It is indeed an honor to speak to
you. I have enjoyed a wonderful marriage of 33 years, and we’ve had a lot of
great experiences together. But beyond that, I have been doing this marriage
and family therapy for most all of that time, and so after teaching my marriage
class and family and stress class and family relations class at Weber State, I
go over in the later afternoon and evening and meet with couples. And I’ve been
doing that for a lot of years. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger
picture, and one of my purposes today is to help you get a vision of this
bigger picture and of this institution of marriage, of which you join when you
I want to begin by saying it seems
like 33 years is a long time, which is longer than I was single. And we’ve had
a lot of great experiences, but I want to share with you—one of my privileges
is serving on the Utah Commission on Marriage. And so, for the last seven or eight
years, I’ve served on that commission, and was just released as the chair of
that commission. And one of the things that we do is to recognize couples who
have extraordinary marriages as well as long-term marriages. And I want to
introduce to you a very important theme couple for me and for my message to you
today. And they are Ken and Lola Olsen. Aren’t they the cutest couple that
you’ve ever seen? And I had the opportunity to take this photograph. They have
been married for 70 years. That means, Pam, we only have 37 more years to go.
I want to tell you a little bit
about Ken and Lola Olsen. They live in Davis County, and I’ll bet that there
are people—would you raise your hand if you personally know Ken and Lola from
Davis County? Do we have anyone? That surprises me, because they have touched
so many lives in their lifetime together. They have 7 children, 20
grandchildren, and 35 great-grandchildren. And I would like to suggest that
there are 35 great-grandchildren that are very fortunate to go over to Grandma
Lola’s house and Grandpa Ken’s house. Because you can see in this picture—the
reason that I love this picture so much is, one, to honor the 70 years. But
it’s not just 70 years. You can see the adoration that they have for each
other. They love each other, they laugh together, they have struggled together,
they had these children together and grandchildren together and
great-grandchildren together. And I personally have, in my office, their photo
sitting on my office, just above the view of my computer. So I get to look up
and glance at them, and I have made them my poster child, my vision of what is
possible with Pam and me.
Come on up here for a minute. I’m
a pretty lucky guy, to be married to Pam, and one of these days, we’re going to
be on a poster. All right? We are going to enjoy the blessings of having spent
all of these years together. And I can tell you already, with our five children
and eight grandchildren—in fact, we had two of them sleep over last night—that
this is a wonderful journey. And I am so grateful for those lives, those little
people’s lives in our world, and I bring Ken and Lola to you today—I know,
you’re thinking, “How did he get someone like that?”—I’m trying to bring to you
the vision of this. So often when we get married—we just had our last daughter
marry in May—it is this thought of planning a wedding, and that somehow the
wedding is the marriage. And it’s a wonderful start to the marriage, and it’s
even more wonderful when it’s made under covenant with your Father in Heaven.
And He will bless you for time and all eternity.
But sometimes I think that we
forget, in the excitement of the wedding, that this really is a long-term
process, to be married, and that we really are joining—I mean, in the
excitement of that wedding day, and I can remember sitting down in the temple,
signing the witness form for our daughter to get married, and then coming in
and signing—I don’t even think they know what they were signing. But they were
signing up, at that time, to the institution of marriage. And I want to talk
about that today.
To begin with, I want to go back
to another story. This summer, we went up to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and we ran
the Snake River. We had a big raft and a friend that took us down, and we got
onto the raft and we’re floating out in this beautiful, beautiful mountain
setting, and we’re floating down the river, and it was getting a little bit
boring, and so we had these giant squirt guns that you would fill up and you
would shoot at the other rafts. So we created a little excitement and a little
havoc, a little pushing away and splashing on, and it was all beautiful fun.
But as we got down the river, we started to hit rapids, and all of a sudden you
find yourself hanging on a little stronger. We’re all laughing, especially us
guys, being brave—“That wasn’t that bad”—and then we came upon a bend and
turned into the Big Kahuna. How many of you have survived the Big Kahuna? Let
me tell you about the Big Kahuna. You’re in this large—seemingly large—boat,
raft, we’re hanging on, and the guide tells us to hang on particularly tight.
Well, what happens is that you’re cruising along and it starts to get rough,
and then it goes straight down, and then it goes straight up.
Now, I did not realize that the
people in front of me would be landing on me, and I’m holding on me with all of
my heart, and they’re landing on me and this silly, little joyful squeals
become screams of terror. We come up over the top—I was sure we’d go backwards.
We didn’t, and then we came down, and we headed right down again, and then
right back up again. And it was so scary, because you realized, whoa, I am such
a little person compared to the power of that river. We made it through, it
smoothed out for a little while, and we count heads, and everyone had survived.
And it was a humbling experience,
because in life, we’re going to face some Great Kahunas. We’re going to deal
with some things in our life that are challenging and are difficult. Your
marriage is wonderful and beautiful and celebratory as it is at that wedding,
there is going to come a time when you will be challenged. And you will be
challenged with the Great Kahunas of life.
You know, Ken and Lola look so
cute and look so happy, and they are. But I would like to share with you that
they have endured the death of a son. They have raised a special-needs son.
They had their house burn down. They’ve survived two types of cancer, had two
strokes, and continue to deal with other physical ailments that they have to
deal with. I don’t think you would call them lucky, on one hand, and yet, as
you read their bio information, they share that their key to success is unity
in all things. They work together on the same purpose and goals in every aspect
of life, such as finances, childrearing, business, religion, etc. They always
discuss everything and come to a unified decision before doing anything. Even
after 70 years of marriage, they are always together, and looking forward to
several more happy years.
I want to share with you today,
keeping them in mind because for me, they sit in my office as an inspiration,
as a vision of where Pam and I can go. One of the most important things that
can happen when you kneel at that altar or are blessed to be married to one
another, is that you make a commitment. And I want to talk to you today about
I would like to suggest a book by
Scott Stanley. And this book is called The
Power of Commitment. And if you thought you understood commitment, you
ought to read this book, to really understand the depth—I’m going to try to
help you with some concepts today. But this would be a good read, to understand
the true power of commitment in our lives, and in our marriage in particular.
There are two types, Stanley
explains, of commitment. The first type he calls dedication. The dedication
commitment—this is the one where you’re so excited to be together and you love
each other, and you’re devoted to each other, and it gives you this motivation
to see to the future and to love and to fill each other’s needs and to be the
wife I want to be and the husband I want to be, and I am dedicated and I am
devoted to this person for the rest of my life and for time and for all
eternity. And that dedication commitment is a wonderful part. I think when you
look at Ken and Lola, they love each other. They like each other! They enjoy
each other. They’re there for each other, and they feel of the love and
nurturing of each other. And that’s what makes the Great Kahunas doable. And
that’s what makes that time together so enjoyable. And so there is that
dedication commitment. And I commit to you.
But I would also suggest that
sometimes dedication commitment, when the Big Kahunas come one after another,
and the excitement of the wedding and the joy of that courtship time and the
familiarity becomes a part—there is another layer of commitment that you are
making on that day of your marriage. And we would call that a constraint
commitment. The constraint commitment, basically, is a sense of obligation—I am
committed and I am obligated. My sweet wife has given 33 years of her life to
me, and I am obligated to take care of her as well. It refers to the costs if
the current course is abandoned. During the Big Kahuna rapids in life, it is
often the constraint commitments that work to help us work it out. “I’m out of
here” probably isn’t in the best welfare of all of the people involved. And as
you get children invested and other people invested in your relationship, it
cannot be “until boredom do we part.” It cannot be until I find someone I would
rather be with. And there’s an interesting social pressure.
We talk about those who might
attack the institution of marriage, but it’s happening in a very subtle way.
Many of you grew up, as I did, in the last few years, watching the show Friends. Isn’t that neat? One of my
favorite characters is Jennifer. I don’t know—what’s her name in the show?
Rachel? She’s a cutie, and she is just full of energy. And these sitcoms show a
bunch of single people together, just enjoying life and having a lot of laughs.
But the research shows that over the course of that program, Jennifer had 32
sexual partners. And in a subtle way, that’s what some would call a good life.
He who dies with the most partners… He usually dies of AIDS, but you know, in
television we don’t get pregnant when we don’t want to, and we don’t get AIDS,
and we just have a good time and people kind of come into our lives and enrich
it. But I would suggest that that’s a dangerous, very subtle marriage.
I tell you what—Ken and Lola have
what they have today, not because they were transients in each other’s lives,
but they were devoted and committed and constrained in that marriage. And yet
it’s interesting—I don’t think Ken and Lola would ever use the word
“constrained,” because when you are dedicated to your marriage, you don’t feel
constrained. In fact, you celebrate those constraints.
But I want to talk a little bit
about those constraints. I believe in marriage, and I don’t want to be divorced,
and I don’t want to see the effects on my children, and financially it’s a
horrible decision for anyone to go through. They don’t want to go through the
pain themselves; they certainly don’t want to go through the legal system and
that legal process. And probably most powerfully, I don’t want to see the pain
of our children. It’s very difficult for a mother or father to do things that
would be contrary to those children’s best interests. And so those constraint
commitments—we are dedicated, but we’re also committed on a second level. You
put those two commitments together and it’s like an epoxy glue, where you mix
the one with the other and it becomes a super glue. It becomes a super bonding
relationship. And it is very important. I think our society is getting away
from committing to things. We tend to lease vehicles, and we trade them in
after a few miles. And that seems to be our norm. And sometimes that thought
pattern diminishes that commitment that we need to have for one another.
So this commitment is really
important. And I want to talk to you about the institution of marriage, and
what it does for us. To begin with, I’d like to share a little story of these
two fish, swimming in the ocean together. They’re swimming along, enjoying
life, and the one fish says to the other fish, “How’s the water?”
The other fish says, “What water?”
You see, if you’ve always lived in water, you don’t even know it’s there. I
would like to suggest that the institution of marriage is probably something
that you haven’t really spent a lot of time pondering. We think of love, we
think of partnership, but there is an institution of marriage that is very,
very important and produces some very wonderful things in our lives if we will
respect it and preserve it. And it’s a very important factor.
One of my intense hobbies—I am an
avid wildlife photographer. And I love to go out and photograph wildlife,
anything from little birds to bull moose, I’m game for. And I love to take
pictures of them. The closer to nature that you get, and you really do get
close to nature when you sit there for a long, long time, waiting for that bird
to land on that branch or that big buck—I got a huge picture of a big buck this
weekend that was just incredible. But as I get close to nature, I begin to
realize that that wildlife depends on the environment. And even though I
perhaps wouldn’t call myself an avid environmentalist, it is obvious that if we
don’t protect the environment, these good things do not survive. If anyone can
just poach whatever they want, shoot whatever they want, disregard the
importance of the water—you know, we all live downstream—and we like to suggest
and say, “You know, that’s just their own business.”
But I would like to suggest to you
that marriage might be between a man and a woman, but it also has a big effect
of the rest of us. There is a study that shows, by Dave Schramm from Utah
State, in a conservative estimate, there is a direct and indirect cost to the
state and federal government each year for the divorces that occur, a cost of
300 million dollars for the state of Utah, in just the cost of these marriages
breaking down. There is a cost of about $18,000 for each of the couples to go
through this process. And I want to go back to that overall environment. We are
affected by the health and by the lack of health of the marriage and the
marriage institution in our state and in our nation. In the Marriage
Commission, our purpose is to help people form and sustain healthy and enduring
If we go back to Ken and Lola,
those 7 children and 20 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren are the result
of a marriage working and sustaining. And interestingly enough, there are some
statistics that suggest that if your grandparents were divorced, it affects the
quality of the marriage—on average, statistically—of the grandchildren’s
quality of marriage. And that’s even if these grandchildren were not alive
before those grandparents got divorced. There is a multi-generational effect of
marriage in the institution of marriage.
I’d like to share some things
about the institution of marriage and how it benefits us. Most of this comes
from a report—actually, it was a hearing before the Congress, of Barbara Defoe
Whitehead. She is the co-director of the National Marriage Project. And she
points out that “marriage is a universal human institution. It performs a
number of key functions in virtually every known society. Marriage helps
organize kinship. It establishes family identity. It regulates sexual behavior.
It attaches fathers to their offspring. It supports childrearing. It channels
the flow of economic resources and the mutual care given between generations.
And it situates individuals within families, kinship groups and communities.”
Perhaps even more important for
me, as a marriage counselor, it creates the context for intimacy, and builds a
sense of belonging among its members. It is this commitment to one another that
allows us to have a secure setting for us to experience this intimacy one with
another, and to be able to predict the future.
I’m going to take you back for
just a minute, give you a little history here. Sometimes we don’t appreciate
that the government is involved in our marriage. What are they doing involved
in our marriage? But we are highly invested in it. I want to take you back to a
little history of caveman. You know, the caveman, he was an interesting
character. Him like sex. And so he thinks he go find a woman—kind of like Brian
Mitchell and Elizabeth Smart, you know? You just find one, take her, and have sex.
Well, the problem with that is
that, number one, it wasn’t mutual consent—in the Brian Mitchell case, and the
age difference, obviously—but it also puts women to a major vulnerability,
because in the jungle when you’re eight months pregnant, it is hard to run from
the saber tooth tigers, okay? There is a vulnerability here. How am I going to
survive and do the things that I need to do now that I’m pregnant? How am I
going to survive when that child is born, because now I have to carry an
additional load running from the saber tooth tiger? And I think eventually the
tribe started to say, the parents started to say, “No, if you like my daughter,
there are some rules here that need to apply.” And the tribe would say, “Yes,
there are some rules that need to apply.” Eventually, churches got into the
picture and said, “You know what? There are some rules that need to apply.” And
as a father of four daughters, I’ll tell you what—there are some rules that
need to apply.
These rules become codified and
they become a part of law, and there are certain things that you’re not going
to be allowed to do, and there are certain things you need to do if you’re
going to decide to be together. And so this institution of marriage regulates
the sexual access to other people, and it protects that couple. It ensured that
not only does the caveman just disappear, but it also ensures that the
cavewoman doesn’t take my son and just disappear—that there is a constraint
commitment that we have made to each other, and that we will be there for each
other through the two strokes, through the cancer, through the difficult child
that we needed to raise that had special needs, and even through the tragic
death of our son, that we will be there for you. This isn’t just caveman
whoopee. This is about becoming devoted and committed to each other.
So what happens when people are
devoted and committed to each other? Well, marriage is good for children.
Statistically, children who come from marriages have advantages emotionally and
educationally. It brings together under one roof a mother and a father who
share a mutual interest in that child’s welfare. Economically, children from
intact families are far less likely to be poor. Educationally, they are far
more likely to stay in school, to get a four-year degree, and to be successful
in their occupation.
Children benefit from the model of
their parents being married. How many of you—I ask my classes this all the
time—how many of you would like to have a marriage like your mother and father
have? Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that wonderful that you came from a model of
an example? You have your own Ken and Lola in your life that will show you how
it is to be done. Isn’t that wonderful?
We also know that marriage is good
for the individual adults—the spouses, the husband and wife. It says that
“married people are better off than those who are not married in a number of
ways. On average, they are happier. They are healthier. They are wealthier.
They enjoy longer lives. They report greater sexual satisfaction than single,
divorced or cohabiting individuals. They live longer. They have better health.”
They have better health because
married men, in particular, are a lot better off. Marriage tends to help men
settle down. This is often due to their wives. It is not good that man should
be left alone for very long. And that care of the wife, and that devotion to
the family, to the commitment, to the children, help men to live less risky
lives and to be more devoted and interested.
Married men earn more money than
do single men with similar education and job histories. Indeed, for men,
marriage reaps as many benefits as education. That’s an interesting thought.
This is just good stuff for us. Marriage strengthens the bonds between fathers
and their children. I think one of the most painful things that I watch is
fathers that do not have that daily access to their children, and children who
do not have that daily access to their fathers. Women gain financially from
marriage, although married women often leave the workforce to care for children
or other relatives, on average, they are still economically better off than
divorced, cohabitating or never-married women. It’s good for everyone involved.
Married women also enjoy their sex
lives more than sexually active single or cohabitating women, a finding the
researchers attribute to women’s greater trust and expectations of marital
monogamy and permanence. It’s where intimacy on all levels can be safe enough
to invest and to give fully, one with another.
Marriage is good for society. It
is certainly important for the institution of raising children. It’s
interesting that when marriages break up or fail to form, the task of
childrearing becomes harder, lonelier and more stressful for parents,
especially those who are single parents. Paternity establishments, child
support, child custody, children’s living arrangements and even their school,
sports, and religious activities, become a matter of government oversight and
enforcement. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be, and that’s why the
Commission of Marriage exists, because the government would like you to
succeed. It is very expensive when it doesn’t work.
But even more than that, I want to
share with you something that you’re probably all very familiar with called The
Proclamation on the Family. It doesn’t go back to the caveman. It goes to the
solemn proclamation that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of
God…God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed
only between a man and woman, lawfully wedded [to be] husband and wife.”
“Husband and wife have a solemn
responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.”
“We call upon responsible citizens
and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to
maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”
The family is ordained of God.
Marriage between man and woman is central to His eternal plan. “Children are
entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father
and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” (The Family: A
Proclamation to the World, 1995)
My brothers and sisters, I come to
you today with this message, that marriage, if you ponder it, is just a little
bit bigger than “just the two of us.” Indeed, you join an institution that is
there to protect you, to bless you, and to help your lives to be healthier and
stronger. I hope that my message today helps you realize that institution of marriage
is very important. It’s what helps us get through the “Big Kahuna.”
But lastly, I would like to
suggest that all of those constraint commitments, all of those legal bonds,
mean nothing—well, they do mean something—but they’re not the focus of Ken and
Lola. Ken and Lola are seventy years into this process because they are
dedicated to it, and they’re dedicated to be there for one another. And I
believe that they really had the power when they made that commitment to one
another and to their Father in Heaven. I bear testimony to you of the importance
and the value of marriage in our lives. Don’t underestimate how important it
is, because all of you, I hope, today, have a vision of Ken and Lola, of Pam
and Randy, of you and your partner, living out a wonderful life where you are
enriched, your children’s lives are enriched, your grandchildren’s lives are
enriched, and the society in which you live is enriched. I bear testimony to
you that marriage is ordained of God, and important to protect and preserve.
And I do this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.