This entry is based on a talk by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf with the title of ‘In Praise of Those Who Save’.
Families in Crisis
As we come to learn about our Saviour Jesus Christ and His Gospel, the more we start to recognise that the family is central to God’s eternal plan. We have been taught so powerfully about the family at many General Conferences and it is clear that this topic is paramount in their thoughts.
Families play such a key role in the Gospel and the Church that when an investigator first begins learning about the Gospel, generally the second principle that is taught (after God being our Heavenly Father) is that the Gospel Blesses Families. In the very first chapter of Preach my Gospel, it is the second focus in that introductory chapter which deals with a missionary’s purpose. It says:
“On earth, family associations can be the source of some of our greatest joy. Satan is attacking the family on many fronts, and too many families are being destroyed by his efforts. The message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ makes it possible for families to be united now and in eternity. By living the principles of the gospel, families can experience peace, joy, and a sense of belonging and identity in this life. Through the light of the gospel, families can resolve misunderstandings, contentions, and challenges. Families torn by discord can be healed through repentance, forgiveness, and faith in the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
The sacred institution of the family has been in force since Adam and Eve and will last into the eternities. Have you ever stopped to wonder why after thousands and thousands of years mankind still (as a general rule) structure themselves in this, almost instinctive, family setting? Of course, we know that the exact identity of marriages and families is debated widely from worldly views on sacred matters, but that general understanding still exists today.
If families are so important, then why are they in danger today? We live in a world where we have a culture of disposables. President Uchtdorf stated: “As soon as something starts to break down or wear out—or even when we simply grow tired of it—we throw it out and replace it with an upgrade, something newer or shinier. We do this with cell phones, clothes, cars—and, tragically, even with relationships.”
When we see the world we live in today, this is certainly true! Just this month, I was due an upgrade on my mobile phone. I was aware of the date that I would be entitled to a free upgrade. Barely a day has passed and I was at the phone shop looking to get my free upgrade! I was eager to see what new sleek models were on offer, what new tariffs were available to me and what new high-tech specifications I could hold in the palm of my hand! It was only upon reflection that something occurred to me…there was nothing wrong with my current phone. Now, a perfectly functional and good quality mobile phone is sat in my bedside drawer gathering dust, simply because I had grown tired of its use and the time had come for a better model. It will either continue sitting in my drawer as a back-up or be sold on for a fraction of its original value.
We cannot allow this to happen to our families.
To begin looking at how to save families, we must first look at marriages. I have been married to my wonderful wife, Chrissie, for 6 years and we have been ‘together’ for 9 1/2 years (she waited for me on my mission). As the weeks and months have slowly formed into years, one thing (among many other things) has always been clear: marriage is not easy. How do we explain the most recent statistic (2013) that in the UK, 42% of marriages today will end in divorce? Something easy cannot end in so many terminations. There is something truly tragic that happens to those who decide that they cannot continue that eternal journey they started so promisingly together. President Uchtdorf added:
“I have never met anyone who, as they looked at each other across the altar, thought they would end up divorced or heartbroken. Unfortunately, some do.
Somehow, as the days multiply and the color of romantic love changes, there are some who slowly stop thinking of each other’s happiness and start noticing the little faults. In such an environment, some are enticed by the tragic conclusion that their spouse isn’t smart enough, fun enough, or young enough. And somehow they get the idea that this gives them justification to start looking elsewhere.”
Of course, President Uchtdorf is referring to temple marriages. It is difficult to hear that in the world some people abuse this sacred rite of marriage with the knowledge they can fall back on cancelling this expression of love.
Looking at temple marriages, we know that both individuals prepare extensively, ensuring they are right for each other, praying for guidance from on high and change their lives so they can enter the Temple. Something like that requires the individual to be certain they are happy with the decision before going through with it. I do think that is one reason why marriage in the Temple is (generally) more successful.
However, there is another, far more precious reason why temple marriages are more successful in lasting (evidence for this – as opposed to the average 42%, LDS members in a study reported 16% divorce rate). In D&C 132:19 we read:
“And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—…and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.”
Put simply Brethren and Sisters, we shall receive all the blessings we can receive in our eternal lives, or to quote Sister Linda K Burton in a marvellous talk she gave – we shall ascend together. We recognise that in order for both husband and wife to achieve their full potential, they must work together in a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is far too important an opportunity to lose – and that is why we are more inclined to endure. Those who save marriages recognise the need to push on, despite the chaotic storms pulverising their marriage. Even if it is seemingly held by a thread currently, that thread is a thread of hope. Christ always brings Hope.
Of course, despite all these thoughts on the need to keep marriages together, we have to be aware of three potential circumstances that must be addressed:
- I am not married and I don’t think I will be now: To those valiant members the opportunity will come whenever it is the Lord’s will. He will bless you for your efforts.
- It is far too late, our marriage cannot be saved, it is advancing to the brink: To those valiant members, my marriage is not perfect. Speak to one of those seemingly perfect couples, because they will tell you of hardships. Yet, they will also tell you the blessings of pulling through together. President Uchtdorf stated: “…no matter how flat your relationship may be at the present, if you keep adding pebbles of kindness, compassion, listening, sacrifice, understanding, and selflessness, eventually a mighty pyramid will begin to grow.”
- It is too late, I have been through a divorce: To those valiant members, never lose that trust in the Lord that has brought you here today. You will be blessed, either in this life or in the eternities, with the rewards of your faith and obedience to the Lord. Never lose faith in Him and His Infinite Atonement.
A word to new couples also. This is the most critical time in your marriage. Research states that, of couples who stick together in the first ten years of marriage that mentioned 42% figure drops to around 20% over as you go up to 20 years of marriage. The time for building that eternal relationship should have started already; it is your goal, your responsibility, your duty to improve your relationship each and every day. Do not let a day go by where you do not express your love for your eternal companion, they are too precious. This is where a temple marriage becomes an eternal marriage. A temple marriage is simply defined as a joining of two souls in matrimony which has taken place in the Temple, with the potential to last beyond the grave. Having a temple marriage does not guarantee eternal life with our family. We must have an eternal marriage. An eternal marriage is defined as being a temple marriage which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, a marriage full of love, devotion and pure charity, where both individuals have submitted their will to the Saviour and are ready to enter His presence. How do we achieve this? It comes down, largely, to those small, everyday choices. President Uchtdorf elaborated “If we look for imperfections in our spouse or irritations in our marriage, we will certainly find them, because everyone has some. On the other hand, if we look for the good, we will surely find it, because everyone has many good qualities too. Those who save marriages pull out the weeds and water the flowers. They celebrate the small acts of grace that spark tender feelings of charity. Those who save marriages save future generations.”
As President Uchtdorf said in his talk – if we really wanted a perfect companion, would they really have been interested in us? Not one of us is perfect. However, we are here in our marriages to help each other along that path toward perfection. If you don’t think you are anywhere near, yourself or in your marriage, then don’t despair. Start today.
I have a small amount of time remaining but I do want to mention the need to save families in general. This can now be our relationship with our children, our parents, our siblings – whoever! No family is perfect. There are times where we will fall out, sometimes it can shatter our lives!
We find the formula for success in 4 Nephi 1:15-16. At this stage, the Nephites were living in a prosperous, peaceful state and this is how they did it:
“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”
The love of God dwelled in their hearts. We cannot delay in having this love in our homes with the ones we will spend eternity with. I have often heard the phrase that we can choose our friends but we can’t choose our family. Well, let me tell you that we have chosen our family; we decided before we came to Earth who we would arrive to, the parents that would raise us – it was then down to them to fulfil that role of ‘parent’ the best they could.
Let me leave you with a few questions and pieces of prophetic advice by President Uchtdorf: “What legacy do you want to leave your posterity? One of harshness, vengeance, anger, fear, or isolation? Or one of love, humility, forgiveness, compassion, spiritual growth, and unity? Sincerely apologizing to your children, your wife, your family, or your friends is not a sign of weakness but of strength. Is being right more important than fostering an environment of nurturing, healing, and love? Set aside pride. Build bridges; don’t destroy them! Even when you are not at fault—perhaps especially when you are not at fault—let love conquer pride.”
Whether we have our own family, marriage or neither, we can save families. Be one of those who saves!