Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Beginning of the End

Gluby and I had been married for 16 months when I finally pulled it out of him that he was having doubts. I knew something was up because he was always upset, angry, or aloof after church or "fulfilling" his calling as the ward mission leader. One day after church I sat down at the table and basically said, "hey, I know something is bothering you and I want to know what it is. You are always upset on Sundays. Why?" He said nothing was bothering him, he was ok, he was fine. I said, "No, you are not fine. I can tell something is upsetting you. Please tell me. Please talk to me." He was silent for awhile and then he said, "I have been having some doubts about the church."

My stomach dropped to my feet and my heart started pounding. In my head I minimized it by saying that these must be just regular doubts that everyone has and everything will be ok. It's just a bigger deal to him because he's only been a member for 2 1/2 years and this must be the first real trial of his testimony. I asked him what his doubts were about. He said that he didn't want to tell me in case they caused me to doubt. I, of course, was above doubting enough to cause real problems, so I urged him to tell me. He again stated his worry about causing me to doubt. At the end of the discussion we both felt like this was something he could overcome by reading, praying, fasting, and continuing to go to church. I also felt he should go talk to the bishop about it to maybe get a blessing or answers to his questions. He didn't get along too well with the bishop so he felt uncomfortable doing so. I, of course, "knew" that whatever differences they had would melt away as the bishop followed the promptings of the Spirit to help him. But, I didn't push the issue because I also knew Gluby needed to want to go.

The next 18 months were a roller coaster ride. We felt hope, Gluby even had what I considered to be a spiritual experience where he "definitely" felt the Holy Ghost and I thanked Heavenly Father for giving him that to help him overcome his doubts. I knew that we were back on track. But he still struggled with so many things, very few of which he felt comfortable telling me. He didn't want anyone to know, and we both felt things would straighten out soon, so we didn't tell anyone.

This period of time was very difficult because it seemed every time we took a step forward we took 5 steps backward. I started to fear he would become "inactive" someday. I subconsciously felt the need to become a super Mormon to make up for his doubts and to be an example to him to help him overcome his doubts and to get blessings in heaven so God would bless him with a testimony and to bring an extra special spirit into our home and and and and and......

I did everything extra mile because I knew we would be blessed and that if I just lived worthily that he would be ok. Or, if he did become inactive, that he would eventually come back. Then he read a quote by Brigham Young condoning the slavery of blacks. Then President Hinckley basically stated his support for war after September 11. Then he went in and talked with the bishop. I vacillated between believing that God was giving us these trials because we could overcome them and believing that Satan was putting these things in front of him and that all was lost. That Satan was out to get him and he was winning.

I remember when Gluby left for the appointment with the bishop that I felt lighthearted and hopeful and I just knew things would improve. I was happier and more hopeful than I had felt since he told me over a year earlier. When he came home I was dumbfounded. Gluby was angrier than I had ever seen him before because of the way the bishop had treated him. I will let Gluby write more about this if he wants to, but the parts that stick out in my mind are that the bishop kept asking him if he was living the law of chastity and then asked him if he ever left would he be able to leave the church alone. He was livid that the bishop would accuse him of having an affair or looking at porn and have that be the reason he had these doubts; that he must be sinning otherwise he wouldn't be having these problems. And then not believe him when he told him he was living the law of chastity as to ask him this question three times.

My hopes were crushed. I was angry that the bishop had treated him that way and I was angry that he had acted in a way that had pushed Gluby further away. Why hadn't the Spirit prompted him to say things that would help Gluby? We were both doing everything we could and yet nothing was changing or improving. Was I not righteous enough to be a good influence on my husband to help bring him back? What was I doing wrong? I was so confused, hurt, angry, helpless and hopeless. And I couldn't talk to anyone about any of it.


paranoidfr33k said...

I'm glad you shared this story. I haven't spoken with the Bishop or anyone other than my wife about my doubts and I fear the day that they find out. I feel that I know as much about the church as any of my leaders and I know how to find answers to my questions, so it isn't like anyone will be able to convince me one way or the other. I'm not ready to leave the church but I'm also not excited to go to church or participate in any way. Hopefully I'll be able to sort things out and just live my life without fear of what others think of me.


Gluby said...

One thing that I really thought would make everything better and bring my doubts and failures to believe to a close was the birth of our first son. I really hoped and thought this "miracle" would help.

It didn't. We had a hard time with him, it was not easy, and things just kept getting harder. Looking back, I now know that, with a son and both of us going to school or working, we REALLY needed to take a year or so break between undergrad and law school -- it really was too much to do all so fast, and cost us a lot psychologically and emotionally. But, because it was all "normal" as far as we knew, we didn't realize how hard things were and blamed our difficulties, our anguish, our fatigue and depression, on ourselves. Very bittersweet years.

One slight correction. When I went in to the bishop, he did indeed ask me several times if I was having problems with the law of chastity (GOD that pissed me off -- so damned presumptuous and disrespectful), but he asked, somewhat tentatively, if I would oppose the church if I left it.

A strange question for sure. But he asked someone who is brutally honest if asked such things. I told him I don't know; if my conscience called on me to, I would.

Hell, my conscience screams for it.

He also made the basic NOM (New Order Mormon -- Mormons who don't believe it but play like they do) argument to me, in a subtle way -- he told me, even if it's not all literally true, it's a good organization, blah blah blah.

This was the same bishop who had told me the missionaries needed to move to a "middle class area" where "the ground was more fertile" for the gospel and whose contempt for a black couple that converted and joined the ward (the only black couple in the ward, for that matter) was palpable. Hell, he was disrespectful to a lot of people. Yeah, I didn't like the guy, to put it mildly. Thought he was a damned bigot.

JulieAnn said...

Thanks for sharing LB (and Gluby)
What a journey you two have had...

peace to you both.


Cele said...

Once again an illustration where the church is far more important, to those serving it and its congregation, than God or the congregation. How incredibly sad that Gluby went to someone with an acking heart with deep affliction seeking aide and they are more worried Gluby 1) was unfaithful 2) would bad mouth the church.

What rubbish, my sorrow lies in the fact Gluby found no aide and the church ultimately led Gluby to a break with God. It seems to happen more and more often.

I am glad that you and Gluby are on the road to strenght within yourselves and your family. I am glad that you are sharing, giving, and taking with others who need to hear what you have to say.

Sith (peace)

Just one of many said...

Gag! I have been there. When we asked about the law of polygamy , our bishop just looked at me and asked, "If your best friend didn't have a husband for eternity wouldn't you want to share yours so she could reach the Celestial Kingdom?"
I remember my DH puttin his hand on my leg to keep me from jumping up. I just replied, "Maybe god should have come up with a better plan!" I walked out soon after...and never returned!

Thanks for your story. It's not easy reliving past pain!

Freckle Face Girl said...

It is amazing to me that people like that bishop would not be extremely ostracized by others, especially a religious group. Why in the world would he be called as a bishop? Was the ward that desperate?

I have seen a Mormons turn on a questioning member. It never made sense to me because most members have some issues with at least part of the history, doctrine, culture, leadership, etc.

Perhaps, that negative reaction was just the thing Gluby needed to truly answer his questions.

The Sacred Sister said...

Wow, this is a heart-breaking story, LB (and Gluby).
I remember having doubts and believing that if only I prayed harder and read the Book of Mormon more often, then my feelings of doubt would disappear. I was struggling because I had never received that burning in my bosom or any kind of confirmation that the church was true, but I really believed and was very active regardless.
One year several of my friends had emotional/spiritual difficulties and one of my friends passed away. All of this took it's toll on me and I found myself wondering why HF didn't step in. I had prayed my heart out. I expressed my feelings to my friend's mother. She told me that Satan was working on our little group of friends because he knew we were strong in the church and he had to destroy our faith. She told me that if I left or questioned the church than that meant "Satan won". After that, I was more determined than ever to believe and I tried to see miracles in everything. I remember praying over everything. When I look back, it was self indoctrination. "I am so thankful for (insert ANYTHING that comes to mind here...My main thing at that time was "repentence" and Christ's sacrafice for us, the ability to return to our HF and have an eternal family)" Then my favorite lines... "I know the church is true and I ask that you help (insert all of my friends, family, strangers, people suffering, sinners, etc... here) to understand the truthfulness of the Gospel. Let them see what a BLESSING it is in their lives..." In reality, I was praying for these things because I was trying to see that myself. I recognize that now, but I was really out of it during that time. I was on the Mormon Pharmacy Plan (antidepressents for all!) which made it even more confusing because I was freakishly happy during all of this.
Thank gawd I'm outta that nightmare.

Lemon Blossom said...

Paranoidfr33k – I reached that point as well, where I felt in unnecessary to talk with the bishop or anyone else in the church about my difficulties. From my past experiences, and those of others around me, as well as from what I read, I would only get the normal “read, pray, fast, go to church, follow the commandments, have faith, we don't have the answers to everything right now” answers anyway. And I had been doing each of those with everything I had. I completely understand where you are at. Not ready to leave but not ready to be involved either. I'll write more about this later, but I got to a point where both staying in the church and thinking about leaving were so painful that I put myself in an emotional bubble and did my best to think about neither one until I could handle it.

Gluby – I really need to comment more on your blog because I know how much I love it when you comment on mine.

Yah, we both hoped and believed that our first child would be the answer to our prayers regarding your “faith issues.” It was so deflating and confusing for me when that didn't happen. I knew it was my fault for not being a better mother and wife. (This is why I knew that some of my family members would feel this way – I had as well)

Ah, thanks for the correction about the bishop's question to you. This poor man (I also feel sorry for his wife who must deal with the repercussions as well) was always offending people left and right with so much of what he said and did.

JA – And peace to you as well. After the journeys you have had in your life you deserve some peace. And love. And security. I hope you find them all.

Cele – This was really the first time I saw or experienced firsthand someone who was so sincere and honestly confused and truth-seeking to be accused of being unfaithful and that's why he was having problems. I was so mad at that man for so long. Now I feel sorry for him as well as the many people he has hurt along the way.

Thank you.

JOOM – “Gag!” This made me laugh so hard. Totally not the word I was expecting. :)

Wow. I can't think of anything else to say about your experience, except unbelievable. I love that you had the guts to say that to him. I would have totally felt that I should say what was expected or else go to hell for thinking otherwise.

FFG – I had a lot of friends in that ward and I heard them often talking about how hard it was for people to accept him as their bishop because he had offended and hurt so many people's feelings. I think some of them thought it was to make him a better person and teach the ward love and godly things like that.

Thought the negative reaction was not the deciding factor, it was definitely one more notch against the church and helped to open his eyes. Which I am grateful for now, but hated for so long.

Sacred Sister – I believed that as well. If I just prayed harder and more and had more faith and read and pondered the BofM more I would receive the strength to endure and be guided to know what to do. I remember giving a talk in church saying to never give up the fight because if we do then we have lost and Satan has won. Sounds like I could have been this woman's daughter. :) Sigh, I was soo good at self indoctrination it now astounds me. Repentance was huge for me as well. I felt I finally learned it and understood it on my mission and told everyone it was the greatest blessing we have. I am glad that we are both out.

Jer said...

It's so sad how the default reaction for so many is "what am I doing wrong? what more can I do?" finding fault in yourself.

It's sad that's the way we're raised to automatically think.

Lemon Blossom said...

Yes, it is. I am struggling to learn to trust myself now. Yes, I am smart and can make my own decisions and have my own opinions and they don't have to be the same as the church to be right and good. I get so mad at myself that I still struggle with this.

Gluby said...

Hey FFG,

That thing about members turning so harshly upon doubters in their midst has been something I've thought about. I definitely think there is a direct relationship between the rather brutal repression of self the church essentially requires of its members and how they turn with an unusual fury upon their own who express doubt.

There is such a powerful taboo against non-uplifting thought, conversation or behavior that it effectively renders members unable to deal with reality issues, anger/conflict, and doubt. You must be pleasant, no loud laughter, utterly docile and, above all, constantly nice. You are a constant missionary, a constant representative of Jesus, and must therefore constantly avoid any appearance that it is uncomfortable or that you are unhappy.

You've just got nowhere to go, no way to get out this despair and rage welling up inside you.

So, in the end result, there are only two appropriate venues for the venting of these frustrations: yourself, of course, and doubters. Doubters are not only traitors-in-waiting, but they're a horrifying reminder that it might not all be true, that your entire sacrifice of self, your entire worldview, is a lie.

It's little wonder, to me, that they freak out irrationally at doubters in their midst. They're the only people it's okay to vent on -- it's one of the rare situations in which negative expression is approved (rebuking and righteous Christian anger and all that). And the doubters furthermore represent a far deeper, more terrifying threat.

It also, I think, is useful in explaining the higher incidence that some have noted of physical abuse in conservative Christian homes. I mean, think about it. Everyone is SO conditioned to guilty, utterly-repressed obedience with nowhere to focus that rage, and then here's children misbehaving. Do the math.

Nope. The church. Not only neither true nor beneficial, but actually quite harmful overall (as is its other Christian counterparts).

paranoidfr33k said...

"I am struggling to learn to trust myself now."

I completely understand. I took so much for granted and believed so much without thinking about it that I'm always second guessing myself.

I've decided to over-think everything now because I didn't think about it at all earlier in my life. I find myself thinking sometimes that the church must be true because I believed it for so long, but then there are so many things I don't understand and feel conflicted about to the point that I start to distrust myself and where my thoughts are taking me. I hope that over time everything will become clear in my mind because right now I feel like I'm swimming in perpetual mud.

My wife told me over the weekend that the Bishop's secretary called and wanted to set up a meeting with my wife. She asked me what I thought it was about and I told her it had to be about a calling. She doesn't want a calling, so we'll see how that goes. She asked me if it could be about our inactivity, as in not going to church every Sunday, and I told her that it probably wasn't. I told her that the Bishop would want to talk to me about it because I'm the priesthood holder in the house, and the Church wouldn't call in the wife to talk about why the family isn't attending church. At least they better not. I would be offended if that were the case and I'm not easy to offend. I'm easy to annoy but not easy to offend.


Sister Mary Lisa said...


If I didn't understand better why you'd feel that way, I'd be offended myself that YOU would be offended if the bishop wanted to discuss matters with your wife, rather than you, the only one in the household capable of making such decisions...

I'm sensitive on this subject because I am married to a non-member husband, and we were told that I couldn't attend the temple to take out my endowment until I got permission in writing from my non-member husband. He refused. And so I didn't get to go.

The patriarchy in the church is a real downer for me. I can't respect it at all.