William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Marital Issues Between An LDS Spouse And A Spouse Who No Longer Believes

The question was put:

"I'd be interested in seeing everyone's thoughts on some questions about the possibility of making a marriage work when one of the spouses leaves the Church:
1. If the exmo intends to be honest about his/her opinions about the Church with the couple's children (but won't oppose the children attending Church, etc) would/should the Mormon accept that?
2. What if any compromises should the Mormon make (tithing, Sunday activities, etc)?
3. What compromises should the Exmo be willing to make about his/her beliefs or actions?
4. Does the exmo's expressions of disbelief qualify the Mormon as affiliating with apostate individuals? and/or along those lines:
5. Should a Mormon stay with an exmo spouse who openly expresses his/her opinions about the Church to others?
6. Do any of you know about any official Church material on this topic? It would seem a subject that comes up often enough but I am not aware of any talk or article that has dealt with this issue."

To which I responded:

My general philosophy is that each spouse (apart from kid-related and alimony/child-support-related issues) is free to pursue the course of action which he or she believes is most likely to maximize their long-term happiness. If what prompts the desire to break off the relationship is infidelity, or a change in beliefs, or a change of character, or abuse, or lack of fulfillment, a spouse (with the caveats above) has every right to leave and pursue his or her own happiness. Sometimes this will even happen where there is no "fault". For my own self, I try to hold myself to a higher standard and endure somewhat more (than I would expect of someone else) when it comes to dealing with difficulties.

In the particular context you have, the complicating factor is of course the children. My own bias favors having the kids go to church without much opposition from the non-believing parent until they are old enough to digest the point of view of the non-believer. Kids are fragile, especially when they are young. I believe they are better off starting from a general position of faith and willingness to believe than demanding that everything be proven up front. That being said, a non-believing parent should not be pressured to go along pretending to have a belief to which they do not subscribe. Rather than just telling a 7-year-old, "I don't believe any of this and it's all a bunch of crap!", the better approach for a non-believing parent is to explain the different approaches of faith and empirical science, and to explain the reasons why people choose each approach. The non-believing parent should not try to interfere with the child's faith in diety, but as the child grows older, the non-believing parent has every right to tell the child the reasons why they are a non-believer and make sure the child understands that you will love them no less regardless of how they come out.

Just some off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts.

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