Perhaps this sounds familiar.
As you enter your adult years, make dating and marriage a high priority.
Or how about this?
You single adults need to date and marry.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? But maybe you’ve also heard this.
Just stop trying so hard to find someone to marry. It’s more likely to happen when you’re not looking.
Don’t worry about finding the right person. Just be the right person and when it happens, it happens.
There are a lot of facets to the LDS single experience. It can be a lonely time, a reflective time, and an exhilarating time all at the same time. Most of the stories of singlehood we hear seem to swing between the tears of heartbreak and the cheery smile of empowerment. However, one aspect of singlehood keeps coming up in my conversations and I think it falls right in the middle of the spectrum.
For many singles in the Church, dating is confusing. And not dating as in, “Boy asks girls out, girl says yes, they go out to enjoy dinner, etc.” That’s pretty simple and though it isn’t always implemented, we all seem to know what our dating norms entail.
No, what I’m talking about is the so called “doctrine of dating”, or the spiritual motives and thoughts behind the actions. You can see some of the doctrines of dating above. Some leaders say we just need to go on as many dates as possible. Others tell us not to focus on the actual act of dating but self-improvement. We’re counseled not to be too picky, but to never settle. Physical attraction is important, but it shouldn’t be that important.
When you mix the varied counsel of leaders with the efforts of singles to do exactly what God wants them to do, it’s not hard to see how people get confused. Confusion is followed closely by frustration, and then apathy and defeat.
So what is a single to do? You want to do what’s right, but what’s right keeps changing based on your new bishop or which Ensign you’re reading. You’ve tried them all anyways and they haven’t worked. I hear ya.
As I’ve listened to roommates, friends, leaders, and have faced my own experiences, I’ve learned five things about the doctrines of dating.
No Dating Recipe Guarantees Success
A large part of the problem comes from silver bullet syndrome. We want to get married. Badly. So we often fool ourselves into thinking that if we can just figure out the perfect dating recipe, we’ll suddenly have success. It may be hard to admit, but I’ve found myself wanting to be commanded in all things when it comes to my love life. If God just told me what to do, or what restaurant to hang out in, or what that guy is really thinking, this would be so much easier. Why can’t my bishop get up at the pulpit and lay down the law?
The truth is there is no one way to success when it comes to dating and marriage. There isn’t a certain pickup line, dating app, place to go, or method guaranteed to work for everyone.
Are You Anything Enough?
When our dating recipes don’t work, we often travel deeper into Satan’s territory of doubt. We question our self-worth, body image, and more. Sheri Dew once said Satan wants us to feel like we’re not enough in any way. We’re not pretty enough, handsome enough, smart enough, rich enough, good enough. Yes, you are imperfect. There are thing both you and I could do to be better people, better disciples, and better dating prospects. But does not mean you don’t deserve happiness or someone who is giddy about the thought of being with you. Don’t seek to please men (or women) before you please God.
And while pickiness definitely has a fine line, never settle for someone who makes you feel anything less than divine. That is what you are, after all.
Personal Revelation Should Be Your Guiding Light
The directives and counsel from Church leaders, especially General Authorities, are important and need to be taken seriously. But the key is not just to take what is said at face value; you need to use the Spirit to discover how to implement that counsel into your life. When a prophet says to make finding a spouse a priority, it is up to you to work out a game plan with God on how to follow that counsel. And how you make dating and marriage a priority may be different from your roommate or your ward members.
In order to get the most out of personal revelation, it needs to be a daily search and a constant climb. Continually take inventory of your goals, intentions, and habits and bring your plans to Lord. Work up the courage to go down the uncomfortable paths He will likely ask you to walk down.
What Brings You Bliss?
However, despite our best efforts, sometimes we are left with no answer. When everything you’ve tried seems to fail and heaven is quiet, feelings of bitterness or hopelessness can be hard to fight. In the Church, we sometimes have a difficult time doing what we want because we’re so worried about making sure we do what’s right.
What you want is important. Prophets have repeatedly stated that the lack of direct counsel and revelation from the Lord is often a sign of trust and we should move forward. I’ve found that the Lord is more likely to stop you when you do wrong than tell you what is right.
What do you want to do, personally and professionally? What would bring more peace and light into your life? What will bring you closer to Christ and share His light with others? Embrace those things and be a “humble seeker of happiness.”
Don’t Just Seek Happiness, Seek Progression
The greatest happiness comes when we are spiritually progressing. While we are all waiting for marriage, it is important to avoid becoming stagnant. As President Uchtdorf once said, patience is an active principle. Go and live your life, seeking to move forward however you can. I know some of my greatest frustrations from singledom have come from feeling like I can’t progress simply because I’m not a wife or mother.
Yet Heavenly Father would never deny you an opportunity to become more like Him if you seek it. Life has vibrancy and beauty in it and there is glory to be cultivated inside of you. Don’t let anything stop you from reaching and striving for that potential. Make sure anything you do or any choice you make will allow you to fully enjoy a temple marriage should that opportunity come into your life.
What would you add about making sense of the doctrines of dating?