When I met him in 1991, I was thoroughly impressed with his kind and respectful mannerisms. He had his life path and I had mine and we did not have much interaction over the years. In 1994 our life paths intertwined and our marriage to each other followed. Ah, I make it sound so simple, don't I? It was far from simple and our coming together in marriage left a lot of broken hearts strewn about both our paths. That was 1994, and sixteen years later, we hope some of those hearts have mended and found their way in the world. I am his wife. He is my husband. His entire life up to the day I met him was about Mormon values, beliefs, policies, theologies, liturgies, history and his personal faith in the context of Mormonism.
My entire faith life up to the day I met him can best be described as spiritual on a deeply personal level with a narrative from mainstream traditional Christian church belief sets.
Before our journey together, he had already separated himself from the traditional LDS church and formalized his leaving in the manner prescribed by the LDS Church. A formal act which allowed him to open himself to furthering and expanding his belief set, exploring many other avenues and options for defining his own narrative.
Better that he attempt to state what his belief set is now, sixteen years later as it is not mine to say. What I do own, however, is the sixteen years I have walked with him on his journey away from LDS Church Authority, Utah style Mormonism as he has reached out to claim his own faith, his own beliefs. What I can say reflects my own experience in this journey with him, whereby, it becomes increasingly clear to me that he can no more erase his Mormon heritage, culture, and belief sets than he can erase who he is as a faith loving human being.
As he has railed and railed over the years about what he no longer believes as defined by the ordinances of the LDS Church Authority, I am more interested in learning what he does believe. I recognize in him the values of a loving and faithful man of great moral spirit, compassion, and passion for those disenfranchised by overbearing, bullying, and oft times ignorant prejudices. I'm not entirely sure how he recognizes himself, if there is carry over residue from the guilting tactics used by the LDS Church Authority to keep their members in line, in adherence and in the LDS box. Fully respecting organizations work as organizations do, I 'get it' that the LDS Church Authority believes it must run it's organization as good administrators tend to do and along the way, the casualties are not of as much concern or consequence to the authority powers as the bottom line. Combination of $$ profit and vigorous membership. Not to fault Church Authority in it's need to tend to the administrative tasking demands of organizational entities. It's a given in most organized entities, church, non-profit, for-profit, corporations. The LDS organization doesn't differ greatly from the operational standards of other organizations in that regard. I've heard enough, read enough, seen enough to know that part of the dialogue and narrative.
I'm more interested in looking at our joining of culture, heritage and belief sets and how that influences our (his and mine) present day lives, our lives going forward, our children's lives and our grandchildren's lives. I'm a fairly typical woman, wife, mother and grandmother in that regard.
What is becoming clear to me is that my dear husband has a slice of the Mormon narrative that gets less play than the traditional LDS Church Authority Utah Mormon narrative, but his narrative is no less Mormon and in fact, may reflect more strongly the spirit of the faith, the courage of his ancestors (Martin-Willie Handcart Company), and the strength of our combined voices in knowing how to speak out while holding fast to beloved values.
He may well have taken the steps of formality to leave the LDS Church, but the LDS Church has not left him. The indelible imprints on his pysche don't dissipate because he sent a letter asking that his name be removed from the Church membership. I believe he emerges stronger in the faith, more connected to his heritage because he walked away and more empowered to practice those value laden aspects of his personal beliefs as learned in the culture of LDS community.
He is a most liberal Latter Day Saint. Given modern day LDS members are of a more conservative bent, I wonder in amazement where this liberal streak in him emerged. It was always there in him, it was perhaps laid dormant, but he carries a passionate liberalism in the make up of his belief set that astonishes me in the fullness of his compassion and love for his fellow human being. Ah, but he also carries the deep hurt of betrayal which shows up in his writings as he rails at the literality of the formal LDS Church Authority.
I ask him to walk with me a ways in a new direction.
I have asked him to walk with me in new direction regarding our faith practice before, pointing in the direction of a traditional and liturgical mainstream church, and we are confirmed in the Episcopal Church. Spending a number of years in the context of the Episcopal belief sets whereby it is believed that all within the congregation have a ministerial calling; a calling to ministry, and all are not called to be priests or officiates in the worship services, yet called into a wide variety of personal ministries. We begin on a path taking the formal steps towards becoming priests within the Episcopal Church, finding ourselves as lay preachers and looking ahead at the years of training and formal steps yet to be taken towards that goal. (I think my husband finds this training period somewhat tedious and perhaps unnecessary since he was a priesthood holder for 40 some years in his LDS days.) We wonder if it is our ministry calling or the church's ministry calling for us.
In the second year of training, we do find our personal calling to ministry in using our faith voices to speak out against the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent war in Iraq. We speak as Episcopalians, as lay preachers, as a military family with family members deployed in that initial invasion and repeated deployments to follow. We put a public voice on the matter, inviting our respective faiths to speak humanely and compassionately to the carnage of war, more so this war for which there was no provocation. We spend years in that endeavor, feeling the faith and spirit moving in our lives for the duration of the Iraq war.
When we return to our local church worship services to find our place within our community, we fins we are changed, we are not the same people who started a training journey towards officiating in the worship services. We do not find the comfort we once found and knew in our church community. We stand slightly outside and apart, different because of the ministry calling we did chose. We spend a couple of years not attached to any faith community, and once again I begin the process of reaching out to find a church somewhat compatible with our emerging belief sets. It is a half hearted attempt as I can feel that he is not feeling it and I'm only partially feeling it.
In what feels like a great culmination of the past sixteen years, exactly because of our journey together and the paths we have chosen and all that we have experienced along the way, I continue to feel the pull of revisiting his Mormon heritage, his LDS roots, his belief sets but in a way that differs considerably from the traditional LDS Church Authorized formalities. One might say that I am experiencing or having a revelation or that it is being revealed to me (in the Mormon church talk venacular). In fact, I am coming to believe that what he knows from having walked that journey, grown out of the literality of the belief set has readied him to not only embrace his own narrative but begin to tell it, to say it aloud, to share it with others, to find that space that lives somewhere between neither/nor....
And because I am so connected to him by the joining of our lives, by marriage, by mutual love, admiration and respect for each other, by our mutual deeply held spirituality and faiths, I am by default a peripheral Mormon because he can Not be what he is as a result of his heritage, his culture. So begins the journey of this blog.....