Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hey Babe, How About It?

Sometimes I get nervous when I see an open door,
Close your eyes, clear your heart . . .
--The Killers, Human.

Last week at Kevin's uncle's funeral, Nicole, his beautiful and single sister, asked a circle of us about what she should do. The issue? She had met and come to know a man who is not part of our faith. I gave her a quick answer. Here is my longer, more considered one.

YES . . .

Because being 29 and capable of organizing large corporate events on any continent is brilliant. Because being 29, a college graduate, a returned missionary, a vivacious friend, and a faithful Saint is fine (not the “Fine!” your brother uses when things are NOT really fine, but truly fine, as in Nancy Griffiths’s, “Why not something truly fine.”). In any other place on this earth, except this small culture, you are more than a man could ever wish for.

Because you want to be loved by somebody whose natural movement is towards you. To be wanted and desired and longed for is delicious. To have his radar tuned to when you walk into the room is glorious. To have you be the one who quickens his pulse is thrilling. You shouldn’t have to persuade somebody to love you and want to be with you; it should be his instinctive response to your very nature. You can’t buy that. It can hardly be learned. And to think that you have been reduced in the past to trying to talk commitment-phobic, apparently “upstanding” but really very little men of our own faith into even considering what should be a thrilling prospect is disturbing. (Let them rot.)

Because you want to be loved by somebody who is thrilled by you, all of you. Somebody who will smile at your germ phobia and remember to bring hand sanitizer and dental floss when you forget; who will blithely order you dairy free salad with dressing on the side; who loves your nest of hair and your unshakeable notions of how things are supposed to be; who smiles, like your brother does, at whatever will be your equivalent of my 80 pairs of shoes. To him, you–phobias, hangups, foibles included–are his best; his a la carte; not what was left over at the back of the $5.95, all-you-can-eat marriage buffet.

Because when you find yourself (you who didn’t kiss until after your mission (if your stories are to be believed!)) kissing in the streets of Brussels, and it feels completely normal, you’re on your way to being “naked and not ashamed.” You’ll be able to make love, give birth, wipe up vomit, and give enemas in comfort.

Because the price of somebody who makes you laugh, who fills your thoughts, who makes you float, and who feels close when he is actually far away is far above rubies.

Because we don’t hold the copyrights to faith, prayer, loving children, loving God and his son, the capacity to change and repent, the desire to do good, the drive to love and lift, good cheer and good humor, patience, loyalty, tolerance and virtue. We just have easier access to learn how to do and become those things. The actual capacity to become, in the face and embrace of truth, is hardwired into every soul who ever draws breath on this earth.

Because there are no guarantees, no set ways of doing and becoming–only doors that open and choices to be made. Even 100 percent, married in the Salt Lake Temple in the largest sealing room by a General Authority complete with an initial as his first name is no guarantee. It’s not even a destination. It’s just a starting point. The generous God I know, who has missionaries (for the living) and temples (for the dead) as integral parts of his plan, obviously recognizes those various starting points, all of which will, if we choose, end up at the Coliseum (or the House of the Vestal Virgins, which is just to the right of the Coliseum, and so still qualifies as Rome).

Because at the heart of our doctrine is that all souls journey toward God, and that moving towards is the essential movement of this earth. For most of us, particularly those born in the Wasatch front, the ability to check the culturally appropriate boxes of baptism, mission, temple, marriage at the culturally appropriate times is mostly due to geography and birth. To say that one particular time table or sequence of journeying is the only way denies the basic principle that “all men and women are alike unto God. ” (This mind set makes those previously mentioned missionaries and temples seem like the participant ribbons handed out to make children feel better about not winning the blue.)

Because if you can get jettison the limiting idea in your head about how things are supposed to be and how you envisioned it would be, and actually experience what is, you will be able to see the hand of God.

Because the chance to love somebody and to be loved is a chance you should take. Sometimes the right explanation is the simplest. Perhaps meeting Meindert was not an elaborate test set up by a cynical God to see whether you would be able to resist temptation (in the form of sincere love) and hold fast to your principles and promises with the reward being that you would get to rove through the singles wards of Salt Lake trying to find a 30-ish-year old man without serious hang ups who actually likes women and would be able to settle on one in particular. (Sign me up now!) Instead, perhaps meeting him was simply the meeting of two souls, from different parts of the world, who fit. Now, what to do with that fittedness? One of my favorite songs right now suggests, “Close your eyes, Clear your heart, Cut the cord.” I second the motion.

(Title: The Killers, from Romeo and Juliet.)


  1. Dear Tessa,
    Thank you for this post, and for saying what needs to be said on this matter of marrying outside of our faith.

    I, too, am one of those women in the church who married out of our faith. My husband was a widower with 3 children when we were introduced. Despite having met and dated some exceptional LDS men, it wasn't until I met John that I knew clearly (mind/body/soul) that I had found a man I wanted to marry. In the 3 years since we've married, I've become even more certain that this was the right decision. I also have 3 stepchildren whom I dearly love.

    No, I didn't marry John in: 1. an "inactive time" of my life,or 2. because I'd "given up" (if you were to meet my incredibly fascinating, funny, handsome husband you'd laugh at the notion of him being any kind of a compromise on my part), or the hopes that he'd necessarily join the church any time soon. (Each of these scenarios has been suggested to me by well-meaning friends).
    Yes, I go to most church meetings and activities alone or with my daughter.
    Yes, it is hard sometimes to be alone in my spiritual life, but I worshipped alone for nearly 25 years of singleness, so it's not that much harder to do it now.
    Yes, I adore my husband and still experience DAILY moments of astonishment that the Lord saw fit to help us find eachother over a distance of 5,000 miles and several countries.
    Yes, I know that we'll be together forever, because of moments too sacred to share, and because John and I are both on a spiritual journey to the same destination--we just have a slightly different vocabulary and way of experiencing that journey at his time.

    I married a man. A man who stayed by his first wife's side until her last breath. A man who honored her wishes that he find a good woman who would love him and their children as much as she had, and still does. A man who respects and honors my religious worship--who told me how proud he was of me when I was recently set apart to work in the Denver Temple, and comes to all of my talks, helps clean the church on our assigned week, and who was beaming with joy and pride when our youngest decided to join the lDS church last summer. A man who fathers and loves his children with a tenderness and deep devotion born out of knowing how precious, and eternal, family relationships are. A man who asked me, in tears, if I would make sure to do Kim's temple work and his own, when the time comes. I married a man who has no ambivalence about me or about serious commitment. I married a man who understands, and then lives, truth. This fact alone assures me that he is a "great and noble" man. And finally, while he is not, yet, a member of my formalized faith, my faith in and understanding of God have been profoundly enlarged through my marriage to John.

    I sincerely wish Nicole the best in whatever her decision is, and hope you'll convey my thoughts in this note to her.

    (Apologies for the long comment--this post moved me deeply, and a brief "thanks for the great post" just didn't cut it this time for me).

  2. That's exactly it Jennifer. Exactly it. We try to circumscribe how God works and put in his place our so very limited notions of how things should be.

    I'm so glad you wrote this. I will tell Nicole. I don't know where she'll end up. That's not even the point. I just didn't want her to say no, before she even had a chance to figure out what the question is. And perhaps miss out on what could be the greatest adventure--love between a good man and a good woman.

  3. Hi Tessa--I read your essay on Meridian and was delighted to discover your blog. I took your Honors Intensive Writing class as a freshman; it was amazing. Life-changing. I still remember the Arthur Henry King honesty lecture (and I referred to it recently in a post at LDS Publisher, citing you in a footnote, though without a date or anything; I hope that was okay).

    I'm now an editor at Segullah: Writings by Latter-day Saint Women. In addition to the journal, we also run a daily blog, and have a small blog aggregator along with that. Could we include your blog in our sampler aggregator, or would you prefer to keep it more low-key?

    It's great to find your blog and read your wise, insightful writing again. Thank you.--Emily Bishop Milner

  4. Emily,

    Hi. I have to admit that I don't know what you mean by a blog aggregator. Can you help me out with an explanation for dummies.

  5. Sorry--it's not a big deal, really; we would just put your blog's feed into a program that shows on our sidebar whenever you've got a new post. If you go to Segullah's blog and scroll down, on the right hand column you'll see "Segullah Sampler of Blogs." Every time someone in our sampler feed writes a new post, the blog title and post title pop up there. If you click on the link at the bottom.

    Ours is pretty small; there are larger aggregators: Mormon Mommy Blogs is a much larger aggregator for Mormon Mommy Blogs; Mormon Archipelago is an aggregator for other LDS-themed blogs.

    Again, if you'd rather not, that's okay. But I'd love to have your blog in our sampler.

  6. Amen. And Amen.

    You might not remember me, I'm a friend of Nicole's, but I just want you to know that I really enjoy your writing. It's amazing. I wish I could put words together the way you do. And this, in particular, resonates so strongly, rings so true.

    Love. It.

  7. Shauntel,

    I felt strongly about it. It came in one long burst of writing (while I was sitting in a CLE session about Utah Appellate Court cases)pretty much intact. (When that happens I know I'm onto something). But I held onto it for a few days because I was a little afraid of posting it, and I had to think through the ideas to make sure they were sound. So I let it sit for awhile. Then took a deep breath and posted it, thinking only of Nicole and nobody else.


    Feel free to post whatever is posted on Segullah. I appreciate the support.

  8. if we can accept there is one light and that light is good then that which enlightens and uplifts is of the same source. light is no respector of persons and embraces all in the revelation of its will. as we seek to become as the light all i ask, is does it bring me closer or push me away from the source. i cant say it like my sister....but niki the older you get the more you wish for joy and peace for others and the process becomes less significant. you deserve all that being truly loved will give you. run to the light !!!

  9. Thanks, Tessa. The sampler feed is small, but I think there are some women who follow and would also love to discover this blog.

    This particular post made me open my eyes a little more... thank you.

  10. Why is it okay at 29 and not at 19? I have 2 single daughters: 35 and 33. Both have been proposed to by men they dated. Men outside of the Church see "something" they want as well in their lives. Both girls turned the proposals down - one more than once because as President Packer said marriage would be all the more sweeter if waited for to be done at the right time. Is there an age where the standards don't apply anymore? I wonder.

  11. I agree with MUCH of what you write here, and it was beautifully stated. I have also personally witnessed those who have married men outside of their faith because of the true love that they share. Sometimes it works out wonderfully, but we MUST admit that other times it doesn't. I know those who after 25 years are crying into their pillows that they do not have the power of the preisthood in their homes to give a blessing to their children, or teach them by example what a humble follower of Christ's church should do and be. These and many more little day to day things are INCREDIBLY valuable and should not go unnoticed. I personally believe that the exciting passionate kind of love that brings us together is not what KEEPS us together, but commitment and shared beliefs and values. This being said...I believe that it is different for each situation, and there is not a "one size fits all" answer for all wonderful 29 year old single women in love with a good man, but she should sincerely fast and pray to know the answer that is right for HER, which may not the right answer for someone else. Each has their own path, and God is the only one who knows her heart, and the path that lies before her. Thank you for this post, it really made me think.

  12. I discovered your blog after reading your article on Meridian. You are an excellent writer. I was delighted to read this post on marrying outside your faith. I married outside my faith - well, should I say my second marriage. My first marriage at 22 was in the Salt Lake Temple to a man who later chose to be with men instead of me. After years of being single again and dating "members". I met a man who held most of my same values, who wanted to get married, who loved me and didn't think that marriage should always be a "bed of roses" - he knew what it took to make a relationship work. We got married and now have one daughter. I can't say my life is perfect (whose is?), but he is perfect for me (I need to tell him that more). I have hopes that he will join the church in this life or the next. It isn't always easy, but it was my choice and I am willing to live with it. Thanks for your beautiful words and the courage to write them. They deeply moved me.

  13. This was a very thought provoking article about a sensitive subject. As the mother of a beautiful single daughter in her late 20's (returned missionary, college graduate, physically and spiritually beautiful) I've certainly felt the same frustrations with the LDS single adult male population that you so pointedly and accurately portrayed. So--what you had to say definitly hit a hot button and I immediately turned to my husband, read the article to him and said--what do you think about this? In his typically measured way, he said, let me think about it. In the meantime, I thought about it--thought about how difficult it would be to be married to someone I couldn't sit quietly in the celestial room with, pondering my blessings and struggles and then whispering together our thoughts and insights gleaned together in a session, seemingly meant especially for us. Thought about how difficult it would be not to know that I could turn to my eternal companion in the middle of the night when I was feeling especially overwhelmed for a blessing of comfort, or a blessing on the spur of the moment for our sick babies. I thought about all those little intimate moments of daily conversation about concepts, covenants, nuances of the gospel that could never be shared with someone who didn't understand and who chose not to share those beliefs. In good conscience I could never agree that the transitory physical comfort of a marriage for time would outweigh the spiritual void that would inevitably either build a wedge between us, or diminish my faith and dedication to all that I hold dear and true. Love grows and matures as we share all that we are, and as we become together what we are meant to be. I believe that is why the Lord has counselled us not to be 'unequally yoked'. True not every temple marriage will bear good fruit; sorrow, pain and disappointment are some of the things of life that give us opportunities to see where our real committments lie. As a mother, my heart aches for my daughters unfulfilled hearts desire, but it would ache even more to see her spiritual pain, as she came to realize the sacrifices she'll need to make in a 'for time only' relationship--with a companion that cannot soar spiritually as one. That I believe is worth every sacrifice, every sorrow, every disappointment in this brief existance we call our second estate. I trust the Prophets, and believe Elder McConkie, when he says, "The most important single thing that any Latter-day Saint ever does in this world is to marry the right person, in the right place, by the right authority." I believe it not as a platitude, but by my life experiences. I put my trust in the Prophets, in the Lord--not in the poets. Each has his agency to choose for himself, and I hope I will never seek to judge a different choice or path unrighteously, but I respectful must disagree with your counsel--even though much of your argument is quite persuasive and your observations accurate. Looking thru the keyhole, it has a very on-target ring to it, but after a little pondering on eternity, it seems risky at best. Agency is a gift that often requires some very difficult decisions, even sacrifices. To my own dear daughter I say NO, do not let the disappointments of this life steal from you the eternal blessings of a loving Father in Heaven--do not sell your birthrite for a mess of pottage, DO NOT!

  14. I know this post was written ages ago and Ricki you will likely never see this, but I thought I would briefly respond to your comments for anyone else who might stumble upon this in the future. As a female in her late twenties seriously contemplating a marriage outside the faith, I wonder if you really pondered eternity?? Based on your conclusion, I think that you may have missed two fundamental teachings of our gospel and that is of ETERNAL PROGRESSION, and an INFINITE ATONEMENT. What this means to me is that the Atonement never ceases to stop working... even after this life, nothing is ever too late. Choosing not to marry in the temple is only delaying exaltation, not denying it. At least this is how I choose to interpret these doctrines. If anything I think females who marry outside the faith are showing incredible faith and acting like Christ in amazing ways! Faith that the Lord understands our hearts and will work it out for us and our spouses. And Christ like characteristics in that they are not abandoning a man because he does not understand the gospel YET. Christ is patient, these women are patient. I am dying to drag the man in my life along as long as I have to till he "gets it" if in fact we have the truth. We have not decided to take that step yet. The sacrifice, sorrow, and disappointment in this brief existence you speak of also applies to being married outside the faith, "for how great shall be your joy if ye bring but one soul unto Christ". Maybe I am here preaching falsities but this is what I stand by because I believe a just AND merciful God. It doesn't mean it will be easy, but I hope it is worth it. I admire women who marry outside the faith because it takes courage and faith to go outside "the mold" to chart your own path and know that you Heavenly Father knows your heart and mind.

  15. Also, you made some very valid points here Rickie but you might have negated all the "good" you could have done with that "mess of pottage" comment. It might have been helpful to consider your audience...