Basic to our exaltation in the celestial kingdom is the law of eternal marriage.
The Lord made this clear when He revealed the following:"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 priesthood (meaning the 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." (D&C 131:1-4.)
From the days of our first parents, when God sealed Adam and Eve as husband and wife and told them to cleave unto each other, Lucifer has done all he can to disrupt the spiritual progress of God's sons and daughters.
A common tactic of the adversary is to create a climate of evil so intense that he hopes it will spill over into the lives of Latter-day Saints who, like all others, must live and work in the world. One such effort is convincing people to avoid marriage altogether.
A recent New York Times News Service article reported that the number of couples in the United States who are choosing to live together rather than marry climbed 80 percent between 1980 and 1991. "What would have been considered scandalous 25 years ago now has become an acceptable living arrangement," the article stated.
It quotes Professor Larry Bumpass of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, who has studied family behavior since the 1980s, as stating that cohabitation is on a sharp increase.
"This once widely disapproved behavior is now half the population under the age of 40, and in 10 years it will be half the population under 50," Prof. Bumpass said.
Citing data from his survey that showed only a small segment of people now disapprove of premarital sex and cohabitation, Prof. Bumpass concluded, "It is clear to me that the trends we have been observing are likely to continue, with a declining emphasis on marriage."
How sad it is to realize the flagrant disregard for God's command to marry and to live together in love. How much more important it then becomes to teach the law of celestial marriage and to help married couples stay together and grow in their love for each other.
Each marriage will have its share of buffetings, but there are some basic principles, which, if observed, can help couples stay together and progress toward their celestial potential.
- An understanding and appreciation for the power of married love. God gave to each man and woman powerful emotions that would draw them together and keep them together. Such love must be nourished and kept fresh and vibrant. It is strong so that there can be a multiplying and filling of the earth with new life. It is also given to keep husbands and wives together so they can fulfill each other's needs and prevent the eye of love from straying to others.
- Proper management of finances. Nothing destroys confidence or credibility in a marriage like profligate spending or unwise management of resources. Money management must be a shared function and there must be trust and wisdom in using however much or little is available in the marriage. Payment of tithes and offerings is a must, and is a great safety valve in preventing marital strife over finances.
- Appropriate associations with others. The scriptures make it very clear that husbands and wives are to cleave to each other and "none else." Friends, family members, associates at work, fellow participants in recreational pursuits are nice, but should always be secondary to one's spouse.
- Spiritual growth. Every marriage needs spiritual as well as physical nourishment. Personal and family prayers, scripture study, regular family home evenings, temple attendance, and service in Church callings are all vital to strong marriages. When we drift away from spiritual matters we are putting our marriages in jeopardy.
President Joseph F. Smith captured the true essence of celestial marriage when he wrote:
"Marriage constitutes the most sacred relationship existing between man and woman. It is of heavenly origin, and is founded upon eternal principles. As a part and portion of the great plan of salvation . . . it is destined to continue not only while time shall last but throughout all eternity. Indeed it is an exigency upon which man's happiness, the perpetuity of his earthly existence, and his future dominion, glory and exaltation depend, and which, in the wisdom of God, must of necessity continue as the seal of the natural, legitimate, and inevitable domestic union of the sexes forever." (Marriage, Millennial Star, May 19, 1874, p. 312.)