Natasha from Utah, writes:
I am in need of talking to fellow LDS women who are or have been in my situation. I am 27 years old and have been dating a young man for the past year. He is the most wonderful person I have ever met and is my best friend in every way. We love each other immensely. The problem is that he no longer attends church.
About three years ago (long before we met) he decided that he did not believe that the church is the only true church and no longer wanted to be a hypocrite by practicing. He still lives a life pretty much consistent with LDS values and is very close to his family, who are all active in the church. The ironic part is that he is one of the most Christ-like men I have ever met, yet he is not sure who Christ was and is.
Some people that I talk with seem to see this issue in black and white, like the fact that he cannot take me to the temple should make my decision very clear. However, it is not. I have had two other serious relationships in the past, both of which were with “good LDS men” and I was not treated as a daughter of God. In my dating experiences with LDS men, I have been told (both implicitly and explicitly) that my social and political views, education, and interests do not make me good “LDS wife material,” whatever that means. Other than my dad, the man I am dating is the only guy who has completely loved and accepted me for the person that I am. When I am with him, I feel that I have come home.
I have a strong belief and love for my Savior and his atoning sacrifice. I also love my family very much and do not want to disappoint them, nor do I want to feel that I am without faith if I do marry this man. Has anybody been in this situation? Does anybody understand what I am going through? How did you handle it? Thanks for your help.
I may be reading between the lines but, faith aside, women often go into a marriage thinking they can change their husband, whether it’s bringing him back to church, getting him to exercise on a regular basis, or limit watching sports on TV. The truth is no one can change another person. You can only change yourself. How many brothers or sisters marry outside the church or to inactive spouses so certain things will change? I would guess there are more who do not change than those who do.
The “good LDS men” who said you were not “good LDS wife material” taught you that they weren’t the kind of LDS men you wanted to marry! Is there some kind of secret questionnaire that determines if we are “good LDS wife material?” I don’t think so. It sounds like some judging was going on there. I’m sure the Lord would not excuse such comments without sincere repentance.
Can you project into the future knowing you would be content attending church each Sunday without your husband by your side, or fulfill a demanding church calling without the support of your husband, or risk the possibility that your children will decide the church is not for them? Marry your best friend.
However, if I might caution you, marriage is wonderful, challenging, and teaches one many things through experiences shared with the spouse. One very important ingredient, however, is a similar belief that keeps you on track to attain life-long and eternal goals.
This is difficult. I would admonish you to turn to the Lord in prayer with an open heart and mind and to listen to His advice.
Natasha, I’m so glad you wrote. This is truly a weighty decision for you, one you are obviously, and naturally, struggling with. You alone can make this decision, but the input of others may help guide you in making that decision.
More than 10 years ago I was in a similar situation, except that the person I was dating was not a member of the Church, and I dated him for only a short period of time. He was a wonderful, Christ-like person in every way. Eventually I came to realize that he had no interest in the Church, and that he would probably never become a member of our church. Eventually he broke off the relationship with me, and I cried buckets of tears for a long time. It was a wonderful relationship, similar to the one you describe, and I was terribly hurt afterwards. Because he ended the relationship after a short period, I didn’t have to make the decision you have to make. I have occasionally reflected on what might have happened. In retrospect, despite my hurt feelings at the time (which I have since gotten over) I have been blessed by not marrying him, because any children probably would not have been raised in the Church.
That would have been unacceptable to me. I personally could tolerate a Christ-like nonmember spouse, but when the responsibility for teaching gospel principles to children comes up, the issue becomes unpredictable and therefore intolerable.
Probably the most important thing for you to reflect on is that if you decide to marry this individual, what religion would your children be taught in the home? Is this young man willing to agree to allow your children to be raised according to the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ? (Baptism, keeping the Sabbath day holy, Word of Wisdom, daily scripture study and family prayer, going on a mission at age 19, and temple marriage for your children, to name only a few gospel principles.) And are you strong enough in your faith and testimony to continue to attend your meetings alone, with your children, and to be their sole source of guidance and direction as to the specifics of living the restored gospel of Jesus Christ?
It’s unfair to your boyfriend to marry him with the expectation that you will change him, and his religious beliefs, to the point that eventually you two will be sealed in the temple. And it’s unfair to you, for you to marry him, with his expecting that you will be less active in the Church and want to do his “thing” on the Sabbath, etc. These are probably hard words for you to hear. Unfortunately the wonderful feelings of being loved by another person, tend to drown out the reality checks which need to be addressed.
A loving relationship with another human being, especially one of the opposite sex, makes us feel good about ourselves, makes us feel complete, makes us feel wanted. All of those feelings are good in and of themselves. However, is it worth it to have those good feelings, when the reality of the relationship means that you will undoubtedly have to compromise principles that are near and dear to your heart? If you were raised in an active latter-day saint family, you are probably pretty clueless as to the realities of every-day life in a less-active family. I was raised in an inactive home though I also say in the same breath that my parents are good people who have given me everything). It’s just not the same, though, when the father never reads the scriptures, never exhorts the family to follow the Savior (and the prophet, I might add). My own experiences of having been raised in a good, but inactive, home led me to make the personal decision that I would never, under any circumstance, marry outside the Church. My brief experience dating a nonmember solidified that decision. I had sat in church for years by myself as a single member and I didn’t want to sit in church by myself after marriage. I was determined that I would stay single, even if it meant not bearing children through no marriage opportunities, because I felt so strongly about the father’s responsibility to lead his children to Christ.
If your boyfriend isn’t sure who Christ is, how can he teach his children to follow Christ? In the wicked world we live in, I am convinced of the need for us to teach our children not just Christ-like principles, but to teach them of who He is, His attributes and relationship to God, and His influence in our everyday life.
You are only 27! You still have many, many years ahead of you to find a righteous and worthy husband and father for your children. The problem with drawing conclusions after dating only a small number of young men, is that you might settle for second best (someone who doesn’t know who Christ was or is), just to be in a relationship, period. The romantic aspects of a relationship shouldn’t be the basis of making a marriage decision.
That’s incredibly hard for you to hear and understand, at this point, since you are immersed in what is a romantic relationship. Divorces happen all the time, however, because when the romance wears off, you have two people who differ in what is probably the most important basis for marriage: religion. Being LDS makes it doubly hard to compromise on religion, since we truly are a peculiar people.
Please, please, don’t ever listen to anyone who tells you that you aren’t (for whatever reason) good LDS wife material. Someday, somewhere, you will find an eternal companion who will think that you are fabulous in your own way. It might even be the young man you are currently dating. Who knows, perhaps if you two sit down and discuss some gospel principles, regularly, you might be the means of restoring his faith in a living Savior, and head of this Church. Have you ever borne your testimony, privately, to him? How does he react? You two have a lot to discuss; preferably during the light of day, sitting across a table, where you can look into his eyes, as opposed to trying to have a legitimate conversation while cuddling on a couch! (I apologize if I seem too direct.)
If you haven’t dated many, you might end up being misled by the romantic “feel-good” feelings of the relationship. Don’t be in a hurry to get married. “Marry in haste repent at leisure” is as timely a quote now, as when first stated. It’s far easier to get married to someone, than to the “right” one. The young man you are currently dating, will probably be the person you end up marrying, if you continue to date him. It just seems to work that way, that people end up marrying the person they date! And, that might be your decision. It’s your choice, which will affect not only you, but your children, and their children, etc. Good luck in your decision, one that should be made only after fasting and prayer.
If you do decide to end your relationship with this young man, you will feel pain. You will cry buckets of tears. That’s the nature of relationships the power to give us exquisite joy and pain. But you’ll get over it. Really, you will! And you’ll thereafter be more focused on what you really want out of a potential marriage partner.
I am not currently in your position, but I hope that you still find it acceptable that I respond. I can only give you my opinion and you may do with it what you will. I warn you that I am blunt. Please don’t take offense.
I was raised in a strong LDS home. In spite of my rebellious nature and sometimes obnoxious behavior and attitude, there was, deeply ingrained in me a desire, a need, to be married only in the temple. I cannot explain that feeling, since my life didn’t always coincide with that goal.
I had opportunities to marry outside the temple, at least once to a very wonderful, kind, attractive prospect, much as you described. (Conversely, I had opportunities to marry in the temple from real jerks.) Fortunately, I accepted none of them. And I will tell you that I was divinely coerced (not inspired) because I truly was too stupid at the time to have any wisdom in the matter.
It appears to me that you are considering “settling.” As if you can’t find both a man who is wonderful, loving, and compatible, and who has a testimony and the ability and desire to go to the temple. I can only say that I believe waiting is a better option. It isn’t a question about nonmembers loving and accepting you and members saying you’re “not good LDS wife material.” Don’t set up excuses for yourself. What, democrats can’t marry in the temple? Female PhD’s can’t marry “good” Mormons? Perhaps you do have some internal/spiritual/social work to do (I sure did!). Perhaps you just need to find some better dating material. I believe you are trying to convince yourself (with anecdotal evidence) that these compatibilities (or decencies) can only be found outside the church.
It’s not so.
Statistically, you should know, that nearly half of those who marry outside the church (which is really what you would be doing) become inactive themselves. You are far more likely to leave the church than he is to rejoin it.
I just moved from Florida where I had been the Laurel advisor and camp director and dealt weekly with the consequences of such choices in families. I have many friends who are married to nonmembers or inactive and/or uncommitted members and I regularly see the result. It seems that this is most profoundly felt through (and by) the children.
It is a fine and difficult line to walk to teach the fullness of the gospel even with spousal “support” when it contradicts what a child sees in the home. And it is likely to be more difficult with a parent who has become disenchanted with the church.
Who will bless and baptize and ordain your children? Will you tell your children that in order to reach the highest degree of the celestial kingdom they must have a temple sealing? How will you explain that it wasn’t that important to you? Will you tell them that (as the Young Women manual says) baptized members have an “obligation” to marry only in the temple? Will you teach them about covenants that connect children and parents eternally? Will you teach them to follow the prophet?
Again, I realize that my statements are blunt. But I promise you that if you remain active in the church, and if you have children, these issues will come up. I bring this up because I wish that my friends had “full disclosure” before they chose. I wish I could spare them the pain that they live with and that their children live with. Every week when I taught the Laurels someone would bring up the questions and the insecurities and the pain. I wish I could have alleviated it for them. I hope that something I said will touch them so that they will not continue the painful legacy they are living with for another generation.
I am not trying to give the impression that a temple marriage is some kind of guarantee of marital bliss. We both know it’s not. But it is a guarantee of sorts. It is a guarantee that you are making choices in line with what God has outlined. You can marry in the temple and your husband can still turn out to be (or change into) a complete flake. So can you. But God will not hold you accountable for some man’s mid-life crisis or personality disorder or character transformation. He will only hold you accountable for yours.
If you choose to marry outside the temple, there are consequences to that choice. Because we are allowed moral agency, those consequences will not be withheld. And if you choose to hold out until you find a man who you can and want to marry in the way the Lord has outlined in the temple and then you continue to endure to the end and do your best to follow Him, nothing will be withheld from you.
This isn’t a decision to be based on your family’s desires. It is a decision about loving the Lord enough to follow him even when it is hard and painful and the future uncertain.
Natasha, I truly pray that you will be blessed and inspired in your decision.
Yours is a dilemma shared by many women in the Church. Not being a marriage/family counselor myself, I wouldn’t dream of telling you what to do. However, I will tell you of several friends that have made the same decision you are considering.
The first sister had been through a barrage of LDS men. They were in her eyes “real losers.” She met the dearest and kindest man, not a member, and married him. Although he was very supportive throughout the years and did nothing to stop her from taking the children to church, he could not comprehend the deepest, most spiritual feelings of her heart. She said she would come home from conference, very excited to share the messages, and her exuberance was met with indifference. It hurt her deeply. She has received her endowment and asked that he never make fun of her garment. He has honored his promise, but she feels very spiritually estranged from him. She has progressed, while he has remained very much in the same place. Her children are confused and several have chosen their father’s path of inactivity. Her lot has not been an easy one even though she has met with no opposition.
My other friend has had nothing but an uphill battle. I think it will eventually cost her the marriage. Things were fine at first and he honored her commitment to the Church. As she received different callings, the resentment grew on his part because there were meetings and activities which removed her from the home on occasion. He is very bitter and will hear nothing more about a “Church which takes the centerpiece from the home.” Of course the children are always caught in the cross-fire. They don’t want to anger their father by attending Church, but they don’t want Mom going alone, either.
Natasha, there are absolutely no guarantees that any marriage will work, inside our outside of the temple. But you know that the survival rate is greater when the cornerstone of life together is common spiritual belief. There have been a few rough times in my marriage, too, but because of our temple covenants (and sometimes only because of them), we have stayed together, grown spiritually, and overcome our marital difficulties because we were committed eternally to one another.
Let me share another poignant experience. In 1979, we had a tiny, premature daughter. She was my last child. She lived for 14 months and succumbed to a nasty virus. There is nothing that cuts to the bone like the death of a child, believe me. Honestly, Natasha, if I had not had the sealing power holding the promise of comfort and an eternal relationship with her, I wouldn’t have wanted to live. I would have stood by that little grave and just jumped in. That’s the truth. As you cradle your babies and realize how fragile life can be ?as you imagine what your life would be, should one be snatched from mortality, I promise you will wish with all your heart that the sealing power could be a part of your marriage.
You situation is not clear cut and he sounds like a wonderful person. He once was a member so has many of the teachings in his subconscious. There is a possibility that they could surface at some future point in time and his testimony could be renewed. This could happen, especially if he is the most Christ-like man you have ever met. Sadly, more often than not, it doesn’t. Still Natasha, you are the one who deserves inspiration here, more than any other time in your life. Fast and pray about it as I’m sure you are doing. Go to your bishop or father for a blessing. Listen to it carefully and if you have misgivings, either way, please remember that the Lord will reward the obedient.
I’m sorry that the examples that I have given are not very supportive of your current dilemma. I wish I could extend some shred of hope that things will be well with you and your relationship. I have seen some that really function well, but I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t relate the “flip side” ?every one of my girlfriends say honestly, if they had it to do over, they would not make the same decision.
Good luck Natasha. I’m going to keep you in my top ten people to pray for in the next while.
Spread the word!