The revelation that made me cranky

June 29, 2007

I have a story. It is one of many that has made me the crotchety cynic you have before you today.

When I was 22 and recently home from my mission, I drove to Atlanta to see a friend of mine get sealed in the Temple. While in the temple, I had the distinct impression that I was to marry this kid named Phillip, also a returned missionary. I didn’t know Phillip. He was in my Institute class, nice enough, not cute or ugly, he just was. I was so surprised by the inspiration because it seemed so separate from my own thoughts and desires. As I said, I had no thoughts or desires about him.  Though I did whole-heartedly believe in supernatural promptings and guidance.

Then the sealer kept looking at me and saying that the inspiration you receive in the Temple is true and good and right and if you don’t follow it you risk condemnation. That was even more shocking since clearly he couldn’t have known the inspiration I had just received.

So I went back to Oklahoma and I pursued him. I asked him out, we started to date. We made out a lot. We were recently returned missionaries. I got involved in his family, he got involved in mine. We started talking marriage, but here’s the thing. I didn’t really like him. He was pretty nice but we were ridiculously ill-suited for each other. We had differing opinions on nearly everything and our world views obviously came from other planets. I was so faithful and believing then that I couldn’t let that inspiration go. I got caught in this circular thinking. I felt trapped, like I was about to get into an arranged marriage that I didn’t want to be in. But then that arranged marriage was by God. And didn’t everyone want an arranged marriage by God?

I was completely and utterly miserable and the poor guy didn’t know what to do. I consulted my stake president uncle who told me that if the Spirit told me to marry this boy, I needed to marry him and that only good things would happen. It didn’t matter if I didn’t like him. But eventually it got to be too much. I was too miserable and for the first time I had to tell God that I couldn’t handle his revelation because it made me to unhappy and I hated myself for it.

I left for BYU. I graduated from BYU. I moved to Boston. Though entirely unattached, I was very happy and I never regretted my decision not to marry that boy. During the years following, I tried to make up these weird reasons about why God would have inspired me to do something that would have made me miserable. Was it to learn to listen to myself? To trust what God said and what I thought together? I had a million reasons.

I still have no idea why I had that very powerful feeling in the Temple, but now that I’m a curmudgeon I think I made it up. I don’t mind attributing good things to God because it’s nice but mostly I think we make most of it up and it’s usually fine because we’re led to do nice things. If I have any idea that goes against my personal, mostly rational,  heart and mind I ignore it. No matter where it comes from.


  1. “If I have any idea that goes against my personal, mostly rational, heart and mind I ignore it.”

    Maybe that’s the lesson you were supposed to learn.

  2. Let’s say for the sake of argument that God did tell you to marry that boy. I think it’s pretty disingenuous for a supposedly perfect being to mess with your mind like that. Just my point of view. I’m also glad you didn’t marry that guy.

  3. I think you did everything you were supposed to do. Perhaps it was a test so see if you would even consider the idea. I admire you for doing that. Your then later feelings would be as much of a stupor of thought that there is in an answer of prayer. I am assuming you continued to pray about it as well as counsel with others as you mentioned. I happen do believe you were supported in your choice because you were willing to follow through with a prompting as much as you could do.

  4. I also had an experice like that, not one so serious as marriage, but it was powerful. There was a job that i KNEW was for me. It was a spiritual KNOW. It was stronger than anything I had ever felt concerning a decision up until that point. I did everything I could. I was on the ball. I had impecable recommendations and experience, and I didn’t get the job. I had a few moments of seriously questioning the Lord. Then came the stupidest analogy I’ve ever come up with, but it made sense to me at the time and still does. Remember in the movie “Hunt for Red October” how the Russian captain does a “crazy Ivan” every so often just to see if anyone is following? I really think sometimes the Lord does “crazy Ivans” not to mess with us, but to see if we are following. I think you did everything right and thank goodness you didn’t marry someone you didn’t adore. Plus, you got to move to Boston! Isn’t it wonderful? I miss it and can’t wait to get back someday!

  5. Carrie Ann, it’s hard to feel so sure and then have it be completely different. I think that’s why I feel cynical about the whole process. Maybe I should watch The Hunt for Red October so I get it but I felt like God was kind of jerk because that was the only answer I could come up with, to see if I was paying attention to him cuz my life would have been bad had I married that guy. But now as you say, I’m very happily situated in Boston and getting married to someone very well suited for me. But I chose him, the Spirit had no input. At least as far as I can tell.

    I’m with you Civicus. Which is why I’ve decided God didn’t tell me. I’d rather have him be less involved than rude.

  6. well congratulations on your marriage no matter how you arrived at the decision! This was the first time you have mentioned a mission…where did you go? and are you staying in Boston? sorry to be so nosey, but that was my family’s favorite place to live. Our time there was short but all of us feel very deeply connected, so I’m jealous of you while I am trapped in Utah.

  7. I’m not saying your first inspiration was true or not. But here is my take on the principles that I see come into play.

    I had one of those experiences where the Spirit told me to do something unreasonable, that didn’t make sense, that went against the rules, that would have gotten me in trouble, that would have been hard to explain, and if I had tried to explain it, they would have said “God would never tell you to do that!” So I dismissed that “whispering” as coming from Satan instead of God, because I talked myself into believing that God would never tell me to do that. However, at the same time, I also ignored a feeling that I should get down on my knees and pray about it, and seek a confirmation one way or the other.

    Fast forward to 16 years later. After much heartache and many failures in life, I was cursing God, blaming him for much of my screwed up life. And then, after ignoring God for most of those 16 years, I heard that voice whispering again, “Don’t you remember me telling you to ….” And then I realized that if I had done that “unreasonable” thing I would not have gone on the path which eventually led to, or was the source of, so much heartache and failure.

    If God was telling you to do a “Crazy Ivan” (a meaningless turn) just to see if you were following, he also might have told you to call _off_ the engagement later on. But since you didn’t follow the first step, you were never told the next step on that path. It may take you 16 years before you realize some of the consequences of your alternate path.

    These kinds of things are rare. But they do happen. Sometimes we call them “Abrahamic Sacrifices” because they involve a seemingly unreasonable or non-sensical sacrifice or action. If Abraham had said “God would never tell me to do that! That must have been some other spiritual voice from a bad source, or just my imagination” and had not gone out and actually started to sacrifice Isaac, he would never have received the “Ok, stop, just testing” message.

    Maybe you would have gotten a “just testing” message some point after getting engaged. You might never know. And if you had gotten an “ok, stop, just testing” message, a later message might have been “Ok, now that we know you’re listening, here’s the guy with whom you will _really_ be happy.” I’m just dreaming up possibilities here that might follow scriptural patterns of how God sometimes operates.

    Nephi being called upon to kill passed-out-drunk Laban is another Abrahamic sacrifice. Nephi could have just tied him up and gagged him, ala Macguyver, and still gotten the plates. God could have killed Laban himself, he didn’t absolutely need Nephi to do it. So God must have had some other purposes for it. One guess is that it probably made an impression on Laman and Lemuel. They probably didn’t think their dorky goody-two-shoes little brother was capable of killing someone. And maybe Nephi needed his “First Blood” at that point in order to somehow prepare for wars with the Lamanites later on.

    Lehi and family leaving their comfy home in Jerusalem for 8 years of camping out, and then sailing across an ocean (in a boat they built themselves) is another Abrahamic Sacrifice. Can you imagine all the “That doesn’t make sense!” arguments and whining that Laman and Lemual made?

    I know it’s hard. I still ignore the voice of the Spirit far too often. My latest example is that I believe I was told to get up and bear my testimony last Sunday. I rationalized that as an ex-member I shouldn’t. However, the bottom line is that I disobeyed, and I knew I disobeyed, and the guilt seems to confirm it more. Who knows, maybe the Spirit also told the Bishop I needed to bear testimony, and the Bishop was expecting me to get up and ask him if I could speak.

  8. Carrie Ann-I came to Boston post BYU to work and live in a city. I’ve been here about 3years. I love it. Like you, I feel deeply connected to this place even though the bulk of my life has been spent in OK or the West. I’m getting married in September and then we’re actually headed to Lima Peru. I’m so sad to leave Boston but hopefully I’ll come back here some day. I went to Tokyo Japan on my mission. I loved it, but my mission was easy. I hear other people’s stories and clearly I was spoiled. I wouldn’t mind getting back there some day either.

    Bookslinger–the thing that ruffles me is that I have to do so much explaining. Call me lazy but when I have to have new explanations regularly for what God does in my life I get really frustrated. So I stopped. With this boy Phillip, I did date him beyond my comfort zone since I didn’t really like him. I went whole hog until I just couldn’t hold it anymore. It’s too long ago to know if I regret dating him, but I never regret leaving the situation. That was 8 years ago. I have a hunch in 8 more years I will still not regret my choices.

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