Although I’ve read the Book of Mormon many times, I didn’t really think it had much to say about marriage. But a wise teacher once told me that if I searched the scriptures, I could find the answer to any of life’s problems. I took him at his word. I needed answers about my marriage.
My husband and I “were married … and were blessed according to the multitude of the promises which the Lord had made” (4 Ne. 1:11). So it seemed strange to me that after several years of being married and having children, I sometimes didn’t feel the same warm, fuzzy feelings that had first brought us together. Because we seldom held hands or went on dates together, I assumed he sometimes felt as I did.
In my heart I felt that if we truly had a celestial marriage, then everything should be heavenly most of the time. In a book on marriage given to us as a wedding gift, our stake president had written on the flyleaf the following quote from President Spencer W. Kimball: “Marriage can be more an exultant ecstasy than the human mind can conceive” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball , 305–6).
Actually, my mind could conceive quite a bit, and I didn’t feel too ecstatic. I had begun dwelling on the faults and problems in our relationship. Well, to be honest, I was dwelling on what I thought were my husband’s faults in our relationship. Then one day I happened to be studying in the Book of Mormon when I realized there really is counsel on marriage in the scriptures.
I was reading in the book of Alma, where a seemingly inordinate amount of scriptural verse is devoted to battles and war strategy. I was feeling anxious to move on when it occurred to me that Captain Moroni’s ploys could apply to me.
It seems that Zerahemnah, the wicked leader of the Lamanite army, sought to “stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites; this he did that he might usurp great power over them, and also that he might gain power over the Nephites by bringing them into bondage” (Alma 43:8).
Was I being stirred up to anger? Were there unseen enemies warring against me to usurp great power over me—over us? I thought of Church leaders who have made it clear how important marriage is. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
“No single issue causes more concern among the leaders of churches and the leaders of nations than the alarming rate of breakup of marriages today. … The breakup of the family is causing serious social problems that are destroying our communities—including increases in poverty, crime, and delinquency.
“The union between husband and wife is not something to be trifled with. The marriage covenant is essential for the Lord to accomplish His divine purposes. Consistently the Lord has declared that His divine laws were instituted to safeguard and protect the holy union between husband and wife” (“An Elect Lady,” Ensign, May 1995, 72).
The adversary knows how important marriage is and seeks to destroy the peace of married couples. I continued to read about what Captain Moroni did regarding the Lamanite menace. To safeguard his people, Moroni inspired them with a greater cause—that of fighting for their “wives, and their children, that they might preserve them from the hands of their enemies” (Alma 43:9). Furthermore, Captain Moroni knew that to adequately prepare his people for the onslaught of the enemy, he had to understand both their strengths and their weaknesses. Then he put his resources into fortifying the cities most vulnerable to attack.
When the armies of the Lamanites appeared, confident of success, they were stopped:
“But behold, to their astonishment, the city of Noah, which had hitherto been a weak place, had now, by the means of Moroni, become strong, yea, even to exceed the strength of the city Ammonihah.
“And now, behold, this was wisdom in Moroni” (Alma 49:14–15).
Like the Lamanites of old, the adversary seeks out our weakest areas. I decided, like Captain Moroni, that I would search out any weaknesses in my marriage so that I could fortify them and make “weak things become strong” (Ether 12:27). I felt I was making headway until I read a caution in 3 Nephi. By changing the word brother to spouse, I learned that I needed to proceed on my quest for weaknesses with great care:
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy [spouse’s] eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
“Or how wilt thou say to thy [spouse]: Let me pull the mote out of thine eye—and behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
“Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy [spouse’s] eye” (3 Ne. 14:3–5).
Keeping this scripture in mind, I identified three weak areas we could fortify.
As I looked at the first weak spot—finding time to continue our courtship—I asked myself who had the responsibility to set up dates. At first I believed it was all my husband’s responsibility. In the small town where I grew up, girls never called boys for a date. It came as a surprise to me to find out after I was married that if I wanted an evening out, I too had to make plans and arrange for a sitter for the children. Because of the pressures of children and tight budgets, a long time passed without our doing fun things together.
Then I discovered an article in the Ensign about inexpensive dating ideas at home (see Emily C. Orgill, “Date Night at Home,” Ensign, Apr. 1991, 57; or Geok Lee Thong, “Dating at Home,” Ensign, Aug. 1998, 56). I decided to begin to pull my own weight on the dating issue. After putting the children to bed, we sometimes roasted hot dogs in the fireplace, ordered pizza, or had a contest to see who could make the best milk shake. We discovered that spending time alone with each other increased all those warm, fuzzy feelings we’d had during courtship—and we had fun together! A willingness to put aside my own views allowed us to fortify one of our weak areas, and the result helped us build a place of strength for the two of us to share.
One day, awareness of another weakness in our fortifications caught me by surprise. I realized I was occasionally guilty of taking the talk-show approach to our problems. On a talk show, people share personal problems in front of a large public audience. Unfortunately, I found I often felt more comfortable talking with friends or family members about some of my concerns than I did with my own husband. I was dismayed to discover one day that my husband was actually the last person I talked to when I was upset! I just expected him to know when I had hurt feelings and why. (It had not occurred to me that he could not necessarily know my thoughts or that I might have hurt his feelings without realizing it.) When we would finally talk, I would realize he really did care, and our misunderstandings usually cleared up. Meanwhile, others I’d talked with did not necessarily know about the happy ending. I realized that, as in the case of gossip, I had done harm by going to others before sharing my feelings with my husband.
Because our marriage is sound, by not involving outside parties we are better able to build a relationship that is based on trust and feels safe to both of us. Couples who do not feel safe in their relationship may need outside help, but it best comes from counseling with priesthood leaders or professional counselors. To fortify my weak area, I committed to taking any feelings directly to my husband, which has added another place of strength and security in our marriage. I am grateful for his listening ear and understanding heart.
Finally, I became aware of one more weak area that needed fortifying. It came as a result of what I refer to as the makeover syndrome. Makeovers are big business in the beauty culture, and if we choose to make over ourselves, the experience can be fun. But it can be tempting to try to make over our marriage partner to fit our view of the ideal spouse, especially if we begin comparing him or her to others.
I recalled that when we were dating, I could find no fault in my future husband. He was my prince, and I felt I was his princess. But in time I began to feel my life would be better if only he would change a few things. As I look back now, I wonder why I had been so concerned about picking out my husband’s supposed faults when he has been so tolerant of mine. President Spencer W. Kimball counseled: “Don’t just pray to marry the one you love. Instead, pray to love the one you marry” (quoted in Joe J. Christensen, “Marriage and the Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, May 1995, 64; emphasis in original). Fortification of this weak area meant seeing the good in my husband and really letting go of the makeover syndrome.
In his wisdom, Captain Moroni didn’t just look for weaknesses to shore up. He also focused on strengths in the Nephite defense so that if the attack from the enemy got too fierce, there would be safe places. As part of our ongoing effort to fortify our marriage, my husband and I also look for our strong places. They are easier to find through prayer. In prayer I have found that Heavenly Father loves us even more than we ourselves do and truly wants our relationships to succeed, complete with the “exultant ecstasy” of which President Kimball spoke.
By working together to establish a secure fortress wherein we can both dwell in safety and draw strength from each other, we can be more like those embattled Nephites. Though under attack, they had created a place of refuge that protected their people and kept them safe from their enemies, and of them it was written: “But behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni” (Alma 50:23).