Covenant marriage requires obedience

  • Work through challenges
  • Sustain each other- Requires leap of faith

Three summers ago, Elder Bruce C. Hafen, who was sustained a member of the Seventy in general conference last April, watched a new bride and groom emerge from a temple.

"They laughed and held hands as family and friends gathered to take pictures," he related during the Saturday afternoon session.

"I saw happiness and promise in their faces as they greeted their reception guests. I wondered that night how long it would be until these two faced the opposition that tests all marriages. Only then would they discover whether their marriage was based on a contract or a covenant."

When trouble comes, explained Elder Hafen, a couple held together by contract seeks happiness by walking away, while a covenant couple works through the troubles.

Marriage, explained Elder Hafen, is by nature a covenant, not just a private contract one may cancel at will.

"Jesus taught about contractual attitudes when He described the hireling,' who performs his conditional promise of care only when he receives something in return. When the hirelingseeth the wolf coming,' he `leaveth the sheep, and fleeth . . . because he careth not for the sheep.'

"By contrast, the Savior said, `I am the good shepherd . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep.' Many people today marry as hirelings. And when the wolf comes, they flee."

Elder Hafen explained that the couple he told about learned in the temple how Christ's life is the story of the Atonement, and the life of Adam and Eve is the story of receiving the Atonement, "which empowered them to overcome their separation from God and all opposition until they were eternally `at one' with the Lord, and with each other."

Lehi taught, Elder Hafen continued, that without the Fall, Adam and Eve would never have known opposition. "And `they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery.'

"Astute parents will see a connection here - no children, no misery. But in the Garden, they could never know joy. So the Lord taught them they would live and bear children in sorrow, sweat and thorns.

"That is why the husband and wife in a covenant marriage sustain and lift each other when the wolf comes."

"Covenant marriage requires a total leap of faith: they must keep their covenants without knowing what risks that may require of them. They surrender unconditionally, obeying God and sacrificing for each other. Then they will discover what Alma called, `incomprehensible joy.' "

Elder Hafen explained how "every marriage is tested repeatedly by three kinds of wolves;" including the wolf of natural adversity; the wolf of one's own imperfections; and the wolf of excessive individualism.

"When we observe the covenants we make at the altar of sacrifice, we discover hidden reservoirs of strength," Elder Hafen said.

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