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What I know now after trying to plan a wedding during the COVID-19 pandemic

Valerie Johnson and Kenny Walton at the Utah State Capitol. Credit: Savannah Collins, Savannah & Devin – Photo and Video
Kenny Walton and Valerie Johnson in Cedar City, Utah, on Oct. 12, 2019. Credit: Melissa Johnson
Valerie Johnson and Kenny Walton at the Utah State Capitol. Credit: Savannah Collins, Savannah & Devin – Photo and Video

On the evening of March 25, just after 7 p.m., I received a push notification on my Church News app informing me that all temples around the world would close at the end of the day

The notice came as I am planning a wedding for June. If that wasn’t stressful enough, I’m doing so in the middle of a global pandemic, I woke up to my first major earthquake which hit the Salt Lake Valley on March 18, and my car was totaled in a serious accident about a month and a half ago.

While the world seems to be going topsy-turvy, I’m doing my best to take deep breaths (at least six feet away from anyone else), look for the “compensatory blessings” Sheri Dew wrote about and notice the hand of the Lord in my life.

It’s a pattern of behavior I learned out of necessity. While recuperating from my accident in February, it was easy for me to fall into a state of anxiety. I thought about how if my fiancé had been in my passenger seat, he could have been seriously hurt or killed; I fixated on all of the driving mistakes I’ve ever made; I kept reliving the moment of impact.

Valerie Johnson and Kenny Walton at the Utah State Capitol.
Valerie Johnson and Kenny Walton at the Utah State Capitol. | Credit: Savannah Collins, Savannah & Devin – Photo and Video

By letting my mind fixate on all the scary thoughts, I was preventing myself from healing mentally. So my focus had to shift. I reminded myself that I am, in fact, a good driver. When looking at photos of my demolished car, I felt grateful for the bystanders who acted quickly to help me. 

In the days and weeks after the accident, I saw even more blessings the Lord had prepared for me.

With COVID-19 making rapid and sweeping changes to the entire world, it’s easy for me to fall into that state of anxiety again. Our June wedding date is far enough away that social distancing restrictions might be lifted and the Bountiful Utah Temple, where we’d scheduled our sealing, might open again. But there’s no way to know for sure. 

As we sit patiently in a state of limbo in regard to wedding planning, my fiancé and I have been discussing backup plans and how and when to postpone our wedding reception. 

Read more: What some couples and families have learned from limited temple weddings

But we’ve also been talking about the things the Lord has prepared for His Church so we could be better prepared for COVID-19 and other challenges. You’ve probably noticed them too: home-centered, Church-supported curriculum; ministering; BYU-Pathway Worldwide; smart phones for all missionaries.

As I was asking my fiancé the evening of March 24 if we needed to move up our sealing in anticipation of even more temples closing, I was struck by a thought.

On May 6, 2019, Church leaders announced a discontinuation of the policy of a one-year waiting period for sealings after a civil marriage. As detailed in the Church News story on this announcement, “The change means Latter-day Saint couples can look forward to a temple marriage as soon as their circumstances permit.”

I didn’t realize until that moment that this policy change was for us. I had always assumed I would be sealed in the temple and didn’t consider a civil ceremony. But if the Lord directed Church leaders to make that a viable option for those of us who want to be sealed but can’t while the temples are closed, then I should consider a civil marriage a blessing from Heavenly Father.

My fiancé and I don’t know if we can be sealed in June. But what I do know is that the Lord is and has been looking out for us. By focusing on the blessings He has prepared for us in this time of upheaval, I am able to let go of my anxiety and remember to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 and Doctrine and Covenants 101:16).

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