Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Marriage Tip: Maintain Faithful Behavior Even When There is a Crisis of Faith

The FAIR Blog tackles the allegation that the Church breaks up families by exploring some details of one ex-member who at least partly blames his divorce on the Church. I've been close to enough people going through divorce and marital problems to be highly suspicious of either party blaming any church, religion, employer, club, friend, or sport for the failure of their marriage. They may be right, but I often find that issues closer to home might be more important.

If someone struggles with their faith, they need patience and support. If they cannot accept the Church anymore, I hope that they can also be treated with patience and love. When that person goes beyond just lack of faith into active violation of the principles that were part of the common foundation for that marriage--for example, deciding that it's OK to go off to questionable parties and drink alcoholic beverages, or taking up tobacco--the sense of betrayal would seem to me to be higher.

I have seen many some examples of loving support of an LDS spouse by a non-believer who was never LDS, but has been understanding and helpful. Some of these men and women eventually accept the faith, though many do not. Some come to Church patiently with their spouse and provide help in numerous ways. I think of the example of one of the most loving men I know, a Jewish man who attended Church with his sweet wife for years and endured many lessons on Jesus Christ and several efforts from well-meaning Mormons to convert him. (In his case, he surprised and delighted us all after he moved away and decided to be baptized as a result of his own personal spiritual journey. He's now officially a fellow Latter-day Saint, though he always seemed that way.)

I would hope that those who lose faith for whatever reason will not lose sight of the feelings and needs of their spouse, and continue the courtship through regular dates and even going to church, and always respecting the standards of the Church as much as possible. Even if you conclude that there is no God and that, in theory, it's now perfectly fine to smoke, drink, swear, and leave the toilet seat up, I think you would be wise and your marriage will be stronger if you remain as faithful as possible to the standards you had already agreed to live when you said "I do."

Being faithful to the behaviors that were expected of you when you wed would seem like a loving and courteous thing to do, even when the faithful behaviors are no longer propped up by a vibrant faith.

Please note: I'm not saying divorce is justified when someone rejects the Church and refuses to participate, or takes up social drinking or other behaviors in tension with LDS faith. I prefer to see people work things through and deal with changes and differences with mutual love and respect. I am saying that your love and respect for your spouse ought to lead you to be very cautious about doing things that depart from the agreed-upon rules for your marriage and that would hinder your spouse's religious life.

Religion matters in marriage. It's an issue that young couples should discuss carefully before tying the knot so they understand what they are getting into and what is expected of one another, especially when children will be raised. Respect for your spouse's religion should be high on your priority list, even if you personally lose respect for that religion for whatever reason.

14 comments:

Sabrina said...

I was married in the Temple, to a wonderful LDS man. He has since lost his faith in the church. He has done exactly as you said. He still attends church with our family. He even holds church callings, though he is not comfortable with teaching and such. He participates in family home evening and family prayer etc. He also does not drink or smoke (aside from his extreme caffeine addiction!).
If anything, our marriage has been strengthened through this trial. I still pray that he will regain his faith, but I have come to terms with the probability that he will not. We are happy, and he is a wonderful husband and father!

LuckyMatt said...

It would seem that Paul's counsel to go to reasonable lengths not to offend others' sensitivities would apply here. 1 Corintians chapter eight deals with one very specific example of this general idea. Paul admonishes Christians not to eat the meat that had been slaughtered in pagan temples because although it was not technically in violation of God's laws, it might offend a tender-hearted ("weak") Christian convert to see a fellow Christian eating meat that he considered unclean. Or worse yet, this innocuous action might prompt a Christian convert to return to idol worship. Paul concludes with these thoughtful words:

12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

Walking the line between excessive political correctness and sensitivity can sometimes be tricky. But wouldn't it be nice if all of us--believers and non-believers--would place more value on each other, as fellow human beings, than on making a point? I'm not talking about violating God's commandments to make others more comfortable, or saying we can't make points that are important, but rather, when it doesn't really matter and might only require small personal sacrifice to abstain from some practice or another, why not take the extra effort to "get along" with our neighbors better?

I would hope that a believing spouse would be extended this same courtesy by a former believing spouse.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Tell him thanks from me, Sabrina!

Anonymous said...

Mormanity,

Why did you label the man Jewish? Did his being a Jew define him?

When a man joins the Church and his spouse does not, what does the spouse do when long hours are spent at Church, and important family obligations are not met?

Hunting widows? Church widows? Football widows?

What does the spouse do when the active church member announces that the they are on a higher spiritual plane? Therefore announcing their superiority?

Why does Sabrina mention her husbands "horrible caffiene addiction"? And to the addiction line she adds an exclamation point. She added no exclamation point to his positive points. Typical LDS superiority in her comments.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Anon, sounds like you're having a bad day, looking for bones to pick. Hope the day brightens up soon. Regarding my use of the term "Jewish," I could have used a paragraph of descriptors without defining this man. The use of any one adjective is meant to convey something relevant. It was meant to indicate that he was of a non-LDS heritage/tradition, one where there are some natural barriers to accepting our faith. It never did define him. But many assumed that that part of him would make it unlikely for him to ever convert to a Christian faith.

The issue of a non-LDS person with a spouse who converts raises some new issues. Sensitivity on the part of both is needed. I've known some good LDS people in that situation who agreed to not accept heavy Church callings because the spouse would not be supportive. Of course, this happens even when both are LDS. Sensitivity to the needs and feelings of a spouse is always a legitimate issue to consider in dealing with Church callings. I don't have easy answers, though. The Lord does ask a lot of us at times--think of the challenges he put on his disciples long ago. We don't have records about those men discussing things with their wives or how they reacted to these callings. That would add tremendous new information to the story of early Christianity--we might find very familiar issues and complaints.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

When a spouse announces that they are on a higher spiritual plane (I'm guessing this was Zion Airlines, right?), this is a red flag that there's a problem, a huge gap in the marriage that needs to be resolved. Mutual respect and courtesy may be lacking and one or both parties may have a problem that needs attention. The path to recovery at this point must begin with the words of Peter when Christ announced that one of his disciples would be betray him: "Is it I?"

For example, we men instinctively know that the problems in marriage are the fault of the wife. But for some crazy reason, pointing to her flaws doesn't seem to help. In fact, the more we try to help by pointing out her weaknesses and giving wise tips for improvement, the worse marriage gets and the worse her apparent flaws get. When men do the counter-intuitive step of focusing on their own weaknesses and strive to become kinder, more loving, more self-sacrificing, and, above all, becoming LESS CRITICAL at the very moment when all our male instincts are saying it's time to step up the criticism of that very flawed other being who is obviously causing all the problems in marriage, then the most unexpected thing happens: her flaws start to become less severe, more tolerable, and maybe almost invisible, and marriage becomes more joyous and fun, almost as if the problem the whole time was us and not her. It's crazy stuff--we can't change them unless we only try to change ourselves--maybe that's why they say women are from a different planet. Don't try to figure it out.

So if you have a highly flawed spouse who insults you by claiming to be on a higher spiritual plane (and it certainly does sound insulting and, like a said, a huge red flag pointing to a deep divide), the appropriate response is to recognize that there is a serious problem, and while the problem may be 100% hers, the course to recovery begins with a 100% focus on you. It may sound like she's saying she wants you to convert and become some kind of saint, but she might really be saying that she wishes you were nicer to her or would come to church with her occasionally (if you're not already). Become kinder, less critical, take the garbage out, get your socks of the floor, stop complaining, cook something nice for her, go to church with her occasionally or as much as you can stand, watch General Conference with her, focus on what you can do and what you can change--and then perhaps you'll see the magic happen and find that all the work you did to change you has actually changed her, and that disastrously flawed, arrogant woman might have been transformed into someone closer to the perfect woman than you ever imagined possible.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

As for Sabrina's comment, come on, that was obviously tongue-in-cheek, one that implicitly showed acceptance of a habit that some LDS people frown upon. I'm frustrated that you would find something to complain about in her loving and respectful comments about a great guy for whom she's very grateful. please drop that "LDS superiority" chip off your shoulder--if you're in a marriage to an LDS spouse, that kind of attitude is going to make things painfully worse for both of you.

Anonymous said...

Amen Brother Lindsay

Sabrina said...

To Anon, if you will re-read my comment, I did not say "horrible caffeine addiction" but rather "extreme caffeine addiction." I don't have any problem with it. It is actually my husband that jokes about it. I'm sorry you took it to be "superiority" on my part. I assure you, I do not feel superior to my husband. Also, the last line of my comment (giving positive comments about my husband), has an exclamation point!!! And here are a few more to show you just how much I appreciate my husband and the sacrifices he makes for our family!!!!!!!!!!!
He is respectful to my faith, and I am respectful to his. We had agreed before our marriage that our family would be raised LDS. He has kept that commitment. While he no longer believes that the LDS church is the one true church, he still believes that the principals taught there are good, and will ultimately improve the lives of our children.

Anonymous said...

this is good to see--

in our long-term marriage health problems have curtailed the activity of one of us--

whereas before we were both equally involved at the church, now one of us usually is found at home (not just from church, but from attending everything/anything)--


even though the one at home is "spiritually active" this has been a real adjustment to both of us. There have been tears, both from the spouse who is 'left behind' and often very isolated and even more often in pain/discomfort that has no effective solution, but also to the one whose health is better and who is able to participate.

Both suffer. Even though testimonies remain intact, in our case, even though scripture reading, fasting and prayer and family scripture study continue--even though our 'values' are still common, this is hard.

The one who attends often feels like a widow(er). There are people in the ward who have never met the chronically ill, isolated spouse, though that spouse was once in a position to be seen much.

Neither of us can imagine what it would be like if people outside the marriage were "judging" as must happen in a marriage where there is a choice, where it isn't illness that separates us on Sunday.

Imagine if a temple recommend were revoked; even with illness there are always cranky people who question why someone isn't there--

in our case a kind bishop helps a lot, but we worry; what if a bishop who is less understanding of rare health problems takes his place?

Marriages undergo so many trials in the course of a lifetime; it's good to see this addressed. I realize our situation is not usual, but it still feels much the same. There are people at church who 'assume' one of us is no longer participating.

Thank you, Sabrina. And LuckyMatt.

TaCoKa said...

Thank you so much. We are about to start this part of our spiritual journey together. I have a lot of anxiety. This blog entry and the comments by Sabrina and LuckyMatt give me hope and have helped to ease some of my worries.

TaCoKa said...

Is there any literature or anything else you can offer that might help me/us??? I feel like the vision I have held for my family is falling apart. I worry about the spirituality of our children and the choices they may make should my husband not come back to where he was when we first got married. What can I/we do to foster a strong spiritual foundation of faith? How will I prepare them for the temple when the priesthood leader of our home is quite ambivalent now on the topic of the need for temple marriage?

He has said that he will continue to attend Church with us and will teach them to love God and love others and Bible stories, and that he will continue to live a moral life and teach morality to our children. Instead of focusing on his testimony and being a good member, he wants to focus on being a good dad and husband and that is it. He has also expressed that he will not be negative regarding the Church, nor share his doubts with our children.

I am thankful for these things, however, I feel very overwhelmed with all that seems to be implied. In essence I feel that he is walking away and giving up on his faith and saying to me, it's all up to you now, good luck.

It is difficult for me not to have resentment because I feel like he is giving up. The doubts seemed to come after he got his first job out of college and we had our first baby. We were no longer in the honeymoon/newlywed part of our marriage. Responsibilities set in. Time to nourish our spirits was harder to find. These big changes in our life were difficult to adjust to in the beginning. A lot started to pile up on our plates. When life got hard, instead of turning to faith, it seems that he pushed it away, in order to lighten his load. I resent the fact that he is giving up on our faith, and leaving me alone to do the hard job of teaching our children the gospel, how to value it, and make not popular choices in such a worldly age. I am overwhelmed to say the least.

Any help you can offer would be sooooo appreciated. Thank you already for all that you have shared.

Sabrina said...

Jeff, I hope that it is OK to put a few websites on here. If you would rather they not be listed, it is okay for you to delete this comment.

@ TaCoKa
I don't know if you will see this, as this post is kind of old, but I will give you a few resources that have been helpful to me.

faceseast.org is a great message board that offers support for those in part-member and non-traditional LDS families.

There are also a few podcasts from mormonstories.org that deal with a spouse loosing their faith, and how to move forward. I found them helpful both for me, and for my husband to really understand more where we were both coming from.

I hope that you can find the support and peace that you need. I know that this can be a scary and difficult time. Just remember that The Lord loves you, and your spouse.

Anonymous said...

My husband is not a member and in the two years we have been married, he has read so much anti-Mormon lit, he won't even consider listening to any member speak about our beliefs. I never ever thought he would reach a point that he loathed my beliefs, but he definitely does. We are at the point in our lives where we would love to have children but he refuses for them to be raised LDS. I am just stuck because I love him and I know that we should have children to give them a chance to have their own agency but I can't imagine not having my children with me on Sundays. I want to respect my husband but I don't know if I should let him take them to church with him. At least they would have the opportunity to come to Earth. I am just really confused. Any guidance?