16: The Decision to Marry and Engagement

Preparing for an Eternal Marriage Teacher Manual, (2003), 58–62

Doctrinal Overview

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; see also Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7; D&C 42:22; Moses 3:24; Abraham 5:18).

President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “This will be the most important decision of your life, the individual whom you marry.

“There is no substitute for marrying in the temple. … Marry the right person in the right place at the right time” (Ensign, Feb. 1999, 2).


We must involve the Lord in our decision to marry.

Student Manual Readings

Selected Teachings from “Mate Selection” (188)

“Agency or Inspiration?” Elder Bruce R. McConkie (193)

“Summary Checklist” (in “Arrangements for a Temple Marriage,” 318)

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Couples whose relationship progresses from friendship to steady dating eventually arrive at a crossroads. The relationship can:

  • Progress to engagement.

  • Regress to casual dating.

  • End.

Discuss why deciding the direction a relationship will take is so important. Ask: How can we know what to do? Point out the importance of both studying the matter carefully and seeking divine guidance.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Read together the statement by President Spencer W. Kimball under “Finding the Right One” (in “Mate Selection,” student manual, 191). Discuss why it is helpful to understand that there is likely not just one person we are meant to marry. Ask: What problems might we face if we think there is only one person we can marry? (Answers might include the following: If we think good marriages are “made in heaven,” we might fail to realize that good marriages require time and work here on earth. Or we could end up waiting a lifetime for a perfect person instead of finding someone capable of achieving perfection in the next life. Or if we have problems after marriage, we might conclude that we married the wrong person and not put enough effort into solving our problems.)

Suggestions for How to Teach

Scripture activity. Read Matthew 7:3–5. Read the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“If the choice is between reforming [others] or ourselves, is there really any question about where we should begin? The key is to have our eyes wide open to our own faults and partially closed to the faults of others—not the other way around! The imperfections of others never release us from the need to work on our own shortcomings” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, 57; or Ensign, May 1982, 39).

Ask: How does this counsel apply to courtship? (Point out that it is also important not to overlook a partner’s traits that could prevent a couple from being married in the temple or that could damage their future marriage.)

Discuss why we need to strive to improve ourselves as we court and not expect more of the person we are considering marrying than we do of ourselves. Discuss why we need to continue to do so after we are married.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Draw on the board the diagram from lesson 15 (p. 55). (Leave it on the board for the rest of this lesson.) Refer to filter 3, the shared experiences filter.

Explain that after we find someone with whom we are compatible, and after we determine that we share goals and values with that person, we must decide whether this is a person we would like to court. As part of this decision we should weigh the positive and negative experiences we have shared. Point out that counsel from the prophets and apostles can help us evaluate these experiences.

Read the statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley under “The Right Person” (in “Mate Selection,” student manual, 188). Ask: What counsel does President Hinckley give regarding choosing someone to marry? List students’ answers on the board. The list should include:

  • “Be worthy of the mate you choose.”

  • “Marry the right person in the right place at the right time.”

  • “Choose a companion of your own faith. You are much more likely to be happy.”

  • “Choose a companion you can always honor.”

  • “Choose a companion … you can always respect.”

  • “Choose a companion … who will complement you in your own life.”

  • “Choose a companion … to whom you can give your entire heart, your entire love, your entire allegiance, your entire loyalty.”

Discuss the value of this counsel for those deciding who to marry.

Student manual. Read the statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was then a member of the Seventy, in the subsection “The Right Person” (in “Mate Selection,” student manual, 189). Ask: Why is it important to consider whether we have affection for the person we wish to marry? Why is it important to consider whether that person is striving to be married in the temple? Read the statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the same subsection (student manual, 189). Ask: What essential attributes did Elder Scott mention? Write students’ answers on the board. If they do not include the following, point out that Elder Scott counseled us to look for someone who:

  • Has “a deep love of the Lord and of His commandments.”

  • Has “a determination to live” the commandments.

  • “Is kindly understanding.”

  • Is “forgiving of others.”

  • Is “willing to give of self.”

  • Has “the desire to have a family crowned with beautiful children.”

  • Is committed to teaching his or her children “the principles of truth.”


  • Why are these attributes important in yourself as well as your companion?

  • What else did Elder Scott suggest that men look for in a woman? (Her desire to be a wife and mother, her commitment to developing patience and kindliness, her love of children, and her desire to care for them instead of pursuing professional interests.)

  • What else did he suggest that women look for in a man? (His honoring of the priesthood and use of it to serve others, his acceptance of his role as provider, and his effort to prepare himself to fill these responsibilities.)

Discuss why it is wise to find a mate who is striving to gain the attributes described by Elders McConkie and Scott. Reread the final paragraph of Elder Scott’s statement. Discuss why we ought to seek temple worthiness rather than perfection in a potential mate. President David O. McKay counseled: “If you meet a girl in whose presence you feel a desire to achieve, who inspires you to do your best, and to make the most of yourself, such a young woman is worthy of your love and is awakening love in your heart” (Gospel Ideals [1953], 459).

Note how this counsel relates to Moroni 7:14–16. Note also that we are not to judge another person, but rather, the influence that others might have on us.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Group work. Refer to filter 4 in the diagram, inspiration to both individuals. Explain that after we have learned about a person’s personal qualities, considered the person’s goals and values, and evaluated the experiences we have shared with that person, we can seek the Lord’s inspiration as we make our decision whether to marry that person.

Have students turn to “Agency or Inspiration?” by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (student manual, 193–97). Divide the class into four groups. Have one group read “You Have Not Understood,” (194), Elder McConkie’s case study about Oliver Cowdery (see D&C 8–9). Have the second read “Why Are You Asking Me?” (195), about the brother of Jared (see Ether 2–3). Have the third read “They Shall Counsel between Themselves and Me” (195), about Bishop Edward Partridge (see D&C 58). Have the fourth read “Counsel with the Lord in All Thy Doings” (196). Ask the groups to find how we can “strike a fine balance” between using our own agency and relying on the Spirit. Have a representative from each group present their findings to the class. Summarize the article by reading aloud the fourth paragraph under the heading “Counsel with the Lord in All Thy Doings” (196–97).

Discussion. Read the statements by Elders Bruce R. McConkie and Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the subsection “The Role of Prayer and Personal Revelation” (in “Mate Selection,” student manual, 191). Discuss the importance of using our own best efforts to make a decision as well as asking the Lord for guidance. What does it mean to study out a problem in our mind? (see D&C 6:22–23; 9:8–9). How can you tell a negative answer from a positive one? How will you feel if something is true or right?

Explain that sometimes it may be best to postpone or to end an engagement when they are still unsure about a decision to marry.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Point out that when a man and woman decide to marry, they become engaged. Engagement involves a change in status as relatives and friends begin to treat the two individuals as a couple. Engagement gives the couple time to focus exclusively on each other, feel the peace of knowing that the Spirit has inspired their decision, and make practical arrangements. Discuss why engagement is also a time for personal growth and preparation. Ask: Why does the decision to marry often move young adults to a new level of maturity?

Point out that during their engagement, a couple must plan their wedding and begin to prepare for their life together. Invite students to turn to the “Summary Checklist” (in “Temple Preparation,” student manual, 318). Briefly review some of the items on the list. Note that preparations for the temple are the most important of all their marriage preparations, and that you will talk about these more in the next lesson. Invite students to list other preparations engaged couples might need to make. These might include:

  • Plan a wedding reception, if desired.

  • Plan a honeymoon.

  • Find a place to live.

  • Plan for additional schooling or training for both partners.

  • Arrange for health and life insurance.

  • Arrange to meet transportation needs.

  • Purchase necessary household items.

  • Get to know new relatives.

  • Establish independence from parents.

  • Determine who pays for what.

  • Discuss what you can afford.

  • Pack belongings.

Write students’ answers on the board. If they do not mention the following, include them on the list:

  • Create a budget, including tithing and other offerings.

  • Read together “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” and discuss how to apply its principles in your marriage.

  • Make plans for each of the following after marriage: regular family prayer, regular family scripture study, weekly family home evening (even before children come), and regular temple attendance.


Read President Gordon B. Hinckley’s statement under “The Right Person” (in “Mate Selection,” student manual, 188), and emphasize his counsel to “marry the right person in the right place at the right time.” Testify of the importance of seeking a worthy companion and of receiving the Spirit’s confirmation of this decision.