Secrets of a Happy Life and a Successful Marriage

An important section of ‘The Family – A Proclamation to the World’ includes these words:

Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.

The gospel of Jesus Christ seems to have the affect of removing the barriers that prevent my general happiness. Death has no victory, and the effects of sin can be taken care of, through Christ. The Plan of Salvation gives a perspective that can pull me out of my dark and sad times. But the gospel of Jesus Christ not only can help bring happiness to the individual, it also has application to marriage and family.

I have been married a little over 18 years. I feel that I can say that my wife and I love each other more now than when we were first married. Things seem to be getting better instead of worse. The principles outlined in the Proclamation are an important part of that.

The careful reader might point out that I was married long before the Proclamation was published to the world, and can not really claim that it has helped our marriage the entire time. I would say that I view the Proclamation as an inspired summary of what has been taught in the church all along. I do not really see anything new in it. It’s value to me is that it is such a clear and concise review of the teachings of the church on this important topic.


When I hear of people who are experiencing difficult times and hardships I often feel that what they really need is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This mindset is expressed in the most overused hymn in opening exercises for priesthood meetings – Ye Elders of Israel. I should not have to tell any of the men that it is hymn 319. The third verse reads thus:

We’ll go to the poor, like our Captain of old,
And visit the weary, the hungry, and cold;
We’ll cheer up their hearts with the news that he bore
And point them to Zion and life evermore.

There are certain needs in life that do need to be met, but these needs do not necessarily bring happiness. There are plenty who are rich, well rested, well fed, and quite comfortable, who are not happy. There are also others who lack many basic necessities, yet maintain some happiness. Such happiness is best achieved through an understanding of teachings of Jesus Christ.

Successful Marriage

I would like to review each point that the Proclamation lists regarding successful marriage. I am no expert, but after 18 years – so far so good.


As is almost always the case ‘faith’ is short for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a wisdom in being ‘equally yoked’ to your spouse when it comes to faith. I am so glad that I do not have to ask my wife if she will be coming to church this week. I am glad not to have to negotiate whether to raise the kids as Mormons or some other faith. And while my wife and I are vastly different in many areas, in the most important areas we are quite identical.


Praying together can be one of the most intimate things that people share. When a husband and wife really pray together there is so much that can be learned and felt. Communicating with God together is also a form of communicating with each other. This is an important factor in growing together as a couple.


One of the most important things one can say sometimes is – I’m sorry. There will almost certainly be times when a husband or wife will disappoint their partner. Being willing to acknowledge mistakes, and make difficult changes for the better, is a vital ability in maintaining a marriage. Including the Lord in this process can be very helpful as you become the type of spouse you need to be.


This goes hand in hand with repentance. We are required to forgive all people. One of the most difficult people we may ever need to forgive is a husband or wife. The hurt can be quite deep, and trust can be hard to regain. But in order to maintain a successful marriage this will need to be done.


In many marriages the roles of husband and wife will be different. Neither role is more important than the other, and both are worthy of profound respect. I would also recommend that you simply never condemn, complain, or criticize your mate. Especially in public, or behind their back.


Love in a marriage must not only be felt, it must also be expressed. There are several ways one can express love. One of the breakthrough moments in my marriage is when my wife and I began to understand that we spoke different languages when it came to expressions of love. I needed to express love for my wife in ways that she wanted, and she needed to do the same for me. This required changes in behavior which are difficult, but important.


The well being of your spouse needs to become your top priority. I remember hearing President Hinkley once saying that if we made our wife’s comfort a priority that we would never fall out of love with her. When my wife and I discuss various decisions, I often will say, ‘I just want you to be happy’. And I mean it. In most cases that is more important to me that which decision is made.


One should not ever think that a successful marriage is something that is easy. I would guess that if any of us are to become the ideal spouse that significant work will be required. But in a general way, I am a believer that working builds a noble character. Working at a career or in the home can be an expression of love, and an area of self improvement. Doing your best is a habit that spills over into every area of life.

Wholesome Recreational Activities

One of the previous posts on this theme specifically addresses this. Participating together as a couple and a family in wholesome recreational activities can bring joy and happiness to your relationships. It can bring a healthy balance to life.

Again, I am very glad to have the gospel of Jesus Christ as a background to nearly everything I do. It greatly increases our abilities to have a happy life and a successful marriage. These are some of the most important things in life for us to understand. I hope we can all do our part to build successful marriages.

12 Responses to “Secrets of a Happy Life and a Successful Marriage”

  1. 1 John Mansfield June 12, 2007 at 6:15 am

    This is a wonderful series you have provided.

  2. 2 Naiah Earhart June 12, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Thanks, Eric for sharing your experience and perspective on each of these principles. Rob and I are lucky in that the Proclamation does preceed our marraige and so, as soon as we chose to, we could begin building on its advice, but we’re also lucky to have friends and examples like you and your wife. 🙂

  3. 3 Eric Nielson June 12, 2007 at 10:27 am

    For some reason my comments are not getting through.

    Glad you like this series John.

    Thanks Naiah. (But don’t look at my example to close)

  4. 4 Connor June 12, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Great summary.. I agree that most, if not all, of the Proclamation is a summary of previously stated principles. But the power of putting it all together so concisely into a single document allows it to become a great asset for couples looking to have some simple guidance for their marriage. And, for those like me who are still working towards marriage, it serves as a great model of what that relationship should be like.

  5. 5 Matt W. June 12, 2007 at 11:46 am

    As to putting it all in one place, like Connor mentioned, I can say that when I joined the church in 1998, a major motivating factor was the powerful concept of family unity and love, as outlined in the Proclamation. It is a wonderful missionary tool, and has been a great force for good in my own life, as before joining the church I hated(feared) children, was planning on not having any, and wasn’t very interested in my own family (parents, siblings) either.

  6. 6 Eric Nielson June 12, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    I think another useful thing in summarizing things in an official way serves to validate priciples previously taught. It is frequent to hear things like ‘Well, that was BRM opinion’, or ‘SWK was pretty strict on that’, or ‘Joseph never taught that’, etc.

  7. 7 Michelle June 12, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    This was Pres. Hinckley’s preface to the Proclamation:

    With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history.

  8. 8 Michelle June 12, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    I also liked this from Elder Eyring:

    Three things about the title are worth our careful reflection. First, the subject: the family. Second, the audience, which is the whole world. And third, those proclaiming it are those we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. All this means that the family must be of tremendous importance to us, that whatever the proclamation says could help anyone in the world, and that the proclamation fits the Lord’s promise when he said, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).

  9. 9 Eric Nielson June 13, 2007 at 5:15 am

    My wife suggested that I make the following change to the post. Where I say:

    ‘I just want you to be happy’. And I mean it.

    Should read:

    ‘I just want you to be happy (As long as it doesn’t cost any money)’. And I mean it.

    Personally I think the addition is entirely unnecessary. But if it makes her happy, and doesn’t cost anything, I will consider it.

  10. 10 Bal Simon May 31, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    I like the summary..

    I agree with this ” Love in a marriage must not only be felt, it must also be expressed ”

    Every one should know this 🙂

  11. 12 Hazel Metekingi-Hooper January 18, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    I am married to a non-member of 13 yrs however many of the values are some he has learnt he does not practice or attend church,we strive to speak kindly to one another all the time,and strive to help our children though all our children are adults they all listen the advce we offer to them, they know we love them however they still need to develop & make write choices as we do…………

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