(This is a talk I gave in church a couple of weeks ago.)
Not too many years ago, I attended an “All Employee Meeting” at BYU-Idaho. Toward the end of his remarks, the President of the University, Kim B. Clarke, made a comment that I thought was very interesting. He said:
“We need to teach our children that marriage is between a man and a woman. We need to teach them more than just that. We also need to teach them why.”
He then paused briefly to look questioningly at us.
“You do know why don’t you?” He asked. “It is because that is the way it is done in Heaven.”
I would like to broaden that question in the same way and ask; why marriage at all? Why is marriage so important within our Father in Heaven’s kingdom?
Before I try to answer that question I would first like to give a word of caution. Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we have a culture of marriage. We rightfully talk about marriage and we preach of marriage. In so doing, we sometimes fail to remember that conversations can be offensive to those not so blessed. Indeed, we need to remember that not all marriages, even those sealed for eternity within sacred temples, are successful. Some of our brothers and sisters find themselves trapped within marriages that are abusive. Others have diligently tried and failed. There are within the membership of this church single parents who have lost their spouse. There are those willing and looking for a married life who have not had the opportunity for a family of their own. Some members experience same sex attraction. Some members are denied these blessings, for a time, because of physical impairments. Entering into a marriage covenant and being successful is of times difficult. Sometimes, through the daily rigors of marriage we just lose our perspective. This talk is for us.
In these times we need to remember the power of the atonement and the gift of repentance. I have visited with friends who have given up. Please don’t. I feel the parable of the laborers is very appropriate. Remember the story? Some laborers were hired early in the morning. Others at midday. Some within the last hour. At the end of the day, all of the laborers received the same pay, regardless of how long they had labored. So it is with marriage. Just because we are within the last hour, the blessings associated with eternal marriage can still be ours. We need to remain faithful and trust in the Lord.
Elder D. Todd Christopherson wrote: “With confidence we testify that the Atonement of Jesus Christ has anticipated and, in the end, will compensate all deprivation and loss for those who turn to Him. No one is predestined to receive less than all that the Father has for His children.”
So please, stay close to the Lord and trust in him.
So, why is marriage so important in this life and the next? As mentioned, the doctrine of eternal marriage is pervasive in our doctrine and our culture. We look into the mirrors in the sealing rooms of the temple to see that families are forever. We often prod and sometimes, in humorous ways, talk about return missionaries needing to marry. There are even the jokes. One of my favorites I originally heard told about an anonymous BYU Co-ed. You may have heard it.
A love smitten returned missionary after a few dates with an attractive young Co-ed, related to her a dream which he had had the night before. He claimed that our attractive young coed had agreed to marry him while they were still in the Preexistence. She briefly thought about his revelation and then with great clarity of mind simply said: “Well, that isn’t a mistake I’m likely to make again!” You see, this young lady understood one of the Foundational Principals of the gospel.
Foundational Principals are gospel doctrines which are valid in the preexistence, in mortality and will remain with us in the eternities. One example might be charity. We are told that while some things will pass away, “charity endureth forever.” Another would be Moral Agency or choice. This is the principal that our young Co-ed understood so well. She has her choice. Bruce R. McConkie was said to have commented it never occurred to him to ask God whom he should marry. It was his choice to make. (I am sure that he may have asked for wisdom.) Marriage is one of these foundational principals. It existed in the pre-existence; it is, by divine plan, with us in mortality; and it will be with us in the eternities.
In his talk; “Why Marriage, Why Family” D Todd Christopherson tells of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote a letter from prison to his niece before her wedding. It included these significant insights:
“Marriage is more than your love for each other. … In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. … So love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God.”
The world we live in has a different view. They see marriage as something personal without the office; marriage is simply based on love. Brothers and sisters, let me ask you, who do we love? Do we love people because of physical attraction? Do we love those who give us things and serve us? The answer is no. Now, this is an important point. We love those who we serve. Think about it. So, can we love someone without marriage? Well, yes. The world goes on to tell us; it is about commitment. Really? Are we incapable of committing to a relationship without the government’s permission? That is just silly. In the end, what the world really sees in marriage can be reduced to hospital visitation rights, inheritance laws and which box you check on a tax form. That is what the act of marriage is to the world.
God originally instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden and it meant an entirely different thing. Marriage is something more than love and commitment. It is even larger than having a few children to pass on the family name and to supply grandchildren.
Let me see if I can broaden that perspective. In the Doctrine and Covenants section 132, New and Everlasting Covenant, it speaks of eternal marriage as being “… a blessing… instituted from before the foundation of the world… for the fullness of my glory. …(those who) marry 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 …shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities and powers, dominions… 19) …it shall be done unto them in all things… a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. 20) Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue.”
What does it mean when it says we “shall inherit, kingdoms, principalities and powers, dominions…?” Quite honestly, I don’t know. Perhaps however, an analogy might help us to begin to understand. You’ve heard this before. When I was a child we didn’t have electronic toys or even a TV until I was about eight years old. We played in the dirt. If you were lucky, your Dad would pick a spot in the back yard he was tired of taking care of and build a 10 inch high box around it. The box was then filled with sand. A sand box. Often there was more dirt than actual sand. Sometimes, if you were lucky, you were invited next door to play in the neighbors, bigger and deeper sandbox.
Let me tell you about God’s sandbox. I have on my desk a book containing pictures and accompanying narrative taken with The Hubble telescope. It is titled: “Visions of the Universe” by: Dr. Raman Prinja. It contains several pictures of our own and similar galaxies. One of my favorite images is of a spiral galaxy. It is absolutely stunning. A swirling mass of wonder filled with beautiful points of light. I almost has a frilly look; soft and inviting. It is beautiful. There is also a picture of our own Milky Way. It too is breathtaking. This image is of an area about the size of an adult fist if held up to the night sky. The caption tells you that within that picture there are displayed approximately ten million stars! It is said that our galaxy and similar ones contain something on the order of 150 BILLION stars! In one galaxy! The book goes on to describe how galaxies travel through the universe in small groups. Our particular galaxy is traveling in a group of about forty galaxies; each with its 150 billion stars.
Are you impressed yet? Let me tell you about an image in the book of the Ultra Deep Field. At first glance it appears as another double page filled with stars. But wait, that star is spiraling, and the next and the next. After a minute you come to realize that the dots are not single stars at all but actual galaxies. Ten thousand galaxies according to the caption. If you were to go outside and look at the Ultra Deep Field you would see a dark spot about the size of you thumb nail. Nothing in it, just a dark spot. A dark spot with the naked eye but when looking with the Hubble that one spot reveals ten thousand galaxies. That is a lot of suns! Ten thousand times 150 billion in a dark spot the size of your thumb nail. Can you do the math? Are you beginning to get a feel for this universe we are born to? Bothers and sisters, this is God’s sandbox.
Well, what does that have to do with marriage? From D&C 131:1-4 “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the of the priesthood [new and everlasting covenant of marriage] And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.”
From D&C 76:56-59 we learn about the Celestial glory. “They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fullness and of his glory. …Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God- …Wherefore, all things are theirs.”
Heaven, life in the Celestial Kingdom or Eternal Life includes, “a continuation of the seed,” eternal increase. That is where it gets the name Eternal Life. It means spirit children. Where will these children live? The answer is; they will live in God’s sandbox. Marriage, as implemented in the Garden of Eden and revealed in these Later Days, includes the invitation, and prepares us to play, in God’s sandbox for eternity. That is what it means to be God’s Heir.
Let me clarify that a little. Priesthood keys are the authority to do God’s work. Some of these keys you are familiar with and include baptism, the sacrament and temple work. In the Discourses of Brigham Young, he mentions there are priesthood keys in the next life that we don’t enjoy here. Two in particular are mentioned; the keys for resurrection and the keys for creation.
The answer then to our original question, why marriage? The reason why marriage is so important to God and to us is because: “Celestial Marriage is the foundation upon which the Priesthood keys of creation are exercised.” That is what the word Marriage means. Yes it is love. Yes it is commitment. But, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Love comes from us, …but marriage (comes) from above, from God.”
My brothers and sisters. May we maintain a desire to stay close to our Father in Heaven and his son, to learn to subject ourselves to his will, that in due time, according to the His timetable and in accordance with His will, we can participate in a Celestial Marriage, performed in accordance with Priesthood authority. And when that opportunity comes, lets us strive diligently, that the Holy Ghost may place upon our marriage his seal of approval; that we may be blessed with the opportunity to play in the Father’s sandbox forever; that we may enjoy Eternal Life.
I would simply add:
-For those who have had these blessings of marriage pass them by, remember the power of the atonement and the parable of the laborers.
-It is not too late.
-You are the children of Abraham;
heirs to God, the Eternal Father.
-This is your birthright.
-Never quit reaching for the stars.
This I testify in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.