A Conversation About Modesty and Chastity — For Both Genders

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No matter what you were taught growing up, whether from a religious framework or from the opposite with no moral standard at all, the conversation of modesty and the companion topic of chastity is typically heated and varied — this might be a good thing, a redeeming quality for humanity. Those topics that push buttons tend to be important topics to most people – even to those fighting against it (but I wouldn’t say that to them unless I was prepared for battle).

One of the reasons for conflict in this great debate on modesty, or the idea of bodies needing to be covered, is for some, this theory implies a type of shame in bodies being bad or sinful. A body is not bad or sinful. Sin is an act which violates a law of God committed by an individual . A body is a physical covering for the soul of each human being. A body is a gift from God, with a unique design and programming for each gender. There is no shame in the body, but there is a right and wrong way to view and treat this gift from God.

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It might be easier to have this conversation in our social circles if we did not remove this one critical component from the conversation. Regardless of whether one sees a body as a gift from God, or as the result of physiological development due to fertilization of sperm and egg, the question still remains – in an intelligent society, what is appropriate thought and treatment of the body once it is born into that society?

Covering the body is a practice that begins at birth, typically involving more than just the diaper. In most cultures, the clothing of the body begins almost immediately following birth. Then for most of childhood, clothing choices and modesty discussions are discretionary to the child’s parent. Typically modesty and clothing of childhood are not a hot issue, debated by society at large – unless there is a conflict or breach of the unspoken acceptable norms of current practice.

For those beyond childhood, the debate begins…

In our current culture, where morality and standards of behavior are relative, modesty, for some, is seen as prude, old-fashioned and unnecessary. Thus, if we remove God, and the notion that bodies are a gift from God; if we also remove the need for a prescribed, social standard — we can end the discussion on modesty.

Moral relativity is preferred to the idea that we must, as a people, conform to prescribed values of thought and behavior. In a civilized society, there are acceptable and non-acceptable practices.

For example, drinking and driving. Most of us understand why this practice is wrong – regardless of how many drink and drive. Once a human being is killed due to a drunk driver – the moral belief of why this is wrong becomes a loud sound in society. As long as no one dies, we go on about our lives, pretending we do not know there are some who drink and drive.

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            The message of modesty is that it shows a personal reverence and respect for ones self and for others. Modesty is not limited to how one dresses. Modesty includes one’s thoughts and actions. Modesty is not limited to gender. Men and women, girls and boys can dress, think or behave inappropriately for their bodies or for the social or cultural circumstance.

There are some who view the blatant display of the physical body as wrong. Some suggest boys and men, who are more visually stimulated, will be tempted to look at girls or women wearing revealing clothing, thus blaming the issue on women. On the other side of the table, are those with a total apathetic view, suggesting it does not matter what one wears. The individual is not their clothing. People should be seen for what they are on the inside and not on the outside.

Herein lies the root of this debate — a place we will likely remain until one side sways the rest to their side.

Modesty is included in the battle of right and wrong fought during the great war in heaven. If you are looking for resolution to this issue – you might be waiting a while yet. If you are struggling with this debate and want to know what you can do to help support a modest generation…

Keep reading….

Part II –  Who is to Blame?

My LDS Perspective

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            Blame is the name of the game in our current culture.

If blame can be put on one school of thought, the other side feels released of responsibility and sees it as a win. The reality is, nothing is one-sided. Both sides of any issue, modesty included, have merit to one degree or another by the simple fact that we are different and unique individuals with a right to choose. This is agency and it comes at a price for both sides. When agency was granted to us in the Great Council in Heaven, prior to our birth here in mortality, we understood this meant we would find ourselves at times on opposing sides of issues – sometimes even those with whom we worship with on Sundays.

For Latter-day Saints, I think it is safe to assume some agreement that the over-sexualized world is due largely to the adversary’s mission to destroy the children of God. We live in an over-sexualized society. This isn’t new to those of us who may view our current day as “The last days” we are warned about in scripture. Sex has always been a weapon of the adversary. The abuse of pro-creative powers is one of the tools the adversary uses to destroy the children of God. To pervert the sacredness of intimacy, of chastity, of modest thought and dress, has the potential to destroy God’s people at the soul level. Satan knows this and uses it to his advantage.

The sex-obsessed culture of our day is likely not going to go away. What we need to do instead is see it for what it is, rather than blaming it on one gender or the other. In the world, at this point in God’s plan, we will not likely convince the Lady Gagas or Adam Levines to change. We do we have to adapt to their style of living, accepting their belief system as our own, or teaching it to our children by our tacit approval when we allow more and more of the worldly ideas to infiltrate our lives. We may live in this world but we do not have to be of it.

Blaming the problems of modesty on male hormones or sleazily glad women won’t help this discussion progress to a point where we can raise modest young men and women with the character traits of Daniel or Esther. Constantly pointing fingers at the other side won’t solve the issue or raise our awareness of how to help our youth through the battle.

We also cannot have a serious discussion on this issue while discounting our divine DNA or divine genetic wiring in men and in women. We have to discuss the wiring of both brains. We need to include in this discussion the purpose of attraction, and the actions and interactions each of us engage in and why.

We need to stop suggesting to our young boys “just don’t look” or to our young girls that how they dress is causing boys to have inappropriate thoughts.

**Do not misunderstand – there is much that can be added to these warnings, but stand alone warnings of this type, without proper education and training – add to the conflict we face as a people.

Suggesting young men just advert the eye is as damaging to boys as it is to girls when we teach girls what they wear releases them of responsibility for how boys think, without offering the additional support to help them understand what we really need them to do with these emotions, religious ideals or the visuals they are confronted with as they learn to understand what modesty is and why they will be happier if they choose a modest life.

As parents and church teachers and leaders, we have allowed objectifying — on both sides of the gender lines. We need to sit down and look at the issues completely and prepare ourselves to teach truth the youth of today. These are wise youth, saved for the last days battle of character and virtue. They are strong enough to wage this war.

Are we strong enough to teach them and support them through it?

The Wiring of the Brain

(coming soon)

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Beyond Husband and Wife

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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.

 

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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. (focusonthefamily.com)

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 http://www.lds.org’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.

(https://www.lds.org/ensign/1986/10/extending-family-relationships?lang=eng)

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.)

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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.”

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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.

 

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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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equals

'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.

Marital Fidelity

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I’ll begin my post this week with a quote from an article on marital fidelity.

Human sexuality is more than a physical matter. Chastity and fidelity begin in the spirit, not in the body. They are an expression of the condition of our spirit. When our spirit is in tune with godly thinking and gospel truths, we want to live high standards, and our actions reflect that desire. Thus, chastity and fidelity are more than sexual abstinence before marriage and sexual fidelity after marriage. They express the quality of our spiritual life. Terrence D. Olson

Writing about chastity before marriage and  fidelity in marriage in our current highly sexualized society may have the potential to bring on the ‘boos’ and ‘hisses’ from those who align with the current notion that sex before marriage is a good way to be sure you are sexually compatible. Or that the current hook-up culture is acceptable in today’s society. Those who have a problem with sexuality are prude or too religious and need to get a grip.

Over the past few decades the acceptance of casual sex as normal increases, turning this sacred experience into just another adult recreational activity.

Might I be so bold as to state —  There is nothing casual about human intimacy.

In truth casual sex is an oxymoron really, as there is nothing casual in this sacred experience — is fragmentation. It is giving only part of ourselves. It can never be more that a selfish gratification of the physical body.

If we relate to each other in fragments, at best we miss full relationships. At worst, we manipulate and exploit others for our gratification. Sexual fragmentation can be particularly harmful because it gives powerful physiological rewards which, though illusory, can temporarily persuade us to overlook the serious deficits in the overall relationship. Two people may marry for physical gratification and then discover that the illusion of union collapses under the weight of intellectual, social, and spiritual incompatibilities. . . .

Sexual fragmentation is particularly harmful because it is particularly deceptive. The intense human intimacy that should be enjoyed in and symbolized by sexual union is counterfeited by sensual episodes which suggest–but cannot deliver–acceptance, understanding, and love. Such encounters mistake the end for the means as lonely, desperate people seek a common denominator which will permit the easiest, quickest gratification. [Victor L. Brown, Jr., Human Intimacy: Illusion and Reality (Salt Lake City, Utah: Parliament Publishers, 1981), pp. 5-6]

The core doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teach one of the main purposes we are here in mortality is to form and build a family unit. This unit begins and thrives on a marriage built on trust and fidelity. Marriage survives when you give your all, your heart, your soul, your devotion to your spouse.

A marriage cannot survive without fidelity. Intimacy cannot survive without fidelity.

 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in a 1998 address stated, “may I stress that human intimacy is reserved for a married couple because it is the ultimate symbol of total union, a totality and a union ordained and defined by God. From the Garden of Eden onward, marriage was intended to mean the complete merger of a man and a woman—their hearts, hopes, lives, love, family, future, everything. Adam said of Eve that she was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, and that they were to be “one flesh” in their life together.13 This is a union of such completeness that we use the word seal to convey its eternal promise. The Prophet Joseph Smith once said we perhaps could render such a sacred bond as being “welded”14 one to another.”

 

I have written of the whys of marital fidelity. I have written about fidelity being an expression of our spiritual self, something we do not want to give away as a fragmented physical act meant only to self-gratify. I have shared Elder Holland’s wise counsel of intimacy being the “ultimate symbol of a total union.”

Now if by chance, some of the welding is beginning to weaken your union,  BYU Professor, Kenneth W. Matheson, in his address, Fidelty in Marriage, It’s More Than You Think,  has prepared a check list to see where you stand.

 

  • “Are you turning to your friend for comfort rather than turning to your spouse?”

  • “Do you find yourself thinking about your friend even when you’re at home?”

  • “Do you seek opportunities to be with your friend even when work doesn’t require you to be together?”

  • “Do you e-mail and text your friend when you’re not together?”

  • “Have you told your spouse about these messages?”

  • “Does the relationship with your friend take more of your time and energy than your relationship with your spouse?”

  • “Do you compare your spouse to your friend?”

  • “Would you be uncomfortable introducing your spouse to your friend?”

 

Do not justify or rationalize the interactions. Do not let the visual or spoken images of the media contaminate the beautify of your marriage. Lust has no place in an intimate relationship. It will rob from you all the good and beauty that God wants for you and your marriage.

Watch your step!  A pertinent reminder for our day. There are so many ways the adversary works to destroy marriages and families. Weak places in our relationship and our lack of attention to those areas that need our care, give an open invitation for temptation to wander in and take from us what was once cherished.

 

“The divine impulse within every true man and woman that impels companionship with the opposite sex is intended by our Maker as a holy impulse for a holy purpose, not to be satisfied as a mere biological urge or as a lust of the flesh in promiscuous associations, but to be reserved as an expression of true love in holy wedlock” (Teachings of the Church, 2000, p.112).

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Genesis 2:24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Treasure the intimate relationship of your marriage. Take good care of your spouse. Give yourself in love. Take care that no influence will erode the faith and fidelity of the most important relationship in this life — and the life to come.

 

 

 

Divine Help

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Last week I discussed vows or the promises we make to each other at the wedding ceremony. This week, I want to take that point a step further to discuss to whom the vow is made, or the promised made by the couple to and with God.

Turning to the scriptures we see how important God’s part is in our marriage:

1 Corinthians11:11 “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”

This is the pattern; a man, a woman, and the Lord, working together on a divinely ordained union.

Why would God care so much about marriage?

We are taught in The Family: A Proclamation to the World “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

Marriage is central to the Creator’s plan.

Again, I ask the question, why? Why is does God care so much about marriage here, in mortality, that we would need his help to have happy marriages?

As Elder L. Tom Perry  stated in his last General Conference address, “We believe that the organization and government of heaven will be built around families and extended families” (Perry, April 2015).

Another compelling answer to this query comes from an address by  Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “A family built on the marriage of a man and woman supplies the best setting for God’s plan to thrive” (Christofferson, April 2015).

Marriage is this important to God for the redemption and eternal happiness of His children. Marriage matters in the eternities. Marriage is the governing institution of eternity. Marriage matters now. Marriage is the foundation of successful society.

Marriage matters especially here on earth where we are struggling, striving and working to build eternal families. Because marriage is so important to God, it is going to be equally as important to the adversary, who is the destroyer of marriage.

Which is why we need Divine help to navigate this journey.

Without God’s help, it is so easy to let grudges, irritations, bad days at work or with the kids, tests, trials, money problems, addictions, job loss, name any other issue that couples may deal with — it can all be the catalyst for the destructive work of the adversary  — unless we invite God into our marriages.

Two of my favorite quotes remind us of the  importance of marriage and family:

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“No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” – David O. McKay

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“The most important of the Lord’s work you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home.” ― Harold B. Lee

 

The Lord’s prophets are very clear on this point — no other success will or can compensate us.  No influential career, no palatial home or sporty car, no earthly accomplishment, none of this, will be worth any failure that occurs within in our homes. If the Lord has instructed prophets to teach this, won’t He help us if we are stuck, or lost, or struggling?

Elder W. Douglas Shumway, in a General Conference address in April 2004, spoke of the opposition of the adversary and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ as a tool to combat and conquer:

“Although the adversary seeks to destroy the key elements necessary for a happy marriage and a righteous family, let me assure you that the gospel of Jesus Christ provides the tools and teachings necessary to combat and conquer the assailant in this war. If we will but honor our marriages by imparting more love and selflessness to our spouses; nurture our children through gentle persuasion and the expert teacher we call example; and fortify the spirituality of our families through consistent family home evening, prayer, and scripture study, I testify to you that the living Savior, Jesus Christ, will guide us and grant us victory in our efforts to achieve an eternal family unit” (Shumway)

We are engaged in a battle. Often times we become weary warriors in this battle. We fight against much adversity.

 

I have long enjoyed this devotional by Brother Brent Barlow  delivered at Brigham Young University in Provo on October 12, 1999 where among the many excellent points he raised, these two are applicable to my thoughts today.

First a quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley on preserving marriage:

“I deal much with cases of divorce and requests for cancellation of temple sealings. It is the most difficult of all the things with which I have to do. Almost without exception, each case involves deception, dishonesty, broken promises, violated covenants, heartbreak, and tragedy. Begin with your own home to preserve the sanctity of your marriage, the eternity of your covenants, and the happiness that comes where there is love and security and trust in the family. Put the comfort and happiness of your companion and your children ahead of your own and reach out with a helping hand to those whose marriages have become troubled”[Gordon B. Hinckley, “Stand Up for Truth,” BYU 1996–97 Speeches (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1997), p. 24]

 

Second, a question from a once popular tune of the 90’s that raises an important question. With all the heartache and struggle of marriage, with all that mortality throws at us, with all of the divorces and broken homes, if we are failing in our marriages right and left — what is forever for?

What’s Forever For

I see love-hungry people
Trying their best to survive.
When right there in their hands is a dying romance,
And they’re not even trying to keep it alive.

So what’s the glory in living?
Doesn’t anybody ever stay together anymore?
And if love never lasts forever
Tell me, what’s forever for?

 

 

Our desire to have successful, enduring, loving marriages will be realized as we  draw upon the powers of heaven. We must include the Lord in our marriage and we covenanted to do in the beginning. It is only through His power and His Light that we marriages prosper into forever.

As Dr. Goddard shared at the end of his book, “Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage”

“The Lord must be a partner if a relationship is to prosper. In fact He must be the ruling partner. There is no other way to have a vibrant relationship. While there are those who have never heard His name who have healthy relationships, I believe that they must operate by His principles if they are to have a strong relationship. The Light of Christ lights every man and woman who comes to mortality. That Light knows that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man or woman comes to a healthy relationship without His prospering principles.”

 

This is what forever is for

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It is my witness, that when we apply the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, when we seek to serve our spouse, rather than look to be served, when we are humble, full of charity, willing to overlook than dwell upon, when we honor our covenants and plead for the Father’s guiding hand, we can taste a bit of forever even here in mortality.

In Sickness and in Health

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Many marriages begin with words similar to the ones in this meme. Understood within, are binding promises to endure ills and poverty and still love and cherish. This enduring is not only for the moments you can stand it, but as the promise states, “till death do us part.”*

And yet, life gets hard; children get sick or are just difficult and defiant. Jobs are lost, disagreement happen over finances. One partner betrays the other, or someone just falls out of love and these words, said intentionally at the moment, are quickly forgotten.

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On the day you and your beloved said these words, you knew in your heart of hearts the two of you would never go back on these promises. He would always be there for you. You would always be there for him. No hardship would be too difficult for your love. He hangs the moon for you and you walk on water for him.  (*While these are not the exact vows in an LDS ceremony, our covenants are even more binding. See sealings)

Until…

 

Of all the videos on Mormon Messages I have seen over the years, this one, speaks to the deepest part of my soul.

Can you see your marriage becoming like this couples?

 

“Our capacity to love a spouse deeply and our ability to experience great joy in marriage are commensurate with the degree to which we are willing to suffer and hurt, to labor and toil, and to persevere through moments of unhappiness, stress, disappointment, and tests of our patience and love for our partners” (Kent Brooks, BYU Department of Church History and Doctrine).

Willing to suffer and hurt…

In a beautiful address by Elder Robert D. Hales, he made the following analogy,

“Marriage is like climbing a mountain. You tie yourself to a companion, and you start up the mountain of life. As a child comes along, you tie him to Mom and Dad and continue your journey. The ropes will hold all of the mountain climbers together. But there are many elements—the wind and the rain and the snow and the ice—all the elements of the world will tear at you to pull you off that eternal mountain. How do you reach the summit?

Someone has said it this way: “Thee lift me, and I’ll lift thee, and we’ll ascend together.”

In an amazing book by Elder Bruce C. Hafen entitled, “Covenant Hearts”, Elder Hafen teaches the principle of the “Doctrinal Pattern of Adam and Eve, No Misery, No Joy”.  It takes more than a token agreement to be willing to endure all that can and will happen in a marriage here in mortality. Here in this proving ground, where we learn to love and sacrifice for one another.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell gives us another way to look at the condition of marriage in mortality. It is found in the principle of consecration.  “Consecration is the only surrender which is also a victory. It brings release from the raucous, overpopulated cell block of selfishness and emancipation from the dark prison of pride” (Neal A. Maxwell, Oct 1995).

To consecrate is to lay it all on the alter, of God, or of marriage  — both really.

Consecration in marriage is about serving. It is giving of ourselves rather than demanding that our needs be met. Dr. Goddard (author of Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage) shared the chapter on consecration in marriage at Meridian Magazine, an online LDS e-zine. ( The link will take you to the full chapter from his book.)

Like the word of Kind Lamoni’s father in Alma 22, what will we forsake that we might know this great joy and happiness that the Father has in store for those who honor their marriage covenants?

      Alma 22:15 “…What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.”

 

To find true happiness we must lay all we have, all our hurts, our jealousies, our frustrations, and squabbles over socks on the floor, lack of help with house keeping and childcare, judgements over spouses level of spirituality — lay it all upon the alter of consecration

More Than Just Getting Along

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This graphic speaks volumes to those who have had marital conflict. Both sides draw a line in the sand, refusing to cross over to meet their partner halfway. She thinks she is right and he thinks he is right. Even if there is no out right fighting, battle lines have been drawn.

Drag this scenario out a few years and it begins to feel like there is no hope for change.

I once read an article that started out with a question, “Does a good God want me in a bad marriage?”

That is a loaded question. We know God is good. We know that he loves us and wants us to succeed. If our marriages are not succeeding, if we are thinking they are bad marriages, is that permission to bail — or maybe an opportunity to take a look at what is causing us to feel the marriage is bad.

I read a quote once that has stuck with me since. It is one I use often and adjust for application. I don’t know the author,  (if you do, please let me know so I can give appropriate credit) or I would thank them over and over for helping me sort out this crucial truth.

Here’s the quote:

“Its not what happened to you that hurt,

its the belief you created around what happened, that hurts.”

If I apply this to marriage, maybe it can go something like this:

“Its not my marriage that is bad, but the belief I created around my marriage that causes me think its bad.”

Hmmm…

Maybe it is attitude.

I’ve always loved this quote:

“…everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  — Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was a Holocaust survivor. He’s the author of an amazing book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” and he’s also an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist. It makes me re-think my attitudes every time I re-read this quote.

My last quote on attitude, this is my favorite. I’ve often referred to this as the best map for course correcting attitudes and behavior. (I know this has been attributed to many people. For this purpose, I am going with the Quote Investigator’s position).

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

FRANK OUTLAW
Late President of the Bi-Lo Stores

 

A lesson from the oyster:

 

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Remember being taught this in science or maybe in church?

When a foreign substance lodges in the oyster, working its way into the muscle an irritation develops. Responding to the irritation, the oyster covers the foreign substance with a secretion. The longer this little irritations is there, the more the oyster coats it. Then something miraculous begins to happen. The oyster begins to accept the irritation as its own and begins to change the irritation into something amazing — a beautiful pearl. Oddly, no matter the current or weather condition of this pearl’s host, no storm or hurricane dislodges it. After some time, the oyster is pulled from the bed where it has resided for many years. As it is opened, a beautiful pearl is revealed. What was once an uninvited grain of sand or irritation is now a beautiful jewel. Each oyster produces its own variation of a pearl as it works to change this bothersome uninvited problem into something wonderful.

The problems we face in marriage can be much like this pearl when we handle them well. When we work together, when we let go of needing to be right, when we sacrifice for one another and for the relationship.

What kinds of things are irritating  you? What is affecting your attitude and causing you to blame more than take responsibility for being the change?

Being the change requires us to let go of our pride, set aside selfishness and look deep within ourselves. Being the change requires humility and meekness. Being the change requires us to listen to our spouse, rather than demand to be heard.

If you feel weighed down in your marriage, let go of the anchor holding you. Get up, help, serve, share and love. Be the change.

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Marriage is not meant to be the irritation of your life. Marriage is meant to be the jewel  you create from the experiences you share in mortality with the one you love.

“Say love” a favorite song of my by Hilary Weeks is a great way to remember to be mindful of the words we say, and the things we do that do not lift.

Say Love  

Be the change. Do more with your marriage than just get along!

The Proving Ground of Marriage

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This is a difficult blog post to write. In the logical part of my brain, the place where all my academic studies and research reside; and in the emotional or spiritual part of me where all my faith and belief exists; I know and understand, in the very depths of my soul, marriage is a proving ground. It is ordered by a loving Father in Heaven who wants for all his children to understand and know what He knows. He wants to give to all his children all He has. He wants us to share with Him the joy of eternal life — in families.

Family begins with a marriage.

As young girls we begin to dream and plan for marriage from early in our toddlers days when we play house and imitate what we see our  in mothers actions. We dream of a prince charming and see him in every Disney movie we watch. In high school we fall for some guy and begin to write his last name as ours. In college we look for Mr. Right, knowing full well in the depth of our soul — a soulmate exists for us. Add in some really good Young Womens lessons on dating and temple marriage and you have yourself a nice little package of dreams for what your future marriage will be.

 

The problem is — not every marriage fits into this lovely dream.

 

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We have come from Father into the lone and dreary world, where briars and noxious weeds afflict and torment man. By the sweat of our brow will we eat our bread the verses relate to us. We live in a world where the law of opposition is in full force. It is through this process we will work to fight the adversary and come to know Father’s plan for us and for our marriages.

My marriage is full of briars and noxious weeds. I have had to toil and sweat to keep my marriage together.

Gary Thomas, a Christian preacher asked a very appropriate question to this discussion. He said, “What if your relationship isn’t as much about you and your spouse as it is about you and God?

To those of us who are LDS, this concept would fit nicely with the eternal perspective we all try to live by. Life here in this me-centered world causes challenges when marriage is supposed to be other-centered and God-focused.

Dr. H. Wallace Goddard, his is book, “Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage”  said the following:

“When we have the eternal perspective on our marriage, everything is different. “Filled with faith, we might adapt Jesus’s advice as our mantra: “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not; fear not” (D&C 6:36)

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How do we hold fast in this battle between the adversary and marriage?

It isn’t God at the heart of this hurt and pain.

It is the adversary and the natural man that battle.

 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gives encouraging words of what not to do when he said, “Too often too many of us run from the very things that will bless us and save us and soothe us” (CES Fireside, March 1997)

Elder Neal A. Maxwell words couple well with Elder Holland’s, “If God chooses to teach us the things we most need to learn because he loves us, and if he seeks to tame our souls and gentle us in the way we most need to be tamed and most need to be gentled, it follows that he will customize the challenges he gives us and individualize them so that we will be prepared for life in a better world…” (BYU Speaches, Sept. 1974)

While Father has a customized curriculum for us to follow here in mortality, the adversary has an equally devised plan to pull our focus from Father; to destroy our faith in the plan; to take hurts, pains and suffering and the challenges of marriage, and to pull our focus from our mission and our covenants to Father to more world-like ways.

“As a loving parent, our perfect Father will help us in a multitude of ways to avoid ruining our lives and preempting our growth unless we simply defy Him. A vital part of the truth is that God can take our messed-up lives and transform them into our purposeful growth. Our choices in partners are not just random events in our lives. With our limited view, it’s reasonable to question if we might have bettered ourselves by choosing differently. Yet God is orchestrating our lives to a greater extent than we appreciate. Faith invites us to honor covenants and not jettison a relationship because of continuing troubles. God honors those who honor their covenants.” (Goddard, H. W., p.64, 2009)

If you were following along on page 64 in Dr. Goddard’s book you would next be introduced to a man who approached Dr. Goddard asking if he could now “quit his marriage.” As the story is told, his wife left the Church. His marriage was not good. This man’s story is mine, only in a different order and with many additional variables than membership in the Church. I feel this man’s pain.

And yet, I also know the gospel and the doctrine of marriage.

I know this promise too;

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts and expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God.” Orson F. Whitney

This proving ground that marriage is, requires an intentional disciple. It requires faith and strength beyond our own that can only be replenished by faith in Jesus Christ, by understanding His plan, and by being willing to do all that is required of us.

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No matter how difficult the course, no matter how severe the trials, the Lord is there with us. He will not forsake us or our  marriage. We make a covenant to him. When we do our part, we will succeed. It might feel like at times that we are not. Trust Father. He see’s the end from the beginning.

The Laboratory of Marriage

I read something in one of my classes this week that really hit home to me. I have long known, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that it is within marriage and family we learn and practice the tools we need for life in the Celestial kingdom. It is within family and marriage we learn to love and sacrifice and we learn what grace and mercy really are. Our greatest joys and our deepest sorrows happen in marriage and family.  Marriage is that uniquely and divinely created laboratory where each of us can experience for ourselves the trials and test of mortality that will teach and prepare us to return to Father.

Let’s look first at the definition of a laboratory.

    A lab: a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific, technological research, experiments and measurements may be performed.

It stands to reason that Heavenly Father would establish here on earth a condition whereby his children can, in a controlled environment, experiment on his word.

Moses 1:39: “For behold,  this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

God’s work is to exalt us. To perfect and to restore us to who we have always been. His family.  It makes perfect sense that a marriage and family environment here in mortality would make the perfect laboratory for this work.

Here is the article I read in my class:

Our Clinical Material

“Your lives, your friendships, your marriages, your families, your neighbors and coworkers currently constitute the sample of humanity which God has given you. We are each other’s clinical material, and we make a mistake when we disregard that sober fact. No wonder, therefore, we feel stress at times. The wise and insightful President Brigham Young said this: “There are no two faces alike, no two persons tempered alike; … we are tried with each other, and large drafts are made upon our patience, forbearance, charity, and good will, in short, upon all the higher and Godlike qualities of our nature” (in Deseret News, 6 July 1862, 9).

Now, you are going to have days when people make a large draft on your patience, when they lay claim to your long-suffering that you may feel they don’t quite deserve. This is part of the chemistry that goes on in discipleship if we are serious about it, as we constitute each other’s clinical material.

It is within these circles of influence that you can strive to carry out all the dimensions of the second great commandment, including giving praise, commendation, and occasional correction. It is good for us to develop further our relevant skills.”

— Neal A. Maxwell, Jesus, the Perfect Mentor, Ensign, Feb. 2001, 8.

 

So what is going on in your lab?

How are you experimenting on the word and on God’s work? Are you seeing to the tender care of your marriage? Does your companion come first? Do you nurture and care for this precious relationship above all others?

Do you want to see where you really are?  Try this love map questionnaire and see for yourself.

Good luck!

Happy marriage!

Love Map Questionnaire

 

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A Marriage that Lasts

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I’m going to take a little twist on the intensity of the subject matter I have been writing about so far to talk about how to have a lasting, happy marriage.

Is that even remotely possible in our current divorce culture mindset?

It seems like more and more, we just quit when it gets too hard and communication seems too difficult and never productive.

This week I’ve been reading a book I wish I had discovered years ago in the early days of my marriage.

Seven Principles

 

In this book, Dr. Gottman dispels the myths that have been prevalent in most marriage therapy practices and outlines a program to help heal even the most damaged marriages. He has a proven algorithm for predicting divorce. I’m only on chapter 3, but I can already highly recommend this book. If your marriage is struggling, or even if your marriage is relatively happy, this book can help.

Take a look  at this presentation to one of the most important concepts that has come out of Dr. Gottman’s research is his theory on “The Four Horseman”.  Dr. Gottman refers to these behaviors as the most destructive and his biggest predictors of whether a marriage will end in divorce.

How has the Four Horseman theory played out in your marriage ?

Criticism: Statements said to your spouse that imply something is wrong with them. These statements typically begin with an absolute like, “You always” or “You never”.

Defensiveness: An attempt to defend oneself from perceived attack by employing a counter complaint.

Contempt:  A statement or a nonverbal action that attempts to place you on a higher ground than your partner. Examples include; mocking, name calling, rolling your eyes or sneering. Disgust or contempt is known to be one of the most serious of the horsemen.

Stonewalling: This behavior happens when the listener withdraws from the conversation, either physically leaving the room or emotionally tuning out and refusing to respond.

It seems pretty incredible to think that just these 4 behaviors could be the root cause of marital discord and potential divorce.

A marriage relationship is one of the most important relationship we will ever have. It is worth all the time and effort we put in to cultivating and caring for it.  The promises and covenants we make to one another should not be taken lightly.

Elder Russell M. Nelson said of marriage, “Marriage is the foundry for social order, the fountain of virtue, and the foundation for eternal exaltation. Marriage has been divinely designated as an eternal and everlasting covenant. Marriage is sanctified when it is cherished and honored in holiness. That union is not merely between husband and wife; it embraces a partnership with God” (Ensign, May 2006, 36)

What would you do to have a marriage that lasts?

I Googled “how to have a happy marriage” to see what the trending advice was on the topic. Not surprisingly, I got everything from 7 tips to 60 tips on how to have a happy marriage. There are gender specific tips; tips for husbands or for wives. Even WebMD chimes in on the topic.

A similarly quick search on lds.org lead me to the best advice: “Marriage, my beloved young brothers and sisters, should not be just taken for granted. It must be worked at, but realize that you can have the kind of marriage that you earnestly desire and for which you are willing to work” (Elder Henry D. Taylor, General Conference Oct. 1973).
Notice the date in the quote above? 1973. This conference address, and the counsel it contains was good advice then and even better advice now in the societal cultural in which we all live.  “Realize that you can have the kind of marriage that you earnestly desire and  for which you are willing to work.”

I’ll ask my question a different way…

How hard will you work to have the marriage you want to have?

Dr. Scott Braithwaite,   A psychology professor at BYU in Provo shared some great advice on a  Mormon Messages interview. It’s worth listening to (Listen for his reference to Dr. Gottman).