Marriage and the Atonement

If you are a perfect spouse, and if you have a perfect spouse, feel free to disregard this post.

Marriage seems to be the best opportunity we have to practice forgiveness and repentance.  It’s like a crash course in why we need the Savior.  Is anyone else as surprised as I am how easy it is to hurt or be hurt by the person you love the most?  Sometimes our list of demands is great, and we pay more attention to it than we do our list of goals and self-improvement or our list of blessings.

I have a husband who is very patient with my frequent bouts of grievances.  He rarely returns the “favor.”  He far surpasses me in patience and long-suffering.

I’ve seen a lot of marital discord among family, friends and neighbors.  Every time it pops up, I feel so sad and I realize that none of us is immune to Satan’s attacks on marriage and family.  I hold on to my own marriage a little tighter and open my eyes a little wider.

And, surprise, surprise, I start studying what the prophets and apostles have said because I’m a firm believer that whatever seems to be plaguing society at the time has probably been addressed very carefully recently by living prophets.  So far, that’s always been true for me; I find answers for whatever is heavy on my heart and mind.  Anyway, here are few great talks and thoughts I came across after I did a search for “marriage and the atonement” . . . .

From Celestial Marriage by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Meanwhile, mortal misunderstandings can make mischief in a marriage. In fact, each marriage starts with two built-in handicaps. It involves two imperfect people. Happiness can come to them only through their earnest effort. Just as harmony comes from an orchestra only when its members make a concerted effort, so harmony in marriage also requires a concerted effort. That effort will succeed if each partner will minimize personal demands and maximize actions of loving selflessness.

President Thomas S. Monson has said: “To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. Service to others is akin to duty—the fulfillment of which brings true joy.” 34

Harmony in marriage comes only when one esteems the welfare of his or her spouse among the highest of priorities. When that really happens, a celestial marriage becomes a reality, bringing great joy in this life and in the life to come.

From Divorce by Elder Dallin H. Oaks Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

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. A broad-based international study of the levels of happiness before and after “major life events” found that, on average, persons are far more successful in recovering their level of happiness after the death of a spouse than after a divorce. 3 Spouses who hope that divorce will resolve conflicts often find that it aggravates them, since the complexities that follow divorce—especially where there are children—generate new conflicts. . . .

Of course, there can be times when one spouse falls short and the other is wounded and feels pain. When that happens, the one who is wronged should balance current disappointments against the good of the past and the brighter prospects of the future.

Don’t treasure up past wrongs, reprocessing them again and again. In a marriage relationship, festering is destructive; forgiving is divine (see D&C 64:9–10). Plead for the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord to forgive wrongs (as President Faust has just taught us so beautifully –see that talk here), to overcome faults, and to strengthen relationships.

If you are already descending into the low state of marriage-in-name-only, please join hands, kneel together, and prayerfully plead for help and the healing power of the Atonement. Your humble and united pleadings will bring you closer to the Lord and to each other and will help you in the hard climb back to marital harmony.

From Covenant Marriage by Elder Bruce C. Hafen Of the First Quorum of the Seventy:

Our deepest God-given instinct is to run to the arms of those who need us and sustain us. But [Satan] 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. . . . .

May we restore the concept of marriage as a covenant, even the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. 14 And when the wolf comes, may we be as shepherds, not hirelings, willing to lay down our lives, a day at a time, for the sheep of our covenant. Then, like Adam and Eve, we will have joy.

I need to do a better job of expressing appreciation and love.

What do you do to protect yourself against the “wolves” that attack marriage?  How do your covenants bless your marriage?

GCBC Week 14: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage” by Elder Richard G. Scott

I cried through almost all of this talk when I first heard it on General Conference Sunday back in April.  It was such a sweet talk, so sincere and heartfelt.  You could just tell how much Elder Scott  loves his late wife and how much he misses her.  It was also a wonderful reminder of how importance day-to-day kindness is in family relationships.

“The Eternal Blessings of Marriage” by Elder Richard G. Scott

He told lots of stories that were filled with examples of love and service.  As I listened and read, I knew that there are things I can do better to show my love for my husband.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

Two of the vital pillars that sustain Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness are marriage and the family. Their lofty significance is underscored by Satan’s relentless efforts to splinter the family and to undermine the significance of temple ordinances, which bind the family together for eternity.

—–

As a mother you have been given divine instincts to help you sense your child’s special talents and unique capacities. With your husband you can nurture, strengthen, and cause those traits to flower.

—–

I think one of the reasons that we are counseled to get married early in life is to avoid developing inappropriate character traits that are hard to change.

How about you?  What were the main points that you felt like were take-away principles from this talk?  Share your thoughts and conversation in the comment thread below.  If you’re new to GCBC, check out the club here.

Being a good mom is a lot easier if you’re a good wife.

I mostly use this blog as a vehicle to talk about motherhood.  Today I’m going to switch gears just a little bit to share some thoughts I’ve had recently about marriage . . . except it’s not really switching gears since marriage and parenthood are so connected.  One of the most important things we can teach our children is how marriage is supposed to work.  (Heaven knows the rest of the world won’t teach that!)

“Marriage is perhaps the most vital of all the decisions and has the most far-reaching effects, for it has to do not only with immediate happiness, but eternal joys as well. It affects not only the two people involved, but also their families and particularly their children and their children’s children down through many generations.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Marriage and Divorce, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976, p. 10.)

Even harder than teaching about good marriage is modeling it.  Good marriage takes hard work.  It almost always takes work, but sometimes, when the cares of day-to-day living start to wear on you, that work can seem even harder.  Essential, but hard.  I have learned that when my marriage is healthy, I’m so much better equipped to deal with the other challenges I face.  There is a lightness and a sense of safety that comes from knowing that “all is well” on the home front. On the flip-side, when I let disagreements fester or small problems go unresolved, I find myself more easily overwhelmed in all my other pursuits.  There’s a heaviness that holds me back and makes it harder for me to be successful as a whole.

Recently, some of the stresses that my husband and I have been facing individually have led us to realize how much we need each other.  We need one another’s strengths to face our own weaknesses, plus we need blessings from the Lord that are sure to come if we are paying more attention to our marriage covenant.  I don’t want to cause any false alarm because I have always been certain of my love for my husband and my gratitude for my marriage, but, like all important things, Satan works hard to cause distraction.  We’ve just been busy.  We’ve dealt with big things in both of our roles.  We haven’t done things to damage our marriage, but we’ve waded through a short phase where we just kind of got too busy for each other. Even the greatest of seeds, when ignored, won’t give good fruit.

“Marriages would be happier if nurtured more carefully.”  -Elder Russell M. Nelson

In short, we’re stupid if we think we can handle life’s challenges alone.  And even together, if we don’t have the Holy Ghost, we’re alone.  We need the teamwork.  We want it.  So we’ve chosen to cling to each other, and we’ve been thinking and praying and talking about the things that are important to us and to our family.  Even just that much makes me feel so much more grounded.  At women’s conference last week, I attended a workshop where the speaker said, “Whenever I feel distance between myself and my wife, I know I need to repent.”  It struck me that rather than focusing on what needs to be done in a marriage, things will always move toward resolved when we’re each focusing on what to be.  Trying to keep my husband’s welfare and happiness as a top priority has made me happier.  It really has.  It gives me strength to deal with the same things that have been there for months and overwhelmed me, but I feel stronger because he is my partner.  We both feel better, not because life is any easier, but because we know we can lean on each other.

I just wanted to share some of the articles I’ve studied recently that I found to be the most helpful. They have great reminders of the basic nurturing that is easy to forget.

“Enriching Your Marriage” by James E. Faust

“Nurturing Marriage” by Russell M. Nelson

“Oneness in Marriage” by Spencer W. Kimball

“Coping With Difficulties in Marriage”  (The Ensign interviews Val D. MacMurray, twice a bishop, and [then] assistant commissioner for LDS Social Services.)

I also collected some favorite quotes from these articles and a few others and made little signs (ha ha ha, here I go with my signs again) to hang on the mirror in our master bathroom.  We both want to stay focused on what matters most, so I created these little “Marriage Mirror Messages.”  If you want to print them out and use them, you can click here to download the file. Please note:  I am not a graphic designer.  I just know how to type.

I wondered if this post might be a little bit too “dirty laundry” to put out there, but I can’t imagine that we are any different than any of you, and we all need reminders sometimes about what matters most.  I know that my own personal journey in the past week or so has helped me feel full of the Spirit and reminded of the great blessings that I have, not to mention the great blessing I’m married to.  I guess I just hoped it might do someone else some good to remember the same things.

There should be no secrets in a marriage.

The late Elder Theodore M. Burton of the Seventy said:

“Couples interested only in themselves don’t communicate. Lack of communication then becomes a major stumbling block in developing true love.” (Ensign, May 1979, p. 73.)

And this is why I have spent the last 20 minutes looking for my husband’s secret stash of Cadbury eggs.  Come on, honey, show me the love.

p.s.  In the search, I did manage to find some Nerds leftover from last Easter.  And for the record, yes, Nerds can go stale.

‘Twas the night before motherhood

Today I dug through a trunk full of memories looking for a few specific things I’d promised to lend out.  You can’t look through a memory box without taking a journey far and deep.  I saw an autograph book from the 7th grade, photos of my grandparents in their twilight years, quotes saved from college Sunday school lessons, and a recipe box I made in Young Women.  Wrinkled in the corner, I found a folded piece of paper that had my handwriting on the outside:  A poem for Matt.  love, Stephanie

I figured it might be some cheesy love poem which I have no memory of ever writing.  I used to write quite a bit of poetry growing up.  After I served my mission and fell in love with the Spanish language, I wrote a lot of Spanish poetry.  I was pretty darn good at it, too, for a gringa— I even had several of them published in literary journals.  But I’ve written very little poetry since then, in any language.  So I was curious what had inspired me to write Matt a poem.  I opened the wrinkled paper.  It was dated Jan 7, 2003:  Four years since we met and just a few days before the birth of our first child.

Future’s Eve

Here we sit in the twilight of all our yesterdays,
still warm from the brightest rays, and full of memories.
The evening dews of destiny begin to fall,
beautiful and mysterious.
The tomorrows will be different days;
I am curious, but not afraid.
Thank you for harboring me in your friendship
and bearing me in your love.
In a magical way, that love defines our past
and will now somehow redefine our future.
We will be more than two, and yet, more at one.
The morning sun begins to break slowly through the unguessed dawn,
and the beams, like Spirit, fall gently upon us.
We go enhanced to the next day.

When Matt left for work this morning, I was having a moment of self-pity because Grant had almost missed the bus and Natalie was mid-meltdown.  “This will be my day,” I sighed as I looked at the small, weeping preschooler flopping and thrashing on the stairs.  He made some comment about how my life was so horrible and tortured, but he didn’t mean it and that’s not what I meant either, so I got annoyed.  I don’t think it’s an accident that I read this line today about how I had once anticipated parenthood to be:  “We will be more than two, and yet, more at one.”  Oh, how we need each other, but how easy it is to be selfish!

Children can draw a couple together in deeper ways than they ever thought possible.  I remember the days that Grant spent in the Pediatric ICU after unexplained seizures, and how Matt and I clung to each other and needed each others’ support so much.  And yet, when we are not careful, we can let their whims come between us, like a morning where a temper tantrum makes me pathetically dread the day rather than share a a goodbye hug with my husband and remind him how much I love him and still need him.

Every morning in parenthood is an “unguessed dawn;” We never know what it will bring, but we need each other and we definitely need the Lord.  When we let our selfish wish-lists go, and turn to the Lord to help us fill our unmet needs rather than demanding that someone else read our minds, heal our wounds, and solve our problems, I think the Spirit can work wonders.  And then, both individually and as partners, “We go enhanced to the next day.”

Confession and Clarity (dramatic subtitle: How the Bachelor has changed my life)

I watched the premier of The Bachelor the other night.  I wouldn’t even mention it except that I commented something about it on Kristina’s post, and have since been publicly mocked for watching it … and rightfully so.  DeNae said something to the effect of “Stephanie watched the Bachelor?  Now I’ve heard everything.  Bring on the Second Coming!”  (I paraphrased a little.)

In my defense, it was kind of accidental.  I had put my kids down to bed and turned on the TV to keep me busy while I folded laundry.  I happened upon the Bachelor at some part where he was being interviewed about his intentions, and he seemed nice and genuine enough (“I believe in lasting love, I’m ready to be a husband and a father, blah, blah, blah, etc.) so I kept watching.  (Pay attention ladies, this is how Satan works his magic.)  Anyway, then these 25 ladies showed up, and it was all downhill.  They came pouring out of limousines with predator eyes and dresses that were all bought at “Pamela Anderson’s Prom Shop.”  It was kind of like witnessing the destruction of the Twin Towers– you feel shocked and horrified, but can’t take your eyes off the TV.  I believe the producers searched far and wide to find twenty-five women whose most-prized possession is their breasts, and their least-prized possession is their dignity.  Enough said.

So, yeah.  I watched it.  And I couldn’t stop thinking about it all that night.  Or in the shower the next morning.  Or driving to the doctor.  Geesh, those women need help.  Plus it only took Mister Nice-Guy about 10 minutes into the program to fall straight into the “forget about forever– this is all about who turns me on the most right now” mode.  I kind of want to lock my children up in our house (with the TV unplugged) until they’re well past puberty.

And then yesterday, I received a copy of a talk I had requested by Sister Julie Beck.  (I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I love her talks.)  This talk is an address she gave recently to all the Seminary and Institutes of Religion teachers.  It is the BEST. TALK. EVER.  And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  So many great points.  Things I’d never thought of before, but make so much sense.  It totally gave me a new perspective on what I want to teach my children and what I want the young women I work with at church to know.  Unlike the Bachelor (that I couldn’t get out of my mind because it was so wrong), it was just so right. It just oozed TRUTH.

I know I give you links to talks and articles and stuff all the time, but you should REALLY read Sister Beck’s declarations about the theology of the family and our sacred, eternal roles as parents and teachers of the next generation.  It’s so good.  I’ve never tried to link to a .pdf before, so I’m hoping that if you click on this link, you can download the talk.  If you want to read it and can’t get it to work, email me — dd.stephanie [at] gmail [dot] com– and I’ll send it to you as an attachment.

2009-beck-teaching-the-doctrine-of-the-family__eng

So, rest assured (I’m talking to you, DeNae) that I’ve watched my first and last episode of The Bachelor.  Those people on TV and all the watchers who buy into those philosophies and lifestyles just have it all wrong; they have no insight into the power they have as women, or how mighty a relationship blessed by God can be.  I couldn’t be more grateful for a husband who’s my partner in a real “reality” relationship and the opportunity to teach my kids that they can have the real deal for themselves, even when the rest of the world is putting up billboards and neon signs telling them it’s impossible, even stupid.

“I would have you live in your homes, in
your families, in your marriages so your
students have the hope of eternal life from
watching you. Your objective is to live the kind
of a home life that your students want to have
—have that kind of a family. They won’t get
that message from many other places. Live it
and teach it with so much clarity that what you
teach will cut through all the noise they are
hearing and pierce their hearts and touch them.
You don’t need to compete in volume; you
don’t need to compete in the number of words;
you just need to be very clear in your examples.
You are the ideal for them. . . .”

“Your role in this is to teach them so they don’t
misunderstand, to be very clear on key points
of doctrine, which you find in the proclamation
on the family. This is prominent in your
teaching, prominent in your classrooms,
prominent in what they’re learning. You are
preparing them for the blessings of Abraham in
everything you are teaching. You are preparing
them for the temple. You are seeking to send
forth from every classroom an Isaac and a
Rebekah. You’re living so they have confidence
in you, and through your example they know
they can form eternal families.”   –  Julie Beck