Posts Tagged ‘romantic love’

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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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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Life’s purpose is to increase in spiritual power by the cultivation of faith in God.

I make sense of the purpose of life through the framework of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  One of its tenets includes the pre-mortal existence of mankind in the presence of God, “For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth…for in heaven created I them[1]. In this state, we had a consciousness of the goodness of God and accepted the transition to a mortal existence. Since early Sunday School, children learn that the purpose of life is to come to earth to get a natural body and gain experience by
learning and growth. I have heard this narrative so many times it is now trite and serves me little in trying to make sense of life’s purpose. Therefore, I emphasize different aspects of revealed teachings to create my own guide. I center it in the development of faith in Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith, who I accept as a prophet equivalent to Abraham, Noah, Moses or Peter, taught that faith is a principle of power, “But faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth”.[2] I believe for those God first created spiritually to increase in power, He designed an environment for them to exercise faith.

My own efforts to develop faith independent of my parents began as a teenager.  After months and months of spiritual searching in prayer and scripture study, I received a powerful spiritual experience through the Holy Ghost that confirmed to me the existence of God and His awareness and concern for me. It increased my confidence to continue to outreach to Him and I not infrequently received further assurances.  As a full time missionary for almost two years, my faith expanded as I received immediate answers to my prayers. As my faith in Jesus Christ swelled, I felt the spiritual power of which Joseph Smith spoke and had a strong sense of the purpose of life. Then, at some undetected point, I entered a new phase of a development of faith.

God turned Deist on me, or at least He seemed to deal with me more like a clockmaker who set His world in motion and declines to intervene in its happenings. Without deviating from my usual efforts of prayer, scripture study and meaningful worship, I sometimes feel like God leaves me alone.  I am sure of His existence and do not believe His concern for me has changed, but He has provided fewer and less immediate assurances to me of His involvement. At this same time, I have become more mindful of life’s inequalities and tragedies. Often the self absorbed enjoy the comforts of marriage and family when the best swallow the pains of loneliness and neglect. Sometimes the promiscuous produce unwanted children when committed married couples taste the emptiness of infertility. Some inattentive parents overlook their children when involved parents bury theirs. The Mississippi overcomes homes, tornados demolish an Alabama town when tsunamis engulf and kill thousands in Japan. And some of the most admirable people in my life suffer with cancer when others live superficially, seeking to be incessantly entertained. Where is God? Is He still far removed?

This is the wrestling phase of my faith’s development and I see it as key in the purpose of my life; the cultivation of faith and the increase of spiritual power. This is where I have come to better know God.[3] My faith is not irrational. Every day it is a decision. I analyze the evidence available to me and  form a conclusion. Though I may feel little or no reciprocation from Him, I choose to piece together many past assurances from Him and choose to continue in trust.  Life’s purpose is to increase in spiritual power by the cultivation of faith in God. This comes not in the instant gratification to prayer requests or in knowing that every life question has a direct answer.  It is also not in the perfectly equivalent servings of blessings based on faithfulness.  Faith and therefore spiritual power comes by wrestling before God. It is in having just as many reasons to withdraw my reach to Him and walk away, but in choosing to increase confidence in Him, even when I feel He leaves me alone. The purpose of life is to have the opportunity and the right to walk away and the deliberate choice to stay. In that, there is spiritual power.

Life’s purpose is to change from selfishness to godliness.

By faith, I participate in the process of exterminating the rats within me.  C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly.  But the suddenness does not create the rats:  it only prevents them from hiding.” In the times of my life when God has been very quick to answer me, I was less aware of the existence of any rats. They were easily hid when I decided to open the cellar. When I have felt God leave me alone is when the cellar door has been thrown open. It has been then I can see my impatience, sense of entitlement or my self-pity.  The purpose of life is to access the power of God by faith to change these rats to their inverse form, patience, gratitude and humility.  The purpose of life is to provide me with the opportunity to use the power of God to diminish my ego and to have repeated opportunity to avoid re-inflating it. The purpose of life is to draw on God’s power by faith to have the secret imaginations of my heart be infused with virtue and integrity, rather than self-aggrandizement or pride.  As I increase in faith in God, I feel empowered to be open, authentic, discerning and giving and I welcome God’s all-searching eye to pierce my heart.

This process is both deeply inward looking and interdependent on the people around me. If I were to withdraw from the world into a lonely cave, I may be able to dig out the rats of the dark secrets of my own heart, but how will I have opportunity to develop compassion, patience and kindness?  How will I share in the grief of a close friend who lost their brother or help relieve the burden of someone devastated by a natural disaster?  The purpose of life is to draw on the power of God by faith to turn from selfishness to godliness.  I cannot accomplish such a tremendous change. It only comes as I consistently outreach to God to endow me with such power. The power to change comes by faith.

Life’s purpose is to build eternal relationships.

I was beginning to ponder the meaning of life when I was assigned “sealings” on my bimonthly shift at the Washington, D.C. Temple.  Because of the belief that each person on the earth must receive gospel ordinances administered by God’s priesthood authority, Latter-day Saints perform proxy ordinances in the Temple for the deceased, which will take effect only if accepted on the other side by the person passed away. Unique to Latter-day Saint belief is that God intended marriage to endure beyond the grave and this authority to “bind on earth and binds in heaven” has been restored in our time.[4] I was not paying close attention to those in the sealing room as we administered the sealing ordinance for deceased people, but one fellow Temple worker joked about the meaning of life.  My attention turned quickly to him, thinking it was curious this topic would come up when I was deeply considering it. He had asked the question in jest and another Temple worker responded with a playful point. Then the responder became serious saying, “I think the meaning of life is embedded in this ordinance.” It took me back because it opened my mind to a thought I had yet to consider. The best way to increase in the power of faith is to live in a covenant relationship with God, which happens when two people agree to live in marriage.  In marriage, there could be  many reasons to withdraw and walk away, but when they choose to increase in confidence and trust in each other and in God, even when they feel left alone, they deepen in their commitment and are positioned to see an increase in faith and power. In building a marriage that will last beyond the grave, each person has to draw on the power of God by faith to change selfishness to godliness because their weaknesses are heightened as they deeply affect another person. Sacrifice in marriage inherently invites the increase of power by faith to become more like God.  In this way, we can better know Him. We are brought closer to Him as we become more like Him in the sharing of His power by faith.  The purpose of life is to build eternal relationships.

The purpose of life is to wrestle with God, become more like Him and create and nourish relationships that extend through the plains of eternity.  I want to live my life aligned with these purposes so that I can live with peace.  It first starts with my mind and my heart.

What do you think?  Does life have a purpose? If so, how do you view and explain it?

 


[1] Moses 3:5 in the Pearl of Great Price, found in canonized scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

[2] Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith (American Fork: Covenant Communications, 2000), 2.

[3] “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent” (John 17:3).

[4] “It may seem to some to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of—a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven. Nevertheless, in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given. Hence, whatsoever those men did in authority, in the name of the Lord, and did it truly and faithfully, and kept a proper and faithful record of the same, it became a law on earth and in heaven, and could not be annulled, according to the decrees of the great Jehovah. This is a faithful saying. Who can hear it?” (Doctrine & Covenants 128:9)

 

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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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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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