And I, the Lord God, caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; and he slept, and I took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh in the stead thereof; And the rib which I, the Lord God, had taken from man, made I a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said: This I know is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh (Moses 3:21-24).
In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, modern prophets teach us that it is 'by divine design' that 'both a man and a woman are essential for bringing children into mortality and providing the best setting for the rearing and nurturing of children.' A man is not physically complete without a woman, nor is a woman without a man.
Yet the completeness of a husband and wife goes far beyond the physical or procreative powers alone. A man is not spiritually complete without a woman, nor is a woman without a man (see Handbook 2: 1.3.1). The marriage covenants required for exaltation can only be accepted together (D&C 131:1-4). These are not arbitrarily imposed, but rather designed to guide us to become perfect or complete (see Matthew 5:48, footnote b). Through these covenants we become one and the same with our spouse in the eyes of God's law. Procreative acts may be the consummation of the marital covenant, but it is the covenant itself which welds our souls together.
The physical and spiritual unity of a husband and wife can create a depth of feeling beyond what we observe in any other relationship. Adam expressed the closeness he felt with Eve as if she were, "bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh'. These feelings come as we leave behind our single lives and establish our marriages as the first priority. This requires cleaving to each other, which means our striving to keep the covenants we have made to God and each other will be more important than any other person or interest.
President Kimball taught that, "Even the children must take their proper but significant place" (Ensign, Mar. 1976, p. 72). If we will dedicate the necessary time to building a healthy marriage, study after study has shown that a mother and father working together in love and unity will provide the best possible upbringing for their children. In fact, happily married couples are more productive in many aspects of their lives, not just parenting-- the interdependent whole is significantly more effective than the sum of its parts.
Understanding that a married man and women are two parts of one whole helps us see how seemingly selfish actions only damage ourselves as we indirectly attack our own souls. Unfortunately, too many only realize the depth of their spiritual connection with their spouse when it has been severed. Worse than the pain of losing an arm or a leg, divorce is a dismemberment for which there is no medication or prosthesis. Just as none of us are able to regrow a limb or even a hair of our heads without our Father in Heaven, healing after (or hopefully before) divorce can only come through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Our first parents provided an example of a marriage that was the full partnership God intends every marriage to be. After being driven from the Garden of Eden, not unlike the way many of us eventually move away from the free rent and food of our parents' homes, Adam, 'began to till the earth... and to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow... And Eve... did labor with him' (Moses 5:1).
Adam and Eve worked together, prayed and worshiped together, sacrificed together, taught their children the gospel together, and mourned over wayward children together (see Moses 5:1, 4, 12, 27). They were united with each other and with God.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World includes this guidance:
Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.
Despite our different roles at times, husbands and wives can enjoy full partnership with their spouse when they take care to work with each other rather than merely working near each other. We must pray together, respect each other, forgive each other and have fun together.
A full partnership means we will always have a friend with whom we can frequently counsel about the decisions and activities of our family. It means having someone by your side as you approach the Lord with your questions. It means having a therapist when you're struggling to learn and grow, a copilot when there's a long drive ahead and someone to laugh with you when you just can't hold it in any longer.
We will experience the greatest happiness in marriage when we are willing to commit all we have and are to the fidelity and success of our marriage covenants. That is, we will experience the greatest happiness in marriage when we are willing to commit all we have and are to the happiness of our spouse.
Adam and Eve, as man and wife, were unified physically and spiritually. They worked together in full partnership, progressed together down the path of life, and were recognized in the eyes of the Lord as one.
As with our first parents, so it may be with us. Each of us may become perfect or complete as we, having already become one with Christ through baptism, join ourselves by covenant to a man or woman with whom we correspond and fit together. Most often we will choose to share a common name as an outward symbol of our inward covenant. Then, working together in full partnership and having our covenants sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, we may find joy in this life and exaltation in the world to come.