Last week’s column featured a plea from a mother of two sons who have married non-LDS girls.  She wanted to know how church members can thrive in part-member families.

We only got three responses this week, but all of them were good ones.  Here they are:

Fifteen years ago I married my husband when he was inactive and I was very active.  He had been raised by what he perceived as an overbearing father who “forced the church down his throat.”  During his formative years, his father was heavily involved in church leadership callings. My husband felt that his father “had all the time in the world for every other member except his son.”

I knew my husband had a testimony, but he had been more or less offended by his experience in his home.  Family Home Evening was a tirade. Family prayer was “family lecture.”   His impatient father took it for granted that his son had a testimony.

What we have to remember is that we are all from ‘part member’ families.  Children are not “born Mormons.” Parents, through their example and actions, teach their children what a Latter-day Saint and a priesthood holder looks like, acts like, speaks like and parents like. We must remember that we are doing missionary work every day as we relate to our spouse and to our children.

My husband and I are sealed in the temple now, and we have four beautiful children. He honors his priesthood, teaches lessons, and does his home teaching regularly, yet because of the hurt and pain of his youth, he is very hesitant to take the lead in initiating Gospel discussions or scripture study at home.   He is very private about his spirituality.  He is also very protective of family time when a calling is demanding of my time or the kids’ time.

I have had to seriously be proactive and strategic in my approach to parenting to make sure not to offend him or nag him, yet to teach our children the gospel.  The kids and I have scripture study early in the morning after he leaves for work, so he doesn’t feel pressure to participate.  I will occasionally skip a Relief Society meeting or a stake meeting when I know he needs special attention. I tell our children how their father honors his priesthood.  I focus on the positive, wonderful man that he is.

I figure it will take the eternities for my husband to fully heal, but for now, I am so grateful for who my husband is and the perspective that I have learned from his experiences.  I have a profound trust in my covenants. I trust the Lord to be a third party to our marriage and that he is softening my husband “grace by grace.” 

Anonymous Molly Mormon

Thanks for reminding us, Molly, that the most important missionary work we do is within the walls of our own homes.

Clark and I used to home teach a family that was inactive because the wife’s mother had been a longtime Relief Society president who put every family in the ward ahead of her own.  We must always remember how sensitive children (and spouses!) are, and how easily they are wounded when they don’t believe they are loved.

Your husband’s scars may not heal in this life, Molly, but as you know they will eventually heal.  I’m sure you’re delighted he has made the progress he has made.  Perhaps there are happy surprises in store for you in the future.

I grew up from birth to my own marriage with a mother who was LDS born, and a father with a different religious background.  My father became a member when he was 60 and I had three children of my own.   Every family is different, of course, and struggles in different ways.

My mom was a stake missionary and really knew the gospel, and I have many memories of her earnest pleadings and reasonings for my dad to understand and to see the truth doctrinally.    He was kind and cooperative, let her pay tithing on a certain portion of his salary, was quiet about his thoughts, and eventually began to attend Sunday School and to participate in social activities.

Missionaries were always in our home, but he never agreed to listen to them. He had fine LDS friends, but he continued to smoke and claimed he couldn’t quit.

Here is his story.  When my brother entered the MTC with my dad’s full support, my dad became very ill and lost his desire to smoke.   He told my mother that even though he wasn’t smoking it didn’t mean he was ready for membership.   Yet in only two or three months he invited her to attend his baptism. 

Here is her story.  It was only after she wanted him to join for his own sake and not just to bless her life and mine and my brother’s that her prayers were answered.

Together in the Gospel Now

Thanks for presenting both your mother’s perspective and your father’s, Together.  I suspect there is some truth to both of them, but I was especially interested in her point of view.

I’m not saying your mother was a nag, by any means.  But it may be that your father did not perceive that his needs were being taken care of until your mother backed off (even in her prayers!) and let him choose for himself.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad you’re together now.

It is not easy to have a gospel centered life in a house divided unless both adults are willing to come together on common ground.

My husband was not a member of the Church for the first ten years of our marriage. Through prayer, I was inspired, as the mother of the home, to put my house in order the Lord’s way and that included prayers at meal times, FHE, going to church consistently, reading The Book of Mormon, and loving my husband and his good qualities. Tithing was strictly my business as I was self-employed and earned my own income. My husband could not see anything wrong with keeping our home in a manner where our children would grow up healthy — emotionally, physically and spiritually. (Even if he did not believe in the church)

Family Home Evening lessons were held on Sunday, and the topics were things that were universal — kindness, love, service, and other attributes. We also had lessons on different countries and once in awhile I would have someone I knew who had gone on a mission to the particular country we were studying come and be a special guest to show some items from the country (including a copy of The Book of Mormon in that language) and share a story about living there. That was always a special time.

Going to church consistently with young children was not always easy and I would say a prayer begging Heavenly Father to help them behave. Some weeks were wonderful and others? Well, let’s just say my children are still alive to this day. I also tried my hardest not to complain about any goings-on at church and especially anyone or their children.

I told my husband that it was important for me to read The Book of Mormon to our children each day, and eventually we would begin reading the Bible.


 

 

I also told him that if he had anything to share, then we would love to have his input. I read and acted out the stories of The Book of Mormon each morning at breakfast, mainly so my children would be occupied and I would have their attention. My husband was busy at that time fixing his lunch and getting ready for work. (He was learning from a distance.)

 

My husband was in charge of the activity night part of FHE on Mondays through Saturdays whenever we could fit it in with our schedules. He was very fun with the kids.

There were times that it was hard for me to let my husband be the head of the home, especially when it came time for our son to be baptized and the bishop asked my husband for permission. Actually, the bishop was very inspired to ask him (I recognized this later but not right away) because it demonstrated the respect the Church has for the head of the home even though he is not a member. It made a huge impact on my husband’s feelings towards the Church.

Many times, my husband would comment on the peaceful feeling in our home and attributed that to my being happy (which was correct). I knew I could make or break the spirit in our home (from experience), and I tried my best to keep things peaceful.

I’m thankful to say that through following the Prophets and making my house gospel-centered, my husband was baptized after we had been married ten years. I often wonder if I could have continued on without him becoming a member and I can honestly say, “Yes, because our home was happy!” However, it has been most wonderful to be united in the gospel and I am so grateful my husband recognized the truth when he was learning from a distance.

A Family United

Thanks for sharing your story, United.  Your example is a good one to share, because you did the best you could but didn’t shove the Church into your husband’s face.  And look at the eternal reward you’ve been given!

Okay, readers, if you have anything else to say on this topic, now is the time to say it.  Do not under any circumstances use the “feedback” form on this page!  Send your letters to  [email protected], with something in the subject line to indicate that your letter isn’t spam.  If I don’t get any new letters about thriving in part-member families, we’ll begin a new discussion next week.

Until next time — Kathy

“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

St. Francis of Assisi

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