A few years after I was called as a stake president, I was home teaching a single, less-active woman and her daughter, Laney (not her real name). While the mother didn’t attend church, Laney, a senior in high school, did, and she was active in seminary as well. Her LDS peers encouraged her, and she responded.
Her group went to Disneyland one day and met several other LDS kids from an adjoining stake, including a young man who Laney hit it off with. Subsequently, he went on a mission. That’s when the intrigue began.
Several months into his mission, he went AWOL. Just disappeared, and no one seemed to know where he went. His parents were frantic. But I noticed Laney wasn’t. Some weeks later, we discovered that the missing missionary was living in a shed behind Laney’s house. She and her mother were hiding him.
More time passed, and Laney and the young man began living together. However, with the urging of the young man’s parents, the couple agreed to get married, and I was asked to perform it. I invited Laney and her fiancé to visit with me in the stake president’s office. They came reluctantly. The Spirit was not there. Right out of the chute, they said they had spent a couple of hours in the library and found out the Church wasn’t true. They didn’t want anything to do with it, and the wedding was an accommodation to his parents. They emanated no light. I went over a few of the particulars for the wedding, bore my testimony, and expressed my love. I was talking to two blank walls.
The day of the wedding came. I went early to the Church building where it was to be held in a neighboring stake, to see what I could do to be of help. The mother of the groom was there trying to set some things up, but her son, the bride, and the bride’s mother hadn’t shown. The mother was doing her best to make this catastrophe in her family’s life as tolerable as possible. The situation was so repugnant to the father, that he refused to come. I helped the devastated mother prepare a table for food, then we waited. Finally, just moments before the wedding was scheduled to begin, Laney showed up in her Levis and casual blouse; a wedding dress thrown over her shoulder. She went into the restroom and walked out two minutes later in her dress.
But her mother wasn’t there. She was bringing the cake, the flowers, and some other essentials. And you really can't start a wedding without the mother of the bride. A half-hour later she came. She apparently had misplaced her car keys. Nothing was organized. I suggested the few bridesmaids and the best man form a line in front of the podium in the chapel. There was no one to play the organ or piano. Laney had brought a CD player, but forgot to ask anyone to play it for them. So, we proceeded sans any music.
Laney’s mother accompanied her up the aisle, and I muddled my way through some counsel. What do you say to a couple who did what they did, including going to a library for an hour or two so they could claim the Church wasn’t true? I finished the ceremony, turned the couple around to face the small gathering there, and said, “I present to you, Mister and Missus ...." I forgot the groom’s last name!
A perfect ending to a perfect day.
Five and a half years later, my counselors and I were in the Los Angeles temple to receive instructions from the temple presidency. As we were standing in a hallway near the temple foyer, a beautiful young woman took hold of my arm and said, “President Hanson, do you remember me?”
“I’m Laney,” she said. "You married us.”
After my shock and an embrace, she gave me the brief history of their marriage. Two years into it, she said, they hit rock-bottom. They filed for divorce, and Laney went back to her mother who had moved to the northwest. Then something Alma-the-younger-like happened to both her and her husband. They reconciled, and the Church and the Savior became their rock. Six months later they went to the temple and were sealed. Now, she said, she was the mother of a baby born in the covenant. My thoughts turned to their parents; particularly, her husband's. I could hardly imagine the joy they must now be feeling.
Several years ago, while I was serving in the presidency of the Spokane Temple, a man came in to be sealed to his deceased parents. He was in his 60's and was by himself. I was curious about his situation, and while he was preparing for the sealing, I looked up his family's temple records. His mother and father and all of his siblings, but him, were sealed as a family decades back. This man would have been in his late teens at that time and obviously not prepared to be in the temple. Now, after all these years, he was.
And I wept. I was certain his mother and father would be with him in that sealing room.
Time and again I have witnessed scenes akin to these. We know who our children are. But sometimes it takes them a while, and some experiences, to find that out for themselves.
It really isn't over, until it's over . . . and it's always worth the wait.