Dean of Teacher Preparation
Brother Scott Gardner was born and raised in Nevada. After serving a Spanish-speaking mission in Chicago, he attended BYU where he met and later married Brenda Cluff.
After receiving their bachelor's degrees, they moved to the University of Georgia where they had their first child and Brother Gardner received his master's degree. They then moved to Texas Tech University where their second child was born and Brother Gardner graduated with his PhD in marriage and family therapy. Their third child was born in Brookings, South Dakota where Brother Gardner worked at South Dakota State University for 11 years. They came to BYU-Idaho 10 years ago.
He has served as a bishop and counselor in the stake presidency, and currently has the privilege of working with the deacons in his ward.
Most importantly, he and Brenda are celebrating 30 years of marriage this year.
We all have heroes. On the discussion board, share who your marriage hero is, someone you look to as the type of marriage you want to have and why? Do you believe you will have such a marriage? Why or why not?
Bless you for coming to devotional. I especially want to welcome our wonderful online students--I admire and respect you and appreciate that you are a huge part of our BYU-Idaho student population.
I testify that God will honor and bless you for your efforts as you make devotional a critical part of your time here at BYU-Idaho. As I've attended devotionals, my prayers have been answered.
Last week, Brother Baron invited us to "further ... seek and qualify for the gift of the Holy Ghost." As I talk today, I know that God will inspire you by the gift of the Holy Ghost and will give you specific impressions in terms of what you should do next. Please write that down when it comes. I'll follow up with you at the end and ask you to text or email that commitment to someone else who can help you keep that commitment.
Satan makes a mock of that which is sacred. One of his favorite things to make a mock of these days is marriage. Elder David Bednar said: "The overarching intent of the father of lies is that all of us become 'miserable like unto himself' (2 Nephi 2:27), and he works to [distort] the elements of the Father's plan he hates the most. Satan does not have a body, he cannot marry, and he will not have a family." Elder Bednar further explains, "Satan works unremittingly to ... hinder righteous marriage precisely because marriage is ordained of God and the family is central to the plan of happiness."
How does Satan hinder and distort righteous marriage? What are some of his subtle distortions, some of the ways he is poisoning us by degrees? He sends subtle and not-so-subtle messages, such as "Marriage is a ball and chain" and "Marriage is game over."
Sometimes, we let the negative examples of marriage hinder our own desires for marriage. Some of you have seen negative examples of marriage in your parents or other family members or friends, and have allowed those distorted views of marriage to leave a bad taste in your mouth about marriage (that is Satan using fear to distort things).
Compare these negative messages and distortions to this from the autobiography of Parley P. Pratt:
It was from [Joseph Smith] that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined [feelings] and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity....
I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved--with a pureness--an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling, which would lift my soul from the transitory things of this grovelling sphere and expand it as the ocean. I felt that ... the wife of my bosom was an immortal, eternal companion; a kind ... angel, given to me as a comfort, and a crown of glory for ever and ever.
Do you see how different this view of marriage is from the distortions of Satan? From the distortions of the world? From the distortions of your family and friends, both in and out of the Church?
The Glorious Reality of Eternal Marriage
My friends, marriage is essential to God's eternal plan. Before we came to earth, I can imagine us looking at our heavenly parents in awe and longing to have everything they had: a physical body (how amazing was that!); an eternal marriage with love and unity beyond compare. They were glorious to behold! They were exalted! How eager we must have been for the day that we could be married like them. We now have that precious opportunity right here in our mortal life: to learn to be like them. This is what we are shooting for. We are preparing to receive all that our heavenly parents have. This is precisely God's whole work, His whole joy and passion. Indeed, it is His work and glory to help us to have that kind of marriage.
This Is a Faith-Based Work
Now we come to the key to this all. It may feel utterly unrealistic and overwhelming to you to have a celestial marriage when some can't even imagine having a happy earthly marriage.
Listen to these words of Sister Julie B. Beck, at the time general Relief Society president, as she spoke about today's LDS young single adults. "We know, from visiting with them [young single adults] and conducting studies, that they show a lack of faith in their ability to be successful [in families]. They don't see forming families as a faith-based
work. For them, it's a selection process much like shopping. They don't see it as something that the Lord will bless them and help them [to accomplish].
I love this idea of marriage being a faith-based work--something that God will help you accomplish. And why would He not? Your marriage is His work and his glory.
Let me share with you my story to illustrate how this is a faith-based work that God will help you achieve. After my mission, I had the opportunity to work at the Missionary Training Center, teaching the elderly couples, when they were going on their mission, to speak Spanish. My first week on the job, they said, "Hey, we're having a barbecue for the workers." They were having a barbecue on Friday night. "So bring your wife or a date."
And I thought, "Okay, I just got off my mission; I definitely don't have a wife, and I don't have a date. I don't even know anybody." So I wandered around most of the week, trying to figure out whom I would ask on a date. Come Thursday--again, the barbecue was on Friday--I still hadn't figured out whom to ask. Now, during that week, seven different times, I had run into a girl from my mission, Sister Cluff. But I never thought to ask her on the date. So on the seventh time that I saw her, in the bookstore at BYU--I still didn't think about asking her on the date. I can just imagine the Spirit at this point having His head in His hands, thinking, "This guy is thick! Are you kidding me?"
As I walked away, I thought, "Hey, I could ask Sister Cluff." I turned around, and I looked for her. She was nowhere to be seen. But--tender mercy--I ran into her in the parking lot and awkwardly asked her out on a date.
Over the next several months, we each went on dates with a variety of people and funneled down the group of people that we might be interested in until it was just two of us. I was just interested in her; she was just interested in me. She flew home to Arizona for the summer, and I decided in there somewhere that this was the girl I wanted to marry. So I went ahead and prayed and felt good about that, and I decided to fly down to Tucson to ask her to marry me.
Of course, I thought, "You've got to have the ring so you can get down on one knee and everything." So I picked out a ring. On the way to the airport, I stopped by to buy the ring, and I walked out of my car, in the parking lot, and I walked a few steps, and the Spirit said, "Don't do it."
And I thought, "Shut up, Spirit! This is who I want to ask to marry me, and I've got to have the ring. You've got to do the one knee thing and get down on your knee with the ring."
I walked a few more steps, and He just said, "Don't. No."
So I said, "Fine." I remember being mad and stomping back to my car and driving up to the airport. I went ahead and asked her to marry me. We hadn't really talked about it much. That was my first mistake, probably. And I knew she'd want some time to think about it and pray about it. So I wasn't surprised when she didn't give me an immediate answer. But I really didn't expect her to wait three weeks to get back with me. I further didn't expect her to say no when she did get back with me.
But just so you know--happy ending--she did say yes nine months later. That's a story for another time.
Look at all the ways God helped me in this important work of my eternal salvation and celestial marriage. We were on the same mission together; we were both in the Spanish-speaking zone in Chicago. Brenda was inspired to go to BYU; initially, she was going to go to Arizona State University after her mission. I ran into her enough times in that first week of school to get it through my thick head that maybe I should ask her on a date. God gave me the faith to ask to marry her, even though I wasn't graduated, I didn't have any money, and I was clueless about marriage. And He also gave her the faith to say no, which turned out to be a great blessing for both of us. He also gave her the faith to say yes nine months later. My testimony is that God will help you as well in your eternal path.
Let me talk to three different groups of you and give each group a separate challenge. Perhaps this challenge will be the thing that God inspires you to do (remember the inspiration you are going to text someone at the end).
1. Not Yet Married
Challenge 1--Follow the Prophet
Last week, Brother Baron invited us to "look at how you are treating the words of the living prophets and Apostles." Do you sustain the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Really? Do you follow the prophets? If a prophet came among you and asked you to do something countercultural that you didn't totally understand and was sometimes hard to do, would you do it?
Okay, let's double-check that.
In a 2005 CES devotional, President Dallin H. Oaks, a prophet, said: "My single young friends, we counsel you to channel your associations with the opposite sex into dating patterns that have the potential to mature into marriage, not hanging-out patterns that only have the prospect to mature into team sports like touch football. Marriage is not a group activity."
He counseled the brothers to "gather your courage.... Start with a variety of dates with a variety of young women."
So, are you following that prophet? Are you going on a variety of dates with a variety of people? You might say, "But Brother Gardner, that was so long ago! So maybe that doesn't really apply in our day and we can ignore those words from a prophet."
But two years later, he reiterated that same message. That same year, right here at BYU-Idaho, Elder Lance B. Wickman of the Seventy said, "Because ... hanging out occurs in mixed groups with males and females, some mistakenly think that they are properly engaged in [dating]. But this is not so." In 2009, Elder Ballard said, "Go on dates. Hanging out is not the way, nor is it enough!"
In 2014 conference, Elder Cook also counseled the young people to date more. And just three months ago, Elder Oaks and Elder Ballard again said, "Don't just hang out; go on dates!"
Please don't ignore repeated revelations from prophets, seers, and revelators, even if it seems countercultural or doesn't seem to make sense to you. I'm sure building an ark in his backyard didn't seem to make much sense to Noah either.
As a marriage therapist, can I share one possible reason the prophets have repeatedly given this counsel? The Lord's dating model is different from Satan's dating model. Here's the Lord's model: hang out for a while, then go on casual dates with a variety of people (as the prophets have repeatedly counseled); then, when you find someone you are excited about, pair off in official "dating" relationships; then get married for time and all eternity and progress eternally "to their exaltation and glory in all things."
Notice how Satan changes the model slightly: hang out; then jump right into pairing off (dating and being Facebook official after one or two dates); then, in the words of my colleague Michael Williams, you "date 'em until you hate 'em" and jump right into another committed relationship and "date 'em until you hate 'em"; and in the world, you then move in together; then get married; then, as we know from the research, those who live together before marriage have an extremely high divorce rate, so you get divorced--and it's just wash, rinse, and repeat in an endless cycle of "misery and endless woe." This fits perfectly in Satan's plan to make all men "miserable like unto himself."
Do you see how subtle Satan is? His plan is just tweaked slightly: he leaves out casual dating with a variety of people. We miss so much by leaving that out. We miss interacting one on one with a variety of people with a variety of personalities. We miss learning what type of people we like best. We miss what kind of people we fit best with. We miss the opportunity to develop one-on-one friendships without being prematurely sucked into physically intimate boyfriend-girlfriend relationships. The Lord's way is indeed higher than our way.
And sisters, sometimes I think it would be okay to encourage the process a little bit. When a guy just isn't picking up on your subtle clues that you'd be interested in going on a date, you could say something like, "Hey, buddy, we should go get a milkshake sometime, just you and I." Maybe that could be our little code word at BYU-Idaho. Just know, guys, that if someone asks if you want to get a milkshake, that means, "Dude, get a clue. Ask me on a date. I'm interested!"
Do you see that this is a faith-based work, like Sister Beck said? It takes faith to ask someone on a date. It takes faith to say yes! It takes faith to follow these prophets even though what they are asking us to do flies in the face of popular worldly dating culture.
Prophets' words are not always easy. They don't always seem to make sense at the time. But they are always what God wants for us, to protect us and to help us and to allow Him to pour out His blessings upon us. This is a faith-based work. God will help you. Please follow the prophets!
2. Those Married
Challenge 2--Remember that Marriage Is Hard, and That's Good
I know that's not very romantic, but Valentine's Day isn't until next week. God knew this would be hard. He fully understands how difficult marriage is at times. Have you ever thought that perhaps this is precisely why He made marriage so central to His great plan of happiness? Elder David Bednar said that marriage "completes and perfects" us. Well, how does it do that?
I don't know about your marriage, but my marriage certainly exposes my flaws and imperfections like nothing else I know! And likewise, my marriage knocks off the rough edges of my imperfections and polishes out those flaws like nothing else I know! I love the quote by H. Wallace Goddard in his book Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage: "Marriage is God's graduate school for advanced training in Christian character."
Isn't that exactly what God is trying to do for us? We are here to become Saints with graduate degrees in Christian character. Indeed, we are to become like Christ. So for those who say that marriage is hard, I say, "That's right, marriage is sometimes hard, and that's good."
Now, some of you younger folks may be thinking, "Marriage isn't hard if you really love each other." Yeah, actually it is still hard sometimes. Let me give you some examples.
From President Spencer W. Kimball's biography: "There were occasional disagreements of course." And then he proceeds to tell this story of one summer when he really wanted to go on a vacation and felt that he and Camilla needed that. Camilla thought, "We need to save that money for a vacation." They went back and forth, and they couldn't agree on if they should go on the vacation or save the money. So what do you do when you disagree? Spencer loaded up the car and went on vacation by himself. I'm pretty sure on that day neither of them was thinking, "Marriage is so easy!"
President Hinckley said that marriage requires a high degree of tolerance, and then he shared this quote:
Anyone who imagines that bliss [in marriage] is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed....
Life is like an old-time rail journey--delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. (From, A Conversation with Single Adults, Ensign, March 1997)
Isn't that romantic!
Satan tries to make us think that hard times in marriage mean something dreadful--that our marriage is fatally flawed or needs to be ended. In reality, hard times in marriage are part of the Lord's design to help each of us work to change and improve ourselves in ways that will bless us eternally.
Marriage is a faith-based work. During hard times, we must have faith, we must work, and we must trust that this is something with which the Lord will help us.
Listen to these great quotes from the devotional discussion board, where I asked, "Who are your marriage heroes?"
"Like all marriages, Mimi and Pop Pop had their ups and downs, but what makes them my marriage heroes is their ability to grow together."
"My [m]other. She set a good example of what loving a spouse and enduring to the end ought to be. She loved and cared for my [stepfather] for 35 years, up to the day he peacefully passed. She stood by his side through all their ups and downs and never forsook him, even if she didn't always agree with him."
I've invited my mother-in-law, Raydene Cluff, to share a few words with you. She and her husband, Brent, would have been married 60 years this year, but he passed away 1 year ago this week. I've got to tell her that she's my favorite mother-in-law in the whole world.
CLUFF: I first met Brent at Eastern Arizona Junior College in 1954. He was the older brother of my best friend, Liesel. He was always so kind and respectful to her, and he treated me the same way. We didn't date until after his mission to Hawaii. By the time I was finishing my education degree at Arizona State, he was enrolled at the University of Arizona, in engineering. We dated for nearly a year and then married in the Mesa Arizona Temple in 1958.
I taught first grade the first year we married, and I was still teaching when our first two boys, Kevin and Michael, were born. Brent's mother had been a teacher for 35 years when her children were young. Her advice to me was: "If you'll learn to live on the income your husband provides, you'll be a lot happier, and your children will too. You and Brent may not be rich in worldly ways, but you'll do okay." So I stopped teaching and stayed home with our children, and we added two more: sweet Brenda and fun little Eric.
When Brent's mother passed away, his father came to live with us, and he had many health problems. Since our kids were in school, I stayed home and took care of him, and I began to feel like a babysitter. It was hard, and I didn't want to grow resentful. He needed to be with us. I turned my feelings over to Heavenly Father, and a very clear answer came: "If you had a baby to care for, you wouldn't feel this way." That was unexpected; we felt that our family was complete. I was 39, and our youngest was 8 years old. But Brent agreed a baby would be good for our family, so then we had added Sandra Grace and, three years later, Shawna-Ray Dean. It's been a wonderful life.
Last week, January 31 was the date, by a year, that Brent passed away. He spent four years in the gentle care of Homestead Assisted Living Center here in Rexburg. When his doctor told us that his time was short, I climbed into his hospital bed, lay beside him, felt his warmth, and listened to his heartbeat. Life is sweet when you marry the right person in the right place and keep your covenants. And the right place is the temple. Be true. Be tenderhearted and kind. And love with all your heart.
Looking back, I don't see the imperfections--I see the beauty. Looking forward, there is a glorious reunion with my eternal sweetheart.
GARDNER: Just a reminder that if you've already received your inspiration of what you need to do, please text someone your goal, your inspiration. If you haven't received a specific inspiration yet, maybe this last section will help you.
3. Parents with Children and All of Us
Challenge 3--Be Marriage Missionaries
Of all the people in the world today, no one should be more pro-marriage than Latter-day Saints. Please don't let the world's negative views of marriage seep into your home. Don't let the negative stories of friends' failed marriages keep you from being marriage missionaries to your children and to others.
It concerns me that if you ask any recently engaged 23-year-old young single adult, "Who was most freaked out by your engagement?" it's not their friends, not roommates, not even their nonmember friends--it's mom and dad. "You are way too young to get married!" "Wait a few more years." "Wait until you are out of college." "Wait until you have a permanent career."
When the young single adult confronts the parents, saying, "But, Mom and Dad, you guys were 21 when you got married," the parents often come up with intellectually stunning comments such as "Yeah, but we were older back then."
Elder Quentin L. Cook said: "Some postpone marriage until education is complete and a job obtained. While widely accepted in the world, this reasoning does not demonstrate faith, does not comply with counsel of modern prophets, and is not compatible with sound doctrine."
Yes, parents, marriage is a faith-based work. We must have faith enough to allow our children to pursue righteous marriage on the Lord's time schedule and not ours. We can do a better job at being marriage missionaries and showing our children and the world the joys of marriage.
We can be marriage missionaries as we set an example of a righteous and happy marriage. We can extol the joys of marriage and encourage righteous marriage to our friends, our family, and our children. And when others complain about their spouse, don't jump onto the bash-your-spouse bandwagon. Instead, be a true friend by talking positively about your spouse and edifying and uplifting your marriage and your friend's marriage.
Of course there will be conflicts in our marriage, and we should let our children see how we resolve conflicts in our marriage as we can show by example the healing and transformative power of those three key phrases: "I'm sorry," "I forgive you," and "I love you." These are the hallmarks of a righteous marriage.
May your children be able to say, "We are as the armies of Helaman. We have been taught in our youth [about righteous marriage]. And we will be the Lord's [marriage] missionaries to bring the world his truth."
I know that God will bless us in this amazing faith-based work because creating marriages like His is indeed His work and His glory. May it also be our work and our glory as we (1) sincerely follow the prophets by going on dates (I hope you get lots of milkshakes!); (2) remember that marriage is sometimes hard, and that's good; and (3) by being marriage missionaries to our families and our world.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Ross Baron, "Authorized Messengers and the Gift of the Holy Ghost," BYU-Idaho Devotional address, Jan. 30, 2018, http://www.byui.edu/devotionals/ross-baron.  David A. Bednar, "Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan," Ensign, June 2006, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2006/06/marriage-is-essential-to-his-eternal-plan?lang=eng; emphasis added.  See Alma 47:18.  Parley P. Pratt, in The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt (1979), 297-98.  Julie B. Beck, "Teaching the Doctrine of the Family," S&I Aug. Broadcast, Aug. 2009, https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2013-02-1890-272-teaching-the-doctrine-of-the-family?lang=eng; emphasis added.  Baron, "Authorized Messengers," devotional address.  Dallin H. Oaks, "Dating versus Hanging Out," Ensign, June 2006, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2006/06/dating-versus-hanging-out?lang=eng; emphasis added.  Lance B. Wickman, "Confidence Tests," Ensign, Apr. 2010, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2010/04/confidence-tests-from-fear-to-faith-in-the-marriage-decision?lang=eng.  See Quentin L. Cook, "Choose Wisely," Ensign, Nov. 2014, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2014/11/priesthood-session/choose-wisely?lang=eng.  See Dallin H. Oaks and M. Russell Ballard, YSA Face to Face event, Nov. 19, 2017, https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2017-10-2000-ysa-face-to-face-with-elder-oaks-and-elder-ballard?lang=eng.  Doctrine and Covenants 132:19.  See Alma 9:11.  2 Nephi 2:27.  See Isaiah 55:8-9.  Bednar, "Marriage."  H. Wallace Goddard, Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage (n.p.: Meridian Publishing, 2007).  Jenkins Lloyd Jones, in "A Conversation with Single Adults," Ensign, Mar. 1997, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1997/03/a-conversation-with-single-adults?lang=eng.  Cook, "Choose Wisely."  "We'll Bring the World His Truth," Children's Songbook.