Mark D. Ogletree is a former marriage therapist and religion professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Here, he shares with us his thoughts and advice for singles as they focus on living the gospel to prepare for marriage.
Often, singles buy into the mistaken belief that life doesn’t begin until they graduate from college or get married. In fact, over the years, I have seen many young Latter-day Saints spiritually disengage while in their early to mid-20s. Some have explained to me that they need to focus more on school or their new career. Then, they tell me, at some point down the road, they will get more serious about spiritual things. But right now, they explain, they do not have time to be serious about the gospel. Some of these individuals do not accept Church callings or assignments, or they become casual in their observance of the commandments or inconsistent in their study of the gospel. Others began coming late to church, while still others quit attending their meetings.
Newsflash! Real life doesn’t begin when you graduate from college or become an arbitrary age; real life is now—today! Remember, the scriptures teach that “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32), and this life, your life, is today. Therefore, the habits we establish today, whether good or bad, will remain with us for many years to come. Don’t kid yourself into believing that even though you are not fully engaged in the gospel now, you definitely will get more involved at a more convenient time. It doesn’t work that way. The spiritual habits you create today will carry you through adulthood. And poor spiritual habits will not merely make casual Christians—but Christian casualties.
One of the greatest ways you can prepare for marriage now is to make sure you are spiritually strong and stable on your own. Research shows over and over again that the strongest marriages in our country are unions where religion is lived and practiced together in unity. What can singles do now to spiritually prepare for marriage? Consider the following ideas:
I am convinced that the spiritual habits we establish early in our lives will help us prepare for marriage and family relationships and will prepare us to raise righteous families in a world of chaos and conflict.