The Parable of the Faithful Husband


Three men were young, naive, and smitten with love. They each believed that their bride was perfect in every way. As they committed their lives to their brides, they thought to themselves (and said to others), “I make this commitment — enter this covenant — because my bride is flawless. It is for this reason that I love her, and commit to her.”

Others looked on who were older and more mature, who had been married for quite some time. These shook their heads knowingly, and with apprehension for what these men would face in the coming years ahead. Some tried to counsel the young men, assuring them that their brides were wonderful, and that nobody — not even they — were perfect. The young men repelled such talk.

But as always, the closer one gets in a marriage, the more warts one sees. These young men soon began to notice the flaws in their brides — the toilet seat covers, the laundry on the floor, the bad cooking, the cattiness towards neighbors, the snoring, etc. To these flaws, each man responded differently.

The first young man had a “trust crisis,” and decided that since his commitment was based on the premise of marrying a perfect bride (something she was not) he had to leave. He impetuously divorced her, and forever more renounced whatever feelings he had for her. Never a good word about his bride was shared by him again. He was betrayed, and that is all he could think about.

The second young man decided that sophisticated marriage life requires a healthy acknowledgement of the flaws in one’s spouse, rather than looking at him or her through rosy-hued lenses. He was embarrassed of his prior naivety, but even more embarrassed for the other young grooms whom he observed as possessing a similar naivety. So he decided that he must make it known that he has outgrown that immature “puppy love.” People must know that he knows that his bride is imperfect and at times deeply flawed.

So in every conversation at a restaurant or a marketplace, he would mention the toilet seats, the dirty laundry, the cattiness, the snoring, and the occasional emotional breakdowns of his wife. Every time he confessed his love for her in public, he would always follow it up with an acknowledgement of her mistakes and imperfections. Every utterance of his wife became a matter of public analysis between him and his friends, as they poured over each word to discover more imperfections. He was determined to not be naive in his love, and that everybody know it — that everybody knows that he could be married to her and still think she is imperfect. There were even times where he wondered if he would be happier if he were not married at all, or maybe married to another woman.

Sometimes his wife would get upset with his public remarks, and make him sleep on the couch. “She wants me to act like she’s perfect,” he would say, and wonder why their relationship sometimes seemed strained. Surely, she would not estrange him for simply being honest and forthright with others. And she didn’t — she was patient and forgiving, but at times deeply frustrated and hurt by him.

And thus the second man lived out his days with his wife, always married, but never fully happy or complete; consequently, neither was his bride. Onlookers questioned if they really loved each other, and were always wondering if and when they would divorce. The man prided himself in the fact that the divorce never came, using as evidence that he — unlike the first man — had indeed fulfilled his marital obligations and commitments. He had not only fulfilled his marital obligations, but he had done so in a much more sophisticated way than the third man.

And that is because — by all outward appearances — the third man had never grown out of his initial, naive love for his wife. Others could see her flaws, and marveled that he did not seem to notice them. But nothing could be further from the truth. One simply cannot remain married for life without encountering a varied display of the manifold weaknesses and flaws of one’s spouse.

But the third man never gossiped about her in public, or in the marketplaces. Not even in private meetings with close associates. He treated her as his most cherished possession. He gently corrected her when appropriate, but always in private — he never embarrassed her or called her out when friends (or enemies) were around. He grew in his love for her, despite her flaws, and grew in his commitment towards her. She in turn also returned that love, and that devotion, adding to the mans own completeness and happiness. And while domestic life was sometimes frustrating (with occasional disputes), onlookers never once doubted that he was happy in his relationship and deeply in love with his wife.

One day, each of these men were called before God to answer to Him for their marital commitments. When asked, “Did you love her with all your heart, might, mind, and strength? Did you give fully of yourself to the building up and cherishing of your relationship?”

The first man responded, “I cannot love a lie. I cannot honor a commitment to such imperfection. I could not spend a lifetime, let alone an eternity in the presence of a being incapable of love, for she who lies, is incapable of love.”

The second man responded, “I am aware of all that my bride offers, including her faults, and yet I have kept my commitments to be with her in spite of what would make me happy. I am a good husband because I am above her faults, and can therefore help to correct them with all my mind and strength.”

The third man responded, “I have given my all, my heart, my mind, and my strength, to love her, to build her up, and to elevate our commitment to each other to its highest level. In return, she has done the same with me and we have both been edified and rejoice together.”

To the first two men God replied, “You have wholly broken the commitment to love, cherish, and support your wives and as such are found guilty before me. For inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.”

To the third man, God rejoiced saying, “For having faithfully kept your commitment to love, cherish, and support your wife, she shall be your companion for all eternity. It is well.”

31 thoughts on “The Parable of the Faithful Husband

  1. This is a great parable because it shows us that life is about choices and how we choose to concentrate our energies. Once you have made a commitment — either to a marriage or to your church — you will be faced with choices throughout your life on how you follow through with that commitment. You can choose not to concentrate your energies on the negative things you see around you. You can choose not to gossip or publicly criticize. You can choose to concentrate on the positive things, even if it is difficult and sometimes it seems like there are few positive things to see. As you change your habits of criticizing and fault-finding you may find yourself changing and learning to see new beautiful things about your spouse and your church that you did not even notice before. Your positive energy will help others and you will be a light to the world. What do you want your legacy to be: a person who was a light to the world and who kept his or her commitments or one who spent his energy fault-finding and murmuring? The choice is up to you.

  2. Excellent post. What we look for is exactly what we will find in our membership in the Church. A person always finds what they’re looking for, good or bad. Always.

  3. This is a nice little parable. It tells much about making a marriage work. I am a bit surprised that one of the faults of the wives had to do with the toilet seat. Were the two men so little in tune with courtesy as to be offended that others who share the same bathroom would ask them to put the seat down. There are so many things of greater importance than fighting over a toilet seat. I suppose few men have ever fallen into the toilet bowl.

    Its inclusion in the story nearly made me stop reading.

  4. Only those who are married in the temple and whose marriage is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise will continue as spouses after death and receive the highest degree of celestial glory, or exaltation. A temple marriage is also called a celestial marriage. Within the celestial glory are three levels. To obtain the highest, a husband and wife must be sealed for time and all eternity and keep their covenants made in a holy temple.

  5. Ldsphilosopher,

    I liked the parable. Commitment and respect are key in any relationship.

    Personally, I feel like I am a mixture of 2 and 3.

    I know that all parables breakdown after a certain extent, but in your parable what role would missionaries play? Assuming that the Church is the bride, would they be happy husbands telling other men to marry the right bride or leave their wife/bride because she isn’t a true or best wife/bride?

  6. I think the parable breaks down at that point. Not sure that proselytize can be accommodated in the story. But I will note that we believe that it is only within his church that we have the authority to administer our covenants with God, and so commitments within other institutions do not have the same bindng power. But thats a tertiary point to the broader parable.

  7. Interesting parable, though I was amused that this parable was clearly written by a man. Key tells were the mention of the toilet seat and referring to the third wife as his most precious possession rather than his dearest companion, without whom his soul would be incomplete.

    It is also interesting, because it is the Church, as individuals, that is the bride. Christ is the groom. And so to be a reflection of the symbology in the New Testament, this parable should have spoken of the loving wife.

    However, I am OK with noting that men can be imperfect in the ways illustrated by husbands one and two.

    In church today a friend talked about the struggle they had with alcohol, which was correlated with a period of inactivity in their life. When the missionaries sought this individual out, they visited every day. And for a long time this individual would pretend that they didn’t like a can of beer or a glass of wine after coming home from work. But after several weeks, they decided that they would just “be honest” and revert to their prior ways, even when the missionaries showed up.

    To my friend’s surprise, the missionaries continued to visit, despite the obvious sin being committed in front of them. Over time, the friend decided to give up the sin and return to full fellowship. Looking back at that time, my friend thinks that they were on a path that would have resulted in death, and so my friend literally credits the missionaries with salvation of not only a soul but a life.

  8. For the most part I enjoy the comments I read on M*.

    ldsphilosopher: I thoroughly enjoyed this parable. I thought the toilet seat mention was both humorous and representative of petty divots in our loyalty to the church. It could mean other things as well.

    As with Geoff B above I saw the parable applying not only to church commitment but also to Celestial marriage.

    I want to mention a bother I have about a couple of the above comments. I won’t point out who made them but I hope the wonderers are asking themselves, “Is it I Lord?”

    If something is factually or doctrinally incorrect then it should be politely noted. For example: above, ‘ldsphilosopher’ incorrectly identified himself in one of the comments as ‘ldshilosopher.’ I didn’t think it was my duty to point this out because I can’t possibly know whether he intended it so he could use the cute icon or whether it was a typo. My point is, when someone makes up a good parable or a good post, please read it as it was intended. Don’t make petty corrections or show us how smart you are.

    P.S. I have fallen into the lids-up toilet just as my wife has. N.B. I wasn’t the perpetrator.

    P.P.S. And by the use of the word ‘my’ in the sentence fragment ‘my wife’ in the previous paragraph I did not mean to imply male domination. I do not possess my wife but I am possessive of her.

  9. At the temple today, I thought that there should be a fourth couple here.

    In the fourth couple, the man in the marriage comes to realize that not only does he love his wife, but that she is a truly unique individual of greatness, someone he cherishes.

  10. Meg, I wrote this under the assumption that husband #3 is that person. He cherishes her and loves her, and considers her worthy of that love.

  11. In fact, your comment confuses me. Is there any reason to believe that man #3 isn’t the person you describe? I thought the whole point of the parable is that the third man loved and cherished his wife, and considered her great in his eyes, worthy of that love — rather than diminishing/disparaging her merely because she is not perfect or infallible.

  12. Meg, I think you are allowing an awkward phrase (“most cherished possession”) to be a stumbling block toward you understanding LDSP’s point with this parable. I will admit that “possession” is not the best word in the world when describing a wife, but we do all say “she is my wife” and “he is my husband,” so it is also not the worst word in the world either. There are many conference talks that say that a testimony should be your “most cherished possession,” and this is the way I am sure LDSP meant it.

    I think it is clear from the parable that the third man comes to see his wife as a “truly unique individual of greatness, someone he cherishes” already, so I am not sure there is need for a fourth couple.

  13. Just want to say that I think Meg is right to recognize that there can be a 4th way, which is reflective of our relationship with the church.

    LDSP’s 3rd man “gently corrects” his imperfect wife, when appropriate, and if this is a metaphor for our relationship with the church, it would represent someone who sees the church as imperfect and seeks in appropriate and respectful ways to improve it.

    A 4th man might be one who is literally blind to faults, or sees them as so insignificant that it is not worth worrying about, and is generally enamored with the spouse, which is a very common attitude towards the church as well.

    You might call the 3rd man a faithful progressive, and the 4th would be the faithful orthodox. But as a liberal, I would personally aspire to the 4th, although I’m not there yet. I believe the church is imperfect, like any spouse would be, but that those imperfections are eternally of little consequence. Or rather, perfections themselves could even be there for our good. The imperfections of a spouse are actually trials that strengthen us. It is no different in the church. It is a covenant relationship with an imperfect partner which challenges us in many ways, both positive and occasionally negative. But like all relationships, when it is viewed with an eternal eye and with compassion and love, those faults are swallowed up in an eternal vision.

    I think family metaphors are useful to understand our relationship with the church. In another post I wrote about the metaphor of the Church as Bride, Christ as Groom, and we as children, which I think also has potential to help us understand the role of the Mother Church in our lives:

    (LDSP, sorry to link to another one of my unorthodox posts, but you might like this one since it doesn’t relate to universality and natural law.)

  14. I was still getting the sense with #3 that she was imperfect, but that the man was big enough to overlook the imperfections of his most treasured posession. Whereas I’m talking about a man who yearns to be with the woman, would make any sacrifice, sees her as a queen of whom he hopes to be worthy.

    To tie this back to the intended parallel, the third couple reminds me of individuals who willingly go to church and don’t complain about the 7 am priesthood meetings or choir practices before Sacrament meeting. They look forward to serving missions and pay a full tithe. But the fourth couple I’m talking about was willing to suffer death, traveled thousands of miles to gather to Zion, built the temples while living in log cabins, and the men (and women) went on missions even though it meant leaving their spouse and children behind to fend for themselves. And in this they counted themselves blessed to have been part of restoring God’s kingdom on earth.

    I just didn’t get that from the last of the three couples. That’s all.

  15. Mormons are uncomfortable with airing their dirty laundry, probably because of a history of persecution and because we’re very missionary-minded. Do you know of another church that communicates ‘doctrine’ through their public affairs office and has huge ad campaigns to the point of making a documentary for major theaters?

    This parable is silly, though. For example, if a husband has issues with how his wife does something, he can tell her. They can work it out, in private, which is a wise approach. They should have equal say and they should come to an equal compromise. THERE IS NO SUCH AVENUE WITH THE CHURCH! The leaders in Salt Lake like to think they’re listening to the needs of the people, and I know in many ways they try, but in all their reading and travels, the people who screen their mail and plan their trips protect them from hearing the really nitty gritty stuff. I know, they’re too busy to pay significant attention to every person’s pet issue, but given that LGBT issues and women’s ordination have such a big impact on the numbers that join and leave the church, you’d think they’d do a little more listening to the people who actually have issues? There is so much more they could do without even needing to change the doctrine.

    This is why I am like husband #2. It’s my only way of communicating to my “wife”. And if my “wife” isn’t interested in what I have to say and isn’t interested in trying to prevent my pain, they she isn’t a very good wife, even if she is called to lead our “marriage” and Heavenly Father guides her major decisions. Minor changes in how those decisions are implemented and discussed would do a lot to help me feel heard, understood, appreciated, and loved. “She” needs to do a better job of listening to me.

  16. Suzi,

    One individual talking to one local leader likely won’t accomplish much on a local level. but when there is a trend, such as several members complaining to the bishop about one sunday-school or youth class teacher, or several members complaining to the Stake Pres about one bishop or high-council member, then that bishop or that stake president is going to take notice and investigate what is going on.

    At higher levels things may move more slowly. But I note that all the church produced manuals, and even the Ensign magazine solicit feedback and give the contact email or snailmail address.

    I also note that the temple endowment and washings/anointings were slightly modified about 20-some years ago due to member feedback/complaints.

    The church Handbook of Instructions goes through slight modifications every 2 or 3 years, and over time those changes add up to some significant trends. One small example: official church recommendations on birth control have gone from very strongly against, to specifically neutral.

    SPs keep in close contact with Bishops with at least monthly conversations. I bet bishops dont mention every “crank” member’s complaint to the SP, but if several members mention something to a bishop, I can’t see how a bishop would hide that trending topic from the SP. Likewise area 70‘s keep in close contact with their SPs. If SPs see a trend in what is being mentioned to their bishops, or in what is being mentioned directly to them, I cant see how they would withhold that from the area 70. And so it goes up the ladder.

    Given those layers, it can take years for a broad enough swath of complainers or “mention-ers” to get enough critical mass across stakes and across areas to get those member concerns from SPs, through area 70’s and up through general authority 70’s to the apostles. But in a way that’s good because no organization should be at the whims of a few malcontents. A few ” cranks” does not a movement make.

    We do know that general authorities, including the Brethren, and their staffs, take note of online Mormonism. The GAs do read Mormon blogs, even if it is just snippets prepared for them by their staff or lower level ecclesiastical leaders.

  17. Suzie,

    With all the love in my heart, if you think that the prophets and apostles haven’t been paying attention to how LGBT and women’s issues affect the everyday member of the Church, it is YOU who have not been listening. They are not only listening, they are speaking to these issues. They have taken into consideration the feelings and experiences of ordinary members. They’ve met with ordinary members, and talked with them. They are fully aware, eyes wide open to what’s going on. They know.

    And they’ve been trying to say that again and again, but you are not listening. Because you just don’t like their answer. For you, if their answer isn’t what you think it ought to be, it means they aren’t listening. Or it could mean that your ideal is not what God wants.

    Sorry, but if you are husband number 2, you are the bad spouse, not the Church. The Church has been listening and has been talking about these issues. They’re making tons of changes that have been well-documented in recent years. Do things move slowly? Yes — as well they should. Any major changes require complete unanimity in the quorums, and that sometimes takes time, discussion, conversation, consideration. You aren’t aware of the many conversations that are going on about these issues, because they (for good reason) don’t publicize them.

  18. Oh, this is funny. Like the last bride would wanna be with that self-righteous husband who only “corrected” her when appropriate and in private.

    Oh, wait. This is a parable. Right. And this totally works, because lots of brides make claims about their “truthfulness”, and how others are doomed if they don’t marry them.

    Nice try, but you so so so missed the point, and all while being sexist about it.

  19. If I recall correctly, this parable shows up in the Old Testament more than once. But it’s God who is the husband, and the Church who is the wife. And God looks nothing like Husband #3–he’s actually a mix between 1 & 2, handing out bills of divorcement and publicly announcing his wife is unfaithful. What’s more, these complaints aren’t coming from God’s own voice, or from the priesthood leaders, but from prophets *who are outside the church structure* but who are commissioned by God to tell the Church to get itself back to a righteous path.

    Contrary to the thrust of this attempt at allegory, true religion has never involved willful blindness to the Church’s faults. God may lead the Church, but there’s plenty of room for man to screw it up, and we all have the obligation to work to make it better.

  20. I don’t trust the “trickle-up” approach. Too much is lost in translation. If a hurting member can’t even be understood by her local leaders, how can her local leaders accurately convey her feelings to their leaders and on up the chain?

    I do trust that popular blogs like Feminist Mormon Housewives and No More Strangers as well as the Salt Lake Tribune are conveying the messages most accurately. I just hope they reach the levels they need to reach.

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