Let me present you with an idea*, deeply based in doctrine, that you may have not considered in dating before.
God is No Respecter of Persons
We have all heard the scriptural phrase, “God is no respecter of persons.” We learn it in context in several verses.
Acts 10:34-5. “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”
Moroni 8:12 “But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!”
Doctrine and Covenants 38:16. “And for your salvation I give unto you a commandment, for I have heard your prayers, and the poor have complained before me, and the rich have I made, and all flesh is mine, and I am no respecter of persons.”
1 Peter 1:17. “And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:”
I admit, this phrase or term, used to confuse me- ‘respecter of persons.’ It took time for me to realize and understand the use and meaning of the word ‘respect’ in this context. It means the Lord does not prefer one person more than another. He doesn’t pay respect to one person over another. He loves his children equally.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said in a 1981 General Conference talk, “The joy that follows the remission of sins comes from the Spirit of the Lord… It comes in the same way to everyone—to rich and poor, to the prominent and the obscure. In conferring his greatest gift of mercy through the Atonement, God is not a respecter of persons.”
He gives all of His children equal opportunities for happiness through the Atonement. He is our Heavenly Father, and like all fathers, he doesn’t love one child more than another. It does not mean that He doesn’t respect the wishes and desires of His children.
Of this, there is no argument. The very simple takeaway here is that our Father in Heaven loves us. He wants us to be happy.
And yet, we forget this easy to accept principle when it comes to seeking an eternal companion. We make it into something difficult and complicated. We believe that there are trials and tribulations to be endured so that we can meet ‘the One.’
Many of us allow the idea to creep into our minds that there must be a “saved,” certain, special someone out there for us.
But let me ask you this, if the Lord is no respecter of persons, and loves each of His children equally, is it wise to believe that He will tell you that one of His children is more deserving of your love, commitment, and companionship, than another? Don’t all of His children deserve a chance at love and happiness?
Have we made the “search” for love that much harder on ourselves by creating and building up this idea that there is only one person who can make us eternally happy? (Spoiler alert: the answer is yes.)
My roommate and I had a long discussion on the concept of “not a respecter” and dating after our bishop introduced it to our ward. She made a very insightful and interesting comment. “It’s hard to believe or understand that a loving Father who answers my prayers when I pray that I have enough gas in the car to make it to payday, or protects me when my car breaks down, doesn’t have an opinion on who I marry.”
I sat and thought upon that idea for a while. She’s right. It does seem hard to fathom that the God who helps me with something as trivial as finding missing car keys, doesn’t have a stake in my potential mate.
But then it hit me.
My roommate is wrong. And so was I.
There’s a very huge difference in having the faith that the Lord will help me find the missing keys, or will get my jalopy home, and saying He has an opinion or an interest in me finding the car keys. When I find those keys, it is because I had the faith to be led to find them. It’s an answer to a prayer. And while the scriptures are very in-depth, detailed, and written to be applied in all time periods, I’ve yet to find a verse that says, “look under the couch.”
But in comparison, there are dozens of scriptures, both ancient and modern-day, that tell me where to marry, how to marry, and who to marry. They just leave out the specific name of the person, and what day and where to meet him. But that’s okay. That’s where my faith comes in that when I meet someone who would make me happy, I will recognize him, and the Lord will confirm it.
Consider this advice from Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “The right person is someone for whom the natural and wholesome and normal affection that should exist does exist. It is the person who is living so that he or she can go to the temple of God and make the covenants that we there make” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1955, 13).
The Trick to Picking an Eternal Companion
From Elder Richard G. Scott, “There is more to a foundation of eternal marriage than a pretty face or an attractive figure. There is more to consider than popularity or charisma. As you seek an eternal companion, look for someone who is developing the essential attributes that bring happiness: a deep love of the Lord and of His commandments, a determination to live them, one that is kindly understanding, forgiving of others, and willing to give of self, with the desire to have a family crowned with beautiful children and a commitment to teach them the principles of truth in the home.
“An essential priority of a prospective wife is the desire to be a wife and mother. She should be developing the sacred qualities that God has given His daughters to excel as a wife and mother: patience, kindliness, a love of children, and a desire to care for them rather than seeking professional pursuits. She should be acquiring a good education to prepare for the demands of motherhood.
“A prospective husband should also honor his priesthood and use it in service to others. Seek a man who accepts his role as provider of the necessities of life, has the capacity to do it, and is making concerted efforts to prepare himself to fulfill those responsibilities.
“I suggest that you not ignore many possible candidates who are still developing these attributes, seeking the one who is perfected in them. You will likely not find that perfect person, and if you did, there would certainly be no interest in you. These attributes are best polished together as husband and wife” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1999, 31; or May 1999, 26).
Soul Mates or the Search for “The One”
Are you trying to figure out if someone is your ‘soul mate?’
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, said, “I don’t believe there is only one right person for you. I think I fell in love with my wife, Harriet, from the first moment I saw her. Nevertheless, … I don’t believe she was my one chance at happiness in this life, nor was I hers. …
“… Once you commit to being married, your spouse becomes your soul mate, and it is your duty and responsibility to work every day to keep it that way” (“The Reflection in the Water” [Church Educational System fireside for young adults, Nov. 1, 2009]).
“While marriage is difficult, and discordant and frustrated marriages are common, yet real, lasting happiness is possible, and marriage can be more an exultant ecstasy than the human mind can conceive. This is within the reach of every couple, every person. ‘Soul mates’ are fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price” (“Oneness in Marriage,” Ensign, Mar. 1977, 4).
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “We have no scriptural justification, however, for the belief that we had the privilege of choosing our parents and our life companions in the spirit world. This belief has been advocated by some, and it is possible that in some instances it is true, but it would require too great a stretch of the imagination to believe it to be so in all, or even in the majority of cases. Most likely we came where those in authority decided to send us. Our agency may not have been exercised to the extent of making choice of parents and posterity” (Way to Perfection, 44)
In spite of the words of the prophets, many people still seek out this idealist dream of a soul mate. In the words of President Uchtdorf, “Stop it.”
Prayer and Dating
When the search for an eternal companion begins to hurt and become more painful than joyful, consider the following advice from Elder Scott.
Our Heavenly Father did not put us on earth to fail but to succeed gloriously. It may seem paradoxical, but that is why recognizing answers to prayer can sometimes be very difficult. Some face life with only their own experience and capacity to help them. Others seek, through prayer, divine inspiration to know what to do. When required, they qualify for power beyond their own capacity to do it.
Communication with our Father in Heaven is not a trivial matter. It is a sacred privilege. It is based upon unchanging principles. When we receive help from our Father in Heaven, it is in response to faith, obedience, and the proper use of agency.
It is a mistake to assume that every prayer we offer will be answered immediately. Some prayers require considerable effort on our part. True, sometimes impressions come when we have not specifically sought them. They generally concern something we need to know and are not otherwise able to find out…
When we receive an impression in our heart, we can use our mind either to rationalize it away or to accomplish it. Be careful what you do with an impression from the Lord.
Oliver was further taught: “Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not ask for that which you ought not. …
“According to your faith shall it be done unto you.” (D&C 8:10–11; italics added.)
“Ask in faith” means ask with confidence in our holy Father. Like many of us, Oliver did not recognize the evidence of answers to prayers already given by the Lord. To open his, and our, eyes, this revelation was given through Joseph Smith:
“Blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.
“Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth.” (D&C 6:14–15; italics added.)
If you feel that God has not answered your prayers, ponder these scriptures—then carefully look for evidence in your own life of His having already answered you.
To help each of us recognize answers given, the Lord said: “If you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.
“Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?” (D&C 6:22–23; italics added).
The Lord provides further insight by counseling us to study a problem out in our mind and then to ask if it be right: “If it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
“But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought.” (D&C 9:8–9; italics added.)
It is vitally important to recognize that the Lord also responds a third way to prayer by withholding an answer when the prayer is offered. Why would He do that?
He is our perfect Father. He loves us beyond our capacity to understand. He knows what is best for us. He sees the end from the beginning. He wants us to act to gain needed experience:
When He answers yes, it is to give us confidence.
When He answers no, it is to prevent error.
When He withholds an answer, it is to have us grow through faith in Him, obedience to His commandments, and a willingness to act on truth. We are expected to assume accountability by acting on a decision that is consistent with His teachings without prior confirmation. We are not to sit passively waiting or to murmur because the Lord has not spoken. We are to act.
Most often what we have chosen to do is right. He will confirm the correctness of our choices His way. That confirmation generally comes through packets of help found along the way. We discover them by being spiritually sensitive. They are like notes from a loving Father as evidence of His approval. If, in trust, we begin something which is not right, He will let us know before we have gone too far. We sense that help by recognizing troubled or uneasy feelings.
Accepting a Painful Breakup
I know of too many people who have endured the breakup of a loving relationship that went like this, “I love you, but I prayed about it, and you’re not the one I’m supposed to marry.”
This kind of breakup can be the hardest to accept and endure. They tend to happen at the height of a relationship, when you are deeply committed and in love. You are contemplating a future together, and possibly you’ve already decided that your significant other is the one you want to marry. And then s/he suddenly tears your heart out and stomps on it with, “I prayed about it, and even though I love you, I can’t marry you.”
This painful experience can lead to serious doubts about everything- your ability to trust others, trust the Lord (how could He let this happen), your desire to ever love again, etc. I’ll say this much- I’ve been there. I know how incredibly difficult and painful this can be. If you are going through this, I am so very sorry, and wish I could be there to give you a big hug. I can only hope that these insights might help ease the pain a bit.
The Lord is no respecter of persons. You are a child of God and you ARE loved by Him.
Your loving Father in Heaven would never intentionally choose to hurt you. But every child has the right to free agency and the right to choose. We have to remember and respect that all of the prayers in the world, begging the Lord to make something happen, cannot change another person’s free agency.
If you have or are experiencing this painful scenario, remember that it is NOT the Lord that has caused this to happen. Do not doubt your Father. He loves you.
I will not suggest that there are not some out there who have prayed for confirmation that their beloved is “the One,” and received an unexpected answer. I know this happens. I don’t mean to trivialize or diminish or question your faith or your answer. We have all received unexpected answers to prayers that led us down different paths.
We are all loved equally. We are all His children, and He wants each of us to be happy. If you love someone, and want to be eternally sealed and committed to them, and go to the Lord with your decision, believe that the Lord loves you and them, and ask for confirmation to your decision.
*I would like to acknowledge that I have borrowed heavily from a suggestion my bishop made on this subject recently. However, all thoughts herein are mine, and mine alone. They were, admittedly, greatly influenced by my bishop. I do not mean to steal his thoughts and share them as my own. He spoke for two minutes on the subject, I have written for five pages. If you have a problem with these ideas, your problem is with me, and not my bishop.
Come 400 more LDS mid-singles for your future eternal companion at the Northern Virginia Mid-singles Conference, October 10-12, 2014. Details at www.midsinglesconference.com.