The scriptures tell us that the greatest gift God desires to give us is eternal life (D&C 14:7). It's true that if Christ had not died on the cross to atone for our sins, eternal life would not be possible, but to gain eternal life takes more than just the remission of our sins. One of the essential things necessary to receive this greatest gift is for men and women to be sealed to each other as husband and wife. Without this sealing ordinance, eternal life, or exaltation as it is also called, is not possible.
For this reason men and women go to the temples of the Lord to be sealed to each other because they desire to live together forever as husband and wife. But despite this desire, in just about all marriages there are things that each partner does that bothers the other. It may be something as simple as leaving the toilet seat up or down, or which way toilet paper hangs from the roll, or it may be the way someone says or does something or doesn't say or do something that makes the other shake their head in disgust. (The following short video illustrates this: Things Couples Fight About
However, many times the disagreements are about serious issues such as the management of money or the raising of children or household priorities or they way partners resolve differences. These disagreements - both small and large - can seriously damage a once a happy marriage and cause life to turn into one of endurance where the two partners merely exist together in an unhappy alliance. The joke that to have peace in the home all a husband has to say is "Yes dear" is too often a sad reality
The prophet Alma taught his son Corinaton, "for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world" (Alma 34:34). When we come home from church and take off our Sunday clothes and get dressed into more comfortable clothes, we are still the same person we were at church, and the same applies to when our spirit sheds its mortal body and enters into the world of spirits. We will be the same person there as we were here in mortality.
If that's true, then in the resurrection does that mean when a man and woman enter into their exaltation, what bothered him about his wife here in mortality he will still have to contend with throughout eternity? And will the things that bothered a wife about her husband still continue to annoy her for all eons of time? Will it really be heaven for a man if he has to forever say, "yes dear" in order to live in peace with his wife? Or, in the resurrection, will men and women suddenly be able to get along together perfectly and live in total bliss and happiness forever with one another and never have any disagreements? And if so, what is going to cause that change to happen?
There is nothing in the scriptures that suggests that our attitudes and disposition changes in one sudden moment. Rather the scriptures repeatedly indicate that we change gradually over time, improving ourselves here a little and there a little. If husbands and wives want to receive the greatest gift God has to offer - which is to live together forever with him in an exalted state - then it seems that we should be working now on preparing our marriage to become the kind of union that will be capable of existing through all of eternity in the highest realm of the celestial kingdom. But for that to happen we have to work at overcoming the inherent differences that are common in all marriages.
Husbands and wives are different from one another in three ways. The first is that men and women are born different, not just physically but emotionally, psychologically, and in temperament. Women are born with a nurturing spirit that is essential to their roles as mothers and that often causes them to have some very different views about children than men. On the other hand, men are born with the drive to provide for their family and are more apt to be risk takers than women. Men are more logical in their thinking whereas women tend to be more emotional in how they view things. These are just a few of the many, many things that make men and women different from birth.
Husbands and wives are different from one another because they come from different cultures. Perhaps in the home that the wife was raised her mother was the dominant disciplinarian whereas the husband may have come from a home where the father was the undisputed authority figure. Perhaps the wife came from a family that planned everything down to the last detail while the husband came from a family where they did things on the spur of the moment. The way children are raised in a home carries with them into their marriage and it is these differences in lifestyles during their growing up years that can be a source of friction between a husband and wife.
But men and women are not only different from each other but from everyone else. Each of us has our own personality. Even in the same household, each child will be different from their siblings. Some children are more curious than others, some are more musically or athletically inclined than others in the same home. Some kids are just naturally moody while others may be shy, aggressive, talkative, quiet or outgoing. Some learn quicker than others.
And so we see that we are all different from everyone else for a variety of reasons. Therefore, regardless if we are married or not, what the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us is how to get along with others in spite of our differences. That is why Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
But in marriage, the goal isn't just for two very different people to learn how to get along with one another but rather how they can literally become one, because if that doesn't happen by the time of the resurrection then living together as husband and wife forever is not going to be a celestial experience.
Jesus also taught His disciples that there should be no contention or even disputing among themselves. If that is true among brothers, it is even more important that husbands and wives learn to get along without having any contention or disputing among themselves. After all, brothers are not seal together for all eternity as are husbands and wives.
But such a condition doesn't happen in one sudden moment but rather comes about through a continuous, deliberate effort on the part of both partners. As most homeowners know, when something goes wrong with the house it is best to fix the problem while it small. If we put off fixing the problem - be it plumbing, electrical, mechanical, or carpentry - it only gets worse. And the same concept applies in a marriage.
There are going to be disagreements between husbands and wives if, for no other reason, than they are two very different people with different ideas, feelings, and attitudes. However, if a marriage is going to be survive living in a celestial atmosphere, then both the husband and wife have to learn to agree with one another in all things, not just learn how to put up with one another. Yet, unfortunately, even in too many LDS marriages, couples end up enduring one another or they go along for the sake of getting along.
Then how do we make our marriages celestial instead of terrestrial or even telestial? That's an important question because if we expect to live as exalted husbands and wives in eternity then we have to start learning how to live the law of a celestial marriage now.
The first way to have a celestial marriage is for husbands to love their wives as they love themselves and for wives to treat their husbands the same way. President Monson has said, "Love should be the very heart of family life, and yet sometimes it is not. There can be too much impatience, arguing, and too many fights. We must treat each other with kindness and respect. We should strive always to be considerate and be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle. Rather let us be compassionate and encouraging... it doesn't really matter how small the issue was. It cannot and should not be left to canker, to fester, and ultimately to destroy." (April 2014 General Conference)
But love won't solve all disagreements therefore another way that couples can improve their marriage is to counsel with one another. In the church, the bishop presides over his ward yet he does not dictate. Instead he sits in council with his councilors, with his priesthood leaders, and with his auxiliary leaders where, together, they discuss the problems of the ward and come to a unified decision of what should be done.
In the same way, husbands preside in their home but they do not dictate. Their wife is their counselor and when there are disagreements between them they should sit down and council together in a spirit of love and prayer with the intent of finding a common solution rather than with the spirit of condemnation, fault finding, or making disparaging comments. The goal of such councils is not to find a compromise but to come to a consensus. In a compromise, each side gives up something they want in order to get an agreement, but in doing so neither side is fully satisfied with the end result. By contrast, a consensus is where both sides work out a mutually agreeable solution.
Surprisingly, yet another way of achieving a celestial marriage is found in the 136 section of the Doctrine and Covenants where we read, "Thou shalt be diligent in preserving what thou hast, that thou mayest be a wise steward; for it is the free gift of the Lord thy God, and thou art his steward. If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful" (versus 27-29).
Although this revelation is counsel given to the saints living in Winter Quarters concerning the Camp of Israel in their journeyings to the West, it is nonetheless appropriate advice for husbands. To understand why, let's take a closer look at how we can apply this statement to improving our marriage.
The Lord instructs us to "be diligent in preserving what thou hast." The most important thing a husband has is his wife because without her he cannot inherit eternal life. As such she is essential to his eternal happiness as he is to hers because the same can be said of the wife. Without a husband she cannot gain eternal life. Therefore, if a husband and wife want to gain exaltation they each need to be diligent in preserving their marriage and striving together to make it a celestial relationship.
Next the Lord states that the reason why we are to be diligent in preserving what we have is "that thou mayest be a wise steward." By divine decree, husbands preside in the home and, as such, they are stewards over their home and family, which includes his wife. For this reason, the Lord holds husbands - not their wives - accountable and responsible for how well they preserve their marriage.
The Lord then explains that "it (our marriage) is the free gift of the Lord thy God." When a couple goes to the temple to be married it's because they want to be together forever and so, our Father in heaven seals them as husband and wife forever as a free gift. But then they each become responsible for protecting and preserving that gift.
The Lord again states, "thou art his steward." If God's work and glory is to bring about the immortality and eternal life of His children, then husbands, as the presiding authority in the home, are working in partnership with God to help him accomplish his work. The only way for someone to gain eternal life is to enter into the celestial kingdom as husband and wife and it is the man who has the stewardship to see that that happens.
That is why husbands are responsible for making sure that their marriage is worthy of exaltation. If they fail to do what they must to preserve their marriage and make it a celestial union, then they will have failed in their stewardship to help God bring about His eternal purposes.
But then, in verse 31 the Lord explains: "My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them." Making a marriage become celestial is not easy and there will be many times when it will be very trying and difficult, yet these trials and hardships are necessary in order to prepare us to receive the glory that God has in store for us.
However, to gain eternal life not only means having a husband and wife living together in love and harmony with each other in the celestial kingdom but it also means living with God Himself. Therefore, husbands and wives not only need to become one with each other but together they need to also become one with God. And as both husband and wife draw closer to God, they cannot help but draw closer to each other.
As husbands and wives diligently labor to preserve the gift that God has given them in the temple, they will be preparing themselves to someday be worthy of inheriting the greatest gift God has to offer.