I am not and have never been Mormon, but I married a man who was raised in a very strict Mormon family and I was, myself, raised in a family that had some of the same attributes. Even after years of alienation from the Mormon church, my husband doesn't seem entirely free of what he and I both have to call the 'brainwashing' he received during his upbringing. The consistent though low frequency pressure from his very large extended family -- which he does not wish to offend or alienate -- does not help. Much of this strikes me as the sort of blackness that your wife's friend Katy describes -- we went to his sister's wedding in Provo (not allowed to attend of course but waited in the parking lot) -- I have never felt so overwhelmed in depression and unhappiness. Even the year I spent in Eastern Europe was not so oppressive. My husband doesn't seem to notice it.
I saw your book about coming out of Mormonism online, and thought perhaps (in your no doubt copious spare time!) you might have some advice about a couple of things.
The first is on the subject of attending worship services. Since both of us had to break away from a suffocating religious atmosphere -- in my case losing my entire familiy and church community -- and in his resulting in a several year period of silence -- we have made progress in understanding what Christianity was really meant to be. I was helped by having a very good foundation of Bible knowledge from my own upbringing (though often misapplied), and that coupled with books like Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, various other basic books and consistent bible study have helped. However, he still associates attending worship services with allowing busybodies to inspect and gossip about your life, and he views religious people of all sorts with severe mistrust. While I do understand this view having come from a tradition not too dissimilar (the 'conservative' branches of the church of Christ, in Texas), I still feel that an outward expression of belief is important especially in raising children. This is such a sensitive topic to broach that I admit I rarely am brave enough to do so. "My" church (the church of Christ) has a bad reputation among people he works with for being 'enforcers' much like what he grew up with. We visited dozens of different churches when we moved here and he was highly uncomfortable at all of them. Yet he is a deeply spiritual person, consistent about his study of God's word and absolute in his integrity. We have weekly worship at home as a compromise but it's something I'm not entirely comfortable with. Do you have any suggestions?
The second is advice on how to deal with my in-laws and extended family -- not a problem he has since my parents still don't speak to me. I can't tell you how many times I have inadvertently put my foot in my mouth on odd topics ranging from special underwear to hoarding food for armageddon to their 'baby making' sorority that all women are expected not only to join but to focus their lives on. Each of these things give them an opportunity to earnestly and condescendingly explain (very reasonably) the most inane doctrines imaginable (from my point of view, anyway). Your husband says it's better not to broach the subject of religion at all, because their minds are completely closed and it will be frustrating to me. Certainly their denial of Christ's diety gives me a sinking feeling in my stomach every time I think of it. Is he right? It must be better not to discuss it if there is no good to be done. They do not seem to take scriptural references as any sort of authority, and that leaves you rather without anything much to say. Sometimes I feel like God is showing me the flip side of my own life, since I was once certain I had all the answers and was condescendingly piteous of everyone who did not.
Thanks for any insights you may have.
Thank you for an articulate and important letter.
Let me address the second point first. Probably there is little to be gained at this point in confronting your family with your differences, other than to say that you have problems with Mormonism. In other words, don't give them any confirmation or affermation in their error.
Now, the primary question. Boy, I do understand your reluctance and your husband's. The worst of the Churches of Christ are indeed cults. Not all, of course. So, there is fear that all churches are like that. And, of course, all churches are made up of sinners, so in a sense there will always be the problems he points out--people problems. But those problems are encountered wherever we associate with people. We don't stop going to work, or school, or sporting events because people are there who can become irksome. We go ahead with those associations because the benefit outweighs the cost. And so it is with the healthy Body of Christ. We don't associate with other Christians because "we are commanded to do so in scripture." No, we _get_ to do that. As much as I love my unsaved friends, and as precious as they are to me, there is something very special about associations with people who have the same secret knowledge of a life "hid up in Christ with God," as I do. Places only "we" can go in our relationship.
Besides the messy human relationships--for good and evil--that I find in church, I find two other, important, things: the preached Word and corporate worship. Both of those are sources of inspiration and revelation for me. Without the hammer of the preached word in my life, if begin to suffer from what the Bible calls a lack of vision and a kind of perishing takes place. As much as I enjoy my private Bible study, there is something about human interaction around the table of God that is incomparable to anything else. I have often said my idea of heaven is having coffee with my friends. And that is true. That and having lots of animals around like dogs, and mules, and elephants. :)
Like a person who has been burned in romance, a person who has been burned at church makes a mistake when he or she chooses not to take the risk again. As I said, it is a cost/benefit equasion. And the Bible commands it not because it is a hoop of performance that God holds up to us, but because--like all human relationships--it is worth the messiness. "Where there is no ox, the stall is clean."
Thanks for your interest in Through the Maze Ministry.
If you send me your postal mailing address, I will send you an information pack, a couple of tracts, and a couple of pamphlets.