I was teaching a courtship and marriage Institute class for young single adults when I first read The Family: A Proclamation to the World (hereafter referred to as the Proclamation). In 602 words, 15 prophets, seers, and revelators gave us the Lord’s priorities for achieving successful, happy relationships. After studying this inspired proclamation, I felt it was perfect to use with my students. I explained to them that this proclamation was a revelation from God and therefore doctrine for the Church. It was a guide for them to make a proper choice in a marriage partner in order to achieve a successful and happy marriage.
Here are five guiding principles from the Proclamation that can help young single adults prepare for and find their eternal marriage partner.
Principle One: Put your faith and confidence in the Lord’s eternal plan of salvation.
Ask yourself: “Am I deliberately delaying marriage and avoiding it by personal choice?” “Am I actively preparing and seeking to find a compatible marriage partner?” “Do I need to reconsider my priorities?”
In recent years, some LDS adults have been postponing marriage until their later 20s and early 30s. President Thomas S. Monson, among other leaders of the Church, has counseled single adults of marriageable age to marry and have children. He said, “I realize there are many reasons why you may be hesitating to take the step of getting married. If you are concerned about providing financially for a wife and family, may I assure you there is no shame in a couple having to scrimp and save. It is generally during these challenging times that you will grow closer together as you learn to sacrifice and to make difficult decisions. Perhaps you are afraid of making the wrong choice. To this I say that you need to exercise faith. Find someone with whom you can be compatible. Realize that you will not be able to anticipate every challenge which may arise, but be assured that almost anything can be worked out if you are resourceful and if you are committed to making the marriage work.”
How can single adults aspire to follow the counsel of our Church leaders to marry? One answer is to have faith in our Heavenly Father’s plan. The Proclamation uses the phrases “the Creator’s plan,” “the divine plan of Happiness,” and “His eternal plan.” Here is the reason: faith in the plan of God gives you an eternal perspective about marriage and family. This plan teaches us that unless we have a marriage sealed in a holy temple and continue faithfully living the commandments of God, we will not qualify for exaltation—the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.
Apostle David A. Bednar said: “The doctrine of the plan [of salvation] leads men and women to hope and prepare for eternal marriage, and it defeats the fears and overcomes the uncertainties that may cause some individuals to delay or avoid marriage.”
Principle Two: Strive to become a true follower of Jesus Christ.
The Proclamation states: “Happiness in family life is most likely achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Making Jesus Christ the focus of your life by keeping His commandments and remembering Him in your daily life qualifies you for His guidance, grace, and support.
Regarding this principle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “You want capability and safety in dating and romance, in married life, and in eternity? Be a true disciple of Jesus. Be a genuine, committed word-and-deed Latter-day Saint. Believe that your faith has everything to do with romance because it does. You separate dating from discipleship at your peril. Or to phrase it more positively, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the only lamp by which you can successfully see the true path to love and happiness for you and your sweetheart.”
Principle Three: Seek to become the right one, not just find the right one.
Late apostle Elder Bruce R. McConkie was once asked by a single adult how he could find an eternal companion. Without hesitation, he replied, “Read Doctrine and Covenants 88:10 and seek to acquire those qualities in your life. Then go and find a woman who is seeking to acquire these same qualities and marry her.”
The scripture Elder McConkie referred to is an eternal principle that the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own” (D&C 88:40). This is the Lord’s way of saying that you will attract someone who feels about the gospel as you do. You will attract someone who feels about life as you do. If you strive to be virtuous, you will attract someone who is striving to be virtuous.
The Proclamation presents nine Christlike attributes that can help you find and become the right one. You might consider these nine attributes as the foundation stones of Christlike relationships: “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” Focusing on each of these attributes will help you in your own personal growth. Select one that you feel you need to work on. Write it on a piece of paper and place the paper in a place where you will see it each day. Then make this attribute a matter of prayer each day.
Get more gospel-oriented dating advice in Choosing Your Eternal Companion: Decoding the Dating Game Using the Family Proclamation.
Plucking petals off daisies or making a pros and cons list can sometimes be helpful. But there's a better way to decide whom to marry and if you are ready. Using the family proclamation, Robert McIntosh takes the guesswork out of selecting your spouse and preparing for marriage. You will be able to determine whether you are right for each other based on your priorities, goals, and beliefs.
Principle Four: Make the holy temple a central part of your preparation for finding an eternal companion.
The Proclamation reminds us that only through “sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples” is “it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.” My wife, Susan, and I faced a big challenge before we were married. Neither her parents nor mine would be able to come to the temple. We therefore considered getting married civilly so they could be at the ceremony. We went to our stake president and shared our thoughts with him. He said, “This is your marriage, so where do you want to be married?” We both replied, “The temple.” He responded, “Then have faith and be married the way the Lord would have you marry.” We were married in the temple and that has been a blessing to our lives ever since.
The temple is also a house of peace, a house of prayer, and a house of revelation. Therefore, it is a place where you can go to meditate and pray for guidance in seeking an eternal companion. It is also a place where you can seek strength to deal with challenges that you are facing in life. If you do not have a temple recommend at this time in your life, see your bishop and seek his counsel and advice.
Principle Five: Use the family proclamation as a basis to decide if you and your intended marriage partner are spiritually compatible.
Study the Proclamation sentence by sentence with your sweetheart. Discuss how you feel about the principles contained therein. Do you mutually agree with the principles that are stated in the Proclamation? If you find disagreements, it is much better to discover and reconcile these now than after marriage when, for some, there is less motivation to change.
The Formula for a Happy Marriage
Before reading this article, perhaps you thought there would be some new idea or formula by which you could find an eternal companion. The formula for a happy, successful marriage is available to each of us if we will make the time to read it, ponder it, and study it carefully while making the most important decision we will make in our lifetime.
Study the Proclamation carefully so that you understand the doctrines and principles it contains. As you do so, pray and ask Heavenly Father how you can apply the principles in the Proclamation right now to prepare for and find your eternal companion.
This story was adapted from Choosing Your Eternal Companion: Decoding the Dating Game Using the Family Proclamation, by Robert K. McIntosh.