... You know you ain't coming back.
I know a woman who loved a great man. She made sacred covenants indicating that their love would sustain them through good times and bad times. In front of her groom, their families, and God she vowed to remain true and faithful until her death.
She didn’t even make it to two years.
At some point she felt she had made a mistake. The man hadn’t changed, but the seriousness and expansiveness of what she agreed to had become clearer in her mind. In the classic “it’s not you; it’s me” move, she left their home to stay with friends, and gave little warning. These friends of hers hardly knew her husband. Some of them began to project their own dissatisfaction with previous relationships. As the woman began expressing her doubts about the marriage they encouraged her to “be herself,” “find her truth” and of course “follow her heart.” She would admit that there had been another man who made her wonder, “What if?” They applauded.
The entire time she was separated, neither the man nor the woman would pretend that this was going to end with an intact marriage. The writing was on the wall. Divorce was the obvious endpoint. That’s not to say the man didn’t try to make things work. He suggested counseling, coming together with the support of their close friends (the ones who witnessed their vows and loved them both), and reviewing the things that made her fall in love with him. These attempts were rebuffed under the banner of, “I’m finding myself.”
Yet as clear as it was that their separation spelled doom, we overlook such obviousness when members of the Church announce they’re stepping away and claim there’s no need for alarm, and that it’s possible they will be restored to it.
That is some high-level BS.
Crises happen. In marriage and in spiritual matters. I understand that.
If you’re gay, black, female or –goodness-gracious– all of the above, I especially get why you’d feel uncomfortable in the Church setting and would perhaps want to seek shelter somewhere else.
Let’s not pretend that working things out in your mind without faith, while listening to naysayers, and fantasizing about other prospects is going to keep your covenants intact.
Put it on my mama when I tell you that that approach spells apostasy, which is divorce from the Restored Gospel.
Now some of you might be incredulous at this point. “Monique, who is putting both feet out the door and acting like they’ll be back?”
Convert-bias alert: Lifers, that’s who.
“But you don’t understand!” They say. "I was too young to know what I was doing when I got baptized. No one told me about seer stones/ Fanny Alger/Mountain Meadows/blacks and the priesthood/…” and whatever else isn’t pretty abut Church history. “This is MY time to investigate for MYSELF.”
(Apparently it’s also a time to try psychedelic mushrooms and polyamory, but that’s none of my business.*)
Go on ahead and investigate then, but don’t act like your “journey” is going to end in LDS pews when your greatest source of knowledge is the internet.
We all know that if you want to keep the flame of faith and love alive you can’t move out of your spiritual home. You have to fight the good fight within it. Your position can’t be skepticism, it must be one of hope. Yes, you must “doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”
And for the love of all that is good on this earth, don’t be so quick to dismiss Jesus! At one point you knew with certainty that He saved your soul from hell. That He suffered every pain and died for you. Perhaps this is where my “Catholic guilt” upbringing reveals itself, but damn, the next time I hear, “I still believe Jesus was a good person,” I’m going to question your sense of loyalty.
Ironically, I can speak to this process as a convert (one who left her religion and found a new one). When my faith in Catholicism was shaken, I fought tooth and nail to remain in my church because I had made sacramental vows to believe in it. I acted by taking secular classes about the medieval church in addition to ecumenical courses from priests. I taught catechism. I began reading The Catholic Bible. One night I wanted my faith confirmed by the Holy Ghost so I prayed about it. I asked to find an answer in scripture and purposely selected out of the Apocrypha so as to up the ante that my response would be uniquely Catholic. Instead, I was directed to a chapter in Tobit which described the apostasy and the building up of a restored gospel and temple. That direct and obvious sign** from God was the one and only way I could take those first steps towards the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It comes down to integrity. I can say that I fought the good fight for my (Catholic) covenants, that I wasn’t quick to question or break my vows. I can tell my children that while giving up on Jesus would have silenced all the buzzing noise in my head (giving me a silence easily mistaken for peace), I clung to Him because I love Him. And it’s that same love I offer them, a love they can always rely on.
So yeah, (spiritual) divorces happen all the time. Many of them for good reasons. But the point of this long-winded post is to pay attention to the process. If you come to me and say you have wrestled with angels and are weary, I will offer to carry you. If you decline that offer, I will walk alongside you as we take separate, but parallel roads. But come to me and say peace = release, divinity = what makes you feel good, and inspiration from such-n-such webpage > Holy Ghost, then we’re going to have a problem. Because after so many experiences like this, I’m fresh out of my ability to pretend neither one of us knew how this was going to end. And goodness knows I lack the patience of the Bridgegroom who, in contrast to you, will never abandon you.
*I wish I were joking.
** blessed are they who are moved by the still small voice
** blessed are they who are moved by the still small voice