Friday, November 19, 2010

RENT - The Musical - My Take

Rent: A musical, mystical romp through the mind fields of homelessness,drug addiction, anti-American-establishment,Gay and Lesbian love, and HIV/AIDS

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

If you parade something in front of people long enough, they will go through Alexander Pope’s famed cycle of acceptance. They will begin to believe the abnormal, socially abhorrent and once thought of abomination as okay. The stages of Broadway have had a long history of being a harbor “for social misfits, a refuge for those who never quite felt accepted by the masses” (broadway & aids). Michael Feingold, who is quoted on this website goes on to say, “it [Broadway] has been a tool to raise awareness about important issues and new ideas. Broadway has long been a place of refuge for the homosexual community, a place that judged people on their talent as performers, not on who they were as people or how they lived their lives” (Osborn, xvii). In this vein, Jonathan Larson wrote his “Rent.” Originally based on Puccini’s La Bohème, Larson kicks his play up a notch by incorporating the social hot buttons of American society in the 1980’s: Drug addictions, homelessness, kicking the establishment, squatter’s rights, homosexuality and HIV/AIDS. All are still sore subjects with the country. Larson used as skillfully as possible lush music, pithy verbal exchanges, highly charged and controversial sexual situations to portray these once unacceptable things as normal. It could be said that Larson’s design was to enlighten the country about the controversial plight of so many on society’s fringe. But I would suggest “Rent” is merely a means used by Larson to entertain with subject matter that titillates and shocks.In my opinion, the more something is sensationalized, taunted as abominable or condemned by some religious group, the more people are going to flock to it. It’s like coming upon a horrific fatal accident on the freeway. Don’t tell me you don’t slow down and look. I know you do. We all hope to see the gruesome gory details. Then speed away. Did “Rent” offer us a car wreck only to have us speed away after viewing the blood? Is it only art, like a painting to move us for a time and walk away from? Baca suggests “Rent” is only art. “’It’s an incredibly special piece of art,’ Pascal [the actor who played Mark] said. ‘Just like any other piece of media that stands the test of time’” (Baca). So “Rent” is art for art sake. Regardless of Larson’s supposed vision for changing the world, “Rent” only played to a specific audience. We can only wonder if Larson meant to reach only a minority of the population. If he was going to bring about social consciousness to mainstream America, maybe his message missed the mark—a bit. “Hair was the first show to really tap into the sensibility and musical tastes of a young generation…Rent, which has grossed more than $280 million on Broadway, helped by a fervent audience of kids, many of whom saw the show multiple times” (Zoglin). Thus the term RENT-heads. “Rent” was seen as poignant, lyrical, sad, and enlightening. But underneath it was entertaining.I’d heard stories about “Rent”, so when Tim and I sent to see the Moorpark College production, I was apprehensive. I didn’t want to like a play about gay and lesbian relationships. That’s all I’d heard about it. Thinking about Larson’s mind set, none of us can really know what his ultimate goal for “Rent” was. His father said of him in the forward of his book Rent that Jonathan “was eager to remake the American Musical and hungry for a career breakthrough” (Larson). He wanted to sing about social ills. He wanted recognition, triumph, . . . glory! “One song/Glory/One song/Before I go/Glory/One song to leave behind/find one song/One last refrain/Glory!” (Larson, One Song Glory scene). He chose to do Puccini’s La Bohème and made a modern remake. It was to be the “shock and awe” for the most heinous of 1990’s societal ills. In my opinion, he meant to entertain and excite. He died before it made its off-Broadway debut. Maybe his death is what sparked the rapt attention it might otherwise have not gotten. No one can tell for sure. One thing Larson knew was that American’s have fear. “From facing your failure, facing your loneliness/facing the fact you live a lie/Yes, you live a lie—tell you why/You’re always preaching not to be numb/when that’s how you thrive/you pretend to create and observe/when you really detach from feeling alive” (Larson, Goodbye Love scene). I have to admit something at this juncture. I was raised in the Mormon culture, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a little town in Northern Utah. I’ll wager good money, (gambling: something Mormon’s are advised not to do), that even a good Catholic school girl was not as naïve as I was. I was sheltered and preserved from perverse American society.So my first introduction to Gay and Lesbian Americans came in 1977 in a poetry class in College. Apropos? Perhaps. Our openly Lesbian teacher had an equally open fondness for a Gay male. I often wondered why they didn’t just get together; his woman to her man. But that’s an issue for another paper. Needless to say, I might have been considered a classic in-the-dark American stuck in the morally conservative dark-ages. I like to think I’ve “come a long way, baby”, but I still don’t “embrace” the lifestyle portrayed in “Rent.” So to say that “Rent” shocked me, I’d have to say yes, a little. Did it make me cry and hurt for the emotion grief? Yes.

If Larson was strictly going for the social awareness and changed attitudes within the entire American society, then he failed. I think he was trying to be like Mark [his fictional character/film maker] when he was filming the homeless woman. Her reply to his camera in her face was this: “Who the f*#@ do you think you are? I don’t need no goddamn help/from some bleeding heart cameraman/My life’s not for you to/Make a name for yourself on/Just trying to use me to kill his guilt” (Larson, “One The Street” scene). Was “Rent” Larson’s ticket or kick in society’s pants? Maybe he just made the ideas of others more palatable. There were so many others in the Broadway community before him who felt the need to sound the alarm without the use of musical theatre.

“The plague [AIDS] broke all the rules. Because it’s first victims in the U.S. were gay men, it immediately assumed Levitical proportions. AIDS raised the specter of sinful sex in a horrifically literal way. . . . But when it comes to addressing the epidemic as a collective trauma, no medium has been more effective than theater. What we remember most, among the scores of works about AIDS, are plays” (Goldstein). Great play writers wrote with stirring eloquence in the hopes that theater would be a source of “information, education, political agitation, mourning, scalding anger, insolent humor, catharsis and healing” (Winn). Some of the most dramatic plays included those that preceded Larson’s “Rent” are the following: William Hoffman’s “As If,” (1985); Terrence McNally’s “Love! Valour! Compassion!” (1994); Paula Vogel’s “The Baltimore Waltz,” (1995); and considered an unrivaled masterpiece of the AIDS era is Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” (1993). Each of these vital plays focused their visual recreations to draw people to the plight of others regardless of the theme. Though not set to music, these plays started the movement to draw attention to AIDS and other social ills and used their highly visible forum to speak out. “The forms and immediacy of the medium; the centuries-old potency of agit-prop; the almost sacramental power of live actors enacting stories of death, defiance and endurance all preordained it. The fact that a great number of people who worked in the theater were gay and at risk themselves only heightened those intrinsic qualities of the theater” (Winn).

So Jonathan Larson was not the first and certainly not the last with the desire to bring offensive and execrable behavior to the forefront of people’s minds. There was some speculation that a new production of Larry Kramer’s “The Normalizing Heart” might re-open because the movement has lost momentum. Winn in his article went on to say that “the epidemic would lose its symbolic power” (Winn). What better way to keep it forefront on people’s minds than shocking and titillating while entertaining with beautiful music, the sorrow and triumph of seemingly abnormal love affairs and the grief of a loved one’s death. Hence the twelve year run of “Rent” because people will “dive into work/drive the other way/that drip of hurt/ that pint of shame/goes away/just play the game/You’re living in America/At the end of the millennium” (Larson, What You Own scene).

“Mourning, privately or collectively, is a beginning of action” (Osborn, xiv). That’s what Broadway is hoping for—action. If we view something long enough our senses will weaken for good or ill, and we’ll eventually be moved to action. Whether the highly entertaining production of Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” hit the mark of raising social consciousness enough to move people to action, we can’t measure. Did he fill his audience’s minds with the plight of homelessness? Did he help people find a way to stop heroin addition? Did he garner more sympathy for the Gay and Lesbian community? Has he aided in the reduction of HIV/AIDS epidemic causes? What I came away with after seeing the production of “Rent” is a profound empathy for sufferers of all kinds of difficulties.Did the play give me the blinding desire to run out and walk in the AIDS marathon or contribute to AIDS research or kowtow to the requested “right” to marry by Gays and Lesbians? No. Did I cry when Angel died and Mimi came back to life? Of course. Who wouldn’t? Have I moved from enduring, to feeling pity for all these social ills to embracing and making them part of my life? Perhaps not. Am I completely closed off to these things because of the shock value of “Rent”? Absolutely not. We can only hope that some of the $280 million dollars that “Rent” earned in its twelve year run was spent on AIDS research, finding homes and jobs for the homeless, and opening drug clinics. Well we can dream, can’t we? And from Mark and Roger the hope for the future is that “for once the shadows gave way to light” (Larson, What You Own, scene). Then of course the last question is: Was I thoroughly and irrevocably entertained? You betcha.

Works Cited

Baca, Ricardo. “Impact of ‘Rent’ roars unchecked by time.” 5 Jun 2009. 17 Nov. 2010.

broadway & aids. Project for Gay and Lesbian Performance. 15 Nov. 2010.

Goldstein, Richard. “The Normalizing Heart; How AIDS Plays Have Changed Since Larry Kramer Raged.” The Village Voice. 13 Apr. 2004. 9 Nov. 2010.
Larson, Jonathan. Rent. New York, NY: Harper Entertainment. Harper Collins. 1997.

Osborn, M. Elizabeth. The Way We Live Now: American Plays and the Aids Crisis. 1990. Theatre Communications Group, Inc. New York. NY.

Pope, Alexander. “Essay on Man”. Epistle II: Of the Nature and State of Man, With Respect to Himself as an Individual. Section v. 1732. Transcribed by hand from “The Complete Poetical Words of Alexander Pope.” Student’s Cambridge Edition. 1903. Hougton Mifflin Company. Editor: H.W. Boynton. 17 Nov. 2010.

Winn, Steven. “AIDS AT 25: How to respond to the devastating disease? Live theater—more than any other art—has asked the most profound questions.” 7 June 2006. 7 Nov. 2010.

Zoglin, Richard. “Life After Rent.” 29 Feb. 2009. 17 Nov. 2010.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Getting older--Where everything sorta bags, sags, wags or drags!

Caution & qualifier: Sorry Fred. This piece is about me feeling sorry for myself. But hey! It's my blog so I can.

Some wise person said there are three stupid stages in our life: Teenage years where we have time and energy but no money; working age: when we have money and energy but no time and finally; old age: where we have time and money but no energy.

If someone would have told me that I could go from middle-aged to decrepit in one lousy year, I'd have bit their head off! But that's exactly what happened.

Before my surgery on August 1, 2009, I was happy, carefree, enjoying life, and exercising with gusto. I was also writing novels with verve and inspiration. I was losing weight and feeling great. When the stainless steel blade of the surgeon's scalpel pierced my soft, unwilling flesh, my life force, energy and commitment came whizzing out in one ominous gush of energy. Not only that, but my body changed in so many horrifying ways that I am loath to describe them.

But I will, of course. (Hence the blog, for goodness sake!)

Long before my medical concerns appeared, the one feature on my body that I could automatically count on being the best was my legs. I took great pride in my legs.
Though they have always been short, they were at times shapely and free from bumps, bruises and blotches. But after the surgery and the dreaded development of debilitating blood clots, all of sudden I have tiny spider-like veins snaking their way across my feet and ankles. Dark red blotches where blood has obviously pooled mar my once perfectly clear skin and knots. I have a larger knot where a large vein now protrudes and any time I'm bumped or bitten by a predatory beast, instead of a cute little red dot, I have an enormous blood pool just below the surface of my skin which lasts for weeks instead of mere days. What's up with that?!

Another thing that really sends my up a wall is my arms.When did all the skin I had around the muscle of my arm decided to head south and now drip off my arms like turkey waddle? And when I get injured, instead of having a discreet cut or blemish, the miserable injury gets this awful blood blister just beneath the top layer of skin and spreads out like a map of Africa--add to that dark purple and black spots and I look like I've been beaten with a baseball bat. I didn't sign up for this.

Lets not forget what a lack of exercise can do to one's body after surgery. The effect is appalling and disgusting. Muscles turn to jelly, strength fails alarmingly and commitment--well my commitment to my weight-loss journey became a thing of the past. Added to that was the swelling of tissues because of the blood clot caused during surgery and you have one big ugly mess. (Are you appalled yet?)

Let us not forget about the joints--not that my joints would let me forget about them. While sleeping six months on my back, (I'll talk about that later, or not), when I was finally able to return to sleeping on my sides, my shoulders rebelled. No longer were they able to hold my body weight and I strained both shoulders which meant months of chiropractic visits. Sometimes at night I would wake up and both arms would be dead wood. How is the possible seeing that I was sleeping on only one arm at a time. There's just something so wrong about that. Luckily, the chiropractic care relieved some of that. But not all.

Let me talk a minute about canes, walkers and wheel chairs. Marvelous inventions until you have to avail yourself of them with limited strength in your legs. Then its rather humiliating to admit your too old and feeble to walk by yourself without assistance. Where are my carefree, effervescent simi-youthful days when I could skip and hop and jump my way through the life? Long gone, all of them. No more buoyant, jaunty steps for me. No sir. Just heavy, plodding, uneven steps that cause pain with every agonizing planting of my feet.And that's another thing. I had been suffering for a while with the usual pains of old age, when another enervating pain assailed me. This paralyzing pain is related to diabetes and sciatic problems. Combined together, the pain was draining. But right after surgery I thought the pain had abated. Unfortunately, when I was taken off my surgery meds of Vicodon and my beloved pain patch of Fentanyl, the miserable, grinding pain came back with a vengeance. Give me back my drugs!

Drugs! There's a paradox for you. Some people take drugs to escape, lose their minds in pleasurable euphoria. I, on the other hand, can't abide the sense of losing control that being on drugs causes me. Try a combination of Fentenyl and Codine and you have a laser light show in your brain. Not my idea of a good time. Before the surgery, I had all but thrown off my dependence on drugs. After, I couldn't control my blood pressure so my life is once again governed by the used of man-made drugs that have tremendous side effects. Not the least of these is weight gain.

Ah, weight gain. Did I mention that having blood clots in both legs caused me to gain 20 pounds in one week! No. I guess not. But there it is. What was a fantastic year of losing weight in 2008 was followed by a year of gaining a lot of it back again. I had no idea that cutting open one's body would cause a loss of motivation and drive. Maybe not for some, but it did for me. You can't lay on your back for several months and deal with the lasting effects of surgery and not lose something of yourself in the process.
It's like having the crank the old handle of a Model T. Unfortunately, the old motor just isn't going to kick over anymore and definitely not in the same way. I'm worn out, my energy reserves are drained, I can't find the motivation, the spark to kick start my life. Where's Nike when you need them? "Just Do It!"There are other complications that no one tells you about that are associated with surgery. Those are financial. But for this discussion, I'm not going to address them. Suffice it to say, the financial worry can be as devastating as the physical worry of getting older. The idea that one must continuing working in the outside world probably until death instead of retirement, does fill one's heart with aching dread. But that's a discussion for another time.

So yes Fred, this had been about me and my suffering. And people would say complaining has no place. But I find it cathartic. Writing out my feelings often facilitates recovery. It helps to unburden the soul and free the mind. Life is not about feeling good all the time. Who wants that *cough* *cough* *Mike*. It's not possible to achieve Nirvana in this life time. Thank God! Who wants Nirvana anyway? Who wants all that "enduring, transcendental happiness" anyway? Yeah! I do!

So to end this lament about old age, I just want to say that it's not for the faint of heart. It's not for cowards. It's not for weaklings. I take a person with strength of character to endure the pains and trials of getting older. My father will be 92 this year and what a strong character he is. Of course, he can't chew or hear and he's losing his memory, but he's got such a great spirit about him. He's always happy and cheerful. And "that's what it's all about Charley Brown." Learning to be happy through the pain, cheerful through the exhaustion and inconvenience of the age. I'm just having a little trouble. It all happened overnight for me. I wasn't prepared to have old age slap me in the face quite so soon. I was waiting for 80 or 90 to feel old. Physically that's how old I feel. Mentally I still feel like I'm eighteen.But take heart, all is not lost. Things are looking up. I'm back in the gym, I'm striving harder to write my feelings and working on book number six. I'm trying really hard to watch my food, not only the quantity but the quality. Improvement may be slower at this age, but not impossible. Today I'm actually going to talk to a therapist about my feelings of being yanked kicking and screaming into old age. Who knows? Maybe it will help. Prayer helps as well. What do you think? Can I pray that being fifty is the new thirty five?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Perfectibility—Possible among the Puritans

Christ taught: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as you Father which is in heaven is perfect” (The Holy Bible: New Testament, Matthew, 5:45). But Christ knew perfection on earth was not attainable for man without Him. However, the Puritan society dwelt falsely under the experimental premise that societal and spiritual perfectibility was possible. It was even mandated. But they especially misunderstood the Savior’s comment to the hypocritical Pharisees when they brought the woman caught in adultery before him and he told them, “he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (New Testament, John 8:7). In Puritan society, everyone who appeared strange, did strange things or transgressed their godly laws would have found themselves buried beneath a pile of stones. This delusional infatuation with perfection is best illustrated by a statement issued by an early colonist Kenneth Lockridge, in New England, when he decreed that Puritan Societies ought to be perfect. His explanation of the Puritan experiment was found in a book by Francis J Bremer:

Christian Utopian Closed Corporate Communities:
Christian because they saw Christian love as the force which would most completely unite their community. Utopian because theirs was a highly conscious attempt to build the most perfect possible community, as perfectly united, perfectly at peace, and perfectly ordered as man could arrange. Closed because its membership was selected which outsiders were treated with suspicion or rejected altogether and Corporate because the commune demanded the loyalty of its members, offering in exchange privileges which could be obtained only through membership not the least of which was peace and order. (Bremer 103)
Knowing the Puritan obsession with perfection, Nathaniel Hawthorne portrayed the Puritans of The Scarlet Letter in just that way—obsessed. He played up their hypocritical and false premise. Hawthorne emphasized that law and religion were inseparably connected in their community. Fanatically so. The colony worked under regulation, “that the legally mandated penalty for adultery . . . was death. . . . Nevertheless, adulterers were, at the very least, beaten, branded, imprisoned, fined, and banished . . . " (Johnson p. 79). Central to the story of The Scarlet Letter is the sin and crime of adultery. The story follows as one of the offenders was taken, charged and punished while the other hid his sin under the guise of godliness. It is under this assertion that Hawthorne dangles the Reverend Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale as a clear demonstration that moral and societal perfectibility was not possible.

Hawthorne chose Dimmesdale as a paradox between the perfect saint and the perfect sinner. He, Dimmesdale was seen as attaining some type of saintly godhood by his parishioners. This is a notion the reverend did not discourage, though it was said of him by Hawthorne, “it is inconceivable, the agony with which this public veneration tortured him” (Hawthorne, Chapter II, p 133). He could have confessed. But no. It was much more self-atoning to endure silent suffering. But that didn’t stop the love fest. Referring to the pious young priest, a townsman told Chillingworth at the pillory punishment of Hester Prynne, “‘she hath raised a great scandal, I promise you, in godly Master Dimmesdale’s church’” (56). Single women of his church gang went ga-ga over the seemingly unspotted Dimmesdale. The “virgins of his church grew pale around him, victims of a passion so imbued with religious sentiment, that they imagined it to be all religion, and brought it openly, in their white bosoms, as their most acceptable sacrifice before the altar” (133). Were they offering their bosoms to him? As if! And the elder members of his congregation not to be out done believed thought Dimmesdale, “would go heavenward before them,” so much so that they wanted their kids to bury them “close to the young pastor’s holy grave” (133). Delusions of perfection! Even the famous godly man himself, the reverend John Wilson refers to Dimmesdale’s perfectibility when he said, “‘I have sought, I say, to persuade this godly youth, that he should deal with you, here in the face of heaven . . . ” (60).

What Dimmesdale offered the world was a perfect veneer while underneath he hid a perfect lie—a “black secret.” He tried to go straight. On one or more occasions, the young minister rose to the pulpit with the intent to confess his adulterous sin. Yes, he confessed alright. He confessed—but only to being a “vile sinner, a viler companion of the vilest, the worst of sinners” (134)—so generic, so theatric. He didn’t confess to adultery. He would draw in that “tremulous breath,” and end up appearing more sublime, more perfect. Then his beguiled sheep would reverence him even more. “The godly youth!” said they among themselves. “The saint on earth! Alas, if he discern such sinfulness in his own white soul, what horrid spectacle would he behold in thine or mine!” (134). The Puritans saw points of perfection in others and not in themselves. But Hawthorne stirred the pot with Dimmesdale’s almost confession. “The minister well knew—subtle, but remorseful hypocrite that he was!—the light in which his vague confession would be viewed” (135). Not only did he not confess to his guilt, but he compounded the sin by self-deception. Maybe that was his goal to appear in the eyes of his followers as the perfect confessor! And “they deemed the young clergyman a miracle of holiness" (133). At the close of Dimmesdale’s life he delivers a stirring speech exhorting the people to live correctly.Afterwards, the combined townspeople actually thought they saw “a halo in the air about his head[.] So etherealized by spirit as he was, and so apotheosized by worshipping admirers, did his footsteps, in the procession, really tread upon the dust of the earth?” (235). Oh, come on!

There was another who kept the pastor’s guilty secret; a person who hid the seeming sublime person of the clergyman from public view. One may ask why. Love is the answer. Love is the very emotion that elevates the recipient to the lofty level of perfection in the eyes of the one who loves. Hester Prynne loved Arthur Dimmesdale. She loved him so much that she kept his identity and seeming perfection in the eyes of his parishioners hidden. This fact is attested to when she was confronted on the scaffold and asked to reveal her partner in sin. As she replied, she looked deeply into Dimmesdale’s eyes and referred to the reviled symbol she was forced to wear on her bosom, “it is too deeply branded. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony, as well as mine!” (63). There is no greater sacrifice for love than what Hester did. She offered to take on his sin knowing that if he were to be punished along with her, he would lose his spotless, godly reputation before his followers. Hester offered a perfect sacrifice to maintain his spiritual purity. This she did because of love. She tells Dimmesdale in the woods, “your sin is left behind you, . . . Your present life is not less holy, in very truth, than it seems in people’s eyes. Is there no reality in the penitence thus sealed and witnessed by good works?” (180). She still sees the good, the embodiment of saintliness in him and he was “still so passionately loved!” (182).

But Dimmesdale wasn’t worthy of the self-sacrificing love of a good woman, or of the child they bore. So many times Dimmesdale had the opportunity to pronounce his fatherhood of Pearl, to admit she was his crime and his sin—his daughter. But he refused. So the saintly, godly minister of the practically perfect Puritans was anything but. Pearl wanted him to be complete, (another meaning of perfection), and to acknowledge her and her mother. “Wilt thou stand here with mother and me, to-morrow noontide?” She inquired of her father. But Dimmesdale replies, “nay; not so, my little Pearl, . . .” (142). He didn’t have the courage or the moral fiber to admit his mistake for fear of public outcry and public humility.Dimmesdale wanted to keep up the appearance of holiness solely for the purposes of selfishness. Once again towards the end of the story when Arthur and Hester meet and confess their love and hopes for a bright future together, one mixed with love, Pearl asks again, “‘Doth he love us? Said, Pearl, looking up with acute intelligence into her mother’s face. ‘Will he go back with us, hand in hand, we three together, into the town?’” (200). Pearl knew instinctively that the clergyman should have demonstrated a singular perfect love for them, but because of the fear of looking less than faultless, he never did where it counted for good.

Into the mix Hawthorne throws Hester’s husband, Roger ChillingworthAs the story progresses and Chillingworth’s obsession to find Hester’s partner in crime consumes him, he sees through the good reverend’s untainted guise. This gives the reader another hint at Hawthorne’s scorn of perfectibility. Chillingworth saw something in the unblemished purity of the clergyman that did not ring true. Hawthorne hit the perfect nail on the head with this quote:

These men deceive themselves, . . . They fear to take up the shame that rightfully belongs to them. Their love for man, their zeal for God's service—these holy impulses may or may not coexist in their hearts with the evil inmates to which their guilt has unbarred the door, and which must needs propagate a hellish breed within them. But, if they seek to glorify God, let them not lift heavenward their unclean hands! If they would serve their fellowmen, let them do it by making manifest the power and reality of conscience, in constraining them to penitential self-abasement! Would thou have me to believe, O wise and pious friend, that a false show can be better—can be more for God's glory, or man's welfare—than God's own truth? Trust me, such men deceive themselves! (123-124).

The reverend brushes it away with subtle reasoning. "‘There can be, if I forbode aright, no power, short of the Divine mercy, to disclose, whether by uttered words, or by type or emblem, the secrets that may be buried in the human heart. The heart, making itself guilty of such secrets, must perforce hold them, until the day when all hidden things shall be revealed’” (122). The reverend doesn’t believe confession is for him. He would rather wait for the bar of judgment. If perfection was the goal of the Puritans, Hawthorne painted them as having missed the mark. He did this cleverly by categorizing the hypocritical and false perfection of the Reverend Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale. And in the end, what is left appears like the surface of the perfectly calm sea while underneath it is a seething hot bed of sin and un-repented guilt. Hawthorne revealed Dimmesdale’s preference to suffer when he said: “it avail him somewhat, that he was broken down by long and exquisite suffering; that his mind was darkened and confused by the very remorse which harrowed it; between fleeing as an avowed criminal, and remaining a hypocrite. . .” (189).

It should have been so easy to repent. But Dimmesdale deluded himself into thinking he was equal to the Savior. Instead of allowing the Savior’s atoning sacrifice to work in his behalf, Dimmesdale took upon himself the suffering for his own sins—which is not possible. All he had to do was offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit and the Savior’s atonement makes up the difference and takes away the sin. It’s in the Bible. They should have believed--he should have known. There was no need for him to beat himself up—literally and figuratively. His inability to confess was reprehensible. The delusions of grandeur his parishioners held for him was laughable. The cowardice he displayed by not standing with Hester and his child was abominable and even when Chillingworth pegged him for what he was, he did not climb down from the lofty godly tower and admit his guilt. What he did was deny his Savior’s sacrifice all in the name of appearing to be perfect. He could have found peace and freedom. He could have been loved. He could have come home to the arms of his lover and his child. He could have been freed from sin and recrimination by openly confessing. But he let selfishness, pride and hypocrisy rule his existence and finally died, not a perfect man, but a broken man. "Poor, miserable man!" (138).

In J. I. Packer’s book, A Quest for Godliness: The Reverend White said: “come, dear souls, in all your rags; come, thou poor man; come, thou poor distressed woman; you, who think God will never forgive you, and that your sins are too great to be forgiven: come, thou doubting creature, who are afraid thou wilt never get comfort; arise, take comfort, the Lord Jesus Christ, . . . calls for you . . ." (Packer, p. 160). "God will forgive; that's his job. . ." (Packer, p. 206). Dimmesdale should have sought the sublime cleansing that comes from repentance. But he did not—not completely. In the end, Hawthorne confesses through Dimmesdale’s admission that he and his society were anything but perfect. It could be said of any of the Puritans: “I, your pastor, whom you so reverence and trust, am utterly a pollution and a lie!” (134). “Therefore, above all things else, he loathed his miserable self!" (135).

Works Cited

Bremer, Francis J. The Puritan Experiment: New England Society for Bradford to Edwards. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. 1995.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Boston: 1850. Re-published by Barnes & Nobel Books. New York: 2003.

Johnson, Claudia Durst. Understanding the Scarlet Letter: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 1995.

Packer, J. I. A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. 1990.

The Holy Bible: New Testament. King James Version. Salt Lake City, Utah: Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1979.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

D. U. I.

Below is a new chapter from my new book. The character Jacob is a lawyer in Utah Valley, Utah and he has just married a wonderful woman, Carly who is an author of Young Adult Romance books. However, Carly comes to the marriage with two sons, the youngest, Dylan is a bit wild and gets into some trouble after moving in with Jacob and Carly. Jacob is forced to deal with Dylan's D.U.I. ***Copyright by Carol Anne Malone***

(This gorgeous hunk on the left is my vision of Jacob who is actually 'Matt Bomer'. Cute isn't he?)

It was the usual disgusting scene in the courthouse drunk tank. Five sullied masses of humanity huddled together amidst the pungent, rank smells of alcohol, urine and vomit. The repulsive, noxious smells were enough to turn Jacob’s stomach. Among the usual drunk and disorderly Jacob saw Dylan. His arms hung loose at his sides, his eyes were closed, and he looked like hell. He was slumped back against the cell wall; his long, shaggy hair was smashed to the side of his face and looked like he hadn’t washed it in a week. He was wearing a death metal shirt that had a brutal image of the dying Christ on it, his head encased with the bloody thorny crown and sculls peaking out from under his long scraggly beard. The image was vulgar and extremely offensive. Dylan’s jeans were caked with something that looked like he hadn’t quite made the toilet to vomit and he was bare footed.Sometimes the jailers often took away inmates shoes when booking them especially those that might be considered suicide risks. Jacob wanted to walk away and keep on walking, but then the image of Carly’s sweet face invaded his thoughts. He couldn’t let see her youngest son like this. He could spare her that image.

The jailer approached. “You find him?”

Jacob took a deep breath between his teeth. “Yeah, he’s that one with the black t-shirt.”

“Sorry,” the officer whispered.

“Yeah, me too.”

After the cell was unlocked and Dylan roused from his drunken, drug induced stupor, Jacob had to fairly drag him out the cell door to the front desk.

“Hey, man,” Dylan slurred. “How’s s'it goin’ Jacob?”

Jacob propped him up against the counter, his hands not wanting to touch the sodden, putrid smelling clothing. “Just be quiet while I get your things and sign you out.”

“You…you can’t talk to me that way.”

“Watch me,” Jacob ordered, those brilliant eyes flashing angrily.

Even stoned, Dylan knew enough not to push Jacob too far.

After Jacob received the arrest papers and Dylan’s trial date, he pulled the kid out the main door.

“Hey, no rough stuff. I’ve had a h-hard night.”

Just as they stepped outside the courthouse, Jacob grabbed Dylan by the shirt collar, dragging him up on his toes and slamming him back against the courthouse wall. Dylan’s breath could have lit the Las Vegas Strip, let alone most breathalyzers. "Look, you worthless, contemptible snot, I'm not here as your parent. I'm an officer of the court and a lawyer who knows what a deep mess you've put yourself in because of your stupid, smart mouth and your addictions and recklessness. Whether you realize it or not, you are in some serious stuff..."

"Don't get all righteous on me," Dylan flashed and swayed a bit his head throbbed off his shoulders.

"Shut up and listen to me or I'll take you back inside and have you placed in custody again."

"You can't do that."

"The hell I can't. My brother is a County Judge and my brother-in-law is a Superior Court Judge. I can do anything I damn well please. It would do you a world of good to leave your butt sitting in jail for a while."

"Yeah, that'd make my mother real happy."

Jacob pulled the kid’s face closer to his and regretted the rank smell. "What would you know about making your mother happy, you selfish punk. You've done nothing but hurt and disappointed your mother for years. I couldn't even bring myself to tell her about your latest fiasco and subsequent arrest because of the physical pain that it will cause her. Luckily for you, you ungrateful, miserable wretch, she doesn't know anything about this--now." Jacob took a breath. It was hard to catch any clean air being this close to Dylan. "Do you know how close you came to being put away permanently?If you would have hit that young family instead of the light standard, you'd be facing a criminal homicide charges right about now and facing hard time at Point of the Mountain instead of standing free. But that's where I think you might just belong."

"Go ahead. Send me there."

Jacob's eyes flashed hot and fiery. "Don't tempt me. And don't try your manipulative crap on me. It won't work. I've seen too many people like you. Sorry messes that creep time and time back into the bottle or to pills to escape reality then let others clean up their mess. Not this time, Dylan. You're on your own."

"Go to hell."

"I just might for what I'm thinking about doing to you. But then your mother would be devasted and I love her enough to spare her that pain."

"My mom’s pretty hot. I know you only married her to get some."

The slap snapped Dylan's head back sharply and the sharp crack reverberated off the building. When he swung his head back to face Jacob, his eyes mirrored the surprise at the jarring shock.

Jacob stepped back, placed his hands at his side and forced his breathing to slow as two uniformed officers approached.

"Any problems, Counselor?" The officer smiled at Jacob, but his fresh-from-the academy partner looked nervous and concerned.

"It’s okay, Matt. I got this."

Officer Matt Davidson had been a long time friend of Jacob's and a member of his stake. Besides that, he'd appeared numerous times as a witness against some of Jacob’s clients. They were familiar with one another and had mutual respect for the law and each other. "Do you need us to help you rough him up some more?"

"No, Matt. My client and I are just having a bit of a disagreement."

"Alright. Carry on."

When the two officers began to walk away, Dylan cried out, "You're not going to leave me out here with him, are you?"

The officers looked over at the obviously drunk or stoned boy, with the unruly, shaggy hair, wearing a disgusting heavy metal t-shirt and mangled jeans and laughed. "Looks like you're in good hands to us, boy." Then they disappeared inside the court house.

"Nobody's coming to your rescue this time Dylan. You're on your own and the way I see it, you have several choices."

Dylan rubbed his sore jaw and raw and aching cheek. Man! That guy could hit. "Yeah. And?"

"Number one: I check you into a rehab, today..."

"Not gonna happen."

"Okay. Option two: you check yourself into a rehab today."

Dylan laughed, but when Jacob's eyes burned into his, he quit.

"I know several programs that teach job skills after you detoxed and get straight. Not doing anything is NOT an option. And, the car is mine."

"The hell it is," Dylan shouted. "You have no right to take my car."

"You didn't pay for it, did you?"

Dylan's defiant eyes jerked to the ground. "No."

"Who did?"

Dylan hesitated.

"Who paid for your car and who buys your insurance and who suffers for your stupidity?"

Jacob grabbed Dylan by the shirt front again and jerked him around to face him. "Who?"

"My mom! Okay. She bought my car after dad...after my old man passed away and she pays my insurance because the car isn't in my name."

"Alight Dylan. This is how this is going to play out. You have the rest of the day to decide. I'm even going to give you one more option. And I'm being very generous with this one. You will go through several days of intense detox and can get yourself clean,” he went on quickly when Dylan started to sputter a refusal. “But you will remain in my custody. After that you will be with me every moment of the day and spend the nights in a program home. You will not go out with friends. You won’t even be allowed to talk to your friends as the cell phone is mine as well. You will not be allowed drugs or alcohol, period. You will work for me in my office so that I can keep an eye on you. Now, you may take option one or two you may do nothing. I'll have my paralegal pick up your car from impound and take it to our house where it will stay until you can earn it back or make enough money to buy your own car."
(Rehab now or this later!)

"Maybe I'll just kill myself and end everyone's problems."

Jacob's eyes flashed hotly, but he controlled his rising temper, barely. "That's your choice, Dylan. But I'm telling you right now, your problems will not end with death. They’ll only escalate. What you screw up here will rise with you in the next life."


"So testified Sherem and many others. But as God is my witness and I know a thing or two about witnesses and how that whole things works, you will answer for your problems in the next life and believe me when I say that that judge will not be very lenient. If you really are that selfish, that stupid to take the permanent solution to a very temporary problem, then I suggest you make that choice, but remember that it will probably put your mother in the grave as well. You think about that for a moment, you selfish moron. Think about someone besides yourself for once in your pitiful life.

When Dylan opened his mouth, Jacob shocked him to silence him. "Next, you will follow all the rules. I will not use my influence to get you a lighter sentence. I will however, stand as your lawyer and whatever sentence is handed down, you will abide by it."

"But..." Dylan sobbed. "What if I'm sentenced to do time?"

"Then you'll do time. More than likely you'll probably get a suspended sentence with probation and community service because this is your first screw up in the state of Utah and nobody was hurt in the accident. And what will really help is if you’re already enrolled in a qualified detox program and getting job training. That will go a long ways to swaying the judge’s sentencing, but if you screw that up, I can't help you anymore." (Dylan, as a drunk.)

The effects of the fifth of Smirnoff and the multiple valium pills were beginning to wear off and the depth of the consequences of his actions were beginning to slam into Dylan's stupefied brain. "Oh, God what have I done. I'm scum, I'm lower than scum. I don't deserve to live. I'm so damned stupid. I let myself be talked into doing some Valium and some vodka then driving. I can't believe I did that. What's wrong with me?"

Though Dylan might have sounded contrite, Jacob recognized and understood that under those very convincing statements the kid had mastered manipulating strategies. He’d seen them so many times before and he wasn't drawn in by them. Dylan must be a master at pulling Carly's strings. Well no more. "Dylan, I'm not your father, but I know exactly what he'd tell you if he were alive. He'd say it was time for you to 'man up', to face your problems and take the steps to overcome them. You've had too many warnings and this time it must stick or there will be no help in the future."

Dylan jerked away from Jacob. "You don't know anything about my father. He was never...he left...he died...oh, God." Dylan broke down and would have fallen to the sidewalk had Jacob not supported his weight. He managed to drag Dylan to a bench just outside the court house and kept his arm around him until he could push him down on the bench. For some reason, this act didn't seem like an act and perhaps this was the crux of the problem. There had been no man in Carly's life to back her up, no one to stand strong when the boy needed a firm hand. But from what Carly had told him the boy's relationship with his father, there had always been a strain there.

Now it seemed Jacob had slipped from the role of law enforcer to physiological counselor. "What did he not do, Dylan?"

"You w-wouldn't . . . understand," he chocked. "You've got the perfect family."

Jacob chuckled. He'd never thought of his hardheaded brothers and sisters and boisterous, opinionated parents as perfect. He had to smile. Perhaps to the outside world they were exactly that. Perfect. There trials and problems weren't the kind that would cause serious harm or malice to another. They were just stubborn and willful and Jacob loved them all.

"No, they're not perfect, perhaps just different. So tell me."

Dylan rubbed dirty hands across his face, embarrassed as having shown weakness. "Hey, don't sweat it, The old man's gone so no biggy."

"It is a big deal Dylan. He left when you were very young. He left without warning and without coming back for you. He didn't even give you the courtesy of waiting until you could apologize to him, did he? He died when you were eighteen, right?"

"Yeah, right. Don't mean nuthin'."

"Yes, it does. To you it means everything. You were angry at him for leaving and for deserting you and your mother. You saw your brother as not caring one way or another or just couldn't understand why he wasn't more upset like you. Am I right?"

Dylan blinked away tears from his eyes and wiped his nose on his grimy sleeve. "You a psychologist now?"

"When I have to be."

"Yeah, I admit I was pissed when my old dad passed away. I wasn't finished being mad at him and then he got so sick and I couldn't do nothin' for him but watch him suffer and then h-he was gone,” he blubbered. “Why would God do that to me?"

"He didn't just do it, as you say, to you. He also took your father from your mother. Did you ever stop to see how that must have affected her? How did she deal with that tragic loss, the separation from the man," Jacob stopped, swallowed hard before continuing, that jealous pain twisting in his gut. "The man your mother loved with her whole heart?"

Dylan looked down at his filthy hands which he twisted in his lap. "No. I never thought...or considered mom. She seemed so strong."

"She was being strong for you and your brother. She had to be. If she let down and let lose, there would be no way she could have held it together. You and your brother are the reasons she went on. Didn't you ever once stop to think about your mother in all of this? Not once?"(What could have happened.)

Shamed to the core, Dylan closed his eyes and took deep breaths. He'd never thought of anyone but himself. Of getting high, loaded, looped and bailing out of society—that was his only goal, to forget it all by escaping into, as Jacob said, a bottle or a mess of pills. It was so easy and so available and his friends, hah, his friends, they had been so willing to give him pills, weed, hash, coke, meth and now where were they? Now that he was taking the wrap for drinking and driving and drugs and his mother would cry. He couldn't stand to see his mother cry. "I guess not."

"Well it's time you did."

"I don't know how to start doing anything good."

"You'll figure it out or you'll spend the rest of your miserable life in jail. It's in your hands now, Dylan. It's your time to become a man. I admit up front that this will not be easy and it may take many years for you to free yourself from this bondage you've put yourself under. But I know it will be worth it. You're mother needs you, Dylan. She needs you sober and she needs you alive. But that choice is up to you."

Dylan shuffled to his feet. He was still wearing the lousy shoes the cops handed him. He didn’t know where his were. They probably took them off his feet so he wouldn’t kill himself with his own shoelaces. "But I don't know how to change."

"You'll figure that out too. Come on. Let's get you cleaned up."

Dylan looked up at Jacob with hope in his eyes. "You're letting me come home?"

"Until you're cleaned up, then you'll have to decide which of the three options you're going to go with. Or you can choose door number four, but that’s up to you. And as of right now, you're mine."

***Copyright - - Property of Carol Anne Malone***

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My talk on Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day my brothers and sisters. There’s still time to go out and find your valentine and give them your heart. I’ve had particularly burdensome week this past week. Wednesday night, Brother Malone and I had to make a presentation to our Early American Lit class at Moorpark. I can’t tell you how nervous I was to stand before a class of confused, wary and extremely cynical young people to talk about one of our country’s founding fathers, the great, Benjamin Franklin.

I have to testify to you that it is a miracle for us as Latter-day Saints to have the light and knowledge of the gospel in our lives. In spite of the fallibilities of these men, God choose them to be on the earth at a critical time in our nation’s history.

It amazes me to watch the progression of history from Columbus to Franklin in regards to the desire and thirst of so many for religious freedom. They wanted to believe in God as they felt in their hearts rather than having an old, flawed religion forced on them. But the youth in our class see this as an opportunity to criticize and vilify the founding fathers and our nation.

Sometimes I just want to stand up in class and scream: get over yourselves already. The Lord directed these men and women to come and settle this country. There had to be a place and a social attitude of religious fervor for the gospel to be re-introduced to a starving world.

It’s hard to watch these bright, intelligent and searching souls in our class struggle with the limited knowledge they have of the Lord’s plan for America. They just don’t have the understanding or spiritual knowledge to recognize the Lord’s tender mercies to the people of early America.

As we look at the nation and the things that are happening all around us today, it’s not hard to become bitter and cynical. It takes a real concerted effort and timely practice to recognize the Lord’s blessings and mercies to us in our own lives.

That’s the thought I’d like you to keep in mind as I tell you how Brother Malone and I met. I want you to look into your own lives and search out those moments when you felt the Lord’s tender mercies and intimate blessings. If you’re like me, you may have to look hard, not because the blessings aren’t there, but because we don’t always recognize them for what they are.

I’d like to say that Brother Malone and I are probably one of the few married couples in the Stake that DIDN’T meet at BYU. Our lives were on very different paths before we met. It always amazes me that some many things had to click into place before Brother Malone, Tim and I found each other. It wasn’t a smooth road to true love. Believe me.

I was born in Logan, Utah in the LDS hospital that once resided across the street from the Logan Temple. I was born into a very, very long line of Mormon ancestors. I have ancestors who helped build up Nauvoo and European folks who walked the plains of this great nation in search of religious freedom to settle in Utah.

A couple of years later, Tim was born in sunny Covina, California to parents of a different faith and ideology.

His father came from humble farmers in Oklahoma who were unassuming and sincere Christians. His mother came from a long line of preachers of a different faith.

While I grew up in North Logan, I did the usual Mormon stuff: mid-week Primary and Junior Sunday School and attended sacrament meeting with my family. But so did everyone else in the entire community. Nobody was different. I lived a simple, uncomplicated and idyllic country life.

As Tim grew up in a big city setting, his family attended various churches with his mother in search of something that would satisfy her intellectual concepts of religion and her spiritual desire for the original gospel of Jesus Christ.

I grew up on a chicken ranch where my father raised and slaughtered chickensfor markets and restaurants all over the Western States. My mother kept my dad’s company’s books and raised me and my four older brothers.

Tim’s father was a former Navy cook and worked as a butcher in grocery stores in the city where they lived and his mother was a school teacher and raised Tim and his older brother and four older sisters.

We were both the babies of the family. Teased to the point of misery but spoiled rotten. Now that might not mean anything to you, but if you study family dynamics, that meant both of us were used to having someone else take care of us. This proved to be both a blessing and a curse in our relationship.

While I was being taught the gospel truths of my ancestors, Tim’s mother was being introduced to the gospel by the principal at her school. When Tim was five, his family joined the church and became members of the Covina First Ward. When he was six, his family went to the temple and was sealed together as an eternal family. This was one of the most magnificent blessings of Tim’s young life.

My joy on the other hand, was having parents who’d been taught as young people the joy of marrying in the temple before having a family. I was born under the covenant my parents made to each other. I reaped those marvelous blessings in my early years.

Through financial disaster and the bottom dropping out of the chicken business in Utah, my family lost everything and we were forced to leave Utah to seek employment in Southern California. At the time, I didn’t consider this much of a blessing. Only later when I could look back on the incident with opened eyes did I see the hand of the Lord directing my parents.

We moved a couple of times and finally settled in Covina and attended the Covina Second ward.
After becoming a member of the church, Tim grew up enjoying the blessing of his family’s new found church. He experienced Primary, Sunday School, scouting and attended sacrament with his family.

It’s always fascinates me that we lived in the same stake, probably attended the same youth activities and never knew each other. I was a good friend of his older sister when we began in the Young Adult program.

At that time, there were no young adult wards only those at BYU and other colleges. I was first introduced to the young adult program on a ward basis as a newly graduated senior. I loved it. My bishop called me to be the ward Rep for the program and I launched a personal campaign to search for the perfect man to marry.

At the same time, Tim finished up high school and headed off to Ricks College. (Now BYU Idaho.)

I have to qualify something about myself. I was a terribly shy, vulnerable young woman who had the unfortunate characteristic of wearing my heart on my sleeve and falling head over heels with any young man that even looked in my direction. And if they spoke to me, well, I was a goner.

Tim dated at Ricks. I only dreamed about dating—everyone I saw.

When Tim came back to Covina to plan for his mission, I was heavily into my education, institute, young adult activities and trapping a man. Partly because of Mormon folk lore, I felt if I reached the ripe old age of twenty one and wasn’t married, something was horribly wrong with me. How ridiculous.

Around this time, the young adults of our stake met as a group every other week for religious instruction. I had the blessing and fortune to be attending the college where Brother Gerald N. Lund, the author of the Work and the Glory series of books was my institute director. He also taught the bi-weekly young adult lessons. His gospel instruction was something I count as one of my greatest blessings from the Lord.

This was the first time I remember seeing and meeting Tim Malone. He came to one of those classes with his older sister. My first thought was, holy cow, how immature. What a nerd. (Sorry dear!)

Just a side comment here sisters. When you look around, take a second look at the younger guys. Don’t discount them because they seem immature and juvenile at the present time. (No offense guys.) They will eventually lose their immaturity and could prove quite fascinating. Don’t over look them as you search for the perfect companion. Besides, like I figured, you’ll need someone younger to take care of you in your old age.

Needless to say, my first impression of Tim wasn’t a good one. Thank the Lord we can change our minds.

Then out of pure luck or the Lord’s inspiration, Tim’s parents bought a home in my ward. Tim went on his mission and I finished college and went to work. Now that I was getting up in years I started to panic thinking I might never meet the man of my dreams.

When Tim returned from his mission to Central America,he started attending the same college I graduated from and began his career as a techno nerd. My best friend was now the Young Adult Ward Rep and Tim’s best friend was male rep.

We were thrown together in the same ward doing the same activities and attending the same meetings—but there was still no attraction, no recognition. Tim was flat out obsessed with my best friend. I thought, “she can have him!”

After I graduated from college and worked for a few years, my astute and wise bishop called all the un-married young women of my ward into his office and challenged us to go on a mission. My first thought was “good grief, I’ve just entered the un-married woman “flux vortex” and now my worst nightmares were confirmed. I would probably never marry. I didn’t have a lot of faith.

However, I was the only one out of ten young ladies that answered the bishop’s call and went and served a mission to Zion—NO, not Utah. I served in the Missouri Independence Mission. I walked on the same sacred ground where Adam walked and talked with Heavenly Father and the Savior. I stood where Joseph Smith had dedicated the temple ground and the holy spot where Christ will return to usher in the millennium.

I also stood in the place of Joseph’s greatest torment, suffering and instruction, the Liberty Jail, where he received revelation and blessings from the Lord and by so doing, blessed the lives of the early saints even though they suffered unspeakable hardships. It’s an experience I shall not ever forget and a blessing of immeasurable greatness.

What I didn’t recognize at that time, was the Lord’s hand in my life—his tender mercies in my behalf. That proved to be a very big mistake on my part.

Because my mission honed and refined my testimony of gospel truths and gave me insights into my character which helped me define what I really wanted out of life.

But being the character that I was, I fell just a little bit in love with every cute little elder I met.

In my last area, I fell a lot in love with a Lieutenant in the Air Force in Omaha and didn’t want to come home when I was released.

Tim moved from job to job while I was gone on my mission and when his parents retired and moved away to Utah, Tim bought their home. For an Elder’s quorum assignment, he had to write a letter of encouragement to me while I was still serving my mission. I still have that letter. Just one of those strange coincidences. Right?

When I returned home, Tim was still actively pursuing my best friend. However, she made the crucial error of inviting me to tag along with her and Tim on their date to Disneyland for Mormon night.

Her mistake.

Do they still have Mormon night at Disneyland? Anyway, Tim and I had a better time together on their date than she did. We had more in common—having both served missions.

What was very good about our budding relationship was the fact that we became the best of friends. There was no pressure to impress him like in a normal dating situation.

Since I wasn’t in a “serious” dating relationship with Tim, I was allowed to be myself and he liked me in spite of all my unhappiness, inadequacies, anxieties and my PMS; that’s Post-Mission Stress disorder. I’ll bet some of you have felt that!

Tim understood the pain of separation I was feeling at having to leave behind the people and companions I had worked so hard to love and serve. He knew what I needed to stay motivated to keep the covenants I’d made in the temple when I was a newly called missionary and then when I was a recently returned missionary I needed to hold strong.

He’d already passed through that rough phase of his life and learned a valuable lesson which he was able to pass on to me. Through his experiences, I was able to be comforted about being home and on the path to restarting my civilian life.

We spent many long hours together talking about the things we had in common, our love of the scriptures and of the gospel and we compared the similarities of our struggles in life. In my mind, we were forming a bond of mutual respect, admiration and…something much, much deeper.

Little by little I began to forget about my lieutenant in Omaha.

In my heart, I wanted to take our relationship further, but I’d had my heart broken in the past, so I didn’t think I could trust it to be honest about my feelings for Tim. Besides, he was still stuck on my best friend and doing his best to maneuver her towards a marriage proposal.

My best friend and I were the ultimate Dodger fans and when the opportunity to go to a Dodger game came up in the form of great seats to a game, for some strange reason I declined to invite her. Instead, I felt inspired to invite Tim.
It wasn’t a real date as I gave him his ticket before hand and he drove to the stadium from his job in North Hollywood and I drove to the stadium from my job in the City of Industry.

We just met there as friends.

But during the course of the game, Tim proudly announced that he finally gotten the nerve up to send my best friend a bouquet of red roses and a note declaring his undying love for her. I felt my heart being squeezed right out of my chest. It was an unexpected and crushing blow. Somewhere in the process of becoming his friend, I’d begun to love him.

As I sat half-hearted watching the Dodger lose, as they are want to do, I scribbled a little broken heart on my program. I didn’t think Tim would notice. Well, maybe I was hoping he would notice, but it’s hard to tell with guys. Sometimes subtle doesn’t always work.

But he did notice. And the following day after he went to a ward softball practice he dropped by to see me. It was one of those days ladies, when you throw on the grubbiest cloths you own to clean around the house. My hair was a mess, I was sweaty and hot and my face was streaked with dirt. After Tim’s declaration of the previous night, I was seriously considering my return to Omaha to pick up my relationship with the Lieutenant when Tim knocked on my door.

As we sat on my couch in my living room, it soon became apparent that the Lord had moved on Tim and he realized the error of his ways. Besides, my best friend turned him down flat.

During the night the Lord touched Tim’s heart and let him see that I was the best person for him and would make his life complete and keep him laughing. I, of course, already knew that.

The next day Tim asked me to marry him and within two months we were married in the Los Angeles Temple. We’re the only couple that can claim we never actually dated each other before getting married. My best friend hasn’t spoken to me since.The Lord has blessed our lives in numerous ways. Our greatest tender mercy from Him was given to us a year after we were married. We were blessed with a son, our only child, Mike. Which by the way, is the name of the Lieutenant in Omaha, but don’t tell Tim.

To say our married life was free of trials and joy all the time would be a lie. We had our share of problems, worries and frustrations. We moved an excessive number of times for employment. Our parenting skills were less than perfect and our son, Mike, who should be sitting here with you today, has chosen a different path in life. But that’s a talk for another time.

The road to true love, happiness and wedded bliss are not easily traveled. You have to trust in the Lord’s goodness and mercy when all seems at a standstill.

To say that there is only one guy or one girl out there that is your perfect “soul” mate is ludicrous.

The one thing that stuck in my mind about Brother Lund’s teachings to the young adults was when he told us there were an infinite number of people you could be content and happy with and with whom you could make a great marriage.But the two of you have to have your hearts centered in the gospel, make and keep the sacred covenants of a temple marriage and commit to and serve one another faithfully. Through my vast experience in life, I’ve learned that couples don’t actually “fall” out of love as many claim; you just stop serving your partner. As I learned on my mission, you will come to love the people you serve.

Take each Sunday and use it as a day of remembrance. Remember how merciful the Lord has been to you. Imagine your life without the blessings of the gospel. Evaluate your qualities as a potential marriage partner. Are there things you need to change? Are you spiritually prepared to take on the role of wife or husband, mother or father?

Remember, the Lord has promised you all that He has. It is my testimony that the Lord will bless you in this life tenfold if you seek His blessings and remember to give thanks for His help already received.

It is my prayer that we’ll all try a little harder to see the Lord’s sustaining hand in our lives and recognize His tender mercies even though they don’t appear as such at the time. This is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.