One of the best forms of conflict prevention for the couples…was having a shared sacred vision and purpose. Shared vision helped to reduce marital conflict by decreasing stress levels in marriage and by unifying marital partners. (David, C, Dollahite, Lambert, and M Nathaniel. “How Religiosity Helps Couples Prevent, Resolve, and Overcome Marital Conflict.” Family Relations 55.4 (2006): 439-449)
Studies have shown that having a religious foundation behind a marriage can improve its chances for success. One aspect of this foundation is the shared sacred vision. Couples who share a common religious belief also share a common vision of how God wants life to be lived. This allows them to start from a shared viewpoint, which, from the start, eliminates some disagreements.
Values are often ingrained into a person’s identity and self-image from early childhood. They are often deeply held and, when a person feels strongly about them, ignoring them can bring about a sense of loss or discomfort, and cause one to resent the person who forced them to live contrary to his heart. For this reason, a couple which shares values starts from a common place and is not asked to put aside deeply held values and traditions for another person have a greater chance of maintaining a strong relationship.
When problems arise, two people who share common sacred vision will turn to the same sources for advice and comfort. When both can turn to the scriptures and study them for a solution, or turn to a church leader for advice and have faith in that leader, it increases the likelihood they will use the advice and trust it to work. For instance, John and Mary are struggling with how to set priorities for their lives. They both came to the marriage with certain things that were very important to them, and now want to continue them. Knowing they need to come to an agreement, they decide to begin reading the scriptures each day, noting whenever they teach what our priorities should be. They also pour over the teachings of their own church leaders, looking for clues. After a time, they study what they’ve gathered, talk it over, make some choices, and then pray. They agree to trust the results of their prayers, because both have long since learned to trust God when there are hard decisions to make. Had one of them not had a testimony of prayer, the religious spouse might have prayed and wanted to follow God’s advice. Then, if her spouse, using only logic, had protested, she would have resented her inability to keep the commandments of God, and conflict would have intensified.
Another aspect of sacred vision is an understanding of God’s vision for marriage. Marriage was created by God and He made the rules for it. Mormon beliefs include an understanding that marriage is for eternity, not just for this life. Because of this, a couple that believes this will work harder at their marriage, knowing that if it is meant to last forever, they are going to have to work very hard to create a relationship that can last that long. They are motivated to look past small difficulties and work on large ones, because they share a vision that their marriage can last forever, and is a part of their spiritual progression.
Elder F. Burton Howard explained how this concept strengthens a marriage:
First, an eternal marriage is eternal. Eternal implies continuing growth and improvement. It means that man and wife will honestly try to perfect themselves. It means that the marriage relationship is not to be frivolously discarded at the first sign of disagreement or when times get hard. It signifies that love will grow stronger with time and that it extends beyond the grave. It means that each partner will be blessed with the company of the other partner forever and that problems and differences might as well be resolved because they are not going to go away. Eternal signifies repentance, forgiveness, long-suffering, patience, hope, charity, love, and humility. All of these things are involved in anything that is eternal, and surely we must learn and practice them if we intend to claim an eternal marriage.
Second, an eternal marriage is ordained of God. This means that the parties to the marriage covenant agree to invite God into their marriage, to pray together, to keep the commandments, to keep wants and passions within certain limits that the prophets have outlined. It means to be equal companions and to be just as true and pure outside the home as inside the home. That is part of what ordained of God means. (F. Burton Howard, “Eternal Marriage,” Ensign, May 2003, 92)
The eternalness of marriage is what forms the foundation of the sacred vision Mormons have for their marriage. In your own marriage, what forms your sacred vision? If you don’t have one, it is never too late to develop one. Consider sitting quietly with your spouse and outlining, together, your sacred vision of your marriage. Set in writing what values you share and what marriage actually means to the two of you in the life-long and eternal view of the covenant you’ve made. Then decide how that vision will impact the choices you make. Where will you turn when you face a challenge? Who will you trust and how will you make your choices? How important will the sacred vision be when you are making choices? Once you have done this work, it can serve as a guideline for the future and prevent many of the problems that arise when two people don’t choose their sacred values until they are in the middle of a crisis.
Marriage is the foundation of your home and of society. It is worth the effort involved in creating and living by a sacred vision.