Abraham was so insistent that Isaac marry a woman from his kindred because it was necessary for Isaac to marry in the covenant for the covenant to continue through him and through his seed. The surrounding people in the land of Canaan were not of the covenant. The marriage covenant spoken of here is today part of the new and everlasting covenant. It is new to this dispensation, restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. But it is not really new at all. Adam and Eve entered into the marriage covenant in the Garden of Eden. Marriage itself is ordained of God; it is not a man-made convention. Marriage is a threeway contract between a man and a woman and God.
Abraham's servant was sent to find a wife for Isaac among Abraham's relatives. His servant retained the focus of doing just that. He was faithful in following directions; he was prayerful and faithful in following through on his errand. He prayed that the Lord would let him recognize Isaac's wife-to-be. He said to let her offer water not only to him but also to his camels. This Rebekah did.
Rebekah was also a woman of faith. She was willing to marry Isaac, whom she had not met, and leave her family to dwell in Canaan. She knew that it was the Lord's will for her to marry Isaac in the covenant.
Rebekah's people wanted Abraham's servant to remain with them for a 10-day celebration, but he would not. He was directly obedient and could not be distrated from his purpose. Rebekah was willing to leave her home and family with merely a quick good-bye, knowing that she was doing the Lord's will. Isaac was to be blessed with a wife that was young and beautiful, strong and faithful.
How can we avoid distractions that will lead us away from the temple? How can we set ourselves on a course that will lead us to the temple?
Dave and Ruth Baird taught their children to pray for temple marriages from the time they could speak. Once when I was in their home and a child said a blessing on their lunch, she prayed that all of the children would be married in the temple. We can start teaching our children the importance of marrying within the covenant very early, and we must continue to show to them that the temple is important in our lives. Family and personal prayer and scripture study, family home evening, church attendance and involvement in youth programs of the church, seminary attendance, and participating in baptisms for the dead will all help our children be prepared to be married in the temple
President Howard W. Hunter said: “Let us plan for and teach and plead with our children to marry in the house of the Lord. Let us reaffirm more vigorously than we ever have in the past that it does matter where you marry and by what authority you are pronounced man and wife” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 88).
Marriage in and of itself is a sacred union. marriage in the covenant can continue forever. The blessings of living worthily within a temple marriage will endow the couple with priesthood blessings and power both in time and in eternity.
Rebekah received a revelation concerning her twin sons. She learned that the one who was to be born second was the one who would be favored first. Esau would not carry on the covenant, but Jacob would. Jacob was to be the birthright son.
Esau was born first, but he sold his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage. He was physically drained and terribly hunger after a hunt, so he sold something of great future value and importance for immediate gratification. How often have we sold ourselves short because of impatience or because of a current lack of understaning or lack of faith? Do our words and actions show that we value our birthright?
As members of the restored church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we all are entitled to a spiritual birthright from our heavenly parents. We are chidlren of the birthright when we are born into the covenant, when we enter the covenant, and when we keep the covenant. Renee Samford just went to the temple to receive her own endowment. Her husband will now be working hard so that he can do the same. After her husband receives his endowment, they can be sealed in a temple marriage, and their children can be sealed to them. Their children will then have all the same promises as if they had originallybeen born into the covenant.
The Lord honors those who honor Him, and He favors those who keep His commandments. Isaac was chosen as heir to the covenant over Ishmael; Jacob was chosen over Esau; Joseph was chosen over Reuben; Ephraim over Manasseh; and Nephi over Laman. We need to remember though that the gospel is one of repentance and forgiveness. We can all receive the same spiritual endowments and blessings, and we can all receive the gift of Eternal Life through the atonement of Jesus Christ, our own repentance and faithfulness, and through making and keeping sacred and necessary ordinances and covenants.
Esau married outside of the covenant. This caused his parents sadness. Jacob, like Isaac, was to choose a wife that was eligible to marry in the covenant. Jacob went to work for Laban for 7 years so that he could marry Rachel. But Laban made him marry Leah first. So Jacob contracted to work for Laban for another 7 years so that he could marry Rachel as well. Jacob was a faithful servant to Laban because marrying in the covenant was that important to him.
President Gordon B. Hinckley told of a family who joined the Church in Australia and then sold all their possessions so they could travel to New Zealand and be sealed as a family. The father of this family said: “We could not afford to come [to the temple]. Our worldly possessions consisted of an old car, our furniture, and our dishes. I said to my family, ‘We cannot afford not to go. If the Lord will give me strength, I can work and earn enough for another car and furniture and dishes, but if I should lose these my loved ones, I would be poor indeed in both life and in eternity’ ” (Be Thou an Example , 138).
What can we do to strengthen our marriages? What can we do to ensure that our temple marriages are truly eternal marriages? What can we do to improve our relationships and aid eachother on our journey back to our heavenly home. Keeping covenants will definitely safeguard us against the immorality and heartaches experienced by so many. But we need to make sure that our love for each other and the Lord is kept bright; that our testimonies are guarded, preserved, nurtured, and strengthened; that we are nurturing one another and seeking the comfort and growth of our eternal companion. We need to treat all of our covenants with dignity and respect, especially our marriage covenant. As we are faithful to the Lord and to each other, He will be faithful in fulfilling every promise that He has made to us. We then can return home with Him and become like Him, and we can live as husband and wife forever.
(This still needs to be revised)