I have recently been reading some writings from my Mormon pioneer ancestors, especially those related to my great-great-great grandmother, Sarah DeArmon Pea Rich. One of the interesting stories from her journal pertains to the budding romance between herself and her future husband, Charles Coulson Rich. In her own words:
“One of the Elders who had been several times at our house took a great deal of pains counseling me and my sister to be careful and not marry anyone that did not believe as we did, and told us the consequences that it might be the means of our not having the privilege of gathering with the Saints; and once when he called, he said to me that he had recommended me to a very fine young man that he thought would make me such a good companion, and told me his name.
“So that passed on for some months, and another Elder came and stopped and preached, and while talking to us girls about our gathering with the Church, he turned to me and said, ‘Sister Sarah, I have got a good young Elder in the Church picked out for you a husband.’ Well, said I, tell us what his name is, for that is the second one that has been selected for me a husband; and when he told me his name, behold it was the name that the other Elder had told me of several months before. This caused lots of comments in our family, and they would often tell me to look out for this fine young Elder to come along.
“So after a while the two Elders returned to our house that first preached there and the one that baptized me said to me, ‘Sister Sarah, while I was at Kirtland I recommended you to a very worthy young man who is an Elder in the Church, and when I told him of you said he, that some girl has been recommended to me twice before, and now I must hunt her up, so when I inquired his name, it was the same as the two others had recommended to me. We all wondered, thinking how strange this all should be! So about a month from that time I heard there was a letter in the postoffice for my father, and he not being at home I rode to the postoffice, about a mile away and got the letter, and on opening the letter I found one enclosed directed to me, and on opening mine found it was this same young man that had been recommended to me so many times before writting. I truly was struck with wonder and surprise. As a matter of course, it set me to thinking of the matter, and could not help but think the hand of the Lord had something to do in this matter; as I had always prayed to the Lord that I might be led by His Spirit in selecting a companion for life, and to guide me in that matter…
“…It was almost six months after I received this letter before my father sold his property in Illinois and moved to Missouri and after father got to Far West, it was about two weeks before I met with the young man referred to; his name was Charles C. Rich. It was in a public meeting that our eyes first rested on each other, and without anyone pointing us out to each other, we knew each other at sight; and in four months from the time we first met, we were married on the 11th day of February, in Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri. So my many friends can see the hand of the Lord had something to do in our acquaintance and marriage.”
After reading this account, I started wondering how many of our relationships or marriages have their foundations in experiences like this, because we see them as evidence of the hand of God in our lives. Without such a belief, these experiences, while seemingly magical and romantic enough to qualify as the plot to a romantic comedy film, ultimately have virtually nothing to do with the actual nuts and bolts of a solid relationship. To any clear-thinking individual, basing such life-altering decisions as marriage on what may be entirely coincidental events is dangerous indeed.
When I was single, I often would go to the temple in Logan and participate in sealings, despite not having a spouse to work with. (Generally speaking, this is a poor way of spending your evenings if you’re trying to find a spouse, since the median age of the people in the sealing rooms was probably about 106.) I found the temple work itself very profound and spiritually strengthening. One weekend, in a desire to retain a waning connection to my mission in Finland, I took a stack of Finnish names which I had received from a friend to the temple and handed them to the sealer on duty that evening. This older gentleman took one look at the mass of letters and umlauts in his hand, and asked me to help him with each pronunciation. Happily, I obliged, and we completed all of the sealings with the help of some octogenarians who were feeling saucy that night and didn’t mind staying late to finish the stack.
As I was leaving the room, the sealer asked me to wait for a moment, which I did. He came over and took my hand and said, “You have a very good command of Finnish, don’t you?” I replied, saying that I could hold my own. “You need to hang on to that language, because your future is in it.” I just kind of stared at him for a moment, then let his hand drop, and walked out of the room. Two days later, I found myself in a chance meeting with the woman who is now my wife. She happens to be Finnish.
During our courtship, I cannot honestly say that the sealer’s words had a great impact on my mentality toward our relationship; but I also cannot honestly say that they had zero impact. Although I knew that his statement could mean any number of things (including “absolutely jack squat”) I often found myself wondering why he said what he said, and if he had truly seen or felt something that was not yet known to me. I didn’t rely on that sealer for guidance, but on some level, I believed him, just as I believe that my GGG Grandparents Sarah and Charles were guided to each other. The experience did not compel me to marry my wife, but it did comfort me in an odd way as I nervously approached an international, multicultural, and multilingual marriage. Similarly, it greased the wheels slightly when my wife and I made the decision to speak only Finnish to each other and to our children.
So what will I do in 20 years when my daughter tells me of the new beau in her life, and how they are meant to be together because they were assigned to the same Family Home Evening group in their college ward, or that they both like to eat dirt (assuming her current tastes don’t change ) or that they both have tempers hotter than the blazing sun (assuming her current character doesn’t change)?
 Journal of Sarah DeArmon Pea Rich, pp. 15-16
 Unless you think that a belief in RomComs as accurate depictions of life and romance is a nut or bolt.
 After 8 years of this, I both hate and love that decision on a daily basis.