Sam leaves the church

Despite her best efforts fasting, praying, and nagging nudging, Brother Seymore just isn’t leading spiritually like Sally was hoping! In fact, it’s gotten worse! Brother S. doesn’t want to attend church. He’s started looking at anti-Mormon literature on the internet. Sally has to struggle to get 5 kids, including a toddler, ready for church every Sunday by herself. She has started having FHE and family scripture study without Brother S. She is worried her 13-year-old son, who not long ago began passing the sacrament, is now becoming cynical under his father’s tutelage. Brother S. isn’t actively antagonistic about Sally taking the kids to church (yet), or doing church things. But he isn’t proactive either.

By any other measurement, Brother Seymore is a great father. He attends the kids’ ball games, back to school nights, and piano recitals. He is also a great husband. Sally and her husband have date night every Friday. On some of these dates Sally pressures him to go back to the temple. He pressures Sally to listen to logic and at least consider some of the things he’s just found out about Joseph Smith. Sally is genuinely worried about the future, not just on earth, but in heaven. This is not what she signed up for. She had dreams of going on a mission with her husband when they retired. She still has dreams of exaltation, husband and children by her side.

Sally should:

1. Talk to the Bishop. It’s his job to guide and direct. He will be able to help.

2. Consider divorce. There is a temple worthy priesthood holder out there just waiting to marry her and help raise her 5 children in the gospel.

3. Keep nudging him along. It’ll all work out in the end.

4. Be happy for what she has. Work around it and accept that Sam might never change–and truly be ok with that.

When commenting please take into consideration that the complexities of another’s married life are vastly different from your own. A couple’s relationship, and hence their family life, is a world unto itself. Comment kindly.

For those who struggle.

72 thoughts on “Sam leaves the church

  1. I would say go with 1 and 4. Perhaps the bishop can give Sally some advice on how to handle the situation and provide her with some spiritual guidance along the way…he is that father of the ward after all, so at least he can be a listening ear. And 4 because, like Sally said, he is a good father and a good husband. He may not believe that same things that he once believed, but as long as he treats Sally well, and respects her desire to remain active in the church and raise her children in the church…then I believe it is important to keep that family intact. Of course it won’t be easy…and things may change down the road. Above all, Sally should remain close to the Lord, so that he can direct her along the right path and so that she can continually be a good example to her husband and children.

  2. Depends upon what is love. The question is, do you love him? Or, perhaps, I should ask do you love the church more than him?

    If you truly love your partner, I wouldn’t make an issue of it. There are plenty of people who have very happy lives and are happy people who raise perfectly respectable, normal children without so much church involvement.

    Your marriage does not belong to the church. It belongs to you and your partner. Obviously, I vote #4. Unless, of course, the church is more important than the love you share between you and your spouse. In that case I would vote #2. Of course, just because someone is temple worthy does not make them lovable. Maybe you can be happy with that. Not sure.

  3. Definitely not #1 or #2.

    Possibly #3.

    In a perfect world, #4.

    This post is very real to me. It’s good to know there are others out there navigating these waters.

  4. Like you said, every person and relationship is different. I went through this same thing with my husband, starting about 5 years ago or so. We’d only been married for about 3 or 4 years and he expressed some doubts about the Church. There are a lot of other issues going on his life that have led him to some of the conclusions he has; to be honest, I’ve rarely engaged with him in any sort of discussion, intellectual or spiritual, about Church history or his testimony. It has generally been counterproductive and I’ve usually felt prompted that the actual doubts are only surface issues and there is much more going on.

    For me, going to the bishop wasn’t totally helpful. Things got complicated because I started experiencing bad PPD a few months after having our son 4 years ago, and then we moved to a new city far away from family. At the same time my husband started really pulling away from the church, asked to be released from callings, and stopped wearing his garments. When I went to the bishop, I felt some support, but I also felt like bishop jumped to the conclusion that my husband was mostly looking for an excuse to cheat on me or to commit some other sort of sin (we had recently moved into the ward and he didn’t know either of us very well). The bishop referred us to a counselor (who is LDS) and after a few months of counseling we decided to divorce. My husband figured that since he didn’t believe in God or the Church he didn’t see a need to be married to me anymore. The bishop reassured me that I could find someone ‘better’, but to be frank I doubted that since I was going to be 30 and single with two small children. Let me be clear, I’m really not all that bitter towards the bishop; he’s a good man, I just feel frustrated that many of my personal answers did not seem to be things he agreed with. Long story short, after a few months of separation my husband decided that he would rather get back together and stay married. I really prayed about the decision a lot and felt that God left the choice up to me. I still loved him and felt that it would be easiest to raise our kids together rather than apart (they were only 4 and 1 at the time). I knew going back into the marriage that he would no longer go to Church and that things would be different.

    Things are different from when we first got married. Going to church alone is difficult and awkward sometimes. I miss some of the things we shared. At the same time, my husband is very supportive of my Church attendance. He helps gets the kids ready on Sunday mornings and he comes to listen when they give talks in Primary. He tries not to say mean things about the Church to me or in front of the kids (although I’ve heard him say them to other friends). He still is willing to help with service projects and things like that. If he were abusive or mean in any way I would certainly reconsider, but I know for me I am more able to lovingly raise my children and teach them the gospel in this situation than I would be as a single mom. And I like my husband a lot (it’s not just about the kids!)

    Anyways, I guess I would lean towards 3 and 4. Prayer and continued temple attendance are vital in this situation. Pray about your relationship and pray for your spouse. Whenever my husband does attend Church, even if it’s just Primary, I pray that he’ll feel the Spirit and accept it. Depending on your relationship with your bishop, that might or might not be helpful. One problem with going to the bishop for marital issues is that the other spouse can feel like they are being ‘tattled’ on. If they don’t want to visit the bishop too, that can sometimes make things more antagonistic in the marriage. Just my opinion.

    Two other things: from my experience and that of other other friends, I’ve noticed that many people who leave the Church seem to go through an ‘angry’ phase for a while. For my husband it lasted about a year or so; he was angry, defiant, etc. But he got over it and can now ‘leave the Church alone’, so to speak. If you get to the point in your life where you feel like the Church is some sort of overbearing parent, there will be some rebellion when you leave. But it often passes if given time.

    Also, depending on the relationship I would try hard to prayerfully set some ground rules regarding the kids. Again there are so many variables that it is difficult to even make suggestions, but I know that my husband understands things like I don’t want him badmouthing the Church to them (they’re only 6 and 3 now); if they ask him things about Church or God he usually asks them what they think or refers them to me.

    Hope someone reads this since it’s probably the longest comment ever!

  5. I would say 1, 3, and 4. My mom knew a woman who divorced her husband for similar reasons and down the road he became a bishop. You just never know where your spouse’s spiritual journey will lead.

  6. I’m okay with #1, so long as Sally doesn’t expect the bishop to solve everything. Sometimes it just helps to talk to someone who cares. And if the bishop is one of those she talks to, he can have a better understanding of the situation when she’s having a REALLY hard time. And in the meantime, so long as otherwise he’s a good father and good husband, #4 works too.

    I really appreciate FoxyJ’s sharing her experience. Even though the two aren’t identical, it helps to have insight from someone who has been there.

  7. 4, for sure.

    I think #1 depends on the kind of relationship you both have with your bishop. If he’s close enough to be a family friend, and your husband won’t feel betrayed, I think there’s nothing wrong with having a little advice from a spiritual leader. I have had bishops in the past that would definitely be fantastic to talk to about a situation like that. I’m in a new ward now and don’t have any experience with the bishop, so I would not go to him with a problem like this.

  8. I have done #1, 3, and 4. I have also considered #2, but only briefly and when I was in deep despair. It is possible to talk to the bishop about these issue without it becoming a marital trouble talk or tattling. I have nudged and nagged, neither of which did anything good for our relationship or my husband’s desire to come back to Church. Right now I am more or less at #4. I am happy to have a husband that I love and who treats our children kindly. And I have faith that everything will turn out all right in the end.
    In the meantime there are things that I miss. I miss having his arm around me while sitting together in Sacrament meeting. I miss being able to tell him about the crazy thing that happened at Church without worrying that it’ll affect his testimony even more. I also really miss taking it for granted that he will be the one to baptise and confirm our children. That’s the hardest thing of all. Having faith helps blunt that a little, but not enough that I’m not crying right now.

  9. #4 definitely…99.99% of the world lives without the church in their lives, and every day of my life I meet joyful, close-knit, strong families that are not of the LDS faith. I think it would be just fine…and if my husband were to find out it’s true after we die (if we all find out), then everything would work out. All we can do is do the best with what we’ve been given. (which honestly isn’t all that much, religious-evidence-wise) God won’t blame us for doing what feels right to us.

  10. Thank you all for your comments and sharing your personal experiences with this. I am going through this right now and so far I have done #1 (which has helped me, but I agree that it may not be helpful for everyone in this situation) and I am planning on sticking with #4. This is certainly not easy, especially with children involved.

  11. Hmmm…. it is so hard to know.

    I am most inclined to say number 4 — if it is possible. If she can be happy with her spouse and her and he treats her great — then all is well.

    If she can’t – and I know some women who can’t – then 2 is a possibility — though a tough one. and she’ll still be at church alone too. Perhaps more alone.

    Talking to the bishop about the support the family needs without a “priesthood” holder in the home may be important — but I believe all counseling issues — marital, personal (which could help her) and family should be done though a counselor. LDS Family services was invented for that purpose and the bishop can pay for it too.

  12. Balance between #3 and #4. Some things are ok to nudge, others it is far better to let the other person be himself. Definitely prayerfully decide which is which.

  13. FoxyJ – your comment is great! I wish you all the best with everything, you sound amazing.

    I think Sally should go to her bishop – for help for herself and her family. To let him know what is going on so he can better watch over Sally, and better help Sampson and their kids. Sally would benefit from a blessing.

    From this general situation, I would not recommend divorce, particular with the attached expectation that there’s someone “waiting” to do the right thing (in this instance, not question the church) for Sally. Divorce sucks. You have no idea just how awful divorce is unless you are in the process of one. Even with priesthood blessings, personal revelation and knowledge that it’s the ‘right’ thing to do and ‘everything will work out’ it still rips your guts out. Let alone considering the mechanics and impact of beginning another relationship…

    And to be totally frank and realistic, who’s to say that the next spouse/marriage won’t have issues? Of course they/it will! For everyone that has come up and told me that I will be ‘snapped up’ by a totally righteous and wonderful priesthood holder, I’ve had to find a way to control my reaction. I feel nauseous at the thought of dating, or trusting someone with myself or my sons, let alone marrying – and that certainly wouldn’t ‘fix’ all my problems! And chances are, any person ‘waiting’ to marry Sally would be divorced or widowed himself. Possibly with other kids. With all the emotion and madness that goes with it all. Picture perfect doesn’t tend to happen with marriage… or divorce. Not permanently.

    #3 keep nagging? No. That way leads madness, unhappiness and disappointment.

    #3.5 It WILL all work out in the end. However far away the end is, and whichever form ‘work out’ takes. As long as Sally keeps her covenants, and follows the promptings of the spirit, things WILL work out. Just probably not as she planned. Life is like that.

    #4 This is important, being happy for what she has. Having an antagonistic husband or inactive husband is really hard at times, particularly Sundays and any other church activity related day. Or 3am in the morning. I don’t blame Sally for wanting to have everything she wants, for everything to be perfect. But Sampson has just as much agency as anyone else, and he can choose to look up anti stuff and choose to be a good Dad. My advice to Sally (after giving her a really big hug, listening to her vent and cry and feeding her something sweet and tasty) would be to think about if she loves her husband, and to listen to the first bit, not the “but” or “unless” or “if” she may want to tack on the end. I’d encourage her to pray about what to do. And still to count her husband as a blessing, not a curse or an embarrassment.

    No matter the details, these situations are always hugely difficult. Thank you for raising real life Marintha – even the scary scenarios.

  14. I am grateful my marriage isn’t experiencing a trial like this, (oh, there are other trials, for sure) because I don’t feel like I’m very good at giving answers to my kids’ gospel questions. I have faith, and a testimony. But I think my husband explains things to the kids in a way that helps me learn along with them. What an emptiness our home would feel if my kids’ had to rely on my mediocre-at-best teachings.

  15. I’m glad that professional counseling was brought up. Sally could go to counseling by herself too. In fact, she *should* — especially in addition to marriage counseling.

    I left my first husband after 4 years of psycological abuse and infidelity. I had a loooong list of good reasons. It is still a very, very difficult decision. I am so glad that mine didn’t involve children. That is so much more painful.

    The answers to marriage problems are found on your knees. A lot of deep pondering, talking it over with people you trust, and a lot of prayer. As for talking with the bishop, yes he is the spiritual leader of the ward, but you still have to take his advice with a grain of salt. These are YOUR decisions. If Sally knows and trusts her bishop, then his advice might carry more weight. But it is still *her* decision.

    Personally, I would be shocked if someone had that as the *only* reason they were divorcing their spouse. It’s a disagreement. Yes, a huge one, but look at all of the other beautiful things that are in their marriage. Why abandon that?

  16. First of all, I just wanted to point out that you have 2 different last names in your story (Sampson and Seymour). I was confused, so I thought I’d point it out.

    On to my actual comment:
    In my situation, both #1 and #4 have been the answer.

    First of all, both Sally and Sam will need to go through the stages of grief. Both of them will be mourning something that they had hoped for. And that takes time and patience with each other and with themselves, and it also takes people to talk to about it. They both need a close friend to confide to, or else myriad other problems will join in the current set. If Sam has stopped attending church, then that will actually make it easier for Sally to get the support she needs. It will be a visible thing that people can see, so they can help her through it.

    Sally and Sam need to talk it through as much as they can about setting new ground rules, now that things have changed, such as how the kids will be raised religiously, what kind of presence the Church will have in their home, etc.

    The reason, I believe that Sally needs to talk to the bishop, is not to try to get her dh back to church, but for the support *she* needs as she embarks on raising her kids “alone” in the Church. She needs to briefly (without betraying dh’s confidences) let the bishop know that her dh says he is done with the Church, but that that’s all the information she can give him. She needs to make it clear that he is NOT a reactivation project. She needs to discuss with him what her dh’s boundaries are regarding activity or contact with the Church, etc. She needs a priesthood blessing. She needs to make sure that she gets assigned compatible home teachers whom she can turn to without awkwardness when she or her kids need a priesthood blessing and/or baptizing and confirming.

    Sally needs to give herself time to grieve and to accept all the emotions that come with the grieving process. She needs to seek frequent priesthood blessings and to attend the temple, even if she has never really gone solo to the temple before. If she looks, she may just find that ‘one close friend’ who may be in a similar situation, who can be her confidante and temple buddy. She can also find support online such as at the Faces East forum or here.

    Sam needs to keep Sally apprised of where he’s at regarding the Church and his feelings, what he’s comfortable with, etc., as his new beliefs evolve.

    Sally needs to remember that her covenants are still intact as long as she keeps up her end of the bargain. She needs the assurance (that comes with priesthood blessings, temple attendance, prayer, and time) that even if she doesn’t know what things will be like in the end, that God will make it all good for her if she remains faithful. Somehow, she also needs to find a small place in her heart that will allow her to keep a tiny spark of hope alive for her dh’s return, but that will not consume her with grief and hopelessness if that doesn’t happen, or if it takes much, much longer than she wants it to. It’s a delicate balance to be able to keep a bit of hope alive without that space in her heart mocking her for being foolish and naive to ever think that it could happen.

    Her teen’s YM leaders will need to strike a balance to be able to give him extra support while not overtaking his father’s role.

  17. I would lean toward #4. At a recent Regional Conference broadcast either Elder Oaks or President Monson (I’m sorry I can’t remember which one it was) spoke about this in his remarks. What I remember the most was that he encouraged a wife in this situation to crank up love and service and turn down disapproval– obviously totally paraphrased. He shared several examples of those who, over time, had softened hearts and returned to full fellowship. Though I am not in this situation myself, I took it as really valuable advice that can be applied whenever we feel disappointed in a spouse’s choices, no matter the reason (excluding abusive or criminal behavior).

  18. What a blessing this post is, as it pretty accurately explains my life. I appreciate the well-thought out positive comments.

    After grieving the loss of what I had and what I still wanted I was quickly taught by the spirit that the only way to save my marriage was to soften my own heart, forgive my husband, and resolve to make our marriage strong and loving. I talked with my bishop and he felt exactly the same way, so it was a good experience for me…the spirit can direct you best in this situation.

    It hasn’t been easy, but the joy that our family and my marriage bring me daily has been worth the struggle.

  19. I’m hopping on the #4 bandwagon. I speak from experience. When I was a teen-ager my dad quit going to church for a few years. Nagging didn’t help at all, in fact it made things worse. I know my mom agonized over it. He just needed time to work through some things. As a child it was good for me to see that you can work through doubts and come out fine on the other side. Now he is a very active member of the church and has great empathy for those working though their own problems.

  20. I totally agree with commenter #2. If you love your partner you accept them for who they are. If he is a good father and a good husband, accept where he is in his beliefs, and Sally should expect the same in return. There are many of us who had wonderful lives (and friends/family members with wonderful lives) who don’t have religion as their primary focus.

  21. My husband was inactive for years. As hard as it was, it was also a great opportunity for me to grow my own testimony and become very secure in the gospel. I wouldn’t have the testimony I do today if he hadn’t been inactive.

    I never once nagged him, but my husband’s personality type does not take well to nagging. Even when he was smoking and drinking coffee–I just insisted he never smoke in front of the kids or in the car or house.

    (You can read about him coming back to church here.)

  22. I would say #1. No, the Bishop is not a marriage councelor, but he does preside over the people in the ward and can give spiritual guidance and support. It’s nice to have someone who knows the situation and who can lend a hand if need be.

    In the end, though, I think being a good example is the best way to influence someone in the gospel. When you live the way Christ wants you to, those around you can’t help but feel the spirit. Some times these things just take time.

  23. Great comments all.

    Strollerblader,
    Fixed it.

    FoxyJ,
    Thanks for sharing your story. Your sincere and thoughtful comments are always appreciated.

    Richard,
    Perhaps the bishop is not equipped to solve marital problems, but as others have pointed maybe he can refer the couple to a counselor, or just be a listening ear.

    Felicity,
    Thanks for your candor. You are not alone.

    Selwyn,
    Picture perfect doesn’t tend to happen with marriage… or divorce.
    Touche!


    Bth
    What an emptiness our home would feel if my kids’ had to rely on my mediocre-at-best teachings.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m betcha you’re better at it than you think.

  24. I 100% agree with comment #2. The church should not be more important than the relationship with your spouse. Whose to say you don’t end up going through your own “withdrawal from the church” phase at some point or completely walk away from it all together. And option #5 would be to get out of Utah where one is not judged on church attendance alone.

  25. I don’t think number 2 is a very good option at all. UNLESS there are serious issues of abuse or addiction that tie in with the loss of church activity. But to divorce a loving husband and good father because he has lost his testimony. . . well, it doesn’t seem like a very good idea in any way.

    I do think that a visit with the bishop is in order as Strollerblader pointed out. I second her comments.

    I have to go with #4.

  26. Sorry Sally, I can see this is much more complicated then adding FHE and scripture study. I would concentrate on extra love for Sam and the kids. We can’t always see the forest through the trees so hang in there! This is something you are going to have to turn over to God. I am sure that he can help you, your kids and Sam through this. I would try to not focus on the negative and point out the truths you know to Sam and the kids, testimony you’ve gained through the years.
    Satan would love to discredit all that your family has gained from living the gosple all these years. Maybe Sam would benefit from listing the pros and cons of living the gosple for him and his family. Then his idea of how your family would run without the gosple. Then you may have to point out your serious deal breakers. Like your goal of going on a mission some day or seeing your kids married in the temple. How you want him there for all of those activities. Whether or not Sam comes to church he must come to some sort of decision on how to raise your children. It’s not fair of him to discredit your beliefs in front of the children.
    I can imagine how very hard this must be for you.

  27. I really appreciate all of the comments that have been posted. I went through a similar situation, but my ex husband left the church AND me, so I was left to file for divorce to protect myself and my kids from his failure to take any responsibility for his actions.

    My thoughts have centered a lot on the statement that “this is not what she signed up for.” In my opinion, most of what we get in life is not what we signed up for. And from what I have seen in other’s lives and experienced in my own life, there are no guarantees, and I don’t think inactivity in the church is a valid reason to divorce someone.

    Traditionally, the law (and the church) have only endorsed divorce for 3 reasons. Adultery, abandonment and abuse were the three big at-fault divorce doctrines. Now almost all states have no-fault divorce and in the church our divorce rates mirror that of the national average. Nagging and having the expectation that our lives will only consist of “what we signed up for” makes me think that she feels like she is entitled to divorce this man who is struggling with his testimony. And really, I don’t think that is a valid reason to divorce someone. I think it is a very selfish reason to seek divorce.

    I don’t think we should condition our love for and commitment to our spouses on their regular church attendance. We all have phases in our lives where we are more “active” than other times. Most people struggle at least once in their lives with their testimony. I agree with the idea of making sure the husband did not say disparaging things about the church in front of the kids, but if you think about it, you could look at this as a trial of HER testimony. How dedicated is she to teaching her children the gospel? How committed is she to taking them to church? Is she willing to sacrifice more to show them how important the church is to her, even if daddy does not go to church with them? I am not judging, because I know firsthand how hard it is. I have taken my 3 kids to church alone for the last 7 years. It does get a little easier as they are getting older, because they can dress themselves, but it still is a lot of work. But we are promised to pray that the Lord will not try us beyond what we are able to endure, and we are also admonished to endure WELL. In my opinion, option 4 is really the only choice.

    I especially agree with Sarah in #25 and option 5 to get out of Utah. I would recommend that to anyone.

  28. Thanks for all the love directed at Sally, but Sally is fictional. Sure elements of her life are true to many people, but she’s not real–so no need to direct comments at her.

  29. My thoughts have centered a lot on the statement that “this is not what she signed up for.” In my opinion, most of what we get in life is not what we signed up for. And from what I have seen in other’s lives and experienced in my own life, there are no guarantees

    Thanks Laurie.Well said.

    But we are promised to pray that the Lord will not try us beyond what we are able to endure

    I’m not sure about that, or what it even means.

    Dear all,
    What’s with all the Utah hate? Sure, it’s has it’s own unique cultural molds, but so does “the south”, “the east coast,” and so does California. Give it a rest. Besides, because Sally is pretend, I can say she lives wherever I want. I choose California–where it really isn’t that different in the church than it is in Utah.

  30. I’m surprised so many people said go to the bishop. I wouldn’t. If I happened to be talking to the bishop I would be open (because that is me) but I would think this was a matter for my husband to choose to speak to the bishop if he chose. I would not want to invite the bishop into my marriage. Sounds risky. I might encourage my husband to go to the bishop for counsel though. But I guess I’m not the type to want my bishop to counsel me about this sort of thing, especially since I think I could handle things myself.
    I am also a little surprised everyone took “nudge” to mean “nag.” When I said I’d do a little nudging it didn’t mean nagging. I meant “Our daughter is giving a talk today. It would mean a lot to her if you came to support her.” Or “I understand that you don’t want to go to church but it is really upsetting me how you talk to our son about the church and I think it is confusing him too much. Can you focus on the positives of what you believe (being a good person, etc.) in rather than the negatives of what you don’t believe (specific doctrines of the church)?”

  31. JKS,
    In all fairness it was my fault nudge turned into nag. I’m sure not everyone took it that way.

  32. I just have to say that I love Strollerblader’s (#17) comment and echo everything she said. Wise words. And I so appreciate the comments from those of you who have been/are in this situation. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and insight!

    And Marintha, thanks for defending Utah. =)

  33. To me the answer is no. 4.

    Talking to the bishop for support for yourself, as several have mentioned, is fine, but don’t count on him being able to “fix” this. And if the bishop tries hamhandedly to do so, it’s just going to make matters worse.

    Unless there is more involved in the facts than presented, this isn’t a divorce situation.

    No. 3 can easily backfire. I see this all the time. When someone starts to pull away from the Church, loved ones push them to come back, and so they feel a need to justify themselves. So instead of some casual anti site trolling the guy starts rolling up his sleeves and digging into it so that he can defend his point of view.

    If he’s still a good husband and father and willing to support the wife’s involvement, then 4 is the way to go.

  34. I’ve known a few women who had spouses who were nonmembers. With some, they were okay letting the kids go to church, the wife left the subject of religion alone, and the family functioned well. With some, the spouse was very anti religion/mormon and the kids ended up never going to church, or very rarely, and the mom soon followed suit because it was just easier than getting into an argument. There is no cut and dry, “you should do this” situation. I would go for 4, with the hope that the woman will still do her best to live her religion and teach her kids to do the same. If she feels a blessing at the hands of the bishop would be helpful, by all means, she needs all the support she can get.

  35. Marintha:
    sorry for the confusing statement, I think I was having several different thoughts all at once. What I was trying to say was that even though we all have things that are hard, we are told in the scriptures that we should pray that the Lord will not try us above our ability to endure. And in my own experiences I have leaned the Lord believes that I am able to endure a lot more than I think I can, but he has helped me through all of the things he has seen fit to inflict upon me, and my job is to endure, and to endure well.

    I hope that made more sense.

  36. #5 – Sally should fast and pray and follow whatever inspiration she receives for her situation, which may or may not include any of options 1-4.

  37. To the couple of commenters about getting out of Utah possibly solving Sally’s problems, I am truly interested in knowing if the comments were written tongue-in-cheek or if simply leaving the promised land heals doubt and can propel a wayward spouse to church activity. Is this a typical boo-on-Utah comment or do you really believe that, assuming Sally is in Utah, things will get better if they leave? I find this solution fascinating.
    As a woman who doubts but has great hope, I appreciate how my husband deals with my concerns. I have not left the church, but have gone through several periods of our marriage working through serious doubts about our religion. What helped for me? He listened to me talk through church history. doctirnal concerns such as poygamy (that one comes up every few years), and even talk through concerns about the existence of God at all. He didn’t act shocked at me or angry or appalled. I know that he prayed for me. I know that he fasted for me. I am so grateful that he stays by my side and allows me to work out my own salvation before God. I truly appreciate his love for me.
    What he didn’t do was run and tell the bishop on me. He didn’t leave me alone to stew through things. He never threatened divorce.
    Those are a few things that helped/continue to help us in our marriage.
    Oh, and we are not in Utah. We left shortly after marriage 12 years ago. But I don’t think that did the trick to keep me active in the church–obviously.

  38. I loved and was inspired by the words of FoxyJ, Selwyn & Strollerblader. Thank you three for sharing them! Reading the Sermon at the Temple (3Nephi 12-14) the past few days with my kids, we talked about the whole mote/beam thing, and what it means. and the judge not commandment. it’s such a hard lesson to learn, but all any of us can do is honor our covenants as best as we can, and focus on coming unto Christ.

    though i didn’t always (understatement), i view my husband losing his faith as almost a perfect laboratory…stocked with all the ingredients and experiments i needed to go through to learn some very important lessons. a biggie is unconditional love. it often takes my breath away to consider the perfect love Father in Heaven has for us…when we are so often such idiots! ;-)

    thanks again marintha for this post and to the rest for the comments.

  39. Kevin Barney,
    Excellent link. Thanks.

    RunnerMom,
    I’m so glad you shared your experience. It swings both ways. I was talking with a friend the other day who has left the church. It is very hard for her husband, who is the one who gets 5 kids ready for church every Sunday alone, and all the other things that entails. They are working through it.

  40. I think the get out of Utah idea was that perhaps people will make fewer judgment calls – “you should divorce your inactive spouse” if you live outside Utah. My sample size is only 2, but my sister-in-law in Utah gets comments all the time from people wondering how she can stay married to my inactive brother, why she hasn’t divorced him yet. I’ve lived on the East Coast and Midwest and often get admiring comments, “you’re so amazing you take all your kids to church by yourself” but have never had anyone suggest that I should divorce my inactive husband.

  41. And I have to add that I wonder what deluded world people live on if they truly believe that a mid-30′s mother of 5 will easily find some awesome, active, normal, single mormon man just waiting to marry her so she can have the perfect eternal family. If that were the case, why do we have such a plethora of single women in the church?

  42. I’m shocked that so many people are advocating avoiding #1. I have a very strong testimony in the stewardship of the Bishop and his ability to have special insights into our lives and problems because he is the Bishop. I can’t really go into the details, but I learned this when going through some personal problems and had left a ward where I felt very close to that Bishop and I was in a new ward, where my new Bishop was just a little hokey I thought. I certainly didn’t think I could trust him with some of my problems… through the course of the experience when I was going to both Bishop’s for council–my old one, and my new one–it was made very clear to me that my old bishop though a wonderful man could no longer help me in the way I needed due to the fact I was no longer under his stewardship. And as I put my trust in the new Bishop I received the guidance I needed.

    Now of course Bishop’s are men and are fallible to, but I’m really surprised that there are not more people with positive experiences of turning to a Bishop.

    Good luck. I think you have to pray to figure out if #1-4 are right for you.

  43. Unless the bishop is a certified counselor or has some life experiences (older) I still maintain he is in no way equiped to help you except to give moral support for your decision. Lets face it, bishops are much more in charge of your temporal welfare and the Priests quorum than he ever would be to solve a complex marital issue.

    If you depend upon him for “special insights” I honestly think you are setting yourself up for a lot of heart ache. You need your own inspiration. Why let anyone who is usually without life experience and totally unqualified to come between you and your father in heaven?

    I still strongly suggest #4 along with a great deal of prayer and consideration on your part.

    Remember, you husband most likely has a very strong relationship with your children. You are stuck with that relationship for the eternity. Divorcing him will not take that away. Most likely, any attempt at interference of that relationship by a different Priesthood bearer will not work in the long run and will only serve to alienate your children.

    There is nothing more important than your relationship with your children. Same goes for your husband.

  44. The bishop and counselor who suggested divorce for us were not in Utah; we’ve lived in Utah for a number of years and haven’t experienced much judgement at all. FWIW, I’ve found that while there are differences between culture in Utah and other states, every ward is different and has a different dynamic no matter where you are.

    I guess if you are going to go to your bishop you should decide what you want out of it first. Do you want a referral to counseling? Do you need someone to talk to? Do you want him to ‘fix’ the problem? Bishops are the spiritual advisors for their ward and have been given that stewardship, but they are also human and there are many variables involved. In some cases it would probably be better to speak to your bishop rather than friends or family, because often going to others with marital troubles can backfire.

  45. Just a note to those who say to NOT go to the bishop: From what I’ve read, most of you take that as meaning “go rat your spouse out to the bishop,” or “go to your bishop and tell him all about it so he can magically fix your marriage.” That would be a bad thing to do. This is not what I think is necessary.

    If your spouse has decided that they are done with the Church, then you need to go see your bishop for YOUR support, not for help in persuading your spouse back into the Church. In the course of your conversation with the bishop, clearly you will need to tell him of your spouse’s position regarding the Church, but any other details that the bishop wants to/needs to know regarding your spouse’s feelings/beliefs, he will have to ask your spouse directly, if he feels it is something worth pursuing. I know that *my* bishop knew that a marriage in this position is already in a delicate situation, and that it wasn’t his business to horn in and just left it at, “Please let your husband know that if he ever wants to talk, my door is open. Other than that, I will not bother him.” Which makes sense, since I came into him seeking help with a priesthood issue (my son’s baptism); I was not seeking his help in “fixing” anything.

    Many posters have also assumed that going to the bishop meant you were seeking marital advice and counseling. While I *do* think that bishop’s can give inspired counsel regarding marital problems, again, I do not think that that is the reason to see the bishop.

    The still-active spouse needs to talk to the bishop *if the other spouse is done with the Church* (NOT if they are just doubting or not wanting to go to church, but if they have made a decision) so that they can get the support they need. They can discuss appropriate home teachers and how that might work. If the remaining spouse is a woman, then the need for someone that she can turn to for priesthood blessings comes into play. They need to discuss what kind of contact their spouse wishes from the Church.

    In other words, you are not going in to the bishop to talk about your disbelieving spouse. You go to the bishop to talk about yourself and what assistance you need now that things have changed.

    I also must point out, due to my own circumstances, that I read more into the original situation than was there. Sam is just doubting the Church and not wanting to attend. He hasn’t made any decisions regarding the Church. So really, at this point in Sally and Sam’s situation, I would say that the *only* solution is #4.
    Sally will have to be in limbo at this point waiting for things to go farther one way or the other, before she can do anything more than hope and pray, love and support. If she needs a priesthood blessing now, and Sam is not up for giving her one, or she would rather seek out an outside man to give her a blessing, then she will have to either go without, hope for a new calling and subsequent setting apart blessing, or find someone whom she can turn to without setting off alarms in that person’s head about why she isn’t asking her husband to give her the blessing.

  46. Also, Sally needs to cut the ‘nagging’ about the temple or any other Church stuff out. He is an adult. He is a big boy. He gets to decide for himself what his relationship will be with the Church. He is a good father and husband and Sally needs to focus on that. Sally is only responsible for *her* salvation, not his.

  47. No. 3 can easily backfire. I see this all the time. When someone starts to pull away from the Church, loved ones push them to come back, and so they feel a need to justify themselves. So instead of some casual anti site trolling the guy starts rolling up his sleeves and digging into it so that he can defend his point of view.

    This is so true. Even if you sincerely mean that nudge does not equal nag, it’s human nature that if you back someone against the wall and put them on the defensive, they come out fighting. I say the same thing to the other side: don’t suddenly dump all of your arguments against the church on your spouse — you’ll just put him/her on the defensive and create an antagonistic stance.

    It is better to try to sympathize and be understanding that your spouse may have legitimate grievances (respectively, legitimate reasons for wanting to stay with the faith). A little bit of understanding and validation goes a long way towards helping your partner feel open to sympathizing with your perspective.

  48. I am in a situation similar to this.
    It has been hard because the gospel is SO MUCH a part of me. If my husband mocks, looks down on it… it can feel personal at times.
    His whole life and the first 10 years of our marriage he was very active and full of faith. He says now that he see things more clearly.
    I fear how I will get my sons on missions, I fear how my daughters will choose husbands, I fear fighting for the gospel standards with my teenagers alone.
    But, I also fear being a single mom. I don’t think that would be easier.
    Like Sally, outside of religion, my husband would score an A+.
    Too bad religion was such a large part of the foundation of our relationship. The major shifting of that foundation has caused a lot of pain. But we’ve both been in counseling and are both willing to work hard.
    Ultimately, I am more concerned with being a good “christian” than just a good mormon. I have to let go of that perfect mormon family dream I’ve had… and really hold on to being as close to my Savior and as full of His love as I possibly can. That is what has given me peace and strength and forgiveness and hope.

  49. It isn’t about loving the “church” more than you love your husband or your family. It is sometimes about being free to love GOD and teach your children about Him in the presence of an antagonistic husband.

    I went through this for 5 years, until my husband’s diatribes against God, Christ, and the LDS church caused me a nervous breakdown. I was no longer able to function. I was not allowed to speak of God, Christ or the church, to have any church member visit. If I wanted to attend, I could not say anything about it. My religious beliefs were mocked, as were all my commitments in the temple. At the end of my sanity, I spoke with Mark E. Peterson, who said to me simply, “Get rid of him, or he will destroy you and any children you may have.”

    I did. I remarried a faithful man and we had a happy LDS family. Much later I learned that my first husband was sexually addicted — a thing NOBODY knew about way back then. Since he could not give up his secret addiction, he had to prove the church was false, that there was no God, and therefore his addiction should not give him any guilt. I have since learned from many divorced women that a great number of men who leave the church do so because the church forbids them to practice a cherished sin and feel fine about it.

    Every woman in this situation must make this decision hand in hand with the Lord. Maybe a bishop can help, maybe counseling can, but the final decision must be between Deity and herself. Nobody else’s vote counts.

  50. Michelle,
    I like your attitude. Sometimes we underestimate how the very foundations of our marriage seem to crumble when one of us changes our core beliefs.

    Eleanor,
    Thanks for contributing your story. You have been on a difficult journey. Every man or woman needs to make decisions regarding marriage and faith prayerfully. I’m sure that many people find things out about their spouse after divorce, but I think most times elements of doubt do not follow grievous sin, or visa versa.

  51. I haven’t gone through this, but my parents have and do. My mom decided that she didn’t believe anymore. I remember that it was a hard time for my parents, but they stuck it out and I cherish their work that they did to keep the family together and continue loving each other.

    One thing I’ve learned as I’ve prayed about it, the Lord sees and understands much more than we do. That all will be taken care of in the end and that the best thing that we can do in situations like this is pray. I would say that #1 might be good for one person, number 2 for another, and number 3 or 4 for yet another. We are all placed in different circumstances with different needs and I don’t think one solution fits all.

  52. what should Sally do when she finds out that Sam has been breaking the word of wisdom for years when he goes out with friends, and wants to be able to have a beer at home on a Saturday evening after mowing the lawn, like his friends? That he has vowed to his friends that will never pay for his sons to serve missions? That he is staying in the marriage even though he doesn’t love or respect her, but because he wants to be there to dilute her Mormonism, so that the kids have a better chance of leaving the church when they grow up? And because he doesn’t want to pay alimony and child support for five kids?

  53. Jennifer,
    These things can be complicated. I don’t have an exact answer, but consider that even if there was divorce, the kids still will see their dad, and the dad will have the same influence, no?

    As far as the word of wisdom thing goes, he is an adult, and drinking isn’t against the law. He doesn’t appear to be an alcoholic. This might be a huge value shift, but I think in many marriages there are big changes, and sometimes the other spouse has to roll with the punches.

    In my husband’s family they stay in their church clothes all day on Sunday. This is a way they honor the Sabbath. I didn’t grow up this way, and don’t see the point. When we first married I adopted this tradition–until I became pregnant. Wearing a dress is bad enough with nylons–doing it with a growing belly and trying to be comfortable at home was too much. And then the baby came. I kissed his tradition good bye forever. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like it either when as the children grew, as the doer of laundry, I ask the children to please not put their church clothes on until right before we leave for church and immediately change out them when we come home. But he reconciled that we had different views of the necessity Sabbath attire. As my boys have grown, they follow their father and don’t change (mostly because they don’t want to be bothered), the youngest two still change. That is the reality of every marriage, a sometimes complicated mesh of compromise and acceptance.

    I realize my example is trivial compared to something that seems huge like drinking. I hope you find some answers.

  54. A scripture comes to mind. (sorry if it has been posted already…I tried to make sure I wasn’t being repetitive.)

    I Corinthians 7:12-16

    “If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
    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 a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to 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?”

  55. #58 Jennifer: I’d say it time to seriously and prayerfully decide about divorce, and that Sally should have a sit-down with Sam to let him know just how close to divorcing him she is and why.

  56. I left comment #60, not at all to address Jennifer, #58. Jennifer, your situation sounds serious enough to really consider the possibility of divorce. How devastating. The scripture I quoted is only to give hope to those whose husbands are otherwise good and kind but are not committed to the Church.

  57. Not #1. Sally’s already got a whole church behind her, what exactly does she hope to get by involving the bishop in it? If it’s for her own councelling then that’s fine, but don’t expect to win any points with the husband for it.

    As for divorce? If it’s true that he doesn’t love her anymore then that’s a good reason to get a divorce. But any other reason is a bit silly.

  58. #58 Jennifer, I have to agree with Strollerblader. There are far more serious issues at play here than faith/testimony/word of wisdom issues. You deserve to have a spouse who loves and respects you, no matter what his religious beliefs.

  59. I always get a little squirmy when something as serious as divorce is tossed around in discussions like this, because what leads to even considering (let alone making) such a decision is usually so complex, where what can be captured and known in a blog discussion is so limited. I *know* there are situations that warrant divorce, but I can’t imagine going into such a decision w/o clear revelation. Divorce is so hard on everyone, even with such a clear answer.

    My thoughts for “Sally” (ie., anyone in such a situation) would be to pray like never before (seeking counsel from those you can trust and talk to about all that is happening) and then sort out what is right in the complexity and whole view that only God knows.

    FWIW, I have friends whose husbands have gone through sort of personal faith and/or identity crises (and sometimes made the issues about the wife); not all ended terribly, but some required patience, love, and endurance. Others found that they really were in seriously abusive situations that couldn’t be remedied, so they got out.

  60. another thing that’s really painful to find out is how much “Sam” has been seeking emotional fulfillment outside the marriage. He says “Sally” makes it really hard to talk about some of the things that matter most to him personally, like all the stuff he’s learning in his new study, or some of the awful things friends and family say to him when they realize that he has lost his testimony.

    Of course, Sally also seeks her emotional fulfillment outside hte marriage too. Most of her conversations with friends, family, church leaders are about how to deal with Sam’s loss of faith, and most of his conversations with friends (because he feels like he has lost his family, who treat him like a second-class citizen) are about how to deal with the changes created in his life as he prepares to leave the church.

    Most of Sam and Sally’s conversations with each other are about the kids or the house or what to do on date-night, which usually involves going to see a ball game or play or movie, so that if they have to talk, it’s about what they saw.

    Maybe the “Sam and Sally” I know are more extreme than the version most other people here seem to know…. but I don’t think so. There’s no abuse or cruelty. there’s just the sense that each spouse has gotten stuck with someone they don’t really know and can’t really know, but since they have five kids, including that toddler Sally has to dress for church all by herself, they might as well be good parents (because they both sincerely want what they think is best for their kids–they just have completely opposite ideas about that). Sally no longer reads Sam’s journal or goes through on his email (which is how she found most of hte things out–though she doesn’t read them mostly because he hid his journal and changes his password) and they have gotten past the stage of having huge fights, so there’s no open hostility. They both fear what it will do to their reputations, their finances and their self-esteem to get divorced. So they choose #4.

    And every so often a friend tells them that they seem to be dying a slow death.

  61. Dear Jennifer,
    When I read of your situation it breaks my heart, I could hardly stand to read your last line. I cannot even imagine how hard this must be for you. To me, dying a slow death might be the most painful option of all.

    I cannot give you any advice, I only want to say that I believe the Savior is aware of you and your situation and He has healing there for you. I have seen the Lord change some very hard hearts, making them new men, so much that you would not even recognize them as being the same person. I think of the way the Lord changed the hard hearts of many of the Lamanites, totally changing their lives. But remember also that there came a point where the Lord told Ammon and the now Anti-Nephi-Lehites to leave for their own survival because their brethren were to hard hearted, and wouldn’t allow the Lord to change them.
    Jennifer you will be in my prayers, I will pray for your healing, I will pray that you will be strengthened, pray that you will know what to do.

  62. 5- none of the above?

    Sally should be heartbroken, upset, angry, sad, etc, and all the other feelings she has. She should let her husband know how she feels, but also respect him and love him enough to listen to his doubts and validate them. They should talk about it A LOT. She should allow him to have the space he needs to question. He should spend a LOT of time thinking about how his actions could affect their children’s futures.

    In the end, I think both Sally and Sam need to realize that whether JS was a prophet, whether the BoM is true, is the gospel a good influence on their children and lives? Is it worth it to uproot and leave? Is there enough good to stay and ignore what they don’t like? Can Sally be okay with him not going to the temple, and can he be okay with attending sacrament with the family?

    IMO it adds to more than just Sam doesnt believe anymore, and Sally wants a priesthood holder. There are children involved. A family that could be torn apart. There needs to be some deep discussions, and fast, before it self-destructs.

  63. My wife lived with a zombie for a husband. Then the zombie got his life back, and she got her husband back. It was unbelievably difficult for her, and also for me, when I realized where we had got to. I wasn’t doubting the Church or the gospel, I was doubting me; I was also clinically depressed, in a very bad way (psychotic episodes).

    I’d say as long as Sam doesn’t begin a game of one-upping her attempts to teach the kids right from wrong, she would do well to stick with #4. He might think again — so many have, after all.

  64. She should…not take anyone else’s advice about what she should do. Everyone’s circumstances are unique.

    I’ve been through this and have tried all of the various scenarios above. The advice from others’ (incl various bishops) about what I should do was not helpful. Spending time in prayer, in meditation, and in setting my own life’s priorities was helpful.

Comments are closed.