Vai's View: Finding one's way through faith

Published: Friday, Dec. 2 2011 10:00 a.m. MST

Temecia Stone and Bryan Rowley at Stewart Falls in Aspen Grove, Utah.

Vai Sikahema

About a year ago, I wrote of the special bond and relationship I have with former Utah All-America receiver Bryan Rowley, who moved into my LDS ward in 2006. We were introduced by mutual friend Chad Lewis, who at the time had just finished his NFL career in Philadelphia and returned to his Cedar Hills, Utah, home.

Each of us wrote a blog last November about our unique friendship and how it helped bring Bryan back into church activity. Chad and Bryan were Orem High teammates and grew up together. Bryan played for Utah in the late '80s and early '90s and still holds most of Utah's receiving records.

Bryan moved east after his divorce because his ex-wife is from New Jersey and he wanted to be closer to his daughter Sage, who returned with her mother to be closer to family.

In the years following college, Bryan drifted from the moorings of his faith. Our relationship started slowly, with open invitations for dinner in our home. That led to Bryan's offer of help with my youngest son's Eagle Scout merit badges. Others in our LDS ward and stake also befriended Bryan, and slowly he returned to church, eventually accepted a calling, home teaching assignments and two years ago, was able to baptize his daughter.

After his divorce was finalized, Bryan didn't seem eager to date or resume a courtship, focusing all of his energy on raising Sage. But Bryan was in his mid-30s so in due time, he longed for companionship. A divorcee tethered to New Jersey because of the state's restrictive custody laws isn't exactly an attractive "catch," even if it's because he's trying to be a good father. Several trips west to Utah to meet or date a prospective companion yielded a few friendships but nothing more. At someone's urging, Bryan even tried finding someone compatible on LDS singles' websites, but that didn't work.

No one locally caught his interest. Bryan needed a woman willing to move to New Jersey because until Sage is 18, Bryan simply can't leave the state because he shares joint custody with his ex-wife. His ex isn't LDS, but with Bryan now divorced and returned to church activity, marrying LDS was a priority. Yet he wasn't having any luck.

Then, two summers ago he was introduced to a pretty, petite brunette named Temecia Stone by friends while visiting the Jersey shore. She wasn't LDS, in fact she worked for a spirits company — Jim Beam — as a business analyst.

There was no special connection, in part because Temecia was going through her own divorce and she lived nearly two hours away in Harrisburg, Pa. After her divorce, Temecia's work brought her regularly to Philly and south Jersey. Sometimes she would text or call Bryan and they'd meet for lunch, see a movie or attend a concert. They found they both enjoyed the outdoors — hiking, skiing, running — and now a single mother, Temecia shared joint custody of her little boy with her ex, just like Bryan.

Increasingly, Temecia was drawn to Bryan and some of his interesting quirks. "I'd be in town on a Saturday night and ask him if he wanted to go 'midnight bowling' with a group of friends and he'd decline because he was preparing a Sunday school lesson," Temecia told me. He didn't want to stay out late on Saturday nights and on Sundays, he wouldn't go to movies, out to dinner or hiking at all.

"A lot of people say they believe in God or are spiritual beings, but Bryan was the first guy I met who actually practiced his faith," she said. "I was so impressed by that and also his priorities."

Temecia was intrigued with how important it was to Bryan that his 9-year-old daughter dressed modestly for church on weekends when he had visiting privileges — men she knew just didn't care about that stuff. Curious, Temecia asked if she could come to church with him.

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