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Faith in the Faithless

An anonymous reader writes:

I am dealing with a big problem and don’t know what to do. I have been a convert for 15 years. My husband joined 8 years later. My husband was just called as a ward missionary. He works late every day and doesn’t get home until 7:00 or 7:30 pm. He hasn’t been to church since being called. He is not able to function in this calling. I don’t know why he even accepted. He said to me last week that he has a hard time dealing with people going door to door.

I don’t know if I should call a member of the bishopric and tell them. I did explain to one of them that I didn’t think my husband could do that calling because of work hours. They said, “Don’t worry, it will work out.” I felt as if I had confided in the wrong brother. I know my husband too well. I cannot have him go inactive just because of a calling that is a bad fit. I have worked too hard. I came to church alone at times. He has supported me in all of my callings; but frankly, he feels he cannot do this.

We have been married for 19 years. We have two miracle sons ages nine and four. My nine-year-old is struggling as to why isn’t dad going to church and now he wants to stay home. We are sealed in the temple.

Sisters, I have prayed and prayed to Heavenly Father to help me keep strong during this time. Please tell me what I can do. Am I wrong to consider going to the bishopric, or should I stay out of it and watch him go inactive?

We have Family Home Evening and family prayers. He just won’t do that calling. I think that he will do better to have a Sunday calling. I just found out that I am ADHD/ADD myself which I had suspected for a long time. I am dealing with lots right now and don’t know where to turn. My nine-year old has ADHD/ADD as well. I have listened to the spirit (or I think I have) and that’s where the idea came from to speak to a member of the bishopric. I look forward to hearing from you.

Alana writes:

I am a 52 year-old sister whose husband of 32 years decided that being a member of the church is no longer his cup of “Kool-Aid” and decided to join another church that is rich in traditional ritual and the epicenter is in Rome. How am I supposed to cope?

We have no children who are at home anymore so no little ones are influenced by their father. Our grandchildren live in Utah with their parents, we live in Oregon. I love my husband, but I need some input on how to live day to day without wanting to scream, cry, and become depressed. I have been reading the scriptures, praying, seeking the counsel of our bishop and a counselor in our stake presidency, who also happens to be a friend. Although their advice is wonderful, I absolutely need a woman’s perspective on the situation.

I’ve been so emotionally distraught at times I can’t recognize answers to my prayers. Is there anything else that I can do to try to live with this? I have managed to keep this from my children; they would be just as devastated as I have been.

Kathy says:

Conflict resolution is the defining skill, art, and gift in any relationship. It is characteristic of anyone who has the maturity to sustain a relationship of any kind a long-term friend, a short-term business colleague, a bunk mate at camp, a missionary companion, or a spouse. Any two people who don’t have to negotiate conflicts of any kind are simply not in a relationship. (Dear Abby put it more strongly. She says a couple who has “never had an argument” contains at least one partner who has no brain.) A strong testimony is a very dearly held opinion. What if it is not held mutually? “Argument” is a loaded term for a discussion intended to manage a conflict. I think many of our sisters would be quick to say “We don’t argue. We discuss.”

What if it were not a topic as far-reaching as the testimony or commitment to church activity of a spouse? What if it were something simple such as “If you take the first shower, I have to have a cold shower every day. That doesn’t seem fair. Let’s alternate days, or maybe agree on a schedule that allows the water heater to warm up a new tank-full.” What would we think of a bunk mate who said, “Tough. First come, first served. I’m going to race you to the shower every morning, and if that’s a problem for you, I guess you have a problem, don’t you?” You would probably rather hear something like, “Hey, no problem. I’d really rather shower at night anyway. It’s restful for me.”

I think the point is, anything large or small can become divisive in a relationship, a family, or a marriage. Conflicts over money, for example, are blamed as the most common cause of marital discord. I think couples who find friendly solutions to financial decisions tend to be just like the bunkmates who find that there is, actually, enough hot water. It just takes a friendly discussion to find out how to spread it out so everyone is as comfortable as possible. The spouses just have to agree on a very basic level that they don’t want to be in a race with someone they love. One person is doomed to be the loser, and neither spouse will accept that outcome.

I think the huge things, such as eternal marriage and family bonds, are so overwhelming emotionally that couples forget the importance of applying the same conflict resolution skills. It is not a race for the hot water. It is an opportunity to guard the marriage and the family against division. Above all else, it needs to be not only a friendly discussion, but an affirmation of a relationship firmly based on mutual love. In extreme cases, part member couples have to be very courteous bunkmates indeed, to come up with friendly negotiations such as “I will not pressure you to drink with me if you will not pressure me to come to church with you.” Do you think our Father in Heaven would smile down upon a marriage such as that? I can tell you from direct personal observation that He can and does.

What if the test were not so much the trial of the inactive or apostate spouse’s faith as the trial of the other spouse’s loyalty and love? What if the sanctity of the love between partners turned out to be far more important eternally than the unfortunate choice of one partner to turn his back on the restored gospel and lead his children away from the light into darkness? Might the faithful spouse have influence far beyond her understanding, to save those children, if she would honor her commitment to love and support her spouse?

I hope I have not trivialized the pain of any dear sister who has found her vision for her family shattered into a million painful shards by the decision of her spouse to abandon his priesthood powers and responsibilities for some other course. There are few betrayals more agonizing. It is very clear that “forever families” who worship together and follow the prophet joyfully, united in purpose and devoted to each other and to their ward and stake callings, create a glowing core of strength. Their devotion brings power and leadership and shines exemplary light into their neighborhoods and communities and inspires all who know them to lead vibrant, productive lives. It is a personal tragedy to see that potential evaporating before your eyes. Please understand I am only asking if there might be other ways to view many of our tragedies.

I would encourage our first dear reader to go to her ordained leaders any time she needs to open her heart and share her most tender and troubling issues. I don’t think it is ever inappropriate to do so. I think she is concerned that there is something of a sense of doing this “behind her husband’s back.” I have no sense whatsoever that she is trying to exclude her husband from a discussion that should not take place without his knowledge. In our first bishops’ round table regarding callings, our Las Vegas bishop said it is always acceptable and encouraged to let the bishop know about constraints on our availability.

I would also hope our readers who have shared this trial will offer any comfort or solace they might have found through their experience. Thank you for entrusting this tender issue to the Circle of Sisters.

Jeannie says:

You are not alone. We have received several responses from sisters who are in your situation, either with husbands or children and you’re right, it is devastating.

To our first sister, my heart goes out to you in a very big way. Your husband seems to be a very good man wanting to accept the calling and be obedient. The perceived reality of what a ward missionary does has obviously intimidated him.

You know, it may be a very good thing for you to talk to your bishop. Stress the fact that you have worked very hard trying to teach your husband and help him stay active. The calling is scaring him to death and he’s seeking an escape route, totally understandable. Secondly, the bishop or person responsible for schooling your husband in his new calling should do just that. At the very least, your husband could then make an educated, prayerful decision and not be weighed down by the guilt of not fulfilling his calling. Sometimes, a bishop may extend a calling and assume that the person called is familiar with the responsibility and needs no briefing.

I just spoke with our ward mission leader and he said the program has changed drastically. No longer are ward missionaries encouraged to put in “at least 10 hours a week.” Their callings have been modified to resemble that of a home teacher with emphasis on fellowshipping and service. Absolutely no door-to-door! This fact reduces the stress factor of knocking on doors (which would intimidate anyone!!) by half, at least.

I also have family members who are dealing with ADD. There are many wonderful aids out there for children and adults with this diagnosis. I’m sure you are checking out all the school programs available as well as medical possibilities. Your family doctor can point you in the right direction if you haven’t already discussed this with him.

You are carrying a heavy load right now. Share your concerns with the bishop. You’ll be in my prayers. Please write back and let me know how things are going.

To the second sister: you must feel so very alone and as you’ve expressed, are probably questioning everything. The use of the word “epicenter” is totally appropriate in describing the emotional and spiritual earthquake you are experiencing.

You mentioned that you are actively attending the temple and have friends to stand by you, and our first sister stated in her original letter that hers is a close-knit ward. I’m sure there is great comfort in just being in a holy place and I know that in time, you will receive the strength and inspiration needed to weather this violent storm.

My husband counseled many people in his years as bishop. I took the liberty of asking him what advice he would give to someone in your position. He has had the experience of being raised in a part-member family. He has watched his mother’s actions for many years. His advice was to be as charitable to your husband as possible. Try to remind yourself of the good things, the positive things about his character. The Spirit planted in your husband’s heart through your love, could turn him to the truth once again. I thought this was good long-term advice and probably very similar to what your own bishop and stake counselor said. You do however, need something for the here and now pain of such a devastating decision. To be slashed to the marrow of your belief system is surely one of the most difficult challenges one can be called upon to endure.

Kathy mentioned that dialogue and compromise are two indispensable components of conflict resolution. Would you feel comfortable suggesting that you attend Mass with him and he attend sacrament meeting with you? This is obviously not a viable permanent solution, but might be regarded as a step in his direction. Perhaps, by his own comparative analysis, he would be able to sort out the confusion. If this is not an option, other areas of common ground will have to be cultivated to keep the chasm from growing. Satan will try mightily to make you aware of that chasm and will magnify every fault or shortcoming your husband may have. During these negative times, please evoke the powers of heaven through the priesthood. Ask your bishop for a blessing as often as you feel the need. Lean on the arm of your home teacher. Use and confide in your visiting teachers.

Lastly, you have been deeply hurt. It is essential that this hurt, anger, and frustration not be allowed to govern your agency. There are many effective tools from religious as well as secular resources, to help you cope, resolve and forgive. If you are interested, there is a list of very useful material that I would be happy to share with you.

The Lord is painfully aware of your situation, sisters. He really can make your present burden bearable just as He did with His spiritually and physically overtaxed children long ago. I sincerely hope that you both can make peace with your weighty challenges.

Alison says:

To our second sister, how sorry I am to hear the pain you are going through! I honestly cannot imagine what I would do or how I would react in a similar circumstance and I pray that I never have to find out. It is my prayer that your husband is merely on a temporary distraction and will soon turn back to the truth.

Last summer a dear friend of mine (who has five children, 11 and under) went through a similar situation. Because we were so close, I have gone through some of the pain with her as she has sorted through this situation. I have asked her if she is willing to share some insights with you and all our readers. Although this is still a relatively new and painful part of her life, she has allowed me to share some of her feelings, but has chosen to remain anonymous. She is showing such strength and integrity in dealing with a situation that would be devastating to any faithful member of the church! What an example she has been to me. Here is what she had to say:

I remember how much it hurt at first, and still does daily, that your husband suddenly doesn’t share the same sacred feelings and love of the gospel that you have. It really is a sacred bond between two people that I miss so much now that I don’t have it. I don’t have anyone to discuss sacrament meeting talks with, or share ideas or inspiration with, or just talk about the world and how it is from the same perspective.

I understand the hurt so well, but am far from finding a solution or any comfort in this situation. I am realizing that, in an odd way, this is good for me in that it is really forcing me to refocus my life in the gospel. I am trying to go back to the scriptures, daily, and pray more sincerely, and question my motives constantly. I talk to the kids more about the gospel and what it means in our lives. I guess, I am trying to not take it for granted. But still I am having a hard time, wondering if I really do feel the spirit, wanting bigger more profound answers to my prayers, waiting for something terrible to happen to [my husband] so he will finally wake up and realize what he is doing.

The pain does dull somewhat over time, though when you pause and think about it, like now, it all comes back and hurts that much more. The sister with grown children should at least take comfort that her kids are married and on their own. They are less dependent on their dad now as far as opinion and example go. In the end, we all have to decide for ourselves, and allow everyone else to do the same.

The I Have a Question column in the Ensign of April 1978, gave some wonderful advice from Phillip R. Kunz, professor of sociology at Brigham Young University. Here was the question: We married in the temple, but my husband is now inactive. I feel so frustrated by regret and conflicts that it makes our marriage very difficult. Can you help me?

Professor Kunz said that while each individual case is different, a working solution can be found within the following general principles:

  1. Seek the Lord’s help through fasting and prayer. “Your prayers can help, but they cannot ultimately alter his agency.”
  2. Counsel closely and consistently with your bishop.
  3. Do things with your husband as much as possible so that your relationship will continue to grow.
  4. Don’t quarrel, criticize, nag or reproach your husband. Be wise and flexible. Don’t undermine your husband with the children. One home teacher did much to build up an inactive father in the eyes of his children when he overlooked his smoking, Sunday sports, etc., and said, “You children should be really proud of your father. He has the best reputation in the whole country for never swearing.”
  5. When children wonder why they must attend church when their father doesn’t, you can do much to salvage the situation by truthfully explaining as much as he can understand. “Your dad is not yet ready to go to church with us.” It’s appropriate to discuss agency.
  6. In dealing with your own regrets, the “might-have-beens” and frustrated hopes, “remain assured that the prophets have said the Lord will not deprive you of any blessings if you are faithful, including, ultimately, the eternal blessings of Temple marriage.”
{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Reader Comment December 2, 2007, 1:07 pm

    Doris from Germany, writes:

    I only want to tell of my experience as a ward missionary. I can stress what Jeannie said: Since our calling last November no one expected us to knock on doors. We (my husband and me) were only asked a few times to accompany the missionaries while teaching some people and now we are helping to teach a young Turkish sister who joined the church. We are going there once a week (maximum)and we have much less to do and need less time than in any other calling we had before.

    I do hope that this brother loses his fear of this calling. (I wouldn’t love to knock on doors either, but I love to see how the life of this young, divorced, mistreated sister is changing, how hope and joy have come into her life, as she learns from the gospel and loses her depression).

    It takes me too much time to read all you write but I’m very impressed what you are doing for many others.

    I hope you are all well and send you my love and best wishes from Germany Mannheim stake.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 2, 2007, 1:07 pm

    For what it’s worth, Doris, it takes too muc time to write it as well!

  • Reader Comment December 2, 2007, 1:08 pm

    K.A. writes:

    I’m married to a non-practicing Mormon. He still respects the Church and its teachings; unlike so many, he did not tear down the church, blaming it for his shortcomings. He knows what’s necessary, but he remains unsure of himself.

    I have spent many years fighting and being “right.” My husband has taught me so much about suspending my misgivings, giving God the benefit of the doubt, so to speak. Currently, I am interested in learning, etc. Please tell me about your group.

  • klgreen1 December 2, 2007, 1:09 pm

    Marriage to a less active member poses a number of interesting challenges that are mostly a matter of expectations. If your parents marriage was very friendly and social, you probably expected to have lots of good times with other LDS couples, maybe hosting a study group, probably attending all or most of the Elder’s Quorum parties and later, those of the High Priests. [Editor’s Note: AKA “the old guys.”] You probably assumed Family Nights would be a given, with automatic scripture study and family prayer in your home. You possibly didn’t expect to have to defend the observance of the Sabbath in your home, or to have to coax your spouse away from inappropriate TV or movies. Surely you assumed he would not involve your sons in darksome entertainment that took them away from church activities or conflicted with priesthood responsibilities. It becomes a really rigorous exercise in tolerance for the active member and the less active spouse alike, not to judge or to feel hostility. Unless the couple stays very deliberately loyal and vigilant, their lives will grow further and further apart as their social activities take them in opposite directions, with family life split down the middle, and the kids growing more and sorrowful, angry and confused.

    I think you and your hubby have done a better job than many couples with these challenges. As you continue to read the responses, you will see that our regular writers have a breadth and depth of academic and spiritual background to offer. I hope you will read often.

  • Reader Comment December 2, 2007, 1:12 pm

    Melanie from Oregon, writes:

    First of all, I don’t think any of the spouses spoken of in this discussion are “faithless.” They all seem to be, in some fashion, trying to increase their faith. Although they may be somewhat misguided in their attempts, at least they are striving. I say to all of these sisters, please do not write your husbands off. And above all, don’t panic. Panic, anxiety, and fear are not a part of faith.

    My husband and I were married 4 years ago. When we met it was something at first sight. I’m not sure what that something was, but it was definitely something. Now it has blossomed into love, compassion, passion, commitment, desire, endurance, balance, and excitement, and it is always an adventure.

    My husband asked me to marry him, in a sort of round about way, the night we met. Something like, “Do you think you would ever want to marry a man like me?” My response was, “Not tonight.” We were married five weeks later and have never looked back.

    At the time we met we were both 41 years old. He had been active in the Church for about six months after some 20 years of inactivity that began shortly after he was baptized as a convert to the church. I was born and raised in the Church and had been active my whole life. He was recently divorced. I had never been married.

    Since we couldn’t really say we “knew” each other well when we met, it was an interesting first year. Actually, they’ve all been rather interesting, and I hope they continue to be such. One of the things I discovered as we got to know each other was that his “testimony” was not as I thought the man I would eventually marry would have. He had questions, problems with, and reservations about many of the Church doctrines and much of its history. It is not an extensive list but there are serious issues involved.

    We were not married in the temple. He simply was not ready for that. I have not regretted a moment of our experiences together. My faith and my belief are stronger than ever and I have every assurance that, at some point, we will be sealed together for eternity.

    I mention all of the above only to let you know I can relate to the women who have written their stories here. I have had moments of frustration, discouragement, sorrow, and my own “faithlessness.” Here are some things I have learned in my quest to help my husband come to a better understanding of the gospel.

    • Don’t over react. This is life. As my stepfather likes to say, “It’s all part of life’s rich pageantry!” We are all here to work out our own salvation. God is in the mix. All will be well.
    • Never nag, never accuse, never degrade, never belittle another’s professed beliefs, even if you know that they know what they are professing to believe is not correct. And maybe they really don’t know it’s not correct.
    • Pray always and be believing and all things shall work together for your good. Pray for divine influence and help. Pray for the Holy Ghost to touch your husband’s heart. Pray for patience and guidance and understanding. Pray for your own increased faith. Pray for and about everything. And don’t forget that other thing, the “be believing” thing. The very essence of faith is believing the promises we have been given and acting accordingly.
    • No matter what, never give up on the idea of a celestial marriage. Keep working to that end. Even when you are feeling like you are the only one trying to get there. Treat your marriage as though it is already celestial.
    • Communicate as openly and honestly as you can with your self and others. Find ways and moments when you can ask them why. Ask with interest and intent and truly wanting to understand because you love them and care for them and are interested in what they think and how they feel.
    • Remember that maybe the problem isn’t their testimony or their faithfulness. If we ask and listen, searching for understanding, we just might get answers we never imagined. And when we get those answers, we can better direct our actions.
    • Remember, you cannot control another human being. You can encourage, influence, love, pray for and about, plead, beg, cry, etc. But you cannot control anyone’s life/actions but your own. Their choices are theirs.
    • Teach the gospel by living the gospel. Pray every day, study the scriptures every day, do acts of service for others every day, strive to be temple worthy every day. Let your husbands see you doing these things. We best teach and convert by example.
    • Keep doing what you have always done. Go to church, attend the temple, do your visiting teaching, pay your tithing, work at the cannery, feed the dog, take the kids to school. Let him know through your actions, that your testimony is strong and that you are continuing down the path.
    • Know that there is always a plan. It is God’s plan. It is perfect and beautiful and endless. There are promises and covenants in place and the blessings will flow. Another’s actions and choices cannot take away your blessings. Keep in mind that maybe, just maybe, you are married to this person because you are the one who can convince or convert or love this person enough to never give up.

    I hope these thoughts help others down (or is that up?) the path to eternal life. It’s what everything is all about. Helping each other to get there!

    God’s blessings to all.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 2, 2007, 1:13 pm

    Melanie, thanks for taking the time to add your perspective. Every situation is unique and can add helpful insights.

    Before my husband and I were even engaged I had made it clear that I wasn’t going to drop out of college myself to support a student-husband (as so many guys, inexplicably, expected me to do), that “I would have two children if I liked the first one a lot,” and that I would “never, ever stay home with kids to cook and clean and do menial labor.”

    On the first issue I was steadfast, but part-way into my first pregnancy I had a true spiritual conversion to the importance of not just birthing, but raising my own children. (And, as my bio attests, I apparently liked “the first one” more than I ever imagined.) But how in the world would I tell my husband that I had decided, unilaterally, to change our whole life and lifestyle?

    Tearfully, after school one day, I told him that I felt I needed to stay home after our first baby was born. I held my breath, realizing that it wasn’t fair to make a decision that was so contrary to what I had represented, and realizing that if he were the one turning my life and expectations upside down I probably wouldn’t have the most exemplary reaction

    “Well, honey,” my husband said softly, “If that’s what you feel you should do, then I will support you.”

    Fortunately, my husband realized that this drastic change would benefit us all. Had he not, however, I could not have blamed him for being ambivalent about my changing the terms of the deal midstream.

    There is, I believe, a huge qualitative difference between choosing to marry outside the temple, and then dealing with the (perhaps eternal) ramifications of that decision, and marrying inside the temple and having one spouse turn his or her back on the covenants and promises that are associated with those sacred vows.

    Marriage is full of commitments: lifestyle commitments, family commitments, sexual commitments, spiritual commitments, support commitments, love commitments. And when one chooses to marry in the temple there are myriad explicit and implicit commitments that are given to the other. Commitments about the focus and purpose of life; commitments about how to raise a family; commitments about the eternal nature of the relationship.

    When a couple has made those promises, and one person later reneges, it is definitely faithlessness. Or perhaps “faithfullessness.” They are cheating on spiritual matters. The person is not just turning from the gospel, he or she is also turning from all the covenants and promises made to their spouse on their wedding day. And while one person cannot hold back another person in their spiritual progress, they can easily break the covenantal vow to share that journey side by side.

  • klgreen1 December 2, 2007, 1:14 pm

    Melanie, way to get us all back on track! “Faithless” is a strong word. We were going for the notion that faith sometimes comes and goes, and it can be helpful to have a constant, reliable spouse to trade off with when we are tired or wandering a bit. I ?m sure that one of the reasons eternal marriage is the program of the highest degree of glory is the efficacy of the buddy system. Your sweetie is a very lucky guy. I ?m sure he appreciates your loyalty and unwavering friendship.

  • klgreen1 December 2, 2007, 1:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing this miraculous experience with us. Your focus is completely outward now, toward your husband and daughter but meanwhile, let us keep you afloat with our fasts and prayers. Don’t be afraid to “fall apart” yourself, Alana. You’ll be fine you won’t “lose it” if you come home and cry yourself sick one day. You will absolutely need to do that once or twice. The Comforter will be there with you and it will be for the best. Just the right amount of emotional and spiritual release and exactly the right amount of courage, faith and stoicism. You have been given strong confidence in the reality of the resurrection and the eternal nature of your family members. You will never again be as vulnerable.

    Nevertheless, you have a virtually impossible burden of change and pain to process. Don’t be too harsh with yourself. You need love and comfort too. I’m sure your ward members are taking good care of you. Let them. They love to do it. The Savior also loves to do it, and is very good at it. I would say it might be fair to state that loving, teaching and comforting His flock are His favorite things. Allow Him that hard-won privilege. He would not have volunteered to be spiked onto a plank if He did not truly, truly want to save you. Not only from death, but from any pain that becomes “too much.” I know you will sense this.

    Thank you again for trusting the readership of Circle of Sisters with this experience.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 2, 2007, 1:18 pm

    For the sake of doctrinal clarity, let me mention that LDS doctrine does not and cannont impose itself on an unwilling party. Just as those who are baptized for the dead are given the choice to accept the ordinance, each living soul can choose to accept or reject the restored gospel. Burial clothes notwithstanding, moral agency is a gift God has given to all.

  • Reader Comment December 2, 2007, 1:19 pm

    An anonymous sister writes:

    Alana,

    As your family has been through a traumatic experience one can certainly appreciate your point of view. I was in a similar situation not too long ago. I thought that my husband having testicular cancer would bring him around. At the time he seemed grateful for all the attention and prayers, fasting, etc. But to be honest, five years later we are still having the same disagreements over the Church and the examples, set in differing ways, have had a definite impact on my children. Were you married in the temple?

    We were sealed three years after our marriage but he has never got up to speed. Eternal marriage can only be with two people committed to the covenants made in the temple. I have a cousin who’s husband thinks he wants to be a practicing Jew. They were also married in the temple. I feel that a man must stand by his family and not by his passing whims.

    I hope your situation works out better. I pray that it will.

  • klgreen1 December 2, 2007, 1:20 pm

    Dear Readers and Friends,

    Many of you might have sensed that there would be sisters in our readership who were stinging inside and smiling on the outside, striving to overcome desperate pain from intimate experiences associated with this topic. Jeannie’s husband’s first comment, based on his many years of leadership, was “What is the rest of the story?”

    Most inactivity or apostasy is related to “the rest of the story,” either as a cause or an effect, and several of you have written to express your private experiences with this sort of challenge and have asked to remain unpublished.

    Beloved sisters, we are married to mortals, and subject to all sorts of crazy behaviors attributable to our human state. Please remember that you are not as much “alone” as you might suppose. Please find a member of the bishopric or the stake presidency whom you know you can go to with your agony. Maybe it isn’t the bishop, but don’t stop there if you cannot seek blessings at his hands. Find a home teacher, a High Priest, a trusted family member, anybody whom you love and admire, and receive priesthood blessings, guidance, and support. That is why our Savior has granted us the glorious gift of the restoration. The healing power of the priesthood is ours for the asking. Thanks to those who read our reader’s stories, and who commented or shared your own.

  • davidson December 4, 2007, 2:05 pm

    Dear “Anonymous Reader” and Alana, I want to speak directly to you. If I were there with you, I’d put my arms around you and we’d have a good cry together. That’s necessary, you know. You are grieving the death of some of your dreams. There are steps in the grieving process, the first of which is to acknowledge your loss instead of trying to shove it under a rug. Things shoved under a rug keep resurfacing. If you want to move on, acknowledgement of your loss is necessary.

    I think the next necessary thing is to establish a plan. Before you can create a plan, you need to make a list of ALL your options, (not just the pleasant ones), and it would help you to see your progress if you wrote it down. Don’t exclude anything. I offer this hesitantly, because it sounds to me like you are both intent on staying with your husbands, and I know you have approached this prayerfully. I was married when I was eighteen to a warm and loving young man who was trying to get active in the Church again. He told me if I would marry him, he would take me to the temple in a year. I married him believing that. The year came and went, and his old temptations got the best of him. He had drug and alcohol problems, and often the door would slam shut and he would be gone for days. I never knew where he was or whom he was with. I had a premature baby by that time, and she wasn’t even supposed to leave the house, so my going to work wasn’t an option. We had no income. It was a dark time.

    I didn’t believe in divorce, because the Church didn’t believe in divorce. I intended to stick it out. Until my bishop finally, kindly told me that it was time to get a divorce–MY BISHOP! After praying about it and feeling that’s what Heavenly Father thought, too, I started divorce proceedings, but I didn’t want to, and I cried for months on end. My husband cried, too, and I gave him second and third and fourth chances, but he finally proved that he just couldn’t maintain change. I kept asking myself, “Is a bad father better than no father at all?” It is hard to be the Nephi or the Abraham commanded to kill when the rest of the world is commanded “Thou shalt not kill.” Hard to be the exception. I didn’t want to be the exception.

    My ex-husband is still wandering, still drifting. He did marry and have one child, but he is still outside of the Church. My husband adopted my little girl from my first marriage, and we had her sealed to us. We have since had eight other children. I wonder. If I had stayed married to my first husband, I either wouldn’t have the other eight, or I would have children that may not have been raised in the cradle of the gospel. They would have had children. Who knows how far-reaching the ripples would be? I sincerely believe that our posterity will multiply into the thousands in the space of not many generations. I wonder what they will be like? Maybe that is why the Lord would tell me to leave a marriage when I didn’t want to–to save generations.

    The scriptures must speak to such a wide variety of people and situations. I am going to offer you two that seem to oppose each other, but I think it is wonderful evidence that the scriptures provide answers for a wide variety of problems, and it is up to us to determine which applications are necessary to our particular situations.

    The Prince of Peace! said, in Matthew 10:34-39, said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother (or spouse?) more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

    But in 1 Corinthians 7: 10, 13-17) it says, “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 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. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us in peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? BUT AS GOD HATH DISTRIBUTED TO EVERY MAN, AS THE LORD HATH CALLED EVERY ONE, SO LET HIM WALK.”

    I also had the extremely interesting experience of being the child in a situation similar to yours. My dad is not a member of the Church, nor does he want to be. Neither is he active in the Catholic Church in which he was raised, and he has some pretty bitter feelings toward organized religion, but he loves, believes in, and prays to God.

    I have a suggestion for you. If you are going to stay with your husband, really stay with him! Love him openly and incessantly. Show him that you approve of him and every effort he makes to be faithful. Show him in word and deed what you love about the Church and its teachings and practices and people. Be thou an example of the believers. Don’t give in to the progress-killing temptation to argue or condemn. Be cheerful and steadfast in the truth. You will have to be the strong one. Why? Because you are the one hoping for change. I believe with all my heart that two people can do anything, if one of them is God. Widen your wedding to three. Let your third marriage partner be the one you turn to and lean on while you strengthen the weak partner in his fleeing faith. The way you treat him could decide everything.

    My mother was angry and bitter toward my dad. I’m surprised they stayed together. If they stayed together, it was because of him; he was the one living the gospel, the nonmember, forgiving and hoping and trying to make things better. She wouldn’t allow him to call on people to pray in their home; since she was the “member”, she insisted on handling that. (He would have done it if she had allowed him.) If, on occasion, he said Catholic grace on the food, she took each of us children aside and said how much she hated that. I loved it! Evidence of faith in my father. But she discouraged it. Worse, she discouraged him.

    The missionaries or the home teachers represented to me trouble in a black suit and tie. My dad threw them out on many occasions when they tried to preach religion, and after they left, the shouting and hurting and hating would begin. That was horrible for a child to experience. My son is serving a mission because I know it is the right thing to do, but it took years for me to overcome the feeling I had toward missionaries.

    The Lord has told me over the years, when I pray about what to do with my father, to just love him, as completely and as thoroughly as I can. No other direction. Wait and hope and pray and LOVE HIM. That has been a real blessing. I am very close to him. He responds well to that. Our relationship is strong and sweet. I trust the Lord will take care of the other details.

    I am thankful for every little evidence of progress. I never thought it would happen! After decades of waiting, he now attends Church every Sunday with my mother, something I wanted so much when I was a child. She was blessed with an illness that makes it impossible for her to be alone, and he faithfully steps up to bat. Because she shakes so much from her Parkinson’s disease, he holds the Sacrament cup to her lips so she can renew her covenant. Her illness is refining both of them. He still says he will never join the Church, but I have noticed that he rarely bashes members or our Church anymore. I am grateful for every little step. God is at the helm.

    You have my love and my prayers, ladies. Alana, I pray for your husband and daughter, too. I hope you all make it through this difficult time. Please let us know how it goes. My heart aches for you.

  • spitfire71 December 4, 2007, 9:03 pm

    Although I post here with some regularity, I signed on with a new username out of respect for my dh (just in case someone at some point finds out who I am).

    My dh and I were married in the temple several years ago. About four years ago, I started finding anti-mormon articles saved on the computer and print-outs in his bedside table. He became cold in regards to the church. In concern for social repercussions, he wanted to continue attending church periodically, but had no testimony, refused to hold a calling and had a lot of anger. Things worsened over a year or so, he became very arrogant and was flat out mean to me. He lied to me about having paid our tithing for the year and told me that he would allow me to teach our children of God (when we had them), but as far as he was concerned, it was like teaching them of Santa Claus. He considered members of the church to be weak and unintelligent for believing the Gospel. I was heartbroken and angry. I also panicked and didn ?t handle the situation well. I became scared and despite doing the best I knew at the time, I allowed things to escalate.

    There is always the rest of the story ?, and that was true in our case. It had to do with his family. His father has been inactive for years and often makes fun of his mother when she does actually manage to get to church (although he goes occasionally himself to keep up appearances ?). Dh started sneaking around behind my back to have discussions with his father and flat out told me that his loyalty was with his parents, not me. Nearly every argument he would tell me I should just divorce him.

    I started meeting with the Bishop periodically as I was confused, distraught and didn ?t want to involve my family. His support, guidance and blessings were invaluable during this time. I won ?t go into details but things eventually came to a head and in the Bishop ?s presence, dh made it clear he had no intention of changing his behavior although he was aware as a result I would divorce him.

    So I did. Or at least I started proceedings. We didn ?t have children, so the decision was less complicated for me than it could have been. Soon after he had a change of heart, and the Spirit was very clear that I should attempt reconciliation. After much counseling things changed dramatically. His loyalty lies first and foremost with me, not with his father which alone has caused a significant change. I stopped pressuring him about church and now he attends church with me every Sunday and holds a calling. We are closer than we have ever been and I am very happy in my marriage. Our old Bishop moved out of town shortly after dh and I reconciled, and for a year or two called me periodically for updates. He continued to be amazed at the change as he seemed convinced at the time of our separation that the marriage was irretrievable. Recently, my new Bishop asked me how dh ?s testimony was going. I told him I didn ?t know. What I do know is that I am married to a good man, a good father who no longer is verbally abusive towards me b/c of my beliefs. He, as far as I am aware, no longer frequents anti-mormon websites. He holds a calling, gives me blessings when needed, pays tithing and kneels to pray with me every night. Now 4 years later, I don ?t know that he will ever have a significant testimony. But I can live with that. I am now aware I can be happy in my marriage even if that never happens, because I know that I am married to a good man and I am doing my best to follow the will of the Lord in my life. I have to believe the rest will be sorted out.

    So to anon I don ?t know whether or not your Bishop will change your dh ?s calling. But if you feel inclined to speak with him ? you may find an ally and support as I did.

    Alana I hope your dh and daughter continue to improve

    Melanie– thank you for the list of things you have learned. They are similar to some I have learned and I appreciated the reminder.

    Alison– thank you for posting the “I Have a Question” reponse, I found it helpful and comforting.

    To all the other women. I am sorry you find yourself in a similar situation. Dealing with an inactive/apostate spouse was not something that I ever imagined would be mine to struggle through ? and was much, much, more difficult than I ever dreamed it could be. There is always hope.

    You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • davidson December 5, 2007, 10:02 am

    As you are in ours, Spitfire71. What a beautiful example of living the gospel. If you don’t mind my asking, do you know what caused the significant change in attitude in your husband? That is the heart change I am hoping for in my father. I used to hate to hear stories about miracles in other people’s situations that were close to mine, but not now. Now I am so grateful that others can have miracles in their lives! It gives me hope.

  • Reader Comment December 2, 2007, 1:06 pm

    Alana writes:

    Dear Kathy, Jeannie, and Alison:

    I have to tell you that the difficulties between my husband and myself mean nothing anymore. He and our daughter were nearly killed on Saturday the 18th of May. They were on a motorcycle going to the Rhody Festival in Florence, Oregon, and had only gotten a few miles from home when a car crossed the double center line and hit them. Mike tried to avoid the impact, but he couldn’t. They both sustained injuries on the left side of their bodies and multiple breaks and fractures from shoulder to toes. Mike’s were life threatening; he nearly bled to death. Kimberly’s were not life threatening, but severe. Both had a chance of losing their left legs. Mike was airlifted to Portland, while Kim is staying in Eugene. There will be multiple surgeries for both of them, and months, if not a couple of years, of rehabilitation. Both are prone to infections which could ultimately be life threatening, but so far, no infections have been evident. Both of them were administered to in the hospital. Mike was coherent enough to acknowledge the blessing by saying “Amen” at the end. I’m torn between two hospitals, 140 miles apart, two loved ones suffering, but in God’s hands.

    Ask me now about his wanting to be a Catholic I don’t mind. I only want him to be with me. All of it seems so small now, yet I know it wasn’t. God is in complete control of this, and I plan on making the rest of my husband’s life as good as possible. Yes, it may hurt that he doesn’t want to be Mormon, yet this experience may help him return to the Church.

    In the grand scheme of things right now, I’m just glad God spared him and our daughter, and although life will be different for both of us, I have promised my Heavenly Father and my husband (when he was conscious) that I will be with him forever, no matter what. I will never leave the Church, but if he wants to continue in the Catholic church after he recovers, I won’t stop him. I won’t cry in front of him, I won’t be mean or sarcastic. Life is too short.

    If you want to publish this in the Circle of Sisters, feel free. I give my permission and you can even use my name if you want to. I want to tell you how much your support and love have meant to me. I am thankful for friends like you to have helped me through a difficult situation. God bless and keep in touch.

  • Reader Comment December 2, 2007, 1:16 pm

    Alana writes:

    I wanted to give you an update. Mike actually did die on the helicopter going to Portland. He was shocked, and brought back to life by wonderful trauma doctors on the helicopter. He is literally broken from his nose to his toes…all left side. The last of his urgent surgeries will be next week, but it is definitely not the last of the surgeries he will need a little further down the line. The doctors are amazed at his progress (I’m not, it’s priesthood power). The surgeries they were expecting to do next week were actually done this week. He is still prone to infection, he may still lose his leg, but only if an infection overtakes it. He is diabetic and it plays a huge part in the recovery of his leg. He has been pieced back together and he looks better each day. He is still heavily sedated and will remain so for about 5 more days when he will slowly be weaned off of the sedative. He will experience a great deal of pain ?for a very long time. I am praying he won’t become addicted to the meds, but that truly is the least of all our worries right now.

    Our daughter is doing better. She too will be recovering for a very long time. Although her injuries were not life threatening, she is one broken little woman. Her arm, elbow and leg are shattered. We are truly grateful that God watched over them at the time of the accident. An off duty EMT saw the accident in his rearview mirror and turned his car around and helped Mike & Kimi immediately. He saved Mike ?s life on the side of the road; he was bleeding to death (which he did on the helicopter!) and there were 3 INET (drug officers) on their way to a case, who witnessed the accident. They subdued the man who hit them and actually had to arrest him.

    God was truly watching over them. He protected them from spinal cord injury, head injury, neck injury and internal injury. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for his undying love and protection for my family and for me.

    I am home for a few hours to get some things done and then I’m back on the road to Portland after I see our daughter. An update is as follows: Kimi is going to be released to a rehab center for about a month, and then maybe back to the hospital for more intense rehab. In the meantime she can’t be left alone since all she can really maneuver is her right side.

    Her left arm and leg are in casts so she can’t use them yet. She is able to sit in a wheelchair ?which is a blessing!!! Mike is not doing so well this week. There are some setbacks, but that is all they are: temporary setbacks. The happiest part of this week up in Portland has been that I found a quarter on the ground and said “Thank you Heavenly Father ?I needed that!” Kind of silly I know, but I had nothing but bad news for two days, (mostly from the financial end of things) and finding that quarter was providence! I was truly thankful. Mike developed a tremendous pus pocket in his thigh. It burst and of course contaminated the surrounding tissue. The hope was that he would only need to have his hip surgery this week, and then he’d be done for a while; but it was not meant to be. He will now have a portion of his thigh bone removed and a portion of his shin removed to replace the high portion. Sort of a bone exchange. He will additionally have a rod placed in his thigh on a temporary basis so the bone can regenerate and heal, then in about six months have the rod removed and replaced with a permanent rod.

    Now if there are no further problems with infection, then he should be ok. He definitely will be a non-working person for a very long time.Our Ward family has been truly wonderful. I have asked them all to wait for a bit to give me their help because I will need it more than ever later on down the line. So to help my ward family, the bishop has asked that this Fast Sunday be a special fast for our family. The bishop let me stand and report for about five minutes before the sacrament last Sunday to give an update ?and I plan to do it again this Sunday, then head up to Portland immediately after I bear my testimony and update. The one realization through all of this has been that this is one heck of a test that Heavenly Father has presented us and by golly I plan on passing it! You’d think I’d have a whole bunch of time to just sit and read the scriptures, but I find that to really contemplate and read them I have to leave the busy ICU waiting room and also his room. Too much going on all the time. So I go to the parking garage for a bit, here and there and sit in the car and read my scriptures.

    I’m also reading The Work and the Glory, Prelude to Glory, and Children of the Promise series, and I happen to have just finished a couple of the volumes I was in the middle of and started to read the next volume. At least with those I don’t have to sit and pray about what I read, so there is not a lot of meditation and contemplation going on with those. Of course during this time of physical healing I am praying hard each and every day that Mike will return to Church after all this has passed.

    I have to admit that I have been less than nice to those who have presented themselves from St. Mary’s Catholic Church. (I’ve not been a good representative of our Church and boy did I repent afterwards, couldn’t apologize because I don’t remember who those people were, but hope they realize that I have been under a tremendous amount of strain.) They always manage to show up at the wrong time, but I also wonder if there will ever be a right time when it comes to them. Everything is still too close to the surface concerning Mike leaving the Church, and then to have this accident. Although I will definitely still hurt if he decides to return to St. Mary’s, I will not make his life miserable concerning it, I do not support his decision, but I support my husband and love him. It is just so hard to be accepting of this but, in the grand scheme of things, I’ll get him in the end! If he dies before me, he is gonna be buried in temple burial clothes and only family and LDS will be at the service! Am I being mean? I hope not. I love him and want him with me eternally so I believe I am looking out for his spiritual welfare!

    I just don’t want to revert to arguing over the petty things in life. It just isn’t worth the unhappiness. Life is tough enough.

    Of course with all this upheaval going on between India and Pakistan, they just may blow up the world and then we won’t have to worry about any of this! I’m terrified because so much has not come to pass yet and I think of this horrible conflict going on that threatens the very existence of the human species. I pray that God will help them find a way to settle this argument without devastation.

    Well my dears, I want to again thank you for your love and support. I will keep you updated. Any part of my letters can be published in the Circle of Sisters column, if you feel it appropriate. I don’t know if I can help anyone else going through a similar situation, but if I can, then let me know.

    With love!

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