I Married a Pioneer


No, that’s not my wedding photo. That’s my great-grandparents. I wanted to marry a woman with a pioneer heritage like mine. But Bev was a convert from California.

I’m no dummy—or at least that’s what I thought. I knew that after a mission the next really important thing is marriage. That’s scary—so a year before I returned, I made a list of what I wanted in a wife.

Everyone knows that a couple with both partners completely committed to the gospel is more likely to be happy and stay married, so I planned to look for a girl with a solid foundation in the Church. I named the trait “unshakable gospel stability” and put it number one on my list. Smart, attractive, and talented were on the list too, but the cute stuff is easy. I wasn’t sure how to tell if a girl was unshakable.

Humility aside, I was quite sure of my own unshakability. After all, I’m a fourth-generation Mormon from Manti, Utah. My family is active, and I’m descended from pioneer stock, so I figured my gospel foundation was on bedrock. Generations of tradition are bound to help a person keep close to the Church. With that in mind, I decided the safest thing I could do was find a girl with a background just like mine.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think converts are great. They have enthusiasm—fire, I guess you’d call it. But as a missionary I had worked in little branches of the Church with impressive membership lists and only a few active members. I didn’t want to risk marrying someone with a flame that might go out.

After my mission, I enrolled at BYU and dated a bit. I wasn’t really looking to get married, but I kept my list in my pocket just in case. Then I met Beverly at my family home evening group. What a fireball! She was so excited to be at BYU that she could hardly contain herself. She was smart and cute, too, and so much fun that I volunteered to help her with her Book of Mormon homework.

“So,” I said casually, “where are you from?”

“California,” she replied, looking me straight in the eye. “And yes, I am a convert.”

I winced to hear those two “C” words in the same sentence.

“Have you been a member long?” I asked.

“Not long,” she admitted.

I made a mental note not to get emotionally involved until I was sure about her. But then she started questioning me.

“What callings have you had in the Church?” she wanted to know.

We compared notes. She had taught Primary, been a pianist, conducted the ward choir, directed a ward play, and been on the stake youth council. I had been LDSSA president—I was pretty proud of that because almost everyone in my high school was enrolled in released-time seminary. Bev didn’t seem impressed. There were only ten or fifteen students in her early-morning seminary class, and they took turns being president.

“I got up every morning at 5:30 to go to class,” she told me. I ducked my head and wondered if I would have done that.

By the time general conference came around we were seeing each other nearly every day. It was just as friends, you understand. I didn’t want to get serious. We went to church together every Sunday, but when she invited me to take her to the Tabernacle to see the prophet in person, I was a little reluctant.

“It’s awfully crowded,” I complained. “Why don’t we watch the sessions on television?”

“It’s a promise I made to myself,” she said in her determined way. “I may not be in Utah for very long, and I’m not going to miss seeing general conference in person.”

We went to conference. One thing led to another, and I invited her to drive to Manti to meet my mother.

The Manti Temple is a beautiful white limestone building that stands on a hill so you can see it from one end of the valley to the other. The pageant on the temple grounds is our summer youth program. Everyone has a chance to participate, and loudspeakers broadcast the sound all over town so that anyone who cares to listen soon has the script memorized.

I pointed out the temple as soon as we drove into the valley. Bev caught her breath when she saw it. “Oh,” she said, “it glows. I’d love to feel that influence every day.”

The Manti cemetery is beside the temple hill. I showed Bev the grave of my great-grandfather who helped build the temple.

“This is wonderful,” Bev said.

Bev won my mother over immediately. While they were chatting, I took out my list and read it again. I realized I was getting a little attached and began to panic. Was Beverly unshakable? I was going to have to decide.

“It must have been great to raise your family here where the Church is so strong,” I heard Bev tell my mother. “I wish my family were members.”

After dinner, Mom showed Beverly her collection of genealogy pictures. She stopped at the photo of her Grandmother Hansen and told her how Grandma’s family disowned her when she joined the Church in Denmark.

“We’re very proud of these pioneers,” Mom remarked. “They all made great sacrifices for the gospel.” Then she looked directly at me. “Each of them was a convert to the Church.”

“You know,” I said to Bev as we left town. “One of the things I really love about you is your enthusiasm for the gospel.”

“And I’m impressed with your family’s strong gospel traditions,” she replied. “You ought to be proud of your pioneer ancestors.”

“I am,” I said truthfully. But my thoughts were elsewhere. Unshakability doesn’t come from other people; it’s a personal choice. Being descended from pioneers is good, I decided. But wouldn’t it be great to be married to one?

[illustrations] Computer illustrations by Pat Gerber