marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Are Children The Binding Tie That Prevents Divorce?

I was reading an article on Quora, where someone asked a question which said,
“My wife cheated on me. Should I divorce, or should I give her another chance?”
Several comments were offered, including one that started this way:
“I say cut your losses and divorce. You don't mention kids, so it's not like you are irrevocably tied to her…”
This belief, that it’s only children that tie a couple together in any sort of meaningful way, I believe to be mistaken, in the context of the restored gospel.

Is Marriage a Binding Tie for Adults Without Children?

When it comes to worldly marriage, children do make it more difficult to leave each other, since laws regarding child support and ‘deadbeat dads’ have grown stricter. If you’re a parent, you have a legal responsibility to care for the child, even if the relationship that sponsored the child is no longer viable legally.

But what about the spouses’ (or former spouses’) responsibilities or connections to each other? What about our responsibility to ourselves? To God? Dallin H. Oaks once offered this council:
The concept that society has a strong interest in preserving marriages for the common good as well as the good of the couple and their children has been replaced for many by the idea that marriage is only a private relationship between consenting adults, terminable at the will of either.”[i]
In our religion, a marriage is allowed to end, even an eternal marriage, under certain circumstances. What those circumstances are depend on each relationship.
“There are many good Church members who have been divorced…We know that many of you are innocent victims—members whose former spouses persistently betrayed sacred covenants or abandoned or refused to perform marriage responsibilities for an extended period. Members who have experienced such abuse have firsthand knowledge of circumstances worse than divorce.”[ii]
To those still married, but contemplating divorce, he said, regardless of whether or not a couple have children:
“I strongly urge you and those who advise you to face up to the reality that for most marriage problems, the remedy is not divorce but repentance. Often the cause is not incompatibility but selfishness. The first step is not separation but reformation. Divorce is not an all-purpose solution, and it often creates long-term heartache.”[iii]
What Does A Marriage Mean Between Two Consenting Adults?

D. Todd Christofferson once quoted a German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on his thoughts regarding a couple’s responsibility to their covenant and to each other:
“Marriage is more than your love for each other. …
In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom.
In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind.
Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. …
So love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God.”[iv]

If love (or the lack of it) were all that mattered, then ending a relationship would be no more wrenching than the dissolving of a business contract.

But marriage in the LDS faith is much, much more than that. Ending such a relationship before you’ve tried everything you can, and then some, to save it, removes from us the opportunities to grow you might have had; opportunities that may have brought us closer to Christ, even if not to each other. Such opportunities make us more fit for heaven, and even more fit for another spouse, if our current marriage should happen to end.

Spiritual growth in marriage is not meant to be a constantly pleasant and happy thing. Even in the best of relationships, there are times that are difficult and wrenching to endure. 

If we can rekindle love where it might be dying or even dead, we must try all in our power to do so; not even for our spouse, but for ourselves and for the covenant we have made with our Lord. The rewards for trying are as eternal as the marriage that doesn’t come from us.

The Higher Law
“…love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
 For if ye love [the spouse] which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the [worldly] the same?
 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the [worldly do] so?
 Be ye therefore [finished and complete and Christlike], even as your Father which is in heaven is [finished and complete and Christlike].”[v]

The purpose of marriage is to train and test us to become more like Christ. And like Christ, we will have pain, frustration, betrayal, turmoil, sadness, hurt, and disappointment. How we react and respond to these times will affect our eternal destiny. 

Will we react and respond like the world and jump ship, or will we respond like Christ – with prayer, forgiveness and a determination to finish the mission, even if we have to do it alone?

Spencer W. Kimball said, “when men and women are selfless and devoted to their companions, they will have returned more nearly to the image of marriage described by the Lord when he said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” (Moses 3:24.)

When men are true to their covenants made with their wives and are loyal and selfless, divorces will take a downward trend. Paul gave the injunctions, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh.” (Eph. 5:25, 28–29.) [vi]

Something important to remember here, if we’ve been hurt, and we're reading this, and feel as though it’s an unbearably high standard – it is. It can’t be borne alone. We shouldn't try to bear it alone. 

Our Lord and Savior stands with his arms outstretched to us, waiting for us to give our burdens to him, to partner with him in perfection. The Atonement can make impossible things possible. We must remember that before we decide that all is lost.[vii]

[i] Oaks, Dallin H. “Divorce”. Conference talk April 2007, emphasis added:
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge (1953), 42–43, as quoted by Christofferson, D. Todd, “Why Marriage, Why Family”, Conference talk April 2015:

[v] Matt. 5:44-48; brackets comments added by author

[vi] Kimball, Spencer W, “Why Call Me Lord, Lord, and Do Not the Things Which I Say?”, 1975,

[vii] An excellent Conference talk on this subject was given by A. Dean Byrd in September 2011: