The date

September 6, 2005 | 37 comments
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The phone call was innocent. Sister Walker, the mission president’s wife, wanted me to come over for dinner.
- We see each other only at meetings, we never have a chance to socialize. So Dwight and I thought of inviting you. We’ll also have another friend over. What about next week Friday at seven?

Two-hour drive to the mission home, I thought. Floundering through the Friday rush to leave the city, negotiating shuffling spaces on beleaguered highways, watching my second-hand Volvo gulp gas — at the price it stood in the mid-seventies.
- That’s very kind of you, Sister Walker, I’d be happy to.

Perhaps I should have infused more gratitude in my voice. It was nice of them to invite a lonely bachelor of almost thirty. Plus, the Walkers were all but unpleasant. Dwight and Dorothy, an archetypal mission president and his companion, relished their age, going on seventy. Benevolently overweight, neatly groomed, rosy-cheeked on mature skin, American to the bone, they carried this indefinable assurance of pioneer stock, authentically, ontologically happy. An outsider, not knowing their background, and more pedestrian in his assessment, would think they came straight from a dazzling dinner where a delectable pousse-cafe had rounded off the dainties and the wine. Our Gentile would have been surprised to discover they were teetotalers and nonetheless displayed all the signs of blissful bons vivants.

The traffic, after all, was reasonable. I parked my car in front of the mission home, an affluent middle-class villa built in the fifties, nestled between foliage. Icon for the entire house, the front yard, with its moss-draped stone borders, slowly decaying, but embracing blooming petunia’s and peppercress, exuded the self-confidence of an aging and still exuberant soul.

This house was famous in the whole mission. For more than three decades it had been occupied by subsequent mission presidents. It had drawn from their presence a status of holiness and security. In this sanctuary arrived the missionary novices, exhausted from their long night flight, as well as from anxiety and excitement. From this sanctuary they would leave two years later, transformed, fulfilled, freed. The office in the house, enclosure for innumerable interviews, was known to the missionaries as peproom, confessional, breakdown service, calvary, and always ultimate refuge.

- Dorothy will be here in a minute. She went to the train station to pick up our other guest.
President Walker had led me into the stately living room, one part dining space, one part lounge with roomy armchairs and couch. Though we were in June, the fireplace was lit. The long oval dining table, able to receive a dozen guests, was skillfully set, but only for four now, grouped towards the middle, two at each side.

- How was the road? Traffic not too bad?
- No, it went well, President. Thank you. How is the work going?

Mormon chitchat. Truisms about challenges and progress. Always the Promise of future growth to keep us going.

- There is Dorothy, he said serenely, having heard the car.

I at once realized the plot when the young lady walked in behind Sister Walker. Around twenty-five, handsome, with this mixture of apprehensiveness and forced aplomb in unfamiliar territory. Introductions. Her name was Evelyne.

Sister Walker shoved us gently to the couch next to the fireplace.
- Let’s first sit down here for a moment.
Softness. Coziness. Closeness. But in lieu of those intended attributes, I felt anger, or rather the resentment of the tricked, the annoyance of this contrived encounter. I hate matchmaking. Moreover, was Evelyne involved in the scheme? Did she know I would be the other guest? Was this ruse a response to her pleading to meet marriageable men?

Kindhearted, soothing, meandering topics, the Walkers were probing what would spark the mutual interest of the visitors. Weather, traffic, cats, oil prices, Chinese food, missionaries, the immorality of the world and how to care for potherbs. They went through such pain to conceal their eagerness to have Evelyne and me converse that none of their subtleties could remain hidden.

- Now, don’t you have a master’s degree in biology, Evelyne?
I nodded uncomfortably when my credentials were laid out too. Sister Walker must be keeping records of single adults, spending hours puzzling and matching cards to lend a hand to the divine providence which puts kindred spirits and equivalent degrees on each other’s path. She was adding to the mission home some new functions for which I was, in between my minimal answers, imagining fitting words with an unkind flavor.

We moved to the dining table. The two guests facing each other, as did Dorothy and Dwight. Candles lit. Blessing offered by President, with emphasis on family happiness. Salads served. The Walkers persisted in seeking congenial ground for the two guests, unearthing questions in varied and singular fields. But Evelyne seemed as brief in her answers as I was. Was she dodging risks and waiting for me to break more ground first?

- Let me go and check the oven, Sister Walker said.
Two minutes later her head popped up behind the kitchen door.
- Dwight, could you come and help me?
- Sorry to leave you alone for a moment, he excused himself.

Silence took possession of the room, except for the majestic tick-tock of the longcase clock, impervious to the emotions at the table. Evelyne looked down at her unfinished salad. I noticed the light tremble of her nostrils and turned my eyes away, embarrassed, in search for an object to save me. I thought of sentences to say but decided against each. The silence lingered on.

Suddenly she looked straight at me, resentfully:
- It’s pretty clear why we were invited and left alone here, huh?
- I’m sorry, I whispered. I have nothing to do with it. I was asked to come for dinner. They only said they would also invite another of their friends. I had no idea…
- Really?
There was suspicion in her voice. I nodded emphatically. She puckered her brows and sighed:
- I hate matchmaking.

The Walkers returned from the kitchen with steaming dishes. Their eyes brushed over us, anxious to catch a glimpse of thawing. There was still work ahead for them. But now that Evelyne and I were on common ground, at least partially, it became easier to gauge our position. Our shared resentment seemed to diminish it. We started to pay more attention to the kind observations Dwight and Dorothy continued to make to get the talking afloat. The generosity of their concern, whatever its meddlesomeness, stemmed from an innocence we probably never possessed. Our answers grew longer. By the end of the main dish and before we realized it, Evelyne and I were engaged in a lively exchange about new academic programs.

The Walkers smiled and nodded at us, with the satisfaction of boatmen who finally got the sputtering engine to run.

A phone rang in the distance.
- I’ll catch it in the kitchen, said President. A zone leader calling in. Shouldn’t be too long.
- Oh, and I need to get the ice-cream out of the freezer.

Again we were alone. Instantly, she shifted back to her direct register.
- Wilfried, this is between us, but I feel I need to tell you. I have someone. We are not yet engaged, but it’s in the making.

I almost answered how relieved I was. But past experiences, luckily and painfully, had eroded my bachelor clumsiness well enough to grasp you don’t express the pleasure of being freed from dating the girl in front of you.

She added:
- It’s a pretty serious relation. We’ve known each other for more than two years. But we take our time. We’ve also kept it very private.

I hesitated. Her trust was contagious. And I felt the same need to clarify.
- I… Well, I… You are the first person I say this to… It’s very personal… But there is a girl in my home branch I’m deeply in love with.
Lump in my throat. Evelyne, now smiling with a mothering glance:
- You are?
I nodded, biting on my teeth to keep my eyes dry. Let no one mock the sacred and fragile emotions of older young adults.

Cautiously she questioned me about Carine. Yes, we were getting along well, working together on many things in Church. No, I had not yet talked to her about my love. You see, she is much younger than I am. She will need time. Evelyne, caring, thoughtful, counseled. Then I had her talk about her Johann. She shared how they had met, grown gently, keeping their relation jealously guarded from all the priers in local Mormondom.

The muffled sound of our intense conversation no doubt inspired the Walkers to delay their re-entry. Intermittently we heard them shuffle a pot or a pan, tinkle cutlery in the sink, close a cupboard, thus signaling they were still busy and therefore excused.

Finally from the kitchen came the pretty flattened ice-cream. We switched topics, but our connivance was now overly manifest. A complicity frolicked between our words and eyes, up for free interpretation.

Aware of local traditions, Sister Walker next served us a warm herbal tea, complete with heart-shaped chocolates on a silver tray and a choice of white and brown sugar cubes in a porcelain cup.

President looked at the longcase clock.
- It’s about time we take you back to the station, Evelyne. At least if you want to catch the 9.32 train.
- But, Dwight, Dorothy said, come to think of it: Wilfried is driving back home. Isn’t it about half way where Evelyne lives? Perhaps he could take her home.
They must have rehearsed that part of the script several times, including bending the country’s geography. We tied the lines for them:
- Of course, I’d be happy to, if that’s OK with Evelyne.
- Oh, it’s OK, thanks, but I hope that’s not too difficult for you. It’s quite a detour.
- No problem. My pleasure.

We caught our hosts exchanging an exultant glance. Unnoticed, Evelyne and I shared the joy of dipping into their felicity.

Repeated farewells. A few false departures. One more diversion to admire the framed pictures of children, grandchildren and first great-grandchildren. The hallway.

- Thank you so much, Sister Walker. It was a wonderful evening.
And, convincingly, with a look at my partner guest:
- It was also a delight to get to know Evelyne.
- It was lovely, she concurred with twinkling eyes. It was so kind to invite us.

They beamed like lighthouses and shook our hands with the fervor of a marriage reception. Evelyne and I walked side by side to the already dusky street, our shoes crunching harmoniously on the cinder pathway of the front yard.

I let her in the car, as gallantly as possible knowing that I was being watched. The Walkers stood on the porch. They were holding hands under the soft light of the wall lantern, their free arm already delicately waving at us. They radiated a mood of warm nostalgia, an exquisite tenderness mingled with trepidation and pride, obviously reliving their own courtship, their wedding, their honeymoon, their enduring amorousness. All topped by the contentment of a master plan well executed.

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37 Responses to The date

  1. ukann on September 6, 2005 at 7:24 am

    Another delightful story Wilfried. Thank you. It takes maturity to see the good intentions of well-meaning people, and not to take offence at them.

  2. Kaimi on September 6, 2005 at 2:04 pm

    Wilfried,

    So, are you going to let us know “the rest of the story”? I don’t recall your wife’s name offhand — is she, by chance, either of the women mentioned?

  3. Wilfried on September 6, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks for asking, Kaimi. Yes, it all went as we planned: I married Carine a few years later and we have been happily married for more than 26 years now.

    Perhaps not the story to draw many comments, but if anyone feels like it, let’s hear about lovestories and (un)succesful Mormon matchmakers.

  4. William Morris on September 6, 2005 at 3:42 pm

    Wonderful. I think your style (in particular the sentence fragments and short sentences) really captures the experience well.

  5. Jeremy on September 6, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    Perhaps not the story to draw many comments

    But readers, yes. Compile your posts into a book already!

  6. Kevin Barney on September 6, 2005 at 4:40 pm

    A lovely story, as usual. I too was going to ask about “the rest of the story,” but see Kaimi beat me to it and already answered. Maybe some time you could let us know how you managed the conquest of your much younger secret crush.

  7. manaen on September 6, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    Alex Trebek: “Wilfried Decoo and Joseph Conrad”
    Ken Jennings: “Who are two continental Europeans that make English SING, baby!”

  8. jpg on September 6, 2005 at 5:24 pm

    Did you keep in touch with Evelyne? Did she marry Johann?

  9. Ivan Wolfe on September 6, 2005 at 6:15 pm

    Y’know, I don’t think I’ve ever commented on these tales, but I have to say I have enjoyed every one. Please keep them coming!

  10. Wilfried on September 6, 2005 at 7:38 pm

    Thanks for the echoes. I do appreciate it.

    Jpg, Evelyne did marry Johann and they have been living long and happily and still do. However, I must say that, except for Wilfried and Carine, I substituted names in the story.

    Besides the element of (soft) matchmaking, this little tale wants to be mindful of the challenges and trials of our sparsely spread singles to find a partner in the faith in the mission field. Quite a few never marry as they choose to live up to the standards they have set. Not all are happy tales in that respect. But we must believe in the ultimate rewards for their perseverance. Real courage is only partially to be found in momentary heroism. It’s abundant in decades of small, daily tenacity.

  11. Seth Rogers on September 7, 2005 at 10:34 am

    Sorry Wilfried, my own matchmaking story was actually rather successful.

    I took a job at BYU’s family camp in the mountains above Sundance one summer during my undergraduate studies. Up till that point I had been on a total of 3 dates in high school (all of which I was forced to go on) and 3 in college. I’d come close to actually getting a girlfriend in college, but I moved too slowly and didn’t wise up to it until she’d moved on. That’s it. Six dates and never been kissed at age 25. My dad had despaired of ever getting me out of the house.

    So anyway, I took a job at Aspen Grove. The staff were all BYU students and local high school seniors. There were about 60 young women (all BYU students) and 20 guys (half of whom were still in high school. In retrospect, the odds were pretty good …

    I didn’t even notice Misty particularly for the first month (aside from knowing her name and saying hi a few times).

    Part of the week-long program for the camp guests was to hold a youth dance at the end of the week (the night before the guests went home). The staff also participated. I went to several of these early on in the summer. I typically made it a point to dance with every female staff member present.

    One such evening, I was taking a short break when one of the female staff members approached me and said “hey Seth, ask Misty to dance.”

    I looked at her blankly and said “I already danced with her.”

    She persisted “Well ask her again. She’d REALLY appreciate it.”

    It was like a light went on in my head. So I asked her to dance and I couldn’t help but notice that she was smiling an awful lot. It was like I saw her for the first time.

    About a week later, one of the camp guests invited the entire staff down to Manti for a barbecue preceding the yearly “Mormon Miracle Pageant.” A lot of the staff were going.

    Brandon and Sheryll, a married BYU student couple who were friends with both Misty and I, suggested that I ask Misty to “go with me.” I knew they were playing matchmaker, but it also seemed like a nice idea, so I asked her.

    During the entire outing, everyone on the staff seemed to be going out of their way to avoid talking to us. I only noticed because Misty pointed it out to me. She seemed to think it was pretty funny.

    Not that either of us minded that much. We hit it off splendidly. On the car ride home, I took about a half hour until I mustered the courage to hold her hand. When I finally did, internally I thought: “That’s it. You’ve done it now! Now you have to marry her.”

    So a year later, I proposed to her. We’ve been married over five years now. Sheryl and Brandon were so pleased. =)

    Looking back on our dating and courtship, it all seemed so effortless. But I doubt I would have clued into Misty’s feelings without outside intervention. So, in my case, meddlesome matchmakers turned out to be a real Godsend.

  12. Seth Rogers on September 7, 2005 at 10:36 am

    OK, I know that story sounds cheesy. But … so was the Mormon Miracle Pageant … so I guess it fits.

  13. annegb on September 7, 2005 at 11:00 am

    Wilfried, I, too, love your stories.

    I met my husband on a blind date. He fell for me right away, but I was almost engaged to someone else. That didn’t work out, but we did. We’ve been married for 24 years. He drives me crazy. But he never bores me.

  14. Johnna on September 7, 2005 at 11:32 am

    Great details.

    In particular I love this description:
    “Benevolently overweight, neatly groomed, rosy-cheeked on mature skin, American to the bone, they carried this indefinable assurance of pioneer stock, authentically, ontologically happy. An outsider, not knowing their background, and more pedestrian in his assessment, would think they came straight from a dazzling dinner where a delectable pousse-cafe had rounded off the dainties and the wine. Our Gentile would have been surprised to discover they were teetotalers and nonetheless displayed all the signs of blissful bons vivants.”

    And the delicacy of this:
    ” Let no one mock the sacred and fragile emotions of older young adults.”

  15. Wilfried on September 7, 2005 at 12:44 pm

    Seth, great contribution, fun to read! I guess in many cases the little “outside intervention” makes all the difference. But scary too to think that such a triffle — a single word, a hint — can have such a bearing on our whole life and on eternity. But without the intervention, where would some of us be?

    Johnna and annegb, a grand merci for your kind comments.

  16. manaen on September 7, 2005 at 1:05 pm

    An apartment of women students at BYU took charge of one of my roommate’s social development. They were appalled to learn he hadn’t yet had a romantic kiss, so they wrote the following to encourage him, to be sung delicately to the tune of “Edelweiss” from “The Sound of Music”:

    Idle lips, idle lips
    Skinny, drawn, and so sallow
    Idle lips, idle lips
    Tell us why you lie fallow

    In the right place
    Centered on your face
    Summon grace
    And use them

    Touch your lips
    To her lips
    We promise you
    You won’t bruise them

    Only at the “Y” !

  17. Naomi Frandsen on September 7, 2005 at 5:49 pm

    Perhaps my favorite–certainly my most memorable–matchmaking fiasco took place my senior year at BYU when my extended family was nervously contemplating the likelihood that I would graduate sans spouse. A married cousin close to my age (whose Spanish Fork parents had set me up with a single man in their ward earlier that year) decided that I would get along wonderfully with a mission companion of his, and so he passed on my phone number and we arranged to go to a Christmas concert together. I had never met this guy before, but he said he would pick me up and we would meet up with another couple at the Marriott Center. The night of the date, I got ready and then waited rather nervously in the empty house for him to show up. About 10 minutes late, I heard a knock and opened the door to a guy wearing a peacock colored sweater and a Santa hat pulled down over his eyes. As soon as I opened the door, he started bellowing out “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer,” and he galloped into the house and started dancing around with me through the living room. I was absolutely speechless–my social graces were not at all equal to this challenge–and I went from disbelieving to laughing to great discomfort to downright anger as he continued to sing Christmas carols full voice all the way up to the Marriott Center, pausing to get out of the car at a red light and run around the truck idling next to us. He stopped singing when we parked the car, but as soon as we started walking toward the Marriott Center, he caught up to an older couple walking in front of us, and putting one arm around me and one arm around the older woman, he led us all in a round of Good King Wenceslas. This couple thought that he was delightful, but when he introduced me as his “toy,” I decided that under no circumstance would I ever, EVER let my cousin set me up on a date again. The story has a surprise ending. As soon as we got to the Marriott Center, he saw a friend of his standing by one of the columns, so he ran up, said hi, and dashed away into the parking lot. I wasn’t about to follow him, so I stood there waiting, and introduced myself to the guy standing there. “I know you’re Naomi,” he said. “I’m your date–I’m your cousin’s mission companion. I just sent my roommate to pick you up because I was running a little late.” Well, as it turns out, this was all a plot–the guy told me later that evening that they had actually planned the whole thing, and he was even thinking of hiding in the back of the car to see how I would respond. I didn’t ever go out with that guy again, although I did think of some good schemes to get back at him. And to my cousin’s credit, he said that he knew nothing about what was going to happen. I would like to think that the guy’s immaturity doomed any potential relationship from the beginning, but sometimes I wonder if maybe there was also some test in all of this that I downright failed. In any event, I didn’t ever call him, he didn’t ever call me, and to my secret disappointment, I never saw his singing roommate again either.

  18. Adam Greenwood on September 7, 2005 at 5:55 pm

    What a story. I’m giddy. I hope Johan and Evelyne completed the happy endings.

  19. Wilfried on September 7, 2005 at 6:16 pm

    Thanks, Naomi! Your story is also very interesting as it pertains to different dating traditions according to cultures. Besides the crazy way your date turned out, the simple fact that someone would come to pick up a girl for a (blind) date is a rather foreign concept in (many) non-American cultures. Even the concept of “dating” (one boy takes one girl out) is unusual in early stages of “getting acquainted”. In countries I know, boys and girls go out together, in small groups, and you may have more of less from one gender. Or two or three girls or a larger group of them go out and meet similar groups of boys at a party or some kind of event. No one-to-one set-up. They mingle, and “couples” may form as things develop. What puzzles me is that in this American, “emancipated” country, girls seem pretty dependent on the goodwill of a boy to take them out. Am I mistaken?

  20. Naomi Frandsen on September 7, 2005 at 6:52 pm

    Yes, Wilfried, and I think “dependent on the goodwill” is the operative phrase. Often I feel perplexed at the seeming commercial exchange at work on a date: the guy provides me with transportation, dinner, and an activity, and in exchange I look pretty and keep the conversation going throughout the night. I have sometimes felt like I essentially “bought” my date by my companionship, and this leads to an interesting quandry: either I act charming and feel like I gave the guy something for his money (but also led him on), or I act more genuinely and feel like the guy wasted his time and money on me. Either way it makes me feel bad. I honestly would prefer paying my own way on most dates, but then, why would I be paying to have dinner with someone I don’t even know when I could just be having dinner with my friends and having a much better time? Perhaps the non-American way works better.

  21. kristen j on September 7, 2005 at 7:35 pm

    My brother set me up with one of his classmates once. It was a disaster! He picked me up and we drove around in his car for awhile. All of the sudden he pulls over and asks if I want to go to Hawaii with him right then. I look at him like he’s crazy and then he tells me he has his credit card and he can make reservations right now. Next he runs over to a phone booth, dials, and starts talking to the airlines and making reservations.

    I then tell him I don’t have any clothes and I have college classes that I need to go to. He reassures me that he will buy me a new wardrobe while we are there and I can make up the work from the missed classes later. Then I realize that I’m just too creeped out by the situation and I tell him I can’t go with him and I think it’s time to take me home.

    He then takes me home and in the process tells me the whole thing was a joke and he didn’t really call the reservationist, it was all false. I never knew what to make of the whole night. Was he testing me to see if he could get me to…um…be intimate with him, or see how spontaneous I was. I don’t really know what was going on in his head. I was such a naive college freshman at the time.

  22. Wilfried on September 7, 2005 at 9:02 pm

    Hmm, some boys on dates do strange things, kristen. Thanks for sharing! It confirms Naomi’s story. I wonder if it’s part of the artificiality of the dating procedure, forcing two people to a sometimes awkward encounter. The most immature will behave accordingly. And build up proud stories to tell.

    What seems strange in the American dating system (to outsiders) is the fact that it can instill in men a natural superiority feeling, since girls are often dependent on the goodwill and initiative of the inviting boy. Such an attitude can remain with them for the rest of their life. The financial aspect which Naomi brought up — the boy paying for everything during the date –, is probably not conducive to equality either, reinforcing the dependency on his “generosity” and thus “obliging” the girl. Things that seem mostly unknown in the culture I come from.

  23. Adam Greenwood on September 7, 2005 at 9:05 pm

    For what its worth, Wilfried, I don’t think thats a very accurate characterization of dating at all. Me and most of my friends felt quite the opposite. Boys who had that attitude you describe would still be dating, I’m guessing.

  24. Wilfried on September 7, 2005 at 9:27 pm

    Thanks for correcting me, Adam! But I was not stating conclusions in absolute terms. Just wondering based on things I observed. It’s obvious there are many varieties of young men and many forms of dating. Still, I would like to hear from the “other gender” how they assess the overall dating system in terms of superiority or equality. Superiority can also manifest itself in very subtle ways.

  25. annegb on September 7, 2005 at 10:31 pm

    No, Adam, I was like the girls Wilfried describes. My best friend in high school used to try to convince me that girls had all the power but it didn’t look that way to me.

    As I watched my daughter blossom and just melt boys, I understood what my friend was talking about. The girls who know they have the power, have the power. Those of us who don’t, don’t.

  26. Rosalynde on September 7, 2005 at 11:29 pm

    Wilfried, with respect, I think your assessment of dating patterns a little unfair. Yeah, some aspects of dating rituals represent the remains of a structural patriarchy that directed power, uh, away from women—but dating is hardly the most insidious of those relics, nor has it proven unable to adapt to changing cultural conditions. (Girls do ask boys out—though not, yet, completely unproblematically.) Furthermore, that structural patriarchy is hardly an American phenomenon; no matter how enlightened Belgium and Belgians on gender relations, I find it hard to believe that patriarchy is entirely unknown—even if only as a relic. I have my own issues with the LDS marriage market (and the postwar historical moment it anachronistically preserves), but I think it’s proven remarkably adaptive as a system for matching up marriage partners fairly quickly while affording a significant degree of autonomy to both parties.

  27. Adam Greenwood on September 7, 2005 at 11:37 pm

    “The girls who know they have the power, have the power. Those of us who don’t, don’t. ”

    Well put.

  28. Wilfried on September 8, 2005 at 12:17 am

    Rosalynde, thanks for educating me! I guess my perception is greatly influenced and limited, first by what I see on the teenage front, with a daughter a senior in a U.S. high school. The Prom-traditions, the dances… Haven’t seen girls asking out boys yet, except when the system allows it as an instituted exception. My perception is also influenced by having worked with BYU students for the past 6 years, but perhaps this is not the best representative field (?). So I’m not totally convinced that all men and women assess the dating system the way you do. But please do not read more in my words than what I said — “it seems”, “it can”, “probably not conducive”… And I did not say that Belgians do things better or that they are “enlightened on gender relations”. That would be simplistic, and unfair to put in my mouth. The fact that I notice that things are different elsewhere does not imply that they are better. Some are, others are not. Thanks for helping me nuance and learn.

  29. Rosalynde on September 8, 2005 at 12:34 am

    Wilfried, my apologies for putting words in your mouth.

    Have you really never heard of BYU women asking out men, though? It doesn’t happen as much as the reverse, certainly, but in my day at least it wasn’t at all uncommon. And as far as Prom, well, I’d have been thrilled to have been asked by a boy. I had to do the asking both times–as did most of my friends!

  30. Tatiana on September 8, 2005 at 2:27 am

    Wilfried, I’ve never commented on any of your stories before but I want you to know I read and enjoy them greatly. This one is no exception.

  31. marvmax on September 8, 2005 at 3:01 pm

    #7 manean;
    Great comment and very funny. I was thinking when I read your comment, Wilfried writes like this in english and it is not his mother tounge. I wish I could write like he does. Thanks for your story Wilfried.

    Mine is pretty prosaic. My wife’s family moved into our ward after she had graduated from high school and I was finishing my freshman year. She swears that when she first saw me the spirit told her she was going to marry me. We got to know each other a little over the next few years. I was not any mormons mother dream of a great catch for a daughter. I moved out of my house 3 days after graduating from high school. Once on my own I realized, after a while, that my parents were right about many things and that I needed to start getting my life straightend up. I started seeing my bishop, and decided that I should go on a mission. ( I’m one of those that turned out alright, but might not be able to go on a mission now with the bar raised higher.) My sister told me that when she bore her testimony in our home ward that I was going on a mission everyone laughed. Shes a pretty funny person so it may have been from the way she said it, but she doesn’t think so. Anyway while I’m in the MTC I get a letter from my wife Karen saying that she is going on a mission too and that with the timing we will be getting home about the same time. (Actually it was me that figured it our and said I didn’t think it was fair. Yes I actually wrote that.) We wrote a few times on our missions but somthing got messed up and a few letter missed so we just stopped writing. (OK I was a little jealous with her letters always talking about baptisms, and mine being about hoping I’m planting some seeds.) We get back within a few days of each other. We reported on our missions to the HC together and spoke in church together.

    So some friends of mine say that they are going out that weekend and would I like to go with them. I say yeah and then they politly tell me that I will have to find my own date! Well I was just back in town after being gone for 3 years and having a major life change, who did I know? Well there was Karen she was back and I knew her. So I asked her if she wanted to go out. We hit it off really well. We were both planning on leaving the town where our parents lived to get on with our lives in about 1 1/2 weeks. I knew that I should ask her to marry me even with so little time and so few dates. The story of the servant of Jacob waiting for someone beside Rachel just wouldn’t leave me alone. The problem was was that I didn’t want to get married I wanted to go out with as many girls as possible. I’m pretty sure that that was not a good goal for me, and that the Lord knew that I needed a little ( a lot possibly) of stability if I was going to make it in life. Anyway, we got engaged after 5 dates, then moved to different states for 5 months. We saw each other on average once a month after that until we got married. We’ve been married for 23 years now, and my daughter will be having our first grandchild in October, not that I’m excited or anything.

    I guess that this isn’t really matchmaking because we both knew each other, but I’m sure I would not have asked her out if my friends hadn’t made it plain that I was expected to bring a date. Want to know the funny thing? None of the friends that said I HAD to bring my own date brought one of their own. It was just me, my future wife a couple of engaged couples, and a lot of other single people hanging out. I worked out for the best though.

  32. Wilfried on September 8, 2005 at 9:42 pm

    Thank you, marvmax, for sharing this! I do like your “I’m one of those that turned out alright, but might not be able to go on a mission now with the bar raised higher.” I’m happy you still belonged to that previous period, without of course doubting the importance of the raised bar. And your 23 years of marriage prove something too. Regards from my Carine to your Karen!

  33. Daniella on September 9, 2005 at 2:24 am

    Wilfried,
    Thanks for this topic. In comment nr. 10 you mentioned: “This little tale wants to be mindful of the challenges and trials of our sparsely spread singles to find a partner in the faith in the mission field. Quite a few never marry as they choose to live up to the standards they have set. Not all are happy tales in that respect. But we must believe in the ultimate rewards for their perseverance. Real courage is only partially to be found in momentary heroism. It’s abundant in decades of small, daily tenacity.”

    Well, none have taken up that point, so here I come. I’m a single woman, now age 47. I had been raised a Catholic and joined the Church in 1981 in Belgium. When I look back on the events that happened because of my single status I am happy I was raised in a Family where I was taught to speak my mind.

    A lot of members thought it was their responsibility to provide a companion to the ‘white raven’ (I found out that was my nick-name at the time). Dates were set up, while, as you know, we in Belgium are not accustomed to this ‘dating system’, and I landed, unknowingly and as a new member, into quite some embarrassing situations. Single men were (and are) very few in number. Even now that we are a Stake it would only take 3 dates to date all eligible single men I know. Since I did not feel attracted to any of them, nothing came of it. The tactlessness of some members and leaders however, was not testimony-strengthening. They claimed I would NEVER become a celestial being. I would miss out on the highest degree of glory. As if I didn’t know that… On top of all, an undoubtfully ‘well-meaning’ Branch President released me as YW-President of the Branch. I had served in this position for 10 years. To be released was a thing I could easily handle after doing the job for so long. But obviously that was not the reason. Let me try to rephrase our conversation:
    “- I am releasing you as YW-President since you are not a good example for our YW.
    - I am not what?
    - You have a serious debt with the Lord.
    - Why?
    - You are over 35 now and still not married.”

    Dissappointed and hurt, I answered: “President, I have looked around. I have not found anyone I can spend eternity with. A Temple sealing is my goal. That is exactly why I am still single. The YW know that. I teach them to set eternal marriage as their goal. I have never taught them to follow me or my example.
    - There is a single brother in our branch. (Note: He had been married 3 times before!) You don’t have to be in love to marry someone, just marry and then you will fall in love.”

    I told him: “President I cannot marry anyone like that. That is also not Church doctrine as far as I know. Maybe that is why he is looking around for his 4th wife?”

    To me that was a most hurting experience. I even considered not going to Church anymore. Luckily I had a testimony. But the challenges remain when you have to teach a lesson on Temple Marriage or are called upon to talk about this eternal principle.

    Singles do realize they’re single. They are confronted with that truth in everything they do and everywhere they go. They do not have anyone to share their worries with, none to discuss solutions to problems with. Financially they have to provide for themselves. At the dinner table they sit alone talking to themselves. In Church they sit by their own. No-one needs to remind us. But, some Church members seem to feel a continuous need to remind us. Last Stake Conference we had an Area Authority speak for 35 minutes on Temple Marriage. “Only eternal marriage gives us the highest glory in the kingdom” he said. He kept on bouncing it in several times. Not one comforting word to those who are single.

    In most cases it is not our fault we are single. And for most of us: we are single because we believe in Temple Marriage. And it is exactly that goal that limits our choice of a partner.

  34. ukann on September 9, 2005 at 8:16 am

    Daniella – my heart goes out to you. Take comfort in the fact that Heavenly Father knows your heart. Church leaders have spoken also that no single sister will ever have to take a companion that they do not feel attracted to. Also that no single sister will ever miss out on the opportunity of Celestial glory if they have not found anyone acceptable in this life. All will be made well in the Millenium. To be companionless in this life must still be a hard challenge for you, and I commend your faithfulness.

    And as for the Branch President – IMHO – he should have been the one getting released.

  35. Wilfried on September 9, 2005 at 11:45 am

    Thank you, Daniella, for your heartfelt contribution. The challenge of the singles is well-known, but is often compounded in the mission field by the very low number of eligible partners, sometimes less than a handful. Adding to the challenge is the inexperience and limitations of local leaders, often converts themselves without adequate knowledge and without mature sensitivity. It takes many many years to overcome these growing pains and to expand the numbers of members and get to second and third generation Mormons.

    You are right to mention that visiting authorities, who should know better from their experience, could show more understanding to the plights of the many singles in the mission field. It does not diminish the beauty of the ultimate goal, Celestial marriage, to always say a few comforting and reassuring words to those who have not been able to achieve that goal here on earth, and confirm that their faithfulness guarantees the highest outcome.

    I can think of no other comment than what I said about singles: “We must believe in the ultimate rewards for their perseverance. Real courage is only partially to be found in momentary heroism. It’s abundant in decades of small, daily tenacity.” You’ve shown that already and I am confident you will continue.

  36. queuno on September 18, 2005 at 10:42 am

    I grew up in the shadow of early Mormonism, and there were 3 other Mormons in my high school my senior year (2 were siblings, and the other was inactive). Maybe that led to some subconscious desire to go off to the Land of Good and Plenty Mormon Girls (Provo), I don’t know. I do know that I met my wife in Provo (married almost 12 years now, with 2 darling children and one exceptionally active fetus on the way). She and I have decided that I had gone to MIT instead, we probably might have met when she visited her brother at Harvard (her brother and I probably would have been great friends in Cambridge, having met at church). So maybe it didn’t matter where I went. [Although, living as a religious supermajority was a life experience I hadn't had yet.]

    I’ve always thought, though, that dating and marriage is a little less “mystical” than it’s made out to be in the YM/YW pograms — there may be butterflies and flowers and romance, but at some point, it’s about being able to grow with someone, so you want to maximize your potential to find someone. (There are a hundred analogies I could use.) To me, it made sense to go through the pain of BYU to maximize the potential to find an eternal companion. One can always leave Provo and then move to DC or New York or Dallas at that point.

  37. JKS on September 18, 2005 at 1:23 pm

    Daniella,
    I realize that it must be difficult to be in the church and single while listening to topics discussed in church about eternal marriage. While you may feel alone, please remember that there are other people in church who also don’t have a perfect life. They may have a civil marriage and a temple sealing seems impossible because their spouse isn’t a non-member or less active member. Or perhaps their temple marriage is on the verge of divorce.
    It is extremely difficult for us as members to speak, teach & listen about these ideal principles we should strive for. Ideals are sometimes beyond our current reach, but it doesn’t mean the ideal isn’t what we should hope for.
    I admire you for striving to forgive and forget some misguided or thoughtless comments.

WELCOME

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