Monday, July 23, 2012

Why get Married?

I read an interesting article online about Men in the LDS Church being fearful of marriage.  This is a common theme these days and many Church leaders lament that young men are so reluctant to experience the “Joy” of marriage and the accompanying happiness of creating an eternal family. I’d agree that a large (and growing) percentage of our men are missing out on the most rewarding experience life has to offer…that of fulfilling the design of your creation as a man, to Protect, Preside and Provide.

Many Church leaders offer suggestions about how to overcome this predicament and offer ‘encouragement’ to Young Men to just get on board, find a girl and get married… if they would simply have faith then all will be well…so they say.  This approach clearly isn’t working.

I have my own ideas as to why the current trend is toward NOT getting married.  Again, I don’t think I’m going to be popular for saying it though.  But since when has that stopped me before?  Recent experience has taught me that even men who are married and have kids are struggling to find meaning in it all. They want that joy and happiness that has been promised, but it’s easy to get bogged down in the drudgery of family life.  Joy doesn’t just happen…it takes work and effort. Like most good things in life…you have to go get it.

In my theory, I have looked at the state of modern marriage in the LDS culture and what it is that we are truly offering to these young men…and it isn’t a pretty picture.  You see, in the current LDS culture, reality doesn’t match the principle.  We say that marriage and family is the pinnacle of happiness but that isn’t shown in our behavior… think about it…

What does a young man in the LDS Church have to look forward to in marriage? (based off what we see around us) Look at the typical LDS patriarch.

1)    He’s typically overweight, sometimes balding
2)    He’s usually dragging around at least one screaming kid…longing for that day when he can leave him in nursery and actually listen to a lesson.
3)    He drives a minivan (what young man dreams of driving a minivan?)
4)    He spends a great deal of his non-work time in church callings or meetings
5)    In many cases, he’s working multiple jobs or putting in a ton of overtime to build his career
6)    Time with friends or pursuing hobbies is frowned upon…home and family should be his priority
7)    His life does not seem to be his own.  He is a product of external expectations
8)    LDS culture frowns on individualism and places a premium on conformity

Not that these things are bad…but as a young guy in the Church…what is to motivate you to WANT that lifestyle?  If marriage and family is the pinnacle of happiness…then why isn’t that shown?  Why do so many LDS men seem to be so miserable?

I would gently suggest that if we want more young men to marry and have families then maybe we ought to look inward at the example that we are setting for them to follow.  Are we showing happiness in our marriages and families, or are we merely going through the motions? Do we show that life as a father is amazing, fun, exciting and a daily adventure, or are we so tired, out of shape, annoyed, and worn out that we display anger, frustration and a joy-less existence?  Are we constantly moaning about our callings, and doing as little as we can in our service?  Do we exhibit the joy of the gospel in our daily actions? Are we excited about the gospel? I mean REALLY excited about it?

So what would I do about that?

It takes a cultural shift for things to change.  Our attitudes and behaviors are so ingrained in us from the day that we are born that it’s hard to make the shift.  It also takes a personal commitment to make a change in your own life and a willingness to deviate from the norm.

I decided some time ago that being an example of the happiness that the gospel brings into my life was a priority for me.  Here are some of the things that I’ve tried to change in my life (with varying levels of success)

a)    Get in shape.  Make personal fitness a HIGH PRIORITY.  Really, we give a lot of lip service to the “Lord’s law of health” and to caring for our ‘temples’…but how fit are we really? If you’d like some ideas on how to get into shape…then see my posts under the ‘Fitness’ tab. You can’t make excuses here either…the two worst excuses that I’ve seen from Church members are a) my calling takes too much time and b) I need to spend time with my family.  To both excuses I say “Baloney”… if your calling makes you THAT busy, then you are doing too much and if you really love your kids, then you’ll want to be with them into your old age…if you aren’t fit you aren’t going to live a long, healthy life.
b)    Smile more.  I try to look for reasons to smile and be happy. Once you start looking for it, they are easy to find.
c)    Find excuses to be 1) More positive 2) Energetic and 3) Enthusiastic. Those three things can totally change your attitude and even your physical appearance.
d)    Find opportunities to date and spend time with my wife.  Building that relationship takes priority over EVERYTHING.
e)    Cheerfully greet people by name.  People like to hear their own names.
f)    Break the mold when it comes to Church service.  Don’t do things just because ‘that is how it’s always been done’…but discover the ‘why’ of the gospel (Pres. Uchtdorf) and really determine what matters…it also helps to really know the Handbook.  I never accept the norms, and always challenge them.
g)    Share the good with people around you.  One of my greatest joys is helping other people discover fitness.  Being fit can change lives almost as much as the light of the Gospel can.
h)    Enjoy your kids when they are young…then you’ll even enjoy them MORE when they are older. You cannot put this off. Kids are the life blood of the Church and the family.  Enjoy them! Serve with glee in the primary.  I like to high five and fist bump the primary kids (we have nearly 100 in our ward)…they love that. Play with your own kids a LOT.  Roll on the floor and laugh with them.  I honestly believe that the reason why the Savior enjoyed spending time with kids (especially when he was tired) is because they didn’t put a lot of demands on him, they just wanted to play.  You can’t roll on the floor with a toddler and be depressed…it simply doesn’t work.  If you want more energy…play with a kid.  They recharge you like crazy!
i)    Truly try to live my life like the Savior would.  What Would Jesus Do? Isn’t just a cute saying.

If we want the young men of the Church to look forward to marriage and family, then we need to be the examples to them of the level of happiness that can come as a result of keeping this eternal law.  They should be able to look and honestly say “I want to grow up to be like that guy!”

So I'd like to know what you think you could do to help this situation?

Good luck my fellow Warriors!