“Is it right to stress marriage right after a mission?” New Era, June 1971, 45
Answer/Ernest L. Eberhard, Jr.
This question undoubtedly refers to counsel sometimes given by well-meaning persons to missionaries—counsel that they should be married shortly after they return from their full-time missions. As a beginning point in finding an answer to this question, an investigation through the Church Historian’s Office failed to locate such counsel in the speeches and writings of the presidents of the Church. However, President Joseph F. Smith did make an interesting statement on this subject. He said, “We hold that no man who is marriageable is fully living his religion who remains unmarried.” (Juvenile Instructor, vol. 37, p. 400.)
President Smith’s statement poses the question, When is a young man marriageable? Certainly age is only one factor. The Lord expects him to be able to truly stand at the head of his family and be accountable for its economic, emotional, and spiritual welfare. The ability to do this depends upon not only age but also total readiness for marriage. A young man must think of the training and education he will need to properly sustain his family. The financial circumstances of the young man or his family will determine whether he can marry and also acquire the training he needs to provide his family with the necessities of life.
But beyond vocational and economic considerations, there is the vital question of whether he is properly prepared through an adequate courtship and engagement period.
Marriage, in the best sense of the word, is more than a legal or temple ceremony. It is a spiritual and emotional union that needs to be achieved before legal and physical union takes place. Many and varied social and religious reactions and interactions must be experienced before a true oneness of spirit and personality is realized. Such a union takes time. This is especially true of dedicated Latter-day Saint youth, whose courtship might well be termed a “temple courtship.”
Whereas an ordinary courtship may merely be an unplanned continuation of a dating relationship that has proven very enjoyable, a temple courtship has a unique spiritual goal—finding a suitable mate for an eternal partnership with God. It takes more time for such a courtship to reach its fruition. There must be a revelation to each other of innermost ideals and loyalties. Such a courtship involves extensive contact in a wide range of life experiences with each other’s parents, relatives, and friends. Emphasis on proper preparation and readiness, and not on immediate marriage at the close of a mission, is the proper stress for the returned missionary who wants to do all he can to lay a good foundation for an eternal family kingdom.