I’m going to change names for this post. I’ll just call them Mormon Mother and RM Son.
RM Son met the most beautiful woman in the world at BYU–or so he told her in a note he tossed her direction in the library, and which made her blush and timidly accept a date. They had the sort of romance we expect full-hormoned BYU students to have. That romance went beyond the plan, however. They got pregnant. They became engaged shortly before they knew their “condition,” and announcements went out proclaiming their forthcoming temple marriage. Then, after a talk with the bishop, RM Son told Mormon Mother that he and the bride would not be going to the temple after all.
There was no time to cancel the reception, scheduled to be held at Mormon Mother’s home. She, loathing a lie, stood like a sentinel at the door and did her duty. She told each guest that the couple had not married in the temple. There. Honesty. Nobody would be deceived.
Did the bride and groom, yards away from Mormon Mother, see the faces of their guests showing obligatory sorrow, shame, embarrassment, and then yielding to a smiling mask as they approached to say what we say to brides and grooms? (“My, my don’t you look radiant!” “We certainly wish you the best.”) How could they NOT have seen the expressions shift?
Months ago, when my husband was first made a bishop, he performed a marriage for a returned missionary and his bride. It was in the Relief Society room. The bride’s parents had told her the week before that she had just ruined her life. They did not attend the ceremony.
The morning of the wedding, I took a walk with the groom’s mother and told her what a remarkable young man she had raised. (How difficult was that confessional call to my husband, the bishop? What kind of courage did that take?) “This is just a bump in the road,” I said. She and I purchased flowers and made the RS room look like a nice place to get married. The bishop told the bride and groom how deeply loved they were, and how important their marriage vows would be to them and to God. He mentioned the temple once as a goal he knew they had in mind, but we lived in the moment. And it was a joyful moment.
The first story I told, about Mormon Mother and RM Son, happened many years ago. That Mormon Mother has long since passed away, and the RM Son chose to leave Mormonism–with his wife and family of six children. None of their posterity is LDS. For years, as family letters went out announcing all the various accomplishments of children and grandchildren, there was always a paragraph directed to RM Son, calling him not-so-subtlely to repentence. The bride (now a great grandmother herself) once said that the Mormon Church had always been a friend to her–until her marriage. Then it became a judge. She didn’t want to be judged for the rest of her life.
My husband and I talked about the Prodigal Son last night. These are the scriptures in Luke 15:
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
The phrase that sticks out to me is this: “When he was a great way off, his father saw him…and ran.” The father does not wait stubbornly, piously, proudly in his house for the son to stumble inside, but runs A GREAT WAY to meet and help him home, immediately assuring him of his love.
Such love is the bridge to our children. I wonder if it’s the real sealing power, the undergirding of whatever binds us–if the force of love itself has everything to do with “the holy spirit of promise.” Do parents mock that power when they choose to turn their backs on children who don’t follow the set script? Or maybe God is waiting for us parents to return to His abode, and will meet us somewhere on the trail–even if it’s a “great way” from where He would hope we’d be. Maybe in that supernal embrace, we sense how far we have yet to go–how great the distance is between our paltry, childish offerings and the bounteous feast we’re offered.
I know the joy of sitting in the temple and watching my daughter marry a good man. I also know the anguish of watching my son choose to not be a Mormon any longer. In the midst of my motherhood and all of its callings stand my children as they are, with their particular gifts and challenges, all of us given to each other so we could learn something about family, humility, repentence, forgiveness. If my son’s choice is a permanent one (as it may well be), I pray God that I would I still run “a great ways” to greet him.