Question:

I was born into a loving LDS family. I was raised in the Church and was active until I reached my teenage years. I lost my testimony in high school and chose to become inactive when I left for college. I dated non-LDS men and, as a result, I married my husband 36 years ago. After learning about Mormonism, he didn’t take kindly to my religion but because I was inactive, it didn’t matter to me.

Then, our sons came along and I had a desire to have them blessed. My husband reluctantly agreed and my father gave them both their blessings, but my inactive life kept going along, nothing changed.  I always believed the Church was true but just didn’t want to make the effort to go, especially knowing my husband’s anti-Mormon feelings. I also knew he did not want our sons to become Mormon. Every time we spoke about my going to Church, I could tell he was not happy.

In my forties, I started going to Church and held a calling in Relief Society. My activity lasted about a year and due to many arguments and a lot of sadness, I stopped attending. He even said that if this continued after our youngest graduated from high school, we would have to divorce. I was devastated because I knew he meant it. So here we are, almost 37 years into our marriage and I go to Church when I can, read my scriptures when I can, pray, and always do the best I can! I love my husband. He’s been a wonderful husband, father and grandfather! He believes in God and loves his fellow beings. I pray everyday for my husband’s heart to be softened towards the Church. If my husband never joins the Church, and our marriage never becomes eternal, what can I expect will happen with my family in the eternities?

Answer:

I think it’s understandable that you would wonder about the eternal future of your family, especially since none of you share the same beliefs. However, in the same way you have been on a lifelong journey of discovering a meaningful relationship with Heavenly Father, please recognize that your husband and children are on that same individual journey. Remember that this journey didn’t begin on this earth and doesn’t end once we pass through the veil at death.

As I read your question, I can only imagine what your journey has been like for your husband. Even though the seeds of the gospel were planted in you at a young age, there were no signs of growth when your husband met and married you. I’m sure this gradual move toward the Church has been confusing and threatening to his concept of who you are, especially in relation to what you both shared as you started your family.

I don’t know the entire context behind your comment about him threatening divorce if you continue to go to church after your youngest leaves the home. Perhaps this was said in a moment of exasperation when he didn’t know how to communicate his frustration about the different directions he saw you both taking. My guess is that this is a conversation that needs to be revisited so you can both find a way to honor each other’s needs.

You have built a solid marriage under the difficult conditions of a mixed faith family. That is not an easy thing to do and your efforts speak to the love and tolerance you both have for each other. Those are the conditions that actually qualify families for eternal joy, as taught so eloquently by Elder Robert D. Hales in the October 1996 General Conference:

As taught in this scripture, an eternal bond doesn’t just happen as a result of sealing covenants we make in the temple. How we conduct ourselves in this life will determine what we will be in all the eternities to come. To receive the blessings of the sealing that our Heavenly Father has given to us, we have to keep the commandments and conduct ourselves in such a way that our families will want to live with us in the eternities. The family relationships we have here on this earth are important, but they are much more important for their effect on our families for generations in mortality and throughout all eternity.[1]

Granted, you don’t have the blessings of the sealing at this point, but you do have everything else Elder Hales describes as ingredients to a healthy family. Keep working on building a loving, tolerant, and committed family environment, even if you don’t see the sealing power in mortality. There is much more to come and much more going on than we can see or understand.

Of course, you can always continue to deepen your personal relationship with your Savior and your Heavenly Father without the blessing of your husband. These private devotions are critical to your ability to live with gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned.[2] The logistics of you formally worshipping at church or in the temple is something you’ll need to continue to navigate with your husband. You noted that he has been supportive of it in the past, so it’s likely you’ll discover a way you can build this into your marriage. If your marriage is as strong as you describe, then I encourage you to rely on that shared commitment to each other to find a way to support one another in this challenging division.

I’m touched by the Book of Mormon author, Omni, in the way he was able to bless those of us who believe, even though he himself wasn’t a believer. We don’t know much about his story, but we do know that he did his best to protect his people, even though he described himself as a wicked man. What inspires me the most is that even though he personally didn’t worship, believe, or participate in the work of salvation on earth, he was respectful enough of the record and the traditions of his people that he passed on what he could to his son, which provided a bridge between believers.[3] This is no small thing.

Likewise, your husband is co-constructing a loving family, even though he doesn’t share your same beliefs. You have more in common than you might realize. Don’t let the differences discourage you to the point where you give up hope for the future. You are not done with your journey home, and neither is your husband.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]


com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves on the high council of the St. George, Utah young single adult second stake. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children. You can connect with him at:

Twitter: @geoffsteurer
_____________________________


[1] Robert D. Hales, “The Eternal Family“, Ensign, November 1996

[2] Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42

[3] Omni 1:2