“Chapter 10: Nurturing the Eternal Partnership of Marriage,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley (2016)
“Chapter 10,” Teachings: Gordon B. Hinckley
One evening when President and Sister Hinckley were sitting quietly together, Sister Hinckley said, “You have always given me wings to fly, and I have loved you for it.”1 Commenting on that expression from his wife, President Hinckley said, “I’ve tried to recognize [her] individuality, her personality, her desires, her background, her ambitions. Let her fly. Yes, let her fly! Let her develop her own talents. Let her do things her way. Get out of her way, and marvel at what she does.”2 Sister Hinckley was likewise supportive of her husband—as a father, in his personal interests, and in his extensive Church service.
For most of their growing-up years, Gordon B. Hinckley and Marjorie Pay lived in the same ward, and for many years they lived across the street from each other. “I saw her first in Primary,” President Hinckley later recalled. “She gave a reading. I don’t know what it did to me, but I never forgot it. Then she grew older into a beautiful young woman, and I had the good sense to marry her.”3
They had their first date—a Church dance—when he was 19 and she was 18. “This young man is going somewhere,” Marjorie told her mother afterward.4 Their relationship continued to grow while Gordon attended the University of Utah. Then in 1933, the year after he graduated, he was called to serve a mission to England. When he returned in 1935, they resumed their courtship, and in 1937 they were married in the Salt Lake Temple. Recalling the early part of their marriage, Sister Hinckley said:
“Money was scarce, but we were full of hope and optimism. Those early days were not all blissful, but they were filled with determination and a great desire to establish a happy home. We loved each other, there was no doubt about that. But we also had to get used to each other. I think every couple has to get used to each other.
“Early on I realized it would be better if we worked harder at getting accustomed to one another than constantly trying to change each other—which I discovered was impossible. … There must be a little give and take, and a great deal of flexibility, to make a happy home.”5
President Hinckley was called as a General Authority in 1958, and during the early years of his service, Sister Hinckley typically stayed home to care for their five children while he traveled on Church assignments. When their children had grown, the Hinckleys often traveled together—something they cherished. In April 1977, their 40th wedding anniversary occurred while they were on a long journey to meet with the Saints in Australia. That day, President Hinckley reflected in his journal:
“We find ourselves today in Perth, Australia, our very presence being representative of what the years have brought to us. We have spent the day meeting with missionaries of the Australia Perth Mission. It has been a wonderful day in which we have heard testimonies and instruction. The missionaries presented Marjorie with a corsage, something I had not time to get for her myself.
“We could write quite a volume on the past 40 years. … We have had our struggles and our problems. But by and large, life has been good. We have been marvelously blessed. At this age, one begins to sense the meaning of eternity and the value of eternal companionship. Had we been at home tonight, we likely would have had some kind of a family dinner. As it is, we are far from home in the service of the Lord, and it is a sweet experience.”6
Twenty-two years later, while serving as President of the Church, President Hinckley wrote a letter to Sister Hinckley expressing his feelings after more than 60 years of marriage. “What a treasured companion you have been,” he said. “Now we have grown old together, and it has been a sweet experience. … When in some future day the hand of death gently touches one or the other of us there will be tears, yes, but there will also be a quiet and certain assurance of reunion and eternal companionship.”7
In early 2004 the Hinckleys were on their way home from the dedication of the Accra Ghana Temple when Sister Hinckley collapsed with weariness. She never recovered her strength and passed away on April 6, 2004. Six months later in the October general conference, President Hinckley said:
“As I held her hand and saw mortal life drain from her fingers, I confess I was overcome. Before I married her, she had been the girl of my dreams. … She was my dear companion for more than two-thirds of a century, my equal before the Lord, really my superior. And now in my old age, she has again become the girl of my dreams.”8
In his grief, President Hinckley was sustained by knowing that he and Marjorie had been sealed for eternity. “To lose one’s much-loved partner with whom one has long walked through sunshine and shadow is absolutely devastating,” he said. “There is a consuming loneliness which increases in intensity. It painfully gnaws at one’s very soul. But in the quiet of the night a silent whisper is heard that says, ‘All is well. All is well.’ And that voice from out of the unknown brings peace, and certainty, and unwavering assurance that death is not the end, that life goes on, with work to do and victories to be gained. That voice quietly, even unheard with mortal ears, brings the assurance that, as surely as there has been separation, there will be a joyful reuniting.”9
How wonderful a thing is marriage under the plan of our Eternal Father, a plan provided in His divine wisdom for the happiness and security of His children and the continuity of the race.
He is our Creator, and He designed marriage from the beginning. At the time of Eve’s creation, “Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: … Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen. 2:23–24.)
Paul wrote to the Corinthian Saints, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:11.)
In modern revelation, the Lord has said, “And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.” (D&C 49:15.) …
Surely no one reading the scriptures, both ancient and modern, can doubt the divine concept of marriage. The sweetest feelings of life, the most generous and satisfying impulses of the human heart, find expression in a marriage that stands pure and unsullied above the evil of the world.
Such a marriage, I believe, is the desire—the hoped-for, the longed-for, the prayed-for desire—of men and women everywhere.10
[The] temples … offer blessings that are had nowhere else. All that occurs in these sacred houses has to do with the eternal nature of man. Here, husbands and wives and children are sealed together as families for all eternity. Marriage is not “until death do ye part.” It is forever, if the parties live worthy of the blessing.11
Was there ever a man who truly loved a woman, or a woman who truly loved a man, who did not pray that their relationship might continue beyond the grave? Has a child ever been buried by parents who did not long for the assurance that their loved one would again be theirs in a world to come? Can anyone believing in eternal life doubt that the God of heaven would grant His sons and daughters that most precious attribute of life, the love that finds its most meaningful expression in family relationships? No, reason demands that the family relationship shall continue after death. The human heart longs for it, and the God of heaven has revealed a way whereby it may be secured. The sacred ordinances of the house of the Lord provide for it.12
How sweet is the assurance, how comforting is the peace that come from the knowledge that if we marry right and live right, our relationship will continue, notwithstanding the certainty of death and the passage of time. Men may write love songs and sing them. They may yearn and hope and dream. But all of this will be only a romantic longing unless there is an exercise of authority that transcends the powers of time and death.13
In His grand design, when God first created man, He created a duality of the sexes. The ennobling expression of that duality is found in marriage. One individual is complementary to the other.14
In the marriage companionship there is neither inferiority nor superiority. The woman does not walk ahead of the man; neither does the man walk ahead of the woman. They walk side by side as a son and daughter of God on an eternal journey.15
Marriage, in its truest sense, is a partnership of equals, with neither exercising dominion over the other, but, rather, with each encouraging and assisting the other in whatever responsibilities and aspirations he or she might have.16
Wives, look upon your husbands as your precious companions and live worthy of that association. Husbands, see in your wives your most valued asset in time or eternity, each a daughter of God, a partner with whom you can walk hand in hand, through sunshine and storm, through all the perils and triumphs of life.17
I think of two [friends] I knew … in the years of high school and university. He was a boy from a country town, plain in appearance, without money or apparent promise. He had grown up on a farm, and if he had any quality that was attractive it was the capacity to work. … But with all of his rustic appearance, he had a smile and a personality that seemed to sing of goodness. She was a city girl who had come out of a comfortable home. …
Something of magic took place between them. They fell in love. … [They] laughed and danced and studied together through those years. They married when people wondered how they could ever earn enough to stay alive. He struggled through his professional school and came out near the top of his class. She scrimped and saved and worked and prayed. She encouraged and sustained and when things were really tough she said quietly, “Somehow we’ll make it.” Buoyed by her faith in him, he kept going through those difficult years. Their children came, and together they loved them and nourished them and gave them the security that came of their own example of love for and loyalty to one another. Now forty-five years and more have passed. Their children are grown and are a credit to them, to the Church, and to the communities in which they live.
Recently, while riding a plane from New York, I walked down the aisle in the semi-darkness of the cabin and saw a woman, white-haired, her head on her husband’s shoulder as she dozed and his hand clasped warmly about hers. He was awake and recognized me. She awakened when we began to talk. They, too, were returning from New York, where he had delivered a paper before one of the great learned societies of the nation. He said little about it, but she proudly spoke of the honors accorded him. …
I thought of that as I returned to my seat on the plane. And I said to myself, their friends of those days saw only a farm boy from the country and a smiling girl with freckles on her nose. But these two saw in each other love, loyalty, peace, faith, and the future. Call it chemistry if you will; maybe there was a little of that, but there was much more. There was rather a flowering of something divine, planted there by that Father who is our God. In their school days they had lived worthy of that flowering. They had lived with virtue and faith, with appreciation and respect for self and one another. In the years of their difficult professional and economic struggles, they had found their greatest earthly strength in their companionship. Now in age they were finding their peace, their quiet satisfaction together. And beyond that they were assured of an eternity of joyful association under covenants long since made and promises long since given in the house of the Lord.18
Somehow we have put a badge on a very important group in the Church. It reads “Singles.” I wish we would not do that. You are individuals, men and women, sons and daughters of God, not a mass of “look-alikes” or “do-alikes.” Because you do not happen to be married does not make you essentially different from others. All of us are very much alike in appearance and emotional responses, in our capacity to think, to reason, to be miserable, to be happy, to love and be loved.
You are just as important as any others in the scheme of our Father in Heaven, and under His mercy no blessing to which you otherwise might be entitled will forever be withheld from you.19
Permit me now to say a word to those who have never had the opportunity to be married. I assure you that we are sensitive to the loneliness that many of you feel. Loneliness is a bitter and painful thing. I suppose all people have felt it at one time or another. Our hearts reach out to you with understanding and love. …
… This season of your lives can be wonderful. You have maturity. You have judgment. Most of you have training and experience. You have the physical, mental, and spiritual strength to lift and help and encourage.
There are so many out there who need you. … Keep your spiritual batteries at full charge and light the lamps of others.20
To you who have not married, … God has given you talents of one kind or another. He has given you the capacity to serve the needs of others and bless their lives with your kindness and concern. Reach out to someone in need. …
Add knowledge to knowledge. Refine your mind and skills in a chosen field of discipline. There are tremendous opportunities for you if you are prepared to take advantage of them. … Do not feel that because you are single, God has forsaken you. The world needs you. The Church needs you. So very many people and causes need your strength and wisdom and talents.
Be prayerful, and do not lose hope. … Live the very best life of which you are capable, and the Lord in his greater wisdom and in his eternal season will give you answer to your prayers.21
To you who are divorced, please know that we do not look down upon you as failures because a marriage failed. … Ours is the obligation not to condemn, but to forgive and to forget, to lift and to help. In your hours of desolation turn to the Lord, who said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28, 30.)
The Lord will not deny you nor turn you away. The answers to your prayers may not be dramatic; they may not be readily understood or even appreciated. But the time will come when you will know that you have been blessed.22
Nurture and cultivate your marriage. Guard it and work to keep it solid and beautiful. … Marriage is a contract, it is a compact, it is a union between a man and a woman under the plan of the Almighty. It can be fragile. It requires nurture and very much effort.23
After dealing with hundreds of divorce situations through the years, I am satisfied that the application of a single practice would do more than all else to solve this grievous problem.
If every husband and every wife would constantly do whatever might be possible to ensure the comfort and happiness of his or her companion, there would be very little, if any, divorce. Argument would never be heard. Accusations would never be leveled. Angry explosions would not occur. Rather, love and concern would replace abuse and meanness. …
The cure for most marital troubles does not lie in divorce. It lies in repentance and forgiveness, in expressions of kindness and concern. It is to be found in application of the Golden Rule.
It is a scene of great beauty when a young man and a young woman join hands at the altar in a covenant before God that they will honor and love one another. Then how dismal the picture when a few months later, or a few years later, there are offensive remarks, mean and cutting words, raised voices, bitter accusations.
It need not be, my dear brothers and sisters. We can rise above these mean and beggarly elements in our lives (see Galatians 4:9). We can look for and recognize the divine nature in one another, which comes to us as children of our Father in Heaven. We can live together in the God-given pattern of marriage in accomplishing that of which we are capable if we will exercise discipline of self and refrain from trying to discipline our companion.24
“Nurture and cultivate your marriage. Guard it and work to keep it solid and beautiful.”
Every marriage is subject to occasional stormy weather. But with patience, mutual respect, and a spirit of forbearance, we can weather these storms. Where mistakes have been made, there can be apology, repentance, and forgiveness. But there must be willingness to do so on the part of both parties. …
I have learned that the real essence of happiness in marriage lies … in an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. Thinking of self alone and of the gratification of personal desires will build neither trust, love, nor happiness. Only when there is unselfishness will love, with its concomitant qualities, flourish and blossom.25
Many of us need to stop looking for faults and begin to look for virtues. … Unfortunately, some women want to remake their husbands after their own design. Some husbands regard it as their prerogative to compel their wives to fit their standards of what they think to be the ideal. It never works. It only leads to contention, misunderstanding, and sorrow.
There must be respect for the interests of one another. There must be opportunities and encouragement for the development and expression of individual talent.26
Be absolutely true and faithful to your chosen companion. In terms of time and eternity, she or he will be the greatest asset you will ever have. She or he will be deserving of the very best that is within you.27
President Hinckley taught that Heavenly Father designed marriage between a man and a woman “for the happiness and security of His children” (section 1). How can this knowledge influence the relationship between a husband and wife? How can a husband and wife keep their marriage “pure and unsullied above the evil of the world”?
What are the blessings of an eternal marriage in this life and in eternity? (See section 2.) What experiences have given you greater appreciation for eternal relationships? How can we teach children the importance of eternal marriage?
Why does marriage need to be “a partnership of equals”? (See section 3.) What do you learn from the story in section 3? How can a husband and wife cultivate this kind of strength in their marriage?
How can President Hinckley’s promises and counsel in section 4 help persons who are not married? How do the teachings in this section apply to all people? Why is it important to use our talents and skills to serve others?
What are some ways a husband and wife can “nurture and cultivate” their marriage? (See section 5.) What have you learned about how a husband and wife can overcome challenges and find greater happiness together? What examples have you seen?
“As you dedicate time every day, personally and with your family, to the study of God’s word, peace will prevail in your life. That peace won’t come from the outside world. It will come from within your home, from within your family, from within your own heart” (Richard G. Scott, “Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 93).