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.

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: