This week, my General Conference Odyssey report focuses on marriage and family with Elder A. Theodore Tuttle’s talk, Altar, Tent, Well. Bear with me as I retell the story of Isaac and Rebecca, and their love story.
Abraham (who was the “father of the faithful”) and Israel (who was the father of the twelve tribes) were two of the greatest men who ever lived. But, in between these two great men was Isaac. Even though he is part of the great phrase, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” his role seems to take a minor place among the three. However, I believe Isaac’s story is one of the greatest love stories in the Bible, and therefore, a great example worth following.
We all know the story of how Abraham and Sarah longed for a son, and when he finally came, Abraham was asked to sacrifice him. It is believed that Isaac was a young man at the time (some say anywhere between 10-37) and not quite understanding what his father meant to do, trusted in him anyway. The trust and faith exhibited in this story is worth pondering. How much love does a father offer–consistently–over a child’s lifetime? Think about Abraham’s love, as well as our Heavenly Father’s love for each of us.
It was all important that Isaac should marry within the faith. Because they lived among the Canaanites, an idolic people, arrangements were made for a servant to go to Abraham’s family to pick a wife. This is where we read the wonderful story of how Rebekah offered to water all those thirsty camels. It must have taken her hours to do this! And it’s a wonder how the servant didn’t instantly fall in love with her himself!! But, she had been prepared by an angel in advance, and was ready to leave her home, marry someone she had never met, and enter this brand new life.
As the servant and Rebekah drew near to Abraham’s settlement, the servant verified to her that it was Isaac standing in the distance, so Rebekah jumped off the camel ready and eager for introductions. After the servant told his story, and made the proper introductions, Isaac accepted her, “and he loved her” (Gen. 24: 67). We know they loved each other a long time, because later, after years of marriage, when Isaac and Rebekah must have been close to 70 years old, we find Isaac “sporting with Rebekah his wife” (Gen. 26:8), or in other words flirting and playing with her. I absolutely love that image!
The story continues. After being barren and pleading with the Lord for a child, Rebekah finally gave birth to twins. An important part of the story happened next. While carrying these twins, the Lord told Rebekah that “two nations are in thy womb,” and “the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23). Remembering this all their lives, Rebekah followed inspiration by switching the birthright of her sons right under Isaac’s unseeing eyes. It’s likely that Isaac could have been so mad, upon learning of this intrigue, that he could have seriously punished Rebekah, but instead he seemed to accept what had been done. His trust in her righteous inspiration strengthened their marriage.
Elder Tuttle said, “The priesthood-led home is the loftiest spiritual unit we know.” He explained how Joseph Smith said “that the destiny of the family is to live together as a family unit in the celestial glory.” And finally, Elder Tuttle quoted J. Reuben Clark, who said, “What a miracle is motherhood; how nearly infinite is mother. She fashions in her womb the most complex structure known to man. … This is wife’s and mother’s task and opportunity; and did she fail … then the great plan would fail and God’s purposes would come to naught. … this must never change.”
As imperfect as our families are, we have examples of the ideal in our scriptures of what a family can be when love and righteousness abound.
Additional General Conference Odyssey posts:
Home is Heaven’s Construction Site Nathaniel Givens
Preach in Season and Out of Season Daniel Ortner
What makes Mormonism unique? Michelle Linford