marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Monday, January 16, 2017

Wendy Watson-Nelson's Four Tips for Great Marriage - Commentary - Truth #1



Sister Wendy Watson-Nelson, a marriage and family educator for 25 years, recently gave a rare and frank talk to LDS young adults about love and marriage in a worldwide devotional for the Church. The link for that I am posting below, and it can also be found at the Church website. It was given for consideration of their future marriages. However, there was much in her talk that’s also adaptable to those who are already married.

This was particularly exciting because, with a General Authority present (her husband, President Nelson), she spoke about sexuality in a very appropriate way to single members, yet was still able to be clear and frank about this very sacred topic. She presented a very good model of how to discuss sexuality with single members of the Church.

Many years ago, I studied her writings on marriage. At the time, she was single herself, and as a married person, I found her ideas to be professionally and spiritually sound, but a bit on the idealistic side. They came across as a woman’s spiritually romantic fantasy of what she imagined sex in marriage would be like, not what it really was.

It was so far from my and my wife’s own reality that it reinforced my own feeling that the most useful marriage and family professionals also have successful marriages themselves. Being married (having a lab partner, if you will) truly is a prerequisite to obtaining a full and clear understanding of what sex in marriage is like and what is required to create a successful one. Just as a science class requires an experiential lab to get a fuller picture and understanding of any science, sexuality requires study and hands-on experience to truly understand what it’s like, what works and what doesn’t.

When I learned that she married President Nelson and was giving this talk, I was excited to see if her ideas had shifted at all. To me, this presentation (while maintaining her spiritual perspective on sexual intimacy) was refreshing and very relatable. I felt that her remarks were worthy of further commentary on my blog.

I’m excited to add my insights (and perhaps some helpful additional information in spots) on what she presented at this young adult devotional, to assist married couples as well.  What I wrote in green below are my comments.

WENDY WATSON-NELSON  

I’d like to share four truths I believe will not only save you unnecessary heartache, but what will help you be able to choose a righteous spouse, and then to create a happy marriage and a productive family.

…four truths about love and marriage.

Truth #1: The truths about love and marriage are brought to you by the Holy Ghost from our Heavenly Father.

He decreed marriage to be an irreplaceable component of his plan of happiness. The Spirit is the messenger of these truths. I urge you to seek to understand them.

I thought this statement here could be a little confusing to some. The Holy Ghost can bring things back to our remembrance, help us make connections between information we have already received, help the things we’ve learned to make sense, and testify to us whether what we have learned is truth. [i]

However, the Holy Ghost does not teach us things by osmosis. We can’t just enter marriage, pray for knowledge, sit back and wait and think that knowledge about communication and sexuality is just going to be poured into our heads.  We do have a responsibility to study and learn all we can first about our anatomies, relationships, communication, sexuality, and sexual techniques - then the Holy Ghost teaches us by confirming what is truth and what is good. [ii]

In this context, I wholeheartedly agree with Sis. Watson-Nelson. When desiring to know the truths about love and sex in marriage, the Holy Ghost is our best tool for finding what works best in our situation.

She talks about preparing yourself before marriage, and then continuing to keep your covenants after marriage. There may be some who think to themselves, “What if I wasn’t a member growing up? What if I didn’t keep myself pure? Did I miss the boat on being able to have great sex in marriage?”

The answer to that is, no, we’re not lost if this is the case. Repentance is still there for us, and the Atonement. If we desire a great marriage relationship that can last into the eternities, we can still make that choice by repenting and changing our lives, and enjoy the blessings Wendy Watson-Nelson mentions here. We can start where we are, and still have the kind of marital intimacy she talks about here.

By contrast, lies about love and marriage originate with and are perpetuated by Satan, and his servants. The Adversary rejoices every time he persuades a victim to embrace anything that defiles and degrades love in marriage.

However, truth is truth. Lies are lies. And no amount of clever marketing, campaigning or advocacy can ever change that.

In addition to knowing the truth about sex, the Holy Ghost is also our best guide in marriage for knowing what we should keep in or out of our marriage.

My rule of thumb is: If you can do it (no matter what it is) as a couple, and both can feel the Spirit – keep doing it! You’re fine.

If one or the other is feeling like something is wrong or feeling coerced, then you know you as a couple need to stop that practice and gently determine why you’re feeling that way. 

For additional helps, see my article on “Do Your Sexual Practices Defile Something Sacred?”
 
Come back next week for my review on Truth #2.

[i] Anderson, Neil L. “A Gift Worthy of Added Care”. December 2010 Ensign. https://www.lds.org/liahona/2010/12/a-gift-worthy-of-added-care?lang=eng
[ii] D&C 9:7-9 - Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Are Children The Binding Tie That Prevents Divorce?

I was reading an article on Quora, where someone asked a question which said,
“My wife cheated on me. Should I divorce, or should I give her another chance?”
Several comments were offered, including one that started this way:
“I say cut your losses and divorce. You don't mention kids, so it's not like you are irrevocably tied to her…”
This belief, that it’s only children that tie a couple together in any sort of meaningful way, I believe to be mistaken, in the context of the restored gospel.

Is Marriage a Binding Tie for Adults Without Children?

When it comes to worldly marriage, children do make it more difficult to leave each other, since laws regarding child support and ‘deadbeat dads’ have grown stricter. If you’re a parent, you have a legal responsibility to care for the child, even if the relationship that sponsored the child is no longer viable legally.

But what about the spouses’ (or former spouses’) responsibilities or connections to each other? What about our responsibility to ourselves? To God? Dallin H. Oaks once offered this council:
The concept that society has a strong interest in preserving marriages for the common good as well as the good of the couple and their children has been replaced for many by the idea that marriage is only a private relationship between consenting adults, terminable at the will of either.”[i]
In our religion, a marriage is allowed to end, even an eternal marriage, under certain circumstances. What those circumstances are depend on each relationship.
“There are many good Church members who have been divorced…We know that many of you are innocent victims—members whose former spouses persistently betrayed sacred covenants or abandoned or refused to perform marriage responsibilities for an extended period. Members who have experienced such abuse have firsthand knowledge of circumstances worse than divorce.”[ii]
To those still married, but contemplating divorce, he said, regardless of whether or not a couple have children:
“I strongly urge you and those who advise you to face up to the reality that for most marriage problems, the remedy is not divorce but repentance. Often the cause is not incompatibility but selfishness. The first step is not separation but reformation. Divorce is not an all-purpose solution, and it often creates long-term heartache.”[iii]
What Does A Marriage Mean Between Two Consenting Adults?

D. Todd Christofferson once quoted a German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on his thoughts regarding a couple’s responsibility to their covenant and to each other:
“Marriage is more than your love for each other. …
In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom.
In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind.
Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. …
So love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God.”[iv]

If love (or the lack of it) were all that mattered, then ending a relationship would be no more wrenching than the dissolving of a business contract.

But marriage in the LDS faith is much, much more than that. Ending such a relationship before you’ve tried everything you can, and then some, to save it, removes from us the opportunities to grow you might have had; opportunities that may have brought us closer to Christ, even if not to each other. Such opportunities make us more fit for heaven, and even more fit for another spouse, if our current marriage should happen to end.

Spiritual growth in marriage is not meant to be a constantly pleasant and happy thing. Even in the best of relationships, there are times that are difficult and wrenching to endure. 

If we can rekindle love where it might be dying or even dead, we must try all in our power to do so; not even for our spouse, but for ourselves and for the covenant we have made with our Lord. The rewards for trying are as eternal as the marriage that doesn’t come from us.

The Higher Law
“…love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
 For if ye love [the spouse] which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the [worldly] the same?
 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the [worldly do] so?
 Be ye therefore [finished and complete and Christlike], even as your Father which is in heaven is [finished and complete and Christlike].”[v]

The purpose of marriage is to train and test us to become more like Christ. And like Christ, we will have pain, frustration, betrayal, turmoil, sadness, hurt, and disappointment. How we react and respond to these times will affect our eternal destiny. 

Will we react and respond like the world and jump ship, or will we respond like Christ – with prayer, forgiveness and a determination to finish the mission, even if we have to do it alone?

Spencer W. Kimball said, “when men and women are selfless and devoted to their companions, they will have returned more nearly to the image of marriage described by the Lord when he said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” (Moses 3:24.)

When men are true to their covenants made with their wives and are loyal and selfless, divorces will take a downward trend. Paul gave the injunctions, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh.” (Eph. 5:25, 28–29.) [vi]

Something important to remember here, if we’ve been hurt, and we're reading this, and feel as though it’s an unbearably high standard – it is. It can’t be borne alone. We shouldn't try to bear it alone. 

Our Lord and Savior stands with his arms outstretched to us, waiting for us to give our burdens to him, to partner with him in perfection. The Atonement can make impossible things possible. We must remember that before we decide that all is lost.[vii]


[i] Oaks, Dallin H. “Divorce”. Conference talk April 2007, emphasis added: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/04/divorce?lang=eng
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge (1953), 42–43, as quoted by Christofferson, D. Todd, “Why Marriage, Why Family”, Conference talk April 2015: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/04/why-marriage-why-family?lang=eng

[v] Matt. 5:44-48; brackets comments added by author

[vi] Kimball, Spencer W, “Why Call Me Lord, Lord, and Do Not the Things Which I Say?”, 1975, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1975/04/why-call-me-lord-lord-and-do-not-the-things-which-i-say?lang=eng


[vii] An excellent Conference talk on this subject was given by A. Dean Byrd in September 2011: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2011/09/anticipating-the-need-to-forgive?lang=eng