Blunder or Blessing? Culture or Covenant? What Does Marriage Mean To You?

Couple In LoveOur son, Todd, is getting married next month. Reactions of friends are all over the map, but generally speaking, most people respond positively to his announcement. Independent of poll results, Todd is getting married for the best reasons I know: He chooses Adrienne. She chooses him. He wants to give his life to her. They trust each other and choose to build a family together.

Couple In Love2Reaction to our daughter’s wedding announcement was often less positive. For example, when I called my aunt to tell her that Whitney was engaged and to invite her to the festivities, she immediately censured me and told me that I had to put a halt to the wedding plans, that I must tell Whit that she was making a terrible mistake—She hadn’t even finished college yet! I explained to my aunt that I felt that Whitney, as a woman, was capable of making up her own mind and that I supported her in the decision.

Couple In Love-Kyrgyz Bride And GroomMy Central Asian friends are more open to the culture of marriage. The notes of congratulations I’ve received from Central Asia are full of warm wishes for Todd and Adrienne and of prayers for happiness and lots of children. Upon greeting others, it is culturally important to my friends from the region to establish a rapport, which is done in many ways, including the asking of personal questions. One way to set at ease all conversational partners is to ask questions about family and marital status, which is considered conversationally neutral if everyone in the discussion is of the same gender. Once, a scholar from Central Asia was thoroughly enjoying a deep discussion with a student of Central Asian languages at a major university, when the scholar asked the student, “Are you married?” The student was incensed, abruptly ended the visit, and walked away. Describing the situation later, the student exclaimed, “I was so offended by the question. Why would they ask that? It was so rude! The conversation was just… over.” Not exactly conversationally neutral in modern Western culture. Conversationally speaking, the American student considered the question to be a threat. How did we get so prickly about marriage?

Couple In Love3For years, marriage has been associated with strong commitments and strong emotions. Ellis Peters illustrates the clear difference between a mere marriage of culture and a marriage for love, in her novel, The Leper of Saint Giles. I love the series of Medieval murder mysteries solved by a Benedictine monk named Brother Cadfael, but this one in particular is one of my favorite books. Peters skillfully uses a pitiable person to teach of commitment to family, to illustrate how marital vows and family bonds extend beyond personal desires and individual preferences to include mutual choice.

Couple In Love4I think that our modern culture’s resistance to marriage is rooted in a cultural resistance to choose commitment. Why open oneself unnecessarily to getting burned? Over the years, Kim and I have deliberately engineered deep discussions with our kids to educate them regarding commitment. As Mormons, we have worked hard to defend ourselves against resistance to commitment by teaching our family to have faith that marriage can extend beyond death, that families can be forever, and that there are solid and fun reasons to continue to work together even when times are tough.

Marriage well prepared for is a blast! Todd and Adrienne are well prepared. We wish them the best.

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Bonus Materials:

1. Explore the topic of marriage:

2. Home and family:

3. Families come first:

4. Mormons and eternal marriage:

The Leper of Saint Giles, by Ellis Peters

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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Photo, Couple in Love—
  • Photo, Couple in Love2—
  • Photo, Couple in Love-Kyrgyz bride and groom—www.
  • Photo, Couple in Love3—
  • Photo, Couple in Love4—
  • Photo, Couple in Love5—from private collection
  • Cover Illustration, The Leper of Saint Giles, www.
  • Photo, Couple in Love6—from private collection

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One response to “Blunder or Blessing? Culture or Covenant? What Does Marriage Mean To You?

  1. Pingback: Why Can’t My Brother See His Son’s Wedding? Our Family’s Answer. | MormonPanorama

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