The purpose of this blog is to create a place to provide resources that may help to strengthen marriages and families and to record and share my thoughts, impressions, feelings and knowledge about a broad spectrum of family topics and in exploring and learning more about family functions and the influence family life has on individuals and society. Topics include family relationships, family dynamics, gender, family science research, intimacy in marriage, same sex attraction, parenting, etc. I am excited to share what I am learning about the family and hope that readers will feel free to share as well that together we might strengthen, protect and defend the family as the fundamental unit of our society. ** Please look for the FHE Ideas at the end of certain posts to use as a resource for your families.

Friday, July 15, 2016

FAML300 Week #13 - Transitions in Marriage

Finances in Marriage
Image result for pic of finances  
One of the highest causes of divorce is troubles with finances.  This can be a great strain on a marriage if a couple isn’t sure how to handle their money or if they don’t see eye to eye regarding the family money.  It was interesting to learn about all of the different factors that play a part in the way we choose to handle our money in our marriage.  The first factor is the way that we were raised.  We each bring to marriage our own set of “family rules” that we learned either because they were spoken or they were unspoken rules that were followed in the family.  For example I came into my marriage with the belief that credit cards were a perfectly acceptable alternative method of paying for items as long as you managed them wisely and payed off balances.  My husbands family believed that credit cards were not a good thing and they paid everything in cash or money order.  This was a source of struggle for us in the beginning but we soon learned how to compromise and figured out our own way of handling the bills.  In my family my father took care of the money/bills and we didn’t hear much about it but in my husband’s family his mother primarily took care of the bills and she was extremely vocal and open about their finances.  These “rules” we come into marriage with are important to be aware of. 
Another factor that plays a part in the way we handle our finances is our birth order. 
Image result for birth order pic brady bunch  This was especially interesting to me as I would have never thought that this had anything to do with money.  For example first born children often are very responsible with their money, they like to be in control and they generally make a good living.  Last born children are often used to getting what they want and tend to spend a lot for the things they want, have higher credit balances and debt-to-income ratios.  Its important to be aware of these issues we bring to our marriage as well when discussing finances with our spouse. 
If we want to be successful in managing our money we must first be willing to follow wise counsel from our Prophet who teaches us to save, be prepared for emergencies, pay our tithes and offerings and to avoid unnecessary debt.  We can also work to develop some other character traits that will helps in our money management.  Some of these traits include:  Self-reliance, accurate perception of reality, flexibility, active appreciation, imagination, appreciation of emotional costs, (ie. Emotional strain on family due to increased debt, etc.) and charity.  If we can work to develop some of these traits we will be better able not only manage our money but also work together with our spouse to achieve great success and financial security. 
Of course the greatest factor in managing our finances is always turning to the Lord in all our affairs and decisions that we make.  If we seek Him and put Him first then we will always have what we need.   

Monday, July 4, 2016

FAML 300 - WEEK #11 - Fidelity and Physical Intimacy

Intimacy in Marriage
I believe that intimacy in marriage is so important for so many reasons to our marriages here on earth and also throughout the rest of eternity.  Because of its importance and significance it is perhaps the aspect of marriage that is under the greatest attack by the adversary.  He has devised so many means whereby he has been able to destroy, belittle, degrade, distort and break this sacred and most natural and special bond that husbands and wives share.  His use of pornography (Link - Affects of Pornography on Families) in all its forms both directed towards men and women have almost destroyed our real, clear and true understanding and expectations of true intimacy and love in marriage.   Goddard said this about pornography, “keep your soul free of the soul numbing barrenness of pornography.  The greatest sin of pornography may be that it reduces the sacrament of intimacy to a random and wanton act of self-gratification.”  In spite of the messages and images that flood our media, homes, stores, computers, phones, etc. we must guard ourselves diligently against the distorted truth about what intimacy should be.  True, natural and simple affection and true charity – putting each other’s needs above our own - must be the most important aspect of our relationships and the guiding principle for everything we do in marriage.  Happy couple holding hands walking through a meadow Royalty Free Stock Photo
I believe that the physical act of joining a man and woman together serves as a great symbol for unity within a marriage and also unity with God.  It is meant to serve as a reminder of the “sealing” and binding power of our covenants with each other and our covenant with God that we will love Him first and our spouses above all else.  Pres. Spencer W. Kimball said this:
“There are those married people who permit their eyes to wander and their hearts to become vagrant, who think it is not improper to flirt a little, to share their hearts and have desire for someone else other than the wife or husband.  The Lord says in no uncertain terms: ‘Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else’ (D&C 42:22)
And when the Lord says all thy heart, it allows for no sharing nor dividing nor depriving… The words none else eliminate everyone and everything.  The spouse then becomes preeminent in the life of the husband or wife, and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse…”
It is pretty clear how the Lord feels about intimacy in marriage. 
Physical intimacy in marriage is also meant as an expression of our love and devotion for each other and is the means by which we are given the amazing blessing to become co-creators with God in bringing souls to this earth and giving them a body and a mortal experience.  The power that we each possess is so big and so real it is no wonder that Satan hates us for it and desires nothing more than to destroy it. 
It is worth every moment of time and effort that we can spend learning and growing and changing in this area of our lives.  I am including below some links to some amazing resources on this topic:

Matheson, K.W. Fidelity in marriage: It's more than you think. Ensign, Sept. 2009, 13-16.

Barlow, B. A. "They Twain Shall Be One : Thoughts on intimacy in marriage", Ensign, Sept 1986, 49.

Monday, June 27, 2016

FAML 300 Week #10 - Seeking to Understand

Charity Never Faileth
There is much more to this “Relief Society Theme” then I ever imagined.  As I studied about the principle of charity this week it made me think about my marriage relationship.  The moments where I have felt the closest to my husband have been the moments where either he has shown me true charity or I have shown him charity.  Unfortunately these moments are somewhat rare but after studying this divine Christlike quality I realize that it is another vital piece to happiness in marriage.  I would even go as far as saying it is the most important piece and we cannot have all the other important pieces without it… humility, faith, obedience and sacrifice.  They all work together and are connected.  We cannot truly possess charity without first being humble, exercising faith, and practicing the law of obedience and sacrifice. 
How do we obtain charity?
Charity is a gift from our loving Heavenly Father.  “Wherefore my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ…”(Moroni 7:47)
Two important answers are found in this verse of scripture.  First we must pray with all the energy of heart.  When I ponder this phrase I reflect on my daily prayers.  Am I praying with all the energy of my heart?  Most days I am barely praying with any energy of heart.  I must truly desire this gift more than any other gift and I must sincerely ask with all that I have inside of me if I truly desire to possess charity. 
The second answer – it is “bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.”  Am I a true disciple of Jesus Christ?  Do I live my life everyday first seeking His will, guidance and strength?  Do I seek to be like Him? (Humility)  Do I trust in Him?  (Faith)  Do I follow the path that He showed me? (Obedience) and do I put others needs before my own in every circumstance (Sacrifice)  This is how we can obtain the gift of charity in our hearts and in our marriage. 
In his chapter on charity Goddard also brings up some very interesting insight on charity.  He paraphrases Elder Max Caldwell of the seventy when he discusses the phrase “love of Christ.”  He suggests that it has “meaning in three dimensions: Love from Christ, Love for Christ and Love like Christ.” (loc 2401)
“Charity is first and foremost the redemptive love that Jesus offers all of us.  It is the love from Christ.” We are all in need of rescue and His redemptive love.  
When we begin to feel that love from Him for us… the most imperfect beings we are changed.  “We are filled with a profound awe and gratitude for Him.” (loc 2422)  I believe this is why we are given so many weaknesses and trials.  So that we can first come to Him and feel what true charity feels like.  “This amazing truth of His unrelenting love pierces our hearts, we are led to the second kind of charity, love for Christ.  We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 1;19) (Loc 2422)  As we feel the first two dimensions of charity; love from Him and love for Him the third dimension comes naturally and almost automatically.  We are capable of love like Him.  We begin to see others as He sees them.  We love them in all of their weaknesses and shortcomings.  This is especially true for those in our own homes.  We want to serve them and help them in any way we can just as the Savior would do.  This process makes so much sense to me.  It puts a whole new light on my own weaknesses and why I have been given them.  They truly are an opportunity to turn to Christ, to feel His redemptive love and then to receive that love in my own heart so that I can then give to others.  What an amazing and powerful truth.  I don’t have to resent my own weaknesses any longer or the weaknesses of others. I am free.  I feel as Paul felt when he said “therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Charity in action

Marriage is an opportunity for us to grow and to learn to become like our Savior.  It is perhaps the most perfect setting in which we get to truly develop and practice the gift of charity.  “Rather than re-working our partners to our liking, we are invited to cover their weaknesses with our charity!  God is serious about cultivating our charity.” (loc 2620)  This is why marriage is central to His plan for the eternal destiny of His children.  If we choose to open our eyes and see the opportunities our marriage gives us to become like Him and to develop His perfect love we will be forever changed.  Our marriage will be forever changed and it will never fail because “charity never faileth.” 

Monday, June 20, 2016

FAML 300 Week #9 - Consecration

 Consecration in Marriage

Marriage provides wonderful and countless opportunities to practice consecration.   What does consecration have to do with marriage?  Pres. Benson has taught, “This law is that we consecrate our time, talents, strength, property, and money for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God on this earth and the establishment of Zion.  Until one abides by the laws of obedience, sacrifice, the gospel and chastity, he cannot abide the law of consecration, which is the law pertaining to the celestial kingdom.” (Loc 2021).   This sacred law is foreign to the “natural man.”  But those who have experimented with the ways of the God and come to truly know Him realize that the “more they turn their lives over to God, the better their lives become.”(Loc 2029).  Elder Maxwell said this about the irony 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.”  (loc 2029)  In marriage we cannot have all that God offers us in the way of joy and peace until we bring our all to the altar and are willing to consecrate all things for the building up of Zion in our own homes.  This is where Zion is built, one heart and one home at a time.   “This ultimate sacrifice is combined with obedience and informed by the gospel of Jesus Christ to provide an appropriate sacrifice.” (loc 2130).   This means that we are willing to sacrifice our whole souls in order to know the godliness in our partners and to sanctify our relationships.  In this process we also come to know God. 
We will experience great struggles in marriage even hurt, betrayals, insults, judgements, disappointments, broken trust, lack of appreciation, etc. but at these critical junctures – “consecration invites us to put everything we have on the altar – to hold nothing back.  We are willing to minister to a mixed-up spouse.  We are willing to love a failing partner.”  Of course no partner should have to tolerate physical violence but “every married person must accept abundant limitations if they hope to have a strong relationship.  Then consecration moves us from acceptance to using our spiritual power to rescue our imperfect partners.” (Loc 2157)  I had never before considered the significance of my own spiritual power in helping to rescue another person but as I ponder this concept I realize there are many stories in the scriptures that are evidence of this truth.  I think of Alma the younger and his mighty change of heart because of the faith his father had and the prayers he offered in his behalf.  I think of Helaman’s warriors who were strengthened and protected because of the spiritual power of their mothers.   I think of the faith and spiritual power of great missionaries like Ammon and Alma and Amulek and the sons of Mosiah who helped to convert thousands who were lost and fallen.  I think of the Savior and the greatest sacrifice for all mankind.  Ultimately we are all saved because of His spiritual power.  But if our own spiritual power leads people to Him then we have aided in their rescue.  We can do this in our own homes, in our marriages.  This is a powerful truth and helps me see my covenant in marriage very differently.
Image result for picture of forgiveness

Consecration is much more than just “staying together.”  It is deliberate actions which have the purpose of redeeming our partners and our covenants.  It is realizing the true significance of the covenants we make in marriage.  “There is nothing in God’s work [we] will ever do that will be more important than blessing [our] covenant partner (loc 2164).   Here is yet another irony. “Those who will bear whatever is necessary in order to honor their covenants will be made glorious.  They will experience eternal joy.  They are, after all, those who have honored eternal things above temporal things” (loc 2186).  We can choose to look past the unmet expectations and the disappointments and we can choose to appreciate all that our spouse does offer.  We can choose to “give gladly and receive graciously” with our whole hearts (loc 2201).   “Rather than wondering if [our] marriage is a good investment that will pay us a handsome return, we ask for heavenly grace that we may love and serve as Jesus served – without though of reward.  While there are destructive relationships that should end, the vast majority of relationships can survive and flourish is each of us brings our whole soul as an offering” (Loc 2262).  

Monday, June 13, 2016

FAML 300 Week #8 - Beware of Pride

Beware of Pride – In your Marriage

This week I studied Pres. Benson’s talk on pride (Pres. Ezra Taft Benson - "Beware of Pride" Ensign May 1989) and a chapter from Goddard’s book about humility and repentance.  It is amazing to me that in order to solve marital struggles the answers keep coming back to the very basics of the gospel.  There was a time in my marriage when I really believed we were beyond hope… that we would never be able to figure it out and work together.  I thought that we just didn’t have the knowledge or the skills it requires to make our marriage work.  I believed that if we got help and counseling then we might have a chance.  We got help.  We went to counseling.  It didn’t fix our marriage.  It was helpful and we learned a lot of really great things and tools we can use but it didn’t fix our marriage.  The Lord, in all His mercy continued to show me what I needed to do to strengthen my marriage and it didn’t have anything to do with marriage skills.  It had everything to do with changing myself, changing my nature, humbling myself, developing Christ-like attributes like patience, forgiveness, love, and total submission to the Father’s will.  Over and over again, the lesson always came back to removing pride from my heart.  And now I am here again, learning again (because I will never stop needing this lesson) that my pride is the problem.  My own hard heart is the problem. 
The single most important thing I have learned about pride so far is this:

The central feature of pride is enmity – enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellow man.  Enmity means hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.  It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.”  (Pres Benson)   This statement has powerful meaning and depth.  If we start to really look at our lives, our interactions with others and most importantly our marriage relationships I believe that there would not be one single marital disagreement, argument, conflict, etc. that did not include pride (probably from both sides).  Any degree of enmity toward God or our fellow men is pride.  If we are ever in a state of opposition or have any hostility no matter how small we are experiencing pride.  
 We have raised ourselves “above” another and even we sometimes try to raise ourselves “above” God feeling that we know what is best for our lives more than He does.  We get angry when things are too hard.  We get frustrated because things don’t work out like we hope or feel they should.  But these feelings are our pride.  If we have enmity toward our fellowmen we also are experiencing pride.  Pres. Benson said “we are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them.”  This statement applies to marriages more than anything else.  We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above our spouse.  Feeling as though we know what is best for them, the ways in which they should behave and change, etc.   Goddard said:
“Pride includes our own attunement to our own needs as the standard of judgement.  Pride also includes the fact that we honestly believe that we understand our partners and what makes them tick.  We presume to understand their thoughts, motives and intent better than even they do themselves.” (loc 1427)
If we humble ourselves we can see ourselves, others and most importantly our spouses in light and truth.  This is the only way to salvage a marriage.  This is the only way our marriages can heal and grow.  Goddard explains humility in this way:
“Humility is the friend of truth.  Humility opens us up to the experience of others and to truth from heaven.  Humility requires not only that we believe in God, that He is all-wise and all-powerful, but also that ‘man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend’ (Mosiah 4:9).  We must set aside our provincial view of the world (and of our spouses), and be open to our partner’s perspective.  We must invite truth, the heavenly perspective.”
Image result for picture of humility

Imagine if husbands and wives could adopt and embrace this most important principle of humility.  What would marriages look like?  How much peace would abide in our homes?  How much closer to each other and to our God would we be as a people?  If ever you have desired more connection with your spouse you can receive it through humility. If ever you have desired more love for your spouse or from your spouse, the answer is humility.  If ever you have dreamed of a deeper and richer friendship with your spouse then you will only find it through humility.  We must rid ourselves of pride.  We must openly accept and proclaim our daily, complete, and total dependence on the Lord and His mercy upon us.  

Monday, June 6, 2016

FAML 300 Week #7 - Staying Emotionally Connected

Faith = Happiness in Marriage

I continue to talk about faith because I believe this is truly the answer that we all seek in order to improve our marriage relationships. What does faith have to do with marriage?  Everything.  Faith points our minds and our hearts toward God, toward our Savior Jesus Christ.  If we have faith in them, we see hard things in our lives differently.  We see people differently.  We see ourselves differently.   I focus my thoughts once again on the writings of Wallace Goddard as I have come to know for myself that what he teaches is true.   “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ provides eternal perspective.” (Loc 1112)  As a person who has experienced great difficulties in my own marriage over the course of 17 years,  I have come to realize that there is only one way to overcome challenges successfully in a marriage.  I must rely upon the Lord.  He is the one in whom I place all of my trust.  People are imperfect.  My husband is imperfect and I certainly am imperfect. Therefore, the only source I can truly and consistently rely upon is the Lord.  This is the answer. There are some who see difficulties in marriage and in life in general as some kind of cruel joke inflicted upon us by our supreme creator.  Their eyes have not yet been opened.  “Jesus taught something far nobler: Life as perfectly guided moral education.” (loc1133)  Having faith is knowing that all we experience in this life our Father in Heaven will make it work for our good if we allow Him to do so.  If we look to Him.  “When we have vibrant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that the irritations and challenges of marriage are blessings intended to develop our character.” (Loc 1148)  Elder Holland observed, “too often too many of us run from the very things that will bless us and save us…”  Many years ago, my husband and I were in the middle of a particularly difficult challenge in our marriage.  I was to the point that I wanted to give up.  I doubted the possibility that people can change, that my marriage could change.  I felt hopeless and broken.  All of my focus was centered on how much I had suffered, how unfair my life was and the mistakes of my husband.  I was led by the spirit to read a book and there was one sentence in that book that changed everything for me from that point on.  It states, “Being mistreated is the most important condition of mortality, for eternity itself depends on how we view those who mistreat us.” (Ferrell, 33) To me this is an attitude of complete faith.  Our eternal progression depends upon us experiencing mistreatments, injustices, pains, sorrows, etc. etc.  It is how we view those who mistreat and how we respond to these circumstances that makes all the difference in our lives.  They are opportunities, even the greatest blessings.  I saw my husband and my marriage very differently from that point on.  I still have a lot of learning to do and I still forget this most important principle from time to time but this is the answer.  It will always be the answer to my struggles.
It is extremely important to note that “Satan knows that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His redemptiveness are enemies to his cause.  Satan’s best hope is to keep us from looking up.  He must keep us fully absorbed with the trivial, fretting over our inconveniences and stewing over our grievances.” (Loc 1140)  If he can make us doubt and focus our attention on all the little injustices in our lives that is all he has to do.  It is simply a matter of which direction we are facing.  Are we looking up or are we continuously looking down? 
There is another great blessing of faith in a marriage.  We have the unique gift and opportunity to see our spouse as our Father in Heaven sees them.  We live with this imperfect person.  We are exposed to their faults and weaknesses daily and yet we have the opportunity to see them for who they really are.  The Lord will grant us this gift if we ask Him.  “Brigham Young was once approached by two sisters, each of whom wanted a divorce.  I paraphrase his response: ‘If you could only see your husband as he will be in the glorious resurrection, this very husband you now say you despise, your first impulse would be to kneel and worship him.’  He said the same thing to husbands who had ‘fallen out of love’ with their wives.  Those are mighty words.”  (Loc 1140) What a powerful promise from our beloved Prophet Brigham Young.  If we can strive daily, to search for the good in our spouse we will find it.  If we desire to see them for who they really are we will blessed to do so.  This will change everything for us. 
How differently would our daily interactions with one another be if we could truly see each other the way the Lord sees us… with all of our divine potential?  This is faith in its most powerful form.  If faith’s power can raise the dead, part the sea, move a mountain -  then surely it can transform our marriage into something so much more than we ever dreamed of.   

Ferrell, James L. The Peacegiver: How Christ Offers to Heal Our Hearts and Homes. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2004. Print. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

FAML 300 Week #6 - Cherishing Your Spouse

Important Lessons learned about Marriage from Adam and Eve
In his book, “Drawing Heaven into your Marriage,” Goddard points out some important lessons learned from Adam and Eve. I had never thought to look at what I can personally learn from our first parents on the earth about marriage.  This was very enlightening.  We know that the curse that was given to Adam and Eve as they left the Garden of Eden was actually a blessing.  It was the only way for them to know good from evil and to progress.  It is interesting to me that as we take a closer look at their story and their testimonies we can learn a lot about marriage and how to improve our relationship with our spouse. 
“The human story began with obedience and sacrifice.”  (Loc 844). What does obedience and sacrifice have to do with marriage?  Goddard explains that “success in marriage hinges on our willingness to apply the same principles.”

After Adam and Eve left the presence of God in the Garden they went into the lone and dreary world.  Sometimes our lives in our marriages can feel like a “lone and dreary world”.  But Adam called upon God.  “The only remedy for our loneliness is to call upon God.” (loc727).  God gave Adam and Eve commandments and Adam was obedient to those commandments.  They were obedient without knowing exactly why they were asked to do certain things (Moses 5:6).   Faith is fundamental to obedience. The Lord will always show us the path we are to take for our own journey in this life.  If we exercise faith in God and complete reliance on Him we will be willing to be obedient to do what he asks of us.  Even if that is more patience with our spouse, more time devoted to our spouse, more willingness to help out around the house, willingness to forgive quickly and over and over again, etc.  Whatever he asks of us we will be willing to obey Him whether we understand it or not.  “Faith is the stubborn resolve to see God blessing us in all circumstances.  Even in our struggles and disappointments, faith requires us to believe God is ministering to us.” (loc 751)  This leads us to the next important principle:

Adam and Eve were to offer their very best, “the firstlings of their flocks.”  They were to lay their best upon the altar before God and sacrifice what they needed or wanted most.   There is a powerful lesson here for each of us regarding marriage.  “Sacrifices are the key to our eternal growth and eternal possibilities.” (Loc 760).  “What we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly.”  (loc 773)  If we are to truly grow and become “one” in our marriages and become like our heavenly parents then it requires great effort on our part and great sacrifice.  When things get hard in marriage we must see it as an opportunity for our own growth, for us to give up something for something better.   Nothing comes without a price.  Only the investment we make in our marriages pays far greater than any other investment we can make in this life and in the life to come.  We have to determine for ourselves, what are our “firstlings” of our own flocks?  What are the things that we can lay upon the altar of God and sacrifice in behalf of our relationship with our spouse?  What are we truly willing to sacrifice or give up?
The Savior requires us to have a “broken heart and a contrite spirit.”  What does this mean?  Elder Bruce C. Hafen explained, "animal sacrifices symbolized the Father's sacrifice of Son, but the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit symbolizes the Son's sacrifice of himself.  Elder James E. Talmage wrote that 'Jesus died of a broken heart in similitude we now offer ourselves - our own broken hearts - as a personal sacrifice.'" (Bruce C. Hafen - The Temple and the Natural Order of Marriage) Goddard gives his definition of this great sacrifice.  It means to “surrender our demands that things be done our way.  We become agreeable, submissive, cooperative, appreciative.” (782)  So often in marriage we hold our partner to a set of standards and most of those standards are both unreasonable and unexpressed.  And then we judge and complain and get frustrated when they don’t live up to these standards or expectations.  “Overtime this leads to cancerous assurance that our partner is fatally flawed.  The cure for this is humble submission… a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” (Loc 782).   What do we gain for ourselves if we can truly do this?  “In striking the marriage bargain, we are (unknowingly) giving up the egocentrisms of childhood in favor of the charity of Godhood.  We make a covenantal step toward unselfishness.  As we progress in marriage we gain ennobled character as well as eternal companionship.” (Loc 796).  This is a great promise.  We as a covenant people just as Adam and Eve were required, covenant to bring all to the altar – “the Lord cannot bless what we will not bring.”  (Loc 812).  This is so important to remember.  We must be willing to bring our whole souls to him so that He can transform us.  What we bring to the altar, will be accepted and it will change us if it is done in the name of the beloved Son.  “We do it in the spirit of redemptiveness.  We do it as a small but meaningful imitation of His sacrifice.  We show our willingness to rescue our spouse by giving up our tiny preferences in favor of our spouse’s blessing.” (Loc 803).  This is the only way to true happiness in marriage now and forever. 

“Each of us should pray earnestly for the heavenly help to make those sacrifices that will sanctify our relationships.  As we enter our homes, we can pause to beseech God to grant us grace, goodness, mercy, compassion, and patience.  We can ask Father to help us see our partner and his or her struggles with the loving-kindness with which He views them.  In so doing, we place our time, our minds and our hearts on the altar.  That is the ultimate offering, the required sacrifice.  Making this sacrifice is the heart and soul of the required obedience.” (Loc.812)

Goddard, H. Wallace.  Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage: Powerful Principles with Eternal Results.  Fairfax, VA: Meridian Pub., 2007. Kindle Version

Sunday, May 22, 2016

FAML 300- Week #5 - Answer to Marital Difficulty

What is the answer to difficulties in marriage?

Has anyone ever struggled in their marriage?  Anyone wondered how in the heck you are supposed to live with this person who is so different from you in almost every way for the rest of eternity?  How can we bridge this gap and how can we truly understand each other?  Is it possible to really connect with him/her on a deeper level?  If you have ever asked these questions or a thousand others like it, you're not alone.  I have asked myself these same questions.  After 17 years of marriage I am still wondering why we haven't got it all figured out.  Why is marriage such hard work all the time?

John M. Gottman, Ph.D. has conducted over 40 years of research on married couples and the dynamics of marriage.  In his book Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work which I will be referencing in future posts, he shares that one of his central findings and at the heart of the Seven Principles is that happy marriages are based on deep friendship.  By this, he means "mutual respect for each other and enjoyment of each other's company." (p.21)  Gottman explains that as a marriage therapist he thought for many years that the answer to saving marriages was better communication and helping couples to learn to handle their conflicts better.  Most marriage counseling focuses on these very things.  While these are helpful tools to learn, he realized that the real answers to saving marriages was something different.  He says, "I was not able to crack the code to saving marriages until I started to analyze what went right in happy marriages.  After tracking the lives of happily married couples I now know that the key to reviving or divorce proofing a relationship is not simply how you handle your disagreements but how you engage with each other when you're not fighting." (p.51)  The basis of his Seven Principles focuses on strengthening the friendship and trust that are at the heart of any marriage.

As I thought about Gottman's approach of focusing more on helping things go right in a marriage rather than focusing on how to handle the things that are wrong, it made me think about the other book that I am studying written by William Goddard entitled "Drawing Heaven into your Marriage."  The main point that Goddard makes in his first two chapters is that the answers to all the questions above and the answer to solve any marital difficulties is the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  This is the way we can help things go right in our relationships.  "Because of His goodness, we are reconciled to God.  When we are reconciled to God, we are reconciled to each other.  His goodness makes us one." (Goddard loc 221)  Goddard goes on to say that most marriage programs or therapies focus on developing a set of skills to help partners work out their differences and the assumption is that every marriage has problems and in order for the relationship to function well they have to be able to work out problems in non-destructive ways.  However, Goddard says, "My assumption is very different.  I believe that the key to a healthy relationship is being a healthy, saintly, God-seeking person - to be born again - to be a new creature in Christ." (loc 171).  Pres. Packer confirmed this answer when he said "if you seek for a cure that ignores faith and religious doctrine, you look for a cure where it never will be found."  Seeking to change our very nature and to be "born again" is the answer for those of us seeking to change our marriages.  It really doesn't come as a surprise to me that Jesus Christ is the answer to all the questions we have about our marriage relationships.  I always thought I had to get better at communicating, I had to learn how to speak his "love language" or I needed him to be the one to change, etc. but I was looking for answers in the wrong place.  Now please understand, I am not suggesting that receiving help and guidance and new knowledge from good books and wise counselors is not helpful because if it is good and true information then it will always be beneficial.  But we so often blame our spouse or ourselves for our lack of fulfillment in our marriage but the real answer isn't improving least not in the way we think we should.  The answer is coming closer to Christ.  The answer is in applying His atonement in such a way that it not only covers our weaknesses, our sins, our suffering but understanding that it fully covers the weaknesses, sins and suffering of our spouse as well.
Marriage is a unique opportunity for us to come to know Him in such a way that no other earthly experience can provide.  Goddard said this, "did God design marriage as a refuge - a safe haven - from a troubled world? Or did He design marriage as a laboratory where each of us could conduct daily experiments in gospel living? Or did he design marriage as a spiritual challenge course to humble us, stretch us, and refine us?  Yes to all of the above.  For most people marriage is sometimes a refuge from the storm.  At other times marriage is the storm where cold squalls and pitching decks test our balance and determination as we seek a promised land of marital harmony." (loc 197)  The key to this statement from Goddard is that we have to seek to truly understand God's purpose for marriage because if we truly understand the purpose for each of us, then we are better able to see the blessings of marriage and less likely to focus on the disappointments and "persecutions."  

Monday, May 16, 2016

FAML 300 Week # 4 - Contract vs. Covenant Marriage

What is the difference between a covenant and a contract marriage?

Most of the world views marriage as a contract.  Contracts are easily broken and are entered into with the purpose of fulfilling the needs of the individuals.  If those are not met one or both parties feel they are justified in ending the contract.  We see the rise in divorce rates as evidence of this “contract” commitment in the world today.   When we are married in the temple and enter into a covenant marriage we see marriage as something much more than a contract.   Elder Bruce C. Hafen in his “Covenant Marriage” address (click here to read)  taught that “when troubles come to a covenant marriage the husband and wife work them through. They marry to give and to grow, bound by covenants to each other, to the community, and to God. Contract companions each give 50 percent; covenant companions each give 100 percent.”   As we have been taught by Elder Bednar, (click  the adversary has specific intentions to destroy marriages and families.  He attacks the parts of the Father’s plan that he hates the most.  He will never have a marriage or a family and therefore he seeks to destroy them on earth.  (Marriage is Essential to His Eternal Plan).    When these troubles come to marriage if we are only giving 50 percent it will not be enough to withstand the adversary’s attacks.  

We must be willing to go through hard times and realize that in a covenant marriage we are bound together and with the Lord.  We cannot give up when times are tough.  Elder Hafen teaches (see link above) that every marriage is tested repeatedly by three kinds of adversity.  
  • The first is natural adversity.  This comes in many forms such as illness, accidents, financial struggles, etc.  
  • The second is their own imperfections.  This one will test everyone as we are faced with our weaknesses and try to overcome them and be patient with our spouse’s weaknesses.  
  • The third challenge is one that I believe is becoming more and more evident in our society and among young people.  It is excessive individualism.  Elder Hafen said that many fear “that the bonds of kinship and marriage are not valuable ties that bind, but are, instead, sheer bondage…. The adversary has long cultivated this overemphasis on personal autonomy, and now he feverishly exploits it. Our deepest God-given instinct is to run to the arms of those who need us and sustain us. But he drives us away from each other today with wedges of distrust and suspicion. He exaggerates the need for having space, getting out, and being left alone. Some people believe him—and then they wonder why they feel left alone.” 
Marriage is a work of faith.  It requires the Lord to be a part of it.  This is the miracle of covenant marriage.  We not only covenant with our husband or wife but we also covenant with the Lord and are therefore promised great blessing as we keep our covenants.  All too often people are willing to give up on this sacred commitment when times get rough.  Of course there are exceptions when divorce is necessary but all too often the answer to solve the problems in a marriage is selflessness.  As a couple grows closer to the Savior they grow closer to each other.  This is the only way marriage can truly work.
One thing that can truly bless a marriage is having a true understanding of the sacredness and important of the work of the temple.  Pres. Benson (What I Hope You Would Teach Your Children About the Temple) encouraged us to teach our children about the temple so that they will have a desire to seek their priesthood blessings just as Abraham did.  I strongly encourage you to spend some time studying this talk for a greater understanding of the blessings of the temple for yourself and then spend time teaching your children the principles Pres. Benson lays out in his talk.  Nothing will help prepare them for the temple and a covenant marriage more than this.  And nothing will strengthen your own marriage then a greater understanding of the importance of the marriage covenant. 

Other Resources:

Sunday, May 8, 2016

FAML 300 - Week #3 Defender of Marriage

Defenders of Democracy and Marriage:  The voices that have gone “unheard”
 I recently had the privilege of reading the Supreme Court Summary (click here for full summary) of the ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the United States on June 26, 2015.   I didn’t realize how much I could learn from reading this document.  Let me be very clear on that point, I didn’t learn more about the political, emotional or social view points of the Gay community.  I didn’t experience greater compassion for their plight for all the previous years they were unable to legalize their companionships in all States in the United States of America.  I didn’t find new insight or understanding as to why the definition of marriage really should be changed to include people of the same gender. What I did learn was that first and foremost, the Supreme Court took it upon themselves to redefine marriage.  I learned that because of the law that was changed by the Supreme Court in June of 2015 which legalized same-sex marriage the constitutional rights of Americans were stolen from us.  The rights to debate an issue and vote on an issue and have a voice in the matter (the very definition of democracy) were taken from us by a handful of attorneys (5 to be exact)  and a handful of judges. I learned that because of this decision there will be severe consequences to our society at large, many of which we do not yet realize.  I also learned that the vote in the courtroom was NOT unanimous.    I learned that thankfully, there were a few voices in that court room that day who clearly, boldly and profoundly stated their dissension, their caution and their warning voice to the decision the Supreme Court Majority was about to make.  Unfortunately for us, these few voices have gone largely UNHEARD.   Near the end of the Majority’s opinion it states that the decision to legalize same-sex marriage poses “no risk of harm to themselves or third parties.”  This statement is NOT true and I would like to expose exactly the risk of harm this decision poses to me personally, to you, to our society, to our freedom, and to families and children. I want to focus my remarks on three extremely important points out of many the dissenting judges made that day.   It is my sincere hope that we can add our voices to theirs and be HEARD!
1)      Threatens my Constitutional right to debate an issue and to vote on an issue.  This poses a threat to my personal freedom.  This poses a threat to the trust I can place in my government and in our Judicial system.   This poses a threat to all other issues that might come before the Court at some future point.  Really consider this point for a moment:  If the Supreme Court has the power to decide against the American people on an issue so basic to human experience and so universally recognized as marriage being between a man and a woman which has been the definition and understanding through all ages of recorded history, then what can stop them from overriding our voice in ANY other matter? The real issue in this case is who should decide what constitutes a marriage and that decision should be left up to the States.  For over a decade this country has been debating and voting on this issue in almost every state.  And in almost every state the people have clearly made their voices heard.  They have declared that the definition of marriage is the union of one man and one woman.   Now, “Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage – Stealing this issue from the people, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”  The right (legalizing same-sex marriage) the majority announced “has no basis in the constitution or the Supreme Court’s precedent.   Courts are not to be concerned with wisdom or policy of legislation but the majority of the court neglects that restrained conception of the judicial role as they proceeded with a vote to legalize same-sex marriage.”  Dissenting Judge Roberts explains,  “It seizes for itself a question the Constitution leaves up to the people at a time when the people are engaged in a vibrant debate on that question and it answers that question based not on neutral principles of constitutional law, but its own “understanding of what freedom is and must become.”  Judge Roberts further explains that “the Court is not legislature.  Judges have power to say what the law is not what is should be.”  The majority’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage was an act of will not legal judgement.  Furthermore, there has not been sufficient discourse, nor has there even been made the case for constitutionalizing the definition of marriage and for removing the issue from the place it has been since the founding; in the hands of State voters.” 
“When fixed rules which govern the interpretation of laws are abandoned and the theoretical opinions of individuals are allowed to control the Constitution’s meaning we have no longer a Constitution; we are under the government of individual men, who for the time being have power to declare what the Constitution is according to their own views of what it ought to mean.”
**Something else worth noting:  Those of us who are firm in our belief that marriage is and always will be  between a man and a woman are not the only ones who have been harmed in this process.  Judge Roberts emphatically points out that,  “Indeed, however heartened the proponents of same-sex marriage might be on this day, it is worth acknowledging what they have lost, and lost forever: the opportunity to win the true acceptance that comes from persuading their fellow citizens of the justice of their cause.”  They too have lost their freedom to true democracy.  The people have been forced to accept this law not because it has been proven just, or right or good for humanity but because it has been forced upon us.
2)      Threatens our Religious Freedom:   The Courts decision to legalize same-sex marriage “raises serious questions about religious liberty. Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is—unlike the right imagined by the majority— actually spelled out in the Constitution.  Respect for sincere religious conviction has led voters and legislators in every State that has adopted same-sex marriage democratically to include accommodations for religious practice. The majority’s decision imposing same-sex marriage cannot, of course, create any such accommodations. The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage.  The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.”  This right to exercise our religious beliefs in now seriously threatened.  Hard questions, no doubt will “arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples. Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage.”   These are just a few examples of the countless threats to our religious freedom. This is already happening all over the U.S.  Just look at the News headlines! It is up to us to protect and defend this particular and most important right both as defenders of marriage and disciples of Jesus Christ.
3)      Threatens the well-being of children which in turns threatens society as a whole:  With one decision limited to a few paragraphs of text, the Supreme Court “invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the states and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia.” Judge Roberts so fittingly, then asks, “Just who do we think we are?”  Then further cautions, “I would not sweep away what has long been settled without showing greater respect for all that preceded us.  For all those millennia marriage referred to only one relationship – the union of a man and a woman.  Marriage between a man and a woman no doubt had been thought of by most people as essential to the very definition of that term and to its role and function throughout the history of civilization.”  Let me focus for a moment on the role and function of marriage.  What is the role and function of marriage?  “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 life-long relationship.”  We know through social science research and through decades of observed patterns and statistics that “a child’s prospects are generally better if the mother and father stay together.  Therefore, for the good of children and society sexual relations that can lead to procreation should occur between a man and woman committed to a lasting bond.  That bond is marriage.”  Although gays and lesbians feel they have been discriminated against and that there is great injustice in the fact that they have been “left out” of the benefits of marriage, these benefits of marriage have been put in place for decades as an effort to encourage the union of a men and women in order to protect children and society.  “By bestowing a respected status and material benefits on married couples – society encourages men and women to conduct sexual relations within marriage rather than without.  Marriage is a socially arranged solution for the problem of getting people to stay together and care for children.”  Now that marriage has been redefined to include same-sex couples we lose this most important component of the benefits and respect of marriage.  It is no longer about what is good for children and society.  It is the very law of nature that procreation can only occur between a man and a woman.  Children that stem from that procreative union can only have the right and the full benefits of having a mother and father if they are married and stay married.  Marriage of two people of the same-sex serves no other purpose but to publicly sanction their “love.”  There is no benefit to children, no benefit for future families and no benefit to society.  The encouragement of marriage between persons of the same-sex does not provide a future posterity or even survival of the human race nor does it provide an environment conducive to meeting the needs of children. 

I feel like it is vitally important for us to understand what implications this means for us as citizens of the United States and as disciples of Jesus Christ.  It well worth the time it takes and I urge you to read over this document and decide for yourself what this means for you and your families.   Those of us who believe in traditional marriage and the right we have to make our voices heard must take a stand.  Not because we hate anyone.  Not because we are bigots or racist or discriminating.  Because we believe in the true doctrine of marriage.  We know that marriage is central to the great Plan of Happiness laid out by our Father in Heaven.   We know that marriage between a man and a woman provides the best and ideal setting for children.  We know that children have needs that only a father can meet.  We know that children have needs that only a mother can meet.  Because we believe in the freedoms granted us by the Constitution of the United States of America.  That is why our voices must be heard.

Please read and watch the following links:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

FAML 300 Week# 2 - DIVORCE


We as members of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Leaders of our church strongly advocate for families and marriage.  We "solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creators plan for the eternal destiny of his children." (The Family Proclamation)  What is interesting is that the Proclamation on families was written more than 20 years ago before the trends on marriage and laws regarding redefining marriage and families were even being considered or realized.  We now see trends and patterns in marriage that are developing that are having lasting and even devastating consequences for our society and especially for children, even the rising generation.  What are some of these trends?  Increase in the divorce rate, increase in cohabitating individuals, increase in births to unwed mothers, etc.  How do these trends affect children?  Paul Amato conducted a study which compared children living with only one biological parent and those living continuously with both biological parents.  His findings report that children living continuously with both biological parents were "less likely to experience a wide range of cognitive, emotional, and social problems, not only during childhood but also into adulthood." (Amato, 2005).

DIVORCE:  For example, children who experience parental divorce are prone to a variety of academic, behavioral, and emotional problems."  In this particular study of 60 divorced families, five years after the divorce more than one third of the group were "clinically depressed, doing poorly in school, had difficulty maintaining friendships, expressed chronic problems such as sleep disturbance, and continued to hope that their parents would reconcile."  Another side effect of divorce Amato found was "children in divorced families tend to have weaker emotional bonds with mothers and fathers than do their peers in two-parent families." (Amato, 2005)

CHILDREN BORN OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE: Children born outside of marriage when compared with children who grow up in stable, two-parent families "reach adulthood with less education, earn less income, have lower occupational status and are more likely to be idle (not employed and not in school), are more likely to have nonmarital birth, have more troubled marriages, experience higher rates of divorce, and report more symptoms of depression." (Amato, 2005)

COHABITATING PARENTING: In another study, Susan L. Brown found that "children living with cohabitating biological parents, compared with children living with continuously married parents, had more behavioral problems, more emotional problems, and lower levels of school engagement.  Unmarried cohabitating parents compared with married parents had fewer years of education, earned less income, had lower levels of psychological well-being, and reported more stress in parenting.  The risk of relationship dissolution is also substantially higher for cohabitating couples with children than for married couples with children." (Amato, 2005)

These trends and findings are alarming for children and for future generations.  Of course these are only a few examples of the significant difference between married and unmarried parenting.  We can certainly conclude that marriage matters for children.  The commitment and stability that come in a marriage can not compare with that of any other relationship or circumstance.  Of course marriage is not always perfect and there are many ups and downs in a marital relationship but God has made it very clear (and now we understand a bit more why) that 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." (The Family Proclamation) It requires our greatest effort and care to protect and defend our own marriages and that of others.
Elder David A. Bednar said this: "Lucifer relentlessly assails and distorts the doctrines that matter most to us individually, to our families and to the world.  Where is the adversary focusing his most direct and diabolical attacks?  Satan works unremittingly to confuse understanding about gender, to promote the premature and unrighteous use of procreative power, and to hinder righteous marriage precisely because marriage is ordained of God and the family is central to the plan of happiness.  The adversary's attacks upon eternal marriage will continue to increase in intensity, frequency, and sophistication.
The Father's plan is designed to provide direction for His children, to help them become happy, and to bring them safely home to Him.  Lucifer's attacks on the plan are intended to make the sons and daughters of God confused and unhappy and to halt their eternal progression.  The overarching intent of the father of lies is that all of us would become "miserable like unto himself" (2Nephi 2:27), and he works to warp the elements of the Father's plan he hates the most.  Satan does not have a body, he cannot marry, and he will not have a family.  And he persistently strives to confuse the divinely appointed purposes of gender, marriage, and family.  Throughout the world, we see growing evidence of the effectiveness of Satan's efforts.
Given what we know about our enemy's intent, each of should be especially vigilant in seeking personal inspiration as to how we can protect and safeguard our own marriages - and how we can learn and teach correct principles in the home and in our Church assignments about the eternal significance of gender and or the role of marriage in the Father's plan." (Marriage is Essential to His Eternal Plan - Elder David A. Bednar)

FHE Ideas:
Song: Families Can Be Together Forever
Quote; "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." (The Family Proclamation).
Ideas for Discussion:
Discuss with your children what this statement means from the Proclamation.  Why does marriage matter for children?  Discuss some of the above research findings and some problems that children face as they experience divorce.  Read and discuss Elder's Oaks talk on Divorce (Divorce).  Discuss ways in which children can prepare for marriage in the future and safeguard their marriages.  Discuss ways children can contribute to strengthening their parents marriage (support date nights by being willing to babysit, help out with chores around the house, encourage family prayer and scripture study, etc.)  Discuss ways parents can work to strengthen their own marriage.  Discuss the reality of Satan and his tactics he uses to destroy families. Read and discuss the above quote from Elder Bednar.