Marriage is a sacred ordinance. The scriptures teach: “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
“And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
“And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
“He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase” (D&C 131:1–4).
A man and a woman will receive the highest blessings of the priesthood together or not at all.
It is one thing to wed within the new and everlasting covenant and another to abide in that covenant. One must abide in the marriage covenant to receive the blessings of exaltation in our Heavenly Father’s kingdom (see D&C 132:4–6). How do we abide in the covenant? We show kindness and love toward each other, and we seek to have a gospel-centered home by regularly holding family home evening, family scripture study, and companion and family prayer.
As a youth, I never heard my father speak a harsh word to my mother. I had not found this to be the case with many of my friends’ parents. My father’s kindness toward my mother made a deep impression on my young mind. One evening late in the summer, my father and I were husking corn for supper. I thought this might be an opportune time to ask why he had never raised his voice to Mom. His simple yet sincere response was, “Oh, I love her too much to speak harshly to her.”
When we speak in lowered voices, we find it difficult to damage or hurt our spouse. President David O. McKay (1873–1970) taught, “The home must be the most sacred place in the world.”1 For this to be accomplished, we cannot raise our voices or allow contention to dwell in our homes. Imagine what our homes would be like if each time we felt offended, hurt, or angry we acted with love and followed the Lord’s counsel to turn the other cheek.
I was at my father’s bedside when he passed away at the age of 84. Mother was still living. His last words to me were, “Tell Mabel that I love her.” Because my parents abided in the marriage covenant, they developed a priceless, deep love for each other and experienced much happiness together. These same blessings are available to all couples when they both sincerely seek to honor their marital covenants.
When a couple abides in the marriage covenant, the husband values his wife as the nurturer of their children and as a co-creator with Father in Heaven. The wife supports her husband as the provider and protector of their family.
The Apostle Paul counseled, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). How much then should a man seek to love, respect, and care for his eternal companion? To the extent that Christ loved the Church, for which He gave his life.
The Lord knows there will be times of difficulty and trial within a marriage, yet His expectation and design is for this eternal partnership to be the conduit of ultimate joy and fulfillment. Regardless of life’s trials or disappointments, the Lord desires husbands and wives to be happy and is willing, even anxious, to help them attain that happiness, if they will make Him the foundation of their marriage.
President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) said: “The greatest joys of true married life can be continued. The most beautiful relationships of parents and children can be made permanent. The holy association of families can be never-ending if husband and wife have been sealed in the holy bond of eternal matrimony. … In [the] temples, by duly constituted authority, are men who can seal husbands and wives and their children for all eternity.”2
It is essential that, as a part of the marriage covenant, fathers and mothers teach their children “to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ … and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 68:25).
The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles affirm that “parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, [and] to observe the commandments of God. … Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”3
The Lord made known to the children of Israel the significant role of parents: “These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:6–7).
Though thousands of years have passed since this instruction was given, it is as applicable today as it was then. The counsel to “teach them diligently … when thou sittest in thine house” supports the directive of our living prophets to consistently pray as a family, hold family home evening and family scripture study, and personally interview our children. We can follow the counsel to “teach them … when thou walkest by the way” by taking advantage of teaching opportunities while participating in everyday activities as a family. The phrase “when thou liest down” reminds us that a scripture story could be a wonderful choice for a bedtime story. And the phrase “when thou risest up” reminds us that an excellent way to start our day is by having family prayer.
In addition, praying with one’s spouse can do much to strengthen the marriage relationship. Companion prayer is a barricade against evil thoughts, selfishness, and divorce as we specifically pray for each other’s needs and thank the Lord for our companions.
Not long ago, in the Mesa Arizona Temple, I had the privilege of performing the marriage of a young couple whose ancestors had also been sealed in the everlasting covenant of marriage. Generations had been blessed; now it was their turn. Two lovely and pure children of God knelt at the altar. As I looked into their eyes and spoke of the holy marriage covenant, there was no doubt in my mind that they wanted the promised blessings and understood the importance of this everlasting covenant and of being accepted of the Lord by abiding “the law which was appointed for that blessing” (D&C 132:5).
It is perilous to look with indifference upon that which the Lord has given us. If one chooses to reject or break the marriage covenant, there are consequences. The Lord clearly states, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory” (D&C 132:21). In contrast, those who do abide in the covenant “shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths … and … shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever” (D&C 132:19).
Husbands and wives who show kindness and love toward each other and who seek to have a gospel-centered home will be blessed. As they continue firm in their vows and faithfully abide in the covenant of marriage, they not only bless themselves but have an untold influence on generations yet to come.