Despite a challenging courtship, E. J. (Joe) Young married Lillian Riggs on July 25, 1935—a marriage that lasted 32 years. When they met, Joe’s father had just died and Lillian was broken-hearted from a double tragedy. The man she became engaged to on her twenty-first birthday was killed in a car accident on his way to their date. Two years later she met her sister’s blind date and married him two years later. Three months after their marriage in 1932, her husband died from a hunting accident. When Joe and Lillian met in 1933, Joe was a seminary student teaching the Westminster Shorter Catechism to a women’s prayer and Bible study group called the Philologus (Lover of the Word) Club. Joe was captivated by this beautiful young widow who had asked him a question after class, but Lillian was uncertain whether she could ever love anyone as she had before. Joe doggedly pursued Lillian, even sending her a card declaring his love in nine different languages. Although Lillian was still unsure of herself, she agreed to marry Joe on April 16, 1935. Joe graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary in May. They married two months later at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.
Although Lillian feared that God might not let her keep Joe, she relied on Romans 8:28 and one month after their wedding wrote that she loved Joe “muchly.” They drove cross country in an old jalopy to San Francisco where Joe sought to be licensed and ordained by the Presbytery of San Francisco of the PCUSA. The PCUSA was upset that J. Gresham Machen, in his battle against modernism in the church, had formed an Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in 1933. Although Joe was grilled relentlessly if he would pledge loyalty only to the Boards of the PCUSA, he refused to answer questions against Scripture or conscience. He narrowly passed his exams and was ordained in the PCUSA on September 3, 1935.
Afterward they traveled overseas to Leipzig, Germany, but returned to New York less than a year later when Joe was hired to teach Old Testament at WTS. On Aug. 25, 1936, Joe left the PCUSA and joined the fledgling Orthodox Presbyterian Church, then called the Presbyterian Church of America. Joe continued teaching at the seminary until he entered his Eternal Rest in February 1968. Lillian joined him in May 1991.