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I sat next to my husband, Josh, on our soft red couch. As he told me about his spiritual pain, he wept so deeply that his body trembled and he could hardly breathe. He felt betrayed. Lied to. Deceived. My husband had read the church essays and he was shattered.
Starting in 2013, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints began publishing a series of essays that reviewed some of the more controversial doctrines and history of the church. The essays were published, but not advertised and seemed to be hidden several layers deep in the church website. The church released the essays in an effort to be more transparent about its history, but the newly revealed facts didn’t align with the traditional LDS history narrative and it caused a lot of distress. Teachings that we were told our whole lives were “anti-Mormon” were now just part of the correct history.
There were different reactions among members about the essays. Some thought the essays were interesting and didn’t have a problem with them. Some thought they were anti-Mormon propaganda and refused to read them. Many just didn’t know the essays existed at all. And then others, like my husband, felt intense hurt and confusion.
This betrayal from the church left Josh questioning everything. He had been taught religious doctrines from church leaders, so now that he felt like he couldn’t trust the leaders, could he even trust anything he learned? What else did they lie about? He taught many people on his mission a certain way. Was that a lie? Are the temple ordinances divinely inspired? What about the scriptures? If everything he learned about God was from the Mormon leaders, and they deceived him, is there even a God? His whole world was stripped down to the core spiritual questions. It was so hard seeing my sweetheart in pain.
Josh was terrified to tell me about his crumbled testimony. For months, he kept it all inside, believing that I would leave him because he was no longer the believing Mormon that I married. I told him that I wasn’t going anywhere. He was a good man and I loved him with all my heart. I would support him and help him get through this hard time. I hoped that eventually his questions would be answered, that God would miraculously heal his betrayal wound and he would come back to church.
It was upsetting that the church didn’t provide more support for him. I wonder if the church just didn’t expect this kind of reaction from the members. From Josh’s perspective, it seemed that people at church were defensive and afraid to talk about the essays. All he wanted was for others to understand where he was coming from, but he ended up feeling that he was the problem. He wanted to find a way to stay in the church, somewhere between strict orthodoxy and total abandonment.
He asked me to read the essays so I would understand what he was feeling, but I don’t remember if I read them before that night or afterwards. For some reason, I did not feel the same betrayal about the essays. I was shocked by some things revealed there, but I was so focused on comforting him in his anguish, that I temporarily put my reactions about it all aside.
But then came these kinds of questions: If my husband believes that the Mormon temple marriage ceremony was bogus, do our marriage covenants still matter? Will we still be together in the next life? Will our kids still be sealed to us? Does he still have the Priesthood? Those questions were so deep and crushing, that I had to stop asking them or I would go crazy. I felt the need to focus on the present - supporting and loving my sweetheart, reading the scriptures, praying, asking God for guidance and having faith that everything would work out fine.
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