There are few things that prophets condemn more forcefully than unfaithfulness to your spouse. Here are the words of the prophet Malachi as they appear in a contemporary English translation of the Bible:
You have broken your promise to the wife you married when you were young. She was your partner, and you have broken your promise to her, although you promised before God that you would be faithful to her. Didn’t God make you one body and spirit with her? What was his purpose in this? It was that you should have children who are truly God’s people. So make sure that none of you breaks his promise to his wife. “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel. “I hate it when one of you does such a cruel thing to his wife. Make sure that you do not break your promise to be faithful to your wife.”Malachi 2:14-16, Good News Translation
Two phrases in particular stick out for me:
- “She was your partner.” (The King James Version says, “Yet is she thy companion.”) God expects married partners to treat each other as equals and to rely upon one another.
- “Didn’t God make you one body and spirit with her? (King James says, “Did he not make one?”) When God said that a married couple “shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), He meant it. He meant that He wanted us to fuse our lives together, to stop thinking of ourselves as individuals, and to start operating as a team.
The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob delivered a similar warning to his people:
I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.
And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.
For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction.Jacob 2:31-33
What does it mean to be faithful to your spouse? We might think it means specifically not to commit adultery, but there is so much more to it. Faithfulness implies loyalty, support, and unity. It implies that we are “all in,” that we prioritize the relationship, and that we care about our spouse’s well-being and happiness.
I clearly remember a stern rebuke delivered by President Gordon B. Hinckley to men who would abandon their families:
The tragedy is that some men are ensnared by their own foolishness and their own weakness. They throw to the wind the most sacred and solemn of covenants, entered into in the house of the Lord and sealed under the authority of the holy priesthood. They set aside their wives who have been faithful, who have loved and cared for them, who have struggled with them in times of poverty only to be discarded in times of affluence.“Our Solemn Responsibilities,” General Conference, October 1991
President Hinckley asked, “Do I sound harsh and negative?” Then he said, “Yes, I feel that way as I deal with case after case and have done so over a period of time.”
But later in the same talk, he painted a picture of the way things ought to be:
How beautiful is the marriage of a young man and a young woman who begin their lives together kneeling at the altar in the house of the Lord, pledging their love and loyalty one to another for time and all eternity. When children come into that home, they are nurtured and cared for, loved and blessed with the feeling that their father loves their mother. In that environment they find peace and strength and security. Watching their father, they develop respect for women. They are taught self-control and self-discipline, which bring the strength to avoid later tragedy.
The years pass. The children eventually leave the home, one by one. And the father and the mother are again alone. But they have each other to talk with, to depend on, to nurture, to encourage, and to bless. There comes the autumn of life and a looking back with satisfaction and gladness. Through all of the years there has been loyalty, one to the other. There has been deference and courtesy. Now there is a certain mellowness, a softening, an effect that partakes of a hallowed relationship. They realize that death may come any time, usually to one first with a separation of a season brief or lengthy. But they know also that because their companionship was sealed under the authority of the eternal priesthood and they have lived worthy of the blessings, there will be a reunion sweet and certain….
This is the way our Father in Heaven would have it. This is the Lord’s way. He has so indicated. His prophets have spoken of it.
This week, I have had a remarkable opportunity to support my wife. For months, she has been leading a large project which has come to fruition this week. It’s been a privilege to watch her lead the project so capably, and it has been a privilege this week to provide support in multiple ways. It’s always a good feeling to serve others, and it’s an especially good feeling to serve your own spouse!
Today, I will be faithful to my wife. I will remember that our Father in Heaven wants us to build a strong and unified marriage. I will serve her, support her in her efforts, and be loyal to her.