Donna B Nielsen describes in her book Beloved Bridegroom the ancient biblical imagery of Christ as the Bridegroom. In reading her book I have gained an appreciation for both Christ's intimate love for each of us as well as the historical importance of marriage as an institution and eternal covenant.
Anciently, Jewish marriages were the pinnacle of their culture and society. Marriages were not arranged per-se, but a young man often made proposals of marriage to a girl he may have never have spoken to and only seen a few times during city wide festivals or otherwise.
Marriages were a solemn legal and spiritual covenant. The betrothal period often lasted a year while the young man built a house for the couple to live in. The proposal was accompanied by a dowry for both the family as well as the bride. The bride received this dowry much as we would an engagement ring today, and wore some of the money around her neck as a symbol of her promise of marriage.
Marriages were protected and emphasized by the families, society, the church, and the law. Such support leads to strong families. But is there not one thing missing? What about love? Is that not the foundation for a strong marriage and family?
To quote from the book, pg. 13, "It was not that love was thought to be unimportant, it was just that to them, love was an emotion to be cultivated after marriage rather than before. Much more emphasis was placed on the principle that marriage meant honoring a sacred commitment to a pledge. A person's word of honor to be loyal and to make the marriage work was considered more significant that passionate attraction."
To help sum up this difference between ancient and modern marriages, contemporary minister and religious psychologist, Walter Trobisch says, "[They] put cold soup on the fire and it becomes slowly warm. [We] put hot soup into a cold plate and it slowly becomes cold."
I found this quote very interesting. I think that to a large degree that this is true. That in our society we focus on finding love, on the initial attraction, then assume the story is a happily ever after as long as the couple makes it to the alter. While the marriage institution of old was firmly and effectively established, I don't believe we have to let our hot soup turn cold.
In fact, possibly surprising to some, the divorce rate in the US has declined over the last decade:
Per capita divorce rates 1990-2002:
In my own life, I would like to have steamy hot soup that only grows warmer with time. President Faust, in his recent conference talk asks, "How can a marriage be constantly enriched?”
He goes on to answer, "We build our marriages with endless friendship, confidence, and integrity and also by ministering to and sustaining each other in our difficulties. Adam, speaking of Eve, said, 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh' (Genesis 2:23). There are a few simple, relevant questions that each person, whether married or contemplating marriage, should honestly ask in an effort to become 'one flesh.' They are:
"First, am I able to think of the interest of my marriage and spouse first before I think of my own desires?
"Second, how deep is my commitment to my companion, aside from any other interests?
"Third, is he or she my best friend?
"Fourth, do I have respect for the dignity of my spouse as a person of worth and value?
"Fifth, do we quarrel over money? Money itself seems neither to make a couple happy, nor the lack of it, necessarily, to make them unhappy. A quarrel over money is often a symbol of selfishness.
"Sixth, is there a spiritually sanctifying bond between us?"
I believe that we can have our cake and eat it to. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to date and find my wife and fall madly in love. I am also grateful for our eternal marriage covenants and all that marriage has taught me. I am grateful to have hot soup and to have the examples of my parents, as well as David & Lindsey, to show me all a marriage can be. I am grateful for Pres. Faust's words of direction as well as Pres. Hinckley and the other leaders of the church to help show us the way--show us how to have warm soup in warm bowls.
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