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Decisions for Eternity
A strong human spirit with control over appetites of the flesh is master over emotions and passions and not a slave to them. That kind of freedom is as vital to the spirit as oxygen is to the body! Freedom from self-slavery is true liberation! We are “free to choose liberty and eternal life … or to choose captivity and death.” When we choose the loftier path toward liberty and eternal life, that path includes marriage. Latter-day Saints proclaim that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” We also know that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to the Lord’s doctrine and crucial to God’s eternal plan. Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fulness of life on earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood, or misconstrued. Not if you want true joy. God’s marriage pattern protects the sacred power of procreation and the joy of true marital intimacy. We know that Adam and Eve were married by God before they ever experienced the joy of uniting as husband and wife. In our day civil governments have a vested interest in protecting marriage because strong families constitute the best way of providing for the health, education, welfare, and prosperity of rising generations. But civil governments are heavily influenced by social trends and secular philosophies as they write, rewrite, and enforce laws. Regardless of what civil legislation may be enacted, the doctrine of the Lord regarding marriage and morality cannot be changed. Remember: sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God! While we are to emulate our Savior’s kindness and compassion, while we are to value the rights and feelings of all of God’s children, we cannot change His doctrine. It is not ours to change. His doctrine is ours to study, understand, and uphold. The Savior’s way of life is good. His way includes chastity before marriage and total fidelity within marriage. The Lord’s way is the only way for us to experience enduring happiness. His way brings sustained comfort to our souls and perennial peace to our homes. And best of all, His way leads us home to Him and our Heavenly Father, to eternal life and exaltation. This is the very essence of God’s work and glory.
Fortify Your Homes Against Evil
Selfishness is an element that breaks and corrodes and destroys marriages as it destroys lives and all that is good. It is an act of extreme selfishness for a married couple to refuse to have children when they are able to do so. It is a crime next to murder itself to destroy and abort the fetus except for extreme reasons which would endanger the life of the mother. As we have said on previous occasions, certainly our Heavenly Father is distressed with the increasing inroads among his children of such insidious sins as adultery and fornication and homosexuality, lesbianism, abortion, alcoholism, dishonesty, and crime generally, which threaten the total breakdown of the family and the home. To our beloved young people we would say a few more things about the responsibility of marriage. When the selection of a life’s companion is made and the time comes, our young people should marry in the holy temple and have their families; complete their education; establish themselves in a profitable, honorable and rewarding occupation; and give themselves to their families, to the gospel, and to the Church. What we are saying about eternal marriage is not my opinion only or the opinion of the leaders of the Church today. This is the word of God, which supersedes all other opinions. There seems to be a growing trend against marriage from degenerate areas of the world and a very strong trend toward marriage without children. Naturally the next question is, “Why marry?” And the “antimarriage revolution” comes into focus. Arguments are given that children are a burden, a tie, a responsibility. Many have convinced themselves that education, freedom from restraint and responsibility—that is the life. And unfortunately this benighted and destructive idea is taking hold of some of our own people. Marriage is ordained of God. It is a necessary and delightful condition. It is the only true state, and the failure of many marriages does not change the rightness of marriage.As we enter into an eternal marriage and seek to fortify our family unit against that which would destroy our celestial happiness, let us remember also that the Lord will not leave us alone to accomplish this task.
The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness
Obedience to the plan is a requisite for full happiness in this life and a continuation of eternal joy beyond the veil. Essential to His plan of happiness is agency—the right of personal choice. Also fundamental is the holy privilege of procreation to be exercised within the commitment of legal marriage. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. The family is ordained of God. As husband and wife, you have the responsibility to bear children and to nurture and train them spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Satan also has a plan. It is a cunning, evil, subtle plan of destruction. It is his objective to take captive the children of Father in Heaven and with every possible means frustrate the great plan of happiness. Our Heavenly Father endowed His sons and daughters with unique traits especially fitted for their individual responsibilities as they fulfill His plan. To follow His plan requires that you do those things He expects of you as a son or daughter, husband or wife. Those roles are different but entirely compatible. In the Lord’s plan, it takes two—a man and a woman—to form a whole. Indeed, a husband and wife are not two identical halves, but a wondrous, divinely determined combination of complementary capacities and characteristics. Marriage allows these 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.
Marriage and Divorce
The ugly dragon of divorce has entered into our social life. Little known to our grandparents and not even common among our parents, this cancer has come to be so common in our own day that nearly every family has been cursed by its destructive machinations. This is one of the principal tools of Satan to destroy faith, through breaking up happy homes and bringing frustration of life and distortion of thought. Honorable, happy, and successful marriage is surely the principal goal of every normal person. One who would purposely or neglectfully avoid its serious implications is not only not normal but is frustrating his own program. There are a few people who marry for spite or marry for wealth or marry on the rebound after having been jilted. How distorted is the thinking of such an one! Marriage is perhaps the most vital of all the decisions and has the most far-reaching effects, for it has to do not only with immediate happiness, but also with eternal joys. It affects not only the two people involved, but their families and particularly their children and their children’s children down through the many generations. It is absolutely appalling, the number of children today who are growing up in our society who do not have two parents, a father and a mother, and neither one is totally sufficient, if two could be had. In selecting a companion for life and for eternity, certainly the most careful planning and thinking and praying and fasting should be done to be sure that, of all the decisions, this one must not be wrong. In true marriage there must be a union of minds as well as of hearts. Emotions must not wholly determine decisions, but the mind and the heart, strengthened by fasting and prayer and serious consideration, will give one a maximum chance of marital happiness. Marriage is not easy; it is not simple, as evidenced by the ever-mounting divorce rate.
Marriage Is Honorable
My beloved brothers and sisters of the ten stakes on the Brigham Young University campus, the song that was just sung by the choir so beautifully is my favorite, and I feel tonight that “I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord.” This is a most inspiring group of people, and I would say to you—as you know already—that the eyes of the world are upon you, the students of Brigham Young University. As I’ve come to talk to you tonight, I have come not to entertain you—there are others to do that—but to discuss with you some of the deeper things of the gospel program. Most of you are biologically and intellectually maturing and should be ready to think deeply and order your lives accordingly. I believe in the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and since perhaps the majority of you have not yet entered into the marriage state, I wish to talk to you tonight about marriage. While some of our young people marry early, yet there seems to be a tendency toward delaying marriage. A gradual move toward ignoring and even rejecting this vital and basic program is noticeable in our culture. . .We are finding that many young people are obsessed with the idea of more and more education, even to the postponing of their marriages. Only yesterday I met a returned missionary, thirty-five years old, who was little concerned about his bachelorhood and laughed it away. When the Lord organized his world and established his policies, he could have filled the earth with physical bodies in some other way than that which he designed—perhaps some kind of an incubator process. But it seems that merely filling the earth with humans was not the great objective of our Lord. In order to properly people the world it was necessary that every child born into this world should have two parents, a father and a mother, to teach him, to train him, to love him, that that child should be made aware of what was expected of him.
No Other Gods
We are also respectful of the religious beliefs of all people, even of those increasing numbers who profess no belief in God. We know that through the God-given power of choice, many will hold beliefs contrary to ours, but we are hopeful that others will be equally respectful of our religious beliefs and understand that our beliefs compel us to some different choices and behaviors than theirs. For example, we believe that, as an essential part of His plan of salvation, God has established an eternal standard that sexual relations should occur only between a man and a woman who are married. The power to create mortal life is the most exalted power God has given to His children. Its use was mandated by God’s first commandment to Adam and Eve, but other important commandments were given to forbid its misuse. The emphasis we place on the law of chastity is explained by our understanding of the purpose of our procreative powers in the accomplishment of God’s plan. Outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman, all uses of our procreative powers are to one degree or another sinful and contrary to God’s plan for the exaltation of His children. The importance we attach to the law of chastity explains our commitment to the pattern of marriage that originated with Adam and Eve and has continued through the ages as God’s pattern for the procreative relationship between His sons and daughters and for the nurturing of His children. Fortunately, many persons affiliated with other denominations or organizations agree with us on the nature and importance of marriage, some on the basis of religious doctrine and others on the basis of what they deem best for society. Our knowledge of God’s plan for His children7 explains why we are distressed that more and more children are born outside of marriage—currently 41 percent of all births in the United States —and that the number of couples living together without marriage has increased dramatically in the past half century. Five decades ago, only a tiny percentage of first marriages were preceded by cohabitation. Now cohabitation precedes 60 percent of marriages. And this is increasingly accepted, especially among teenagers. Recent survey data found about 50 percent of teenagers stating that out-of-wedlock childbearing was a “worthwhile lifestyle.”
The Right Person, the Right Place, the Right Time
January of 1972, after eating at a nice restaurant and attending the Osmonds in concert, I asked my wife to marry me. She said, “No.” A little over a month later, as I was walking her home from Church, she said, “Well, are you going to marry me or am I going to have to get a job?” I wisely agreed to marry her. She had, very sensibly, not accepted my invitation too quickly and been careful to make sure she had chosen the right man. She understood President Gordon B. Hinckley’s counsel: “This will be the most important decision of your life, the individual whom you marry. . . . Marry the right person in the right place at the right time”. Where is the right place? Who is the right person? When is the right time? Fortunately, President Hinckley and others have given us inspired counsel concerning these questions, and more than 60 years of research in the social sciences adds another witness to their counsel. Although the guidance I am going to share today is primarily for unmarried individuals, much of what I say can help married couples continue to strengthen their marriages. . . Our son Matt recently married a wonderful young woman from Oregon, and as my wife, Linda, and I were driving to the reception in Oregon, we reminisced about our own courtship and marriage. The more we talked, the more I remembered how immature I had been when we married. Finally, in bewilderment, I asked Linda, “Why did you marry me?” Her simple answer was, “I saw potential.” As we search for a mate with whom we can spend the eternities, therefore, we would do well to remember Elder Richard G. Scott’s counsel that mirrors my wife’s comments: I suggest that you not ignore many possible candidates who are still developing these attributes, seeking the one who is perfected in them. You will likely not find that perfect person, and if you did, there would certainly be no interest in you. These attributes are best polished together as husband and wife.
The Plan of Happiness
Ideally, mating begins with romance. Though customs may vary, it flourishes with all the storybook feelings of excitement and anticipation, even sometimes rejection. There are moonlight and roses, love letters, love songs, poetry, the holding of hands, and other expressions of affection between a young man and a young woman. The world disappears around the couple, and they experience feelings of joy. And if you suppose that the full-blown rapture of young romantic love is the sum total of the possibilities which spring from the fountains of life, you have not yet lived to see the devotion and the comfort of longtime married love. Married couples are tried by temptation, misunderstandings, financial problems, family crises, and illness, and all the while love grows stronger. Mature love has a bliss not even imagined by newlyweds. True love requires reserving until after marriage the sharing of that affection which unlocks those sacred powers in that fountain of life. It means avoiding situations where physical desire might take control. Pure love presupposes that only after a pledge of eternal fidelity, a legal and lawful ceremony, and ideally after the sealing ordinance in the temple are those procreative powers released in God’s eye for the full expression of love. It is to be shared solely and only with that one who is your companion forever.
Now, I have thought a lot lately about you young men who are of an age to marry but who have not yet felt to do so. I see lovely young ladies who desire to be married and to raise families, and yet their opportunities are limited because so many young men are postponing marriage. This is not a new situation. Much has been said concerning this matter by past Presidents of the Church. I share with you just one or two examples of their counsel. Said President Harold B. Lee, “We are not doing our duty as holders of the priesthood when we go beyond the marriageable age and withhold ourselves from an honorable marriage to these lovely women.” President Gordon B. Hinckley said this: “My heart reaches out to … our single sisters, who long for marriage and cannot seem to find it. … I have far less sympathy for the young men, who under the customs of our society, have the prerogative to take the initiative in these matters but in so many cases fail to do so.” I realize there are many reasons why you may be hesitating to take that step of getting married. If you are concerned about providing financially for a wife and family, may I assure you that there is no shame in a couple having to scrimp and save. It is generally during these challenging times that you will grow closer together as you learn to sacrifice and to make difficult decisions. Perhaps you are afraid of making the wrong choice. To this I say that you need to exercise faith. Find someone with whom you can be compatible. Realize that you will not be able to anticipate every challenge which may arise, but be assured that almost anything can be worked out if you are resourceful and if you are committed to making your marriage work. Perhaps you are having a little too much fun being single, taking extravagant vacations, buying expensive cars and toys, and just generally enjoying the carefree life with your friends. I’ve encountered groups of you running around together, and I admit that I’ve wondered why you aren’t out with the young ladies. Brethren, there is a point at which it’s time to think seriously about marriage and to seek a companion with whom you want to spend eternity. If you choose wisely and if you are committed to the success of your marriage, there is nothing in this life which will bring you greater happiness.
Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World
“We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. . . “We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan. “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’. Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations. “The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed. “We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
“The Standard of Truth Has Been Erected”
The great plan of happiness enables family relationships to last beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants, available only in the temple, make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally. Marriage, the family, and the home are the foundation of the Church. Nothing is more important to the Church and to civilization itself than the family! For some all is not complete in mortal life, for marriage and a family of their own have passed them by. But the great plan of happiness and the laws which govern it continue after death. Watched over by a kind and loving Heavenly Father, they will not, in the eternal pattern of things, be denied blessings necessary for their exaltation, including marriage and family. And it will be sweeter still because of the waiting and the longing. We learned from the revelations that we do not have to tell you young people what is right and what is wrong with regard to morality and marriage. The prophet Lehi taught his youthful children that “men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil.” Because the power to create a mortal body is essential to our happiness and exaltation, the Lord has decreed severe penalties against the immoral use of that power to beget life. Satan knows that if he can corrupt the process of mating and cause men and women to degrade it in immoral acts, he will, to that degree, for them disrupt the plan of happiness. Paul taught, “God … will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” I do not wish to offend the delicate feelings of you wonderful young people, but in your world awash with iniquity, you must be on guard.
Someone has said that life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. Because of things over which we have no control, we cannot plan and bring to pass everything we desire in our lives. Many important things will occur in our lives that we have not planned, and not all of them will be welcome. The tragic events of September 11th and their revolutionary consequences provide an obvious example. Even our most righteous desires may elude us, or come in different ways or at different times than we have sought to plan. . . The timing of marriage is perhaps the best example of an extremely important event in our lives that is almost impossible to plan. Like other important mortal events that depend on the agency of others or the will and timing of the Lord, marriage cannot be anticipated or planned with certainty. We can and should work for and pray for our righteous desires, but, despite this, many will remain single well beyond their desired time for marriage. So what should be done in the meantime? Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ prepares us for whatever life brings. This kind of faith prepares us to deal with life’s opportunities—to take advantage of those that are received and to persist through the disappointments of those that are lost. In the exercise of that faith we should commit ourselves to the priorities and standards we will follow on matters we do not control and persist faithfully in those commitments whatever happens to us because of the agency of others or the timing of the Lord. When we do this, we will have a constancy in our lives that will give us direction and peace. Whatever the circumstances beyond our control, our commitments and standards can be constant.
Why Marriage, Why Family
One of those letters was to his niece before her wedding. It included these significant insights: “Marriage is more than your love for each other. … In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. … So love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God.” In what way does marriage between a man and a woman transcend their love for one another and their own happiness to become “a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind”? In what sense does it come “from above, from God”? To understand, we have to go back to the beginning. Prophets have revealed that we first existed as intelligences and that we were given form, or spirit bodies, by God, thus becoming His spirit children—sons and daughters of heavenly parents. There came a time in this premortal existence of spirits when, in furtherance of His desire that we “could have a privilege to advance like himself,” our Heavenly Father prepared an enabling plan. In the scriptures it is given various names, including “the plan of salvation,” “the great plan of happiness,” and “the plan of redemption.”