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Preparing for Marriage (part 4 of 8)

“Early Steps”

“At the beginning of our study today I would like to raise this question, or rather, make this statement. (I don’t want to even, by raising the question, seem to indicate that there is any uncertainty about the matter.) Here is the marvelous fact, my friends, and I am speaking to the unmarried. If God has planned for you to be married, there is a special one that He has planned for you to be married to.”

“Now, remember in the first class, I pointed out that the enemy is ready and willing to take advantage of that fact, and cause married people to feel, ‘Ah well, I guess I made a mistake.’ But we covered that with clear statements from inspired sources that we are not to permit doubts like that to come in. When the marriage vows have been said, when two people have been joined together, we read a clear statement that even if the devil had led them, they were to do what? Make the best of it. This is the only way that society could hold together – not if people were forever considering and reconsidering. God has made the consummation of a legal marriage the end of the question. From then on, there is only one thing for those two people to do, before God and each other. It is to do what? Make the best of it.”

“But I am not dealing with that, today. I have already studied that. I am dealing with the unmarried. And this is a glorious fact. If God is calling a young man or a young woman to marriage, it is not merely in a general sort of way. It is not simply that there might be any one of a thousand or ten thousand people that it might work with. There is a particular one.”

“Now, I know that good people, some of them are goods friends of mine, think that that is too idealistic, that it might be even romantic. Well, I am not dealing with it from the romantic standpoint, at all. I am dealing with it from the standpoint of divine providence. Turn, please, in Message to Young People, to page 219, and you will see what I base this statement on. I want you to see it for yourself, because I tell you, my dear friends, it makes a great deal of difference to a young man, when he comes to the place of seeking a life companion, whether he has the idea that any one of a hundred might be suitable, or whether he knows in his heart that there is one, just one, that is Heaven’s first and best choice for him.”

“Before we read this statement let me make plain something else.  I do not mean by that, that there is only one person in all the world that you could make a successful home with.  No, I don’t mean anything like that.  Any two people that are Christians and will put their shoulders to the wheel can make a successful home.  Don’t forget that.  I repeat it.  Any two people that are Christians and will make the effort can make a success. But there are degrees of success, my friends.  And there are heights of joy and heights of achievement in blended lives that are possible only in the special one that God has intended for you and you for.”MYP

Each has his place in the eternal plan of heaven. – Message to Young People, pg. 219 

“Someone will say when we read this, ‘Well, this isn’t talking about marriage.’ It is talking about something that includes everything in life. Do you have the middle paragraph there? What are the four first words here in the paragraph? Each has his place. Do I have a place? Oh, yes. My place right now is in this pulpit here in the chapel at —*. That is my place. Can I have the satisfaction of knowing that heaven has planned for me to be here? Why, sure, that is my privilege.”

“Now, this is important, but tell me, friend, do you think the matter of my companion in life is even more important?  And will you tell me that God will have a place for me to work, but it doesn’t make any great difference to Him which one of a hundred girls I marry, just so they are decent and I go about it in the right way?  Why, the idea, friends, is entirely apart from this paragraph. Now let’s read on”:

Each has his place in the eternal plan of heaven. Each is to work in co-operation with Christ for the salvation of souls. Not more surely is the place prepared for us in the heavenly mansions than is the special place designated on earth where we are to work for God. – Messages to Young People, pg. 219

Oh, I think that is wonderful.  Now, when you get up to heaven, do you think there will be a place there for you?  Jesus said:

I go to prepare a place for you. – John 14:2

“Isn’t that a wonderful promise? I have tried to imagine how it might be if it weren’t the way God has planned it. Suppose I get up there to heaven, and finally I get to meet Jesus. And I say to Him, ‘Well, Jesus, where am I going to stay up here?’ (Now remember, this isn’t going to happen.) And He stops and He thinks, ‘Let Me see, I wonder where there would be a good place for you?’ And He calls one of the angels and He says, ‘Do you know of any vacant room any where in the city?’ And the angel consults his list and he says, ‘Down in housing project 312. There is a vacant room number 1,718. I think we can fix him up there.'”

“Do you think it will be anything like that? Why, friends, nothing remotely like that. My blessed Lord is going to take me personally to the mansion that He personally has prepared for me. And it isn’t going to be like anything that any of the rest of you have. That is what is going to make it interesting to visit around. When you come over to see my private lake and waterfall and the view of the mountains on the one side and the great valley and plain on the other, you are going to say, ‘This is marvelous.’ But you know something else you are going to say? You are going to say, ‘You ought to see what the Lord has fixed up for me.’ It is going to take us some time just seeing the particular individual providence that has planned something special for each of us. Do you see what I mean, friends? I have said all that to say this, to repeat this.  Look at it again”:

Not more surely is the place prepared for us in the heavenly mansions than is the special place designated on earth where we are to work for God. – Messages to Young People, pg. 219

“Oh, then just as sure as there is a special place up there, there is a special place for me where? Right here in this world. Well, listen, let’s make it very geographical. If there is a special place for me, and there is a special place for a certain woman that is the same place that I am in, who is she going to be in God’s order? My wife. Is that right? Do you see what I am getting at, dear friends? How can she be in a special place and I be in a special place and we are both in the same place, unless God has planned for this special union that He has called marriage? So I conclude, and it is a happy conclusion, if you are unmarried you have the wonderful hope, the wonderful privilege of looking forward, if God wants you to be married, to somebody that He has prepared especially for you. And by the same token, prepared you especially for.”

“All this preliminary is to get you ready and to get your partner ready. Say, friends, wouldn’t it be a good thing to stay in the oven until the bread is done? What do you say? Too much half-baked stuff coming on the table! That is why marriage in so many lives today is so unsatisfying. The preparation has not been done.”

“Well, we have dwelt on that in the last two lessons, this preparation and the parental home, and we are working now on these steps that lead, at last, to engagement and marriage.  And as we have seen, of course, there is an experience of courtship that precedes engagement.”

chalkboard

“What is courtship? I would like to have you think of courtship in this way. Courtship is the serious effort of two people to find out whether it is God’s will for them to be married. The sincere, frank, earnest effort to find that out in company with each other… I have [listed] four steps before we ever get there. And what is the purpose of these four steps? I will tell you why those four steps are there. It is to keep you and me from wasting our time, and worse than wasting our time, in courting somebody that God never intended for us even to consider.

“Let me hasten to explain. I don’t mean that it is wrong for there to be more than one courtship during a person’s life. A young man may, after taking these preliminary steps with the utmost sincerity, court a certain girl, and then later, either he or the girl finds out that God never meant them for each other at all. And if the preliminary steps have been taken in the right way and the courtship is carried on in the right way, they can part company without either one of them having a broken heart, and without either one of them feeling that the other is an enemy, and each can go his way with faith in God and in the other party. This is the ideal.”

“No, I do not mean to leave the impression that the first courtship you enter into must eventuate in marriage. The purpose of the courtship is to find out whether there is to be an engagement and marriage. I think that young people, after they have become somewhat acquainted with these first four steps which we are going to study more carefully today, are sometimes inclined to get the idea that if they have gone through all those four steps, then the courtship is more or less of a formality to be gone through as soon as possible, and gotten through and on to the marriage. Nothing remotely like that should be in our minds, friends.”

These first four steps are a preliminary screening process. And let me tell you why they are so important. We are not dealing with something like shopping for an automobile, or looking for a piece of real estate to buy. We are dealing with a union which involves the deepest emotions of the human heart. Love is the electric current of the soul. Electricity is a wonderful power, provided it is used in the right place, in the right way, at the right time. Am I correct? It would be possible to burn this building down if electricity were used in the wrong way at the wrong place at the wrong time. Am I correct? Yes. Same electricity. So with water power, steam power, any power. Power, by its very nature, has a great potential for good or for evil.”

“And so with this great experience of love. When it is inspired by the Divine, and each step taken as a step heavenward, it can be a wonderful experience. But I want to tell you something, friends, and most of you in this room already know what I am saying, but none of us in this room has fully appreciated all the implications of what I am about to say. That is this: that the mere being in each other’s society tends to draw a man and a woman together. That is the tendency. Now, married people, if they are decent, if they understand the law of God, they continually are under a restraint, a divine restraint, and they put their will in harmony with that. A married man does not allow a natural human tendency of being drawn to some other woman than his wife. He does not allow that to affect his conduct. Do you see what I mean, friends? And the same with the married woman.”

“But I have already shown you that unless unmarried people have learned that same self-control, they are not ready to enter into marriage. And I will go further, or come back closer: They are not ready to enter into courtship. Courtship calls for a great deal of self-control. For a young man to be engaged in courtship with a young woman, and to know that perhaps this is the girl that is to be his wife; and to feel stirring in his heart the beginnings of that love, which if it is God’s plan, will finally flower and fruit in a successful marriage – to feel those stirrings in his heart – and yet to be able to control his hands so they don’t touch that girl; to control his eyes so that they don’t begin to send love messages; to be able to seriously enter into the business of courtship without emotion taking over and pushing the thing through, throwing reason aside; I say, calls for a tremendous amount of self-control.”

“Oh, somebody says, ‘Brother, you are taking all the romance out of courtship.’ I am taking a lot of a certain kind of romance out, dear friends, I hope. Because that which is called ‘romance’ in the world, so often works counter to reason and judgment, and so often rides over and away from any counsel that might be given. The time, the best time for romance, shall I tell you when it is? After you are married. Then you can have a lifetime of it, the right kind. And the engagement period, of course, too, in a preliminary way. But the real love, the best love, the glory of love, is reserved for marriage itself. Wouldn’t God plan it that way, friends? What a pity to have the soup so wonderful and all the rest of the meal a disappointment. What do you say? Oh, no! Thank God it is to get better and better and better. But remember, this calls for self-control in the courtship.”

ladder

“As I say, these four preliminary steps are so fundamental. The first one I have phrased for you today in these words, Counsel, that is counsel with God, with your parents and with the other counselors that God has appointed – men and women of experience, God-fearing counselors. Your first question is: Is God calling me to marriage? That is the first thing to find out. Not who, but whether.”

“Oh, but somebody says, ‘Isn’t God calling everybody to marriage?’ Well, I covered that briefly last time. He is certainly not calling everybody to marriage the same day is He? No. So the first question is: Is God calling me to marriage? And I will study that more fully with you another time, as to how we may know that.”

“All right. Number two: counsel: Am I prepared? I have gone over some of that with you as to what preparation means. And remember, these are things you counsel about. These are things you kneel down and pray to God about. But remember, there is nothing to pray and counsel about with number two, unless you have first counseled about number one. The teenager doesn’t have to be kneeling down and saying, ‘Lord, who am I to marry?’ I will tell you a secret. God won’t tell you. The devil might. We had a reference on that, didn’t we? Yes. Perhaps we had better review that so that we get our thoughts clear on this. Messages to Young People, page 455. We read the last paragraph on this page the other time, we are going to read the first one just now”:

Satan is constantly busy to hurry inexperienced youth into a marriage alliance. – Messages to Young People, pg. 455 

“So the devil is working at it all the time. No, we are not to be hurried in this and we are to take our steps in order. First step: Is God calling me to marriage? Second step: Am I prepared? And in both of these we are to counsel.”

“Now, I want you to notice the third and fourth steps, and these steps are also steps of counsel. Three: Counsel with the young man’s advisors regarding who. Four: Counsel with the young woman’s advisors.”

“Let us look at three and four. Here is a Christian young man. He has counseled with his parents, with the Lord, and with men of experience in the church who can help him, and together they have come to the conclusion that God is calling this young man to marriage, that he is prepared (That doesn’t mean he is perfect, but he is prepared). What is his next step? He talks over with God and with his parents and with his counselors, who might be God’s choice for me? Did God plan Rebecca for Isaac? Oh, yes. And God is perfectly willing to plan marriages today, and these are the steps, if we want guidance from the Lord.”

“Now, you say, ‘What is that fourth step for?’ When a young man has counseled with the Lord and with his parents, and with the other counselors that the Lord leads him to, together they feel that Mary is the girl that might be considered (Now, remember, they are not deciding that this young man is going to marry Mary. They are merely deciding that she is somebody who might make a suitable companion: the best that the young man and his God-fearing parents, and his God-fearing counselors can pick out for him to court. Do you see, friends?) looking at it from every angle – from the standpoint of his work in life, his fitness to do this or that, who would make him a good companion?”

bright side

“By the way friends, do you think that makes any difference?  Might the man who is going to spend all his life farming need a little different type of wife from somebody who is going to be a doctor or somebody else who is going to be a minister, or somebody else who is going to be a musician? Might he? Or does that make any difference? Well, you can see it would make a great deal of difference. Certainly if I were going to hunt for a business partner, I would hunt for somebody who would help me in the business that I was in or going in, wouldn’t I? Do you see why that courtship is best delayed until one knows what his lifework is?”

“I had the unhappy privilege of counseling with a couple who were married and they were very unhappy. As they both talked frankly to me about their problems, I discovered that the young woman was greatly disappointed because her husband wasn’t in the ministry. She married him when he was a ministerial student. And she pictured herself all through life being the wife of a minister, you understand? But somehow it hadn’t worked out. I think he was in the ministry maybe a year or two and it didn’t seem to work out, and so he was in some other line and she felt rather short-changed and humiliated, and her whole life was just a burden.”

“Well, of course, I had to read to them the Lord’s instructions about making the best of things. And I’m happy to say, they got some help and they are, as far as I know, happy now. But do you see what I am getting at? Therefore, in counseling with this young man, his parents, and the other counselors that he seeks advice from will consider what his lifework is, as far as seems at the moment, and what he is fitted for, and who will best be a help-meet for him. Did God make Eve a help suitable for Adam? Ah, yes.”

“You know, it is a wonderful thing, friends, when a young man has a woman who just fits with his needs.  Let me give you a picture of her in Proverbs 31.  Turn over to this last chapter in the book.  Oh, this is a wonderful chapter.  Proverbs 31:10 and on to the end of the chapter”:

Who can find a virtuous woman? – Proverbs 31:10

“Well, I tell you.  Of course, it is a rhetorical question, but I will tell you what the answer is.  The man that seeks counsel from God and the ones that God has appointed that he shall counsel with, he can find this woman.” 

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her… She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life… Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. – Proverbs 31:11, 12, 28

“Turn now to your Messages to Young People, and I want you to notice a word that belongs in between the twenty-eighth and the twenty-ninth verses. This is so sweet, I want you to see it here on the inspired page. Some of these verses we have just read, are quoted here and some others from Proverbs”:

“A prudent wife is from the Lord.” “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her…. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her,” saying, “Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.” – Messages to Young People, pg. 436

“In other words, ‘Darling, you are the one and only.’ Now the sad thing is, the way society is run today, many a girl hears this before she is married from a half a dozen different fellows in succession. She never hears it very often after she is finally married. That is the way the world is doing things today. But that isn’t the way God intended it at all. And my dear young friends, you who are unmarried, if you will let God conduct your search and guide your seeking, you will find the one that this verse is talking about. There is one who fits this picture for you for what you need is something a bit different from anybody else in the world. You are an individual like no other one. And your ideal companion is an individual, like no other one. And it is a wonderful thing, friends, when this experience isn’t just some poetry or song, it is a fact.”

“And may I tell you, very honestly, friends, I know what I am talking about. I know what I am talking about. God did this for me. And I know what I am talking about because I have seen Him do it for others who have been willing to take these steps. Oh, yes, friends, if you want to get to a high mountain, it takes a number of steps to get there. If you want to slide, that is way on down.”

“All right, now. This young man is counseling with his advisors about who. But listen. He has finally found that Mary, at the moment, is the one. This is the best light he has. Remember he is making the decision. He has counseled with God, he has counseled with his parents and he is not going to try to run ahead of counsel, but on the other hand, counsel isn’t going to just arbitrarily say, ‘Mary is the girl for you and you marry her whether you like her or not.’ No, no. Nothing like that. This is guidance, advise, counsel.”

“Now, he has another step to take before he starts courting Mary. Do you know why? Mary belongs to somebody. And if she is a Christian girl, Mary knows she belongs to somebody. And if her parents are God-fearing parents and rightly instructed, they know that Mary belongs to somebody. And it isn’t just when Mary is three years old that she belongs to somebody. Mary belongs to somebody all her life. She belongs first of all to her parents. And she belongs either to her parents or to those who can act as guardians and protectors and advisors to her, until the day of her marriage.”

“You say, ‘That is a strange idea.’ Well, now, wait a minute. Have you ever been to a wedding? Did you ever hear the preacher say something like this (Or were you so interested in the music and the dresses of the bride and the bridesmaids and all that, that you missed this little detail?) ‘Who giveth this woman to be the wife of this man?’ Did you ever hear this? Or do they still do that? ‘Who giveth this woman to be the wife of this man?’ I wonder where that ever came from in the marriage ceremony. Isn’t that a strange thing? ‘Who giveth this woman to be the wife of this man?’ Tell me, friends, can you give somebody something that isn’t yours? Honest, can you? Now, who at that time, tells the preacher that he is giving the girl to be the wife of this man? Who is it that does it? The father, or someone taking the place of the father. Is that right? Yes. Did you ever think about it? Did you ever think about its implications?”

“Now, tell me, if the father is supposed to stand there in the church and say, ‘I do. I am the one that is giving this young woman to be the wife of this man,’ do you think that, that ought to be the first time he has a chance to say anything about it? What do you think? When would be the time? After the girl’s heart has been won? After the affections of the two young people are entwined? Is then the proper time for John to go to Mary’s father and say, ‘You know, your daughter and I, we have been keeping company now for quite a while, and we have decided that we would like to be married and we have come to ask your blessing.’ And what does the father say? I suppose if he is like some fathers today, he says, ‘Isn’t this wonderful that they would even ask me before the wedding?’ My friends, I wouldn’t feel flattered with anything like that at all.”

“I want you to turn now to some very interesting words in Messages to Young People, which if we will allow them to have their full weight, we will see the importance, not only of step three, but of step four. (By the way, there was another statement on this page that I wanted to call your attention to. It is the last sentence in the first paragraph)”:

While they are to love and honor their parents, they are also to respect the judgment of men of experience with whom they are connected in the church. – Messages to Young People, pg. 445 

(So, God has counselors in addition to the parents.) But now to my point on step four:

A young man who enjoys the society and wins the friendship of a young lady unknown to her parents, does not act a noble Christian part toward her or toward her parents. – Messages to Young People, pg. 445

handshake 2“When is the time then, for that young man to be known to the parents, after he wins her friendship? When? Before. Well, let’s go a little further. After he enjoys her society? Before. Do you see that? This is close work and this is so utterly foreign to what is going on, that you may have to look at it three times and rub your eyes to be sure you are seeing straight. Isn’t that what it says? And friends, if you will allow me to say it, it is just good common sense. But everything God says is good common sense, and if you want to be happy, young men, see the guardians of the girl before you start courting her.”

“By the same token, young women, if you want to be truly happy and have God plan your marriage, remain within the protection of your parents or other God-appointed guardians, until they give you the nod that here is somebody worthy of courting you.

“Ah, somebody says, ‘I think that would be quite restrictive.’ Yes, it is. You know, royalty has quite a bit of restriction. I don’t know how they are doing things in some countries today. Modern fashions and customs have made terrible inroads even in high places. But at least up until a few years ago, if a young man has wanted to enjoy the society of one of the daughters of the king or queen of England, he would have had to undergo quite a bit of scrutiny. Don’t you think so? Especially if he was interested in courting her, don’t you think he would? Of course, your daughters aren’t worth as much as the princesses of England, are they? Or are they? You, parents, are your daughters worth as much as the princesses of England? Well, treat them that way, then. And let them feel that you are guarding them, not in a bossy way, not in a dictatorial way, but because they are so valuable, because they are so precious. Do you see what I mean?”

“Ah, but some girl may say, ‘I think I can choose for myself.’ Well, doubtless you can and you will have plenty of helpers, both devils and human beings. It is amazing to me, how many people that ought to have better sense, are perfectly willing to help most anybody to court most anybody. I protest against it, in the name of God, my friends. Before you give the slightest influence to encourage any young man to court any young woman or to encourage any young woman to accept the courtship of any young man, you had better get on your knees and have a session with Heaven, and be sure that you are getting your signals straight from the throne. You just might be helping the devil in his business of putting together people that don’t belong together at all.”

Now, turn over to the next page and we will clinch this nail:

The question is asked, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?” and the answer is given, “By taking heed thereto according to Thy word.” The young man who makes the Bible his guide, need not mistake the path of duty and of safety. That blessed book will teach him to preserve his integrity of character, to be truthful, to practice no deception. “Thou shalt not steal,” was written by the finger of God upon the tables of stone; yet how much underhand stealing of affections is practiced and excused. – Messages to Young People, pg. 446

“Do you mean that a young man might steal the affections of a girl? Well, how in the world could he steal something, unless he took it from somebody to whom it belonged, who wasn’t willing for him to have it? Do you see what I mean, friends? If he has stolen the girl’s affections, she is willing, isn’t she? Yes, she is a willing captive. She has been kidnapped, hypnotized, enchanted, bewitched, infatuated. But she is willing. But then I ask you. Who did the young man steal her affections from? Her parents. Read the whole page and the page before, and it is perfectly plain. But I want to tell you something, friends. You can’t steal anything from somebody, unless those things you steal belong to them. Is that right? That is right.”

“Do you know another name for stealing? It is taking without permission. Do you know the only way you could take [anything] without stealing it from me? What would it be? To ask my permission. When? Before you take it.”

“Heavenly Father, rightly interpret to our hearts these wonderful principles, these strange principles, these glorious principles, that we may love what God loves and be safe from the heartbreak, the sorrows, which are filling the world with misery.  Cause us to reflect Thy image and carry out Thy plans and thus have heaven on earth.  We ask it for each one in Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

-Continue on to the next study-

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* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.