“I don’t’ think there has ever been a premarital couple who is closer than Beau and I are. We’re one of the rare lucky ones whose union far exceeds the sum of it’s parts…one plus one equals a billion. I have a feeling the best thing I’m going to have in this life is my marriage with Beau. I KNOW our marriage will be a happy one for both of us.”
These are the words I wrote in my journal as a young woman, deep in love with my pre-missionary sweetheart.
I’d been searching for The One, someone who would become one in heart, mind and soul with me, all my life. I’d come from a dysfunctional, abusive family situation, and as part of my survival tactic, I looked around and found people whose relationships reflected what I wanted in my life. A unified marriage was my highest priority, and I couldn’t believe how fortunate Beau and I were to have found each other.
Two years passed, and a month after returning from a faithful mission, we were sealed in the temple. At last! We will never have anything come between us ever again, I thought.
We resumed our studies at BYU. Right from the start there were some things we struggled with, but never did it cross my mind where we were headed. Though we never read scriptures together, and seldom had couple prayer, we did attend church weekly, and both fulfilled callings. I figured we were just lazy and busy, and in my heart I was always angling towards being more faithful as a couple, figuring it would happen eventually.
We’d been married for 9 years and I was pregnant with our second child the night we had a conversation that would turn my world upside down.
I don’t believe in God or Jesus anymore. I just don’t think that if there WAS a God, he’d need a middle man. The only reason you believe in Christ is because you were raised in North America. If you’d been raised in Japan you’d believe in Buddha. Or Muhammad if you were raised in the Middle East. Religion is just culture, and faith is just a tool religions use to keep people coming back.
Because my own lack of spiritual preparation, I was ripe for a fall, and this discussion yanked my entire spiritual foundation out from under me. “He’s a scholar. Scholars search for truth, without any agenda of their own” I thought. How could I trust the spiritual experiences I’d had?! How can anyone know anything for sure?
Thus began a personal journey of disillusionment and depression that lasted for years. Beau never tried to pull me away, though he did hope that I’d come to the same conclusions he had on my own.
And I’ll admit, leaving was very appealing. We lived in areas without a strong LDS population, and I was serving out a life-sentence in the Primary Presidency. My “lamp” was bone dry, and religion had become a huge wedge in my marriage. Eventually I concluded that maybe if I left the church, I’d be able to remove at least ONE boulder in my life.
Literally the moment I decided to leave, unmistakable miracles started occurring, which gave me pause. I trudged along undecided for a while, but the truth was, I wasn’t happy in the church, and decided to leave, again.
So I’m not sure why, because I hadn’t read it in a long time, but when the August 2005 Ensign arrived, I flipped through and came across the First Presidency Message entitled A Testimony Vibrant and True
I had never liked reading scriptures. I’d go so far as to say I hated it. But as I read that challenge from President Hinckley to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year, and the promise that there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God, for some reason I decided to accept it. I viewed it almost like a Hail Mary…a parting gesture on my way out of the church. To prove that I really did try, but that it just hadn’t worked.
It took over a month of reading every day before something started to change within me. I will never forget the moment it actually came alive for me…almost like a motion picture, I could see the stories unfolding in my mind, and feel the spirits of the people written about. I feasted for hours, finally tasting the fruit of the spirit, and developed, to my great surprise, a tiny speck of bona fide faith in Christ.
I’d never questioned the church growing up. I’d accepted it and believed, even thought I “knew”. But till this experience, I realized that I had never had genuine faith in Christ. This tiny speck of faith is more powerful than knowing, or hoping, or believing.
My (slow) change of heart has seemed like a mixed blessing at times. I know Beau was somewhat disappointed at not being able to leave religion behind us together. But he continued to support me in raising our children in the church, attending weekly with me. He served in callings, paid tithing (at my urging), wore his garments, obeyed the commandments etc. For all anyone knew, he was a regular (albeit not gung-ho) member.
Eventually though, he started edging away. I’d grown used to living with a closeted heretic who was active, and I have struggled to adjust. His dream is to eventually have complete separation from the church, which would be much easier if we relocated and he could start fresh in a community where no one knows us. But our kids and I are happy where we live now, and would prefer to stay put if possible. We are in a wonderful ward, with a strong youth program, and lots of great members whose example I’m counting on to help me raise my children.
Happily, our children are doing okay. The oldest found out this year about their dad, and handled it very well. I daresay it has actually strengthened their testimony to know where Beau is at, and we enjoy an increased closeness due to our shared faith. Now when I gather my children to my side and read them the scriptures every morning, my oldest is much more supportive and helpful than before.
The things that have helped me the most so far are amazing relatives, great-hearted friends and ward members who include us despite our atypical situation, and our own efforts to do the basics: prayer, church attendance, Sabbath observance, etc. I sometimes play great talks during breakfast from Education Week, firesides, and General Conference etc. But probably the biggest help for us have been these three books, which have made our study of the scriptures SO much more meaningful. I highly recommend them to all. For those with small children, the picture-versions of the scriptures held even my youngest child’s attention (no small feat!)
Heavy on my mind through all these years has been the subject of agency. For a while, I felt trapped by it. God won’t violate our agency, and in good conscience I can’t use guilt, manipulation, coercion or emotionalism to persuade Beau to believe. But finding that balance between my wants, and allowing him to live as he chooses has been a struggle and strain on our relationship, and I have often failed to live up to my ideals.
I’m not strong yet, and am more aware than ever of just how easy it is for us to lose our way when we omit the basics from our lives. But I am hanging in there, and still pray that one day (hopefully in this life), Beau will have his own Saul-Paul moment. He once had a strong testimony, and I know that Heavenly Father knows him, loves him even more than I do, and will not easily give up on him.
Because of this process, this journey we are on, my own faith in Christ has sprouted. It has made me into a better person, and though I can’t say it’s the life I’d have chosen, I dare say in a strange way I can appreciate it. Through all my darkest moments, I know His spirit has been with me, even when I was beyond feeling (which lasted a long time). There have been countless tender mercies in my life, and I am aware that the way to refine my dross is by enduring the purifying process of the fire.
Many people who know our whole situation have at various times suggested I give up and move on and find a more compatible match. But I can’t make decisions now based on fear of the future. I love Beau, and he loves me. We have our trials, but as long as I can keep my pride in check, and continue to live the gospel to the best of my ability, I know our family will be blessed in ways I can’t presently fathom.