Last week I noted that this would be my last column for the Meaningful Marriage series in the Deseret News. After 12 years it is time to bring it to a close. I also stated in last week's column that for my final article I would try to write something of particular significance as a sign-off article. So here it is.

I have arrived at the conclusion that we here in Utah sometimes give up too soon or too easily on trying to succeed in marriage. At first it was just an observation and then it became an opinion. But now there is some evidence to back it up.Not long ago I reviewed some of the divorce statistics in Utah and found that we are currently fourth in the nation in the shortest time between marriage and divorce, which averages out to about five years. When I started writing this column back in 1979, Utah led the nation in the shortest amount of time between marriage and divorce. Married couples living on the East Coast who legally separated average somewhere between seven and eight years before obtaining a divorce. What that means is that people elsewhere are apparently willing to work at a marital relationship for a longer period of time before calling it quits. And the simple question must be asked. Why?

I think we in the Mountain West are too impatient and too perfectionistic when it comes to marriage. We expect too much and we want it right away. Others in the United States are apparently willing to settle for a less-than-perfect marital relationship and evidently put a little more effort into their marriage before giving up.

Suppose we thought of marriage as an act of creation - much like sculpting in stone. Maybe we could compare marriage to a big block of stone. As newlyweds we slowly begin with hammer and chisel and chip away bit by bit. At first it doesn't look like much. Just a big block of stone with chisel marks in it and lots of stone dust all over. But little by little it begins to take shape. And finally it emerges as a beautiful work of art.

This is exactly the analogy an Englishwoman, Jan Struther, made of marriage years ago in a poem titled "Epithalamium," dedicated to newlyweds. She wrote:

The raw materials of love are yours . . .

Fond hearts, and lusty blood, and minds in tune:

And so, dear innocents, you think yourselves

Lovers full blown.

If neither's so, why then

You're not yet lovers. But in time to come

(If senses grow not dulled nor spirit dumb)

By constant exercise of skill and wit,

By patient toil and judgment exquisite

Of body, mind and heart,

You may, my innocents, fashion

This tenderness, this liking, and this passion

Into a work of art."

Anything worthwhile in life takes effort. A good marriage is no exception. And perhaps the greatest rewards for our efforts are experienced when we apply the finishing touches to our lasting works of art.

May we all continue with our best efforts in this literal labor of love.

If you have comments, write to 1036 SWKT, BYU, Provo, UT 84602.