Unless you’re quite heartless, I expect you couldn’t help being touched by Elder Richard G. Scott’s description of his relationship with his wife Jeanene in the Sunday afternoon session of general conference. Each story and example illustrated the couple’s “willingness to give, to share, and to never think of (themselves)” in their marriage. Unless you also have an aversion to happiness, you probably agree with me that their marriage is an example to shoot for.
Your goal is to somehow make a transition from dating into Elder-and-Sister-Scott-style marital harmony. It might seem like a stretch, though, to think that the information you gather about a person you’ve known for just a few weeks could possibly give you any indication as to how seamlessly you’ll get along after 30 years and several children.
So you enjoy your date’s sense of humor over dinner at the Olive Garden; does that give you any idea whether he’ll someday paint you an accidental enamel Valentine on the refrigerator (see Elder Scott’s talk, if you don’t get the reference)? How can you know whether this amazing conversationalist will make for life of misery or decades’ worth of love notes?
Elder Scott, revelator that he is, provides us an answer: If you want to marry a wonderful spouse, you ought to become a wonderful prospective spouse. A lot of his stories dealt with an established marriage and parenting together, but his counsel to express appreciation and kindness often can be applied at any point in a relationship.
Camilla Kimball, wife of President Spencer W. Kimball, once said, “Never suppress a generous thought.” These words, when applied, can revolutionize relationships.
By expressing each generous thought as it comes, you will create a pattern in dating that will translate into your eventual marriage. When you express sincere appreciation, you will find that both you and your significant other will be more comfortable in your relationship and will be more aware of how you feel about one another. In terms of attracting a viable mate, your pattern of kind behavior will turn you into the sort of person that other generous people naturally want to be around.
You might also find that your generous thoughts (or lack thereof) are a good indication of how you feel about another person. As you are making the very important decision of whom to marry, pay attention to your feelings of generosity toward this other person. Do you sincerely want to do kind things for them? Or do you feel obligated? Are you motivated to serve this person simply because you want them to think you feel a certain way or that you are a certain kind of person? Or does your generosity stem from the honest desires of your heart? Your desire to serve can prove an invaluable tool for discerning your feelings in the often confusing matters of the heart.
More than anything else, by expressing sincere thoughts of generosity and kindness, you will be establishing your life, and all your relationships, on the foundation established by our Savior. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught that our expressions of love to God and others ought to be our defining quality as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As you reflect on your long life, I expect you’ll find that the people to whom you have been most drawn were those who touched your life through honest expressions of kindness. These have probably been the people who have helped you develop a vision of who you hope to become. And, what’s more, these good people have probably been the ones you felt the most naturally inspired to treat kindly in return.
Kind words, whether expressed in a dating, marriage, familial, friendship or neighborly manner, make the world a better place. And, let's face it, we can all use a better world or at least a better date now and again.
Julia Shumway grew up in Centerville, Utah and is currently studying Maternal and Child Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. Her column, “Pairing Off,” explores the intricacies of the Mormon YSA experience. She’d love for you to contact her with your dating stories, questions and complaints at email@example.com.