“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129). By including Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in their relationships and unitedly living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, husbands and wives can attain the ultimate happiness that is the object of God’s plan.
Display the following statement by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud:
“Marriage brings greater possibilities for happiness than does any other human relationship. Yet some married couples fall short of their full potential. They let their romance become rusty, take each other for granted, allow other interests or clouds of neglect to obscure the vision of what their marriage really could be. Marriages would be happier if nurtured more carefully” (“Nurturing Marriage,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 36).
What habits or attitudes do you think might cause a marriage to “become rusty”?
Explain that couples who allow their marriages to become rusty sometimes choose to end their marriages through divorce. Tell students that during the Savior’s mortal ministry, some Pharisees argued that divorce was justified for even trivial reasons, and they sought to involve Jesus in the controversy by asking His opinion about divorce. Ask a student to read Matthew 19:3–8 aloud, and invite students to look for the contrast between the Savior’s and the Pharisees’ attitudes toward marriage. If needed, explain that a writing of divorcement was a legal document that a man was to give his wife before sending her away.
What words in verse 3 illustrate the Pharisees’ attitude toward marriage and divorce? (It was permissible to “put away,” or divorce, “for every cause.”)
What did Jesus teach in verse 8 that countered this thinking and affirmed the solemn nature of marriage? (From the time of Adam and Eve, God intended for marriages to last eternally. To reinforce this doctrine, consider asking students to cross-reference verse 8 with Ecclesiastes 3:14 and Moses 4:18.)
Share the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“The kind of marriage required for exaltation—eternal in duration and godlike in quality—does not contemplate divorce. In the temples of the Lord, couples are married for all eternity. But some marriages do not progress toward that ideal. Because ‘of the hardness of [our] hearts’ [Matthew 19:8], the Lord does not currently enforce the consequences of the celestial standard. He permits divorced persons to marry again without the stain of immorality specified in the higher law” (“Divorce,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 70).
To help students understand what husbands and wives can do to achieve the kind of marriage required for exaltation, ask students to read the first sentence of paragraph six in the family proclamation.
What obligation do husbands and wives have to each other? (As students respond, write on the board this phrase from the family proclamation: “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other.”)
What does it mean to you that married couples have a “solemn responsibility to love and care for each other”?
To help students better understand this responsibility, invite half of the class to read Doctrine and Covenants 25:5, 13–15, and the other half to read Doctrine and Covenants 42:22 and Ephesians 5:25, 28–31. Ask students to look for principles that teach how to nurture a marriage and then write what they find on the board. After sufficient time, ask students to select one of the items written on the board and explain what it means to them.
Share the following statement by Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy and ask the class to listen for specific insights into the words cleave and leave:
“The happiest marriages I have seen radiate obedience to one of the happiest commandments—that we ‘live together in love’ [D&C 42:45]. Speaking to husbands, the Lord commanded, ‘Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else’ [D&C 42:22]. A Church handbook teaches: ‘The word cleave means to be completely devoted and faithful to someone. Married couples cleave to God and one another by serving and loving each other and by keeping covenants in complete fidelity to one another and to God.’ Both the husband and wife ‘leave behind their single life and establish their marriage as [their] first priority. … They allow no other person or interest to have greater priority … than keeping the covenants they have made with God and each other’ [Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2010), 1.3.1]. Watch and learn: successful couples love each other with complete devotion” (“Marriage: Watch and Learn,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 85).
What are some things husbands or wives may have to “leave behind” in order to “cleave” to one another?
How do married couples you know demonstrate love and care for their spouses?
What are you doing now that will help prepare you to unselfishly love and care for your future spouse?
Invite a student to read Abraham 5:15–18 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what these verses teach about the relationship between husbands and wives.
According to these verses, what goal should a husband and wife work toward? (To become “one flesh.”)
Draw the following diagram on the board:
Provide each student with a copy of the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read the first paragraph aloud while the class looks for what the diagram represents:
“The Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point in a covenant marriage relationship. Please notice how the Savior is positioned at the apex of this triangle, with a woman at the base of one corner and a man at the base of the other corner. Now consider what happens in the relationship between the man and the woman as they individually and steadily ‘come unto Christ’ and strive to be ‘perfected in Him’ (Moroni 10:32). Because of and through the Redeemer, the man and the woman come closer together.
“As a husband and wife are each drawn to the Lord (see 3 Nephi 27:14), as they learn to serve and cherish one another, as they share life experiences and grow together and become one, and as they are blessed through the uniting of their distinctive natures, they begin to realize the fulfillment that our Heavenly Father desires for His children. Ultimate happiness, which is the very object of the Father’s plan, is received through the making and honoring of eternal marriage covenants” (“Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Ensign, June 2006, 86).
According to Elder Bednar, what makes it possible for a husband and wife to come closer together? (As students respond, emphasize the following principle: As husbands and wives strive to come unto Christ, they can become one in their marriage.)
How do you think coming unto Christ helps a husband and wife grow closer?
Ask a student to read aloud the second paragraph of Elder Bednar’s statement. Then ask:
According to Elder Bednar, what must couples do to receive the “ultimate happiness” that God wants for them?
What types of things have you seen couples do to achieve unity and joy in marriage?
Read and then testify of the truth of the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994):
“Marriage itself must be regarded as a sacred covenant before God. A married couple have an obligation not only to each other, but to God. He has promised blessings to those who honor that covenant” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson , 183).
How might spouses act differently if they regarded marriage as a sacred covenant made not only with each other but also with God?
What can you do now to prepare for a temple marriage?
Challenge students to write in their personal journals about what they are doing now and what they might do in the future to prepare for eternal marriage.