Culturally, we have sent a message that a person is not of complete value until they are married. Which naturally leads to the belief that if one loses that value through loss of the marriage, they are less-than. They aren't a "full" member, and by extension, a “complete” daughter of God.Read More
I didn’t take my native culture to New York with me. I had always been dead-set on marrying later, having children later, and having them because I wanted them, not because of any social, religious, or cultural pressure. That’s how I went into it, but nothing could have prepared me for the depth of feeling I would develop for the children I lived with, loved, and nurtured over the next few years. It was as close to motherhood as I would come for almost a decade.Read More
Today, my testimony is my most precious possession. I would not be living a wholehearted life without it, and things in the day-to-day would be incredibly different.
My testimony is only so valuable to me now because I earned it.Read More
They say everything you need to know you learned in Kindergarten: Share everything, play fair, don’t hit people and all that. This is knowledge you have in your brain. While helping my 9 year old nephew with his multiplication flashcards, he said, “Even when I went camping for like, three days, I came back and I still knew my sevens!” I told him he’s lucky that he’s a kid- because when he learns new things, they stick in his brain really well, so much better than his rickety old aunt's. We talked about how, when I’m watching the flashcards go by, the way I know the answer is by remembering what my elementary school teachers taught me.
Even though I multiplied numbers all through high school, college, and beyond, each time since elementary that I did so was because of a recollection of what I learned all those years ago. Each experience further solidified the answer in my mind, but mainly I only had to learn them once and I was good for life.
For things of the world, it is usually enough to simply remember them. The english word remember means to bring a memory or fact back to your mind. Remembering something in the most basic sense of the word is to pull it out of the deep storage of your brain and place it in the front. Acting on it, loving it, or feeling it, is not included in the standard English 'remember'.
In Spanish or Latin, however, the word remember translates to recordar. The root of recordar, 'cord', means 'of the heart'. To remember something by this definition means to pass it through your heart again.
Ever since this concept was shared with me by an Ecuadorian home teacher, I have noticed how important this distinction is when dealing with spiritual matters. I could say, “Everything I need to know about the gospel I learned in Primary”, and figure, “I know what the commandments are and I know right from wrong, therefore, gospel education: complete!”
The problem with that is that it takes the most important ingredient out of spiritual learning: The Spirit. The Holy Ghost is the mechanism by which important truths (all truth, in fact) are passed through our heart. Commandments, facts about Jesus’ life, Articles of Faith can be known in our minds forever. But, they will do us little good if they fail to change our heart.
Of course, “Changing your heart” can sound like an abstract concept, but there are practical ways to achieve it. I learned a big perspective-changing piece of information while listening to the Teaching By the Spirit Workshop by Gene R. Cook, Emeritus Seventy (amazing CD that will change your teaching/speaking skills for life). He pointed out that when Jesus visits the Americas, in 3rd Nephi, 20:1, He is about to administer the sacrament and also teach them the commandments. He commands them to cease to pray (orally), but not to cease praying in their hearts while He speaks to them.
Elder Cook points out the powerful idea that although the Savior of the World is in their presence and teaching them, they still need to invite the Spirit of the Father into their hearts and into the meeting. Even Christ’s teachings would mean little if they were not accompanied by the Holy Ghost.
Whether we are teaching a lesson, talking to a friend, giving a speech, or teaching a child, the most important factor is whether or not the Spirit is with us. The rest of the workshop talks about the need for worthiness and invitation of the Spirit as above even the most intricate of planning. Spending hours on handouts, table settings, our hair, the flowery words and analogies we will use, the dozens of extra stories we will share, all matter very little if we are stressing out, being mean to our husband, or failing to pray and ponder on what the Lord would have us do.
If we allow the Spirit into the room, into our hearts, and create an environment in which it can enter into the heart of another, the Lord can teach much more precisely, more personally, and with far greater impact than we ever can. Not only will He speak to our minds what we should say, He will also speak to the hearts of others exactly what they need to know. If we were only trying to get a concept or fact into our minds or into the minds of others, we would simply need to teach to the mind and create mnemonic devices for rote memorization. But if we want to help 'recordar' things (wrong usage, I know) we have already learned a dozen times, it is through the heart alone that this happens.
When I look at the promise to “always remember Him” in light of this definition, I see why we hear it every week. We already know what the prayer will say. We may have scores of scriptures memorized that we can bring to mind at a moment's notice. In the temple, we already know what is coming next. But since these things are truth, if we choose to not only remember them but to also 'recordar' them by prayerfully seeking His presence, the same words can pass through our heart again for the Holy Ghost to testify of their truthfulness.
With how easy it is for the toughness of life to kill our motivation to choose the right, the depth of feelings that come from the Comforter can carry us through with confidence and stronger commitment to endure to the end, in a more powerful and longer-lasting way than using only our mind can.
There was a time I was in the classic BYU ward (church group), doing the not-so-classic Provo thing of working, not going to school, and hanging out in Orem a lot. A stake president (church leader) spoke and said out loud what I had been trying to identify for years, while simultaneously removing a nagging guilt I hadn’t realized I had, but did have, until that moment.
He was speaking only to the Relief Society (group of women). He told us about his 31 year old, business-owning, not-married, daughter and how cool she was and all the cool useful and fun things she had done. He then got very stern and made this previously unheard-of statement:
“Some of you are here in Provo treading water. You are in jobs you don’t like, doing things you aren’t passionate about, waiting around to get married. Provo is not an interesting place, and it’s not the only place to meet other Latter-Day Saints. Get out. Go out there and make yourself a more interesting person. And in the process, you will meet other interesting people, and possibly a guy who has similar interests, and you will be even more attractive because you will be becoming more interesting than you are when you are here treading water.”
The lifting of rose-colored glasses, the sound of judgy parties getting off their high-horses, and the relieved sighs of those feeling the anxiety that comes from living only for potential marriage, were heard throughout the room. It was a beautiful message, and one I have imperfectly strived to live by ever since.
I think I was about 23 then, and I had already suffered through, and would suffer through more, self-inflicted 'waiting spells'. Times when cultural pressures-- that’s a cop-out-- my own fantastical imaginings of what my life should look like before I could really get going with it, got the better of me. Times when I was too lazy or scared to look further down the path of my life and figure out what I truly wanted to be- regardless of marital status. Over the years these annoyingly desperate times would become shorter in length, to the point where in the few years prior to my marriage they would occupy an overly hormonal weekend and no more.
Sure, the entire single population (LDS or not) and married friends continued to focus on little else besides my relationship status, but my feelings of patience and contentment grew stronger as I set my sights on becoming “more interesting”, rather than “more married”. In addition, I added more interested to the equation as well, as I found it was a surefire way to become more interesting. I wanted to be more interested in those around me, in the world around me, and the opportunities all over the place inviting me to grow.
Along the way I met a woman in her early thirties, active LDS, beautiful, amazingly fun, and single. I had never met someone so interested in aggressively seeking fun while also being highly responsible. In fact, she was in HR at the company where I worked-- the department where fun goes to die. I learned that she competed in karaoke competitions dressed in full character attire, had become certified in flying trapeze, enjoyed skydiving (who doesn’t?), and was forming a kick-ball team to compete in a city league.
I’m also ashamed to say that until then, I didn’t know that someone could be in her place in life and not obsessively talk about dating and marriage. I had simply never encountered it. It was so refreshing to not be painstakingly discussing the ins and outs of love life, but rather the wild new adventures from the weekend.
The fact that she was the first LDS person in my then 27 years of life whom I had met with this attitude is a sad, sad fact. Either it’s sad because I didn’t expand my horizons enough to meet more people like this, or because there aren’t many women like this out there. Considering I was in something like 22 different singles wards where I spent a lot of time with women, I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.
The tricky part is this: once married, it’s even more important that you are an “interesting person” who is also an interested person, curious about the world, motivated to learn, and willing to seek appropriate novelty. It has been repeatedly shown that variety is one of 6 basic human needs, and also that it is crucial in a marriage. Blending the safety of consistency with the adventure of variety is a challenge that, if mastered, will keep a marriage going. Good marriages end because of 'boredom'. Bored people are boring people. A desire to learn new things, a willingness to step outside of your immediate circle to see whom you might help or learn from, and becoming adaptable to new situations, is not a born-with or born-without trait. It is a skill that is cultivated through exposure and practice.
If our entire focus is finding a mate and nothing more, then the moment we find him/her, we are already heading for a boredom+unrealisticexpectations=disaster. The marriage is already doomed, as we are essentially saying, “I’m choosing to marry you, and by the life I’m currently living I am demonstrating that I’m choosing not to concern myself with anything other than you. Therefore, I’m counting on all of my excitement, fulfillment, passion, compassion, good works, fun, and pleasure, to come from you.” Yikes, needy much? I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been times where I’ve put that kind of pressure on my husband, due to that same nasty habit I picked up long ago of being too lazy or scared to look at my own life and what I wanted to make of it.
Two individuals who spend time seeking learning and developing their healthy interests and hobbies are going to be able to go out into the world --either together or separately-- and come back home, together, and share the new insights they have garnered. They will learn from each other, they will grow as individuals, and their synergy will be unstoppable. They become a force to be reckoned with in their life as a couple, far more than the sum of their parts. They will be able to more positively impact their children and their communities, and are more likely to become intentional about their purpose in life. Not to mention, each person’s desire to learn about the other increases, which leads to more love for each other, which leads to more service to one another, the glue that holds a couple together.
Developing this as a single person is crucial to getting out of the waiting mentality and finding fulfillment in the infinite areas there are in which to serve, love, and play. And more likely than not, it’s in taking your eyes off of the supposed “Holy Grail” that you become relaxed, joyous, and interesting enough for the right one to take notice.
But even if not...
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.