Brief IntroductionAs a pre-mission teenager studying at Brigham Young University, I took a number of religion classes. It has been satisfying to look over some of the papers I wrote for those classes and to see how my understanding and writing style have progressed. While this text certainly doesn’t represent my best work, I thought I’d include it here just for fun.
The Road TripJacob D. Durrant
I’ll never forget a family road trip we took when I was in my teens. We all piled in our trailer and headed out, anticipating an adventure. Life is like that road trip; we set out hoping for a good time, hoping our destination will be a great one. We hope to make it to eternity, but we’re not always sure how to get there. We’re all single, meaning we’re just now leaving the garage, or, in the case of those dating, are perhaps in the driveway. But how do we get to eternity, the Las Vegas of our spiritual lives? We need a road map! It might go something like this.
“Keep driving through dating standards, then take a right at communication. Once you see the Shack-o-Good-Eatin’, turn down Men-And-Women-Are-Different Boulevard. Jump on the Foundations for Eternal Marriage Freeway, go south until Happiness-in-marriage villa, and ride off into the sunset, on to eternity.”
So, let’s say you’re in the garage right now, just at the start of the road trip. You’ve found someone you like, a girl that doesn’t have coodies or a boy that doesn’t smell that funny. You turn on your radio and hear the following news flash on KISN 97.
“Clearly, right marriage begins with right dating. A person generally marries someone from among those with whom he associates” (Spencer W. Kimball. Miracle of Forgiveness, 241-42).
When you glance at your travel partner, do you smile or cringe? Would you marry just anyone? Why, then, would you date just anyone? You need a spouse who makes you want to be better, who shares your ideals and strengthens you. And if that’s that kind of spouse you want, that’s the kind of person you should be dating, because people don’t usually get married unless they’ve dated first.
I’m dating a fantastic girl right now. I remember once we sat together in a dangerous part of town. It was dark, and we were foolish for being out. A mentally ill woman approached us, crying.
“They won’t let me on the bus,” she said in a 9-year-old’s voice, “I don’t have the fare. You, would you give me money?”
“Well,” I responded reluctantly, “I don’t have much money …”
The woman sat next to us on the curb, glancing at my girlfriend’s bracelet.
“That sure is a pretty bracelet you have there. Would you send me one of those when you get home?”
Without a second thought, my girl took the bracelet off and handed it to her. She didn’t have many bracelets, but she did have a lot of charity and a lot of lessons to teach her spiritually immature boyfriend. That’s the kind of person you want in the passenger’s seat, not someone from the world but someone of the covenant.
“Thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the [world], among whom I dwell: But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred[, to those who will make my son a better person], and take a wife unto my son Isaac” (Genesis 24:3-4).
After a few minutes, the radio starts to get boring. You decide to strike up a conversation with the person in the passenger’s seat. Is he or she easy to talk to, or do you struggle to keep the conversation going? As you date, you’ll soon discover that communication is essential. Brethren, cuddling is not communication! Communication is made of words! “How forcible are right words!” (Job 6:25). Could you play football without the huddle? Marriage is more complicated than football; communication is critical.
Unfortunately for the sisters, men are often sub-par communicators.
“Would you like to tell me how beautiful I am?” my girlfriend asked over the phone.
“Now, honey, it’s hard to come up with these things on the fly…”
“Well, I guess I’ll have to start then. You are wonderful, handsome ….”
The girl only stopped talking when we had to hang up. Men need to improve, need to tell their women how beautiful they are even if it is mushy. (And it is.)
“Usually, when we do not know somebody, it is difficult for us to trust them, and this becomes a restraint upon communication and growth. Opening the windows of the soul helps us to build healthy relationships. But if those windows are always closed or the blinds are drawn, it is difficult to help; one simply does not know what is needed.” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell. All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, 81-82)
“Honey, don’t you think we should stop and ask for directions?” the woman asks her man as they try to make their way to the spiritual Las Vegas.
“Yeah right, dear. We don’t need instructions! I’m the master of the road!”
In that moment, you both make a very unsettling discovery: men and women are very different creatures. Those differences are the very gasoline which makes your road trip possible.
“In his wisdom and mercy, our Father made men and women dependent on each other for the full flowering of their potential. Because their natures are somewhat different, they can complement each other; because they are in many ways alike, they can understand each other. Let neither envy the other for their differences; let both discern what is superficial and what is beautifully basic in those differences, and act accordingly” (President Spencer W. Kimball. Ensign, Mar. 1976, 5).
Different? Really? Men’s rooms, sisters — and I know this must be hard for you to comprehend — are sometimes messy. Sometimes they even grunt to communicate! Brethren, sisters sometimes spend more time preparing their relief society centerpieces than they spend preparing their relief society lessons. Incomprehensible!
“And the man said: The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat. And I, the Lord God, said unto the woman: What is this thing which thou hast done? And the woman said: The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Moses 4:18-19).
What was the man’s response? “Lord, it was the woman’s fault, not mine!” And the woman’s? “Yeah, I’ll have to take responsibility for this one. I guess I might as well me a man about this whole thing.” Strangely, ironically different! Yet these differences compliment each other. Women are overly emotional, men are level-headed. Woman seek protection, men seek to protect. Men often look to the world; women bring them back to God.
“Are we there yet?”
It’s usually the women who ask this question, since men are afraid of commitment.
“Not quite yet, honey, but we’re getting there. Be patient.”
“You know, I can’t wait forever.”
But how do you get there? Dating is a preparation for marriage, and as such we should begin to lay the foundations for an eternal marriage even before we propose. Celestial marriage is based upon celestial dating!
“The most important principle I can share: Anchor your life in Jesus Christ, your Redeemer. Make your Eternal Father and His Beloved Son the most important priority in your life — more important than life itself, more important than a beloved companion or children or anyone on earth. Make their will your central desire. Then all that you need for happiness will come to you.” (Elder Richard G. Scott. Ensign, May 1993, 34)
A marriage founded on anything but God is vulnerable, for the things of the world are not eternal. A marriage based on sex will fade as both grow old and withered. (How many really attractive old people do you know?) A marriage based on wealth will suffer as the economy rises and falls. A marriage based on convenience will not last long, for no marriage is convenient. Only those marriages based on God — the Eternal — will be eternal themselves. Chose to build your relationship upon Christ even as you date, in preparation for marriage. To choose anything but God is like choosing to drive on a road of mud instead of a road of asphalt. What kind of a road trip would that be?
“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman. 5: 12).
But what’s that on the side of the road, somewhere in the Nevada desert? It’s a Ferrari dealership! You’ve been thinking about a Ferrari ever since you left Saint George, haven’t you? The 85 Chevy you’re in doesn’t have an air conditioner, and you can still smell that cup of milk your little sister spilt a few months back.
“Honey,” you say to your traveling partner, “this trip’s been great so far. I’ve been thinking, and you deserve better than I’ve given you. We’ve been through thick and thin together, and I’d like us to travel together forever. Dearest, would you … buy a Ferrari with me?”
“Would I ever!”
A Ferrari! You toss your old Chevy on the side of the road and speed off at 80 miles an hour. This is the way life was meant to be! Only real marriage is way better than the Ferrari!
You’re in a hot rod; is there anything that would make you drive on a rocky, dirt road? Remember, this is a Ferrari, not a hummer. Is there anything that would make you risk the chips and broken suspension of a mountain trail when you could be on the freeway? Why would anyone choose the bumpy road — the road of harsh words and short tempers — when they could be cursing down the highway? We need to choose happiness in marriage!
“Honorable, happy, and successful marriage is surely the principal goal of every normal person. Marriage is perhaps the most vital of all the decisions and has the most far-reaching effects, for it has to do not only with immediate happiness, but also with eternal joys … Marriage can be more an exultant ecstasy than the human mind can conceive. This is within the reach of every couple, every person” (President Spencer W. Kimball. Ensign, Mar. 1977, 3-4).
Marriage is counterintuitive. If we try to make ourselves happy, we’ll end up miserable. They key is to focus on our partners, not on ourselves. If we do all we can to make our partner happy, the freeway winds will blow blissfully through our hair and the bugs will fly another way.
“Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9: 9).
Ok, you’re together. You’ve professed your undying love, your desire to travel together forever. But can it really be forever? This should be the part of the road trip where you ride off into the eternal sunset. But how?
“Marriages performed in the temples for time and eternity, by virtue of the sealing keys restored by Elijah, are called celestial marriages. The participating parties become husband and wife in this mortal life, and if after their marriage they keep all the terms and conditions of this order of the priesthood, they continue on as husband and wife in the celestial kingdom of God” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie. Mormon Doctrine, 117).
You see, that Ferrari dealership can’t be just any old “Elvis Presley’s Dealership-O’-Love.” It has to be a dealership that will sell you a car that can last forever, complete with warranty and all. Only temple marriages can last forever; anything else is sure to break down before ever reaching eternity.
“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19: 6).
With a car like that — a real piece of work — you’ve all you need to make it to your final destination. And you were right, it is an adventure! You started by choosing the right travel companion — someone with standards to make you a better person. As you traveled, you talked with each other and realized how much you enjoy being in each other’s company. You realized you were different, but knew you could make it work. You drove on a firm, Christ-centered, asphalt foundation, not the dirt road, preparing for a future marriage. After you’d traded in for the Ferrari, you kept on that paved road, avoiding the road bumps of tempers and harsh words. Finally, you rode off into the eternal sunset. Only you haven’t yet left the garage; the road trip is still ahead of you. Make it a good one!