Beyond Husband and Wife


One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Ruth. It is a beautiful story of love and extended family. In a moment of tragedy, a daughter-in-law turns to her now deceased husband’s mother and pleads to stay with her as part of her family.

I think we all know a version of in-laws quite different than this. Whether this is our own story or the story of a friend. Marrying into a new family can be challenging.  Each family has its own set of values, standards and traditions. Adapting to these differences can take time.



Holidays tend to be the most difficult to sort out with extended family, especially when newly married and the new couple’s traditions have yet to be established.

Who’s family do we celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas with? Do we even dare stay home Christmas morning to watch just our children open presents? Who’s feelings will we hurt if we want to have our own holiday?

Focus on the Family gave some great hints to dealing with holidays and inlaws:

  1. It may be a lot easier for you and your spouse to change what you want for the holidays than for parents to adjust what’s been important to them for many years. Share openly with them some of your ideas and hopes for holiday times, letting them know that you value being with them.
  2. Develop realistic expectations of how the holidays should be spent. Wishful thinking generally leads to hurt feelings and disappointments. Personality differences, physical limitations, and philosophical disagreements don’t disappear just because a particular date on the calendar has arrived. On the contrary, these factors often become more pronounced under stress—and most holidays provide plenty of that.
  3. Holiday gift-giving can be a source of conflict and hurt. While it’s better to give than receive (Acts 20:35), most people seem to prefer a balance of the two. Exchanging presents can easily get out of hand, creating hardship for family members who can’t afford the expense. Try creative options. For example, you might give Christmas or birthday gifts to immediate family members, exchange names for other relatives, or give single gifts to family units. (

There more to extended families than holiday differences and family quirks. Still, some manners and rules help make the transitions with married children.

Consider this advice from’s Random Sampler:

In-Law Etiquette

“As our children married and left home, my wife and I became increasingly aware that, to a surprising degree, we helped determine the quality of the relationship that developed between us and our children’s new families. To the extent that we are generally supportive and respectful of their new family units, we are received warmly in return. Here are some ideas that help foster good relationships between family members and their in-laws” (Hanson, 1997).

  1. Be cheerful visitors
  2. Respect privacy
  3. Talk to both spouses
  4. Extend invitations unconditionally
  5. Discipline grandchildren with great care


While the scriptures teach us that a man should “leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife” (Genesis 2:24), this does  not mean that extended family relationships do not have value.

An Ensign article in October 1986 shared these important scriptural teachings on family relationships:

The scriptures abound with insight into the value of maintaining good extended family relationships. Abraham, for instance, left Ur of Chaldees and took with him his brother’s son Lot to follow the Lord in a new land. (See Gen. 11:31.) During a time of famine, Joseph of Egypt saved the lives of his father, brothers, sister, and their families. (See Gen. 42–47.) Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro, discussed their welfare on at least one occasion: “Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he said.” (Ex. 18:24.) Though he was a prophet, Moses honored his father-in-law and respected his counsel.


We are taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that we all belong to the family of God. For us, this means generations of extended family all belonging to a large family — God’s family.  Thus making each family member an important part of the whole.

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:19.)



When we love and accept our extended families and build upon these eternal family units, we are creating the societies that we will associate with in the world to come.

The Doctrine and Covenants 130:2 “And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.”



Families can be challenging at times. There may even be differing beliefs and opinions. No matter what divisions there may be — love and charity can bridge the differences.

Cleave unto your spouse — and leave room to love, accept and celebrate with extended family. They are the societies you will enjoy in the eternities.




In the words of Ruth, “for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God (Ruth 1:16)













'Yes, I'm the head of the house.'

In the great plan of happiness, both husband and wife have equally powerful

and equally important roles

When God placed Adam upon the earth he gave unto Adam “an help meet”.

Genesis 2:18    And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”

We have come to understand the meaning of the help meet reference by looking into the original Hebrew translation, which means: “adequate for” or “equal to” Adam. Eve was not subordinate or inferior to Adam. She was equal to Adam. Her role held an equal import in God’s plan.

This same principle is true today — husband and wife have an equally important roles.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen, wrote, “In an equal-partner marriage, “love is not possession but participation … part of that co-creation which is our human calling.” With true participation, husband and wife merge into the synergistic oneness of an “everlasting dominion” that “without compulsory means” will flow with spiritual life to them and their posterity “forever and ever” (D&C 121:46). In the little kingdom of a family, each spouse freely gives something the other does not have and without which neither can be complete and return to God’s presence. Spouses are not a soloist with an accompanist, nor are they two solos. They are the interdependent parts of a duet, singing together in harmony at a level where no solo can go” ( Ensign, Aug. 2007).

 In the gospel of Jesus Christ, and within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we teach that the father is to preside in the home.

The Latin definition of the word “preside” means to guard. Other definitions also teachus about this powerful word: to watch over, to govern, to direct.

In an Ensign article in February 2004 Elder  Yasuo Niiyama , Area Authority Seventy Asia North Area, wrote a lovely article about presiding righteously.

“In order to preside righteously in the home, a husband and father must first come to know the doctrines and principles of the restored gospel. Without the gospel, some men refuse to accept the responsibility of being a husband or of becoming a father” (Niiyama, 2004)

A husband and father is the patriarch of the family, but that does not give him authority to order or control. The scriptures are clear on this point:

That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—” D&C 121:36 ,41,42

Just as every husband and father is a patriarch of the family unit, so every wife and mother is matriarch. These two roles should complement, support, and sustain one another. Each role is unique and divine and part of God’s great plan.

We can order our families like the world, where were fight among one another to be right, to be hear, to be in control. Or we can learn to pattern our families and our marriages after the doctrines and principles God has set forth.

In June 2012 Randy Keys wrote a great instructional article about counseling in families. These are his closing remarks,

Building an Eternal Marriage

Couples who struggle with control issues or disagreements over how to handle time, money, children, in-laws, or anything else should consider reassessing the foundational principles they have chosen to follow in their marriage. Can they improve their marriage by establishing a pattern where they counsel together with love unfeigned?

The principles of unity, participation, and presiding in righteousness allow us to reach a proper consensus with our spouse and invite the Spirit into our lives. Applying the virtues of love and kindness will soften many arguments, lead to deeper satisfaction in marriage, and build a relationship that can last through eternity.

There are so many blessings that can come to each member of the family we follow the Lord’s plan for equality in the marriage relationship.