Marriage By Inspiration?

There was a time (way back when I was attending BYU) when I was engaged to married.  It didn’t work out.  The end came suddenly and I was stunned and heartbroken. When I asked my boyfriend why he was leaving, the response was simply:  “I prayed about it and felt it was not right.”  I was too young, too inexperienced, and too sad to explore further.  God said no and that was that.

As I look back on the experience I think that perhaps Mike did feel uncomfortable the situation, but I’m not sure his discomfort came from heaven. We had a short and speedy courtship and while that was not uncommon with our peers, it was still short and speedy – and that alone is cause for anxiety. We had some tangled friendships. And, among other things, were far from sorting out a financial situation that would work well for our future.  Whether his feels of unease came from heaven or in response to these uncomfortable circumstances, I still think he made the right choice, so does it really matter?

Since that time I’ve heard similar stories about how God led individuals in to or away from marriage. And I wonder.  Inspiration? Just a positive set of circumstances and a little bit of courage? Both? Neither?

My brother-in-law, Tim, claims that he did not pray about his choice to marry my sister.  He says: “God gave me a brain and I used it.” He says that he dated Lisa (my sister) and was impressed with her, they fell in love, he felt good about the whole process, thought it through and could see no reason not to propose – so he did.  He’s still in the family 15 years (and 5 children) later to tell the tale.

We are taught in church to pray about this big decision and be sure of our spiritual confirmations, but Tim’s approach seems very reasonable and plausible.  So how does it work? Is it inspiration? Is it a good choice? Both? Can inspiration, so hard to understand, be wrong? Can our brain, full of hormons and infatuation, be wrong?



  1. For my husband and I, we just clicked and we both wanted to be together. I don’t recall ever having a clear spiritual impression that said “You need to marry him” or “This is good, go ahead.” I think I identify with what TIm said. In fact, for most things in my life, I do not receive any impression; I just try to be a faithful disciple and I feel that I am led to the good or what I need without praying step by step. But that is not to say it’s never happened. The way I view it all is God will only intervene if I am going down a wrong path. I’m really headstrong too, so when I make up my mind, I just do it!

  2. This aspect of being LDS is probably the one that has made me feel like the biggest failure at life. I’ve prayed about most of the guys I’ve been serious with (not all) and felt very good about marrying 3 (at different times, of course). No “fire from heaven” experiences, but also no horrible “run away” feelings either. The one I REALLY thought was “it” told me that he prayed about marrying me–in the temple even–and he didn’t receive the kind of sign he was expecting, which meant he shouldn’t marry me.

    Part of what is so damaging about that whole narrative is spending six years in YW being told the *best* thing I could do in life is be a wife and a mother, then three guys in the past 20 years telling me they received no “sign,” it’s really easy for me to extrapolate that God does not see me as worthy to be married.

    It’s made me doubt my own ability to pray and receive answers to prayer, and makes me wonder why I bother praying–even when I’m not praying for myself.

    • I’m really sorry to hear that Jules; please don’t think that you are worthless because you are not! When you say the other guys didn’t get inspiration, it makes me think of D&C 9:7-8 – taking no thought but to ask God. My dad always said “When God told everyone to line up to get brains, some people thought He said trains and didn’t get in line.” I totally believe we need to consult God through prayer and follow His will; I think some people rely on it so much that it becomes a crutch and they use it as an excuse to not to act (for whatever reason: fear, laziness, etc.).

      I reminds of an atheist bumper sticker I saw once, which said, “If you have faith, close your eyes and keep driving.” My non-believer/agnostic friend asked me what I thought about that. I laughed and said “Well, that would be a very interesting conversation with God. He’d probably say, ‘Good grief, I gave you eyes, why didn’t you use them!'” Maybe those guys need to have their eyes checked… 😉

    • From the lives of my friends, I have noticed that so many have the wrong expectation of signs. They expect something powerful when all they get is silence. They perceive silence as a “no”, which I think is a problem. Silence doesn’t mean “no”, it means make up your own mind for once and act upon it.

  3. As I understand it, the way the Church currently views the dating process, is that it’s best to keep going forward unless the Spirit says no. Those who expect some big sign remind me of the picture with the caption: “Waiting for the perfect man.” You see a picture of a skeleton in a dress, sitting down with a dried rose in its hand. I think a lot of men and women are like this, waiting for the big sign; but it doesn’t work out like this (usually).

  4. The creepiest thing I saw at BYU was guys who would see a pretty girl and then announce to their roommates that they had received a revelation that she was to be his. I know of several instances where the guy tried to get the girl to submit on that basis. Usually the girls had the sense to not be swayed on that basis.

  5. The creepiest thing I saw at BYU is when returned missionaries would tell a young women they had a spiritual revelation while attending the temple that the young woman was to marry them. I saw this happen several times, and in every case it was a manipulative, controlled man trying to manipulate a trusting young woman.

    • I had an old boyfriend tell me this after he returned from his mission. I had not had any contact with him in 3 years, and I was in Africa on a medical internship when he sent me a letter (I still don’t know how he found me). He said he had been praying about whether he and I were supposed to marry and start a family. He had “received inspiration” that we were not right for each other. Maybe there is something to that inspiration, because I sure as h*** knew he wasn’t the right one for me. However, that would have been my answer even if his inspiration had been otherwise…

  6. I was dumped by a guy once because he said he had no inspiration that our relationship would go anywhere. At the time, I was angry because it felt like he was using some superior authority to discern something that I had also had a right to seek for my own personal revelation. To me, in the situation, it was unrighteous dominion. Who cares about his feelings, I didn’t want to be controlled in a relationship like that. Ever.

    That being said, whenever I prayed about anyone, I had a “no” impression, so I am not sure if it was me or the spirit (I was and still have a self-described degree of “commitment-phobia”). I recall praying for someone that i didn’t want to marry, but he implied he wanted to marry me…. it then occurred to me that I was doing something akin to praying for the plague, i.e. “Heavenly Father, I really don’t want to (get the plague/marry this guy), but if you want me to, I will….” Ugh. Yeah. Why bother to pray for that?

    For my husband, because of all of the past negativity in seeking or being told of revelation regarding marriage, I chose NOT to pray about him. I made the choice based on what seemed right to me, and how I felt in the situation. I made the choice. Me. And him.

    Best. Choice. Ever.

  7. I had an interesting experience when praying about marrying my wife. I believe in the whole ‘use your brain’ process, but I learned that prayer can be very helpful in this process too.

    Before I dated my wife, I dated a girl for quite a while trying to figure out mentally if she was the right one for me. I went by the basic philosophy that I would take thought for myself and then if I came to the conclusion that it was the right thing for me, I would go ahead and pray for a confirmation–and if at the very least nothing felt wrong, I could move forward happy from there. To make a long story short, it ended up being one of the more trying experiences of my life, and I dated this girl a lot longer than I feel was necessary or good for either of us because I was so dead set on never bothering the Lord until I came to a conclusion on my own.

    Fast forward a year later to dating my wife. A few weeks after we first started hanging out together and then went on one or two dates, I decided to change my philosophy since my last experience had turned out so horribly. I really didn’t know my wife very well at all, but I decided to pray about if I should marry her anyway, because what would it hurt to pray about it?. I honestly expected no answer so early in the game, but was shocked when I had an overwhelming confirmation that I was to marry her. So I then thanked God for the answer, and then said that I would like to find out for myself through dating her over time why she is the right person for me, and why this confirmation was true. And that’s what I did, I found out for myself why she was the person for me after my spiritual confirmation, and proposed nearly a year later. I think it happened this way to teach me that I should always be praying, because you never know when God wants to give you answers. While this was my path, I know there are many different ways that are / have been right for others in this process. Just thought I would share my experience.

  8. fyi… I didn’t tell my wife about my experience until after we decided to get married, and I knew that she had come to the conclusion on her own that I was right for her :).

  9. I prayed about marrying my husband and the answer I got was… nothing. I even told God, “Ok now! I’m going to just go ahead and do what I want unless you stop me… You can send an angel with a sword… or something… Ok… I’m doing this…” in my prayer. I kind of got the impression of, “You’re smart, I trust you to make a good decision.”

    I did get a strong spiritual confirmation about a week before we got married. And we had already pushed the wedding back three months at that point!

    It was a great decision, by the way. One of my best decisions ever.

  10. I met my husband over summer break from my BYU classes. We went on our first date at the beginning of July and by the end of August we had decided we wanted to get married. This was delayed by a long distance engagement so he could finish his (expensive and so far useless) advanced degree. I did not pray about it until I was having doubts about halfway though our long-distance year. Long distance relationships really suck, btw. But when I was despairing and prayed to know if I was doing the right thing and got confirmation that yes, marrying him was a good choice to make, but with the impression that it was still my choice, and the world would not end if I chose otherwise.

    I actually am happy I had that experience because I think back on it anytime I worry about where my life ended up.

    • I did pray and get a blessing before saying yes to my husband (it was not mid-proposal. I knew where things were heading though). Everything with him felt different than it had in the past and I felt really confident in our future — it made sense in my head adn my heart. I was happy with the opportunities I had had before getting married, I was happy with our finances and goals etc.

      I did have an experience when I was 20 that was I suppose the other side of what others have shared. I had a boy who I really did love and he very much wanted to marry me. But I had dreamed of serving a mission for a long time and knew that if I didn’t do that I would come to resent the guy for preventing me from living that important dream. He prayed and informed me that he got the answer we should get married. I prayed and got a stupor of thought, until I told God that I was going to serve a mission. Then it felt right. It wasn’t that I was told thunder and lightning NOT to marry him, just that I should go forward with a mission. Since then I have felt very strongly that it was the right choice, and that if I hadn’t served my mission I might have married him out of inertia. I think we would have made each other miserable, knowing who I am now. At twenty I didn’t know who I was, but now I do. More so anyway.

      • President Benson and Elder Scott both waited for their wives to serve missions. So did one of my sons-in-law.

        So they knew who to marry, but also waited for her to have that experience.

  11. My husband and I had known each other for 5 years at BYU before we decided to marry. By the time we were getting serious, he was starting his masters program, I was graduating from the nursing program, and we had both been on missions. We both took a fair chunk of time traveling the world in various internships in our fields. Somehow, we stayed connected, and still drawn to each other.

    When we were engaged, I asked him if he had prayed about whether we should get married. He said no. At the time, I was taken aback. How on earth could he know we were “supposed” to be married if he hadn’t run it by the Man upstairs?? But when I sat and thought about it, I realized I also wasn’t relying on faith or answers from above in making my own decision. I went through the motions, but never really listened for, or expected, an answer.

    Now, 13 years later, I am so glad we didn’t rely on faith for such an important decision. We have both changed in our perception of faith, our feelings on this church in general, and our belief in God. We have not abandoned any of these, but our ideas and beliefs have changed. The one thing that has remained constant is our personal conviction that we are devoted to each other, and to our children. Our values remain the same, as do our ambitions. Because we based our decision on our own feelings and thoughts and commonalities, our marriage remains strong. If we had built it on a confirmation of faith, it may not be so strong, as our faith has drastically changed in the last 13 years, and has not been something on which we can consistently rely.

    That may sound stubborn and closed-minded, but for me, and for us, knowing that WE made the decision means so much to us now. We can’t blame our problems on anyone or anything else. When we have struggles, we have to work through them, because we made the choice to be together. We have other friends who have dissolved marriages because of the God Factor. “God told me to marry you, but now you have changed, so God told me we should separate.” For us, that particular aspect is not a part of our marriage. We chose this life, so we will choose how to make it work for us.

  12. I think deciding to marry my husband is similar to Top Hat’s. I do remember praying about another man, though, and not getting an answer other than knowing that one decisive weekend had eternal consequences wrapped up in it, which of course, I interpreted to mean we had a beautiful future ahead of us.

  13. The closest I got was an impression that I should introduce myself to my then future husband. I ignored it, and ended up meeting him anyways via an unpleasant relationship with his friend. So now every time someone asks “how did you meet?” I get to make everyone uncomfortable by saying “Oh I dated his best friend for 9 months, then gave it up as a bad job and went for J.” Had I listened to the impression I got I could be making everyone uncomfortable by saying “I saw him across the room at a fireside and the spirit prompted me to talk to him.”

    Anyways, most of the inspiration I get comes in the forms of good feelings or bad feelings. So while I did pray about my decision, I was also very much in love and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to sort out if it was inspiration good feelings, or twitterpation good feelings. So I picked “luck” on the poll, because really I think that’s what it mostly is for everyone.

  14. My now-husband almost didn’t ask me out because we were both about to move across the country (in opposite directions of each other) and he thought it would be pointless to start dating me. However, one night he was reading his patriarchal blessing, mulling the one sentence in his whole blessing that deals with finding a spouse. It starts: “Choose a companion…” My husband realized at that point that since he got to choose, he picked me. He asked me out the next day. We dated for a month and then continued a long distance relationship for two years (while I went to grad school) and married two weeks after I graduated.

    I apparently needed those two years to make up my mind though. While my husband was sure of his decision, he never once pressured me to follow his inspiration or commit before I was ready. He made it clear from the start that he wanted to marry me but allowed me the space I needed to test the parameters of our relationship and come to that decision on my own. I prayed for months and months to receive some divine witness, inspiration, burning in my bosom, ANYTHING, to know that marrying him was the right thing to do. I got nothing. I didn’t, however, feel that I should stop dating him. We had a strong relationship born from excellent communication (about the only benefit of a long-distance relationship) and I knew in my bones that he was a good, good man who loved me and would make an excellent husband and an even more wonderful father. When I realized that I’d be a fool to let him go, I decided to take a leap of faith and marry him, relying more on my gut than on any spiritual confirmation. I’ve never regretted the decision.

    The same thing happened when deciding whether to go on a mission or go to grad school. I was given no great spiritual guidance one way or another but it was left up to me to decide. I’ve since come to see this as a real confirmation that God knows me better than I know myself. If I had decided to serve a mission or marry my husband because of some overwhelming spiritual impression, I would have always doubted myself, always questioned that prompting, especially when things got hard, and probably grown resentful that God was manipulating my life. (I’m stubborn like that.) But I realized recently that since I made these decisions for myself (with no great warning signs from heaven), I have been much more content with my life’s path and much better able to weather the inevitable disappointments that I’ve met along the way.

  15. As someone whose first marriage ended in divorce, I’ve thought quite a bit about this question. A few months into dating, I had developed some really great and beautiful feelings for this woman, and all seemed to be heading in the direction of a bright future together. I had some concerns about some very difficult things in her past and whether that would influence our marriage negatively. I wasn’t so much bothered that she’d made some bad decisions (I certainly had made a few of my own), but I was concerned about whether or not this was something she had moved on from in a healthy way.

    I prayed a great deal, I fasted, and ultimately had a feeling of love and calmness tell me that everything was going to be alright. My doubts cleared up, after 1 year of dating I proposed and we got married. She is a wonderful person, but those demons from the past did come back to haunt her and my initial fears while dating proved to be correct. She got in a negative spiral, had an affair, and moved out.

    One thing that proved to be very true was “everything was going to be alright”. Betrayal and divorce did not jade me. I did not turn to bitterness or anger, I maintained gratitude, love, forgiveness, and faith during that time, and quite honestly wouldn’t change a thing.

    But going back to that impression that sealed the deal on my decision to marry, I’ve often wondered why I got the answer I did. I’ve also listened to others who prayed and got confirmation and are now in miserable marriages. I can’t help but wonder if one of the things God was telling me was “I approve of how you are approaching dating with this woman. You are both respectful to each other, you are selfless and build each other up, you involve Me in your courtship, and together you currently aim for and maintain high ideals for a quality relationship. Anyone that continues in this path will be just fine.”

    The first few months or year of new love is often full of a great deal of virtue by both parties. There is kindness, forgiveness, love, selflessness, and all sorts of other good things going on. I can’t help but wonder if God is often responding to the virtues that are on display in our courtship and saying “This is the way to happiness and joy in relationships” and not “This is absolutely the person for you”.

    If when the initial phases of love wear off a little and real life sets in and people begin to act with irritation and unkindness and grudge holding and all sorts of things that can come with married life…that feeling of certainty fades, primarily because one is no longer acting with the virtues that bring the warm fuzzies you received the first time around. My guess is if you behaved that same exact way when dating you never would have received any warm fuzzies.

    The second time around, I met a wonderful woman. At this point in my life I had much more faith in God and a very different and improved relationship with Him…but this time I didn’t bother to ask…I didn’t have to. It was obvious from the beginning that she wanted to live life the same way I did, that she was committed to pursuing virtues in marriage no matter what the circumstance. I had learned that was what was most important and the key to happiness no matter what life or a marriage partner brings you, and when I met someone who shared that vision for life I didn’t have to know much else about her, and I certainly didn’t have to ask God what he thought of her.

    I’m not suggesting asking is a bad thing, in fact nothing of the sort. Just that God may not be answering you the way you think He is. That peace may have more to do with how you and your significant other are treating each other in that very moment than it has to do with his cosmic approval of them being “the one”.

    • I’ve been thinking about what I wrote and realized a little clarification may be worth it.

      One of the reasons I didn’t bother asking God if I should marry my second wife, was it was quite clear she was already an answer to a very specific prayer before I’d met her. In the period following separation and divorce, I had come to a very special relationship with God, unlike anything I’d ever known before. As the prospect for dating arose, I was specifically praying that I could meet someone that understood me and where I was coming from, and that understood the relationship that I’d developed, someone that I wouldn’t need to explain things to or convince them of.

      I met her two days after that very specific prayer, and it was immediately obvious to us both after one conversation that we were answers to each others prayers. So I guess the reason why I didn’t bother asking God if she was the one for me at some later point in our courtship, is because I knew from day one that she was a direct answer to a prayer to help me find someone. In this specific case, nothing could have been clearer to my mind and spirit.

      That probably didn’t come across in my first comment (which was way too long, sorry), I thought it might be worth adding because I do believe it helps answer the question posed.

  16. I have a friend who was dating a guy, everything was fantastic, etc, etc, etc, when he suddenly remembers to tell her that he’s received revelation to “wait” for this girl across the country who he sort of knows. And since he was supposed to “wait” he didn’t contact her or anything, just hoping she would feel the sudden prompting to also move/contact him. Bizarre.

  17. My first marriage was maybe one of desperation. I was unsure of myself and my abilities to be a good husband. I pretty much made myself a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I was trying to change and make amends when my first wife died.
    I really feel that the Lord brought my current wife and I together. It was irrational in the extreme. I was a neurotic male with five children. She was an emotionally wrecked woman with six children who had been abused terribly in her first two marriages. She hated most men and trusted maybe two or three, to some extent.
    We met, and something clicked. She prayed bout it, because she was frightened to death. I prayed about it, because I was frightened to death. My first wife had been an emotional load on me and I had failed her. This new lady would be even more of an emotional load. We both tried to break it off a couple oftimes, but we could not bear the thought of losing the other.
    We dated for over a year, and I knew that I loved her more than I could understand. So, I finally asked her to marry me. Amazingly enough, she said yes. I brought four children into the mariage home, two near teen girls, a developmentally retarded son, and a teenage son who knew everything.
    She brought a teenage girl who knew everything and two near teen boys who knew that they didn’t know eveything but knew that my Linda and I knew less than they.
    It was like throwing gasoline on a lighted fire. The first two years were pretty much chaos and anarchy. That was twenty-two years and five months ago. Today all of our children get along well. They respect, like, and even love one another. I have one of the most gentle, loving, and compassionate wives that has ever lived, in my opinion. Knowing what I know now, I would do it all over, because she is worth it.
    I often wonder why the Lord sent the burned out husk of a man that I was at the time to Linda’s back door, fulfilling a request she had made to the Lord over a number of years. I have wondered what she saw in me that calmed the fears she had of men. Why did the Lord trust me enough to put this beautiful but wounded creature in my care?
    I still do not know. But the feeling that I was to love, marry, and take care of her is something that was almost palpable during those early struggles when all my reason and rationality told me to go the other way.
    The thing that helped us through the trials was our common faith. Of course it has changed over the years. The faith that is. But it has only grown stronger. And I am a better man for those struggles. She did not quit. She did not give up. And neither did I.

    Just my two cents worth.


    • Wow, Glenn, I have to thank you for your beautiful story. I can identify with both you and your sweet wife, as I feel like a “burned out husk” of a woman, and yet, I’ve prayed to God to bring me someone to help me heal. I can’t imagine trusting a man again, yet I long to have that companionship and intimacy that I know I’m missing in my life. Your comment brought me a spark of hope that maybe there is someone out there for damaged me, and maybe I have something to offer that can help heal someone else.

      Thank you for sharing.

  18. I’m one of those DK mentioned that prayed, got a positive answer, and now, 34 years later, am in a dead marriage. There’s no “bad guy” in my case, but I realized way too late that I should have been paying more attention to other insistent cues and prompts. I was a senior at BYU with no idea of what to do next, a new convert, and doing my best to follow the counsel in my patriarchal blessing. I still believe I did my best to get it “right” and even though I didn’t, I have no regrets. It may be simply that I thought this was my eternal marriage and even though it’s not turned out that way, it was still “right” for some other reason. That’s why I picked “Luck” in the poll. I have a lot of peace in the belief that God takes our best efforts and makes it all right in the end.

  19. I am on a spiritual path in this life. I am grateful that I don’t have to do this alone. I have first, a Higher Power. I have spiritual advisers and mentors to show me the way. I do not make decisions on my own, but run them by a trusted adviser, whether a parent, church leader, or mentor. Being married is not going to solve my problems or keep me from being lonely. I need to come into a relationship asking what I can bring to the table, rather than what is the other person bringing.
    When I was preparing to be in a relationship, I had to first get myself in fit spiritual condition. That is, I needed to make sure my life was good and that I was on good terms with others, was self supporting, and lived by example. Then I made a list of qualities I’d like in a partner, and made 3 categories, vital, important, not important. I used lists of examples from my mentor, and spent time pondering what really mattered to me. The most vital is the same spiritual path.
    The key was, then for me to be all of those qualities, to attract a like minded person. Honest, funny, relaxed, creative, thrifty, loving… etc. I pray about wanting to know God’s will. And that is talking to God. Then I meditate, because that is listening to God. God does not write on the wall to tell me what to do. But, He does give me intuition. And I am not alone, I have trusted spiritual guides to check out my ideas. Left to my own devices I come up with some wacky ideas.
    I have definitely learned a lot the hard way. I have had some relationships that were more about learning what not to do. I am in a wonderful marriage now. I work very hard to be unselfish and to give my husband a lot of love every day. I know that men need to be shown trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement to feel loved. When I feel needy and doubtful, I focus on giving him what I think I need. It seems to work well.

  20. This is a really interesting discussion. Thanks for bringing it up!

    I was dubious about praying over whether to marry my spouse or not, because I knew many people who felt they had been told they should marry, then were divorced a year later. I had prayed over other boyfriends, but was in such a dither about the answer that it didn’t really get me anywhere. I was so stressed about not confusing my own feelings with the spirit and super-emotional over these guys that I didn’t know what end was up. I often ended the pray because I felt like I was loosing my mind trying to feel the spirit or figure out a “stupor of thought.” So when I knew my husband and I were heading in that direction, I bagged the whole thing.

    That’s not to say that I feel God had no say in my marriage. My relationship with my husband felt different from day one. I could be myself around him; I wasn’t ashamed of anything. When we started talking about marriage I was excited instead of terrified or depressed at the notion of marrying him. I took those differences to mean that this was a person I could be happy with if I chose to marry him.

  21. I started dating a boy (who was not a member of the Church) when I was 17. After about 6 months of dating, he joined the church. 3 months later I left for BYU. We had a long-distance relationship until he left on a mission right after the end of my sophomore year. We wrote every week and I waited for him. He got home and I didn’t feel totally sure about our relationship. I went to the Temple to pray about it and received a very definite answer that told me to wait. It didn’t specify if I needed to wait for someone else or if I needed to wait to marry him, but it was very clear: I needed to wait. I told him about this, and though he was a bit frustrated with it, he trusted me. We ended up officially breaking up about a month after that. I went back up to BYU, met a guy my first week back and started dating very shortly thereafter. Thinking about marrying him felt right. I kind of had specific standards for the kind of person I wanted to marry (interest in intellectual pursuit, a faithful doubter, and a well of compassion) and he fit the bill. So in my mind it felt good. When I prayed about it, my heart confirmed it.

    I feel like there have been a lot of instances in my life where God left important decisions to me, but I have no doubts that He knew He needed to give me clear answers to my prayers about marriage.

    • Oh, and I should add: in the true fashion of BYU courtships, we dated for two months and were engaged for two months. 15 months into our marriage and I love and respect him more than I did when we got married. 🙂

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