I have a new, dear friend that has been kind enough to entertain some of my questions about dating from the male perspective. He's unbelievably patient with me and so far hasn't taken offense to anything I've asked which has endeared him to me forever. The following post is a slightly edited version of my response to my friend and be advised it's written with a great deal of passion and (I'm honest enough to admit) years of hurt feelings and disappointments. It is in no way intended to be a man bash or an invitation to tear our brothers apart but an honest out-pouring of one woman's heart.
The question I posed was: At what point is it okay to start looking outside the church for marriage opportunities? The answer (in a nutshell) I received: Never. You never give up hope and you never accept anything less. Be patient and have faith in the Lord.
As a woman I am promised that I will have the opportunity for an eternal marriage if I live worthily of it in this life. I will receive it in this life or the next and "it mattereth not." Men do not have that same promise...(well not quite anyway) but are charged with the responsibility of preparing themselves through education and gospel pursuits and then going out and finding a wife while they are young(ish.) If through no fault of their own and despite their best efforts that blessing doesn't come then of course they have the same promise that we women do. That said I just flat out do not believe that any man who wants a marriage can't find it (please see disclaimer below.) Of course I've never been a man so I can't say that conclusively but I do know girls and lots of really good ones who will/have/do love men of all types, backgrounds, physicality, abilities etc.
Disclaimer: I have also known plenty of nightmares who have pummelled good men with their lies, selfishness and absolute lack of gratitude for the blessing of the good man by their sides. But this isn't about those girls - it's about the ones like myself and my fellow contributers to this blog. Good, loving, beautiful, faithful women who quite frankly deserve someone equally wonderful and who get pummelled themselves.
If you have not yet read A Single Voice by Kristen Oaks you need to. Run, do not walk to your local Deseret Book or computer and order it today. While discussing the importance of keeping our standards high Sister Oaks states something to the effect of "Men are not being who they are supposed to be." This is not said in a disparaging way and it is not said in a hateful way. It is stated as a fact of her experience and by so doing has validated mine. For any who may be offended by such a bold statement I ask you to reflect on the efforts of dear President Monson and the men and women who lead with him. Their gentle begging of single men to make something of themselves, get married, and start families (while promising them happiness and eternal joy) simultaneously brings tears of sorrow to my eyes and makes my Irish blood boil. What can I say? I'm a complicated woman and while I can be compassionate I've also had quite enough.
So while I agree in being patient, while I agree in being faithful I must stomp my foot and say what have I been the last 20 years but faithful and patient? Despite having heartbreak and frustration and normal human desires I have not left the church, I have not sacrificed my virtue (and not because I haven't wanted to,) I have not fallen away though many times I have given it thought. If I were to marry a man outside the church it would be with great care, prayer & fasting, priesthood blessings, and absolute confidence that I was not turning my back on the Lord's will for my life. I have absolute confidence that Heavenly Father would not leave me alone in that decision and if I felt the confirmation that it was okay I would move forward with all zealousness. So who is really being the faithless one? Who is really the one to lose their blessing? Me or the LDS men who have let me pass through their fingers? I declare emphatically it would not be me.
The Lord's will and counsel don't change. The scriptures are as true as the day they were given - I believe them with my whole heart. I know full well that eternal blessings only come through Temple ordinances and I know that we are to strive for Temple marriages. But I also believe that if I create a home with a man who loves and honors God and the Savior and loves and honors me then we will have an eternal marriage - in this life or the next. While I don't pretend to know what it would feel like to not share the Temple with my spouse or have him bless our babies, I did grow up in a home where my dad was a member and my mom wasn't. We had a wonderful, loving, faithful home and when the Lord's time came for our family to become eternal it did and always will be. Maybe I'm being naive, maybe today I'm just throwing a temper tantrum but my intention and my hope is that I'm being faithful. More then anything I hope I am pleasing the Lord in my quests and my pursuits. I would never choose an earthly family over an eternal one if I was offered both choices but at what point do I utilize that faith and belief that Heavenly Father will bless my life and my future family even if the opportunities brought to me are not in the package I expect?
And I must ask - am I really expected to live the next 1 minute - 60+ years lonely and miserable? Am I really to hold on to this painful hope that never seems to be realized? I have longed described this trial in my life as my version of Abraham sacrificing Isaac and while I have fought Heavenly Father and myself and prayed and begged and been sickened by the idea of earthly singleness I have, to the very best of my ability, offered my heart and my willingness to embrace this revolting idea if that is what the Lord wants. I have tried to walk up that mountain and raise that dagger in the form of focusing on work, family, friends, church, pursing so many degrees & opportunities the wall needs extra supports only to repeatedly find myself miserable and knowing that something huge is missing and I am not living the life I'm supposed to.
Now because as far as I can tell I have been (imperfectly of course) where I should have been, done what I should have done, accepted every date with every man who ever asked (unless I had good reason not to - i.e. safety.) I assume that I have done my part thus far. Because the desire and the hope and the never ending feeling & confirmation that it is the Lord's will that I am to be married and have a family I am lead to this...
If it is the Lord's will and it is my will - whose will is missing? I ask again - would a loving and just Heavenly Father withhold my eternal blessings or the one who has yet to show up?