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One of the greatest blessings we have as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Book of Mormon. We have just completed a year of studying it in our Gospel Doctrine Sunday School classes, however, our personal study of it never ends. It contains the doctrines of Christ for us in our day and these doctrines need to be continually rediscovered throughout our lives. The Book of Mormon gives us the pattern of how to live a joyful life that will lead to our eternal happiness. We have been counseled to read and reread this sacred book. Not just once, but many times. Daily reading of these scriptures will be a continual guiding influence for good as we travel our mortal journey.
Elder L. Tom Perry said, “Each time we read the book we should probably ask ourselves: ‘Why did these writers choose these particular stories or events to include in the record? What value are they for us today? . . . Now it is up to us to study the Book of Mormon and learn of its principles and apply them in our lives. (L. Tom Perry, Gen. Conf., Oct. 2005, “Blessing Resulting from Reading the Book of Mormon”)
With this counsel in mind our focus in this article is about discovering how the Book of Mormon can help strengthen marriages. As you read and study this book you will learn many things that you can apply to building a strong marriage. Here are a few to consider.
1. Look to the example of righteous parents.
Right off the top we read the words of Nephi as he recognized his blessing of having righteous parents. “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father;” (1 Nephi 1:1).
Among the many things his parents taught and exemplified, lets consider what he may have learned from them about marriage. We discover quickly that he learned to have faith and to pray. “Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people” (1 Nephi 1:5). We know that that prayer resulted in a dream or vision from the Lord that led Lehi and his family to leave Jerusalem because of the wickedness of the people. The city would be destroyed. His and his family’s lives were in danger.
Think for a minute of the conversation Lehi must have had with his wife, Sariah, as they contemplated this incredible move away from their riches and comfortable home. They would leave it all and take their family on an unknown journey into the wilderness, with complete trust in God to guide and protect them. As we follow this journey further it is obvious that Sariah was a loving helpmeet to Lehi. We have no doubt that she, too, had faith that the Lord was guiding them.
Did she ever falter in her commitment to her husband? Only once that we clearly know of, and that once serves as an excellent reminder of how we need to behave with each other as husbands and wives when we face difficult times.
It happened when Lehi was told by the Lord that his sons needed to return to Jerusalem and bring back the brass plates that contained the history of their people. Further reading reveals the harrowing experiences these sons had in obtaining the plates (1 Nephi 3 and 4). Vitally important lessons were learned on this journey.
But now back to the wilderness where Lehi and Sariah await their sons’ return. We discover that Sariah is worried sick over the safety of their sons. When they don’t return as soon as she had anticipated, she imagines the worst.
Nephi records, “For she supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou has led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.
“And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father.”
We’ll interrupt the story here and ask, have you ever doubted the actions of your spouse? When you prayed about a decision and it didn’t turn out quite like you had hoped, did you doubt your inspiration or that of your mate? Perhaps we can learn a lesson from Lehi regarding how to appropriately respond to your wife or husband in such a case.
“And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethern.
“But behold, I have obtained the land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.”
Notice how he didn’t dismiss her accusation. In fact, he validated her by saying, “I know that I am a visionary man;” He did not reprimand her lack of faith or criticize the way she was feeling, but instead reminded her of the Lord’s promise. His expression of faith that their sons would return had to be comforting to her. Sometimes we need to remind each other of the inspiration we received at the time of an important decision. Remembering the spiritual feelings we had can help us through difficult times. It can renew our faith to go on.
“After this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us, while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews.
It appears he lovingly comforted his wife and reiterated his faith that the Lord would protect their sons. Imagine him holding her in his arms and helping her through this difficult time. That’s what husbands and wives do for each other. They give comfort and strengthen each other’s faith.
“And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.
“And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.”
It’s sweet to see how Sariah responded to her husband after the return of their sons. She expressed her confidence in him and her complete faith in God. Sometimes it takes a harrowing experience to help us realize how much the Lord is with us. These are the times that can draw couples together and strengthen their marriage.
Apparently these things struck a chord within Nephi because he recorded them. Observing the actions of faithful parents can teach us many things about how to have a successful marriage. What have you observed in your parents relationship that is worthy of emulation? What kind of example are you giving to your children to help them know how to be a loving spouse?
2. Desire the eternal happiness of your spouse
In 1 Nephi chapter 8 we read the account of Lehi’s dream of the tree of life, as told to his family. In verse 12 he expressed the gloriousness of partaking of the fruit of the tree. He said, “And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.” He told how he looked around for his family and saw a river that ran by the tree.
“And at the head thereof I beheld your mother Sariah, and Sam, and Nephi; and they stood as if they knew not whither they should go.
“And it came to pass that I beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit.
“And it came to pass that they did come unto me and partake of the fruit also.”
Notice how Lehi first mentions his wife. When our hearts are filled with love for our spouse we want with every part of our being for them to enjoy the fulness of the gospel that we so much enjoy. When we sit in the temple we want them there with us. We want the reassurance that we, as a couple, will be able to enjoy all the blessings of eternal life together. It is a natural desire. And so we reach out to our spouses, as Lehi did, and invite them to join us in this most important journey.
In marriages with eternal goals, couples encourage each other in loving ways to come and participate in the blessings of the gospel. We rejoice in sharing our spiritual experiences with each other. When we do, our marriage is strengthened and filled with the spiritual guidance needed to keep it strong.
Speaking of the eternal relationship between a husband and wife we are reminded of the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in the film clip where he is sharing his testimony of the importance of temples to visitors. After testifying that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world he went on to say, “I don’t know how to speak of heaven in the beautiful paradisaical beauty that speak of heaven. I wouldn’t know how to speak of heaven without my wife, or my children. It would not be heaven for me. Now you can say that’s wishful thinking, or you can say that’s just because you love each other and you’ve gotten cozy here on earth and you like each other’s company. It’s a lot more than that. There is something eternal in the statement that neither is the man without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord. That isn’t just good sociology. That is theology. It’s eternal.”
Like Lehi and Elder Holland, we all want to have our mates with us, enjoying the fruits of the gospel with our families now and forever. We can follow Lehi’s example and reach out to our husband or wife and lovingly invite them to be with us on this sacred journey.
3. Stand by your mate
After accomplishing the almost impossible, Nephi and his brothers complete the ship to cross the waters to the promised land. Following the counsel of his father, they prepared all the provisions and entered the ship for a long, once-again-unknown destination. Faith had led them this far and faith would continue to be their guide.
However, Nephi reports that “after we had been driven forth before the wind for the space of many days, behold, my brethren and the sons of Ishmael and also their wives began to make themselves merry, insomuch that they began to dance, and to sing, and to speak with much rudeness, yea, even that they did forget by what power they had been brought thither; yea, they were lifted up unto exceeding rudeness.
“And I, Nephi, began to fear exceedingly lest the Lord should be angry with us, and smite us because of our iniquity, that we should be swallowed up in the depths of the sea; wherefore, I, Nephi, began to speak to them with much soberness; but behold they were angry with me, saying: We will not that our younger brother shall be a ruler over us.
“And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel did take me and bind me with cords, and they did treat me with much harshness; nevertheless, the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word which he had spoken concerning the wicked.
Because of this wickedness the compass the Lord had prepared for them ceased to work, and a great storm raged. Nephi suffered greatly during the time he was bound. He writes that his feet were swollen and “great was the soreness thereof.” (1 Nephi chapter 18) He was in pain both physically and in spirit. The sorrow this caused his parents put them in such a state of misery that they were brought down to their sick beds.
The point we want to make here is that during this time Nephi’s wife was pleading with his brothers to set him free. He said, “my wife with her tears and prayers, and also my children, did not soften the hearts of my brethren that they would loose me.” Can you imagine her distress at this terrible treatment of her husband. She was literally begging them to untie the ropes that bound him.
When a spouse is hurting we run to his or her rescue. We would do anything to help save them from harm or misery. It likely won’t be from being bound with cords in a raging sea, but it may be that we stand by them when they face disappointments or illness, or any other thing that may be difficult to bear alone. We will stand by and plead their cause just as Nephi’s wife did. We will pray with all our hearts for our spouse, as she did. There is no doubt that the Lord heard her prayers for her husband, which may have been one of the very things that sustained him until he was loosed from the cords. Nothing is more reassuring than hearing a spouse pray with all her or his heart for our well being. It is a tenderness that binds a marriage and makes it stronger than ever.
4. Do what it takes to build your marriage
In the 5th chapter of Jacob we read the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees that tells how hard the Lord of the vineyard works to save his olive trees. It is obvious to the reader that these olive trees meant everything to him. He goes to extreme lengths to save this vineyard when it appears to be in trouble, even on the brink of dying. So what can we learn from this allegory, which is all about saving the house of Israel?
When we liken the scriptures unto ourselves we can apply them to our lives in many different ways. In this case we’ll liken it unto marriage. When you love your marriage and want to preserve it and help it grow you will do all it takes to nourish it. Not just once and then give up. No. You will nourish it again and again, day in and day out. When hard times come you will turn to the Lord and He will help you know what to do. Your marriage is part of His vineyard and He wants it to live and thrive.
Like in this allegory, the Lord has given us servants to help our vineyard flourish. In the allegory you sense that the servants cared deeply about this vineyard. When the Lord was about ready to “pluck off the branches that have not brought forth good fruit and cast them into the fire. . . the servant said unto him: Let us prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it a little longer, that perhaps it may bring forth good fruit unto thee, that thou canst lay it up against the season.”
The servants that come to our rescue may be family members, our bishop, our stake president, our Relief Society president, or our home and visiting teachers. He also has given us a living prophet and other General Authorities to help us nourish our marriages. They reach out to help us. When we follow their counsel we are literally digging about and pruning our marriage. He has given us the ability, with His help, to preserve our own vineyard.
We don’t wish to belabor the likening of this allegory, but we know that the principles in it are effective in saving and blessing a marriage. In verse 74 we read what could well be said of us. “And thus they labored, with all diligence, according to the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard, even until the bad had been cast away out of the vineyard (the things that are destroying our relationship), and the Lord had preserved unto himself that the trees had become again the natural fruit; . . . and the Lord of the vineyard had preserved unto himself the natural fruit, which was most precious unto him from the beginning.”
Certainly our marriages are precious to the Lord. If we seek Him, He will help us become eternal companions to dwell with him and enjoy the fruits of our labor throughout all eternity.
5. Love our Savior, Jesus Christ
The Book of Mormon is filled with the words of Christ. We learn of his reality, of His love for us, and of his plan of salvation that makes it possible for marriages and families to continue throughout all eternity.
When couples read the Book of Mormon together they learn of this great plan and the power of the Savior in our lives. In 2 Nephi 25:26 it states “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”
The Book of Mormon helps us come to know Christ. What a comfort to know that through Him we can be forgiven of our sins, and so can our spouse. We know that the love Christ has for us will help us be forgiving and know how to treat each other every day. Throughout the book we learn more and more of His saving principles. What a blessing when couples learn this together and rejoice in their eternal possibilities.
In Moroni 10:32, we receive this final plea: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”
When we follow Jesus Christ and strive to love as He loves, our marriages will be blessed beyond our fondest hopes. His eternal principles will abide in our hearts and homes, filling us with His glorious light. With His help our imperfections can be perfected and our love for each other renewed and expanded.
There are many principles taught in the Book of Mormon that help us in our marriages. The ones we have reviewed are but a few of the many that show us how to live in ways that help us become the loving spouses and parents the Lord knows we can become.
As you read this sacred book we suggest you look for the many ways its teachings can bless your marriage and your family. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many are directly applicable to your eternal relationships.