Righteous Unity in Marriage

Building An Eternal Marriage Teacher Manual, (2003), 25–33


Doctrinal Overview

“Be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things” (2 Nephi 1:21).

“And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness” (Moses 7:18).

“A husband and wife must attain righteous unity and oneness in their goals, desires, and actions” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Salvation—A Family Affair,” Ensign, July 1992, 2; or student manual, 283).

“It is far more difficult to be of one heart and mind than to be physically one” (James E. Faust, in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 46; or Ensign, May 1993, 36; student manual, 344).

Principle

Achieving a righteous unity with our spouse increases the likelihood of success in marriage.

Student Manual Readings

Selected Teachings from “Unity” (344–46)

Selected Teachings from “Selfishness” (304)

Suggestions for How to Teach

Remind the students of the principles of love, respect, and good communication discussed in the previous lesson. Point out the importance of these principles in building unity in marriage.

Discussion. Write on the board President Ezra Taft Benson’s statement from Gospel Principles (above). Ask: What do you think is meant by “righteous unity”? Discuss this concept by asking questions similar to the following:

  • In what ways might righteous unity help prevent or resolve problems in marriage? Do you think any type of unity will improve relationships, or does it have to be a righteous unity? Why?

  • In what areas does President Benson say we must strive for oneness?

  • What are examples of righteous unity in a marriage?

  • Why is there room for both individuality and oneness in an eternal marriage?

Suggestions for How to Teach

Scripture activity. The following analogy could be used to teach the power of unity in marriage. Show students a short piece of two-by-four lumber (the size most commonly used to frame buildings). Explain that a two-by-four eight feet long, when placed vertically, can support 577 pounds. If subjected to a greater weight, it will buckle. Show students a second piece of two-by-four. Hold the two boards side-by-side (do not let them touch), and ask students how much weight they can support together. (They can support twice as much, or 1,154 pounds.) Now move the two boards together so that they are touching. Ask students how much weight they think the boards can support if they are joined so they act as a single board. (When they are joined, they can support 4,610 pounds, nearly four times what they can hold if they are not joined.) Note: You could adapt this analogy using sticks or rulers. Two vertical rulers bound together will bear much more weight than they could if they were not bound.

Read Ecclesiastes 4:9 with your students. Discuss how this scripture and the analogy of the two-by-fours relate to marriage. In what ways are a man and a woman united in eternal marriage more powerful than their combined talents would be if they remained single? What does the term synergy mean? (“Interaction or cooperation of two or more … agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects” [The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 10th ed. (1999), 1452].) Discuss how synergy can work to strengthen an eternal marriage and family.

Discussion. Read the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Marriage allows [our] different characteristics to come together in oneness—in unity—to bless a husband and wife, their children and grandchildren. For the greatest happiness and productivity in life, both husband and wife are needed. Their efforts interlock and are complementary. Each has individual traits that best fit the role the Lord has defined for happiness as a man or woman. When used as the Lord intends, those capacities allow a married couple to think, act, and rejoice as one—to face challenges together and overcome them as one, to grow in love and understanding, and through temple ordinances to be bound together as one whole, eternally. That is the plan” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 101; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 74; student manual, 345).

Discuss how natural differences can benefit a marriage and how differences need not stop us from thinking, acting, and rejoicing as one.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Share the following story by Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Explain that wedges are triangular pieces of metal used to split logs into firewood.

“One night I lay awake thinking through the problems of the day. All week there had filed by my desk people—wonderful people—some bowed in grief and anguish of soul; others learning repentance through life’s penalties; some frustrated in their marital upsets, in their moral aberrations, in their financial reverses, and in their spiritual deficiencies.

“These people were good people basically; but as they traveled, they had found difficulty in staying on the main thoroughfare and had deviated on side roads; they had forgotten covenants and postponed putting into effect their good resolutions.

“There came to my mind an article by Samuel T. Whitman entitled ‘Forgotten Wedges.’ I had learned to use wedges when I was a lad in Arizona, it being my duty to supply wood for many fires in the big house. May I quote Whitman:

“‘The ice storm wasn’t generally destructive. True, a few wires came down, and there was a sudden jump in accidents along the highway. Walking out of doors became unpleasant and difficult. It was disagreeable weather, but it was not serious. Normally, the big walnut tree could easily have borne the weight that formed on its spreading limbs. It was the iron wedge in its heart that caused the damage.

“‘The story of the iron wedge began years ago when the white-haired farmer was a lad on his father’s homestead. The sawmill had then only recently been moved from the valley, and the settlers were still finding tools and odd pieces of equipment scattered about. …

“‘On this particular day, it was a faller’s wedge—wide, flat, and heavy, a foot or more long, and splayed from mighty poundings. The path from the south pasture did not pass the woodshed; and, because he was already late for dinner, the lad laid the wedge … between the limbs of the young walnut tree his father had planted near the front gate. He would take the wedge to the shed right after dinner, or sometime when he was going that way.

“‘He truly meant to, but he never did. It was there between the limbs, a little tight, when he attained his manhood. It was there, now firmly gripped, when he married and took over his father’s farm. It was half grown over on the day the threshing crew ate dinner under the tree. … Grown in and healed over, the wedge was still in the tree the winter the ice storm came.

“‘In the chill silence of that wintry night, with the mist like rain sifting down and freezing where it fell, one of the three major limbs split away from the trunk and crashed to the ground. This so unbalanced the remainder of the top that it, too, split apart and went down. When the storm was over, not a twig of the once-proud tree remained.

“‘Early the next morning, the farmer went out to mourn his loss. “Wouldn’t have had that happen for a thousand dollars,” he said. “Prettiest tree in the valley, that was.”

“‘Then, his eyes caught sight of something in the splintered ruin. “The wedge,” he muttered reproachfully. “The wedge I found in the south pasture.” A glance told him why the tree had fallen. Growing edge-up in the trunk, the wedge had prevented the limb fibers from knitting together as they should.’

“Forgotten wedges! Hidden weaknesses grown over and invisible, waiting until some winter night to work their ruin. What better symbolizes the presence and the effect of sin in our lives?” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1966, 70–71).

What are some wedges that can threaten unity in marriage?

Ask students to turn to Selected Teachings from “Selfishness” in the student manual (p. 304). Read the first sentence of the second paragraph under President Spencer W. Kimball: “Every divorce is the result of selfishness on the part of one or the other or both parties to a marriage contract.” Selfishness can act as a wedge in marriage. It manifests itself in a variety of ways.

Read each of the statement in Selected Teachings and list on the board conduct that can act as a wedge in a marriage. Discuss how each of these wedges can be overcome or avoided altogether. Your list could be similar to the following:

  • President David O. McKay. Hatred, greed, animosity, and envy.

  • President Spencer W. Kimball. Thinking of our own comforts, conveniences, freedoms, luxuries, or ease; ceaseless pinpricking, physical violence; marrying for the wrong reasons (wealth, prestige, social status, vanity, or to spite someone).

  • President Gordon B. Hinckley. Selfishness leading to money problems, adultery, lust, greed. Selfishness that destroys self-discipline, loyalty, or covenants.

  • Elder Neal A. Maxwell. Proud selfishness, lack of intellectual humility, nurturing grievances.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Group work. Distribute handout 4, “That We May Be One,” found at the end of this lesson (pp. 30–33). Assign small groups of students to study particular portions. Have each group read together their assigned section. Have them look for (1) conduct that invites unity in marriage and (2) principles for becoming one in marriage. Have each group present their findings to the class. Possible student responses can be found in the following chart:

Conduct and Principles of Unity image

Conclusion

Elder James E. Faust of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “There are many things which go into making a marriage enriching, but they seem to be of the husk. Having the companionship and enjoying the fruits of a Holy and Divine Presence is the kernel of a great happiness in marriage. Spiritual oneness is the anchor” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 14; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 10–11; student manual, 186). We are more likely to be united when we focus on spiritual oneness and do things that invite the Spirit into our marriage. In so doing we automatically eliminate selfish conduct that can place wedges in our marriage.

Student Assignment

Remind students of the family history assignment that is due next class period (see p. 18).