Some years ago I visited a large ranch in southern Utah with the ranch’s owner. While there, I noticed a long, narrow, winding gravel road. I learned that at one time this remote, lonely desert road stretched for miles and miles across southern Utah and northern Arizona, then dipped south into communities along Arizona’s Little Colorado River. Mormon pioneers had established these communities, and this road was their link to the Mormon settlement of St. George, Utah. The road was once well traveled by horse and wagon. It was known as the “Honeymoon Trail.”
The Honeymoon Trail was so named by prospective brides and grooms traveling from settlements in northern Arizona to receive their endowments and to be sealed for time and eternity in the St. George Temple.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the journey required a few days or several weeks, depending on where the honeymooners were living. Most of these valiant young couples spent many nights on the trail under the stars, often sleeping on the ground or in wagon boxes. The young couples and their families faced formidable challenges in the vast American desert, which receives less than 20 centimeters of rainfall each year. Their food rations were sometimes scant; they usually had only stale water to drink. They faced many dangers, including rattlesnakes, coyotes, bobcats, and desert foxes.
Why did these young people cross barren desert at great personal sacrifice and expense and sometimes at the risk of physical danger? The glistening white St. George Temple was the first temple completed and dedicated west of the Mississippi River. The desire of these young couples to be sealed overpowered their reluctance to face the hardships they knew they would have to endure to reach the temple.
Just as in those early days, young people today can claim the blessings of eternity in the house of the Lord. These ordinances, according to Brigham Young, “are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell” (in Journal of Discourses, 2:31).
The endowment bestowed in the temple by the authority of the holy priesthood is closely associated with the principle of eternal marriage. We have been taught from the beginning of the Restoration that “marriage is ordained of God unto man” (D&C 49:15). The marriage covenant, from the time of Adam, has always been understood to be of great importance. We brethren of the Church are directed by revelation, “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else” (D&C 42:22).
We, as members of the Church, are not only commanded to marry in righteousness, but also to have children and rear them according to the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are taught that the endowment and the marriage sealing ceremony are to be performed in the house of the Lord. We are blessed to have holy temples available throughout the world where we can receive these eternal ordinances.
The Lord told Joseph Smith, “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” (D&C 131:1–3).
The Lord goes on to explain, “If a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; … [it] shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they 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).
For any covenant, including marriage, to be valid in eternity it must meet two requirements: it must be “made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise” (D&C 132:7), and it must be performed by the proper priesthood authority.
Today young Latter-day Saints face difficult challenges. As a result, many delay marriage longer than they need to. Some excuse themselves by saying they would like to obtain an education first. Others say they need job security before they can marry. Still others want the security of a large bank account and prefer to obtain a new apartment, a new car, or other material comforts instead of being married in the temple.
We must ask ourselves if we are willing to give temple marriage the same commitment as did those who traveled the Honeymoon Trail. Instead of falling prey to the rattlesnakes and wolves, are we falling prey to procrastination and ambivalence? Instead of falling prey to hunger and fatigue, are we falling prey to the prevalent philosophy of self-gratification and the current popular attitude of “Do your own thing”?
Of course, Latter-day Saints in those cultures that permit courting need to allow themselves enough time and experience to make a wise decision in choosing a mate. But they must not postpone, for selfish reasons, either the courting or the decision making.
Parents and leaders should always strive to teach youth that marriage is a sacred privilege and obligation. It is not good for man or woman to be alone, for neither can fill the full measure of his or her creation without the other (see 1 Cor. 11:11; Moses 3:18). Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and only through the new and everlasting covenant of marriage can we realize the fulness of all eternal blessings.
Our modern-day prophets and leaders have counseled us to marry in the Lord’s house and to remain faithful to the covenants we make there. In general conference, President Howard W. Hunter said: “As a matter of priesthood responsibility, a man, under normal circumstances, should not unduly postpone marriage. Brethren, the Lord has spoken plainly on this matter. It is your sacred and solemn responsibility to follow his counsel and the words of his prophets” (Ensign, November 1994, 49). President Hunter went on to say: “A man who holds the priesthood shows perfect moral fidelity to his wife and gives her no reason to doubt his faithfulness. A husband is to love his wife with all his heart and cleave unto her and none else (see D&C 42:22–26)” (Ensign, November 1994, 50).
Referring to D&C 42:22, President Spencer W. Kimball explained: “The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes preeminent in the life of the husband or wife and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse” (The Miracle of Forgiveness , 250).
Other prophets also emphasized the value of marriage and family. President Harold B. Lee said, “The most important of the Lord’s work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes” (Stand Ye in Holy Places , 255).
Our living prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, speaking of eternal marriage, said: “Our Father in Heaven, who loves his children, desires for them that which will bring them happiness now and in the eternities to come, and there is no greater happiness than is found in the most meaningful of all human relationships: the companionships of husband and wife and parents and children. …
“But marriage is a covenant sealed by authority. If that authority is of the state alone, it will endure only while the state has jurisdiction, and that jurisdiction ends with death. But add to the authority of the state the power of the endowment given by Him who overcame death, and that companionship will endure beyond life if the parties to the marriage live worthy of the promise” (Be Thou an Example , 136–37).
It took the Mormon pioneers much sacrifice, willpower, determination, and endurance to complete their journeys to the Lord’s holy temple in St. George, Utah. So it is today. Unless and until we are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make temple marriage a priority in our lives, we will not enjoy the blessings enjoyed by the Latter-day Saints who more than 100 years ago traveled the Honeymoon Trail—and who, once their journey had been made, continued to live worthily so the Holy Spirit of Promise would seal the sacred covenants they had made in the house of the Lord.