John L. Sorenson
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A Special Remembrance of Marrying Helen

On the 2 January 1991 my wife Kathryn passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 64 during the first night after our arrival in a beach-front apartment in Carpinteria (near Santa Barbara), California, for a planned two-month stay. We had happily spent the same period in the same apartment the previous winter. The funeral was held on the 6th; I asked widow Helen Christianson, Kathryn’s good friend and visiting teacher, to be one of the speakers. The suddenness with which my world had been totally upset left me in a state of considerable confusion. In hopes of working my way through to a new grounding, immediately afterward I went to stay in Springdale, Utah, adjacent to Zion National Park (it had been one of our favorite peaceful spots). In the midst of pondering what I would do next in my life, early in the morning of the 14th the voice of God came into my mind in my half sleep saying, “You will and should marry Helen.” This event was so dramatically different from anything I had ever before experienced that those six words became deeply imprinted in my soul. Neither then nor now has there been any doubt for me that this was God’s direct statement to me. Twenty-four hours later I was given a manifestation of Kathryn’s presence, seemingly in confirmation that this was also her wish. At last I realized the significance of a conversation Kathryn and I had had some months before. She had raised the question of whom I should marry if she should die. I was somewhat dismayed at her even raising the subject, since I was confident that she would live much longer and that I would care for her in her advanced diabetic state. As she ran down the (short!) list of possibilities, as she saw them, she concluded that only Helen would do. And also I came to see later on that, unrecognized by either of us (Helen and I had hardly spoken fifty words to each other, let alone ever being alone together), we had been given hints that we would eventually come together. I had previously been led to expect that I would have a long life. In the fall of 1985 I suffered a heart attack. My friend Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles paid me a visit the next day (a Sunday) in the ICU, where he encouraged me that, “Your ship is still a long way from port. This is just a warning shot across the bow.” In that light I took seriously as a long-range goal after the manifestation to me to fall in love with and marry Helen. It took a while to reach that goal. I soon visited her in Provo and reported what I had been told. She was gracious but of course rather overwhelmed and confused. I gently but persistently pursued the matter in a series of long telephone calls from Springdale and received her quiet encouragement. When I returned to Provo, sold my home, and moved to an apartment on Provo’s west side, she often visited me there, and also at my BYU retirement office and on a limited number of “dates.” As far as we know still nobody who knew us ever saw us together. Her problem with marriage was that she thought that her children would not approve, out of respect and affection for their father, Jim. It took more than two years of this private experience before she could make the decision to go ahead. We were finally married on March 20, 1993. Since then never a day has gone by but what I have thanked God for his mercy in giving me Helen to be my companion. I have tried to be a good husband to her in every possible way, and she has been a wonderful, loving wife to me for now over 19 years. We have a small collection of treasured mementos of our courtship, but very likely this little account is all the narrative that will ever come to public view.
Reminiscenses by John L. Sorenson