One of the hallmarks of a strong and vital community is the strength of its families. The family has been increasingly recognized nationally and internationally as a critical stabilizing force politically, economically and culturally.
The role of the family has always been an area of emphasis in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The belief that marriages and families are meant to be eternal underlies many of the Church teachings and practices.
In 1995, at the General Women’s Conference of the Church, President Gordon B. Hinckley read a statement outlining the church’s position on marriage, families and their roles. The statement, “The Family, A Proclamation to the World” emphasizes the importance of strong family relationships and the obligations of family members to each other.
Despite a belief in marriage and family, such relationships do not flourish and strengthen by themselves, but require effort on the part of spouses and children. Too often, when challenges arise, those involved choose to discard the relationship rather than put in the time and effort necessary to save and enrich a marriage.
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President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a member of the first presidency of the church, recently addressed the challenges of saving and building relationships between spouses. He noted that after the initial glow and excitement of marriage begins to fade, some spouses stop thinking of the other’s happiness and begin noticing little faults.
They may begin to think that their spouse is no longer fun enough, or attractive enough, or young enough. Somehow that justifies looking around at other options. Such an attitude, and acting on it, can lead to a broken relationship — and the resultant damage to the loved one and family.
President Uchtdorf says that saving marriages requires time, patience and understanding. Such efforts, and the saving of a marriage, do not produce results over night. It is a step by step process. That, he says, is good news. “Because no matter how flat your relationship may be at the present, if you keep adding pebbles of kindness, compassion, listening, sacrifice, understanding, and selflessness, eventually a mighty pyramid will begin to grow.”
We also need to change our focus. If we look for negative things in others, we will find them. Similarly, if we look for good qualities, we will find them. This is true in all relationships, but most critically within marriage.
Similar efforts can strengthen families. Just as there is no such thing as a perfect marriage, perfect families are only found in fiction. Though we may be related, we are individuals with different talents, interests and needs. We have different dreams and aspirations. And even when we share similar goals, we take different paths to reach them.
A lot of stress could be avoided if we would recognize and appreciate our differences rather than trying to make everyone fit the same mold. And when a family member does something that hurts himself or other members of the family, we need to remember the Savior’s admonition to love one another.
Chapter 13 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, describes the importance of charity, or the pure love of Christ. By making charity toward each other the foundation of our family interaction, we build and strengthen them. Love builds self esteem, respect and lasting bonds.
Just as charity strengthens family relationships, so it can also improve our relationship with others in our circles — whether neighborhoods, workplace or community. Charity reaches out to those in need. It reaches across artificial boundaries of race, religion and culture.
Pride, long listed as first among the seven deadly sins, is an enemy to charity. To maintain close relationships in marriage, family and community, we need to set aside our pride.
“Pride,” says President Uchtdorf, “is short-tempered, unkind and envious. Pride exaggerates its own strength and ignores the virtues of others. Pride is selfish and easily provoked. Pride assumes evil intent where there is none and hides its own weaknesses behind clever excuses. Pride is cynical, pessimistic, angry and impatient. Indeed, if charity is the pure love of Christ, then pride is the defining characteristic of Satan.”
The way we treat others, within our families and in our communities, can have long lasting effects. They may be good or bad. What effect do we wish to have — what legacy do we wish to leave? Whether within our family or community, we need to set aside our pride — and our prejudices — and build bridges through charity.
Glenna M. Christensen is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.