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Is this Mr. or Mrs. Right? Ask these Questions!

By Shannon Alder

About four years ago, a friend of mine met a return missionary at BYU. One week later, when she told me that he was Mr. Right, I helpfully pointed out that it takes Amazon.com longer to ship me a book. I am happy to report that they are in love, married three years and the honeymoon hasn't ended for them.

Lucky them. For the rest of us, lurching toward the M-word is a little less clear. You reach a point in your relationship where it's either "do" (pack your bags we are headed for the temple) or "die" (bye-bye, relationship-back to the single's ward). And how are you supposed to know? "I love him," (or her), we think. "But is this person the one I want to be with for eternity?" If you are a single parent you might be wondering, "Is this boat going to float or sink like the Titanic and take my kids with it?"

You can think about this so much and so hard and so long that the bloom wears off the relationship and all of a sudden its two years later and someone asks why it didn't work out with so-and-so and you don't really have an answer. In fact, you're scratching your head about why all your past relationships didn't work out either. Even worse is getting caught up in the excitement and euphoria that new love offers-that dream like state that feels like fate stepped in-and then discovering (when the invitations are already sent and the temple recommends have been acquired) that he wants to rent a studio apartment in downtown San Francisco and you were expecting to raise a large family in Provo, Utah.

Toward whichever end of the scale you fall, asking yourself and Mr. Right some honest questions can reveal whether you have the groundwork necessary for a celestial marriage.

The lightening bolt that jolted me to write my book, 300 Questions LDS Couples Should Ask Before Marriage, was prompted by a close friend. After her seven year temple marriage ended she wasted no time getting back into the dating scene. Whoa Nelly! Pull up on the reigns and wait a minute. Doesn't seven years of mistakes with the wrong guy warrant some kind of review? Sounds reasonable and she agreed. She went out and bought a stack of dating books. I curiously skimmed through the lot. Interestingly, none of the books had any questions that asked why you are in a relationship or want to be in one. I suppose the authors felt a reader should know why-either you like the guy or not, right? But, sadly there is more to it than that for some folks. People get into relationships for many reasons other than love. Some for the wrong reasons-desperation, fear of being alone, fear of having to be self reliant, fear of being left behind by friends who are now married. Some people are even willing to lower their standards because of these fears. They sometimes get married too young for fear of being an old maid (one of those spinsters who wills her life savings to her feline companions) or they date anyone, even Frankenstein, because it's better than being alone. Hang ups like this warrant some great soul searching before leaping into marriage.

Another thing I noticed lacking in the many dating books on the market are the spiritual questions. It seems logical to me if you plan for a temple marriage then you want a guy or gal that is on the same page as you? Just because he goes to church doesn't mean he is on the same page. There is more to our religion than simple attendance-it's a way of life. Will he be the kind of guy that will help the family get to the Celestial Kingdom or will you have to visit him in the Telestial Kingdom? Does he or she accept all the callings extended to him? Does he or she want to go on a couple's mission? Is it important to him or her that your children go on mission? Does he or she pay their tithing and will it be a priority in your family? Does he or she have problems with their testimony? Do they have indiscretions that they need to resolve with the bishop? Are these things that might be a problem later in your marriage?

Since I have written my book I have had great reviews. But there are always those individuals that feel that certain questions shouldn't be asked before marriage-that the mystery of their partner should unfold over time. I love a good mystery too but that is when I buy a Dan Brown novel. I don't throw caution to the wind or gamble with huge life decisions. There have been plenty of general authorities counseling us over the years to be selective. My personal favorite quote- President Spencer W. Kimball once said, "While I am sure some young couples have some special guidance in getting together, I do not believe in predestined love. If you desire the inspiration of the Lord in this crucial decision, you must live the standards of the Church, and you must pray constantly for the wisdom to recognize those qualities upon which a successful union may be based. You must do the choosing, rather than to seek for some one-and-only so-called soul mate, chosen for you by someone else and waiting for you. You are to do the choosing. You must be wise beyond your years and humbly prayerful unless you choose amiss" (Eternal Love, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973, 11). Amen brother I agree!

Choosing amiss is what almost half of Latter Day Saints do. Did you know that the divorce rate among church members is now 40%, only 10% below the national average? My jaw dropped too when I heard that. I thought the divorce rate within the church was a lot lower. But when I interviewed a marriage counselor in Utah to verify the statistic he confirmed it. We may have the true gospel but the temptations and problems are the same for all of us. The number one reason marriages fail is because of the lack of communication. A marriage will not survive without it. Fasting and prayer cannot be overemphasized, but a foundation must be laid long before your covenants are made or the road could be very bumpy. It should be a goal of any serious couple to find out if they can talk and share openly. Honestly, if you have been in a relationship for a year and they still can't talk and share openly with you then something is not quite right. Marrying someone you can't communicate with can lead to serious problems.

Now I am not talking about discussing your feelings about each other only. Solid communication is not dreamily remarking that you hope your kids have his eyes or her killer looks. Can you discuss your personal strengths and weaknesses, your past, your future, your vision of a family and how it works, your priorities and how you want to structure your daily life? Where does your commitment to the gospel come into play?

No one will ever be a clone of you, thank goodness (And the idea of marrying your twin anyway is yucky). Being different from each other is not only normal, natural and healthy-it's inevitable. How does that old saying go? You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. Actually, you need to interview a lot of frogs before you can be certain they are indeed a frog. You may have been throwing your prince charming back in the pond time after time and didn't know it. No one has to nail every question correctly before they are marriage material.

The question is whether the differences are things that will drive you apart, or will they strengthen your relationship and draw you together? That is the real mystery worth getting to the bottom of.

Shannon Alder is the author of the book, "300 Questions LDS Couples Should Ask Before Marriage". She is the editor of the LDSParents.org website. You can contact Shannon at Ldsyouthauthor@yahoo.com. Her book is also available for purchase on Amazon.com. Purchase the book here.

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