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By the time you graduate from the Young Women's program, you will be an adult, ready to make some very important decisions that will affect the rest of eternity. The Young Women's program gives you tools to help you make these decisions wisely. However, sometimes it's nice to have a little more specific advice, like from Mom or Dad, an older sister or brother, or a more experienced friend. I would like to be that kind of friend. Let me reach across the miles to wherever you are and offer some ways to help you make decisions that will make you happy. Some of these articles are written by my husband and they include prophetic and apostolic writings as well. They also include wonderful advice and doctrine and I agree with them wholeheartedly.
Is it okay for me to date or marry non-members?, See also, Tough Questions for LDS Youth, and Answers to Moral Standards and Dating
Why wait until 16 to date? and Why double date?
What to do after high school?
What about a career?
How should I decide whom to marry?
Is it okay to choose a civil marriage over a temple marriage?
What should I do after high school?
I'm glad you asked me that. I can't tell you specifically what is right for you. Maybe you should go to a university. Maybe you should go to a vocational school. Maybe you should go to a community college. Maybe you should move away from home. Maybe you should stay with your parents. Maybe you should go on a mission. Definitely you should go to Institute or Church school religion classes. Definitely you should find a righteous man and get married in the temple.
You've probably been told many times by friends, teachers, school counselors, etc. that your next step is to go to college and have fun for a few years. They may tell you that you need good education, that a good job will make you happy, and many other things. You may have been advised to stay at home and take classes at the community college to save money, or that you definitely need to move away from home to establish your independence. You may have been told that waiting until you graduate from college to marry is best. You may have even been told that you should go on a mission and make that a higher priority than marriage. Please remember that this is the wisdom of men. Our prophets have given us counsel in many of these areas. When they conflict, follow the prophet. They see eternity, while many others see only the here and now.
The real question is: What is my main objective that I want to accomplish on earth? The next question: How am I going to do it?
To answer it, you need to remember why you are here on earth and who you are. You are a daughter of God, sent here to earth to gain a body, have mortal experiences, and make the proper choices so that you can be exalted. While you do this, you are to help others along the way--especially your own children. This is God's plan for you.
So your ultimate goal is to be exalted in the Celestial Kingdom. What are some long range goals to ensure that you reach it?
Marriage in the temple
Bearing and rearing a family in righteousness
Developing attributes that God has--patience, love, humility, charity, righteousness, knowledge, etc.
What are some shorter-term and more specific goals to reach these goals?
Develop a strong relationship with your Father in Heaven
Value your family relationships now
Stay active in the Church
Place proper priority on marriage
Stay morally clean and chaste and be temple-worthy
Study the gospel and develop a strong testimony of its principles
Prepare to be a good wife and mother
Only date righteous Latter-day Saints who are worthy to eventually take you to the temple (even just "fun" dates)
Love children and desire them in your future marriage
Listen to modern day prophets and follow their teachings
If you keep this perspective, then you will pray about whatever decisions you make. You will counsel with your parents and others who love you and seek for a spiritual confirmation about your decision.
You may wonder, should I move out on my own or stay with my parents a little longer? What will help you develop into the person you should be? Is your home a place where you can feel the Spirit, share special times with family, learn more about how to function in a family and eventually take care of your husband and children? This may be a good place to stay a while longer. Do you feel strongly that you should go to a school that is far away and it will develop your character and talents in ways not possible where you are now? Pray about this. I was given a blessing when I was 17 that said that I needed to take advantage of the time I had remaining at home, since that time was very limited. I went away to school the fall after I turned 18. At school I met my future husband and married him a year later. Now that I live far away from my family, I am very glad I enjoyed my family relationships at home while I could.
If you decide to have more schooling, you will do it because we have been counseled that education is important. You will develop a skill that could support you and your family should the need arise. You will develop skills and gain knowledge in areas that will help you serve your family and the Church, both now and in the future. Maybe you will develop nursing or health-care skills. Maybe you will learn to cook, teach, sew, write, sing, garden, decorate, or learn about child development. The Church could always use more pianists, organists, choristers, people with leadership skills, etc. Even if you don't take classes in these areas, set goals to develop yourself in these and other areas. What you learn in many fields of study can help you be a better teacher to your own children when you have them.
No matter what kind of place you go to school, make sure that you will have a Latter-day Saint support structure for you. Is there a ward or a branch close by? Will you have transportation to make church accessible to you? Is there an Institute there or close by? How many LDS Young Adults are there in the area? Will you have worthy Latter-day Saint young men to date? If there aren't many LDS Young Adults in the area, consider going to a place with a greater LDS population. These are your prime dating years. Most LDS women find the man they are going to marry before they are 25. Many find their eternal companion before they are 22. So please don't isolate yourself in a place with few Latter-day Saints.
As you contemplate furthering your education, please remember that it doesn't matter what degree you get from a school or where you got it if you don't get to the highest degree in the Celestial Kingdom. That kind of degree is much more important. No career or worldly honors is more important than temple marriage: the gate to exaltation. You don't even need a car, a house, furniture, or other worldly possessions to get married. Once you are married, place the proper priority on having children. Children are a great blessing, worthy sacrificing for. You don't need to be rich to have children. When you are given children, remember that God told every living thing on the face of the earth to multiply and replenish the earth. Have you every seen a dandelion plant with one or two seeds? What about a mighty oak with just 3 or 4 acorns? Have you seen rabbits decide that one was enough? The animals are obeying the commandment. So should we. We should have all the children we can care for. Marry a man who also believes that children are "an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). For more information, see the Birth Control section.
What about a career?
When you realize your important role in your home with your husband and children, you will realize that a career is not what you really want. You will long to be with your children and teach them, savoring every moment that they are in your keeping. They will grow up soon enough and move away to have their own families. Your husband's responsibility is to provide for you and your children. But even his main focus should not be his career. Those who will be exalted in the Celestial Kingdom realize that the greatest work they will do is in their families. Those who think that careers are more important on earth will discover that they will also have careers in heaven--as ministering angels. They will have no husband or wife, they will have no children. They will remain single, servants to God.
How should I decide whom to marry?
I believe that the best way to decide whom to marry is to date wisely, get to know the person, evaluate yourself and him honestly, ask for advice from trusted people in your life, make a tentative decision, and ask Heavenly Father if your decision is right.
Date Wisely--When you reach 16, start group dating if you are interested in dating. Get to know many young men and young women as friends. As you experience different people in various settings, you'll notice things that you like and dislike about yourself and other people. Write down the things that you notice in your journal. This information will come in useful as you make your decision about whom to marry. Don't pair off, since this limits your dating experience drastically. Also, please date Latter-day Saints with high standards. You will marry who you date. Date someone who could take you to the temple. If there aren't worthy LDS youth in your area, don't date. Just have fun activities with groups of friends.
I have discovered that dating non-members is simply not worthy it. Not because non-members are not nice people or that you couldn't have a fun or safe time with them. Not because all LDS youth are extra wonderful. It is because your dating years seriously affect your life. Though you may not be planning on it, you may fall in love with a young man who is not a member and he may fall in love with you. You may be 17 or 18 and thinking, "Look, I'm not getting married any time soon. What's wrong with a fun date with a non-member?" You don't know if this relationship could stick around longer than just a fun date or two. Imagine telling the young man who reveals that he's starting to get feelings for you that you could not ever take him seriously because you are getting married in the temple. Or imagine realizing that you don't want to stop dating him, that you are feeling serious about him as well, but you want to marry in the temple. However, now you wonder if you could be happy without him, yet you have no evidence that he will ever join the church.
Imagine explaining to your family that you won't marry in the temple. Imagine having your home teacher or father giving your babies their names and blessings. Imagine a sick child that needs a blessing in the middle of the night and not having a priesthood holder in your home. Imagine explaining to your children why their father will not be able to baptize them, why he doesn't go to church with you, or why they aren't sealed to you and their dad. Suppose you decide that you just can't risk losing these things. Imagine telling this young man, whom you have come to love deeply, that you can't marry him even though you love him very much. Imagine explaining to his delightful parents that you want a temple marriage and he just can't offer that to you. Imagine their sadness and disappointment when they discover that you knew this from the beginning of the relationship and their son is heartbroken because of your thoughtlessness. This heartbreaking situation is easily avoided if you only date worthy members.
As you date worthy members, make a list of characteristics you hope your future husband will have. Evaluate these carefully and then ask yourself if you are the kind of person who will attract the man of your dreams. If you want him to be athletic, become more athletic yourself. If you want someone health conscious, eat well and exercise. It wouldn't be fun to be married to Mr. Athletic if he likes playing sports and you really don't. How much fun would it be to be married to a health conscious guy if all you liked to eat was fast food and you hated exercise? He probably wouldn't have much fun either. You may discover that you have some traits to work on yourself as you look for your future husband.
Parents and others who care about you may have some insights about marriage, you, and the young men you are dating. They may notice certain characteristics within you that would be complemented by particular attributes in your future husband. Ask them what they think. They may suggest that that you need someone who wants many children, who is sympathetic when you have PMS, who likes outdoor activities, who doesn't mind giving up cologne and pets with hair for your severe allergies, etc. They may also suggest that you would do well to learn how to spend money more wisely, enjoy sports more, learn to cook, be more patient and compassionate, and other skills and attributes which would make you more desireable to young men. Parents and others may also give helpful advice about some attributes you like or dislike. Perhaps they have discovered that dancing is fun in courtship, but may be given a lower priority in marriage--lives get busy, good places to dance are few, health problems may occur, etc. Perhaps whether a young man dances should not be the sole deciding point as to his eligibility for marital consideration. On the other hand, his extravagent spending habits, fun during courtship because he's spending it on you, may not be so fun when your credit cards have reached their limits, and should be considered more seriously. They may notice some things about the young men you date that you do not. They may point out that he is rude to his mother and other family members. It is only a matter of time before he feels as comfortable with you as he does with them and then you will be treated the same way--unless he changes on his own will.
Do not think that once you are engaged or married that you will change a man. The only changing he will do is the change he wants to do. You can encourage, love, and help him to desire a change, but you cannot change him yourself. Therefore, you should be able to tolerate anything that you see in his character or behavior that you do not like or not get married to him. Perfection comes with time, hard work, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In the meantime, we have to live with each other, so pick a man with imperfections you can live with. If you cannot tolerate socks on the floor, find out if he leaves socks on the floor (ask his mother). If the one you love leaves socks on the floor, consider learning to tolerate socks on the floor or consider a new man. If you need a man to be punctual and he is not, loosen up and learn to happily accept his lack of punctuality or find someone else. Some things are important enough that you should not learn to live without them--temple worthiness, for example. But many other things should be happily accepted in the man you love in the name of love, since we are all imperfect. Just think of all the imperfections he will have to accept in you!
Throughout this dating process you need to live close to the Holy Ghost and learn to understand how he communicates with you.
When I was dating the man that became my husband, I realized he was becoming very serious. I began praying to know whether I should marry him. Kneeling down by my bed and asking Heavenly Father whether I should marry John was the scariest thing I had ever done. It was scary because marriage is a BIG decision. The person you marry determines many things about your life and says a lot about you as a person. The person your spouse is becoming influences the person you are becoming. It is important that you are both heading in the same direction and that the direction you are heading is correct.
It was also scary because at that point I realized I needed a definite, clear answer from a real Being who knew all, loved me, and wanted what was best for me. This was not like praying for safety at the beginning of a journey that would likely be safe anyway, or assuming that my safety or any accident I had were "yes" or "not this time" answers. Never before had I put so much faith in my Father. As I knelt there, I hoped that Heavenly Father would really answer me, for otherwise I would look very foolish--kneeling on the floor against a bed, talking to myself. The next thing I realized is that I did not fully know how he would answer me or even how to ask to get an answer.
I struggled with this decision for a very long time. Over this period of time, this weakness I had of not knowing about how to receive personal revelation has become a strength, though it is something I am continually developing. I have learned many things, including how to pray, how to ask questions, and how the Spirit reveals answers to us. I read the scriptures a lot and discovered clues about how the Spirit works. He gives us feelings--a good feeling, a bad feeling, an empty feeling, a stupor of thought. He helps us remember thin