Family First?

Hawkgrrrl Mormon 106 Comments

In a pro-family church, why doesn’t family always come first?  We state that family comes before church, and yet there seem to be many in the church who don’t live as if they believe it.  What do we need to do to get people to believe that family (and marriage) comes first?
There are numerous examples of how the church is effective at promoting families:
  • Family Home Evening.  A routine admonishment to spend time together as families at least one night per week has been part of the church’s practices for over 50 years.  This is one that is often admired by non-LDS.
  • Proclamation on the Family.  Although there are components that some find too proscriptive and even sexist, there are many statements in the proclamation that decry the sexism found in other cultures (particularly machismo cultures) and clarify the expectation that familial responsibilities are sacred and come first.
  • Temple Recommend Interviews.  Temple-attending members must answer questions related to the quality of their behavior in family relationships at least every other year.
  • Law of Chastity.  This is obviously not unique to Mormonism, but we are slightly more successful at following it than other religions that tout their commitment to abstinence (perhaps due to the distraction provided by missions).  Additionally, the LDS Adoption services is another great resource to families who experience an unwanted pregnancy.  There is good council provided for parents and children who are coping with those experiences.
What are some examples of behaviors in the church that are NOT pro-family?
  • Meetings.  There are often too many meetings, especially for those in leadership positions.
  • Faith vs. Family.  There are (far too) many couples who are willing to split over matters of differing religious belief.
  • Behavior-based Estrangement.  Families are encouraged to distance themselves from children in homosexual relationships. Behavior focus at church can foster judgment of family members who do not live the commandments or who are not LDS, particularly when young children hear messages that conflict with observed behaviors of family members.  This rejection can lead to further estrangement and families that are divided rather than families coming first.
  • Anti-divorce vs. Pro-marriage.  Anti-divorce sentiment can prolong abusive relationships, despite the church’s clear anti-abuse stance (where else are parents routinely questioned about their family relationships being in harmony with the gospel?). While we are “pro” marriage and family, considering these relationships to have eternal potential, we also recognize that divorce may be necessary at times, such as due to infidelity, abuse, etc.

So, what’s your feeling?  Do families really come first in the church?  How can we improve the focus on families?  Discuss.

Comments

comments

Comments 106

  1. An organization which places family as its highest priority will reflect that emphasis in its practices and principles, rather than just in its television, radio, and Internet advertising.

    An organization which places itself as the highest priority will reflect that emphasis in its practices and principles, despite whatever message is given in its television, radio, and Internet advertising. For example, an organization of this kind might place the following in a prominent place on its official website, as part of its official public response to homosexuality:

    PUBLIC AFFAIRS: If the [gay] son [of LDS parents] says, ‘Well, if you love me, can I bring my partner to our home to visit? Can we come for holidays?’ How do you balance that against, for example, concern for other children in the home?’

    ELDER OAKS: That’s a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration. I can imagine that in most circumstances the parents would say, ‘Please don’t do that. Don’t put us into that position.’ Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that. There would also be other factors that would make that the likely answer. I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, “Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your “partnership.”

    There is nothing “family first” about the above statement. Rather, the above statement calls upon members of the organization to place their loyalty to the organization above any feelings they might have for their own family.

  2. The effective methods you mention serve as constant reminders that my family should be my first priority.

    Throwing out two possible causes of anti-family behavior in the Church –

    Church doctrine: Doctrine that condemns homosexuality can cause members to be afraid or fear friends and family that are homosexual. The doctrine on eternal marriage may cause members who are prone to judgment to look down on divorced members.

    Local Leadership: I have been in wards in which the Bishopric is focused on spreading Church responsibilities among the ward’s membership. This protects family time.

    I have been in other wards that are not organized and a few members are doing everything. These leaders sometimes have the views expressed in the comments to Jeff Spector’s post “The Facade of Activity.” To them the ward members just don’t get it so they have to pick up the slack. As a result they spend a lot of time away from their family.

    In effect both causes are on an individual level.

    Possible solutions –

    -More emphasis on serving, not just loving homosexuals and the divorced in General Conference and Sunday School.
    -More emphasis on members finding a balance between dedication to the ward and their family in General Conference and Sunday School.
    -Provide more guidance on equal distribution of Church work to ward and stake leaders.
    -Members need to learn how to say “no” and leaders need to learn how to accept it

  3. Neal is right. In the “newsroom” of lds.org, it’s the official answer presented to those who click to inquire on the LDS church’s position on homosexuality. Of course, they don’t call it homosexuality. Instead, they use the evangelical anti-gay movement’s imaginary “syndrome” or “diagnosis,” in order to make themselves sound all “reasonable” and “scientific.”

  4. Post
    Author

    “Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that.” This one part of E. Oaks’ statement relies on the premise that homosexuality is a choice capable of being influenced by someone’s example, not an innate characteristic. It’s difficult to change the stereotypes that are still being proliferated by evangelical churches that believe they can “pray the gay away.” I don’t have infallible gay-dar, but most of the gay men and women I know are not ambivalently, capriciously gay. However, E. Oaks makes other statements in the same interview that indicate that homosexuality is innate, a genetic difficulty to be endured through living a chaste life as one might who had a physical disability. Is this inconsistency? Is it due to him (and possibly the church) still being in a state of changing opinion on this matter as more information emerges? Or is it evidence that E. Oaks (and possibly others) believe(s) some homosexuality is innate and some is elective?

    Far more interesting to me, though, is the issue of couples who split over matters of belief. This, to me, seems like a clear opportunity for more encouragement to be loyal to one’s spouse first, and to love people for who they are (a human being we chose to marry), not just what we hope to gain from them (a celestial partner after we die).

  5. Hawkgrrrl,

    I think the diference you are seeing in the statements of E. Oaks are in the speciffic example. He may be saying that homosexual feelings are innate in some individuals, but that how they deal with those feelings is a choice. If one chooses to enter into a homosexual relationship, that may be the “example” that he speaks of here.

  6. Far more interesting to me, though, is the issue of couples who split over matters of belief. This, to me, seems like a clear opportunity for more encouragement to be loyal to one’s spouse first, and to love people for who they are (a human being we chose to marry), not just what we hope to gain from them (a celestial partner after we die).

    Hawkgrrrl, what do you say to the situations where the LDS spouse starts to sacrifice their beliefs to keep the marriage going? Some (not all) non-LDS spouses could see it as not putting their relationship first, not “lov[ing] people for who they are,” and feel as if the family comes second. Doesn’t there have to be a line drawn at some point?

  7. I’ve tried to write my opinion of this interview, but I can’t do it in a respectful way. Simply put, I don’t think it encourages pro-family behavior.

  8. Post
    Author

    “what do you say to the situations where the LDS spouse starts to sacrifice their beliefs to keep the marriage going?” This sounds like you are talking about behaviors, not beliefs. It’s certainly a complicated situation, and I don’t mean to imply that it’s an easy one to work through. However, I feel it’s more important to find the common ground and to work through it. If a non-believing spouse is not committing adultery or being abusive, there’s plenty of room to find common ground. Likewise, a believing spouse has no right to bully his/her spouse into pretense of belief in a loving relationship, nor should the believing spouse care so little for the non-believing spouse as to wish for a different spouse based solely on difference of belief.

    “Some (not all) non-LDS spouses could see it as not putting their relationship first, not “lov[ing] people for who they are,” and feel as if the family comes second. Doesn’t there have to be a line drawn at some point?”” When we start talking about ‘drawing lines’ we cease to be talking about being loyal to our spouse, and we’ve entered the realm of needing to be ‘right’ or to ‘win.’ That’s never a recipe for a happy marriage. If a non-believing spouse ceases to respect a believing spouse or vice-versa, that’s not loving your spouse or being loyal. It’s creating a division, not support. Certainly both will have to work together to make it work, but it can be done. It just won’t be done if one or both spouses puts ‘being right’ ahead of their regard for the other person. And personally, I believe that we are accountable for how we treat others, regardless of our beliefs.

  9. My father served on the high council and then as a member of the stake presidency throughout my teen years. Since we lived about an hour’s drive from the stake center, the trips back and forth several times a week put a few different types of strain on our family:

    * Finances were tight, and my dad burned through a lot of gas with all of that traveling
    * With a 2 hour total “commute” plus the time spent in meetings, my mother had do a lot on her own with regard to the 4 kids still at home, ranging in age from pre to late teens.
    * My father frequently got home very late at night and was often gone very early in the morning. His health was not good at the time (cancer) and he certainly suffered from a lack of sleep.
    * (My own personal beef) During the three years that I played basketball in high school, I think he saw me play a total of 4 times. Weekly high council meetings were always on the same night as my games.

    At the time I was sort of 50/50 about how I felt. On the one hand, things were a little tough due to the reasons listed above, but that was mitigated by the fact that I believed that what he was doing was important and also by the fact that I had never really known anything else. It was hard for me to remember a time when my father’s church commitments hadn’t drastically affected the time we spent together. I gravitated somewhat towards my youth leaders and even my friends’ fathers, who were all good men. But they weren’t my dad.

    As I’ve recently reduced the amount of time I spend on church, I’ve already seen an improvement, and enrichment in the relationship I have with my children. I’m starting to figure out what it was that I missed, and MISSED is the right word. It’s time that neither my father nor I can ever get back.

  10. #6 – ““Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that.” This one part of E. Oaks’ statement relies on the premise that homosexuality is a choice capable of being influenced by someone’s example, not an innate characteristic.”

    My impression is that it may not be that Elder Oaks was concerned about children being influenced to *follow* a homosexual lifestyle, but that they might be influenced to *be tolerant* of a homosexual lifestyle. And they’ve said elsewhere that we shouldn’t be tolerant of transgression.

  11. I think that if people are active in their Church duties, they are likely to be more blessed within their families. I don’t like it when people put one or the other as a first priority, because I feel like they help each other. But then again, even Joseph Smith was told that he had neglected his family. I wonder what might have happened with his family if he had somehow figured out how to spend more time with them? But what would have happened to the Church?

  12. G.Hinckley spoke about priorities within the context of the duties held by priesthood holders. He listed (and I’m pretty sure I’ve got the order down):

    1. Duty to ourselves re: our relationship with God
    2. Duty to our spouse
    3. Duty to our family
    4. Duty to our employers (and this is related to at least one aspect of the duty we owe to our spouse and family, which in turn are part of the duties we owe God)
    5. Duty to the church
    6. Duty to our sommunity/country

    I may have messed that up a bit, because I didn’t actually look up the quote. But I’m pretty sure that was the essence of it. The talk was given within a context that suggested that we can very easily go over the top in church service to the detriment of our other duties. This talk was instrumental in what turned out to be a very healthy shift in my priorities. When faced with superfluous meeting, I just said, “sorry, but I have plans to be with my family – maybe you can email me some notes.” This delayed my “church burnout” by several years.

  13. I have spent much time thinking about this too. On one hand, I do know that serving and magnifying a calling can bring many blessings to a family. We have had this experience in our own family. On the other hand, I have seen some priesthood holders that almost seem like they’re more comfortable in the church setting than at home with their families. I believe some may be “escaping” from their families. I have also observed priesthood leaders who truly balance things out wonderfully, delegate and have much more time with their families. A close friend shared a worry recently regarding a daughter just having the first baby and her husband going out the door on a daily basis to fulfill his calling. How sad that he is missing out on choice experiences of bonding with his first baby and sharing joyful moments with his wife. Surely his calling doesn’t really require going out to serve on a daily basis during the first weeks of his baby’s life? The young wife did not complain to her mother. I guess she feels this is how it is supposed to be. These type of dynamics make me wonder.

  14. Drew E–#9 “I’ve tried to write my opinion of this interview, but I can’t do it in a respectful way. Simply put, I don’t think it encourages pro-family behavior.”

    Drew, I believed you have captured the essence of the “interview”. For me, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

    Beyond the anti-gay feelings that crept in between the lines, even Elder Oak’s logic waned. He talked about thousands of years of tradition being a basis for marriage being between a man and a woman. Polygamy, anybody?

    For me this hard-line “official” position, made it easier to understand where my allegiance is. Family is first in my life.

  15. “Faith vs. Family. There are (far too) many couples who are willing to split over matters of differing religious belief.”

    I think this is a hard one. Because couples can split over a wide range of things where their views and values are or have become different. Money, sex, raising of the children, jobs, outside activities, drinking and drugs and many other things can be a catalyst toward a breakup. Sometimes the importance of things like religious faith do not surface until later in the marriage. Differing religious views can be a major source of friction especially if there is a change in the once same held views.

    Especially in the Church where eternal destiny is so tied to marriage. I can certainly see both sides where once spouse may feel cheated by the other’s falling away and I can also see where love and loyalty might cause a spouse to leave activity in the church when the other falls away.

    However, I have also encountered a number of part-member spouses who long to participate in church but do not because of their non-member spouse.

    also, I believe the Church teaches the need for balance in our lives, but we sometimes do not practice what is preached and leaders at all levels sometimes differ in their interpretation of that balance. In the end, one’s own decisions come into play and should be honored.

    I also agree with DrewE (#2) that if everyone in the Ward/branch pulled their own weight and served each other, the burden on the STP and the leadership would be less.

  16. This sounds like you are talking about behaviors, not beliefs.

    Behaviors and beliefs go hand-in-hand; the former is very often an expression of the latter, or how strong one’s devotion is to the other. They sometimes conflict, but I’d say that happens less often than behavior and beliefs ‘agreeing.’

    It’s certainly a complicated situation, and I don’t mean to imply that it’s an easy one to work through. However, I feel it’s more important to find the common ground and to work through it.

    So, where to go when the common ground is everything but devoted beliefs about religion?

    If a non-believing spouse is not committing adultery or being abusive, there’s plenty of room to find common ground. Likewise, a believing spouse has no right to bully his/her spouse into pretense of belief in a loving relationship, nor should the believing spouse care so little for the non-believing spouse as to wish for a different spouse based solely on difference of belief.

    What about the other way around? I’ve seen many a non-believing spouse bully/pressure the other. As we all know, a relationship goes two ways. There are women and men who are deeply committed to their families but who are pressured constantly by a spouse who believes differently. This sounds an awful lot like “You made your choice, tough luck.”

    When we start talking about ‘drawing lines’ we cease to be talking about being loyal to our spouse, and we’ve entered the realm of needing to be ‘right’ or to ‘win.’ … If a non-believing spouse ceases to respect a believing spouse or vice-versa, that’s not loving your spouse or being loyal. It’s creating a division, not support. Certainly both will have to work together to make it work, but it can be done. … And personally, I believe that we are accountable for how we treat others, regardless of our beliefs.

    So we’re not drawing lines; I assume you would still say there are some cases where a split is justified (aside from the standard abuse/adultery)? My question goes beyond the people who might just have a semi-compulsive need to be right. It does take work to get through relationship issues, so what of those who do not have a two-way marriage? Leaving out line-drawing, what about the point where a believer realizes that their own beliefs and their spouse are no longer compatible, and find themselves faced with a very difficult choice?

    I hope you’re not implying that I don’t see our treatment of others as a major part of a final judgment. I do, however, think the reality is that divorce is rarely ideal, but much of the world is also rarely ideal. We’re expected to make the best of what we get, and the best of what we get is not often the absolute very best; “a lot of our choices are between worse and worser,” as a friend said. I think if you’re going to present an argument for ‘sticking it out,’ it’s only fair to ask how to decide whether a situation’s gone beyond reasonable limits, whatever they may be–when it’s no longer time to stick it out. I’m not asking in defense of myself or anyone (lest that be assumed), but as a matter I’ve been thinking a lot about because of a friend who seems to be near or past the equivalent of a line-drawing point.

  17. 11. jjackson

    That you for sharing your personal experience with us. I am sorry that you family was impacted, but he sounds like a great man to make the sacrifices he did. I am sure he touched many lives in the process.

    16. Holden

    More than anything, I am surprised that this was an interview between the General Authorities and the Church PR team. I would understand these answers more if they came from an interview with 60 minutes. I was startled by the lack of political correctness that has become standard in General Authority interviews.

    I did not like the logic presented either. I can’t understand why they were discussing if homosexuality was innate. Hasn’t the Church officially said that we don’t know? I would have rather them reinforced that idea and focus on loving homosexual children unconditionally.

    But I get a sense, and I could be wrong, that this interview was directed more toward members who are feeling pressured to support homosexuality, than families who actually struggle with it. That is a shame in itself.

    I mean no disrespect to our leaders. We are all human. I just expected more in this case.

  18. 17. Jeff

    I agree with you completely.

    My perspective may be a little different because I live outside of Utah. I have not seen many couples split over religious differences only. This could due to it being more socially acceptable to be a part-member family in the mission field.

    When part member families I know have split it is due to differences in morality and values. Ultimately it has been the Church member taking a personal stand on how they want to live their life. Sometimes it is wanting a home that adheres to the Word of Wisdom. Sometimes it is because they want a spouse that will go to Church with them. Sometimes its issues with fidelity. Not to say that it is right, but I don’t think you can escape that in any religion.

    On the flip side, I have seen friends in part member families become the strongest members in the ward, while still having a healthy marriage. I don’t know how they do it, but they do.

    Could the Church do more to keep part member families together? Maybe we can, I’m not sure.

  19. Hawk, excellent, important topic. Ihave almost no time, so I’m only going to make one point:

    Nick, your example is a very good one, but your conclusion is overly broad. It proves that the Church doesn’t place the famliy first in ALL situations, but it does not prove the Church places itself over family in the majority of cases.

    I agree totally that I don’t like that response concerning gay children. I’m not arguing in any way with that. However, the Church leaders constantly encourage members to cut back on non-family-together time and increase time spent with family – by cutting back on meetings, using a rotating attendance schedule for auxiliary presidencies, eliminating some extra-curricular and cultural events and children’s classes, not calling both spouses who have young children to time-consuming callings simultaneously wherever possible, etc. It doesn’t always get to the end of the row, and there are some contradictory statements and practices that constitute opposition even in this thing, but you conclusion simply is too sweeping to be valid as phrased, imo.

    Again, that answer was more than unfortunate, but it is not indicative of the way the Church views itslef vs. family.

  20. One more thing:

    Drew, fwiw, the official position of the Church recorded in the CHI for Bishops is to NEVER encourage divorce over differences in faith and religious affiliation. Personally, I think becoming truly and comprehensively one with a spouse is the highest order of marriage and will be honored in the hereafter – any other factor notwithstanding. Heterodox, I know, but that’s my belief right now.

  21. I’d love to see a little more mutual respect around this issue of balance.Effectively we live in a church culture where there is little permission to say no-our stories are of fields left unploughed and sick wives and families left for years at a stretch in order to build the kingdom.Our own experience has been one I would not wish to inflict on others and what has been missed in a family can never be regained.I hope that we have learnt that when others make a choice to prioritise family,it is not Christ-like to question that.We just need to exercise a little love all round.

  22. 22. Ray

    “Personally, I think becoming truly and comprehensively one with a spouse is the highest order of marriage and will be honored in the hereafter – any other factor notwithstanding”

    That is how I see it too.

  23. I’m going to throw this out there, and see if anyone wants to bite –

    I sometimes question if the Church’s emphasis that we should be one with our spouse is healthy. In essence, it sounds good but does it encourage co-dependent behavior?

    It is easy to look at this emphasis and think that there is noting wrong with wanting to be one with your spouse. But what about someone that is in an abusive marriage? How is this going to help them?

  24. jjackson, #11:

    A few years ago, when we had a member of the First Quorum of Seventy visiting for a stake conference (unfortunately, I can’t remember his name), he asked to meet with the bishops and members of the stake presidency and their wives early on Sunday morning. In that very informal meeting he discussed the problem of balancing family time with church callings. His overwhelming advice was to make sure that the family didn’t suffer. Recognizing that there are times when emergencies arize, and it is essential that the bishop respond to a ward member, still, he advised that the leader’s own family concerns should be given top priority. Both my husband and I wished that we had heard and followed this advice when he was a bishop many years before. We had young children who really suffered from lack of a father’s attention. And it took years for our marriage to recover. Truly, we cannot ever get that time back again.

  25. #21:
    Nick, your example is a very good one, but your conclusion is overly broad. It proves that the Church doesn’t place the famliy first in ALL situations, but it does not prove the Church places itself over family in the majority of cases.

    Ray, it’s certainly true that I did not engage in a fully-developed study of pro-family and anti-family behaviors/statements/doctrines/practices of the LDS church. It’s also true that for at least some modern LDS, Mr. Oaks’ statement would be considered “putting family first,” despite the fact that it urges families to treat one of their own children in a very objectionable, cruel, and perhaps even hostile manner.

    Ultimately, the example points to one aspect of Hawkgirl’s question. Mr. Oaks’ counsel essentially is that when there is an apparent conflict, members of the LDS church should place their love and loyalty to the LDS church above their love and loyalty to their families. Mr. Oaks’ statement is endorsed by the LDS church, to the point that it is placed on the official website as “the” media resource for understanding the LDS church’s views on homosexuality. In that particular sense, the LDS church has acted in a way which is “church first,” rather than “family first.”

    We can also point to the fact that the LDS church, as part of it’s “coalition” to support and defend Proposition 8, sought the actual destruction and elimination of 18,000 established families. Fortunately, this particular goal of the LDS-paid legal team was unsuccessful, and the marriages which took place prior to the passing of Proposition 8 still stand. Attempts to destroy or eliminate 18,000 families are anything but “family first.”

    I readily acknowledge your point that the LDS church promotes other doctrines and practices which endeavor to place “family first.” Unfortunately, those only seem to apply to the certain kind of families that the LDS church approves of.

  26. I sometimes question if the Church’s emphasis that we should be one with our spouse is healthy. In essence, it sounds good but does it encourage co-dependent behavior?

    I have the same question, Drew, particularly in “part-member” families. My personal opinion is a little muddled and I probably couldn’t accurately express it, but it is different than the general attitude I find at church.

  27. Nick: “Unfortunately, those only seem to apply to the certain kind of families that the LDS church approves of.” I think the key here is that the church leaders almost exclusively talk to the church members, not the world at large, even at GC which is supposed to be a world conference. There are occasional messages that are broader than for the membership, but they still seem to be the exception.

    J. Ro: “I hope you’re not implying that I don’t see our treatment of others as a major part of a final judgment.” Heavens, no! I really just meant that our treatment of others is something I believe all human beings are accountable for, whether they are believers or non-believers, and that we need to be creative and resourceful in our support of and loyalty to our spouses. Someone’s loss of belief or even their unwillingness to participate in behaviors the church considers commandments are not, IMO, sufficient rationale to leave one’s spouse. By contrast, abuse or infidelity might be. If a spouse who no longer believes in the church does not want to live the Word of Wisdom or participate in church, but is otherwise faithful as a spouse and a loving parent, it is not very Christian to dispose of them like yesterday’s garbage because of their unbelief. Certainly, if they become abusive as a result of their disaffection, abuse is not ennobling for either the abuser or the victim, and if leaving them is the only way to remedy the situation, divorce may be necessary. That’s why it seems the best course is to rally together on the common ground of the marriage and family, placing those first, and giving each spouse the liberty to believe as they do.

  28. #31:
    I think the key here is that the church leaders almost exclusively talk to the church members, not the world at large, even at GC which is supposed to be a world conference.

    Mr. Oaks’ counsel was to members of the LDS church. He counselled them, effectively, to place their love and loyalty to the LDS church above their love and loyalty to their own children, in the event that they had a gay son. According to Mr. Oaks, LDS members should make it clear that they will not acknowledge the families created by their gay children. Sadly, Mr. Oaks didn’t seem to understand that in rejecting their gay son’s partner, LDS parents are also rejecting their own gay son.

  29. Apostate Literski,
    LDS use the respectful title of Elder when referring to Oaks.
    If you don’t like me using an appropriate adjective as part of your name, you can start calling Elder Oaks by his appropriate title. We all know you’re just trying to disrespect him by using the wrong wording.

    BTW, I will follow Elder Oak’s counsel over a gay-apostate any day.

  30. I think the teachings of the church are the foundation we have been given to be able to know how to seek guidance from the Lord regarding our own personal circumstances. The leaders of the church have to give general counsel to all members of the church, but we are expected to seek personal direction in relation to our relationships. I have friends who felt there were expected to stay in a difficult marriage (at least for that time) and others who have felt it was time to leave and it was according to the Lord’s will. I always look to the leaders of the church for general counsel, but I rely on the Lord for the individualized counsel and direction I need in my own life. I think that is the point that Elder Oaks was trying to make as well when he said this:
    “That’s a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration.” No matter what decisions we are trying to make regarding our families, we need to be seeking the Lord for that help because He knows each of us perfectly and we are His children FIRST and foremost.

  31. That’s why it seems the best course is to rally together on the common ground of the marriage and family, placing those first, and giving each spouse the liberty to believe as they do.

    I agree that it’s the best course. I’ve known too many couples where at least one was too far gone (from spending all their energy trying to hold the family together) to rally together by the time the need was clear to both of them. In contrast, some couples end up in a divorce not when one chose to walk away from the Church, but when he/she started to quit some of those WoW habits/participation issues/etc. and come back to the Church, and was perfectly willing to work together toward a resolution. (I saw this exact situation with a family who perfectly fit the example you gave.) Why? Good question.

    It’s easy to say from the outside that someone should have tried harder. But I do wonder just how much more could be expected of some spouses. I worry that we have a poorly-formed paradigm for viewing these situations, which serves to push us beyond our capabilities. The recent guest writer said, “At some point, I had to choose between what all the facts seemed to point towards and a mental breakdown,” regarding the truth of the church. How much psychological ‘wear and tear’ should be tolerated? Perhaps the more applicable question is how we tell where abuse becomes abuse? The divorces over rather petty things are easy examples of where more patience and tolerance and love would have made a huge difference, but there are plenty of divorces that are far more complicated.
    —–

    Drew, I think I’m with you on that.

  32. 33 – “BTW, I will follow Elder Oak’s counsel over a gay-apostate any day.”

    Wow. That may be one of the most offensive comments I’ve seen on this blog.

  33. J Ro-
    “It’s easy to say from the outside that someone should have tried harder.”

    I agree with that statement and I really have come to believe that unless you live under someone’s roof for an extended period of time it can be nearly impossible to know what is really going on. Many people are great manipulaters and can behave one way in public and much differently at home. I think in some marriages people feel that no one would believe them anyway if they were to say what was really going on in their home. It is so easy to judge a situation from the outside and especially when you hear one side of the story, but we have to remember there are always two sides and we just aren’t in a position to judge in the majority of situations.

  34. #33-

    I don’t agree with Nick on much of anything, but just as I said to him on another post, it is important to show respect. Nick doesn’t disrespect Elder Oaks by calling him Mr. Oaks because he does not believe him to be an apostle of the Lord. Those who view him as such refer to him as Elder Oaks, but Mr. Oaks is not disrespectful because it is being used by a person who is not a member of the church. I wouldn’t expect someone outside of the church to use Sister in front of my name but Mrs. instead.

  35. DrewE,

    “It is easy to look at this emphasis and think that there is noting wrong with wanting to be one with your spouse. But what about someone that is in an abusive marriage? How is this going to help them?”

    The counsel to be one with your spouse comes from the Savior Himself. We are instructed to be one with our spouse in the same manner that Christ and the Father are one. I don’t think an abusive partner qualifies. And, that would not be a marriage that should be saved unless the abuse behavior ceases and the person gets help for their problem.

  36. With regard to a spouse who walks away from the Church and would expect the other person to join him/her in the spirit of solidarity of the family. They could certainly do that if both parties are WILLING to live outside of the gospel and the Church.

    But, what about the spouse who marries in the Temple with the idea that it was for time and all eternity? And the reason he/she married the other person was because of those shared goals, values and beliefs. If those things change, then the believing spouse might be justified in leaving the marriage. that is a personal decision to be made. Much like if the non-believing had committed adultery or a crime or some other big thing. I don’t thing the “Church” would council that person to leave the marriage, but to consider all the options and consequences carefully. Now, I suppose there have been Bishops who have told spouses to leave but I hope that is rare and it not called for at all.

  37. I do not think a believing spouse is justified in leaving a non-believing spouse because of non-belief.
    However, in the anecdotal cases where I have heard that a wife starts wondering if she is better off leaving her non-believing husband it isn’t because of the unbelief although it seems like that on the surface. It is the other things that are going on at the same time as the unbelief. These are things that I would not tolerate in a marriage. I would of course stay married to a man who didn’t attend church, didn’t want to pay tithing or didn’t want to teach our children about God. However, if he wanted to start an online porn business or hid money from me or was controlling then I would end the marriage. Sometimes someone makes compromises for years and has difficulty knowing when a line has been crossed until it much later. Therefore, I try not to judge. It is difficult. However, I think as church members we are encouraged to work hard in a marriage and not leave a marriage just because our spouse is imperfect.

  38. Hawkgrrrl, I think you ask some excellent questions. This topic brings to mind another of Elder Oaks’s talks, “Good, Better, Best.”

    In that talk, he gestured toward the idea that family should come before church, for example, here:

    Church leaders should be aware that Church meetings and activities can become too complex and burdensome if a ward or a stake tries to have the membership do everything that is good and possible in our numerous Church programs. Priorities are needed there also.

    But in the end, he made a comment that sounds to me like he wasn’t really serious before:

    But here is a caution for families. Suppose Church leaders reduce the time required by Church meetings and activities in order to increase the time available for families to be together. This will not achieve its intended purpose unless individual family members—especially parents—vigorously act to increase family togetherness and one-on-one time.

    Here it comes across to me that he’s saying that Church leaders would be happy to reduce Church demands for time if only they could be sure that we wouldn’t fritter it away with activities he doesn’t approve of. This strikes me as unbelievably paternalistic–in effect saying “we have to hog your time with church activities so you don’t waste it all.” Really? Can we not be trusted to be anxiously engaged in a good cause on our own even for a little while?

    (Sorry that this is a tangent from the thread of discussion.)

  39. NOYDMB – I join the others in saying there are much worse things people could and have called LDS leadership. I may not agree with him on everything, but Nick has every right to use such a respectable title and would even be considered by some to be overly gracious in doing so. Calling him a “gay-apostate” is blatantly disrespectful, and it’s disappointing that you would (however inadvertently) represent LDS membership in such a way.

  40. Ziff – Thanks for adding that interesting comment. I agree that some leaders flirt with paternalistic tendencies, both at the local and higher levels.

    Nick – your comment in #32 is exactly what my original point was. Also I hope that you know that NOYDMB’s comments are not reflective of the other commenters and posters here.

  41. #40:
    But, what about the spouse who marries in the Temple with the idea that it was for time and all eternity? And the reason he/she married the other person was because of those shared goals, values and beliefs. If those things change, then the believing spouse might be justified in leaving the marriage. that is a personal decision to be made.

    I completely agree. In my mind, nobody should be held to a contract, covenant, or agreement, when the other party has changed a major term which moulded it from the beginning.

  42. #33:
    LDS use the respectful title of Elder when referring to Oaks.

    Yes, LDS members consider “Elder” to be a term of respect, and they indeed use it in reference to general authorities of their church. In fact, Joseph Smith had a non-canonized revelation, in which deity chastized the early Mormons for failing to use these honorific titles in regard to their leadership. As one who is not an LDS member, I am understandably not under such an obligation.

    If you don’t like me using an appropriate adjective as part of your name,

    I am more than happy to have you use the same respectful term for me, that I used for Mr. Oaks. You may call me “Mr. Literski,” with my full blessing.

    We all know you’re just trying to disrespect him by using the wrong wording.

    To the contrary, NOYDMB, “Mr. Oaks” is an entirely respectful form of address. In fact, I suspect that Mr. Oaks would be the first to correct you on this. I highly doubt that Mr. Oaks would ever insist that a non-LDS person refer to him by his ecclesiastical title, let alone feel insulted that a non-LDS person had politely referred to him as “Mr. Oaks.”

    BTW, I will follow Elder Oak’s [sic] counsel over a gay-apostate any day.

    I’m sorry, but I’ve no idea who “Elder Oak” is. If you’re referring to Dallin Oaks, of your church’s quorum of the twelve, perhaps you should be respectful enough to get his name right.

  43. 40 & 45, In looking at temple marriage ceremony, I find it a bit disappointing that the covenant is not with your spouse, but with god. At least on the male side. It’s probably more depressing thinking about the covenant from a female perspective. Given that the emphasis for admission to eternal progress is on theologic obedience as a prerequisite, a believing member would be less than faithful to accept a heretic in the home. But I also think it’s a fatal flaw in the theology.

  44. In my mind, nobody should be held to a contract, covenant, or agreement, when the other party has changed a major term which moulded it from the beginning.

    Well said.

  45. I think the church’s perspective on homosexuality has changed over the last few decades, although I’m sure there are general authorities who have differing opinions about the matter. For a time, it seemed that the official position was to deny that “homosexuality” per se existed, but defined the matter in terms of “homosexual behavior”. This has softened to a more compassionate perspective that homosexual tendencies occur in some people (without involving the nature/nurture argument), but cannot be acted upon without violating the law of chastity.

    Regarding church and family, it can’t be denied that the Church is militantly pro-family. However, there is unavoidably tension between the demands required of a lay ministry and family time. Some members, primarily men, seem to revel in the meetings and church work. Certainly it is a noble goal to be part of moving the Kingdom forward. Those folks are probably workaholics also – it’s simply a matter of personality type.

    Others try to more diligently to strike a balance. Very little lasting harm would result if bishops didn’t answer every single phone call, particularly during planned family activities. It is my observation that many crises simply resolve themselves if someone can’t talk to the bishop.

    I, myself, have no qualms about missing a meeting, or even a mutual night (I’m currently the Scoutmaster) if one of my kids has an activity (school or otherwise) that occurs only a few times a year. I have no desire to foster regrets over those lost moments. Although I suspect that I will never be called as a bishop or stake presidency member, I wouldn’t hesitate to put aside church responsibilities in favor of family in those roles either. Although I believe that the Lord blesses the families of those who serve, I’ve also seen cases where families were damaged by those who just couldn’t turn away from yet another meeting or visit.

  46. #50

    “, myself, have no qualms about missing a meeting, or even a mutual night (I’m currently the Scoutmaster) if one of my kids has an activity (school or otherwise) that occurs only a few times a year. I have no desire to foster regrets over those lost moments.’

    Agree completely. I am not sure why this is such a big deal. I’d much rather sit through just about anything for my kids than a Leadership meeting at church. Not that they are not good and sometimes uplifting, but you just don’t get much new information to justify missing the kids activities.

    I have much more trouble with work travel than church stuff.

  47. Getting up this morning and reading #33’s “Apostate Literski” salutation and the related comments, the first thing that came to my mind was Robert Duvall’s famous line, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

  48. #51:
    “Nick, I want to know if we can call you Elder Literski.”

    I wouldn’t be offended, but it would be quite inaccurate. 🙂

    Or perhaps Elderly Literski?

    Ouch! All too accurate, and more so every day! 😉

  49. “In my mind, nobody should be held to a contract, covenant, or agreement, when the other party has changed a major term which moulded it from the beginning.”

    I actually agree with this statement as well, and think that Mormons take a bit of a bum rap on this issue. In most other religions, being of different faiths or beliefs is not as critical as it is in the LDS faith, and to active members, a spouse who leaves the church means that the family cannot be together forever. I do think that in such a situation the believing spouse should be patient and understanding, and unless there are other serious issues that would justify divorcing the non-believing spouse, it should be an option that is considered only after much prayer and counselling. I also think that the effect on the children in such a situation should be considered as a paramount concern. That said, ultimately, if there is no chance that the non-believing spouse will ever come back to the church, then I think the believing spouse has a right to be with someone they can not only expect to live with for eternity, but also one with whom they can partake fully in the gospel rituals that are such an important part of his or her life in mortality. It’s definitely a tricky issue, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that it’s not ever a justifiable reason for divorce. On a personal note, when I was first on my way out of the church, my wife was very torn and we had discussions about whether or not we’d be able to stay married if I ended up leaving the church. It was very frightening, but I never felt like she was being unreasonable. The gospel is such an integral and involved part of an active member’s life, that for a spouse to leave that behind has MASSIVE implications on the other spouse and the family.

  50. “In most other religions, being of different faiths or beliefs is not as critical as it is in the LDS faith,”

    I don’t that statement is well supported by the evidence. Most Orthodox religions frown heavily on inter-marriage. Though, they are rather helpless to actually do anything about it. The extreme position is that the families of the married persons will have nothing to do with them because of their inter-marriage. In Judaism, for example, an orthodox Jew would not marry a conservative Jew and an Ashkenazi (Northern and Eastern European) Jew would never marry Sephardic Jew (Southern Europe, Middle East, African).

  51. I agree with Jeff. Even in the RC church, it is very common to expect a spouse to “convert,” even if that conversion is very superficial compared to LDS expectations.

    I acknowledge the tension that some have described in feeling justified for leaving a marital commitment over emerging differences in belief, and that marriage is complex. But I still feel that it’s not a very good foundation for marriage if the entire relationship rests on an assumption of shared belief. There has to be commitment to spouse in marriage, not only to God. Otherwise, where do you draw the line? And don’t you simply force unbelief into a closet, creating a foundation of secrecy instead of intimacy? To wrap the marriage contract up entirely in the faith contract is a slippery slope for marriage and fosters fanaticism over compassion.

    1 Cor 7: 14. “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband” This is quoted in D&C 74 also, but without the statement that follows in 1 Cor 7: 15. “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” Is that omission significant? Maybe, maybe not. It seems that a believer who abandons marriage covenants due solely to a difference in belief is the one breaking the covenants, not the unbeliever (unless the unbeliever specifically breaks the marriage covenants through infidelity or abuse or abandonment of spouse). Otherwise, it would be okay to split over personality differences and political disagreements. There’s no guarantee that someone who is a believer is going to make it to the CK anyway. I think someone who would split up over just a difference in belief is either looking for an excuse to split up when times get tough or has an unrealistic expectation of control over their spouse. Free agency is still taught at church, right? It just seems like a very convenient out-clause.

    Again, I don’t want to be misunderstood. There are legitimate reasons for divorce as I’ve consistently stated, but this just isn’t one of them IMO.

  52. I first want to address the core thought of this post. Family is not first in the Church. This is a common misconception. Family is important in the Church only because it serves the divine purpose of our lives: to bring us back to Heavenly Father. If there is a familial relationship that does not do this, and one is forced to choose between a relationship with God and a relationship with a family member, it is clear which is doctrinally most important.

    The same is for the Church.

    That being said, each of us will be accountable for how we choose between them. Therein lies the beauty (and pain) of agency and the Plan of Happiness!

    I am currently going through a divorce. I am the “believing member” and my future ex-spouse is the one who no longer believes.

    My spouse threatened several times to leave me when the marriage wasn’t going the way they thought it should. We were married in the temple. I made it clear I would not be married any other way, and that a family of several children was important to me. Every time, a “loss of faith” on their part was one of the precursors to the threat of divorce, along with not wanting children. When I did what they wanted me to, church attendance was resumed, and “faith” grew.

    According to my spouse, I eventually filed for divorce partly because of loss of faith on their part. This is despite my having said many times (after the initial shock) that I was willing to continue in the marriage whatever their beliefs. Truthfully, I filed only because I saw no other way to protect my children and myself in my dawning recognition of my spouse’s verbal, emotional, and finally (relatively minor) physical abuse. I could not wait for minor physical to become major physical abuse in the way the minor emotional and verbal abuse grew over the years, not when my children might be the targets.

    I would wish such a choice on no one. I can understand why some might not understand what it is like to make such a choice. However, from where I stand now I have seen that the Church teaches that our relationship with Christ our Savior is of more importance than any other relationship on earth. Even marriage is not a relationship of salvation, and is not necessarily a relationship of exaltation. If both parties do not strive to become one with God, they will never be able to be one with each other.

  53. Jeff and Hawkgrrrl, I should have been clearer. From a doctrinal standpoint, I think the LDS church places a higher priority on marriage than most other religions. Although other churches may take a strong stance on homogeneity of religion, I don’t think most churches teach that the couple’s marriage vows are for eternity and if one spouse is not a member and cannot partake, then the entire family unit is threatened.

    Hawkgrrrl, I understand your perspective, and I don’t totally disagree. However, especially in a church like the LDS church, there is a very good argument to be made that when a person marries in the temple and is completely active, and later turns from those vows and covenants and leaves the church, they have, in a real sense, become a different person. Obviously there could remain many areas of common ground and belief, but for TBMs, the church is often the biggest influence, resource, focus of time and effort, etc., in their lives. If a person turns from that unexpectedly, the other spouse may be left alone in many, many areas of his or her life, including the beliefs that are most central to every single thing that person does with his or her life. There is no way to overstate this. I realize not everyone is involved to that level, but for many this is the case. Again, I’m not saying divorce is necessarily justified, but I think it’s inappropriate to characterize belief or activity in the church as “just one thing” about which there is disagreement. What if a person told his or her spouse “I just realized I’m gay, but I’m not going to pursue any same-sex relationships and I want to stay faithfully married”? Would you really argue that under no circumstances the spouse would have a right to seek a divorce? I personally think that there is a serious obligation to the spouse and the family to try to work it out regardless of the situation. But in some cases, the fact that a person has changed in fundamental ways is enough to justify a divorce, in my opinion. I think this is especially true when someone has left the church, and there is likely to be disagreement about what to teach the children about the existence of god, truth of the church, etc. Those are foundational issues. I can’t think of many differences between spouses that could be more important.

  54. #58 – I also think this is a very important point. Family is not first in the church – individual salvation and exaltation have ALWAYS taken priority over family. The church has made this crystal clear. Elder Oaks gave a talk that I have seen quoted many times wherein he made it clear that family relationships in this life are important, but that eternal considerations are paramount and if relationships in the here and now are impeding personal progress toward salvation, they are to be discarded. I was always taught that principle growing up. Obviously there are many other considerations in a marriage when considering a divorce, and again, I’m not arguing that this is a black and white issue. But I do think that to argue that difference of belief is simply not a justifiable reason for divorce, within the context of the church, is not a fair statement.

  55. The Lord has made it clear that we are to love Him with all of our heart, might, mind and strength and that is the first commandment. We then are to love others as we love Him. When it comes right down to it, I don’t think it is between the church and the family, but between the Lord and the family. The Lord does expect to come first above everything else, even if it means sacrificing that which is most dear to us. I don’t have the exact reference, but in the scriptures it talks about being willing to give up wife, children, houses, lands, etc. in order to be fit for the kingdom. The only one who can justify you in divorce is the Lord, who cares what other people think. You have to go to the Lord and understand His will in your own personal situation and then when you do the best you can. If you have done all you can then you can expect to be rewarded for doing so. If a spouse becomes a non-believer and doesn’t want any part of the church, a believing spouse will eventually be with a believer, even if it has to be in the next life, because that is what they desire. Who knows, maybe the person they were really intended to be with just hasn’t come into their life yet or will be there in the next. The Lord already knows who will end up together and who will not, so we just have to trust in Him that we will be blessed with that which we desire.

  56. #58 & #60:
    So, LTU and brjones, suppose the child of an LDS couple marries an atheist, in a civil ceremony. Such a marriage, from an LDS perspective, will “impede personal progress toward salvation.” Such a marriage, from an LDS perspective, will not “bring them back to” deity.

    From what you’ve both said, I can only conclude that you would both be pleased to see the above LDS couple tell their child, “Yes, come visit us, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your ‘marriage.'”

    After all, it’s “doctrinally more important” to place personal salvation and exaltation at a higher priority than family, right?

  57. I would hesitate to put a numbered priority list together that ranks what’s more important. Because, in context, they are almost equally important. If the mission of HF is “to bring to pass the immorality and eternal life of man” and that involves, for most of us, fulfilling our eternal destiny through our families (both descendants and ancestors), then it is difficult to separate the two. Can you really love God with all your heart, mind and strength at the same time turn your back on your earthly family? I don’t think so. If we can’t be saved without our dead, we cannot be saved without out living as well.

    LtU,

    “Truthfully, I filed only because I saw no other way to protect my children and myself in my dawning recognition of my spouse’s verbal, emotional, and finally (relatively minor) physical abuse.”

    Well, that becomes a totally different reason altogether. It is one of safety rather than living with an unbelieving spouse. To me, that changes things dramatically. For your children’s sake, if not your own, you are required to protect them from physical and emotional harm.

    Hawk,

    “To wrap the marriage contract up entirely in the faith contract is a slippery slope for marriage and fosters fanaticism over compassion.”

    I see what you are saying and I agree to a point. The sealing covenant is a three-way promise between God, the man and the women. Why would not wanting to have anything to do with the church any longer be any different than wanting to stay out all night with the boys, looking at porn on the computer 24×7, squandering all the money on a get rich quick scheme or adultery as a reason for divorce when the whole basis of the marriage seems to be lost.

    Not saying it has to be, but it is a legitimate concern, isn’t it?

  58. Jeff – “Why would not wanting to have anything to do with the church any longer be any different than wanting to stay out all night with the boys, looking at porn on the computer 24×7, squandering all the money on a get rich quick scheme or adultery as a reason for divorce when the whole basis of the marriage seems to be lost.” Someone can lose their faith without abandoning their basic morality. They can cease to believe in the church (or even be excommunicated) while still loving their spouse and children and wanting to be a positive part of their lives (although they may not want to attend church or obey the Word of Wisdom).

    In that time when the unbelieving spouse has lost faith and is trying to find solid ground, if the believing spouse issues ultimatums and threatens abandonment, the unbelieving spouse literally has nothing left to hold onto. This presupposes that the marriage was based solely on an assumption of shared faith with no real affection or intimacy, and what kind of marriage is that? It can also drive even further negative reaction on the part of the disaffected spouse.

    While a spouse who has lost faith may seem like a different person, this is often a temporary condition due to anger or fear that dissipates over time. Continuing to love that person faithfully can really help them find their footing, and can preserve a marriage more than threats and controlling behavior will. A good deal of emotional maturity would certainly be requisite to deal with the situation, and I wouldn’t want to understate the complexity or difficulty. I would also not tolerate abuse or infidelity, as I’ve stated. But the church isn’t a spouse factory where you can send back a broken one because it quits working the way you wanted it to work.

  59. #62 – Nick, first of all let me point out that I am only representing what I believe to be the church’s position, not my own. I don’t feel that way at all, but I think ultimately, according to church doctrine, if it comes down to the individual vs the spouse, then the individual would ultimately be the first priority. I don’t prescribe to the church’s teachings, so this is not a consideration for me personally. I would hope that anyone, particularly in a family setting, would be accepting of a family member regardless of the situation, but I am under no illusions that the church would support that point of view. I’m just trying to discuss what the situation is within the context of the church, and because I have some personal experience with this issue.

  60. “If we can’t be saved without our dead, we cannot be saved without out living as well.”

    I don’t think this is an accurate representation of LDS doctrine at all. According to the church, all human beings have free agency. If one’s spouse decides to leave the church, no one, not even god, can or will force him or her to accept the gospel or return to the church, either in this life or the next. Jen was correct when she said that ultimately, if one’s spouse leaves the gospel and refuses to return, then the “faithful” spouse will ultimately be with someone else, whether in this life or the next. I’m not saying that means he or she is justified in rushing out and getting a divorce, but the fact is, the spouse that leaves is lost from the fold and has given up his or her chance at exaltation (if they persist to the end in their disbelief, obviously). I don’t know where that gets us in this conversation, but it is silly to act like the answer is to just remain with someone to the end and everything will work out. It will not work out between the faithful and the non-faithful spouse; in fact there is NO chance it will work out. So the question is, will the separation come in this life or the next. I don’t know the answer for that, and there are many other considerations, such as children. I’m just pointing out that you can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that if one spouse truly leaves the gospel, at some point the faithful spouse will be with someone who endured to the end. I don’t see how this is remotely in dispute.

  61. Back to 3 of the original post’s 4 “against” points:

    Meetings. If you carry this to its logical extreme, there shouldn’t be any meetings, because every meeting interferes with family. But that means no Church.

    Faith vs. Family. Sorry, but I haven’t seen couples in my wards/stake split solely over belief issues. There’s always something else, though sometimes its just the pressure the nonbeliever places on the believer to conform to the nonbeliever’s preferred lifestyle.

    Anti-divorce vs. Pro-marriage. The leaders I’ve worked with in the Church uniformly “recognize that divorce may be necessary at times, such as due to infidelity, abuse, etc.” But no Church leader wants to be responsible for a marriage or a divorce, and they’re told (appropriately) not to specifically counsel either.

  62. “but the fact is, the spouse that leaves is lost from the fold and has given up his or her chance at exaltation”

    This is a rather perverse view. Is the parable now that does not a shepherd who has lost one sheep say “to hell with it”?

    I find the view that a spouse simply leaving the church, absent other factors, is grounds for divorce obscene and ultimately extremely selfish. It also puts a lie to the entire relationship–it implies that the sole connection was to gain salvation. The gospel reality is that no one can, or should, assume what God’s mercy will be.

    Here’s three real examples:

    1) One spouse leaves the church, but upon their death, they temple covenants are restored because the general authority knows why the disaffection happened and thinks the person had a point, though shouldn’t have acted on it the way they did (true story by the way.)

    2) A couple marries, one is active, the other not. They raise fine children and upon the death of the non-member, they are sealed together.

    3) One spouse leaves the church, but continues to live a moral, upright life. That person is never excommunicated and never removes their name from the records, but doesn’t pay tithing or attend meetings. BUT never prevents their spouse or children from attending church. (Years later, the “active” spouse leaves the church for entirely different reasons, but like their spouse continues to live a moral, upright life.)

    So, what’s the judgment? Using the Selfish Gospel Method(TM), in all three cases, one of the spouses should have divorced the other.

  63. Hawk #64,

    I am agreeing with you that no one in that position should make any rash decision but see how things play out. But over time, it may become a point that needs to be dealt with. Just like a decision to have or not have children is honored as well. If one partner goes into the marriage wanting children and then changes his or her mind, it might be perfectly acceptable for the other person to leave the marriage if a mutual goal of having a family was agreed at the start of the marriage. I think the church thing has very similar characteristics.

  64. #66, brjones,

    “I don’t know where that gets us in this conversation, but it is silly to act like the answer is to just remain with someone to the end and everything will work out. It will not work out between the faithful and the non-faithful spouse; in fact there is NO chance it will work out.’

    I think you and I are agreeing on this. My point on we cannot be saved without our living was a roundabout way of saying that if one spouse desires the Celestial kingdom and the other spouse does not, then a decision has to be made. As you correctly pointed out, it is either here or there. We know how it works here, we are not real sure how it works there.

    I also know that we have been counseled to remain faithful and it will all work out in the end. But you can’t, it seems, have it both ways.

  65. 68. Joe

    I agree with brjones statement. You can always throw temple work in their as a catch-all. But you are assuming that the work will be accepted in the next life. The member spouse has no reassurance that it will be.

    78. Jeff

    “I also know that we have been counseled to remain faithful and it will all work out in the end. But you can’t, it seems, have it both ways.”

    I personally believe it will work out in the end. But if I were a spouse married to a non-member or disaffected one that isn’t very comforting. It’s like saying to that spouse – ignore all of the Church doctrine that insinuates that you won’t be with your spouse and just have faith that it will work out. Doesn’t give me the warm fuzzys.

  66. #70 – Jeff, I just re-read your post and I think we do agree.

    #68 – Joe, I never said that someone simply leaving the church is grounds for divorce. In fact, I have tried to make it clear that such a situation is very complicated and entails many factors. However, it is not intellectually honest to put on a happy face and act like we just need to be accepting in this situation and everything will work out for everyone. That may be fine in the short term, but it is simply not a recipe for success within the framework of the gospel. I think it’s great that someone would remain married and accept that person for who they are. But within the gospel context, that is likely just burying your head in the sand. If the same sociality exists in the next life that exists here, then examples 1 and 2 in your comment are questionable at best, because they both presuppose that the person who left the church will suddenly accept it again in the next life. If it’s just that simple, then why encourage your children to marry within the church at all – in fact, why do it ourselves, if we’ll all just accept it in the next life and head over to the celestial kingdom? Additionally, your third example is, again, a fine solution in the short term, but it completely ignores the reality that couple is not going to be together in the next life. As Jeff said, if the disaffected spouse genuinely is not coming back, then there is a decision to be made. Perhaps the remaining spouse chooses to stay in the marriage and see what will happen in the next life. Again, I think this is ignoring the reality of the doctrine. Or the spouse could choose to, at some point, leave the marriage and find one that is eternally tenable. Let me reiterate that I don’t subscribe to the church’s doctrine, so I’m not suggesting these are my feelings. Outside the context of the church, this discussion is from a completely different perspective, although that would also make an interesting discussion. But within the framework of the church, I think that saying as a blanket statement that someone leaving the church is not grounds for divorce is ignoring many realities of the gospel.

  67. I find myself saying that I agree completely with Joe. Wow.

    Jeff #69 – OK, let’s go even further on your “no kids” example. What if the spouse can’t have kids? What if the other spouse wants biological kids and doesn’t want to adopt? Does that mean they should be kicked to the curb for being infertile? Clearly, all would agree that’s harsh and unjustified. Yet the justification is the same: I married you to get what I want (babies), and now that you can’t provide what I want, I am outta here. I just don’t feel that’s right. I’m not even sure it’s right if the spouse just decided s/he didn’t want to have kids. Would a couple who truly loved each other split over this or find some common ground and work through it? These are marriages of convenience that are being described, not marriages of love. Is this really how people feel about their spouses??

    With some emotional maturity, couples don’t need to resort to threats and ultimatums to work through life’s vicissitudes. Human kindness, patience, and flexibility work where threats fail.

    I think I just know too many families where one spouse has left the church or been excommunicated and seen how people do change over the years through understanding hearts. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings, people. When do you kick them to the curb like trash? I don’t think you ever do if you actually love them unless they are violating their marital commitments or being abusive.

  68. I am astonished at the attitude that we are able to judge when people are beyond hope. How often have you seen a person return from the pits of despair or a convert forsake their sins? How arrogant to assume that a single point in time determines ones salvation. The attitude by DrewE, Jeff and Brjones complete ignores the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Whatever happened to holding to the rod and enduring to the end, to never giving up hope? If any family member leaves the church, are you to abandon them? Whatever happened to charity? The pure love of Christ?

    It is now our place to pass judgment for the eternities. We can judge for the here and now, but only God can judge beyond the grave and nobody on this earth can say what God’s judgments will be.

    “Ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:9-10)

  69. Correction: “It is not our place to pass judgment…”

    [Edits not working (in FireFox 2 or IE8 without compatiblity mode, FWIW)]

  70. “I am astonished at the attitude that we are able to judge when people are beyond hope.”

    NOBODY has said that in this thread. Nobody. In fact, everyone has been absolutely clear that we can’t make that call – that it has to be the call of the spouse in the situation.

    I actually agree with much of what’s in your comments, Joe, but you made at least two core accusations that simply don’t reflect what actually was said.

  71. #68-

    It is important to remember that when a person dies, they are the same person on the other side of the veil that they were here. If a person has been exposed to the gospel here on earth and wasn’t interested, they are not going to die and all of the sudden change their minds. I don’t think part of the plan is to say “you get an extra chance now even though you didn’t want it on earth” while the rest of us on earth are expected to endure to the end to get the same blessings. Makes no sense at all. There is no point in trying here if we get a “suddenly changed my mind card” on the other side and it makes everything ok.

    I know that we cannot judge others and I am not doing that, but we have to be realistic. We receive what we desire and that applies to us in this life and the next. If we don’t desire to live the gospel and to be sealed to our families, then that is what our reward will be in the next life. I think that is why we are here, to decide what it is we want and to seek after it.

  72. #76: “but you made at least two core accusations that simply don’t reflect what actually was said.”

    I’m taking people at their word and am very much responding to what was said. I’m additionally responding to what was implied.

    Refer #66:

    “Jen was correct when she said that ultimately, if one’s spouse leaves the gospel and refuses to return, then the “faithful” spouse will ultimately be with someone else, whether in this life or the next. I’m not saying that means he or she is justified in rushing out and getting a divorce, but the fact is, the spouse that leaves is lost from the fold and has given up his or her chance at exaltation (if they persist to the end in their disbelief, obviously). I don’t know where that gets us in this conversation, but it is silly to act like the answer is to just remain with someone to the end and everything will work out. It will not work out between the faithful and the non-faithful spouse; in fact there is NO chance it will work out.”

    The qualification of “if they persist to the end in their disbelief, obviously” is meaningless since no one has any way of knowing that until the end, so I must take the rest of the words at face value.

    I’m sure every reader here has heard someone say “if my spouse ever leaves the church, I’ll divorce them.” Truth is, I don’t know anyone who’s actually followed through with this threat.

    #71 “You can always throw temple work in their as a catch-all. But you are assuming that the work will be accepted in the next life. The member spouse has no reassurance that it will be.”

    Good grief, just how nihilistic are we going to be? Any Mormon–any religious believer–is assuming that the whole thing is true, “testimony” notwithstanding for it’s still all about faith, hope [and charity.]

  73. #74 – Thank you Ray. If you re-read my comments, Joe, you will see that ALL of my statements have been based on the assumption that the person truly will never come back to the church. I am well aware that people change, and I have seen it with people I know. But it is very interesting to me that many of the active believers seem to be arguing that these people will probably come back, when the church actually teaches that the opposite is true. If many of the elect (active, believing members) will be led away, then what can we assume about those who voluntarily turn their backs on the church? Will some come back? Of course. Will most of them come back? Absolutely not. If this were not true, I would ask again, why even worry about our children marrying non-members? The fact is, most people who leave the church will not come back – especially those who leave with a firm desire to divorce themselves from the church. That said, do I advocate a spouse immediately writing off their spouse to whom they have made sacred vows? Of course not. What I am saying is, if someone leaves the church and makes it clear that they want NOTHING to do with it, it is not sensible for that person’s spouse to assume they will come back. I’m not saying that means they should divorce them. I’m saying, as Jeff pointed out, that if that person becomes convinced that their spouse truly will never come back, then they have to face the reality that their spouse likely will not be where they are in the next life, and they have a choice to make. They can choose to be patient and work on getting that person activated. I think that is perfectly fine. But I also think it’s insensitive and short sighted, from a gospel perspective, for us to sit here and say that it’s wrong of the spouse to consider terminating the marriage, after taking all factors into consideration (in my opinion this would likely be over a long period of time) and determing that their eternal perspectives are just too different. But let’s be clear that, as Ray said, NO ONE here is painting this as a simple situation where one size fits all. And as I mentioned above, I’m talking about a situation where the person will not come back to the church. As wrong as it is to judge when another person is a “lost cause” I also think it’s equally wrong to judge the decision a spouse has made with respect to their marriage and their spouse’s intentions and activity.

    And Hawkgrrrl, you’re right that when you get married you make vows and promises, and it’s wrong to discard those just because you’re not getting what you want. But the other spouse has also made vows and covenants, and within the mormon religion, breaking those is equally as significant. This is especially tricky because the breaking of temple vows arguably, at some point, begins to affect the active spouse’s ability to fulfill his or her spiritual and church obligations to his or her full potential. Again, I think it’s just a little overbroad to state that this is never a justifiable reason for divorce. You just never know the import that such a situation can have in a marriage and a family.

  74. #78 – Joe, the spouse has every reason to believe their spouse PROBABLY will not accept the gospel. I don’t really understand why this is so upsetting to you. I’m not saying that means the spouse should divorce them. I said before that remaining married and trying and hoping for a reactivation is a wonderful alternative. It’s what I hope everyone would do. But to act like the odds are in their favor and they’re running out on a probable reactivation is just nonsensical. It’s just not in line with church teachings regarding who will and won’t be saved. If you accept president kimball’s estimation, it’s exponentially more difficult to accept the gospel and repent in the next life, and it’s dramatically moreso for a member who has broken covenants. All I’m saying is, if someone insists that they’re not coming back, and they maintain that throughout their lives to their death, it’s frankly insulting to that person’s intellect and integrity to assume that once they’re dead, they’ll immediately accept the gospel and rejoin the church. Again, that goes COMPLETELY against church teachings.

  75. #80 brjones-

    I agree with what you are saying. I am sure it can be very painful to be married to someone who was originally active in the church and then who chooses to turn away from it and wants nothing to do with it. It really does change a lot of things in a marriage because being an active member of the church involves a lot of time, especially if you have children. To have a spouse pull away from that creates a distancing between one another in time spent doing the same things together. All of the sudden one spouse is at church for 3 hours (or more)on Sunday and the other is doing something else away from the family. Any adult activities, including going to the temple, are now done alone. When people start spending time apart developing different interests it naturally creates distance and less feelings of being unified. A big focus in marriage is being one and setting goals together. If a spouse not only leaves the church but stops believing in God there can be much less to talk about and not a lot of similar hopes for the future. It may even create tension that can result in arguing depending on how much the spouse has changed. Even when two people love each other, it can be very difficult to manage a relationship when beliefs are very different from the other. It may not seem justified to those not living with it everyday, but I have no doubt that it can be a very painful and lonely life for both of the spouses. I am sure there are those who make hasty decisions and may end a marriage prematurely, but I am sure there are others who struggle deeply not knowing what to do and really try to do what is best for all involved. It is not an easy situation for anyone.

  76. 81. brjones

    “If you accept president kimball’s estimation, it’s exponentially more difficult to accept the gospel and repent in the next life, and it’s dramatically moreso for a member who has broken covenants.”

    You captured my feelings with this comment.

  77. #73 Hawk

    “OK, let’s go even further on your “no kids” example. What if the spouse can’t have kids? What if the other spouse wants biological kids and doesn’t want to adopt? Does that mean they should be kicked to the curb for being infertile? Clearly, all would agree that’s harsh and unjustified.’

    Yep I agree. But that is a totally different case of “want to, but can’t” as opposed to “said I did, but now I don’t.” So, the issue is not whether you kick someone you love and want to be with to the curb willy-nilly, but that two people who had mutual goals and understanding, which served as the premise for getting married in the first, now do not. The fact is that no one is really beyond hope and so any decision must be carefully considered, prayed about, fasted about and then action taken based on the whole picture, not just the one thing.

    But, I am sure you know, that some things can be a non-negotiable.

  78. #74, Joe, dude,

    “I am astonished at the attitude that we are able to judge when people are beyond hope. How often have you seen a person return from the pits of despair or a convert forsake their sins?”

    Lighten up, my friend, we are, as been mentioned to you, talking in hypotheticals and, up to your comments, doing quite well at it. No one here is suggesting any specific course of action for anyone. This is a very difficult thing to go through and decide what is the best way to resolve it.

    Please don’t stir the bottom of the pot on this.

  79. Well, I think part of the problem is that we ARE speaking in hypotheticals. Let me just say that I would not kick my husband to the curb over a difference in belief. I might kick him to the curb for being an unremitting jackass (if he were one), even if he were faithful to marriage vows but just became totally insufferable to live with, but that’s another matter. If his jackassery were foreseeably temporary, then I might wait it out, at least until the ink on the divorce papers had time to dry. The split would be over his inability to behave like a decent human being, not over his belief. If his loss of belief contributed to his becoming insufferable, then I suppose you could say the split was over that. So, I think if we can all agree on that much, we’re probably in the same place. It’s easy to imagine loving our goals more than a fictitious spouse, but much harder when we talk about the actual person we are committed to, at least for me.

  80. #86 – Hawkgrrrl, I don’t know anything about your involvement in the church or your level of testimony, etc., but let me ask you a question – what if your husband left the church, and was absolutely insistent that he would never return. Let’s assume that because you know him so well, you were convinced that he was sincere in this intent (acknowledging that anything can happen in the future, obviously). And what if he refused to attend church with you (not being a jackass, but just on principle, because he believed the church was not true and didn’t want to participate), refused to encourage the children to be involved or to assist in teaching them gospel principles (but didn’t prevent you from taking them to church, teaching them your beliefs, etc.), and refused to be otherwise involved in the church in any other way. In every other area he was pretty much still the same man. Would you not feel that at some point this was going to come to a head? Again, I don’t know whether you and your husband are married in the temple, whether you are converts, etc. I have to think, though, that if a couple is married in the temple, and their mutual goals with respect to their family and their future have all been tied up in the church, and then the husband (or wife) suddenly and unilaterally changes direction and refuses to be involved or participate in rearing the children in a way that was previously agreed upon, I think you’d be in the minority if you said you would be able to overlook all that and continue on without at least considering that this was a deal breaker. I’m not saying the majority would rush out and get a divorce, but I still think you are putting it WAY too mildly when you characterize a situation like this as simply an area of non-common ground. There are literally countless aspects of a couple’s plans and values, both tangible and intangible, that are bound up in the gospel. When one person leaves that behind, I think it impacts every aspect of the other spouse’s life (that is, of course, if both spouses were previously active and involved in the church).

  81. brjones – Actually, the description of the situation you describe is the exact situation I would feel unjustified in leaving, and I know many people in the situation you describe (including in my own family) who have navigated the tricky waters of different-faith marriages without abandoning their spouses. They stayed (or continue to stay) with their spouses because they love them, and they find common ground to raise their kids while respecting each others’ differences. My husband and I are not personally in this situation (both believing/active LDS, married in the temple), but I feel pretty strongly about this issue based on the people I know who’ve lived it.

    I’ve also met many disaffected people on-line whose believing spouses took a hard line stance with them, either driving their disaffection into the closet (only to emerge later with the fury of repression) or creating an untenable marriage as a result in which one spouse’s will completely dominates and controls the other’s. Was it the disaffected spouse’s fault or the believing spouse’s fault? I say both if a believing spouse ceases to love and support their spouse over a difference in belief when that spouse continues to be faithful in the marriage. I’ve also cited scripture above from the NT and D&C to support that position. I don’t believe I am out on a limb with this one, although I freely acknowledge it would be difficult to work through, and that marriage is seldom as simplistic as a one-issue discussion.

    I’m consistently surprised by the justification people feel for leaving their spouses over difference in belief. I have yet to see advice sanctioned by the church supporting spousal abandonment over this issue, but I am prepared to be astonished should someone point it out.

  82. This is fascinating to watch. It seems as though we search for ways to moderate the LDS theology to evolve into something that works for an unequally yoked environment we all have been taught is temporal and damming. However the farther we move to what I would describe (and hope) is reality, the more the theology stands in opposition. Consider how often in the new testament it says “it’s OK to be luke warm” or, “come follow me, unless it would hurt the kids”. Sure, more leaders now search for ways to soften the current position, but aren’t these “covenants” between man and god, or woman and god? (again, I’m hoping they change that to include some level of serious commitment to each other) Since when do broken covenants promise happy eternal endings? It’s now, and will continue to be a big problem for LDS because the pressure to obey is so staunchly engrained, and marriages (along with the kids) are the real victims, not the church or god.

  83. “Families are encouraged to distance themselves from children in homosexual relationships.”

    Hawk do you have any statements on this?

  84. My point was to show that issues of divorce are generally so complex that no one from the outside can judge them. To my spouse, I am divorcing over belief. They prefer to believe that because the alternative would make them face their behavior and who they really are. I am of the belief that divorces purely over a loss of faith may occur, but they are the exception rather than the rule. I agree with others that, generally speaking, there is something else going on, some kind of emotional manipulation at the very least.

    Therefore, Nick, your question is not one that I can easily answer because it is not nearly as simple as you lay it out and because I feel it is inappropriate to judge others in their choices. I will share what I have decided for myself, and the reasons therefore if asked, but I will not make blanket judgments on hypothetical and oversimplified situations. I do not make judgments simply because a person might be insecure in their own decisions and desire my validation. I may not agree with them, but I feel their choices lie between them and God, and perhaps whatever people are called to stand in His stead. Unless I am called to be one of those people, I am content to let others believe what they wish, so long as they are content to let me believe what I wish.

    I think remaining in a marriage in the hopes that it will change is equally potentially wrong to leaving a marriage with the belief that it will not change. It is true that no one can judge another, but the Spirit can, and can also guide the “believing spouse” to the correct course of action when mortal reason, effort and knowledge fail.

    Emotional and verbal abuse is often subtle. I have learned for myself that it is often so subtle that the victims themselves have difficulty pinpointing it. In fact, that is part of the point. Like an infection, it is far easier to see the damage than the cause.

    I think it is difficult for two so differently-minded people to both refrain from emotional abuse, especially in cases where one spouse believes and the other not only disbelieves, but believes against. Possible, but difficult. It is a tricky thing to recognize such abuse and fight against it. It is far easier when physical assault is involved. I am fortunate in that my situation began to turn physical, and far earlier than some.

  85. #88 – Hawkgrrrl, personally I think the choice that those in your family have made is the 100% correct choice. Because I’m not coming from a position of strong belief and activity in the church, that makes perfect sense to me. I still say, however, that from a church perspective, there are consequences down the road in such a situation, and that they must be dealt with at some point. It’s hard for me to put myself in that situation (of being a believer and having a spouse leave the faith), but I would imagine the natural thing to do (assuming an otherwise happy marriage) would be to find a way to live with the situation, and hope for the best in the end. I do agree with LTU that the instances where someone leaves their spouse for this reason alone is probably very rare. I think it would be an absolutely terrifying position to be in to believe with all your heart in the church and the doctrine, and then find that your spouse is not on the same page and realize that there is a good chance that you are not going to be together in the eternities. And that’s to say nothing of the day-to-day implications of such a situation. In my personal opinion, this is one of those situations that results in religion when you have a dogma that seems like all upside and warm feelings – we can all be together forever with our spouse and our kids and it will be pure joy forever, etc., etc., but in practical application it is often much messier. I have no doubt there are people all over the world who live in excrutiating pain every day as a result of this doctrine gone wrong in their families. I watched my mother cry her eyes out during the sacrament every week for ten years after my brother left the church, even though he was an otherwise good person, and I have no doubt she is still dealing with the same heartbreak, and will do so for the rest of her life. It’s very tragic to me.

  86. Whether your spouse stops believing or not is one of many (hundreds?) of factors to consider if contemplating divorce. I don’t think there is a simple “the church should encourage divorce” or “the church should encourage they try to work it out” answer. If the couple have been married 8 months and the wife is extremely faithful and the things she look forward to MOST in life surround the church (seeing her husband baptize her children, seeing her son serve the sacrament, seeing her son go on a mission, seeing her daughter married in the temple, watching her husband giver their children blessings in time of need, etc., etc.) then divorce may be the best option. If, however, the spouse who still believes enjoys church but it isn’t a huge priority in her life, the way it is for the former example, it probably wouldn’t make sense.

    As many have mentioned, whether your spouse believes or not is only one of many factors that would come into play if one is considering divorce. But even if one could isolate just this one factor, the spouse choosing to no longer be a part of the church, it would still vary in degree for each believer and each couple as to how much that fact affects the spouse who still believes. Further, how long they have been married, whether they have kids, what options the believing spouse would have if she decided to leave the marriage (some of you may find this to be an inappropriate factor to consider but I think it is very relevant) etc., etc., would all play a huge role.

    I think it should be looked at from this practical perspective. I think the spouse in the marriage needs to take a hard look at whether continuing the marriage would be more or less likely to lead to her happiness. I think the church shouldn’t really have a line of advice to give on this issue. It’s too different for every person and each person ultimately would have to decide their best shot at happiness. For some, it would be to stay together. For some, divorce would be best. It’s too complicated of an issue, in my opinion, to have a “view” that the church should encourage the couple to work it out or encourage the couple to split up.

  87. James #90 – “Hawk do you have any statements on this?” I think it’s harsh and that I would not feel it was warranted if I were a parent of a homosexual. I also commented on this in #6. The council seems inconsistent with other statements that same sex attraction is inate.

    LTU makes an important point worth reiterating. It is not good to approach your marriage as a method of “fixing” your spouse – whether that’s an unbelieving spouse hoping to share their disaffection with their believing spouse or vice-versa. Marriage requires adaption. It is not a guarantee. How we treat people is more important (IM possibly heterodox O) than what we hope to get from that relationship in terms of our own salvation. In short, I think it more likely that a judgmental, non-Christian attitude towards an unbelieving spouse is more damning than being married to a faithful, loving unbeliever who is a good parent but doesn’t practice the LDS religion. But again, marriages fail for many reasons, and not every unbeliever is easy to live with. Nor are all believers. Frankly, it’s marriage. No one is easy to live with every day for the rest of your lives.

    Dexter – I’ll reserve my astonishment for a cited authoritative church resource that contradicts what I’ve said. As you point out at the end of your comment, there likely isn’t one coming. I agree that the church’s view is necessarily vague because of the complexity of marriage, and I’m glad they aren’t more instructive. Each situation is different. Each marriage is complex. However, where I feel you and I might disagree is this statement: “I think the spouse in the marriage needs to take a hard look at whether continuing the marriage would be more or less likely to lead to her happiness.” I guess that depends on how we view happiness. Is it a right that a person thinks they have that their spouse will never change? That’s unrealistic. Do we leave at the first sign of disagreement? That’s too easy. But you are right that many factors have to be considered, including the maturity of the people in the marriage.

  88. Hawk,

    You said you and I might disagree on this statement that I made: “I think the spouse in the marriage needs to take a hard look at whether continuing the marriage would be more or less likely to lead to her happiness?”

    In what way?

    Because it seems to me “happiness” would include all the issues one could possibly consider. For example, one might think: if I leave I could be with someone who has the same interests and goals and beliefs, but this would have to be countered with feelings of abandoning someone based on their belief, giving up on a relationship that could turn back around, giving up on someone who could turn back around in their beliefs, etc., etc. Even if someone stayed in a relationship they thought would not improve I would still say they decided to do what they thought would most likely make them happy. Even if they aren’t happy in the marriage, to choose to stay would imply a belief that to abandon the relationship, no mattter how bad, would bring worse feelings than the ones the person has in the marriage. Or one could think the satisfaction of sticking with your spouse, no matter what, would ultimately bring more happiness than giving up. My comment, I believe, encompassed all the possible feelings and pros/cons. Ultimately, though, people choose everyday to stay in a marriage (or get out of one) based on what they believe is most likely to bring them happiness. Same can be said on their choice to stay in the house they are in, or in the job they are in. I stand by my initial comment, and I would be curious to hear any comments if anyone disagrees.

  89. #98 – I agree with this. I also think, Hawkgrrrl, that your position presupposes that the believing spouse would be capable of being happy in every other area of the marriage, so they should just learn to deal with the inactivity of their spouse. I think this is a monumental supposition. As has been stated many times in this thread, for many members, the inactivity of the spouse would affect virtually every single aspect of the marriage and the believing spouse’s life. I think it’s far too simplistic to inimate that that can be compartmentalized and that as long as nothing else is changed, they should be ok. Well what if EVERYTHING else has changed along with their spouse’s decision to leave the church? I don’t believe this is an overstatement in the slightest. It’s very easy to say that it’s just one thing they have to work on, but what if the faithful spouse is unable to be happy in such a marriage? Then we should say it’s wrong for them to consider terminating the marriage because it’s just one thing? I don’t think Dexter was suggesting a narcissistic approach to marriage when he said that divorce may be appropriate when one spouse can’t be happy. Marriage obviously isn’t just about making yourself happy. But it’s also not about subjugating your hopes, desires and happiness to either a) make your spouse feel comfortable, or b) save a marriage just for the sake of doing so. In my life I have experienced FAR too many people in the church who are in loveless, empty marriages but are remaining married just because the church would want them to or they think divorce is wrong on principle. I find that attitude to be very disturbing. Obviously there are innumerable factors to be considered in determining whether a marriage is working, and whether it’s worth saving. But I think if one spouse, for WHATEVER reason, finds him or herself in a marriage in which he or she finds no personal happiness, and in which they see no hope for such in the future, it is appropriate for that person to consider ending their marriage. As a corrollary, if one spouse is miserable, it is almost impossible to conceive that the other spouse is truly happy, or that the children are being unaffected. Hawkgrrrl, this does not speak to the family members you have spoken about in any way, or anyone else who has stayed in their marriage and made it work. Really I’m just advocating a position that people need to find a situation in which everyone can be happy and progress as individuals and as a family. If a couple can remain married and work their differences out and be happy together, then I think we all agree that is by FAR the best solution. But that is not always the case for one reason or another. There are many different reasons why marriages don’t work. To foreclose one spouse leaving the church as one such possible reason just doesn’t make sense to me.

  90. Dexter & brjones – Well, I think we’ve come full circle and are in agreement. My objection to the “what makes the spouse happy” is that happiness can mean so many different things to different people. To a teenager, happiness sometimes means getting your own way or not being held accountable for wrongdoing. To some, happiness means being left alone to wallow in self-pity. I agree that happiness has to have a longer aim than today & tomorrow. We have to grow as individuals to truly be happy. Happiness isn’t freedom from inconvenience. I also don’t mean to imply that my family members in their situations find it a picnic. They made their choices based on love for their spouses. It’s very hard to divorce someone if you love them. Divesting yourself in the relationship due to your spouse’s unbelief leads to no longer loving them, and once you stop loving your spouse, they really do become a different person. We shouldn’t create that situation and justify our actions based on a spouse’s unbelief. That’s all I’m saying. Easier said than done, to be sure.

  91. Yes, I felt that we were in agreement all along. I think my comment about choosing to do what one think will make them happy is true and the basic foundation upon which all decisions are based. BUT, knowing what will make you happiest is extremely tricky. I definitely sympathize with someone considering divorce due to a spouse who no longer believes (or anyone considering a divorce for any reason!), because it is extremely difficult to know how you will feel without that person. Sure, you can point to things you don’t like but, especially if you’ve been together a long time, it’s hard to predict how you will feel in the future without that person. Further, it is such a guessing game as to whether you will meet someone new where things could get serious, and if so, will you find more satisfaction or less in that new relationship? Obviously, relationships are extremely tricky and difficult to predict, which is why, I think the individual needs to stop looking for answers from a church leader (and why the church should avoid giving answers). The ins and outs of a relationship are just too complex.

  92. I think everyone who has commented in this thread would agree on the basic ideas that divorce is awful and no one has any right to judge someone who has done it or not done it, whatever their reasons.

  93. Marriage obviously isn’t just about making yourself happy. But it’s also not about subjugating your hopes, desires and happiness to either a) make your spouse feel comfortable, or b) save a marriage just for the sake of doing so. In my life I have experienced FAR too many people in the church who are in loveless, empty marriages but are remaining married just because the church would want them to or they think divorce is wrong on principle.

    This was me for BOTH reasons a) and b). I was fully prepared to live in a loveless marriage—and even to force myself to relearn love for my spouse—because it was the right thing to do. I thought it was a gift I could give my spouse. I watched, one by one, each of my dreams and hopes for the future be crushed under the other person’s desires. It took a frightening physical confrontation combined with a complete lack of ownership to it to convince me that I was doing myself, my children and my covenants no favors.

    It is good to see that others can learn this without living it.

  94. Post
    Author

    brjones – I can second that!

    Dex – “Obviously, relationships are extremely tricky and difficult to predict, which is why, I think the individual needs to stop looking for answers from a church leader (and why the church should avoid giving answers). The ins and outs of a relationship are just too complex.” I totally agree.

  95. Learning to Understand,

    I am sorry you had to experience that. I am glad you shared your experience bc I think it adds a lot to this conversation of opinions and theories. I am also glad you expressed that you were “convinced.” I know many who are divorced who look back and wonder if they should have given it more time or another try. I hope you don’t feel you stayed in too long, and I’m not saying that you did, I’m just trying to say that I am glad you have the comfort of conviction because many don’t have that while wishing that they did. And welcome aboard, this is the first time I have seen a post from you!

  96. I’ve been married to a good man for 20 years and I’ve been an active Church member the entire time — it has NOT been easy and I’ve personally experienced all the hypothetical issues you’ve been discussing. Some background…

    I was raised in a dysfunctional inactive LDS home (dad from Pioneer stock but never practiced principles and mom was a “convert” from New York who was never truly converted). I was drawn to Church in my youth because all the families seemed happy and loving. Grew up in Northern Arizona, a predominantly LDS and Catholic area, and many loving members helped me attend church… They could not, however, teach me the many things lacking in my own home (such as mentally healthy ways to work through life’s really tough challenges, marriage being one). Both of my parents being previously divorced had entered into their marriage quickly [3 weeks after meeting] and constantly questioned if they should throw in the towel and get divorced. My father’s dysfunctional approach to particularly bad spousal arguments was to grab his handgun and threaten to end his life. My mother later adopted this method and threatened to end all our kids’ lives and then her own before my father came home from work if the 8 of us didn’t stop fighting — nice problem-solving, coping mechanism to model for your kids! Suffice it to say I had no meaningful idea what the Temple was really all about (our family couldn’t even make it to church, much less think about the Temple).

    At the age of 20, after completing my Associate’s Degree and preparing to attend ASU, and having dated in the very large young Single’s Wards in Phoenix/Mesa, I met my non-member husband at the restaurant where I worked. Erik was visiting his Great-Aunt in Mesa from his new home in California (he’s originally from Minnesota). We struck up a long-distance relationship and he shocked me 9 months later during Christmas when he proposed. I knew he was a good person, without being raised LDS (didn’t try things that returned missionaries I’d been out with had, etc) — but I didn’t feel I knew him well enough to get married (he’s 7 years older than I, so apparently he knew what he was looking for). I was in a transitional period and decided I could enroll at Cal State just as well as ASU. I was also living in a co-ed situation since my friend’s brother, and his friend, had moved into our condo (owned by her mother). So I moved to Califonia, got a job and enrolled in school. I lived chastely with Erik as he knew my values and did not pressure me. He took the missionary discussions and didn’t have any objections to what he was taught. However, I learned they could not ask him to be baptized due to our living arrangements — didn’t matter that I knew we were living chastely — that was the rule. I knew he was a good person (how can you go wrong with a man who goes out of his way to visit his Great-Aunt?) and my grandmother used to say, “All you really know about someone after 50 years of marriage is their bad habits”. So we were married by the Bishop in Laguna Beach with our reception at Las Brisas (for anyone who knows the area). My experience had always been that people join the Church after investigating it and that WAS the direction Erik had expressed interest. I didn’t negotiate it as pre-condition. However, he did exercise his free agency to not continue in that direction and here we are 20 years later. I have always told myself that I made the choice to make the marriage vows, that I should honor them, and eternity will work itself out — as Hawk has said, how do we know we’ll make it to the CK on our own accord anyway!?!

    Like many marriages, we’ve had our highs and lows… We had difficulty conceiving a child and were finally blessed with a beautiful daughter 5 years into our marriage. Desperately wanted a sibling for her (both of us being from large families), but 14+ miscarriages later (over 13 years of trying), I realized I’m one of those mysterious Miscarriage Syndromes that all our hi-tech infertility treatments couldn’t help. Did I question if God had closed my womb because of my marriage outside the Covenant… Yes. We can’t adopt thru LDS Social Services because it requires full-member couples, ditto for Lutheran Family Services, Catholic Charities… we even had two close calls with adopting thru Foster Care. During this time, one of my brothers used my parents’ problem-solving example and took his life when he was 27 (I was 28, we were the closest in the family). Add this to the equation with my husband being the silent stoic Norwegian/German (having been raised Lutheran), and he didn’t know how to be there for me — emotionally or spiritually. I worked through it on my own, believing that God is loving and just — and that he knew my brother was a good person and knew his heart (he was going through the pain of not only his wife leaving him and taking their daughter, but then a break-up with his subsequent girlfriend who had a son the same age as his daughter — and he wasn’t a drinker, but had been drinking that night he ended his life).

    We’ve been the focus of many, many Ward Missionary efforts. Erik has met and sent home dozens of missionaries. Things came to a peak as our daughter approached her 8th birthday… that’s also when he decided to wander into the world of online porn (his way of rebelling against the full court press he was feeling). Trust me, I know from experience you cannot force someone’s will. I was devastated. Fortunately, it was a short-lived transgression (maybe 6 weeks) and we worked through it. Then Erik was going to find a church we could both feel comfortable attending. I supported him in this effort, feeling we should build upon on commonalities (both being Christian and believing in the Bible). Two years later, after very little effort on his part (most men will agree, if they ignore the problem long enough it will go away, right?), well I’d given it an honest try and so then let him know I wasn’t ever going to leave the Church and asked if he would just join our daughter and me in attending church. This has been our “arrangement” for the last 8 years. Erik is a workaholic and I have no doubt if he were active in the Church, he would be the one attending all the meetings and leaving me to tend the house — as he does now.

    Teaching Sunday School/Primary, Activity Days, Young Women’s, Relief Society, Gospel Doctrine and this year EARLY MORNING Seminary (6:00-6:45am EVERY school day)… while working full-time as well (I’ve always felt the need to be self-sufficient in case something happened to my husband — his father died at 45 and so did his grandfather). But at this point, I’m REALLY, REALLY tired — and facing my 42nd birthday next month. Recently my brother who lives nearest me and is the only other Church member (our blended family is spread all over the country and he is my only blood related brother still living), was diagnosed with a fatal liver disease; he’s older than I am but married later and has 3- and 4-year-old kids. Our parents have still never made it to the Temple (in their 70’s now) and we don’t have much of a relationship with them — the two siblings who do live near them are meth addicts who don’t take care of their kids (and our parents enable their co-dependent behavior)…BIG mess!!

    I came across this blog totally by accident…
    This morning we took our daughter for her Patriarchal Blessing (mine has been a source of strength and encouragement for me my entire life). I’d never met our Stake Patriarch (it’s a large area and we’re in different Wards), but he’s a Scandinavian who also served a Scandinavian mission with his wife and family in the 70’s (back when they did that). He really connected with Erik and invited Erik to give a prayer before the Blessing, and Erik gave a beautiful prayer, our daughter gushed tears as she’d never really seen him pray outside our home.

    The Patriarch’s wife shared a book her family recently helped published here in the Midwest… “When the Saints Come Marching Home in St. Louis” about LDS members being welcomed back to Missouri after the infamous “Extermination Order” and I was online looking for that when this blog came up. My LDS heritage goes to Nauvoo and my daughter and I were blessed to represent our ancestors at the Nauvoo Temple re-dedication a few years ago, so looking forward to reading this book about people who accept and respect other people — no matter what their religion is. I was glad to see the respectful discussion that occurred here and wanted to share my story. Sorry for being so long-winded — I’ve never blogged, as you can tell.

    In my experience, #82, Jen, hit the nail on the head:

    #82. Even when two people love each other, it can be very difficult to manage a relationship when beliefs are very different from the other. It may not seem justified to those not living with it everyday, but I have no doubt that it can be a very painful and lonely life for both of the spouses. I am sure there are those who make hasty decisions and may end a marriage prematurely, but I am sure there are others who struggle deeply not knowing what to do and really try to do what is best for all involved. It is not an easy situation for anyone.

    To address Hawk’s main point… Should the Church make more concerted efforts to help families put the Family first?

    ABSOLUTELY! I’ve been feeling we have too many meetings and not enough charitable ACTIONS in the Church. Especially living in a predominantly Catholic community, and many other faithful denominations, I have many more non-LDS friend and I see SO MANY wonderful acts of charity being done — yet we tout and pat ourselves on the back for spreading the Gospel and let it end there. I think we need to stop working ourselves to death with the depth of our lay-ministry programs — which today’s youth DO NOT get as much out of as they would ACTUALLY SERVING THE NEEDY. Our nation has been so blessed during our time of prosperity that the youth have become very spoiled (entitlement attitude). We need to scale-back working ourselves to death dreaming up over-the-top programs/lessons preaching to them and let them engage in the work. Actually performing service is the truest way to share and feel Christ’s love. I’ve been wanting to write this letter to President Monson and this has been a test run. What do you all think?

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