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Eat, Drink, and be Married

By Brooke Benton

It practically reads like a sonnet, and I can’t get it out of my head:

“The folks have been here today, but have gone to their homes. The clatter of racing feet, the laughter and babble of tongues have ceased. We are alone, We two. We two whom destiny has made one. Long ago, it has been sixty years since we met under the June trees. I kissed you first. How shy and afraid was your girlhood. Not any woman on earth or in heaven could be to me what you are. I would rather you were here, woman, with your gray hair, than any fresh blossom of youth. Where you are is home. Where you are not is homesickness. As I look at you I realize that there is something greater than love, although love is the greatest thing in earth. It is loyalty. For were I driven away in shame you would follow. If I were burning in fever your cool hand would soothe me. With your hand in mine may I pass and take my place among the saved of Heaven”¦.”

I was lying down as I read the latest issue of The Ensign, and had to sit up and read this section from Crossing Thresholds and Becoming Equal Partners by Elder Bruce C. Hafen and his wife, Marie, aloud to my husband. I felt my throat tighten at its tenderness and intimacy—the journal entry quoted by John Haslem Clark to his wife reading more like a love letter than a record making account.

My husband set his own magazine on his chest, and turned his face toward mine as I read. His reaction was similar to my own, but “That is so true” was almost too trite to say, or “I agree” seemed an unbecoming platitude in comparison to the journaled verse. So he stayed silent for a moment. His blue eyes looked straight into mine as he told me he loved me, and I noticed the week-old beginnings of a beard almost blonde, and offset by a tan from a few days spent by the ocean. I love him so much too—the look of him, his shorn head so soft, his arm lazy across the pillows.

I leaned over and kissed him.

We all want a hand to hold in Heaven, but how lovely the exquisite physical pleasure of an earthly kiss.

Can I trust a Heavenly kiss will feel the same? Or even his hands? Will I miss the tactile feeling of a warm, dry hand that holds on to my own, and brushes stray hairs out of my eyes, and rests on the small of my back?

My husband assures me that Celestial love is something I cannot fathom. I know that. And yet”¦

I have a dear friend who is in love too. She gushes over her beau, of how they laugh and talk of the family they would have, of how they long for more physical intimacy. But he is non-Mormon, and she is confused. Should she commit to him—to marrying a non-member—or just let all this love dwindle? She poses the question all the time. And each time I tell her I don’t know. Is it better to be alone because you can’t fine the “perfect spouse” who fulfills the list of requirements you made 20 years ago in Mia Maids? Or is it okay to have and enjoy the physical earthly love of now, even if it won’t last?

And if everything is made whole in Christ’s Atonement, then why wouldn’t the non-Mormon’s hand to hold turn into a converted hand to hold later, in Heaven?

And what about the people who get married in the temple just “for time?” Is that just because they don’t want to be alone now?

Because what of loneliness? We all know it is “not good for man to be alone.” And even John’s wife Therissa replies in his journal, later:

“Almost two years and a half since the last writing, and it’s following events are so sad, so heartbreaking for this, his life’s companion that this pen has been laid down many times ere this record is made. Loss and loneliness are ever present and will be with me to the end. Will time soften this sadness, will I be able to leave the Old Home and not feel that his is waiting for me, calling me? I am only content at home where I feel that he is watching over me, his presence always with me”¦”

Let it be known, that I would never have considered not getting married in the temple. But I was 19 and didn’t know about life and the way it’s fickle and choosy, and fraught with heartaches like loneliness and childlessness. Am I making an excuse in this seeming concession for my friend? It’s a bit base, I know—but sometimes I want her to know the feeling of sexual intimacy, the feeling of someone to walk through life with, the feeling of a hand to hold, now. And I just want her to be happy. And shoot, if lying next to my husband in our bed (reading our magazines, staring at his profile, feeling the heat of him and the give of the mattress as he moves) isn’t happy, sometimes I don’t know what is.

About Brooke Benton

(Blog Team) is attempting inner om with this writing stuff. Proud to claim four loud children, a patient husband and a fat black cat as family, she feels blessed to be their mommy-- their giver of kisses and baker of cookies. She is ever seeking a good novel and wishing for the sand between her toes, palm trees, the ocean.

25 thoughts on “Eat, Drink, and be Married”

  1. Brooke, that was so beautiful! I don't know what the answer is, but do know that we all have very different roads to travel here on earth. She can know what is right for her.

    I want to, as Kathy so aptly put it, keep having a passionate love affair with my husband. And as Mark Twain said in Adam's diary, "Wherever she was, there was paradise."


  2. Ahh, that was lovely. Just lovely. I love the way you revel in the moment of marriage.

    What does she feel when she prays about it? I think it can be right to marry a non-member, if that's what the Spirit tells you to do. And the Spirit may tell her to… or not. I don't know.

    But this is what I think–Emily doctrine on getting married. As you ponder getting married, it's good to remember all the times in your life when you were absolutely sure the Spirit spoke to you. It helped me to go over them, to think about them, and compare the Spirit I felt with my future husband with all the other times I knew I was feeling the Spirit… so that when we got married, I knew, like I know the Book of Mormon is true, that we were doing the right thing.

    I realize that not everyone has that experience as they ponder the decision to marry, and that's okay… but I do think that as she prays about this decision with an open mind and heart, she can find peace about whatever the Spirit leads her to do.

  3. Brooke, what a beautiful post. And what a poignant question. It seems to be a question that has no definite answers. I think we all know stories where someone marries a non-Mormon who later converts, or where they don't convert but life is still joyous, or where they don't convert and things are hard. And we also know plenty of stories of temple marriages that are riddled with heartache.

    My own experience led me to say no to a relationship with a man who was not LDS. It really can't compare to your friend's situation: the relationship didn't progress far because the issue came up very early in our dating. For all the brevity, it still felt very real at the time and like "we" could've had a great thing–such a deep connection! I had decided so long before to never marry in the temple that, even though I was 30 and having no luck with LDS men, when he assured me he would never leave his Muslim faith, I didn't hesitate to make my decision to stop dating (wouldn't we now say that my Primary and Young Women leaders did a good job?). Though making the decision was easy intellectually, the emotions took a while to catch up. I then had two specific experiences that brought me comfort and helped me feel good about my choice. Both promptings from the Spirit, one asking something like, "Don't you trust me?" and one reassuring me that I would indeed marry a good LDS man and have a happy relationship.

    Three years passed before I married, and it was very much worth the wait. However, three years isn't very long! I've got friends in their 40's who aren't married who have struggled with loneliness that I can barely imagine. Were I still single now (at 39), I might be wondering if I'd made the right choice. I'd like to think not, but I don't know.

    Of course, in my heart I would love to tell your friend, "Hold on! It'll happen! It's worth the wait!" But really, only she can find her own answer, and who knows what that answer might be? Only God sees the big picture. I guess the question is, is she willing to ask.

  4. It always seems that I take so long to compose, I miss some really great posts! Ditto to Justine and Emily! And sorry for anything redundant!

  5. Justine — a think its more along these lines, from the same diary, "After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her." At least that is how it is in my interfaith marriage 🙂

    There aren't a lot of resources out there for interfaith couples in the church (by resources, I mostly mean stories — it helps to hear how others navigate). I'm working on a piece about my own for Sunstone (if I find time this month). In the end — like every marriage — it comes down to two imperfect people committed to making it work. Every marriage will have its challenges — my own parents communicated so differently in might as well have been interfaith. "Perfect" doesn't exist as far as I can tell. But she'll need to prepare herself for inevitable tension of sitting alone in a married church — I was used to it from my single years, but it's a slightly different set of emotions post-nuptials.

    A couple of years ago, I wrote the following to a friend:

    I had lunch today with a woman who I don't know well. When I told her that I was in an "interfaith relationship," she confided that her husband was contemplating leaving the church — and this was a major crisis for their family. I felt that I could offer sympathy but not necessarily empathy — I entered my relationship _knowing_ that we came from different faiths. We had to address this from beginning. For my new friend, however, this was not part of The Plan. And then there was the expectations of family and ward members (one relative mentioned that divorce might be her best option husband if he didn't "come round.") I think the church is full of "interfaith Mormon marriages," as you put it. In many ways, I have it easy — he has no expectations about what I should or shouldn't believe. However, it is harder to feel connected to the ward. Those who don't know me well sometimes try to direct me to the Single Adult Sunday school. Why is it that I sat in the front pews when I was in singles ward, but now sit in the overflow chairs in the back in the family ward? Hmm . . .

  6. But let it be known that I know sit on the pews and am a known and energetic presence in the ward. It takes a little navigating — something I've heard from other women in my position — a little creativity, an occasional thick skin (people will sometimes say stupid things to you), a desire to get involved (in a way that does not neglect your husband), and a lot of flexibility and conversation (within the relationship).

  7. I have no idea what I would say to her either. My husband and I are in the process of trying to put things back together after being separated for four months. Part of the separation was precipitated by the fact that he has left the church. It has been difficult–I have had people suggest that perhaps divorce would be better because then I could find a "righteous priesthood holder" and not have to do church alone. But I love my husband; we have two beautiful children who love him; it's hard to imagine giving that up just because he doesn't share my beliefs any more. I'm not sure if I would have married a nonmember though. It can be a hard road to travel.

  8. This was a provocative post. I agree that ultimately, no one can tell your friend what to do, but I will share this from my own life: I got married later than many. I had many "close-but-not-quite" relationships. But I never felt right about them, and it was painful (more painful than almost anything I experienced) to let these men I loved leave my life. I was afraid I was losing my chance at love. I was getting older. It was getting harder to find men to date. There is no guarantee that if you let the bird in the hand go that you will find another.

    BUT, my only thought, besides 'no one can tell her what to do but God,' is to not want too much for her to know all of what love means now. There can be another if this relationship isn't right.

    If I would say anything it would be that, IMO, it's better to be alone than be with the wrong person, in a wrong situation. Only your friend can determine if this is wrong or right for her, but just don't let overanxiousness (wanting to be happy now) — hers or yours — be too much the motivation. $0.02.

  9. The friend's situation is terribly difficult. If he joins, she gambled and won. But if he doesn't, will going in deeper make it easier? Adding marriage, kids, grandkids, decades of shared living would probably make the eventual reckoning worse. It might be wise to get out as early as possible "Wendy-style".

  10. I have enjoyed the thoughts already shared. I too found myself in a situation that I wasn't expecting to when I was dating and eventually married an excommunicated member of the church. It was not in my plan, "date someone who can take you to the temple" that's what always went through my head. I fought it tooth and nail and had a constant internal struggle.

    Not to be redundant to what has already been said, but never before in my life did I feel the individual realtionship with Heavenly Father and the Savior. He knew me, He knew my eventual husband, He knew the plan He had for us. I had to do my part to live worthy of His spirit and inspiration. It was a long courtship, we were engaged before he was rebaptized. I knew, I had my answer, I knew that Heavenly Father knew the desires of my heart and that He doesn't play games with us or try to trick us. I knew He wouldn't let me make the wrong choice with the most important choice of my life when I was living the commandments and seeking His guidance.

    I don't mean to sound prideful or arrogant, but the laws of heaven are quite simple and sometimes we complicate them. Heavenly Father is bound to bless us when we live His commandments. Now, those blessings come in different ways and at different times and we of course still have our agency. But I had a faith that He loved me too much to let me make the wrong choice when I was seeking His will.

    As I said, we were engaged before he was rebaptized and I never had a moment of hesitation. We were married outside of the temple and I never doubted that. We just met with our stake president Sunday and the application is in to Salt Lake for his blessings to be restored and then we can be sealed. We're more than excited!

    Sadly enough, the hardest part has been the Mormon culture piece of it all. The looks when people ask where you got married and you say the stake center. I'm not faulting these people or saying they're judgemental, it was an honest reaction of "oh, i wasn't expecting that kind of thing. Or the temple experiences where they ask where my husband is, etc, etc.

    I know this isn't the exact same as being in a relationship with someone who isn't a member, but it was not what I had planned on experiencing, but it was right for me. I have such a testimony that Heavenly Father will not forsake us when we are seeking His will and guidance.

  11. I'm not sure what you mean by "eventual reckoning." Marriage, kids, grandkids, and decades of shared living — shared loving and hoping and weeping — are the stuff of our humanity. My husband has always been impressed by the way our church doesn't have a simple "heaven/hell" demarcation — no "quick! baptize the infant or consign it to fire." Rather, we have a theology of eternal progression — rich souls before this shadow worlds and eternally growing beings after. I do not "win" if my husband chooses to "get dunked" (as one person so indelicately said to me recently). I win if together we can shed more and more of our foibles (selfishness, pride, stubborness — all that good stuff) and grow together in love and loyalty. I win if I can feel myself reflected in Christ's words: "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much."

  12. an addendum to my post.

    Heavenly Father never forsakes us. I just especially felt His presence when in a situation that I wasn't expecting to be in and when I was seeking His guidance.

  13. I am so in love with being in love; I feel so much for your friend, Brooke. On one hand, I think, yes! go for it. feel the depths of intimate love–it's indescribably wonderful. on the other, i say marriage is hard, even when you share every single precious tenet in common–don't bring religious differences (which can get SO touchy) into it from the get-go. but i think the "think twice" instinct shouts out stronger than the "go for it!" instinct.
    one thing i know for sure is that this is a beautifully written post and I can't wait to read the Hafen's piece in the Ensign; they are infinitely insightful and wise. Thanks, Brooke.

  14. Deborah, By "eventual reckoning" I mean simply, that in LDS doctrine, you are not "sealed eternally" with someone who remains unbaptized. Everything you said is true about progression, love, life, etc, but our church teaches that essential saving ordinances are required at some point.

    To be in the Celestial Kingdom (the only kingdom with marriage), a couple must be baptized, endowed and sealed. It can happen during their earth life, or through a temple proxy after they are dead.

    There is lots of time, and lots of room for hope in every case. I love Kelly's unique story of how things unfold for the best. No doubt Heavenly Father has a plan for every individual child.

  15. kelly, i agree that the laws of the gospel are simple and complicated by wondering humans like me…
    i'm hard pressed to not add a "but" to most statements. it's a weakness.
    but i'm with most of you. i think. mainly because sharing the same values and ultimately wanting to get to the same place in the end just seems to make this path easier.
    but earthly love is just so beautiful…

  16. Regarding the "should she/shouldn't she" debate, I would want to think of my future descendents, and the impact my choice in a husband would have on their lives. Marrying someone who is committed to the Gospel will make them much more likely to have it in their lives. And that is what I want.

  17. "Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ." My kids memorized that excerpt from the Proclamation on the Family last month for Primary. It's true. In my case, the gospel saved my marriage. There are happy marriages outside the Church, of course, but I believe that the best of those are the ones that by accident or design follow many the principles set forth in the gospel. I have no idea who your friend should marry– I'm not in a situation to second guess such a personal question. But I have to point out that it's naive to think that all of the beauty that can be had in marriage will be had regardless of the circumstances.

  18. for me, i don't think it's so much a question of if "all the beauty that can be had in marriage" will be there without a temple sealing. because you're right, angie. i know a temple marriage makes a difference– i know a Christ-centered marriage makes a difference.

    but it IS very childish of me to want things NOW, my way. i'm learning all about this "submitting to Heavenly Father's will" in many aspects of my life, and i must admit (without diminishing the fact that i do have a real testimony of the truth of the gospel), it's a tough one for me.

  19. I'm headed on a tangent because Brooke asks:

    And what about the people who get married in the temple just “for time?” Is that just because they don’t want to be alone now?

    Every such case that I know of, the woman is a widow who was previously eternally sealed to a husband who then died. I can't accept any worldview that sees these second marriages as less worthwhile or meaningful. I can't respect men who won't date widows because it supposedly blows their chance to get sealing blessings. They seem to be missing the "here" in "hereafter."

  20. I told one of my good single friends about this thread today. As singles, it can seem sometimes like married people do not have an idea what it can feel like to be alone especially if they married young. Your empathy for your friend is so sweet and amazing. I don't not know if I shall marry in this life. And I am okay with that most of the time. But just to have a little while to be so loved…

  21. hi- I'm Barb's friend. Thanks for the link. I do appreciate the empathy shown in this thread and in these situations. I agree w/what was said about it is better to be alone that to be w/the wrong person or in a bad situation (ie abuse, etc). But it can be so painfully lonely sometimes even though you do other things to keep busy, serve and love others, etc. One thing I've learned is that if I ever do marry (i'm 39 and never married), I will have lots more appreciation for my husband than I would have if things had worked out according to my original plans.


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