Friday, January 22, 2016

Mormons and Eternal Marriage

My Marriage Experience

Marriage has blessed my life.  I contemplate it frequently. It is a refining principle and process. Between the discussions that we have and the efforts made to recognize the talents, concerns and ambitions of each other we have experienced something of the process of two becoming one.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we see marriage as a very important principle and an ideal to seek. As we strive to implement the ideal we may not get it right every time or for a long time.  

Most of the philosophies of men in popular culture demean the power and nurture of womanhood whether they become mothers or not. Fatherhood is also belittled in these circles of spiritual ignorance.

I did not grow up in what you might call an ideal family, yet I wanted to have such a family. I have come to realize that such is not the norm however. I sensed that marriage was was an important principle yet did not fully understand why. When I was young, marriage was still more valid in society than it is today. 

While striving to develop the marriage relationship we will still fall short in so many aspects so many times. We still must keep our eye on the ideal while the world may choose to live together without marriage or any real commitment. The precepts of enduring relationships and child bearing have become the minority.  

Marriage is however in my mind the most synergistic of all relationships both in power to create and to refine the character of its participants. Elder Henry B Eyring described it as a "transcendent power to create happiness" in his personal testimony at the Vatican.   See The Family Proclamation.  I add my testimony and personal witness to his that this is true. 

As I became interested in and learned the principle of service to others,  I also discovered something of how this applies to seeking to contribute to the happiness of my wife.  She is a happy person on her own, but in marriage there is a partnership that requires working together.  

It does take a lot of work and commitment to stay in love and serve each other.  I get a lot of joy from seeing her smile and watching her enjoy life to pursue her dreams and ambitions. These opportunities have increased with the passage of time. 

There were times when I didn't think I would possibly have a truly happy and fulfilled wife as we struggled along in the early years. I am still working on it as well.  She experienced the creation of life 10 times and has eight amazing children from her sacrifice. A long explanation of what that might entail probably isn't necessary for this message. 

When we met I had one possession, a car and its side was smashed in from a crash I was involved in on my way to Arizona.  The strange thing is we didn't care.  Life was an opportunity.  Tight and limited means were the norm for much of our life together.

Life is different now, still with unique and ever changing challenges but easier with fewer mouths to feed.  Our kids are grown and on their own for the most part but she still worries about them and our grandchildren. 

Together though we have combined our talents and have managed to increase our opportunities and find some success in our temporal endeavors and family life.  I have seen this in numerous marriages that served as examples to me. With a large family and a desire to be self-reliant we worked hard to realize that goal. In fact our circumstances dictated that we work a lot.

For the most part we lived by faith that all would work out.  Her life has been full of challenges to say the least.  We have been married for 37 years. Not a long time compared to some but it is long enough to get to know someone and see them become greater in their personal development.  We have done this together.

We now have married children. Their courtships and marriages have each had unique opportunities and challenges as well. They are creating happiness as they have children that rely on their guidance and nurturing.

We did knew something of each other's faith and we were both members of the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This foundation was important to our effort to have a good marriage.  

Her parents were converts to the church in their 20's and I was a convert when I was 17.  She grew up in the church and I didn't. Her parents set a good example for her and have now been married almost 60 years. 

I don't recommend our courtship process for others as short engagements do have some risks.  We met and dated and 10 days after our first date we were engaged. Three months later we were married. 

I liked to be with her and she with me and we concluded that we would know better in short order if we still wanted to pursue our commitment.  Her parents were not in agreement with our assessment and courtship timing.  I was only there for the summer though and wasn't leaving without her. 

We were both quite innocent about so many things when we married. We loved being together though, and each day, week, month and year and child that came to our home has been an adventure.  We had a foundation of trust that has endured. 

Even though our courtship was short we had really been preparing for marriage for years.  In applying the foundational principles of the gospel as taught in the church we have lived without regrets in our decisions to develop a family centered lifestyle based on the hope of eternal family relationships.

After joining the church I learned of the examples of some of our church leaders. In speaking of their marriages they taught and lived in such a way that arguments never developed.  I wanted that in my marriage.

I thought I would like to be like that when I meet the girl that I would marry.  I reinforced it when I met my wife and such has been our lot.  Of course because she refuses to be kind of person that wants to argue about anything it helps tremendously.  We still disagree on many things though. We just don't argue about them.

Looking back over our time together and our commitment to each other, the principle of marriage has been an experience that neither of us would change.  Even so, neither of us is really the same person that we married. We have developed a oneness in purpose and developed the love that has endured well to this point.  It has been a refining process.

I am not saying that married people do not experience frustration as they learn to love, to be compatible and overcome selfishness. The fact is that if you put two people together with separate ambitions and try to combine them you expose them to potential friction.  

The process of resisting your own selfish tendencies and the effort to become one refines you faster.  I have witnessed that if you try to live your principles of commitment and fidelity, the love that develops can become a relationship of trust, fun and contentment.   

The desire to seek the happiness of each other is expressed in many ways and becomes more constant with time and experience. Those that choose short term relationships simply break up if the frustration of their selfishness or other vices becomes too dominant. 

My wife finds fulfillment from her life's activities and my goal is to help her keep pursuing them.  She is my business partner.  She is an ambitious creator through many projects and gifts she makes to give to others. Every home we have lived in be it a small apartment or comfortable home she made it beautiful and pleasant to be in according to our means.

She is back in school, taking business and economics courses that are challenging and time consuming.  She passes her classes with A's because that's how she is.  We discuss what she is learning and it is just so much fun to have those discussions and relate them to what we are doing, what our children are doing and what is going on in the world.

We love to be together with others, our children and alone. She is so committed to the successful teaching of important principles of life to our children. We relish each others company and independence.  She is truly an independent woman and we live in a constant state of counsel. Our marriage is hardly traditional though. We were married not only for time but also for eternity. 

Eternal Marriage

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only Christian church that I am aware of that proclaims marriage is an eternal covenant relationship.  

The Mormon church teaches that some of the purposes of life are to form intimate nurturing relationships through marriage and family. This is to give life and a physical body that is an essential element in an eternal plan for the children of God. Life is a processionary step and a probationary state for learning. Exaltation and salvation were planned before we came to earth.

Marriage is in its highest order a holy union with capacity to endure. Those that make and keep sacred covenants according to God's laws, and honor those powers that give life, will have the opportunity to keep them forever. This is why sexual integrity inside marriage covenants is so important.  As such marriage and love cannot be redefined to fit the philosophies of men.  Same sex relationships do not follow this pattern of eternal creation.  Even so God lets us choose how we use the emotions and attraction of our procreative powers for ourselves.

Our teachings tell us that we were not created out of nothing at our birth but that we are eternal beings created in the image of God. Mormon theology teaches that God the Father is a person, a glorified and perfected individual.  

The Father is a man and men on earth are in his image. Fatherhood only exists because of motherhood.  Our eternal mother is a woman.  Women are created in her image.  The image of God is male and female. Any other description would be an effort to redefine truth.  This is what religious philosophers have done. They have made up their own definition of what created in the image of God means.

The female gender and womanhood was not a new invention in the Garden of Eden? Was woman an afterthought to be a companion to Adam as taught by Bible scholars? No this relationship is an eternal pattern and not a new institution.  We have learned this from latter-day prophets of God.

Christian philosophers and theologians determined that marriage is a temporary arrangement. They believe that is what the Bible teaches. In their opinions, from their debates and conclusions they determined that it was a relationship lasting only until the death of the parties.  

Scholars disregard the fact that Adam and Eve were immortal when it was instituted from a biblical standpoint by God in the Garden of Eden. Even though Adam and Eve fell, the marriage covenant would be restored as part of the redemption through Christ.

Traditional orthodox theologians don't have an official doctrine as to how we live in the hereafter or what we might do.  Their theology essentially says that the emotional investment and intimacy of marriage is lost.  

Christian philosophers resolutely declare that the Bible teaches that marriage ends at death. Marriages are therefore performed with the common vernacular of "so long as you both shall live" or "until death do you part" in their ceremonies.  Such are the conclusions of Bible scholars and their philosophical opinions.

United together as male and female is the only way creation takes place in mortality and eternity. There is no misunderstanding about where our gender comes from. Godhood is the eternal togetherness of man and woman. Our eternal parents want us to become like them and receive the fullness of joy which comes from eternal increase in the family unit. 

When a man and a women choose marriage they follow the divine pattern.  It is patterned after the eternal family in heaven.  It is the ultimate of synergy.  As Henry B. Eyring called it a "transcendent power to produce happiness."  It is a process and not an event. The uniting of two souls as one in a mortal experience where the emotional investments do not end at death.

When people chose to live together without marriage or in same sex relationships they disregard this pattern. They choose the philosophies of men.  The spiritual union cannot happen outside of the covenants of the temple and priesthood sealing powers. Only therein is the authority for an eternal union. 

God does not stop the unauthorized unions because life is a probationary station where we are tested as to our desires and we choose how they develop in our actions.

God our Father's desire is for our greatest happiness.  This is found in the truths He has revealed.  His perfect love and the gospel of his son Jesus Christ make possible the changes we need to make.  In developing the power and gift of love we can be endowed.  This happens through the covenants we are willing to accept and live. This is how faith is manifest as we act.  

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