Finding Marital Unity through the Scriptures
September 1987

“Finding Marital Unity through the Scriptures,” Tambuli, Sept. 1987, 32

Finding Marital Unity through the Scriptures

Everyone has occasional problems and areas of dissatisfaction in marriage. Sometimes we wonder where to get the wisdom we need to improve. Should we talk to a bishop, a family member, or even a professional counselor? Although other people can sometimes help us, the best place to go for help in our marriage is to the Lord—through prayer and the scriptures.

The scriptures are a great, often unused source of divine marital counsel. Here are just a few insights from the scriptures that can guide us to more harmonious and satisfying marriage relationships.

Becoming One

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24.) This commandment is repeated again in the Pearl of Great Price in both the book of Moses 3:24 and the book of Abraham (Abr. 5:18). What does this mean?

Physical unity between husband and wife, creating human life, is one important way of becoming one flesh. But in other ways husbands and wives can become one in a symbolic sense.

The Apostle Paul said: “The body is not one member, but many. …

“And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. …

“There should be no schism in the body; but … the members should have the same care one for another.

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor. 12:14, 21, 25–26.)

Although Paul was describing the need for unity among members of the Church, unity—emotional and spiritual, as well as physical—is absolutely essential to a happy marriage, one in which the partners symbolically become one in all things.


Toward the close of his ministry on earth, the Savior gave his disciples a new commandment to “love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:34.) Many other scriptures counsel us to “live together in love” (D&C 42:45) and to “live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest.” (Eccl. 9:9.) The Apostle Paul encouraged husbands to love their wives “even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25.) And through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord again commanded each husband in Zion to “love thy wife with all thy heart, and [to] cleave unto her and none else.” (D&C 42:22.)

Most problems in marriage will improve when spouses sincerely try to love each other more fully and constantly.

Emotional Honesty

Sometimes husbands and wives feel ill at ease in sharing their true feelings. They may fear hurting their spouse’s feelings, or they may fear opening themselves up to attack.

However, the Apostle John teaches us that “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.” (1 Jn. 4:18.) And Paul counsels us to speak “the truth in love.” (Eph. 4:15.) King Benjamin teaches us further that we should not “have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.” (Mosiah 4:13.)

In other words, an attitude of kindness and charity—of “perfect love”—is required. Before sharing your emotions, it would be well to ask yourself: “Will sharing these emotions bring us closer together? If I keep my feelings secret will this actually keep us apart?” At times, hiding strong feelings and beliefs increases the emotional distance between a couple.

On the other hand, a couple who can express their true emotions with love—even when those emotions reflect disappointment, discouragement, and anger—can often strengthen their relationship while resolving their differences. The important key is how they share their emotions and feelings. Partners need to share their feelings in a sensitive, open, and kind way, allowing for easy responses from each other. They should never explode in anger or be self-righteous.

Resolving Differences As Friends

Doctrine and Covenants section 121 is perhaps the best counsel from the scriptures about resolving differences. Although it relates directly to the use of priesthood authority, it also applies to bringing about changes in marriage relationships. The Lord tells us we must work “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

“By kindness, and pure knowledge.” (D&C 121:41–42.)

Paul’s counsel to the Philippians is also appropriate: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Philip. 2:3.)

Becoming Like-Minded

“Be like-minded,” counseled Paul, “having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (Philip. 2:2.) The nineteenth-century Apostle Orson Pratt taught that the closer a husband and wife are to the Lord, the closer they will be to each other:

“The more righteous a people become the more they are qualified for loving others and making them happy. A wicked man can have only a little love for his wife; while a righteous man, being filled with the love of God, is sure to show this heavenly quality in every thought and feeling of his heart, and in every word and deed. Love, joy, and innocence will radiate from his face, and be expressed in every look. This will give confidence to his wife, and she will love him in return; for love begets love; happiness gives happiness; and these heaven born emotions will continue to increase more and more, until they are perfected and glorified in all the fulness of eternal love itself.” (The Seer, Salt Lake City: Eugene Wagner, 1960, p. 156.)

Going to the scriptures and to the words of modern prophets for inspired counsel is one of the best ways husbands and wives can strengthen their marriage relationship. As we seek the Lord’s help in this most important of relationships, he will bless us with greater love and understanding for each other.

  • Spencer J. Condie, professor of sociology at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, is currently on leave while he serves as mission president in Vienna, Austria.