A. My name is Calvin Andrus. I am from the Sterling Park Ward. I was called to the Stake High Council about 10 months ago. My assignments on the High Council are to be the Advisor to the Stake Primary, the Stake Young Women, and the Stake Young Men. The Stake President has asked me to speak to you tonight concerning the relationships we have with our spouses.
II. Love In The Time of Cholera
A. In the summer of 1993 I turned 40. At the time I had a thought that caused something like a mid-life crisis. It struck me that if my earth life went well, it was half over. It maybe was even more than half over. I wondered if I had done at least half of everything I wanted to do, or if I was at least half-way to becoming the kind of person I wanted to be. It was clear to me that the answer in both cases was 'no.'
B. Also that summer, I spent 9 weeks working in the Political Section of the US Embassy in Madrid, Spain. While there I read several books, one of which was a kind of catalyst for my crisis. It is called, Love in the Time of Cholera . This book spent about a year on the best seller list in the late 1980s. The author, Gabriel García Márquez, received the Nobel prize for literature in 1982. I read the English language version which was translated from Spanish.
C. The novel is set at the turn of the century on the northern coast of South America. It is the story of a love triangle, and excels in describing the emotions and thoughts of the three people involved. The story recounts how a young woman, Fermina, aged 18 breaks off her relationship with a young man her same age to marry an established physician, named Urbino, 20 years her senior. The marriage has highs and lows during the first 30 years, and then settles into a sort of tolerable rut for the last twenty. After fifty years of marriage, Fermina is 68 and Urbino is 88.
D. One day Urbino is sitting on the porch with his pet parrot. He takes it out of the cage to let it walk on his arm. Unexpectedly the parrot flies up to a branch of a tree that is growing next to the porch. Urbino gets a step ladder, climbs up and reaches to get the parrot. As he grabs the parrot, the ladder slips and he falls out of the porch. As he falls he feels like time is suspended and begins to think about his life. He remembers the things for which he has not repented and the people to whom he wanted to say good-bye. But most of all he thought of all the things he had been meaning to tell his wife some day, but never got around to it. After hitting the ground Urbino knew he was going to die within minutes. Lying there in the mud, he prayed that he could last long enough for his wife to come to he could say his last words.
E. Meanwhile, Fermina was in the kitchen when she heard a servant woman scream. Instantly, she sensed her husband was in trouble. She ran as fast as her aged body would let her. As she ran, she thought of all the things she had been meaning to tell her husband some day, but had never gotten around to it. She prayed that her husband would live long enough for her to say her last words to him.
F. When she arrived, she knelt down at his side. They were both in a panic to make peace with each other. He knew he could only muster one sentence and must summarize all his thoughts into one statement. He blurted out to Fermina, "Only [heaven] knows how much I loved you." He then expired before she could say anything. Fermina then became enraged because his speaking prevented her from saying what she wanted to say. It was his fault that she would have to live with regret for the rest of her life. She wondered how he could have be so selfish.
G. This little vignette struck me very hard as I was living through my little crisis by myself in Madrid that summer. I called my wife, Janet, and asked her to come and spend a week with me in Madrid. I then made a list of all the things I wanted to tell her. When she arrived, we took a walk in the gardens down the hill from the Spanish Royal Palace. We stopped at a park bench and I pulled out my list. We spent about an hour discussing things I had so longed to tell her. It was a refreshing experience for me. I felt free. It was wonderful to be caught up to date. I vowed that I would always remain up to date, so that if I were called to the other side, I could go in peace, knowing that nothing had been left unsaid.
H. When I finished, I suggested that if there was anything she had been waiting to say, now was a good time to say it. After a thinking for a moment she looked at me and said, "Can we get something to eat now?"
I. As cleansing as an experiences as it was for me, it was probably not what Janet wanted to do on her vacation. She bore the experience patiently. She treated me with respect. She kept her perspective and did not feel the need to challenge me point by point. The confidence she had in our relationship allowed her to soak in the things I said and save her responses for another time.
III. Starting With The Right Foundation
A. So where, one might ask, did Janet get such confidence in our relationship. Let me start at the beginning.
B. Janet and I started dating in December of 1976. I had been looking for a wife with real intent for several years. I had dated quite a few young ladies and pretty much know what I was looking for. After just a couple of dates, I told my cousin that Janet was one of the few people I'd dated that seemed to be just what I was looking for.
C. By April of 1977, my best human reasoning convinced me that Janet was the right one for me and I told her so. I did not ask her to marry me at that point, however. I wanted more than an emotional or intellectual conclusion, I wanted to have a spiritual witness. Four months later, in August of 1977, I did get such a witness. It was like my testimony of the gospel. I had a calm, peaceful, confident feeling about marrying Janet. In fact, I felt like I had a promise that if I would be patient, I would be able to marry Janet. So, in September of 1977, I told her that I had gotten a spiritual witness that I could marry her. However, I said that I would not ask her to marry me, unless she had a similar witness of the spirit. After that conversation, I just bid my time. In December of 1977, she told me that she had gotten a witness that we should be married. I suppose we were unofficially engaged at that point. We each discussed it with our parents during Christmas vacation and I finally asked her to marry me in January 1978. We were married in the Oakland Temple in August of 1978.
E. So what is the point of this story. There are two foundations upon which an eternal marriage is built. The obvious foundation is to be sealed in the Temple. The less obvious foundation is to have a witness of the spirit that one's marriage is approved by heaven. That witness sustains Janet and me every day of our marriage. It means that Heavenly Father has been a part of our marriage from the very start. And though all the ups and downs in our marriage, both internal and external, the fact of our eternal marriage is never called into question.
F. Janet and I are friends with several couples who have told us the only reason they got married was that they were in love. Some have since gotten a spiritual witnesses and some have not. Those who have not gotten such a witness have a very difficult time sustaining their marriages to this day--indeed, some have even gotten divorced.
G. The testimony we have of our marriage does not inoculate us from problems. It helps us resolve problems with a common purpose and a common goal. The commitment to our marriage never comes into question.
IV. Am I My Spoouse's Keeper?
A. As I thought about my life that summer in Madrid in 1993, a lot of my thinking centered around the purpose of life. We know the two great purposes of this life are to get a body and to be tested to see if we can live worthily to return our Father in Heaven.
B. I imagine that just before I come to this world, our Heavenly Father sent me off with this instruction: that I was to return to Him. That may have been my most important instruction from Him. I also I imagine that I agreed to accept responsibility for this assignment. To paraphrase Cain, I am my own keeper. It was my job to return to Him, and He would hold me personally accountable for how well I performed this job. This is kind of scary.
C. When I got married, I believe I received and accepted another assignment from our Father: that I was now no longer just responsible for my own exaltation, but I was now also responsible for my wife's exaltation. Again, to paraphrase Cain, I am my spouse's keeper. If my wife does not make it back to the Celestial Kingdom, Heavenly Father will hold me personally responsible. My own exaltation now depends upon my spouse's exaltation. This is a little more scary.
D. The act of having children, I believe, signed me up to yet another assignment from our Father: that I was now no longer just responsible for my own and my spouses exaltation, but I was also responsible for my children's exaltation. I am my children's keeper. If any of my children do not make it back to the Celestial Kingdom, Heavenly Father will hold me personally responsible. My exaltation now depends upon the exaltation of my children. This is very, very, scary! Those who have ever fought with a teenage child, can identify with the Paul's admonition to the Philippians that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
Philippians 2:12 - Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
E. Brother Hiatt will talk about the hard part, being responsible for our children, so let me continue with the easy part and talk about being responsible for our spouses. There are what I might call offensive and defensive strategies for helping our spouses achieve exaltation.
F. Let me start with the defensive strategy. This is the strategy we would use if we were convinced our spouse had no chance of exaltation. It is designed to protect us at the judgment bar when Heavenly Father holds us accountable for the failure of our spouse to achieve exaltation. The purpose of this strategy is to insure that we can be free from the blood and sins of our spouse--to be held blameless at the last day. The defensive strategy is this: to do everything humanly possible to help our spouse achieve exaltation. Some of us with a particularly obnoxious spouse may want to go just beyond the humanly possible for the extra protection we may need.
G. [This paragraph only if enough time.] This strategy reminds me of a scripture, which I will modify slightly for our purposes:
Jacob 1:19 - And we did magnify our office [of husband or wife] unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of [our spouse] upon our own heads if we did not [help him/her live] the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might [our spouses'] blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise [his/her] blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.
H. The funny thing about this defensive strategy is that it sounds suspiciously like the offensive strategy I propose, which is to do every thing humanly possible to help your spouse achieve exaltation. We use this offensive strategy when we believe there is some hope that our spouse can achieve exaltation. Some of us may have spouses who are right on the edge, for whom we may want to go just beyond the humanly possible, for extra protection.
I. [Tell the two dream stories if have enough time.]
V. Lessons Learned
A. In conclusion, let me summarize the points I hope to have made from these stories. In my opinion, the first key to a good relationship with one's spouse is to have a witness of the Holy Ghost that the marriage is ordained of God. I assume most of us here have such a witness, but if there are some who don't, gaining such a testimony of their marriage should be the number one item on our spiritual "to-do" list.
B. The second key is knowing that we will be held accountable for doing everything humanly possible to help our spouses qualify for exaltation.
C. The third key relates to my story about Fermina and Urbino--which is to keep the lines of communication always open and always up to date. Both partners must play the roles speaker and listener. The speaker must be honest and forthcoming. The listener must be patient. The speaker must be kind and sensitive. The listener must be respectful. Open communication means that we must be prepared to hear things we don't like or things with which we don't agree. We must be mature enough to receive these things in patience and understanding. Both partners need to be willing to agree to disagree and let some things drop. The sacrifice is worth it. Wide and fast open communication takes us a long way down the path to becoming one with our spouses.
D. Of these things I bear my witness. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.