(Source: Meridian Magazine; By: Maurine Proctor)
In a few days you will be married and I will watch you close the door on your childhood with poignancy. You will pack your youth away like a dress you outgrew, and I confess I will miss everything about your presence in this house. I think I will run into your room to tell you something, and I’ll be surprised that you’re not there.
I want to give you a parting gift—my thoughts on how to be joyfully happy in marriage. These keys are easier to say than to accomplish, but I trust that in the journey ahead you will understand what to do—and perhaps in just the right moment they will come back to you.
This counsel I give to both.
Marrying across an Altar
The altar in the temple at which you will kneel is profoundly significant. It is an altar that symbolizes the great, atoning sacrifice of our Savior. Why would the Lord have us sealed across this altar? This is the great secret.
You know that His atonement means at-one-ment, and it is through this stunning, unimaginable gift that we can again be reconciled to God, made at-one with him, our face turning home again, the veil rent.
Surprisingly, it is also through the Lord’s atonement that we become one with each other, that two who have lived their lives separately and singly can be joined for eternity, never to be entirely separated again.
Oneness in marriage is actually made possible through the atonement and the gradual change and expansion in us that is promised if we accept this gift. We are to leave behind our old, smaller selves.
Satan’s work is to scatter and divide us. The Greek word for Satan is “diabolos” meaning to divide or separate. This name means “He who places division.”
It was Satan’s work to scatter the Children of Israel, and the Lord’s to gather them in one again. Those who ultimately live in Zion will be of one heart. Satan sows division. The Lord invites us to oneness.
So there you’ll be, kneeling across an altar symbolizing that opportunity for the oneness you seek—and it will come if you are both willing to accept the Lord’s gift of grace that this altar symbolizes.
We come to each other in marriage incomplete and somewhat fragmented. We are still children about so many things. The Lord says, “I will take you on a journey to wholeness. The broken things in you I can mend. The incompletion, I can complete.”
The promises for this journey are more than finite minds can comprehend, but the sacrifice is not just Christ’s–it will involve your sacrifice as well—the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. You must be willing to grow, discard the parts of you that are small and contracted. You must shed parts of yourself that are burdening the way—even your favorite, most habitual, and long justified weaknesses.
Oh, that is hard! Happiness is built on repentance and changing–and expanding yourself is happily not your job alone. Christ has taken that on long ago.
It may be tempting to think that you have come to this altar to change your new husband. If you don’t think it now, there may be times in the future you might be convinced that is your job.
It is tempting to think you have a better plan for his way of being. But be very wary of having a plan for how anyone can change. When you are dealing with another person’s identity, you are on sacred ground. Take off your shoes where you stand.
If you will both remember this temple altar and be devoted to the Lord who unites you, He will change both of you as you submit your heart to Him. You don’t need to do His work for your spouse.
A repenting couple is a happy couple–repenting particularly in the sense that you are both humble and willing to enlarge your understanding and perspective, willing to change what is trivial and weak about yourself.
Both of you can remember that you are coming to marriage to take a journey together back into the Lord’s presence. That means you are both committed to finding an expanded, better version of yourself and you trust that the Lord’s gift can work this in you. It is, in fact, only the Lord’s gift that can work this in you.
Create Holy Habits
Couples create a culture together. It is their own new world that they create. You’ve seen couples who become fat together or sloppy together or mean spirited together.
From this moment onward, you will be the greatest influence in each other’s life. Decide to become devoted disciples of Jesus Christ together. Pray together morning and night. Life will be hectic and demanding. You may feel that there is so much to do that you have to just hit the ground running to even survive. But build into your very system this unshakeable habit of talking to the Lord together.
This comes with some really practical advice. Go to bed at the same time. That bedtime practice matters because this is your time to talk, to download your day, to share your sorrows and find your solutions—and, of course, say your prayers.
In your prayers remember to express your gratitude for each other in the most specific ways. Be grateful for the gifts you gave each other that day and the service that was rendered. Watch each day for the inspiration that the Lord has given you. Remember it and thank him aloud and specifically in your prayers for His gift to you this day.
Of course read your scriptures, attend the temple, watch for opportunities to serve. Say to yourselves from the beginning, this is who we are, this is what we do.
This is like a mission statement for you as a couple. Put it in place as a foundation and then when the winds blow, when life is wearying, when you are overwhelmed, you have these holy habits in place—and then everything is easier.