Confessions of a Mormon Girl
As you have probably already guessed, I am what you would probably call a devout Mormon girl. Much to the chagrin of many of my friends, I am stubbornly attached to the church. I will very openly tell you that I grew up in the LDS church, and my faith has been a major factor in building me as a person today.
By the by, if you’re thinking that this means that I am a perfect LDS girl who was married by 19 and had a baby by 20 and somehow worked my way through school while married and pregnant and my husband and I struggled through school but came out debt free and now live in a bright, shiny house with pictures of Christ and the temple on the walls and I am deeply shocked by swearing and fulfill all of my callings perfectly and work out in between chasing down children and making hot meals for my husband to come home to…
YOU ARE DEAD WRONG.
I am now well past 18 or 19, which in some areas of the LDS cultural world is considered prime marriage age to find yourself a return missionary who can take you to the temple. I am still struggling through school, I am vaguely frightened by my baby nephew’s vomit and diapers and other various bodily fluids, I struggle a lot of days to get out of bed, let alone work out and be all trim and lovely looking, and I am busier checking to make sure that I have enough money to eat a meal rather than to worry about making a meal worthy of a cooking magazine cover. And beyond that, I have made plenty of mistakes in my life and even (gasp!) sinned.
I am not your stereotypical Mormon girl.
And for the most part, I think people both inside and outside the church are willing to work with the fact that I am not “perfect.”
But in the last year, I have done something that a lot of people have issues forgiving, both inside and outside the church.
I got a boyfriend. And then I got engaged.
I know what you’re thinking. “Seriously? You’re 22 and you’re engaged. That fits pretty perfectly into the whole LDS stereotype.”
I am engaged to a young man who isn’t LDS.
I talked to a girl in church the other day who is seriously dating a man outside of the church, and she bombarded me with questions about how I do it because no one even really discusses the possibility of marrying outside the church. So this post is for her and for everyone else who wonders how anyone could consider marrying outside their faith.
I have heard virtually every reaction out there to this change in my life. A lot of it has been disbelief, wariness, anger, and there has been a fair number of looks that seem to ask me if I have special needs. I’m not just talking about people inside my faith, by the way. I’m talking about everyone. My fiancé gets them too.
For me, the most common response is “Congratulations!!! Is he gonna convert?”
For him, it’s “You’re dating a Mormon? What’s that? Do you get laid?”
And for both of us, it boils down to “Are you sure you want to do this?”
At first I found these questions amusing. Then they were insulting. And then they were downright hurtful.
Did I struggle with even dating this young man because he’s not LDS? OH HECK YES. Did he struggle with the idea of dating me and not even having the possibility of getting laid? Uh huh. Frankly, I think both of us went into it a little bit with the idea that it would be a good or interesting experience, not because we expected it to have benefits or have a temple marriage, or heck, to even last longer than a month or two. And after so long of dating him, we get engaged, and what everyone asks is “are you sure you want to do this?”
The worst part was, because my fiancé isn’t LDS, there were and are a lot of people, inside of my own family even, who judge him more harshly because he didn’t come with the perfect prerequisites. I hurt because I had to explain to the people I love that I am marrying this man, not because he can give me a temple marriage and so on and so forth, but because he is the man I love. I found myself having to ask them (as I had had to ask myself on more than a few occasions), “What’s the point of a temple marriage if you don’t love the person? I tried dating inside the church, and, well, frankly, a lot of these young men who have been to the temple are not necessarily worthy to be there. And to boot, the vast majority of the LDS guys that I dated were not in it for me. They were in it for my body or for the chance to be sealed in the temple, and because of both of those, often times they did not treat me with even human respect. I became a commodity, and the worst part was, it was because it was a commodity they needed in order to achieve salvation.”
That’s not love.
I was so upset, having to explain this over and over, and over one short weekend I came home to my Mom and BAWLED to her about it. And she let me cry and be hurt for a while and then my incredible mother reminded me that the reason people question my decision is because they care, and they are not sure how else to show it.
SO. For all of you who wonder why and how I do this, how on earth I try to balance my faith, which places so much emphasis on a temple marriage, how we do without certain conveniences that would come with both of us having the same faith, I will explain.
First: One of the most basic principles of my faith is the right to choose. I have never asked my fiancé to join the church because it would be more convenient for me. That would be a lie, and one simply for the sake of the convenience of one person. That’s just silly. And if you’re LDS and thinking “But you could be saving his soul! How could you abandon the man you love to hell?” Uh, NO. If the principle of agency was so powerful that (as we believe) in the pre-existence Satan was eventually cast out because he tried to force all men back to heaven without any freedom to choose, I don’t intend to do the same thing now here on earth. The decision to join or not join is pretty much always going to be my fiancé’s choice.
Second: We both learned very quickly what it means to sacrifice for each other. He knows I don’t care for alcohol, but he knows for his sake I will be around the stuff. He also knows that I will not drink it or kiss him after he’s been drinking it. I have to sacrifice my pride, but he does not ask me to sacrifice my standards. I do not get to have a temple marriage at this time. But I will still be worthy enough to attend the temple on my own.
Third: About that whole sex thing that people keep complaining about… Yeah, that’s not easy. For either of us. NATURAL URGE, PEOPLE!!!! And I have to ask him to give up the opportunity to sleep with me (or with anyone else), and that is very difficult to do because I want to be able to give that to him because I care about him. So I will let Cookie Monster teach you something that we have gotten to learn in the last long while.
Yeah. It’s like that. Dang, that cookie smells so good!!! And we are both waiting to eat the freakin’ cookie. It stinks, but it can be done.
Fourth: Same as I let him maintain the right to choose, he supports me with my faith. Do we get really snarky and fight with each other about it sometimes? Yeah. And then we get over ourselves.
Fifth: I would not be here without my faith.
I am not abandoning my faith to be with this man. I am not letting my testimony go so that I can be with this man and be happy for a little while and then fall away from the church and be miserable for the rest of my life. I realize that is often the horror story they tell during Seminary to teach you do never cross any line that you question might be bad because you’ll go down that slippery slope and be doomed.
I would not be at this point, engaged and planning to marry this man, unless I had prayed so absurdly hard and struggled with and questioned even the possibility of being with him and wondered if it was wrong. I had been told for so long that marrying outside the church was dangerous and foolhardy, how could I not question if it was wrong? But (because we believe in personal revelation), I got my answer, and it has been the same every time I have asked out of fear or frustration.
“This is happiness. It only gets better from here.”
“This is a good thing.”
I know that most of the world out there does not agree with my beliefs. I know they seem illogical from the outside. Faith is like that.
But I am also pretty sure that there are more young people out there in the world who are devoted to their faiths and who are forced to question every day whether or not they are okay doing something so socially catastrophic as marrying outside their faith.
Is it for everyone?
No. Not necessarily. I mean, let’s face it, a lot of the “insurmountable” barriers of our society ARE pretty hard to overcome. Look at Romeo and Juliet. 6 people died before that play was out, and they didn’t even have guns or nuclear weapons then.
But it is possible. And maybe, just maybe, it is not wrong.