AMERICAN FORK Marriage and family life can provide both the greatest and the saddest experiences people can have in this life, popular religious speaker Jack R. Christianson said at a Thursday fireside sponsored by the Pleasant Grove-Manila Stake Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"A successful marriage is a matter of the heart," he said.
Misbehavior in family life frequently comes from being wounded, rather than from being a "bad" person, he said. Christianson, an administrator at Utah Valley University and the former director of the Orem Institute of Religion, urged the audience to "eliminate contention in your life.
"If you have the spirit of contention, you are not of him," he said, referring to the church's namesake, Jesus Christ.
Christianson urged the elimination of anything that denies the spirit of Christ in a person's life, including pornography.
"(It) denies the faith and you can't have the spirit ... and you shall fear," he said.
Without the spirit of Christ, people can lose the ability to love and may become ornery and abusive.
"There's a direct relationship with love and keeping the commandments," he said. "The ability to love is directly proportionate with the ability to obey."
Learning to love like God loves leads to a better marriage, Christianson said. He condemned being abusive and critical of others in one's family.
"When we do that we shift to the Prince of Darkness," he said.
For that reason, he dislikes reality television and particularly singled out the popular show "American Idol."
"I wonder how much is spent on therapy when they leave," he said of the contestants who are eliminated. People can lose their self-worth when they are "mortified" in front of such a large audience, he said.
Then he admitted, "I like David Archuleta, too." Archuleta, a Mormon, was runner-up to 2008 "Idol" winner David Cook.
The Atonement of Christ enables people to overcome the criticism and accusations of others and is even retroactive to the pre-existence, when Lucifer pointed an accusing finger to the spirits who chose to follow God rather than him, Christianson said.
"Don't believe the (false) accusations of others," he said. "Satan is a whisperer and he whispers in our ears."
Speaking of religious conviction, he said, "You and I can know these things and it can affect marriage and family.
"There are no perfect families, only good families," he said, quoting the late LDS apostle Elder Neal A. Maxwell.
Mature, marital love sees spousal imperfections and forgives. He suggested people listen to their spouse with their heart to know where their mate is coming from; they could be rooted in a deep hurt.
"Imperfect people are the only ones we will find," he said.
Perfection means something is whole and complete and is not perfect until it is finished, he said, citing Christ's last words on the cross.
"If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently," Christianson said. "(Eternal marriage) is special because you have made it so."Scriptures and the prophets lead to faith, which leads to a change of heart. Yet, too many things in life don't get worked out, so people need an afterlife. So for those who cause unresolved pain, he suggested, "Leave a place in your heart."