Those who pray and study scriptures at home report higher levels of happiness, meaning, and feelings of God’s love in their life, according to a new study from the Wheatley Institution. Highly religious couples—those who attend church and worship regularly at home—also report greater relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and a sense of spousal commitment, kindness, forgiveness, and joint decision-making.
Two years ago at general conference, President Russell M. Nelson announced a home-centered, church-supported curriculum designed to help individuals and families “learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship.” This resulted in the Come, Follow Me curriculum.
This prophetic direction came just over a year before the worldwide pandemic forced churches to close their doors around the globe. Thankfully, millions of individuals and families were able to access these home-worshipping resources during this period of time away from regular church service.
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And now there’s research that underscores the spiritual and relationship benefits that can come when engaging in these kinds of home-centered worship patterns.
The report released this week looked at data from more than 16,000 survey respondents in 11 countries, including the United States. They found that “home-worshippers”—couples who regularly attend church and also regularly participate in prayer, scripture study, and conversations about their faith at home—report a number of benefits not experienced by their peers.
Many of the benefits that we might expect to go along with religious observance—such as finding meaning in life, having greater happiness, and feeling God’s love—were seen in both home-worshipping couples and couples who simply attend church but don’t engage in regular patterns of worship at home.
The fascinating point in this study was that the home-worshippers were significantly more likely to find greater meaning, happiness, and feelings of God’s love in their life.
The study’s authors remark: “While these two groups are overtly similar in their regular weekly church attendance, there appears to be something particularly influential in the practice of home worship that taps faith’s potential to endow life with an enduring sense of meaning.”
Despite what New York Times writer Clay Routledge has called today’s “crisis of meaninglessness,” the findings suggest that religious devotion imbues life with meaning and purpose. To put it another way, with the frequent practice of prayer and study, and with a desire to commune with and learn from God, home-worshippers report a 90–95% chance of feeling God’s love daily, whereas those who go to church sometimes or regularly but do not engage in home worship report experiencing a 50–75% chance of feelings God’s love each day.
Home-worshipping couples also report better relationships in various categories—which improved when both partners shared the same level of religious worship practices. The couples with shared levels of religiosity reported greater relational benefits, including:
- Higher levels of shared decision making: Though some may assume that more religious couples fit a stereotyped traditional set of roles that undermine women’s participation in joint decision-making, this broad landmark study measured just the opposite. Women were particularly more likely to report involvement in joint decision-making in shared home-worshipper settings than secular couples or attenders.
- Higher relational satisfaction: Women in home-worshipping settings are remarkably twice as likely to report high relationship satisfaction than women in shared secular belief couples, while home-worshipping men were 1.5 times more likely than men in shared secular couples to report this same kind of high relational satisfaction.
- Fewer money problems: When asked whether money “causes problems in your relationship,” shared home-worshipping couples reported a lower level of financial issues in their relationships.
- Greater sexual satisfaction: The trend continues with home-worshipping couples topping the chart in their sexual satisfaction. Those couples with any kind of religious attendance were significantly higher in sexual satisfaction than couples who hold secular beliefs. Of note was the fact that even of the religious couples, the home-worshipping women were found to be 50% more sexually satisfied than the attender couples or those couples who have religious beliefs but attend only occasionally. Interestingly, men in the US who are in split home-worshipper relationships (where their wife is less religious) show significantly diminished levels of sexual satisfaction.
- Greater sense of commitment, kindness, and forgiveness: Many marriage researchers call these the “partner virtues” or those that require intentionality to develop in a relationship; namely, commitment (“my partner is responsible”), kindness (“my partner treats me with kindness”), and forgiveness (“my partner is very forgiving to me”). Out of all groups, women in shared home-worshipping relationships reported the highest level of these virtuous attributes in their partners. Similarly, but to a less significant degree, men in shared home-worshipping households also reported seeing high levels of virtuous attributes in their spouse.
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In the recent conference, we heard Apostles describing the decline of religious practices. For example, Elder Neil L. Andersen cited Pew Research data showing worrisome trends such as many stepping aside from religious beliefs and societies becoming more secular. And, in his opening remarks, President Nelson lauded the fact that “increased gospel study in many homes is resulting in stronger testimonies and family relationships.” The spiritual gifts of home-worshipping are clear, and this new research reminds us in a beautiful way that religious devotion at home also has benefits for our happiness and relationships. By following the inspired direction of a prophet to be actively involved in home worship, we find his counsel has the potential to continue to strengthen us as families and individuals worldwide as we move forward in a time of uncertainty.
Julie H. Haupt is an associate professor in Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life where she directs the school’s writing program. Kaylin Cash is a member of the BYU Student Editorial Board.