In 1837, Joseph Smith counseled his brother, Hyrum, whose wife, Jerusha, had recently died after the birth of her sixth child, “that it was the will of the Lord that he marry again and take as a wife a young English convert, Mary Fielding by name” (see "Life of Joseph F. Smith," by Joseph Fielding Smith Deseret News Press, 1938).
The woman chosen by the Lord to stand at Hyrum’s side was a refined, independent, intelligent woman, raised and educated in cosmopolitan England. She was a fairly recent convert but had a deep and abiding testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their love story and the faith and sacrifices they endured for the gospel are explored in a chapter in my forthcoming book, "Extraordinary Courage: Women Empowered by the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
While that chapter focuses on the blessings that came because of Mary’s enduring faith and willingness to obey God, there is another important lesson that can be taken from Joseph’s commission to his brother and to Mary. We can discern God’s charge to individuals — where opportunity is available — to marry, to bring children into this life and to raise those children up “unto the Lord.”
While this is a tender topic for many individuals who yearn to be married yet are not, it is still important to understand that the Lord has counseled his followers to actively seek a spouse and to marry. Perhaps a good place to begin to understand this is the Lord’s explanation as to his purposes for mankind: “For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). God seeks our salvation. He assists us by introducing us to light and truth, the principles of the gospel, and by obedience to his commandments we inherit eternal life.
We read in Genesis that under God’s direction the earth was created. His last, and greatest creation, a human, although at this time only a man, had been placed on earth.
This was not enough and, “the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18). Woman was created, and Adam’s expansive vision allowed him to understand God’s purposes, not only for himself but for all mankind.
“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24, emphasis added). This commission is consistently reiterated throughout the scriptures. For example, in the New Testament, Paul teaches in his epistle to the Corinthian Saints, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11).
Not only is marriage central to the Lord’s purposes in effecting the salvation of his Saints, but temple marriage and faithfulness in keeping the covenants entered into with God is requisite for eternal life with God and Christ (see Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-21).
Will all worthy individuals marry in this life? No. Some faithful and devoted individuals will not have this opportunity. Yet they have the promise that no blessings will be denied them.
Hyrum and Mary did not know one another well. But both were good, faithful, obedient members of the church. Both recognized the importance of marriage, of loyalty, of loving and serving one another. They married. They had children of their own.
They fulfilled their commission, as described in our day in "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," “Marriage between man and woman is essential to His (God’s) 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. Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, (and) observe the commandments of God. Husbands and wives — mothers and fathers — will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”
A last consideration: In many societies today, a request for marriage is the prerogative of a man. This dynamic often leaves women who desire to marry without the opportunity to do so. Conversely, this condition demands that men exercise their prerogative to actively pursue and secure marriage.
Kristine Frederickson writes on issue-oriented topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World." Her views do not necessarily represent those of BYU.