to change his life.
Yet another matter that drew sincere appreciation was the homemaking skills of the wives. They were organized; they were careful to see that meals were planned so that their husbands could be where they needed to be on time; the husband could always count on having clean clothes to wear; he could feel comfortable in the neat and warm surroundings of his home.
Most important in the minds of these fathers was the secure feeling that came with knowing their wives loved their children and took good care of them—that they were willing to take whatever time and whatever effort was necessary to see that the children were nurtured in the faith. One Utah mother of three boys learned skiing, hunting, camping, and fishing—things she had never done before her marriage—because, as she put it, “When I found we were going to have three boys and no girls, I decided I would have to become interested in boy things if I wanted to have a good relationship with my sons.”
The most impressive theme, however, was their appreciation—sometimes eloquent, sometimes halting—for the deep bonds of love between man and woman. Said one, “In our 5 1/2 years of marriage there has never been a day that she hasn’t told me she loves me. Not one! With that kind of love radiating in our home, how could I fail?”
A brother from Wyoming tells of a time when he had been discouraged, worried about his business, and heavily burdened with Church responsibilities. He went to an evening meeting, sat down, and wondered, ‘What are you doing here? You won’t absorb one thought at this meeting.’ I opened my notebook, and there inside was a short note from my wife letting me know that she loves me. That was a very special meeting that night.”
Gratefully they mention the tact and courtesy of that love—a consideration evident in a wife correcting her husband in the right spirit when he makes mistakes or gets his priorities confused, in greeting him with a warm smile and saving problems for an appropriate moment, in keeping private things private, and especially in sustaining him as the leader in the home.
One father expressed it this way: “My sweetheart always builds me up in the eyes of the children so much that I have to work harder to live up to their expectations.” And another: “Nothing inspires me to be a better father, Church worker, and provider for my family than to overhear my wife telling these little ones, yet too small to really understand, how hard I work in their and the Lord’s service. It never fails to make me stand a little taller and increase my resolve to do better and never to fail in these responsibilities.”
It is love like this that seems to make the picture complete, that seems to stand as evidence that these couples have, on the whole, established themselves in roles that approach eternal models. However vague in detail these models might be—as ill-defined as love itself, as difficult to specify in minute detail—in these families is evident a true sense of direction.
Coming from such love is the final tribute of one Nevada husband, in which he speaks the thoughts of many: “I could never thank God and her wonderful parents enough for my wife. I do not believe we could be happier in the celestial kingdom.”