“Brothers and sisters, the time is now yours to stand and bare your testimony of the gospel, should you choose,” the bishop of the Grand Rapids congregation said into the microphone. “Please keep your comments under five minutes in order to allow time for anyone who feels prompted to share. We’ll end the meeting at five minutes to the hour.” With that the bishop returned to his seat and waited with a patient smile.
When Melissa had invited Troy to come to church with her, she hadn’t realized the Sunday was fast and testimony Sunday. There was no prepared talk or sermon. People were encouraged to share whatever was on their minds or in their hearts. Melissa groaned inwardly. Anything and everything could, and likely would, go wrong with this scenario.
Troy could insist that their religions had enough in common to get them through whatever hard times lay ahead in their lives, but the reality wasn’t quite as easy. Melissa tried to run through a list of things Troy might find confusing or not conforming to Biblical standards.
The Book of Mormon was the most obvious, but also temple marriage, modern prophets and apostles, the restoration of the priesthood, premortal existence, women holding leadership roles in the church, women cutting their hair, women not wearing devotional head coverings, women getting advanced educations. Why did it always have to come down to women’s roles? Ugh.
At least everyone was polite and welcoming when Melissa and Troy walked in hand in hand. They purposely didn’t kiss each other in the parking lot and laughed about not making that mistake twice.
Because Melissa hadn’t lived in the area for very long, people in the congregation were still trying to get to know her. They wouldn’t question her bringing a boyfriend.
So far the meeting had gone okay, other than the conversation following the passing of the sacrament. When the tray of bread was placed in front of him, Troy shook his head.
“I am not allowed to participate in communion observances at your church.”
“You can if you want to,” Melissa whispered. “We’re not like some churches where you have to be baptized into their church before you can take the sacrament.”
“I would be excommunicated,” Troy stated emphatically.
“Wow, there are a lot of things that will get you excommunicated, aren’t there?”
“Not really.” He shrugged. “You just happen to be involved in several of them.”
“What are they?” Melissa gulped.
“Joining another church, marrying outside the church, and joining the military.”
“You’re not allowed to join the military?” She tried not to let her eyes stray to the pew several rows over where a young man sat in his dress uniform, having just graduated from basic training in the National Guard and was preparing for deployment to the Southern border to help with the humanitarian crisis. “Why?” She was afraid to ask.
“The Spirit of Christ is in nonresistance, love, gentleness, kindness, patience, goodwill and good works. This is contrary to the spirit of war.”
“Okay, well, good to know. I won’t encourage you to join the military.”
“Kind of a moot point anyway.” Troy snickered. “I’ll be excommunicated if I marry you.”
Melissa didn’t like anything about that sentence, particularly the word if. Not when. If. Also, she didn’t want to be the reason he got kicked out of his church. She turned to face forward, wondering when the next shoe would drop.
The shoe dropped when a nice older woman stepped up to the microphone and shared her testimony about the restored gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith. Melissa had never told Troy the story about Joseph’s first vision.
“Young Joseph was confused about which church to join so he knelt in a grove of trees and prayed to ask God what church he should join.”
Oh boy, here is comes, Melissa thought. Troy’s not going to like this.
“Joseph saw a pillar of light over his head and the light descended to him and he saw God, the Father, and God, the Son standing right there in the air.”
The old lady’s voice was excited and animated.
“They told Joseph not to join any of the churches because they were all wrong.”
Not exactly how the story goes, but Melissa had no way of correcting the woman. She glanced sidelong at Troy, gaging his reaction. His brow was creased.
“And that wasn’t the only vision Joseph had,” the lady continued. “He was visited by resurrected apostles and saw angels, one of whom told him where to find the gold plates containing the writings which were translated and published as the Book of Mormon.”
Another thing Troy doesn’t want to talk about, Melissa thought.
“I’m thankful to have the restored gospel in my life—” The woman glanced over at her husband. “And I’m thankful my husband and I were able to be sealed in the temple to be married for all eternity.”
Melissa wished she would be able to say that as well. All her life she’d longed to get married in a temple so that she would be with her husband forever. If she married Troy, she wouldn’t have that chance.
Forever marriage wasn’t something Troy believed in. He thought marriage ended at death. That was such a sad concept. Melissa felt a tear roll down her cheek and quickly wiped it away.
She thought Troy would put his arm around her and comfort her. She could use reassurance that everything was going to be okay. She could use that confidence Troy had shown last Sunday when he’d stood up to his father in her defense, and when he’d rattled off a list of reasons their religions were similar enough for them to make this work.
Instead of comforting her, Troy did something unexpected. He stood and walked down the aisle, shoved open the doors to the chapel, and left the building.
Book Club Discussion Questions: What do you think made Troy storm out?