I received this article/study from brother John Gill while on a missionary trip in Honduras. I felt it was very good, sound advice for ministry dealing with issues in marriages within the membership of the church. As such, I had not felt fully convinced that I should publish it but rather to offer it up to the ministry.
But as I considered my intention, I had the thought interjected into my mind- the ministry are frequently “late to the show” when it comes to troubles that enter into a marriage. Often issues within a marriage have already been discussed with or observed by friends, family and church family, oftentimes putting them in the position to begin the process of counseling and advising. So, with that in mind, I felt some of the suggestions contained within this article help to give some guidance and thought process to those who find themselves thrust into the position of listener, counselor and friend to those whose marriage may be troubled.
On a sunny afternoon at a beautiful park in Minnesota with flowering bushes and giant evergreens to surround them, John and Nana Gill were wed.
Elder Thomas Maley read scripture and stated the pledges that were repeated by the couple. After a banquet among relatives and friends as well as brothers and sisters of their church family, the bride and groom left on the journey of life that they had pledged to follow as one.
They had a two-week honeymoon in which they spent much time alone and visited church locals throughout the United States.
Thusly, bonded as one before the Lord and His church, they returned to the new home John had built for their life together and the lives of whomever their union would bring to be.
Now to the union mentioned here, we, John and Nana, each brought our own experiences- some good, some bad and our several abilities into one whole. “Separate we are not equal but together we are one.”
A number of years ago while I was praying about how I, as a minister of Christ, should approach (in my heart) the task of counseling any couple in a failing marriage, God gave me a spiritual experience of what it is like for them in a personal sense. I received an awareness filled with tearing emotion that ended in profound desperation…
In this vision of the Spirit, I felt the love that Nana and I have built for each other through many years of love, sacrifice, trials and fantastic joys, being ruined. In the projection I saw us divided back to back, back to separate individuals so that everything we had built, all that was Nana and John, was gone.
Then I knew what it was like when those I must counsel were losing or had lost the oneness that had been theirs. From this awareness and the knowledge that there is only one unpardonable sin, I have subsequently developed from my study of the scriptures, a few principles to be used when one is called upon or seeks to aid and counsel the suffering souls in a failing or failed marriage.
For a breach of the marriage covenant the first approach by the ministry or those seeking to assist the offended union should be fasting and prayer. Then in the spirit of meekness, considering ourselves lest we also be tempted (to pride), the offending couple in question should be counseled toward REPENTANCE and FORGIVENESS. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1).
“Behold he sendeth an invitation to all men; for the arms of mercy are extended toward them and he saith, Repent and I will receive you” (Alma 3:57)
“Behold are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not, ye are not prepared to meet God.” (Alma 3:50)
“And save they shall cast these things away and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility he will not open unto them” (2 Nephi 6:85)
(Other references depending on each couple- 1 Corinthians 6:9; 2 Nephi 6:73-84, 89-93; 2 Nephi 11:39)
“And finally, I can not tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin: for there are diverse ways and means, even so many, that I cannot number them” (Mosiah 2:48)
“…and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.” (Alma 19:106)
“Recompense to no man evil for evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21)
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17)
“And the fruits of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (James 3:18)
“But he giveth more grace, therefore he saith God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:6-7)
“For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13)
All believers whom this married couple affect should be advised to read Romans 12:21. When tempted to take sides, “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” They should be directed to the commandment, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” (Romans 12:15).
The brothers and sisters in Christ of the couple should be admonished to pour out their souls in sadness and compassion for those who are losing or have lost all they have brought to and built within that bond of marriage that was theirs.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
“For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:30-31)
“Behold what the scripture says; man shall not smite, neither shall he judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord; and vengeance is mine also, and I will repay.” (Mormon 4:25)
The couple in question should be treated with love and compassion by the ministry and the body of Christ, knowing that he whomsoever pointeth the finger of shame bringeth shame on himself, for we are all called to draw out our soul to satisfy the afflicted (Isaiah 58:9-10). We also should not be wise in our own conceits (Romans 12:16).
Of course, the member or members in question having a marriage that went aground have need to compare himself, herself or both in the light of the scriptures in order to understand what happened, identify their position and ascertain what can be done about it.
A- If the unbelieving spouse abandons a believing spouse, the believing member is free and has no responsibility or obligation to that union- 1 Corinthians 7:15 “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”
B- If a man puts away a wife for any other reason than fornication he is guilty for any choice she is caused to make (going on with her life) due to being put away from marriage with him. (Matthew 5:32) One must consider, however, that the word fornication as used in Matthew 5:32 of the King James translation is derived from the Greek word (feminine form) porn ne, pronounced (por-nay), from which it is interpreted to mean ‘strumpet’, ‘harlot’ or ‘whore’.
Of course, if even such a woman were to repent and her husband to forgive her we should all rejoice with them.
C- To seek intimacy in any form outside of one’s wedded state, or to deny it to your spouse without an understood reason or plan is not God’s plan for mankind.
(1) “Wherefore my brethren, hear me, and hearken unto the word of the Lord: for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none: for I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women.” (Jacob 2:36)
(a) “But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart” (3 Nephi 5:77). (This would include pornography by printed word or photos via paper or electronic medium of any kind.)
(2) “Defraud ye not one the other, except if be for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” (1 Corinthians 7:5)
(a) The Greek word for incontinency, or akrates (pronounced ak-rat-ace) as used in 1 Corinthians 7:5 in the Bible means: powerless- without self-control. Thus in 1 Corinthians 7:5 the commandment for husband or wife is to not deny intimacy without a mutually determined reason or plan so as not to cause your partner to sin.
D- Finally, we should consider the marriage covenant from the beginning:
From the beginning God holds the man responsible for the choices they make, not his wife. Thus, God addressed the man when they sinned in the garden. He said, “Adam where are thou?” (Genesis 3:9). The scriptures further blame the man for their sin which separates all mankind from God; which separation made the divine sacrifice of Christ on the cross necessary (Romans 5:12, 14, 19).
It is also explained in scripture that by the woman’s desire for her husband that God created within her, he (the husband) would rule over her (Genesis 3:16).
This is the built-in pattern that God has given mankind, but it is in a delicate balance to the sense of oneness, security and mature leadership he establishes for her. It is lost immediately when he demonstrates arrogance, pride of self, deception or machoism.
Man is to be responsible for them. God put him in charge of their choices, present and future, for the woman who follows him in the new family they have created. BUT, he is commanded to leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife. They two should be one flesh, thus building the bond that would establish his leadership. This is critical. (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:17). If he cannot do this yet, he should be taught to remain unmarried until he can. And what father is there among us who should offer his daughter in marriage to one before he is ready? None! And what daughter is there among us who should offer herself to a young man who is not ready? None!
For Success in Counseling
The bottom line is I must be humbled by the task of trying to help them: the body of believers must be supportive in prayer, and the couple must humble themselves with a broken heart and a contrite spirit as they enter the realm of repentance and forgiveness.
I know by living and loving with my dear wife, as indeed she knows and all who read this must know, there is a delicate balance that any marriage rests on, and that balance is:
“My dear, dear wife or husband, I love you! Will you please forgive me?”
“I love you too! Yes, yes, yes, I forgive you!”
In order to help them in their hour of need, (we) must suffer with them in our hearts and lead them, ever so gently, toward those magnificent words and the feelings which accompany them:
Honey, please forgive me,
Yes, my dear, I forgive you.
Without this, all the scriptures, the oratory, the counseling classes or motivational speakers cannot repair the broken hearts, and they must suffer their great loss. In those cases where reconciliation is not possible they each need our unqualified love and fellowship to get through the days, months and years ahead.
In closing I must say, for any marriage: Men, if we are to be the leaders, we must be the first to say, “ I’m sorry” or “I forgive.”