My wife, Chris, and I have been best friends and sweethearts for more than 18 years. We have supported each other through the ups and downs of married life, celebrated and grieved together, and, with our seven children, worked to build a strong, Christ-centered home.
So I was excited by an invitation to speak at a priesthood leadership meeting in which I would address the topic of serving my wife. With confidence, I outlined the main doctrinal points I knew were important, filled in supporting gospel illustrations, and crafted what I believed was a strong, gospel-oriented talk. I concentrated on the eternal aspects of marriage and family, summarizing the words of the prophets on the role of women and emphasizing the responsibility men have to assist them.
I stayed after work one night to put the finishing touches on my talk and headed home with eager anticipation. Chris has always been my “congregation of one” as I have outlined talks and ideas to her before presenting them in public. I can always count on her support and encouragement, and I was sure she would like this talk.
“Chris, do you have a minute?” I asked as I came through the door.
“Hi, honey. I’ll be right there. I just need to check on dinner first,” she replied from the back of the house.
As I walked into the living room and picked up the mail, I could hear her giving instructions to the children: Shannon was to help with dinner, Casey was to set the table, and Caitlin, our two-year-old, was to put her clothes on.
“Okay, what’s up?” Chris asked after a quick kiss and hug.
“Well, I’m giving a talk in a few days at a priesthood leadership meeting. I want to read it to you so you can tell me what you think, and—”
“Just a minute, honey.” Turning toward the kitchen, she called out to the children: “Shannon, the meat smells like it’s burning. Casey, is the table set yet? Brianne, would you please check on Caitlin?”
She turned back to me. “Sorry. The kids are driving me crazy today. I’ve had to constantly remind them of the simplest things. What were you saying?”
I smiled and started over. “I’ve been asked to give this talk at—”
Just then Brianne walked in and said she couldn’t find any clothes for Caitlin. Chris directed her to the laundry room and asked her to start another load of clothes. Before I could say another word, Caitlin came running into the room with several copies of music Chris had ordered for a choral festival.
“Oh, no!” Chris said as she hurried off to rescue a large box filled with about one hundred copies of the music. “I spent all morning and most of the afternoon marking each of these for breathing and pronunciation. All I need is for Caitlin to scribble all over them.”
“Anyway, about my talk,” I continued after she returned. “The subject is serving your spouse. I thought I would have you tell me how a priesthood holder can best serve his wife so that I can see how close I came in my draft.”
“I’d like to hear your thoughts first,” she said over a rising din coming from the kitchen.
“Well, it’s a rough draft, and I was hoping that you would use your perspective to help me fill in the weak spots,” I said. “So tell me, what does a wife need the most?”
After brief reflection, Chris said, “A wife needs someone who’s willing to help her do the things that she does for everyone else in the family. She needs an uncomplaining, good-natured helper who can keep focused on cleaning, cooking, shopping, child rearing, and organization—someone willing to do these things even if deserved recognition and praise do not always come. Do you have that in your talk?”
“Oh-oh,” I said, lowering my gaze.
Warming to the subject, she continued, “This helper should also be able to anticipate the needs of family members, be willing to put personal projects on hold when the children need attention, and be able to quickly find family possessions.”
“I don’t have that in my talk either,” I told her. But my talk did have plenty of good elements. “What about priesthood? Isn’t it important to a wife that her husband hold the priesthood?”
She smiled. I had missed the mark only a little after all. Or so I thought.
“Yes, it means a great deal to me. But what’s important is using the priesthood, not just holding it. A priesthood holder should look for ways to use his priesthood to bless his wife. When a wife has to ask for help and service, she wonders if her husband is really aware of her needs. When a husband is sensitive to his wife’s needs, emotions, and daily trials, she feels valued and appreciated.”
“Thank you,” I said, leaning over and kissing her. “What else can a husband do to serve his wife?”
“Just two more things,” Chris said. “First, he should listen to her. She shouldn’t have to compete with the television or the newspaper or other distractions. He should listen with his heart to what his eternal companion has to tell him. If we’re going to spend eternity with each other, we ought to know each other’s thoughts, opinions, worries, frustrations, and hopes.”
I quietly put down the mail I still held in my hands.
“And second, he should simply love her. He should love her when she is impatient and frustrated after a busy day, or when she burns his dinner, or when she has trouble loving herself, or when she is four and a half months pregnant and doubts her ability to meet the needs of another child.”
That night I rewrote my talk, emphasizing that service means much more than helping my wife only when she asks for my assistance. Chris reminded me that true marriage, just as President Spencer W. Kimball said, is based on a happiness that “comes from giving, serving, sharing, sacrificing, and selflessness” (Marriage and Divorce, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976, page 12).