VI. A brief interlude in which I explain why I proposed to Shauna after so short a courtship.
It was toward the end of August. I was sitting in the single’s ward in the Ensign Stake. We met in the old 20th ward building at 2nd Ave and J--a beautiful old building with antique stained glass windows.
My roommates and several others were waiting with me for Priesthood meeting to begin when Larry_____, the 2nd counselor in the Bishopric, walked in. "Hey, Larry," someone called out, "what are we talking about in Priesthood meeting this morning?"
We were a close group. We enjoyed a great camaraderie and even in Priesthood meeting exchanged a good deal of good-natured banter. Most of us were well into our thirties with a few even into their forties. All of us, I believe, wanted to marry, but were either frightened at the responsibility or for some other reason, just not ready for it yet.
Larry looked at us with a serious expression. "Take my advice and don’t try to joke with the Bishop this morning," he said. "He is nothing but dead serious. His best friend died this week. This is going to be one earnest lesson."
Our bishop, Bishop Stephen Nebeker, was so easy of manner, that I couldn’t help but feel that Larry was certainly exaggerating his seriousness. He wasn’t. Bishop Nebeker came in late--during the opening song. I, and almost everyone in that room, felt the sense of oppression in his manner.
After the opening prayer, Larry stood up and announced that the Bishop would be giving the lesson that morning.
"Brethren," he began in a very solemn tone of voice, "for some time now I have had the feeling that many of you are simply drifting. You are simply going no where, constantly postponing making important decisions. Ask yourself, ‘If I continue doing what I am doing now, where will I be in a year--in 10 years?’ I am not talking just about getting married--important as that is--I’m talking about every aspect of your lives. The lack of marriage is quite frankly merely symptomatic of the pattern of your lives.
"I feel deeply about this because this past week one of my dearest friends, Carl Okleberry, passed away from cancer. He was only 37 years old--younger than some of you. Was it because he was not living righteously? He was the Bishop of my home ward" (as he told us this, he was weeping). "He and I served together in the Young Men Presidency. He leaves behind 5 young sons and a beautiful wife."
Suddenly, he stopped speaking, paused for several moments, ceased weeping and looked out at us with a rather stern expression. "I don’t know why someone so young, so righteous, with so much to love for and so needed by family, Church and community would be struck down by so dread a disease, but this much I do know." Here he paused again, looked out at each of us individually, and then raised his voice and spoke slowly and deliberately, "Carl Okleberry may have lost his life, but he still has, and always will have, a beautiful wife and 5 wonderful sons, and the way things are going that is a great deal more than many of you will have unless things begin changing, and rather quickly, in your lives."
I wish I could convey the powerful spirit that was in that meeting. I have seldom, if ever, been so deeply moved.
Bishop Nebeker passed out cards & told us he wanted us to write down something we wanted to achieve in the next 6 months. I wrote that I wanted to meet someone that I could feel I could marry and that before 6 months passed, I would ask that girl to marry me.
As that 6 months date approached, I remembered the spirit of that meeting and I simply felt I had to fulfill my commitment. I realized that I had met someone I could feel good about asking to marry me, so I determined that I would ask Shauna to marry me.
Looking back on my life, I really wonder if would ever have found the courage to ask anyone to marry me without the tremendous push of that meeting. Bishop Nebeker was right--certainly about me, at any rate. I was simply drifting, postponing, dreaming, hoping, but doing very little.
And I was not alone. The counselor, Larry, was older than I, but the same pattern was, outwardly, at least, apparent in his actions. He had dated, probably dozens of girls in his life, but, as soon as things began to get serious, something, and I suspect his case was similar to mine and many others in that room, came up that ended the relationship. I doubt very much that without the impetus of that stern admonition that he would have changed course. He had dated, rather casually for several months, a particularly attractive English girl. She had an absolutely delightful British accent. After the meeting, he moved rather quickly (for someone in that group, at least) and within a month or so, he was engaged and shortly thereafter, he was married to the English girl.
And a good thing too. Within a year, he and his English wife had a child. Within another year, he was dead of a brain tumor, but he, like Carl Okleberry, would face resurrection knowing he had a family.