From my point of view, one of the greatest love stories of all time has rarely been recognized as such. In fact, if you have read the story, you probably did not recognize it as a love story at all.
The particular story I am talking about is the story of Adam and Eve.
When Adam was placed on the earth, he was a perfect physical and mental specimen made in the likeness and image of God. But Adam had a basic weakness. He had no memory of where he came from or of what he had known before he was placed on the earth. He was required to learn everything from scratch.
After Adam was created, the Father told the Son: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” (Gen. 2:18.) The scriptures do not use the word helpmate or helpmeet, but meet, which means of the same worthiness, the same intelligence, the same quality or nobility, worthy to stand beside the man as a fit companion and helper.
So Eve was created and became Adam’s companion and wife. And since at that time death had not yet entered into the world, their marriage was to endure for all eternity.
Now comes the great love story.
When Adam saw Eve, that glorious being who had been sealed to him as his wife, he was filled with love for her, for she had been taken symbolically from the rib next to his heart. She was not taken from his head to stand over him, nor from his breast to go before him, nor from his back to walk behind him, nor from his foot to be trodden upon. She was taken symbolically from his side—close to his heart to stand by him as a noble companion. He said: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Gen. 2:23.) Of marriages such as theirs, the Savior said: “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matt. 19:6.)
One of the things that concerns Church leaders about marriage, and particularly about temple marriage and sealing, is the light-mindedness with which some of our members enter into this holy and eternal order. It appears that too many people enter into a temple marriage with the idea that it is pretty much like any other type of marriage. But a temple marriage is performed under special priesthood authority from God. It is therefore a holy ordinance which should be taken very seriously. Temple marriage is meant to last forever.
Many Church members fail to understand the sacredness of the temple marriage covenant. It is as if they say: “If this marriage doesn’t work out, we can make a change. If I tire of my partner, I can get a cancellation of this sealing and try it again with another companion!” If we enter into a celestial marriage with that attitude, whatever love formed the basis for that relationship in the first place will sooner or later change to dislike, perhaps even hatred.
How does love die in a marriage? Let us observe the great difference between the attitudes and actions of Jehovah and Lucifer. They represent the difference between love and hatred.
Jesus did not think only of himself, but caught the greater view of true love which the Father holds. Jesus thought not only of his own interests, but also of others and what he could do for them. Jesus knew the Father’s plan of salvation was vital for the growth and development of mankind. He unselfishly offered to give his own future mortal life as a Savior for us. Thereby, we might all return to the presence of our Heavenly Father and Mother. We could return to them with perfected, resurrected bodies having gained greater light and knowledge through experiences received during mortality so that during the eternities we can continue to become more like our Father and Mother in Heaven.
On the other hand, Lucifer thought of himself. He thought he knew more about life than God the Father did. In his arrogance and vanity he wanted to force us to be righteous, whether or not we wanted to be. As for the Father’s plan, Lucifer’s advice to the spirit children of God was: “Believe it not.” Hatred begins with selfishness, and certainly Satan’s selfishness led to hatred.
This plan of selfishness is the Satanic gospel which Lucifer is preaching today and which so many are deceived into accepting. People who do so fail to see its traps and pitfalls. It is a gospel of opposition that tears down, destroys, denigrates, and makes things ugly. In marriage, it results in families torn apart by contention, dissention, and wickedness.
Jesus says simply: “Believe!” Believing in the gospel is the difference between the beautiful and the ugly, between love and hatred, between eternal joy and eternal sorrow. What a difference believing makes in courtship and marriage!
If we are to understand the importance of a temple marriage, we must believe with all our hearts that we are spirit children of God. It is imperative to realize that we are all of divine origin, that God is real, and that He lives. Our heavenly parents want us back with them. That is their goal, their work, and their glory. But we must exercise faith in that divine plan in order to live righteously and keep the covenants which make that return possible. Failures may come, disappointments may arise, some opportunities may be lost, but if we maintain faith in God’s love and try as best we can to recognize and repent of whatever mistakes we make, we will return to the presence of God. That is the promise God gives us.
The thing to remember is that Jesus Christ is our Anointed Savior. He loves each of us so much that He gave His life to atone for our sins, if we repent and sanctify ourselves. This means that whenever we make a mistake we must admit it and renew our covenants by recommitting ourselves (with the help of Jesus Christ) to keep those covenants in the future; to make restitution for those sins, often through service to others; and finally to forsake whatever evil was done, and with the help of God never return to these or similar acts of disobedience.
Such a course of action is also the foundation for both courtship and marriage. In marriage, the true love of Christ involves unselfish service to our husband or wife.
Our Heavenly Father expects each of us to be wise. When you choose an eternal partner for marriage, you should not rush into such an important covenant without knowing your partner as thoroughly as you reasonably can. To marry a person you have known only a short time is most unwise. That person’s faith as well as your own faith first needs to be tested. Is that person honest and reliable in keeping his or her commitments? In other words, can he or she be trusted? This is an important question in marriage, for to be trusted is greater than to be loved.
My special assignment for the past six years has been to assist the First Presidency in recovering people who have transgressed. In doing so I have come to understand some of the behaviors that lead to transgression. What are they? Generally they are various personal indulgences based on selfishness. One of the greatest of these is the use of pornography. Pornography is related to such sins as self abuse, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, child and spouse abuse, incest, rape, and cruelty. No love ever develops out of the use of pornography.
To protect yourself against such evils, you have to stay clean yourself and have a clean partner. You should get to know something about the history of your partner and his or her family. You have to observe what habits and ideals that person has and what experiences that person has had. You should know something about the environment in which that person was raised.
To marry a person who has difficulty with honesty or the Word of Wisdom, as examples, thinking to reform that person through marriage is seldom successful. If repentance is to occur, that change must take place before marriage, not after. And what change takes place must be so complete there is little likelihood that former traits or habits will recur in marriage.
Abuse is another problem that often stems from a person’s experiences as a child. When children who have been physically abused marry, they tend to abuse their own children physically unless the healing influence of the Savior has shown them a new way. The same is true for other kinds of abuse. Children suffering from incestuous relationships all too often themselves turn to incestuous activities when they marry. A boy who sees his mother physically abused will all too often physically abuse his own wife. Parents seldom realize the serious impact such reprehensible behavior has on the actions of their children. It affects their lives materially, emotionally, and spiritually.
Another cause of unhappiness in marriage is immaturity. When people marry too young, they are not prepared physically, mentally, or financially for the strains in marriage. As children are added to the family, the duties and responsibilities of parenthood bear down on the marriage partners. Faced with these kinds of pressure, a young couple soon finds that even professed love, physical attraction, and romantic inclination do not provide the necessary income to live on, the nourishing meals, and the resources for responding to emergencies.
If you are prepared for the marriage venture, it can be a glorious, wonderful experience. But if you are immature and lack proper preparation, marriage can be a disaster.
One thing I have noticed in studying numerous cases is that divorce seldom solves marriage problems. The heartbreak that comes from the break-up of a family is one of the greatest tragedies of our modern world. The traumatic effect which divorce has on children is almost impossible to assess. Children of divorced parents often become so resentful that they enter adulthood bitter and unhappy. When it comes time for them to marry, their chances for a successful marriage are frequently handicapped by their memories of the difficulties, quarrels, and hurts they saw in their parents’ marriages.
Divorce creates other problems as well. Financial settlements are usually inadequate to care for a family, and divorced wives often find it difficult to provide for their children. When a mother has to find work to support her children, resentment and sorrow soon follow. Husbands who are indifferent and careless and thereby cause divorces, or husbands who desert families and divorce their wives find that their subsequent marriages only add to their financial and emotional burdens. Divorce is usually a no-win option and can seldom be relied on as a solution to marital problems.
The great burden of marriage counselors is most often to help the husband and wife find a way out of the hatred and resentment that has built up in their marriage. The solution almost always lies in repentance and forgiveness. Resentment and anger leads to tearful actions.
Oh, if people could only learn to forgive! I refer often to Doctrine and Covenants, section 64, verse 9: “Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.” [D&C 64:9]
The Lord continues his teaching in verse 10: “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” [D&C 64:10] I find here an answer for some who refuse to forgive themselves and who make themselves miserable by continually talking about their sins. They say, “I just can’t forgive myself for the things I have done.” I reply, “Do you think you are more holy than the Lord? If He is willing to forgive you, shouldn’t you be willing to forgive yourself now that you have repented of your sin?”
We must remember the love of Jesus as he taught us to be kind one to another. He said: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14–15.)
When, oh when, will we learn that love can overcome hatred and that kindness and humility really can restore love?
Now, one piece of advice to those who have never had a companion through no fault of their own, or to those who have lost companions in death or through divorce or desertion. Do not despair or think that all is lost! Remember that you are children of God. Have faith in your Heavenly Father. Don’t worry about what will happen to you after death. Don’t worry about who might marry you or who will receive your children who were born in the covenant. Death does not end the possibility for solutions to what are often very difficult present problems.
Our main concern in this life need only be that we live a Christlike life as nearly as we can. If we so endure in living a life of love and forgiveness, that great story, begun in mortality by Adam and Eve, can be our story too.