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Editor’s Note: The following is the introduction to a new series from Wallace Goddard on the Lord’s teachings on relationships that we can use to improve our lives today. The series is called, “Discoveries: Essential Truths for Relationships” and a new installment will be published each week.
The first installment in the series is also featured today. See it by clicking here.
The world’s best expert on families and relationships is God. No one else can match His understanding. No one.
So, as sensible humans, where do we turn for guidance on families and relationships? Everywhere except God. We draw heavily on the traditions of our fathers. We consult whatever book comes to hand. We bumble along as imperfect people, parents, and partners with very narrow points of view.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can extract great riches of family truth from God’s counsel to us. We can find great treasures of knowledge.
Did you know that recent research has discovered the keys to personal well-being—and the same keys are perfectly described in scripture (D&C 78:19, D&C 59:21, Alma 34:38, for example )? I wonder why we never extracted them from God’s word?
Did you know that the greatest research discoveries in marriage over the last decades have emphasized qualities of character rather than skills? God has taught those same qualities of character since the beginning of time.
Did you know that the single most important predictor of effective parenting—is also God’s #1 command (see John 13:34-35)? How are we doing at wisely and consistently applying this counsel in our families?
Did you know that the exact control technique (called induction) recommended by the best research on parenting is perfectly described in D&C 121? If we understood and applied the lessons of that great section, we would be amazing parents.
Did you know that compassion (or understanding) is one of the foundation principles of effective relationships and that the Father and the Son model it perfectly (as in Moses 7 and Alma 7)?
On all the key principles of family life, God is both the expert and the exemplar.
Why Haven’t We Learned His Lessons?
God has always known the processes that can make us happy people, good companions, and effective parents. He has been teaching them since the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately we have not taken Him seriously as a guide for family life. We often think of scripture as sacred poetry and do not recognize that it is spot-on counsel for family living.
In fairness, I should say that I am no different from anyone else. I miss most of His amazing scriptural lessons for family. When I had family dilemmas, I turned to books and classes to find answers. I found a small number of His answers, but missed most of them.
Interestingly enough, I started to discover far more of His processes when I began a PhD program in Family and Human Development. That program opened my eyes to the amazing research discoveries being made in personal well-being, couple relationships, and parenting. The big surprise for me was that the greatest discoveries of extraordinary research align perfectly with the principles God has already been teaching. Research opened my eyes to God.
Why hadn’t I noticed those great scriptural truths sooner? God has always had the best answers. But the best thinking of scholars taught me to ask Him better questions.
It is worth noting that academic fads have come and gone. The thing that is different today is that research is better than it has ever been. The research is so substantial and consistent that the basic processes for healthy relationships are no longer being debated. Martin Seligman (2002, 2011) has summarized the research on personal well-being. A national team of scholars has summarized the research on couple relationships (Futris, Adler-Baeder, et al., 2014) and parenting (Smith, Cudaback, Goddard, Myers-Walls, 1994). There will be refinements but the core truths are well established.
In every case, the recommendations of good research agree with God’s timeless counsel. So, why has God given such a flood of scholarly truth in our time? I think the reason is simple: Satan is making an unprecedented assault on goodness, truth, and families. God has countered with a flood of truth lest the very elect be deceived.
I do not recommend that we use research by itself. I recommend that we test every recommendation of research with the word of God. God will always be the final authority on all truth. But research can send us to God with far more sophisticated and interesting questions.
God has given us these research discoveries so we will not fight unarmed in the last-days’ battle for our souls. He wants us to win! He wants us to experience great personal peace, loving companionships and effective parenting.
In the articles in this series, Discoveries: Essential Truths for Relationships, I plan to share some of the most powerful lessons God has taught. I am thankful for the research that has sent me to His word with more meaningful questions. I am thankful for the remarkable answers He has given.
For more about personal well-being, read Seligman’s Authentic Happiness.
For more about marriage, read Gottman’s 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work or, for an LDS perspective, read my book, Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage.
For more about parenting, read Ginott’s Between Parent and Child or, for an LDS perspective, read my book, Bringing Up Our Children in Light and Truth.