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Mormons and Marriage

Talk Given at a Ring Ceremony for Steve and Larissa Deininger
by Bill Pringle
August 2, 2003


Steve Deininger was one of my former Valiant B students (9 year-olds turning 10) in Primary. After 9/11, he enlisted in the army as an Intelligence Officer. While stationed in Korea, he met and married an American woman who was teaching there. She is not a member of the Mormon Church, and in fact, her father is a minister for the Church of the Nazarine in a small town in Kentucky.

After Steve got transfered back to the States, they held a Ring Ceremony at our Chapel. I was asked to give a 5 minute talk about Marriage. There were two speakers: myself and the bride's father.

Good Taste

First off, let me say that it is an honor to be asked to speak at such a special time in your lives. And Steve, let me put your mind at ease. I won't tell any embarrassing stories about when you were little. Partly because I can't think of any at the moment.

Larissa, even though we haven't really met, there are a few things I already know about you. First, you have excellent taste in men. And, because I know Steve so well, I also know that you must be a really great person. Congratulations to both of you.

I hope you don't mind an old man passing along some words of advice. From now on, in your lives, you have two choices: you can be right, or you can be married.

What I mean by that is that, when differences arise (and they will), if your priority is to prove that you are right, then you are weakening your marriage. You can't win an argument, because if you win, then your spouse loses. And since we read in Genesis 2:24

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

So, if your spouse loses, then you lose also. Don't try to win an argument; try to settle it. Don't try to prove that you are right; try to find out what is right.

Furthermore, when it comes to marriage, perception is reality. For example: Steve, if Larissa says you don't ever do the dishes, or pick up your socks, or whatever, the fact that it did it last Tues doesn't matter. If she thinks you don't do something enough, then you don't. Try to resolve the difference; don't try to prove you are right.

Now Larissa, I know that you are not a Mormon, so I thought I would explain a few things about how Mormons view marriage so that you can better understand where Steve is coming from.

Eternal Marriage

First, we believe that marriage can be eternal. We believe that, when married in a temple, marriage is not just "until death do us part", but for time and all eternity. Now, I don't know of any other religions that teach that, but on the other hand, I know of few individuals who don't believe it, or at least wish it were true. Even C.S. Lewis, in his book "Mere Christianity" calls this belief a great temptation, something that many want to believe.

Now this belief greatly affects how Mormons view marriage. Even though the vows you took were "until death do us part", there are many in this world today that interpret that to mean "until I get tired of you" or "until I get offended." Mormons tend to have an eternal perspective on marriage. When you believe that you will be spending eternity together, you work much harder at a marriage than those who are "waiting until the kids are grown."

Larissa, even if you don't believe in eternal marriage, I can promise you that if you live your life as if it were true, you will have a stronger and better marriage.

Patriarchal Order

Another thing that Mormons believe about marriage is the Patriarchal Order: the man is the head of the family. Now, some believe that this means the husband is always right, but in reality it means that the husband is always wrong. The husband is responsible for harmony in the family. If anything is going wrong, then he isn't doing his job.

There are some who have used this doctrine to suppress women, and that is wrong. One scripture that this belief is based on is Ephesians 5:22-24

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.

Spencer W. Kimball, my favorite modern day prophet, talked about this scripture. We are willing to follow the Savior because we know that He loves us and wants what is best for us. When the husband has this kind of love and concern for his family, and he strives to do Heavenly Father's will, not only the wife, but the entire family will follow after him.

Steve, your job is to do everything you can for your family. Larissa, your job is to help Steve do his job.

60/40 Rule

Now, there are some who say that marriage is a 50-50 proposition; others say it is 100-100. I have trouble with both views. If you go with 50-50, then a lot of time is spent bickering over where the midpoint is. 100-100 is great, but only the Savior was selfless enough to devote 100% of his efforts towards others. There are a few who have come close in this life. If you have been around Steve's dad for more than half an hour, I am sure he has mentioned Gandhi; he is one. Mother Theresa is another that comes to mind, but most of us don't have that kind of dedication.

So, instead I would like to propose another rule: the 60-40 rule. If each of you promise to go 60% of the way, provided the other will go 40%, then you won't be arguing over the midpoint, and your spouse will always be doing more than what you expect.

Steve and Larissa, I wish both of you the best. May your lives be blessed with the company of each other. And in years to come, may you always be more in love than you were before.

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