Sister Marriot shared the story of her temple sealing when as a new convert she travelled away from her family and was married without them present. As a convert who faced a lot of parental and familial opposition and anguish at my decision to join the church, her words really touched me. The story is lengthy, but I want to quote it in full.
“What if some of our traditions don’t have a place in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ? Letting go of them may require the emotional support and nurture of another, as it did for me.
When I was born, my parents planted a magnolia tree in the backyard so there would be magnolias at my wedding ceremony, held in the Protestant church of my forefathers. But on the day of my marriage, there were no parents at my side and no magnolias, for as a one-year convert to the Church, I had traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, to receive my temple endowment and be sealed to David, my fiancé.
When I left Louisiana and neared Utah, a feeling of homelessness swept over me. Before the wedding, I would be staying with David’s step-grandmother, who was lovingly known as Aunt Carol.
Here I was, a stranger to Utah, going to stay in a stranger’s house before being sealed—for eternity—to a family I barely knew. (Good thing I loved and trusted my future husband and the Lord!)
As I stood at the front door of Aunt Carol’s house, I wanted to shrink away. The door opened—I stood there like a scared rabbit—and Aunt Carol, without a word, reached out and took me into her arms. She, who had no children of her own, knew—her nurturing heart knew—that I needed a place to belong. Oh, the comfort and sweetness of that moment! My fear melted, and there came to me a sense of being anchored to a spiritually safe place.
Love is making space in your life for someone else, as Aunt Carol did for me.”
I too have felt the fear and anguish that comes from stepping out into the unknown. Making a choice to be baptized, to serve a mission, or to marry in the temple is a step into darkness and the unknown. It is a lonely journey that one must traverse in the pathway of discipleship.
But as Sister Marriot notes, it is one that is made so much easier with the love, nurturing and support of others. I am particularly grateful for those who helped me as I first joined the church. I’m grateful for bishops who were life savers. They listened to me, spent hours counseling me, and guided me along the path. I’m grateful for supportive friends who encouraged and strengthened me. I’m grateful for magnificent mission presidents who challenged me to become more Christlike and more committed in my discipleship. I know that I would not be where I am without all of them.
There are many among us who need the nurture and support of an Aunt Carol. We can be that source of strength, healing, and comfort in the lives of others. We can reach out our hand and help them feel welcomed, loved, and needed. We can be there hands of the Lord to bless those in need.