This story is part of our Mixed-Faith Marriage series, exploring the journeys and insights of active Latter-day Saint women married to men who are not members of the Church or who have left the Church. Each story is a generous and vulnerable offering. We ask that comments be sensitive and nonjudgmental toward any woman’s choices or beliefs.
By Kim Cowart, Utah, USA
My husband and I met while we were both new teachers at an inner-city high school in Las Vegas. We were young, inexperienced, and frustrated. We were transplants: Christian from Kentucky, I from Utah/Oregon. We fell in love quickly. He was my life raft at a time when I was doggie-paddling across a turbulent ocean.
We were a perfect match except I am Mormon and he is not.
My faith wasn’t an issue for Christian. He didn’t care that I didn’t drink or attended church three hours every Sunday. I was the one who struggled. It’s not easy to set aside a lifetime of temple lessons, even when you fall in love. I was afraid of letting down my earthly parents and my Heavenly Parents. I was afraid of the eternal impact my decision would have on our future children. I’d been taught that choosing a spouse is the most important decision I would ever make and I was terrified of making the wrong choice. But I was more afraid of living my life without Christian in it. So I chose him.
Thankfully my parents love my husband as much as I do. While I know they would have preferred we married in the temple, we never once felt that they were embarrassed or disappointed. All we felt was their love.
Early in our marriage, we were, however, pitied by many members. We were projects of many ward missionaries, home teachers, and ward councils who felt it was their duty to save our family.
But Christian and I are a team and we’ve been good at not letting outside judgments seep between us. What has kept us close is our honesty and mutual respect for each other. I made it clear I wanted my children raised in the Church. He made it clear that he would come to church with us so we could be a family, but was not interested in joining. We love each other for who we are, not for what we want each other to become. I hearken back to the counsel of our first bishop who instructed us to always put our marriage before anything else, including the Church. That council has been a guiding force every day of our marriage.
Twenty years and two daughters later, we still attend church as a family each Sunday. We now live in a ward that doesn’t ask me, “What’s his problem?” when they realize he’s not a member, but rather say, “That’s dedication!” We are lucky to have a bishop that has asked what our boundaries are and what they as a ward should or should not offer. We are honest with what we need and the bishop is loving and respectful in turn. We feel truly cared for.
It hasn’t been easy. There have been members who have said hurtful things. There have been wards where few people talk to us. There have been neighbors who are kind and welcoming until my husband turns down an offer to attend priesthood. We have even had a seminary teacher who told our daughter that her dad was the broken link in our eternal chain.
But more often than not, our friends and ward members have our backs. Those that take the time to get to know us know our marriage works, even if it doesn’t follow a prescribed plan. When someone does say something insensitive, there are many more willing to speak up on our behalf. It’s a welcome change from the early days of our marriage.
I have learned life doesn’t follow a specific formula. One plus nine equals ten. So does five plus five. Seven plus three. Each equation is different, but they all add up to the same result. I have learned to turn to my Savior to help me figure out my personal equation. I have learned to rely on personal revelation. He knows the Cowart family best.
My love for my Savior and Heavenly Parents has grown stronger over the years. Despite my youthful fears, our family is loved. Our children are blessed. The Lord has provided a way for us to be together forever and I know we will be. I have felt the Savior’s love for us in the quietest moments when I’ve dared to ask. I no longer worry about the future. I’m not scared of making the wrong choice. I know I made the right choice. My equation will someday add up to ten.