I taught a class on building an eternal marriage to the women in my congregation, as well as in a larger event for women in my church. I wanted to make the class interesting, easy to remember, and fun. I would like to share my lesson with you so you can have this discussion and do this activity with your spouse.
To create the tastiest concoctions, we must use the very best ingredients, taking our time to cook with love. The same is true to create the most joyous marriages, and the Lord has given us the perfect recipe to make our marriages eternal.
The ingredients were created with the marriage relationship in mind, but the corresponding attributes and actions apply to all people, and to all relationships.
So, in any good baking recipe, you start with a bowl. Notice the roundness of the rim. This will represent the never-ending bond of marriage and family – the sealing covenant. The bowl must be clean, representing the holiness of that covenant.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen said, “Covenant marriage requires a total leap of faith: they must keep their covenants without knowing what risks that may require of them. They must surrender unconditionally, obeying God and sacrificing for each other. Then they will discover what Alma called ‘incomprehensible joy.’”
Elder Hafen also talked about the difference between a contract of marriage and a covenant. Think about those differences as we discuss the recipe for eternity:
- You walk away from your troubles.
- You do your part only when the other does.
- 50/50 effort
- When troubles come, you endure them together.
- 100/100 effort.
- You sustain and lift each other in times of trial.
- You obey God and sacrifice for each other.
- You need and sustain each other.
- You are given the strength to give your life for your sheep (spouse, child)
- You are bound to each other and to the Lord.
Ready for the ingredients? The first is: Well-packed Time. In the real recipe, it is packed brown sugar.
Our days and weeks likely are packed. But, we can prioritize our time well to maximize the happiness for ourselves, and those in our homes.
President Uchtdorf said: “Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home.”
Time is so hard, isn’t it? There is never enough time because there is so much to do from errands to keeping house to spending time with family to church responsibilities to work and more. So, what do we do when we have completely full schedules? How do we find time to do all of our chores and spend time with our spouses and families? Any ideas?
Sometimes, it is more quality than quantity. Plan time, and make sure it is a relaxing time where you can focus on your love for each other and not outside distractions.
You can also spend time together without being alone together, through:
- Texts/phone calls
- Stealing smiles and laughs while doing responsibilities together
- Holding hands when out and about.
Also, learn to simplify and say no. If you already have a full plate, be honest with yourself. Don’t add more on. Ask yourself: does this help my family or my marriage? Does this strengthen my testimony? Can someone else do this? Is this necessary?
Talk to your spouse about priorities. What is most important? It should be God, spouse and family. Set expectations with each other and do your best.
But, are the issues with time we talked about all there is? What about not having enough time for yourself? What about not having time to make yourself look the way you want to, or to do the hobbies you love, or to spend time with friends? Have you ever felt that way?
So, we need time for those we love, but also for ourselves. Taking time for yourself can really help you be a better wife, mother and person. You have more to give when you are able to sustain yourself. Discuss this need with your spouse, and plan times for each of you to have “you” time.
The next ingredient is Softened Answers, or for the recipe, softened butter.
The writer of Proverbs counsels, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
What are some examples of soft communication?
Ex: Compliments, showing interest, rejoicing in accomplishments, showing appreciation for labors, apologizing when wrong, saying I love you. In prayer, thanking Heavenly Father for spouse.
There are so many things that we need to discuss as couples, things that could become arguments if not done with soft answers, from making/changing traditions, to important life decisions, to methods of raising children, to trouble with friends or family, to personal desires, thoughts, and dreams.
When talking about all these things, we will have different opinions, which could lead to arguments if not done right.
To avoid contention/fights:
- Listen to each other’s opinions completely and without judgment. Validate those feelings rather than refute them.
- Speak your mind, rather than stay silent, because silence can lead to future fights.
- Study both options, and perhaps others.
- Pray about the resolution and listen for the answer.
Even with our best efforts, sometimes we won’t say the right things or react the right way. And sometimes our spouse won’t.
Elder Bednar counseled, “When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.”
We could explode in these situations, or we can breathe, express our feelings, and remember we love our spouse and are on the same team.
Sometimes we will get irritated with our spouse’s behaviors and habits. We feel tempted to tell our friends about it, so they can tell us how right we are and how wrong he is. But this fills us with bitterness, pride, and blinds us from our own faults.
Absolutely talk about your concerns, but only to the one person who needs to hear them. Take time and give space if needed, but always talk about it. Try to understand how each other feels, and don’t turn conversation around to dote on the other’s faults. Take responsibility for behavior and words, and apologize.
Next, you add in Pure Love of Christ, or pure vanilla extract.
Pres Uchtdorf said, “…no matter how flat your relationship may be at the present, if you keep adding pebbles of kindness, compassion, listening, sacrifice, understanding, and selflessness, eventually a mighty pyramid will begin to grow.
Whatever problems your family is facing…the beginning and the end of the solution is charity, the pure love of Christ. Without this love, even seemingly perfect families struggle. With it, even families with great challenges succeed.
The great enemy of charity is pride. Pride is short-tempered, unkind, and envious. Pride exaggerates its own strength and ignores the virtues of others. Pride is selfish and easily provoked. Pride assumes evil intent where there is none and hides its own weaknesses behind clever excuses. Pride is cynical, pessimistic, angry, and impatient. Indeed, if charity is the pure love of Christ, then pride is the defining characteristic of Satan.
Love in the fabric of the plan of salvation is selfless and seeks the well-being of others. That is the love our Heavenly Father has for us.”
What are some charitable characteristics you love about your spouse?
The next ingredient is whole devotion, or whole milk.
“Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto
her and none else. “And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after
her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents
not he shall be cast out” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:22-23).
What are some methods you use to make sure you do not lust after other men?
Examples – I will not compare my husband to other men and wish he was more like them/ I will not read books or magazines, watch movies or videos, or listen to music that spark sexual feelings from within.
Pres Uchtdorf said, “Somehow, as the days multiply and the color of romantic love changes, there are some who slowly stop thinking of each other’s happiness and start noticing the little faults. In such an environment, some are enticed by the tragic conclusion that their spouse isn’t smart enough, fun enough, or young enough. And somehow they get the idea that this gives them justification to start looking elsewhere.
In God’s plan of happiness, we are not so much looking for someone perfect but for a person with whom, throughout a lifetime, we can join efforts to create a loving, lasting, and more perfect relationship. That is the goal.”
How can you show your devotion to your spouse? Examples – trust and accept him, be honest with him always, always remember why you fell in love…
Next is the Salt of the Earth, as a representation for salt.
Matthew 5:13 – Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Christ is speaking to His covenant people who have been baptized in His name. They are called to be this salt of the earth.
Carlos E. Asay said, “The word savor denotes taste, pleasing flavor, interesting quality, and high repute. That is, it is clean, pure, uncontaminated, and useful…Savor is lost through mixture and contamination.”
He gave examples of losing savor (or purity) – pornography, lies, drug, alcohol, bad language, etc. Then he gave advice: “If it is not clean, do not think it; if it is not true, do not speak it; if it is not good, do not do it.” King Benjamin cautioned, “Watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God” (Mosiah 4:30).
How can we help our spouses and ourselves become more pure?
We should share our sins and weaknesses with each other to help us become one and help each other maintain our savor. If we don’t admit our faults, it is harder to overcome them, and we continue to lose our savor.
If spouses are working hard to live the gospel and remain clean, then they will be more useful to the Lord, to each other, and to their families. And living righteously will help us come closer to God, and closer to eternal life.
Next we add the Bread of Life, or flour.
John 6:35 – And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
Draw a triangle with wife on the bottom left, husband on the bottom right, and God on the top – The closer we come to the Lord, the closer we come to each other. Notice if one of us moves from the Lord, if we also move from the Lord, we go further away from our spouse, not closer.
Elder John A. Widtsoe said, “True love of man for woman always includes love of God from whom all good things issue.”
There are many desirable qualities in a spouse, but the ones that matter most are the ones that mirror the Savior.
So, we need to put God first. How can we do that first individually and as a couple?
Christ, through his atonement, not only can make us clean from our sins, but lighten our burdens and make our weaknesses strengths. But, we must go to Him for help.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
As couples and families, we will go through trials over the years. If we come unto Christ together, pray for help, and keep the commandments, Christ will help us through all of our trials. I have a testimony that the trials my family and I have been through have only strengthened our testimonies and brought us closer together. Does anyone have any examples?
Add in Sweet Service, or chocolate chips.
When you are married, your spouse’s needs, wants, and happiness should be as important to you as your own.
What are some ways you serve your spouse?
- Learn about and support your spouse’s interests and hobbies.
- Do nice things for each other, like write love notes, plan a surprise, do something without being asked, give a massage, be the one to get up and do something when you are both tired. If you give what you want to receive, your spouse will feel your love and want to do likewise.
- Be sensitive to moods, desires, energy levels, and work load. That way, you can discern each other’s needs better. (breaks, relaxing, give up time if something important needs to happen)
- Stop what we are doing and just listen. Be interested in how your spouse’s day was. Talk about it. Offer comfort and support. Be positive.
- Help each other with responsibilities. It could be tempting to say that it is his job, so I shouldn’t have to help. By getting up and helping with chores, your spouse can feel that you enjoy being with him regardless of what you are doing. If you see a need, do it rather than wait for your spouse to do it. This will be a load off of him, which will make you happy.
- Pray for each other- thank God for each other, and pray for well-being and strength.
- Show affection often.
By putting your spouse first, you grow together in love, and you both stay humble, and as President Spencer W. Kimball promised: “. . . 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.”
Also add in colorful differences, or M&Ms.
Differences can at first glance seem to be an annoyance. “Why can’t he be more like this?” “Why can’t he do that?” “It is so obvious to me that..” “It would be so much easier if he would just…”
When differences start to annoy, it would be wise to look within. “Am I perfect? Do I do everything excellently? Am I the best parent and spouse in the world? Am I better than my spouse?” What will the answer be?
Pres Uchtdorf said, “ If we look for imperfections in our spouse or irritations in our marriage, we will certainly find them, because everyone has some. On the other hand, if we look for the good, we will surely find it, because everyone has many good qualities too.” He also said, “Rather than attempting to force everyone into a mold of our own making, we can choose to celebrate these differences and appreciate them for adding richness and constant surprises to our lives.”
If you look at differences in a positive way, you excitedly see that where you lack, he excels, and vice versa. You complete each other. You help each other grow. You give each other perspective.
What are some good differences you and your spouse have?
There are some things that aren’t easy with being different, like maybe how we communicate or show affection or handle conflict. If you talk together about your desires and needs, and go to the Lord for help, with a willingness to improve, you will both be blessed.
Now mix all the ingredients well – this spoon represents consistent hard work and effort to keep your family strong and provided for. Both husband and wife must put in that effort.
You may have a spouse that you admire for his work ethic, or you may have one you wish did more.
If you are in the latter group, here is some advice:
- Communicate expectations together for work and roles. Make sure they are fair and doable.
- Say thank you for the things he does do well. This appreciation will motivate him to do more.
- Help each other learn new skills so you can both help more where help is needed.
Notice how the dough is sticky. The ingredients are holding together, united in deliciousness. You may say that the ingredients making up the recipe for eternity are cleaving, which means to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly.
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:6-9).
*twain means two
Elder Henry B. Eyring made this profound statement, “Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity.”
The commandment to cleave is meant to help us be united in righteousness, providing us with the greatest joy we could ever imagine. As the Lord said, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Make sure your spouse is one of your greatest treasures. _____________________________________________________________________________________
Now it is time to enjoy eating this fabulous confection together.
I see the eating of the sweet as enjoying life together -being happy, laughing, finding joy in each other, and growing in love.
President Uchtdorf said, “Those who save marriages pull out the weeds and water the flowers. They celebrate the small acts of grace that spark tender feelings of charity. Remember why you fell in love. Work each day to make your marriage stronger and happier. It may be a gradual work, but it doesn’t have to be a cheerless one. In fact, at the risk of stating the obvious, divorce rarely happens when the husband and wife are happy. So be happy! Those who save their marriages choose happiness.”
President Spencer W. Kimball promised: “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 . . . great happiness.”
I hope this lesson and activity help you and your spouse come closer together in love and righteousness. God bless!