Avoiding “the destroying angel of domestic bitterness”

I have always been amazed by President Hinckley’s declaration that in 67 years of marriage he had no recollection of ever quarreling with his wife. See Gordon B. Hinckley, Slow to Anger (Oct. 2007) (“I have no recollection of ever having a quarrel with her.”). Even though I have been married for far less time, and President Hinckley’s achievement seems unattainable at times. So when President Hinckley speaks about how to build a house of harmony and peace, he speaks with prophetic authority and with considerable expertise. And we should listen closely

In April 1971, President Hinckley entitled his address “Except the Lord Build the House.” 

President Hinckley begins by talking about a tragedy that he witnessed. A couple that he had sealed in the temple had come to him seeking a divorce. What had started out with great promise had become scarred and tarnished like ” a vicious March storm that suddenly follows the warmth of the first soft day of spring.” They had three children, but had decided that it was better to get divorced than “to expose[] the children to their constant quarreling” and the “deep wounds that will leave ugly scars.”

President Hinckley spoke in the backdrop of rising divorce rates and increasing juvenile crime, but he also noted that even where divorce is difficult to obtain, ” the same disease is evident–the same nagging, corrosive evils of domestic misery, of separation, of abandonment, and of immoral relationships.” Therefore, instead of focusing on the problems, President Hinckley spoke of the “prevention of such tragedy.”


He suggested four cornerstones upon which one could build a home that would diminish the perils of married life, allow love to increase and strengthen in time, bless the lives of children, and lead to happiness in this life and in the eternities.

The First is “respect for one another.” This respect must come from a realization that we are all sons and daughters of God and therefore “deserving of forbearance, of patience, of understanding, of courtesy, of thoughtful consideration.” President Hinckley noted that marriage can become “commonplace and even dull.” Therefore, one of the best ways to help let love flourish in marriage is to “occasionally . . . reflect upon the fact” that our companion is a child of God “engaged [together] on the great creative process of bringing to pass [our] eternal purposes.”

I believe that this advice is truly life changing. If we can look at our companions and see the eternal good in them, we will avoid harsh words and we will be motivated to kindness.

President Hinckley’s words reminded me of a favorite quote from C.S. Lewis in his The Weight of Glory: ““It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.”

The second piece of advice President Hinckley gave is closely related to the first: “The soft answer. President Hinckley noted that “[t]here is need for a vast amount discipline in marriage, not of one’s companion, but of one’s self.” As I wrote about last week, anger is such a corrosive influence in marriage, and President Hinckley’s advice hit close to home.

The third cornerstone is “[h]onest with God and with [o]ne another. President Hinckley focused on the problems that arise from financial trouble. He suggested that if we place the payment of our tithes and offerings first, we will avoid “the cankering selfishness that leads to so much strain in domestic affairs,” and “will deal more graciously more honestly, and more generously” with those we love. I have a strong testimony that paying tithing consistently brings heaven’s blessings and helps to put financial needs in proper perspective, and so I strongly concurred with President Hinckley’s advice.

Finally, as the fourth cornerstone, President Hinckley offered Family Prayer. He noted that “no single practice . . . will have a more salutary effect upon your lives than the practice of kneeling together as you being and close each day.” Such prayer “will bring peace into … hearts and a joy into … lives that can come from no other source.”

President Hinckley promised that great blessings will flow to children raised in such a home “where dwells the spirito f the lord. “[A] spirit of respect will grow in [the] hearts” of those who reside there and they will “mature with faith in the living God.” And most significantly, “[t]he destroying angel of domestic bitterness will pass you by and you will know peace and love throughout your lives which may be extended into all eternity.”

As a parent of a one and a half year old daughter whom I love more than I can express, and with another girl on the way, I desperately want to claim these promised blessings. I too can think of “no greater blessing.” And I know that those blessings are attainable by building upon the foundation that President Hinckley described.


Other Posts based on this session of conference

Nathaniel Givens The Mormon Way to Love
G The Fall of My Rome
J. Max Wilson LDS Conference April 1971- Broken and Contrite Empires
Ralph Hancock Progress or Decline
Michelle Linford Treasure

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