Strengthening the family part 15 - Church

I suppose this may be a touchy subject but I really believe it is important. I grew up in a home that didn’t go to any church. My parents were both good people and they are still married after 50+ years. My two brothers and my sister never went to church. I joined the LDS church at 23 and have been faithful since. 

Out of all of us siblings, I am the only one with an intact, traditional nuclear family. I do not think it is just coincidence. Statistically, having a strong affiliation to a church greatly increases the chance of having a strong family. 

To me, religion is like a school for life. We learn how to live in such a way that will bring peace and stability to our personal lives, our family, and our community. We are reminded of the commandments, of forgiveness, and many other virtues we need for a stable family. Like the North Star, church is something we can look to as a guide in our lives. 

While your choice in religion may affect  divorce rate somewhat, I want to focus more on your level of dedication. Ask yourself if you can step up your devotion in some way. Surely, we all can do better, there are plenty of things that I can work on in my own life. 

Along with attending church every week, we need to take what we learn there and apply it. Prayer and scripture study are essential for reinforcing those things into our home. Personally, I have morning personal prayer, morning couple prayer, morning family prayer, family scripture prayer, breakfast, lunch and dinner prayers, then evening prayer with each kid, Evening couple prayer, evening family prayer, bedtime prayer. 14 total, plus 3 chapters reading, personal couple and family study. All of them serve as reminders to come closer to Christ, and to each other within our family.
As you go to church, read and pray, the Holy Spirit will work more with you in your life. Or rather, you will be more willing to allow the Holy Spirit in your life. You will be prompted to do what is right, to follow the commandments, to have more integrity. All of those attributes you work on will have a positive effect on your family unity. Certainly, no church member is perfect, nobody is. Church is like a hospital for sinners, not a hangout for perfect people. 

My Story

Maybe I have told this before, but I really think it is a good anecdote to why I feel this way. I grew up in a household that never went to church. My parents are a little older than the boomer, hippy generation, and still had the traditional set of values of waiting until marriage, being faithful, et cetera. They did not grow up with the "free love" mindset brought out with the advent of birth control. Now, pushing 80, they watch either sports, or reruns like Andy Griffith and I love Lucy. They have been married for 50+ years now and will remain married. 

Not going to church however, my brother's and sister's generation did not have that societal stability. My oldest brother has been cheated on and divorced twice. My second brother has been divorced twice and widowed once. And, my sister married a divorced guy and raised his children. In addition to these stories, I saw several friends and coworkers go through similar family problems. 
When I was 22, and questioning myself if God existed, I had a good religious friend of mine get married to this 20 year old young woman. This woman was inspiring, she was sweet, had strong integrity, and was very feminine. Admittedly, I was quite jealous of my friend finding such a catch. 
From then, I was determined I would do all I could to find the spiritually cleanest girl I could to marry. Considering the women I was familiar with earlier, I knew it wouldn't be an easy task. I did what I could to clean up any habits I had. I quit smoking, quit partying on the weekends, and tried to socialize with the cleaner women in my college classes. Three times in a row, I asked out LDS girls without knowing their religion beforehand. Each time, it was a pleasant first date, but that was the end of it due to religious issues. Well, the last one asked me if I would go to church with her. I refused and kept doing my own thing.

About six weeks later, I was thinking about that whole experience and realized that it wasn't just those girls that attracted me to them, it was the spirit they carried, and this feeling of goodness around them. I decided to go to church. I called up my friend who was now married for about a year now and asked if I could go to church with him. With that, I took the lessons from the missionaries and was baptized a couple months later. 

From then, it took a few years to learn the culture, to improve my mannerisms, to overcome habits, and to win the trust of the girls there. My friend got married in 1997, I was baptized in 1998, I got married in 2003. So it was a process, but seeing where my family is, compared to how my siblings' families are, I know it had a profound positive impact on us.