Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. I have been researching the distortion of statistics by the media to make marriage look like a bad deal that only a fool would consider. I’ll follow up on that; but first I choose to focus on why anyone would choose to be married at all. L.D.S. theology makes marriage the centerpiece of the kingdom of God. Why? Are there good reasons for marriage?
Marriage is a challenge in part because men and women are … well, different. Like the French, I say vive la difference! Which I suppose suggests that sexual attraction is a good reasons for marriage if I say it with enough passion and a bit of naughtiness in my voice. I love this difference. I suspect that marriage serves a social function. We can keep the destructive impulses of unbridled sexuality under control, still enjoy a steady supply of intimacy (or simple animal connection) and marriage provides a stable place and arrangement for rearing children. However, given modern technologies it is much easier to avoid conception and I wouldn’t suggest to anyone to get married solely to have a steady intimate partner. I’m not saying that these aren’t reasons to get married; I’m just saying it isn’t enough.
In L.D.S. theology, marriage is vehicle for assisting us to become like our heavenly parent(s). It does that by teaching us to love as God loves. I believe that everyone I have ever spoken to who is in a committed marriage relationship agrees with the assertion that “my spouse has been my greatest teacher” — and it is sometimes added “next to my children.” There is no growth outside the comfort zone and marriage provides ample opportunity to be challenged and forced outside the comfort zone . There is a great deal to be learned in a committed marriage relationship that we cannot simply walk out on when the going gets uncomfortable. It is the simple engine for growth we call “opposition in all things.” Men and women are different. I never experienced growth like I have with my wife when I lived with roommates because they were too much like me … basic slobs. But my wife is like a different kind of species to me sometimes. She is more connected than I am. She sees others in a very compassionate sharing that is sometimes just foreign to me. She talks a lot more than I do. She can carry on several conversations at once with several women and knows what each of them is saying even when none of them ever finishes a single sentence! That just leaves my poor male brain spinning. Yet she has taught me to love in ways that I couldn’t even fathom when we were married.
Our marriage has also given us the opportunity to share the privilege of giving birth to children made in our likeness and image. We are co-creators. My children mimic me and reflect back to me everything about me — good and bad together. Never have I been more god-like than when my children have been born. With each child my heart has done a Grinch-like growth spurt. My wife walked into the valley of the shadow of death to give birth to each of my five children. My children have given me the opportunity to be challenged in ways way beyond rationality and what I thought I had capacity to do. I never would have chosen these challenges if I knew they were a part of the package of marriage — but having experienced them I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I have learned more about love from my wife and children than anything else in my life.
So I suggest that the purpose of marriage is a school for saints and sharers of the divine nature in-the-making. Do Latter-day Saints have reasons to marry that others do not? Is marriage worth it?