Coming up in a few weeks – this was in 2014 – we will be having a lesson in Relief Society/Priesthood on eternal marriage. I thought I would take this opportunity to make a few comments about this lesson using President Joseph Fielding Smith’s words on the subject. This is one lesson I hope you will read and reread before participating in class.
When we talk about mortality, we talk in terms of getting the privilege of gaining a body and being able to make choices. But mortality is much more than that. We should also remember that we had to keep our first estate as spirits in order to earn the privileges attached to mortality, of which getting a body was just the tip of the iceberg.
Being worthy to come to mortality, and gaining a body, holds the guarantee of a degree of eternal glory, something not available to those who did not keep their first estate. Keeping our second estate means we not only get eternal glory after this test is over, but we get to return home to our heavenly parents and become like them. This is referred to as exaltation, which means to be raised to the highest level of existence – godhood.
When we think of the plan of salvation and the gospel of Christ, we often think in selfish terms of my repentance, my forgiveness, my exaltation, and my glory. Admit it, when was the last time you thought of the plan of salvation as the salvation of families and not as the salvation of an individual? Most of us don’t, but that is what the plan of salvation is for, the creation and salvation of families.
Think for a moment about one of the most important decisions you ever make in mortality, that of choosing a spouse. Having a body at all is amazing, but because we have one, we can participate in an activity that is reserved only for gods: procreation. No one else in all of eternity can make and expand a family, except for a god. All others remain celibate for eternity. In mortality we can choose a spouse, then go to the House of the Lord and be sealed together so that our union never dissolves, either in this life or the next.
Before continuing on this topic, I would like to state that I am fully aware that there are more singles in the Church than there are married people. Fortunately, the blessings promised those who are faithful are just as available to those who have already passed through the veil as they are to those who are here currently. Just because we don’t enjoy a promised blessing in this phase of mortality, it doesn’t mean we won’t be given that opportunity at some point in the future. This requires faith and diligence to live with. As my wife once told me, for those who are without a spouse, due to no lack of effort on their own, being told we will enjoy the blessings of family in the future is like describing a current Thanksgiving dinner to someone who has been fasting since May. It can be difficult for the one fasting and doing without to be properly happy for those enjoying the meal now. My wife was 45 when we married, so I believe she knows what she is talking about. Okay, back to our discussion.
Joseph Fielding Smith said,
“Celestial marriage is the crowning ordinance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There is no ordinance connected with the Gospel of Jesus Christ of greater importance, or more solemn and sacred nature, and more necessary to our eternal joy … than marriage.”
So what is the point of all my repenting and service, living the commandments and making covenants? It is certainly not to exalt myself, because exaltation only comes to companionships, to couples. All of this work is to make me fit in my marriage to be worthy as a celestial partner for the blessings of eternal increase in the hereafter. But I get to begin the process here in mortality of learning how to become a fit partner by finding a spouse and starting my eternal family unit, even though I am not yet “fit for duty” in the sense that I am far from perfect.
Do you see why marriage is so highly valued by the Lord? Do you see why it is the crowning experience in the temple? Mankind treats marriage as just a civil contract between the man and woman, but the Lord treats marriage as the highest form of contract there is. Again, President Smith said,
It is, in fact, an eternal principle upon which the very existence of mankind depends. The Lord gave this law to man in the very beginning of the world as part of the Gospel law, and the first marriage was to endure forever. According to the law of the Lord every marriage should endure forever. If all mankind would live in strict obedience to the Gospel and in that love which is begotten by the Spirit of the Lord, all marriages would be eternal …
Creating a happy home
Creating and hanging onto an eternal companion is not easy. We have to do a lot of changing in the process of living to make ourselves worthy to be one of those companions. I have learned from experience that I can only change myself (Yes, I know, it’s always about me!) But it is true! We may want to establish a happy home in this life, one that will extend with us into eternity, but that takes a lifetime of service, covenant keeping, loving, forgiving, and changing to accomplish.
My point is this: establishing a happy home is anything but accidental. It takes a lot of hard work, cooperation, dedication, sacrifice, and more often than not, more giving than taking on both sides of the companionship. But is there a shortcut to a happy home? Can anyone just walk into our marriages and make us do everything right? Not at all. This is something we have to discover on our own. We have to work our way through all the pitfalls of relationship time bombs and emerge on the other side still grateful we are together. This is something we have to really want!
President Smith continues by saying,
If properly received this covenant becomes the means of the greatest happiness. The greatest honor in this life, and in the life to come, honor, dominion and power in perfect love, are the blessings which come out of it. These blessings of eternal glory are held in reserve for those who are willing to abide in this and all other covenants of the Gospel.
Mortality doesn’t just mean getting a body. Mortality is the beginning of our efforts to really become gods. This is the time and the place where we enter God’s holy house and covenant with Him to be obedient and start training in earnest with our companion to become like Him, a parent. In the process of living with our spouse and raising our family we become more like Him and less like the rest of the world. It is usually in an eternal marriage that we discover the secrets to overcoming the world and becoming like Christ.
We can start that process while still single, and many will have to live their whole mortal lives learning to be like Christ before receiving the blessings of a companion in the next life. Fortunately, the Lord has promised that no blessing will be denied to any son or daughter who is faithful, and in the eternal scheme of things, whether we marry now or next week, it will make little difference, for it will last for eternity. And for a blessing that has no end, the timing of its beginning is of minor consequence. For those hurting from the lack of a companion, I apologize for sounding calloused. I am not. But I am correct. This is a faith issue, and for most, a difficult one at that.
This issue of patience with the Lord also extends to those who are already sealed to each other, but this life has denied them children. They may have to spend their entire mortal life working on becoming the best companion to their spouse they can. The blessings of children may not be afforded them until later on. We tend to see everything in a terminal way. We look at life as having an end date, which comes at death. But God sees our lives as being as eternal as His is. We all have to wait to see if we have lived worthily of having our children sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promised. All of us, married or not have much for which we will have to wait to see if we have been worthy enough to receive our promised blessings. This is why it is so important that we have compassion on one another, for we are all at different stages in our development, but the end blessings are the same. We need to support each other and look forward in faith for our promised blessings, no matter where we look like we are at the moment.
Sometimes we will have great sorrows in life. We will have wayward children and sometimes a wayward companion. Sometimes we will be the wayward one. But the object of our time in mortality is to become as Christlike in our behavior as we can, given our particular circumstances, so that we are a worthy companion and as worthy a parent as we can be when we return home. Yes, we have to improve our self, but the object of that improvement is so we can be the best companion we can be in the eternities.
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