Pure Gold: Encouraging Character Qualities in Marriage by Marriage Transformation authors, Susanne Alexander, the late Craig A. Farnsworth, and John S. Miller, is not another theoretical essay on what makes the perfect union. Nor is it a coffee table book one plans to read one of these days.
Instead, the authors have built upon both virtues training and basic relationship communication principles to write an interactive manual full of information, encouragement, and specific exercises that couples can use to better their marriage.
Two of the authors are Bahá'ís, but the book is not religious with a capital R; rather, it is more religious in meaning a disciplined way of life, with attitudes and behavior based upon moral and ethical codes. The virtues chosen for the exercises are common to all religions and most philosophies.
I'm reviewing--and recommending--this little book* because I find it upbeat and empowering, and because the subject is so important to making the world a better place to live. The Bahá'í Faith teaches that marriage is the basic unit of society, and healthy families will build healthy neighborhoods, cities, countries, and a more peaceable world.
"The institution of marriage, as established by Bahá'u'lláh, [Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith] while giving due importance to the physical aspect of marital union considers it as subordinate to the moral and spiritual purposes and functions with which it has been invested by an All-Wise and loving Providence." - Lights of Guidance, p. 226
Joyful, fulfilling marriages require not only daily commitment to each other's material and emotional growth, but also to the union itself. This requires an understanding and conscious acceptance of the true nature of human beings, which is spiritual. Developing virtues and improving character are central to such an undertaking.
Pure Gold is laid out in three sections:
Part 1 - All about Character: 12 very short chapters to assist couples in understanding character and communication, intimacy and respect,
Part 2 - Encouraging Character Qualities: selected two page discussions on each of 56 virtues. These include short relevant quotes from a wide variety of sources, definition of the virtue, consultation and action points, as well as specific suggestions for strengthening that area in relationships--all of which are meant to provide a chance to practice together, and
Appendices: activities and worksheets for building skills. I found them rather fun to fill out individually and then discuss among family members.
The authors suggest that couples can use the materials in Part 2 as part of their daily practices, and emphasize, "This not your big opportunity to start pointing fingers at one another. Do not belittle, insult, demean, or criticize one another! This is intended to build your marriage up, not be an opportunity to tear it down!" - p. 129
And, "Remember, character development is a lifelong journey, not a fixed destination. The more you pay attention to your character development, the deeper and faster your progress will be." - ibid
Even if you are not in the habit of daily devotions together as a couple, or only occasionally use family consultation, it is a good habit to cultivate because it will strengthen your emotional foundations. Stronger marriages will improve life even outside the family. For Bahá'ís, the importance of marriage lies "in the bringing up of a richly blessed family, so that with entire gladness they may, even as candles, illuminate the world." - Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 119
* I am not affiliated with MarriageTransformation.com, or its publishers, and the book was my own purchase. Check out their website for other materials, books and workshops for both already married couples and anyone preparing for marriage.