Respecting Your Spouse

“Respecting Your Spouse,” Building An Eternal Marriage Teacher Manual (2003), 65–73

Doctrinal Overview

“Brethren, treat your wives with love and respect and kindness. And, wives, you treat your husbands with love and respect and kindness” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 209).

“Under the gospel plan marriage is a companionship, with equality between the partners. We walk side by side with respect, appreciation, and love one for another. There can be nothing of inferiority or superiority between the husband and wife in the plan of the Lord” (Hinckley, Teachings, 322).


Applying the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ in a marriage is the best way to avoid the consequences of abuse.

Student Manual Readings

Selected Teachings from “Abuse” (3–5)

“Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse,” Elder Richard G. Scott (5–8)

Teacher Enrichment

President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Personal Worthiness to Exercise the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 2002, 53–54 (or p. 69 in this manual)

Judy C. Olsen, “The Invisible Heartbreaker,” Ensign, June 1996, 22–29 (or p. 70 in this manual)

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Ask students to imagine they are applying for a loan and need to list their assets. What kinds of things could be included in the list? What are some non-financial “assets” that a man and woman might bring to a marriage? Read the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then First Counselor in the First Presidency:

“I believe in the family where there is a husband who regards his companion as his greatest asset and treats her accordingly; where there is a wife who looks upon her husband as her anchor and strength, her comfort and security; where there are children who look to mother and father with respect and gratitude; where there are parents who look upon those children as blessings and find a great and serious and wonderful challenge in their nurture and rearing. The cultivation of such a home requires effort and energy, forgiveness and patience, love and endurance and sacrifice; but it is worth all of these and more” (“This I Believe,” in Brigham Young University 1991–92 Devotional and Fireside Speeches [1992], 80).

Discuss elements of President Hinckley’s statement.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Read the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley: “If husbands and wives would only give greater emphasis to the virtues that are to be found in one another and less to the faults, there would be fewer broken hearts, fewer tears, fewer divorces, and much more happiness in the homes of our people” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 322).

Explain that disagreements and irritations are common in marriage. Some of these come from differences in upbringing, preferences, or expectations. Making adjustments is a normal part of married life. There may be times when the counsel of a priesthood leader can help in overcoming differences.

Write on the board the words effort, energy, forgiveness, patience, love, endurance, and sacrifice. Ask students to suggest why each of these attributes would be needed in a successful family.

Explain that successful marriages require give and take as the partners work toward unity with each other while remaining in harmony with gospel standards. Husbands and wives should be a blessing to each other.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Group work. Have students turn to Selected Teachings from “Abuse” (student manual, 3–5) looking for kinds of abuse.

Discussion. Conduct a discussion regarding kinds of abuse. Supplement the discussion with the following insights as appropriate:

Spiritual abuse includes exercising unrighteous control, dominion, or compulsion.

Emotional abuse includes name calling, demeaning statements, threats, isolation, intimidation, or manipulation.

Physical abuse includes coercion, withholding resources, and physical violence such as pushing, choking, scratching, pinching, restraining, or hitting.

Sexual abuse may be either emotional or physical and includes sexual harassment, inflicting pain during sexual intimacy, and the use of force or intimidation to make a spouse perform a sexual act” (Responding to Abuse: Helps for Ecclesiastical Leaders [1995], 4.)

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Have students turn again to Selected Teachings from “Abuse” (student manual, 3–5) and look for causes of abuse. These may include:

  • “If a man does not control his temper, … he then becomes a victim of his own passions and emotions, which lead him to actions that are totally unfit for civilized behavior” (Ezra Taft Benson, student manual, 3).

  • “Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, … spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride” (Ezra Taft Benson, student manual, 3–4).

  • “The exploitation of children, or the abuse of one’s spouse, for the satisfaction of sadistic desires is sin of the darkest hue” (Gordon B. Hinckley, student manual, 4).

Use the following questions for further discussion:

  • How can pride lead to abuse?

  • How can selfishness lead to abusive behavior?

  • How can “wicked traditions of [one’s] fathers” (Alma 23:3) be a cause of abuse?

Discuss the following:

“The beginnings of both spouse and child abuse can be found in seemingly insignificant things, such as belittling the abilities and competency of another, constantly criticizing, being insulting or calling names, refusing to communicate, manipulating, causing guilt feelings, repeatedly making and breaking promises, intimidating, threatening physical harm, making unfounded accusations, or destroying property.

“Some have offended unknowingly. Others may not understand the far-reaching consequences of their behavior. However, when there is abuse, every member of a family, particularly the father and mother, must be willing to reconsider their individual relationships with other family members. In some cases simply realizing that behavior is damaging to someone else may be enough to cause an offender to change” (Preventing and Responding to Spouse Abuse [pamphlet, 1997], 3).

Have students return to Selected Teachings from “Abuse” to find ways of avoiding abuse. These may include:

  • “When you love your wife with all your heart, you cannot demean her, criticize her, find fault with her, nor abuse her by words, sullen behavior, or actions” (Ezra Taft Benson, student manual, 3).

  • “When there is recognition of equality between the husband and the wife … , then there will follow a greater sense of responsibility to nurture, to help, to love with an enduring love those for whom we are responsible” (Gordon B. Hinckley, student manual, 3).

  • “There must be self-discipline that constrains against abuse of wife and children” (Gordon B. Hinckley, student manual, 4).

Share also the following statements. (You could use an overhead transparency, or read each one and write key words on the board.)

  • “Nobody ever abused anybody else when he had the spirit of the Lord” (George Albert Smith, in Howard W. Hunter, in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 69; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 51; student manual, 208).

  • “A priesthood holder is to be patient. Patience is another form of self-control” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 62; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 47; student manual, 4).

  • “There must be self-discipline that constrains against abuse of wife and children and self. There must be the Spirit of God, invited and worked for, nurtured and strengthened” (Gordon B. Hinckley, in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 97; or Ensign, May 1991, 74; student manual, 4, 177).

  • “Emancipation is possible. God can heal us, if we will submit to him” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Not My Will, But Thine” [1988], 63; or student manual, 4).

Share the following rebuke to abusers by President Gordon B. Hinckley: “Unfortunately a few of you may be married to men who are abusive. Some of them put on a fine face before the world during the day and come home in the evening, set aside their self-discipline, and on the slightest provocation fly into outbursts of anger.

“No man who engages in such evil and unbecoming behavior is worthy of the priesthood of God. No man who so conducts himself is worthy of the privileges of the house of the Lord. I regret that there are some men undeserving of the love of their wives and children. There are children who fear their fathers, and wives who fear their husbands. If there be any such men within the hearing of my voice, as a servant of the Lord I rebuke you and call you to repentance. Discipline yourselves. Master your temper. Most of the things that make you angry are of very small consequence. And what a terrible price you are paying for your anger. Ask the Lord to forgive you. Ask your wife to forgive you. Apologize to your children” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 91–92; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 68; student manual, 358).

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Explain that sometimes individuals come to marriage having suffered abuse in their childhood or youth. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has given inspired counsel for the abuse victim. His counsel can also help spouses of former abuse victims understand how to help their partners continue their recovery. Refer students to Elder Scott’s article, “Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse” (student manual, 5–8). Discuss some of the following questions:

  • What are some typical scars that can be left from abuse?

  • Can abuse from others be overcome? How?

  • What are several principles of healing from abuse that Elder Scott mentions?

  • What degree of responsibility in the healing process does the victim have? Explain.

  • Can the abuser ever be forgiven of such a serious sin? Explain.

  • How can the healing process be enhanced for the victim when he or she forgives the abuser?

  • What caution does Elder Scott give about seeking help?


Have students read aloud together Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–43. Bear testimony that persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, and pure knowledge enhance relationships. Their lack can lead to abusive behavior. Abuse in all forms leads to barren relationships. When couples exhibit Christlike conduct and treat each other with love and kindness, they are much more likely to achieve a happy marriage. Applying the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ is the best way to avoid the consequences of abuse.

Teacher Enrichment image