Marriage and Divorce, Part 1 of 2


Every evening, my wife and I read some literature about marriage together as part of our bedtime routine. Recently, we came across this speech by a previous church leader (Spencer W. Kimball) to BYU college students in 1976. It was so good, I thought I should share it with you. I know the vast majority of you are not Mormon, so I decided to take the liberty to eliminate the Mormon-specific references for ease of reading. There is one concept I decided to leave in, the idea of “eternal marriage”, which is if all members of your family live a good life, those family relationships do not need to end at death. You will meet your wife and kids in the afterlife and continue those relationships into the eternities.

I would encourage you to print this off and read it with your wife, as this is intended for both men and women. On account of the length of this, I am breaking this into two parts. You can find the full 55 minute text, video and audio file at:

Marriage and Divorce

Without further ado, here is the first half of the speech:

The Speech

I have warned the youth against the sins and vices so prevalent in our society – those of sexual impurity and all of its many ugly approaches I have spoken of immodesty in dress and actions as one of the softening processes of Lucifer. I hereby express appreciation to the many who have carefully responded to those exhortations and rewarn those who have ignored them.

I spoke plainly, warning the youth of the pitfalls of petting and of all the other perversions into which young men and women sometimes fall. I have endeavored, also, to give hope to those who might have stepped over the bounds of propriety, and I outlined to them the path by which total repentance might bring them to forgiveness.

I have warned the youth against the many hazards of interfaith marriage, and with all the power I possessed, I warned young people to avoid the sorrows and disillusionments which come from marrying out of the Church and the unhappy situations which almost invariably result when a believer marries an unbelieving spouse. I have pointed out the demands of the Church upon its members in time, energy, and funds: the deepness of the spiritual ties which tighten after marriage and as a family comes; the antagonisms that naturally follow such mismating; the fact that these and many other reasons argue eloquently for marriage within the Church, where husband and wife have common ideals and standards, common beliefs, hopes, and objectives, and, above all, where marriage may be eternal.

Today, it is my hope to follow with discussion of family life. This topic is not new nor is it spectacular, but is vital. Marriage is relevant in every life, and family life is the basis of our existence.

Marital Happiness and Unhappiness

The ugly dragon of divorce has entered into our social life. Little known to our grandparents, and not even common among our parents (add a generation here), this cancer has come to be so common in our own day that nearly every family has been cursed by its destructive machinations. This is one of the principal tools of Satan to destroy faith, through breaking up happy homes and bringing frustration of life and distortion of thought.

Honorable, happy, and successful marriage is surely the principal goal of every normal person, one who would purposely or neglectfully avoid its serious implications is not only not normal but is frustrating in his own program. There are few people who marry for spit or marry for wealth on the rebound after having been jilted. How distorted is the thinking of such a person!

Marriage is perhaps the most vital of all decisions and has the most far-reaching effects, for it has to do not only with immediate happiness, but also with eternal joys. It affects not only the two people involved, but their families and particularly their children, and their children’s children down through the many generations.

It is absolutely appalling, the number of children today who are growing up in our society who do not have two parents, a father and a mother, and neither one is totally sufficient, if two  could be had. In selecting a companion for life and for eternity, certainly the most careful planning and thinking and praying and fasting should be done to be sure that, of all the decisions, this one  must not be wrong. In true marriage there must be a union of minds as well as hearts. Emotions must not wholly determine decisions, but the mind and the heart, strengthened by fasting and prayer and serious consideration, will give one a maximum chance of marital happiness.

Marriage is not easy; it is not simple, as evidenced by the ever-mounting divorce rate. Exact figures astound us. The following ones come from Salt Lake County [prior to 1976]. There were 832 marriages in a single month, and there were 414 divorces. That is half as many divorces as marriages. There were 364 temple marriages, and of the temple marriages, about 10 percent were dissolved by divorce. That is substantially better than the average, but we are chagrined that there should be any divorce following a temple marriage.

We are grateful that this one survey reveals that about 90 percent of temple marriages hold fast. Because of this, we recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background, and of somewhat of the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question. In spite of the most favorable matings, Satan still takes a monumental toll and is the cause for many broken homes and frustrated lives.

With all conditions as nearly ideal as possible, there are still people who terminate their marriages for the reason of “incompatibility.” We see so many shows and read so much fiction and come in contact with so many society scandals that the people in general come to think of “marrying and giving in marriage,” divorcing and remarrying, as the normal patterns.

The divorce itself does not constitute the entire evil, but the very acceptance of divorce as a cure is also a serious sin of this generation. Because the program of a pattern is universally accepted is not evidence that it is right. Marriage never was easy. It may never be. It brings with it sacrifice, sharing, and a demand for great selflessness.

Many of the TV screen shows and stories end with marriage: “They lived happily ever after.” Since nearly all of us have experienced divorce among our close friends or relatives, we have come to realize that divorce is not a cure for difficulty, but is merely an escape, and a weak one. We have come to realize also that the mere performance of a ceremony does not bring happiness and a successful marriage. Happiness does not come by pressing a button, as does the electric light; happiness is a state of mind and comes from within. It must be earned. It cannot be purchased with money, it cannot be taken for nothing.

Some think of happiness as a glamorous life of ease, luxury, and constant thrills; but true marriage is based on a happiness which is more than that, one which comes from giving, serving, sharing, sacrificing, and selflessness.

Two people coming from different backgrounds soon learn after the ceremony is performed that stark reality must be faced. There is no longer a life of fantasy or of make-believe; we must come out of the clouds and put our feet firmly on the earth. Responsibility must be assumed and new duties must be accepted. Some personal freedoms must be relinquished and many adjustments, unselfish adjustments, must be made.

One comes to realize very soon after the marriage that the spouse has weaknesses not previously revealed or discovered. The virtues which we constantly magnified during courtship now grow relatively smaller, and the weaknesses which seemed so small and insignificant during courtship now grow to sizable proportions. The hour has come for understanding hearts, for self-appraisal, and for good common sense, reasoning, and planning. The habits of years now show themselves; the spouse may be stingy or prodigal, lazy of industrious, devout or irrelitious, may be kind and cooperative or petulant and cross, demanding or giving, egotistical or self-effacing. The in-law problem comes closer into focus, and the relationships of the spouses to them is again magnified.

Often there is an unwillingness to settle down and to assume the heavy responsibilities that immediately are there. Economy is reluctant to replace lavish living, and the young people seem often too eager to “keep up with the Joneses”. There is often an unwillingness to make the financial adjustments necessary. Young wives are often demanding that all the luxuries formally enjoyed in the prosperous homes of their successful fathers be continued in their own homes. Some of them are quite willing to help earn that lavish living by continuing employment after marriage. They consequently leave the home, where their duty lies, to pursue professional of business pursuits, thus establishing an economy that becomes stabilize so that it becomes very difficult to yield toward the normal family life. Through both spouses working, competition rather than cooperation enters the family. Two weary workers return home with taut nerves, individual pride, increased independence, and then misunderstandings arise. Little frictions pyramid into monumental ones. Frequently, spouses sinfully return to new and old romances, and finally the seemingly inevitable break comes with a divorce with its heartaches, bitterness, disillusionments, and always scars.

While marriage is difficult, and discordant and frustrated marriages are common, yet real, lasting happiness is possible, and marriage can be more an exultant ecstasy then the human mind can conceive. This is within the reach of every couple, every person. “Soul mates” are fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price.

There is a never-failing formula which will guarantee to every couple a happy and successful marriage; but like all formulas, the principal ingredients must not be left out, reduced or limited. The selection before courting and then the continued courting after the marriage process are equally important, but not more important than the marriage itself, the success of which depends upon the two individuals – not upon one, but upon two.

In a marriage commenced and based upon reasonable standards as already mentioned, there are no combinations of power which can destroy it except the power within either or both of the spouses together; and they must assume the responsibility generally.  Other people and agencies may influence for good or bad. Financial, social, political, and other situations may seem to have a bearing; but the marriage depends first and always on the two spouses who can always make their marriage successful and happy if they are determined, unselfish and righteous.

The formula is simple, the ingredients are few, though there are many amplifications of each.

First, there must be a proper approach toward marriage, which contemplates the selection of a spouse who reaches as nearly as possible the pinnacle of perfection in all the matters which are of importance to the individuals, then those two parties must come to the altar realizing that they must work hard toward this successful joint living.

Second, there must be great unselfishness, forgetting self and directing all of the family life and all pertaining thereunto to the good of the family, subjugating self.

Third, there must be continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration to keep love alive and growing.

Fourth, there must be a complete living of the Lord as defined in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

With these ingredients properly mixed and continually kept functioning, it is quite impossible for unhappiness to come, misunderstandings to continue, or breaks to occur. Divorce attorneys would need to transfer to other fields and divorce courts would be padlocked……


This concludes the first half of the speech. It continues on with more detail on what we can do within the marriage and how we can improve ourselves to improve our marriage and decrease likelihood of divorce.

Author: Jim Johnson

As a man in his early 40's, I grew up on a dairy farm in an irreligious home. Disgusted with the choice of women out there, I looked into religion to find a worthwhile mate. At 23, I joined the LDS (Mormon) faith, married, became a civil engineer, and now have six children. My favorite things are puppies, long walks on the beach, and the color blue (not really).