I arrived back to the United States after spending 18 mos in Argentina. My family was so relieved to have me home, and there was a big gathering "welcome home " for me when I arrived home. I have to hand it to my family, they really tried to reach out to me, even though they didn't agree with my choices I was making. They just loved me. God bless them.
Upon arriving home, I promptly told my mom about my "head lice problem"..... yikes! Bless my mom she spent the first full day I was home tackling my hair! Fortunately those little critters were gone for good! I arrived home just a few days before Thanksgiving, so the whole family got together for good times and good food!
I was to "report" on my mission the first Sunday after I arrived home. That is a "homecoming" was in order. The LDS don't do homecomings and farewells anymore.. it's too bad, because it is really a nice gesture for the out going missionary or returning missionary. Basically a "homecoming" means a entire "sacrament meeting" ( the main Sunday meeting) was dedicated to letting the newly returned missionary share experiences and stories from their mission. I really enjoyed listening to these talks, but sadly they really don't do this anymore. Now, the LDS return missionaries are given a "topic" to talk about, instead of allowing them to share what they wish to. :( I don't recall much of what I shared about my missionary experiences, but I do remember the warm embraces and hugs from those in my "home" ward. I do remember my parents coming out, and that was always a blessing to see them try to support me in something they themselves didn't really agree with. They did it out of love.
I was asked by a high councilman ( an LDS man who serves in a calling to oversee the affairs of an LDS congregation or "ward" and then reports back to the"stake") to speak at a local single's ward. I showed up early and made sure my notes were in order. As I spoke I noticed a man slip in to the chapel a bit late. He later introduced himself to me after the meeting. The rest is history. We were married in the Seattle LDS temple 3mos after our first date.
It is typical in the LDS church to encourage short courtships. It is most definitely not a doctrine or "rule" but just an unspoken expected. There are exceptions to this, most LDS couples I know had short courtships. The LDS church teaches sexual purity to it's unmarried, so this may be a reason that they encourage speedy courtships. Overall, LDS marry young and they don't wait once they know "who" they are to marry to get married. :) Hope that makes sense.
In any case, our "quick"courtship flipped my parents out -- especially my dad! They had been so patient with so much, but this was too much for them. My father was especially upset and really concerned that we did not know each other well enough to make a decision to get married. Our minds were made up, and we moved forward .
Our Temple sealing, was attended by LDS friends, but neither of our parents attended the ceremony. My parents were not members and my husband's parents were not active in the LDS church and did not have a temple recommend. It was a beautiful June day -- the weather was gorgeous...... looking back I can only imagine how my non LDS parents and sisters and family felt..... they didn't say anything....... but quietly waited outside the temple for us to come out. If I was to do it again, I would have married in an LDS chapel and then waited to be sealed. It hurt my parents deeply, and rightfully so.
We enjoyed a typical LDS reception , held at the local meetinghouse "cultural hall" which also doubles as a gym complete with basketball hoops! :) Both of our families did the best they could with supporting us thru this time, even though they may not have understood "why" we were doing it the way we were. There was hurt feelings, but they sure tried hard not to show them. My husband had also completed a full time mission, and had been waiting for sometime to "meet" his eternal companion. The LDS believe very deeply in the teaching that "families are forever"...... that is they believe that it is only in the Temple, where a faithful LDS couple should marry, and receive the ordinance of eternal marriage. They believe marriage done in this way will ensure, if the couple is faithful to the LDS gospel, an "eternal" marriage... that means the husband and wife will be married in the next life as well as this one. The ceremony is a simple one. The groom and bride kneel down by an altar and hold each other's hand in a special grip that is considered "sacred" and not to be revealed. It's similar to a boyscout grip, if you know what that is. In any case, the couple kneels down, grip each other's hand, and then the "temple sealer" the LDS man who officiates, then "seals" them for time and all eternity. It is a very simple ceremony and very short. Maybe 5 minutes long or so? In any case there is no exchange of vows, no rings exchanged. Only LDS with temple recommends can attend the temple sealing. If a family member is not LDS or is not able to secure the necessary recommend they will not be able to attend the sealing/wedding.
After a short honeymoon, my husband and I returned to start our lives together. We soon found out we were pregnant with our first son. I was very ill thru out the entire pregnancy. Our son was born early, but healthy. Life got busy really quickly as my husband started his own business, we added on to our home various times, and quickly added 4 children to our quiver. Then there was the church callings we held, and the many meetings that are required ... so life was definitely "full" to say the least. :)
Each pregnancy was increasingly more difficult.... and after one c-section after another c-section I was left depleted and unhealthy. Cronic morning sickness for 9 mos with each child was really taking a toll. Close family took me aside and questioned my desire to have more children. They asked whether I was pressured to do so by my church. I would tell them "no", of course not, and really none of our church leaders ever said anything to us, but what I didn't tell them is my husband and I were studying about what the "prophets" said about children and family planning. My husband and I became convinced that birth control was not of God and that we needed to allow god to send down as many "spirit children" as He wanted. This whole concept of "spirit children" is an LDS teaching that teaches that God lives on his own planet and with "heavenly mother" ( s) ( God's wife) bears "spirit children". These spirit children do not have bodies but "spirits". They must be born on earth to have a "body" and the are assigned to a particular home or "choose" to go to a certain home/family. It was encouraged for many years for LDS women to have many children and to bring down as many "spirit children" as they possibly can. LDS women play a vital role in this "plan" because they bear the "spirit children" of God, and thus it is a blessing for them to have as many spirit children come to their home, instead of the home of "non LDS". I know this may sound really "odd" to non LDS reading, but I am trying to explain things as simply as I can. I explain this because , this teaching affected my husband and I, and our decision to have many children.
As much as I love love my children... my health was deteriorating and I was so tired and weak...... and burned out.... on the outside I appeared "happy and had it all together" but on the inside I was "burning out"........ each time I would become discouraged , I believed all I had to do was pray more, be more faithful in my callings, serve more, and read my scriptures! I really tried very faithfully to do all I was told by the church, and by what I was reading in the scriptures. I wanted to be obedient. I wanted to have that "fullness of JOY" that the LDS talk about....... but yet it hopelessly elapsed me..........
I did a good job "hiding" my feelings. My husband knew I was tired and exhausted, but no one else did. I hid that from my friends at church and my extended family. My husband's business had flourished and blossomed and were financially doing very well. We had a lovely home, and 4 beautiful children..... and from the outside it appeared as if "all was well". But in my heart of hearts, I was so tired....... and definitely not feeling the JOY I was promised to have.
What was wrong with me? I combated those feelings with being more faithful in my church callings, attending the temple more frequently, fasting and praying more, reading the book of Mormon more, and asking for priesthood blessings from my faithful LDS husband. I did all this and yet the JOY elapsed me........
It was at this point in my life, that I was presented the GOOD news of Jesus..........
And that is what I will be sharing with you in my next blog post.
Until then, God bless!