Tag Archives: dating & marriage

Real Men

I wrote a post about fathers on Father’s Day and when I was done I realized I wasn’t done. I didn’t even scratch the surface on what I had to say about Mormon Fathers (or men in general). I focused my last post on the selflessness that is required of Mormon men. I now want to focus on the purity expected of Mormon men, particularly the husbands and fathers.

I was shopping for birthday cards for my dad and just about every card had a reference to 1) alcohol, 2) sex or 3) gambling (the really great ones tied in all three). Sometimes our society’s  definition of a real man is one that can hold his liquor and get with as many girls as possible. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches something different. According to the gospel of Jesus Christ a real man is someone who has the strength and character to be loyal and true to his God and his family.

A lot of things the Mormon church expects of men I have heard people say is literally not possible. Like, not only no pornography but no media that is meant to arouse and tempt. Mormon men are expected to be sexually pure having complete fidelity to their wives–both emotionally and physically.

For a lot of people, both Mormon and not Mormon, this is a very difficult task. Everywhere you look there are unsolicited advertisements using sex and pornography. It takes real strength, the kind that matters, to resist giving into these impulses and urges and to stay true to yourself, God and your spouse (if married). Sometimes (most of the time) people can’t do it alone and that is where Jesus Christ steps in. Sometimes the borrowed strength from Jesus Christ (which he will give freely and often) is the only thing that can help people avoid the temptation that is constantly thrown at them.

As a wife, married to a real man, I know it is difficult for men striving to live a pure life but I also know that it brings the greatest blessings of happy relationships and self respect. It is hard but it is worth it. Men do not have it easy in this world but there is a way to receive strength and help and that is through Jesus Christ.

My Story

“You’re getting married this April?! How long have you been dating?”

I moved to Boston in September to start a new job. Two days later I met my future husband. Two days after that, he asked me out. Five months later we were engaged. Three months after that we were married. Yeah, it happened pretty quickly. Many of my coworkers and friends have been asking questions about dating, engagement, and marriage for Latter-day Saints since I’m the only Mormon they know. For example; they’ve asked how our parents feel about our short courtship and what Mormon weddings are like. So, I’ll tell you. I can’t speak for all Latter-day Saints, but I can tell you my experiences and perspectives.

The actual Mormon wedding ceremony takes place inside a temple. Above is the Boston temple, picture from lds.org.

First of all, dating. Although I was open to casually dating friends of other faiths, I was most interested in dating other Mormons. Because being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affects so many aspects of life, I wanted to be able to share the same faith and background as my future spouse. When I met my husband, I wasn’t necessarily interested right away. But as I got to know him, I could see we viewed life the same way, valued the same things, and had similar life goals because we shared the same faith. He is from Europe and I was brought up in the United States, but the commonality of our faith gave us a great foundation on which to build.

Next, short courtship. My coworkers have been surprised that it took under eight months from meeting to marriage. I think the reason it happened relativity quickly is because Mormons believe in what we call personal revelation. I pray and read scriptures daily. In prayer, I really feel that I’m talking to God and in scripture study and meditation, I really feel communication from God in response. Over time, I’ve learned how God communicates with me and with practice, I’ve gained confidence to follow that. After only a few dates with my husband, I was reflecting on our relationship on my way to work. I loved spending time with him, and already I could tell we had very compatible backgrounds, attitudes, and goals. I felt peaceful about moving forward and opening up more to him. As we continued to date, things continued to make sense in my mind and I felt peace in my heart as I prayed. After just a couple of months, I knew he was the man I wanted to marry.

Next, short engagement. We were engaged the end of January and married mid-April. Why so quickly? For a number of reasons, primarily, to help us focus more on the marriage and less on the wedding. Marriage is making a commitment to your spouse and to God. Though celebrating is appropriate, it isn’t meant to just be a big, expensive party that overshadows the significance of starting a new family. My husband and I spent more time planning our future together than on planning the color of the napkins and the type of flowers. Actually, I was lucky that my mother did almost all of the planning on the other side of the country so my focus could be elsewhere, on more important things.

What are Mormon weddings like? The reception in the evening looked similar to many other weddings–all our family and friends, food, wedding cake, white dress, suits, gifts, first dance, flowers, music, etc. But the actually wedding ceremony that took place that morning was unique. Only our immediate family members were present in a room inside the Jordan River Temple. I have never felt so close to God and so full of light and peace than I did then making sacred promises to my husband before God. “When a man and woman enter one of our holy temples to be married, they covenant (or promise) they will stay together forever—on earth and in heaven after they die, if they are faithful to each other and their promises to the Lord.” We both knew this wasn’t just until we can’t get along or until we get sick of each other, this was forever.

And how did our parents feel about all of this? Both families are active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and both families were supportive and excited. Our parents knew we were making decisions based on personal revelation, and they could trust that. Even though I met my future in-laws only two days before the wedding (since they live in Europe), I immediately felt accepted and loved by them. Despite living on different continents in different cultures, we share the same faith, and that made all the difference.

God Fearing Fathers

This week is Father’s Day. I’ve talked a lot about motherhood and family in general but I haven’t really talked about fatherhood that much. Naturally I would talk about motherhood because I am a mother and also my faith has helped form my views and opinions on motherhood. From the outside it may appear that the Mormon Church likes to focus in on motherhood and kind of lets fathers off the hook. This is not true.

My dad and my own husband are pretty stellar guys. Social pressures tell these two men in particular (they are both in the finance industry) that they should dedicate 100% of their lives to their careers. For my husband, who is at the beginning of his career, he really has to work hard. His job is incredibly demanding, he works long hours, travels frequently, and work stress is his constant companion. Social pressures also tell him now is not the time for family and that he should be focusing on himself.

My dad, who is, we’ll just say, not at the beginning of his career, has social pressures to live a lavish, indulgent life style. He has earned his place in the world through hard work and determination and he should just be able to relax and reward himself.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormon Church) teaches its fathers and husbands something vastly different. Life is about service to others. Service to family, to neighbors, to congregation members, and to God. At no time in a man’s life is it a time to be selfish.

My husband works hard at work, he makes time and gives energy to his family, he dedicates time to God and to service in our Church and I believe that God is blessing his life for it.  My father has chosen a life of service in our church and community rather than an indulgent life. God requires a lot of both men and women, but he always blesses our lives in return.

Here’s to my husband, the daddy of our little boy, and to my father, daddy to 5 grown children and grandpa to 4 grandchildren (as well as to all the other fathers out there striving to focus on family). Fatherhood is not easy, especially when you try to balance it with career, thanks for all you do. Your families notice your hard work and dedication and so does God.

What happens in a Mormon wedding?

While I was in Utah last week I attended 3 weddings (it must be spring time) so I have weddings on my mind. All three of these weddings were different from a typical wedding in that they all took place in Mormon  templesMuch of what happens in Mormon (Latter-day Saint) temples is sacred and we believe it is inappropriate to talk about these sacred elements outside the temple but I want to share what I can.

How does a wedding in a Latter-Day Saint temple differ from a typical wedding? One of the biggest things is the production of it. There is no aisle to walk down, no music, no procession, no flowers or fan fair. It is a very simple ceremony. There are sealing rooms in the temples that are set apart for weddings (we call them sealing rooms because we are sealed together for all eternity). The room has an altar in the middle of it where the bride and groom will kneel to be married. On each side of the altar are chairs for guests to sit and watch. The bride and groom enter the room together after all the guests have arrived and the officiator normally talks to them and the guests for a few minutes about the sacred nature of marriage and then the actual ceremony begins.

All together, from the time the bride and groom enter the room to the time they leave it probably only takes 30 minutes. I personally love the simplicity of the ceremony because it leaves the focus on the marriage rather than the wedding. We believe that the covenant of marriage is the highest order of the gospel. As I mentioned earlier, the couple and their future children are sealed together for all time and eternity through the power of the priesthood. It is a sacred and real commitment to God to love and respect one’s spouse and family, one we believe we will be held accountable for.

At each wedding I attended I was in awe of the beauty of the marriage covenant. It is a powerful thing to commit yourself, your loyalty, and all that you are to another person. I believe my life is better because of this commitment. If you’ve ever seen a Latter-Day Saint temple you know that they are beautiful buildings, but what is more beautiful is what goes on inside of them. I am happy I got to share in the experience of those that I love and witness their special days.

My Mormon Dating Experiment

Image from Flickr user George Eastman House

Here at NextDoorMormon, we talk a lot about marriage and family (because we believe they are essential to God’s Plan of Happiness), but we haven’t really discussed the details of how we get to that point –

Dating.

Admittedly, I’m a newcomer to the world of Mormon dating. I didn’t go to BYU, live in Utah, or ever really find myself surrounded by Mormon men returned from a 2-year mission with a seemingly abundant appetite for romantic attention and companionship.

I’ve dated wonderful men outside my faith – honest, honorable men. I don’t believe religion has a monopoly on good people, but I recently decided to make similar spiritual and religious beliefs a priority in my dating decisions.  I personally know several couples with different religious backgrounds whose families are making it work just beautifully. But, I would like my dating habits to eventually lead to a family with Mormon values, so it only makes sense for the men I date and the person I someday marry to share my religious beliefs.

About 12 months ago, I started an experiment…

I started trying to only date men of my same faith, significantly reducing my dating pool from the city’s huge community of eligible bachelors to the handful of Mormons living in my area. I still feel that I have more in common (religion aside) with men outside my faith than those sitting next to me at church. And not all Mormons view their religion the same way – so finding “similar beliefs” is really difficult even within the Mormon community.

My one-year assessment?

Basically – it’s a lot like dating was before, but in a smaller network. Compatibility still involves a high degree of chemistry, shared values and respect. My girlfriends and I still frequent the bars and clubs where male attention is practically up for grabs, but with minimal potential for a serious relationship. Initial conversations still reek of pretention and generally end in unfulfilled expectations.

But the hope of finding a diamond in the rough is just as motivating as it was before. There may be fewer options overall, but the best ones always stand out and they never creep up behind me in a dance club.

This is where I’m at.

Any advice for making faith or spirituality a priority in dating?

No Sex? As in None? Why?…

This post is a little addition to my entry a couple of weeks ago about how Mormons wait to have sex until we’re married.  My friend who’s not Mormon read the entry and said she wanted to know more about the “why” behind what we teach about abstinence before marriage.

Why do Mormons (as well as many other Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc.) teach “no sex before marriage”?  It comes down to two things:  Family, and the reasons we believe God intended us to have sex.

We believe that it’s all about the family–as in, everything.  We believe that God intended for the family to be the fundamental unit of society here on earth, as well as in Heaven.  We believe that the most important thing we can do in this life is to raise a good, close, happy family.

We also believe that sex is A) to procreate and B) to share our love in the most intimate way possible with the person we have committed our life to.

That’s basically it.  There are so many other reasons we believe God wants us to wait, as well as why it just makes sense to wait, and all the things we simply avoid by only using the gift of procreation with the one person we are committed to.  But I want to stress the family’s most fundamental part in our religion and how sex fits into that framework.  The best way I could try to explain that would be to direct you to our Church’s statement on the family.  It is so clear and so powerful.  I sign my name along with our leaders, and I believe every statement with my whole heart. The Family:  A Proclamation to the World.

No Sex? As in None?

Every day I’m at work, my friends at the flower shop ask me about my religion and lifestyle.  I seem to be the only Mormon they’ve ever been in the same room with, and they find my lifestyle fascinating.  And every time they ask, I get another opportunity to think about my religion from a different perspective.  My understanding of my religion is starting to have many more facets.

One conversation that stands out is the day they asked about premarital sex:  absolutely none, I said.  They seemed to accept this for me, but what about my husband? they asked.  Again, absolutely none.  This one they just couldn’t accept.  Are you trying to tell me that in this world, in our time, with all the movies and TV shows and songs and billboards and magazine covers and the internet, a man can just wait until he’s married?  It is hard, but absolutely possible.

To me, waiting until marriage doesn’t seem weird at all–it’s the only thing that makes sense to me.  But in the world we live in, that way of thinking isn’t intuitive.  Almost every movie, almost every TV show, if it doesn’t show the situation explicitly, implies that that’s just what people do from the day they’re “ready.”

So how then are there so many people (Mormons and otherwise) that are still able to abstain from sex until they are married?  I didn’t get a chance to explain all of this at that time, but it started me thinking that it’s not just a one-sided thing–it’s not just “I’m going to wait to have sex until marriage but that’s the only thing that will be different about my lifestyle.”  There’s so much more to it than that.  The decision to abstain from sex until marriage starts with what kind of media you allow yourself to participate in, what kind of jokes you laugh at, how you look at people of the opposite sex and what you’re thinking about–mostly, it starts in your thoughts.

It’s hard to wait, but I can’t imagine how hard it would have been if we had given into the messages and images and behaviors all around us.  We had to be on our guard literally every single day–we discussed “rules” that would help us stay true to our goal, like limits on how long we kissed, we never laid down together, we tried not be in secluded places; and we tried to focus on just being together, not on how much we wanted to do other things.  I am confident that it’s all of the “little things” we did to try to avoid temptation that actually kept us from crossing the line –how much harder would it have been to stop if we had let ourselves get to that point in the first place?

I think what I’m trying to get across is that it’s hard–everyone in the world would agree on that.  Sometimes I felt like it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  But it’s possible.  I want people to understand that we’re not somehow deficient in hormones or something–it has everything to do with making the decision to wait until marriage, and then taking the measures we need to so that we can reach that goal together.

Our church has some guidelines that are written technically for the youth, but that I have read over and over and consider them still for me.  Feel free to check them out.

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