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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

When a Spouse Loses the Faith 

by John H
One of Robert Kirby’s greatest newspaper articles tells the story of his friend Boone. Boone it seems, lost his faith--if only temporarily. At the very least, Boone was having some very serious doubts about the Church. His wife was, naturally, deeply troubled. She was so troubled in fact, that she was threatening divorce.

Mormonism complicates marriage because of our moral absolutes. For example, Glen Lambert, a marriage therapist, mentioned during a session of Sunstone that he’d met with a couple who was struggling. The husband had seen an R rated movie, and his wife was thoroughly appalled. He points out that because she was dealing and viewing the world with moral absolutes, there was no room for the compromise or negotiation that is so essential to marriage. What he had done was wrong, period. There could be no discussion, there could be no understanding – at least, no understanding beyond he had sinned.

How might couples navigate this tricky road, especially when faced with the loss of faith? If there’s one "moral absolute" in Mormonism, it’s that the Church is God’s kingdom and being a part of it is a pretty important step to the Celestial kingdom.

For my part, I see both sides of this issue. For the one who loses faith, or questions, it’s an impossible situation. As Kirby mentions, you can lie to your spouse or be honest with yourself. Believe me, as one who’s been there, no one wants to question their faith. It isn’t fun and it isn’t done deliberately, or to be an apostate. On top of such a difficult dilemma, the one person who is supposed to be supportive, is supposed to understand, is perhaps the one most troubled by this lack of faith.

On the other side of the coin, the believing spouse is thoroughly convinced that their husband/wife is jeopardizing their families eternal togetherness. They married this person in the temple, made very serious promises and covenants with them, and now they’re backing out. Friends might not know how to act around you if your spouse left the Church. Your spouse might start drinking alcohol; they might stop wearing garments. Soon enough, the person you’re living with doesn’t resemble the person you married.

Is divorce too extreme in such a scenario? Should spouses be understanding of another’s doubts and perhaps even a total loss of faith? Is there anyway to compromise or negotiate what seems like opposite ends of the spectrum?

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