Listen to the audio here at the Mormon Channel.
Listen to the audio here at the Mormon Channel.
My voice teacher in college, whom I looked up to. once said that it takes a lifetime to discern between emotion and the Spirit. Emotion can be overwhelming, whether it’s positive emotions or negative. Sometimes the positive emotions we get swept up in can be particularly hard to tell from the Spirit. Emotions, temptations, and fears can play just as much a part in confusing us in dating as they do with any other aspect of our lives.
Things that can get in the way understanding promptings in our dating lives:
When I was a kid, my older sister had a copy of a book by Brenton G. Yorgason called From First Date to Chosen Mate that I would guiltily sneak into her room sometimes to read. She was seven years older than me and that made her stuff….cool. Later I inherited the book and didn’t have to sneak to read it anymore.
One section of it that I really appreciated was the section on “real love” versus “infatuation.” To sum up, some of the counterfeits of love found in infatuation, you may already guess: you like how you look with that person, you like how they make you look to others, they fill an emotional need for self-esteem, etc. You can still get a used copy of it on Amazon.
Or, this blog post, “7 Signs That You’re Not Really in Love”on Family Share by Yordanka Pérez does a pretty good job of summing up the same idea. We like to think that we’re not affected by our emotions as much as we are sometimes, but emotions can be powerful and something we always need to work at to be aware of in our relationships.
Speaking of pressing forward in faith, “Mental Dating” is a term that I learned from a friend who is a therapist with a Ph.D. in psychology from UCLA. It’s what a lot of us do when we meet someone attractive who strikes our fancy: we think about what they might be like, and in the extreme, spend a lot of time thinking about it. It’s not a truly productive form of work for your dating life. I’m not claiming that some escapism in the form of entertainment or even daydreams don’t have their place, but we need to realize that sometimes when we engage in “mental dating” in our heads, the made up scenarios on the stage in our mind may be replacing reality via the lack of interaction that we’ve actually had with them. I can pretend in my mind that, for instance, that actor Chris Pine is my best friend and woos me the same way he does Anne Hathaway’s character in Princess Diaries II, but it does not mean that if I met him in real life that we would or could or would even want to interact in that way. And we may find ourselves “understanding” this when it comes to Hollywood crushes, and yet we’ll let it mess with our minds with that handsome man or charming woman we met at church or an activity. In our minds they already have a slew of qualities that we’re looking for, yet we’ve never been on a date with them to actually find that out. In contrast, the person you’ve never talked to may have qualities you’re not aware of until you actually do talk to them and get to know them.
The Spirit leads us to do good things, and sometimes things we’re afraid to do. However, it won’t take away from the God-given plan of agency. The Doctrine and Covenants talks about God’s use of “stewardship,” something that is applied throughout the Church and in our own families. We can receive a positive answer about someone else: that they may be good for us or even a good marriage partner. However, we do not have stewardship over others when it comes to answers they receive for themselves. I may find that Heavenly Father gives me favorable impressions via the Holy Ghost about someone else, but as that person is looking at their possibilities, I may not be the best for them. Heavenly Father may not let me know that I am right for them. I believe this may be one of the most confusing kinds of answers we can receive that may take more picking apart and time to think over after receiving. For me, I’ve decided that it’s not the feeling that I need to concern myself over, but rather, “What did the feeling/prompting really mean?” (Positive promptings about someone else may mean that getting to know them is a good idea, but not necessarily that they’re “the one.”) And that once I can set aside the overwhelming emotions associated with dating and relationships, I can once again have heaven’s help in helping me interpret answers with humility: with my heart and my head, and come to some conclusions that follow all of God’s laws, including the stewardship of others, without feeling like the misinterpretation of the answer means that must be a foolish, silly person. God loves us. Always use that lens of His love.
So what things will help us recognize the Spirit? Obviously church leaders and the scriptures are full of advice on this.
From the recent “Face to Face” for the youth with Elder Rasband, Sister Bonnie Oscarson, and Brother Owen. (And yes, it was geared towards the youth, but it contains great stuff for us older people too.) One of the youth asked a question about recognizing the Holy Ghost, and this was some of the advice they received. You can find this about 22 minutes into the broadcast:
-Act on small promptings and over time you’ll get better at recognizing the Spirit, and the Lord will trust you with more. There is always room for all of us to improve on recognizing the Holy Ghost: if it invites you to do good, it’s the Holy Ghost.
Elder Rasband, quoting the Young Women/Young Men theme for 2016: “Press Forward with steadfastness in Christ. Feast Upon the Words of Christ.” That will help you feel the Spirit more often. (See more on this below.)
Sister Oscarson: The Holy Ghost may come as a thought, a feeling, or a clear thought: move forward and trust he’ll give us corrections on individual promptings if need be. (Think Nephi getting the plates from Laban.)
Sister Oscarson: Moroni 7:16
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
President Monson said recently in General Conference that “I reiterate what we have been told repeatedly—that in order to gain and to keep the faith we need, it is essential that we read and study and ponder the scriptures. Communication with our Heavenly Father through prayer is vital. We cannot afford to neglect these things, for the adversary and his hosts are relentlessly seeking for a chink in our armor, a lapse in our faithfulness. Said the Lord, ‘Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.'(D&C 90:24)” If we aren’t doing are part with our prayers and scripture reading, to improve and learn, how can we expect more blessings when it comes to receiving the Spirit? Conversely, by doing all we can in these areas, we can expect blessings.
Galatians 5: 22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Developing spiritual strength doesn’t come from leaning back; it comes from pressing forward, constantly seeking more light and knowledge from heaven… We cannot rest. Press forward.
As was said by Elder Rasband and Sister Oscarson, sometimes we receive just a little bit of light and we need to trust it and “try it out” by moving forward with it, believing that Heavenly Father will give us more when it is needed.
I have discovered that what sometimes seems an impenetrable barrier to communication is a giant step to be taken in trust. Seldom will you receive a complete response all at once. It will come a piece at a time, in packets, so that you will grow in capacity. As each piece is followed in faith, you will be led to other portions until you have the whole answer. That pattern requires you to exercise faith in our Father’s capacity to respond. While sometimes it’s very hard, it results in significant personal growth.
He will always hear your prayers and will invariably answer them. However, His answers will seldom come while you are on your knees praying, even when you may plead for an immediate response. Rather, He will prompt you in quiet moments when the Spirit can most effectively touch your mind and heart. Hence, you should find periods of quiet time to recognize when you are being instructed and strengthened. His pattern causes you to grow.
Recognizing the Spirit while dating: dare I even go there? What a complicated subject! I am going to attempt a couple of posts on it. It may not be that bad when we go with the basics we’ve already learned, and then apply them to our dating lives.
This story comes from my friends Jennifer and Parker, who are on their second marriage. I’ve shared stories from them before because they’re both masterful storytellers. This one comes from Jennifer. They’ve been married a few years now and have six children (four boys and two girls) between them from their first marriage (almost exactly like the Brady Bunch).
When I decided to begin dating as a 33 year old divorced mom of 4, I knew things would be different than dating as a 19 year old college student. I was looking for physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and familial compatibility with a potential spouse. That may seem very specific, but I knew if I could click with a man in at least 3-4 of these categories, he was someone I should consider.
For both Parker and I, living as close to the Spirit as possible was absolutely essential as we considered who to date, and more importantly, who to involve our children with. We prayed and studied scriptures daily, magnified our callings, attended church regularly, looked for opportunities to serve (and be served), attended the temple, counseled with our bishops, and sought blessings when needed. We chose friends and activities that would help us to keep holding to the rod during a time when it is easy to feel so vulnerable, helpless, and alone.
I still don’t know if it was the Spirit initially that told me as soon as I saw Parker’s picture that he was “the one,” because I had had warm, encouraging feelings towards at least one other person I had seriously dated that didn’t work out–but I do know that the Spirit helped both of us during our dating to overcome some major fears and hang ups we had–especially dating long distance with some big life changes one or the other of us would have to make in order for us to be together.
I think one of the biggest moments for us was a sort of “Liahona moment” we had when out for a walk one evening. We were both feeling very drawn to one another–(for my part, totally compatible in all the categories I mentioned before) but Parker was scared as to whether or not asking my children and I to move and being able to provide for such a large family (6 combined kids) would be a wise choice, and just scared in general. Based on a few bad past relationships, I was looking for some type of a commitment from him, even if it was just declaring that we wouldn’t date anyone else. It was hard to leave him for 3-4 weeks at a time and go back to Idaho and kind of worry about all the other girls I knew were trying to get his attention. Anyway, as we were out walking that night–Parker just happened to find a little flashlight on the sidewalk someone had dropped. He clicked it on and it worked. We didn’t think much about it until I also found a gold bubble gum machine ring someone had dropped. We laughed, but also felt very sober towards the fact that he had found his “light” and direction, and I had found a symbol of commitment. We still keep these two objects on the dresser in our bedroom to remind us that the Lord very much meant for us to be together. As we continued to date and counsel and attend the temple together, we just knew that we could overcome any trial or hardship together. Despite a lot of difficulties in getting us together and in adjusting to a new life in a new state in a new family situation, the peace from the Spirit was stronger than any outside trial.
from her March 2, 2014 CES fireside address, “Tuning Our Hearts to the Voice of the Spirit.”
Author Corrie ten Boom’s observation seems applicable here: “Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for a future that only He can see.”
Perhaps some of you have had a similar experience to that which our six children have had as they have searched for worthy eternal companions. Because hindsight is 20/20, they can now see that they each needed to have certain experiences in order to be able to recognize the Lord’s hand leading them to their eternal companions. Some of those experiences required years of patiently waiting and moving forward in faith. At times the heavens even seemed closed to them as they prayed. When the Lord’s timing conflicts with our own desires, trust that there might be some preparatory experiences the Lord needs us to have before our prayers are answered.
Reblogged from Single-Minded Determination
In the Mormon world, there are a lot of single adults eagerly looking for their eternal companion. In places where there are a lot of LDS members, or perhaps few members at all, many LDS single adults feel pressured to make a strong impression on a prospective eternal companion. However, there’s another important way to stand out that’s often overlooked or underemphasized – the “Mormon glow.”
The Mormon glow is a term commonly used to describe how members striving to live the gospel seem to have a light that shines from within them. Anecdotally, it’s common to hear stories of how people have identified practicing Mormons from the “glow” about them. The Mormon glow has actually been scientifically proven to exist and church leaders have explained that this effect occurs because of the influence of the Holy Ghost. President James E. Faust once explained that a “sacred light comes to our eyes and countenances when we have a personal bond with our loving Heavenly Father and His Son.” He then recounted a fascinating story: