An Interesting Encounter

Advice Family Marriage

Earlier today a young man entered my office seeking my adviceThis is not unusual for someone in my line of business. But it is a rare day when someone comes to me, in my capacity as an apostate, seeking advice regarding of all subjectsreligionparticularly the Mormon religion. But it happened today.

A bit of background:

Several years ago, during the same period of time that I was going through my enlightenment/apostasy, my daughter happened to be dating this same young man. To ease the pain of her fathers loss of belief in the one true church, my daughter poured her TBM heart out to this young man. Needless to say, he remembered that he had once dated the daughter of an apostate and came to me for some apostate advice. You seehe is now, a non believer too.

Flash forward to today, turns out this young Mormon man has fallen head over heels in love with a TBM girl. But as I said, he is anything but TBM. He was baptized has struggled with wrapping his brain around the Mormon paradigm despite many attempts to do so, as a result did not go on the required mission. (How he dated my daughter Ill never know) None of this however mattered until he started to date and fall in love with the TBM.

As he entered my office and even before he introduced himself he asked Do you go to church? with a smile on my face, I replied Nope. He then said, Good Im in the right place.

Over the course of the next hour he poured out his heart about his relationship with this girl, explaining their love for each other and his unsuccessful attempt, at her insistence, to find a way to believe. She will not be married in any place other than a Temple built to the Mormon god.

He was aware from his discussions with my daughter, that I have been able to live a happy life with my very TBM wife and wanted to know HOW this was possible. He also wanted to know if faking belief for her sake would work. I shared the following advice with him.

01. I told him that faking belief was a recipe for disaster and would result in the ultimate destruction of his future marriage. That any marriage worth participation in must be built on a foundation of mutual respect for who each partner in the marriage really IS rather than on whom one partner wishes their spouse to be.

02. That he was fighting an uphill battlethat the Mormon Church would use all of its cultural influence to destroy his relationship and do everything it can to dissuade his girlfriend from engaging in a relationship with a non-believer. He confirmed that the Mormon Machine was already trying to undermine his relationship.

03. That for his relationship to work, his girlfriend must love him more than she loves the churchsomething that TBMs are programmed from an early age not to do.

04. That if he cant get his girlfriend to respect his right to his current worldview as much as she wants her own worldview to be respectedthat the relationship is doomed.

05. I also confided in him, that I live everyday knowing that despite the love my wife and I share for each otherwe both know that if my wife knew then what she knows nowshe would have never agreed to marry me.

We also discussed the many reasons that Mormonism is not what it claims to beand that a frontal attack on his girlfriends beliefs is futile. For there to be any hope for his relationship to workboth must compromise, respectful of each others beliefs (or lack thereof) and abandon all hope of ever dissuading the other.

Following our conversation, this young manwith a somewhat more sober understanding of his situationthanked me for my candor. I offered to meet with both he and his girlfriend any time should he feel it beneficial. I wished him luck but added that he needs to be prepared for the worst. Thus is a the path of TBM/non-believer relationshipsthey rarely work out because of the inflexibility of TBMs…I count my blessing everyday that so far I am an exception

Cross-posted fromCr@ig In The Middle

73 thoughts on “An Interesting Encounter

  1. If not just out-and-out naming-calling but even snark violates MSPs policy on civil discourse, you can state that,

    No, I don’t think snark and sarcasm should be against policy. I really don’t want to have some sort of Byzantine list of specific rules and policies. I’d rather just ask everyone to make a good faith effort to be civil to one another.

    and you can also chastise everyone who is guilty of it.

    Fair enough.

    Andrew, please try to avoid provoking Holly.

  2. Holly’s definitely right. The snark is not a good faith effort to be civil or even to further discussion.

    What I should’ve said in the first place was this:

    re 41:

    Holly, as your @34 made clear to *you*, you understand that your framing your assessment of reality this way is not the same as saying, “I do not believe in a personal god.”

    But as your @34 got lost in translation, I had no idea if by “semantics and personal preference” you were waving off the meaningful distinction between the two: “I do not believe” and “I believe there is,” since my anecdotal experience has so often been that when people want to bring that up, in a kind of “potato po-tah-to” way, they intend to collapse the difference. My apologies for being undecided as to your intentions in this area.

    So, I am struggling to express an idea you have expressed much earlier in the thread…but it is not “as if you were unaware of the primary point you were trying to make.”

    Rather, I am struggling to express an idea you have expressed much earlier in the thread because I am unaware of the primary point you were trying to make. It’s not that I repeat things back as if you were unable to think of it first, but rather because I was unable to comprehend it first.

    So, when you say, “Please stop; please do not waste my time or yours,” this filters back to me as if, “You cannot possibly understand. This is far beyond you,” (which, admittedly, I probably need to learn that truth sooner rather than later).

    And that’s pretty cold.”Brrr! So icyyyy” isn’t a failure to badly paraphrase, but it’s really the most efficient paraphrase of all.

    I make this comment with the awareness that it could be “wasting your time or mine,” and pulling off the same summarize-in-more-words thing that you dislike, so I am preemptively bracing myself for the worst.

  3. Andrew, I must point out A) that you often write things like, “its possible i didnt think that through,” and B) you have the option of waiting until you have thought something out before you post a comment.

  4. re 54:

    Holly, yes, I do often write things like that. I also write, “This is way above my head,” “You lost me,” “I’m kinda lost,” etc., I’m glad you notice these things. I’m not as glad that this is perceived as a negative thing, when my position is that people should be willing to own up to their fallibility.

    As for B, the issue is that if I wait around, the momentum passes. People move on to different topics. Secondly, I don’t get any more feedback from the people I’m talking to, so whatever comment I make — whether I wait or not — is still going to have my ASSUMING what point the other person meant or my TRYING TO SUMMARIZE (however poorly) what point the other person meant in order to get some feedback on whether I got it right, close, far off, or completely wrong. Either way, my thinking alone will produce little progress.

  5. Andrew:

    I also write, This is way above my head, You lost me, Im kinda lost, etc., Im glad you notice these things. Im not as glad that this is perceived as a negative thing, when my position is that people should be willing to own up to their fallibility.

    But you also write, “I mean, I get your point. I just think Im arguing a separate point.”

    So it’s hard to accept that you’re owning up to fallibility, when you’re also asserting that you get my point, when you subsequently admit that you didn’t.

    And if you’re arguing a separate point, what makes you think that I necessarily disagree with that separate point? Why “argue” it with me, before I’ve weighed in with my own take on that separate point?

    the issue is that if I wait around, the momentum passes

    I’ve noticed that from time to time, comments are added to threads begun months if not years ago, and people here are pretty good about responding when someone resurrects a long dead topic.

    I dont get any more feedback from the people Im talking to

    the quality of feedback you get is often contingent on the quality of what you feed in.

    whatever comment I make whether I wait or not is still going to have my ASSUMING what point the other person meant or my TRYING TO SUMMARIZE (however poorly) what point the other person meant in order to get some feedback on whether I got it right, close, far off, or completely wrong.

    No, not all comments involve assuming what someone else is saying. If nothing else, you can ask for clarification. @32, for instance, you could have said, “I am confused about where you’re going with this; could you elaborate or clarify?” instead of “feeling a little bit guilty” about my statement, as if I had somehow accused you of some sort of misconduct. What, specifically, in my statement made you “feel a little bit guilty”?

    To clarify: I wasn’t upset or offended or irritated or whatever by your @32. I’m just pointing out that it is not accurate to claim that any comment you make will involve assuming or summarizing what point the other person was trying to make. There are many other ways of responding to discourse.

  6. re 56:

    Holly, have you ever thought that you got something, said that you did, and then realized that you really, really, really didn’t? Have you ever realized that what you were pretty sure of at first was far and away from what actually was? And in such cases (assuming, although this is pretty dangerous, that you won’t answer back with, “Nope, I’ve never done that”), don’t you usually only realize it SUBSEQUENTLY? And doesn’t it change the framework of things that you may have said in the past (realizing that some things that you thought were different were actually the same…some things you thought were the same were actually different)?

    Ive noticed that from time to time, comments are added to threads begun months if not years ago, and people here are pretty good about responding when someone resurrects a long dead topic.

    I’ve had a pretty different experience. Comments added to threads begun months if not years, if not simply weeks ago, miss the heat of discussion, and are rarely followed up. Heck, some places automatically close off comments after a period of time.

    the quality of feedback you get is often contingent on the quality of what you feed in.

    Often, yes. Yet sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes, you get an undeserved gift. I think it’s worth getting beaten up a few times for those.

    No, not all comments involve assuming what someone else is saying. If nothing else, you can ask for clarification. @32, for instance, you could have said, I am confused about where youre going with this; could you elaborate or clarify? instead of feeling a little bit guilty about my statement, as if I had somehow accused you of some sort of misconduct. What, specifically, in my statement made you feel a little bit guilty

    I felt guilty because you were chastising Seth for this assumption that post-Mormons don’t have beliefs, and that, by virtue of their absence of beliefs, do not need respect…probably with this implied question, “Where in the world did he get this ridiculous idea?” and I’m thinking that I’m probably one of the people who argues most strongly that post-mormons *don’t* have beliefs. Atheists *don’t* have beliefs.

    But I didn’t know where you would go from there. I had a few ideas. 1) You’d argue that it’s preposterous that someone doesn’t have beliefs, and that it’s silly for me to even think that. 2) You’d argue that it’s label or identity to be defined by lacking beliefs, and that it’s silly for me to even think that. 3) You’d argue that there is some distinction in beliefs that makes saying, “x person lacks beliefs” a confusing statement.

    I tried to anticipate each of these tenuously, by making different arguments to address each and allowing different levels of confidence for each. I tried to avoid (but failed, lol) raising your ire by doing this, instead of just outright saying, “I am confused; please clarify.”

    EVEN if I had asked for clarification, it would be under an assumption that you wouldn’t become impatient with that. I didn’t want to risk it.

  7. Im thinking that Im probably one of the people who argues most strongly that post-mormons *dont* have beliefs.

    that’s your problem–and by that, I don’t mean that your problem is the position you take; I mean the fact that you feel guilty about it.

    In truth, I was describing a phenomenon I had been observing for several decades. As far as I was concerned, it had nothing to do with you personally.

    But I didnt know where you would go from there. I had a few ideas.

    As it turns out, none of your options for where I would go from there fit what I really think. They’re not ideas I would entertain at all.

    If you want to do the work of figuring out how my mind works, Andrew, I’ve published plenty of stuff that is available on the web. If you don’t want to do that work, don’t assume that my thinking is as laughably transparent and limited as your examples suggest.

    I tried to avoid (but failed, lol) raising your ire by doing this, instead of just outright saying, I am confused; please clarify.

    Actually, you did avoid it, for a good long while. But as you admit, your comments became sloppy, and that irritated me.

    EVEN if I had asked for clarification, it would be under an assumption that you wouldnt become impatient with that. I didnt want to risk it.

    Now *I* am asking for clarification: you write, “Even if I had asked for clarification, it would be under an assumption that you wouldn’t become impatient with that…”? Which would have been reasonable, as I did not react with impatience to your initial question–I made a good faith effort to respond evenly and civilly, and I don’t think there’s any snark in @33 or 34. I even ask “Does that make sense?” because I really did want to convey my position effectively.

    So what was this risk you didn’t want to make?

    And where is YOUR good faith effort, Andrew, given that your first comment in this thread, was, as I mentioned, *reaches for popcorn*, which is essentially a way of announcing, “Hey, everyone! I’m here, but I have nothing to contribute to this conversation”? How is that designed to ward off impatience and convey sincerity?

  8. Holly,

    thats your problemand by that, I dont mean that your problem is the position you take; I mean the fact that you feel guilty about it.

    Uh, right. I didn’t mean to say it was your problem. I was actually surprised that you brought it back up.

    As it turns out, none of your options for where I would go from there fit what I really think. Theyre not ideas I would entertain at all.

    If you want to do the work of figuring out how my mind works, Andrew, Ive published plenty of stuff that is available on the web. If you dont want to do that work, dont assume that my thinking is as laughably transparent and limited as your examples suggest.

    Interestingly, I felt you would say something like that eventually.

    Actually, you did avoid it, for a good long while. But as you admit, your comments became sloppy, and that irritated me.

    It doesn’t seem that way, since you later brought up BOTH comment 32 and comment 27 to say something about them…from the first comments in my thread, you had something to say about them. I don’t perceive that avoiding ire.

    Now *I* am asking for clarification: you write, Even if I had asked for clarification, it would be under an assumption that you wouldnt become impatient with that? Which would have been reasonable, as I did not react with impatience to your initial questionI made a good faith effort to respond evenly and civilly, and I dont think theres any snark in @33 or 34. I even ask Does that make sense? because I really did want to convey my position effectively.

    So what was this risk you didnt want to make?

    And where is YOUR good faith effort, Andrew, given that your first comment in this thread, was, as I mentioned, *reaches for popcorn*, which is essentially a way of announcing, Hey, everyone! Im here, but I have nothing to contribute to this conversation? How is that designed to ward off impatience and convey sincerity?

    Another hit at 27. Which only goes to my past point that you held it in all along, from the beginning. This leads me to suspect that your last thoughts from comment 41 weren’t just things that came up in response to the last thing I had said, but had brewed over a history of comments as early as 27 — or perhaps even sooner. Sorry if that’s “laughably transparent.” I was avoiding — not in 27, since I hadn’t stepped in, but by 32 and in every comment since (with the exception of 44) — the lashout.

    My good faith effort was not in 27 — I have already admitted that. my good faith effort was not in 44. My good faith effort was in EVERY OTHER COMMENT I’ve made, where I have been cautiously exposing myself to the chance for more battery on the unlikely off-chance that instead, something better will come. It’s in the fact that I continue to comment instead of deciding it’s a lost cause.

    I just don’t think I have any more.

  9. very nice projection, Andrew. Very nice. Since you have projected onto me an accusation I didn’t make and ideas I didn’t hold, I must suspect that the “it” you imagine I held in all along is actually what you held in–oh, except for when you let it out in @27, that is, and again in @44, by your own admission.

    What, Andrew, you get to change your mind? You get to have different levels of understanding, an entire sequence of emotions throughout a conversation, but my attitudes and feelings have to be entirely uniform?

    Yeah. Why would I get impatient at a double-standard like that? Why would I eventually respond with snark to someone who indulges in drive-by snark when he thinks he can get away with it, and no one will really notice or remember? And how dare I expect someone to be responsible for all the comments he has made in the course of a conversation!

    Finally, your suspicions and criticisms of my supposed uniform emotional state are not only projections, but utterly irrelevant. Even if I was consistently irritated at you, if I still managed to “hold it all in,” I’ve done my duty and followed the rules. There’s nothing that says people here can’t find each other sophomoric or ridiculous, nothing that says we can’t feel anger and frustration at badly formulated or expressed ideas. Rules about civility and discourse do not and cannot cover what we feel, but only how we express ourselves.

  10. OK, getting more serious.

    Holly wrote asking me:

    “So, when it comes to a deeply committed believer in the LDS faith, his/her beliefs can no longer be segregated from the innermost character and identity of the person in question but not for someone who is a deeply committed believer in something else?”

    That was not my message. I was not implying that atheists have no values that need be respected. Nor do I wish to take sides in the discussion you are having with Andrew on whether atheism is about beliefs or lack of them. Nor am I saying that only Mormon beliefs get the treasured “part of my identity” award.

    I’m not sure why you chose to read this implication into my remarks. Perhaps it came from your past interactions with other TBMs?

    Just a side note, Holly wrote:

    “A respect for ignorance and uncertainty, is, I would say, a belief, and one typically embraced by skeptics and atheists.”

    Not the ones I’ve been fighting with in other corners of the internet recently. I guess I could elaborate on that, but we’re already off-topic.

    Someone wrote:

    “Seth, Im pretty sure that Alan was kidding since one can hardly be TBM and be in a same-sex relationship.”

    I wasn’t quite sure what Alan’s position was. But I figured it didn’t matter much for the point of my comment. Which was that defensiveness doesn’t make for a good relationship and to imply that BOTH Mormon and non-Mormon sides of that can provide the destructive influences. I did miss the same-sex angle, but I don’t think it matters much for what I was saying.

  11. I did miss the same-sex angle, but I dont think it matters much for what I was saying.

    Nope, doesn’t matter at all, if you’re willing to be the kind of person admits that he can somehow miss the most important word in a concise, one-sentence comment, then turns a fairly funny joke into an opportunity for a hectoring sermon.

  12. I brought up the same-sex quip because of what Seth said @9:

    If anyone talked about my wife that way in front of me, Id punch them in the face. I can only feel sick pity for the women married to such worthless excuses for husbands and wives.

    His tag-on “and wives” made me imagine a lesbian couple, a woman and her wife, and how nonsensical this is in the context of TBMness.

    Lesbian: “Don’t talk about my wife that way!”
    Disrespectful Ex-Mormon: “Your wife? How can she be your wife if she’s a TBM? I’m confused.”
    Lesbian: “Oh that’s it! I’ve had it with you!” *punches the ex-Mormon in the face*

  13. #31 Holly ~ I’ve heard that, too, and culturally there seems to be a strong belief to that end, but I’ve had LDS friends argue pretty convincingly that the only thing that’s required for entrance to the celestial kingdom is the basic four (faith, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Spirit). I seem to recall that their sources were good, though I’m too lazy to try to look it up right now.

    In any case, it’s what my own husband believes. I was sort of answering the question in accordance with his beliefs on the matter.

    #65 Alan ~ I noticed that too. I just assumed Seth meant “spouses” for his first mention of “wives” and let it go, though I don’t blame you for poking fun at it.

    On an interesting note along those lines though, my own experience says that the male partner is a lot more likely to lose faith in the church than the female partner. I know quite a few couples where the man has stopped believing in the church and the woman is still TBM. I’ve known couples where the woman stopped believing in the church and the husband eventually followed suit. I’m not sure I’ve ever known a couple where the woman stopped believing and the husband stayed TBM. (Not saying that it hasn’t happened…) Subsequently, most of the people making spouse-complaints on post-LDS venues are men complaining about their TBM wives.

    I’ve long observed that men generally seem to be more interested in discussing theology, doctrine and apologetics than women. I’d chalk it up to that.

  14. On the Celestial Kingdom thing, like Holly, I’ve heard it said or implied many times that people who aren’t married in the temple can’t go to the Celestial Kingdom. However, I think that’s a mistaken view of Mormon doctrine.

    D&C 131:1-4 says that 1) there are three degrees of glory in the Celestial Kingdom, 2) to gain the highest, one must enter into the “new and everlasting covenant of marriage” (now interpreted as temple marriage), and one who does not enter that covenant can enter the Celestial Kingdom but cannot obtain the highest level.

    So that’s the official teaching, although I think there are many members who don’t seem to know that.

  15. My understanding was that there are degrees of the Celestial Kingdom, and to achieve the highest, you have to be married. But not for the lower levels.

    It would not surprise me however, if popular Mormon culture reductionistically equates “Celestial Marriage” with the Celestial Glory.

  16. It would not surprise me however, if popular Mormon culture reductionistically equates Celestial Marriage with the Celestial Glory.

    They do. Speak of the devil, someone just left a comment at fMh today saying:

    As a primary teacher I tell my boys, last year 11 yr olds, this year 9, you can not make it to the Celestial kingdom alone. I look at john and say you will not make it there without your wife, girls you will not make it without your husbands. You need a righteous loving marriage sealed in the temple to make it and that will not happen if you do not show anything short of total respect and love.

    So much for having correlated manuals to ensure correct doctrine.

  17. My family was and still is predominately Italian Catholic. My cousin married (20 year ago) her husband who is Jewish At St Anne Roman Catholic Church which is located on long Island. I think it definitely depends on the Parrish and how conservative or progressive it is. It was not difficult at all and his family was accepting of my Aunts’ and Uncles’ and vice versa.

    I currently have a friend who is married to a non-member and again it is a non-issue. Maybe because religion is not the main focus of their relationship. They have many interest that they enjoy together as a couple. They also have many things they enjoy doing separately.

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