Vertically Connected Blog
In lieu of Valentine's Day this week - or what many of my students call "Single Awareness Day" - we are going to talk about relationships today.
For many years, I have watched young single adults ride the roller coaster of relationships. In the process of trying to find someone they want to spend not only the rest of this life with, but the rest of eternity, there are many ups and downs involved - indeed, some great highs and some pretty bad lows.
And for some, the dating ride lasts a whole long longer than they expected it would.
As crazy, exhilarating, and sometimes painful as that ride can be, I believe it is all part of the incredible learning experiences found in dating and courtship.
And, to be honest, I think that's really one of the purposes in all of it: there is so much to learn - about life, about others, about relationships, and especially about ourselves and our Creator - as we pursue and form genuine, meaningful relationships with other people. Indeed, all of our experiences can teach us something!
So in that spirit of learning, I will share some of the questions that I have been asked over the many years I have taught the "Preparing for an Eternal Marriage" class:
How do I know if I am really in love?
Those are all very sincere and important questions to be asking.
And there are definitely some answers.
In fact, there are many truths that can help young single adults with these questions that have to do with agency, revelation, trust, and eternal perspective.
However, I believe there is another truth that, if understood better, would help these young people - and all of us who raise, teach, and guide them - to have greater understanding, a more positive experience, and much clearer direction and purpose during the dating, courtship, and engagement journey.
And it has to do with the doctrine of the body, the purpose of the physical part of relationships, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Now, to really begin to answer these questions, there are a few foundational truths we need to lay.
The first is that one of the greatest blessings we could have in the relationship journey (and in life in general, for that matter) is to receive revelation throughout it. The ability to be guided, inspired, warned, and assured as we make the most important decisions of our lives is indispensable! It really is, as Sister Julie B. Beck taught, "the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life."
President Boyd K. Packer taught that "true doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior." When the doctrine of the body and physical intimacy is understood better, we choose better and we change our choices for the better. And when we choose better, revelation flows much better.
Moreover, when the physical part of a relationship is appropriate, then the physical part of the relationship isn’t getting in the way of revelation; it doesn't taint one's ability to truly tell if they are in love or if this person is the right person.
I often say to my children and students, "Just because you like to kiss someone or feel good about that person when you are snuggling next to them on a couch doesn’t necessarily mean that's a confirmation from the Spirit you should marry them. That is, instead, sometimes simply "hormonal revelation."
President Packer warned that the "spiritual part of us and the emotional part of us are so closely linked that it is possible to mistake an emotional impulse for something spiritual. We occasionally find people who receive what they assume to be spiritual promptings from God, when those promptings are either centered in the emotions or are from the adversary."
This is just one example of the "misunderstandings" I find young people have about physical relationships. There are a few others.
But I can say this: I don’t believe that the misunderstandings out there about the physical part of a relationship is completely their fault.
Because of the adversary's incessant efforts, there is so much confusion, deception, and misunderstanding regarding our physical bodies and physical attraction.
We live in a world that so publicly and constantly displays sexuality, we are literally bombarded with it. This constant presence of sensuality and sexual content causes great confusion and false perceptions. And the lines between appropriate and inappropriate, healthy and unhealthy, can become incredibly blurred for even the conscientious and faithful.
From this literal immersion in blatant immorality, some may also mistakenly begin to believe that sexuality, in and of itself, is bad - something to be hidden, completely avoided, or used as rebellion - because they do not feel good when they see or hear it around them. When really it is that kind of sexuality – the world’s unbridled, promiscuous sexuality outside of covenants – that is wrong.
We also as parents and leaders might make the mistake that because the world is talking about sexual things so openly, we shouldn’t talk about them at all. Or when we talk about sexual relations to our children and teenagers, or teach about it to the young men and young women, we group it with other things like drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and pornography – things that are not good for us no matter what the circumstance is.
And yet physical intimacy, unlike any of those things, is part of God’s plan for His children. Unlike any of those things, it should be part of our lives because it is part of the marriage covenant. It is the power through which the Father brings to pass the immortality and eternal life of man!
And so we must be careful which lens we use to show it and teach about it with those we love.
Elder Lynn G. Robbins gives this great insight:
"Youth often grow up with an incorrect understanding of intimacy and an unhealthy attitude toward it because it is often treated as a taboo topic rather than as a sacred one. Because intimacy in marriage is beautiful, sacred, and ordained of God, it is important to understand that sexual sin isn’t the use of something inherently bad but the misuse of something inherently good and beautiful.”
Whether or not we, or our young people, fully understand or appreciate just how inherently good and beautiful this power really is, Satan surely does. He understands exactly what it is and its importance in the eternal scheme of things. And thus, it would seem, that of all his evil efforts, he would cause as much confusion, deception and misunderstanding about this power and blessing as he can. Indeed, it would seem that one of his greatest goals for that confusion, deception, and misunderstanding would be for them to eventually lead to fear, insecurity, and even sexual sin.
President Gordon B. Hinckley shed some light on this point:
"And now just a word on the most common and most difficult of all problems for you young men and young women to handle. It is the relationship that you have with one another.
Think about that: such a powerful God-given instinct that only the will to live possible exceeds it. It can be beautiful and, yet, deadly. And Satan already knows this, too.
With all of this in mind, it would seem incredibly beneficial to understand better the purpose and sacredness of our physical bodies and of our physical, intimate relationships so that they can be a great blessing in our lives and not a downfall.
Next week, we will continue our discussion and learn more about the doctrine of the body, how the Law of Chastity and the Atonement of Jesus Christ are connected, and how all of this has everything to do with love.
To read more about this and other issues facing LDS Young Single Adults, click here.
Stephen & Michelle Hunsaker
Stephen teaches at the Logan Institute of Religion for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been teaching for over 26 years.
Michelle is a full-time mom who enjoys reading, writing, teaching, and anything and everything to do with musicals.
They are the parents of ten children and authors of the book : Boxing the Lord In and Other Ways We Hinder Revelation.
Their hope is that each week through the thoughts and ideas they share in this blog, you can become more "vertically connected" in your lives. They seek to see and share "things as they really are" and "as they really will be" (Jacob 4:13) by learning how to build more and more on the sure foundation of the Savior, Jesus Christ and the doctrines and principles of His gospel.