4.22.2017

3 things I'd like to tell people whose spouse (or loved one) has a change of faith

Three years ago, my dear and wonderful husband let me know he no longer believed in the teachings of the LDS Church. It's the church I was raised in, that he and his mom joined when he was young, and the vehicle to God we both committed to in our marriage vows. It wasn't a complete surprise - both Porter and I have long discussed things we didn't love about the Church and some of the more questionable aspects of Church history and doctrine. For me, these discussions were part of a well-rounded look at faith. I believe strongly in questioning and disbelieve strongly in the perfection of church leaders, history and doctrine. For Porter, though, who sees the world in much starker black and white than I do, the cracks and imperfections all added up to a pretty dramatic change in belief system. Dramatic for him because he believed it for so long with such fervor. Dramatic for me because, well, I never expected to be married to someone who was not a practicing Mormon.

There was a while where the whole thing felt very sad to me. I had a lot of fears about what this meant for me and my future children, and sadly, I admit, what people would think about me and him and our future family. Feeling the way I feel now (spoiler alert: life is still good, my marriage is great, and my eternity isn't screwed), I feel a little bit silly admitting that I cried when he stopped wearing garments, started having occasional coffee breath, and couldn't attend my brother's temple wedding. I like to say I got automatically to A-OK, but it took a bit of time to mourn certain aspects of life that were going to be different now. It has taken a while for us to get into a groove about how we talk about the things that are important to us. And now I'm feeling ready to talk about it in a more public (read:internet) way.

So, here are a few things I've picked up over the last few years that I wish I could have heard all at once, for anyone going through something similar.

1. Your life is not over. Your marriage is not over. Your eternity is not screwed. 

This is the one thing I wish I could shout from the rooftops and into the hearts of anyone whose spouse goes through a faith transition. I also sometimes want to shout it at other people when I'm feeling defensive.

A month or so after the first round of conversations Porter and I had untangling his change, a woman in my ward gave a talk in church and mentioned her 'adamantly ex-Mormon husband.' I caught her in the hallway later and, as casually as I could (because casual was the only way I could do it at that point), I told her I liked her talk, and oh, by the way, my husband doesn't think the church is true anymore and how do you deal? She's the first person who I have ever met (or at least noticed) who didn't treat a non-member or non-practicing spouse as something entirely devastating, nor something to be afraid of.

She shrugged and smiled (and not in a benevolently sympathetic way that makes you feel like you're being pitied. That's the WORST.) and said 'You know, it's honestly not that big of a deal. I mean, I'd love to go ski with him on Sundays because I like to ski, but it really doesn't change all that much about our marriage.'

MIND BLOWN.

There's a narrative around people who 'leave' the church that they are bound to go 'off the deep end' and that it's 'so terribly sad' for the person who chooses to stay. I get that. I've thought it. Here's the facts: the person you married is still the person you married and if love was there before, it's likely still there now. And yes, there are conflicts that come up when two people disagree, especially on things as fundamental as faith (and double especially when that faith is as all life-encompassing as being Mormon is). But marriage is, by definition and by covenant, a commitment to one another. Conflict and compromise are part of the deal. And honestly, 95% of the time, churchy things do not come up.

How to deal with those 5% of life where two majorly differing world views makes decision-making difficult?

2. Respect Breeds Respect

We have a tendency in the Church to feel a hard-earned sense of moral superiority when it comes to leading life right. Most Mormons I know (myself included), have clocked a lot of hours on knees in prayer, searching for guidance from God as well as at church, in fellow church-members' homes, in service, etc. We aren't willy-nilly about our beliefs and that can feel a little bit like we deserve to sit up on a high horse in either self-righteousness or, as is often the case for people whose spouses change their faith, anger or betrayal. The way we talk about our faith is peppered with strong words like KNOW and TRUTH and AGENCY. We don't realize we do this, I think (I hope), but even when we are trying to be understanding that someone else may have the gall (or lack of discipline/faith/respect/pick your derisive explanation of choice) to come to different conclusions about what they use their agency to know to be true, it is often cloaked in a sweetly smug, 'Oh, you'll figure it out eventually. I had doubts once too. And if you don't get the answer I got, just keep trying. You'll agree with me eventually...'

This is not OK.

If you truly believe in agency and faith and what the Plan of Salvation teaches about the importance of one's personal journey, you should double super extra support that your spouse is on a journey. And no, you don't get to call it something temporary just to make yourself feel better. Maybe your spouse will indeed change their mind somewhere down the line, but making your love contingent on their maybe someday return to your once shared beliefs is condescending to your spouse and honestly, negates what you say you believe about agency and the plan of salvation. I'm not crazy about the term inactive for this reason. I also choose to not say that my husband 'left the Church.' He hasn't left, his relationship with it is just different now.

I am very fortunate to be married to a person who fully supports me in my desire to be 100% still super duper Mormon. He comes with me to church often enough, encourages me in my callings and supports parenting a Mormon baby. Maybe he would do these things regardless of my behavior, because he is wonderful and supportive by nature, but I feel fairly certain that if I tried to shame him into church activity, argued until he broke, or treated him like he was an immoral piece of garbage for coming to different conclusions than me, he would not be quite so gracious.

There was a time when Porter was actually pretty angry with the Church. It's a common thing for people who believe something so fiercely to feel a potent mix of being let down and betrayed by the God and institution that meant so much to them. NOTE: These are valid feelings, even if you disagree with them. And it's important that your spouse knows that you are there with them, no matter what. If you are with them - and I mean with them in the truest, most empathetic sense - they will be with you on the things that matter to you. Respect them and they will respect you.

Again, doesn't mean there isn't conflict. We've had our tousles with subjects all sorts of things, to name a few: tithing, church attendance on vacation, and whether or not I'm OK having a coffee maker in the house (it was a firm no for a long time, it just weirded me out. I'm OK with it now, but Porter still hasn't gotten one).

*Important to note: this is a work in progress for both of us

3. You are not alone. There is a place for you.

One of the most frustrating things I encounter is this idea that families and people who don't fit the usual configuration are somehow less-than. No one overtly says this, of course. Quite the opposite, there are a BILLION quotes and comments about how the gospel is for everyone and we shouldn't be measuring success against the stable couple with beautiful, faithful children. But we do this, of course. Everyone does somewhere in their lives. We are hard-wired to want to fit in and terrified at our very core of being different. I came from that family- the family whose kids all grew up singing in the choir and got married in the temple. My parents go on temple dates. We all get really into our callings (usually we're teachers because, you know, we're all great speakers and have such a wise understanding of the gospel...).

So it was a big shock for me to realize that was not going to be my family. And for a while I felt very self-conscious about it. Until I started looking around to see how many people also aren't that family. I'll tell you what, it's most families. Here's the rub, though, no one talks about it. During the first few months I was processing all this stuff, I was serving in Young Women's with a woman whose husband was in a very similar place and we NEVER talked about it. In the three wards I've been in since then, I have an unconscious habit of counting all the people who attend church alone, or who have different configurations of some kind. It's more than half of the ward, always. But NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IT.

So this blog post is part of trying to change that. I spent a year hoping no one would notice my usually absent husband, then a year talking about my non-practicing husband in a vague way that I'm sure most people didn't catch, and now finally, I realize that I am part of the problem if I don't talk about it. The way you talk about it matters, too. The woman I talked with who shrugged and smiled about her adamantly ex-Mormon husband was an inspiration to me. Like her, I'm not interested in soft-eyed pity from church members who feel inspired by my 'sticking with him.' Quite the opposite. I don't want pity (who does, really?). I don't want my husband to be on the ward project list (he wants that even less). I want them to see how wonderful a husband and father and human being he is. I want people who feel different to feel okay in their differences. And I want to be able to participate in my church community as I am - no secrets, no shame, just reality. So far I have that. A note to any of you Faith Changers out there reading this, most Mormons genuinely do want you to feel comfortable around them, don't want you to feel judged or excluded. Most people, I've found, just don't know how to act or what to say to convey the fact that where you're at spiritually doesn't impact your ability to participate/not participate in church services and activities to whatever degree you want. And in the face of not knowing, most people just don't say or do anything. It can look the same as judgment/exclusion, but I promise, it isn't (usually :) ).

If anyone out there in internetland is going through something like this and wants to talk about it with me, I'm happy to. I won't pat your leg or tell you they will come around, but I'll listen and tell you it's OK. It's not going to be OK someday (when they come back, when you divorce and remarry someone more stalwart, when you also inevitably also choose to leave). It already is OK. You might just not know it yet.

65 comments:

HeidiB said...

I love this. Thank you for being bold and talking about things the rest of us are too cowardly to bring up. We just suffer in silence, feeling like we're alone.

Erin Reilly said...

Beautifully written, Kami! Such a challenging topic - thank you for being part of the effort to change it!

Linda Seymour said...

Kammi, an honest take on what must have started out as a touchy/painful subject. You are a gem !!

Timothy Odeen said...

Thanks for posting. I always enjoy your self reflection. After I joined the church, the first 5 years were hard. Like, I thought about leaving the church hard. The 2 years of mission service were great, because I was surrounded by people who had no other alternative than to serve or go home, but when I got home I got back into the same problem: my friends aren't Mormon and how do I balance my Mormon life with my non-Mormon life. I was really self-conscious about me being Mormon. Would my friends still like me? Part of the problem was also that I didn't really want to make friends with the Mormons I met at church (singles ward). I still don't. They seemed either to be egotistical jerks (trying to be the caveman and show off for women), or they were really boring people. The one church verse that really changed my perspective was: Man is not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath is made for man. I realized I needed to be comfortable in my faith, otherwise I wouldn't be able to remain a member. So I started going to bars with my friends again, and I was the designated driver, and I went to bachelor parties (but there were some things I didn't do...I don't think I need to explain those points), and I occasionally skipped church on Sunday to go float the river. That was the best decision I ever made. Although I do believe Stereotypical Mormons exist, I don't believe there are as many of them as even church members might assume. I kind of think they are Unicorns, if you know what I mean. I loved your first point that "The person you married will still be the same person." My friends and I got through that awkward stage where they realized that although I wasn't drinking alcohol anymore, I was still the same person who would be occasionally wild. I still liked camping, and I still liked them, and I still found pleasure in skipping church. The other point that I really like that you made was the church isn't perfect. I really like reading the Old Testament and seeing all of the imperfection that has been recorded. Like Elisha and the bear (messed up!), Moses not following God's explicit instructions, Jonah not wanting to be a prophet, Saul and David and Solomon falling from Grace. There are lots of problems in the Old Testament. That always make me think, "Gosh, if Elisha could still be a prophet by having a bear go and eat 40+ children, I don't think the LDS church is doing too bad." I wish the New Testament record was as diverse as the Old Testament (I wish more Mormons read the Old Testament). Final thought, after returning from my mission, I concluded that I needed to marry a return missionary, because only a return missionary would understand the true problems converts face in "enduring to the end." Your husband chose well in finding a return missionary. Good luck in your adventures. Fight the good fight. "Suu Suu"

denny hancock said...

You're an amazing person. Porter must be a good man to continue supporting you in your belief. It's still hard to picture you as a grown up.
Keep up the writing. You express yourself so clearly. Thanks

Sarah said...

Thanks for writing this Kami. Very nicely explained and helpful points shared from lived experience. I think we benefit so much by sharing our true life experiences.

Jamie said...

Thank you for this! My spouse has recently left the church as well. It has sent me on my own journey. First, I had to decide if my marriage was still worth holding onto. It was him, not me, who was afraid that this would come between us and destroy us. I had to fight to prove to him that I still wanted and accepted him, as he is. It also has made me question my own beliefs, not because I think that they're wrong, but because I need to be stronger. I cannot rely on anyone else's testimony anymore, so mine needs to be firm.
It's still hard though. You're right that our day to day lives haven't changed. But bringing 3 active small children to Sacrament alone each week is the hardest hour of each week. And watching the disappointment that my son will likely experience in under a year when he gets to be baptized, but not by his own father... That will be hard as well. But it is ok. Our love can survive this, my faith can survive this, and my children will survive this true. And all of these things will be stronger for facing this challenge!

Kami Bratten said...

@Jamie It absolutely is a journey for us too! I just have one toddler right now (named Jamie!), but he's plenty wiggly! I've found that the more comfortable I am with coming to church alone, the better I've done at asking people for help or people knowing I need it. I think there's a lot of Sacrament attendees glad for the distraction ;)

One thing that's come up a lot is my husband fearing his children being disappointed in him and thinking he's a bad person. I know a lot of that I can't control, but I've had to reassure him that no matter if our kids get made to feel that way, I'm on my husband's side and they need to know that I'm not disappointed in him or think he's a bad person.

Thanks for sharing your story!

Michael Rowley Photography said...

Beautiful words - as this won't (or shouldn't) change much in your marriage, this won't change things in genuine friendships. Porter has always been such a rad dude and I'm sure tons of other people look up to him in as many ways as I do. That'll never change! You two are such a fabulous couple!

Trevor said...

This is amazingly mature and compassionate.

Mandar said...

I'm in tears. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this. I'm still in the 'mourning phase' and I just don't know how to deal with it. Thank you a million times.

Kami Bratten said...

Mandar, I'm sorry. If you ever want to talk, feel free to get in touch. My email is just my first name last name at gmail

Michael Grindstaff said...

Perhaps if you didn't allow your reality to be oppressed by others...you are choosing that suffering and silence...by being of a community that hates everyone who is different from them...if you find yourself to be different...they now hate you, and I know that to be real in my personal life and observations...the idea that there is any degree of acceptance within the church is nonsense...comply or burn in hell and be excommunicated from your family...great beliefs...lol

Dori P said...

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. My husband recently discovered that he did not believe in the establishment of the Lds church. I went through all the emotions and have now come to the place where you said, "It's ok and it's not the end of the world" I am grateful for this journey he is on because he is discovering Christ and finds himself more compassionate and loving towards others (which he was already pretty good at those things) The other day a friend was shocked that my husband didn't believe the same as everyone else in the church and stated "But he is so happy all the time" I kindly told her that people who aren't LDS are happy and good people as well :) This experience has made us closer and open my eyes to how others are treated some times when they have different views. Thanks so much again for sharing your thoughts. You stole the words right out of my mouth! - Dori

Whitney Leonard said...

Oh man...this...I...lots of tears! This has been exactly my life for the last year. For the first 6 months or so I was very angry and betrayed. We had made promises to each other, eternal promises, and I felt like he was abandoning me. Not only that, but we had been struggling for years with infertility (which I think triggered some of his anger with the church and church culture). We were faithful, practicing, obedient members with all of the check boxes checked...but the blessing we wanted most was nowhere to be seen. There's obviously more to it, but that was a part. When he told me he was leaving the church, I felt sucker gut-punched. He had given me no hint of his questions, or his desire to leave until it was already decided. Suddenly, I was alone in feeling like we "needed" a family. Suddenly I was the sitting at church by myself. No children, and now no husband. The intense loneliness was more than I could bare. He was sure I would divorce him - and began pushing me away. I wasn't so sure I would stay, and began pushing back. We were all kinds of a mess until I finally realized what you mention here - it's okay! It really is. Not only that, but I'm actually kind of PROUD of him. It's not the decision I would have chosen, but it was HIS CHOICE. One he is not only allowed, but encouraged to make!! If we really believe in agency - I can't fault him for exercising it, can I? How hard must it have been for him to tell me, his family, and particularly his very-Mormon mother that he no longer believed? How alone must he have felt when I totally freaked at this news?? Slowly, but surely, we are working toward a place of mutual respect. Something I didn't realize was probably lacking a bit before. We are, in many ways, becoming stronger. There are some subjects we just don't/can't discuss yet. And - now that we are expecting our first baby (finally, yay!) - there are still many uncertainties and negotiations to work through as we move forward. But we're okay - better than okay. We are learning more about who we really are and growing closer every day, with no expectations that the other person will "someday change" in order to make things work. He made a hard decision. But he made it for the right reasons. He read, researched, and asked himself what he believed was right - and then he acted on it. Isn't that the basis of our church? Isn't that what the prophets have always told us we should each do - gain a testimony...or not? We never talk in church about the "not" option. Maybe we should? Maybe if we discussed it on Sundays in terms of "mutual respect" and not just "tolerance", others who face this challenge will handle it better than I did.

jdprice said...

I love you!!

wendy said...

I couldn't love or be more proud of you.

Kami Bratten said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I love that difference between tolerance and mutual respect. They are different!

Kami Bratten said...

That's not been my experience, I'm very sorry that it has been yours.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for expressing yourself so well and addressing this very touchy subject!

The Terry's said...

Going through the the thick of this right now with my husband. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. My heart has felt torn in two.

sharon. said...

Thank you for this. My husband also left 3 years ago and it was so so so hard in the beginning. And still occasionally is (going to church with 3 kitties alone isn't easy!) but my husband is the best human I know. I can relate to literally everything you wrote and it's so nice to know I'm not alone. Cause I do feel like I am a lot of the time.

sharon. said...

By kitties I meant littles. Ha ha.

Alaina said...

Love this, every word! Thank you for sharing boldly, we need so much more of that all over the place :)

Anonymous said...

God bless you for your continued faith.He will help you!

Linda said...

Wow. I went through this over 5 years ago and I must say you articulated my feelings almost exactly. Seems we do need to talk about this more. I especially appreciate the comment thread about respect vs tolerance. They are different. Respect for another's spiritual journey being different than our own is important. If the religion of love existed I would choose it above all else. Think about it...all religions talk about love as the center of their beliefs yet most wars are started over religion.

Anonymous said...

I am just starting this journey in my life with my husband. He wants to keep it a secret, it's been hard. I know we'll work it all out and learn how to communicate about all of the issues that come with it. He is such a good and wonderful man and am amazing father!! I want to move forward with love and respect and a desire to do whatever we need to be a happy family here and now. This is hard though.

Emily said...

I really love this and appreciate you expressing this and telling your story. I am going through this and I'm in the mourning and disappointment phase. I don't know quite what to do or how to act so I basically pretend that the issue doesn't exist. My husband hasn't officially left the church, in fact he still holds a pretty significant calling in the Elder's quorum presidency. But he has all but stopped going and has basically made the decision that he's done. I'm struggling tremendously. Just trying to navigate my new world. Thank you so much for your story! It really made me think about things differently and opened my eyes.

Anonymous said...

Look how many people just in these comments can relate. I can relate. There is a need for open dialogue such as this! At first I thought my husband was the problem. Questioning and digging. After a couple months and reading some of the history myself I realized he is not the problem and he is entitled to his feelings and emotions. We all have a choice. What was once black and white is now being colored in. There's no manual or lesson that tells us how to navigate this, but I have found that my husband and I gained a much deeper love and respect for everyone when our glass house shattered. Thank you for writing this ♡

Michelle said...

I know many going through this.

I will just say that it isn't true that no one is talking about this, though. It's there. Look for it. Mormon Channel is a good place to look, and so are plenty of talks that try so hard to recognize the messiness of life and the less-than-idealness of so many life and family situations. It is we who often interpret the messages with the rigidity that we then fight against when the mess hits and we feel bewildered. I'm not saying it's not easy to process with a rigid lens, but it is simply false to say that there aren't messages there to help us along the way.

Many spouses suffer from some confusion and even a sense of trauma if a spouse loses faith. That should not be criticized any more than a spouse's loss of faith should. Everyone has to learn to find their center, including spouses still in the faith. For those who are struggling and can't quite buck up and pull up by the bootstraps, it's ok to need your own healing process, too. It's ok to not handle it perfectly. It's ok to have it all be messy for everyone...as you note, you figure it out as you go.

Lastly, although I agree that a marriage can definitely continue strong even if a spouse ends up redefining their relationship with the Church, you have not captured at all what my percentage is. The Church is not 5% of my life. It is everything to me. It would impact our relationship significantly to not be able to share this part of me with him...because it IS who I am. I cannot divide out that part of me. I know we could make it work, and I totally and completely agree with respecting another's journey, but I would encourage you to not be so quick to assume your percentage will match with others'. Day-to-day life can still continue, but there is a part of the relationship for many that dies without being able to share that part of their heart and soul with their spouse. Christ can fill that part of the soul, and can heal the wounds that come, but it is not weakness nor arrogance to experience the pain and loss from not having that part of one's life to share at that deep level anymore. And if we do believe that the Church does have something that no one else does (and that is what we proclaim) it's not unreasonable for someone to feel some loss when someone leaves. I think the key is to remember that God's timeline is not ours, and people's journeys are always in motion until the great and last day of judgment.

I don't know if this will be helpful, but many women have shared their experience with this here: https://mormonwoman.org/2012/10/15/ask-a-mormon-woman-my-spouse-has-chosen-to-leave-the-church-now-what/

I also recently heard a Mormon Channel interview about when family life is less than ideal. Again, people ARE talking about this! https://www.mormonchannel.org/watch/series/gospel-solutions-for-families/when-life-is-less-than-ideal

This is another great Mormon Channel episode that addresses less-than-ideal life.
https://www.mormonchannel.org/watch/series/hope-works/seeing-green-jill-thomas-hope-works

There ARE people talking about the less-than-ideal and they are talking about it at the very top. It's good to have both grassroots experiences but to also realize that top-down, our leaders understand the messiness. They are trying to address it. Let's help them do it but looking for what they are saying and sharing with those experiencing, rather than perpetuating this idea that somehow they are unaware and detached and 'no one is talking about this.'

Anonymous said...

I am "the Porter" in our relationship. We have reached a compromise, where I attend church (in part because I love my husband and don't want him to have to sit alone). He does not nag the hell out of me to attend every sorted activity. A few years ago, things came to a head, and I told him, "It is just a matter of time before they call and want us to go be mission president in South America. And I am going to say no. So we may as well just end this now." For years I had been feeling like my marriage was contingent upon my church service. So I started talking about who was going to get what, etc.... And one day he announced that he did not want to start over with someone else, that he wanted to stay with me. There is plenty of money, so I am okay with paying tithing. I went to therapy, and the therapist said, one person wanting to be more involved than the other with "The Church," is common. And it is slightly more common for the man to be the one who wants less involvement. But she said, the gender break down was only slightly less than 50/50. About 60/40. In our situation, I feel we have reached an equilibrium. And I was also feeling like my husband was with me out of a sense of duty. And I told him that he had made the decision to marry me when he was 23 years old, and I was not going to hold him to that. He let me know that he loved me to the center of his soul. And that there was no sense of obligation. That he loved being married to me. And his nagging for me to attend church activities ended. And he stopped piping out his disapproval energy. I would not want him to leave the church. And I do not have a problem, per se, with the Church. I just do not want to attend Enrichment. And I feel some of what the Church has evolved into, is incorrect, ie people on public and Church assistance. The involvement I do have is heartfelt. Last week, I packed a dinner for the missionaries to pick up. And it was a pleasure to make a meal for someone else's child, who is away from home. It does not have to be black/ white, inactive/ active, etc...

ashley said...

What did you do when blessing your baby?

Nathan said...

Michelle, I appreciated your response. I've also appreciated efforts the Church is making to address the difficulty of working through changes in perceptions of truth, experienced by others or by ourselves, that affect our relationships.

I suspect that when Kam says 95% doesn't change, she isn't suggesting the church is only 5% of her life, but rather that 95% of what she has come to believe through church and other life experiences is still just as valid as it was before.

Authority being such a key part of many members' understanding of the importance of activity in the Church --believing it is the one true and living Church on the whole earth, that it alone provides the ordinances required to obtain exaltation -- it's understandable why it distresses such members to see family and friends question and depart from this conception of the Church. We see the fruit of eternal life and want all of our loved ones to partake of it with us; it dismays us to see them abandon the iron rod.

And yet, while relaying to us this vision of the tree of life, Nephi tells us there are only two churches -- one of God and one of the devil! This must mean either that we've been too inclusive in our view of other churches and organizations, thinking them to have at least elements of goodness, or that we've been too narrow in our thinking, mistaking activity in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for actual membership in the body of Christ.

I find the latter to be the more charitable and hopeful interpretation, and so I have come to think that taking on the name of Christ is not so much about joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as it is about taking on the nature of a compassionate healer, consoler, reconciler, savior.

Wth this perspective, whether one attends Church, or what one believes about God, has little to do with the way I see their relationship to me or to God. Ordinances are symbols of grace, not the means of grace themselves. Real grace is found in learning to give and forgive. And so even if the church still means everything to me, my relationship to it and to my loved ones doesn't necessarily change much if they no longer believe its truth claims or even choose to attend. In fact my relationship to the church can even be broadened and deepened as I come to learn more about the nature of God and life through the experiences and changing perspectives of my friends.

L S said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I feel most in the church are truly trying to be the kind of person God would want them to be. I think when they share their testimony of what they KNOW and how they have come to that belief of what is truth. They are not sharing out of arrogance. They have had experiences that are very personal and have touched to their very soul. To use those words is not being arrogant, but sharing their personal conviction of what God has revealed to them personally. I feel too many who leave the church try to use the excuse of what they perceive as attitudes of members of the church as one reason they left the church. When in all honesty, most members are truly trying to do their best and want to love others. Only Jesus Christ understands each of our struggles completely and so we each handle and react to others' struggles with our limited understanding but not because we aren't trying. We just haven't experienced the exact struggle you might be experiencing at the moment. So our responses might be perceived wrong or just plain awkward because of lack of understanding completely, but not because of lacking in love.

I've appreciated the comments that we are all at different stages in processing when something like this changes in a relationship. There is much soul searching and trying to find the new parameters. For me it's difficult to know what I can talk about to the other person. It does change relationships to some degree because you can't talk about things you used to talk about freely without the other person thinking you are making them a "project" or walls going up. Or do things together that you used to do. For instance how have you handled Family Home Evening, family prayer and family scripture study? This question is for anyone who is going through this. How have you handled the daily church things with your children?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. So many LDS members need education on this matter. For me it is my children and many people act as if my life is over until they "come back" I have had to explain to many people that my children are not lost and gone but have simply chosen a different path and since I taught them to be independent I am actually proud of them for choosing their own path. I love them and always will.
Thanks so much for sharing your story. I hope more people start talking and understanding this.

Alyssa Ahern said...

Hello Michael! I'm sorry you feel that way. My dad was excommunicated very recently. It hurt. It stung. But his sins hurt more. I love my dad. At this point in my life I don't care if he comes back to the church. All I care about is that he picks himself back up. That he seeks and finds peace. I don't believe my dad will burn in hell. I don't believe that at all. I believe in an almighty forgiving Heavenly Father. I believe it is only up to him. I believe that I will be able to see my dad in the next life. And for me, that's the greatest belief. Being excommunicated is a big thing. But even if he never comes back, it's not up to any of us if he burns in hell or not. It's up to our loving Heavenly Father. And I know that my loving Heavenly Father wouldn't allow one of His children to suffer for something they didn't completely understand. I know there is acceptance, not necessarily in this church, but in Heavenly Father's eyes. And that's all that matters.

Mia said...

THIS. So much this. I am grateful for your post as I am one of those who don't fit into the mold of the little Mormon family with the stable couple and a gaggle of faithful-temple-marriage-destined children. It can be very lonely. It IS very lonely. And I know those pity looks and shoulder pats and empty offers of "how can we help" all too well. I also think it's entirely wrong to judge someone whose journey of faith doesn't look exactly like your own and I don't think someone is now suddenly "bad" because they no longer attend LDS services every week. "Inactive" is quite the offense term!

Anonymous said...

Well said. Thank you. I needed all of this.

Red Ryder said...

I too am one of the husbands who has had a faith transition. I'm 100% aware of the turmoil this has caused my wife and our relationship but also feel the need to point out the problems that have created this scenario. Over the years we've been taught a simple narrative regarding Joseph Smith and the foundational claims of the church. Then over time, the narrative has become complex with details emerging that cause one to question and feel betrayed. Issues like relationships between Joseph Smith and teenage girls, polygamy, and a handful of others that set up the dominos to fall. The hardest part of this mess is navigating through the process when "we" don't actively seek it out. For many of us, we didn't seek out ways to leave our faith or even question it. We simply came across information that years ago was considered anti-mormon information but now is confirmed by the church in the essays Elder Ballard has asked us to read, understand, and know. So how am I supposed to reconcile my new found knowledge that Joseph Smith was marrying women behind Emma's back all the while denying that polygamy was not being practiced? The real problem becomes the pattern that begins to emerge when you see the institutional dishonesty in an attempt to keep the unsavory things unknown. Ask yourself honestly if you knew Joseph Smith put a brown seer stone in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon? Why didn't you know that? Then one day you realize a fuse has been lit that you can't put out. Suddenly the church is no longer what you grew up to believe in. It feels like betrayal when you've given your time, energy, and money to the church only to see the narrative change before your eyes. An honest look at the Joseph Smith story ended up destroying my faith. I don't feel like I pursued this with this intent either, rather it was the natural consequences of knowing the rest of the story.

My wife and I have continued our marriage but it's been extremely hard with the never ending reminder that I'm broken. A message heard from every pulpit both small and large. The only compassion we have is knowing that so many others are going through the same journey. This isn't an individual problem but rather a problem the church will have to solve. After all, the church has been complicit too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your story. It is one I am living right now as well, except we are both transitioning out. My husband and I are mostly on the same page, but our biggest issue right now is our children and their feelings toward the church. We have given them as much information as we think they can handle, but they are having their own struggles with peer pressure with church attendance, shopping on Sunday, church doctrine ect ect. These expectations are deeply ingrained. But this has also been such a great time for us to talk about respect and morals and how we treat other people and the things that are really most important in life, such as goodness and love. It has been a journey but one that I know is making us stronger family!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your great article. I love your advice to a believing spouse to not talk about the faith transition as temporary. That is wise advice. If a person stops going for one of the stock excuses the church uses (lazy, offended, wanted to sin) then it could possibly be temporary. But if the person found out some troubling fact that the church has covered up, that is a very deep rabbit hole that very few will return from.

As far as supporting the believing spouse with getting kids to church, I worried about that. However, we decided to give the kids the choice whether to attend or not. It turns out that all of them detest the 3 hour boredom of church and chose to stay home and enjoy their Sunday. So that solved the problem.

Grant Kimball said...

Kami, I admire your willingness to try to work through things with your husband instead of giving up on your marriage. But why should it be so difficult in the first place? Its because mormonism preaches of a god that would literally tear a family apart simply because a given family member doesn't believe. How random, ugly and hurtful! Can you imagine a parent telling their child that if they don't believe what the parent tells them to believe that the child will no longer be part of the family? It's mind boggling.

The problem here is NOT that people drop mormonism because they don't believe. The problem is the mormon/christian doctrine that you have to believe or god will tear your family apart. Its extortion made acceptable by blaming the extortion on a god who isn't here to defend himself. Half the problems that part religious marriages have would vanish if this one ugly, immoral doctrine were dropped.

Kendy said...

Michelle, I really felt the spirit comfort me when I read your words:
"Day-to-day life can still continue, but there is a part of the relationship for many that dies without being able to share that part of their heart and soul with their spouse. Christ can fill that part of the soul, and can heal the wounds that come, but it is not weakness nor arrogance to experience the pain and loss from not having that part of one's life to share at that deep level anymore. And if we do believe that the Church does have something that no one else does (and that is what we proclaim) it's not unreasonable for someone to feel some loss when someone leaves. I think the key is to remember that God's timeline is not ours, and people's journeys are always in motion until the great and last day of judgment."

I wasn't really feeling like my experiences from this trial were similar to some of the earlier replies. Through this trial I know I have been strengthened, yes. I do feel I have learned to not rely on others testimonies and I had to go through a bit of a faith crisis myself. But by studying the history, all of it, and reading my scriptures and praying simultaneously with a desperate and humble heart I have gained soooo much knowledge and have learned how to discern the spirit when it is teaching me truths.

I have learned about context and to understand why some people made the mistakes they did or choices they did. We need to understand the thinking at Joseph Smith's time period. It's called "presentism". We can't think of it the way we would in modern times. It's like going to another country and assuming they should do everything the way we think it should be done.

I accept that everyone, even Joseph Smith, and our leaders can make mistakes. But I don't believe that it means we should not follow their words and counsel. I still believe that this church has been placed in human hands and that God trusts us to move the work forward. We may have to take a few steps backward every so often, but i absolutely have LOVED being part of a progressing and evolving church. It's beautiful!!!

I am five years into this same trial and although I'm so proud of us for working on our marriage it still hurts and I still miss him by my side. I miss being free to talk about whatever I learned at church or something spiritual I experienced. That is gone. I mourn that. I'm growing in strength by staying close to my Heavenly Father and I believe he is definitely molding me and preparing me for more difficult things.

Nathan, I appreciated your loving response also. I do believe that many are on the path towards the Tree of Life also. We were all born with the light of Christ! Let's treat one another this way. I also felt the spirit strongly with your response. Thank you.

What really helped me get through a lot of the questions was Fairmormon.org. I attended their conference the first year after my husband left (I admit to being hesitant at first but a friend invited me) and was blown away! I all of a sudden loved learning about the history. Before this I had no interest in studying church history. Ha ha. I now feel that I have a solid understanding and it has helped me in my daily studying of the scriptures. I would strongly suggest looking there if you want answers to all of the questions arising against the church. LOVE the podcasts. There have been some amazing speakers each year!

To all going through this trial, my heart aches for you. It is so hard! Please know of Heavenly Father's love for you. Please know that our leaders ARE working on trying to address each of your concerns, inside and outside of the church. Their hearts are 100% in and they are working hard to comfort and help you. I love this gospel. I know it will continue to roll forward.

Katelin Rogers said...

This is so on point. I'm not in this situation personally, but I have many friends who have described the same feelings of isolation or general weirdness as they are going through it. I also think it's great advice for all of us as we likely all have friends or other family members who are having a change of faith. It's important that we hear over and over that we don't have it all figured out and to quit with the condescension. Incidentally, Porter was in my branch on Long Island a million years ago and trained me from zero to running a tri that he put on at his school. I could have never done it without his patient support and encouragement- he offered to train anyone in the branch and was serious about it. He is a good man. Also, through his FB, I wrote you a super lengthy response to your pre-baby questionnaire about baby gear. That's me! Keep talking, keep writing!

Kendy said...

L S
Yes, things do change and it's been hard to know what you can say and can't. My husband was really angry and not kind about anything church related for a few years. It was sooo hard! He's getting better and coming down now. I understand it's been hard for him too. But that doesn't change the hurt or the new parameters of our family life.

As for Family Home Evening, I still try to do it but I try choosing topics that are pretty neutral such as love everyone, be Christ-like, serving others,etc. We do sing a song and say a prayer. I was lucky that he was typically gone most evenings for work so that the tension was not there. I also think it's just as important to Heavenly Father that we spend quality time together. So just going on a walk or hike together can still strengthen your family. He is great with our kids.

I still held on to family prayer. He just doesn't participate. However, whenever we're at his family's home they always do these things so that's a great example for our children. I'm truly grateful for his strong family.

I did pretty good on reading my girls a scripture each morning at breakfast and having a short discussion on it. I've gotten a bit busy with a one year old now but I do my best. I have a cute booklet that has a scripture you can read each morning that covers a certain topic for the week.

This may be so different for everyone but through my experiences in life I know that this gospel is true. I lost a mother and and had a unique experience and I know she is there. I'm not letting go of this knowledge. Maybe I'm a bit stubborn but I just can't let these things slide. They keep a peaceful spirit in our home.

Just so I don't block up this feed any longer just let me know if you have any other questions. My email is kendyann and it's @yahoo.com.

Thanks Kammi for sharing your experience and letting everyone know it will be OK. Because that is the truth.

tom wheeler said...

This is a very helpful response.. also remember that when Christ visited the Nephites, it wasn't just the church members that were saved from the earthquakes & disasters that preceded his coming. It was the "more righteous", and there were probably some church members who weren't in that group.

Still, I think it's not wrong to hold out hope, nor is it wrong to continue to believe that the church has the true priesthood and ordinances of the Gospel. My own father left the church for over a decade and was not involved all through my teenage years, but he eventually came back. You never know. Keep praying, keep loving. They have their agency and you can't control them.

But Nathan is right, ultimately what really matters is, what kind of a person are they?

... said...

The church.. true? Not likely. Granted every time I put a shovel into the ground and pull up a rock I wonder if it's a seer stone. lol Born & bred mormons can seldom flush it out of their minds. God is still real, but where?

Sarah said...

Whitney I am truly inspired by your message! Imade the choice to marry outside the faith and I can't say I regret any of our 20 yrs. Together and 2 almost grown children that I chose to raise outside the church. I to struggle with religion and faith but we have beautiful children with very strong morals and values. We have had a great life together and so will you. Congratulations on baby! You will naturally know what is best as regards to raising your child with or without religion and trust me when I say even if you choose not to raise them without religion they will grow to be beautiful people and in the eyes of God just as precious and perfect and loved as much as anyone that is raised with religion!

Anonymous said...

I'm in the same marriage situation as Kami. My husband and I got married in the temple then a few years ago he became atheist. At first it was extremely hard but not for the reasons that others might think. It was hard because I couldn't have certain conversations anymore with my best friend. If I had a spiritual experience I couldn't relay that to him cause I know he would just find fault in the experience and not believe what I was saying was spiritual- although it was to me. He also went through that angry at religion phase as well and would obviously take a lot out on the church and with my association with the Mormon church ultimately out on me. Looking back at the whole thing I am grateful he did because I had to do some serious soul searching to figure out my own spiritual beliefs. I never questioned as much as I did and still do and I know for certain my beliefs.
My husband and I are still happily married and I wouldn't want to be with anyone else. Sadly we aren't as close as we could be but we are working at it constantly. Marriage is already hard and when you throw in some more barriers it can make it even more difficult. It can be done though!

Jessica Medina said...

Wow. I really needed this. Thank you.

Sara said...

Jamie I could have written that second paragraph! Sacrament meeting with 3 little ones is the hardest part of my week. It took time to also not feel resentment afterward. I want to take them to church so if it is hard then that's something I have to deal with. Feeling angry at my husband that I had to get through that hour alone didn't help anyone.

Rightbrain said...

I left the church many many years ago from the Utah culture of judgment. I was persecuted from a husband that turned religious in spite of the fact that he couldn't be with me, but with another woman. Him and his wife threw religious spews at me on a constant basis. They used their ideologies to turn my children against me. To this day some of my children have used those same beliefs against me in spite of me just wanting to love them. I have even had falsehoods made against me to fortify their beliefs. Twenty years ago I approached the church from the Prophet on down and I had one very sympathetic voice out of four that actually said “stay strong in loving your children, for they will see the truth” the other voices cried “you get what you get if you don’t belong to the church.” Utah is a harsh environment and anyone that doesn’t believe in that look inward. The slight comments, the gossip, the look of shuns as you pass other members, it is very evident. Fortunately for you, the world is a changing. They say more and more people are leaving religion in general because of this point of view, even beyond the walls of Mormonism. If you truly believe in your husband, you don’t have to agree with his opinions or beliefs and in turn neither does he of yours, but love each other. The common denominator here is your love for one another and definitely respect, love for your children, love for the act of marriage. Once you fracture that love, that bond, you may end in the earthly hell of separation of all opinions. Selfishness plays very strongly when it comes to beliefs. Your husband will respect you even more for announcing, not denouncing him to others. Your children will have repercussions from others in their ward classes as well as school. Keep the dialog flowing between all of you, so they know they have a supporting home and parents to come to. I wish I had learned that lesson many years ago, maybe I would still have all my children by my side. I believe God is a merciful God and I believe that God will love you even more for standing by your man.

Anonymous said...

Kami, I was glad to find your article. Thank you for sharing your story. I think your hubby must be very loving and supportive. What happens when your kids get older though? This is the situation I am in. I have teenagers. My husband and I fight about seminary (we don't live in UT so it is before school), we fight about EFY, mutual, youth conference, etc. He doesn't believe they are important and so now the kids don't either. It's all I can do to get the whole family to church on Sunday for the entire time. It is not easy. And I feel like I am fighting a losing battle.

Rick Burke said...

I really feel strong in different ways:Well theres a difference between not going to church and having ones records expunged: lt sounds like hes just not a happy person, and doesnt feel it:Thats very common: To me its sad but its ok,it will turn out ok in the long run: I wouldnt want to go to church without a partner: Thats no fun but maybe its liberating to go to church with an unhappy mate:That must be a drag!Church is a delight on sunday, l feel that people who have deep issues with leadership and members need to just stay out if their that unhappy: We have to protect the church from these malcontants: They could infect others with their attitudes:The gospel is true, lts a restoration of the same church with the same imperfect type people that existed then: Were imperfect, what can l say but we have something special here: How can someone let go of that:Maybe someone thats hurting: l hope hes happy, thats all that count!

Rick Burke said...

I really feel strong in different ways:Well theres a difference between not going to church and having ones records expunged: lt sounds like hes just not a happy person, and doesnt feel it:Thats very common: To me its sad but its ok,it will turn out ok in the long run: I wouldnt want to go to church without a partner: Thats no fun but maybe its liberating to go to church with an unhappy mate:That must be a drag!Church is a delight on sunday, l feel that people who have deep issues with leadership and members need to just stay out if their that unhappy: We have to protect the church from these malcontants: They could infect others with their attitudes:The gospel is true, lts a restoration of the same church with the same imperfect type people that existed then: Were imperfect, what can l say but we have something special here: How can someone let go of that:Maybe someone thats hurting: l hope hes happy, thats all that count!

Maegan said...

Eight years into this same situation I am so glad to read this article and find comfort through knowing others are in the same boat and reading how people are trying to make things work and talking about it more. No one likes being lonely. And in regards to religion, God and church issues, feelings sure seem to run deep.
In my marriage we've made it through plenty of hard times but we are still in the middle of strongly disagreeing about things and these items are not trivial to us. We have 3 kids, one of whom is entering the teenage years. Our different beliefs and feelings affect a lot in our marriage and a ton in our parenting. His choices to leave church have very little to do about where he is during the church 3 hour block. Where he is headed without church seems to affect everywhere else; things like: where to spend money, every aspect of Sunday, reading scripture with kids, praying at meals or any sort of devotional event, what values to teach kids, goals in life, where to spend free time, etc.
I value that he has the right to leave church. Everyone has their agency. I can't argue with my thoughts and feelings that I deep down feel that God is in charge and His ways are the best ways. I want to follow Jesus Christ in finding grace, love, mercy and hope. And my man doesn't. He would say he is agnostic (doesn't know). If Joseph Smith lied/misled- okay. I am still finding peace through this vehicle to the Lord and His peace. God is my captain and Mormonism the boat I choose to be on and am happy to stay on despite its imperfections. In the end, I think if you are trying to follow God that's the best path. And my husband does not.
So we have agreed to disagree and perhaps that's the best respect we can offer. We've have tried counseling for years, as a couple and individuals. We now are trying a parenting plan where one person is in charge for a couple days and then it switches who is in charge. The things that change based on who is the parent in charge: is there prayer in the morning, dinner or bedtime, does FHE happen, church attendance for kids, do kids go to YW or AD, what video games and TV are on, is alcohol in the house, etc.
What I've learned- I am in charge of my own way and I can choose my path of happiness irrespective of another's choices. Without my spouse to lean on in spiritual aspects of our family, I lean more on the Lord for strength which has been a huge area of growth. The more I count my blessings, the happier I am. The Lord is mindful of me, my husband and my kids. Having self-pity or others pity doesn't help. There are many people who love, lift and support me that are my angels.
Summary- I have a good husband who is a great dad and provider. I have a loving Heavenly Father who I trust. I try to listen to the Spirit to know how to speak and act in loving ways.

Sarah said...

I'm a total stranger from the interwebs... A friend of mine shared your post online, and I think this is such a poignant and empathy-enlarging thing to discuss. I'm both a scientist and LDS, and it occurs to me that Charles and Emma Darwin had a relationship much like yours. I love learning about the natural history of the earth and the human body, and can't help but deeply admire Charles so much for his contributions to science (something I actually like to look at as inspired). He was also a very good man from what I've been able to gather of his character--a good husband and father, and someone who was quite sensitive about how his work and ideas might impact others. He became agnostic when one of his daughters contracted a terrible, incurable disease and died a slow, painful death. I also can't help but admire his wife for keeping her faith and instilling that faith in her descendants, even though some of those descendants have come to have mixed or negative feelings toward a very loving ancestor and his sincere work and perspectives. We're all on a journey, just as you have mentioned, and I love this blog post. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. You and your husband both sound like incredibly strong people, and I love your wisdom and your commitment to weather your journeys together in whatever raw and sincere ways that may unfold for each of you. Keep it real, and best wishes.
:-)

Natasha said...

Thank you so much for sharing! I feel like you read my mind and put into words what I can't. I don't know you but I feel we are kindred spirits☺️.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to thank you for this article and all the comments above. Very insightful and thought provoking.

Whit K said...

I've re read this post a couple of times this past week and cried each time. Even though you "know" other people are going through the same thing, it's so comforting to have your exact feelings put into words by a stranger.
I read some of this post to my husband who is no longer associated with the church and it prompted a meaningful conversation between us. I've made a conscious decision to no longer avoid the fact that my husband does not attend church anymore. I usually say he's working (which is true, but he wouldn't be there even if he wasn't working) and I need to be more honest with myself and others in order to help my husband know that I respect his decision. You articulated my thoughts so well, thank you!

Michelle said...

Nathan and tom, I don't disagree about the depth and breadth of the nature of God and the reality that people can be amazing, good, loving people without being members of the Church. There's such a tension in holding to what we believe and claim without being self-righteous or closed-minded. I get that, for sure, and have learned so. much. about God from those not of our faith.

But sometimes I think we can be awfully hard on our own. As such, I just didn't resonate with the tone of the post even though I understand and respect the intent. I think sometimes we expect Church members to somehow 'get' grace without walking whatever road we each have to walk to understand it. Grace is not something to be understood in the abstract or the philosophical realm. It's to be experienced. Until that is experienced, it's nearly impossible to extend it to others. And so we all have to be patient with each other, even those in the Church, because everyone, even those in the Church, have a path to walk.

Anonymous said...

My husband just recently told me he wants nothing to do with the church - and he is still very much in the angry part of it - my church attendance is causing so much friction and stress in our relationship that I don't know what to do at this point. We have two kids one is 7 and of course the entire topic of baptism is a real one. Part of me just wants to stop attending completely so that i can have a happy marriage again - but the other part of me is stressing about what that means to us. seeing this blog post pop up today was a blessing - i want to hope that in a little while he will be ok with me attending again... but its really hard.

Kendy said...

Anonymous at 9:26 AM,
Keep it up!! Go to the link Michelle posted earlier on. https://mormonwoman.org/2012/10/15/ask-a-mormon-woman-my-spouse-has-chosen-to-leave-the-church-now-what/

It was great! It was more how I have felt going through this whole thing. It's soooo hard but don't give up on the gospel. He will be ok eventually but it may be a while. Use this time to build your testimony. Try to practice and ask to feel Heavenly Father's unconditional love for your husband. If it gets out of hand however, please go to a bishop or trusted source.

It happened to me when my daughter was 7 also. I went forward with asking if she wanted to be baptized and left it up to her. I then asked an uncle to baptize her.

AjaxTheGreek said...

Wow! An insightful piece.

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