Posts Tagged ‘Mormons and marriage’

Hey there! I’m not really back to blogging, but the last month or so I’ve had two posts swimming in my head. I have almost a day on a plane and bus, so I have a little time. One post would include reflections of my most recent stint as Relief Society president in my singles ward. I was recently “released” from the position as we call it.  In this same post I want to write about an evening I attended addressing surveys of Church members experiencing faith crisis. The New York Times just published a piece on the man who prompted the survey and who I heard speak. See that article at “Some Members Search the Web and Find Doubt.” I appreciated journalist McKay Coppins’  response “Why the Internet Hasn’t Shattered My Mormon Faith.”  I’d like to write about my own sense of betrayal as I learned more about Church history and how I navigated through it. Make that how I’m navigating through it.

The other is this post about dating, prayer and choices. I’ve gone back and forth with myself about doing it. Then I re-read a few of my posts about dating, which made me smile because I forgot about them and realized this one fits right in. It makes for an interesting read and I hope that as I’m real, it can help others see how faith works in daily life—not just idealized in disconnected church sermons.

Here’s the point: Committed love is not inevitable. It comes by a series of choices to get there and then a series of choices to remain there. God helps us along the way if we ask. We have to ask because He works according to our faith and asking prepares us to receive what He will give.

(If this gets too long for you, just skip to the last section about prayer. That’s the best part of this post.)

“Web of Contingency”

It seems inevitable that my parents ended up together. I mean, I can’t imagine life without my family, or my mortal existence for that matter! Of course it was going to work out between them.  But that sense of inevitability only comes with hindsight. Of course Americans would win their independence. Of course American slavery would become illegal. Of course the Mormon pioneers would settle the Salt Lake valley.  Of course women would obtain the vote.  Of course the Nazis wouldn’t win the war. There’s a sense of inevitability that comes with looking backwards into the past. But these events brought with them great uncertainty and struggle.  So it is with marriage. Looking back on it for couples who are way passed the uncertainty and struggle of the decision process makes it all seem inevitable that they’d end up together.

But it wasn’t.

I like to think of achieving marriage in terms of how David Hackett Fischer describes the crossing of the Delaware River during the American War of Independence in his book Washington’s Crossing. When you read the words “this book,” think “marriage” and you’ll catch my drift.

We have seen how it happened: not in a single event, or even a chain of events, but in a great web of contingency. This book is mainly about contingency, in the sense of people making choices, and choices making a difference in the world. It is not primarily a story of accidents, though there were many along the way. It is not about what might have been, though that question is always in the background. This is a story of real choices that living people actually made. To study an event in these terms is to discover a dense web of contingency, in which many people made choices within a structure of relationships. (364)

Mormons heavily emphasize the concept of free will. God created us before we came to earth, the Mormon narrative begins, and we came into the world to choose God and gain experience. We grow into obtaining our eternal potential as we receive Christ’s Atonement and absorb His power to make us holy.

I once heard a bubbly Church speaker say that God has a path for each of us, we just have to discover it and follow it. I didn’t think that exactly aligned with how Mormons understand the purpose of life. It’s more like God has His gospel path for everyone and Christ is the gatekeeper. But, once on that path and received Christ, there are thousands upon millions of good paths we can choose while still on that gospel path.  What job you end up in, where you’ll live and even what partner you end up with isn’t predetermined. He can see some are better for us than others and will guide us toward those if we ask. He wants us to develop our ability to make good choices. We counsel with Him about possible paths on the gospel path while He gives us feedback from His omniscient perspective. “He approves more than He assigns” to quote a popular Mormon youth speaker.

Since we’re all making choices, it creates a “dense web of contingency” and it exists within a “structure of relationships.”

This means that Mormons don’t believe in predestined soul mates. But they do believe that once you choose a spouse, that person becomes your soul mate.

The Intersection of the Venn Diagram 

I think of potential partners in terms of a Venn diagram. One circle includes the men I could match up with. The other circle comprises those who could want to be with me. There have been men in my life with whom I wanted a deeper relationship, but they didn’t want it with me. Then there have been some men who were interested in a deeper relationship with me and I wasn’t interested. The great potential for a partnership lies in mutual interest—the intersection of the Venn diagram.

There’s not just one person in the intersection who is the destined one. Lots are possible, though the circle is not so big to include everyone who is single. Some people have large intersections and others small, but I believe there are sufficient amounts of possibilities for most everyone. Progressing to marriage happens through a series of choices within the intersection.

God works according to the faith we offer Him. If we ask Him for help in finding someone in the intersection, He will. Then once you’ve found someone in the intersection, He can advise you along the way if you ask. He cares about our lives and that includes our relationships.

God’s will, your will or both? Being willful? 

I think of God’s will in terms of my relationship with my Dad. It’s his will for me to be faithful to my knowledge of the gospel. He wants me to grow up and be a self sufficient adult who maintains a relationship with Him and still relies on Him for love and support. I think people often think of God’s will in very narrow terms, seeking to know the one thing they’re destined to be so they can be it.  My Dad wants me to be successful and there are lots of ways to be successful while still living according to my knowledge of the restored gospel. I believe God’s will is similar. The key is counseling with Him along the way so we can hear His feedback on our choices. God wants us to align our will with His. His will looks more like a good father than a dictator.

Then there’s being willful, meaning you make yourself unavailable to His Spirit and do whatever you want because it’s what you want.  Are you willful?

Women and Power in Dating

It’s hard to know who is actually in the intersection. That takes action and a willingness to be rejected. In other words, you gotta try.

I’m currently not sure how much true power Mormon women have in the dating process, beyond the power of prayer, which I’ll get to. I believe I have power over my own choices, but I’ve found relationships only progress if the man is actively moving it forward and I’m accepting or declining the forward movement.  What am I supposed to do then, just wait around for someone to pick me?  That seems so paternalistic. I do believe women  have power to encourage and create opportunities and show interest.

For example, there was one particular guy I thought was so amazing. He was deeply reflective and incredibly smart, polite, kind and opinionated . He was spiritual in a faithful, yet sometimes unconventional way (as I view myself to be).  But I didn’t know all those things at first. I just knew he was good looking. He started talking to me at our ward retreat. After a while they announced the last BYU/Utah football game was up. It was quite the feat to get the satellite signal to function while in the mountains near Camp David. To receive signal, it had to be set up on the lawn, so viewers grabbed chairs to relocate into the cold night air to see the large projector screen. I invited him to join me to watch, which he did. It was very cozy as we shared my blanket and continued talking while half watching the game. He had his arm around me. Or was that just his arm on my chair? I wasn’t sure. I think it was around me. We’d talk at subsequent Church activities and I invited him over a few times, but it never went much beyond that. Looks like he was in my circle, but I wasn’t in his. It’s too bad because he was so great, but at least I was trying—and doing what I could see was in my power.  You gotta try. Committed love isn’t inevitable. It comes about through the struggle of our choices.

Then there was another man. We were no longer dating because of his choice, but he’d left it open. And I didn’t want it closed. We ran into each other at a party and there was no way I was going to talk to him. I wasn’t over him, but that was deliberate. I could have gotten over it for good if I wanted to, but I didn’t want to. I figured I would when I had to, if I had to. He came up to me, making it a point to touch me, bringing up things we had done together and updating me on his life.  He seemed different and I hoped that it could be different. At that point in my life I’d developed the belief that if a man likes you, he’ll do something about it and I’d already made enough of a fool of myself over this guy that if he did want to ask me out, he’d do something about it. I hoped he would for a while, but he never did and I tried to forget about it and sort of did. Then, months later I could bring a guest to an annual Christmas meeting for Temple workers in the upper room of the Washington, D.C. Temple. I’d attended this meeting before. It’s a moving experience. Everyone in attendance wears their Temple whites and the Spirit is very strong as faithful Temple workers sing gospel  hymns and listen to sermons on the role of the Savior. I thought through people I could invite and really wanted him to join me. I decided and then undecided to ask him for about a week and finally landed on the go for it side. I stared at my phone for about 15 minutes before actually doing it. My voice was a tinsy bit shaky as I asked. The answer was no  (well, it was “not now” which is neither here nor there at this point), but it was worth it to me to try. You gotta try.

More recently I was hanging out with a particular man, but I would have rather been on a date with him (see the difference between dating and hanging out at “Stop Hanging Out with Women and Start Dating Them” on the Art of Manliness and “Dating Versus Hanging Out” by Elder Dallin H. Oaks). We’d been on a date before. He’s really smart with lots of initiative and passion and he likes to hear my perspective on ideas he’s exploring. Our bishop had recently done the lesson on dating/marriage, which happens about twice a year or so in singles wards and we were talking about it. (That lesson happens apart from the weekly Relationships Sunday School class. Yeah that’s a thing.)  I told him if I were a (Mormon) man, I’d be very active at dating. I’d ask women out until I found someone I liked and then pursue a relationship with her. If it didn’t work out, I’d move on and keep moving until it works out. I told him I envied the Mormon man’s prerogative in the dating scenario. It’s true that other cultures have different norms, so our model doesn’t have to be this way. However, I believe that culture influences emotions and to be countercultural in this instance doesn’t seem to work out for too many women. Too bad our dating norms are strongly in the favor of the man. He said that we probably had different perspectives on how to be active about it and continued with saying, “But, there’s no better way to get Mormon women to respect you, than to ask women on dates.”  That made me laugh and I smiled in agreement. There are as many perspectives on dating as there are people who want to date. You gotta keep trying until it works. There are enough people, I believe, in each person’s intersection that it can eventually work out, but you gotta try. Committed love isn’t inevitable. It comes about through the struggle of our choices.

Someone’s Choice Does Not Change Your Worth

When I read again my post “God Knows That Dating is Tough,”  I remembered this important point. The way others treat us often has a direct influence over our self esteem. It’s hard to still feel good about yourself when you’ve decided to let someone in and they decide they don’t want to be there. Self-esteem is how we view ourselves, but our worth is eternally constant. No matter what others choose, how God feels about us never changes. Each of Heavenly Father’s children was worth the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. That’s priceless.

The Lord said it this way in a modern revelation:

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” Doctrine & Covenants 18:10 

Just because someone isn’t in your intersection or is in your intersection and chooses someone else, it doesn’t mean you don’t have tremendous worth.

Asking God to Help with Dating

Now to what inspired this post in the first place. A few years ago, the Prophet spoke on marriage  in the priesthood session of general conference and this talk became a recurring theme in my singles ward. In the talk, he expressed concern about single Latter-day Saints hanging out in large groups and not going about purposefully searching for a spouse. I got sick of hearing about it because I didn’t think this applied to me, but I didn’t want to feel like the Prophet’s counsel didn’t apply to me. I prayed sincerely to know what I should do about dating. I really wanted to know if I would never get married so I could grieve the loss of the dream and quit waiting around for something to happen that wouldn’t and move on with my life. After lots of work in the form of prayer and humbling myself, I got an answer to “be patient and trust me.” I was happy to receive a clear answer, but also felt like He wasn’t answering me as I asked. Hello?! Does being patient and trusting mean I should give up on this marriage hope or not? But pursuing that felt bratty. I decided to let that go and just pray for help to be patient and trust. I’ve been consistent with that since, though many mornings and nights it was more to just check the box (hey, praying for the same thing for years can lead to your fervency to wane). God did bless me with the patience and trust for which I asked. Gratefully, after a while I lost my angst about dating.

But, a few months ago things happened that motivated me to revisit the “What should I do about dating?” question.

I couldn’t sleep because I was replaying old tapes in my mind and it was seriously upsetting me. After earnestly praying what I should do about the dating thing, I felt better and went to sleep. The next day during my scripture study on the Metro a very clear answer came into my mind to “pray he’ll have the courage to pursue me.” This made sense to me and I started meaningfully including it in my prayers with faith. The next day someone I had previously dated emailed me and wanted to talk. I didn’t think much of it. Essentially the last time we talked apart from in-the-hall-at-Church-chit-chat was a train wreck. I felt like he was making choices based on assumptions about me without just asking me in the first place. When I said I just wanted someone who wanted to be with me and then you decide the life details after that, I didn’t take well to his response.  Now he was looking for some feedback. Over the years at various times, I’ve sought feedback from men I’d dated after time passed and we were on friendly terms. I was looking for info to help me change for the better. It was never a bad experience. He appeared to be doing the same. Because he wasn’t asking me out, I didn’t feel the need to make it a priority. About a month passed before we ended up chatting and then only briefly.  At the close, I wished him luck.

A few weeks later he asked to meet again. This time it was different. He said essentially since we had that terrible ending (my words), which was about six months previous, he’s been thinking of me and more generally of what he should do about dating. He’d received some impressions from the Spirit and subsequently had a “paradigm shift.”

Then he went on.

Then I responded.

Who knows what will happen with this. Committed love isn’t inevitable, it comes about through the struggle of choices. But here’s some thoughts that come to me about it from the benefit of hindsight:

His humility was absolutely disarming to me.

I had nothing but respect for him for the tremendous courage it required to tell me what he did.

Because of the humble confidence he carried by acting on what the Spirit inspired him to do, I changed from hardly caring to see him to finding him very attractive. Worth noting, right?  :)

I’m also humbled about the timing. He’d been thinking about it for months and right after I prayed with faith and the Spirit gave me to “pray that he would have the courage to pursue me” he contacted me.  1. Cool he’s so responsive to the Spirit and 2. Cool the Lord gave me specifically what to exercise faith about.

I believe others would have similar experiences through acting on answers to prayer and trusting God.

You’re almost to the end of this mega-long post!

I learned many, many things this round as a Relief Society president. The most valued thing I learned was a re-learning. It is how to exercise faith in prayer, receive an answer, recognize the answer and to act upon it.

Most everyone dreams of committed love.  If you involve God in the process, I believe He can help guide you to someone in your intersection. Then you have to continue to make choices. Ask Him for help in those moments too.

God cares, even about dating which can seem silly, but actually has consequences that reach into forever.

May you reach out to Him as He reaches for you, so your forever can be eternally learning the true meaning of the commitment of love.

Related posts:

Can’t you see the I’M the answer to your prayers? 

Mormon Apostle: Question Your Guts Out 

God Knows Dating is Tough 

 

 

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10
Feb

Gratitude and a Dating Tip

Posted by: benjamin    in Dating, family

My pregnant friend and I were recently standing at an event that took over an hour. While our ride was fellowshipping with some friends, she finally concluded that she was tired. She’d met her threshold for standing as a pregnant woman and wanted to wait for our friend in the car. She’s a kind and strong sort of woman. She wasn’t put out about the delay. She was just expressing her needs. I walked to the car with her. I wasn’t tired, I just preferred her company to anyone else around.

As we were walking she said she didn’t want to ever complain about her pregnancy. She and her husband have been wanting a baby for over six years and it was only just now they were expecting. She said she wasn’t ever jealous of other women when they would announce pregnancies. She was sincerely happy for them, but it did bother her when women would complain about being pregnant. She said that she would do anything to feel a baby inside her and would never complain about the physical ailments that went along with it.

I really like this friend. No, make that I really love this friend. She’s a tremendous overall person and I’m inspired to be better just by her company. She reminded me about living with gratitude.

I am mindful everyday of living with gratitude and it makes my life happy and content. It’s no exaggeration. I really make a conscious effort everyday. I have a similar feeling as this friend, only it’s not about being pregnant, it’s about being married.  (My Mormon mode of thinking keeps me on a path of ordering marriage before babies.)

I’m honestly not ever jealous when people announce engagements and eventually follow through with the decision. I’m sincerely so happy about it. It’s a miracle to my mind that people even get married these days, so I’m happy someone is carrying on the existence of the institution. But, it bothers me like nothing else when I hear my friends or family members complaining about their husbands. It usually runs along the lines of being too tired to go out on a weekend or not taking out the trash as expected. I try hard not to get huffy about it, but it’s a trigger for me. If I had a husband like theirs, someone I loved who loved me back, who was too busy doing good things in their lives to complete everything that is expected of them, I’d be grateful for it. I wouldn’t be put out about taking out the trash myself. It’s the Mormon dream to live a happy family life and they get to live it.

This probably makes my stock as a girlfriend go up, just sayin’.

(Image from this Pinterest pin)

 

Along the lines of trying to achieve that greatest of personal successes, a happy family life, here’s my dating tip for those extending invitations, men or women. When someone asks “What are you doing on Friday night?” I’m not really sure how to answer it. Do you really want to know? If you’re asking on Wednesday, I typically already have plans. It’s best just to extend an invitation and let the invitee decide if they’re willing to readjust their plans. And it’s helpful as the inviter to pause a little bit after a person says they have a prior commitment. If they want to go out with you, they’d usually suggest an alternative time they’re available. If they’re glad they have previously arranged plans to escape directly declining your invitation, they wouldn’t suggest another time.

Just trying to help that marriage institution continue. You’re welcome. :)

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I was sneaking out of the party when he caught me. I got up at 5:00 am, so I was spent and hoping to slip out without being caught by another conversation.

He hugged me hello and goodbye at the same time.

It felt really good because it was in a way to show me he cared about me without using words. We grew up together, so he knows me well. He knows the ways that I’ve tremendously changed with also staying relatively the same.

Men and women can be just friends. It depends on each of their mindsets, though. He and I dated in college and we’ve both concluded a romantic relationship isn’t going to work with us.  As we’ve moved onto a new life phase we’ve been sure to nurture our friendship because we both value it.

Can men and women be just friends? This viral video out of Utah State University addresses the question.

The guy with the sandwich cracks me up and the guy from 0:33-0:45 is just adorable. I like what he says, “…[Men] can be content with just friendship and we can be silent regarding those feelings, but we’re going to have them.”

Jesse and Patrick, the “young independent filmmakers,” edited the video well to show lots of attractive girls saying men and women CAN be just friends. Then they turned it to show in these instances the girls wanted to be just friends and the guys wanted more. However, I think it also goes the other way, there are men who want to be just friends with women and it is the women who don’t believe you can be just friends.

Then there are men and women who are friends with each other and neither is romantically interested in the other—happens all the time.

From my own experience there are men that I dated and really liked, but they broke up with me. They feel fine with being just friends, but I prefer not to be. I recently came across this “pin” on Pinterest that makes me laugh. It shows the feeling of the person getting dumped. The one initiating the break up, man or woman, would be comfortable being just friends. However, the one who wants more than friendship poignantly feels it’s not possible.

Source: piccsy.com via Molly on Pinterest

 

For me, if the person is someone I still determine could have relationship potential and they don’t want a relationship with me, I don’t want to be friends. If he’s not going to be kissing me, I don’t want to hear him cordially compliment my appearance. I don’t want him asking me for an update on my life and hear an update on his when I think the report could be better if we were together.  There are instances when the man wants only friendship and the woman doesn’t.

Then there are friendships between men and women where neither is interested in dating the other. It’s true, they do exist. Men and women can be just friends. I see it all the time. Further, I’m friends with men I grew up with who are now married. I love it when instead of cutting off friendship with them, their wives become included in the circle of friends.

Hmmm, now that I’m to the end of the post, I’m thinking I may have convinced myself that it’s more of an exception when men and women are really close friends without any romantic interest. I’m really only close friends with men with whom I have lots of history and retaining a friendship with them is worth the work. Otherwise, I don’t really pursue it and we’re really just casual friends or acquaintances and not the kind of friendship they’re addressing in the video.

Now I’m not sure.

What do you think? Can men and women be just friends?

Here’s a spoof on the original video by BYU student Stephen Jones. He’s best known for his starring role in the BYU library’s ad that went viral, New Spice: Study like a scholar, scholar viral video

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Recent relationship status updates on Facebook have me wondering. Does this happen to other women? Maybe this is just a Mormon dating pool thing.  A guy asks me out and not much later I find out he gets engaged—like days later.

Happened in college. More than once. And after college. Okay only once.

Once upon a time, my sister-in-law told me that two of her siblings went on dates with other people right before getting engaged “just to be sure.”

I request that people wear signs.

A sign would have really been helpful to the guy in this clip:

 

 

Oh wait, we do have signs, it’s called relationship status on Facebook. It should be more specific, though.

Dear Mark Zuckerberg, I propose the following upgraded Facebook relationship status options:

  1. Single, but my heart is trashed from my last relationship—still healing. I’ll only burn you and burn you hard so stay away.
  2. Single, and you’re going to have to be awesome to change that (I saw that on Pinterest and it made me laugh).
  3. Single and happy, but I’d be more happy with you. (I like this one best.)
  4. In a relationship, but if you’d ask me out if I was single, make that single.
  5. In a relationship and I’m pretty sure she’s the one, but I need to go out with another woman for the decision process to be solidified.

This last one would be a helpful tool for me. I could check their profile before they pick me up.

Signs would be so helpful, especially when someone I was once interested in didn’t respond to my attention and I concluded he wasn’t interested in me. Was that a never interested in me or at the time you weren’t available and you would be interested in the event of renewed overtures? Just trying to clarify.

Leaders in the Church act like getting married is something you go out and do when you finally get your act together and decide you want to be married. It’s a little more complicated than that, in my humble opinion. Anytime someone else’s choice factors into an equation, it makes it dicey.

To be honest, I’d love for everyone else to wear signs and exclude myself from signage all together.  Personally, I prefer to date clandestinely so it’s not public knowledge when you break up and are falling apart. I’d rather lick my emotional wounds without a curious audience.

Okay, so everyone gets a pass on this one if they want it.

All in all, I’m glad people are deciding to get married. If I help in the decision making process, so be it.

Update:

If people don’t wear signs, they reveal their relationship status when they sit together in Church—affectionately. This BYU Divine Comedy bit parodies the back-scratches-sitting-in-Church phenomenon. (Though some people cuddle with people they aren’t dating, which makes things all the more confusing.)

 

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“Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord?” Open Access with Preparation

Just this last week a friend of mine told me about her friend’s friend’s description of their exclusion from a Latter-day Saint Temple wedding ceremony. (How’s that for degrees of separation?) This friend of a friend of a friend said he had to wait outside the Temple because he was “unclean.” It was a joke at which both my friend and I laughed because that’s not  how Latter-day Saints view it. If I had to choose one word describing those waiting outside the Temple during a wedding ceremony, it wouldn’t be “unclean,” it would be “uncovenanted.”

Latter-day Saints believe that in every “dispensation” in which God has dispensed the gospel of Jesus Christ, He has made a covenant with His people designed to instruct them of His nature.  In the Old Testament, Jeremiah records the Lord’s description of the ancient covenant,

“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33 ).

This covenant relationship is no longer limited to only the Jews as it was in ancient times.  Now anyone can be adopted into the “House of Israel.” The covenant relationship begins at the first ordinance, which is “baptism by immersion for the remission of sins by one with authority.”  Though baptisms are open to the public, later ordinances of the covenant akin to baptism are administered in sacred “Temples.”  Temples are open to anyone willing to (1) be baptized by restored authority into Jesus Christ’s modern Church (2) live God’s commandments like keeping the Sabbath day holy and observing the Law of Chastity and (3) strengthen their commitment to God by making further covenants. So God’s covenant is no longer limited to the Jews only, but in order to enter the “House of the Lord” also known as a  Temple, you have to willingly enter into a modern covenant relationship with Him. This often means many friends and family members do not observe Temple wedding ceremonies.:(

In a sense, every time a missionary knocks on someone’s door, it is an invitation to the Temple. However, no one is entitled to enter the “House of the Lord” without first spiritually preparing. We are guest in His home and He sets the guidelines.

(Photo of the Washington, D.C. Temple  from Chance Hammock Photography)

Chapels are Different than Temples

Latter-day Saints hold weekly Sunday services and social events in chapels. These are open to the public. Here’s a video describing the logistics of a Latter-day Saint worship service. Temples are special, sacred spaces where Latter-day Saints make covenants with God and seek personal revelation. In a similar way to how the ancient covenant people did not speak the name of God to show Him respect, Latter-day Saints reverence the ordinances of the Temple by not speaking of them casually. Material posted online and else where depicting specifics of Temple ordinances is highly offensive to a Latter-day Saint.

Prerequisite Covenant to the Marriage Covenant. What Does the Covenant Include?

A covenant ceremony, called the endowment, precedes the covenant of marriage. The following is a modern prophet’s description of what the covenant includes in the endowment:

“In the Temples of our Lord we learn obedience.  We learn sacrifice. We make the vows of chastity and have our lives consecreated to holy purposes” (President James E. Faust “Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord.” August 2001 Ensign).

This covenant requires us to access the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change the desire of our hearts.  A modern Apostle describes this process as:

To have our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit such that “we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2), as did King Benjamin’s people, is the covenant responsibility we have accepted. This mighty change is not simply the result of working harder or developing greater individual discipline. Rather, it is the consequence of a fundamental change in our desires, our motives, and our natures made possible through the Atonement of Christ the Lord. Our spiritual purpose is to overcome both sin and the desire to sin, both the taint and the tyranny of sin

(Elder David A. Bednar “Clean Hands and Pure Heart, Nov 2007).

Mormon Temples Made Simple YouTube video describes well Temple practices in a respectful way.

Marriage is the Crowning Covenant in the Temple

The crowning covenant with God in the Temple is the marriage promise to care for another in a selfless, Christlike way. Latter-day Saints believe that God intended marriage to extend beyond the grave. Adam and Eve were married in their immortal state prior to the Fall and their ability to die (Genesis 2:23-24). The book of Matthew records the “power to bind on earth and in heaven” was given to Peter (16:18-19). Since God’s authority to administer ordinances was lost from the earth with the death of the Apostles, He restored this power in our time (Doc & Cov 128:9-10). If the couple is true to each other and to God, they will remain married after death.

Because of the sanctity of the Temple, photography isn’t permitted.  Wedding pictures are usually taken outside. Here are a few of my friend, Brittany’s, wedding. (She met her husband, Paul, on an internship in Denmark from her D.C. area school.)

Centered in Christ at the Altar of Sacrifice

I’ve attended several wedding ceremonies in the Temple.  They are incredibly beautiful.  The rooms are typically small and attendance is limited to preserve its sanctity and avoid making it too much of a social event. The couple kneels at an altar, facing each other and holding hands as the “sealer” performs the ceremony. The altar represents personal sacrifice to God and the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. When Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden and were gradually learning the steps back to God’s presence, they were commanded to offer a lamb in sacrifice to look forward to Christ’s Atonement (Moses 5:5-8). Ancient Israel also offered animal sacrifice, but as they fell away from the truth they became too focused on the form, rather than pointing their minds to the Savior. Because the people in the Book of Mormon left Jerusalem about 600 B.C., they also had the Law of Moses. It is clear from this record that the animal sacrifices were drawn to point their minds to the coming of Jesus Christ (Mosiah 13:28-35).

After Christ fulfilled His Atonement, He commanded the discontinuance of animal sacrifices and instead required a “broken heart and contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:19-20). As a couple kneels across the altar, face to face, holding hands, they are to offer this to God as they enter into a covenant with Him and each other.

A Latter-day Saint marriage ceremony is centered in Christ.

Maybe a Ring Ceremony, Usually a Paartaaay

Latter-day Saint couples often hold a reception to celebrate their union. These are not held in the Temple. Because only covenanted people observe the Temple marriage ceremony, many Latter-day Saint couples hold a ring ceremony at their reception hall (exchanging rings is not a part of the Temple ceremony). At a ring ceremony, a couple may design a program that involves all of their well wishers.

Here are a few pics of Brittany and Paul’s reception.

Unity in Marriage

I have many friends who move in together prior to marriage.  Even my new favorite royals, “Wills & Kate” lived together for years before finally marrying. If my friends aren’t religious, it’s normal in my mind for them to move in with their significant other once they feel a sense of longevity. However, as mentioned previously, Latter-day Saints covenant to live God’s Law of Chastity which is only to have sexual relations with your spouse. We do this simply because God commands it, but there are obvious benefits. In doing this, we prepare ourselves to create a unifying bond with someone special that will deepen loyalty and devotion. It is beyond my ability to imagine sharing something so special with someone who had yet to decide they wanted to keep me forever. Breaking up is hard enough without creating such strong emotional bonds without the foundation to support them. (I’ve written about this topic on this blog several times, including Mormons and Sex: Living the Law of Chastity and others.) God has commanded union in marriage and sexuality is part of the process, but the union is more than physical. Emotional, spiritual, mental and physical unity is built through a lifetime of kindness, love, sacrifice, admiration, appreciation, hard work, synergy, cooperation, obedience, faith, grace, sanctification and more. A modern prophet describes the command to be united in marriage as:

“The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, said of those who would be part of His Church: ‘Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine’ (Doc & Cov 38:27). And at the creation of man and woman, unity for them in marriage was not given as hope; it was a command! ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity. . . . The Savior of the world spoke of that unity and how we will have our natures changed to make it possible. He taught it clearly in the prayer He gave in His last meeting with His Apostles before His death. That supernally beautiful prayer is recorded in the book of John. He was about to face the terrible sacrifice for all of us that would make eternal life possible. He was about to leave the Apostles whom He had ordained, whom He loved, and with whome He would leave the keys to lead His Church. And so He prayed to His Father, the perfect Son to the perfect Parent. We see in His words the way families will be made one, as will all the children of our Heavenly Father who follow the Savior and His servants: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me’ (John 17:18-21). In those few words He made clear how the gospel of Jesus Christ can allow hearts to be made one. Those who would believe the truth He taught could accept the ordinances and the covenants offered by His authorized servants. Then, through obedience to those ordinances and covenants, their natures would be changed. The Savior’s Atonement in that way makes it possible for us to be sanctified. We can live in unity, as we must to have peace in this life and to dwell with the Father and His Son in eternity” (Elder Henry B. Eyring Ensign, May 1998, 66).

 

Is it too much to say that Mormons are incredibly romantic?

God designed love stories with eternal possibilities. Your love story can be eternal through the power of Jesus Christ and living His restored gospel. Latter-day Saints live in a way to write their own eternal love stories in partnership with God.

 

 

 

“Why We Build Temples”

Frequently Asked Questions about Temple Marriage Ceremonies written for Latter-day Saints

Frequently Asked Questions about Temple Marriage Ceremonies written for people unfamiliar with Latter-day Saint belief

“The Blessings of the Temple” YouTube video

Check out Brittany’s amazing blog: The House That Lars Built 

The picture of the Washington, DC Temple was taken by Chance Hammock. Check out his work.

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6
Mar

Can Women ask out Men and it work out?

Posted by: benjamin    in Dating

This is the 21st century. Women can be CEOs and can even run for president. I’m wondering if women can ask out men and it work out.  By work out, I mean that this initiative creates a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship with the potential for marriage. And I don’t see the cougar thing as fitting those parameters; I don’t mean a BYU cougar either. As I shared in my previously posted tome  My Current Flux of My Fluctuating View of Dating, the purpose of dating for a Latter-day Saint (Mormon) is to lead to marriage and create a strong family life.  Also, there are no ‘soul mates.’ Partner selection is a matter of free will.

Mormon Women Expect the Man to be the Man

I’m not afraid of extending invitations.  I’d invite someone else’s dog to spend time with me if I thought something enjoyable could come of it. I wasn’t always this way. Being comfortable with this kind of thing comes from years of purposefully stepping outside of my comfort zone. I try to expand my comfort zone so I can feel like I’m progressing and because I don’t want fear to disable me from enjoying the best things in life.  Sometimes I do things BECAUSE they scare me. After a while, the fear dissipates.

So, I have few inhibitions to extending invitations, why don’t I ask out men all the time?

Mormon women expect the man to be the man. By being “the man” I mean someone who demonstrates ability to be a leader in the home and out.  A manly man in a Mormon woman’s mind is capable of providing mentally, emotionally, physically and financially.   He’s a protector. He’s a caregiver. He moves forward with faith. And he isn’t lazy.  He’s willing to outreach to others within his spiritual community and his greater community so they can progress and have better lives.

With that said, he doesn’t dominate his romantic relationship. A manly Mormon man creates an equal partnership. He’s not controlling. This offends God (Doc & Cov 121:34-37).

To me, when a healthy adult Mormon man asks for dates, it suggests several possibles in my mind:

1.  He may have his priorities in order by making dating a top priority. As I previously mentioned, Mormons believe the family to be centered in Christ, the creation of which is one of our greatest purposes on earth.  Seeking to create and care for his own family is the best way he can spend his time.  Other aspects of life are also important, but a manly man makes this a high priority.

2. He may be looking to invest, rather than simply “hanging out” or “coasting.” As a related note, it’s really hurtful and frustrating when someone pursues me without the purpose of investing, most especially if they’re someone in whom I can invest. I’m willing to get burned and burned again, but only for the chance that it could work out.  I’m not willing to get burned to be someone else’s entertainment.  But, usually men who aren’t willing to invest are not asking for repeated, sequential dates.

3.  He may be a manly man.

Chivalry Isn’t Dead, the Mormons Keep it Alive

Some claim feminism killed chivalry, but at least the Mormons keep it alive.  Acting as a gentleman, at least in my mind, suggests a man is a manly man in the way I’ve described.  When a man opens my door or helps me carry heavy things or takes me to dinner, it doesn’t suddenly make me a mindless subordinate. He’s showing me respect.  Some claim chivalry is a false guise men use to get sex. Well, since Mormons believe that God’s Law of Chastity means that sex is sacred and reserved for the bonds of marriage, this doesn’t really apply to Mormon men.  Plus, it’s my observation that Mormon men broadly extend chivalry to the women around them, regardless of romantic interest.

Am I powerless in an age of empowered women?

Much of this persuades me that I shouldn’t be asking for dates with men.   If he’s a manly man, he’d be asking me. Should I wait around for someone to ask me out?  What do I do?  With so many wonderful women in the Washington, D.C. Latter-day Saint (Mormon) community if I sat back waiting, I’d probably always be waiting. What’s a girl to do?

Here’s my line of reasoning.  There are no soul mates, partner selection is a matter of free will, so I need to do something along the lines of creating opportunity for a manly man to be interested in me. If I frequently see, talk with and flirt with some one I consider is a manly man and he doesn’t ask me out, he’s not interested in me.

With that said, sometimes I extend invitations to men I don’t see frequently. Because just perhaps he would be interested in me and he just hasn’t had the opportunity to know it. I’m not opposed to creating opportunity.

In short, if a manly man is interested, he’ll do something about it. What if he doesn’t have enough information to know that he would be interested? The more opportunities created to explore possibilities, the more likely couples will be created with eternal potential.

My View on Extending Invitations

I sometimes extend low pressure, casual invitations. These are usually in the form of when I’m attending an event with 2 tickets, such as a lecture. I extend invitations for something like meeting me at lunch when I’m in their part of town for work, school or otherwise.  I rarely extend the kind of invitation that leads me to pay for something in their presence. This gets really confusing for me.  I’m willing to pay for tickets in advance, but since I extended the invitation, I shouldn’t expect someone to pay for me, but does it make him feel like less of a gentleman if a woman is paying for his meal?  Should he offer and then I decline?  Should he insist? Should I insist? Should I graciously accept his offer? I just try to avoid the whole thing by planning activities that don’t require on site payment.

It’s a great idea to create opportunities for men and women to become better acquainted. The large mingling parties that happen in this area in the LDS community unfortunately don’t create this kind of opportunity to become acquainted. I have the same, “What do you do?” conversation over and over and the man usually has wondering eyes scanning the room to see with whom he’d rather be talking. The grass is very green on the other side of conversations at those parties. Creating one-one-one scenarios is really the best chance to become better acquainted.

I usually only extend 1-3 invitations like this to the same man.  If he’s a manly man and he is interested in me, he will try to make it less causal and start extending invitations to me. I have this limit because some men may like this kind of attention because it means they don’t have to work and they don’t have to extend themselves. These aren’t manly men. And I’ve learned by sad experience that if I continue inviting and he’s only accepting, it creates a scenario where I could author a chapter of He’s Just Not That Into You.   I’ve decided that if he’s a manly man and he’s interested in me, he’ll do something about it.  I only need to create the initial opportunity and then forget about it if he doesn’t respond after a few invitations.

Here’s an example of when I extended an invitation:

I had never previously talked to this guy, except on the phone prior to meeting up. I was  in a Church meeting where he spoke briefly. He seemed smart, had a thoughtful and kind demeanor, said a few things that suggested he was spiritual and showed respect to the person he spoke about for whom I also had respect.  I had never seen him before.  I wondered if he was married and wasn’t wearing a ring.  I emailed my friend who works in his office (I did a little asking around about him) and asked if he was married. Since he wasn’t, I got his contact info, called him and invited him to the Torpedo Factory with me in my neighborhood, Old Town Alexandria. In World War I, it was a war materials manufacturing  factory. Now it’s a community sponsored art exhibition.  It’s a collection of studios where artists create and display their work. It’s really interesting and it’s free. I joked with my roommates about setting myself up on my own blind date.:)

He turned out to be quite refreshing. He was really smart, personable and I didn’t have to carry the weight of the conversation. It was reciprocal. We’re also interested in similar things. I thought he was really cool. We’ve also been on a second date.  I’m not really sure if the second date was my invitation or his, so I’m not sure how many remaining I have in my count of invitations that would come from me.  It may be one, it may be two.

Here’s a pic of the Torpedo Factory from the waterfront.

And walking back we saw this incredible George Washington wig on King Street.

It was a lovely time. If anything, I enjoy being social.  I also love exchanging ideas with people I think are intelligent because it positively influences my own views.

Why I think Men Need to Pursue

I think that men need to pursue because of their emotional make up.  Generally speaking,  I relate to my women friends like we’re the Redwoods with interconnected roots.  We’re empathetic and can anticipate each others’ needs and meet them, sometimes without requesting it.  I relate to my men friends like they’re islands. They only come off the island for a specific purpose and then they return. Sometimes I ask my men friends about another man in the ward and they don’t know anything about them, though they sit with them in class every Sunday. They only venture out if there is some need, which isn’t very often. I believe that as men pursue, they step out of their island.  As they are rewarded by a positive reception, they are more willing to step off their island. If I continue to extend invitations, I’m inviting myself into their island and they’re never extending themselves. In other words, I believe men develop love as they pursue and are rewarded.

Though I’m not afraid to extend invitations, if I hope for the possibility that he could love me, I create the opportunity a few times for him to be interested in stepping off his island. If he’s interested, he’ll step out. If I continue to invite when he’s not extending himself, it creates a scenario where at first he likes the attention, but then I become an unwelcome visitor in his personal space. Ick.

I’m not opposed to creating opportunity for him to consider coming off the island, but only a few times.

To Mormon women, I recommend adding in a few initial casual invitations into their dating efforts. But flirting is really the best thing you could be doing.

I’m told that men don’t get hints. I don’t really understand this, but consider that even though you may feel like you’re shamelessly flirting, it’s possible it may be lost on him.

The Man’s Guide to Interpreting if a Woman is Flirting

If 2-3 of the following are happening to him at the same time, a man’s chances are good that he won’t be declined if he extends an invitation to the flirting woman. He should act quickly so he doesn’t miss his opportunity, while it still lasts.  Often women conclude the man isn’t interested if she flirts with him and he doesn’t do anything about it.

Speaking to the man, you can tell if a woman is flirting with you:

1. If you are mingling at an occasion with lots of people and she’s interested in talking to you.  It’s a good sign.

2. If she willingly and comfortably enters your personal space gradually and slightly. This is also known as leaning.

3. If she laughs at your jokes.  I don’t know, maybe you’re actually that funny. Chances are, the attraction heightens your ability to make her laugh.

4. If multiple times throughout the conversation she touches you casually in some way, usually on the arm.

5. If she smiles at you with admiration. Hmmmm, how can I better describe this…thinking, thinking…if she looks at you for a moment longer before furthering the conversation with some kind of smile that she may even try to hold back, but she can’t.

6. If she offers any kind of compliment.

7. If she willingly listens to you go on and on about yourself.  She’s really asking questions because she wants to turn the conversation into a reciprocal exchange.  If there’s interest on her part, she’s trying to reach dialogue, not monologue.  If you go on and on about yourself, you could make the woman feel neglected and alone in your presence. Don’t be that guy.

What do you think? Can women ask out men and it work out? Do you have any insights of your own from dating?


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Happy Valentine’s Day Eve!

This week in my Federalist Papers class at Georgetown University we read James Madison’s iconic first published Federalist essay, number 10.  I read this in college, but I didn’t have the reading skills to appreciate the potency of the message or the poetry of the composition. This time it was riveting.

I unabashedly crush on influential historical figures, especially when I learn more of their humanity. Sanitized iconic statesman towering on the pedestal of what seems like the inevitable march of history does very little for me. However, a bright person who utilizes well their talents and resources, synergizes the ideas of their time to generate an inspiring vision for a better future and has the courage and leadership skills to redirect the yet-to-be-made course of history, affecting millions, even billions of lives? Now that’s hot.

When I was more private about my historical crushing, a friend in college photo-shopped this pic of me with George Washington. When I saw it, I almost suffocated from lack of air because of my insurgent laughter.

Speaking of lack of air, this line in Madison’s paper sparked my mind to the topic of love (and just maybe my crushing on James Madison provided some sort of kindling):

Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be a less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.”

I thought of love when I read it. Why?  Let’s read it with a few alterations.  I’m sure Madison won’t mind.

“Liberty is to [love] what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be a less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to [romance and family] life, because [there's the chance for rejection and heartbreak] than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.”

It is only in the potential chance of rejection that meaningful love can be created. The ability to choose between extending yourself emotionally to someone or withdrawing completely is the air that enables the fire of the human hope to be loved. The choice to invest when you could be indifferent or worse shows the chosen they are special to you. Everyone wants to be loved.  If they say they don’t, it’s only because they’ve lost hope for it or they don’t believe it’s possible.

I came to this opinion by my study of Latter-day Saint scripture. (Well, not the last part, that’s purely my own generalization based on anecdotal experience and lots of chic-flick watching.)  Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe that Adam’s Fall ushered into the world the existence of opposites and therefore the possibility for human joy. If they stayed in the Garden of Eden, they would have “remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good for they they knew no sin” (2 Nephi 2:22-23). Before entering into this state of existence, Adam and Eve were damned in their ability to love because they lived in a neutral world.  Without the chance for pain, they could not know love.  Their choice to leave the garden enabled them to have children  (v. 23) and it created an environment where love could be created and expanded.  It was a Fall downward, but also forward.

God gives us liberty, so we can choose Him, even though He risks great rejection. It is in this free state we can actually develop love for Him. Many of His children reject Him. Prior to the earth’s flood and Noah building the ark, Enoch saw God weeping. Amazed that the God of Heaven would cry, Enoch acknowledged His creative abilities and divine attributes and asked, “How is it that thou canst weep?” (Moses 7:30-31).  The Lord’s reply cuts me, “And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood” (Moses 7:33).

We are completely free to reject God. God has great joy when He risks rejection with us and we choose to love Him. But, without the risk and our freedom to reject, no love can be created and expanded.  Thanks to Adam and Eve’s choice to leave the Garden of Eden, we live in an existence where we can know how to love God.

Similarly, in our romantic and family relationships when we, like God, risk rejection we are creating a space within ourselves where love can be created and expanded.  Without that vulnerability and potential for heartbreak, we can never know the joy of love in any way that God knows.  I personally believe that the deeper the pain an individual has experienced in life, the deeper their potential to cross the other end of the spectrum and love. “Why me?” someone could ask God or themselves. Perhaps He is allowing experience to enable a deeper access to love. What a tremendous gift.  God really does know what He’s doing.

And, it’s okay to cry when you’re rejected.  God does.  But it’s not okay to allow fear to stop you from taking risks. God doesn’t do that.  That just handicaps your potential to enjoy love more like He does.

Happy Valentines Day, whether this one involves pain or love.

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