Teachings of Presidents
Chapter 12: The Divine Purpose of Marriage

“Chapter 12: The Divine Purpose of Marriage,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee (2011), 109–18

“Chapter 12,” Teachings: Harold B. Lee, 109–18

Chapter 12

The Divine Purpose of Marriage

What can we do to strengthen eternal marriages and prepare young people to marry in the temple?


President Harold B. Lee taught the great importance of marrying in the temple and of husbands and wives working together throughout their lives to strengthen their marriage:

“Marriage is a partnership. Someone has observed that in the Bible account of the creation woman was not formed from a part of man’s head, suggesting that she might rule over him, nor from a part of a man’s foot that she was to be trampled under his feet. Woman was taken from man’s side as though to emphasize the fact that she was always to be by his side as a partner and companion. At the marriage altar you are pledged to each other from that day to pull the load together in double harness. The Apostle Paul with reference to marriage counseled: ‘Be ye not unequally yoked.’ (2 Corinthians 6:14.) While his counsel has to do more particularly with matters that pertain to an equality of religious interests and spiritual desires, yet the figure his statement suggests should not be overlooked. Like a yoke of oxen pulling a load along the highway, if one falters, becomes lazy and indolent or mean and stubborn, the load is wrecked and destruction follows. For similar reasons, some marriages fail when either or both who are parties thereto fail in carrying their responsibilities with each other. …

“But even more important than that you be ‘yoked equally’ in physical matters, is that you be yoked equally in spiritual matters. … Certain it is that any home and family established with the object of building them even into eternity and where children are welcomed as ‘a heritage from the Lord’ [see Psalm 127:3] have a much greater chance of survival because of the sacredness that thus attaches to the home and the family.”1

Teachings of Harold B. Lee

Why is eternal marriage essential for our exaltation?

Let us consider the first marriage that was performed after the earth was organized. Adam, the first man, had been created as well as the beasts and fowls and every living thing upon the earth. We then find this recorded: “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” After the Lord had formed Eve, he “brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:18, 22–24.) … With the completion of that marriage the Lord commanded them to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28.)

Here was a marriage performed by the Lord between two immortal beings, for until sin entered the world their bodies were not subject to death. He made them one, not merely for time, nor for any definite period; they were to be one throughout the eternal ages. … Death to them was not a divorce; it was only a temporary separation. Resurrection to immortality meant for them a reunion and an eternal bond never again to be severed. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22.)

If you have carefully followed an explanation of this first marriage, you are prepared to understand the revelation given to the Church in our generation in these words:

“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 … , it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; 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.” (Doc. and Cov. D&C 132:19.) …

Marriage for time and for eternity is the strait gate and the narrow way (spoken of in the scriptures) “that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it,” but “broad is the gate, and wide the way that leadeth to the deaths; and many there are that go in thereat.” (Doc. and Cov. D&C 132:22, 25.) If Satan and his hosts can persuade you to take the broad highway of worldly marriage that ends with death, he has defeated you in your opportunity for the highest degree of eternal happiness through marriage and increase throughout eternity. It should now be clear to your reasoning why the Lord declared that in order to obtain the highest degree in the Celestial glory, a person must enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. If he does not, he cannot obtain it. (Doc. and Cov. D&C 131:1–3.)2

Those who make themselves worthy and enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage in the temple for time and all eternity will be laying the first cornerstone for an eternal family home in the celestial kingdom that will last forever. Their reward is to have “glory added upon their heads forever and forever” (see Abraham 3:26).3

What can husbands and wives do to strengthen their temple marriage throughout their lives?

If [young people] would resolve from the moment of their marriage, that from that time forth they would resolve and do everything in their power to please each other in things that are right, even to the sacrifice of their own pleasures, their own appetites, their own desires, the problem of adjustment in married life would take care of itself, and their home would indeed be a happy home. Great love is built on great sacrifice, and that home where the principle of sacrifice for the welfare of each other is daily expressed is that home where there abides a great love.4

There lie yet ahead greater joys and, yes, greater anxieties than you have yet known, for remember that great love is built on great sacrifice and that a daily determination in each other to please in things that are right will build a sure foundation for a happy home. That determination for the welfare of each other must be mutual and not one-sided or selfish. Husband and wife must feel equal responsibilities and obligations to teach each other. Two of the things that today strike at the security of modern homes is that young husbands have never sensed their full obligation in supporting a family, and young wives have sidestepped the responsibility of settling down to the serious business of raising a family and of making a home.5

Marriage is fraught with the highest bliss and yet attended by the weightiest responsibilities that can devolve upon man and woman here in mortality. The divine impulse within every true man and woman that impels companionship with the opposite sex is intended by our Maker as a holy impulse for a holy purpose—not to be satisfied as a mere biological urge or as a lust of the flesh in promiscuous associations, but to be reserved as an expression of true love in holy wedlock.6

I have said many times to young couples at the marriage altar: Never let the tender intimacies of your married life become unrestrained. Let your thoughts be as radiant as the sunshine. Let your words be wholesome and your association together be inspiring and uplifting, if you would keep alive the spirit of romance throughout your marriage together.7

Sometimes, as we travel throughout the Church, a husband and wife will come to us and ask if, because they are not compatible in their marriage—they having had a temple marriage—it wouldn’t be better if they were to free themselves from each other and then seek more congenial partners. To all such we say, whenever a couple who have been married in the temple say they are tiring of each other, it is an evidence that either one or both are not true to their temple covenants. Any couple married in the temple who are true to their covenants will grow dearer to each other, and love will find a deeper meaning on their golden wedding anniversary than on the day they were married in the house of the Lord. Don’t you mistake that.8

Those who go to the marriage altar with love in their hearts, we might say to them in truth, if they will be true to the covenants that they take in the temple, fifty years after their marriage they can say to each other: “We must have not known what true love was when we were married, because we think so much more of each other today!” And so it will be if they will follow the counsel of their leaders and obey the holy, sacred instructions given in the temple ceremony; they will grow more perfectly in love even to a fulness of love in the presence of the Lord Himself.9

Faults and failings and the superficiality of mere physical attractions are as nothing compared with the genuineness of good character that endures and grows more beautiful with the years. You, too, may live in the enchantment of your happy homes long after the bloom of youth has faded if you but seek to find the pure diamond quality in each other that needs but the polishing of success and failure, adversity and happiness to bring luster and sparkle that will shine with brilliance even through the darkest night.10

What counsel is given to those who do not now have an eternal marriage?

Some of you do not now have a companion in your home. Some of you have lost your wife or husband or you may not yet have found a companion. In your ranks are some of the noblest members of the Church—faithful, valiant, striving to live the Lord’s commandments, to help build the kingdom on earth, and to serve your fellow men.

Life holds so much for you. Take strength in meeting your challenges. There are so many ways to find fulfillment, in serving those who are dear to you, in doing well the tasks that are before you in your employment or in the home. The Church offers so much opportunity for you to help souls, beginning with your own, to find the joy of eternal life.

Do not let self pity or despair beckon you from the course you know is right. Turn your thoughts to helping others. To you the words of the Master have special meaning: “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39.)11

The Lord judges us not alone by our actions but by the intent of our hearts. … Thus, [women] who have been denied the blessings of wifehood or motherhood in this life—who say in their heart, if I could have done, I would have done, or I would give if I had, but I cannot for I have not—the Lord will bless you as though you had done, and the world to come will compensate for those who desire in their hearts the righteous blessings that they were not able to have because of no fault of their own.12

You wives who are longing to have your husbands active in the Church, wishing that they were here today instead of the bitterness that’s in their hearts, wondering what can be done that one day … you can have them with you in the temple of our God. And you husbands who wish that you had your wives with you. We’re saying to you that if you’ll be faithful to your trust, you’ll love your husbands and love your wives, and you’ll offer a constant prayer night and morning, day and night, there will come a power into you members of the Church by the power of the Holy Ghost, which you who have been baptized and are faithful have a right to enjoy. That power so wielded may bring to you the ability to break down opposition in your companions and lead them closer to the faith.13

Some of you may decide to marry out of the Church with the secret hope of converting your companion to your religious views. Your chances for happiness in your married life are far greater if you make that conversion before marriage.14

What can we do to help young people understand the blessings of temple marriage and prepare for it?

The effectiveness of the Latter-day Saint home rests, of course, on the manner of marriage contracted for that home. A marriage for just the here and now will, naturally, be concerned primarily with this world. A marriage for eternity will have an entirely different perspective and foundation. …

… Of course, we realize that simply going to the temple without proper preparation in every way does not bring the blessings we seek. Eternal marriage rests on a maturity and commitment that—with the endowment and ordinances—can open the gates of heaven for many blessings to flow to us.

… Temple marriage is more than just a place where the ceremony occurs; it is a whole orientation to life and marriage and home. It is a culmination of building attitudes toward the Church, chastity, and our personal relationship with God—and many other things. Thus, simply preaching temple marriage is not enough. Our family home evenings, seminaries, institutes and auxiliaries must build toward this goal—not by exhortation alone—but by showing that the beliefs and attitudes involved in temple marriage are those which can bring the kind of life here and in eternity that most humans really want for themselves. Properly done, we can show the difference between the “holy and the profane” [see Ezekiel 44:23] so that the powerful natural instincts of motherhood are decisive in the young woman who wavers between those holy instincts and the path of pleasure seeking. With real judgment and combined curricular effort, we can show the young man that the way of the world—however much it gets glamorized and regardless of how clever its Casanovas appear—is the way of sadness; it is the way which will finally frustrate those deep inner yearnings he has for hearth and home and the joys of fatherhood.15

While all the problems of life are not solved by a temple marriage, yet, certainly, for all who enter worthily, it becomes a haven of safety and an anchor to that soul when the storms of life beat fiercely. …

Mine has been the rich experience, for nearly twenty years, of being entertained each week end in some of the most successful homes of the Church, and, by contrast, almost weekly I am permitted a glimpse into some of the unhappy homes. From these experiences I have reached in my own mind some definite conclusions: First, our happiest homes are those where parents have been married in the temple. Second, a temple marriage is most successful if husband and wife entered into the sacred ordinances of the temple clean and pure in body, mind, and heart. Third, a temple marriage is most sacred when each in the partnership has been wisely schooled in the purpose of the holy endowment and the obligations thereafter of husband and wife in compliance with instructions received in the temple. Fourth, parents who themselves have lightly regarded their temple covenants, can expect little better from their children because of their bad example.

In this day, the fashions, the sham, the pretenses, and the glamour of the world have badly distorted the holy concepts of home and marriage, and, even the marriage ceremony itself. Blessed is the wise mother who paints a living picture to her daughter of a sacred scene in an exquisite, heavenly sealing room where, shut out from all that is worldly, and in the presence of parents and intimate family friends, a beautiful youthful bride and groom clasp hands across a holy altar. Thank God for that mother who shows her daughter that here, nearest to heaven on earth, heart communes with heart, in a mutuality of love that begins a oneness which defies the ravages of hardship, heartaches, or disappointments to destroy, and supplies the greatest stimulus for life’s highest attainments!16

God grant that the homes of the Latter-day Saints may be blessed and that there shall come into them happiness here and the foundation for exaltation in the celestial kingdom in the world to come.17

Suggestions for Study and Discussion

  • What can married couples do to keep their eternal marriage covenants a high priority in their daily lives? How should being married for eternity affect the way spouses treat one another and their children?

  • How can we teach the importance of eternal marriage to our children?

  • Why is “great love … built on great sacrifice”? How does unselfishness strengthen a marriage?

  • What can those whose companions are not active in the Church do to strengthen their marriages? How can those who are not currently married fill their lives with expressions of godly love and sacrifice?

  • What does it mean to you to be “yoked equally” in marriage?

  • How can marriage partners “grow more perfectly in love even to a fulness of love in the presence of the Lord”?


  1. Decisions for Successful Living (1973), 174–75.

  2. Decisions for Successful Living, 125–27; paragraphing added.

  3. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams (1996), 169.

  4. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 239–40.

  5. Ye Are the Light of the World (1974), 339.

  6. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 236.

  7. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 254.

  8. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 249.

  9. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 243.

  10. Decisions for Successful Living, 177–78.

  11. Decisions for Successful Living, 249.

  12. Ye Are the Light of the World, 291–92.

  13. Address to Virginia Stake conference, 30 June 1957, Historical Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  14. Decisions for Successful Living, 129.

  15. “Special Challenges Facing the Church in Our Time,” regional representatives’ seminar, 3 Oct. 1968, 13–14.

  16. “My Daughter Prepares for Marriage,” Relief Society Magazine, June 1955, 349–51.

  17. In Conference Report, Oct. 1948, 56.

President Harold B. Lee taught that “great love is built on great sacrifice, and that home where the principle of sacrifice for the welfare of each other is daily expressed is that home where there abides a great love.”