In a world of great controversy and contention, each of us must grapple with hard questions that are much like Joseph Smith’s: “What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?”

Very often we might be buying into worldly perspectives that could draw us away from the blessings and safety provided by God’s truths. 

President Nelson extended an invitation to each of us:

“…I invite you to ponder a promise the Lord made. He declared that “whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning… and the wiles of the devil, and lead the [disciple] of Christ in a strait and narrow course. I pray that you will choose to lay hold upon the word of God…”

The answer for Joseph and the answer for us is to lay hold on the word of God. We must ask of God. This is clear on issues of religious truth. We may not realize how vital it is to get God’s counsel in other areas.

Where do we Latter-day Saints get most of our counsel on relationships? Often, we go to pop psychology and social media. We accept pronouncements about how to approach our marriages, raise children, manage relationships with others, and gain greater personal happiness from video sites, television shows, popular books, and posts on social media without knowing if there is any research or credibility behind that counsel. It generally doesn’t occur to us to consult the scriptures about the advice that is being offered from those sources—and we may not be sure where to find the answers if we did.

God has warned about trusting other sources more than His word.

And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received. (D&C 84:54)

He even follows up that passage with a warning—that the church may fall under condemnation due to our vanity and unbelief (D&C 84:55).

Research says that while we Latter-day Saints have distinctive beliefs about families, our practices mirror those of the larger culture. We have not applied the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our most sacred stewardships. We sometimes trust our own thinking, popular cultural perspectives, trendy books and workshops, and posts on social media more than we trust His teachings. Some ideas that spring up from popular culture become so entrenched  that we begin to discuss them as “truths” during our church classes.   

In a time when even the very elect are at risk of being deceived, God has provided an additional voice to help us understand and apply scripture: the discoveries of good research. When we combine research discoveries with God’s timeless truth and our own mortal experience, we discover powerful principles. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses, shall every word be established.”

If we eliminate the witness of God’s timeless truth along with discoveries from research, and rely solely upon the themes that are popularly accepted within our culture, we risk being deceived. 

As a trained professional in the field of family life, when I read of some new discovery in research journals, I compare it with the Lord’s timeless counsel. In my experience, good research unfailingly agrees with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and provides us insights as to how we can specifically apply the Lord’s principles to our personal and family challenges. That is not true of most of the teachings of popular culture. When we depend on cultural junk food, we will get malnourished, and our relationships will suffer.

The Lord has the answers for our relationships with ourselves, our spouses, our children and all humanity. And His answers are powerfully better than any that popular culture can offer. My recommendation is that you take the scriptures seriously as a guide to relationships.

As we ponder that invitation from President Nelson, I will be offering future articles that examine several widely accepted beliefs promoted by popular culture that do not align with scriptural counsel or the findings of research. We will see how we can mine the word of God to discover the wisdom He offers in place of the world’s counsel, leading to greater happiness and success in our most cherished relationships.