Ardeth Kapp: Tried and True Marriage Advice
Former Young Women General President Ardeth Kapp and her husband Heber went through a lot during their 67 years of marriage before Heber passed away in May 2017. They worked together as president and matron of the Cardston Alberta Temple, were mission leaders of the Canada Vancouver Mission, and dedicated their lives to serving God in every calling in between. The Kapps also faced plenty of ups and downs in their marriage as they struggled with infertility and were never able to have children. In this episode, we speak with Ardeth about true partnership in marriage and learn from her example of how to choose faith and grace through thick and thin.
We need to be able to reinforce that statement of love and not just assume, ‘We’re getting along okay, we don’t have to repeat it.’ Yes we do have to repeat it!
Morgan's article about Sister Kapp:
Find Sister Kapp’s books here: https://deseretbook.com/t/author/ardeth-g-kapp?ref=product-producer-list
2:36- Dreaming of Ironing Clothes and Learning to be Obedient
6:10- "What Did We Learn from It?"
7:44- Infertility and Unforeseen Opportunities
12:24- How Does He See It?
13:30- Three Pieces of Advice
17:31- Treasured Letters
22:41- Giving Space and Letting Spouse Fly
25:46- Observing Qualities in Other Marriages
28:58- Never Alone
32:36- What Does It Mean to Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:00
On Saturday, I will get married, and I wanted to share at least a part of this experience with you. One of my favorite things about this season of life has been getting advice from people hearing their perspectives and experiences with marriage. And I began thinking, "If I could ask anyone for advice, who would it be?" I immediately thought of Ardeth Kapp.
I met Sister Kapp a couple of years ago when I wrote an article about her for LDS Living and since then she has been a dear friend. At 90 years old, she represents so many of the things I would like to be so I hope you'll sit with us for the next little bit. You'll notice you can occasionally hear the wind chimes in Sister Kapp's backyard. So just pretend that you're sitting with us at her kitchen table, the sunlight coming through the window, and we will enjoy Sister Kapp's wisdom together.
Ardeth G. Kapp served as General President of the Young Women organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1984 to 1992. She served with her husband, Heber B. Kapp, as he presided over the Canada Vancouver Mission. She also served as matron of the Cardston Alberta Temple. She has been a member of the Church curriculum planning committee and the boards of the Church Educational System, Deseret Book Company and the Deseret News publishing company.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question: what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones. And I could not be more excited to introduce you to one of my favorite people on the planet, Ardeth Kapp. Ardeth, thank you so much for letting us come over and be with you today.
Ardeth Kapp 1:46
It's a privilege for me. Thank you.
Morgan Jones 1:49
Well I asked Ardeth if we could make this kind of a special episode because in the past, when I've come to her house, she has shared with me some sweet memories and marriage advice that she has had for me, personally. And I am getting married. The week that this episode will air will be the week that I'm getting married. And so in celebration of that, and also just to be able to glean wisdom from somebody that has so much to offer, we are going to do this special episode all about marriage with Ardeth. So, Ardeth, thank you so much for being willing to go along with my crazy idea.
Ardeth Kapp 2:29
I love you. I love your crazy ideas. And I would respond to anything you ask.
Morgan Jones 2:34
You're so sweet. Well, first of all, before we get too far into this, I want you to share with people how you first met Heber because this is such a great story. And I've heard it before, but I want other people to hear it.
Ardeth Kapp 2:46
I love to share it over and over again. Let me just say that it was not by chance. It was one of those things that you don't recognize the significance of it until later. But let me just tell you that I was 16 years old, I lived in a little town of about 250 people about 20 miles from the Cardston temple. And for the first time ever, three provinces were putting the missionaries together. British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan were coming to the Cardston Alberta Temple. The missionaries were coming and we were also excited about it, it was historic in nature. But they needed a place where the missionaries could stay overnight.
My dad was the bishop. And of course he was eager and he said, "We're going to have some missionaries come to our home." And he says, "But you need to be here, Ardy. You need to be here." Because my mom was in the hospital. It wasn't really serious, but she wasn't there. And he said, "You will need to fix supper for the missionaries." And I thought, "Those old men?" I mean, we only knew missionaries that were old because the younger ones were in the military. And I said, "Dad, do I have to do that?" And he said, "Well, you decide. But I've learned to trust you. And I've learned that you've learned to be obedient." And then I learned when obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, at that moment God endows us with blessings. So that was a tender time because I said, "Okay, Dad, I'll stay home from the dance at Cardston and fix supper for these old men." And my brother went into town to get these dear old men.
I was fixing tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Our town was famous for its cheese factory. And so the car drove up. And these elders got out. They weren't all old men. They were young. Most of the boys in my town were relatives. These were young boys that were not relatives. And I'm 16. Well, enough of that. But I just was so impressed with the spirit that they carried.
One in particular was very impressive because he had eye contact with everybody that was speaking. And he was more concerned about what others were doing than what he was doing. Even though he helped me do the dishes. But it was just so special and they stayed one night. And I knew he was stationed in Red Deer, as the young missionary. And when he left, I went into the bedroom where he slept. And there were the laundry labels from his shirt, Red Deer Laundry. Oh, my word, I grabbed those laundry labels, took them out, and I still got them. And I put them in my journal. And I just wrote in there, "Some day, I'll just pray that I'll get to iron your shirts."
Morgan Jones 6:34
And it worked out.
Ardeth Kapp 6:35
I have to confess, years later, I started to sending them in to the laundry. When I look back, that principle has been repeated many times when I felt like, "Oh, do I have to do this?" And then I look back and think, "I'm so glad I did."
Morgan Jones 6:51
Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree.
So you said that there were certain things that impressed you about Heber right off the bat: he made eye contact, he seemed more concerned about others than himself. Over time, as you got to know him more and more, what would you say, in the end, would you say are the things that you love most about Heber?
Ardeth Kapp 7:18
I loved the consistency in his trusting people. I loved his humor. Everybody liked his humor, because he could handle serious things in a positive way and still maintain a sense of his responsibility. But concern for the other person, really. So many people say to me, "Oh, I just love Heber. I love your sense of humor." And he always had a plan. He'd plan with a purpose. What is it? Instead of saying, "What should we do?" Even if it was going to a party or a trip. Not what should we do, but what do we want to have happen? And then when we'd have that experience, and we'd come home and kind of process it, we'd say, "So did what we want to have happen happen?" I say, "Well, partly. "What about part that didn't happen?" He says, "Oh, what did we learn from it?" So it's never missed opportunity, when we realize that we're not going to do it correctly all the time.
Morgan Jones 8:31
Yeah. Well, the two of you have had some pretty incredible opportunities. You've had some challenges together. I think that that's an important thing to note, I think, you know, serving together as temple presidents and mission presidents, right? And then your service as Young Women General President, and then you had the challenge of not being able to have children. How did those things play into the marriage that you feel like you and Heber shared?
Ardeth Kapp 9:01
I look back on it and realize that the some of the things that were the hardest for us, were the things that brought us together. And so in that sense, let me just say that it was a hard time. My younger sister, who during an extended period of time, had 11 children. And she would always call with excitement. And I would think, "Why can't we have the answer to our earnest prayers? What are we not doing?" And so the thing that makes it hard. And I'm being very personal about this, but good people and dear friends would say, "Don't be selfish, you could adopt. You could learn to love children." And I thought, "Learn to love them? We both went into education so we could be with children." And the neighbor kids always said, "When your husband comes home, can he fix my bike?" I mean, we love children. So what do you do? How do you decide what to do and what not to do?
And I remember talking to my dad because I loved him. He was such a perfect father. And I'd say, "Dad, what do I do? How do I decide for sure?" And he says, "Your husband is living the way he should. And if he has some strong feelings about it, follow your husband, not your dad at this point." And I thought, "That's the preisthood line." And I felt so at peace about it. And he would say, "We'll keep asking. But when the time is right, we'll know." And I remember one time thinking, "But how will we know?"
I was teaching at BYU, and I was driving back and forth and had some friends in my home. It was a conference time. And every time I'd come back, around the point of the mountain, I would have this feeling that I was going to be asked to do something really hard again. I'd been a counselor in the Young Women's presidency before, but I thought, "Well, what would it be? I mean, Heber's stake president, he needs my time and so forth." But it just kept saying, "No, there's something left undone that you need to do." And I just was so concerned. And the Friday before general conference, I got this phone call. And it said, "Could you and your husband come in, meet with President Hinckley?" And I just felt relieved. I didn't know what he was gonna ask. If he was gonna ask Heber to do something or me. But I thought, "If I'd had that strong feeling, and nothing happened, how would I know how to trust that feeling in the future?" So I just said, "Okay."
So we went in, it was a very significant time, and I was called to be the General Young Women president. And one of the priesthood leaders confided to me and said, "There were some who did not approve of your calling because you wouldn't be a good role model as a woman, married and no children." And he said, "But others said you would be." And so I thought, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding."
And so we kept continuing on and we were both very, very busy for so many things to do in the Church. And then, when I was actually called and set apart, the Prophet said, "You will raise your children during the Millennium when Satan is bound." And I just remember thinking, "Oh, if I'd have just known that 30 years, sooner, it would have been so much easier." But I needed to be tried and tested. And it continues.
Morgan Jones 12:49
Right? I think that's the way that it goes with everything, right? If we knew what we know now, we wouldn't have made mistakes that we made in the past or have struggled in different ways. But because of those things, we are different people. We become changed and I think part of that is the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Ardeth, let me ask you this. What would you say, as we get kind of into advice, what would you say you wish you had done differently in marriage?
Ardeth Kapp 13:24
You know, looking back, I think I would have treasured the frustrating times instead of being so upset with them because during those frustrating times are the times that we could either go, "You go your way, and I'll go mine." Or we could say, "Okay, we're in this together. It's not who's right, it's what's right and there can be two rights."
But when you're having a conflict on something that seems really important, and he sees it one way, and you see it another, you say, "How does he see it?" And then you pray earnestly, and sometimes you'll get a prompt in that would be not no more than just a quiet feeling in your heart. Maybe not an answer. Just trust in the Lord. It'll turn out.
Morgan Jones 14:18
Well, I wondered if you would be willing to share what you would consider to be the top three pieces of marriage advice that you would give someone?
Ardeth Kapp 14:28
Yes, I really would. The three most important pieces of information. The thought but just is so part of my conviction and witness is that, if we can keep an eternal perspective, because if we're dealing with what the problem is right now, we don't have access to draw from other information that's available. Our mind isn't ready to hear it. So I just say, "Keep an eternal perspective." And when I think about keep an eternal perspective, that, of course, became very significant to me when I was told that we'd raise our children during the Millennium when Satan was bound.
But growing up to that period, it was a hard, a hard challenge because we were doing what we thought was right. And he was getting these calls, and I was getting these calls. And yet, our most earnest prayers were not being answered. And good people were so anxious to comfort you and say, "You know, you could do this. You could adopt or you could, whatever." And you have to say, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart." And I think the first thing was to keep an eternal perspective. The second thing, I think, was to have a plan. Just have a plan so that you can tie back to that.
Morgan Jones 15:59
So we got keep an eternal perspective, we've got plan and then what is number three?
Ardeth Kapp 16:03
Number three is that neither of you are perfect. You can learn a lot from each other and a covenant relationship with the Lord. We think the two of us can make it together. But that relationship, there's a third party that would be willing to be a part of it. And so you consider that in a covenant relationship with the Lord, the third party is available to you when you call home. And we would call home privately, together. Sometimes, with tears of joy, sometimes with tears of sadness, call home. We were to speak to this group at BYU. And so I thought, "The first thing I would talk about relationships, the sacred triangle, and then I start quoting Tevye in the musical "Fiddler on the Roof."
Tevye longed to learn to know something that he hadn't been told for a long time. So he asked his wife, "Golde," he asks, "Do you love me?" Somewhat surprised, she responds, "Do I what?" Tevye repeats, "Do you love me?" She answers, "You're a fool." He continues, "I know. But do you love me?" She responds, "I'm your wife." Again, Tevye says, "I know. But do you love me?" Golde then lists all the things she does for him, as if that were statement enough. Yet to Tevye, needing to secure the relationship, puts the words in her mouth, "Then you love me." Almost as though by discovery, she responds, "I suppose I do." Tevye then risks expressing his feelings and says, "And I suppose I love you too." Together, they sing, "It doesn't change a thing. And even so, after 25 years, it's nice to know." And I can say after 70 years, it's still nice to know. And we need to be able to reinforce that statement of love and not just assume that. Well, we're getting along. Okay. We don't have to repeat that. Yes, we do have to repeat it.
Morgan Jones 18:15
I think that's very wise.
Ardeth Kapp 18:17
Morgan Jones 18:19
Ardeth, I wondered. So you have shared with me before that you have this box of letters that you and Heber wrote to one another over 50 years, right?
Ardeth Kapp 18:29
Morgan Jones 18:29
So I wondered if you could tell us a little bit about that. For those that will not have the opportunity like Derek and I to be so lucky to sit in your home today. But if you could tell us a little bit about your love letters box?
Ardeth Kapp 18:44
I'd be happy to. It's really precious and becomes more precious all the time. Some are just handwritten, some of them are typed. Some are funny, some are sad. But we had a copy of this from a magazine somewhere and it's called, "We had the love, but I long for the letters." And so this brother here, this man, but he lost his wife. And of course he still loved her. And he had in his heart, but there's nothing that he could open like a letter. He says, "The thought brings me back to my original realization that no matter how close my wife and I were to each other, no matter how much we loved each other, how much I miss the heartwarming memories." And then he says, "How I wish I had her words on paper." And I can just tell you that still now, I'll open letter and read it. And it's just like, "Oh, my goodness, I'm kind of hearing it for the first time."
So let me just share with you one of those.
Morgan Jones 20:13
Ardeth Kapp 20:14
Can I do that?
Morgan Jones 20:14
Ardeth Kapp 20:15
I could share with you all of them. But it reveals a challenge. It's not always smooth sailing. So he says:
"Ardy, darling, I love you more by far than your mortal mind or heart will ever know or have the capacity to believe.
"I'm sorry to have upset you when I've made suggestions which I hoped might strengthen our interactions together, twice. Now, you've described those overtones to be, 'You've just undercut me and destroyed some of my self-confidence.' For that happening, I apologize most completely and wholeheartedly. I promise to try to not let that ever happen again. Surely with thousands of loyal admirers and supporters, and most importantly, your Heavenly Father, you won't allow yourself to fall into what Satan whispers in your mind to be allowed to stay there. You are a daughter of your Heavenly Father. He loves you and you love Him. That must outweigh everything else.
"I have such a strong desire that we'd be able to develop a synergistic working together, that my anxiousness has overpowered my patience. I know I should not be so impatient that I pull up the planet to count the roots, to seek for number of root hairs, thinking that would stimulate growth. I do understand how dumb that is. Thanks for putting up with me.
"I plead for your continued patience with me. I asked you to use the firm, be patient. And I'll try to remember. I'm grateful for your graciousness, your beauty in spirit and physical beauty. You know, I just said how grateful I am that I didn't marry an ugly wife. However, if the effects of growing old ever should take any glint from the blossom of your beauty, trust that that beauty will be in the eye of the beholder. And I will always see beautiful in the spirit and physical. Will you still let me try again?"
And he was in the Navy. And we had a tradition wherever he'd write a letter he always put at the end, "All sense of love with a kiss on every wave." So on this one he said, "All sense of love with a kiss on every wave." And then he says, "My love."
Morgan Jones 22:25
Ardeth, how long had you been married when he wrote that letter? I think that's important.
Ardeth Kapp 22:31
Okay. We were married in 1950. Okay, this was in 2002.
Morgan Jones 22:38
So you've been married for a very long time. And I love that despite having been married for so long, he says, "Will you let me try again?"
Ardeth Kapp 22:47
Yes, the letters, you know, I can go to most of these. And recall with you what the situation was at that time,
Morgan Jones 22:56
Right? My grandma, when my grandpa passed away, I came over to her house one day, and she had a stack of letters. And she, you know, was missing my grandpa. And so she had gotten these letters out and was rereading them. And I think that to your point about the man in the magazine article, like, I think that's something that may be lost in our generation, because we just text or talk and we don't write down how we're feeling. And so I think that that is something that that would make a difference, especially when somebody that you love has passed away to be able to hang on to those letters and feel like you get a little taste that they're still with you.
Ardeth Kapp 23:38
Really, it just a brings a feeling of calm peace.
Morgan Jones 23:42
I love it.
Ardy, one thing that that I have always loved is Sister Hinckley talking about President Hinckley said this, she said, "From the very beginning, he gave me space and let me fly." If people come into your home, they'll see that you and Heber had separate desks, you said, "You can share everything except your desk." So you have these two very, very large, nice desks that you two have had separately. And I think that that's kind of a physical space thing of giving somebody space and letting them fly. But how would you say that Heber gave you wings? And why is that important?
Ardeth Kapp 24:26
Well, he was always, he's always encouraging me. And if I had a big responsibility for a talk or something that I was just worried about, he always had a word of encouragement. But it was always so fun. He was never really—I shouldn't say was never really serious because sometimes he was very serious. But if I needed a lift, he would say, "Well, don't worry about it. But if things don't go well, be sure to use your maiden name." He always has an answer.
Well, this is a letter that he wrote and he says:
"When President Kimball suggested that it is good for every dog to have a few fleas, you know that I have supplied the itches to keep you scratching. My love for you is so filled with adoration, the deepest love. I'm thrilled that it has been my privilege to pull with you on your handcart. What a journey it has been. I will always thrill whenever I'm introduced as Sister Kapp's husband."
And here he is a region representative. I mean, it's not titles that are important, right? So anyway, when I would be away for longer than a week, Heber would write these letters and bind them up together and send them with me. And I could just read them. And they were related to encouraging me when he knew and I would need to be encouraged. And they were just personalized.
But here's one that wasn't his writing. He says: "I really love you, you are really something. You're so awesome." He didn't have time to write a detailed letter. He just did that for me. So it was just just a fun thing.
Oh, and then one other thing. It was a table just like this. And when I was ready to leave, about the day, before I'd go, he gave me a big bouquet of red roses or whatever, beautiful flowers with a note. And it was so special. And then I'd be gone. I remember one time three weeks, and I came home. And there was the tower of flowers right there on the table. And they were just wilted. They were just dead. Three weeks. And a note on it says, "This is what it's like when you're not here." So we threw out the faded, the wilted flowers, and he got a new boquet.
Morgan Jones 26:48
Ardeth, I wondered. So we've talked about things that that mattered in your marriage. I wonder what you've observed in other people, as you've traveled around the world, and you've been on trips with other Church leaders? What have you observed in terms of what makes a successful marriage?
Ardeth Kapp 27:08
Well, I've observed that I think in most cases, it appears that the husband is respectful of the wife and the wife is respectful of the husband. But when I see a husband actually valuing what his wife might have to say, or do, or example, and use her as an example, I think, "Wow, you see in her who she really is." And sometimes we're too hesitant to express our love for somebody close to us as though we're self serving. But you know, when I see where I go, quite often, my brother in law, we have this fancy, wonderful dinner, and then the guests stay around the table, and he gets up and clears up everything. Clears the dishes does everything. You don't have a specific role. You do what needs to be done to help each other.
And I love seeing how many times we see the wives of the general authorities speaking and sharing and it invites us into their relationship in ways that, "Wow, he sees in her things that are valuable to share with others." It's not just you and I, it's we've learned some things and let me share with you how it works for us.
So, you know, in today's world, even to see a man at the grocery store, go round and open the door, car door for his wife, I think, "Wow. She's got him well trained." But I think he was trained probably by his mother. I have the privilege and opportunity of knowing some of the general authorities in kind of a close way. Jeff Holland was on the high council when Heber was stake president, lived at our ward. Pat Holland was my counselor when I was first Young Women's president. I've watched Jeff and Pat. And I say that with reverence. When I write to them now I still say, "Elder and Sister Holland." But in my heart, I see the perfect example of those who are going through hard times, challenging times, tests in times of the highest level, and yet radiate a countenance of spirituality and conviction, even in hard things that just allow you to drink from their example and feel like, "I'm not like they are. But I'm like I am. And I can strive to be like they are."
Morgan Jones 29:59
Beautiful, Sister Kapp. And people probably have noticed that I go from saying Ardeth to Ardy to Sister Kapp. Ardeth likes to be called Ardy.
Ardeth Kapp 30:09
Morgan Jones 30:11
I need to clarify that they don't think I'm being disrespectful. How would you say that your marriage enriched your life, or continues to enrich your life?
Ardeth Kapp 30:23
It gives me an eternal perspective. Whatever the crisis is for today, for whatever it is, I'm not alone. And even now that he was already graduated, I never feel like I'm alone. And I think the whole basis, the very foundation of this whole beautiful reality comes because of our covenants that were made in the temple. And I have to take you into my bedroom before you leave and show you at the end of my bed, where I kneel down to say my prayers. Right through my bedroom window, just perfectly, absolutely perfectly framed, is the beautiful temple. And at night, that bright light is so bright, and I can kneel and look at the temple. I remember the covenants that are made, and just have a reason to rejoice. I do get a little excited sometimes thinking, "How much longer do I have to wait?" But I don't feel alone.
Morgan Jones 31:32
Ardeth, if I remember correctly, there used to be some trees that blocked your view of the Bountiful temple and then a storm came and blew them over. Right?
Ardeth Kapp 31:41
Yes. I'm glad. Can I share that with you?
Morgan Jones 31:44
Ardeth Kapp 31:45
Well, Haber was a builder and he built several homes. But the home that we're in now is a beautiful home. But the beautiful temple was covered with a huge tree. I mean, it was close enough that we couldn't even see it, you could see a little of the light. But that was all. And I just remember thinking, and this was when Heber was still around. And I thought, "Heber, couldn't we hire somebody to move that tree? Couldn't we pay them to let us move it? I'd pay any price." And he'd say, "You don't pay a price to take somebody's special possessions." And I thought, "Oh, my word, okay." And I keep looking at it thinking, "I wish, I wish I wish." About two years ago, we had this 90-mile-an-hour wind came by, it just swept that tree right away. And I didn't see that other trees were gone. But that one was gone. And everybody just were amazed and said, "Did he ever arrange for that to be taken care of?" I said, "Well, I don't know if he did. But if he did, I'm sure he had permission." And so everybody still teases me about saying, "Do you thank Heber for having that tree taken away?" And I think, you know, I can give him credit for that. But there were a lot of things that I can give him credit for that were more even more significant than the tree.
Morgan Jones 33:24
Well, I love that when you say your prayers, you can look up at the temple and you think about the temple and you think about Heber. And Heavenly Father very much cares about us and the people that we love care about us even after they've gone to the other side.
Ardeth, my last question for you is what does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Ardeth Kapp 33:48
That is the question that really, I try to ask myself every day so that your motivation, your priorities, you hunger and thirst to know what you should be doing or could be doing that would make you even more qualified for the blessings that are promised. I think I can, I will be all in when I can say what Heber said when he was ready to go. And he said, "I'm excited about leaving mortality. It is time to go and I want to start my work on the other side. I've had a rich and wonderful life. And I have I have no regrets because I've done what I came to do." And so I feel the same way. I really do. I hope I can keep being a example or being a help to somebody, but I feel like I'm ready to cross the bar.
And so because he has such a fun sense of humor. I thought I should share this with you. I think we were reverent and respectful and humbled as we've reflected on the beauties of life. But we also had time to laugh and have fun. And so as we were nearing the end of time, we went up to the Old Faithful Geyser and he took this picture of Old Faithful, and we wrote on his card, we're old and we're faithful. We spout off regularly. So that, I don't know if he's still spouting off. I don't think he is. But I'm trying to do whatever it is I need to do so that I can be there with him.
Morgan Jones 35:31
I love it. Ardy, you are such a wonderful person. And it's such a joy always to be able to be with you and to be in your home and there's such a sweet spirit here. So thank you so much for letting us be with you. And thank you for sharing so much good advice.
We are so grateful to Ardeth Kapp for joining us on today's episode. If you'd like more wisdom from Ardy, she has written lots of books, many of which you can find on deseretbook.com
Thanks to Derek Campbell for his help with this episode and for being a joy to have sit in on these interviews. And thank you so much for your continued support.