Eternal marriage is essential for exaltation in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, and it is attained only through being sealed by the proper authority in the temple and then living in accordance with the covenants entered into at that time. This lesson will reaffirm to students that marrying the right person in the right place and by the right authority is the most important decision they will ever make.
Explain that the importance of marriage has been taught since the earliest days of the Church. The doctrine of eternal marriage, however, was not widely taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith until the Nauvoo era. Display the following statement by Elder Parley P. Pratt (1807–57) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which describes how he felt as he learned for the first time that marriage could last for eternity. Invite a student to read it aloud:
“It was from [Joseph Smith] that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity. … It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore. … I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved—with a pureness—an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. , 297–98).
What effect did Elder Pratt’s new understanding of marriage have on his feelings for his wife?
Explain that many of the Lord’s teachings about eternal marriage are found in Doctrine and Covenants 132. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 132:19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify the conditions that must be met in order for a marriage to be eternal.
What conditions must be met in order for a marriage to be eternal? (Students should understand the following: Marriage is eternal for those who are married by God’s word, whose marriage is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, and who abide in the covenant.)
What does it mean to “abide in the covenant”? (To keep the terms and conditions of the marriage covenant. As a man and a woman enter into eternal marriage, they make solemn promises to each other and to God. To the spouse, they promise that they will unfailingly love and serve him or her with complete fidelity. To God, they solemnly promise to keep the terms and conditions of the covenants made in the temple.)
What does it mean that a marriage is “sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise”? (Consider pointing out that the Holy Spirit of Promise is one of the Holy Ghost’s titles. The Holy Ghost has many titles, including Comforter or Revelator. Each of these titles refers to one of His specific responsibilities or functions.)
To help students understand the title Holy Spirit of Promise, display the following statement and ask a student to read it aloud:
“The Holy Ghost is the Holy Spirit of Promise (Acts 2:33). He confirms as acceptable to God the righteous acts, ordinances, and covenants of men. The Holy Spirit of Promise witnesses to the Father that the saving ordinances have been performed properly and that the covenants associated with them have been kept” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Holy Spirit of Promise,” scriptures.lds.org).
How does this statement help explain why exaltation requires more than being sealed in the temple? What else must happen? (We must also live righteous lives and remain faithful to all the saving ordinances, including baptism, the sacrament, priesthood ordinations, and temple ordinances. Only as we remain faithful will the Holy Ghost witness to the Father that the covenants have been kept.)
Help students better understand eternal marriage by comparing and contrasting it with civil marriage using the following diagram. Copy the diagram on the board:
Divide the class into pairs. Ask one student in each pair to study Doctrine and Covenants 132:15–18 and the other student to study Doctrine and Covenants 132:19–24. Invite students to note words and phrases that describe the conditions that await those who marry civilly and the blessings that await those who marry for eternity.
After sufficient time, ask students to share their findings with each other. Then ask:
After death, how do the conditions of those who marry civilly differ from those who marry for eternity? (As students respond, you might add their responses to the diagram on the board. You may want to point out that the conditions described in verses 20–24 are similar to the blessings promised in the Abrahamic covenant [see Genesis 17:1–7; 22:17].)
To help answer this question, consider sharing the following statement by Elder Cree‑L Kofford of the Seventy:
“The authority for the promises in a celestial marriage comes from God, and the consequences of your failure to honor those promises also will come from God. In a civil marriage, the authority for the promises between bride and groom is the integrity of the two people. It rises no higher than that. It cannot. Its authority comes from man and not from God” (“Marriage in the Lord’s Way, Part One,” Ensign, June 1998, 9).
What thoughts do you have as you compare the conditions listed on the board?
What blessings have you observed in the homes of those who marry in the temple and strive to live true to their covenants? What do you see these couples doing to honor their covenants? (As part of this discussion, you might share this statement about marriage by Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Seventy: “No other relationship of any kind can bring as much joy, generate as much good, or produce as much personal refinement” [“Marriage: Watch and Learn,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 83].)
Explain to the class that Doctrine and Covenants 132 also contains some of the Lord’s instructions on the practice of plural marriage. The Lord commanded the Saints to practice the law of plural marriage as a part of the restoration of all things (see Acts 3:21; D&C 132:45). Church members practiced this law until 1890, when the Lord revealed to President Wilford Woodruff that He no longer required Church members to do so. To clarify the Church’s position on plural marriage today, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008):
“If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. … More than a century ago God clearly revealed unto His prophet Wilford Woodruff that the practice of plural marriage should be discontinued, which means that it is now against the law of God. Even in countries where civil or religious law allows polygamy, the Church teaches that marriage must be monogamous and does not accept into its membership those practicing plural marriage” (“What Are People Asking about Us?” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71–72).
If students have questions about plural marriage, refer them to Gospel Topics, “Plural Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” lds.org/topics.
Invite a student to read aloud Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4. Ask the class to look for why it is important for us to marry in the way the Lord has decreed.
What blessing awaits those who choose to enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage? (Make sure students understand this principle: When we enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, we can be exalted in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. Explain that in this context the word new means that this covenant was newly restored in our dispensation. The word everlasting means that this covenant will endure through eternity and that it was ordained in the premortal spirit world as part of the plan of salvation. It has been part of the gospel of Jesus Christ from the time of Adam. About the word increase, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that those who obtain the highest degree of the celestial kingdom “will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory” [in History of the Church, 5:391].)
Display the following statements by Elder Russell M. Nelson and ask a student to read them aloud:
“[Salvation] means to be saved from physical and spiritual death. … [Exaltation] refers to the highest state of happiness and glory in the celestial realm” (“Salvation and Exaltation,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 8).
“While salvation is an individual matter, exaltation is a family matter. Only those who are married in the temple and whose marriage is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise will continue as spouses after death and receive the highest degree of celestial glory, or exaltation” (“Celestial Marriage,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 92).
Why is eternal marriage so important? (As students respond, and as directed by the Spirit, you may want to emphasize the devastating trend in today’s world of people choosing not to marry because they value such things as a career more than fulfilling God’s plan for them. By rejecting marriage, they are forfeiting blessings God would like to give them now and in eternity.)
Why do you think that a temple marriage gives a couple greater possibilities for happiness than a civil marriage or living together without marriage?
To help students understand that all Saints will ultimately receive the blessing of an eternal marriage as long as they do not compromise their standards in any way, ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95):
“No blessing, including that of eternal marriage and an eternal family, will be denied to any worthy individual. While it may take somewhat longer—perhaps even beyond this mortal life—for some to achieve this blessing, it will not be denied” (“The Church Is for All People,” Ensign, June 1989, 76).
How many of you know people who desire to be married in the temple but have not had this opportunity? How might the promise in President Hunter’s statement help these people?
Conclude by inviting students to answer one or both of the following questions in writing:
What decisions am I making that will lead me toward being sealed in the temple?
What areas of my life require change or growth so that I will be ready to be sealed in the temple?
Invite several students to share what they are doing to prepare for temple marriage. Share your testimony that when a husband and wife keep the covenants they made when they were sealed in the temple, they will be united eternally. Share how this knowledge has been a blessing to your life.