Svithe: Happily Ever After


(Note: About ten hours ago, I gave this as a talk in sacrament meeting. Everytime Lady Steed and I have spoken together in sacrament meeting, we have finished early. I was sure this would happen this time as well, so I tried to think of a couple places to expand. One of them, a song-and-dance routine, makes it into this version. The other does not.

(I ended up having to cut parts of my talk though--pretty much the whole Zion part, for instance--so this is much more comprehensive.

(I apologize for the lack of a consistent citation method.)


    Once upon a time there was a girl named Ella. Her mother and father loved her very much. But then her mother died and her father remarried and her new mother made her sit in the fireplace and wash the dishes every night. But then one day Ella—now called Cinderella, because of the ashes in the fireplace—lucked out and got to go to this ball where she met this guy Frederick Charming who fell for her and life was

    Sunshine, lollipops and
    everything that's beautiful is what they felt when
    They were together!

    So they got married and lived happily ever after. The end.

* * * * *

    Once upon a time, there was this girl named Snow White. Her wicked stepmother took things a step further than Cinderella’s and gave her a poison apple that knocked her out cold until one day this guy Jimmy Charming happened to be in the neighborhood. He kissed the comatose girl and thus woke her up. Then life was

    Sunshine, lollipops and
    Rainbows everything that's beautiful is what they felt when
    They were together

    So they got married and lived happily ever after. The end.

* * * * *

    Once upon a time there were these kids named Tom Thumb and Thumbelina. All their lives they had been almost stepped on, almost eaten by birds, and almost flushed down kitchen sinks. Then they met each other, fell in love, and life was

    Sunshine, lollipops and
    Rainbows everything that's beautiful is what they felt when
    They were together

    So they got married and lived happily ever after. No more problems. The end.

* * * * *

    This is how all the stories end. People get married and hooray, hoorah, life is easy and lovely and happy.

    But President Kimball says: “We have come to realize that the mere performance of a ceremony does not bring happiness and a successful marriage. Happiness does not come by pressing a button, as does the electric light; happiness is a state of mind and comes from within.”

    And now, if President Kimball doesn’t mind, I am going to turn his simile upside down. I am going to say that, in fact, happiness is exactly like pressing a button and having the lights turn on. To the casual observer it may seem simple enough, but the casual observer does not realize how much had to happen to get that light to work.
    First there were the thousands of hours Edison spent in Menlo Park trying and rejecting light bulb after light bulb, trying to find something that worked. Then, after he succeeded, he spent much of the rest of his life trying to get people to set up electrical matrices, to bring electricity into homes and businesses. He was extraordinarily successful, but that was only the beginning.

    For us to have electricity, dams must be built, coal must be mined. Turbines now rise up along hillsides and wires snake across the entire world, delivering a simple little thing called electricity to our homes, so when we hit the switch, the lights turn on.

    Happiness is a simple little thing too. But like the light bulb, behind happiness is endless work, endless effort.

* * * * *

    Once upon a time there was a girl named Sarai. She met a handsome young bloke named Abram and they got married. They did not live happily ever after--not exactly.

    They had to flee their home land. They were hounded by famine. They lived in Egypt and were separated by the king. They were ripped off by a dear friend and relative. They went to war. And all this time, what they really wanted, a child, was denied them.

    Their extended family was beset by anger and incest and destruction and quarrels. Then one day, a child was born.

    The next, the child was to die.

    Always there were struggles. Always there were challenges.

    Then Sarai, now Sarah, died.

    Twenty-eight years later, Abram, now Abraham, died.

    They were buried together.

    Their lives were filled with more trouble and strife than seems fair—especially for people who did their best and were looked to as examples of righteousness.

    But it is difficult to read the stories of Abraham and Sarah and get the sense that they spent their days moping around and complaining, wallowing in unhappiness. No doubt there were many days of misery. But I believe that they were happy.

    Joseph Smith learned that “Abraham ... hath [now] entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne.” And we know that he is not there alone. We know that Sarah is there with him.

    They are living happily ever after.

    Just like they did here on earth.

* * * * *

    President Kimball says that “There is a never-failing formula which will guarantee to every couple a happy and eternal marriage.” Each ingredient is vital and necessary. And Pr. Kimball says that when both halves of the marriage follow this formula, no outside force can break in nor destroy.

    “The formula is simple; the ingredients are few....

    First, there must be the proper approach toward marriage, which contemplates the selection of a spouse who reaches as nearly as possible the pinnacle of perfection in all the matters which are of importance to the individuals. And then those two parties must come to the altar in the temple realizing that they must work hard toward this successful joint living.”

    President Packer has called marriage “the ideal pattern for human living … ordained of God.” Marriage is something to always look forward to. “Do not lose faith in marriage,” President Packer says. “Not even if you have been through the unhappiness of a divorce and are surrounded with pieces of a marriage that has fallen apart.” Or, I might add, if marriage seems too far away or too impossible. I have friends who have given up on eternal marriage, who see the facts of their lives incompatible with becoming “the pinnacle of perfection” for someone else. But never lose faith in the ideal of marriage. God has ordained it for everyone, and “One day,” President Packer says, “after all of the tomorrows have passed, there will be recompense. [And] Those who have been moral and faithful to their covenants will be happy.”

    When life aligns itself such that two meet and are wed, they must then focus on the rest of President Kimball’s formula.

    Part Two: “...there must be a great unselfishness....” For “true marriage is based on a happiness ... which comes from giving, serving, sharing, sacrificing, and selflessness.”

    President Kimball instructs that “Two individuals approaching the marriage altar must realize that to attain [a] happy marriage ... means sacrifice, sharing, and even a reduction of some personal liberties. It means long, hard economizing. It means children who bring with them financial burdens, service burdens, care and worry burdens; but also it means the deepest and sweetest emotions of all.”

    In other words, “sacrifice” is a bit of a misnomer. Marriage doesn’t require “sacrifice” so much as “investment.”

    Yes, admits President Kimball, “Before marriage, each individual is quite free to go and come as he pleases ... to make all decisions with self as the central point. Sweethearts should realize before they take the vows that each must accept literally and fully that the good of the little new family must always be superior to the good of either spouse.... Every decision must take into consideration that there are two or more affected by it.”

    In other words, those in a family must become one, as Christ and the Father are one. The family must become Zion. More on this later.

    Third [part of the formula], there must be continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration to keep love alive and growing.”

    How many poets have called love a red, red rose? And so it is. But if marriage cuts the rose and places it in a vase and leaves it to look lovely this week, only to wither and die the next, then that rose of love will perish. Love is not one red, red rose, but love is a rosebush that requires water and pruning and care. Love is a rosebush that provides beauty each day all through the summer of our lives.

    The care this rose requires is simple. To say “I love you.” To listen and respond. To hold hands on the sidewalk and slip a Kiss on the pillow and to spend time alone in conversation where the only thing in this world that matters is the one you love.

    Then the rain will fall and the sun will rise and the rosebush will bloom, each and every day.

    “Fourth, there must be a complete living of the commandments of the Lord as defined in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    There is a point to all this church stuff, and Elder Packer has told us what it is:

    “The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is that a man and his wife and their children can be happy at home and that the family can continue through eternity. All Christian doctrine is formulated to protect the individual, the home, and the family.”

    And I bear my testimony that following the gospel will draw us closer together, will make our families great impregnable castles that no evil can break through nor destroy.

    “With ... [the formula’s] ingredients properly mixed ... it is quite impossible for unhappiness to come, misunderstandings to continue, or breaks to occur.”

    So, to sum up those ingredients again, “First, ... the selection of a spouse who reaches as nearly as possible the pinnacle of perfection .... Second, ... great unselfishness. ... Third, continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration .... [and] Fourth, ... a complete living of the commandments....”

    Now some of you, like my dear Lady Steed, may have totally blown the first ingredient and married a complete lunatic. Not to worry! The fourth ingredient, living the commandments, will save you.

    President Kimball taught that “it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price.”

    This stands to reason. Someday, when we all manage to get our acts together and become Zion, when we all love each other and serve each other and there are no poor among us because we take care of each other, this won’t be very different from what we are trying to accomplish now inside our own families.

    The Proclamation on the Family calls families “the fundamental unit of society.” Zion has many meanings, but behind them all is the idea of a society wherein love is the operating term. If we are to become a Zion people, it can only be done if we already have loving Zion families. Loving Zion families will be the source of Zion.

    My family, your family, his family, her family--each family must be Zion.

* * * * *

    President Kimball taught us how to become Zion.

    Let me tell you a couple things he mentioned. See if they don’t also apply to marriage and family.

    • Building Zion require “sacrifice and consecration.”

    • “[We] must learn obedience and be developed in character.”

    • “[We] must eliminate the individual tendency to selfishness that snares the soul, shrinks the heart, and darkens the mind.”

    • “[We] must cooperate completely and work in harmony one with the other. There must be unanimity in our decisions and unity in our actions.”

    • “[We] must sacrifice whatever is required by the Lord. We begin by offering a “broken heart and a contrite spirit.” We follow this by giving our best effort in our assigned fields of labor and in our callings. We learn our duty and execute it fully. Finally we consecrate our time, talents, and means as called upon by our file leaders and as prompted by the whisperings of the Spirit. .... Whether a volunteer, father, home teacher, bishop, ... neighbor, ... visiting teacher, mother, homemaker, or friend--there is ample opportunity to give our all. And as we give, we find that ‘sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven!’ And in the end, we learn it was no sacrifice at all.”

* * * * *

    If we do all this, President Kimball promises that “we will find ourselves clothed in the mantle of charity ‘which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail--But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.’

    Well with him, well with his wife, well with their children.

    “Let us unite and pray with all the energy of heart,” suggests President Kimball, “that we may be sealed by this bond of charity; that we may build up this latter-day Zion, that the kingdom of God may go forth, so that the kingdom of heaven may come.”

    And so, I might add, that the kingdom of heaven may come to our homes. This promise is good for all: single or married, old or young, full of hope or fraught with discouragement.

    Because God our Father loves us, every one. He loves us, no matter our current situation. No matter our mistakes or our faults. No matter how slowly we seem to be achieving our goals. No matter how rejected we imagine ourselves to be.

    He is helping us write our life stories. And with that help, each one of us will live happily ever after.

    I leave that testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

* * * * *


Becoming the Pure in Heart by Spencer W. Kimball
Oneness in Marriage by Spencer W. Kimball
Marriage by Boyd K. Packer

Last week's svithe.

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