Bill Pringle - Bill@BillPringle
I gave this Sacrament Meeting talk on Feb 13, 2000. I was asked to speak on love and the Gospel. I actually gave this talk twice. The first time, the preceeding speakers spoke longer than expected, and so I didn't have time to give the entire talk. The second time (about a year later), one of the speakers cancelled at the last minute, and so I gave the entire talk.
27 So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
It is often said that we learn from our mistakes. That's what makes me an expert on the subject of marriage. And my wife will support me when I say that I am learning every day. :^)
In 1977 I was coming to the end of my 2nd marriage. I was convinced that I would never marry again. After joining the church, however, I realized that marriage was more than I had originally thought, and I thought that it might be possible for me to be married some day. At a minimum, however, I wasn't going to consider marriage until I was out of debt (which was about 5 years).
I began reading a lot of books and articles about marriage. One book claimed that any two mature people could be happily married. The reasoning went this way:
Having the same interests can increase the bonds of friendships, or create conflict in the form of unhealthy competition. Having opposite interests can cause friction and discord to a marriage, or bring balance into a relationship.
This relates to the adage that we can't control what happens to us; only how we react to what happens to us.
So, the secret to a good marriage seemed to be based more on the ability of the two people to relate to each other rather than the characteristics of the two people. So, I began to hope that if I became more mature, then maybe I could be happily married some day.
I'm not sure how much I've matured, but I can certainly testify that I am happily married. Actually, I think I have matured ... I used to be much worse. :^)
During my reading I came to the conclusion that, in marriage you have two choices: you can be right, or you can be married.
Your priority should always be the welfare of your spouse, not the justification of your actions. An important corollary to this principle is that perception is the reality. Consider the classic discussion where the wife complains that the husband never does the dishes. He responds: "That's not true. I did them last month."
If your spouse says that you are not fulfilling some need that they have, your job is not to prove that you are, but to find out what you need to do in order to meet their needs. If they feel you aren't providing them what they need, you aren't. There should be no argument. On the other hand, we must be careful not to place unrealistic demands on our loved ones.
I decided that I must learn more about what it means to be married if I could ever hope to be happily married. One of the great resources that the Church provided at that time was the Family Relations class. I took that class several times. Each time I learned more things to help me. I would like to share some of these with you.
You have often heard that marriage is a 50-50 proposition. Others claim no, its a 100-100% proposition. It turns out that 50-50 doesn't work, because each side ends up squabbling over where the middle point is.
When my brother and I were young, our parents came up with an ingenious way to settle disputes about who got the bigger piece. One of us would cut the pieces, and the other would get to pick first. This doesn't seem like a good way to run a marriage, though.
It isn't a good marriage if one spouse feels they have to make all the sacrifices. And that is certainly true if both spouses feel that way.
While it might be true that marriage should be a 100%-100% arrangement, most of us are not capable of giving 100%. So, the instructor suggested that marriage should be a 60-40 arrangement. Each person must be willing to give 60%, and accept 40% from the other. The result is that each person feels that they are getting more than they expected, since their spouse is giving more than 40%. Even if the two don't agree on whether the other is doing 60%, or even 50%, they are still doing more than the expected 40%.
Another principle that I learned from the Family Relations class was that of conflict resolution. There will always be times when spouses can't agree on something. There are three basic ways to resolve these differences:
I had a friend who grew up in an orphanage. He never knew when his next meal would be. He was always hungry ask a kid. Whenever he opened the refrigerator, it had to be full. No amount of reasoning could change this quirk of his. If he could see the back of the refrigerator, he got extremely upset. That was the way he was.
Perhaps the most important principle about conflict resolution is that it is important to realize that if there is a loser, there can't be a winner. Feeling that you lost promotes discontent, which is the opposite of what your goals should be in a marriage.
Some say that the Patriarchal order means that the father is always right. I claim that it means that the father is always wrong. If there is ever any conflict or disharmony in a family, it is the father's duty to resolve the problems.
President Spencer W. Kimball once wrote:
We have heard of men who have said to their wives, "I hold the priesthood and you've got to do what I say." Such a man should be tried for his membership. Certainly he should not be honored in his priesthood. We rule in love and understanding. (75-11)
The wife follows the husband only as he follows Christ. No woman has ever been asked by the Church authorities to follow her husband into an evil pit. She is to follow him as he follows and obeys the Savior of the world, but in deciding this, she should always be sure she is fair. (75-46)
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.316
He then goes on to quote:
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
And then says this about that passage:
Here is the answer: Christ loved the Church and its people so much that he voluntarily endured persecution for them, stoically withstood pain and physical abuse for them, and finally gave his precious life for them.
When the husband is ready to treat his household in that manner, not only the wife, but also all the family will respond to his leadership.
Certainly, if fathers are to be respected, they must merit respect; if they are to be loved, they must be consistent, lovable, understanding, and kind, and must honor their priesthood. (65-07)
Men often give women inadequate respect. I sometimes think our own Latter-day Saint women are "needy" just because some of us are not as thoughtful and considerate of them as we should be. Our pantries can be filled with food and yet our sisters can be starved for affection and recognition. (78-28)
Our sisters do not wish to be indulged or to be treated condescendingly; they desire to be respected and revered as our sisters and our equals. I mention all these things, my brethren, not because the doctrines or the teachings of the Church regarding women are in any doubt, but because in some situations our behavior is of doubtful quality. (79-21)
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.317
The topic we were given was "Love and the Gospel". Those who have heard me speak before might be wondering why I haven't been talking about Hebrew and Greek like I normally do. Here we go. :^)
In the Greek language, there are three words that can be translated "Love": Eros, Phileos, and Agape
Eros is physical love. This is what the world thinks of when they hear the word "love". There are constant guidelines on how to keep the spark in your marriage. In my opinion, this is the least important aspect of a marriage. In fact, the word eros doesn't appear anywhere in scriptures.
Phileos means brotherly love. In fact, the Greek word for brotherly love is philadelphia. Phileos can refer to your close friends. Other translations might be "like" or "care for".
Agape is what is often referred to as "True Love". This is the word Jesus usually uses. It is a higher form of love than phileos.
When asked about the greatest commandment, we read:
36 Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
In both cases, Jesus uses the word "agape" to refer to love.
I believe that, in order to have a good marriage, we must have (or at least be working on) all three types of love: eros, phileos, and agape.
One of my favorite stories is when Linda & I were going to a small store to get something. We pulled in right in front of the store just as it began pouring rain. The two clerks in the store were watching us obviously having a discussion about who was going to go into the store. When Linda went into the store, one of the clerks said that she had bet that I would make her go in. Linda explained that each of us were arguing that we should go in, and the other should stay in the car.
An interesting word study is found in John 21:15-17.
The third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after the resurrection was when they were fishing. They had been fishing all night, but caught nothing. A man appeared on the bank, and told them to lower their nets. There were so many fish, they couldn't draw them all into the boat. John told Peter it was Jesus. Peter then dove into the sea and swam to him.
15 6 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Unfortunately, much is lost in the translation.
The first time, Jesus asks "Peter, do you love (agape) me more than these", and Peter replies "Yes, Lord, you know I care about you. (phileos)" Jesus uses agape, but Peter replies with phileos. Now he does say "yes", so he isn't saying that he doesn't agape Jesus, he just didn't use the word. (Some men seem to have this problem. :^)
The second time, Jesus asks more directly, "Peter, do you love me", and Peter replies "Yes, Lord, I care about you." Once again, Peter agrees, but also once again, he uses phileos instead of agape.
Finally, Jesus uses phileos, essentially asking: "Peter, do you even care about me?" This cuts Peter to the quick. In frustration, he replies, "Lord, you know everything. You know that I care about you."
Now, remember, this is taking place after the resurrection. Peter has recently denied Jesus three times. Peter's unwillingness to use agape should not be construed that he doesn't care about Jesus, it is more an act of humility. To claim agape but be unable to back that claim up with action is similar to people who profess great love, but then do things that demonstrate that the claims are false.
As I mentioned before, the topic is "Love and the Gospel". I maintain that the two are the same. They are not different.
1 John 4:7-11
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
Of course, the word used throughout this scripture passage is agape. Notice that in verse 10, John says that we don't claim to agape God, but rather than God agape us. This is another example of how humility can prevent us from claiming agape. We don't claim to have perfect love for God, but we acknowledge that God has perfect love for us.
None of us are likely to be able to claim to always have perfect love for our spouses, family members, or our neighbors. Nevertheless, that should always be our goal. Although I might not be able to always agape at this point in my progression, I can certainly try to at least phileos.
I would be remiss if I did not point out that I spend many hours in the company of our Bishopric (present and former). I can testify to you that they certainly have agape for the members of this ward, and spend countless hours in our behalf.
It is my hope and my prayer that each of us sets priorities so that we can demonstrate love for one another, constantly trying to improve on our ability to love.
And hopefully some day we will be able to stand before the Father and express our agape for Him and his beloved son, Jesus the Christ, in whose name I leave these words. Amen