Early in our courtship, my wife and I determined we would maintain the Church as our first priority and we would do whatever the Lord expressed as His will. Through the ensuing years of our marriage, we each held a variety of callings, and sometimes there were challenges as we tried to balance family responsibilities with Church obligations. After our children left home, our situation changed, but I thought I understood the responsibility I had to care for and support my wife. Nevertheless, I viewed my responsibility in the home and my service to the Church as two different obligations—until one night in June 1991.
Each year our stake’s Young Women had a three-day backpacking trip for the older girls. It was my role as a member of the stake presidency to go along as a chaperone and priesthood leader. That year, my wife was undergoing treatment for breast cancer and had been told that a mastectomy would be required, but the surgery was not scheduled for several weeks, so I thought I could support both her and the Young Women.
This disease tries the emotions as well as the body, however, and on that particular night I woke to find my wife’s place in the bed empty. I found her sitting on the couch in the front room holding her head in her hands and looking at the floor.
As I tried to determine how to help meet her needs, the broken branch of our weeping willow tree came to mind. During a recent storm, a gust of wind had snapped one of the tree’s main branches. When I had climbed the tree to cut off the broken limb, I had found the limb was half eaten through by borers. Because it was diseased, the wind had been able to break it easily. Now the idea came into my mind that my wife was also in a delicate condition, with the cancer boring into both her body and her emotions. It was my most important responsibility, as her husband, to protect her from the storm—any wind, fear, or other force that might break her down. Although I had already known this intellectually, the idea came to me that night with the force of revelation. She was my most important Church responsibility. When I told her that I could see what she was going through and that I would stay home from the hike to take care of her, it helped her know where she stood in relation to my other concerns and it helped both of us understand our proper priorities. Our stake president understood too; he took my place as chaperone on the hike.
I learned from the experience that there is no need for struggle in deciding whether my Church calling or my eternal role of husband comes first. As Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught: “Brethren, please remember: the highest degree of the celestial glory is available to you only through that order of the priesthood linked to the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. (See D&C 131:1–4.) Therefore, your first priority in honoring the priesthood is to honor your eternal companion” (“Honoring the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 1993, 39).—S. Mahlon Edwards, Lindell Ward, Las Vegas Nevada Sandstone Stake
Communication is one key to a strong marriage. This information is hardly new, but still, communication—or, more correctly, the lack of it—seems to be a wedge in many marriages today.
One thing that my husband, Russ, and I have done to improve our communication is to try to be together often. We try to sit next to each other in sacrament meeting, to walk together at the store or elsewhere, to be together when we are at home, even if it means that I simply sit next to him and hand him tools while he works on a project. This closeness helps us feel more secure, I think, at other times when communication might be more difficult.
It may be hard for spouses to be genuinely open when things need to be discussed that are not pleasant—financial difficulties, disagreements over dealing with the children, or other family problems. It is hard at times to admit that you were wrong or that his or her idea may work better than yours. Assuming you know what your spouse meant by a remark, keeping quiet and holding a grudge, or trying to manipulate a situation might seem easier at the moment, but these approaches usually lead to long-term difficulties. Russ and I have learned that although there might be unpleasant moments in communication, if we are kindly and respectfully honest with each other and make sure we understand what the other person is really saying or feeling, then the unpleasant moments are simply that—moments—and our days are generally brighter.
I believe communication strengthens marriage as faith strengthens testimony. Faith is not always easy to hold, but if we follow counsel from Alma 32:27—“yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you”—our belief will begin to grow and our understanding increase. I believe if we as couples can no more than desire to have better communication in our marriages and we let this desire work in us, day by day our marriages can become stronger and eventually able to endure for eternity.—Camille Gold, Woodville First Ward, Shelley Idaho Stake
In marriage, two separate individuals from different families are brought together and commanded to be one (see Eph. 5:31). I consider the goal of becoming one in heart and purpose to be the most challenging aspect of marriage. It requires humility and charity. And it touches every aspect of married life as we learn that even temporal things must be governed by spiritual principles to which both husband and wife are committed.
Among the things my husband and I found it important to agree on was the use of our resources. We needed to become one in our financial outlook.
Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (1915–94), noting a report of the number of divorces traced to problems over money, wrote: “These marriage tragedies are not caused simply by lack of money, but rather by the mismanagement of personal finances” (One for the Money: Guide to Family Finance [pamphlet, 1992; item no. 33292, no charge], 2).
Since so many people have suffered in their marriages because of money, when my husband and I were students, we determined to give ourselves every advantage we could in this area. In a money management class, I learned a simple budget system we began to use immediately. We set financial goals for the future and determined to learn all we could from the counsel of apostles and prophets about finances in families. We resolved to do certain things recommended by Elder Ashton: pay tithes and offerings, pay for vacations and consumer durables with cash, if possible, avoid installment credit where possible, and be careful with our use of credit cards (One for the Money, 3, 6). We decided that freedom from financial bondage was a lot more exhilarating than buying the newest and nicest things right now. We began to put aside money to meet our financial goals. The habit of saving even when it is a small amount has been good training for us.
It can be stressful to a marriage when financial things are not in order, but there can be peace and security when they are. We continue to pray for guidance in our financial life. Of course we pray for our income to continue, but we also pray for self-control and wisdom in using the resources Heavenly Father has given our family.—Carrie Generia Hunt, Santa Clara First Ward, Eugene Oregon Santa Clara Stake
When my husband and I had been married about four years, we had a disagreement that was hard to resolve. We usually resolved problems quite easily, so I was feeling frustrated that we were having a hard time with this particular issue. One day I decided to pray about it. I realized I could not change my husband or how he felt, so I focused my prayer on being able to understand him and his point of view better.
As I finished my prayer, I was surprised to feel the impression that my husband and I should read the scriptures together. I realized that since taking a vacation about six weeks earlier, we had gotten out of the habit of reading scriptures together each night. I shared the feeling I had received with my husband, and we agreed to resume nightly scripture study.
We found that as we studied the scriptures together, this practice invited the Spirit of the Lord to come into our hearts. With that influence in our hearts, we were able to be more patient and understanding with each other, and the harmony in our marriage increased.—Annette Cleveland, Walkersville Ward, Frederick Maryland Stake
“Spiritual growth comes by solving problems together—not by running from them. Today’s inordinate emphasis on individualism brings egotism and separation. Two individuals becoming ‘one flesh’ is still the Lord’s standard. (See Gen. 2:24.)
“The secret of a happy marriage is to serve God and each other. The goal of marriage is unity and oneness, as well as self-development. Paradoxically, the more we serve one another, the greater is our spiritual and emotional growth.”
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994), “Salvation—a Family Affair,” Ensign, July 1992, 4.
More on this topic: See “Building a Successful Marriage,”Ensign, Mar. 1998, 27; Marlin K. Jensen, “A Union of Love and Understanding,”Ensign, Oct. 1994, 47; Lorin and Lina Hatch, “Putting First Things First—Together,”Ensign, Apr. 1980, 67.