I'm not quite sure who Saint Valentine was. I'll have to ask our Catholic friends just a few clicks away.

But the holiday his name bears has set me to thinking: Who are some of those folks in my 30-odd years of Mormon Church experience who taught me both a satisfying meaning of "saint" and a quality of love that I could hang a halo on?


  • For starters, Anthony. He taught me that Christ's love has muscle. He taught me that sometimes the most important attribute of a saint is acknowledging oneself as a sinner.
  • Anthony had previously been associated with some wing of the underworld. He came packaged with the accent and looks straight out of central casting (back when gangster ended with an "er" and not an "a"). No well-scrubbed son of the pioneers this fellow. There was a compelling gentleness about him despite his history, perhaps because of it.

    I don't know the full extent of Anthony's involvement in that dark world. Still, I have seen enough movies to know that world is a powerful blend of devotion, revenge, and "honor," as if the guiding principle were "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man take out a life for his friends." For having seen its flip side, Anthony probably understood better than most that Christ laid down his life for his friends.


  • There is also Emma. With an E -- as in energy, enthusiasm, example. Back in my fledgling years as a Mormon in the late 1960s, before terms like "feminism" acquired all the conflicted baggage they now tote, I heard her speak at a church meeting.
  • She said colleagues at work challenged her with the question, "How can you be feminist and a Mormon?" Her response seemed so reasonable: "Of course I'm a feminist. It's because I'm a Mormon. We believe God made all women -- and all men, for that matter -- capable of being and doing and becoming more than we can ever imagine. Isn't that something to celebrate?"

    Her love for that and other gospel principles puts a zing in the string of her bow, a straight aim in her arrow. As for the saint part, that would fall under the "patience of a ..." category. All these years later, Emma patiently, lovingly, does deep breathing exercises in Relief Society when sisters raise meek hands and preface their remarks with "I'm not a feminist, but..."


  • Then there's Bishop M. He taught me that Christ-like love sometimes involves suspending judgment and tuning in to what God has in mind for you.
  • Bishop M. was proper, somber, nearly funereal when conducting meetings. He was always Bishop M., never James. Certainly never Jim. Did the man know how to smile? Did he have a sense of humor? I didn't know what to make of him at first.

    I learned over the course of time -- as his lessons of love and saintliness worked their magic -- that his brand of stewardship required this earnestness. It was part of his honed sense of personal integrity. In service to the Lord, Bishop M. was like a radio constantly tuned to classical music. No commercials and no jumpy be-bop. Being around him was like hooking up to an alpha wave machine. I calmed down. I began to understand that verse in Psalms 46: "Be still and know that I am God."

    For all of his personal stewardship style, he would be the first to tell me it was not necessarily what God required of me. God calls me to boogie now and then.


  • Of course there's Marilyn. She is beautiful, brilliant, funny, and well-dressed. She is devilishly sassy and absolutely no-nonsense. Except for that sassy part, which I am especially drawn to, she could be the church's public affairs department's poster child of Latter-day Sainthood. She has energy and creativity and is so well organized it could make you spit. Every auxiliary she graces has the best ideas, the best visual aids, and the best attendance.
  • Just when you think you'd like to throttle her for being so perfect, she disarms you with such unmistakably genuine affection that you feel honored to know her and proud that she counts you her friend. She is the embodiment of what the scriptures call "love unfeigned." I'll never have her fashion sense, but I can at least try to mimic her heart.


  • I can't say I really know John. I've learned a lot from him, though, about such saintly qualities as dedication, commitment to church responsibilities, and kindness. He's about 5'8", with clouded glasses and thinning hair. Every Sunday, he's at the door to the chapel with a smile and a bulletin. During the meeting, he goes up and down the aisles counting heads for whoever needs those details. If the attendance is over 100, it has probably exceeded John's measurable IQ. But John is faithful, stalwart, and serves with vigor and cheerfulness.
  • Do I? What do I need to do to be more like John?

    There are lots more people I could include, of course. I'm sure you have your own long list. Happily, these are not fictional folks, plump and pink and toting quivers. The reality of who they are has struck me to the heart.

    I am smitten.

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