A Speaking Assignment
I don’t know if everyone is destined to marry a particular person or not. I don’t think so. But I believe that some couples have made pre-mortal covenants, or at least, for reasons easily apparent only to God, that certain people are brought together by divine appointment. The choice of a companion certainly has far reaching ramifications, considering the potential of marriage to create generations and relationships that extend eternally.
God works in mysterious ways. He sends largely incompetent, intellectually and spiritually illiterate teenagers on missions as His voice to the world. He leaves the future in the hands of hormonally driven, wisdom deficient and inexperienced young people. In both situations, missions and marriage, He is close at hand - prompting, nudging, and inspiring. Some people need more help than others. I am one of those.
In the LDS Church, members generally attend the Ward or Branch in which they reside. The same is true at Brigham Young University. Student housing, on and off campus, is sectioned into Wards and Stakes, and students are expected to attend the unit of their residence.
Like many other students, I looked to my ward for social opportunity. Unfortunately, the demographic disparity of my ward was discouraging. Half the ward members were marriage-minded returned missionaries like myself. I was twenty-three years old and ready to hopefully upgrade my station in life through marriage. The other half of the Ward was composed of young giggling girls, fresh from high school, who just wanted to have fun.
I was grumbling to a friend, Brent, about the paucity of marriage minded sisters in my social circle. He suggested – or rather insisted – that I attend his ward, a veritable cornucopia of ready and willing women. He also extended an irresistible invitation to Sunday afternoon dinner prepared by his lovely wife Cheryl.
I was shy by nature and socially inept, so my failure to meet any girls on my first visit to Brent’s Ward was not surprising. They were there, just as he has said, and that was encouraging. I was warmly welcomed by Ward leaders who where sympathetic to my situation and willing to annex my apartment. They assigned me to a singe adult “family” home evening (FHE) group.
The following evening, it being Monday, I went to my assigned place for family home evening. It was a girl's apartment. A girl answered my knock. Since no other attendees were apparent, I asked if I had come to the right place for FHE. She turned, leaving the door to the apartment open, and said “yes” as she walked away.
I stepped into the living room and helped myself to a seat. More people came, and girls appeared from other parts of the apartment. They conversed among themselves but no one spoke to me. When I said “hello” and attempted to introduce myself to a few of the other students, I was ignored. Thus unable to gracefully enter any of the conversations around me, I decided to remain silent.
There were eventually twelve people in attendance. None of them knew who I was, or cared. During the course of the lesson, the teacher, a scholarly appearing young lady, asked each person a question in the order in which they were seated, but skipped me. No one (except the girl answering the door) said a single word to me the entire evening. I was invisible. I determined that I would not return to Brent’s unfriendly ward.
Brent thought I should give it one more try, and unfairly enticed me with another Sunday dinner invitation. The next Saturday afternoon, after closing my store (I owned a pet store in Provo at the time), I was working on some projects, when I received a most surprising and distinct impression – that I would be giving a talk in Brent’s Ward the very next day. I immediately dismissed the thought as foolish. No one had asked me to speak. Speakers were chosen weeks before. I was not even a member of the Ward. I had attended once. I tried to go about my work but the feeling persisted and insisted. I started to prepare a talk.
Some people are blessed with the ability to stand and give wonderful talks extemporaneously or from notes. Some people can speak from the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I fall outside either of those groups. When I stand in front of a congregation my mind goes blank and the Spirit is silent. If inspiration comes at all, it better come during preparation, because I write out every word and do not deviate from the text. Heavenly Father understands this. It was the reason for the warning.
I wrote into the wee hours of the morning and before Church the next morning. Priesthood meeting was first on the schedule, then Sunday School and finally Sacrament Meeting. During Priesthood, I took out my talk and put it away again several times as I debated the authenticity of my “inspiration”.
By Sunday School, I had convinced myself that the promptings were just my imagination. I was doodling, half-listening to the teacher, when the First Counselor appeared at the classroom door and motioned in my direction. He said the main speaker for Sacrament Meeting had suddenly become ill and wondered if I would be willing to fill in. “Of course”, I replied, “I have been working on a talk since yesterday afternoon.”
The talk went well. I kept what I wrote that day, and some of it can be found here: http://www.stormandsong.com/the-song-of-redeeming-love.html . Additional parts are incorporated into other chapters at the same website. After the closing prayer, a number of girls pressed toward the stand and were heading in my direction. Horribly embarrassed by the sudden attention, I slipped out a rear exit.
That evening I went to Ward fireside. Before I had even entered the room, attentive ladies surrounded me. Some handed me slips of paper on which their name and phone number were written. At FHE the following day, most of the questions were directed toward me. Everyone was suddenly friendly. I had achieved visibility.
Because I remained in the Ward, I continued enjoying Sunday dinner with Brent and Cheryl. It was there that I met Helen, Brent’s sister. Helen became my social secretary and planned my schedule each Sunday afternoon. Sometime later in the semester, Helen introduced me to a friend – a recently baptized young lady who had transferred to BYU from Oral Roberts University. She was incredible, with long hair down to her waist and a beautiful testimony. I had seen her in a vision, two days before I entered the mission home in Salt Lake City. We were married six months later.
Perhaps, had I not given my talk and not remained in the Brent’s ward, we would have found each other anyway. I don’t know. I only know what happened, and because it happened, I am eternally grateful.