Receiving Answers to Prayer, Especially About Who One Should Date or Marry
by Marcus H. Martins, Ph.D.

What does it mean when we get one answer that we feel it is from the Lord, but the girl one wants to date gets a completely different answer and she says it was also from the Lord? Every time that I think I got an affirmative answer from the Lord, it is wrong. I thought having a good feeling was the way to tell if an answer is right or not ... I don't know if you can answer this.

Of course I can answer this!  Not all questions have to deal with salvation-threatening, politically-sensitive, or other-worldly issues.  And the question you are asking is by no means unimportant; on the contrary, it is a serious issue that many struggle with and it can teach us a great deal about the spirit of revelation and spiritual guidance.  First, let's take a look at what two apostles said about this matter:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie
(The New Era, "Agency or Inspiration," Jan. 1975, p. 40)

"How do you choose a wife? I've heard a lot of young people from Brigham Young University and elsewhere say, "I've got to get a feeling of inspiration. I've got to get some revelation. I've got to fast and pray and get the Lord to manifest to me whom I should marry." Well, maybe it will be a little shock to you, but never in my life did I ever ask the Lord whom I ought to marry. It never occurred to me to ask him. I went out and found the girl I wanted; she suited me; I evaluated and weighed the proposition, and it just seemed a hundred percent to me as though this ought to be. Now, if I'd done things perfectly, I'd have done some counseling with the Lord, which I didn't do; but all I did was pray to the Lord and ask for some guidance and direction in connection with the decision that I'd reached. A more perfect thing to have done would have been to counsel with him relative to the decision and get a spiritual confirmation that the conclusion, which I by my agency and faculties had arrived at, was the right one."
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
(Speeches of the Year, "Revelation," 1981, p. 25)

"I have heard of cases where a young man told a young woman she should marry him because he had received a revelation that she was to be his eternal companion. If this is a true revelation, it will be confirmed directly to the woman if she seeks to know. In the meantime, she is under no obligation to heed it. She should seek her own guidance and make up her own mind. The man can receive revelation to guide his own actions, but he cannot properly receive revelation to direct hers. She is outside his stewardship."
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
(Speeches of the Year, "Revelation," 1981, p. 26)

"The Spirit of the Lord is not likely to give us revelations on matters that are trivial. I once heard a young woman in a testimony meeting praise the spirituality of her husband, indicating that he submitted every question to the Lord. She told how he accompanied her shopping and would not even choose between different brands of canned vegetables without making his selection a matter of prayer. That strikes me as improper. I believe the Lord expects us to use the intelligence and experience he has given us to make these kinds of choices. ...

I suggest that there is not a right and wrong to every question. To many questions, there are only two wrong answers or two right answers. Thus, a person who seeks guidance on which of two different ways he should pursue to get even with a person who has wronged him is not likely to receive a revelation. Neither is a person who seeks guidance on a choice he will never have to make because some future event will intervene, such as a third alternative that is clearly preferable ... No answer is likely to come to a person who seeks guidance in choosing between two alternatives that are equally acceptable to the Lord. Thus, there are times when we can serve productively in two different fields of labor. Either answer is right."

So, as you can see you had a correct desire in seeking the Lord's counsel. It just happens that the answer probably was rather ambiguous because it depended on other factors beyond your power and within the realm of somebody else's free agency.

Let me explain with a personal example: Dating in my country is a very serious affair (or at least in my youth days it was that way.) It is seen as a first step towards marriage. Here in the USA when you go out with someone you call it a "date." That is not the case in Brazil. You can go out with whoever you want as many times as you want; but only if these two people decide to get romantically involved--only then--it would be said that they were dating. A young man had, in those days, to ask the young lady's father permission to date her.

This was just a long introduction to help you understand what I'm going to say next. When I decided to start dating my wife, I went to her father to ask his permission. He said to me: "It's all right with me, as long as you please her." I never forgot his answer. The power to decide what was going to happen in that relationship then shifted from the father to the daughter. Hers would be the final decision. It seems to me that something similar happened with you. The Lord apparently answered you prayer in terms similar to the ones used by my father-in-law almost a quarter of a century ago: "It's all right to date her, my son, as long as this is what she wants."

So, keep in mind that a personal revelation will involve more than just having a "good feeling" about a decision or issue. Revelations--including personal revelations--will also be confirmed through the law of witnesses (2 Corinthians 13:1; Ether 5:4; D&C 6:28). It takes at least two or three people for the conditions of the law of witnesses to be met. Also remember that when an individual's condition changes, the Lord may (I said "may") according to his own will revoke an instruction given in a previous revelation. Look at these examples from the scriptures:

Doctrine & Covenants 56:4-6

"Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the rebellious, saith the Lord. Wherefore, I revoke the commandment which was given unto my servants Thomas B. Marsh and Ezra Thayre, and give a new commandment unto my servant Thomas, that he shall take up his journey speedily to the land of Missouri, and my servant Selah J. Griffin shall also go with him. For behold, I revoke the commandment which was given unto my servants Selah J. Griffin and Newel Knight, in consequence of the stiffneckedness of my people which are in Thompson, and their rebellions."
D&C 58:31-33

"Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled? I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing. Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above."
D&C 9:10-11

"Now, if you had known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now. Behold, it was expedient when you commenced; but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now;"

This should give you enough subsidies to figure out the whole situation and move on without any hard feelings.

This essay is published as a support for and an extension of classroom discussion and in no way represents an official statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or its General Authorities. Dr. Marcus H. Martins assumes full responsibility for the opinions, views, and interpretations contained herein.   For more information contact me at: