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.