I had just moved to Salt Lake and after 5 years of inactivity in the church I'd decided it was time to meet with the bishop and get my life straight. As my roommate Erica and I waited in the lobby of the old U of U Institute building for the bishop, we saw several people coming out of the gym with what looked like a very good piece of cake. We decided we’d ask everyone who came in the door to go get us a piece of it.
Craig was the first person who agreed. He came out of the gym with two pieces of cake for us. He was on a date but spent most of the next hour talking to me and my roommate and making the connection between his love for the Blues Brothers movie and my upbringing in Chicago. He exchanged phone numbers with my roommate. But after some negotiating with her, we determined he was mine.
The first time I called him, he was wondering why an engaged woman was calling him. Engaged? I’m not engaged! I happened to have a very fake looking engagement ring on the correct finger left over from riding the subway in Chicago (an effective defense mechanism for unwanted advances). Between the ring and a bishop’s interview—which he assumed to be a temple interview for my upcoming wedding—he did not think I was available.
Craig was the first LDS person I had dated and I have always said he was a gift from God that night for my efforts to straighten out my life. I know now that it is true.
We married one year later in the Chicago temple. But while most newlywed couples are enjoying this time together as husband and wife, we were fighting. Whether it was immaturity, a lack of preparation, or the wrong person or timing altogether, we could not seem to make things work.
Our first separation occurred only one month into our marriage. We struggled along, miserable and heartbroken, for a few more years before we decided it would be best to separate permanently. I moved into a studio apartment in Salt Lake as I finished my Bachelor’s degree, and he moved back to Price, UT to work for his parents. We saw each other once a week or once every few weeks when we would meet at different restaurants and hash out what seemed like a failed attempt at marriage.
After over a year of this, I didn’t understand why I would stay in Utah when the rest of my family and life were in Chicago. When I graduated from the U of U in 2002, I decided to move back home. Lonely and unsure of what to try next, we filed for divorce shortly after our 4 year wedding anniversary.
I notified friends and family of our decision, confirmed with the court that the paperwork had been filed, and waited for the 10 day waiting period to expire before the divorce would take effect.
Ten days came and went. Two weeks had passed without the final divorce decree, so I decided to call the court and see what the holdup had been. To my surprise, despite us having a receipt and case number, they had no record of our filing. They said if we wanted to proceed with the divorce we would need to re-file. Craig and I were both stunned and confused.
Humbled, we each attended the temple in our respective locations. We had been seeking comfort through temple attendance during the course of our marriage, but hadn’t seemed to really find any answers. Neither of us knew the other was seeking out the Lord’s help one more time.
The Chicago Temple is a very slow place and it isn’t uncommon to be one of two in a room. When I reached the celestial room, I was fortunate enough to be alone as I prayed and pleaded with Heavenly Father to know what to do. After what seemed like hours in there, I was given a “perfect brightness of hope.” Those are the only words I know to describe it. For a brief time, the room around me and above me filled with a brilliant light, and I was able to feel complete confidence, complete happiness, and complete assurance that if we tried again we would have love and happiness in our marriage. I didn’t only feel it. I could see it.
I left the temple at peace but with no knowledge of how that could ever come to be. We hated each other. We had no respect for one another.
I returned home and found a voicemail on my phone from Craig. He said he needed to talk to me. He had been to the temple and had the most incredible experience and he wanted to tell me about it. I returned his call and listened to him recount the same feeling and same experience I had had that morning.
Without any hesitation, in that same phone call we decided to try again and have Craig move to Chicago so we could be together.
When he arrived the following month, it was as though we were two totally different people than we had been before. In the 11 years since that divorce filing, we have not had any of the same problems we found so debilitating in the beginning of our marriage. It has been the fulfillment of that “perfect brightness of hope.” I have had more happiness and more love in my relationship with him than I knew was possible or acceptable for me. I’ve never believed I deserved this.
After three giddy, wonderful years playing in Chicago, we became parents on Valentine’s Day morning 2005. That is the day that what should have been a failed marriage, became the most complete testimony to us of the love our Heavenly Father has for us and the blessings we received by acting on the promptings we had in the temple.
We had created and preserved a family.