When I was very young, my parents planted a magnolia tree in our yard, in hopes of my having magnolias at my wedding. Plans for my future wedding also came up when I was 16 years old. Daddy arrived home from a church meeting with a rolled-up drawing of the soon-to-be Methodist church building. He unrolled the plans and pointed with pleasure to the chapel, saying, “Look, Neill, the new church will have a center aisle, instead of the side aisle of our church now, so at your wedding, I can walk you down the center of the sanctuary!” That anticipation held a particular poignancy since I was the only daughter in a family with six sons. I expected that trip down the church aisle and planned on it. Those expectations vanished like the dew of a Louisiana morning when I took an eternal step and entered the waters of baptism in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
About six months later, another eternal choice began to take shape in my life. David Marriott and I had several dates in early 1971. In March, he told me he thought he was falling in love with me. For me it wasn’t about “thinking”; I already knew I was in love with him. David’s essential goodness, his natural leadership in gospel living, his trustworthy manliness, and his happy nature just irresistibly drew me in—and besides, he was a good dancer!
I can remember the anxiety I felt as I listened to David call my father to ask permission to marry me and then say forthrightly, but sensitively, that we would be getting married in the Salt Lake Temple, and only members of the Church could enter the temple. My parents were surprised that they wouldn’t be allowed to attend the sealing. It was suddenly very clear to me what I was doing. Turning from the traditions of generations of my family was wrenching, but deep in my heart I knew the choice was right. I trusted this fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ even as my heart hurt for my parents and for myself.
And so it was that in June 1971 I flew from Louisiana to Salt Lake City to receive my temple endowment and be sealed to David.
As the plane flew high above the thick pine trees of my hometown, Alexandria, Louisiana, heading west to places I had never seen, a feeling of homelessness swept over me. I was unmoored! Before receiving my temple endowments I would be staying with David’s step-grandmother, who was known as Aunt Carol. Who was this person? Would I be comfortable with her? Here I was, a stranger to Utah, going to stay in a stranger’s house before being sealed for eternity to a family I barely knew. I focused on my love for David and the Lord’s true Church to steady my nerves.
David picked me up at the airport, and we drove to Aunt Carol’s home. As I approached her front door, I wanted to hide or run. The door opened. I stood there, rooted to the spot, and Aunt Carol, without a word, reached out and took me into her arms. She, who had no children of her own, knew—her nurturing heart knew—I needed a place to belong. Oh, the comfort and sweetness of that moment! My fear melted, and there came a sense of being settled in a spiritually safe place.
Love is making space in your life for someone else, as Aunt Carol did for me. Her mothering instinct prompted her to know that I needed comfort. Many in our lives need an accepting place where they can come away from an unfriendly world. We can be that “place.”
David and I experienced this need in a very personal way shortly before we were married. As it turned out, I had to hold constantly to my confidence that my place was indeed with David because with our wedding just days away, he was overwhelmed with a very real fear about eternal commitment. He knew he loved me, but fear replaced faith the night before our wedding day. We sat at a restaurant to “talk this out.” He said flatly, “I can’t do this.” Looking across at him, I saw indecision and fear on his drawn face. What to do? An amazing quiet settled around me. At that point, surely a steady stream of “marriage-anxiety” angels filled the small restaurant, all nodding and smiling at us, because I began to feel oddly confident and peaceful! My response was something like, “Well, I know we are supposed to get married, but I will go back to Louisiana with my family and give you time to rethink our marriage.” (I paused to reflect upon the fact that my family would then be confirmed in their suspicions that Mormons were strange in the extreme.)
His face stayed worried, and we didn’t say a word for the remainder of the dinner. Finally, with a big gulp of water, he thumped his glass down and said, “Oh, we’d better go ahead with it.” Humph, I thought, where’s the joy? But David was obviously battling his own demons, so I looked constantly to
Heavenly Father for that spiritual place of direction. To his credit, David won the war with his fears. Though somewhat frozen in his resolve for the next 24 hours, he made it to the altar, we were sealed, and in the power of that ordinance, he thawed immediately. The real David rose from that altar, the David I knew and loved.
With great support from the Spirit, and looking ahead, past present fears, I was able to give life to David’s hopes to get married despite his real anxiety. We women give life in a multitude of ways. This could mean giving emotional life to the hopeless or spiritual life to the doubter. With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can create an emotionally healing time or place for the discriminated against, the rejected, the fearful, and the stranger. In these tender yet powerful ways, we can build the kingdom and bring harmony into troubled relationships.