Today's Lesson on Eternal Marriage

A few weeks ago I received a call asking me to substitute teach in Relief Society today. I don't think I've ever taught Relief Society before, even though I've always wanted to. The lesson was from the Gospel Principles manual and was about Eternal Marriage. As I told the sisters today, when I teach I usually just like to prepare an outline with a lot of questions, and get them to run the discussion. That's how today's lesson went and I think it went well. Afterwards several people mentioned that they liked the lesson quite a lot, and I thought it was interesting that one person specifically mentioned liking the fact that I explicitly encouraged comments because she didn't feel like she was 'interrupting me'. Some people asked me to post my lesson, and the truth is I didn't have much beyond an outline, but I will put it here.

“All of us women have an image of the ideal family—a marriage in the temple to an active priesthood holder, and children who are obedient and faithful. But President Ezra Taft Benson has pointed out that only 14 percent of American households in 1980 match the traditional image of a family—working husband, full-time mother with children still in the home. Reliable statistics indicate that only one out of five LDS families in the United States have a husband and wife married in the temple with children in their home. As Elder M. Russell Ballard has already reminded us, there is great diversity in LDS homes. But all of these homes can be righteous homes where individuals love each other, love the Lord, and strengthen each other. Let me give you an example. Here are two quilts. Both are handmade, beautiful, and delightful to snuggle down in or wrap around a grandchild. Now look at this quilt. It’s a Hawaiian quilt with a strong, predictable pattern. We can look at half of the quilt and predict what the other half looks like. Sometimes our lives seem patterned, predictable in happy ways, in order. Now look at this second quilt. This style is called a crazy quilt. Some pieces are the same color, but no two pieces are the same size. They’re odd shapes. They come together at odd angles. This is an unpredictable quilt. Sometimes our lives are unpredictable, unpatterned, not neat or well-ordered. Well, there’s not one right way to be a quilt as long as the pieces are stitched together firmly. Both of these quilts will keep us warm and cozy. Both are beautiful and made with love. There’s not just one right way to be a Mormon woman, either, as long as we are firmly grounded in faith in the Savior, make and keep covenants, live the commandments, and work together in charity.” (Chieko Okazaki, “Strength in the Savior” General Conference October 1993)

I started the lesson with an explanation that I know this topic can sometimes be painful for people because they don't feel like they live up to an ideal. I gave some examples (in general terms) of different life situations among people I know. I also read this quote from Sister Okazaki and explained that I felt the purpose of the lesson was to gain a testimony of the principle of eternal marriage, which is something that anyone can have, whether they are currently married or not.

I then asked the question: What would you say to someone who asked you, "why should I get married? What's the point of getting married?"

We had several good comments about some of the benefits of marriage, such as friendship and companionship, opportunities for personal growth, and stability for children.

Adam and Eve were married by God before there was any death in the world. They had an eternal marriage. They taught the law of eternal marriage to their children and their children’s children. As the years passed, wickedness entered the hearts of the people and the authority to perform this sacred ordinance was taken from the earth. Through the Restoration of the gospel, eternal marriage has been restored to earth.

But to Latter-day Saints, marriage is much more. Our exaltation depends on marriage, along with other principles and ordinances, such as faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We believe that marriage is the most sacred relationship that can exist between a man and a woman. This sacred relationship affects our happiness now and in the eternities.

I read this part from the manual and we talked briefly about why Adam and Eve were married by God, even before they left the garden and even when there really wasn't any sort of 'societal' reason to do so. After that I asked the question from the manual:

Why is it important to know that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God?

I got some interesting comments on this question. One woman talked about how she had a family member who had been living with a boyfriend, and whom other family members had encouraged to get married. She was wondering what the big deal was, but as she prayed about it she felt promptings from God that their getting married was a good thing. She mentioned that she really felt that experience helped her gain a testimony of marriage itself as a principle from God. Another woman talked about research she had read on the fact that having a religious reason to stay married tended to reduce divorce and to produce more stable families and children. A third person talked about joining the church after she and her husband had been married for about a year. They weren't in a hurry to get married in the temple right away, but after taking the temple prep classes and gaining an understanding of the gospel they both felt strong promptings to go to the temple to be sealed. I particularly liked both this comment and the first one, because I really wanted this lesson to come back to the Spirit and gaining a testimony of gospel principles. I also really liked the fact that the third commenter bore her testimony that 'the temple covenants are real and bring real blessings.'

At this point I wanted to switch the discussion a little, so I asked about what we can do to strengthen our own marriages now. I read this quote from Marlin K. Jensen:

“Friendship is also a vital and wonderful part of courtship and marriage. A relationship between a man and a woman that begins with friendship and then ripens into romance and eventually marriage will usually become an enduring, eternal friendship. Nothing is more inspiring in today’s world of easily dissolved marriages than to observe a husband and wife quietly appreciating and enjoying each other’s friendship year in and year out as they experience together the blessings and trials of mortality.” (Marlin K. Jensen “Friendship: A Gospel Principle” (April 1999)

We had a few comments on ways to be friends with our husbands, and then I used that to segue into teaching youth about marriage. I wish we had had more time for this part of the discussion because it got interesting.

Two women mentioned having their marriages end in divorce and the effects that had on their children and their attitude about the gospel. Two other sisters mentioned that they worried about girls just having unrealistic expectations and expecting life to just 'magically happen' to them as they got older, and about how often youth place too much focus on physical attraction in choosing a spouse. I tied those comments together by talking about how I hope all my children can grow up being their own people and having confidence in themselves as individuals. I mentioned again that sometimes marriage doesn't work out the way we want it to, but if we have a strong foundation of personal revelation and gospel living we can be strong no matter what our circumstances. I also reminded women that they can make and keep temple covenants on their own, without being married or having an active husband.

Right before the end of class we had a few comments from women about the struggle to determine how much to intervene in the lives of their children. One mother shared an experience of watching a child marry someone who was not really the best fit for them. She had counseled her child against the marriage, but it happened anyway. She said that their life has been hard, but both her child and spouse have grown so much in the marriage that she realized that as a mother the best gift she gave her child was the opportunity to struggle and grow. At that point we had to end the lesson, but I ended with my testimony that marriage has been a good opportunity for me to grow in many ways, and that I know that marriage is a principle ordained by God.

I hope this made sense; it's hard for me to remember what was said, but I think it was a good lesson.


Katya said…
It sounds like it was a great lesson. I'm so glad you shared that quote from Sis. Okazaki—it's one of my favorites.
Desmama said…
Yes, that is a great quote, the quilt one. And I wish I'd been there for your lesson because it sounds like it was thoughtful and well-articulated. I'm impressed with the way you presented it.
I have been in primary for a while now, and will be for some time. Thanks for sharing your lesson--I feel like I've actually been to church this week now. Any girl who quotes both Okazaki AND Jensen in the same lesson should be a "regular" in my mind!
Kristi said…
That is a great quote from Sis. Okazaki. I love how she made everyone feel loved and accepted, no matter what situation they were in. I'd like to see an outline by you for teaching the chastity lesson. I'm excited for people in our generation to start teaching that one.
Nice recap. I don't get to attend relief society and I miss it a lot. Thanks for the post. I love, love the first quote by C. O.
rantipoler said…
Sounds like a terrific lesson. I think you should teach in our ward.

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