By Elder David J. Thomson
While I was serving as a full-time missionary in the Philippines, my girlfriend who was waiting at home in Christchurch, New Zealand, celebrated her 21st birthday. On this special occasion, a good friend gave her an enduring gift. Using his woodworking skills, he carefully crafted a wooden money box in the shape of the Hamilton NZ Temple. He knew that our dearest goal was to be married forever in the temple, but the cost of travelling to the temple was significant. Using this money box Sue saved towards this goal. When each of us returned from completed missionary service in 1982, we continued to save. Finally we were able to be married for time and for eternity in the Hamilton NZ Temple. Our friend’s beautiful gift still occupies pride of place in our home – a daily reminder of the importance of those temple covenants that are the foundation of our life together. Two years ago, we asked this good friend to make several more boxes – one for each of our children who also know for themselves the importance of these sacred covenants.
At a recent general conference, President Boyd K Packer taught, “The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is to see a husband and his wife and their children happy at home, protected by the principles and laws of the gospel, sealed safely in the covenants of the everlasting priesthood.” (General Conference, April 2012).
The Family Proclamation teaches us that, “The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.” Family Proclamation, (1995).
“This doctrine means that a man and woman who love each other deeply, who have grown together through the trials, joys, sorrows, and happiness of a shared lifetime, can live beyond the veil together forever with their family who earn that blessing. That is not just an immensely satisfying dream; it is a reality. (Elder Richard G. Scott General Conference, April, 1999.)
“Marriage is ordained of God unto man,” (D&C 49:15) and has been from the beginning - it is essential to our future exaltation. The Lord joined Adam and Eve in eternal marriage (Genesis 2: 23,24) and in the last days through the prophet Joseph Smith, He has declared, “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, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.” (D&C 132:19).
Divine marriage covenants do not provide a guarantee of perfect marriage here on earth. Rather they provide a promise for the future. Elder Marion D Hanks (1921 – 2011) has said, “Of course, everyone who comes to the temple to be married understands that the ceremony is performed by God’s authority for time and eternity. But the remarkable revealed ceremony at the altar in a temple contemplates much more than this. The quality of the relationship thus established is of highest importance. Wonderful promises are sealed upon a man and woman in temple marriage, and the realization of the promised blessings is related directly to their understanding and keeping the solemn commitments they make to each other and the Lord.” (General Conference, October 1984)
Thus, how we act after our temple marriage helps to bring the power of those covenants to fruition in our lives. A covenant-keeping couple won’t just build an earthly life together, they will build eternity together. They will pray together, study the scriptures together, attend church and the temple together, pay their tithing together, teach their children the gospel together, and walk side by side as equal partners towards exaltation. The 25th section of the Doctrine and Covenants contains valuable counsel for men and woman who embark on this journey. In a revelation to Emma Smith, the Lord explained her role to be a “comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness.” She was also counselled to, “Let [her] soul delight in [her] husband.” Likewise the same section assures her that her “husband shall support [her]”. Marriage is an enterprise requiring effort and input from both the participants to not only the day to day mundane chores but also the crucial preparations for eternity together.
The Pacific Area goals include a focus on strengthening families, by increasing the number of adults sealed to a spouse in the temple. This goal recognises the need for us to reach out and invite those who have not received the sealing blessings to prepare themselves and to receive them. Across the Pacific we have seen wonderful couples and beautiful families rescued by loving friends and leaders, and supported as they prepare for the great blessings of the temple endowment and the covenants of eternal marriage. We likewise recognise the crucial importance of teaching our young people to want nothing other than a temple marriage. Our beloved prophet, President Thomas S Monsoon has counselled young people, saying that “Nothing is more important than marrying the right person, at the right time, in the right place, by the right authority; and that authority is one who has the sealing power in the house of God, the temples of God.” Quoted in Teaching of Thomas S Monson, Deseret Book (2011) p114. The same imperative applies to all Heavenly Fathers children. In the media and in romantic movies we often hear extravagant expressions such as, “I will love you forever” when in reality, without worthiness to receive temple covenants, such words have no lasting value or commitment. Only through adherence to temple covenants can marital love be nurtured and transformed into the love, respect, loyalty and devotion that can outlast mortality and be enjoyed eternally.
Years ago, a respected counsellor in the NZ Temple presidency gave this counsel to priesthood holders in a meeting for temple ordinance workers: “The greatest asset you will ever have, I don’t care how much wealth you have accumulated, will be the love and respect and affection of the woman into whose eyes you looked across the altar in the House of the Lord, and to whom you pledged your love and loyalty and affection for time and for all eternity. If you get to the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom, you won’t get there alone. You will get there walking hand in hand with your sweetheart.” (Personal notes of address by Herman Berends)
My wife, Sue and I were married in 1983. At that time in New Zealand it was necessary to be married first outside the temple to comply with the law of the land. We had a ‘chapel wedding’ in Christchurch and then travelled straight to the Hamilton NZ Temple where we were sealed for time and for all eternity. Every family has its share of challenges; I don’t think anyone is immune, but our temple covenants have provided great strength and power to us over the years as we have raised our six children, and watched them one by one establish their own families founded on temple covenants. Nothing gives us greater joy than to be in the temple with our children. The power of eternal covenants provides real power to help husband and wives, parents and children reach their divine potential.
I invite each of us to prepare for, receive and honour the covenants of eternal marriage, and to work each day to keep those sacred covenants alive. In an age when the family is under attack in our society, our commitment to eternal marriage provides a clear witness of the value “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever,” (Ecclesiastes 3:14). I bear my witness that God’s purpose “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39) reaches its pinnacle in the eternal marriage covenant, when husband and wife are sealed together by the power of the holy priesthood, restored in these last days for this sacred purpose. When husband and wife honour this sacred covenant by the way the treat each other and the way they live the gospel of Jesus Christ together, they earn the rich reward of continuing the blessings of family in eternity.
Thirty years after our temple marriage, my wife and I still may not quite have it all together, but together we have it all!