I returned from my first mission shortly before Christmas in December 1970. After spending 2 ½ years on a full time mission, I was ready to return to school, dating and civilian life. I felt a loss of my cherished life in Holland and Belgium, but spent the following 13 months attending Utah State University (USU) in Logan, Utah interrupted by 3 summer months working on the farm. One year after returning home and before returning to school after Christmas vacation in 1971, I received a rather miraculous prompting during a personal prayer that I would meet the girl that I would marry.
The first night back on campus on Tuesday, 4 Jan 1972, I attended a social in my single student Ward. I noticed a tall, attractive, new girl in attendance. I promptly met her using my perfected missionary skills. She had transferred from Southern Utah State College, now Southern Utah University, to start winter quarter at USU. I called her after a few days and invited her on a date. My life changed forever. I knew right away that she was the one for me. The first problem I had was she did not think that I was the one for her, so I had the opportunity to back off and give her time and space while she came to her senses. We were engaged on 18 May 1972 and married 16 Sept 1972; now 42 years ago.
Each of you will have your own unique experience in this matter of marriage. A mission is a place to have faith that the Lord will provide, not the place to worry about getting married. However, I will share some marriage counseling for your future use which is also completely valid to a successful missionary companionship.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians the following statement that is misunderstood and considered inflammatory by many and is often taken as derogatory toward women:
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church…
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Eph 5: 22-13)
The statement of wives submitting to the husband, “as unto the Lord,” must be taken in the context of what is required of the husband. The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. Christ loved the church. Christ was always true and faithful to his friends in the church. He sacrificed and gave of himself, his energy and interest at all times without exception. He gave his life and what more could he give? Elders, your wife is your best friend. As there were no exceptions in Christ’s life, there should be no exceptions in your life, as it pertains to your devotion to your wife. You lay down your life for your wife.
[And for the Sisters] “A woman need have no fear of being imposed upon or being subject to any dictatorial measures or improper demands when her husband is thoughtful, self-sacrificing and worthy. One would think that no intelligent woman would hesitate to submit herself to her own truly righteous husband in everything…” (Spencer W. Kimball)
In my opinion, one of the main reason you work on internalizing Christ-like attributers is to become a worthy married partner. Christ-like attributes are gifts from God so you can develop them only with his help, and they will endear you to your spouse and cement your relationship. A missionary companionship is a great training ground for a marriage companionship.
I spent 1 year of my life looking for the right person. I spent the next 42 years of my life, and still counting, being the right person. That commitment continues. A big part of being the right person is service. When you serve your companion and feel the giving ratio is 90% from you and 10% from your companion, you will be happy. (The truth is when you feel this way, your companion will probably feel the same way in reverse, 90% from the companion and 10% from you.)
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded…
12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?...
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you…
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. (John 13: 4-17)
Companions in marriage or missionary work should give unconditional service. You are deceiving yourself if you serve, sacrifice or perform any action while you have the expectation that your companion should respond with something you want. That is conditional love and cannot be the basis of a good relationship. Sacrifice and service should have no bounds and should be unchanging and given non-conditionally.
For example, if you list the sacrifices, service and actions you have done such as: “I did this and that. I went here and there. I sacrificed whatever.” Essentially it is, “I, I, I.” You are inward looking at what you gave while expecting something in return.
You cannot change someone else. Change happens only after someone recognizes something that does not work in their lives and then resolves to themselves to change. The change itself is a project. It usually takes time for people to change habits and thought patterns. Changing others is not like taking a pill to make the bad behavior go away. In human relations, change often comes slowly.
You live in a throw-away society. You buy food all prepared and throw away the wrappers. You throw away computers and appliances when technology passes them by. We also want instant gratification. If something is not right we expect a pill, therapy or a fix to make it go away, now. Such attitudes are not conducive to a successful companionship. Problems are usually never solved with a transfer. You cannot progress by throwing away your companion or running away from the problems. Change of behavior usually requires patience and understanding while giving unconditional service in lieu of a whiz-bang wonder drug or therapy method that makes it go away immediately.