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Education Week: Selfish living endangers marriages

PROVO, Utah — Littering, sleeping in church, sloppy behavior and pornography all contribute to the demise of marriages both within and outside the Mormon church, said a marriage expert at BYU Education Week Tuesday.

Douglas E. Brinley, professor emeritus of church history and doctrine, listed more than 100 ways people exhibit selfishness, the kinds of behaviors that "sound trivial but become quite vexing," Brinley said.

The list included not wanting to have children, monopolizing the television remote, leaving the toilet seat up, talking in movies, going without speaking, holding a grudge, not accepting church callings, being tight-fisted with money, not participating in intimacy in older years, becoming defensive when confronted, cutting across the lawn, criticizing, even refusing to be a home teacher or visiting teacher.

Brinley said he's heard nearly every one of his examples as a complaint from a couple in trouble.

He quoted the views of several prophets and said the very acceptance of divorce as a cure for marital stress is a serious sin of this generation.

"Every divorce is the result of selfishness on the part of one or the other or both spouses," he said.

Brinley said President Spencer W. Kimball and President Gordon B. Hinckley cited selfishness as the prime factor in marital breakups.

President Ezra Taft Benson listed pride as the chief factor, and the Lord said hard-heartedness was a problem. Elder Neal W. Maxwell said divorce comes from a lack of doctrinal application. "Selfishness activates all the cardinal sins," Maxwell said.

Brinley said 15–17 percent of couples married in the temple in are divorcing while 20–25 percent of those married outside the temple are splitting up.

"That's offending the brethren and the Lord," Brinley said. "We can't build a Zion with so much difficulty and unhappiness."

Brinley said people need to be willing to be humble, to apologize to one another and to repent of their bad behavior.

He said an interest in and addiction to pornography is killing marriages. Even in Orem, Utah, the percentage of men addicted to pornography is as high as 10 percent in a stake, he said.

Positive behaviors that enhance a relationship include being complimentary, avoiding criticism and correction, being generous and charitable, serving, visiting, helping where needed and being sensitive to others.

Brinley said those who work on creating a healthy, happy marriage will bring people to the highest level of the highest kingdom in the afterlife.

Those who bicker and hurt one another will not be part of that kingdom.

"Imagine our Heavenly Parents not speaking to each other for three days. That's a long time in their time zone," he said.

"If the prophets say every divorce is because of selfishness then we need to become unselfish," he said. "Somebody has to change and do things differently. Charity, compassion, kindness is the opposite behavior."