After graduating from Brigham Young University several years ago, I was prompted by the Spirit to return to my hometown of Sanford, Maine, in the northeastern section of the United States. I felt reluctant to go. As a 27-year-old single woman, I knew that my most promising goals were marriage, further education, or a career in journalism. I was skeptical about finding any of those opportunities in Maine.
Despite my concerns, I headed back home with a feeling that the Lord wanted me there and with the hope that he would help me in my endeavors. Though the area was struggling economically, I was blessed to find a job as a reporter at a weekly newspaper.
I expressed my gratitude in prayer for finding a good job so quickly.
Even with my career under way, however, the goal of marriage continued to occupy my mind. As a lifelong member of the Church, I had learned the importance of eternal marriage all through my teenage dating years. I had always fully expected to have a temple marriage.
However, I had spent four years at Brigham Young University, where thousands of young Saints find their eternal mates, without being blessed with any marriage opportunities. As an African American at a predominantly Caucasian university, I did not find many dating partners who were seriously interested in marriage.
In Maine, my challenge was different: the area simply had very few Latter-day Saint men. I began dating a young man named James, a less-active member of the Church. When I learned that he still had a testimony of Jesus Christ and the gospel, I felt hope that he might come back to church. I prayed often that the Lord would help him do so.
As I began to fall in love with James, my prayers grew more desperate. He started to attend church regularly, but after a year he was still having challenges with the Word of Wisdom. He asked me several times to marry him, but I was hesitant to make a commitment under the circumstances. Nevertheless, I came to feel that James was the right person for me.
I eventually realized that I couldn’t keep putting off my decision indefinitely. Knowing that I did love James and believing that the Lord approved of our union, I consented to a civil marriage, with the intention that we would strive for a temple sealing later. My decision was bittersweet: I loved James, but I found it hard to accept that ours would be a lifelong marriage rather than an eternal one.
Still, I held fast to my decision. As I went to bed the night before the wedding, I began to feel uneasy and ill. I had heard of brides who get last-minute jitters, and I thought that might be happening to me. To my dismay, I discovered that instead of easing as the night progressed, the tension grew worse toward morning. Scenes flashed through my mind of what my future life might be like without a temple marriage. I could see myself in church alone or possibly not at all. I feared that one of us might die before we made it to the temple.
Thoroughly distraught and confused, I sought counsel from my bishop just hours before the wedding. As I talked with him and received a priesthood blessing, the Spirit bore witness to me that I shouldn’t go forward with my plans. To James’s great heartache and my own, I called off the wedding. Through my hurt, however, I felt a calming influence and an inner peace.
Crying and praying often, I spent the following days humbly reflecting on the situation and pondering what to do next. Instead of putting the Lord first in my decision making, I realized that I had put my desire for marriage first. Instead of having the faith to believe that the Lord would help me achieve the righteous goal of an eternal marriage, I had given up and convinced myself that a civil union was the best I could do in my circumstances.
I decided to put the Lord first in my life. As I prayed for forgiveness for my lack of faith and misguided sense of direction, I felt a burden lift, and a new sense of power began to grow within me. I knew that the Lord would carry me through my difficult situation. I was able to say, “Thy will be done,” even if it meant that I would not marry James.
I didn’t realize it at first, but James was going through a similar experience. He too made a decision to put the Lord first in his life. It was wonderful to see him take on a new glow as he became worthy in the eyes of the Lord. Shortly afterwards, he obtained the Melchizedek Priesthood and asked me to marry him in the Washington Temple.
Today, James and I are active members of the Sanford Ward in Maine. I am overwhelmed at the blessings the Lord has given me. I’m so grateful that he has greater insight than I do and knew that a temple marriage was a realistic expectation for me.