“‘Make Marriage a Partnership’ Couples Counseled at Fireside,” Ensign, Apr. 1984, 75–76
“Marriage is a joint venture,” President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, emphasized during a fireside broadcast from the Salt Lake Tabernacle January 29. To make marriage all it can be, the couple must form a partnership based on the values of the gospel of Christ.
Elder Dean L. Larsen of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Sister Ann S. Reese of the Relief Society General Presidency also spoke at the fireside, which focused on helping couples improve their marriages. Throughout the United States and Canada, husbands and wives gathered in stake centers equipped with satellite receiving equipment to view the program. In the West, many watched the live broadcast on KBYU-TV.
In spite of trials that come, a marriage can be full of joy if husband and wife sublimate self-interest to “the good of the partnership,” President Hinckley said. “Anyone can do it, with a disciplined effort to live the gospel.”
But in some cases human failings create problems and pain in the relationship.
President Hinckley quoted from a letter written by a woman who outlined her own marital troubles. There was “bitter tragedy” in the letter, he said, because it indicated a relationship very far different from what our Heavenly Father desires for men and women. It was similar to other letters he has received telling of unloving relationships and cruelty in the home.
“To men within the sound of my voice, I say, if you are guilty of demeaning behavior toward your wife, if you are prone to dictate and exercise authority over her, if you are selfish and brutal in your actions in the home, then stop it. Repent. Repent now, while you have the opportunity to do so.
“To you wives who are constantly complaining and see only the dark side of life, and feel that you are unloved and unwanted, look into your own hearts and minds. If there is something wrong, turn about. Put a smile on your faces. Make yourselves attractive. Brighten your outlook. You deny yourselves happiness and court misery if you constantly complain and do nothing to rectify your own faults. Rise above the shrill clamor over rights and prerogatives and walk in the quiet dignity of a daughter of God.”
He listed four cornerstones on which a marriage must be built if life is to be full of joy. The first is mutual respect.
Each married person should develop respect for his or her partner and for the other’s differences, he said. These should, if necessary, be resolved, but some differences can make a companionship more interesting.
“I have long felt that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion,” an ability to look for a spouse’s virtues, and a desire to encourage each other to grow and develop in many ways. Men, he advised, should encourage their wives to develop their talents; the family will be blessed by the result.
“I am offended by the sophistry that the only lot of the Latter-day Saint woman is to be barefoot and pregnant. It’s a clever phrase, but it’s false,” President Hinckley commented.
“Of course we believe in children. The Lord has told us to multiply and replenish the earth that we might have joy in our posterity, and there is no greater joy than the joy that comes of happy children in good families. But he did not designate the number, nor has the Church. That is a sacred matter left to the couple and the Lord.” He pointed out that the Church has advised husbands to be considerate of their wives’ health and strength in creating a family, and has advised couples to seek inspiration in all decisions about family matters.
The second cornerstone of marriage is the “soft answer.” Couples sometimes complain that they cannot communicate with each other, he said. Yet the simple kind of meaningful conversation they had before marriage must continue afterward as well. “Can they not discuss with one another in an open and frank and candid and happy way their interests, their problems, their challenges, their desires? It seems to me that communication is essentially a matter of talking with one another. But let that talk be quiet, for quiet talk is the language of love, it is the language of peace, it is the language of God. It is when we raise our voices that tiny molehills of difference become mountains of conflict.”
Cornerstone number three is “financial honesty. I am satisfied that money is the root of more trouble in marriage than all other causes combined.” Faithfully paying a full tithing, he said, is the key to this principle. “Those who live honestly with God are more likely to live honestly with one another and their associates.” Budgeting for tithing cultivates discipline in other areas as well. Marriage partners should consult and agree on all large expenses, he advised, and, if it is needed, unitedly seek the counsel of others.
Family prayer should be the fourth cornerstone of married life. “I know of no other practice that will have so salutary an effect upon your lives as will the practice of kneeling together in prayer. The very words ‘Our Father in Heaven’ have a tremendous effect,” bringing us near to our Father, who loves us, and helping us feel accountable to him. The example of family prayer, he said, brings blessings of peace, love, and stability to children, as well as to their parents.
The full text of President Hinckley’s address will be published in a pamphlet that home teachers will take to the homes of members in the near future.
Elder Larsen spoke of the joy in his own marriage, saying, “The love, the tenderness, the romance, the friendship and companionship that we enjoy today after thirty-five years is much more profound and deep” than it was at the beginning. “We’re still learning, we’re still growing, and the greatest and most delightful prospect, I think, that either of us can contemplate is the opportunity to continue that for an eternity.”
He offered several suggestions for those who want to strengthen their marriage and grow together.
First, “don’t take one another for granted.” He urged spouses to remember the little endearments and common courtesies: “the ‘May I’s,’ the ‘Pleases,’ the ‘Thank yous,’ and sometimes, when necessary, the ‘I’m sorrys.’”
He suggested that spouses should maintain a pleasant atmosphere. He urged husbands, as they return home in the evening, to leave cares and problems of work outside and be available to their wife and family.
Loving thoughtfulness was another suggestion. So, too, was daily prayer. “I could not begin to express to you the tremendous strength that has come into our own marriage through prayer.”
He suggested that husbands and wives study and discuss the gospel together, sharing it every day “and making it a fiber of your lives. It means keeping this growth in gospel knowledge and understanding alive and green and new and exciting.”
Sister Reese said many modern voices would tell women “that the role of wife and mother is a subservient one, that it is demeaning for a women to live primarily for her home and family.” But, she said, gospel truths taught from the days of Adam and Eve “assure us that wifehood and motherhood are ordained of God and are of first importance. We know that marriage is a partnership—an equal partnership, but with a division of duties where neither male nor female means superior, where domination by either wife or husband is wrong.”
She quoted Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Council of the Twelve, who said at the 1978 dedication of the Relief Society Monument to Women in Nauvoo, Illinois, “Where spiritual things are concerned, in all matters that pertain to godliness and holiness, and which are brought to pass as a result of personal righteousness, in all these things men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before the Lord.”
“As women,” Sister Reese commented, “first and foremost, we are responsible to the Lord for our individual progress and spiritual development. The entire plan of salvation is centered around the worth of the individual.” Each woman has certain unique qualities of intelligence and personality, “her inner self, her soul, which are of immense worth. It is the duty of each woman to come to know and accept and enjoy being herself. She must respect her own inner strengths, and from this self-acceptance be secure enough to live courageously and righteously and to reach out in service to her family and fellow beings.”
Making a successful marriage takes adjustment and resolve on the part of both partners, she said. “Problems can become stepping stones in strengthening a marriage as we love each other and work them out together as husband and wife.”