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About This Workshop

Alan Hawkins,  Kathryn Pond Sargent, and Tamara Gilliland
Alan Hawkins, Kathryn Pond Sargent, and Tamara Gilliland

Anxiously Engaged is a brief educational workshop (not counseling) designed to help engaged couples increase their understanding of the marriage commitment they are making and strengthen the foundations of their relationship. It was specifically designed for couples who are believing members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The authors of the workshop are Dr. Alan Hawkins, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University and a national expert on marriage and relationship education, Kathryn Pond Sargent, who has a master’s degree in family science and has taught marriage preparation to LDS couples in her stake for many years and Tamara Gilliland, who also has a master’s degree from BYU and has been a passionate family life educator for more than two decades.

Only about 40% of LDS couples report that they do some kind of premarital education or counseling. But this can take many forms and some of those forms may not be very helpful. Some couples don’t even know that such a thing as premarital education exists.

Engagement can be a time of anxiety and worry. And it is often focused on preparation for a wedding event rather than a marriage. Couples invest hours and hours in planning a wedding that is over in a day, but they let slip crucial preparation for a marriage that they hope will last for time and eternity.

Good premarital education helps couples prepare effectively for the challenges of married life. When couples prepare effectively, research shows they significantly increase their chances of forming a healthier, happier marriage and avoid some of the disappointing and discouraging potholes and pitfalls of early married life. And they reduce the chances of divorce during the early, high-risk years of marriage.

Man and Woman Hugging

A big theme in the workshop is that when we just slide through important decisions and changes we are more likely to struggle. When we are mutually intentional about decisions and changes, things usually go a lot better. “Decide, don’t slide” is what the marriage expert Dr. Scott Stanley encourages. You can talk about important issues now and start making important decisions for your marriage that will reduce confusion, disappointment, and conflict. And you can start building that crucial sense of oneness that we seek in marriage. 

Anxiously Engaged is not an official marriage preparation curriculum approved by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints although we think it is fully consistent with gospel principles. We are taught in the Doctrine & Covenants to be engaged in good causes of our own free will: “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward” (D&C 58:27-28). Anxiously Engaged weaves together religious principles and research-based ideas. Truth comes from both sources and when woven together can be especially powerful.

Anxiously Engaged is designed to be 6 hours long offered in 2-hour sessions over 3 weeks. Offering it this way allows you a few weeks to concentrate on learning the material, talking together about important issues, and practicing new skills.

Lesson 1: Becoming one is at the heart of marriage. Ideas and communication skills to help you achieve oneness in your marriage.

Lesson 2: Marital sexuality is a wonderful, divine gift to strengthen your marriage. Increase oneness in your marriage by preparing effectively for a beautiful sexual relationship.

Lesson 3: Commitment and growth are important elements of strong marriages. Strengthen your commitment and explore how to keep your marriage growing.

Of course, 6 hours is way too short to learn and talk about everything that would be valuable to cover in a marriage preparation workshop. But we want to be realistic. We know that engaged couples are very busy and some have pretty short engagement periods. So, we kept the core lessons to a crucial minimum. We encourage you to invest in this marriage preparation workshop early on in your engagement. We hope that the 6-hour investment will be sufficient to learn core principles and set a course for continued learning and growth. Plus, to supplement the core lessons, we have created some online supplemental lessons that couples may want to do on their own (and we will keep adding them over time).

Man holding woman