The Family: A Proclamation to the World is laced through and through with the language of commitment. It declares that spouses have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and their children, and to honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Further it warns that husbands and wives will one day be held accountable before God for the discharge of family obligations.
Research shows the value of commitment in family relationships. In national studies, parental commitment to marriage and family was associated with fewer behavior problems in children and less conflict among parents and children. Couples who are personally dedicated to the health of their marriage are far more likely to be happy with their relationship. They have greater satisfaction with giving and are less inclined to look for "greener pastures."
Committed couples realize that good things in marriage don't happen without the efforts of both partners. They take their marital vows quite seriously and are likely to view marriage more as a covenant than a contract. Their relationship becomes their highest priority; they make the time needed to keep it strong. They work together unselfishly in building a relationship that will meet, as far as possible, the needs of both partners. They are willing to make all possible changes for the good of the marriage. Couples who stay together do what's necessary to make the marriage a happy one. They find out what brings their partner happiness and then do it often.
Sometimes married couples commit to one another only so long as they have feelings of love for one another. However, love feelings come and go. Some days we love everyone. On other days, we may not feel we like anyone, including our spouse. If a commitment is based only on love feelings, then the commitment isn't worth very much. Committed, covenant-oriented couples realize that while love brought them together, commitment to one another (even at times when they don't "like" one another) keeps them together.
There are many ways to foster commitment at home:
"To Have and To Hold"
Find a way to renew your marriage vows. If you were married in a religious setting, consider visiting the same house of worship and pondering your marriage vows. Wherever you were married, you can plan a special occasion, such as an anniversary, to renew your vows. You might invite a few friends or family members to witness the occasion and hold an informal reception afterwards.
Discovering and Enhancing Family Traditions
A family tradition is an activity or event that occurs with regularity and holds special meaning to a family. Family traditions promote feelings of warmth and unity. A fun activity is to identify and evaluate traditions you now have and make plans to add new ones. List your traditions and include everything from visiting Grandma on Christmas Eve to buying ice cream cones on Saturday afternoons.
Go over your list and discuss how much you enjoy these traditions
Are there some you'd like to do more? Are there some that are no longer enjoyable? Finally, list anything you'd like to add as a family tradition. It can be anything your family does that makes family time special. Let your imagination soar. One father suggested "Midnight Pancakes" so that he could stay better connected to his dating teens. Keep the list handy in a visible area for a few days to see if you think of anything else.
"And Now . . . Our Feature Presentation"
Choose a video that deals with commitment in relationships or quality family life. On Golden Pond, Fiddler on the Roof, and episodes from Little House on the Prairie, or Our Town are some examples. Watch your selection together, have popcorn or cookies, and then talk about what you have seen.
Find Your Roots
Trace your family tree and collect all the photographs you can find of ancestors. Public libraries and bookstores have books on genealogy to get you started. Sometimes churches, community colleges, or historical societies offer genealogy classes.
"When I Was a Boy . . . " Compile a family oral history
Ask older relatives to talk about their parents and childhood, and tape record their comments. Then transcribe the tapes and send copies to aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins. These stories contain a glimpse of the past that would be lost otherwise.
Written by Stephen F. Duncan, Professor, and Kristi McLane, Research Assistant, School of Family Life, Brigham Young University.
- Duncan, S. F. (1999). Building family strengths (MT 9405). Bozeman, MT: Montana State University Extension Service.
- Duncan, S. F. (1994). The activity book: Activities for building family strengths (EB 128). Bozeman, MT: Montana State University Extension Service.
- Duncan, S.F. (2000). Practices for building marriage and family strengths. In D. C. Dollahite (Ed.), Strengthening our families: An in-depth look at the proclamation on the family (pp. 295-303). Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World emphasizes that spouses have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and their children, and to honor their marital vows with complete fidelity. It speaks of covenants made in holy temples that bind families together for eternity. This is the language of commitment. Elder James E. Faust taught, "Some may find it strong doctrine, but I quote again from Alma in the Book of Mormon: 'And again the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed.' (Alma 43:47)".1 He added, "What seems to distinguish a successful family is that the members... don't give up. They never quit. They hang together through hardships and death and other problems". Elder Bruce C. Hafen added, "We see each other at our best, and our worst, in the closeness of family life. In the worst of moments, you might wonder how you can even live with them. But in the best moments, you know that you can't live without them".4
The covenant of marriage is deserving of a special kind of commitment. The Lord said, "Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else" (D&C 42:22). Commenting on these verses, President Spencer W. Kimball said, "The words 'none else' eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes preeminent in the life of the husband or wife, and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse".5 Commitments based on eternal covenants transcend feelings of love, which may wax and wane, enabling and encouraging us to stay devoted to one another even during the hard times. As Elder Bruce C. Hafen commented, "When troubles come, the parties to a contractual marriage seek happiness by walking away. They marry to obtain benefits and will stay only as long as they're receiving what they bargained for. But when troubles come to a covenant marriage, the husband and wife work them through. . . . Contract companions each give 50 percent; covenant companions each give 100 percent. Marriage is by nature a covenant, not just a private contract one may cancel at will".3
- Faust, J. E. (1991, October). Where is the church? Ensign 64-67. Retrieved July 2003.
- The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles. (1995, November). The family: A proclamation to the world. Ensign 102. Retrieved July 2003.
- Hafen, B. C. (1996, November). Covenant marriage. Ensign 26-28. Retrieved July 2003.
- Hafen, B. C. (1999, October). Happy endings. New Era 44-47. Retrieved July 2003.
- Kimball, S. W. (1972). Faith precedes the miracle. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.