Could I Wait for a Temple Marriage?


He might be my last opportunity for marriage. How could I refuse him and face an uncertain future?

“Are you marrying me or the temple?” Stan * queried. It’s one of those questions for which I don’t know the answer; I have never separated the two. He says he too wants the temple more than anything. But he wants to be married soon. He doesn’t understand when I say I want both.

That journal entry reflected my anguish as I tried to sort out my feelings for Stan. He and I lived in separate towns in Alaska and were planning to be married in the Seattle Temple. His question had emerged while we were firming our wedding arrangements. Although my own mother had married a nonmember, Dad had joined the Church shortly after the wedding and had served as a bishop most of my life. But their counsel, Church statistics, and my own friends had taught me that my parents were a fortunate exception, solidifying my decision to have a temple marriage.

As I pondered Stan’s question, I searched my soul for what had brought me to such a juncture. I had waited faithfully many years to meet someone like him. I had walked away from a couple of marriage offers at Brigham Young University, feeling they were not right for me; I had served a mission; and I had been a successful teacher. Now I was 31 and teaching high school in a “bush” village in Alaska.

In the spring I had made myself attend a singles conference in Anchorage. I recorded in my journal:

I have dreaded coming to this conference. It feels as if I am going to my first seminary conference in high school again—it’s been 17 years since I did that. All of my doubts and insecurities tell me this is a stupid thing to have to do at my age. Yet I go because of my need to still hope for someone somewhere, sometime. Perhaps now I just hope for a social experience—someone to dance with. (Whom have I danced with in recent years except obliging students when I have chaperoned high school dances?) …

[One day later.] A fellow I noticed last night came to the dance tonight. Finally he asked me to dance! He had found out about me: my name, where I was from, what I did, and that I’d been on a mission. His name is Stan—and he knows and loves my little village. I think his divorce was not that long ago. He has a pervasive good look. I would trust him. He might come and visit me!

When I returned to my village, I knew that because of the distance between our two homes, and because of his background, I needed to decide before he contacted me whether I wanted to get better acquainted with him. I wrote:

My morning began at 5:15. I jogged to the Outside Beach, then decided to walk the path back. I sat on a log and had a think—I knew I must make my decision concerning Stan. I decided I lose nothing (except a couple of weeks) by getting to know him.

A couple of hours after getting home, the phone rang. It was Stan. He wants to visit me here and wondered when a good time would be. We decided on next week.

This is the type of thing that I always dream about, but it never happens. Today it did!

So we began to get to know each other. He visited my village, and we talked on the telephone. We explored each other’s histories as we walked along beaches and roasted hot dogs. We were quite different in some ways; he was reserved around my friends and less social than I was, but he was a good person who wanted marriage and family and Church activity. I liked him despite our differences. I wrote:

He doesn’t like reading and art, two of my deep loves, and he feels writing is a waste of energy. This doesn’t bother me as it did in college. I have mellowed and become more accepting of differences.

Soon we decided to get married in the temple. In retrospect, I didn’t allow enough time to really get to know him or to make my decision, but it seemed sufficient then, even slow in comparison to his decisiveness.

When Stan asked me to marry him, I told him I’d have to think about it. He said he’d never met anyone who had to do as much thinking as I do. I’m always saying, “I don’t know,” or, “I’ll have to think about it.” But he asks questions that have never been questions for me before.

In my attempts to be decisive, I actually determined it was one of life’s choices that I must make for myself:

I’m so tired—it’s been hard to find moments to really think and pray. I couldn’t feel exactly a burning—there wasn’t time, and I was so tired and rushed. As I thought about it, all the pointers indicated “Stan.” I feel we could grow together. I guess this is a decision I must make. The answer must be yes! I feel calm—I think.

The weekend following our engagement, I flew to our “link” town. During our Friday night date, we were discussing marriage details. Now he wanted to be married civilly at his parents’ home and be sealed in the temple at a later date.

I can’t feel comfortable with that. My goal, my dream, has been to marry in the temple. He hasn’t been to the temple and is nervous about getting a recommend. I tell him they are needless worries, that he just needs to talk to his bishop and we’d work out the dates, etc., after he did that.

Last night he again pumped me on the question “Are you marrying me or the temple?” I tried to answer in kindness, but he tensed and I felt moody anger coming. He demanded that I tell him right then if I would marry him in or out of the temple. When I couldn’t answer immediately, he said I was afraid of commitment and that I was looking for “Mr. Perfect,” and that someday I must come off of my cloud and reach earth. He said he felt sorry for me when I did, for I wouldn’t be able to handle the world as it was.

I calmly told him that I was too confused to think, that I would give him an answer in the morning. He drove me back to my friends’ home where I was spending the night. It was about nine o’clock, and my friends were still out on a family outing. I just went to bed after a short prayer.

At dawn I awoke and crept into the living room, where I went over the situation in my mind. I believe that at that point I narrowed the dilemma to one question: Was I correct not to separate the temple and the man I wanted to marry? It seems odd that I was plagued with a question I’ve known the answer to all my life, but when emotions and self-doubt are blended together, clear principles easily become foggy.

In his anger last night he told me he didn’t know but he thought he couldn’t get a temple recommend right now. I started questioning his honesty—he had earlier told me he knew he could get a recommend. But I thought if I loved someone, I could wait until he was ready for the temple.

Such a decision without a temple near to go in and ponder and feel! I prayed and felt calm. My decision was that if he’d go to the temple for our marriage, yes; if not, no. And I knew my decision was correct. Everything seemed simple and clear—rather sad and not easy, but simple.

Refusing a marriage offer at 31 when one lives in a remote area is an act of faith. I needed strength to bear up, and I really needed my Heavenly Father’s help, so after my friend’s husband got up I asked him if he could perhaps give me a blessing. It was one of the most beautiful blessings I’ve ever received. I felt so weak; I wondered how Heavenly Father could be so positive. In the blessing I was told that Heavenly Father loved me. It gave me a deep calm and strength.

When Stan came today, it was tense between us. As soon as we were on the outskirts of town, I calmly stated that if he wanted to wait until he was ready to go to the temple, I felt our marriage would work; if he didn’t, it was off. He blew up at this again. I looked at him in silence and knew my life was crumbling—yet this was better. Better single than miserable.

He asked if this meant I wouldn’t see him next week. I thought not. He turned the car around and drove angrily back to my friends’. When I reached the front steps, the tears started coming—quiet, unstoppable tears.

It did take some time to heal. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about him. Stan soon became contrite and wanted to try again, claiming he was willing to wait for a temple marriage. I decided I shouldn’t continue the relationship with him, and again I felt calm and peaceful, with a glimmer of hope.

This experience proved to be pivotal in my acceptance of waiting. In the blessing I was given that Alaskan morning, I was told that I would soon meet the man I was to marry. In my mind I calmly thought, Yes, soon in the Lord’s time; don’t be so impatient. As similar thoughts went through my mind, the blessing continued that the Lord meant soon in my time, not His.

That day I thought that 10 years would be considered “soon” in my time. More than ever I mourned the additional limits these years would put on the size of my family. Six months later I was introduced to the man I would marry; however, we didn’t get married for another two and a half years. He has a deep appreciation for art and encourages my efforts to write. And I have been blessed to bear three precious daughters—including a set of twins!

My blessing also told me that one of the lessons I could learn from this experience was compassion for others. I have seen strong sisters marry out of the temple or out of the Church altogether. As I have glimpsed some of the pressures with which some of these sisters cope, I have wondered if my soul could have survived such a journey.

My blessing also talked about being faithful. I understood that Heavenly Father did not want me to settle for a marriage less than that for which I had hoped and prayed and prepared. This experience, the years before it, and the years after taught me to continue in faith.

When I was next able to attend the temple after my relationship with Stan ended, I was awed by how close I had come to making such a serious error. I wrote:

Thoughts of marriage and the future have been very hard today. Wanting marriage so much puts me in a terrible position. Loneliness can lead to error—I must be careful. But how do you fill such a hole?

It is not a hole that can be completely filled without marriage. But it is a hole that can grow another garden. For me, teaching high school, Church service, missionary and fellowshipping activities, writing, hiking, family history, friends, and family landscaped my life. It was a life nourished by beauty, though it was devoid of a temple marriage for a time.

I never again questioned or regretted my decision to marry only in the temple of the Lord. There were bleak, dateless months. Nonetheless, my decision brought me peace, and the Lord blessed me with opportunities to progress as a single woman.

When I did meet the man I would marry, I knew he loved me enough to ensure that our union would last throughout eternity. He too believed in the promises of the Lord. Now, when I look at him and our three beautiful daughters, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I chose to wait until I could marry in the temple.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Keith Larson

Loie Lott Benson serves as music director and is responsible for the Primary in the Stuart Island unit of the San Juan Branch, Mount Vernon Washington Stake.

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    Name has been changed.