The Proving Ground of Marriage


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.




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)


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.


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






A Marriage that Lasts


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 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).



Contract or Covenant

Covenant VS Contract
What is the difference?

Simple Definition of contract

  • : a legal agreement between people, companies, etc.

  • : a document on which the words of a contract are written

Definition of Covenant,

Sometimes denotes an agreement between persons (1 Sam. 23:18) or nations (1 Sam. 11:1); more often between God and man; but in this latter case it is important to notice that the two parties to the agreement do not stand in the relation of independent and equal contractors. God in His good pleasure fixes the terms, which man accepts. The same word is sometimes rendered “testament.”



In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the doctrine of  marriage is an essential part of  the Father’s great plan of happiness.

In order for the children of God to progress, men and women need to enter into the sacred covenant of marriage. Both the man and the woman bring to the marriage relationship different, but equal contributions. The union of a man and a women establishes the divinely designed environment where children can be raised.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World states, “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.”

If marriage has bearing on our eternal destiny then it cannot be initiated by a simple contract, easily dissolved. The agreement, must be made by covenant. As stated above, God fixes the terms for this agreement.

Elder David A. Bednar taught, “The Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point in a covenant marriage relationship. As husband and wife are each drawn to the Lord, as they learn to serve and cherish one another, as they share life experiences and grow together and become one, and as they are blessed through the uniting of their distinctive natures, they begin to realize the fulfillment that our Heavenly Father desires for His children. Ultimate happiness, which is the very object of the Father’s plan, is received through the making and honoring of eternal marriage covenants.”

There are many challenges in life that can weaken the fibers of a marriage. Money problems, raising troubled teens, the death of a child, job relocations, issues with extended family, all have the potential to take a toll, unless the couple is committed to one another and to the covenant they made with God.

Any one of these problems in a contract marriage could send one or both parties in search of a divorce. Many think they can just get out of the marriage if things don’t go just the way they should. That attitude is the basis of a contract marriage. Easily begun easily ended.

An eternal marriage is a sacred covenant not only for time, but for all eternity. It is not a contract that can be ended when one decides they are done. Covenants are binding commitments that require sacrifice and righteousness.  In this world where the value of marriage, and even the definition of marriage continues to be corrupted, children need men and women; mothers and fathers who honor their marriage covenants.

Men and women need a companion that will honor them by honoring their covenants. Think of the world we would have if more marriages were honored and remain in effect for the duration of a couple’s lives. Those marriage, bound by the sealing powers, have the potential to be eternal.


For my own edification I put “Contract vs. Covenant Marriage” into a google search and found some very interesting blogs. Interestingly a couple of the ones that appealed most to me are not LDS. I am grateful to see other faiths embrace and teach the principle of a covenant marriage. For the most part we have a contract-oriented mindset about marriage that actually has the opposite benefit of what the term implies.

Here are a couple links to the ones that I enjoyed:

contract vs. covenant

why it matters

I would love to hear your thoughts and see the posts on this topic that inspire you to have a covenant marriage.






The Decision

I mentioned in my last post that I was going to be addressing controversial topics. we go



Should a court of appeals change the historically sound definition of marriage?


Is it the right or the duty of a court of appeals to decide the future of a country’s marriage law? Can a small group of judges, forever adjust the anthropological pattern of the family to satisfy the few?  Is it even in their stewardship to make such a far-reaching, impactful decision?

Evidently, five judges believe that it is.

Fortunately, not all of the nine agreed. Justice Roberts made this comment in his dissenting opinion,

“This universal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman is no historical coincidence. Marriage did not come about as a result of a political movement, discovery, disease, war, religious doctrine, or any other moving force of world history—and certainly not as a result of a prehistoric decision to exclude gays and lesbians. It arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need: ensuring that children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship. See G. Quale, A History of Marriage Systems 2 (1988); cf. M. Cicero, De Officiis 57 (W. Miller transl. 1913) (“For since the reproductive instinct is by nature’s gift the common possession of all living creatures, the first bond of union is that between husband and wife; the next, that between parents and children; then we find one home, with everything in common.”)

This war on marriage is likely to be one of the longest battles humanity will ever see waged.  It will be decades – generations – before the ramifications of the change in the definition of marriage are fully realized. Those who think they are being offended or injured now will be woefully unable to make restitution to those who are truth the victims – the children.

The carnage of this war on family, on motherhood, fatherhood and on children’s development will be far reaching. As marriage is re-defined, so have they now re-defined parenthood and family.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse states, “The essential public reason for marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another.” Morse goes on to say, “Children are entitled to a relationship with both of their parents. This is justice for the child. Children have an interest in the stability of the parent’s union.”

All that makes perfect sense, still…It is not all there is…

As a defender of traditional marriage. It is my position there is also higher law and Lawgiver who has made a statement on what marriage is and what children deserve,

“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.”


The role of a mother and a father in the lives and development of children is crucial. Laws cannot change this or minimize or build myths around this truth. Mothers and fathers are not interchangeable. Having two adults in the home does not replace the importance of an active, participating mother and father. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony. Children are entitled to be reared by a father and a mother.

To re-quote Justice Roberts, Marriage “arose …to meet a vital need: ensuring that children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship.” Marriage is also in place, because it is ordained of God. Families are a crucial unit not only of this society and of heavenly societies. Family is eternal in nature. To toss out our or re-structure it because 5 judges have allowed it, it wrong.

We need to recommit ourselves to our children. With more than 40% of children born outside of marriage, with courts deciding what marriage is, or what parents can now be – we are failing our own children.

I’ll wrap this up by sharing a link to Cathy Ruse ‘s video. She raises some excellent points that are worth considering.

I hope you will ask yourselves – “What do I want my children or my children’s children to gain from this crucial time in history?”