How appropriate to celebrate this second night of Hannukah with not one but two queries about interfaith marriage. Read them with me, dear AMG community, by the dwindling light of the menorah:
I am a single woman in my early 30s, and I’ve been a member of the Mormon Church my whole life. I learned to read by reading the Book of Mormon. I grew up in Utah, attended BYU, and served a mission. I can count on one hand the number of Sundays I’ve missed sacrament meeting in the past ten years. Mormonism is fundamental to my religious beliefs and my personal sense of identity, and it is the community that I identify with most strongly.
For about a year now, I’ve been dating a man who is not a member of our church (I’m avoiding the temptation here to go on a long digression about what an incredible person he is, how supportive he is of me, and how much I love him). Early in our relationship, I gave some thought to the question of whether I would ever be willing to marry a non-Mormon. As our relationship has progressed, this vague hypothetical question has led to some much more concrete thinking about what an interfaith marriage would be like for me, for him, and for us. How could I help a non-Mormon spouse to feel like a member of my ward family when he is not a member of my church? I am willing to add his religious observances to our worship as a couple and as a family, but should I also be willing to give up some of my participation in my own faith – for example by attending the temple or Sunday services slightly less often in order to spend more time as an entire family? Is it wrong to make those types of sacrifices? Is it wrong not to? Is it naive to think we could raise our children to fully participate in two different faiths? If it is even possible, would it strengthen or weaken their ability to develop a personal relationship with their Heavenly Father?
The doctrinal and afterlife issues around a non-temple marriage are an entirely different topic, and one that I am personally much more at peace with than my questions about how one might make an interfaith marriage work in this life.
I realize that the answers to many of these questions may be different for every family, and that we need to continue to discuss them more as a couple as we continue to think about our future. Still, I would be interested to hear your perspective and that of your readers.
I am engaged to truly wonderful man who was baptized into the LDS church a few years ago. My fiance was not a member of a Christian faith before he joined the church, and he has never really celebrated Christmas before. Not even in a secular way. This may not seem like a big deal, but allow me to illustrate: we could have been set up by a mutual friend six months before we eventually met, but we weren’t, because the mutual friend thought my fiance didn’t get Christmas and, remembering that my mother replaces every piece of decor in her house with Christmas decor during December, was convinced that the relationship could never work.
I have a big, loud, loving Mormon family that does not believe in halfhearted Christmas celebrations. We’re talking matching pajamas and rhyming, multi-stage treasure hunts and nativity re-enactments and Danish aebleskivers from my great-grandmother’s recipe and grandkids bolting to bed after sighting Rudolph’s nose in the sky and a laundry list of other traditions. And I’m afraid that this might be a little overwhelming for an adult’s first Christmas. My fiance’s heart is in the right place: the commercialism of Christmas is off-putting to him, he wishes the crowds at Temple Square would go inside the building and serve in addition to looking at the lights, and he went to two church Christmas parties last year where talk of Santa and presents abounded but there was nary a mention of the baby born in Bethlehem. I should say, too, that though he’s a little nervous about the prospect of my family’s enormous Christmas celebrations, he has prepared in the best way he knows how: research. Months ago, after a conversation about some of my family’s Christmas traditions, he got online and bought for himself one of our favorite Christmas storybooks. The book is out of print and probably cost him a small fortune, but it was very sweet. He is trying to understand why this holiday is important to me.
So here’s the trick: How do I help this man I love understand this celebration that is important to my faith, to my family, and to me?
This week, the AMG inbox was abuzz with messages from readers with love and marriage on the brain. The first is a young man we’ll call Mormon Skater, a cousin, perhaps to the Mormon hipster made famous of late in a rather silly article from The New York Times.
Here’s what’s on his mind:
Utah is supposed to be the proverbial land of plenty for any returned missionary seeking a wife with whom to spend time and all eternity, and trust me when I say that upon returning from my mission (in Kobe, Japan) I fully expected the skies to open, inundating me with potential brides to be. All I’ve found in the three years since my homecoming, however, are wards full of girls that I’m mostly not interested in and who I feel are generally disinterested in me.
Upon returning to the land of the living I quickly grew out my hair, sprouted a beard, and slipped back into my collection of punk rock t-shirts, skater shoes, and slightly sagging pants. That pure sheen that accompanied me from the plane back to America quickly faded, and now most who look at me might doubt I’m even Mormon let alone one with a strong testimony who relatively recently served an honorable mission. This persona has served to attract a fair number of girls from outside the church, but my desire to marry in the temple and raise an LDS family has largely kept me from being overly attracted to or interested in starting a serious relationship with any of them.
Maybe it’s naive of me to think that there might be a female counterpart to myself among the strict Mormon ladies of northern Utah… might I be better served by getting a hair cut and a shave, and becoming more like the clean cut guys who I constantly see gracing the insides of the conference issues of the Ensign? Or perhaps I should get off of my high horse and give some of the not member girls who actually seem to like me a chance.
Filed under Love, marriage
This week’s query comes from the domain of twenty-first century family life—a Mormon family, in this case, but it could be a family of any faith, really. This thoughtful AMG reader has a lot on his mind. Let’s give him a listen.
I consider my relationship with my wife as a marriage of equals; we both work together to meet the challenges of life as a unified partnership. We share–and have always shared–financial, employment, social, religious, and family management decisions together, and have for the most part agreed in our family’s path. In terms of household management, we both cook, clean, do laundry, pay bills and manage the family budget, shop for food and household essentials, doing yard work, gardening, etc. We share our finances completely (no separate accounts and personal discretionary spending allowances). We both take active roles in the nurture and education of our children, helping with homework, piano lessons, reading together, projects, fun, etc.
I work full-time in a career that provides around 90% of the family income; my wife works around 18 hours a week in a public education-related job that doesn’t pay well and is far below her skills and training, but which allows her to be home whenever the kids are at home and requires no off-the-clock workload. My wife is very good at what she does, and makes important, positive impact in the lives of others through her work. My income allows us to pay for all our bills without going into debt, but it doesn’t allow for much savings for the future; her income helps cover incidental expenses, home improvements, and accelerated student loan repayment.
My concern sounds small, but it brings me a great deal of stress. I always pictured myself getting a full education, having a career, and getting married in my late twenties, sure to date a man for a long, long while before any permanent decisions were made. I’m a very independent person so this idea suited me. But, as I attended BYU and had roommates getting married, the hype of everything got to me. I started dating a real wonderful guy, and got married when I was 20.
Don’t get me wrong–he’s wonderful. And our relationship is good. But sometimes I have this nagging voice in the back of my head telling me I did the wrong thing. There’s this deep, dark, secret space that tells me I picked the wrong guy, got married too soon, or that the marriage is destined for failure in the future. I “hear” this voice so often that I sometimes feel regret about my decisions, and great apprehension about any permanent decisions for the future, whether it be buying a house, having babies or even something that’s not a huge deal, like buying a piano or new computer.
If I weren’t a Mormon, I could probably just hire a lawyer, talk with my husband and say “maybe we rushed into this….” and it could be over. But because we got married in the temple, we made covenants and promises that make me feel SO guilty even considering the option of leaving a marriage that is practically problem free (at least with the big stuff like abuse or non-compatibility goes. We do have normal problems, like everyone else.) My “marriage prep” class filled my head with a million quotes about how any two righteous people can make a marriage work, that there’s no such thing as “Mr. Right” and that there can be no basis for divorce unless there are some real, real serious issues.
I hate that I feel this way but I don’t know how to get rid of this feeling! I certainly can’t talk to my husband about it, because I don’t want to cause him unnecessary stress, and I feel uncomfortable talking with anyone else about it because it’s so personal.
What in the world should I do?
Dear Ask Mormon Girl:
I am sure I will never find a Mormon guy who will make me happy, to marry in the temple. I am 20 years old, I’m not out of time, but I have a lot of problems with church and marriage in general. I was told all my life to accept it as the truth with no questioning, and that if you do everything “right” then you’ll be happy no matter what. I found that my parents never really were happy and when my dad came out of the closet, and my parents divorced, it proved me right, that doing what’s “right” doesn’t make you “happy.” I feel pressure to date only guys who are Mormons even though a Mormon guy wouldn’t understand me very well. I don’t have a very good “testimony” of the church, but honestly I would still like to get married in the temple, to an upstanding guy. I’m just not sure how to get there without denying my true feelings about men who think they’re “over” their wives, who expect their wives to fit the homemaker mold, and my feelings that marriage can’t work even, and especially, when founded on the teachings of the Mormon church.