This is a continuation of a two part series of an excerpt delivered by Spencer W. Kimball to BYU students in 1976. The previous article is here. I normally don’t publish on Sundays, but since this is just a repost, I thought it would be more fitting. I have something else coming out Monday.
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:
Without further ado, here is the second half of the speech:
Unselfishness in Marriage
Two individuals approaching the marriage altar must realize that to attain the happy marriage which they hope for, they must know that marriage is not a legal coverall; but it means sacrifice, sharing, and even a reduction of some personal liberties. It means long, hard economizing. It means children who bring with them financial burdens, service burdens, care and worry burdens; but also it means the deepest and sweetest emotions of all.
Before marriage, each individual is quite free to go and come as he pleases, to organize and plan his life as it seems best, to make all the decisions with self as the central point. Sweethearts should realize before they take vows that each must accept literally and fully that the good of the little new family must always be superior to the good of either spouse. Each party must eliminate the “I” and the “my” and substitute “I” and the “my” and substitute therefore “we” and “our.” Every decision must take into consideration that there are two or more affected by it. As she approaches major decisions now, the wife will be concerned as to the effect they will have upon the parents, the children, the home, and their spiritual lives. His choice of occupation, his social life, his friends, and his every interest must now be considered in the light that he is only a part of a family, that the totalness of the group must be considered.
Every divorce is the result of selfishness on the part of one or the other or both parties to a marriage contract. Someone is thinking of self-comforts, conveniences, freedoms, luxuries, or ease. Sometimes the ceaseless pinpricking of an unhappy, discontented, and selfish spouse can finally add up to serious physical violence. Sometimes people are goaded to the point where they erringly feel justified in doing the things which are so wrong. Nothing, of course, justifies sin.
Sometimes a wife or a husband feels neglected, mistreated, and ignored until he or she wrongly feels justified in adding to the errors. If each spouse submits to frequent self-analysis and measures his own imperfections by the yardstick of perfection and the Golden Rule, and if each spouse sets about to correct self in every deviation found by such analysis rather than to set about to correct the deviations in the other party, then transformation comes and happiness is the result. There are many pharisaic people who marry who should memorize the parable of the Savior in Luke—people who prate about their own virtues and pile up their own qualities of goodness and put them on the scales against the weaknesses of the spouse. They say, “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all I possess” (see Luke 18:12).
For every friction, there is a cause; and whenever there is unhappiness, each should search self to find the cause or at least that portion of the cause which originated in that self.
A marriage may not always be even and without incident, but it can be one of great peace. A couple may have poverty, illness, disappointment, failures, and even death in the family, but even these will not rob them of their peace. The marriage can be a successful one so long as selfishness does not enter in. Troubles and problems will draw parents together into unbreakable unions if there is total unselfishness there. During the depression of the 1930s, there was a definite drop in divorce. Poverty, failures, disappointment they tied parents together. Adversity can cement relationships which prosperity can destroy.
The marriage that is based upon selfishness is almost certain to fail, The one who marries for wealth or the one who marries for prestige or social plane is certain to be disappointed. The one who marries to satisfy vanity and pride or who marries to spite or to show up another person is fooling only himself. But the one who marries to give happiness as well as receive it, to give service as well as to receive it, and who looks after the interests of the two and then the family as it comes will have a good chance that the marriage will be a happy one.
Many people there are, though, who do not find divorce attorneys and who do not end their marriages, but who have permitted their marriages to grow stale and weak and cheap. There are spouses who have fallen from the throne of adoration and worship and are in the low state of mere joint occupancy of the home, joint sitters at the table, joint possessors of certain things which cannot be easily divided. These people are on the path that leads to trouble. These people will do well to reevaluate, to renew their courting, to express their affection, to acknowledge kindnesses, and to increase their consideration so their marriage again can become beautiful, sweet, and growing.
Love is like a flower, and, like the body, it needs constant feeding. The mortal body would soon be emaciated and die if there were not frequent feedings. The tender flower would wither and die without food and water. And so love, also, cannot be expected to last forever unless it is continually fed with portions of love, the manifestation of esteem and admiration, the expressions of gratitude, and the consideration of unselfishness.
Total unselfishness is sure to accomplish another factor in successful marriage. If one is forever seeking the interests, comforts, and happiness of the other, the love found in courtship and cemented in marriage will grow into mighty proportions. Many couples permit their marriages to become stale and their love to grow cold like old bread or worn-out jokes or cold gravy. Certainly the foods most vital for love are consideration, kindness, thoughtfulness, concern, expressions of affection, embraces of appreciation, admiration, pride, companionship, confidence, faith, partnership, equality, and dependence.
To be really happy in marriage, one must have a continued faithful observance of the commandments of the Lord. No one, single or married, was ever sublimely happy unless he was righteous. There are temporary satisfactions and camouflaged situations for the moment, but permanent, total happiness can come only through cleanliness and worthiness. One who has a pattern of religious life with deep religious convictions can never be happy in an inactive life. The conscience will continue to afflict, unless it has been seared, in which case the marriage is already in jeopardy. A stinging conscience can make life most unbearable. Inactivity is destructive to marriage, especially where the parties are inactive in varying degrees.
Religious differences are the most trying and among the most unsolvable of all differences.
Divinity of Marriage Institution
Marriage is ordained of God. It is not merely a social custom. Without proper and successful marriage, one will never be exalted. Read the words of your Lord, that it is right and proper to be married.
That being true, the thoughtful and intelligent believer will plan carefully his life to be sure there are no impediments placed in the way. To make one serious mistake, one may place in the way obstacles which may never be removed and which may block the way to eternal relationships our ultimate destiny. If two people love the Lord more than their own lives and then love each other more than their own lives, working together in total harmony with the gospel program as their basic structure they are sure to have this great happiness. When a husband and wife kneel in prayer together in their home with their family, go hand in hand to their religious meetings, keep their lives wholly chaste, mentally and physically, so that their whole thoughts and desires and loves are all centered in the one being, their companion, and both work together for the building of the kingdom of God, then happiness is at its pinnacle.
Sometimes in marriage there are other cleavings, in spite of the fact that the Lord said:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; [Ephesians 5:25]
This means just as completely that “Wives, love your husbands, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.” Frequently, people continue to cleave unto their mothers and their fathers and their friends. Sometimes mothers will not relinquish the hold they have had upon their children; and husbands as well as wives return to their mothers and fathers to obtain advice and counsel and to confide, whereas cleaving should be to the wife in most things, and all intimacies should be kept in great secrecy and privacy from others.
Couples do well to immediately find their own home, separate and apart from that of the in-laws on either side. The home may be very modest and unpretentious, but still it is an independent domicile. Your married life should become independent of her folks and his folks. You love them more than ever; you cherish their counsel; you appreciate their association; but you live your own lives, being governed by your decisions, by your own prayerful considerations after you have received the counsel from those who should give it. To cleave does not mean merely to occupy the same home; it means to adhere closely, to stick together:
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. [Gen 2:24]
It is the normal thing to marry. It was arranged by God in the beginning. One is not wholly normal who does not want to be married. Remember:
Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. [1 Corinthians 11:11]
Brothers and sisters, may I say, this is the word of the Lord. It is very, very serious, and there is nobody who should argue with the Lord. He made the earth; he made the people. He knows the conditions. He set the program, and we are not intelligent enough or smart enough to be able to argue him out of these important things. He knows what is right and true.
We ask you to think of these things. All of you students, be sure that your marriage is right. Be sure that your life is right. Be sure that your part of the marriage is carried forward properly.
Now I ask the Lord to bless you. These things worry us considerably because there are too many divorces and they are increasing. It has come to be a common thing to talk about divorce. The minute there is a little crisis or a little argument in the family, we talk about divorce, and we rush and see an attorney. This is not the way of the Lord. We should go back and adjust our problems and make our marriage compatible and sweet and blessed.
I pray the Lord will bless each one who faces decisions before marriage and after marriage. I ask his blessings upon each one of you and give you my testimony that the Gospel is true and divine, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.