There’s been a lot of talk lately about marriage—what it is, why we have it, the role it plays in society. In church we talk a lot about temple marriage. You know it’s important because you’ve heard about this since you were taught your first lessons about the gospel, whether you were a Sunbeam or a convert in your youth.
But some of you may be wondering, “Why?” To you it may be more than a question of what temple marriage is all about. You want to know—in your heart, not just in your mind—why you should work so hard to marry in the temple, especially when marriage as an idea and institution seems to be weakening in societies all over the world.
Well, it starts with the doctrine of the family.
We use the term doctrine to help define many things in the Church. For example, the Guide to the Scriptures defines doctrine of Christ as “the principles and teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”1 So what do we mean when we talk about the doctrine of the family or the doctrine of eternal marriage?
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” states, “Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and … the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”2 In other words, when we talk about why we are here on the earth and what we are meant to accomplish and become, it’s all tied to the idea that we are part of a family and can marry and establish new families.
The family proclamation also states: “The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.”3
But what happens to our families when we die? If you are married by the law of your state or country, will that law have any authority over you when you die? No, because those laws are made by man and have authority only as long as you live under that authority. For marriage relationships to continue after you die, those marriages must be sealed together in the right place with authority that lasts through the eternities. That place is the temple, and that authority is the priesthood (see D&C 132:7, 15–19). By choosing a temple marriage and keeping those covenants, you choose to be able to live forever with your spouse.
Maybe you already know that doctrine, and yet you still wonder, “But why else does it matter so much?” Maybe it’s not a matter of understanding the doctrine. Maybe it’s more a simple question of what marriage and family mean in your heart. The simple answer is that the greatest happiness and joy available to us come through living the gospel and gaining and maintaining a temple marriage.
In the April 2013 general conference, Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy explained it this way: “No other relationship of any kind can bring as much joy, generate as much good, or produce as much personal refinement.” 4
We also know that “happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.”5
If you think about it, you’ll spend a large part of your life preparing for big changes that come along. There’s baptism, graduating from Primary into Young Men or Young Women, attending the temple, and participating in family history research and temple ordinances for your ancestors. For young men, there’s receiving the priesthood and advancing in priesthood offices. For young women, there’s advancing in Young Women classes. There’s high school graduation or its equivalent. And now missionaries can leave at age 18 or 19. There’s a lot to prepare for and look forward to.
But the most important covenant we prepare for is being sealed in the temple. When individuals in families live according to the plan of happiness and keep their temple covenants, they experience true joy.
The gospel is what life is all about. It’s the whole reason we are here. When we follow the gospel path, it leads to joy. And that path leads to a temple marriage, either in this life or in the life to come. No blessings will be withheld from the Father’s faithful children.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counseled, “The most important single thing that any Latter-day Saint ever does in this world is to marry the right person, in the right place, by the right authority.”6