As Long As You Both Shall Live

by Chris Geilman

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    As our love grew, so did my fears. Would our happiness be as fragile and temporary as a flower?

    The gray October sky threatened snow at any moment. We shivered as we posed for a few photographs outside the gold-domed chapel at the top of the hill in Logan, Utah. Moments before, we had been married in a brief civil ceremony in our branch president’s office. I remember nothing of what was said except the final words: “as long as you both shall live.” We were in love, and the fact that we had not been married in the temple seemed unimportant.

    I had joined the Church five years earlier and had received several lessons concerning the importance of temple marriage. But at age 20, eternity seemed such a long way off. Besides, I came from a family in which divorce seemed the norm, and in the back of my mind I kind of assumed that our marriage would only last a few years anyway, so why even think about an eternal commitment? I also felt temple marriage was for the “elite” of the Church, not for someone like me who was still stumbling about with a youthful testimony.

    My in-laws were devastated, and the rebellious side of me made that an even greater reason for not being married in the temple. I did not want to be another statistic, just so these people could say all of their children had been married in the temple.

    Three days after our wedding, I was back at work part-time and trying to finish a nursing degree. My husband was back in the grind of being a full-time student.

    We became members of a student ward, filled with couples who had been married in the temple. I was shocked! Here were many young women, not much different than myself, who had made the choice to be married in the temple. And they were no more “elite” than I was. I felt myself longing to go to the temple as they had.

    My greatest jolt about the nearness of eternity came five months after our marriage when I discovered that we were expecting our first child. I felt nauseated, thrilled, humbled, and terrified all at the same time. As the months passed, a deep love for that little person inside of me began to grow and fill my very being. As this love grew, so did the reality that I wanted this child to be ours for all eternity. Thoughts of this little one being born prematurely and dying overwhelmed me at times, because I knew she would not be born in the covenant.

    My love for my husband was also blossoming beyond anything I had ever imagined. As he left for classes each day, I feared that something would happen to him, and our marriage would be over. The words “as long as you both shall live” began to haunt me. Eternity was creeping ever closer, and I wanted our happiness to last forever.

    I feared divorce now, instead of feeling it was an inevitable part of life. Would this man still love me enough after the ups and downs of that first year of married life to want to be married to me for all eternity?

    Our ward would often schedule temple trips, and as I stood on the sidelines, I felt very alone. I did not want to be married in the temple just to be part of the crowd, but I was learning that unless I made the covenants that are part of the temple ceremony, I would be on the outside looking in for the rest of eternity. All of my thoughts became centered around what I would have to do to be worthy of entering the temple.

    Our first year of marriage flew by. It was a year of painful maturing, emotionally and spiritually, and of learning to be worthy to go to the temple. But finally, one year and two days after our civil marriage, my wonderful husband and I knelt across the altar from each other in the Ogden Temple, surrounded by smiling friends and family members. We gazed on our “eternal” reflection in the mirrors, tears cascading down our cheeks.

    Four weeks later, our first beautiful baby was born in the covenant. Never had we seen such a living miracle, and she was ours for eternity.

    Over 16 years have passed since that day in the Ogden Temple. The doubts and fears of our first year have been replaced by the peace of knowing ours is a forever family. I shudder to think of the chance we took, and of what these past 16 years would have been like if we had not been sealed in the temple. Many of the couples who begin as we did never do go to the temple.

    I cherish being able to return often to the temple. Within its walls I am reminded that I now possess all I need to be truly happy—forever.

    Illustrated by Carrie Henrie