In the beginning when God created man in his own image. "the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him" (Genesis 2:18). According to the biblical account, God took a rib from Adam's side and made a woman and when she was presented to Adam he declared, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:23,24).
Most Christians believe that this was the first marriage on earth and it was God Himself who performed the ceremony. It is from this account that nearly all Christians believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. However, unlike most Christian faiths who believe that marriage is only for this life and that after death, a husband and wife depart from one another, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that marriage between a man and a woman is meant to last forever.
For this reason members of the LDS Church are counseled and encouraged to be married in an LDS temple where they are sealed together as husband and wife for all eternity. The purpose of this ceremony is to insure that after the resurrection they will continue to remain married and be able to have spirit offspring. But this promise is conditional, based on the faithfulness of both partners.
But there is another condition that is equally as important. In the very first marriage, we are told that a man should "cleave unto his wife" (and, by inference, that the wife should cleave unto her husband) "and they shall be one flesh." It is agreed by nearly all Christian faiths that to "be one flesh" means that husbands and wives should become united as one, not only physically but emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. The purpose of all marriage counseling is to help husbands and wives learn how to get along better with each other or, in other words, how to become better united and work together as a team rather than working against one another.
Shortly after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been established, the Lord told the members of His church, "I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27). While this counsel was given for the purpose of teaching church members the importance of working together, it also has profound implications for husbands and wives because if their marriage is to last forever in the kingdom of heaven, then it is crucial that they learn how to become one with each other here on earth.
Unfortunately, even among members of the LDS Church who have been sealed to a spouse, their marriage doesn't always emulate the oneness that should exist there. There are far too many couples who nit-pick on one another's faults, squabble, quarrel, argue, and fight with each other over any number of issues. Even among eternal partners there are temporal divorces and the number of cases of unhappy marriages has prompted the Church authorities to create LDS marriage counseling centers.
That doesn't mean to say that there is something wrong with the teachings of the LDS Church because even other Christian faiths have the same problem despite all of their efforts to teach people how to have a happy, Christ centered marriage. The problem isn't that there isn't sufficient teaching being done; the problem is human nature.
No matter what their background is, there are three things that all husbands and wives have to struggle against. The first is that men and women are born different in temperament, attitude, viewpoint, physical capabilities, and skills. This is not by accident but by divine design. Women are born with a nurturing instinct which is necessary for helping them raise their children. Although men can also feel a desire to nurture their children, they are born with the desire to provide for their family, much more so than women. In this respect, women have natural talents that men don't have in abundance, and men have necessary talents that are not as strong in women. In this way, as they work together, they complement one another and fill in what the other lacks.
But often this is not how husbands and wives view these differences. Instead, they expect their partner to be able to do what they can and often have a hard time understanding why their spouse can't be just like them. Either that, or the man, especially, will put down their wife as being "inferior" to him because she can't do what he can. This then leads the wife to argue defensively that her role is much more demanding than his and that he could never do what she can.
The second struggle happens because the two partners come from different cultures. Even if they come from the same town, belong to the same religious faith, and went to the same school, they come from two different homes. In one home the father might have had a strong, dominating influence while in the other family the father was more soft spoken and less demanding. In one home the children may have had strict chores and a very structured environment, whereas in the other home, things were less structured with more spontaneity.
One home may have stressed excellence in every endeavor while in the other home there was only loving acceptance no matter how well the child did.
Everyone who falls in love with someone else is falling in love with someone who comes from a very different background than their own. Since each of these two people grew up in a home life that was their normal lifestyle, there is going to be a clash of culture because there is no way to avoid it. One person is used to doing something one way that is not the way the other person is used to doing it, so that automatically sets up a disagreement between them. Sometimes those disagreements can be minor while other times they can become major.
The third struggle that every married couple will face is that everyone's personality is different. Even in the same home with the same parents enforcing the same rules, no two children will react the same way. Some children are quiet and obedient while others are loud and noisy, while others are rebellious and obstinate. Some children are drawn to music while others are athletically inclined, while others are intellectually minded or fascinated with the outdoors. Some are happy-go-lucky, others are very cautious, while others are timid and cautious.
Since no two people have exactly the same personalities, these differences affect the way husbands and wives interact with one another. A timid woman may be attracted to a strong man that she can lean on, and a strong man may be attracted to a timid woman because he can control her, yet over time, the woman can come to resent her domineering husband while the man can come to despise the lack of assertiveness in his wife.
For these three reasons, becoming one in a marriage is never easy. In fact, it is often a difficult process that each married couple goes through as they strive to attain the goal of becoming one. For too many couples they reach a point where they simply give up trying and instead learn how to survive married life with the disagreements they have between them. Instead of living a happy, satisfied life, they live lives of quiet desperation, where they stick it out of the sake of the kids, or because they need each other for financial support, or because there is no better alternative available to them.
But what about those who have been sealed to each other for time and all eternity? Will their unhappy state of marriage also continue for them forever? It is believed by many that when we are resurrected and are living in the celestial kingdom, which is a place of pure love, peace, and perfection, that somehow, in some way that we don't understand right now, all of our petty faults and disagreements will have suddenly disappeared and that married couples will automatically get along with one another as they live together forever in complete joy and bliss.
However, everything in the gospel teaches us that instead of a sudden transformation, we grow "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little." Spiritual growth doesn't occur in one instant or because of one incident. It is a process that we must go through rather than a location that we find ourselves in. After the resurrection, those who find themselves in the celestial kingdom are there because they have prepared themselves throughout their life time to be worthy to live in that kingdom, and there is every indication that the same is true of those who will live in the highest and most exalted degree of heaven. This is why husbands and wives here on earth have been commanded to be one because it is the preparation they will need in order to be one in the eternities.
Then how do couples learn how to get along with one another?
Because people are different there are always going to be disagreements between them. That is just a fact of life and to think that there will never be disagreements between husbands and wives is to believe in a fantasy. There is a saying that people can agree to disagree but that philosophy doesn't produce a happy marriage. "To be one" in marriage means that both partners always agree. Then, if there is no on way to avoid disagreements, how are couples supposed to always agree with each other?
As stated earlier, such a condition doesn't happen automatically or because of one incident. It's a process of trial and error whereby each married couples seeks to learn what works for them. What works for one couple may not work for someone else but the key to success is finding ways to get along with one another despite their differences.
To illustrate this point, as has already been mentioned, men and women are born different, even in physical appearances. Because of this, arguments have arisen between husbands and wives over the position of a toilet seat. A wife may complain to her husband that he always leaves the seat up rather than leaving it down for her. In response, a husband complains that he if he has to raise the seat, why can't she lower it?
As silly as this argument may sound, it is nonetheless one that takes place in many households. Although it is a minor disagreement, it still can be a source of friction in a marriage. Many men become tired of the argument and often reluctantly give into their wife's demand just to keep peace between them, but in so doing, they have not become one with their wife's feeling but instead are still opposed to it even while doing as she asks.
Of course this same situation exists with more serious disagreements. For example, by nature women have a greater need for security than do men. For this reason most women prefer their husbands bring in a steady income from a job that is secure. Men, on the other hand, are born with the tendency to be risk takers and are willing to take chances to start up a business or work for a company where the wages are dependent upon their abilities.
In a situation like this, a wife can feel insecure and worried about not having enough money coming in to provide the peace of mind to know that she will always have enough to care for her children. On the other hand, if a man seeks to appease his wife's fears and only takes a job that is secure, then he feels frustrated in his line of work because it goes against his God-given nature. Then how do couples come to a full agreement when they have such different attitudes?
Fortunately, God has provided us with the guidance and teaching necessary to learn how to do this.
Jesus taught "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:25). A man and a woman get married because they "love" one another and it is that love which binds them together as one. In the example of the toilet seat, when a man truly loves his wife, he cares about her needs and gladly puts down the seat to make it easier for her. In this case it's not a chore but an act of love. In the same way, when a wife loves her husband, she doesn't care if he leaves the seat up. But when husbands and wives bicker over such trivial things, they are not concerned about their spouse as much as they are about their own individual desires.
But how do husbands and wives handle more serious disagreements? In the example of security versus risk taking, does the wife give into her husband's nature just to please him while spending her life living in constant worry? Or does the husband give into his wife's need for security out of concern for her needs? To do either of these things doesn't create a oneness between them because, instead of acting as a team, they are acting as individuals. Then how do they learn to work together when they have such different needs? To find this answer we can look at the pattern that the Lord has given us.
In the Church at the ward level the bishop presides yet at least monthly he sits in council with his ward leaders, and at least monthly he also sits in council with his priesthood leaders, and usually once a week he sits in council with his two councilors and executive secretary. The purpose of all these council meetings is so that whatever decision he makes it is with the full support of all those over whom he presides.
In these meetings the bishop listens to the concerns of each person and they discuss among themselves the best way to handle those concerns. If the bishop makes a suggestion that someone disagrees with, everyone in the meeting talks about it and freely expresses their feelings. If after such a discussion, there is still disagreement, the issue is temporarily put aside to give each participant time to prayerfully think about it and at the next meeting the issue is again discussed anew. In this way, when a final decision is reached, everyone is in agreement.
This same pattern should exist between a husband and wife. Although by divine degree the husband presides in the home, he listens to the concerns of all members of his family with the aid of his wife as his trusted and dependable counselor, whose advice he values above all others. In this way they work together as a team and whenever the husband finally makes a decision it is one that the wife can fully agree with because he also agrees with her.
Perhaps the husband wants to start a new business that will require not only using all the money they have in their savings account but to borrow even more. If a man's wife feels very uneasy about such a venture, then they need to sit down and discuss the issue in an attitude of love and concern for each other. If they still can't agree, then they both should pray about the matter, seeking the inspiration of the Holy Ghost to guide them in their decision. Even if the decision is to go forward with the venture, the wife may still feel some degree of apprehension but she will at least have the peace that comes from knowing it's being done in accordance with the Lord's will and that her feelings were seriously taken into consideration. But the key here is that whatever decision is made, both partners agree to it out of love for one another.
But to live as eternal marriage partners takes more than just a husband and wife being one with each other. In order for their marriage to last forever they also have to live with God, and He also has His own personality, viewpoint, attitude, and culture or ways of doing things. Therefore, husbands and wives must not only be one with each other but they must also be one with God, both as individuals and as a couple if they want to live in heaven with Him.
But even here there can be differences between husbands and wives. In an ideal world men and women who get married in the temple have the same desire to serve God but that is not what always happens in reality. It is not unusual for a wife to be more spiritual than her husband or the husband to be more spiritual than his wife. Bishops are all too familiar with this condition as they call people to various positions.
There are some husbands who will take whatever callings they are given and work at it with all of their heart while their wife only accepts "easy" callings and puts forth minimal effort in fulfilling her assigned duties. And the same is true in reverse. Statistically speaking there are more women who are active in the Church than their husbands. Perhaps a man and woman were fully committed to serving the Lord when they were first married but over time such an attitude can change for a wide variety of reasons. For that matter, a person's spiritual growth can dramatically change back and forth several times during their life. It is not uncommon for someone who once was active to become inactive and then have a change of heart and become even more active than they were the first time.
Since not all individuals are as committed to making their eternal marriage work as others are, and if it is true that to become exalted husbands and wives each couple must learn to become one with each other and with God, what happens to those who have been sealed to each other but who struggle to have a happy marriage? Do they forfeit their chance to be eternal partners or do they live together in a state of unhappiness forever?
Our Father in heaven not only loves His children more than we can fully comprehend but He also deals in reality. He wants the best for His children and works hard to help them achieve their full potential in every way possible. More than that, the physical bodies we have here in mortality have deliberately been imbued by God with all kinds of spiritual weaknesses that we didn't have when we lived as spirits in heaven with Him. And because of that, when we place our mortal bodies in the grave our eternal spirits will no longer be shackled by those constricting frailties of the flesh. However, what we will carry with us are the attitudes, desires, and habits that we have developed while we lived in mortality.
Before we came to earth we not only lived with our Father in heaven but we had the opportunity to make decisions for ourselves that enabled us to grow in knowledge, skills, and temperament. As here on earth, some people grew spiritual quicker than others but no matter what our level of advancement was, all of us reached a point beyond which we could no longer progress. In order to continue to grow it was necessary for us to leave heaven and live in a world where we could experience both good and evil.
In the LDS Church we talk a lot about the concept of "eternal progression" but that progression didn't start when we arrived here on earth. It began eons ago in heaven and that progression will not stop when we leave mortality. The Lord explained, "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection" (D&C 130:18). He further taught that whatever experiences we have here on earth, whether good or bad, "shall give thee experience, and shall [ultimately] be for thy good" (D&C 122:7).
The trials, problems, and difficulties we encounter in this life, including within our marriages, give us experiences that we could not have in heaven. For that reason, they are all good because they are all part of what we need to progress.
In this life we have a hard time remembering certain things and the older we get the tendency is to have greater difficulty remembering the past. But the Book of Mormon teaches that after death we will have "a bright recollection" of the things we have done (Alma 11:43). A faulty memory is part of the frailties that come with our mortal bodies but when we are freed from that body we will remember our entire life here on earth with perfect clarity.
The Lord explained that "truth is knowledge of things as they [really] are, and as they [really] were, and as they are to come" (D&C 93:24). This is why God deals in reality because He deals in truth. However, in this world we too often deal in fantasy because we don't always see things as they really are. We often tend to see things from our own perspective and make excuses for the things we do. More than that, most of the time we are completely unaware of some of our own faults and shortcomings that others see very clearly in us.
But that situation only exists while we are tied to our mortal bodies because that's part of the body's weaknesses. When we enter the spirit world we will live in a realm governed by truth and will have a bright recollection of every deed, word, and thought we ever had and we will see them as they really were, not as we imagined them to be at the time we did them.
We will see our stubbornness, our selfishness, and our thoughtlessness, along with all of the kind and loving things we did. And as we remember our life and see them as they really were, there will be no excuses we can make that will change the reality of what we did. But this is a good thing because we learn from our mistakes.
In school a teacher presents information to their students, going over the material time and time again, and giving homework assignments all in an effort to help them understand what they are being taught. Then, to find out how much they have truly learned, the teacher gives them a test. When the test has been completed, the teacher grades them and then goes over the test with their students. It is extremely rare that everyone in the class answers every question correctly so, to help the students learn why they got certain questions wrong, the teacher goes over the test with them.
In many places the scriptures refer to mortality as a "test" where we are to prove our faithfulness but before a test can be administered there first has to be instruction given. God has given us living prophets, the scriptures, and the Holy Ghost to instruct, guide, and teach us over and over again concerning all the things we need to learn and He has given us innumerable opportunities to practice what we have been taught. As such, our life here on earth is the test and we are taking it every day of our life.
It is no secret that no one has ever become perfect while here on earth, with the exception of Jesus Christ. Therefore, every single person, including every single prophet at the time of their death, no matter how righteous they were, still have areas they need to improve upon. When we enter the spirit world and have a bright recollection of everything we've done while in mortality, and see our action as they really are, that's like going over the answers to our test and finding out which ones we got right, which ones we got wrong, and why we got them wrong.
Just as our eternal progression started in heaven and continued through earth life, so it will continue even while we live in the spirit world. Just as we do in school, as we advance from one grade level to another, in our spiritual progression we build on what we learned in all the previous experiences. Therefore, it is certain that as we review our test on earth, we will use that knowledge to continue our spiritual journey towards perfection in the spirit world.
That means husbands and wives who have struggled to get along in this life will better understand their shortcomings and the mistakes they have made and will have the opportunity to continue working at improving their relationship with each other in the next world.
But that doesn't mean it is wise to procrastinate improving our marriage until we reach the spirit world. The word "progress" means to move forward, and the faster we move forward the sooner we will reach our destination.
Those husbands and wives who diligently strive to become one with each other and with God in this life will have a greater advantage in the next life than those who have not learned their marital lessons as quickly. Yet it is still possible for those who are not as spiritually advanced to continue progressing in their eternal relationship if it is their desire to become one with each other and with God.