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, 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.