Nurturing the Eternal Partnership of Marriage

Every month I teach a lesson to a group of women ages 18 to as old as they come. If picketing for assignments was acceptable, this is the job I would be happy to beg for. I love it. I only teach once a month, so really it’s not that demanding. I don’t have any meetings to go to or scheduling to worry about around my busy family. I get to have adult time and discussions and bask in the spirit, and I spend so much time studying the gospel and scriptures and really getting to know my topic. I love it.

I had hoped to get this post out BEFORE I had to give it 2 Sundays ago, for those who maybe wanted a study guide, but it’s been a busy few weeks and I didn’t manage it. However, the material is still valid even if your stake has already taught it and I’ll still post it for anyone interested in learning more, or preparing to teach this lesson themselves.

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My lesson comes out of the book Teachings of Presidents of the Church; Gordon B. Hinckley and my topic was chapter 10: Nurturing the Eternal Partnership of Marriage. (Click HERE to see the full text)

Let me say first of all that President Hinckley was amazing, and will always hold a special place in my heart. He was the prophet of my youth, the one who signed my mission call, the prophet with so much energy and humor and love. I really miss him, and all of these chapters are so edifying.

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I like to give some sort of challenge after each of my lessons. It’s not enough to just come to church and sit there and hear nice things, I think we need to go home and try and apply them. Step by step, we can improve ourselves and come closer to God. So at the beginning of each lesson I like to follow up and see which sisters did the previous challenge and get any feedback. (One time one of our sisters said that she contacted her son and told him she loved him for the first time in years and how it opened up better communication between them. I was so pleased, and it gave me goosebumps to hear her testimony. I thought, even if that was the only person who benefited from my lesson, it was all worth it.)

My last lesson’s challenge was on cultivating gratitude and optimism and I gave the President Erying’s challenge to take time to reflect every day to recognize the Lord’s hand in your life or the life of your family. (Click HERE for a Youtube clip of that talk.)

Notebooks challenge

I pasted a quote from President Hinckley on the inside of  little flip flop notebooks that I found at a junk store. It said,

“Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism. WALK WITH FAITH Rejoicing in the beauties of nature, in the goodness of those you love, in the testimony which you carry in your heart.” – President Hinckley

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The other thing I really like to do in my lessons is to have some sort of fun, engaging introduction activity to get their attention. It’s the school teacher training in me. Initially I had planned on doing a couple’s personality matching/clashing game to show how we all have our pros and cons and should try and accept our spouse rather than change them..etc. I ended up scrapping that for fear of it taking too much time and decided to open up with a lovely Youtube video that I found on President and Sister Hinckley’s courtship, marriage and his thoughts on her passing. I knew that I would struggle making time for it otherwise and hoped it would help bring in a lovely spirit to the room. (See those introduction games at the bottom of this post.)

Without further ado below is my lesson. I hope you too can learn from it as I have. I am married to a wonderful man who I love dearly, but there is plenty of room for us to improve our marriage and I hope that all of this study and application can make our marriage even stronger.

INTRODUCTION- HINCKLEY MARRIAGE / GRIEF / PROS-CONS of EVERYONE

OPEN with Youtube video: A Great Marriage: President Gordon and Marjorie Hinckley

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7VxMvEzfCk

Discuss the sweetness of their marriage and their love. Because they were married in the temple President Hinckley was comforted by knowing his marriage with Marjorie had been sealed for eternity.

  • PG 155 las paragraph of intro section:

“To loose one’s much loved partner with whom one has long walked through sunshine and shadow is absolutely devastating,” he said. “There is a consuming loneliness which increases in intensity. It painfully gnaws at one’s very soul. But in the quiet of the night a silent whisper is heard that says, ‘All is well. All is well.’ And that voice from out of the unknown brings peace, and certainty, and unwavering assurance that death is not the end, that life goes on, with work to do and victories to be gained. That voice quietly, even unheard with mortal ears, brings the assurance that, as surely as there has been a separation, there will be a joyful reuniting.”

Today’s lesson is on Nurturing the Eternal Partnership of Marriage. (Hope that this lesson can apply to ALL sisters regardless of marital status, and note that 6+ months ago when I taught the Hunter marriage lesson we used so much time discussing how to prepare for marriage and life being a single adult or divorced that we never got to the section on nurturing marriage and so we’ll start there today. Acknowledge that I know this topic can be sensitive but that it also can apply to each one of us, regardless of our marital status.)

(Close eyes?) and picture a spouse or someone you love. Think of something that you don’t like about this person or could change if you were able. You can even picture a few things. Now picture something you love about them and admire. (Open eyes) Which came more easily to your mind? Sometimes it’s easier to get focused on the things we would change about our spouse or loved ones, or what things drive us crazy than their strengths and good qualities.

Point out that we all have pros and cons that we bring into a marriage as do our spouses, and sometimes those personality traits, or backgrounds complement each other and other times they add friction and challenges. The trick is being able to be flexible and accepting of our differences. We can seek to improve ourselves, and accept our spouse rather than change them. Even Sister Hinckley. who was married to the Prophet, still had things she had to get used to about her spouse.

  • Pg154 Section: From the Life of Hinckley paragraphs 4 and 5

Sister Hinckley:

“Money was scarce, but we were full of hope and optimism. Those early days were not all blissful, but they were filled with determination and a great desire to establish a happy home. We loved each other, there was no doubt about that. But we also had to get used to each other. I think every couple has to get used to each other.

Early on I realized it would be better if we worked harder at getting accustomed to one another than constantly trying to change each other – which I discovered was impossible….There must be a little give and take, and great deal of flexibility, to make a happy home.”

President Hinckley:

In section 5 instructs us to “look for and recognize the divine nature in one another” and that we can succeed in marriage if we will “exercise DISCIPLINE of SELF and REFRAIN from trying to DISCIPLINE our COMPANION.”

  • Pg 162 Section 5 3rd to last paragraph:

“Many of us need to stop looking for faults and begin to look for virtues…. Unfortunately, some women want to remake their husbands after their own design. Some husbands regard it as their prerogative to compel their wives to fit their standards of what they think to be the ideal. It never works. It only leads to contention, misunderstanding, and sorrow.”

My own example of preparing for this lesson, trying to find ways to become more accustomed to Varian and my differences. A small thing, but one example is when he’d do something that would irritate me I would try to think of something positive to counterbalance that frustration. If for example I had to pick up after 3 of his things and felt put out about it, I would then think of 3 nice things he had done recently or that I was grateful for. Even though this was just a little thing, I could feel my attitude towards him shifting from one of annoyance to gratitude and appreciation.

???What has helped you to grow accustomed to your companion, or be more flexible with your differences???

(If there’s time and it feels right share the story of getting the handout when I was a teacher with a little slinky attached that said, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” Like Sister Hinckley mentioned, “There must be a little give and take, and great deal of flexibility, to make a happy home.”)

Flexible blog

  • Section 5 last paragraph on page 161

“Every marriage is subject to occasional stormy weather. But with patience, mutual respect, and a spirit of forbearance, we can weather these storms. Where mistakes have been made, there can be apology, repentance, and forgiveness. But there must be willingness to do so on the part of both parties.”

HINCKLEY – INTERESTS and TALENTS

  • pg 162 2nd to last paragraph in section 5

“There must be respect for the interests of one another. There must be opportunities and encouragement for the development and expression of individual talent.”

  • 1st paragraph of chapter on pg 153

“One evening when President and Sister Hinckley were sitting quietly together, Sister Hinckley said, “You have always given me wings to fly, and I have loved you for it.” Commenting on that expression from his wife, President Hinckley said, “I’ve tried to recognize [her] individuality, her personality, her desires, her background, her ambitions. Let her fly. Yes, let her fly! Let her develop her own talents. Let her do things her way. Get out of her way, and marvel at what she does.” Sister Hinckley was likewise supportive of her husband- as a father, in his personal interest, and in his extensive Church service.”

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???Can you think of a time when your spouse gave you wings to fly, or vice versa, and how did that support benefit your marriage???

SHOW CONCERN FOR THEIR COMFORT & WELL-BEING

  • Section 5 pg 160 paragraphs 1-4
  • SUMMARIZE
  • “Nurture and cultivate your marriage. Guard it and work to keep it solid and beautiful….Marriage is a contract, it is a compact, it is a union between a man and a woman under the plan of the Almighty. It can be fragile. It requires nurture and very much effort.
  • After dealing with hundreds of divorce situations throughout the years, I am satisfied that the application of a single practice would do more than all else to solve this grievous problem.”

“If every husband and every wife would constantly do whatever might be possible to ensure the comfort and happiness of his or her companion, there would be very little, if any, divorce. Argument would never be heard. Accusations would never be leveled. Angry explosions would not occur. Rather, love and concern would replace abuse and meanness….

The CURE for most marital troubles does not lie in divorce. It lies in repentance and forgiveness, in expressions of kindness and concern. It is to be found in application of the Golden Rule.”

**I have learned that the real essence of happiness in marriage lies…in an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.**

Thinking of self alone and of the gratification of personal desires will build neither trust, love, nor happiness. Only when there is unselfishness will love, with its concomitant [or associated] qualities, flourish and blossom.”

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This is the MAIN CONCEPT that I want people to take out of this lesson. This is what I will CHALLENGE each of us to go home and put into practice. For those who are unmarried they can apply this to a friend, a son or daughter, a family member…etc. Let me read it again: (REPEAT the following excerpts).

“Every husband and every wife [should] constantly do whatever might be possible to ensure the comfort and happiness of his or her companion….The real essence of happiness in marriage lies…in an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion… Only when there is unselfishness will love…flourish and blossom.”

???What are practical ways in which we can follow President Hinckley’s counsel to “constantly do whatever might be possible to ensure the comfort and happiness of our companion and be anxiously concerned for their comfort and well-being???

(Possibly write on the board the brief bullet points of people’s answers.)

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HUSBANDS AND WIVES WALK SIDE BY SIDE

  • Section 3 paragraph 1-4 pg 157

“In His grand design, when God first created man, He created a duality of the sexes. The ennobling expression of that duality is found in marriage. One individual is complementary to the other.

In the marriage companionship there is neither inferiority nor superiority. The woman does not walk ahead of the man; neither does the man walk ahead of the woman. They walk side by side as a son and daughter of God on an eternal journey.

Marriage, in its truest sense, is a partnership of equals, with neither exercising dominion over the other, but, rather, with each encouraging and assisting the other in whatever responsibilities and aspirations he or she might have.

Wives, look upon your husbands as your precious companions, and live worthy of that association. Husbands, see in your wives your most valued asset in time or eternity, each a daughter of God, a partner with whom you can walk hand in hand, through sunshine and storm, through all the perils and triumphs of life.”

Ask someone to read the following:

Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the presidency of the Seventy, in the April 2013 Conference gave a talk on marriage. One of the principles he talked about was Respect. He said, “I have observed that in wonderful, happy marriages, husbands and wives treat each other as equal partners. Practices from any place or any time in which husbands have dominated wives or treated them in any way as second-class partners in marriage are not in keeping with divine law and should be replaced by correct principles and patterns of behavior. Husbands and wives in great marriages make decisions unanimously, with each of them acting as a full participant and entitled to an equal voice and vote.”

??? What have you done (or could you do) to resolve a conflict in marriage where both people wanted different things???

???How do you maintain a feeling of equality and partnership in disagreements???

CONCLUSION

Read the handout (laminated cards with magnet backing to be put on fridge or somewhere easily seen in the home):

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“Every husband and every wife [should] constantly do whatever might be possible to ensure the comfort and happiness of his or her companion…. The real essence of happiness in marriage lies…in an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion… Only when there is unselfishness will love…flourish and blossom.”

-From the teachings of President Gordon B. Hinckley

Challenge:

Put this magnet on your fridge and over the next two weeks, daily search for opportunities to anxiously seek the comfort and well-being of your spouse (or another loved one if unmarried.) Seek their comfort and happiness. Accustom yourself to your differences and strive to be unselfish. I will follow up on this challenge in two weeks when I teach next.

  • Last Paragraph of section 5 (end of the chapter) pg 162

“Be absolutely true and faithful to your chosen companion. In terms of time and eternity, she or he will be the greatest asset you will ever have. She or he will be deserving of the very best that is within you.”

*************************************************************************************

IF ADDITIONAL TIME

First teach SECTION 4 (Addressing people who have never been married or are divorced.)

Highlights:

“Because you do not happen to be married does not make you essentially different from others. All of us are very much alike in appearance and emotional responses, in our capacity to think, to reason, to be miserable, to be happy, to love and be loved.

You are just as important as any others in the scheme of our Father in Heaven, and under His mercy no blessing to which you otherwise might be entitled will forever be withheld from you.”

“…I assure you that we are sensitive to the loneliness that many of you feel. Loneliness is a bitter and painful thing. I suppose all people have felt it at one time or another. Our hearts reach out to you with understanding and love…”

“This season of your lives can be wonderful. You have maturity. You have judgment. Most of you have training and experience. You have the physical, mental, and spiritual strength to life and help and encourage.

There are so many out there who need you…. Keep your spiritual batteries at full charge and light the lamps of others.”

“To those of you who are divorced, please know that we do not look down upon you as failures because a marriage failed…. Ours is the obligation not to condemn, but to forgive and to forget, to lift and to help. In your hours of desolation turn to the Lord, who said; “come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…. for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

  • Keep your spiritual batteries charged
  • Serve others in need
  • Refine your mind and skills
  • Take advantage of opportunities
  • Be prayerful and do not lose hope
  • Live the very best life of which you are capable
  • Turn to the Lord

Write the above points on a poster board to show.

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If there STILL is additional time go over the key points from Section 1 & 2 that were skipped.

  1. Heavenly Father designed marriage from the beginning.
  2. In the temple, a husband and wife can be sealed together for all eternity.
Extras:

President Howard W. Hunter said this about marriage: “Being happily and successfully married is generally not so much a matter of marrying the right person as it is being the right person.” I like that. “The conscious effort to do one’s part fully is the greatest element contributing to success.” (Click HERE for the full text of that chapter.)

 

  • Introduction Activity Game

Make 3 girls and 3 boys out of poster paper and attach to whiteboard.

Pass out 2 papers of different colors for each person (yellow/blue)

Have them list one character strength (yellow paper) and one character flaw/weakness (blue). It could be one of their own strengths or weakness, or one of their spouses or someone they know. Collect all of these in a bag and at random pull out a few pros and cons for the poster people, writing the descriptions on the cut outs.

Then have 3 volunteers come up to help match the couples and try to find the best fit. Discuss any characteristics that will help this couple, and what characteristics will be a challenge.

Point out that we all have pros and cons that we bring into a marriage as do our spouses, and sometimes those personality traits, or backgrounds complement each other and other times they add friction and challenges. The trick is being able to be flexible and accepting of our differences. We can seek to improve ourselves, and accept our spouse rather than change them. Segway into Marjorie Hinckley’s quote in introduction that she found early on in marriage that there was no use trying to change each other but that they had to become accustomed to each other, and President Hinckley’s thoughts from Section 5 how trying to change your spouse never works, but leads to contention, misunderstanding and sorrow and that we should exercise discipline of self and refrain from trying to discipline our companion…etc.

  • Alternate version of intro game:

Divide in groups based off seating. Give them dice, the picture of the girl and boy, tape, and a baggie of the pros and con’s. Odd doubles get a con, even doubles get a pro. See which in their group can create the healthiest seeming companionship combination.

 

  • Prelude Option- as I didn’t leave time to cover the section on how marriages in temples are eternal, could play this video of temples around the world with background hymns playing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_j-BCB7QhQ

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I hope this lesson can help you strengthen your marriage and other close relationships. God bless!
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