So that we may all be united in our thinking and be in a position to build on the same foundation, having in mind the same eternal truths, I shall initially quote three or four brief passages from the revelations. I pray that we will be one in feeling and in attitude, where these great doctrinal principles are concerned, and will have riveted in our souls the determination to do all the things that must be done in this mortal probation to inherit the fulness of the glory of our Father’s kingdom.
I take for one text these words from section 42, the revelation entitled “The Law of the Church”: “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.” (D&C 42:22.) And in the spirit of those words, I take from the Old Testament book of Ruth these expressions which, though not originally uttered with reference to marriage, contain a principle that is wholly applicable.
And Ruth said: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
“Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also [and now I will change it slightly] if [even] death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16–17.)
Now a passage from section 49 in the Doctrine and Covenants summarizing the basic administrative announcement relative to marriage for our dispensation:
“Verily I say unto you, [saith the Lord,] that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.
“Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;
“And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.” (D&C 49:15–17.)
When we as Latter-day Saints talk about marriage, we are talking about a holy, celestial order. We are talking about a system out of which can grow the greatest love, joy, peace, happiness, and serenity known to humankind. We are talking about creating a family unit that has the potential of being everlasting and eternal, a family unit where a man and a wife can go on in that relationship to all eternity, and where mother and daughter and father and son are bound by eternal ties that will never be severed. We are talking about creating a unit more important than the Church, more important than any organization that exists on earth or in heaven, a unit out of which exaltation and eternal life grow; and when we talk about eternal life, we are talking about the kind of life that God our Heavenly Father lives.
In this final, glorious, gospel dispensation we have received the most basic truth of all eternity, and that truth concerns the nature and kind of being that God is. It is eternal life to know the Father and the Son. (See John 17:3.) There is no possible way to go degree by degree, step by step to the high exaltation we seek unless and until we come to a knowledge of the nature and kind of being that God is. Thus, when we talk about eternal life, we are talking about the kind of life that God our Father lives; and when we speak of him, we are talking about the kind of life that God our Father lives; and when we speak of him, we are speaking of a holy, perfected, exalted, ennobled man—an individual, a personage, a being with “a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.” (D&C 130:22.) We are talking about someone who is a literal parent, who is the Father of the spirits of all men. You and I were born as members of his family. We have seen his face; we have heard his voice; we have received his counsel, personally, as well as through representatives and agents; we knew him in the pre-existence. Now a curtain has been dropped and we do not have the remembrance that we had then, but we are seeking to do the things that will enable us to be like him.
After he had begotten us as his spirit children, he gave us our agency, which is the power and ability to choose. He also gave us laws and allowed us to obey or disobey, in consequence of which we can and did develop talents, abilities, aptitudes, and characteristics of diverse sorts. He ordained and established a plan of salvation. It was named the gospel of God, meaning God our Heavenly Father, and it consisted of all the laws, powers, and rights, all of the experiences, all of the gifts and graces needed to take us, his spirit sons and daughters, from our then-spirit state of low intelligence to the high, exalted state where we would be like him.
The Prophet Joseph Smith tells us that God himself, finding that he was in the midst of spirits and glory, ordained laws whereby they might advance and progress and become like him. Those laws included the creation of this earth; they included the receipt of a mortal body where we could be tried and tested in a probationary state and receive experiences impossible to gain in any other way; they included the opportunity to choose between right and wrong, to do good or to do evil, the opportunity to grow and advance in the things of the spirit; and they included the opportunity to enter into a marriage relationship that has the potential of being eternal. We started out on this course in the premortal life. Now we are down here taking the final examination for all the life that we lived back then which also is the entrance examination for the realms and kingdoms that are ahead.
The name of the kind of life that God our Father lives is eternal life, and eternal life consists of two things: the continuation of the family unit in eternity, and an inheritance of what the scriptures call the fulness of the Father or the fulness of the glory of the Father (see D&C 76:56), meaning the might, power, dominion, and exaltation that he himself possesses. In our finite circumstances we have no ability or power to comprehend the might and omnipotence of the Father. We can look at the stars in the heavens, we can see all the worlds and orbs that have been created in their spheres, we can examine all the life on this planet with which we are familiar, and by doing this we can begin to get a concept of the glorious, unlimited intelligence by which all these things are—and all these things taken together, and more, dramatize the fulness of the glory of the Father.
We are seeking eternal life—that is to say, we have been offered the privilege to go forward as the children of God, until we become like our eternal Parent; and if we so attain, it is mandatory for us to build on the foundation of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. It is required of us that we keep the commandments and sow the seeds of righteousness in order to reap the harvest of glory and honor. If we do all the things that the gospel requires of us, we can make that kind of advancement. The gospel, which is the plan of salvation, is now named the gospel of Jesus Christ to honor him who worked out the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice and put into operation all the terms and conditions of the Father’s plan.
God our Father is the Creator of all things, and we glorify his holy name and sing praises to him because he created us and all things in the heavens. God our Father is the perfect Creator. Jesus Christ, his Son, is the Redeemer. He came to ransom us from the temporal and spiritual death brought into the world by the fall of Adam. The ransom from temporal death gives each of us immortality: “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22.) And every living soul will rise in the resurrection with immortality and, having so arisen, will be judged according to his works and will be assigned a place in the kingdoms that are prepared. Some will be raised in immortality and then unto eternal life, and eternal life is the name of the kind of life that God lives.
We cannot praise the name of the Lord Jehovah who is the Lord Jesus enough to honor him properly for all that he has done for us and for the possibilities that lie ahead because he took upon himself our sins on conditions of repentance. The work of God the Father was creation, and the work of Christ the Son was redemption. We are men and our work—building on the foundation that God our Father laid and that Christ his Son has established—is to do the part assigned to us in order to inherit the glory and honor and dignity of which I speak. In general terms, that means that we are to accept and believe the law. We are to believe in Christ and live his law, be upright and clean, have our sins washed away in the waters of baptism, become new creatures by the power of the Holy Ghost, and walk in paths of truth and righteousness.
As long as we speak in this vein, all that we say is said in generalities; it is a foundation for a specific and particular thing toward which we point: eternal marriage.