Breaking Up


I couldn’t imagine loving anyone else. If I could just convert him, it would solve all my problems.

“Set a goal; then eliminate anything that stands in the way of achieving it.” I read the words on the poster and cringed. It was impossible to make it through class without looking at the clock—which meant looking at the poster right next to it, too. And I didn’t want to see that dumb poster.

I turned away from it to focus my thoughts on Dennis. We had been dating for a while, and I couldn’t imagine loving anyone else. The problem was that he wasn’t a member of the Church, and I had set a goal a long time ago to be married in the temple. According to the poster, I needed to eliminate Dennis! I pushed the thought of breaking up with him out of my head. Maybe I could convert him.

At lunch I decided to give it a try. I steered our conversation in a more serious direction, then gathered my courage and began sharing my beliefs, including temple marriage for eternity. Dennis liked the idea. I could feel the Spirit, so I bore my testimony.

Dennis was thoughtful. Finally he replied, “I know that if you know your church is true, then I will know it is true, too, someday.”

I was ecstatic! If Dennis joined the Church that would solve all my problems. I began by inviting him to church the next Sunday. He really wanted to come, but his family already had plans. He had equally good excuses for not coming the next two Sundays as well, and I understood.

As I lay in bed one night thinking about my situation, the words from that poster at school came into my head. “Set a goal; then eliminate anything that stands in the way of achieving it.” Converting Dennis was going to be a bigger challenge than I had thought. What if he never joined the Church? Or what if he joined but was not really converted? My only other choice was to break up with him. The thought turned my stomach cold. I didn’t have that kind of courage. It would be like breaking my leg.

My heart ached, knowing that keeping Dennis meant I would have to change my goal. I thought of my possible future—attending church alone; raising children with someone who didn’t live the Word of Wisdom; calling my home teachers, not my husband, when a priesthood blessing was needed. And what about eternity? Celestial marriage was a requirement to achieve exaltation with Heavenly Father; this was what I knew I had the potential to achieve. And I was going to give it all up for Dennis, because I didn’t have the courage to spend my earthly life without him?

I had to break up with Dennis.

I was shocked at myself for considering it. But then suddenly the sweetest, most reassuring peace filled me from head to toe. Heavenly Father was speaking to me through the Holy Ghost. Tears came to my eyes. I had to break up with Dennis, and I could do it. Heavenly Father would give me the courage.

The next day during lunch my heart began to pound. I’ll do it tomorrow, I told myself. I could feel my cheeks getting hot.

“What’s wrong?” Dennis asked.

I took a deep breath then blurted, “I have to break up with you!”

Dennis froze. He looked shocked.

“I can’t marry you. I have to break up—now.”

Tears came quickly to his eyes. “But I want you to teach me about your church,” he said.

I swallowed my own tears. “I want to teach you too, but I want to teach you when I know you will join because you know it is true and not because of me.”

I said a silent prayer that he would understand. After a moment of agonizing silence, he asked, “Will you date me again if I join your church someday?”

“Of course!” I nearly sprang out of my chair with joy.

“Promise you won’t forget to teach me,” he said.

I promised.

For weeks my heart throbbed in pain. Every time I saw Dennis I prayed for the strength not to change my mind. We both survived, and our lives took different directions. I never dated a nonmember again, for fear of having to repeat such a painful experience.

Several years later, on summer break from college, I saw Dennis and remembered my promise. Even though I didn’t feel the same way about him anymore and had no intention of ever marrying him, a promise was a promise. I called him up that night and invited him to church. I wasn’t really surprised to hear that he still wasn’t interested.

As I hung up the phone, how grateful I was to my Heavenly Father for giving me the help and the strength I needed to get myself back on the path where I belonged. And how thankful I was for that poster in my class that pointed me in the right direction. Maybe that poster wasn’t so dumb after all.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Snow