Mixed Belief Marriages

Hawkgrrrl Mormon 86 Comments

What should a church member do if their spouse is a non-believer?  This is something that many couples encounter, either because one spouse ceases to believe or because one spouse converts and the other does not.  What should the church advise these believing spouses who ask?  What is the “doctrinal” implication in these situations?  Does this put the believing spouse’s salvation at risk as some fear?

To me, the answer as attributed to Paul in Corinthians is crystal clear and easy advice:

1 Corinthians 7 : 12-16

12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
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.
16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

If you accept Paul’s writings as doctrinally binding, this means you can allow an unbeliever who wants to leave to go, but you should stay with your spouse otherwise.  Paul’s counsel reminds me of E. Bednar’s personal life growing up in a house with a non-LDS father and going to church with just his mother.  Eventually, after E. Bednar was an adult, his father did choose to join the church.  I think most confusion regarding mixed belief marriages is related to this scripture in 2 Cor 6:14:

14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

But this second one seems to be about whom you choose to marry or associate with, while the first one is about someone who is already married.

According to Paul’s advice, divorce of an unbeliever is only justified if that unbelieving spouse desires to leave.  Yet we hear time and again of believing spouses who consider loss of testimony a valid reason for divorce.  Why?  Here are some reasons that have been discussed around the b’nacle:

  • Change.  It’s normal for spouses to fantasize about divorce when there has been a material change to the “marriage contract” as they viewed it.  For example, John McCain reevaluated his marital contract when his wife became disabled and he ditched her for the leggy blond heiress.  The fantasy may be normal and common, but actually carrying through on it is a bit unsavory.  All marriages will experience change.  Spouses will grow old, develop independent interests, get fat or skinny, change political views, have changes to sexual interest, etc.  While studies show that living in a bad marriage is detrimental to health, the negative health effects of divorce are devastating and lasting.  Being resilient and flexible enough to make marriage work through change maintains your health, both mentally and physically.
  • Control.  If either spouse attempts to control the other spouse’s behavior, the marriage is on rocky ground.  Control may not degenerate to abuse, but it is in the same family of behaviors.  Marriage based on respect and mutual love does not involve controlling the choices our spouse makes.  We may wish they would choose something different, but coercing or manipulating or threatening to get what we want is another fantasy best left unindulged.  In marriages where the wife exhibits controlling behavior, husbands have a marked negative health impact that often results in an earlier death.  Maybe that’s something the controlling wife considers a benefit of her behavior.
  • Opportunism.  This is one that few people will openly own, but it often sounds something like “I deserve better” or “My patriarchal blessing promised me . . . ” or “Heavenly Father wants me to have . . .” or even “My kids deserve a father who . . .”  Often what is behind those statements are two sentiments:  1) entitlement (last I checked we are still only entitled to taxes and death in this life), and 2) viewing the spouse as an obstacle to “what I want” or “what I deserve.”  Often, the believing spouse in this scenario feels entitled to a spouse who will allow him or her to maintain status in the church.  It can also be based on a fear of loss of exaltation or salvation (meaning status in the life to come).  This is the opposite of charitable love and honoring our marital vows; it is putting self ahead of the marriage.  Some will also talk of the entitlement in terms of their children (e.g. “the children deserve a mother or father who . . .”), but again, it’s not giving the children a very good example of how marriage works or of Christ-like behavior.
  • Fear.  Behind a lot of failed marriages lies raw fear.  Fear of change, fear of loss of control in your life, fear of loss of status, fear of eternal consequences that are unclear in one’s changes circumstances.  Fear is something that must be faced with courage and love.  This can take time.

There is obviously justification for leaving a marriage that is abusive.  No one should be in fear of physical harm or be subject to ongoing verbal abuse, but even in cases of abuse, individuals have different definitions of what is abusive, when does disagreement become verbal abuse, etc.  Clearly, anyone can choose to leave a marriage for any reason at any time.  Marriage is voluntary.  But that doesn’t make one’s choice justifiable or healthy for personal growth.  Those who divorce are prone to make the same mistakes in future relationships (consider Emma Smith whose second husband Louis Bidamon was unfaithful).

What do you think of Paul’s counsel?  Is divorce of an unbelieving spouse who is faithful to marriage vows, loving, a good parent, and not controlling or abusive ever morally justified?  Discuss.

Comments

comments

Comments 86

  1. President Kimbal said not to risk your exaltation with a non-believer because at that inevitable day you may have to part company.

    1. My brother has been married to a mormon girl from a morman family for over 30 years and it has been nothing but a nightmare for him,he loves his wife and kids,is very good to them,but she and the church has treated him like an outcast,they have helped her regardless of how wrong she is,NO CONCERN FOR HIM! What hypocrite’s.

  2. yes, but I think he was talking about during the courtship phase. I don’t think any GA would advocate that a convert divorce their spouse if the spouse doesn’t convert.

  3. Great article! Thank you for writing this! I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after I was married. My husband had no interest in learning about the church or the Gospel. I felt as if I would never attain the Celestial Kingdom and became inactive for over three years. I know now, that all I can do is pray for my husband to someday accept the Gospel and try to be the best example I can be to him! I don’t believe Heavenly Father will ‘punish’ me just because my husband has no interest in the church. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve shared this article on my blog, as well as on my Facebook group for other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose spouses are non-members.

  4. Nice article. I like how you discuss that rocky marriages are bad, but divorce is even worse. I don’t remember the exact percentage, but a clear majority have even less happiness after a divorce.

    It’s also interesting that the divorce rate is dropping again. Any idea on why that is? (A good thing for sure.)

  5. *** last I checked we are still only entitled to taxes and death in this life ***

    I agree that divorcing your spouse over feelings of entitlement is generally selfish and wrong. Nevertheless, there are in fact some things a child is entitled to. For example, The Family: A Proclamation to the World states:

    “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”

    Nothing there about membership in the kingdom, but certainly something about parental fidelity.

  6. Re: mixed belief marriages, I think there is a lot of cause for hope, as long as there is love and respect in the marriage. We don’t really know that much about the next life or how God is going to judge us. I personally think there are going to be many, many more people in the Celestial kingdom than the 0.1% of the earth who are currently active LDS members. Certainly, the spouse of a faithful member would be included in this. I can’t conceive of a God who would destroy love otherwise.

  7. Tina:
    The cold hard fact is if he never comes around, you will have to part ways. What can you do? I guess there are no easy answers.

  8. Yes, I agree, there are no easy answers. If my husband doesn’t accept the Gospel and passes away before I do, I can always have the work done for him and be sealed to him. If he accepts the Gospel in this life and we get sealed, all the better! I don’t believe in divorce except in cases of abuse and infidelity. He’s never cheated on me and he’s not abusive towards me. If he wants to leave, as the Bible says, he’s free to go, though. I don’t think that will happen, but then again, who knows? We love each other and he’s a great man. He does so much for me and always tells me that he loves me. Just because he is not LDS, I will not leave him, though. It doesn’t go with God’s Word or “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Maybe it’s a bad thing for me to say, but I am thankful that we do not have children to bring up in our spiritually mismatched marriage. I cannot have children, physically.

    1. Tina,

      According to Christ (and even Joseph Smith if you are LDS, though his JS’s real teachings are rarely mentioned because they are contrary to what BY taught), your marriage is eternal no matter what, whether one or both of you is LDS or Catholic or Jewish, etc, or no religion at all. God invented marriage, not men and churches. And Christ taught that there is no way to end any marriage, no matter how many laws men may invent to try to dissolve marriages or create new remarriages, they are all invalid with God according to Christ, not to mention unrighteous. So be grateful for your loving husband and know that Christ taught that you already have an eternal marriage, no sealing required. The Bible was talking about unbelievers of Christ, not unbelievers of Mormonism. In the next life, eventually everyone will repent and believe in Christ and keep his commandments, so all marriages will eventually be happy and compatible, thus why there is no such thing as divorce or remarriage to God, for there is no need, he can heal any marriage eventually.

  9. “Those who divorce are prone to make the same mistakes in future relationships (consider Emma Smith whose second husband Louis Bidamon was unfaithful).”

    It is interesting to note that Emma at the age of 63 took in and raised the four year old, Charles, the offspring from Bidamon’s affair. In the end he felt a great love from Emma.

    I can’t imagine a person wanting to hang on to the faithful spouse who considers church doctrine more important the beating heart of their spouse.

  10. Well said, Hawk, I couldn’t agree more.

    I think divorce is morally justified anytime (we may be running into a definition of morality here). But I agree completely that it may not provide for personal growth, and may be devastating for children, etc.

    I think we really run into a problem when we start speculating on the eternities. I’ve been in more than one EQ meeting wherein some guy will claim that the unbelieving spouse will simply go to a lesser kingdom thus preventing the desired “families forever.” And frankly, I don’t know how one gets around that. It also doesn’t seem realistic to claim that they would be together forever if the unbelieving spouse has not done what it takes to get to the CK. Like many doctrines in Mormonism, I think the reasoning, motivation, and good news works well as long as we don’t push too hard. Or perhaps it’s just that we only have a very very brief synopsis of the afterlife.

  11. Henry: Thank you. I am blessed.

    Hubby once brought up the subject of church on his own(I don’t push it). He made the remark that if he didn’t have to work weekends, he would go to church with me. We’ve been waiting for a call-back from his previous employer. If he went back to work for them, he would have weekends off. Now, I know it wouldn’t count if he just went to church, but just the prospect of him going warmed my heart! If only that his heart may be opening to the possibility of learning the Gospel! Who knows? I will keep praying.

    Holden: To be honest, in my heart, I couldn’t give up my spouse for the church. If someone told me today, that I would have to leave my husband because he is not a member of the church, I would probably leave the church. Like I stated before, the idea goes against God’s Word and “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” I once had a woman tell me she would pick Christ over her children, any day and it saddened my heart. I don’t believe Heavenly Father would make us choose like that, since family is very important to Him! Yes, I know the story in the Old Testament about Abraham having to sacrifice his son, Issac(correct me if I’m wrong), but it was a test of his faith. Maybe I’m just not that strong in my faith, yet.

  12. I don’t think that the God I know would want me to give up my family, or husband

    I do think a good therapist would be in order to help any couple going thru this would be in order, of for anything else to help them come to a respectful, mutual understanding of one another’ view point.

  13. HG, great post. I found comfort in the scriptures you cited, and agree with your call on the second refernce.

    It is interesting to note that in counseling settings bishops are instructed not to advise in matters of divorce or marriage, leaving those decisions to the individuals involved.

    #6 Vort, I suppose I’ve always interpreted the line from the Proclamation that you cite as direction for spouses to honor vows with fidelity, not as permission or recommendation to divorce in the absence thereof. After all, the unfaithful parent will still be the parent in that case.

    Tina, I appreciate your story because it is one that we need to hear. It is wonderful that you and your husband can respect one another and love one another despite your joining the church. As a former stake president of mine says, eternity is a long time. I’m hopeful that the Lord will help us to sort through those matters in due time.

  14. “It’s also interesting that the divorce rate is dropping again. Any idea on why that is? (A good thing for sure.)”

    One reason could be that the children of faddishly-divorced 1970s parents were deeply hurt by their parents’ selfishness and sickened by their parents’ transparent rationalizations, and resolved to do better themselves.

    Another reason could be simply demographics: More Hispanics (and boy did we got more, post-1965) = more Catholics = less divorce.

    Another reason could be that the average age at marriage has risen; marrying young is associated with elevated divorce rates.

  15. #1 re: “parting company”: Who says? What’s the doctrinal basis for assuming that a believing spouse and an unbelieving spouse will be physically separated in the eternities? That seems to make a person’s eternal joy contingent on someone else’s exercise of his free agency, which I don’t believe ever happens. My understanding is that whereas a person who declines marriage in the covenant will not enjoy all the eternal blessings of that covenant (i.e., eternal increase, etc.), I don’t see anything that says that “the same sociality” that exists between husband and wife — even in a mixed marriage — won’t continue.

    The scenario of husbands and wives who genuinely love each other, but between whom there are religious differences, being ripped apart by a stern legalistic God in the eternities is, in my thinking, cheap ungodly manipulation. That’s one problem with trying to flesh out the details of heaven too much; it’s hard for us to conceive with temporal minds of how things operate in an eternal context.

  16. #15 Paul, I didn’t mean to suggest that infidelity always necessitated divorce. In fact, I was responding narrowly to the OP’s statement that our only entitlements were death and taxes. I believe we do have other entitlements, though that doesn’t materially affect her point.

  17. #17 Thomas
    *** That seems to make a person’s eternal joy contingent on someone else’s exercise of his free agency ***

    If our eternal joy involves another human being, then clearly that joy is in fact contingent on the exercise of that other human being’s agency. I suppose it’s possible that maybe you just don’t really care if your spouse is with you, in which case you would be correct. Otherwise, it seems axiomatic to me that our decisions affect others as others’ decisions affect us, both now and in the eternities.

    There seems to be an implication in your words (sorry if it’s only my inference) that a loving couple will end up together in the eternities no matter what, especially if at least one of them gains exaltation, because to do otherwise would be somehow unjust or unfair or mean or something. This idea has been very specifically taught against many times. Those who truly want to be together in eternity will express that desire through the covenants they freely make and freely keep. Those who refuse to make and/or keep those covenants, on the other hand, are expressing in the clearest possible way that they do NOT truly wish to remain with their spouse as husband and wife through the eternities.

  18. Tina: I like what you said about having his work done after he passes (if needed). I think that is probably one of the strongest counter-arguments to Henry’s first statement about having to part in the hear-after.

    My wife’s response to Kimball’s quote was along the same lines as mine: to the singles of the church, if you date non-members, you will probably marry a non-member and if they don’t eventually convert, there is the chance that you will have to separate after death, unless the unbelieving spouse accepts the gospel in the spirit world and their work is done for them,

  19. I’m going to have to agree with Vort Re #17 Thomas. As much as I might personally believe what Thomas is in fact advocating, I don’t think Mormon doctrine (cultural or otherwise) supports the notion. While I agree that it does not directly support the idea that the unbelieving spouse is relegated to sub-CK glory, it is directly implied by the fact that he/she did not do all that was necessary for CK glory. If we accept that those of other glories do not have all the powers, rights, dominions, etc. as those in the CK glory, clearly there is some differentiation, even if physically (umm, whatever that means for life after death) they are in the same place. I don’t know whether or not that differentiation will be significant for a marriage, but I’m not sure how else to interpret it.

  20. I don’t think that if I marry a non member that my convenants/commitments are any less just because I’m not married in the temple.

    Despite anything that the “Proclamation to the World.” states, it really comes down to how hard the two people involved are willing to work on their marriage work.

    We have no right to sit in judgment of people in relation to their marriage now or where they might be in the future.

  21. Dblock, you’re right, we shouldn’t sit in judgment, I don’t think anyone here is. And no one is saying your covenants/commitments are less if you’re not married in the temple. We are articulating that from the point of view of Mormon doctrine, at least described in the D&C it’s rather difficult to reconcile a mixed faith marriage in Mormonism. It’s clear that the CK is reserved for those who enter into the “New and Everlasting Covenant” which we interpret as a temple marriage. If one spouse strays, what happens? We could argue all day over what life would be like in the eternities, but it would be a pointless exercise. All we can say is that it appears that one spouse would receive a fulness, and the other would not. I don’t know the details of what this might mean for an afterlife (nor does anyone else) but it seems to be significant otherwise what on earth are we doing all this for?

  22. Of course no one should leave their spouse because they don’t believe. I am horrified when people actually talk about it like it is an option. Crazy! You should never go back on your commitment like that.
    However, sometimes when you hear more you hear that it isn’t just that the spouse isn’t a believer anymore. There are often other big differences that make marriage difficult. For instance, a friend of a friend supposedly was thinking about leaving her husband because he no longer wanted to have anything to do with the church. Of course I thought she was crazy and didn’t understand the gospel and the importance of marriage. A couple years later I heard more details about his attempt to start up an internet porn site and paying women to take their pictures and his requests for open marriage. Not really just about “he doesn’t believe in the church” but some major marital problems. I would have left this guy long ago, but she is still with him.
    So I agree that if a spouse is a good spouse and parent you never should consider leaving just because he doesn’t believe in the church. But if they are NOT a good spouse or NOT a good parent then that is a different situation altogether.

  23. “It’s clear that the CK is reserved for those who enter into the “New and Everlasting Covenant” which we interpret as a temple marriage.”

    –which we NOW interpret as temple marraige but was clearly polygamous temple marriage when it first came out. So let’s leave room for the possibility that the rules as we understand them now aren’t actually the rules.

  24. “There seems to be an implication in your words (sorry if it’s only my inference) that a loving couple will end up together in the eternities no matter what, especially if at least one of them gains exaltation, because to do otherwise would be somehow unjust or unfair or mean or something. This idea has been very specifically taught against many times.”

    I’m short of time just now, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some other teachings that very specifically counter what you say has been very specifically taught. (One great thing about Mormon doctrine — since we don’t have an authoritative Catechism, we can often find authority on both sides of many questions.)

    The teachings I have in mind — and again, I’ll have to go dig them up — are to the effect that the sealing of an eternal marriage has less to do with physical togetherness in the eternities, than with a person’s right to exercise the powers associated with a covenant marriage, viz., eternal increase and full Godhood. I’ll get back to you with chapter and verse.

    Thus, I can envision a scenario where a “mixed” couple, in the eternities, remain together, except the wife (having been faithful to her sealing covenants) goes around populating new universes (however that works — maybe she gets sealed to Brigham Young or somebody else sufficiently faithful as a polygynous/polyandrous spouse; hey, stranger things happened in actual temporal Church history), whereas the heretical husband just sits around strumming his harp — and yet they can still be together and enjoy each others’ company.

  25. Re #25

    which we NOW interpret as temple marraige but was clearly polygamous temple marriage when it first came out. So let’s leave room for the possibility that the rules as we understand them now aren’t actually the rules.

    Yes, I hear you. Again, I’m trying to articulate the view of modern Mormonism (which is rather hard since as Thomas points out there is no Catechism) as most Mormons understand it, and which is taught in the modern church at some level.

    My experience is that in the modern church we simply don’t talk about this much. We preach eternal marriage and families ’til the cows come home, but we carefully step around the pile of manure of figuring out the details when things don’t go according to plan.

  26. #25 TalkingRain
    *** So let’s leave room for the possibility that the rules as we understand them now aren’t actually the rules. ***

    Why? Given that it’s always the case we need to accept revelation that clarifies things, but when the Lord’s authorized servants teach us A, B, and C, why would we ever suppose that it’s a good idea to doubt A, B, and C?

  27. @23

    All I can say is this, My best friend is married to a lasp/agnostic catholic, and thay have a very strong marriage, why? because of mutual respect of one another.

    #23 Talking rain, Your right none of know for certain what’s going to happen in the next life, even if things are written in black and white they seldom are.

    I love it when people say this is where you are going to wind up if you proceed in XYZ manner, because when you get right down to it, none of us know for sure, what its going to be like in the afterlife for obvious reasons, were still alive.

  28. “We preach eternal marriage and families ’til the cows come home, but we carefully step around the pile of manure of figuring out the details when things don’t go according to plan.”

    Nice imagery. I agree, too. In many ways, I think doctrines and theories about eternal relationships have a taste of paradox to them. On the one hand, a covenant performed in the flesh and administered by priesthood authority is required, and the enduring faithfulness of both spouses (and children) is necessary to maintain the bond after death, and on the other hand, much counsel has been dispensed about wayward children being saved in the end by faithful parents, and Paul’s writings in 1 Cor. 7:14-16 (see OP) make it sound like even people who make bad choices get to be together in Heaven. About the apparent conflict in terms, the Church remains largely silent (at least from what I have read/heard and remember).

    But Mormons are not strangers to paradox; we hold two seemingly irreconcilable principles in our head when we talk about the Godhead (for example, how can Jesus be Jehovah of the OT? there are so many reasons why this principle flies in the face of logic), or the nature of good and evil in an eternal context (necessary yet abolished?). I could go on.

    I see the marriage covenant as one that expresses a hope that each spouse holds in an eternal life that includes the other person with God. I think Joseph’s teachings about the nature of eternal marriage (which, btw, was in the context of polygynous relationships, as has been pointed out already) was a reaction against a misinterpretation of NT scripture (Mark 12:25; Matt 22:30; Luke 20:34-35; cf. D&C 132:16) where Jesus says that after the resurrection, no one is married (and therefore eternally alone?) I personally don’t buy this interpretation. Perhaps when Jesus was teaching the Sadducees about people not being married after the resurrection, he was telling them that their questions about which brother gets to have the woman who married all seven of them in succession misses the point entirely. Perhaps Jesus was telling us that post-resurrection (perfected state in a Kingdom of God) relationships transcended concepts of people as possessions. I don’t claim to have an answer for what human interpersonal intimate relationships _will_ be like in Heaven, but I feel like as long as I’m concentrating on loving God and my neighbor (including my closest neighbors, my family), God will take care of the details. Because before Joseph Smith, were people really concerned about not being able to see their loved ones in Heaven, or did JS actually create this existential fear where none previously existed, and then provided a complex means to allay that fear?

  29. “Given that it’s always the case we need to accept revelation that clarifies things, but when the Lord’s authorized servants teach us A, B, and C, why would we ever suppose that it’s a good idea to doubt A, B, and C?”

    Mainly because I’ve read a few too many of their As, Bs and Cs before.

    If we don’t have the answers within ourselves on basic questions of life (i.e. our spouse), we need to spend time and effort getting to that point.

    to quote jks in #24—“Crazy!”

  30. #31 Holden Caulfield: Your response does not answer the question. It merely demonstrates that you don’t accept the speakers as “authorized servants”. My question was aimed at those who do, not to you.

  31. Vort

    #31

    He does answer the question, again , you just don’t like the response and you give your typical response

  32. What I don’t see discussed is the elements of change in the marriage in order to ask if divorce is an option. To me there is no one answer (It is right to stay in a marriage no matter what or it is ok to leave at any time).

    It seems it is presented as there is a non-believer and a believer that must reconcile things. But what happened leading up to that point? If the marriage was entered into with this situation, then it should continue in that situation.

    If one person decides to join the church and not the other, were these things brought up as a couple prior to baptism…in which case there should be agreement on continuing with expectations.

    If one person changed and became a believer or non-believer and now the marriage contract is impacted…the two need to find ways to reconcile, or agree it is irreconcilable, just like any other changing situation in life.

    I would not think any couple should just give up because things changed…that is just life. But life also provides valid reasons marriages will never work if the couple won’t work for it. There are just so many variables that I can’t suggest there is only one answer. But perhaps we can delineate which set of circumstances we are discussing, so we can be more directed in our responses.

  33. “in counseling settings bishops are instructed not to advise in matters of divorce or marriage, leaving those decisions to the individuals involved.” I think this is a good thing that they don’t advise since 1) they aren’t generally trained marriage counselors, 2) couples often withold information when there is abuse, and 3) there could be legal liability for well-meaning but ultimately bad advice. I suspect this is one that the church had to learn the hard way.

    About divorce rates, I assume the slight decline we are seeing is due to 1) couples marrying later (less pressure to marry young in society due to a widespread destigmatization of premarital sex and shacking up), and 2) more who decide that marriage is not for them but instead choose to live together. While many of #2 end in a breakup, it doesn’t hit the divorce stats. “Divorce-lite” as it were.

  34. “#31 Holden Caulfield: Your response does not answer the question. It merely demonstrates that you don’t accept the speakers as “authorized servants”. My question was aimed at those who do, not to you.”

    Sorry, Vort, I missed the part where you addressed it to only certain people on this site. My bad.

    FYI, the shelf-life for people like you on this site is about three weeks, unless you can accept that there are a lot of different types of Mormons on this planet and they all deserve respect.

  35. #36 Holden Caulfield:
    *** Sorry, Vort, I missed the part where you addressed it to only certain people on this site. My bad. ***

    It was implicit in the wording. If you believe So-and-so to be an “authorized servant” of God in the sense that Latter-day Saints claim, then your implication that they lead people astray is not tenable.

    *** FYI, the shelf-life for people like you on this site is about three weeks, unless you can accept that there are a lot of different types of Mormons on this planet and they all deserve respect. ***

    I do accept that. Perhaps you should open your mind a bit.

  36. I’ve been around here a long time, Vort. My three-week statement still stands. You will get too frustrated by what you perceive as some of the posters’ stupidity and short-sightedness (mine included).

    I do not believe in the church any longer, although I am a member. I stay at MM to hear the diversity. I also come because my wife wants to be a part of the church. It is part of her inner being, although her doubts have consumed most of her faith. Hearing the faithful Latter-day Saints who post here helps me help my wife. If Hawkgrrrl were to write a book, I would buy it. Many others here have the same affect on me. I post here what I feel inside. The negative that comes out is only a tip of the iceberg of what I feel. I regularly write posts only to delete them before posting because this site deserves better than a constant stream of negativity. Sometimes, I hit submit instead of delete……

    As to the vision of church leaders that this post considers, the scriptures tell us the leaders are “watchmen on a tower”. As we listen to them, we are led to believe the tower is very high and they see “afar off”. When you look back in time and analyze so many of their statements, the height of the tower seems to shrink the farther back in time you go, until you get back to the 1800s, when they seem to be wearing only high heeled-boots, if not flip-flops. Their wisdom in declaring goodness and love and that we all need to repent and change is welcomed. The reading of their teachings in history on many issues, however, leads me to believe their understanding and prejudices are no lesser or greater than my that of my neighbors. To me, the Journal of Discourses is more of a comic book and a register of revelations and these were, for the most part, general conference talks. Today, we shrug them off as the product of their time. This is what I do with many of the ideas I hear church leaders advance. I have previously shared President Kimball’s horrific teachings on gays as an example.

    Beat me up, Vort. I deserve it. Just don’t think it will affect me and remember you don’t know me or my story.

    I love this website.

  37. #38 Holden Caulfield:

    I have no intention of beating up on you or anyone else. On the contrary, I have not been the unfriendly one in our tête-a-têtes. Please don’t pretend that you’re the ill-used, long-suffering, put-upon seeker of honest dialog to my intolerant ogre.

  38. @Hc

    I loved your response to Vort in #38. I also love the website for the very reasons you mentioned in your reply. That being said I’m asking you to clarify your position on Emma Smith divorcing and thereby creating her second mistake by marrying Louis Bidamon.

    I don’t think Emma was wrong for divorcing Joseph Smith, I don’t think she made a mistake. I think given the time period, Any man she married within the Mormon Community would have cheated, though I don’t think it was recognized as such because polygamy was practiced as a matter of everyday living.

    I think I am just stuck on the word mistake when describing her reasons for divorcing JS

  39. um…. Sorry to disappoint, but Emma did not DIVORCE Joseph Smith, he *died.*
    Perhaps Holden was just trying to say that when Emma remarried, she married a spouse with the same proclivities as the first. And that this happens frequently with divorced couples as well.

  40. @BIV

    You are right, I should slap my selfup side the head for that one, chalk it up to being tired.

    That being said I still need clarification on why marring her second husband and then raising his son is a mistake.

  41. This post is on divorcing or not divorcing in certain situations. My Emma comment was just showing to what extent some people will go to make things work. In my mind church doctrine is a far cry from waking up with a daily reminder that your husband was a louse, especially when a just God will seemingly work things out in the end. Emma cared for and loved a child that her husband had with another woman while they were married. How many people would look at that child and be consumed with their spouses’ infidelity, having the daily reminder. Granted she may have not wanted to face frontier life alone, but it seemed like a wonderful thing to do. When we remodeled our kitchen, I didn’t want a granite countertop because I knew I would grind my teeth every time I went in the kitchen and would be reminded how much it cost…..

  42. On the question of whether husbands and wives stay together in the eternities, Elder Nelson said the following in Oct 2008 General Conference:

    “While salvation is an individual matter, exaltation is a family matter. Only those who are married in the temple and whose marriage is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise will continue as spouses after death and receive the highest degree of celestial glory, or exaltation. A temple marriage is also called a celestial marriage. Within the celestial glory are three levels. To obtain the highest, a husband and wife must be sealed for time and all eternity and keep their covenants made in a holy temple.”

    As jmb has asserted, I think this is a fairly accurate description of the LDS Church’s view. One may choose to believe whatever he or she wishes, I suppose.

    That said, I’ve never heard any church leader advise from the pulpit divorce because of a spouse’s disbelief in the church (or disaffection with it). Quite the contrary, we are regularly taught to exercise love, tolerance and patience in family matters, as many have suggested here.

    I don’t find it helpful to suggest to couples in this situation that they will one day “part ways” (I’m thinking of you #8), and as others have suggested, that doesn’t seem to be Pr. Kimball’s message, either.

  43. I don’t worry about it. It is unknowable how the specifics will play out. Here’s what I think (my husband isn’t LDS and I attend the temple with regularity, so it is a topic which comes up)– I believe in a loving Father who knows what is best for me, and for my husband, and for all of us. Salvation is an individual matter, and I do what I can to work out my own salvation, and try to teach my children to do the same. Eternity is a brain-hurtingly long time.
    Let’s say I am less diligent at keeping certain commandments, but then I improve. Or, I sin, but then repent. Let’s say marrying a nomo is somewhere on that continuum between less diligent to outright sin. Should I divorce my husband as part of my repentance process in an attempt to be unattached so I can re-attach to someone more worthy of the highest degree? I don’t think most people would say that is good for families or even makes sense doctrinally. For just about every “sin” there is a way to repent. Maybe there is a way for me, and others like me, to ‘repent’ and still progress–whether with our mortal spouse or not.

  44. I definitely find it to be God’s role to judge who will be exalted and who won’t be. It is not our job to decide that our spouse, or someone else’s spouse, is not CK material.
    Even if we have been baptized, have been to the temple, and do many good works, none of us are able to achieve exaltation through our own efforts. It strikes me as a little nit-picky to compare ourselves to our spouse and decide that our 1.38% worthiness is superior to our spouse’s 1.19% worthiness and we will be exalted and they won’t. We’re all kind of failures in need of the atonement.

  45. Perhaps my comment if a bit off topic, but since we’re talking divorce, I wanted to add a few things I learned from More Wives than One by Kathryn Daines, a professor at BYU. During the polygamy period, Utah had the most lax divorce laws in the nation. For example, they would grant a divorce to someone from out of state if they indicated they wanted to come to Utah. Many “gentiles” used this loophole to obtain a divorce, so Utah had to close the loophole.

    Even Brigham Young got divorces (at least twice, if I remember correctly.) One of his wives went on a speaking tour denouncing polygamy. Anyway, Daines points out that the Mormons were encouraged to stick it out and make a marriage work. But if the couple were really having trouble getting along, the general wisdom was that it was better to be happily divorced, than unhappily married. The Mormon divorce rate was comparable to the rest of the nation–they didn’t abuse the divorce laws like the gentiles did.

    Of course, in an era of polygamy, if a woman divorced, she was free to marry a polygamous man, and many women did. The marriage rate of women was MUCH higher than the national average, nearly all women of marriageable age were married. If they were unhappy in a marriage, there was much less of a stigma to leave a bad marriage than there is now. This book was truly interesting to look at divorces.

    Dblock, Lewis Bidamon wasn’t a religious man. Now, after Joseph, it is easy to see why this may have been an attraction for Emma. Lewis was married 4 times: Nancy Sebree was his first wife, and he had 4 children with her. He also had an affair resulting in a child with another woman. (Nancy died, ending the marriage.) His second wife was Mary Ann Douglass. They were married just 6 months before divorcing. Emma was #3. From this track record, he doesn’t seem to have a good record. As you know, he had an affair after being married to Emma for 17 years, resulting in another child. Following Emma’s death, Lewis fulfilled a promise to Emma, and married the child’s mother, Nancy Abercrombie.

    Now everyone makes mistakes, but having 2 affairs on 2 different wives, and divorcing a 3rd after just 6 months of marriage doesn’t sound good to me. On the other hand, he was married to Emma for 22 years–the longest of any of his wives, so he couldn’t have been all bad. But he does seem like a strange match for Emma after Joseph.

  46. MH – I’m glad you brought up the ease of divorce that was a staple of polygamy. It was outlined in a treatise written by an early convert (seemingly without the direct support of leadership, although JS deliberately did not refute what he wrote) that one of the innovations of polygamy was to make women totally free agents in the marriage market – able to leave any marriage by their choice and attach themselves to a more desirable man. This sounds eerily like BY’s self-aggradizing statements about his own personal appeal as a husband vs. that of the much maligned Thomas Marsh. Of course, that view of marriage is a bit unsavory with a high degree of competition between women for one desirable man and between men for the most desirable women. Sounds like what already happens in nature, in singles bars anyway.

  47. #Mh

    How do we know what the divorce rates were during that time?During that time period there was no community property and polygamy was illegal.

  48. #46 – That is a great response.

    I totally agree that God is great enough to work out opportunities for individuals striving for good. At some point, we are all limited in our situations and must rely on God to save us, after all we can do.

    It seems that there is a standard taught to work towards, which is, marry in the temple and work as a family towards exaltation…equally side by side with children to bless the home.

    However, real life presents real challenges and that standard doesn’t fit everyone. Death, sickness, free agency, and temporal circumstances vary…and so we adapt and the gospel can allow for adaptation.

    Surely God provides a way for all who seek Him and His blessings, in whatever circumstance we are in.

    Kudos to you, Rachel.

  49. “but when the Lord’s authorized servants teach us A, B, and C, why would we ever suppose that it’s a good idea to doubt A, B, and C?”

    Because they have on countless occasions given us good reason to doubt them. The scope of apostolic teaching authority (as opposed to sacerdotal authority) has always been kept vague.

  50. Vort #37:

    Examine whether your definition of “astray” is consistent with how Church leaders define the term.

    “[E]ven with the best of intentions, [church governance] does not always work the way it should. Human nature may express itself on occasion, but not to the permanent injury of the work.” (Boyd K. Packer, “”I Say unto You, Be One,’” in BYU Devotional and Fireside Speeches, 1990-1991 (Provo, Utah: University Publications, 1991), 84.)

    Church leaders can err in their teaching. They are still the Lord’s authorized servants. The only question is whether authorized servants always act within the scope of their authorization. There is a whole field of agency law dealing with this issue, due to what should be the obvious fact that servants sometimes exceed their authority. The guarantee that the Brethren will not lead the Church astray does not mean they will never teach error. They just won’t teach sufficiently deadly error to completely destroy the Church. That backstop’s set pretty far back from the plate.

  51. dblock, ‘gentile’ divorces are public records, so daines was ablt to search for those. first monogamous marriages ending in divorce are also public records. you are correct that polygamous marriages were often conducted in secret, so public records don’t contain info on polygamous divorces. daines searched geneaological records, church records, and diaries to put together the most comprehensive data set in manti, utah that there is.

    daines devotes several chapters in her book to statistical analysis of marriage rates, divorce rates, etc. it is pretty dry reading but it is the most complete picture of manti polygamy out there, and she felt that manti’s practices were pretty typical of other utah communities.

  52. -What do you think of Paul’s counsel?

    In general, I disagree with a lot of Paul’s counsel. He’s probably my least favorite writer in the New Testament.

    -Is divorce of an unbelieving spouse who is faithful to marriage vows, loving, a good parent, and not controlling or abusive ever morally justified?

    Yes. Why? Because divorce is between the people in the marriage and no one else is in a position to morally judge what the person who wants to leave can handle or what else is going on in the marriage that has factored into their decision.

  53. #56 Ren:
    ***
    -Is divorce of an unbelieving spouse who is faithful to marriage vows, loving, a good parent, and not controlling or abusive ever morally justified?

    Yes. Why? Because divorce is between the people in the marriage and no one else is in a position to morally judge what the person who wants to leave can handle or what else is going on in the marriage that has factored into their decision.
    ***

    Not so. God is in a position to morally judge what they do. When someone asks if such-and-such action is “morally justified”, that person is asking whether it is an acceptable decision in God’s eyes. Therefore, your answer doesn’t address the question. Instead, you answered a different question, something like, “Should we allow divorce in a case where none of the bad things listed exist?”

  54. #53 Thomas: So then, is it your view that God has told us, “This is your anointed leader, and you are to follow his lead in the things he is authorized to lead as if by mine own mouth — which is to say, you should follow him unless you don’t really want to, and then you’re justified in not following him”? I’m pretty sure that perfection in our leaders was not one of the prerequisite qualities needed for us to be obedient. In what way do you believe that our leaders’ fallibility and past mistakes justify us in disobedience or rebellion?

    #54 Thomas: Outside of lunatic fringe things that we occasionally hear of some whacked-out bishop, what kinds of real, day-to-day things might our bishop instruct us to do that we are justified in telling him, “No way!”? I’m not talking about turning down a calling. I mean some actual instruction from our leader that is actually likely to occur that we are justified in telling him to shove off? There may indeed be such events that commonly take place, but in my nearly half century in the Church, I haven’t yet seen it.

  55. Vort, you’ve already acknowledged that there are rare occasions when resistance to a Priesthood leader who is acting outside the scope of his stewardship is justified. I presume that when President Haight’s duly-appointed agent told you to “Halt! Do your duty!,” you wouldn’t have immediately turned like an automaton and shot the man walking next to you in the face.

    In other words, we’ve already established what you and I both are: Disobedient rebels. At this point, to borrow the old saying, we’re just haggling about the price. You would disobey a Church authority to prevent (if I recall correctly your severely limited list of exceptions to the Obedience rule) murder and rape. I would add a few more evils to that list. Each of us is accountable for the exercise of our judgment.

    “In what way do you believe that our leaders’ fallibility and past mistakes justify us in disobedience or rebellion?”

    By Acts 5:29 — “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

    Disobedience to God is a vice. So is servility — excessive obedience, or obedience to improperly-constituted authority, including ultra vires acts by people who would have been authorized to exercise authority in other contexts. I am not impressed with the ultramontanist craving to be commanded in all things, and slough off moral accountability onto someone else. “We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark, that they would do anything they were told to do by those who presided over them, if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly.”

    “This is your anointed leader, and you are to follow his lead in the things he is authorized to lead as if by mine own mouth.” Whom are we talking about here? Please be more specific. I’m getting from you a sense from you that you think we are to just do everything we’re told by Church file leaders, without considering the discrete stewardship of particular leaders.

    “Outside of lunatic fringe things that we occasionally hear of some whacked-out bishop, what kinds of real, day-to-day things might our bishop instruct us to do that we are justified in telling him, “No way!”? I’m not talking about turning down a calling. I mean some actual instruction from our leader that is actually likely to occur that we are justified in telling him to shove off? There may indeed be such events that commonly take place, but in my nearly half century in the Church, I haven’t yet seen it.”

    Good. Are you familiar with the phrase “If you desire peace, prepare for war”? Instances of whacked-out Church authorities may be as rare as threats of war, but that’s no reason to disarm completely against even such an unlikely threat. That obedience is generally a good thing is no reason to cultivate extreme notions of obedience.

    I’ll grant that in our increasingly sloppy modern world, creeping disobedience probably presents a more immediate problem than cults of obedience. But if extreme notions of obedience are inherently immoral, they shouldn’t be advocated, period.

  56. #59 Thomas:

    *** I presume that when President Haight’s duly-appointed agent told you to “Halt! Do your duty!,” you wouldn’t have immediately turned like an automaton and shot the man walking next to you in the face. ***

    I assume you are referring to the so-called Mountain Meadows massacre. Your presumption is charitable but not necessarily justified. I do not know how I would have acted. I hope I would have told those man that it was cold-blooded murder, that I would not be a party to it, and that I was going to go warn the travelers to stay far away. But in reality, no one else warned the travelers; why would I have been so much more virtuous than they?

    Had I seen my wife raped and my father murdered, seen the desperation and mourning in Nauvoo when our leader, a prophet of God, was shot like a dog, been driven out of my home and forced to walk across a continent pulling a cart, left behind civilization itself to come to an untamed world full of disease, marauding Indians, and pain — and then was told that a group of some of the very people who instigated all our woes was traveling through and threatening us, well, I honestly do not know that I would have turned Haight down. I hope I would have. On the contrary, though, I may well have been one of the leaders of the charge, seeing this as God’s righteous vengeance wrought through the hands of his servants. I do not believe there is a single person reading this who could honestly and confidently say that he (or she) would have had no part of such dealings. I know I cannot so state.

    But that’s beside the point. Those who murdered at Mountain Meadows didn’t do so out of a feeling of obedience to authority. They murdered out of the rage of their hearts. And even if we accept your argument, it’s still ridiculous to affirm that because obedience was bad in ONE circumstance, therefore it’s bad OFTEN.

    *** In other words, we’ve already established what you and I both are: Disobedient rebels. At this point, to borrow the old saying, we’re just haggling about the price. ***

    This is simply false. A whore may be a whore, but if she’s seeking to stop whoring, that makes her something else. I may be a rebel, but I’m seeking to understand and apply the principle of obedience, so it’s not right to dismiss me so simply.

    *** You would disobey a Church authority to prevent (if I recall correctly your severely limited list of exceptions to the Obedience rule) murder and rape. I would add a few more evils to that list. Each of us is accountable for the exercise of our judgment…“We ought to obey God rather than men.” ***

    You are creating a false dichotomy: “Either we refuse to obey everything our leaders tell us, or else we’re being excessively servile and not obeying God.” I have asked you for specific examples of realistic requests from our leaders that we ought to respond to by telling them to shove off. When a bishop tells a woman, “Come live with me and be my plural wife,” we can easily agree that he’s whacked out and needs to be removed from his Church role (and the Church rolls). I’m not talking about that.

    I often sense a spirit of disobedience among many people, even Saints. It’s like they’re still fourteen and rebelling against Daddy and Mommy. Their bishop or other leader makes a request of them, and suddenly they’re all up in arms about unrighteous dominion and patriarchy. Yes, it will cost you your Saturday morning. Yes, you will have to forego your planned vacation to the resort to get the money together. So what? You’re a Saint. You have already covenanted everything you own, every talent you have, every minute of your time, to the building of the kingdom. No one forced that covenant on you, and no one makes you continue living it. What’s with the rebellion? At some point, it’s time to grow up.

    *** That obedience is generally a good thing is no reason to cultivate extreme notions of obedience…if extreme notions of obedience are inherently immoral, they shouldn’t be advocated, period. ***

    Please point me to one of these “extreme notions of obedience” you seem to think infest this discussion. I haven’t noticed them.

  57. Vort, I suppose I should commend you on your candor re: “the so-called Mountain Meadows Massacre.” (It was a massacre. No “so-called” about it.) I will disagree completely that “Those who murdered at Mountain Meadows didn’t do so out of a feeling of obedience to authority. They murdered out of the rage of their hearts.” Sorry — no order from the stake president, no massacre. The citizens of Cedar City would absolutely not have gone out on their own to spontaneously lynch the settlers, as much as they hated them. Perhaps their conditioning and their privations weakened their souls to the point where they were not morally strong enough to resist an immoral order — something which even plenty of well-fed modern Americans are not capable of under the best of circumstances. But you simply can’t spin away the fact that Obedience, in that case, got innocent people killed.

    And of course it’s not just “one circumstance” where obedience led to evil. There’s only so much evil an individual can do on his own, after all. To really leverage your influence, you need collective action. If the person in charge is evil (or even misinformed), more damage will result the more the culture in which he acts exalts the principle of obedience.

    With the one exception of actual obedience to God — where obedience is the morally praiseworthy act of submitting your fallible will to the guidance of an infallibly good God — obedience is at best a morally neutral principle. It acts to multiply the force of either good or evil. Obedience to anyone but God has no intrinsic moral value.

    The problem with exalting the principle of obedience, without sufficiently examining it, is that in the vast majority of cases where it is demanded — that is, everywhere but in the vanishingly few cases, in the world’s history, where it was truly an authorized servant of the Almighty passing on a genuine revealed commandment from God — it is demanded without moral authority. The adherents of every purported divine mouthpiece advocate obedience; the result is often to influence the entire culture in favor of deferring to authority. And in the vast majority of cases, the unquestioning authority that is due only to God, ends up being wielded by men.

  58. #61 Thomas
    *** Obedience to anyone but God has no intrinsic moral value. ***

    Demonstrably false. A child should obey his parents; it is intrinsically immoral for him not to do so (unless, of course, he has adequate cause to disobey). Similarly, it is intrinsically immoral not to obey a police officer, a judge, or a duly authorized king without sufficient cause for disobedience. The very structure of our society, from the family upward, depends on obedience and submission to authority.

    Yet again, I ask you to give me a realistic situation, likely to be encountered, when our leaders tell us to do something and we are justified in telling them to take a hike.

  59. Our leaders said to vote a certain way on Prop 8.

    I am justified in telling them it is none of their business how I vote.

  60. #63 Heber13: Your leaders actually instructed you how to vote? They didn’t suggest or urge something, but told you “Go vote this way”? I have difficulty believing that, but if it were true, I would agree that you would be justified in telling them your vote is not their business.

  61. It is intrinsically immoral to disobey the law when the law is a just law — that is, when there is something about the law that gives it a claim on your allegiance. In America, that means that the law must be rooted in some useful sense in our own consent to be governed by it. The only other basis for a law’s just authority is its being rooted in God’s own law.

    I’ll give you that “a child should obey his parents” could be seen as inherently moral (although, strictly speaking, the morality of such obedience comes from the fact that per the Fifth Commandment, obedience to parents is obedience to God — qualified, of course, with the usual bits about lawful vs. unlawful orders).

    A law that has no basis in justice is no law at all. It is simply somebody trying to force me to comply with his will. If I have the power to resist, I am not only justified in resisting, but I believe I am morally obligated to do so. “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”

    “The very structure of our society, from the family upward, depends on obedience and submission to authority.” To a certain extent. Though it does not necessarily follow, that the more commands that are given and obeyed, the better a society is structured. To the contrary, I read Scripture as telling us that the closer we come to approximating the perfect Kingdom of God, the need to give and obey orders will pass away — because the law will be written in our hearts. (See Jeremiah 31:31-34.) And we won’t call and be called masters, because our only Master will be Christ. (Matthew 23:8-11.)

    In answer to your request for specifics: first, why do you ask? The question we’re hammering away at here is whether there is anything objectively moral or immoral about obeying orders given by Church leaders, when those orders do not actually reflect God’s will. I take your position to be that you are justified in refusing an order that conflicts with clearly-expressed general Church policy, such as a command to give yourself as a plural wife.

    What about a circumstance where a bishop calls a young returned missionary into his office and says “I don’t think you should marry that woman you’re dating.” A bishop may be entitled to give counsel in that area, which the young man is obligated to hearken to. But “hearken” means to give a fair hearing and earnest consideration, not necessarily to actually follow the counsel — and I’m not aware of anything that says that a bishop has the stewardship of actually giving orders in such matters. I believe a person who disregards “counsel” (as opposed to commandment), who hears the counsel out and takes responsibility for the consequences of disregarding it (thus relieving the appointed counselor from that burden), has satisfied his obligation to “hearken” to his leaders’ counsel.

  62. #65 Thomas: Thanks for a reasonable and more or less heat-free conversation.

    *** In answer to your request for specifics: first, why do you ask? The question we’re hammering away at here is whether there is anything objectively moral or immoral about obeying orders given by Church leaders, when those orders do not actually reflect God’s will. **

    I ask because I disbelieve the idea that as long as our leader’s request is not God’s will, we are justified in refusing him. If our leader’s request leads us to harm another or commit immorality, then we surely are justified at least in considering long and hard, and perhaps in openly defying him, as in your previous example of the so-called Mountain Meadows massacre. (It is indeed so called.)

    But what about when that is not the case? Are we then justified in disobedience? I say no. For example, let us suppose that the period of time in the mid-1980s when missionaries served 18 months rather than 24 months was not actually inspired of God, but was a scheme put into practice by Brother Kimball and his counselors as an experiment. Would a young man receiving a mission call at the time have been justified in saying, “No, I will refuse this mission call, because I don’t believe the current policy of time service is what Jesus would have done had he been physically present to run the Church”?

    I say no. That hypothetical young man would have refused a mission call from God, regardless of whether his leaders had guessed right about their attempted policy implementation. The 18-month mission was de facto a divine policy, regardless of whether or not God actually instructed Brother Kimball to implement it.

    In the same vein, when our local leaders ask something of us, I believe it is our duty to sustain them in their calling by giving them what they ask, unless there is darn good reason to disobey.

    *** What about a circumstance where a bishop calls a young returned missionary into his office and says “I don’t think you should marry that woman you’re dating.” A bishop may be entitled to give counsel in that area, which the young man is obligated to hearken to. But “hearken” means to give a fair hearing and earnest consideration, not necessarily to actually follow the counsel — and I’m not aware of anything that says that a bishop has the stewardship of actually giving orders in such matters. ***

    Then your example is not one of obedience, but of hearkening to counsel.

  63. we have wandered off the reservation. while the mmm stuff is interesting, it doesn’t really relate to hawkgrrrl’s post. if it does, can someone tie it back?

  64. OK, I promise to get back on topic, but that “so-called” is driving me crazy with curiosity. I mean, women and children wound up dead, and it doesn’t seem to have been because people accidentally hit them while shooting at people who needed to get shot. (Then we could call it “collateral damage,” and it might be acceptable.) What on God’s green earth else do you call it but a gen-u-wine massacree?

    Re: the mission call example, I guess you could interpret that as a case of a genuine divine command whose details were left to human minds to think of the best ways to implement it. If a Church leader has express divine authority to institute a program, then he has to be understood as having implied authority to flesh out its details. (That brings to mind the old Hamilton-Jefferson debate over whether Congress, which was authorized to “coin money and regulate the power thereof,” was authorized to implement that authority by chartering a national bank, under the “necessary and proper” clause.) And if the details can’t be severed from the overall program, such that you can’t reject the details without effectively rejecting the whole program — as in your mission example — then yes, disobedience to even less-effective or erroneous implementation details is effectively disobedience to God. Not, though, because obedience to those erroneous instructions has any moral value in itself, but because it causes disobedience to what truly is a divine command.

    The specific cases I have in mind, are those where Church leaders confuse their authority to give counsel with their authority to give orders.

  65. #69 Thomas
    *** The specific cases I have in mind, are those where Church leaders confuse their authority to give counsel with their authority to give orders. ***

    For example…?

    PS How do you add formatting?

  66. Thank you, Vort, but I didn’t write the tips: they’re printed out automatically by the wordpress theme. (Now if anybody wants to know how to put a line of FORTRAN code on a pubch card….)

  67. I’d just like to thank you for this post. During my experience of my Husband’s loss of faith, I’ve often felt very alone, especially in the idea that I want this marriage to work. I believe that I married ‘for better or for worse’ but often felt like I wasn’t supported in this notion- my only support has come from God. I just want you to know that this article is extremely important to people like me; people who want to find hope that we are not lost and our choices to continue in our marriages to our non believing spouses are good and right. 

  68. This is an answer to my prayers. My husband and I had an extremely rough morning over this exact thing. He has lost faith in the church. We don’t have children and I have felt so torn because I really want my kids to have a believing father with the priesthood. This helps me to understand that it can be ok, and that I don’t need to feel like I should rush out of the marriage. I can’t imagine my life without him. I also can’t imagine what the rest of my life will be like so alone in the gospel. It is going to be hard and completely different than I ever imagined, but I think I will survive with faith in the Lord. Thank you for this article. It helps me to not feel so alone. 

    1. Amanda- I would love to get  in contact with you. That is exactly what happened to me. It’s been a hard rode and still is but I think we can help each other in continuing to love our spouses the way our church teaches. You can email me at baileyb801@gmail.com, I think we may be an answer to each other’s prayers 🙂 

  69. Thank you so much for this article. I’ve never read those verses in Chapter 7 of Corinthians. I needed to hear them. My husband grew up in the church, served a faithful mission, we were married in the temple and he served faithfully in every calling he was given for 15 years of our marriage. Within the last year we moved across the country from all our family and then he told me he didn’t believe it anymore. He doesn’t even know if he believes in God. We have 4 children and I have been devastated. I’ve wrestled with all the issues you touch on. I’ve thought about divorce but cannot do that to my children. I’ve seen what it can do to kids first hand in my sister’s life. I worry about our family’s salvation all the time. 9 months has passed since he told me and I still can’t pray without crying most of the time. I’ve read a couple articles in the Ensign about getting through something like this but it’s still so raw for me, I’m just not at that place yet to consider this a blessing. I’m trying to make our marriage stronger in other ways but it’s hard. Hate creeps in for him. I think “Why would he be doing this to our family?”….”Why can’t he just TRY to believe?”….”Is he trying to hurt me on purpose?” As soon as those thoughts come to my mind, I try and push them away. I know that it’s Satan. This is the biggest test I’ve had in life so far and I will overcome it. I pray that he will go through life finding himself in situations that turn him back to the gospel and that his testimony will be stronger than ever. Until then I’ll keep praying and keep the faith no matter what.

  70. It is so surprising and comforting to hear my feelings echoed here. It has been a year and a half since my husband decided he didn’t believe in the church itself and it seems to have gradually graduallybecome a disbelief in God in general. I struggle with all these feelings above and want to make it work but I do find hate and resentment creeping in. I am sure that our life over the past year with the birth of a new baby with many medical issues has made the healing process harder than it would be otherwise. Thank you for this post and for the comments.

  71. I like this article. My husband and I are both in and out of activity in the church. Right now I’m currently more IN than he is. I want him to be happy. And I know that church is a real struggle for him. I know that he sort of hates it. He is going mostly to make me happy. I’m really very proud of his efforts to come.

    I recently started going back to school online at BYU-Idaho. I’m taking an Old Testament religion class and as I’m commenting and reading through, I’m feeling like 1) I don’t totally agree with all these comments, and 2) I’m learning more about the doctrine and the gospel than ever before. Which makes me excited. But then I feel guilty that I cannot share my insights with my husband without him feeling put off. I came across a section in the old testament about how Esau’s parents were upset that he married a Hivite(correct me if I’m wrong I don’t remember exactly all the details), and a person commented on how we are told not to marry outside of the covenant because it could lead us astray. I commented that I disagreed with only limiting ourselves to members. And that my husband isn’t all that active even though he was raised in the church. That lead me to another topic for the course, about putting God first. I feel conflicted about this. I want to put God first, but my inclination is to save my marriage if it comes down to that. (It’s not, we are doing really well actually).

    My question is how does one handle living with a spouse who doesn’t believe anymore? Or who may have never. I feel like in the past I’d try to force church upon him and that didn’t work very well. Let me tell ya. Don’t try that. It’s not a smart decision. I feel as I come closer to God, I become farther from my spouse. I feel a little confused. If anyone is going through something similar I’d love to hear what helps.

  72. This is a topic that I have really been struggling with. My husband and I have been married for 27 1/2 yrs. We married in the Temple——we had both been married to non-memebers, so we started our marriage with 2of mine, and two of his. He adopted mine, and we have had 7 more chuldren togther. The man I married was the most wonderul person. He knew he had screwed up his first marriage, and he told me a number of things he thoughta person should do to make a good marriage. He discovered it was not as easy to do those wonderful intentions, as he had thought it would be—-so he kind of gave up.We hav not had the easiest marriage, but We have also had times when I felt like our marriage was wonderful. Something changed in him about 9 yrs ago. He started using horrible language and saying awful thing to me. We moved during thi time. I rememeber him calling me an awful name–then as we sat in the Temple the next day for out daughter’s sealing–he turned to me and told me how ahsamed he was of what he had said to me. We have been through some real battles–but I rememeber seeing him in tears another time over something he had done or said tht was unkind to me. He got to a point of becoming physically abusive–it was not severe, and it did not last for a long time. He has also stopped using such foul language when he is angry at me, it is not gone, but used a lot less. He is no longer physically abusive an any way. We have trie dcounseling, we just didn’t have good counselors at our local church srvs. My husband has been inactive for at least 3 yrs now.We have a very difficult boy inour ward, and my husband didn’t deal with him very well on a camping trip. he felt horrible about it. The next day it was snowy, he was called in and released from his scout position. He was told the it probably looked like they were releasing him becaue of what happened over the weekend, but it didn’t. My husband was out shovelingwalks, and broke down into tears and went home. They wanted him to teach a class after that, and he asked if I could teach with him—I was willing to do it, even though I already played the piano in RS. The whole calling was handled poorly, and somewhat inappropriately–he was never given and answer, and we were in Sacrament meeting when they sustained a couple for the class they had asked him to teach–he was still waiting for an answer. He started coming onoy to sacrament meeting after that, then eventually onlu every other Sunday–if he didn’t work the day before. Eventually he quit coming all together. I know people makes mistakes and my husband makes his own choices as to whether or not what other people do willl affect his church activity. We have had a rough go of it for a number of years. We have finally found a counselor we both like—he said he would not go to a church counselor again–this guy is LDS, but he dos not work for the church. My husband has hashimoto’s, he givs himself a testosterone shot every week, and I am sure he is depressed. He gets anxiet before going back to work after the weekend. I feel there are some physical and mentalproblems coming into play here. Our counselor also feels my hubby is depressed—but I don’t think anyone right now could get him to treat his depression. so, our counseling is going slowly–but I am starting to get glimpses of the wonderful man I thought I married. I am also starting to see little atempts of him trying to treat me better. I have seen him at his best, and I still believe in him. I have realized it is possible he may never become active in the church again–although he still says he believes in the church,he doesn’t want anything to do with it. I am wondering if I am going to put my heart and soul into my marriage, to have a good marriage again—only to lose my husband in the end, because we were married in the Temple, and he was active for so many years, but got lost from the Gospel. The thought of this brings me to tears. I know the church wants us to work on our marriages, and they don’t want us to divorce, even if one member has goneinactive. Why would the Lord want me to work so hard to save a troubled marriage and do everything I can to make it a good marriage—only to separate me from the man I love when everything is said and done. I am really struggling with this isssue right now

  73. Divorce, or at least ‘separation’ may be needed for financial and safety reason if one spouse is abusive or adulterous, etc, even Christ’s disciples understood this. But according to Christ, there is no such thing as divorce or remarriage (Matt 19:9), except Christ said, in the case of engaged couples where one was found unfaithful (like Joseph thought Mary was), and that all marriages are eternal (if they are 1st marriages and both agreed to the marriage), no matter what religion people are or no religion at all. God created marriage and taught that all marriages last forever.

    Men have created laws and decrees that try to make it seem like marriage can be dissolved or people can be remarried to someone else or even things like polygamy, but God does not honor men’s laws for they are contrary to his laws on eternal 1x monogamy.

    Eventually all 1st marriages will be happy and eternal, for eventually everyone will repent and follow Christ’s teachings in the next life, thus why there is no such thing as divorce or remarriage or plural marriages. Unconditional true love to one spouse forever is what Christ came to reteach to men, though few are willing to do it.

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