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 Jenna Weeks, California, USA
Shortly after our first daughter was born, three and a half years into our marriage, my husband told me that he was having serious concerns about the Church. He told me he would continue to study, read, and pray, but he was deeply troubled about events in Church history, the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, and Church transparency. I was blindsided and hurt when I found out he had been silently harboring these doubts for months and had not turned to me.
The following year was extremely difficult. He ultimately decided that the “shelf” on which he placed troubling things throughout seminary, his mission, and BYU was too heavy, and he could no longer believe. I did my best to read alongside and understand his feelings, and I also learned a lot of unsettling information. We were both grieving for our faith as we knew it, but the subject proved to be too emotionally charged, and discussions often escalated into shouting matches. I remember thinking, “What does our temple marriage mean now?” His disaffection with the Church felt personal to me; if he really loved me, he would not do this to me and our family. I experienced a faith crisis of my own. Church was a painful place to be, the temple was a reminder that my eternal relationship was in jeopardy, and scripture study often rendered more questions than comfort. After our emotions became less raw and after a few months of counseling, we were able to mend some of our wounds and establish a new status quo.
Now more than seven years later our relationship is stronger than ever, but there have been bumps in the road. When he stopped wearing garments, I cried. When he could not attend a family sealing, I cried. When my oldest did not receive a father’s blessing at the beginning of a school year, I cried. The children have not been explicitly told, but they know that Daddy doesn’t pray. Our oldest daughter is about to turn 8, and I still have not found the words to tell her that Dad can’t baptize her. Yet we experience a lot of joy as a family. In time, I came to realize he is the same person as always, the person that I love. Any anxiety I have about the state of my eternal family or any future bumps are quickly overshadowed when I focus on the exceptional husband and father that he is.
Technically, he still qualifies as an active member because he attends sacrament meeting with us (a sacrifice that I am grateful for!) and skips out on the rest. Many ward members may not even realize that he is an unbeliever. We move a lot and I appreciate his willingness to support me while we acclimate to a new area. We both love the Latter-day Saint community and have many Latter-day Saint friends. Yet I am solely responsible for my children’s faith education. Most days are fine, but I am sometimes overwhelmed by my shortcomings and the task before me. In these moments I have to circle back to my blessings and God’s love and grace.
We actually feel similarly about most things, but I have become comfortable in the uncomfortable issues, while he has decided he cannot. I hope and believe in eternal life, eternal families, and Heavenly Parents; he cannot. My faith has deepened as it has become a choice freely given. I find myself defending atheists at church; the one I’m married to is full of love, morality, and good values. I am more aware of members who do not fit the traditional mold, as I understand what it feels like to be in the margins at church. When I matched the Church’s ideal family unit, I was never self-conscious as I am now that I might be perceived as “rocking the boat.” I noticed a distinct shift, whether perceived or real, that my credibility at church was lowered as one now out of that perfect ideal.
Some family and ward members love him with undertones of conversion, some seek to understand, some judge, some pity. Overall, I have had wonderful leadership that include us and accept him. Many friends and family just love, which is the best response. I believe that God knows and loves my family. Of course, I always hope for another faith transition into belief, but have also found peace that either way, everything will be ok.