It was February 14, Valentine’s Day, when I knelt across the altar in the Mesa Arizona Temple with my sister, Jennifer; my dad; and my mom. I was 15 years old and had been a member of the Church for just about a year. What had been only a goal a year ago was now a reality. We were about to be sealed as a family for time and eternity.
Twenty-one years before, my parents, who were not yet members, married in a Presbyterian ceremony. The minister said the marriage was “until death do you part,” but my parents thought marriage should last forever. They even started signing letters to each other, and later to Jen and me, “Love forever and three days.” It was their way of saying they hoped we’d always be together.
It wasn’t until my dad started having a lot of back problems that we met a member of the LDS Church. A therapist who helped my dad with back exercises began talking to my parents about the gospel. Slowly, they became interested and asked to meet the missionaries.
The first meeting we attended as investigators was a stake conference. Its theme was on strengthening the family. For my mom, who had been searching for ways to make our family closer, the conference was an answer to her prayers.
My prayers were answered too. After the missionaries invited us to be baptized, I began praying to know if the Church was true. As I read in John 14:26–27 about having the Holy Ghost and not being afraid, I knew that it was.
Into the waters
On February 11, 1996, my entire family was baptized. We had only been attending the ward for a few weeks, so we were shocked when dozens of people came to the baptism to show their support.
My family made a goal to be sealed as soon as we could. We began preparing to attend the temple, focusing on our relationships with each other and with the Savior. We’d always been a close family, and preparing for the temple made our family even closer. Our relationship became more spiritual as we read scriptures and prayed together.
On my own, I tried to read everything the prophets had written on going to the temple. I also followed my Young Women leader’s suggestion and began saying “thank you” prayers. Instead of asking Heavenly Father for all the things I wanted, I concentrated on simply thanking Him.
Into the temple
The day before we were to be sealed, we drove two hours from our home in Tucson to Mesa, where the temple is located. The next morning, Valentine’s Day, we awoke excited. This was the day. When we arrived at the temple, Jen and I walked around outside while my parents received their endowments. Arizona weather was perfect in February. It was as if all of the flowers had bloomed for us.
Finally it was time for Jen and me, dressed in white, to join our parents in the sealing room. I remember being struck by how bright and pure and beautiful everything looked in the temple. As we knelt across the altar, I glanced in the mirrors and saw images of our family extending endlessly. I felt the Spirit bear witness that our family would be together forever.
When we walked outside of the temple after the sealing, we were again surprised by the number of people who had come to support us.
It wasn’t until a few days after the ceremony that we realized we were sealed exactly a year and three days after our baptism. Suddenly my parents’ signature, “Love forever and three days” took on a whole new meaning. Their wish had come true—we were a forever family.
Turning Hearts to the Family
My middle name, Fawn, comes from my great-grandmother Fawn Treva DeFord. I knew little about her until a temple trip last November. As part of the Young Women celebration “Turning Hearts to the Family,” the youth in my ward found ancestors who needed their temple work done. I chose Fawn because she was my dad’s favorite grandmother. My dad was excited about my choice, and he began telling me stories about my great-grandma. He even found some of her artwork for me to see.
Besides researching family names, I also had to get ready spiritually to attend the temple. I tried to work on being a better person, and I repented when I made mistakes. I wrote in my journal often about my preparation. Finally November came, and I was ready. Since this was my first time doing baptisms for the dead, I was a little nervous. But as soon as I entered the temple I felt a warm, peaceful feeling. And as I was baptized for my great-grandma, I felt as if she were there, thanking me for giving her the blessings of the gospel.