Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thank you, Halloween

So, one reason I like Halloween is that it gives Nick and I free rein (reign?) to let out the darker side of our humor without anybody judging us. Well, maybe people still judge us, but I like to think they don't around this ghoulish holiday.

Intestine cookies. I first invented them Halloween 2006. The first batches were made with my friend Emily Jacobson, and all subsequent batches have been made with Nick. I have to say, Nick was my original reason for making intestine cookies. That first batch was sent to him as a missionary, along with an intestine shaped letter. Definitely the most...unique baked goods I sent him.

A little more back story: We entered a gory treats contest in 2005 and made some really gross looking eyeball cupcakes. I didn't have any illusions about the cupcakes being particularly original, but I still have an inner hiss of  irrational hatred when I think of the other people that brought eyeball cupcakes to the contest. I felt extremely dissatisfied that someone else had made the same thing. That night, Nick and I vowed to make a tradition of gory treats, but I also vowed that our treats would be more original. NO ONE would ever have the same gory treats as us AGAIN.

Now that's it's been a few years, I feel I can finally share the recipe for intestine cookies. A small shout out to Pilsbury, since I some technical sugar cookie advice from a few of your recipes when trying to figure out intestine cookies. If you ever want to know the full story behind Nick and I's sincere love for intestines, I can tell you a tale that winds from the Magic School Bus all the way to a grotesquely long BYU Folk Ensemble Concert.

Intestine Cookies (with Sweet Orange Bile Glaze)
Yields: Approximately 5 dozen intestinal units

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3 oz strawberry cream cheese, softened (FULL FAT CREAM CHEESE).
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk
neon pink food coloring
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup powdered sugar
Juice of 1/2  medium to large orange (or all juice from a smaller orange or tangerine, tangelo, whatever floats your citrus boat!)
neon pink food coloring

1. Combine sugar, butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and egg yolk in a large bowl. Beat until pleasantly light and fluffy. Add food coloring to desired pinkness--remember it will be slightly diluted with flour. Place flour and salt in a sifter, and sift into wet mixture. Beat until well combined.
2. Divide dough into three portions. Shape each portion into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour until firm for easier handling.
3. Place 1 disk cold dough on a floured surface. With rolling pin, roll out into an 7-9 inch circle-ish shape (don't roll too thin).
4. Loosely roll the circle of dough as if making a tortilla wrap. Slice the rolled dough into approximately 1/2-inch sections (can be slightly smaller).
5. Each little section of dough can unroll into a short string and be formed into an intestine shape on a lightly greased* cookie sheet. Here's where you get artistic! Depending on the softness of your dough, you may need to just squish your dough section together then spin it out into a long string. Essentially, do whatever you need to do to make your dough look like lovely intestines.
6. Repeat steps 3-5 with the remaining dough disks.
7. Bake 6-10 minutes at 375. Make sure they are firm enough but not too dry. Cool on sheet for a couple minutes, then remove to a flat surface for glazing.
8. Mix orange juice and powdered sugar. The combination should be super saturated, as in the powdered sugar will just barely all dissolve, and there may be some very small clumps of sugar that keep appearing whenever you're not actively stirring the glaze. Add food coloring to desired pinkness. Spoon glaze over cookies.
9. Let glaze set on cookies. If you need the cookies sooner, put less glaze. If you have time, put more glaze and let the cookies sit overnight.
10. Gobble up the intestines and feel like a zombie!!!

*Spray a couple sprays of cooking spray then rub all over the sheet with your fingers so it's a very thin layer over the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Please, naysayers

Alright, so I really like Will Smith. I think he's a fun actor, his music makes me laugh, and I love his little family. While Nick was on his mission, I read an interview with Will Smith in Parade where he talked about how when he was young and would explain his plan to be big and successful in the media, people would express doubt and ask him what his Plan B was. He said he didn't have a Plan B, because that would mean that he didn't really believe in Plan A.

This video is a little long, but the bit starting around 5:02 is great, where he derides the idea of a Plan B.

Naysaying is pretty ingrained in our culture. Maybe it's ingrained in every culture, I don't know. But whether it's a problem of America or all humanity, it sucks. It's like you're in the middle of cooking a great big meal, a new recipe that looks amazing to you, and someone comes in and says, "You know, maybe you should cook a different meal at the same time, because that new recipe might taste disgusting. Or it might get burned. Who knows? You want to make sure you have a dinner, so better to just make another dinner at the same time." Well guess what? If you're trying to cook two meals at once, the likelihood of ruining the new recipe with inattention (overcooking, under/over spicing, burning, etc) is incredibly high. Devoting energy to the back up meal destroys the meal of your dreams.

Here are a couple fictional takes on doubt and naysaying:

1. In The Belgariad by David Eddings, the magic system is based primarily on will. As a sorcerer, you will things to be as you desire. I actually believe quite strongly in the power of will and desire, so I like this magic system. At one point, the sorcerer Belgarath suffers a major breakdown, sort of like a stroke. His daughter and grandson are terrified that Belgarath has lost his power, his potency of will, as a result. It is crucial that they not say anything to him about the potential of his loss, because by doing so they could introduce doubt and thereby sabotage Belgarath's abilities. If he were to doubt himself at all, he would have no power.

2. The Studio Ghibli film Whisper of the Heart follows a middle-school age girl named Shizuku who longs to be a writer. Shizuku does have genuine talent for writing, and her friends and family are all very encouraging to her, urging her to pursue her dreams. All except her sister, Shiho, who constantly nags Shizuku about her school performance and insists that only doing well in school provides a future and everything else is a waste of time. As the only doubter and pusher of convention, Shiho is the villain of the film.

I have been guilty of naysaying before. Whisper of the Heart really harrowed me up when I first saw it, because I saw myself in Shiho. I could hear my own voice addressing my own sweet younger sister in uncomfortably similar ways. I have since tried really hard to be aware of how I talk to Rachel. I try really hard not to nag her or push my own beliefs on her.

I have also been on Shizuku's side of things, where I have a high aspiration and it seems people only want to doubt me. This happened frequently while Nick was on his mission, and it drove me crazy. I never pursued friendship with someone who told me I couldn't make it. I am acquainted with a girl who really wanted to wait for a missionary. She asked me lots of questions, and we communicated extensively. I was excited for her because I thought that she was the real deal, and that she was really going to stick it out with waiting for this guy. But then she started writing me about how people at church, particularly guys (go figure), were telling her that waiting was stupid, unrealistic, and emotionally dangerous. What if things didn't work out? I did my best to buoy her up, but soon she stopped writing to me. And her relationship status soon read "Single." This girl allowed the naysayers to get to her.

A lot of women encounter naysayers when they want to birth naturally. During your pregnancy, family, friends, and strangers sing arias about the epidural. During your labor, "compassionate"  nurses ask again and again if you don't want drugs to numb the pain and speed things along so you can be with your baby sooner. Of course a woman is impacted by people constantly expressing doubt in her. Of course she might start to doubt her own convictions. It's a tragedy to me when that happens. Birthing in an environment where people constantly doubt you is 100% different than birthing in an environment where people constantly encourage you. And of course, how you start off labor changes things as well. If you have a secret Plan B in your heart of hearts, it will be very difficult to realize Plan A. Like in The Belgariad, if you doubt yourself at all, you will have no power.

When people naysay, they think they're doing you a favor by reminding you of "reality." But what they're really doing is saying, "I don't think highly enough of you to assume you've thought through your decision, and I also don't think highly enough of you to believe that you can achieve your dream." So they're not doing you a favor, they're giving you a heaping helping of disrespect. Naysaying is nothing but an insult.

I love this quote about the destructive power of doubt:

"Doubt is not a principle of the gospel. It does not come from the Light of Christ or the influence of the Holy Ghost. Doubt is a negative emotion related to fear. It comes from a lack of confidence in one’s self or abilities. It is inconsistent with our divine identity as children of God."

Sometimes naysaying can have the helpful effect of making you outraged and even more determined to achieve your goal. That was true for me with Nick's mission, but maybe I'm just contrary and sassy. Most of the time, though, naysaying is the slow knife penetrating someone's shield of confidence, stabbing a dream until it bleeds itself out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thank you, Clara

I have always known that I have absolutely awesome in-laws. This is the first in an individualized series about how much I love Nick's side of our family.

One thing Nick loves to say about his younger sister, Clara, is that she is like a cooler version of him. He is so proud of his sister, and I feel super lucky that this girl is my in-law. She turns 15 on Sunday, though another running commentary is, "Clara, aren't you like 21?" because she is beyond her years in myriad ways. There are so many good things to say about Clara that it's hard to know where to begin! But let's start with high standards.

For years, I have admired her careful attention to matters of the spirit. So much younger than Nick or I did, Clara established an excellent scripture reading habit. Her daily obedience in studying the scriptures has helped strengthen her resolve to be careful and conscientious with other standards of the church. At her age, both Nick and I had already stupidly disregarded the church's standard about waiting to date until age sixteen. Clara, however, has had the wisdom, confidence, and spiritual capacity to obey and delay dating. Clara is so much fun and is absolutely charming, and so there's not even a question that probably thousands of boys are in love with her. But she knows that by waiting, she will be more prepared to have quality relationships and make smart choices--which I desperately wish I had known at her age.

Clara's high standards are already extending into her future. We have had a number of conversations where she has expressed her yearning to grow up and make her own life. She actively desires righteous things for her future family. She is already laying down track to travel exactly where she wants to, because she has studied the map and determined her spiritual course.

Next, let's go with chill attitude. With a big family, lots of pets, frequent visitors, and two working parents, things naturally get pretty busy and sometimes hectic at the Peterson's. Clara is consistently relaxed. While playing a game of Bang! the other night, we suspected Clara was the renegade, and she was so calm during the entire crazy game that we dubbed her the Zenegade (it turns out Abby was actually the renegade, which was really funny, but that's beside the point).

But Clara is not only chill in her old age. She has been this way as long as I can remember. When Nick was having his Eagle Court of Honor, I made a peach cobbler. I had never made one before, and I was obsessively fretting over the thing, spraying my worries on whoever was closest. Finally, 9-year-old Clara looked me in the face and said, "Linda, your cobbler is going to be great." And after that, I stopped worrying.

I could expound on Clara's fashion and how much I covet various clothes and shoes of hers, how I wish I had hair like hers. I could talk about how hardcore she is and her numerous softball wounds. I could go on and on about her easy laughter, her open media mind, and her intelligence and talents. But I have a feeling Clara knows the value of all these things already. I will end with her unquestioning helpfulness.

Whenever something needs doing, you can ask Clara and it will get done. She never complains, delays, or gives excuses. She is ultimately reliable, and pretty dang happy to be that way. This is something Nick and I have both internalized for a long time, and we usually turn to Clara when we need something during a visit. We always appreciate her assistance. What really sticks out to me, though, is that twice since we've been back in VA Clara has cheerfully sacrificed a Friday night to come up to the temple and be with Luke so that Nick and I can spend some time there. She has not balked at the time involved, or at watching our little wiggle worm in the confines of the Visitor's Center. I don't really like leaving Luke, and there is always a degree of stress about it for me. But both times we've made a temple trip with Clara, I have been uplifted and soothed by her peaceful spirit while we drove up. I have been able to do work in the temple without worrying about Luke. And on the drive home, I have marveled at this magnificent girl, who though ten years my junior, serves and comforts me like a mother.

Thank you for everything, sweet, sweet Clara.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Please, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz

You would think that if something becomes a problem over 35 times, that you would learn how to take care of it.

Apparently not, for the police department of Muskingum County, Ohio. They have known for so long that a man named Terry Thompson was irresponsibly running the Muskingum County Animal Farm on his own property. This animal farm had a number of endangered species. There have been over 35 recorded incidents with Thompson's farm in the past seven years.

When you are a local leader, shouldn't you train your staff to deal with local problems, such as the potential of large, dangerous, endangered animals escaping from the menagerie of a mad man?

Nope.When the mad man lets all of his animals loose and then commits suicide, it's easier to get a big, manly rush of testosterone and go out and kill the animals. 6 black bears, 2 grizzly bears, 17 lions, 1 baboon, 3 mountain lions, 18 tigers and 2 wolves were all victims of Sheriff Lutz's fantastic lack of foresight.

Sheriff Lutz insists in interviews that there was no other choice, that public safety was their biggest concern. When asked why they shot to kill instead of using tranquilizers, he's like "Uh...we didn't have any tranquilizers. No sheriff in Ohio has tranquilizers. So somehow that justifies me not having any."

Guess what, Sheriff Lutz? You have had at least SEVEN YEARS of warning about this farm to get some freaking tranquilizers! You knew this farm was there! It was your job to prepare and train your deputies so they didn't have to go on a panicked, bloody rampage through Class Mammalia!

And on a final note, I don't believe for one second that you and your deputies didn't enjoy doing this. Oh sure, you'll say how much you regret it and how you had no other choice, but for the rest of your lives, you will all gladly whip out the stories of how you heroically saved Muskingum, creeping through the night and blasting away endangered species. You will tell the stories over and over again at dinner parties, to friends, to grandchildren, and every time you do, you will kill those poor animals anew with your cruel and idiotic lack of preparation.

The world is much bigger than Muskingum, Sheriff Lutz, and the gene pools of all of those species would have benefited from Terry Thompson's animals diving in for a swim.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thank you, Anderson Cooper

Monday night: I get on facebook and see that a whole lot of my LDS friends have posted a video about Anderson Cooper defending our Christianity to an anti-Mormon pastor Robert Jeffress. Curiosity is piqued. 
Tuesday morning, around 10:30: I watch said video from a link on Julene Bateman's wall. I start doing some research for a blog entry about it.
Around 11:30: I'm ready to write. I go back to facebook to grab a link to the video, but it's gone from Julene's wall. Strange. I start looking at other friend's walls. I try to find the notice in my newsfeed that X number of my friends posted the link about Anderson Cooper's interview. It's gone. The video is totally gone.
Next 45 minutes or so: I look everywhere for the video. It is not on, when every other Anderson Cooper 360 segment has a video. The only version I can find is a heavily edited one posted on YouTube by none other than Robert Jeffress. I post on facebook about the missing video, and friends try to find links to the full interview. A couple of their links last, but eventually break down. Hopefully, this link will hold up:

Anderson Cooper interviews Robert Jeffress

Just in case the link breaks down, I copied the transcript of the interview from and will put it in the comments if need be. I find it really disturbing that Robert Jeffress can apparently try to erase evidence of an embarassing interview. Sorry you got totally thrashed, Pastor, but that doesn't mean you can just big-brother style snatch the video from existence. I am writing to CNN to see why they don't have a version of it posted, and I will report back. Everyone always says that putting something on the internet is like publishing it, and if CNN had released a DVD version of the video, they couldn't just all of a sudden go into everybody's house and destroy it. Well, they could if we lived in a crazy totalitarian regime...

Anyway, all of that aside, what I wanted to actually say was that I'm really grateful for Anderson Cooper (and Jim Acosta) actually knowing what's up with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's such a relief to see a prominent figure who is willing to defend rather than deride our faith.

Pastor Jeffress' words--not just about the LDS church but also about Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Catholicism--made me want to establish what my faith says about other religions. And on a side note, I would love to correct what he says about Catholicism (and by extension the LDS church) being contrary to the New Testament since they believe you need faith and works, but James 2 does it for me.

Here's the thing about the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe that we have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that his apostles did not pass on their authority to anyone, and that for a long time there was no one who held the priesthood (the power to act in God's name) on the earth. We believe Joseph Smith was called as a prophet by God to restore the gospel in its fullness as Jesus Christ taught it. He was granted priesthood authority, and has passed that authority on to others. For a full explanation of the restoration, you can look here and here.

So, if we have the true gospel, what about all the other Christian religions? What about the rest of the world? What about all of humanity throughout all of history that never even heard of Jesus Christ?

We have no doubt about other Christian's faith in the Savior. Indeed, we are very grateful for the people throughout history who worked to protect and translate the Bible, a precious book of God's word. But we believe that part of the reason Christianity throughout the world is splintered into so many sects is because none of them actually had authority from God. None of them were led by a prophet. Therefore, there was a great deal of disagreement about doctrine, and people formed churches based on their different human interpretations of the Bible. As I've mentioned before, we believe God still reveals his word to humanity through a prophet and apostles who lead our church.

In the Book of Mormon, there are several verses that illustrate what we believe about religion throughout the world over time:

2 Nephi 29

7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
9 And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.
12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

Just like the Bible is the record of prophets from the ancient Middle East, the Book of Mormon is a record from prophets of God on the ancient American continents. We believe that throughout time, God has called prophets all over the world, and that people everywhere have had his gospel at some point. I don't think anyone in the LDS church would be surprised if God revealed scripture from ancient Botswana, or ancient Indonesia, or ancient Mongolia. All of them would be the word of God, and all of them would testify of our Savior Jesus Christ.

I have talked before about how everyone has the light of Christ, which allows them receive spiritual impressions and inspiration. This includes the leaders of other world religions. Our church leaders have said: "The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God's light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals." (See quote in the talk on restoration linked above).

This is quite a different viewpoint on other religions than just calling them all cults.

Lastly, I'd like to share a scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants, which is a book of revelations given in our day, primarily to Joseph Smith. This scripture illustrates what we believe about the millions of people throughout time who did not have the opportunity to hear the gospel while living:

Doctrine and Covenants 137
A vision given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, in the temple at Kirtland, Ohio, 21 January 1836

1 The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestialkingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell.
5 I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept;
6 And marveled how it was that he had obtained an inheritancein that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.
7 Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;
8 Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;
9 For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.

This is quite a different viewpoint than just assuming everyone who's not Mormon will go to hell. We believe the basic truth that God loves all of his children. We just don't think it would make sense for God to reveal scripture and provide for only a minuscule portion of his children, leaving everybody else to just join "cults" and be screwed. He is a just God, and he is a God of order, who has a plan for everyone who has ever lived. Even Robert Jeffress.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Thank you, sleepless night

A funny little thing about my life:

The vast majority of my LDS friends my age are married.

The vast majority of my non-LDS friends my age are not married. This is despite many of my friends being in serious, long-term, and sometimes cohabiting relationships.

This has puzzled me for a long time. As Nick and I approach our third wedding anniversary in December and our 25th birthdays, it has been on my mind even more. Why do young Mormon couples get married while other young couples don't (generally)? And by young, I'm thinking definitely under 25, and probably during undergraduate years of college.The average age at marriage in the American population is now around 28 for men, 26 for women. Among Mormons, the average age at marriage is 23 for men, 21.5 for women. Why is that?

People could throw out easy answers, but none of the obvious things seem very satisfactory in the face of such a big trend. After nursing Luke and putting him back in his bed last night, I had some thoughts that felt...right. So while I was way too tired to run with Nick this morning, I'm still grateful for the hour or two that I couldn't sleep last night.

In my estimation, here are some top reasons that young LDS couples choose to get married:

1. We are taught to value marriage and make it our goal. Not only are we taught from childhood that being married is amazing, but this lesson is regularly reinforced in our lives. We believe God still gives revelation to humanity, and that our church leaders, including a prophet and apostles, reveal God's word for us now. Twice yearly, there is an official church conference broadcast all over the world where church leaders speak and give us guidance from Heavenly Father. Every single conference, there are messages about marriage and family. Family truly matters. There are talks about how to actively nurture our marriages and how to avoid the tragedy of divorce and come out stronger. There is a Sunday school class for adults about how to prepare for marriage or improve your marriage. Whatever else young LDS people are involved in, they constantly receive loving encouragement to prepare themselves and find an eternal companion.

2. We don't make the decision to marry alone. We believe that not only do our leaders receive revelation from God, but so do we. Everyone who has been baptized into the church and covenanted with the Lord to follow him receives what we call the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We believe that everyone who has ever lived has the light of Christ, which is the potential to occasionally receive spiritual guidance, warnings, or inspiration. But having the gift of the Holy Ghost means that we can actively invite the Holy Spirit, a member of the Godhead, into our hearts and minds. It means that we can seek personal revelation from God about any aspect of our lives. It means that every single day, we can receive guidance, warnings, or inspiration. This is a priceless gift, and it is something that every LDS person relies upon heavily.

Making the decision to marry someone is a big deal (especially as a Mormon, when you believe that marriage is not till death do us part, but for all eternity). There is the big question of "How do I know it's the right person?" which subsumes the questions, "How do I know we should make such a long commitment? What if we stop loving each other? What if we're not actually compatible? Aren't I too young to make such a big choice?" Young LDS couples make the decision to marry with great confidence because they receive guidance from Heavenly Father about their choice. They may pray about it, fast about it, visit the temple and ponder about it, or simply feel, spiritually, that it is the right choice. We may not know the future, but our Heavenly Father knows all things.

I know LDS people who have ended serious relationships that seemed to be going well because they felt prompted, spiritually, that they should not marry this person. Sometimes they have not even fought or had any problems to speak of, and an outsider may think it's strange that they broke up at all. In my own life, Nick and I definitely received spiritual promptings about marriage. We knew since we were 17 that we would marry. Still, we thought I might serve a mission, or that we'd definitely wait a year after his mission before we married. But when he got back, we both separately had impressions that we should marry in December (6 months after his return). Believe me, I never would have chosen to marry during the insanity of the holiday season on my own (in fact, it was not uncommon for me to lovingly mock people who got married at Christmas...). But for whatever reason, that was the time we felt guided by the spirit to marry. Mormons believe that when we listen carefully, we will receive guidance from the spirit. When we do, we strive to act on that guidance. So, while many others may feel that waiting till they're older will ensure that they've made the right decision about who to marry, LDS couples are more likely to rely on direction from the spirit.

3. We believe the person we marry will only become better over time. One of the most important concepts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is progression by repentance. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior commands, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:44). We take that command very seriously. No one is perfect on this earth, of course, but we strive to never stagnate, to always try harder and be better. We believe the way to progress is through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Because Christ atoned for our sins, we can turn to him and repent. Mormons believe we all need to repent regularly, even daily.

What is meant by repentance? It is not the same as Catholic confession--in the LDS church, only the most grave of sins are brought to a church leader. The majority of  the time, repentance means going to Heavenly Father in prayer. We ponder on our weaknesses and things we could have done better that day. We pray for forgiveness, for mercy, and for the strength to do better. Daily repentance might be over indulging in gossip or uncharitable thoughts. It might be over speaking sharply to a spouse or child. It could of course be over more serious sins as well, but the idea is that you don't say, "Well, I'm just that way. I just get really impatient sometimes." You take responsibility for the way you spoke to your spouse, and repent now. You don't wait around to repent until you've done something really hurtful or really bad.

Even when I know Nick has forgiven me for something, I still feel accountable to myself and to God. I know that I am weak, and that I am imperfect. I know that if I want to be a better companion to him and a better mother to Luke, I must seek divine help.

When choosing to marry, there is potentially the notion that you have to choose someone with whom you are very or 100% compatible, someone who doesn't possess any beliefs, flaws, or habits that really get to you. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know that we are not perfect, but that we can improve and enjoy great happiness and satisfaction in our marriages as both spouses seek to repent. We believe that over time, the good qualities of a person will be magnified and their flaws will be diminished if both spouses are always seeking to become more like the Savior and never settling for less. So there is not really a fear of marrying someone and being "stuck." The point of marriage is to progress and improve together. When Mormons are choosing to marry, they see not just a person/relationship now, but they see the eternal potential of that person/relationship.

From my end, I can say that there is nothing sweeter than knowing that Nick and I will be together forever. We are absolutely committed to progression in this life and in the life to come. When we are weak, we ask for forgiveness and we strive to be better by allowing the power of the atonement to work in our lives.

So, I think these are some key reasons Mormons tend to marry young and stay happily married. Of course there are exceptions--many Mormons do marry when they're older, because everyone's life is different, and not everyone is meant to marry at the same age. And divorce does happen in the church, for a variety of reasons. But I think our emphasis on family combined with our doctrines of personal revelation and repentance create a unique climate of confidence in marriage that helps people commit early.

If you're not Mormon and you married young, what contributed to your decision? I am really curious about what makes people choose to get married in this day and age.