Why Marriage?

February 11, 2007    By: Blake @ 9:29 pm   Category: Life,Theology

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?

10 Comments »

  1. Well done, Blake. The gospel definitely gives perspectives on and purposes for marriage that others may not understand. In theory, that should give us more reason to stick with it when and if things get tough, too.

    I’ve said that I thought I was a pretty good person until I got married. ;) And then I had children and I knew I really had a long way to go! :)

    Comment by m&m — February 12, 2007 @ 12:27 am

  2. Blake: re: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?

    I believe LDS have a reason to marry that others do not, in that marriage allows individuals to magnify themselves to a greater level and enter into a peer relationship with their Father in Heaven.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 12, 2007 @ 9:41 am

  3. I think the Mormon view of God potentiates any relationships we have as relationships are what it is all about. That said, is this really by Blake: “to become like our heavenly parent(s)”

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 12, 2007 @ 10:58 am

  4. Do Latter-day Saints have reasons to marry that others do not?

    Well yeah. It’s the only way we can get to heaven. It’s required

    Is marriage worth it?

    I can’t answer that now. I’m pretty ambivalent.

    If my husband dumps me for a younger model, it will not be worth it. If I don’t make it to the celestial kingdom, it was not worth it.

    But then, I’ve sacrificed a lot more for my marriage than my husband has.

    Comment by Naismith — February 12, 2007 @ 1:12 pm

  5. There is a neat article about marriage over at the Meridian Magazine web site by Wallace Goddard. Below is something I thought was especially thought provoking.

    “When our souls are permeated with accusation and demands, there is no skill that can cover our malice and meanness.
    Terry Warner poses a question that invites us to think in a different way. Maybe the key to happy relationships is not finding gentle-sounding ways to request change. Instead, “what would happen if we dropped all charges against those around us and, for their sakes, happily sacrificed all bitter satisfaction, all retribution, all demand for repayment, all vengeance without regret or second thoughts?” (Quoted by Catherine Thomas).
    Catherine Thomas observes that we often get it all backwards: “Much of the emotional pain that we have does not come from the love that we were not given in the past, but from the love we ourselves are not giving in the present” (p. 5)
    We need more than a set of skills for expressing discontent and requesting changes. We need a change of heart. The only way to build a truly healthy marriage is by being a truly good person — to be changed in our very natures.”

    Wally and Terry seem to have a great grasp of grace. :)

    He goes on to say that it is only through Christ that one can have such a change of heart. My personal experience has confirmed that to be true.

    And yes, I believe that marriage is something ordained by God. Do Mormons have a unique perspective on marriage? Perhaps, but even though other Christians do not believe in eternal marriage, they certainly do seem to think that they will be together as a family forever. I find that interesting.

    Comment by CEF — February 12, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

  6. One of my favorite movies has this quote in there by a woman who turns down a man who propositions her… a private investigator who is spying on her husband. Turns out her husband is taking ballroom dance lessons and was too embarrassed to tell his wife about it. When she discovers what he is doing, she is embarrassed for assuming that he was cheating on her and for spying on him and she is ashamed and hurt that he didn’t share this with her. But then the moment of truth comes when the private investigator asks her why marriage is so important and she says something along the lines of… “Being married to someone you love and who loves you is having a real eye-witness to your own life… in a way that no one else can ever be…”
    She turns down his proposition and stays faithful to her husband… regardless of the fact that she is attracted to the man that propositions her. She realizes that her husband is too important to her to hurt him and she realizes how much he means to her.
    I just love the way she says that… that we are a witness to someone else’s life. Even if you live together you can’t be that confirmed witness to someone else’s life… all you are is roommates, not married life partners. Marriage changes you in a way that nothing else does… and sometimes the growth hurts and sometimes it is very good.
    I would say that marriage is part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us. It is what He wants for us and for our children. And if we don’t have that chance here, we will someday… and if it is such a huge part of His plan… then that is the most important reason of all…

    Comment by Stephanie — February 12, 2007 @ 3:40 pm

  7. Hmmm… good thoughts Blake. It seems to me that marriage is the best practice we have on earth for this concept of “indwelling unity” that the Godhead shares. If we are ever to share indwelling unity with God we are going to have to figure out how to become one with another person along the way.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 13, 2007 @ 11:48 am

  8. Geoff and Blake: I have a point of confusion: In order to enjoy indwelling unity, we not only need to know how to become one with another person, but “doctrinally” (If I can use such a term.) Do we not, in fact, need to actually be one with another person (Celestial Marriage) and have a willingness to have indwelling communion with all people(Charity)? There simply seems to be much more to marriage than merely an educational tool. Like the atonement, if it were only to teach us, I think there must be another way.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 13, 2007 @ 2:06 pm

  9. Matt: It seems to me that you are right but also missing the point. How can that be? Marriage is the experiential school where we teach one another how have the kind of oneness that befits a celestial relationship. Every teacher is also a student. So marriage is the awesome opportunity to learn to get beyond ourselves. The family is a space of celestial life in the making. I am not yet able to have all things in common with all people. But I give to my children with no expectation of return simply because I love them. That is a Zion economy. I participate in creation and sharing life with those for whom I have a patriarchal duty to provide and care and tenderly nurture. In my experience that is the essence of deity.

    Now I don’t mean to exclude those who are single or who long for children. I just have faith that our Father is wilely enough to cook up ways for them to learn the same things. There is more than one way to cook a rabbit. Some of us learn best in this particular school of life; others have chosen another school no less loving and no less effective.

    Comment by Blake — February 14, 2007 @ 7:08 am

  10. I may truly be mission the point. You say “The purpose of marriage is…” which leads me to believe that marriage is doing something that can not be done in other ways, however, and I agree with you, that any human relationship can teach these lessons and the old SWK [I think] statement comes to mind. While Marriage is part of the means, it is, and I agree with you[I think] , also the end. Marriage here on earth is the means to achieving what? Marriage in eternity. So if marriage is the lesson, then the lesson is not only preparing us for more of the lesson.

    So are you saying their is a fundamental difference between marriage now and in eternity?

    Comment by Matt W. — February 14, 2007 @ 8:54 am

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