At a recent gathering of friends, the question was posed: “Do you think Mormons get married too young? Before we really know who we are?”
As I have given this question some thought and researched it across various internet articles and LDS talks, I have come to the conclusion that self-awareness involves two things: understanding that happiness comes from within, and that service helps us grow as an individual. Marrying young does not hinder this process, nor does marrying older make it any easier.
HAPPINESS COMES FROM WITHIN
When we feel lost and confused inside, we often look outward to provide happiness. Perhaps we think that traveling or shopping or a career will bring us fulfillment. As is often the case, if we didn’t feel good before, we will still feel empty after. Self-awareness does not need to be characterized by crossing things off a bucket list or living up to the world’s expectations.
In fact, it is often the fear of missing out that causes the most stress. Always worrying about what else is out there doesn’t point a person in any direction. It leaves them stranded in a wasteland of what-if’s.
Self-awareness requires action. And honesty. To ourselves. It means that we toss aside society’s definition of meaningful and discover what it means personally.
Finding one’s self is not a limited time offer. It doesn’t end. It is something that will ebb and flow as we age and grow. It is not something that will always be beautiful and classy. It will sometimes be messy and confusing and soul-stretching. Marriage can provide a safe and loving environment for this to happen.
”We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.” Susan Sarandon,“Shall We Dance” (2004)
In the scriptures we read the words of Christ regarding service:
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain thewhole world, and lose his own soul?…” (Matt. 16: 25-26)
Ezra Taft Benson, a beloved prophet shared these words on service:
“It is the pure love of Christ, called charity, that the Book of Mormon testifies is the greatest of all—that never faileth, that endureth forever, that all men should have, and that without which they are nothing…” (General Conference April 1988)
And regarding this pure love of Christ:
The love of which the Lord speaks is not only physical attraction, but also faith, confidence, understanding, and partnership. It is devotion and companionship, parenthood, common ideals, and standards. It is cleanliness of life and sacrifice and unselfishness. This kind of love never tires nor wanes. It lives on through sickness and sorrow, through prosperity and privation, through accomplishment and disappointment, through time and eternity. … Today it is a demonstrative love, but in the tomorrows of ten, thirty, fifty years it will be a far greater and more intensified love, grown quieter and more dignified with the years of sacrifice, suffering, joys, and consecration to each other, to your family, and to the kingdom of God.” (Thomas B. Holman, The Right Person, The Right Place, The Right Time, August 01, 2000, BYU Devotional).
In other words, marriage is the ultimate expression of the pure love of Christ.
In conclusion, I find that marriage provides a perfect opportunity for discovering the real you. A truly loving and supportive spouse can instill strength and confidence as you seek honestly to be true to you with all of the mess and chaos that growth brings. At the same time, marriage is a learning ground for daily tests of endurance and charity towards others, just as Christ has asked of us. At whatever age you embark on this journey, it will be the beginning, not the end of the process of discovery on the road to becoming who you were meant to become.
Jessica Clark is a wife, mom, writer, runner, knitter, and proud Canadian. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Anthropology, and has been a student of people and cultures ever since. Right now she is busy studying the behavior and cultures of the people of Texas.