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  • Writer's pictureShelli Owen

Seeking Mr. Right


cover for "My Turn On Earth," an LDS musical and children's book

“Your love is like the morning mist,

like the early dew that disappears.” (Hosea 6:4c)


NOTE: The names used for friends and peers in this chapter are not their real names


Not all my thoughts and feelings were of deep despair about myself all the time, though when I was alone that’s where I tended to go. Since I chose to suffer in isolation, this is another likely reason my parents and others weren’t aware of my severe depression. But, one thing was for sure; I lived largely in my feelings, believing them to be the truth.


I’ve mentioned the strong reliance on feelings, which was emphasized in the LDS Church as an integral part of my religious instruction. I won’t go into too much more detail on this—apparently, now the LDS Church is back-peddling on this—but when I was growing up, it was a fundamental teaching, and so it’s part of my story.


The most emphasized teaching on this came from a “revelation” Joseph Smith received “from the Lord” for Oliver Cowdery, who was transcribing as he “translated” and then dictated what was on the always-hidden-from-sight “golden plates.”[1] The following, from the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 9:8–9), is the portion of that revelation LDS people continually emphasized and amplified:

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.[2]

Strong feelings were how I and many others in the LDS Church gaged the truth.


Since then, I’ve learned that reliance on feelings is also a common characteristic of young persons, often inflamed by hormonal adjustments at the same time, before they mature (which hopefully we all do). That’s also “where I was at,” as we used to say.


Between a strong familial tendency to dwell on personal feelings, the emphatic teachings of my church on powerful feelings, and simply being young and not knowing better yet, you could say I was triply afflicted. I definitely was “super-sensitive” as some of my friends and associates told me. This played strongly into how my relationships went. It affected my dating in a big way, but especially as I got older. It played hand in hand with another important teaching in the LDS church.


Toward the end of my high school years, an LDS musical entitled “My Turn on Earth” came out.[3] I was super excited about going to see this production. This play was rapidly gaining popularity in LDS circles at the time. My family traveled to a large venue in Denver to see it.


The story begins in an exclusively LDS setting described as the pre-existence, or pre-earth life. In this first scene, the characters are discussing and re-enacting the war in heaven.


I’m going to stop here for a minute to explain the LDS belief and doctrine of pre-existence, so you can understand its significance to the LDS people and what I’m sharing in this chapter. Belief in “the pre-existence” as part of God’s plan of salvation is a beloved and foundational LDS doctrine.


This doctrine leans only in small measure on passages from the Bible. It mainly originated from Joseph Smith’s teachings, which are mainly recorded in LDS scripture, including a book Joseph Smith named “Abraham,” which is found in the Pearl of Great Price, which “...is a selection of choice materials touching many significant aspects of the faith and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These items were translated and produced by the Prophet Joseph Smith, and most were published in the Church periodicals of his day.”[4]


The book called “Abraham” came to the LDS Church through Joseph Smith’s “inspired translation”[5] of some ancient Egyptian papyrus scrolls.[6] Through this book, Joseph Smith gave the members of the LDS Church the understanding—which no other church has—that Jesus and all humans as well as all demons, were originally eternal, self-existing “intelligences.”[7]


Another unique teaching that began with Joseph Smith and has evolved within the LDS Church concerns our (supposedly) having a “Heavenly Mother.” Though “there is no record of a formal revelation to Joseph Smith on this doctrine, some early Latter-day Saint women recalled that he personally taught them about a Mother in Heaven.”[8] A famous LDS poem by Eliza R. Snow (reportedly, a plural wife of Joseph Smith) was made into what is now a cherished LDS Hymn, entitled “O My Father.” This often-sung, LDS Hymn declares,

In the heav’ns are parents single?

No, the thought makes reason stare;

Truth is reason—truth eternal

Tells me I’ve a mother there.[5] [9]

Many church leaders following Joseph Smith have affirmed, beginning in writing with the LDS First Presidency[10] in 1909, that “all men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.”[11]


Combining these two above teachings about intelligences and a Heavenly Mother with teachings on “Celestial Marriage,”[12] and a mix of verses pulled from the Bible has resulted in the following “knowledge” among the members of the LDS Church: Before the creation of the world, God, our Heavenly Father and one of His many wives—“our Heavenly Mother”—united (in a sexual union, which is everywhere inferred but not stated directly), to give spirit bodies to each of the intelligences who wanted a spirit body.


The intelligences who received spirit bodies were: Jesus, God’s firstborn spirit son in heaven; the spirits of all other human beings that have ever lived or will ever live on the earth; and the spirits of Lucifer (or Satan) and his followers. All these spirits were born of and dwelt with God the Father and our Heavenly Mother in the pre-existence. Some spirits were more “valiant” for God’s plan than others and they later became prophets and leaders on the earth. Jesus was more valiant than all God’s other spirit children, so He was made preeminent among them. Many people in the LDS Church believe also that some of the more valiant spirits who followed God in the pre-existence were first sent to earth as angels and ministering spirits before they themselves were physically born on earth.


Another book in the LDS Church’s Pearl of Great Price is called “Moses” or “Selections from the Book of Moses.” Its summary introduction declares it is “an extract from the translation of the Bible as revealed to Joseph Smith the Prophet...”[13] In other words, it is a “corrected (by Joseph Smith) translation” of a portion of the Book of Genesis from the Bible (which “translation” conveniently includes a “prophecy” pointing directly to Joseph Smith[14]). Mainly through the LDS books of “Abraham” and “Moses,” but also from other LDS teachings, LDS church doctrine has evolved into the following current official LDS Church declaration:

In our pre-earth life, we lived in the presence of our Heavenly Father as His spirit children. We did not have a physical body.

In this premortal existence, we attended a council with Heavenly Father’s other spirit children. At that council, Heavenly Father presented His great plan of happiness (see Abraham 3:22–26).

In harmony with the plan of happiness, the premortal Jesus Christ, the Firstborn Son of the Father in the spirit, covenanted to be the Savior (see Moses 4:2; Abraham 3:27). Those who followed Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were permitted to come to the earth to experience mortality and progress toward eternal life. Lucifer, another spirit-son of God [along with one-third of God’s spirit children who followed him], rebelled against the plan and “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3). [This caused a war in heaven between God’s followers and the followers of Lucifer (see Revelation 12:7–12). The end result of this war in heaven was that Lucifer] became Satan, and he and his followers were cast out of heaven and denied the privileges of receiving a physical body and experiencing mortality (see Moses 4:4; Abraham 3:27–28).

Throughout our premortal life, we developed our identity and increased our spiritual capabilities. Blessed with the gift of agency, we made important decisions, such as the decision to follow Heavenly Father’s plan. These decisions affected our life then and now. We grew in intelligence and learned to love the truth, and we prepared to come to the earth, where we could continue to progress.[15]

To summarize this LDS Church doctrine of pre-existence: all humans and spirits pre-existed before this earth life, first as intelligences, then as God’s spirit children born to God the Father and a Heavenly Mother. Jesus was the firstborn of all God’s spirit children. There was a council held in heaven presenting God’s plan of salvation. Jesus, the most valiant of the spirits, championed God’s plan and promised to become the Savior of humankind. Back then, and continuing now, how spirits behave themselves in the pre-earth life determines whether they attain an earthly body (or mortality) and what station or position they will receive on Earth. Satan and his followers who fought against God’s plan and human agency were denied mortal bodies and progression. They remained and always will exist in spirit form only. All human beings, who ever lived or who ever will live, were part of the two-thirds of God’s spirit children who sided with God and His plan along with Jesus and so were given or will receive earthly bodies.


According to LDS teaching, if people are also valiant (become or are active members of the LDS Church and keep all the LDS Church’s commandments) in their earthly bodies, they will inherit the highest kingdom of glory in God’s celestial kingdom and become Gods, Heavenly Fathers and Mothers, themselves. This is an abbreviated version of LDS teaching on pre-existence and God’s plan of salvation.


The plot of the musical play, “My Turn on Earth,” which came out in my high school years, instantly attracted me—and most other LDS people. The main story follows one character in particular through her ups and downs as she progresses. First, her time comes, and she is sent from the pre-existence to be born to “earthly parents.” After various struggles in her life on earth, of which we are given a glimpse, she then is taken to paradise through pre-mature death to await her Celestial glorification after the final judgment.


Out of the whole play, what I loved most was the music and the lyrics to the songs. There were some humorous as well as more serious songs—most of them memorable. The song, “I Have a Plan,” replaying what was considered a possible dialogue between Satan and Jesus in this counsel in heaven, especially touched my emotions and made me want to valiantly follow Jesus.[16] There was enough truth in the song that it rang true to my soul. At the first opportunity, I asked my parents to buy me a copy of the sheet music from the play. Another song from the play that I loved, “Angel Lullaby,” I later continued singing to my children at bedtime when they were little.[17]


This play stirred among LDS people—or maybe it merely reflected—the LDS belief that we took an active part in determining where and when our earthly journey would begin. Along with many other LDS people, I believed God sent us to LDS homes because we were more valiant than other spirits in the pre-existence. We also believed that those spirits saved for “the last days,” as we believed we were, were also among the more valiant of God’s spirit children because of the testing that would come with living in the current time on earth. Yes, “valiant” was a cherished and much-used word and idea among us.


Another LDS belief this play amplified for LDS persons of dating age was that we might have a soul mate whom, in the pre-existence, we reciprocally chose ahead of time before we came to this earth, for an eternal companion in marriage. For me, and many other LDS youth of that time, this belief turned into an obsession with finding one’s pre-selected soul mate. This belief began, then, to play a big role in what I started to look for in the young men I dated.


One thing I began looking for was a mutual “recognition” or attraction. For a few months, I thought “he” might be a young man I’ll call Ezekiel. He was only the second LDS young man (after Boe) who seemed truly interested in me as a person. He also seemed to be equally earnest in his spiritual goals (Celestial marriage and eternal life with God, of course). Not only that, he seemed equally desirous of maintaining the LDS standards in order to reach them.


We had common interests and some really sweet times together, like hiking in the Colorado Rockies among the glorious fall colors. Best of all, we simply enjoyed each other’s company, talking and having fun together, neither one of us ever pressuring the other into inappropriate physical intimacy. I felt clean, safe, and valued when I was with Ezekiel. This was a whole new experience in dating, which I treasured with all my heart. Companionably holding hands, our exhilarating conversations, and all the things we liked doing together seemed enough for both of us—for the present time—and caused me, at least, to look forward to a future with Ezekiel. One that I considered well worth the wait.


Another plus for Ezekiel in my eyes was that he came from a loving family. He described his parents as still in love with each other, often holding hands, putting their arms around each other, and lots of hugs and physical affection between them and their children. My own family was somewhat demonstrative, but never like his. I really liked this picture of family and believed Ezekiel, because of how he had been raised, would make a wonderful, kind, and loving husband and father. I was so hopeful and sure he might be “the one,” until I went to his missionary farewell at his Denver ward.


Back then, and I think it's still the same now, young men at the age of nineteen were expected, and generally wanted, to serve a two-year, full-time mission for the LDS Church. Young women could also serve as missionaries if they wanted, but they could not go until they were twenty-one, and they only served for a year and a half.


Ezekiel told me right after we met how he had been preparing himself and would soon be serving as a missionary for our church. I honored him for his commitment to “follow the brethren” (the head leaders of the LDS Church) and do what they counseled the LDS people to do to be worthy members of the church. His willing, even cheerful, obedience fit exactly with what I knew of Ezekiel’s character and integrity. It was part of what had attracted me to him.


We had talked about our relationship in connection with his upcoming mission and had agreed we should postpone considering a serious commitment to each other. We agreed that two people can change a lot in two years. I also respected him for this mature insight and that he didn’t try to pressure me into waiting for him like some guys were known to do. I knew I would miss him—a lot—but his preparations for going on a mission were no surprise.


At his missionary farewell, which was held at the ward where he attended church, he introduced me to his family and some friends, including another young woman.


When he introduced me to this other young woman, he turned bright red with apparent embarrassment—maybe he just then realized his oversight in not telling me about his “friend” ahead of time. I could tell immediately that she, at least, saw him as much more than a friend. She was personable, outgoing, and pretty—certainly, someone Ezekiel might not continue to overlook as he apparently had up ‘til now. She was also direct in communicating her thoughts and heart with me, as I experienced shortly afterward, and which I had to respect.


While Ezekiel was seated up on the podium with the other speakers waiting to give his farewell talk, she gave me the lay of the land. In so many words, she didn’t see me as competition. She and Ezekiel had been closely associated with each other since childhood. She loved him and his family to death. They still spent a lot of time together during any given week. As she had always been his close friend, she had seen and encouraged him in what was best for him—including his going on a mission. She knew him better than anyone, except maybe his mom—but at least better than even he knew himself. She was going to be writing to him faithfully while he was on his mission, and she had no doubts she would be there—as she always had been—when he got back (the inference there was that she would then become his eternal companion).


Later, it also became apparent that this young-woman “friend” of Ezekiel’s was telling the truth. She seemed on familiar terms with him, his parents, and his family and well-loved by them too. I, on the other hand, as far as his family was concerned, was an unknown entity. And would probably remain so for the duration of Ezekiel’s mission. His family was nice enough to me—but a little restrained. This was our first meeting, but the option of a continued connection with them was never offered and avoided when it came up. None of the activities at Ezekiel’s church or with his family and friends that went on that day were even remotely encouraging to me. It was more like I didn’t exist.


After meeting this “friend” of Ezekiel’s, noticing his real embarrassment when he introduced us (what was behind that?), and getting an idea from his “friend” of his and her relationship from her perspective and indirectly from his family’s perspective, and then seeing his interactions with them and me when he was with them made me miserable. Even so, I tried hard not to show it or to be petty or sulky or even bitter about this situation while I was with them. My respect for him was dropping by the minute. I didn’t want it to; I wanted to hold onto the wonderful dream.


Honestly, I wasn’t just a little hurt by his omission. His omission by itself said something—and loudly. I could tell he and this young woman had a genuine and significant relationship, and they had for a long time. Maybe somewhere in himself, he had just begun to acknowledge how significant it was. I couldn’t and didn’t want to know exactly where he stood. Whatever was going on, my hope of a “forever relationship” with him disappeared on that day.


He came over to my home for one last visit before his departure. It was almost unbearable to spend any more time with him—even though it was very short. We were both out of character. He didn’t acknowledge or try to understand my emotional distance and reluctance to hold his hand. He evidently just wanted things to continue as they had been before—as if nothing had happened. He even got uncharacteristically pushy, trying for a kiss from me before he left. I didn’t want to kiss him so that he could ease the guilt in himself he seemed to be trying to appease—which was itself just another hurtful indicator of where things stood.


I was so sad and disappointed but tried hard not to show it. Deep inside, I could no longer see a future with him. I was super relieved when he finally left (without his kiss) and counted it a blessing that this would be the last time we would have to see each other in person before he left for the Missionary Training Center (MTC).


The MTC was where he (and other brand-new LDS missionaries) would learn and memorize the LDS missionary “discussions,” or pre-prepared doctrinal scripts, in preparation for teaching “investigators.” This was also where he would learn the basics of the language he would be speaking for the “area” or location he’d been “called” or assigned by the First Presidency to go for his mission. He would be at the MTC for a few months before going straight from there to his mission field in Central America.


I still liked Ezekiel a lot—or at least I admired my previous vision of him before reality had interfered. I wanted all my dates afterward to be like those dreamy ones I had with Ezekiel, with the exception of our last evening together. I did write to him for a while—until someone else came along.


That winter I met Keith at a church dance in Denver. He said he wanted to get to know me better. I loved his idea of “dating” in social situations with other young people present—even more than I liked the idea of getting to know him better. We decided to get a group of other interested individuals together for an inner tubing/sledding expedition in the Rocky Mountains. He mentioned some other “couples” he could invite, and I was able to talk a couple of guy friends, one from church (Bob) and one from school (Michael), into coming as well. The only cloud for me in this sunny, blue-sky plan was that my friend Gina wasn’t able to make it. If she had come, things might have turned out a lot differently.


I was really looking forward to the adventure and the fellowship with these other young people. We all met up and arrived at our destination without any problems. The snow was perfect, and we created a great run with a glorious jump at the end. Most of us were having a blast. However, Beth, one of the girls Keith had invited, with her boyfriend, Dale, was a little timid and didn’t seem to be enjoying the adventure as much. Eventually, from inactivity, she began to get literal cold feet—and hands.


Keith ended up stopping his fun to go and, with Dale, help Beth get warmed up in the van. Keith was that kind of person—a helpful, thoughtful, self-sacrificing, supportive soul his friends could always count on. I went over to the van after a bit, reluctantly—only because my conscience was niggling me, to see if I could do anything to help. But Keith assured me they had everything under control. He insisted I go enjoy myself, and, without any argument or any more qualms, I did.


Meanwhile, the rest of us became totally absorbed in the great fun we were having. The inner tube run, the fellowship, the perfect snow, and the ultra-fresh air of the Colorado Rockies were all stimulating and very enjoyable.


As the day progressed, one of Keith’s guy friends, Jed, began paying more and more attention to me. After Jed had made it indirectly and then directly clear that he and his gorgeous date were just great friends and not an item, and she corroborated this, I began to soften and respond—somewhat—rather than completely ignoring his attentions. Honestly, I was much more drawn to him than I was to Keith from the very start, but I didn’t want to be unfair to Keith by not at least giving him a chance.


Later, when we stopped for some warm food and drinks from thermoses, Dale took Keith’s place in the van with Beth, and Keith was able to join us playing in the snow for a while. Keith could tell Jed had been moving in on his territory. I think Keith was a little disappointed I wasn’t impressed enough with his self-sacrificing actions to hold out for him a little more than I had.


Once we were done for the day, Keith drove us all back down the mountain to our meeting place at the base of the mountains. Beth still needed to be close to the heater, so instead of sitting up front with Keith, as I had on the way up, I sat with the others in the back seats—along with Jed, of course—who managed to sit next to me. This gave Jed even more opportunity, and he took it, until I couldn’t deny there was an attraction.


I did like Keith. He was a very thoughtful and kind person. He called and scheduled another date with me. We didn’t talk much more than that, except to rehash back and forth between each other what a great idea it had been to go inner tubing.


Meanwhile, Jed had somehow gotten my number and had begun calling. I was impressed and flattered by his perseverance. It did bother me just a little that, supposedly, Keith was our mutual friend and that Jed—who had known Keith longer than I had—would treat his friend this way. But Jed had a winning personality and assuaged my conscience. Before I knew it, before my next date with Keith, Jed had come over to my house to see me.


After Jed met my family and we’d spent some time hanging out with them, “somehow” we managed to find ourselves alone in the living room. Next thing you know, we were sitting next to each other, holding hands, and trying to verbalize the feelings we were beginning to have for each other. Feelings that were getting stronger by the minute. Then, the next minute, something like a highly pleasant, magnetic, sensation arched like electricity through the air between us, but especially between where our hands and shoulders and sides and legs were touching. It lasted for a minute or so. It wasn’t only physical; it was also spiritual. It felt like a true union of soul-with-soul. Neither one of us could profess to having ever felt or experienced something even remotely like this before with anyone else, ever.


Whatever “it” actually was (I’m still not exactly sure, though I have some ideas), to us it meant that we had found our pre-mortally engaged, eternal soul mates in each other. We were sure that this super-magnetism between us sealed the fact that we had chosen each other in the pre-existence. No question was left in our minds. We were meant to be a couple—forever.


We were elated beyond words. Though the sensation faded as quickly as it had come, we were not without hope of experiencing it together again. We never did get “it” back, but not for lack of trying.


Before long, we remembered Keith. What were we going to tell him? This thing that had just happened between us was impossible to explain to anyone else. What had just happened? How could we, or should we even, share this very soul-intimate experience with anyone else? Anyway, it sounded all too convenient. Keith was going to feel so betrayed by both of us.


At the same time, Jed and I “knew” this thing between us was something that would transcend time. Keith had just been a means for bringing us together. We knew we needed to tell him at the next available opportunity. Still, what were we going to tell him?


The next time I talked with Keith, I told him what a great guy I thought he was, and that I wished him every happiness; but that I had developed feelings for Jed, and what I felt for Jed was something I’d never felt for anyone before. These were feelings I could not resist or deny—which was the truth! I’m not sure what Jed told him.


Even though Jed lived in Denver, and I lived in Boulder, we became almost inseparable—for a time. He had met my family. Eventually, I met his family and loved them, especially his mom and his sister, who readily returned my affection. Sometimes when I called Jed’s house, I’d end up talking with one of them for “hours.” We became good friends.


With time, however, Jed and I started to get on each other’s nerves. I think this was partly because we were chasing feelings. However much we tried, we couldn’t get the original feelings or experience that we’d had at the beginning of our relationship back again.


Also, though I really liked Keith’s idea of dating in a group setting, Jed’s and my “special and unique” relationship seemed to be dependent on our spending a great deal of time alone together. Eventually, as attracted as our souls were to each other—especially the bodily part—we repeatedly had to stop and repent (again) of going too far in our physical relationship, or at least what felt like going too far. Despite my keep-your-hands-above-the-shoulders rule, which rule we “righteously” observed, somehow, we were still able to stir up plenty of heat between us. As always, this repetition was hard on my conscience, and so on my trust in Jed and myself and our relationship.


Without our original feelings spurring us on and with having to limit our physical relationship as an added stress, it became apparent we didn’t have much else in common to talk about or that we both liked to do. We began to tire of each other—and yet we kept seeing each other because we were still sure we were pre-ordained soul mates.


And then there came the time we very nearly broke things off completely. This was when Jed began to flirt with and show a marked interest in my best friend, Gina. Yet, because of our previous understanding and because he was so super contrite when I confronted him, I let it slide, independent of how it made me feel a total lack of trust in him.


As we talked it through, “we” decided this had been a direct attack from Satan, to separate us. This “united” us in the determination that nothing like this would ever happen or come between us again. Our “commitment” to each other was renewed.


The truth is, I rather stoically continued dating Jed, though my heart was not really in it anymore. I so firmly believed we were pre-ordained soul mates. This alone was romantic enough for me to hold on to, even when Jed wasn’t.


Before we knew it, Jed’s turn to serve a two-year mission for the LDS Church was approaching, and it was time for me to begin attending Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo (Utah) for the fall semester. The MTC was also in Provo, so we planned on seeing each other in person again before he officially entered there and became a missionary of the LDS Church.


Brigham Young University had a well-earned nickname, which was “Bring’em Young.” It also had the reputation of being the live equivalent of a modern dating app. The whole purpose of going there, for most young LDS adults was, supposedly, to find an “eternal companion” (or at least a spouse). Jed was worried about this. I assured him this wasn’t my purpose. Nevertheless, its reputation was well-earned and kept up.


My family had just dropped me off at BYU—after helping me find my dorm and deposit my belongings in my room—when I was approached by someone. After unpacking and getting settled in my room, I rode my bike to the cafeteria for an early dinner. Afterward, while I was walking back to my bike, this good-looking “older guy” (maybe in his late twenties or thirties) came up to me. At first, I was flattered, but that didn’t last long.


He was beyond persistent about trying to get a date with me and kept asking me for my dorm number and phone number and a time we could meet up. I kept insisting that not only was I waiting for a missionary, but also I didn’t go out on dates with people I didn’t know, I would only date in a group situation, and so on. He had counterarguments and examples for everything I said. “How will I ever get to know you without seeing you again?” He absolutely wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.


What I did know was that he was keeping me from being able to give attention to the combination on my bike lock! He kept asking if I wanted help unlocking my bike, and suggesting I tell him my combo so he could unlock it for me! All I needed was for him to leave me alone for a few seconds, so I could concentrate—and at the same time not divulge the combination of the lock to him—and get away from him! After a while, I became desperate—enough that I told him the name of my dorm building and what day and time I could meet him in the lobby there.


It was a day or so later in the lobby of my dorm he pulled the pity (victim) card and told me how he’d lost his wife, and basically that he was lost, and his three kids were lost, and they needed a wife and mother—and soon. He was visiting from out of state and had to get back home to his family within a week or so. His dilemma certainly tugged on my heart—big time—and he was awfully good-looking, and he cared so much for his family, and...


But, there was Jed to think of—though Jed didn’t seem to think much of prior commitments himself—how he had treated Keith and his interest in Gina came back to me then!


Truly, it was only what my mom had said about not marrying someone out of pity, as well as my deep-seated feelings of inadequacy that saved me from falling for this man. That kept me from actually considering his brazen marriage proposal. And that allowed me to finally send him on his way, with both of us convinced I meant “no!”


Unexpectedly, this experience also revealed to me that the connection I had once felt with Jed simply wasn’t there. It had grown so much weaker in the short time we’d been apart; it was all but gone.


However, as we’d pre-arranged, before Jed entered the MTC, we had one final date. Being with him again rekindled some of my fondness for him. Our date was at a conference center where one of the top church leaders was speaking. We imagined it was super-spiritual and righteous of us to have chosen such an almost sacred venue for our parting date.


Jed was so excited about serving a mission; he wanted to practice wearing his new three-piece suit and missionary name tag for this occasion. He had also just gotten his hair all trimmed up—missionary style. I teased him a little.


There we were holding hands during this speaking engagement, and later kissing—albeit chastely. By all appearances a co-ed and a set-apart missionary breaking all the rules. A missionary was to forsake all—family, friends, and girlfriends—for two years, including while he was at the MTC. How we must appear as desperate sinners to people who didn’t know us!


My teasing wasn’t all that far off. We were viciously judged for our “wicked behavior” by at least one college co-ed who lived in my dorm and attended my ward. It made me sad, distressed, and even angry when I got an earful from her, later. Maybe we both learned a lesson when I told her the truth—that Jed hadn’t entered the MTC yet. Appearances can impel people to stumble.


Before he left, Jed wanted me to promise I’d wait for him. Remembering Ezekiel’s mature outlook, I told him a true commitment didn’t need such promises. And that if our relationship was truly meant to be—which we believed it was—then it would be. I wouldn’t make such a demeaning promise; I would just do the right thing—whatever that was. He didn’t like my answer and kept pressing for a promise—then, and in his letters, later. He had to leave without a promise.


In reality, our soul-mate ideal had been severely eroded despite all our efforts to keep it alive. I think somewhere in me I knew this relationship wasn’t real or going to last. At that point, my “love” was as fickle as my feelings with no true commitment to steady it. My actual commitment wasn’t to Jed and my relationship, as I generally imagined. It was more toward withstanding the BYU “purpose,” though even that determination wasn’t as reliable as I intended either. I was about as stable as the weather and the winds that blew.


Not long after Jed entered the MTC, I met a real man. A BYU football player. Of all people, it turned out he was the former boyfriend of the cheerleader Mack had run off with over a year earlier. Was this fate? Were the stars lining up? How else could it be that out of all the thousands of people on campus we had met?


Before you know it, I was kissing him in companionable commiseration—then apologizing for kissing him. (There’s irony for you.) I didn’t go out with him again. I swore off dating altogether—for a while. But from then on—for a while, at the beginning of a conversation with a guy who wanted to go out with me, I’d tell him I was waiting for a missionary.


Sometimes that worked. However, girls “waiting for missionaries” was a common LDS phenomenon that was, for good reason, not always taken very seriously by guys who were present in flesh and blood. But I still “knew” I must be an exception because of the singular experience Jed and I had at the beginning of our relationship. Other guys just couldn’t understand this. I learned quickly not to even try to explain “it”—though eventually, I came to question it myself.


Was the soul-intimacy Jed and I had experienced, which felt like a true and beautiful uniting of our souls, from God? Why had no one else I’d ever heard of experienced anything even remotely like it? Did this experience definitively indicate Jed and I were soul mates or just that we had been attracted to each other in a unique way? Why hadn’t I felt any other significant connection with Jed—like in a real relationship?


Even further on in my future, I started to wonder whether there was such a thing as a “Mr. Right”—either a perfect or a pre-destined human soul mate. I would eventually realize—while still waiting for “Mr. Right”—that he wasn’t Jed, and that he might not exist except as a figment of my imagination.


Meanwhile, I continued immersed in feeling my way through life and relationships. This was all I knew. Along with continually being on an emotional rollercoaster, by my first year of college, I’d also grasped onto an overriding obsession unlike anything I’d ever held before. It was a passion I completely gave myself over to pursuing. It had nothing to do with Jed—or any other boyfriend for that matter. It began to fill every waking thought and made this season of my life one of the most lonely, miserable, and difficult but also finally rewarding periods of my life—ever.


“Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.” (Hebrews 13:9a)

“Watch your life and doctrine closely.” (1 Timothy 4:16a)


 

[1] Ancient plates Joseph Smith said he had received from an angel, which were not to be shown to any other person at the time. Even Joseph Smith rarely, if at all, worked directly from the plates themselves (but from papers with the markings on them). It was surmised that someone knowing where the plates were might covet them and then steal them because they were purported to be made of pure gold. [2] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Scriptures: Doctrine and Covenants, “Section 9,” accessed 11/4/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/9?lang=eng [3] Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, “My Turn on Earth,” accessed 10/27/2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Turn_on_Earth [4] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Pearl of Great Price, “Introduction,” accessed 10/27/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/pgp?lang=eng [5] Since the finding and decoding of the Rosetta Stone and other similar relics, Egyptian Demotic and hieroglyphic scripts are now much more readily deciphered. “None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given...Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies” (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Gospel Topics Essays, “Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham,” accessed 10/31/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng ) [6] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Pearl of Great Price, “Abraham: Facsimiles 1–3,” accessed 10/27/2023, No. 1: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/pgp/abr/fac-1?lang=eng; No. 2: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/pgp/abr/fac-2?lang=eng; No. 3: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/pgp/abr/fac-3?lang=eng [7] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Pearl of Great Price, “Abraham” (see 3:18–19, 21–22), accessed 10/27/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/pgp/abr/3?lang=eng&id=22#p22 [8] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Gospel Topics Essays, “Mother in Heaven,” accessed 10/27/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/mother-in-heaven?lang=eng; see also: Topics and Questions: Doctrinal Study, “Heavenly Parents, Overview,” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/heavenly-parents?lang=eng [9] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Hymns, “O My Father,” no. 292, accessed 10/27/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/hymns/o-my-father?lang=eng [10] The LDS First Presidency consists of the current-at-the-time LDS prophet and his two counselors. [11] “The Origin of Man,” Improvement Era 13, no. 1 (Nov. 1909): 78. See above footnote also. [12] See especially: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Scriptures, Doctrine and Covenants, “Section 131 and 132,” accessed 5/3/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/131?lang=eng and https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/132?lang=eng [13] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Pearl of Great Price, “Selections from the Book of Moses (introduction),” accessed 10/27/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/pgp/moses/1?lang=eng [14] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Pearl of Great Price, “Selections from the Book of Moses” (see Moses 1:41), accessed 10/27/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/pgp/moses/1?lang=eng [15] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Library: Topics and Questions, “Premortality, Overview,” accessed 10/27/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/premortality?lang=eng [16] YouTube, “My Turn on Earth: I Have a Plan,” accessed 11/6/2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfO6fYSLROs [17] YouTube, “My Turn on Earth: Angel Lullaby,” accessed 11/6/2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LIcNm0uiEs&list=PL3E97D56708DEA0F6&index=16

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