I’m sure you’ve seen by now that Tuesday, Pres. Henry B. Eyring spoke at the Vatican Summit on Marriage. This was a historic event, and one that I hope all members of the Church take note of. It was the first time a member of the First Presidency has met the Pope, and it was also historic in that people of many faiths have gathered to talk and teach about the importance of marriage and families to society.
I am a bit of a word-hound. I notice words in sentences and how they function to impart the meaning of the sentence. I am particularly keen on action verbs, as those usually invite us to do something or show how something was done. I’m going to share a few of these calls to action that popped out at me.
Pres. Eyring began by stating he was there to, “give evidence that a man and a woman, united in marriage, have a transcendent power to create happiness for themselves, for their family, and for the people around them.” He was giving evidence that we are meant to be in families, and that families should create happiness. Next he stated, “I am an eyewitness of the power of the union of a man and a woman in marriage to produce happiness for each other and for their family.” Here several words are important. First, the “power of union” that is found in a marriage. The verb here is “to unite.” We are to be united to produce happiness. We are to be happy and have joy. I have noticed the theme of joy lately being taught by many of our Church leaders. And we all are very familiar with Nephi’s declaration in 2 Nephi 2:11 that “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” Even when things are not perfect, he encouraged us to strive for the ideal, despite slow outcomes and mocking from the world.
For me, one of the keys he talked about, which would give us joy is unselfishness. We have got to be unselfish in our relationships. I am by no means perfect, and in fact, I’m going to come in a very distant last place to my husband in the unselfishness race, I’m sure. But as we are unselfish, we will notice complementary self-improvement, lifting and shaping of ourselves and our spouses and our differences will combine to make a better whole. That is the power of union. That is the key to joy, and that is what the, “renaissance of happy marriages” is.
How do we help facilitate the “renaissance of happy marriages”? I have always preferred to state things in a positive way. For example, one way the media frames the marriage debate is to say, “The anti-gay marriage law of [insert state] was struck down today…” I would much prefer to hear it phrased, “The law supporting traditional marriage…” was this or that. We need to take hold of the conversation with positive language and examples of why the Lord’s standard of marriage is the better way. Pres. Eyring taught that the way to effect positive changes in the marriage debate is to change people’s hearts more than their minds. He declared:
If unselfishness is the key to complementary marriage between a man and a woman, we know what we must do to help create a renaissance of successful marriages and family life. We must find ways to lead people to a faith that they can replace their natural self-interest with deep and lasting feelings of charity and benevolence. With that change, and only then, will people be able to make the hourly unselfish sacrifices necessary for a happy marriage and family life—and to do it with a smile. The change that is needed is in people’s hearts more than in their minds. The most persuasive logic will not be enough unless it helps soften hearts.”
And Moroni teaches, “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” Unselfishness is definitely a component of charity, and I think that the world steers us to be selfish all the time. However as we work toward unselfishness and happy marriages, we are promised that the lord would multiply our efforts, and that the sociality we create here on earth in our families can continue into the eternities.
Perhaps the most ground breaking part of Pres. Eyring’s talk is that he quoted from The Family: A Proclamation to the World. The doctrine contained in The Family Proclamation outlines the responsibilities that men and women have to each other as husband and wife, but also the responsibilities they have toward their children. It is another key to the renaissance of happy marriages.
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.
I have always been impressed with the simplicity of the duties outlined for both men and women here, but this time I was struck by the last part of that sentence, “Fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” To me this is more evidence that the Lord loves all of his children equally, and that we have access to all the same powers, rights, blessings, privileges equally. This last sentence to me was also somewhat of a warning, that we must work together, we must be unselfish and have charity in our marriages and homes.
Elder Eyring ended his testimony by giving us some encouragement and council from Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley, “We cannot effect a turnaround in a day or a month or a year. But with enough effort, we can begin a turnaround within a generation, and accomplish wonders within two generations.” It’s important to keep defending marriage and teaching people about the Lord’s standard of marriage, chastity and morality.
I have hope for future generations, if we keep working on changing hearts more than minds. Clearly this work will not be easy, and it will take time and effort, in society at large, but also in our homes and among our own families. But I do think it will be worth it to see the wonders that Pres. Hinckley talked about, and I do think it will be exciting to participate in the renaissance of happy marriages. We have work to do, so onward we go!