40 years-ago today your dad and I lowered ourselves to our knees and looked each other squarely in the eyes, our hands intertwined on top of the altar between us. With a very few simple words we made covenants that, figuratively speaking, super-glued us together as husband and wife. Since Dad became a judge 10 years ago he has performed many marriages, in various settings, and I don't recall any other marriage ceremony where the couple kneels at an altar facing each other rather than facing the officiator. When I think about the covenant we made that day I recognize that, from day-one, we have been involved in a love triangle. It’s always been me, your dad, and that altar.
Even though I was young and remarkably immature, I knew I was making very serious promises to your dad, for sure, but it took some maturing for me to realize that it was never going to be just the two of us…and that’s not even considering you kids, whom I like to think were peeking over the edge of heaven when we sealed the deal there in the Washington DC temple. That danged altar has been hanging around all these years, sometimes making things soft and sweet, and sometimes, frankly, feeling like its in the way.
God is pretty clever, don't you think, representing Himself with an altar. What divides us also unites us. He plants himself between us because there are times, as you probably know by now, when our mortal instinct is to put up our dukes and fight, or just turn and run. So he either keeps us from killing each other or ties us together with that altar. It might surprise you to know that there have been times when I felt like maybe I’d made a mistake back on June 25, 1977, even though I was married to Mr. Perfect.
It's a pretty difficult thing to be married to Dave Connors. I know I need to explain myself, because on the surface no one could possibly see any logic in that, but I have some. As you know, for many years I thought your father might be one of the three Nephites from the scriptures, those apostles who were given the gift of remaining on the earth and never tasting death. They’re here somewhere, doing good in the name of the Lord. Dave is pretty much an ideal man, and sometimes that is hard to live with, because, as you also know, I am not an ideal woman. And, because I am a believer in being candid and truthful, I need you to know that there were times when I really didn't want to be married to a perfect man. I kind of wanted someone flawed, like me, with whom I could spar. Also, he is no fun to play Trivial Pursuit with, or any lexicology kind of games. So, here's my point: even if you're married to the ideal person, you're going to have times when you might not really care for them all that much. I don't know anybody really, who doesn't have some moment when they wonder what in the world they were thinking when they picked that particular partner. And there are times when we aren't the healthiest ourselves, in our thought processes, and our strengths become weaknesses for a while. These are the moments when I think of that altar, the third component of our marriage trio, and I remember that I made promises to two people, not just one, and sometimes that invisible one in the middle needs to get me through until I regain the feeling I had for my spouse. And after 40 years I can tell you, as long as I have kept the Lord a part of our trio, that feeling does eventually return, sometimes a little bit morphed, and usually a bit more mature, and it carries with it a strange kind of peace and satisfaction that people who have not gone through such things don't even comprehend. That altar is not always “churchy”, but it is always profoundly spiritual to me, even if I haven’t been to the temple in a while. (I have yet to stay awake through a whole endowment session.)
So here’s the motherly advice I have earned the right to offer, but not force you to take, after 40 years of marriage: Hang in there, when these moments come, and be careful not to do anything you'll regret. Get help from others if you need to talk things out. And make sure that those others are not your children.
Now, here's another truth. Not all of you are married. And none of you can make anyone else do anything they don't want to do, even your spouses. So, I remind you that each of you, and I consider this one of the great joys in my life, have chosen to kneel before the altar of the Lord individually and make your own sacred covenants between you and God alone. It was important to Dad and me that you recognized that your covenants made in the Temple of the Lord, your initial covenants, are yours and yours alone - between you and God and no one else. It has been 40 years since I made those covenants myself. My covenants with your dad happened at a later date. If Dad goes bonkers, (and I might drive him to it) then I have to live with my Lord and our own contract, and let that fellow I married choose what he wants to do. It was the first gift the Lord gave us besides our bodies to offer us freedom of choice.
Your dad and I pray nightly for each of you by name, for your spouses and your children, and your future spouses and children. I don't know what God has in store, and I don't know what we are all foreordained to experience to get us where we need to be in the end. But I have an awful lot of confidence in God, whomever he is and wherever he is, and in his team.
I hope for each of you to have enough. Enough trials to keep your spiritual muscles alive. Enough joy to keep hope in the mix. Enough questions to keep you growing, and enough answers to not only fill-in the blank spots in the puzzle of life, but keep you interested and willing to keep trying to find how the pieces fit together. I pray for you to have enough compassion that you are compelled to sacrifice for others, but not so much that you lose who you are and what you are destined to do because you are overwhelmed with the neediness of the world. I hope you have enough laughter, even if you need to dig deep for it, to see how crazy this existence is and how magical it is that we get to experience it. I hope you have ample opportunities to fall, so you can practice getting back up.
I hope you have enough that you will never starve to death, but I do hope you know the feeling of hunger, figuratively and literally. And I also hope that you have too much sometimes, and that you recognize you have too much, and are willing to let go of some of it for the sake of others and for your own sakes.
It is such an amazing thing to have lived this long! And really very cool to have been married this long! I feel like Dad and I should wear a ribbon or something saying, Ta Da, we have partnered through life for decades and we are still going strong. Huzzah for us!
On testimony Sunday’s I get a little uneasy. Sometimes well-meaning people will stand there and say they know the Lord loves them because they got what they wanted. The actual truth is the Lord, as I understand him, loves all of us, and he gives us what we need, and only occasionally what we want is what we need. So, on this day, the anniversary of my marriage to your father, I want to thank the Lord for giving me what I need. And I celebrate that what I need is generally also what I want. I love your dad with the love even I don't understand, but I accept it and embrace it. I have many weaknesses which you kids may have inadvertently inherited, and I'm sorry; but the one thing I am most grateful to have given you is a father who loves me and loves the Lord. I guess I can't really take credit for that, except for that in those times when I thought your dad and I had absolutely nothing in common except you kids, I stuck with him anyway. And let me say this, even though your dad will probably never admit it because he wears very narrow blinders where I am concerned, there have to have been times when he felt the same.
You know this antique Masonic altar we keep in our family room? The one that says Purity, Fidelity, Love and Truth on its four sides? I like to keep that here as a reminder of that third component of our personal relationship. It’s Dad, and God, and me.
And then, thankfully… there came you!