How to succeed in an eternal marriage, according to Elder Carl B. Cook

While speaking in a previous devotional with young single adults in Nairobi, Kenya, Elder Carl B. Cook of the Presidency of the Seventy learned that many of the men felt that women expected them to have a university degree, a car and a home before they would consider marriage. On the other hand, several women said that they were willing to wait for those things if the men were actively working toward them.

During the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults on Sunday, May 5, Elder Cook asked the young single adult men gathered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle to raise their hands if they were hardworking and of good character but felt unprepared temporally for marriage.

And to the young single adult women, he asked if those who were willing to wait for those temporal blessings with a man of good character, would raise their hands.

In each case, plenty of hands were raised.

Read the highlights from Elder Cook's message during April 2019 general conference.

“If any of you looked across the room and saw someone interesting with his or her hand in the air, well … ” he said, tapering off with a knowing shrug.

Elder Cook and his wife, Sister Lynette Cook, spoke on progressing toward eternal marriage during the evening devotional at the the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Even more viewed the proceedings, which were broadcast to 99 countries and in 39 languages.

It’s a subject that includes everyone, “including Sister Cook and me,” he said. “Married or single and regardless of age, we can all progress from where we are currently.”

Eternal marriage is the crowning ordinance of the gospel of Jesus Christ, he taught. “Only through receiving this priesthood ordinance and keeping our covenants can we receive the blessing of continuing as husband and wife, eternal companions after death.”

Because marriage between man and woman is essential to God’s plan, the adversary is fighting against it. Satan has created a tsunami of destructive influences — such as pornography, infidelity, individualism, lack of commitment and failed marriages.

What can be done to combat the influence of the adversary?

“The answer is simple,” Elder Cook said. “You can live the gospel of Jesus Christ, draw upon the power of His Atonement, prepare for His return and help others to do the same.”

Happy and successful marriages are built on a “gospel foundation of faith in Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and His Atonement; prayer; repentance; forgiveness; love; honesty; fidelity; unity; and temple covenants,” he said.

Attendees listen to Elder Carl B. Cook speak about marriage during the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults at the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Sunday, May 5, 2019.
Attendees listen to Elder Carl B. Cook speak about marriage during the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults at the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Sunday, May 5, 2019. Credit: Silas Walker, Deseret News, Deseret News

Sister Cook then spoke about two “everyday couples” who are progressing toward eternal marriage.

The Cooks met Dawie and Elisa a few years ago in South Africa. During a branch devotional, Dawie shared an experience he and his wife had that strengthened their marriage.

One Sunday morning, they ate breakfast, walked two hours to Church, participated in three hours of meetings, then walked another two hours back home. They were tired, hungry and out of food, so they went to bed hungry.

In the middle of the night, their growling stomachs woke them up. “Dawie felt terrible that he hadn’t provided food for Elisa,” Sister Cook said. “But instead of being sad or angry, Elisa teased him about the funny noises his stomach was making.”

They both laughed and soon fell back asleep.

The two were working through life’s challenges together, Sister Cook said. “Having no food was not ‘his’ problem or ‘her’ problem, but ‘their’ problem.”

Dawie and Elisa are committed not only to each other, but also to God. “They have faith that if they keep His commandments, He will help them work through challenges,” Sister Cook said.

Isabelle Purdie and Maddie Barkdull take a selfie before the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults at the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Sunday, May 5, 2019.
Isabelle Purdie and Maddie Barkdull take a selfie before the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults at the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Sunday, May 5, 2019. Credit: Silas Walker, Deseret News, Deseret News

She told how the second couple — Nate and Lexi — were eager to have a baby. Unfortunately, Lexi suffered a miscarriage, followed by the stillbirth of their daughter.

When the Cooks went to visit them in their home, “we expected to find them in a terrible state of mourning,” Sister Cook said.

Instead, they found a peaceful spirit. As Nate and Lexi shared details regarding the loss of their daughter, “they told us of tender mercies the Lord had blessed them with to ease their burdens,” Sister Cook said.

Nate and Lexi felt the lifting and strengthening power of Jesus Christ and His Atonement, she said. “Their burden was heavy, but He was helping them carry it. … With the Lord’s help, challenges can unite us.”

Sister Cook then introduced a video featuring photos of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and their wives, as each of the members shared expressions of love and admiration for their spouses.

'The sunshine of my life': 15 of the sweetest quotes from President Nelson, Apostles about their wives

“We often see the Brethren speaking to us, but it is inspiring to see the joy, the enduring joy, that they, as husbands, are experiencing together with their wives,” Elder Cook said following the video. “These couples not only teach gospel principles; they exemplify them. They are committed to God and to each other.”

Each couple will have to deal with obstacles as they progress toward eternal marriage, such as unrealistic expectations, complacency, and inappropriate or overuse of technology and media.

Attendees listen and take notes while Elder Carl B. Cook speaks about marriage during the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults at the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Sunday, May 5, 2019.
Attendees listen and take notes while Elder Carl B. Cook speaks about marriage during the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults at the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Sunday, May 5, 2019. Credit: Silas Walker, Deseret News, Deseret News

Expectations should not be too high or too low, Elder Cook said. “As we openly and honestly communicate with Heavenly Father through sincere prayer, with real intent, He will guide us.”

Complacency can lull one into carnal security. Lack of urgency to grow is contrary to God’s plan, Elder Cook said. “The whole purpose of this mortal experience is to become as He is. We can’t become if we are not willing to stretch, change and progress.”

Inappropriate use or overuse of technology and media injures individuals and hinders relationships, he said. “Internet interaction is not a suitable substitute for human interaction — interacting with real people in real time.”

No matter the obstacles, the Lord can help overcome them. “Wherever you are on the covenant path, which leads to eternal marriage, the Lord can help you progress so that you walk the path together — with someone you love,” Elder Cook said.

“As you turn to Him in faith, repent of your sins and draw upon His power to help you progress, miracles occur.”

To those who are single, Elder Cook said to look for companions in places where they will most likely find eternal companions. “We don’t select our companion based on money or possessions, nor just on love. We seek for an eternal marriage.”

One method for finding a companion is to seek a referral from a trusted source. For instance, when Elder Cook found none of his dating relationships developed beyond friendship, he turned to a former mission companion, who gave him the name of Lynette Hansen. “She was a golden, or what turned out to be a diamond, referral,” Elder Cook said.

The congregation sings with the choir during the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults at the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Sunday, May 5, 2019.
The congregation sings with the choir during the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults at the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Sunday, May 5, 2019. Credit: Silas Walker, Deseret News, Deseret News

He advised those who have received referrals to “exercise faith, contact the person and give it a try.” While not all referrals will work out, some will be inspired and will change lives.

“I believe when we exercise faith, have hope and include Heavenly Father, good things take place,” he said.

“Be faithful and press forward. All blessings will be yours in the Lord’s time.”

Jeremy Zurligen attended the devotional with his fiancée, Kaitie Gappmayer, both of the Madison YSA Ward, Salt Lake Pioneer YSA Stake. Were he not single, he might have been one of the men raising his hand when asked if he felt like being unable to provide for a spouse would have prevented him from finding a companion.

“Even now that I am engaged, it still worries me,” he said, “even though I know it’s not going to prevent us from getting married. Clearly it didn’t change her mind. She clearly still said yes.”

Though now he isn’t quite as worried, coming to the devotional still gave him “more of a reassurance that things would be OK.”

“I think it was really inspiring to see all the different couples and hear a little bit about their stories,” Gappmayer added.

There is always a progression. She said, “When you’re single, you’re progressing towards being in a relationship; when you’re in a relationship, you’re progressing towards eternal marriage; and then when you’re sealed, you’re still progressing towards eternal marriage.”

The examples, she said, “give a lot of hope. If they can do it, then we can do it.”