I am huge believer in New Year’s resolutions. I love that the start of the new year is a time where collectively many people think about new ways to improve—even if it means that for a few weeks, the gym is a bit more crowded than normal.
Every year, at least one of my New Year’s resolutions is centered on my dating life. Having some type of goal like that hopefully signals to the universe that I hope to select the “married” box when I file my taxes one day. At the start of 2020, I decided to set a goal to “spend at least 30 minutes a week in an activity that could lead to dating,” whether that meant going to the Munch-n-Mingle after Church, actually talking to a boy after institute, or spending time on those online dating apps.
To my surprise, those 30 minutes proved very fruitful. During the first 10 weeks of 2020, I went on more dates than I had been on in the past few years combined.
Then the pandemic hit. Church activities were canceled. Restaurants closed.
At the time, I thought that New Year’s resolution would be one of the few I’d break in my life (I am one of those die hard goal setters). Even at the end of 2020, I marked it as a goal I didn’t achieve.
It wasn’t until a conversation I had in 2021 that my perspective changed. Yes, I haven’t been on a date since March 2020. But in many ways, the things that I did instead prepared me for marriage in ways I don’t think I could have ever expected.
Before I dive into some of the things I learned, I want to add a little disclaimer: I personally made the decision to put a pause on dating during the pandemic. Many of my dearest friends have found ways to press on with dating during COVID-19. I’ve had friends play frisbee in the park, order curbside and eat in separate cars, and go on masked walks. A few of my friends have even moved on from the singles ward through their pandemic dating and I rejoice that they found their partner for eternity during these unusual times. I would never want this piece to come across as me judging others for choosing to date during the pandemic.
But for me, I think placing a pause on dating was exactly what I was supposed to do during this time, because the Lord had lessons for me to learn. Here are three of those lessons.
1. A Look at My Soul
At the start of the pandemic, Church News released a series of articles featuring counsel from members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. A quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland started to echo in my mind during the first several weeks of spring 2020.
“Such times invite us to look into our soul and see if we like what we see there,” he said.
A few months later, he was featured in a video from the Elijah Interfaith Institute and in his remarks he echoed a similar statement:
“It’s an interesting thing to be the only person in the room and then ask yourself whether you like the company,” Elder Holland said. “We don’t often get a chance to do that.”
At the start of the pandemic, I found myself alone more often than I had been previously in my life. I had the blessing to work from home, so I didn’t see coworkers who I was used to seeing daily. My roommate went home to Idaho. There were no church meetings being held. I would sometimes go for days without seeing another person face to face.
I was alone for maybe the longest time in my life. And in those moments of solace, I had opportunities to reflect on the status of my soul and whether I liked my own company.
As I started to reflect on that, I identified some areas where I could improve—not only spiritually, but also mentally and emotionally. As I recognized these parts of myself, I was reminded of the story about President Hugh B. Brown’s currant bush. Elder D. Todd Christofferson repeated this story in April 2011 conference, and I suddenly related to that little bush—I felt cut down when I thought I had made such great growth.
But as the months passed and I kept working, I have felt the Master Gardener grow me into something better than I ever imagined before.
In a December Church News podcast episode, editor Sarah Jane Weaver asked Elder Holland about some of the lessons he had learned during the pandemic. I loved his response:
Well, some of those are personal—I probably can’t tell you what the really personal ones are—but the more obvious ones are that I want to be better in this calling. I want to be better as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have thought a lot about that, read a little bit more about it. I thought I’d read everything there was to read about it, but I discovered there were some things I hadn’t, so I read about the apostleship. And I think one of the vows I’ve made is to be better—to be more like the Lord expected me to be when I was called.
Isn’t that beautiful? Even an Apostle of the Lord identified ways he can be better. I love that he applied his own counsel and examined his soul. And I think as I’ve taken the time to be still, I’ve become maybe just a bit better than I was before.
I don’t claim to be an expert in marriage or even at romantic relationships. But I hope that when I find my husband, we’ll want to improve together. In order to do that with someone else, I had to first learn how to improve on my own. Though I still have plenty of room to grow, I’m grateful for this time and for what it’s taught me about looking inside my soul.
2. The Importance of Renewing Our Covenants
March 12, 2020, certainly was an interesting day. It was the first day my work team had started working from home. To start out the chaos while we were learning how to communicate primarily over chat, we learned that all Church meetings would be suspended worldwide.
After the press release went up on our site, a sinking feeling set in for me as I realized I wouldn’t have the opportunity to partake of the sacrament unless I asked someone for help. I’ve searched for the name of the phobia for “the fear of asking for help.” I’ve never been able to find it, but it’s definitely a phobia I have in my life.
Just a week before that, even before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, I had been to a friend’s house for Sunday dinner with his family. They told me I was welcome to come anytime—for Sunday dinner or whenever I wanted to drop by. I guess this announcement meant I got to put that invitation to the test. With some level of trepidation, I texted them that Saturday and asked if they had plans for “church.” It was one of those texts that you write out and then stare at for several minutes before pushing the irreversible “send” button. I sent it. My heart rate skyrocketed. And then, luckily for me and my heart rate, they wrote back almost immediately. Their bishop had authorized them to do the sacrament at home. And thus began a weekly tradition of having “home church” while meetings were suspended.
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The sacrament changed for me during the pandemic. And it wasn’t because it was being administered in a place other than a meetinghouse. The opportunity to partake of the sacrament started to mean more to me.
The Savior has said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him” (Revelation 3:20).
Something about the physical act of stepping out of my comfort zone so I could partake of the sacrament changed my experience. Instead of just participating in a routine I’ve done every week since I was a child, I felt I was showing that I really did want to partake of the blessings of the sacrament. I was wanting to open the door.
And I really felt like He came in.
Being able to have such sacred moments in a home really made me think about what I wanted my future home to be like. I want my home to be a place where the Savior would enter in. And as I’ve realized that, I have made changes to my home especially with my Sunday worship. I’ve made it a point to differentiate my routine on the Sabbath day to show respect for the Savior, to show I want to Him to abide with me. And I hope these traditions carry on to my future family.
I think the spirit of gratitude also brought a new dimension of meaning to the sacrament to me. Every time I would partake of the sacrament in their living room, I thought about how blessed I was to have the opportunity to renew my covenants. And that’s continued now that Church meetings have resumed in my area. I look at the priesthood holders, whose names I often don’t know since I moved to a new ward during the pandemic, and I feel such gratitude for them. Do they realize what they’re enabling me to do?
I hope they know they are the means to which the Savior is able to come into my life more fully. I hope they know that this is the primary way I renew my covenants as I wait for temples to return to normal operations. I hope they know how much this ordinance means to me.
Through these experiences, I feel like my covenants have also become more important to me, and I believe that an increased gratitude for them has prepared me to one day participate in the covenant of sealing.
3. Run to the Savior
In one of my last zone conferences as a missionary, my mission president’s wife shared a teaching with us, “Run toward the Savior as fast as you can, and when you find someone who can catch up, introduce yourself.”
That really stuck with me, but I don’t think before the pandemic I internalized what it meant to “run” to the Savior. Sure, I would attend Church, read my scriptures, and pray. But the Lord commands us, “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.”
I think part of running to the Savior is striving to become like Him.
The ways I’ve tried to incorporate that in my life are probably too personal to share, but I have found myself studying over and over again Elder Scott D. Whiting’s October 2020 general conference talk, “Becoming Like Him.” Perhaps you’ll find your own insights there.
In the last eleven months, I’ve seen the difference in my life between the times I’m gradually progressing on the path that leads to the Savior versus actually running to Him. And the beautiful part of His love is even if I stumble, He is still there reaching toward me.
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