Mar 25, 2008

The Marriage Mission

Have you ever thought what it would be like if everyone got married in the temple? Things would be great, right? Sure, we'd be one big, happy and secluded people! Having not been married in the temple myself, I wouldn't highly recommend marrying outside of the Church to anyone considering it. At the same time, if it's right for you, then it can be a valuable learning and faith-building experience. I believe that marriage is a highly personal decision and the Lord has a will for each individual. Sometimes we're required to take a leap of faith, for which there are no guarantees. I am the product of a mother who took that leap of faith and a father who later joined the Church and both remain strong this day. Of course I wish the same success story for myself and everyone, but if it doesn't happen in this life, then I refuse to look at my life as a failure, as many members would unfortunately label it. It's 2008 and there is still a lot of mistrust and myths that are prevalent among non-Mormons. Excluding someone from our lives solely on the basis of faith is, to me, the antithesis of what Mormonism stands for and in most cases, results in further suspicion and resentment of Mormonism in general. I don't wish to paint a black and white picture of marriage because there are many factors that need to be examined when marriage is being considered. I just believe that faith, as incredibly important as it is, is not the only one. Sometimes, in order to bring people into the Church, we have to marry them. And you thought that knocking on doors was demanding missionary work!


Anonymous said...

Ok Heretic, I’ve read your posts and I don’t know quite what to make of you or your theory of supportive dissent. I guess that’s what a self described misfit can expect.

I read all your posts and they posed intriguing questions but I choose to respond to this one because I too married a non-Mormon. Or least she says she is not a Mormon. She hasn’t been active since the age of 14. I am convinced that because of my convoluted relationship with Mormonism, it is better that I married a non-Mormon. My wife is content to let me practice or not practice my religion as I see fit. Had I married a true blue Mormon she would have likely been fed up with me long ago. And if she had tried to get to practice a more conventional form of Mormonism I would have hated it. I realize in many ways the Church is a ride made for two, but I have adapted pretty well to going it alone.

Sanford Barrett said...

Sorry Faithful Dissident. I mistakenly called you Heretic (another thoughtful blogger I read). And I didn't mean to be anonymous.

Mormon Heretic said...

Sanford, thanks for reading my blog. :)

Dissident, my dad is a convert. I remember dating a fine Lutheran woman (we'll call her Marsha), and I remember my dad telling me it was ok for me to marry her. I also remember thinking, "I'm not going to marry her."

Personally, I think a "mixed" marriage would have been really tough for me. I liked Marsha, because she was religious enough to invite me to her church--I attended Bible study with her regularly for a time, but I think we would have probably disagreed about religion too much to make it work. I know it works for some people, but my personal opinion is that religious should marry religious, irreligious should marry irreligious, and they should hopefully be the same level of activity/inactivity.

Marriage is wonderful, but difficult. Raising children is hard. Even for people of the same religious background, such as me and my wife, we have differences in how to discipline, and I would hate to bring differences of religion into the mix.

As for Sanford's comment on supportive dissent, I think that was meant to be posted on another post, but let me say that I think one can be supportive of the church, and can dissent about some things.

However, one must be truly patient, and careful with how one dissents, or church discipline could result. The church is not very open to criticism, so dissent must be tactful, and appropriate. There are plenty of people who the church feels has "crossed the line." But I think that dissent can be a good thing for the church.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Thanks for sharing, Heretic. I respect your marriage views because unless there is some very careful consideration done by both spouses, religion can turn into something very divisive. Long before I got married, I was in love with my best friend, a Baptist who immediately shut the door on any possible romantic future together because I was a Mormon. Being friends wasn't a problem, but despite our feelings for each other, anything more was too much and so I guess I was the "forbidden fruit." We're still good friends to this day and I see now that we weren't meant to be, but not just because of the religion. It hurt a lot at the time, but now I see how different we are and we would have clashed, not just religiously but in many areas. I don't agree with shutting the door on someone purely on the basis of religion, but I fully understand that some people really need to be with someone just like themselves, and so I can respect that personal decision.

I also agree with your statement that one has to be careful about how one dissents. I often wonder when one "crosses that line." I've followed the Danzig case and assume that the mistake he made was openly criticizing Church leaders in a newspaper and then signing his name. Aside from that, how is what he did any different than what most of us bloggers are doing? I've read some things by some people that you'd think would be enough for the Bishop's court to come knocking on their doors, but I can't say I've heard of any bloggers getting disciplined.

I hope to remain a reverent dissident, if at all possible, and to refrain from petty insults or unfound criticisms. At the same time, it's hard to know how it can be interpreted. What I may view as curiosity and a yearning for knowledge can be viewed as open criticism from some leaders. I think that most of us have the best intentions at heart. I can honestly say I do, but I realize that not everyone sees it that way and you can understand my desire to remain anonymous. How do we know?

Sanford said...

I once started out an Elder's Quorum lesson about marriage by stating that I was a poster child for potential divorce. I then referenced a study showing that marriages between Mormons and non-Mormons have the highest rates of divorce of inter-religious unions except Jewish non-Jewish. The class got a laugh but my wife was not entirely amused when she heard about it.

While my wife and I do not share religious beliefs, she does have a Mormon background and gets the culture. Our lack of shared religious commitments has not been too much of an issue in large part due to my lack of strong doctrinal positions. She takes my religious struggles in stride and it is not important to me that she become religious. And while I stew over my Mormonism, she mostly just wonders why I spend so much time on a religion that makes me half crazy.

But I could see many serious issues in a marriage between a hard core Mormon and a non-Mormon. And while I married outside the faith, I would be reluctant to recommend my path to others.

PS - your Danzig question is great one. I wonder if bloggers are going to find out the hard way that just because it's on line you can't be too candid about your issues with Mormonism. The Oaks quote is extraordinary. I'm still tossing that one around.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Interesting about Mormon/non-Mormon divorce rate statistics, Sanford. It's perhaps an indication of our intolerance to other religions, when we in fact should probably be the most tolerant of all religions. How many other religions extend the possibility of salvation and/or sealing beyond the grave?

Like you, I would be reluctant to recommend my path to others. It can be trying and lonely at times, but in any marriage there are no guarantees. In this day and age, if you find someone honest whom you can trust and respect, and want to at least spend this life together with, then you've already come pretty far. I know that some would say that's a pretty cynical view of marriage, but I prefer to think of it as realistic. Not one of us, married in or outside of the temple, has a guarantee of anything. I've seen my share of temple marriages fall apart and I know of some who are so dysfunctional that they're probably dreading the thought of eternity together. Now, I don't mean to say that because there are so many unhappy temple marriages, it's not for me. I don't mean that at all because I think that the majority of them are happy, loving, and respectful. Just like my civil marriage.

There was a story in the Ensign a while back. I think perhaps it was in Latter-day Saint voices, if I remember correctly in the April issue of 2006 (not sure about that though). Anyways, a sister wrote about how she was contemplating marriage but during an interview with her bishop or stake president, he told her "if you're not getting married in the temple, then you shouldn't be getting married at all." So she took his advice, dumped the chap she was with and later on found her RM, who took her to the temple and they all lived happily ever after. I'm glad to hear that things turned out for her, but that was a strong statement that was ringing in my ears for weeks to come. I tried not to read too much into it, but I have to admit that it bothered me -- and still does. I was thankful that I hadn't read that while I was contemplating marriage because it was the biggest decision of my life and I put years of thought, prayer and fasting into my decision. Perhaps if I had held out a little longer, I would be living in Provo with my own RM right now. :) No really, life is good, no regrets in that area, and I'm not even anywhere near Provo. :)

Anyways, going back to that quote, I think it's a good example of how many of us Mormons, who preach love and tolerance, can't extend that far enough to include marriage. Let's be honest, Mormon culture and/or doctrine is not particularly hospitable to mixed-marriages. And by mixed marriages, I mean marriages like yours and mine, Sanford. I had no illusions about what I was getting myself into, but quotes like that sting all the more when you find yourself questioning whether you did the right thing. I've asked my that sometimes, but always find myself returning to the foundations of my decision, that I could look the Lord in the face and 110% honestly say that I did what I believed He told me to do. So, right or wrong, I'm in it for the long haul.

I think of those who live in places where they are perhaps the only member in their community or where there are slim pickin's of possible Mormon marriage partners. Everyone has to make their own decision, but it would be a shame to see anyone needlessly go through life alone, when they could enjoy a life of companionship. That's when it really becomes "The Marriage Mission."