LDS marine and princess love story featured on NBC

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    By Eric Christensen

    NBC will conclude Valentine”s week on Feb. 18 with a telecast of the modern-day Romeo and Juliet story “The Princess and the Marine.”

    Although a Sunday night, made-for-TV movie on NBC probably is not worth kicking the home teachers out to watch, the story of this couple just might be.

    Member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and former U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jason Johnson and Muslim and Bahraini princess Meriam Al-Khalifa”s love story will air on prime-time, network television this weekend.

    “Life has been hectic for us,” Johnson said in a phone interview Monday. “But being with Meriam makes it easier,” he said.

    Johnson and Al-Khalifa”s story started in a Bahraini Mall in February of 1999 where Johnson was serving in the Marine Corp.

    “She was a very gorgeous young lady,” Johnson said. “But that wasn”t it. I fell in love with who she was and how she carried herself. She was very down to earth.”

    After chance meetings for three months, the couple ran into each other in May of 1999 at the movie Rush Hour, Johnson said. “I was with friends and she was with friends, it was very innocent.”

    But Johnson said he had fallen in love with her.

    Being forbidden to see each other, Johnson said he was able to focus on who Meriam was as a person. “I didn”t have to fight with any physical desire to be immoral with her like many people our age have to do.

    Two weeks after escaping Bahraini to the United States in November 1999, the couple wed in Las Vegas, Johnson said.

    Johnson said he still has not met his wife”s father, Shaikh Abdulla Al-Kahlifa, “I wish I could”ve approached her dad and dated her like I wanted to,” he said. “But because of Western versus Mid-Eastern stereotypes, I was disallowed to honor this tradition.”

    In the meantime, the couple continues to wait until later this month for a hearing with the Immigration and Naturalization Service on whether Al-Khalifa will be allowed to stay or leave the country, Johnson said.

    “I”m quite optimistic that things will work out. I hope the movie will spark some public interest,” he said.

    Johnson grew up in Long Beach, California as the oldest of nine siblings, including two half-brothers, two half-sisters and a stepsister before moving to Idaho and graduating from Twin Falls high school, according to an NBC news release.

    Although life was hard as the oldest child according to Johnson, it was perfect training for serving an LDS mission in the Texas Houston mission, 1994 to 1996.

    “I loved my time in Houston. I met the most interesting people and was able to feel the Spirit on a daily basis. It was one of the best times of my life,” he said.

    Johnson said he learned invaluable lessons in Houston helping him with marriage, he said. “I learned to put the wants of others above your own. I learned how to find true happiness and what was really important in life.”

    Although Johnson says he has been less active in attending his regular LDS meetings since finishing sniper school in 1997, his testimony remains strong.

    “I”ve never denied my testimony, and I love the church. When we lived in California in the Fallbrook Ward, the missionaries and bishop would cater to any of our needs. They would support us and visit us all the time. We are in deep gratitude to them,” he said.

    The couple said they have not decided how they will religiously raise their children, but Johnson believes they will not go wrong with either.

    Both religions believe in living a chaste life and both live by a code of ethics; both religions teach to love their family; both teach kindness, honesty and morality; and both believe in the New Testament, Johnson said.

    “If we combine our religions, we”ll have great kids.

    “If our daughter wants to be Muslim, and our son wants to be Mormon, I will love them unconditionally,” he said.

    NBC publicist Cathryn Boxberger said the movie, Sunday night from 8-10, has all the elements to make it a Hollywood favorite.

    “It has love, sacrifice and heroism,” she said.

    Boxberger said she believes that although the couple is young, they will thrive together.

    “They have a strong sense of responsibility to one another. They have a nice balance of power and are very respectful of each other.

    “Although they”re from different places, they appear very equal,” she said.

    The couple, now living in an undisclosed Western United States location is ready to live their lives, not as Mormon and Muslim or marine and princess, but as best friends, Johnson said.

    “We became friends first, and that is why we”ve made it through all we have,” he said.

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