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A True Temple Marriage

Audio: "A True Temple Marriage"
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Good morning, Stefani and I are delighted to be with you today. The campus of BYU-Idaho is such a sacred place. It is sacred not only because of the legacy of consecration that defines this university, but also because of the way your time here can help shape your future and divine destiny. Indeed, it is your future for which all the concentrated efforts of this university are given. Quite simply, your future matters. It matters to you personally of course, but it also matters so very much to the Lord, to His Church, to your family, and in many ways to the entire world.

So how can you best prepare for that future? Echoing the remarks that President Meredith shared with you at the beginning of this semester, I would encourage you to look to the teachings of our living prophet and “begin with the end in mind.” [1] In his first public address as president and prophet, President Russell M. Nelson stood on the grounds of the Salt Lake Temple and taught:

As a new Presidency, we want to begin with the end in mind. For this reason, we’re speaking to you today from a temple. The end for which each of us strives is to be endowed with power in a house of the Lord, sealed as families, faithful to covenants made in a temple that qualify us for the greatest gift of God—that of eternal life. [2]

In our most recent general conference, President Dallin H. Oaks further taught,

God’s plan, founded on eternal truth, requires that exaltation can be attained only through faithfulness to the covenants of an eternal marriage between a man and a woman in the holy temple, which marriage will ultimately be available to all the faithful. [3]

What a glorious truth to contemplate that our Father in Heaven’s plan will give all of His children the opportunity to form an eternal marriage and to qualify for eternal life where we can live with and like our Heavenly Parents. While none of us know the exact timing of when we will personally receive these blessings, the faithful “wait upon the Lord” [4] and trust in His promises.

With these inspired truths in mind, I would like to talk to you today about how you can “begin with the end in mind” as you prepare for your future marriage and family relationships. In particular, I would like to discuss why each of us can have complete trust in the Lord’s divine design for marriage, and that as we each strive to create a true temple marriage we can have deep confidence that we are building our families upon a “sure foundation,” even the “rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God.” [5]

Now, why do I use the phrase “a true temple marriage”? I say this because it is very important for each of us to have a full and proper understanding of what is meant by the term “a temple marriage.”

When I was in graduate school many years ago, our third child, Lindsey, was born. And I invited several of my classmates to come to church with us for her baby blessing, and to come to our little home afterward for refreshments. In our home, my good friend John saw a picture of the Salt Lake Temple on our wall.

He asked me, “Jason, what is this a picture of?” I explained, “That is where Stefani and I were married” He then exclaimed, “Wow, how much did it cost you to rent that wedding chapel?”

As someone not of our faith, John saw the temple as simply the location of our marriage. That may be understandable for him. But I worry that sometimes even those of us who should know better fall into this way of thinking, mistakenly believing that a “temple marriage” simply refers to where a marriage takes place.

My dear young friends, the central message I wish to convey to you today is that a true temple marriage is a kind of marriage, not simply the location of a marriage. More fully, a true temple marriage is a pattern or a design for marriage. In fact, the proclamation on the family teaches us that a true temple marriage is one that is “established and maintained” according to God’s “divine design” for marriage and families. [6] To borrow President Nelson’s phrase, a true temple marriage is a “higher and holier way” [7] to be married.

Now, why is it so important to understand that a true temple marriage is a unique and divinely created type of marriage? One reason is that we don’t always explicitly distinguish between different types of marriages. When someone tells you they are getting married, you don’t typically say, “Oh, that’s great—what kind of marriage are you going to have?” But the truth is that different couples marry for different reasons, have different priorities, and have different patterns of interaction. In many ways, the primary purpose of my talk today is to ask you to deeply consider the question, “What kind of marriage are you going to have?”

Another reason why it is important to think deeply about different kinds of marriages is that many people today are becoming concerned that marriage is fragile and unpredictable. I have been teaching the “Marriage Prep” and “Eternal Family” classes at BYU for more than 20 years now and I have regularly asked my students, “How many of you have heard that there is a 50% divorce rate in our society?” Nearly every hand in every class goes up. Perhaps you have heard this statistic too. Unfortunately, because of statistics like this, far too many people mistakenly believe that their own chances for marriage success are a 50-50 coin toss.

Is this true? Is marriage fragile and unpredictable? My answer to this question is, “What kind of marriage are you talking about?” What I have learned from over 30 years of researching marriages is that different kinds of marriages have different profiles of risk factors and protective factors, and because of this, the divorce rate varies greatly across different types of marriages. The truth is that many marriages have strong foundations that make them incredibly resilient and enduring.

Another beautiful truth I have learned is that the most important protective factors that contribute to an enduring and flourishing marriage are controllable and fall within the scope of our moral agency. A few years ago, Elder David A. Bednar and Sister Susan K. Bednar taught about the strong ties between moral agency and creating a lasting marriage in a worldwide devotional entitled “A Welding Link.” This title references the chain of generations linked together by marriage and family covenants. Now, I know that no one comes to a devotional talk expecting to get a homework assignment. But, if I can give you one today, I deeply encourage you to watch Elder and Sister Bednar’s devotional. I promise you it will deeply impact your life.

In this devotional, Elder Bednar taught,

A fulfilling and happy marriage is not found; rather, it is created by a covenant-keeping man and woman. . . . it begins with you as you act and press forward with faith in the Savior, continually seek for heavenly help, and righteously exercise your moral agency. You can do it with the Lord’s help. [8]

So, what makes a true temple marriage so unique? A true temple marriage is a different kind of marriage because it has: unique preparations, unique patterns, unique priorities, and unique promises. With the remainder of my time, I would like to discuss each of these features of a true temple marriage and highlight the primary witnesses of living prophets and scriptures that teach us of their truthfulness. And, if you will permit me, I would also like to share with you some of the second witnesses to these truths that I have learned as a marriage researcher. My testimony of the Lord’s divine design for marriage has been deeply strengthened over the years as I have sought learning “by study and also by faith” [9] about what makes marriages flourish.

The first way that a true temple marriage is different is that it involves unique forms of preparation. This preparation gives true temple marriages a different starting point than other marriages. The foundation of a true temple marriage begins long before a couple kneels at an altar in the temple to make covenants with the Lord and each other. It begins with personal preparation by both spouses well before they have even met one another and continues throughout their dating and courtship. This unique preparation involves each of us coming closer to Christ in our own lives by faithfully keeping our baptismal covenants and deepens as each of us expands our covenant relationship with God by making and honoring the covenants of the temple endowment.

In a recent general conference address, President Nelson reviewed the temple recommend questions that assess our readiness to partake of the eternal blessings available in the Lord’s temple. [10] These questions ask each of us to affirm our faith in our Heavenly Father, and our testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His role as our Savior and Redeemer. We affirm our testimony of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and our willingness to sustain the Lord’s chosen prophets, seers, and revelators.

We also affirm that we live the law of chastity and strive to keep the Sabbath day holy, worthily partake of the sacrament, be honest with others, pay a full tithe, and obey the Word of Wisdom. We also affirm our efforts to sincerely repent and to always strive for moral cleanliness in our lives.

After he reviewed these areas of needed personal preparation, President Nelson left each of us with a prophetic blessing, he said,

Individual worthiness to enter the Lord’s house requires much individual spiritual preparation. . . . I testify that such preparatory work brings innumerable blessings in this life and inconceivable blessings for the life to come, including the perpetuation of your family unit throughout all eternity. [11]

Now, does this type of spiritual preparation really make a difference in everyday marriages? The answer to this question is an unequivocal yes! We have the promises of living prophets that these aspects of personal readiness come to us from the Lord and, if sincerely followed, will truly prepare us to have a unique kind of marriage.

And in today’s world, we also have a real-life laboratory where we can witness the truthfulness of these doctrines. In fact, we find remarkable second witnesses for the value of temple standards in the relationship sciences.

For example, at the Wheately Institute at BYU we recently conducted a large study that showed that couples who live the law of chastity while dating go on to have the strongest and happiest marriages.

This study fits within a broad pattern of hundreds of studies that show the benefits of gospel-centered preparation for marriage. For example, despite promising to help couples test-drive their marriage readiness, every study to date has shown that the common practice of couples living together before marriage increases future chances of divorce, it doesn’t lower them. Studies also show that the strongest marriages are the ones where both spouses completely avoid any use of pornography.

I could go on and on citing other studies with similar results. The blessings of preparing for a true temple marriage are real, and sincerely striving to be temple-worthy prepares each of us to have the spiritual maturity and readiness to establish an eternal marriage, aided by the Savior’s help. Striving earnestly for temple worthiness also safeguards us from many of the most prominent threats undermining marriages today, such as selfishness, addictions, infidelity, materialism, digital distractions, spiritual apathy, and other challenges.

I should also point out that studies also provide hope for individuals who may regret previous choices and desire to change the course of their lives for the sake of their future marriage. It is so very true that to repent in the present is to make a new future—and this is always possible through the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Another way that a true temple marriage is different is that it involves unique patterns of daily living. These unique patterns emerge from living in a covenant marriage relationship that invites spouses to love, serve, interact, and communicate with one another in ways that are different than most other marriages in our culture today.

Of course, the defining feature of a true temple marriage is that it is founded on the sacred ordinance of celestial marriage and involves each spouse entering “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage” [12] with God and with each other. Viewing marriage as this type of divine triangle expands our understanding of the nature and meaning of the marriage covenant. Elder Bednar explained,

The Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point in a covenant marriage relationship. Please notice how the Savior is positioned at the apex of this triangle, with a woman at the base of one corner and a man at the base of the other corner. Now consider what happens in the relationship between the man and the woman as they individually and steadily “come unto Christ” and strive to be “perfected in Him” (Moroni 10:32). Because of and through the Redeemer, the man and the woman come closer together. [13]

So, what are the unique daily patterns of living that emerge from spouses cherishing and honoring their eternal marriage covenants? Our time today does not permit a comprehensive answer to this question, but allow me to highlight a few examples that are taught in the proclamation on the family.

The proclamation on the family teaches,

“Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” [14]

True temple marriages are disciple marriages founded on patterns of prayer, scripture study, church attendance, worshiping in the temple, and serving in Church callings.

The proclamation on the family also states that husbands and wives “are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” Speaking on the doctrine of equal partnership in marriage, President Gordon B. Hinckley beautifully taught,

In the marriage companionship there is neither inferiority nor superiority. The woman does not walk ahead of the man; neither does the man walk ahead of the woman. They walk side by side as a son and daughter of God on an eternal journey. [15]

The family proclamation also teaches that marriage covenants involve husbands and wives loving and caring for each other and for their children, spouses honoring their marital vows with complete fidelity, and spouses faithfully fulfilling family responsibilities.

Again, do these patterns really make a difference in everyday marriages? Yes, these patterns are given to us by the Lord to provide us with real how-to help in creating a loving marriage that will be blessed with the strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit in our relationships.

We also have the second witness of literally hundreds of studies that confirm that flourishing marriages are indeed founded on patterns of shared decision-making, devoted commitment, patterns of mature love, sincere forgiveness, and the shared religious devotion of spouses.

For example, at the Wheatley Institute at BYU, we recently conducted a study involving more than 16,000 people living in 11 different countries to examine how different levels of religious participation influenced their lives and family relationships. We found that religious participation has profound benefits in people’s marriages and family relationships—and the greatest benefits are experienced by those who actively engage in home-centered religious practices, such as family prayer and reading scriptures, in addition to regularly attending religious services. And yes—behind the scenes we referred to this as the Come, Follow Me study!

And just last month, we also published a new study where we found that couples who are flourishing in their marriages are significantly more likely than other couples to engage in proactive behaviors such as spending meaningful time together, regularly engaging in acts of kindness, and participating in regular maintenance behaviors to improve their relationship.

In sum, striving to live our covenants every day really matters, and patterns of gospel living truly strengthen marriage and family relationships in profound ways.

Another way that a true temple marriage is different from other types of marriage is that it involves unique priorities for the spouses. These unique priorities center around the formation of an eternal family, which gives marriage a deep and sacred purpose that transcends personal pursuits or worldly goals.

Elder L. Tom Perry taught my wife Stefani and me about the proper priorities of a true temple marriage over 30 years ago when he performed our sealing in the Salt Lake temple. Now, you may be wondering, how did you know Elder Perry? That’s the interesting part of the story: we didn’t know Elder Perry personally, and we had never met him before our wedding day. So how did he end up being our sealer?

Well, at that time, my father-in-law, Dennis Wood, worked as the director of government relations for US-West, the old phone company in Salt Lake City. A few weeks prior to our wedding, my father-in-law’s supervisor, who was not a member of the Church, came into his office and asked him if his daughter’s wedding was going to be in a temple. When my father-in-law confirmed that it was, his supervisor surprised him and said, “I have a community board meeting this afternoon and Tom Monson will be there—I’ll ask him if he will do your daughter’s wedding!” My father-in-law quickly told him that he shouldn’t do that, and that Elder Monson has a very busy schedule. His supervisor simply responded, “I’m going to do it.”

The next morning, the supervisor returned and said, “Well, I talked to Tom Monson, and he said he is going to be out of town on the day of your daughter’s wedding. But Tom Perry was there, and he said he’ll do it!” Even on the morning of our sealing, Stefani and I weren’t quite sure if it was really going to happen. But, sure enough, as we were sitting in the sealing room, in walked Elder Perry. After greeting us and our families, he turned to my wife with an unforgettable grin and said, “Stefani, what are you going to do the first time you walk into the kitchen and find a child covered from head to toe in strawberry jam?”

Now, that may seem like a bit of an odd thing to say to a bride on her wedding day—and not just because it involved a child covered in jam. Why was Elder Perry asking us about our children when we weren’t even married yet? I know now that it was because he wanted us to begin our marriage with the end in mind, and he was inviting us to see our marriage in an expanded and eternal way.

Elder Perry then opened the scriptures to us and read from Doctrine and Covenants 88:118, which reads: “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.”

Elder Perry taught us that we were gathered that day not just to participate in and witness a wedding, but that we were gathered to create a new eternal family. And that if we would prioritize these eternal truths in our marriage that our relationship with each other would be blessed and strengthened. Stefani and I have been so grateful for that teaching in our lives. In fact, we have had that scripture hanging in the entryway of our home throughout our marriage.

I am so grateful for that expanded vision of marriage. I love my sweet wife Stefani; she is my spouse, my partner, and my best friend. But I also love and admire her as the mother of our children and now as “Grandma Stef” to our grandchildren. And there are no titles I cherish more in this world than being called “Dad” and “Grandpa Jas.”

True temple marriages have unique priorities that give marriage a deeper purpose and sense of partnership. Too often we miss the real source of strength in marriage: striving toward shared goals, the necessary struggles and sacrifices, and the unity that comes from two people carrying out family tasks together. These elements forge the deep bonds that characterize a strong marriage.

To wrap up, I’d like to share with you one word of counsel and one final unique feature of true temple marriages.

First a word of council for those you of who are single and dating. While it is very important and helpful to “begin with the end in mind” as you set your goals for future marriage and family life, I don’t recommend this phrase as your motto for first dates!

Our Church leaders are encouraging you as young adults to collectively create a dating culture that involves simple and frequent dates that allow for two people to get to know one another in a one-on-one situation. If you are going to create a culture together of frequent dating, you must establish the mutual expectation—between the two people, their friends, and everyone in the YSA ward—that “to go on a date is not to imply a continuing commitment.” [16] Trying to determine if a relationship is marriage-ready on a first date can be very counter-productive; it’s like turning a jar lid the wrong way! As you give yourself and others the chance to simply go on dates and get to know each other better, you will create a shared dating culture that will ultimately help more mature marriages naturally emerge in time.

Now in closing, permit me to share a beautiful example of a true temple marriage that can be an inspiration to all of us and provides us with one additional unique feature of a true temple marriage—and that is unique promises.

I have been so touched this past year as Elder Jeffery R. Holland has shared with us reflections on his marriage with his sweet eternal companion Sister Patricia Holland, who, as you know, passed away this summer. I was particularly touched by Elder Holland’s personal reflections recently when he rededicated the St. George Utah Temple—the temple where he and Sister Holland were sealed together over 60 years ago. Just a mile from his wife’s grave, Elder Holland said,

We’ve just been out to the graveside of my beloved wife, and it’s the first time I’ve been back since she was buried, so I’m filled with a lot of emotion and a lot of happiness. . . . I’m planning on eternity—I’m planning on the promises of this temple. [17]

We need to try to be outside the temple the way we are inside the temple. . . . We need to remember the pledges and the promises and the hopes and the dreams. If we could take those outside the temple, we’d change the world. [18]

My dear friends, I add my simple testimony to Elder Holland’s. I am also planning on eternity and planning on the promises of the temple for my marriage. I share with you my witness that the promises and blessings of the temple can indeed change the world—starting with your own marriage and family relationships. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Alvin F. Meredith III, “Begin with the End in Mind,” BYU-Idaho Speeches, Jan. 9, 2024,

[2] Russell M. Nelson, “As We Go Forward Together,” Liahona, April 2018,

[3] Dallin H. Oaks, “Kingdoms of Glory,” Liahona, Nov. 2023,

[4] 2 Nephi 8:5; Isaiah 51:5.

[5] Helaman 5:12.

[6] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Gospel Library.

[7] Russell M. Nelson, “Peacemakers Needed,” Liahona, May 2023,

[8] David A. Bednar with Susan K. Bednar, “A Welding Link,” Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, Sept. 10, 2017,

[9] Doctrine and Covenants 88:118.

[10] Russell M. Nelson, “Closing Remarks,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2019,

[11] Russell M. Nelson, “Closing Remarks.”

[12] Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–2.

[13] David A. Bednar, “Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Liahona, June 2006,

[14] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Gospel Library.

[15] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Personal Worthiness to Exercise the Priesthood,” Ensign, July 2002.

[16] Dallin H. Oaks, “Dating versus Hanging Out,” Ensign, June 2006,

[17] Tad Walch, “‘I’m planning on eternity’: President Holland rededicates historic St. George Utah Temple,” Deseret News, Dec. 10, 2023,

[18] David Noycee, “In an unexpected ‘crowning moment,’ LDS apostle Jeffrey Holland rededicates a historic temple in his hometown,” The Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 10, 2023,