Sir, thank you for reading.
The short of it is that I felt prompted suddenly to go to the temple and pray about a wonderful daughter of God. When I asked whether or not I should seek to marry her, I felt a growing anxiousness in me be swallowed by a peace I’d never felt before, which spread through my body.
But things sure don’t look like they’ll turn out that way. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. I don’t know what to think.
Revelation comes in two parts, namely:
- We receive the word of God in our hearts and/or minds and/or ears.
- We gain an understanding of what those words mean.
Let me give you two examples, one from scripture and one from my life.
The prophet Lehi was one of the greatest prophets of whom we have record. He received a magnificent vision that revealed many things about his family’s present and future, and that explained the love and mercy of God in beautiful, amazing ways. His youngest son (at the time), Nephi, later prayed to know and understand what his father had revealed, and in turn was given this same vision, or perhaps one similar to it. In his vision, Nephi noted something that his father had completely missed: The water his father had seen was filthiness, representing the filthiness of the world.
I held a ward position that required me to serve on the ward council. We were discussing the needs of one woman, a recent convert who had two children and was struggling. I knew her only slightly, but I was praying for her benefit one evening, deeply concerned about her well-being. Into my heart came revelation from God, wordless but unmistakable, speaking peace to me and assuring me that God knew His daughter, and she was being cared for. I quit worrying about this sister. She soon became completely inactive, and I have not seen her at Church in a few years now.
Let’s discuss these examples.
How is it possible that Lehi could have missed an important element of his vision? His son Nephi explained that his mind was taken up by other things, so he didn’t see the filthy water for what it was. This did not lessen Lehi’s vision at all; it just meant that more was given to Lehi than he understood at that time. The revelation was there, but Lehi was unable to comprehend it all at once. (His son Nephi, having already heard the vision and so already knowing the general outlines, was in a better position to observe many of the nuances his father may have missed.)
How is it possible that I was given peace by the Lord when the outcome wasn’t what I had wanted or expected? There are several answers to this. First, the story is far from over; this sister is still alive, well, and making choices in her life. Second, and more importantly, God was not telling me what the outcome would be; he was simply telling me that this sister’s situation was known, her needs were being attended to by a loving heavenly Father and others of his servants, and that I need not worry.
How does this apply to you, James? That is for you to understand, but let me suggest one possibility.
You had great anxiety about your decision whether or not to pursue this young woman’s hand in marriage. God removed that anxiety, instead giving you a peace that told you that you could proceed with your courtship. And proceed you did, in a wonderful way. But God’s approval of your efforts did not remove the young woman’s agency from her. She, too, is a child of God, and she, too, gets to make decisions about her future. If her decisions don’t match up with yours — well, that’s her right. Maybe she came to a different determination about which path she wanted to take. That does not mean your feeling was wrong. It does not mean you should not have sought her hand. It means, perhaps, only that she has decided to take a different path — as is her right. Maybe her decision is wrong, or maybe it’s just different from what you wanted, but in any case, it might have led her to choose another road, one that may not include you.
I am sure this is hard for you, and I’m sorry for your pain. I also am in no position to tell you what God meant by his revelation to you; that is for you to discover. But keep seeking God’s will and mind, and never allow yourself to stoop to cynicism. You will recover from this difficult trial, either with or without the young woman you love, and in the end you will rejoice in God’s mercy toward both yourself and the young lady.