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.

 

 

 

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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!