I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.
—The Prophet Joseph Smith
Using the Student Manual
This manual is a collection of student readings for two institute of religion courses:
Religion 234, “Preparing for an Eternal Marriage”
Religion 235, “Building an Eternal Marriage”
Purpose of the Manual
The student readings are a collection of teachings about dating and marriage, as taught by past and present prophets, leaders of the Church, and the scriptures. This manual gives students the opportunity to read the assigned talks before each class period so they can prepare to better participate in and contribute to classroom discussions and activities.
Through understanding and living by the teachings of prophets about dating, marriage, and family life, students will be better prepared to govern their lives with correct principles and follow the Lord’s great plan of happiness. The guiding principle for selecting teachings for this manual came from “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” The proclamation states: “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).
Organization of the Manual
The student manual is organized topically in alphabetical order, similar to an encyclopedia. It contains an index that cross-references articles that cover more than one topic.
Several types of quotations are listed under the topical headings. The first is “Selected Teachings,” portions of talks or quotations that relate to that topic. These quotations are often presented under subheadings that relate to the main topic.
The second type of quotation is a complete talk about the chosen topic. Most topics have selected teachings and one or more complete talks. This type of organization emphasizes to the reader the power of the law of witnesses. Elder Henry B. Eyring, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught the importance of the law of witnesses:
“In our own time, we have been warned with counsel on where to find safety from sin and from sorrow. One of the keys to recognizing those warnings is that they are repeated. For instance, more than once in these general conferences, you have heard our prophet say that he would quote a preceding prophet and would therefore be a second witness and sometimes even a third. Each of us who has listened has heard President Kimball give counsel on the importance of a mother in the home and then heard President Benson quote him, and we have heard President Hinckley quote them both. The Apostle Paul wrote that ‘in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established’ (2 Corinthians 13:1). One of the ways we may know that the warning is from the Lord is that the law of witnesses, authorized witnesses, has been invoked. When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention and fill our hearts with gratitude to live in such a blessed time.
“Looking for the path to safety in the counsel of prophets makes sense to those with strong faith” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 32; or Ensign, May 1997, 25).
Living by Gospel Principles
Governing Our Lives with Principles
President Ezra Taft Benson counseled: “One of the most important things you can do … is to immerse yourselves in the scriptures. Search them diligently. Feast upon the words of Christ. Learn the doctrine. Master the principles that are found therein” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 81).
Elder Richard G. Scott, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated: “As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles. Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them. Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances. It is worth great effort to organize the truth we gather to simple statements of principle” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 117; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86).
Knowing and living by correct principles is essential to a happy life and a happy marriage. Gospel principles include doctrine, commandments, covenants, ordinances, and precepts. In this manual, however, the term principle refers to a gospel truth that gives us counsel and guidance for conduct.
We Must Do Our Part
Principles can often be divided into two main parts: if and then. The if part is a statement of general counsel from the Lord. The then part is the promised results of obeying or disobeying that counsel.
God called the Word of Wisdom “a principle with promise” (D&C 89:3). The if part is the counsel to keep our bodies physically and spiritually pure. The then part promises health, wisdom, strength, and other blessings.
The Lord keeps His promises: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10). We must do our part to qualify for the blessings (see D&C 130:20–22). We should also remember that God determines the then part according to His wisdom and not according to our expectations.
Principles are not always taught or written in the if-then format. For example, General Authorities do not always say “if you have faith, then you will have the Lord’s power in your life.” Instead, they may relate examples that illustrate faith or motivate us to be faithful.
Gospel Principles Are Universal
Gospel principles are universal—they are true in all situations in all cultures at all times. The principles revealed to Adam in the beginning of the world are just as true in these latter days. We have prophets, scriptures, and the influence of the Holy Ghost to help us see and apply correct principles.
A principle is an enduring truth, law, or rule you can adopt to guide you in making decisions. Principles help us apply the doctrines of the gospel to everyday living. They give us a light to illuminate the path before us in an increasingly confused and wicked world.