Mormon culture, boundaries and family

Three posts have gotten me thinking about a couple of themes that come up all the time round the DAMU, and perhaps somewhat less regularly around the bloggernacle. This post at FMH is about orthopraxis and the time-honoured discussion of whether there can be such a thing as a cultural but non-practicing Mormon. This post at Times & Seasons makes a case for a bona fide Mormon culture, complete with unique identity markers. And this thread at FLAK, and a few recent ones that are similar, cover the longstanding problems, in the Mormon world, of what happens when one spouse has a drastic change in beliefs while the other spouse maintains more traditional LDS beliefs. Readers are welcome to click those links and read the entire threads that got me thinking, but I’m not going to cover the content here in depth. I’m just thinking about this whole religious thing that unites and divides us so thoroughly.

The old questions of why there can be Jews who do very little that would be considered “Jewish” in the religious sense, nonetheless consider themselves Jews, as do most other people (except perhaps very orthodox groups, who might consider them Jewish traitors rather than non-Jews); and why there can be barely or non-practicing Catholics who are still Catholic; so why can’t there be a non-practicing Mormon? Well, really, of course there are loads of non-practicing Mormons, but they often have tendencies to not self-identify as Mormon (though plenty still do) and/or they are often identified as outsiders or traitors to their people, in a sense, by even the most mainstream of practicing, active Mormons. As a young religion, there is still a fairly bright practical line between who’s in and who’s out. If Mormonism survives and grows long enough to become an old religion, it will doubtless have people all across the orthodoxy/orthopraxis continuum who are nonetheless all “Mormons.”

But for now, the “who’s in” part of this equation seems to be defined nearly as much by who they are not as who they are. A Real Mormon doesn’t drink coffee, doesn’t drink alcohol, doesn’t skip church on Sundays with any regularity, doesn’t have non-marital sex, doesn’t wear sleeveless tops, etc. So those who do the non-Mormon behaviours become identified as non-Mormons pretty easily. At the cultural level this is understandable and, from a sociological perspective, even predictable. I think where the problems arise, from my perspective, is how this plays out in the lives of individuals and their family members. The process of changing beliefs from traditional Mormon to more post-Mormon, of all varieties, together with the worry of “coming out” to family and loved ones as having different beliefs, are emblematic of the feelings people experience as they move from Inside to Outside, and rethink their entire personal identity and beliefs.

The most poignant and difficult of these processes, from my viewpoint, seem to happen at the level of individual couples. Two people who were Mormon, who often married in the Temple (Real Mormons don’t get married anywhere else!), who continued to have individual identities as Mormons and then began building a shared identity as a Forever Family of Mormons, based largely on the church and its individual and shared requirements for them. When one of these individuals has a fundamental shift in beliefs, the other individual often is devastated and the couple go through a sometimes protracted period of turmoil and major emotional upheaval, sometimes leading to divorce — if the Forever part of the equation is gone, perhaps the Family itself is not worth saving from a religious perspective? There are many who say, and perhaps are usually at least partially correct in doing so, that the marriage had other problems and that religion just became the catalyst. However, I think there are also a number of otherwise good marriages that are broken up by the conflict in religious beliefs. And how many marriages don’t have a few problem areas that might crack along those faultlines if borne down on with unbearable pressure?

The part that is difficult is the roles the couple are expected to play after the belief changes. For whatever reason, it seems that the believing spouse is often the one who defines what is okay, what is allowed. Because the religion itself has so much doctrine AND cultural baggage about “apostasy,” when you’re In and when you’re Out, the believing Mormon has a very hard time seeing their spouse’s change in beliefs as anything other than “bad” at least and possibly sinful, prideful and probably the result of bacchanalian, all-night orgies of anti-Mormon literature wallowing. And as a result of guilt for having these “bad” changes — which, let’s face it, even “cultural Mormons” have been indoctrinated with from birth — the nonbeliever spends months, years, a lifetime playing the game of life by someone else’s rules. Granted, I’ve also seen post-Mormons who are completely intolerant of their spouse’s belief in Mormonism and work very hard to get them to change their beliefs, or make the same divorce ultimatums even (exlicitly and implicitly), as the Mormon spouse does. I must admit, however, that the latter (in *my* experience) is much less frequent a scenario. It’s usually the “apostate” who still goes along with the Mormon way to some extent, or else ends up losing their marriage and family.

The poignance of these choices is hard for me to fathom. If your beliefs change in such a way that you no longer believe in “god” or in “eternal life,” what you do now, in “this life,” matters — and very much so. For the Mormon spouse, the thought of losing their Forever Family is often more than they can bear. For the post-Mormon spouse, the idea of spending their one brief life faking religious beliefs and behaviours for a god they don’t believe in is also exquisitely painful. And, as has also been seen many times, once both spouses experience a change in belief, sometimes the marriage doesn’t survive that either.

At the very least, it’s one more indication that Mormonism is a religion that ingrains roads so deep and broad through your soul that, for true believers, losing it changes *everything*. That is not a cultural religion, at least not anytime soon.

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71 Responses

  1. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    I can only relate to my history; A Vicious, Hateful-Deceitful divorce done by a “TBM”…but you see, the Whole LDS gospel (at least in application) if Hyper-Selective about things other than the Outward Appearances…Long story short: They’ll get down to the last minute details about white shirts & earrings… BUT:
    ask them about Mercy-Compassion, Golden Rule, etc… those “haven’t been correlated”, they’re not in the CHI (wanna bet?).
    Mormons are only being taught the rigid rules of pharisaical obedience-compliance. Anything more than that… is out of (most of) their understanding.

  2. wry catcher says:

    GNPE, I know you had a very painful and bitter divorce, and that you were not treated well in that process. I’m really sorry for that — it is one of those things that is SO hard to get over.

    That said, I really disagree with you about what is being taught in terms of “outward appearances” only. I think most Mormons are like most humans — good people who do things by the Golden Rule. The pretty extreme social pressure to conform to certain ideals sometimes creates group behaviours I don’t love, but the individuals themselves are good people. Just because some people in leadership positions have taken an absurd position on earrings and corporate-wear doesn’t reflect the actual hearts of people, KWIM?

    I know the old saying is that the church is perfect but the people are not; I’m inclined to say exactly the opposite most of the time. So I categorically and fundamentally disagree that “anything more than obedience-compliance is outside of their understanding.” Certainly, this is even more the case because I have no idea who “they” are that you’re referring to. All 12 mio Mormons? All 4 or 5 mio active Mormons? Who?

  3. MormonZero says:

    I can’t speak for all but the obedience-compliance thing has been ever present in my experiences. It is engrained into the mind and soul; especially in Seminary and Institute. I had 3 different institute teachers tell me that all that mattered in choosing an “eternal mate” was that we are both obeying the commandments and the general authorities. When you go on a mission it is all about obedience and compliance. Naturally you carry over this same mentality when you come home; I did. Also, very little is done to acknowledge exceptions to the rule. How often do you here leaders talk about Nephi chopping off Laban’s head as an example of following the spirit? Then ask yourself how often they acknowledge the fact that him killing Laban was actually breaking one of the ten commandments (he lived during the law of moses); I have never heard anyone talk of the courage Nephi must’ve had in order to do what the spirit said although it would’ve been against everything he was taught as a little boy. They talk so much about personal revelation but then all the “revelation” is already done for you. Then if you do take a different path, which you feel is right, you are shamed to death. This also happened with birth control while I was attending institute. Publicly we are taught that it is between the couple and the Lord. Then you go to institute and Brother so and so brings out a zillion Joseph Fielding and Bruce McConkie quotes leaving you feeling like you made the wrong choice.

  4. Ice Cream says:

    In my experience, most people who leave the LDS church or have problems with it are the ones who feel that the members are expected to follow like blind sheep. Ask members who are comfortable and happy with the church and they will tell you a different story. I am happy in the church because I am not required to follow blindly. I am constantly told to seek for personal revelation. It is MY choice. Every thing I decide is between me and the Lord (and now my spouse). I use birth control because I know it is a good choice for me, no matter what Bro so-and-so says. I got a tattoo because I knew the lord wouldn’t love me any less and people with tattoos are not denied any rights in the church. And I have heard MANY times that Nephi must have been VERY brave to do what he had been told was wrong all his life.

    As for marriage, it would be difficult for me if my husband decided the church was not true. This would be difficult because right now I know that I can expect certain behaviors from him. For expample, if we disagree we pray together until we recieve the same revelation (and we always do, sometimes even finding out that we were both wrong). If he stopped believing in personal revelation, or stopped believing that he had an obligation to listen to the Lord before I had to listen to him… well I think we would argue a LOT more.

    Sure, obedience is a big part of any religion. But we are to obey our Father in Heaven. When the Prophet gives revelation we are told to pray about it and seek personal revelation for ourselves whether it is true. That is not blind obedience, it is taking personal responsibility for our choices, our actions, and our beliefs.

  5. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    I HATE the term ‘mate(s)’ as applied to humans…You’d think *at least I do* that it’s Sooooooooooooooooooooooo demeaning to be in the same category as chimps, baboons, & birds ‘of the air’ (choke).
    the term Partner conveys an entirely different paradigm, Doesn’t it?
    Mo Leaders have backed themselves into a corner with all their BS: they’ve ‘fallen and they can’t get up’ (from old commercial).

  6. Hellmut says:

    The short answer is that Mormonism is about check lists. If you do not conform to the items of the check list then you are not orthodox.

    Mormonism’s fusion of inspiration and authority renders check lists essential. The check lists reflect the perceived pronouncements of the prophet and people who follow the prophet are Mormons.

    Of course, Mormonism has to accommodate the fact that nobody is perfect. To render people’s failings socially acceptable rather than a disorganizing irritant, it has become practice to accuse oneself during testimony meeting.

    The other practice that imbues stability on the check list culture is the formulaic invocation of the prophet’s mortality by pointing out that he must have been speaking as a man. More often than not, we only acknowledge the prophet’s mortality after his demise, which not only resolves contradictions of prophetic pronouncements with common sense but also empowers the present prophet at the expense of his predecessors.

    The enduring problem of the check list culture is, of course, that check lists are too limited and too rigid to apply to the contingencies of people’s life. As a result, check lists are insufficient to determine the difference between good and bad decisions.

    Since a check list culture is devoid of values and principles, it fails to provide ethical guidance to Saints and their leaders and can only generate an impoverished culture.

  7. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    You Nailed it (again)

  8. Christian Prophet says:

    I’ve been in contact with some Mormons who have transcended the check list culture. It seems you only need check lists until you quiet your mind and listen for the Holy Spirit’s Voice. Then you can simply listen inside and do as told. Although I’m a Christian, I like some Mormon web sites, like , and I like to read some of the teachers like David Christiansen (did I spell that right?)

  9. Mormonzero says:

    “In my experience, most people who leave the LDS church or have problems with it are the ones who feel that the members are expected to follow like blind sheep.”

    This happens b cuz we are taught that way. “Obedience is the 1st law under heaven.” I could not count how many times a seminary or institute teacher has told me and the rest of my class that the Lord will never give you personal revelation to do something that is contrary to the commandments. for example they teach you that the book of mormon is true and ask you to pray about it so you too know that it is true. If you come back and say I did not get an answer they say pray again. If you feel the answer is that it is not true they tell you your answer is wrong–try again. That is what happened in my institute class with “brother so and so” and the birth control subject.

    “And I have heard MANY times that Nephi must have been VERY brave to do what he had been told was wrong all his life.”

    I would love to speak to those teachers and give them praise cuz I have never heard such a thing.

    “Ask members who are comfortable and happy with the church and they will tell you a different story. I am happy in the church because I am not required to follow blindly”

    You are right…the ppl who are typically hurt the most are the ones who are/were most believing in what their leaders are/were telling them and then realize that they are constantly feeling guilty/tired/depressed/lonely/anxiuos/etc. b cuz they always fail to completely obey. Then one day they get tired of habitually repenting and disclosing very private actions to their bishop. They get tired of rationalizing why Elder Smith, Jones, etc. spoke with a mortal tongue and not his prophetic revelatory one. They get tired of being told they are a menace to society for being single. They get tired of explaining “the church is perfect but the ppl aren’t. They get tired of trying to understand D+C 132. They get tired of being told women are more righteous than men. They get tired of being told the priesthood is to teach men to be more womanlike, excuse me Christlike. They get tired of being told they can’t have the priesthood because they have babies. They get tired of Sister Beck talks about what a good mom will do. They get tired of trying to explain why the Book of Mormon didn’t need to be translated correcly but the Bible did. They get tired of being told they can’t serve on the high council because they have a goatee or long hair. They get tired of being told they should not put off children. They get tired of feeling ashamed for working and not staying home. They get tired of 1970’s McConkie quotes in a 2007 church manual. They get tired of seminary videos and priesthood manuals leaving out important parts of history like: Joseph had a gun and fired at the mob before being killed(along with other little bits of history here and there that somewhat change one’s perspective of a situation or incident). They get tired of explaining why they are not “quick to observe that [they] are not quick to observe” like the other good mormons. I won’t go on and this is already leaning toward a very negative comment which I tend to try and avoid. To sum up I would say that the ones who stick around are the ones who learn how to rationalize why they do what they do without having to obey.

    Even with all that I am still going to church and practicing. Why? I am trying to figure it out.

    Quick question how can I get my blog linked up to Main St. I browsed around and found the page that says everybody is welcome but I don’t see what to do in order to make it happen. Thanks.

  10. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    Mz: Good Rant, dude!
    Mormons seldom get it that all the weirdness adds up to a sum of unbelievability; it’s not ‘just’ horses OR tools of ‘fine steel’ in the BoM, it’s those + polyandry, book of Abraham+ the obfuscation of Hofmann, the MMM, and the abusive nature that B&W thinking leaves many (male) Phood Aholes with when the berate-belittle others who don’t play the game… Since local actions are so remote & disjointed… gives the GAs / COB ‘plausible deniability’ to the over-the-edge events/incidents. “They just don’t get it”
    I think that even good/nice LDS are taught (and it’s now embedded) that Love is a subset of Obedience, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND AS CHRIST TAUGHT.
    talks & lessons in tscc are not only Highly-Scripted, Highly Structured… they’re out-of-this-world boring, superficial, and an insult to most members (notice most leaders don’t attend SS?)intelligence.
    When people do ask questions, they’re treated like Children…
    (more, anyone?)

  11. mermaid says:

    mormonzero – sounded a bit like a primeval scream – hope you feel better – I sure do just hearing you. I too am still going, sometimes I think it is just habit, cause none of my family goes – but othertimes I feel this incredible peace when I am there, despite the fact I know a lot (all?) of it is BS. I have given up trying to figure out why I go – I have just decided if I want to go and be there even if not believing it all – that is OK. I have to admit I am not a truly rational human.

  12. Seth R. says:

    Well mermaid, I’m glad you still go. It’s nice for me to know that, despite surface appearances, there is actually a diversity of thought and experience sitting in the pews during sacrament meeting.

    I’m kinda baffled why anyone thinks that Joseph discharging a firearm as close to a hundred armed men stormed a jail where he was trapped in a room with a couple other unarmed men is somehow reprehensible on his part. What planet do you come? I wouldn’t have blamed him for firing off a freaking howitzer at his attackers under those circumstances.

    Jeez… Your other stuff was fine, but that’s really a chickenshit little gripe thrown in there (pardon my french).

  13. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    SR: I think the church version is that JS was helpless and ‘sort of’ went like a lamb to Carthage…. having a pistol “Kinda” reverses that, doesn’t it?
    this is example of how stories do put a bias on things in Morland… When add them up, sum = BS on about 99%.
    IF LDS would stick to Love of God & neighbor, they wouldn’t have to waste sooooooooooooooo much energy to defend the details, would they?
    just a thought….

  14. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    at least having a pistol while in jail… takes away a bit of sympathy…
    like telling the MMM story but blaming it on the victims…eh?

  15. Seth R. says:

    “having a pistol “Kinda” reverses that, doesn’t it?”

    Uh huh… sure, whatever.

    “Keep sailing Bob.”

  16. MormonZero says:


    “I’m kinda baffled why anyone thinks that Joseph discharging a firearm as close to a hundred armed men stormed a jail where he was trapped in a room with a couple other unarmed men is somehow reprehensible on his part.

    I don’t believe it to be reprehensible…impartial at worst…more honorable at best. I didn’t mean it the way you are taking it. What I am saying is that it is disappointing that I grow up in the church and I can’t get the church to just tell me the whole story. The martyrdom is a key transitional point of the church. I personally have no problem with a man defending himself and his friends. I do have a problem with someone leaving out notable points of information; why do that? Why leave that part of the story out of the seminary videos? Why leave that part of the story out of the most recent Joseph Smith priesthood manual?

    In fact, I thought I was being nice by bringing up JS having a gun because who would blame the guy? That is precisely why it makes no sense to leave it out.

    To their defense they don’t leave that part of the story out of the “big green book” on the history of the church. However, how many teenagers are going to pick up a book that looks like a graduate study textbook? When I saw the seminary videos I just assumed that that was how it all went down…sure it was just a reenactment but the scene they show with such accuracy to the point of showing when, where, how, each person got shot but no gun.

    So…to clarify, JS having a gun hardly changed how I view JS. It does…slightly…not alot…change my view of the church for not having told me what happened.

    The only explanation I have received on this is that we teach the “milk” before “meat.” Seemed fine for a moment but then isn’t that referring to doctrine? History is history…don’t milk it to me…just give me a steak and if I don’t want the fat I’ll cut it off myself.

  17. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    I think the real meat of Christ’s gospel are the parts ‘Christians’ seem to have the most challenge with: Treating each other as they would be treated.
    No need or value in counting ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’, how many seats in the Tabernacle or Conf. center;
    Love for God & neighbor, parables of Good Samaritan & Lost Son pretty much define-describe what/who Christians should do/be, IMHO.

  18. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    as Mz’s post indicates, LDS undercuts its own credibility by only telling the ‘faith promoting’ version, leaving out other details; leader stmnts such as ‘the truth not always being useful’ further belie the message. Then, their arrogance prevents them from acknowledging the contradiction(s).
    They just don’t get it; if they do, they don’t speak to it or admit it publicly.

  19. Seth R. says:

    MZ, that’s fine by me. I’m actually one of those people who wishes the stuff at church weren’t so watered down (at least in the adult and teenage classes anyway). But, just to keep things in perspective, think about the version of US history you learned in K-12 public education (which is all a LOT of Americans get, by the way). How much of that was “just the milk?” How many uncomfortable facts did they gloss over? Compared to how public education handles American history, the Mormons ain’t handling their own history so bad at all.

    So, not discounting the lack of a satisfactory narrative at the adult level in Sunday School, but let’s keep it in perspective. And make sure we don’t try to make the case that this is a uniquely Mormon failing. Everyone does this stuff. Doesn’t make it right, but it does make it more understandable.

  20. wry catcher says:

    This thread kinda went all over the place. 🙂

    MZ — I will be happy to add you to the blogroll. Right now, they’re roughly (very) divided into “faithful” and “post” blogs. I’ve taken a quick look at yours and it’s new enough that I don’t know which direction you’re going. Let me know which category you’d like to go under and I’ll list you.

  21. MormonZero says:


    “I think that even good/nice LDS are taught (and it’s now embedded) that Love is a subset of Obedience”

    As the EQ instructor in my ward this is what I emphasize in nearly every lesson. I call charity or pure LOVE of Christ the “Principal Principle.” They asked me to teach SS last week and give a talk and I have only been in the ward for a few months; always talking on this subject while intertwining with whatever I am asked to speak on. I have received great praise for simplifying the gospel. The message brings peace rather than confusion and angst. But maybe I am an Anti-christ using flattery and oratory skill to deceive the chosen. haha…i hope not.

    Seriously, this is so painful to me. I really see the LDS church having a very strong position in comparison to many other christian denominations. To me the keys aspects of “mormonism” are 1. Love God, man, and self. 2. Free choice 3. Personal Revelation. Wow! think about how simplistic this is. The church had a clean slate, it had seen what can happen to a church that tries to completely control its ppl. “You teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.” Maybe one of the greatest mistakes the leaders made was when they started trying to interpret doctrine and tell ppl what behaviors are right and wrong rather than letting the doctrine speak for itself and let the people rely on love, choice, and revelation (conscience, HG, light of christ, intuition). It worked okay when there were less members and the demographic focus was on utah and neighbor states. Now the church is too big to micromanage the people. I would almost be ready to argue that any sized group of ppl is too large to micromanage. Many Mormons spend so much time looking at the details they forget what the simple things are that they could be doing. Also, just b cuz you scrap all the petty details does not mean you have to get rid of the ordinances like Baptism, HG, temple, sacrament, or other actions like going to church, or even tithing. I believe that there is a large niche of ppl in this world who are starving for a simple meaning to life. This won’t prevent every criticism but it would make it a heckuva lot easier to understand, live by, and be happier in. Then again maybe I err in such a thought.


    “I have given up trying to figure out why I go”

    I think I know why; at least for myself anyway. It is kind of embarrassing in a way. I think there is this part of me deep down that keeps hoping that it is true. Like a “I believe, help thou my unbelief” type thing. It would not appear that I am doing a very good job of convincing myself.

  22. MormonZero says:


    Thanks…To be quite honest I would be fine on either list b cuz I really don’t know which way I am going to go. I am literally stuck in the middle right now. To be safe and not offend TBM’s maybe it would be wiser to put me on the “post” list.

  23. wry catcher says:

    MZ — Done! Welcome aboard. 🙂

  24. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    Mormonism is Way Overboard on rhetoric & details; other denoms aren’t.
    Mz: Thanks for noticing / validating what I’ve been saying for a long, long time.

  25. aerin says:

    This is a response to the original post – not necessarily some of the comments as they’ve been all over the place.

    For all the reasons wry has described, and what was discussed on fmh (haven’t read all the comments there yet) and on times and seasons – it’s a difficult dilemma.

    Because it is a little indulgent (MO) to consider a religion only two hundred years “restored” or “founded” (depending on your beliefs) and compare it to a religion seemingly thousands of years old.

    And yet I think there are things that seem to be uniquely mormon. I agree with wry that many of these things are “the absence” of, rather than things that mormons do. Actually, some of the things I think of that mormons “do” have been debated here as not being doctrinal (or “mormon”)- large families, white shirts for men, skirts for women, facial hair for men, etc.

    Genealogy, for example, is certainly not solely a “mormon” habit – although lots of mormons are genealogists (sp).

    With that said, I don’t have any thing against a person self-identifying as a cultural mormon. Or someone who was raised mormon or converted to mormonism for a few years not considering themselves mormon. I just don’t think there are any hard and fast labels.

    btw – in this discussion, I can’t help but think of Walter from “The Big Lebowski”, who converted to Judaism and still observes the sabbath, though he is now divorced.

  26. MormonZero says:


    Thank you


    “But, just to keep things in perspective, think about the version of US history you learned in K-12 public education (which is all a LOT of Americans get, by the way).”

    I know…I don’t even want to talk about our education system; I will just walk away from the computer feeling angry, mean, and upset.

    But going along with this…Perhaps a key problem in the Mormon church is the education system we grow up in. Very few schools teach or provide an environment of critical and logical thinking–instead it is a do-what-your-told-habitual-conformity-atmosphere. That is a little off topic though and perhaps better addressed in another post.

  27. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    MZ: You- Go to the head of the class!

    Mormonism is much more about cultural (tribal) identification than it is about ‘pure’ Christianity- Christian Living, anyway.
    Mormons take their own (self-perceived) worthiness as license to punish-retaliate against others. Any 2nd grader should be able to figure out that’s Wrong, but the church sanctions it instead of correcting-censuring it.

  28. wry catcher says:

    GNPE: Seriously. I try to give you a wide berth, but you have GOT to stop with the sweeping generalisations. They’re offensive and do nothing to further dialogue. Talk about YOUR experiences, if you like, but don’t say things about all Mormons, or say derogatory things. That’s simply not okay here.

  29. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    wc: I should have said that the things I mentioned were My Experience(s).
    thanks for the reminder.

  30. Ice Cream says:

    I have been thinking a lot about this post over the weekend, especially the idea of change in marriage. I started thinking about all the marriages in my family (many divorces and remarriages and divorces) and those around me and the effect that drastic change can have in a marriage, and I have to ask, “At what point does personal change equate with deception in marriage?” One of my sisters is a drop dead beauty, but when she is pregnant she gains 100 pouns or more (she did this with all her 3 kids). Both of her now ex husbands couldn’t handle the weight gain (and subsequent personality change that happens with speedy and drastic physical change). In another sister’s many marriages, she marries inactive or non-members (LDS) and promptly after having another child she determines to get back to church and the spouse tries to deal with it but it ends up being a deal breaker. Think about other situations: Marrying someone with the understanding that there will be no children, then one changes their mind. Finding out, after 5 years and 3 kids of marriage that your spouse thinks they are homosexual. Marrying someone from a completely different culture who embraces Americanism, only to find that they change back to their culture’s ways after marriage, children, or family death. Marrying a recovered alcoholic who succumbs to drink after the regular stress of marrige hits. Sure, there will always be other factors in divorce and marriage problems, but at what point does one spouse’s change justify the other spouse feeling they’ve been decieved and rethink the bonds of marriage made before the change? And when is it reasonable, or not, to expect the other spouse to accept, or even join, in the change?

    I think this is why I warned my husband of anything he might possibly end up with if he chose to marry me. =)

  31. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    Ice Cream: at least in the New Testament, the answer is ‘easy’: only adultery/fornication are grounds for divorce (also in the BoM, Christ’s words).
    In the N.T., Paul explicitly writes in at least 3 places that we must not return evil for evil.
    The church, (sorry) won’t stand by these sayings/standards, or even modern sayings of GAs about divorce… at least they didn’t in my case.
    IN MY HUMBLE OPINION: (what discussion is about, right?) tscc is too quick to dilute their sayings/doctrines to suit those they favor; since any idea of ‘appeal’ in the sense of justice…Forget It!

  32. Ice Cream says:

    Guy Noir,
    I guess I was asking for personal opinions on this idea, not religious.

    I’m not sure, too, about your stance based on your comment. Are you upset that the church doesn’t support divorce on grounds of adultry/fornication, or are you upset that they “allow” divorce for lesser reasons? If it is the former I think it is because we also try to take forgiveness and repentance into account.

    And what is tscc? I can usually figure these out, but not this one. =)

  33. MormonZero says:

    Ice Cream

    Good Question, but a tough one. This may seem cliche but I think one really just needs to use their best judgment. Rely on prayer, meditation, or whatever helps one stay calm. Find a trusted friend who won’t try to tell but listen and guide.

    Realistically this line of how much is too much change will vary, sometimes drastically with each individual person.

    For me personally: A change of children plans would be somewhat flexible for me. Finding out that my spouse is a lesbian might be a little more difficult–it would largely depends on how she reacted to her own self discovery and how that related and affected me and the children. The culture change, haha, depends on the culture…I’m not going back to the Amazon but maybe would’nt mind moving to Italy. Alcoholism?…not sure but I had a really close friend and when she discovered her not so DH was drinking combined with other things the drinking was the tip of the scale. So when do we draw the line?…I went through all of this and…and…I still don’t know. I am glad to have cleared that up for everyone;)

  34. mermaid says:

    in my practice of medicine, I treat lots of non-mormon marriages who actually survive and thrive after adultery, finding out a partner is lesbian, alcoholism, etc. I don’
    t have stats, but wonder if in some cases the church’s high standards would have caused these couples to divorce

    oops, definitely a threadjack – sorry

  35. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    IC: the larger answer is leaders’ approach to those who want answers the church doesn’t want to reveal. The micro application in my case was Green Lighting my (former) wife to a vicious divorce. If U (anyone) want details, buzz me at manderst@yahoo.
    There is a huge chasm between LDS sayings & application.

  36. Ice Cream,

    I’ve thought about this too. When two people marry, they need to keep in mind that they can’t expect certain things from their spouse:

    1) That they will change (for the better).
    2) That they will never change (for the worse).

    I think that marriage is more about a commitment to do our best to weather the storms of life together and to accept each other as-is—even when what is changes over time. Sometimes keeping a marriage together in spite of changes in one spouse (or both) isn’t wise, but we vowed to do the best we can.

    To answer your question more directly, as long as a spouse couldn’t have foreseen the change (or at least warned the spouse that it was a possibility), then I don’t think it’s deceptive or breaking marriage vows. When an unforeseeable change happens, I think the spouse who is changing needs to be aware of their contribution in changing the relationship and therefore putting it at risk.

  37. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    change is almost as unavoidable as sins-mistakes. I believe that’s why Jesus put the threshold for divorce at adultery/fornication.
    Anyone who didn’t /doesn’t believe that change will occur in a relationship is Horribly naive.
    JB: Are you suggesting that change (any change the other perceives as important), ‘in itself’ is grounds for divorce?

  38. Ice Cream says:

    Guy Noir, I guess I’m not going to understand what your comment about leaders in the church has to do with this unless I get the details, but I’m not sure I want to pry.

    As for (though I know it was directed at JB) your question about any percieved important change being grounds for divorce, my simple answer is yes, if the spouses can’t come to terms with or change back the change.

    I know in my marriage my husabnd kept something about himself hidden from me. When it came to light I let him know that it was something I was not going to be “married to”. I told him if he wanted to continue our marriage I would help him get rid of “it” and still love him as the man I know. Luckily, for me, he decided he wanted me and our marriage more than he wanted this “thing” he had in his life. I guess that wasn’t a change so much as a deception but still it was not something I would have taken on in a marriage had I known, nor would have continued with once it was known.

    I can think of other changes that my husband and I have gone through while in our marriage. Some were natural and we are fine with them, others were hurting our marriage and so we worked together to change back or change for the better. I guess in my mind marriage is about being totally united, and both parties must work together, both must sacrifice, and both must help each other to keep that unity. No one leads or follows but both work side by side.

    And I’m sure “deal breakers” will vary with each individual marriage.

  39. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    IC: my comment would be that the list of things that ‘might’ come up as deal breakers …could be endless, reaching down into trivial matters.
    I would suggest that as much as I hate the black & white thinking… Loyalty to the fam and/or commitment(s) to each other should trump ‘most’ of those things; I’m greatly sorry that the church lowers the standard in practice if not in words…
    That was my lead-in to the Huge gap between practice & their sayings….

  40. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    for Most cases, I see Repentance & Forgiveness, along with Mercy & Compassion,Charity as healing agents that aren’t applied often enough; when divorce comes up as a possibility, all kinds of emotions & motivations often/most often intervene….

  41. Hellmut says:

    Seth #19, that’s actually a good point but it is no excuse for anyone that someone else commits the same mistake.

    Among logicians that’s called the slippery slope fallacy.

  42. Ice Cream says:

    Guy Noir,
    Ok, now I see your stance. Our experiences must be very different as I have yet to see anyone in the church ever say divorce was ok. Even a dear friend of mine, when faced with adultry and her husband’s excommunication, was counseled to work it out.

    And in the end the church has little influence on divorce. They offer counsel only when it is asked for, and other than that they can’t do much. Freedom of choice.

  43. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    While I agree with freedom of choice, that doesn’t mean that the church should condone Hatred, Greed, or Deceit…. (or does it?)

  44. Seth R. says:

    Let me get this straight Guy.

    Everything you’ve been criticizing the Church AS A WHOLE over is due to a single bad divorce you personally went through?

  45. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    SR: contact me thru my email:, I will explain in as much detail as you like. I don’t think most ppl here have either time or interest to be curious.

  46. Ice Cream says:

    Again, Guy Noir,
    This has not been the case in my experience with the church and divorce (And I’ve witnessed 3 temple divorces and 6 divorces total in my family alone). In fact it is considered a bit of a problem that judges, in predominantly mormon towns, try so hard to keep families together that they will often put children back with, and send wives and husbands back to, marriages that are not healthy or even safe. If anything I would say the church is too willing to forgive some of the awfulness seen in marriages for the sake of keeping them together. I’ve even witnessed a marriage that was counseled to stay together and work through one spouse claiming homosexuality.

    I’m sorry for you if your experience was different and you wished it otherwise. Seriously, yours is the first complaint I’ve heard of the church pushing for divorce where it isn’t wanted.

  47. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    SR: Let me just add this much: When certain ppl identify you as an enemy, rather than follow Christ’s admonition(s), they are 100% ‘take no prisoners RUTHLESS. All I say – at least 95% is independently verified….

  48. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    Let me posit this question as a possibility:

    The LDS church claims that it is ‘the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth’, Correct?

    Then, in order for that attribute to be effective for the members of that church (as well as for any/everyone else), the application(s) of the matters, subjects, issues, doctrines, teachings, etc., that come From that church, (thru authorized channels/leaders), would have to be as exact (exactly accurate,specific, correct, etc.) as ‘the headline’. Any variance, any omission, and errors would need be corrected (in a timely manner) in order for the claim to be of value, wouldn’t it/they?

  49. Seth R. says:

    “Any variance, any omission, and errors would need be corrected (in a timely manner) in order for the claim to be of value, wouldn’t it/they?”


  50. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    I say:
    whether the church ‘is true’ or not can be a sham issue (a Red Herring):
    What’s really important is what – how it reaches the eyes/ears – senses of the people…
    How it might be could be represented by a closed book on a shelf…. of Extremely limited value. It is only when the book is Open; when the message is plainly available to be understood is it of value…
    that’s what I propose.

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