|Jim and Linda's engagement photo|
This month and year, November 2017, marks the 40th wedding anniversary for my parents! I love their marriage story and how incredible it is. Their dedication to each other over all these years is also inspiring to me. They are such great examples. In light of their 40th wedding anniversary, I solicited both my parents, Jim and Linda Hartley, to write their marriage story so it can be preserved. I hope this can serve as a great example and inspiration to others as well! Below are my parent's own words:
Linda Frye and Jim Hartley:
The Miracles and Conspiracies that Brought Them Together
Linda Beth Frye is the daughter of Kenneth L. Frye, Sr., a career Naval officer, and Elizabeth Annie West, a Wyoming country girl, who moved to the big city, Washington, D.C., where she met her husband. Linda is the youngest of 5 children. Although born in Bethesda, Maryland, Linda grew up in San Leandro, California.
James E. Hartley is the son of Charles A. Hartley, Jr., a career executive with the Southern Pacific Railroad, and Norma Miner, a Utah country girl, who moved to the big city, Salt Lake City, where she met her husband. Jim is the youngest of 7 children. Although born in Butte, Montana, Jim grew up in San Lorenzo, California, about 7 miles south of the Frye family.
It’s true that Linda and Jim were both raised in the same general area, but their lives would never have connected without a series of divine miracles…assisted by a little conspiracy on the part of their two families.
Linda’s Pact with God
At age 7, Linda contracted a fever that burned within her little body at a very dangerous 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Her parents rushed her to the hospital, where she was immediately immersed in a tub of near-freezing ice water. The extreme treatment saved her life, but it was so traumatic for Linda, it left her with a speech impairment: she stammered and stuttered. The problem was not considered severe, but it was enough that classmates would laugh at her when she tried to speak in class. One of the things that she feared most, was introducing herself; she had great difficulty simply trying to say her own name.
By age 12, Linda had deep worries that no one would love and marry her because of her speech problem. So, she made a pact with God: If God would help her to eventually find someone who would love her and become her husband, she would do everything in her power to overcome her stuttering and stammering.
Linda took her part of the agreement very seriously. She was determined to overcome the impediment. She actively participated in class discussions at school and church, even when she could do no more than blurt out her comments, knowing that the effort would lead to embarrassment and emotional pain. Linda even participated in school and church stage productions and speech contests. Soon, little miracles began happening. When on stage or at the podium, her stuttering would completely disappear. At those times, it was as though she had transformed into a different person.
The 1966 Speech Contest
During Linda’s teen years, her LDS Church emphasized annual speech contests for youth. Competition was by age groups. The first level of competition was within the person’s congregation (in LDS jargon, the “ward”). The winners at the ward level would advance to compete against the winners from 5 other wards. This was called the “stake” level. For three years in a row, from age 12 to 14, Linda won her ward’s speech contests for her age group, and she went on to win or place highly at the stake and even multi-stake levels.
In Linda’s 4th stake speech contest, May 15, 1966, a newcomer, Jim Hartley, was among her competitors. At age 13, Jim was 1-1/2 years younger than Linda and from a neighboring ward and rival high school. This was the first time either of the two became aware of the other. After all the speeches were delivered, Jim was completely “wowed” by the beautiful 15-year-old from San Leandro. His vote for the winner was unquestionably Linda Frye—not just because she was gorgeous, but because of the excellent content and presentation of her speech. So, no one was more shocked and surprised than Jim when he was judged the winner and Linda took 2nd place. But, the most important result of that speech contest—God’s little miracle—was that a serious interest in Linda Frye germinated within Jim.
Unfortunately, Jim’s interest had to remain a secret. As with most teenage girls, Linda was absolutely not interested in a younger boy from some other high school. Linda made that very clear during her remaining teen years. She wasn’t rude, but she hardly ever acknowledged Jim’s greetings at dances, church pageants, and other activities; and if she did, she would often mistakenly call him by his older brother’s name, Richard. Nevertheless, for Jim, the seed of interest in Linda was firmly planted.
The Revelation of Normal Non-Fluency
Linda’s quest for perfect fluency continued well after the 1966 speech contest. It continued into her college years. While at the University of Utah, Linda majored in speech pathology, thinking that she might like to work with children and adults with speech challenges. While studying for a test from a textbook on stuttering, she came across an unusual term called “normal non-fluencies.” What she read changed her life. She learned that it is natural and normal for everyone to trip over their own words. Even actors, newscasters, politicians, and teachers experience normal non-fluencies. Linda felt a peace come over her. She realized that she didn’t need to be a flawless speaker. She gave herself permission to be imperfect in her speech. And because she was now fluent enough, a sweet confidence entered her soul that she would, indeed, find a good man who would love and marry her.
“Chosen for thee by the Lord”
In December 1967, when Jim was 15 years old, he received a special, personal blessing from God through a Church leader called the stake patriarch. All faithful youth in the LDS Church are encouraged to receive a patriarchal blessing in their mid- to later-teen years. Such blessings are highly cherished. They can foretell the person’s future, and they can serve as a guide and comfort throughout the person’s life.
Jim’s blessing was quite remarkable. Among the extraordinary things promised him was a wife, who was described as “a handmaiden chosen for thee by the Lord.” Those highly unusual words, “chosen for thee by the Lord,” resonated strongly within Jim’s soul. It changed his attitude and approach to dating. With any girl he became seriously interested in, he would prayerfully ask Heavenly Father, “Is she the one?” From Jim’s point of view, God’s replies weren’t always timely. But, in every case, a clear answer would eventually come. Sometimes the answers were in the form of a changed circumstance, a voice speaking distinctly to his mind, a dream, or a vision.
Four times Jim had serious relationships with outstanding young women whom he thought might be “the one.” In the first three relationships, Heavenly Father ultimately indicated in one way or another, “She’s not the one,” and their relationships never reached the engagement stage. But, the fourth relationship did. Jim and the fourth young woman met through a blind date during Jim’s junior year at BYU-Provo. Their relationship quickly blossomed. As the relationship matured, Heaven’s curious answer was consistently, “Yes, if she’ll say yes.” So, Jim put his whole soul into the relationship. But, the young woman did not. Her commitment to Jim was on-again-off-again for two frustrating years. When Jim graduated and left BYU, the two were engaged to be married. He had a solid job in San Francisco, California and looked forward to “tying the knot.” She remained in Utah. Even though they stayed in very close contact, after only a few months of separation, the young woman once again expressed her uncertainty. Jim was again deeply wounded. He couldn’t keep riding an emotional rollercoaster with her. So, he told her, “If you can’t say ‘yes,’ the answer is ‘no’.” She replied, “I can’t say ‘yes.’” At that point, Jim said goodbye and ended their relationship. To say that Jim was devastated is an enormous understatement. He felt like his heart had been ripped out and stomped on. He was broken and crushed, both emotionally and spiritually.
Heaven’s Unbelievable Reply
Anguished and confused, Jim knelt in private prayer to his Heavenly Father and poured out the sadness of his heart. As his soul mourned, the Lord’s spirit filled his mind with sacred, calming knowledge, including a glimpse into the future. Nevertheless, at the end of the experience, Jim was still confused and frustrated about identifying “the one.” Weary of searching for the chosen “handmaiden,” and feeling like a failure, Jim desperately pleaded, “Father, who is she?” In an unexpected direct answer, a voice clearly spoke two simple words to his mind: “Linda Frye.”
But, Jim didn’t receive that heaven-sent answer very well. He knew that marrying Linda Frye was impossible—she was already married! Jim was stunned and upset with himself and with God. Completely demoralized, Jim began to seriously doubt his ability to receive answers to his prayers and his capacity to understand God’s intentions for him. For the next year, Jim’s life was socially and spiritually empty and dark.
The Frye’s Basement
Jim’s employer assigned him to a major project for an extended period on the east coast of the U.S. About mid-way through the project, Jim’s father unexpectedly died. At his passing, Jim’s mother chose to sell their San Lorenzo home and move to Utah. With permission from his employer, Jim took a short leave of absence to return home, help with his father’s probate, and assist in preparing the family home for sale. Jim knew that he would eventually be reassigned to his firm’s home office in San Francisco. So, with his mother moving, he needed to find a place to store his personal belongings until his return.
Obedient to a flash of inspiration, Jim’s mom urged him to contact her good friends, Elizabeth and Ken Frye. They had a basement—which was highly unusual in that area because of the high water table. Since Jim didn’t have very many things to store, the Frye’s welcomed his boxes. When he and his older brother, Bryan, began moving Jim’s belongings into the basement, Jim’s jaw dropped open in astonishment. There was Linda and her 2-1/2-year-old son, Jason! Unbeknownst to Jim, Linda had already been divorced for 1 year and was living with her parents. He and Linda talked for about an hour. Jim was dumbfounded to learn that Linda was actually single at the time the Lord’s Spirit identified her as “the one.”
After returning to the east coast, Jim tried to stay in contact with Linda by regular U.S. Mail. However, soon after they began corresponding, he wrote something that Linda misinterpreted, and she stopped writing to him. Jim concluded that if Linda was chosen for him by the Lord, the Lord would have to intervene somehow. And He did. After a year on the east coast, Jim was unexpectedly transferred back to San Francisco without any place to live. And that’s when the family conspiracy began in earnest.
An Offer Jim Couldn’t Refuse
Jim’s mom again came to his rescue—likely with an inspired ulterior motive—by suggesting that he stay with the Frye’s until he could find an apartment. Their basement included a separate entry, a bedroom, ¾ bath, and laundry. Linda’s parents readily opened their home to him, but Linda was not happy about it.
Within two weeks, Jim had found a suitable apartment and was on his way to sign the lease. But, Linda’s dad stopped him and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Her dad explained that, in a few months, he and his wife planned to spend 2 weeks in Utah to do genealogy research. While they were gone, Linda’s dad wanted someone he trusted to take care of the yards, look after the house, and be around to help Linda and her son, Jason, if needed. So, if Jim was willing, he could continue to stay in their basement rent-free and share in their daily family meals at no cost. Jim readily agreed, but on two conditions: first, he insisted on at least contributing an appropriate amount to the food budget; and second, Linda, who clearly didn’t want him there, had to agree with the arrangement. Her dad immediately summoned Linda and explained his plan…with Jim standing in front of her. In that circumstance, what choice did she realistically have? Despite her true feelings, she shrugged her shoulders, reluctantly said okay, and coolly walked away.
“D*** It, Linda, Pray About It!”
It soon became painfully obvious that the Frye and Hartley families were conspiring to get Linda and Jim together. Jim was willing, but Linda made it clear that she was not interested. She felt enormous pressure from her family and she deeply resented their matchmaking efforts. The harder they tried, the more she resisted. She thought Jim was arrogant and he somehow reminded her of one of her annoying brothers. In response, Jim no longer pursued any kind of a relationship with her. He sincerely prayed, "Father in Heaven, it's yours. I can't do this. She's not interested. If you want us to get together, if that spiritual experience I had a year ago is true, you're going to have to make it happen."
One day Linda’s older sister, Cheryl, confronted her. They discussed Linda’s resentment over the pressure her family was putting on her to learn to like Jim. Cheryl exclaimed in deep disbelief, “Linda, you have a real gem downstairs (referring to Jim). And you can’t see it!”
|A bowl of Hawaiian Poi|
After that, Linda began observing Jim more closely. She started to realize that maybe she had formed a wrong impression of him. She especially liked the way he played with and treated her 3-year-old son, Jason. Eventually, she acknowledged that Jim seemed to indeed meet her “checklist” for a husband—except that she still had no romantic feelings for him.
Despite a lack of heartthrobs, her heart softened. She found a private place in a nearby public park—a stall in the women’s restroom—where she followed her sister’s advice and silently poured out her feelings to God. She then felt prompted to talk openly with Jim.
Jim knew nothing of Linda’s change of heart. He had carefully avoided her. So, he was taken by complete surprise one day when walking home from the bus stop after a long day of work. There was Linda, about a half of a block from her house. Without any small talk or explanation, Linda simply announced, “Jim, we need to talk. Can we go up to the Oakland Temple tonight?” Jim felt like he had been ambushed by a lightning bolt! He wasn’t sure what to think. He was shocked, pleased, confused, and suspicious all at the same time.
That evening, Linda directed them to a hillside area that offered a commanding view of the beautiful Oakland LDS Temple and the San Francisco Bay. With great courage, Linda explained to Jim that she really liked him; that he met all of her “checklist” requirements for a husband; but, she had no romantic feelings for him; but, she wanted to have romantic feelings; and would he be willing to spend more time with her and actually date her a little to see if those feelings would come? The seed that had been planted in 1966 had suddenly sprouted!
The Ball’s in Your Court
To the delight of the Frye’s and the Hartley’s, Jim and Linda began to spend more and more time together. But, Linda’s heartthrobs still weren’t developing…that is, not until she went with Jim to what she expected to be a boring Sunday evening presentation by an elderly couple, who had just completed missionary service in India. The presentation included slides. The lights in the LDS chapel were lowered. In the semi-darkness, Jim slipped his arm around Linda’s shoulders. Then, kaboom! For Linda, romantic fireworks went off, and she melted in his closeness. Heavenly Father had answered her prayers.
Not long after that, Linda decided that Jim was the one for her. One Sunday afternoon after church services, Jim retreated to his basement bedroom for a quick nap before dinner. As he was drifting off, Linda knocked at his door. “Come in.” Linda took a few steps into the room, stopped, and then declared, “I’ve been fasting and praying. I know it’s not a woman’s place to propose, but I’ve made up my mind and the ball’s in your court!” She then softly exited. Any idea of napping immediately evaporated! Jim was suddenly wide awake with nervousness and fear!
About a week later, Linda’s parents left for their 2 weeks in Utah. Jim was still in shock over Linda and hadn’t responded to her. After another week, Jim was preparing to teach a Church lesson about the role of the priesthood in the family. His father was not a member of the LDS Church and, therefore, Jim grew up in a home without any strong priesthood influence. But, Linda did, so he asked her what it was like. The discussion turned to what kind of priesthood influence she expected in her own family someday. After a few minutes of discussion, Linda got upset. With a twinge of anger in her voice, she declared emphatically, “We’re not discussing this anymore! You’re talking as if we were married and you haven’t even proposed to me yet.” She abruptly got up and began leaving the room. Jim, looked heavenward and prayed, “Why not?” He quickly stopped Linda and, with two goldfish as the only witnesses, he uttered the miraculous words, “You’re right. Will you marry me?” (An engagement ring would have to come later.)
I Knew It! I Knew It!
Linda was extremely excited and wanted to immediately telephone her parents and announce it to the ward members the next day at church. Jim panicked. Considering the agony and grief he had experienced during his previous unsuccessful engagement, he wanted more time to let the decision distill on both of them. He persuaded Linda to wait until her parents returned home the following week—after all, she didn’t want to interfere with their Utah trip. And, her parents should be the first to know, so they shouldn’t tell anyone else, even Jim’s family, until then. Very reluctantly, Linda agreed, and Jim went to bed that night somewhat relieved, but extremely nervous.
The next morning an unexpected miracle occurred and Jim’s nervousness escalated 1000-fold! Linda’s dad had come home a week early, leaving his wife in Utah! Linda was giddy with excitement and literally pushed Jim into the living room to have his obligatory talk with her dad. Her dad was sitting in his favorite overstuffed chair reading the Sunday newspaper. Struggling to act calm, Jim politely interrupted his reading and asked, “Brother Frye, what would you think if Linda and I wanted to get married?”
He looked at Jim with a huge grin and said, "I think it would be wonderful!" He giggled in his distinctive way and immediately went for the telephone. "I've got to call Beth!"
After calling his wife with the news, Brother Frye declared, "I knew it! I knew it! I knew that if we left you two alone, you would either be engaged when we returned or you would hate each other!"
A November Wedding, No Matter What
Linda and Jim chose to be married in the LDS temple in Oakland, California, on November 23, 1977. Linda was ecstatic! Her parents and family were thrilled! Jim's mom and brothers were delighted! Jim was petrified!
Jim had been engaged before, and he needed another miracle to convince him that Linda would remain constant in her desire to marry him. The miracle came when Jim accepted new employment in Provo, Utah, which required them to be apart for two months. During that time of separation, Linda never wavered, and neither did Jim.
Another test came when Jim and Linda found out that Linda needed a cancellation of her previous temple marriage (in LDS jargon, a “sealing”) before they could marry in the temple. That meant Linda's ex-husband had to write a letter explaining his feelings about the cancellation. The Church’s First Presidency at Church headquarters would also need to approve the cancellation, all of which normally required six or more months.
Against the odds, acting on faith, and praying for a miracle, Jim and Linda moved ahead with their plans for the November wedding. If the cancellation of sealing didn't come through in time, they were prepared to marry civilly, and then wait a year until they were approved to be sealed in the temple.
Then the miracle happened. Linda’s ex-husband agreed to the cancellation and later approved of Jim adopting Jason! The persistence of Linda and her bishop with the First Presidency's office paid off; they processed the official sealing cancellation within two weeks of the scheduled marriage!
A Marriage of Miracles and Conspiracy
|Linda and Jim on their wedding day|
Oakland California Temple, November 23, 1977
The day arrived. Jim and Linda were married and sealed for time and for all eternity in the Oakland California Temple as planned. They can honestly say that their marriage was a result of a string of divine miracles…aided by their conspiring families.
|Another photo of Linda and Jim on their wedding day|
Oakland California Temple, November 23, 1977
For Linda: From stuttering to a pact with God; to a church speech contest giving Linda her first peek at her future husband; to Jim’s unwanted arrival at her family home; to a lecture by her sister on divine help for a missionary to love poi; to a conscious decision to consider Jim; to a prayer in a public bathroom stall; to a courageous hillside discussion with Jim; to a boring missionary presentation where romantic fireworks first went off; to a speedy cancellation of her previous marriage sealing; and, finally, to kneeling at a sacred alter in the Oakland California Temple making eternal covenants with Jim.
For Jim: From being “wowed” by a gorgeous 15-year-old at a Church speech contest; to a highly unusual promise in his patriarchal blessing; to a sacred experience and a direct revelation after breaking off a heart-wrenching engagement; to the unexpected death of his father, the selling of his family home, and his mother’s inspired suggestion to store his belongings at the Frye’s home; to living in the Frye basement; and to Linda’s change of heart. A divine promise and prophecy were wonderfully fulfilled.
Now, nearly 40 years later, Jim and Linda are still married, and the heartthrobs are still there!