I was born and raised in a fairly orthodox Mormon household in Southern California. My parents are still active, but three out of their five children are not (I’m counting myself as one of the “active” ones). I married an LDS man in the temple, but he has since left the church. His questions led me to question and now I’m not entirely sure what I believe. I attend a few Sacrament Meetings a month, but don’t hold a calling or pay tithing, and basically fly under the radar at church. My temple recommend expired this last May. My brothers’ inactivity has been pretty hard on my parents. As was my husband’s decision to leave. I consider my parents to be pretty open-minded, and they’ve always been very loving and accepting, but I know they are saddened by this on a daily basis.
This brings me to my current predicament—my best friend will soon be getting married in the temple and I have to make some choices. I have been pretty quiet about my questions about the Church. I don’t live near my childhood friends or family, so it hasn’t been very hard, but I am absolutely dreading this wedding which will be held in my hometown. I will either have to A) go talk to my bishop, be honest about my situation, start paying tithing, and see if he still decides to give me a recommend, or B) be honest with my parents, siblings, and friends about the fact that I don’t know if the Church is true and make everyone sad and upset. I don’t think either option is very palatable. The thought of feeling like I let parents down is heartbreaking, as is the thought going to the temple when I feel this way. I don’t know what to do.
I would love to hear any advice you may have.
If option A is to suck it up and get worthy enough to pass for the wedding, and option B is to drag yourself from door to door to confess your faith transition to everyone in the world, let me offer an option C:
Take your best friend to lunch. Tell her how thrilled you are for her. Tell her how much you care about her. Then, let her know that you’re in a season of spiritual change and your temple recommend has expired. Stress to her that there is nothing to worry about. You’re okay. You’re just trying to honestly sort through some feelings you are having about Church activity. Ask her to keep your confidence. And think of a special way to share the day or preparation for the day with her. Can you give her or lend her a little piece of jewelry she can wear inside, so that she can feel your love and support? Is there a special support role you can play for the bride on her big day? (Brides always need an extra hand while the rest of the family reverts to its preferred patterns of psychodrama.) It is, after all, her wedding. Offer your friendship, love, and support. Do not apologize, and do not over-explain.
The same goes for everyone else—-parents, friends, siblings, the whole hometown crew, your old seminary teacher, the boys you kissed at the stake dances—-you owe them no explanation. On the day of the wedding, you get dressed up, you show up, and you make yourself useful. Smile and hold your head high. Tune out the chatter. Breezily say, “I’ll meet you after the ceremony.” And inside, take satisfaction by knowing that you are going about the next step in your lifelong spiritual journey with integrity.
Because really, that’s the heart of your query. You are a grown woman on a spiritual journey. And our spiritual lives don’t run on other people’s timetables or according to other people’s priorities. When I read your letter, I see a grown woman who is putting everyone else’s feelings before the integrity of her own spiritual growth. Your husband had his faith transition. So have your siblings. You’d like to spare your poor parents any more trouble, not to mention your best friend. But what about you?
Sure, it might have been nice—-super perfect Molly Mormon nice–if you could have timed it all perfectly to speed along your faith transition and end up temple worthy just in time for your best friend’s wedding. But, alas, you are a human being. And thank heavens for that.
In ten years, only a handful of people will even remember whether you were in the sealing room or not, and they may not even care. But in ten years, you will still have your soul, and its questions, and you owe it to yourself to take them seriously. You also owe yourself a dignity and privacy as you work your questions out.
Let me leave you with what may be my favorite scripture ever: “What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly before God?” (Micah 6:8) Hold your head up high, and get on with your walk, Sister K. I’ve got your back.
Who else? Who else knows what K is going through? Have you been on the outside of the temple wedding looking in, or the inside looking out? How have you managed the expectations of the community when your spiritual journey takes a turn?
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