It was only a dream, Stephanie told herself. Only a dream. But, what a good dream. He was there, with me in our bed. I could feel him… everywhere. It was like my body was responding to his touch as it had every time we’d made love. From that first night after saying our vows in the temple to be together forever, until the day we locked up the beach house and drove north into the mountains. It had been as if my body knew instinctively how to respond to his touch, and it felt that way again. I felt like a livewire. I felt like the tiniest breath of wind would be enough for me to burst into flames.
How can I live this way? How can I go the rest of my mortal life feeling like this? It’s like having an itchy skin rash that I’m not allowed to scratch. It’s like my arms are locked inside a cast and pinned to the bed. No, it’s like my arms have been set free from the casts, but I’d been told that I’m not allowed to move them.
There is a way… the voice in her head almost sounded sinister, like it was tempting her. She shook her head even though there was no one there to see her. There was no one there to hear her. There was no one listening to the words she couldn’t bring herself to say. There was no one there.
Yes, there is… this voice wasn’t sinister; it was comforting. She knew that God was trying to comfort her, and she needed to listen carefully to His whispered voice. She needed to stay strong and hold on to the values she’d lived true to her whole life. She needed to stay strong so that someday she could be reunited in the celestial kingdom with her eternal companion. Stay pure.
But, it would be so… easy. She curled onto her side, wrapped herself into a ball, and cried.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Stephanie was a source of gossip in the Oscoda Branch congregation. The young, grieving widow who was lost and frustrated and always on the verge of tears. Her heart ached and she was aware that her prayers had been lacking in recent weeks.
The Sunday school teacher taught how Satan knows our weaknesses and uses them to snag us and how he doesn’t want us to pray because he knows that we will draw close to the Savior & farther away from him. Stephanie bowed her head with tears in her eyes as the teacher told the class that the Gospel is a plan of happiness and not gloom & sadness. Tears fell down Stephanie’s cheeks during the closing hymn and she resolved to go see the branch president before leaving that day.
She didn’t have to wait long. He didn’t have very many appointments before her. Stephanie’s tears began before he had even shut his office door.
“I can’t live like this, President Jones!” She sobbed. Instead of sitting at his desk, he pulled up a chair and sat with his knees close to hers, head lowered and handed her a box of tissues.
“I know it’s been hard, Sister Crawford.” His kind words were an attempt to comfort her. “Your loss is still so recent. It’s understandable for you to be grieving. We all understand.”
“No, you don’t understand.” Stephanie interrupted. “I need Jared!”
“I do understand.” He patted her hand that rested on her knee. “I lost my father just last year. But, I know that we’ll be together again someday. So will you and Jared. You were sealed in the temple. Your marriage is eternal.”
“No, President Jones.” She said it more firmly this time. “I need him… physically.”
“Oh…” He pulled his hand away and sat back in his chair. This was a more serious problem than just a grieving widow. “Are you… have you…?”
Stephanie felt bad that she was putting the branch president in the predicament of having to ask uncomfortable questions, but that was the nature of his calling.
The branch president was tasked with counseling his patrons who were committing serious transgressions. But that usually involved a young man struggling with pornography or a gambling addiction or a drinking problem. He probably wasn’t prepared to deal with an innocent young lady confessing to a possible chastity issue. This would have to be handled a little more delicately.
She suddenly felt guilty for more than just her inappropriate thoughts, but also for putting him in this predicament.
“No…” She hesitated, knowing she was teetering close to the truth. “Not really…”
“I’ve been… very tempted.” Stephanie covered her face with her hands, not wanting to even look him in the eye.
“With… another man? Or…” He seemed to choke on his words but forced them out. “…by yourself?”
“By myself…” Stephanie’s words were muffled by her hands covering her face and by her sobbing. She felt terrible, like she was the most horrible, sinful woman in the world. It felt as if it would be easier to confess that she had had a one-night stand with a stranger she’d met at a bar than to admit that she’d been tempted by the possibility of self-indulgence. She started crying harder while he sat silently waiting. When her crying let up slightly, she grabbed a tissue from the box and dried her eyes.
“But you… didn’t…?” He was obviously very uncomfortable with the situation, so she tried to pull herself together.
“No…” She hesitated. “…I didn’t.”
His whole body relaxed with a sigh of relief and he almost smiled slightly. But he cleared his throat, sat up straighter, and looked her in the eye.
“You’re right. I can’t understand what it’s like to lose my spouse. That would be very different than losing a parent. I’m sorry I dismissed your frustration.”
“I’m sorry to put you in the position of having to counsel me for something so… embarrassing.”
“Trust me.” President Jones tried to get her to look him in the eye. “That is not even close to the most embarrassing things I’ve heard people confess. And you know, you didn’t technically do anything wrong. Being tempted to do something wrong is not the same as following through with those actions. How did you end up getting yourself out of that situation?”
“I felt God telling me that He was there with me and that He was listening and watching. His Spirit drove away the negative spirit in the room.”
“That’s good. That means that you still have a lot of willpower, and a lot of power over Satan. He doesn’t like that, so the more you can keep God’s Spirit in your life, the less and less power Satan will have over you. Are you praying and reading your scriptures?”
“Not as often as I should be,” she admitted.
“Do you think you could try to do better at reading and praying?”
“Yeah, I’ll try.”
“I think we should meet each week after church for some accountability. If you need, I can recommend a good therapy group for bereavement.”
“It would just be a bunch of old people.” Stephanie rolled her eyes.
“Maybe it would be good to have your ministering sister come over a little more often for now as well.” He suggested. “Who is your ministering sister?”
“Ah, well that will make it easy for me to get in touch with her. She’s probably at home making me some lunch right now. I’ll tell her that you’re going through a hard time because of the loss of your husband and suggest that she come visit you a little more frequently than she normally would.”
“You’re not going to… tell her anything that I confessed to you, are you?”
“Of course not. I would never do that.”
“Okay.” Stephanie stood up to leave. “Thanks for listening. I’ll try to do better.”
“I’ll see you one week from today.” President Jones stood up and shook her hand. “Life will get easier. I promise.”
“Don’t make promises you have no control over.” Stephanie sighed and walked from the room.