The apostle Paul counseled the saints in his day: "let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband" (Ephesians 5:23).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches "that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children" (The Family - A Proclamation to the World). As far as the LDS Church is concerned, the family is not only the most important institution in both society and the church but in heaven as well.
David O. McKay, one of the past presidents of the LDS Church has stated that "no success in life can compensate for failure in the home" (General Conference April 1964). The reason he made this statement is to emphasize that the family is not only the foundation of the church but it is what all the church programs are designed to help maintain and strengthen, and that's because it is the family that is meant to exist throughout eternity. Even the priesthood, in its original and eternal form, is patriarchal in nature which makes it a function of the family. Furthermore, exaltation is all about having people sealed together forever as families. Thus, the LDS Church considers the family to be the most important organization both here on earth as well as throughout all of eternity.
Yet, despite this fact, the overall divorce rate among "Mormons" is about the same as the national average of 24%. This includes those who have been married civilly along with those who have been sealed in the temple as eternal husbands and wives. Although the rate of divorce among those have been married in the temple is officially calculated to be 6% ,that number is a little misleading because it is based on the number of people getting a temple divorce. Those who have been married in the temple but who are later divorced in a civil court don't show up on this statistic.
The LDS Church also operates 62 Social Service offices throughout the world (most of them in the United States) and although they offer a number of programs to help people cope with various social problems, one of those programs include marriage counseling. Obviously, the reason they offer this program to members of their church is because there is a need for it.
In addition to this there is marriage counseling available to members of the Church from their local bishop or Stake President as well as from the General Authorities. From the very beginning of the Church in 1830, sermons have been preached, priesthood lessons have been given, marital relation classes have been held, and books have been written on the subject of how to have a happy, successful marriage and yet the problem of divorce in the Church still persists even among those who have been married in the temple.
But worse than this, there are many LDS marriages that haven't ended in divorce but are nonetheless struggling to remain intact. Although there are couples who find joy and happiness in living together even after ten, twenty, or fifty years of marriage, unfortunately, there are too many other marriages where couples are just barely enduring one another's presence by staying together, not because of love but perhaps only for the sake of the children or for financial or other practical reasons. However, even if they may not be contemplating divorce, neither of them are happy being with each other. Instead, their marriage becomes similar to two people living separately under the same roof like roommates renting an apartment together who share the expenses and duties of the home but not much else.
Evidence of this can frequently be seen in any LDS Sacrament meeting by observing how husbands and wives interact with one another. There will be some couples, both young and old, whose affection for one another is quite obvious. These people will often sit close to each other, sometimes snuggling next to one another or one of them putting their arm around the other, or perhaps rubbing the back or neck of their partner.
This sort of touching is an outward expression of the closeness they inwardly feel towards each other which manifests itself by them physically keeping in "touch" with their partner. These are also the couples who are more apt to hold hands as they sit or walk together.
But there are other ways their love is outwardly expressed, such as the way they look at each another or even whisper to one other during the Sacrament meeting. As they engage in such behavior, the love they have for one another can often be seen on their face as they smile or look at their partner with an affectionate glance.
However, in contrast, there are husbands and wives who never sit close to one another. It may be argued that this is for practical reasons such as for the purpose of keeping small children corralled between them but in many cases this physical separation is for a different reason. When there is an emotional separation between the husband and wife, then it becomes a convenient excuse to use the children for justifying sitting away from their partner. But there are other symptoms of this estrangement that are not so easily explained, such as when husbands and wives rarely look or talk to one another and, even when they do, their facial expressions reflect a non-emotional, business like attitude rather than a warm, affectionate look.
Another telltale of marital trouble is when one parent gets up to leave with a child but the other parent behaves with indifference as though it was a stranger who was leaving. Often they don't speak or look at one another as they either go or return with the child, and if they do say anything to their partner it's usually with the same detached attitude of one co-worker relaying company information to another.
These couples don't smile at each other nor do they ever hold hands. They behave as though they are two individuals who just happened to be sitting on the same bench but who have no connection to one another. In fact, they will sit closer to and be more comfortable around some other church member who is on the same pew next to them than they will with their own spouse.
Another sign of trouble in a relationship is when couples spend their time during Sacrament meeting giving attention to their children while spending little on each other. Often this is an indication that they are either losing or have lost their love for one another and are trying to get the missing affection from their children. Such outward actions are warning signs that something is not right in a marriage
The sad part of watching this happening in Sacrament meeting is that both partners are on their best behavior while in public at church. What can't be observed is how they behave towards each other when they are alone in the secrecy of their home and don't have to be on their best behavior.
But this sort of situation doesn't happen just to those who are not living the gospel. It also happens to those who are fully active and faithful in their callings, who hold temple recommends, and are scripturally knowledgeable. If that is so, then why has the love that two people once had for each other not as vibrant and strong as it once was for them and as it still is in other marriages?
There are several reasons but an important one is that many times couples don't see or recognize the signs of trouble in their marriage and because of that they allow problems to keep growing until they becomes so big that to solve them then requires major effort that often times is painful and difficult. When couples fail to see the warning sign of danger, they will continue to drift further and further apart until one day they are so far apart that it becomes almost impossible for them to bridge the gap.
Obviously, the solution to this situation is to take action the moment the first sign of distancing starts to happen. When a spouse realizes they no longer enjoy being with their marriage partner or that either one is no longer showing little acts of love and kindness to the other that is a sure sign that the marriage is heading for trouble.
However, in order for couples to recognize these warning signs and want to take steps to correct the problem, they first have to have a firm understanding of just how important their relationship is to one another. It needs to be the most important thing in their life because if the relationship between a husband and wife fails then the entire family, along with their exaltation, fails. That's because if their marriage doesn't last through this life there will be nothing left to endure for eternity and if that happens then their children will no longer be sealed to them which means that husbands and wives lose them along with each other.
There is no more important part of marriage than the relationship between a husband and wife. That is the foundation on which everything else rests and it sets the example that their children will follow when they are married. If the marriage crumbles because husbands and wives can't get along with each other then everything else in the family crumbles with it and, in the end, everyone suffers, including the children.
For that reason President David O. McKay has said "The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." The Lord explained this same principle when he said, "Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else" (D&C 42:22), and that applies equally to the way wives should behave towards their husbands. Nothing should come between a husband and wife, - not their children, nor their job, and not even the church.
The Lord also commanded, "I say unto you, be one and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27) and that is especially true in a marriage because if a husband and wife don't learn how to be one with each other in this life they cannot be one with God in an exalted state after the resurrection. If a husband and wife don't learn how to become one with each other and God in this life then they will have forfeited their right to exaltation which will break the seal which gives them claim to their children. When parents fail to understand how important it is that they remain united and close to one another in spirit they then fail to become alarmed when they start drifting apart as they begin taking less and less joy in being in each other's company.
Part of the reason why this happens is because people are people and, despite their best intentions, over the years couples tend to get lax in their relationship with each other and begin to take one another's love for granted. That's just human nature, but if they are not careful, this can slowly and easily lead to acts of love and caring for one another becoming less and less practiced and when that happens then disagreements become more and more frequent. If this trend is not corrected, it's only natural that disappointments, hurt feelings, and pride begin to take over which, if left to fester, will lead to dissatisfaction, resentment, and eventually anger.
And as this process advances, many times parents will turn their affection to their children as a way to get the love that's missing from their spouse, but as tensions build between the parents, it is often their children who become pawns in an increasing hostile war of words and emotions. When that happens, the children suffer along with the parents.
That is why the authorities of the LDS Church counsel marriage partners to never stop courting one another. In fact, they strongly recommend that husbands and wives go out on dates with one another on a regular basis, regardless of how many children they have. In this way it helps them to keep their love strong and vibrant. But, going on dates, by itself, cannot help hold a marriage together if each partner is becoming increasingly irritated with their spouse.
The only solution to that problem is for husbands and wives to discuss their disagreements with one another when they are small with the goal of resolving them and keeping their relationship with each other close and warm. Unfortunately, too many times when husbands and wives have disagreements, rather than seeking to find a way to reconcile their differences, their conversation often descends into a conflict of opinions. They become like two fighters in a boxing ring, where the goal is not to shake hands as friends when the fight is over but to see who can land the most number of blows on their opponent with the intent (even if done subconsciously) to inflict emotional harm.
When that becomes the objective of an argument then both sides walk away from the fight feeling bruised and hurt. If those hurts are not completely healed and salved over, going out on a date does little to bring the warring partners closer together.
Even though the goal of boxing is to knock out the other opponent, there are still rules that each boxer must abide by, and to make sure that those rules are followed, there is a referee in the ring to stop the fight as soon as one boxer violates any of the rules. However, when husbands and wives spar and fight with one another, unfortunately there is no referee available to make sure they fight fairly. Because of this they must referee themsleves.
However, the flaw in this analogy is that husbands and wives are not supposed to be opponents to one another but should be working together as a tag-team who are fighting against a common foe. If people had a greater understanding of and a deeper appreciation for why marriage is so important to our eternal happiness, they would work harder at keeping their marital relationship strong and would be more attentive to following the rules that promote closer ties with one another. (For a fuller explanation of what some of these rules are read "Following the Spirit of God" and "Love at Home" ).
No business can succeed if the board of directors is constantly fighting with the CEO, or if the president of a company is always quarreling with his vice-presidents, and the same is true of marriages. Jesus taught, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand" (Matthew 12:25). The apostle James taught, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him" (James 1:12).
To wear a crown is to be a ruler over a kingdom and the kingdom we will rule over in eternity is our own family. This is what exaltation is all about and this time on earth is for creating and building that kingdom. But if we cannot endure the temptation to tear our marriage apart through bitter words and uncaring actions, where we seek to defend our own position rather than to defend our marital relationship then our kingdom will become divided and when that happens it will not stand and will be brought to desolation.
There are many forces working against marriage, including our own natural weaknesses and human faults, that seek to destroy this eternal and divine relationship. The only way it can survive is if both the husband and wife combine their talents, skills, dedication, and commitment to protecting and preserving their marriage from whatever comes against it. When husbands and wives have that as their goal then "when the chief Shepherd shall appear, [they] shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 5:4).
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