Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Achieving Spousal Unity: Marriage the Lord's Way

"Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God," and I believe that He has always intended for husband and wife to be united as a couple, equally yoked in marriage.

Adam and Eve were intended to be "one flesh." To extend this ideal to all married couples, Christ taught, "...[man and wife] shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

Similar language to the verses in Mark 10 (vv. 7-9) is found in Moses 3:24, about which the Pearl of Great Price Institute manual says, "The word cleave means to be closely united. Adam and Eve were commanded to be 'one flesh,' meaning to be one mentally, socially, sexually, and spiritually." I would like to expand on that idea:


Men and women are different-- but that is what God intended:
 Our Father knew exactly what He was doing when He created us. He made us enough alike to love each other, but enough different that we would need to unite our strengths and stewardships to create a whole. Neither man nor woman is perfect or complete without the other. Thus, no marriage or family, no ward or stake is likely to reach its full potential until husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, men and women work together in unity of purpose, respecting and relying upon each other’s strengths. (Sheri L. Dew)
A big part of being mentally one involves sharing and working toward common goals. Doing so requires good patterns of communication between spouses. I think the following is great advice:
Every couple, whether in the first or the twenty-first year of marriage, should discover the value of pillow-talk time at the end of the day—the perfect time to take inventory, to talk about tomorrow. And best of all, it’s a time when love and appreciation for one another can be reconfirmed. The end of another day is also the perfect setting to say, "Sweetheart, I am sorry about what happened today. Please forgive me." (Robert L. Simpson)
Naturally, mental oneness cannot be achieved where there is any form of infidelity.
Be faithful in your marriage covenants in thought, word, and deed. Pornography, flirtations, and unwholesome fantasies erode one’s character and strike at the foundation of a happy marriage. Unity and trust within a marriage are thereby destroyed. (Howard W. Hunter)

This speaks for itself:
The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes pre-eminent in the life of the husband or wife and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, p. 250). (As quoted here)
Gordon B. Hinckley gave this sweet counsel to wives:
I hope that every wife will look to her husband as her dear companion, the star of her life, her supporter, her protector, her companion with whom she walks hand in hand "equally yoked."
...and this to husbands:
As a husband, he would live with respect for his wife, standing side by side with her, never belittling her nor demeaning her, but rather encouraging her in the continued development of her talents and in the church activities which are available to her. He would regard her as the greatest treasure of his life, one with whom he can share his concerns, his innermost thoughts, his ambitions and hopes. There would never be in that home any "unrighteous dominion" of husband over wife (see D&C 121:37, 39), no assertion of superiority, no assertion of authority, but rather an expression in living which says that these two are equally yoked.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said some very quotable things on sexual intimacy in marriage, such as the following:
...Human intimacy is reserved for a married couple because it is the ultimate symbol of total union, a totality and a union ordained and defined by God. From the Garden of Eden onward, marriage was intended to mean the complete merger of a man and a woman—their hearts, hopes, lives, love, family, future, everything. ... This is a union of such completeness that we use the word seal to convey its eternal promise. ... But such a total union, such an unyielding commitment between a man and a woman, can only come with the proximity and permanence afforded in a marriage covenant, with solemn promises and the pledge of all they possess—their very hearts and minds, all their days and all their dreams. (Jeffrey R. Holland)
I also appreciated these thoughts from the article linked to below:
It is ... of interest to note that the word sex or sexuality does not appear in the scriptures. Rather, it is described in holy writ with the words know or knew. This idea of “knowing” or “becoming acquainted with” connotes a deeply satisfying aspect of married love. (Brent A. Barlow)
This is from the same talk, but hits on an important key-- sexuality serves its purpose only when a couple is intimate in other facets of their marriage. Objectifying a spouse does nothing to help build the relationship:
Sometimes the image of men and women shown in the media subtly and incorrectly influences our perception of sexuality. Seldom does the media present a balanced, mature, loving marital relationship. Men are often presented as strong, dashing heroes with little commitment and only one desire—sex. Women are portrayed as hopelessly romantic, pragmatically businesslike, or silly, who in any case have one function—that of satisfying man’s one desire. Both of these narrow views deny the individuality of men and women. They ignore the fact that both are children of God, each with his or her own hopes, desires, talents, and emotions. When a husband and wife forget this truth and see the other as an object, sexuality can do little or nothing to promote intimacy. (Brent A. Barlow)

Ephesians 5 gives timeless counsel to married couples-- that wives should submit to their husbands, and that husbands should love their wives "as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." I appreciated the following commentary on those verses, found in the New Testament Sunday School manual:
Can you find in all the holy scriptures where the Lord Jesus Christ ever failed his church? … Was he faithful? Was he true? Is there anything good and worthy that he did not give? Then that is what we ask—what he asks of a husband. … Can you think of how he loved the Church? Its every breath was important to him. Its every growth, its every individual, was precious to him. He gave to those people all his energy, all his power, all his interest. He gave his life—what more could one give? (Spencer W. Kimball, Men of Example [address delivered to religious educators, 12 Sept. 1975], 4–5). (As quoted here)
Couple and family prayer provide an opportunity to gain unity through submitting individual wills to God's will. Praying for each other places family and couple relationships on a holier plane, inviting God's hand-- and His Spirit-- to play a role in familial interactions.

In a home where the husband and father holds the Priesthood, family decisions should be made jointly by the husband and wife:
A man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowledge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto. Of necessity there must be in the Church and in the home a presiding officer (see D&C 107:21). By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priesthood holder (see Moses 4:22). The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal)—that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership. Presiding in righteousness necessitates a shared responsibility between husband and wife; together you act with knowledge and participation in all family matters. For a man to operate independent of or without regard to the feelings and counsel of his wife in governing the family is to exercise unrighteous dominion. (Howard W. Hunter)
Marriage in temples of God, where a husband and wife can be sealed together by the proper authority for time and eternity, is the ideal for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Any couple married in the temple who are true to their covenants will grow dearer to each other, and love will find a deeper meaning on their golden wedding anniversary than on the day they were married in the house of the Lord. Don’t you mistake that. Those who go to the marriage altar with love in their hearts, we might say to them in truth, if they will be true to the covenants that they take in the temple, fifty years after their marriage they can say to each other: "We must have not known what true love was when we were married, because we think so much more of each other today!" (Harold B. Lee)
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Spousal unity takes effort to achieve, but it is well worth the sacrifice to reach the oneness God intended for our marriages. I would like to close with some comments made by Elder M. Russell Ballard in this year's April General Conference:
So what can we do to not become lost? First, may I suggest that we prioritize. Put everything you do outside the home in subjection to and in support of what happens inside your home.  ... Organize your personal lives to provide time for prayer and scriptures and family activity.

...Husbands and wives, you should be equal partners in your marriage. Read often and understand the proclamation on the family and follow it. Avoid unrighteous dominion in any form. No one owns a spouse or children; God is the Father of us all and has extended to us the privilege of our own family, which was previously only His, to help us become more like Him. As His children we should learn at home to love God and to know that we can ask Him for the help we need. Everyone, married or single, can be happy and supportive within whatever family you may have.
 Thanks for reading!