This is Part 1 of two-part post on sustaining Church leaders. Click here to read Part 2.
During the past year or so, I’ve noticed a number of members of the Church who, for some reason or another, have publicly vented frustrations about the Church’s doctrine, its leaders, or other goings-on. While I am never happy when someone is frustrated, I think there are better ways to deal with this kind of frustration as Latter-day Saints besides jumping online to share them with the world.
In a previous post, I brought up specific examples of Church leaders who had every worldly reason to be offended at doctrine being taught because of their personal situations, but instead of offense or softening the doctrine, have stood for it boldly. This two-part post will explore what it means to “cling to our covenants” in the social realm when we are tempted to break them. We’ll address covenant-appropriate ways to deal with our “beef” and why dealing with frustrations within the Church should be inherently different than how we deal with them in other settings.
Before I jump into my commentary, let me share with you a powerful parable written by a friend of mine that illustrates some great points about our covenant relationship with the Lord’s Church. Though it is written about marriage, it’s not primarily about our marriage covenants. Like most parables, the main message the author hopes to get across is not explicitly mentioned in the story. I’ll explain the meaning below, but here’s a hint:
the following parable is applicable to every Latter-day Saint who has made covenants to the Lord (so don’t get too caught up on all the great applications this has to marriage).
The Parable of the Faithful Husband
Three men were young, naive, and smitten with love. They each believed that their bride was perfect in every way. As they committed their lives to their brides, they thought to themselves (and said to others), “I make this commitment — enter this covenant — because my bride is flawless. It is for this reason that I love her, and commit to her.”
Others looked on who were older and more mature, who had been married for quite some time. They shook their heads knowingly, and with apprehension for what these men would face in the coming years ahead. Some tried to counsel the young men, assuring them that their brides were wonderful, and that nobody — not even they — were perfect.
The young men repelled such talk. But as always, the closer one gets in a marriage, the more warts one sees. These young men soon began to notice the flaws in their brides — the toilet seat covers, the laundry on the floor, the bad cooking, the cattiness towards neighbors, the snoring, etc. To these flaws, each man responded differently.
First Young Man
The first young man had a “trust crisis,” and decided that since his commitment was based on the premise of marrying a perfect bride (something she was not) he had to leave. He impetuously divorced her, and forever more renounced whatever feelings he had for her. Never a good word about his bride was shared by him again. He was betrayed, and that is all he could think about.
Second Young Man
The second young man decided that sophisticated marriage life requires a healthy acknowledgement of the flaws in one’s spouse, rather than looking at him or her through rosy-hued lenses.
He was embarrassed of his prior naivety, but even more embarrassed for the other young grooms, whom he observed as possessing a similar naivety. So he decided that he must make it known that he has outgrown that immature “puppy love.” People must know that he knows that his bride is imperfect and at times deeply flawed. So in every conversation at a restaurant or a marketplace, he would mention the toilet seats, the dirty laundry, the cattiness, the snoring, and the occasional emotional breakdowns of his wife. Every time he confessed his love for her in public, he would always follow it up with an acknowledgement of her mistakes and imperfections. Every utterance of his wife became a matter of public analysis between him and his friends, as they pored over each word to discover more imperfections.
He was determined to not be naive in his love, and that everybody know it — that everybody knows that he could be married to her and still think she is imperfect. There were even times where he wondered if he would be happier if he were not married at all, or maybe married to another woman. Sometimes his wife would get upset with his public remarks, and make him sleep on the couch. “She wants me to act like she’s perfect,” he would say, and wonder why their relationship sometimes seemed strained. Surely, she would not estrange him for simply being honest and forthright with others. And she didn’t — she was patient and forgiving, but at times deeply frustrated and hurt by him.
Thus the second man lived out his days with his wife, always married, but never fully happy or complete; consequently, neither was his bride. Onlookers questioned if they really loved each other, and were always wondering if and when they would divorce. The man prided himself in the fact that the divorce never came, using as evidence that he — unlike the first man — had indeed fulfilled his marital obligations and commitments. He had not only fulfilled his marital obligations, but he had done so in a much more sophisticated way than the third man. That is because — by all outward appearances — the third man had never grown out of his initial, naive love for his wife. Others could see her flaws, and marveled that he did not seem to notice them. But nothing could be further from the truth. One simply cannot remain married for life without encountering a varied display of the manifold weaknesses and flaws of one’s spouse.
Third Young Man
But the third man never gossiped about his wife in public, or in the marketplaces, or even in private meetings with close associates. He treated her as his most cherished possession. He gently corrected her when appropriate, but always in private — he never embarrassed her, or called her out when friends (or enemies) were around. He grew in his love for her, despite her flaws, and grew in his commitment towards her. She, in turn, also returned that love, and that devotion, adding to the man’s own completeness and happiness. While domestic life was sometimes frustrating (with occasional disputes), onlookers never once doubted that he was happy in his relationship and deeply in love with his wife.
Accounting for Commitments
One day, each of these men were called before God to answer to Him for their marital commitments. When asked, “Did you love her with all your heart, might, mind, and strength? Did you give fully of yourself to the building up and cherishing of your relationship?” The first man responded, “I cannot love a lie. I cannot honor a commitment to such imperfection. I could not spend a lifetime, let alone an eternity in the presence of a being incapable of love, for she who lies is incapable of love.”
The second man responded, “I am aware of all that my bride offers, including her faults, and yet I have kept my commitments to be with her in spite of what would make me happy. I am a good husband because I am above her faults, and can therefore help to correct them with all my mind and strength.”
The third man responded, “I have given my all, my heart, my mind, and my strength, to love her, to build her up, and to elevate our commitment to each other to its highest level. In return, she has done the same with me and we have both been edified and rejoice together.”
To the first two men, God replied, “You have wholly broken the commitment to love, cherish, and support your wives and as such are found guilty before me. For inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.” To the third man, God rejoiced saying, “For having faithfully kept your commitment to love, cherish, and support your wife, she shall be your companion for all eternity. It is well.” 1
Our Relationship with the Lord is Like a Covenant Marriage Relationship
Can you sense the intended message of this parable? All three husbands had a “beef” with their wives—they saw weaknesses, genuine, or perceived. Every married couple will have beefs with each other. The question is, what will we do about it, based on the covenants we’ve made? Is it any wonder that the Lord has used marriage symbolism several times in scriptures to illustrate our covenant relationship with him? (For example, the entire book of Hosea, the Book of Revelation 2, the parable of the Wedding Banquet 3, Isaiah 4, and Ezekiel 5, the parable of the Ten Virgins 6.) Brigham Young used the phrase “new and everlasting covenant,” a phrase that is usually used to describe the ordinance of a temple sealing, to describe our baptismal covenant.
“All Latter-day Saints enter the new and everlasting covenant when they enter this Church. They covenant to cease sustaining, upholding and cherishing the kingdom of the Devil and the kingdoms of this world. They enter the new and everlasting covenant to sustain the Kingdom of God and no other kingdom. They take a vow of the most solemn kind, before the heavens and earth, … that they will sustain truth and righteousness instead of wickedness and falsehood, and build up the Kingdom of God, instead of the kingdoms of this world” 7
Part two of this post will delve into what ways our relationship with Him and His Church can be compared to the covenant relationship with a spouse. We’ll also explore how it should be different from a relationship we have with, say, an employer. What similarities can you see when we compare our covenant actions with the Church with a marriage covenant? Click here to continue to Part Two of this post.
She occasionally posts or co-posts gospel handouts on her husband's site, NathanRichardson.com. She is excited to be one voice among many Mormon Women who support the Savior, His gospel, and the leaders of His Church.
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