Economics 101, a Novel, ch_40 -- Choices and Covenants Discussed

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[JMR201610140718: I've lost the thread at this point. This whole chapter may change or disappear.]

I would have liked to have been able to say that I knew in advance that my character Roberta Whitmer could not have been descended from David Whitmer in the world we live in. Not unless the last name came a different way.

Oh, well.

But, wait a minute. This is a fiction. If there were a real Karel Pratt, descended from either Orson or Parley, who might have been attending Orson Hyde University in the 1950s and/or early '60s, that person would not be the Karel Pratt of this story. Likewise, if there were a real Roberta Whitmer descended somehow from Peter Whitmer, Sr., she would not be the Bobbie Whitmer of this story.

And thinking about that actually helps me solve a few minor problems I was struggling with in this chapter. (The elephant in the room, I still haven't faced properly.)

Well, this is indeed an alternative history fiction. I hope the Whitmer and Pratt families will indulge me.

God too. Writing alternative history fiction could very easily become an assertion that one thinks one knows better than God how things should have turned out. (Just how patient will God be with me, here?)

Apologies for this chapter being a bit over the top, too.

Mary and Anna were trying unsuccessfully to keep each other awake with non-gossip chit-chat while Officer Paalo was trying to think of further useful questions to ask about the Mormon brand of Christianity, and trying to keep his grip on his pencil. Paul and Bob and the professor were trying to talk about what they could suggest that Officer Paalo could ask, and were also fighting drowsiness.

Nazoru seemed to be the only one really awake, but he wasn't really listening to any of the conversations. Himeru was giving him updates on Zedidiah's [JMR201609101349: status condition ] as well as on Karel's and Bobbie's activities.

Mary blinked and stared in the direction of the wall to her left and tried to focus. "Anna, do you see what I think I see?"

"Mmm? What?" She looked in the same direction. "Well, now that you mention it, I think I see a clearing in a jungle with a rock outcropping in the middle of it."

"That's what I think I see."

Bob and Paul stopped talking and looked at their wives, the words they had heard not fully registering. Paul started to ask what they meant, but the question died on his lips as he followed his wife's gaze.

"It ... could be ... on the side of a mountain," he said.

Now the professor and Officer Paalo were fully awake and getting a little worried.

Bob asked, "Hmm. What do you think that stone wall is, Paul? A cliff?"

"It looks like a ridge. Maybe the wall of a volcanic crater."

Professor MacVittie looked around the room, then again in the direction Bob and Paul seemed to be looking. "Uhm, are you guys okay? I only see the wall of the bungalow, and that's not how I'd describe the painting on the wall."

Nazoru spoke up. "You're seeing the island where Bobbie and Karel are."

Professor MacVittie looked at Officer Paalo, hoping for some help, but he was apparently seeing something besides the inside of the bungalow, as well.

"Unfortunately, it's not a place on any island I recognize," he said. "Now who's that?"



But neither Bobbie nor Karel seemed to hear their mothers' voices.

Now the professor began to think he was seeing things, as well.

As they entered the clearing, Bobbie and Karel seemed to be talking about plants they had found or something. Their voices could now be heard by the group in the bungalow. When they saw the rock, they decided to take a break, and sat down on it.

"Well, isn't this awkward?"

Startled, all looked in the direction the voice came from.

A barefoot man in white clothes stepped out from the trees, into the clearing, smiling, perhaps just a little indulgently.

A woman, also dressed in white, followed him into the clearing. "Must we not only ask you to take off your shoes when walking on holy ground," she asked in mock severity, "but also to refrain from sitting on the alter?" She was also grinning.

Bobbie and Karel stood up, speechless, and removed their shoes.

"Aunt Georgianna!" Anna Pratt could not suppress her surprise. "Uncle Greg!"

Startled again, Karel looked around. "Did I just hear my mother?"

Bobbie looked around, as well. "I thought I heard her voice, too." Not seeing anything, she turned to the two newcomers. "But who are you two, and how long have you been here?"

Karel walked over to the man and examined him closely, extending his hand for a handshake. "I think I've met you. Are you my great uncle Greg?"

"At your service." But he ignored the extended hand.

Karel did not seem to feel himself rebuffed. He turned to the woman. "And would you be my great aunt Georgianna?"

"Been a while, hasn't it?"

"I was really small. I mostly remember you from Mom's pictures."

Bobbie came up from behind Karel, feeling a little shy. "Well, hi! I'm Bobbie. Too bad I can't ask you for a hug."

"My ... wow." Karel turned to Bobbie. "First time I've introduced you this way. Girlfriend. Fiancée. Intended."

"Best friend." Bobbie added, or maybe corrected.

"And best friend."

Georgianna nodded approvingly. "Indeed. Well, it's nice to finally introduce ourselves. We've met you, Bobbie, although you haven't met us. You don't mind if we call you Bobbie?"

"Of course not. But, ...uhm, wait. So you've been watching us, too?"

"Karel, you're my cousin?" Wycliffe asked, showing up unceremoniously. "If my grandparents are your great aunt and uncle, we'd have to be cousins."

Karel turned to Wycliffe, laughing quietly. "Guess so. What do they say, small world?"

Wycliffe shook his head. "Irony, but not coincidence, I suppose."

"Well, we are here for a purpose," Greg said, "let's get down to business. We have witnesses?"

This time, when Bobbie and Karel looked around themselves, they saw the group in the bungalow.

"Mom! Dad!" Karel and Bobbie both exclaimed, almost in unison.

"Professor! And Officer Paalo? Nazoru?"

"Where is Hanaka?" Bobbie asked in alarm.

"I wouldn't miss this." Hanaka appeared at the other side of the clearing.

Bobbie and Karel looked at her in shock and not a little bit of fear.

"But now you're wondering how I'm here."

Karel asked, "What happened?"

Nazoru explained. "It's my fault for waiting too long to bring things in before the storm."

"Dad. We both knew we were pushing too close to the storm. Nobody's fault, and I was needed over here, anyway."

Karel and Bobbie couldn't speak for maybe a minute. Then Bobbie said, "Needed?"

Wycliffe said, "She's been a big help for me."

Hanaka continued, "But not just to watch you two, we're all pretty busy on this side of the veil. Plenty of work to do."

"Okay, enough chatting," Greg said. "We need to get through some formalities. First, I must inform you both of the alternatives available."

Karel asked, "Can we take a little more time to feel just a little bit sorry for Hanaka?"

"Don't be sad for me. I pretty much did what I needed to do while I was alive."

"But, ..."

"Mom and I will ask your parents to take care of our proxy work."

"We can do that. Nazoru, you can tell us later when they were born, their full names, when they died, and all?"

"Of course. Tell me more about the temple again, too, okay?"

"Sure. It seems you're a trooper, Hanaka."

Hanaka smiled. "Thank you."

Bobbie shook her head in disbelief, and then concurred with her mother. "You're so strong."

And Karel agreed. "Well, I feel bad for you, anyway."

"It's okay. You two have some business to take care of, here. Let's take care of it."

Bobbie said, "Well, even if you don't seem to mind, I'm sorry. I wish things could have been different."

"I'll second that." Karel concurred again.

"Thank you for your sympathy." And she grinned, "I really don't mind. God is taking care of what I couldn't do for myself. Now let's get on with this."

Bobbie tried to untangle her feelings a few moments more, then said "Okay. I guess we should go ahead with it." Then she turned and asked, "Greg, you said alternatives. [JMR201609031338: Why? ] What alternatives do we need?"

And Karel, still feeling emotionally confused, replied before Greg could, "Agency. We have to be able to be agents for ourselves."

"Correct. And you need witnesses to your choices. Now your first alternative is the choice about marriage. You do not have to marry. If necessary, we are confident that you two would be able to maintain yourselves faithful sufficiently long."

Karel responded, "That's insane. For all sorts of reasons, that's insane. And it's not even logical. Faithful to what artificial ideal?"

Bobbie was a little more willing to talk about it. "It may be an option, but if there is no special reason for it, neither of us wants to do that. And it would have to be a really special reason."

Georgianna nodded. "Indeed. It would, for normal people, lead to insanity. You two are a bit exceptional, or you would not have been chosen for this."

"I don't like where this is going." Bobbie was getting her back up.

"That makes two of us," Karel voiced his agreement.

Greg nodded, as well. "But we have to look at the options. All of them."

"Can we set this option aside?" Karel's voice had an edge to it.

"You have to understand that it is an option. We can't move ahead without getting all the options on the table. May I proceed?"

Bob spoke. "Bobbie, Karel, hear them out." 

Bobbie and Karel looked at each other, and then nodded.

Karel said, "Okay, we can proceed."

And Bobbie added, "I guess I can talk about it, too."

"Okay. So you understand it is an option."

"And we need to talk about why it's an option." Georgianna took a turn. "But in order to do so, we need to talk about other options."

"Now, marriage is another option, of course." Greg continued.

"Well, it's about time you said that," Anna couldn't restrain herself, but then she looked embarrassed. "Although I suppose it's not really my place to say so."

And Bobbie said, "Thank you, Mom. You can say that all you want."

And Karel nodded his agreement.

"Mom?" Anna raised her eyebrows.

And Bobbie grinned back at Anna. "I claim the right to call you Mom."

Karel gave Bobbie a hug for his mother.

Georgianna added, "There are more options than one regarding marriage, but we need to talk about still other options first." 

Greg explained. "You are not required to stay here."

"Here, here!"

Everyone turned to Professor MacVittie and shushed him.

"But of course they want to leave!" He was a little indignant.

Karel said, " [JMR201609031341: Maybe. ] But we suppose that the options are not exactly mix and match. What happens if we leave?"

"Once this island's existence is known, several countries will lay claim to it for strategic purposes, and it would become very difficult to return."

And Karel said, "So we couldn't just go [JMR201609031343: back to the States, get married in the temple to the nearest temple, get married ] , and then come back here and call this our post-research phase of research?"

The professor spoke again. "That sounds to me like something the school could approve of."

"Political processes would make it very difficult."

Bobbie asked, "Wycliffe indicated that we were brought here for a reason. Have we done whatever it was we were supposed to do?"

"One part of it."

She continued, "So if we return to civilization, as it were, part of the job, whatever it was, is left undone."


"And no one else will be able to do it in our place?" She asked for clarification.


"If we choose to stay for now, can we choose to return later?" Karel asked.

"That is an option, although it won't be just a matter of asking God to bring a plane any time you get tired of things here. It will probably take a bit of preparation on your part as well as on this side of the veil."

Bobbie and Karel looked at each other. Again, they were talking without talking out loud.

Bobbie asked, "So, if we stay, how do we get married?"

Georgianna asked, almost as if proposing a riddle, "What is marriage? Or, what is lawful marriage?"

Officer Paalo said, "In the islands, it's what you call in the US a contract of chattel. One spouse becomes a member of the household of the other. I understand it is not such a contract in the US?"

Bobbie said, "It depends on the state. Some states still have laws that almost treat women and children like cattle -- in the technical legalistic analysis."

Karel said, "Even in the states that still use chattelry as the basis, there is a contract of mutual support and obligation. In the US, I think the contract of mutual support gets the highest consideration."

Greg said, "Mutual support. You help her and she helps you."


"That sounds like joining a fraternity or a sorority, or maybe a gentlemen's or ladies club."

Bobbie took a shot at it. "It's between just one man and one woman."

"Polygamy? Polyandry? [JMR201609031347: Divorce? ] "

"It's an absolute contract -- in sickness or in health, good and bad, and all that."

Georgianna responded, "So help your partner no matter what. That almost sounds like one of those power-mongering secret societies."

Karel tried again, "It's a contract that allows two people to build a family together."

And Greg responded, "Private nursery school?"

Bobbie started guessing, "The contract also protects the sexual relationship?"

"Concubinage?" Georgianna took a turn again.

Karel wrinkled his brow. "What is this, a guessing game?"

And Greg said, "No, everything you've mentioned so far is included. And the existence of a sexual relationship, in and of itself, implicitly invokes all the rest, in one degree or another. But what is it, in maybe three or five words?"

Karel and Bobbie looked at each other again, and more passed between them. Bobbie said, "To be one."

And Georgianna said, "The strength of unity in diversity. The Musketeers."

Karel shook his head. "Okay, we give. What is it?"

"Who is the contract between?" Greg asked.

"Karel and me ... and God." They were still talking with their eyes.

"And the children that come," Karel added.

"Why does the state get involved at all? Why the need for license and registration of the marriage? Why a ceremony?" Georgianna asked. "Is there in marriage any valid element of a contract with society?"

"Ideally, no. Society should only get involved to protect the family from external threat -- from society itself." Bobbie was thinking hard.

"And, as long as we are on this island together, we have no need of protection from external threats to the marriage." Karel's face was also a study in thought.

"No other reason?" Greg asked.

"Sometimes one spouse has extreme needs of protection from the other -- cases of violence and abuse. The external society will get involved in extreme cases. But there is no external society here. No one but God knows where we are. We're depending directly on God to help us when we can't help each other."

"God is your only external society?"

"Well, Wycliffe, and Hanaka, and you two. Uhm, angels. [JMR201609031351: God and angels."

He paused to think. " ] But so far, we haven't been violent or abusive towards each other. I guess we argue sometimes. But the worst thing we've done to each other up until now is to be so unwilling to impose on each other that we didn't get married before we came. "

"So why does society get involved? Can't it be left to God?"


Bobbie had been thinking. "And there are accidents and sickness. Health issues may require extra help, and God does not always say that miracles are the best solutions."


Karel [JMR201609031359: replied responded ] , "In our case, we have to promise each other to let God correct us when we go too far with something . [JMR201609031402: , and we have to depend on Him to help us when we face something beyond our power to deal with."

Again, he stopped to think. " ] But in a context where people have to be free to believe different things, society can be a proxy for God."

Georgianna asked, "Are you sure you don't need to be free to believe different things?"

[JMR201609031406: "That's part of the promises we have already made to each other," ] Bobbie replied. "We share a lot, but we must still give each other room for independent thought. We've learned that. We agree to it. [JMR201609031407: That's one of the promises we've made to each other while we've been here." Bobbie paused.

After a bit more thinking, she continued, "Spouses may need psychiatric help or counseling, or encouragement, that kind of thing, I guess. But I think Ss]ociety should only get involved when [JMR201609031412: one partner refuses to let the other partner one partner needs help claiming the right to ] think for herself, ... or himself."

Bobbie and Karel exchanged glances and slightly lopsided expressions of chagrin.

Karel added quietly, "Come to think of it, that's one of the reasons our dating didn't seem to work. We didn't want to admit that we would have to disagree sometimes. We have gotten used to agreeing to disagree, a little bit."

Greg admonished, " [JMR201609031435: And being unable to do that may be a good reason to refrain from marriage. ] As long as you are here, alone, you will both have to be really careful about that."

Georgianna proceeded. "So, we are all agreed that marriage does need to be recognized by external society [JMR201609031438: and not just God and the angels ] to be lawful before God."

At this point, no one disagreed.

"What is external society for this couple?" Greg asked.

Professor MacVittie spoke here. "Eventually, they are going to return to the US, are they not?"

No one answered. Karel and Bobbie were again communicating silently.

"But, at least, we are acting under an assumption that it's a probability?" he asked again.

Karel spoke. "Well, maybe, so, yeah, the US is part of our social context. [JMR201609031440: But the closer social context is now the island society here." ]

"Now, let's take a look at the marriage license you made. It's in your backpacks, isn't it?"

"Marriage license?" Bob put the question into words for the rest.

Now Bobbie explained. "We were really bored one rainy day, Dad."

And Karel added, "We think God made sure we would be bored enough to [JMR201609031441: do it make them ] , too."

And they both dug into their backpacks and got out their journal notebooks, and found that the notebooks where they had written their marriage license were there as well.

"I didn't realize I had grabbed that."

"Me neither."

"Care to show those to your parents?"

They couldn't give them to their parents, so they held them open where they could see. Officer Paalo and the professor crowded behind to get a look, as well.

Bob said, "Your claim on this island is as interesting as the license. Could be important later."

Paul said, "If we could sign those as witnesses, I think most of the states of the US would allow you to use it as evidence of intent, to claim you were married, as long as no one contested it."

Officer Paalo spoke up, "With their signatures and the signature of a witness from each family, they would [JMR201609031453: already ] be married in the islands."

Professor MacVittie contributed his thoughts: "If we could have one of the district presidency perform the wedding and sign the marriage certificate, it would be [JMR201609031454: pretty much ] legally binding in most of the world, including the US."

Greg said, "Interesting thought."

And Georgianna said, "Now the problem is not so much the signing, or even having a member of the district [JMR201609031527: president presidency ] officiate, I think. The bigger problem is how to explain how the wedding could be performed and witnessed, when the two who are getting married are still officially missing."

Officer Paalo volunteered some more information. "If we have witnesses of intent, it could be provisionally recorded by proxy in the islands. Dreams are often allowed as evidence of intent. Things like that happen out here sometimes [JMR201609031537: in outlying islands when the couple themselves can't travel because of weather or lack of a boat ] ."

"Legally binding?" asked Paul.

"They would eventually want to bring in these licenses they made, or some other evidence from the parties to the marriage, for registration."

"Oh. But that does make the marriage lawful?"

"In the sense that no other person could accuse them of committing adultery with each other, yes."

"So," Georgianna asked, [JMR201612031845: "you have marriage licenses and witnesses. Officer Paalo will help be sure that the marriage is legal. You can get married today. ] Any further questions about your options?"

Karel asked, "Isn't the first counselor in the district presidency also the first counselor in the temple presidency? Or am I overreaching?"

Greg smiled. " [JMR201609031541: Now there is an interesting option. ] Do you have your temple clothes?"

Bobbie clapped her hands. "They're in our trunks!"

"Then I think we should break this meeting up for a couple of hours while you two go get them. And bring that fountain pen with you, too, when you come back."

Did I apologize already for taking this one way over the top?

I did?

I apologize again. This is a really a little too sacred to play this kind of game with, and no one should ever expect this kind of thing to happen to them.

No individual part of it, though, is really that far over the top. But put together like this, it's a bit way too far.


I should make this completely explicit:

If I had not already determined, for the sake of the plot, that God had a (partially disclosed, at this point) purpose for them on the island, they would have been counseled to keep waiting {JMR201609031543: , or to satisfy themselves with the prospect of being sealed some years in the future } .

It is true that we can, if we refuse to accept the better counsel, have the better counsel taken away. That is not what I think happened here.

All along, they have been receiving impressions that they would be asked to remain on the island, together. If it were not for the purpose I am imputing to God in my story, the impressions that they had received from correct sources up until now would have been completely different.

(And we would, really, be completely justified in asking for them to be found soon, miraculously or otherwise.)

They have been receiving other temptations as well -- temptations to ignore the question of marriage entirely, and temptations to completely set aside the possibility. I haven't mentioned them as much, maybe I should have.

(If I commit blasphemy in suggesting that God might, even in an alternate history, be complicit in this kind of plot, well, judge me, not God, for that. If it's my story that is bad, it's my story that is bad.)


I hope I haven't offended you with this. If I have, however, don't read the next [JMR201608260920: chapter two chapters. ] Please.

(The link to the next chapter will be here when it's ready is here:

[JMR201608260923: The link to the third chapter after this will be here, if I don't forget. ])
(The chapter index is here:

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