Education Week: Marriage impacted by choice and concept of soulmates

Sarah Strobel; Chris Bunker
Marriage is entirely an individual’s choice; there is no such thing as a predestined couple.

BYU psychology professor Scott Braithwaite met his wife while working at a Mexican restaurant in Provo. His managers told the employees when they were trained that if they married someone they met while working at the restaurant, they would get their names painted on the back of a booth.

“That was the stupidest thing that I had ever heard. That would never happen,” Braithwaite said, drawing laughs from the crowd attending his BYU Education Week presentation. To his chagrin, that is just what happened to him, and his name was painted on the back of one of the benches.

Braithwaite continued his presentation by listing the three things that he believes people take with them into the next life: intelligence, relationships and the soul. Sharing the definition found in D&C 88:15, he defined the soul as the combination of the soul and body. All three of these items are integral in marriages and the maintenance of all three can effect the success of a marriage, Braithwaite said.

Marriage is the final ordinance that qualifies faithful Latter-day Saints to enter the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.This means, according to Braithewaite, that marriages as events and as relationships deserve the highest priority efforts. “We go together or not at all,” he said.

The effects of good and bad marriages are measured by science with startling results.

By watching how couples interact, especially how they argue, researchers following a specific coding system can predict with 94 percent accuracy if the couple’s marriage will last. By observing and coding one partner’s contempt for the other, researchers can predict the number of infectious disease that the person will get in the next six months.

One study gave couples small blister wounds and then randomly assigned some of them to argue. Those who had the artificially induced fight had their blister wounds heal several days after those who did not have a fight.

Further, a meta-analysis of several studies on the effect of marriage distress on death rates revealed that distressed marriages have a greater impact on death rates than smoking. Braithwaite also said that depression is more likely to be caused by a distressed marriage than depression is to distress a marriage.

He then asked the class who selects who they marry.

Many answered that individuals are the ones to make the decision. Others said it is the other person in the relationship. Some said that God chooses who one marries. This was the concept that Braithwaite then spent the rest of the class refuting.

He quoted Boyd K. Packer, Spencer W. Kimball, Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie who all said that the concept of predestined love was false.

“Soul mates are fiction and an illusion . . . yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price,” Braithwaite read from his slides, quoting Spencer W. Kimball. He went on to note that this is misquoted by people saying that anyone can be happy with anyone in a marriage.

He then shared some “doctrinally sound love notes.”

“Dear Kim: Although we have no scriptural justification for the belief that we had the privilege of choosing our companions in the spirit world, I chose you in mortal life. Happy Valentines Day,” read one note, signed by Scott Braithwaite.

He then made the point that the idea of predestined love may remove a degree of romance from marriage. He said making his or her own decision to love someone was more romantic than someone else choosing whom one is to love. He reiterated the idea that in the process of marriage, spouses choose over and over to continue loving their spouse for all eternity.

Braithwaite then advised that those who are looking to get married date openly and often. This is a process that helps refine what one sees desirable in a mate and give greater personal insights as well.

“The more you circulate on the market the better match you are going to find,” Braithwaite said. He said he frequently observed that couples who didn’t court for very long or who had not had a wide dating experience often have strained marriages.


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