An Eternal Perspective

Building An Eternal Marriage Teacher Manual, (2003), 1–8


Doctrinal Overview

Our leaders often emphasize the importance of looking at marriage and family issues from an eternal perspective. Elder Merrill J. Bateman, a member of the Seventy, stated: “A view of marriage and the family based on eternal principles increases the probability of success. When one takes the long view, one tries harder to be patient, long-suffering, kind, gentle, and meek. These characteristics, in turn, strengthen the marriage” (“The Eternal Family,” in Brigham Young University 1997–98 Speeches [1997], 115).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was then a member of the Seventy, taught:

“From the moment of birth into mortality to the time we are married in the temple, everything we have in the whole gospel system is to prepare and qualify us to enter that holy order of matrimony which makes us husband and wife in this life and in the world to come.

“Then from the moment we are sealed together by the power and authority of the holy priesthood … everything connected with revealed religion is designed to help us keep the terms and conditions of our marriage covenant, so that this covenant will have efficacy, virtue, and force in the life to come.

“Thus celestial marriage is the crowning ordinance of the gospel. … Thus the family unit is the most important organization in time or in eternity.

“And thus we should have more interest in and concern for our families than for anything else in life. …

“There is nothing in this world as important as the creation and perfection of family units” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1970, 27).

Principle

A view of marriage and the family based on the gospel of Jesus Christ increases the probability of marital happiness.

Student Manual Readings

“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (83–84)

Selected Teachings from “Eternal Perspective” (81–82)

Selected Teachings from “Principles” (274–75)

“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Elder Richard G. Scott (148–51)

Suggestions for How to Teach

Student manual. Explain that this course, Religion 235, is based on principles. Each lesson sets forth one general principle that can be applied in a variety of ways to help build an eternal marriage.

Have the students turn to “Living by Gospel Principles” in the student manual (viii). Ask how Joseph Smith responded when asked how he governed his people. (“I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves” [in John Taylor, “The Organization of the Church,” Millennial Star, 15 Nov. 1851, 339]). Have students read Elder Richard G. Scott’s statement on principles (student manual, viii). How can true principles help us govern our married lives?

Read the rest of “Governing Our Lives with Principles” and discuss questions similar to the following:

  • How is the term principle used in the student manual?

  • How does understanding true principles help us obey the commandments?

  • In what ways can understanding true principles help make difficult decisions clear?

Have students read the rest of “Living by Gospel Principles” (student manual, viii–ix), and ask questions such as:

  • What are some scriptural examples of “if-then” principle statements?

  • In what ways are true principles “universal”?

  • In what ways are true principles “conditional”?

Tell students that two objectives of this course are to:

  • Identify gospel principles of conduct about marriage relationships found in scripture and the teachings of the Brethren.

  • Learn to apply these principles in our lives.

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles noted: “While easy to find, true principles are not easy to live until they become an established pattern of life” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 43; or Ensign, May 1993, 34). Elder Scott gave counsel on how to do this. Write the following statement by Elder Scott on the board: “As packets of knowledge unfold, they must be understood, valued, obeyed, remembered, and expanded” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 119; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 88).

Student manual. Have students turn with you to the article by Elder Scott entitled “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge” (student manual, 148). Have them find the above statement and underline it (p. 150, column 2). Discuss how we can make gospel principles about marriage part of our lives by using Elder Scott’s counsel.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Draw the following diagram on the board (see student manual, 81) and ask a student to explain what an eternal perspective is according to the diagram.

God's View triangle

What implications does this diagram have for daily marital and family decisions? Have half the class read “Pray for the Success of Your Marriage” by Elder Joe J. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy in the student manual (284). Have the other half read “Turning to the Lord” by Elder Robert E. Wells of the Seventy (288–89). Invite class members to give their perspectives on the advice in these readings. What are specific ways that seeking divine help can benefit couples in their marriage?

An eternal perspective means to use the knowledge God gives His children through scripture and the prophets. Heavenly Father sees our past, present, and future. His eternal perspective has no mortal limitations. The plan of salvation helps us begin to see as He does so we can make wiser and more righteous decisions. Discuss the following scriptures:

Read and discuss several of the quotations in Selected Teachings from “Eternal Perspective” in the student manual (81–82).

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Read Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s statement in the Doctrinal Overview at the beginning of this lesson, and write the last sentence of his statement on the board. Ask: What are some of the teachings in the plan of salvation that support Elder McConkie’s statement? Help your students discover such teachings as:

  • We are children of God. He is the father of our spirits. We are “after the order” of God (see Moses 6:67) and have the potential to become like our heavenly parents.

  • We came to this earth to gain a physical body and prove obedient to “all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25). “God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself” (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 6:312).

  • Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and by following His commandments, we can live with our Heavenly Father again and become like Him: “Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God” (D&C 76:58).

  • The creation of the earth provided a place for us to gain mortal experience and learn to be more like our heavenly parents. Regarding marriage, read Doctrine and Covenants 49:16–17 together.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. On 23 September 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley read to the Relief Society sisters a proclamation about the importance of the family in the plan of salvation. Read together the first paragraph of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (student manual, 83).

Read or tell the story in Elder Henry B. Eyring’s address “The Family,” in which he describes his university years living in Mrs. Soper’s boarding house (student manual, 104). Emphasize that “we must have the goal not just in our minds but in our hearts. What we want is eternal life in families. We don’t just want it if that is what works out, nor do we want something approaching eternal life. We want eternal life, whatever its cost in effort, pain, and sacrifice” (To Draw Closer to God [1997], 161; or student manual, 105).

Suggestions for How to Teach

Role play. Explain that husbands and wives often have different views about decisions that must be made. When such differences occur, there are typically three ways married couples decide: (1) The wife gives in and the husband gets his way. (2) The husband gives in and the wife gets her way. (3) The husband and wife compromise and come up with a solution that partially satisfies both of them.

In an eternal marriage there is a fourth way that can help bring peace and unity to the marriage. Each partner seeks to understand the gospel principles taught in the plan of salvation and to learn, through study and faith, the mind of the Lord. Both partners are willing to sacrifice or adjust their own desires to be obedient to the Lord. Unity is possible for two people with different views when they adopt a common set of gospel principles.

Present the following hypothetical situation to the class: Bill and Susan have been married for two years. Bill has graduated from university and has his first career job. Bill wants a new car and approaches Susan about it. Susan says she wants a baby and they can’t afford both a car and a baby right now.

Invite a couple to play the roles of Susan and Bill. Instruct them to begin the role play by stating their position and trying hard to win their point. Then have them work toward a compromise in which both get part of what they want. (For example, “We’ll buy a used car and wait a certain amount of time before we have a baby.”) Then replay the situation, asking them to solve the problem by using an eternal perspective. Invite the class to help them by finding what Church leaders have said about the subject (see student manual, 283–89). Rotate several student couples into the role play. Summarize their conclusions on the board.

Lord's Eternal Perspective

Conclude the role play by showing how knowledge and application of gospel principles increases unity and clarifies decision making.

As an alternative, create your own hypothetical situation for the class to work through, or have the class suggest a dilemma for young married couples that is common in their culture.

Discussion. Distribute handout 1, “A Comparison of Views,” found at the end of this lesson (pp. 7–8). Pick two or three of the issues from the left-hand column and write them on the board. Explain that these are representative of the many topics you will discuss in Religion 235. Ask students to briefly identify popular positions on these issues in your community or in the world. From a gospel perspective, what will be the consequences of each popular view? Have students briefly compare these views with what the plan of salvation teaches. What promised blessings follow each view? As the discussion progresses, have students fill in the information on their handouts.

Conclusion

Share the following statement by President Harold B. Lee: “All of the gospel principles and ordinances are but invitations to learning the gospel by the practice of its teachings” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1996], 619).

Emphasize that we learn gospel principles best by following them. When the Savior taught the parable of the good Samaritan, He concluded by asking His followers to “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37; see also James 1:27). Gospel principles should be the foundation for Christ-centered marriage relationships. Encourage students to make the gospel principles taught in this class part of their lives by applying them in their decisions in marriage.