I married late, when I was 27. The girl I married was 24. I had been on a mission and was very active in the church. (I am still active today and consider myself a “believing” member.)
At this time, I was in grad school out of state (i.e. outside Utah) and I was in a singles ward and for some reason the stake president, who worked for CES (he was an institute teacher), had made me his home teaching companion. One of the people we home taught was a young widow (she was 25 or so) whose husband had died in a car accident. This woman wanted to remarry and told me and my home teaching companion (the stake prez) that she was going out with someone but couldn’t tell if “he even likes me.”
I said, half-joking, “Why don’t you try kissing him, see how he likes it. If he likes it, or likes you, you will know.”
The stake prez didn’t like this at all. He frowned. He said, “Pres. Kimball said a young man should not ever even kiss a young lady even if they are engaged to be married. If a young man does kiss a young lady, it should be the kind of kiss a father would give a daughter.” Etc., etc.
I sat there trying to process this—and it just seemed so unrealistic to me, so extreme. I was also troubled because a month earlier I had gone out with a girl (this was our 3rd or 4th date) and we’d done some light kissing, embracing.
After our home teaching visit, I sat with the stake prez in his car and confessed to this “light kissing, embracing”. He listened, and gravely told me I’d sinned and must repent. He asked me if I’d read “The Miracle of Forgiveness” (a very harmful book, I now believe). I said I had, and promised to repent.
Fast forward a year. I’m engaged to be married (to a different girl) and I’m sitting outside the stake president’s office, my former home teaching companion, waiting for a worthiness interview so me and my fiance can be married in the temple. I’m terrified because a week ago we had been rolling around on a lawn, kissing, and I’d had an ejaculation. We were fully clothed and did not engage in any petting and this was the most that had happened, but still I thought for sure the stake president would deny us a recommend to marry in the temple if I told him about this incident. The invitations had all gone out, our families were planning on our temple marriage, and I was terrified.
Finally we were called in. The stake prez began with chit-chat, then gradually progressed to telling us about a couple whom he’d seen only the night before, a couple who’d broken the law of chastity and had agreed to wait a year before getting married so they could repent. I was mortified. I said to myself, “Is this what needs to happen with us [me and my fiance]?”
When the stake prez asked if we kept the law of chastity and were worthy to go to the temple, my fiance , looking him straight in the eye, said, “Yes.” But I couldn’t look him in the eye. I was ashamed, and he knew this (I think). He said, “How about you, Brother ––––?” I remembered my ejaculation a week ago (inside my Levis, fully clothed), and blushed to the tips of my ears. “I guess so … yes,” I stammered. The stake prez stared at me, his eyes burrowing into my soul, and I knew that he knew I was unworthy to go to the temple and marry my fiance because of what had happened a week ago while rolling around on the lawn at the rear of her apartment.
But still I held my ground and my fiance and I came out of stake president’s office with our temple recommends and were married a month later, with both our families present. We are both still active in the church, and I look back on that whole experience with … I don’t know. I was living as pure a life then as I have ever lived, yet I thought I was such a sinner, totally unworthy to marry this girl in the temple. Now I look back and realize that what took place between me and my fiance was a normal and healthy part of courtship, even a Mormon courtship of a boy and girl who were striving to keep the commandments. I was closer then to my Heavenly Father than I have ever been since, and I would like a re-do of that interview so many years ago, an interview in which—with all that I know and understand now—I challenge the stake president’s narrow-mindedness and dogmatism, but challenge it in a kind and forgiving way, with the knowledge that we are all sinners before God and need all the mercy we can get.