Somewhere along the line, things went awry. My husband, a/k/a "Mr. Wonderful" had an affair or two, most likely more. I knew of two for sure, But Mr. W convinced ( or certainly tried to ) me that it was my imagination; I was a jealous bitch, etc.,etc. Well, that was the beginning of what finished off our marriage.
I had no real religious upbringing. My parents were non church goers with no particular roots in any denomination. Neighbors took me to church w/them at the local Methodist Church, but it was a sometime occurrence. At age 16 I decided it was imperative that I be baptized. After a year of visiting every church in the area, I settled on the Presbyterian Church. Went to classes, etc., was baptized and was a fairly regular church attendee. Not a big part of my life, but comforting; there when needed. Mr. W and I were married in the living room of my parents' home by a Methodist minister. The first two of our children were baptized by the same minister. During the first 12 years of marriage our excursions to a church were only to attend weddings and funerals. Mr. W was a "fallen" Catholic and I was a "garden Presbyterian". I did pray, especially when working in the garden; there was peace, solitude, a closeness to nature an appreciation of the beauty and perfection surrounding me.
So, now the kids are approaching their teen years, Mr. W hires a new secretary and IT began. Just little comments about the Mormon religion; how interesting it sounded; you know ,mom, the American flag, apple pie and so on. (the clean-cut "Osmond" image) Perhaps the kids should be exposed to religion on a more formal basis-how about we visit a few churches. Didn't take long to add 2+2. Would you believe that the secretary was a Mormon and that NONE of the churches were the 'right' one except the Mormon Church?
For the next five years (yes, five) years we attend church services off and on; were visited by bishops and missionaries, went to the Hill Cumorah Pageant, a fireside in Cleveland, and generally investigated the Church.
One of the things that put me off was the casual approach to communion. In the Presbyterian Church (and most others) communion is very solemn and serious. The bread and wine are taken separately and with great respect. I was appalled in the Mormon Church when children grabbed handfuls and stuffed them in their mouths. NO parent made any effort to stop this. I was also greatly upset when a teenage girl became hysterical when giving her testimony and had to be escorted out when she discussed the death of Jesus. To love Him like a brother is one thing, but to talk of Him as if He were her VERY OWN brother and that she mourned His death as if it occurred YESTERDAY is quite another.
My major objection to Mormonism was (and is) the ability of the church to dictate what I could or could not eat, drink or wear, that a bishop could come into MY home and tell me how better to raise my children, how to be a better wife, to tell us how much money we must tithe, in other words, CONTROL our lives. In the 1970's, the church's attitude toward women was to view them as inferior to men; men had the upper hand in the marriage relationship. The couples I have seen who have the most successful marriages share a PARTNERSHIP.
Oh yes, Family Home Evening. Mr. W decided that we would observe this every Monday. In our home this meant that on Monday evenings we all stayed home and watched TV together or helped the kids with their homework. Of course the kids and I did that every evening of the week anyway and I truly bristled being told we had to do this as if it were a big event when it was normal behavior. The only difference was that Mr. W was at home for a whole evening!! - generally asleep in front of the television.
Okay, so now we have reached an impasse at our happy home. No, I don't want to accept being the 'good' mommy figure while my husband is having an a VERY OPEN AFFAIR with his secretary and no, I don't want to be a Mormon. How hypocritical for my husband to espouse the teachings of a church that was so focused on family values while he was having an affair!!! Divorce was the only way to end the cold war that was affecting us all.
Number one son converted to Mormonism and went off to BYU. I was not as upset as one might imagine. Rich was more comfortable with rules, traditions and discipline than his brothers. And I felt the perhaps the church was providing a "surrogate" family during a time in his life when he needed support. BUT, I prayed that this attachment would not last - that he would see someday the lies and hypocrisy.
Rich and I rarely discussed his choice to convert. I did not try to change his mind and he did not try to convert me. Whether that was due to respect for each other or a deep-seated fear that challenging one another would cause a breach in our relationship I don't know.
In the fall of his senior year at BYU, Rich called to say that he was engaged and a January wedding was being planned. Oh joy of joys!! I swung into the mother-of-the-groom mode and asked a kazillion questions about the wedding plans, the bride and her family. But these plans and dreams were not to be. Rich debated whether to be married in the temple or a chapel, so that his non-Mormon friends and family could attend this most important and special of all events. There was INTENSE pressure to be married in the temple by clergy, and the brides' family. They chose to be married in the temple. A very upsetting turn of events. Imagine raising a child for 26 years and being banned from the marriage ceremony!! There were no plans to make, no communication with the bride or her family, no participation, no joy.
Rich did want his brother (Brad) and me to be with him on that day of days and so we flew the 2,000 miles to meet the bride the night before the wedding (our first communication) and to "be there". Rich did not invite his father or other brother. Even though his father had been baptized, ( and married his secretary ) Rich did not feel that his father was worthy to attend in the temple considering the past 'affairs'.
The morning of the wedding, the mother of the bride called to say that the time of the wedding had been moved back an hour and that Brad and I need not bother to be at the temple. NOT a good start for the day. Ignoring this slight, we went to the temple in Atlanta at the appointed time. Brad and I had to wait in a room at the front of the temple - we quickly dubbed this the "heathen holding room". While we were waiting we watched the parade of people entering the temple carrying their garment bags. We knew they were required to change into all white temple garments for the ceremony. I have always believed that purity had to do with one's conscience and heart, not the color of clothes or underwear. Does God even care if one is wearing underwear at all??!! The longer we sat there the angrier I became. If Brad had not been there with me, I believe I would have stormed up the stairs and demanded to be let in. What a scene that would have been! Who were these people to deny us witnessing one of the biggest days in my son's life? This is the only church (spell that cult) that I know of in the USA that bans outsiders from ceremonies. So much for the Church that promotes FAMILY, FAMILY, FAMILY!!!!! Did I blame my so for this? Absolutely not. I understood the pressure the church and the CULTure could bring to bear. I was grateful that we could share in any of it at all.
Bottom line of a wedding is the couples' COMMITMENT TO EACH OTHER, NOT TO ANY OTHER ENTITY! A wedding performed by a judge or justice of the peace is every bit as binding as a church or temple wedding. What makes it last is the commitment of heart and mind to one another.
Eventually the bride and groom appeared and we trooped outside into the bitter January cold for photographs. Only the bride, groom, Brad and I were there for the photo shoot. All other family members and friends had scattered. No family photos to share later. In fact, at this point, Brad and I had not even met the bride's family.
That evening we attended the reception in a small town an hour or so outside of Atlanta - in the church gymnasium - of course. The family had rented a set-up for the "wedding party" to stand in front of for the receiving line. A bank of mirrors faced with frilly curtains, a chandelier, a white plastic fence and pots of plastic flowers. Right out of a French Whorehouse. The 4 tiered wedding cake was fake too, except for the small top tier. Guests were served lemonade and Betty Crocker stir and bake in the box chocolate cake. There was something about the entire day that lacked a feeling of sincerity or reality. But the reality was that Rich was married and I had missed it.
The years have marched along. The marriage is over. Rich is in the process of withdrawing from the church. Am I happy about this? Yes and no. Finding out that something you have believed in, invested time, money, heart and soul in, is false is not much different from losing a loved one. I am relieved that he has found out the truth about the Mormon church, but I am very sad to see him go through this period of questioning, resentment, pain and loss. In some ways he is starting over.
Perhaps someday Rich will remarry. I feel sure that if there is a next time, his friends and family will be present to witness his good fortune. His brother will be his best man proudly bearing the wedding ring for the bride. We will hear the bride and groom vowing to love and respect one another for the years to come. And perhaps the bride's mother and I will walk to the altar to jointly light one candle symbolizing the unity of two families.