I had never publicly discussed my wife’s departure from Mormonism prior to Shauna Lake asking me about it during last Sunday’s KUTV 2 News “truth or dare” interview.
Because Shauna is smart and insightful, I had to consider the possibility the subject might come up. I write a lot about Utah’s predominant faith, so the fact that my wife is no longer part of it might seem relevant.
I was right. Shauna asked. I answered. Boom. Now you know.
Our split-faith marriage has never been a subject I avoided mentioning out of shame. I have the least amount of shame of anyone I know. I could write all kinds of things about our “church situation.” The only reason I haven’t before is because my wife is a private person and asked me not to. That and I love her.
Here are the basics: My wife and I were raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We served LDS missions to South America, where we met. We were married in the Salt Lake Temple. We raised our children in the church. Over the years, we held any number of important LDS church callings.
Fifteen years ago—after a lot of study, deep introspection, and prayer—my wife joined another church. No one knows better than me the staggering amount of thought she put into her decision. If anything, her personal standards today are as high or higher than they were when she was LDS.
Today, she’s a “mainstream Christian.” Because I’m still Mormon, I have no idea what that means other than we don’t go to the same church now.
I make it sound easy. It wasn’t. When a shared faith is one of the original pillars of a relationship, it doesn’t get removed without consequences. There were a lot of those, not the least among them was which of us was going to hell now?
It sounds ridiculous but “who’s going to hell” is pretty much what church comes down to. If you don’t think so, try leaving one for another and hear what they say.
Throughout our marriage it was a given that it would be me going to hell because I wasn’t Mormon enough. Now I had to consider going there just for being Mormon.
We talked/yelled about it a lot. It was in those dark days that I came upon a great truth. Here it is: “There is no more ironic reason to get divorced than because of church.”
This is a serious statement considering that much of the world thinks their religious beliefs are worth everything.
What’s your religion worth to you? Is it something you’d die for? Lots of people say they would lay down their lives for their faith. Would you kill for it? How about your marriage? Would you divorce your spouse over your faith?
Suppose you’re a temple-going, tithe-paying, testimony-bearing, Fast Sunday-starving Mormon. Would you divorce your husband because he became an atheist?
If you’re a born-again, praise-Jesus, arm-waving, hallelujah Christian and your spouse suddenly converts to Mormonism, would you kick the marriage to the curb?
Keep in mind that if you stay, you can’t just agree to disagree about religion. At some point you’ll have to disagree AND shut up about it. No wound — whether emotional or physical — ever heals if you keep picking at it.
You’ll get lots of advice about what to do in your split-faith relationship, nearly all of it from people who have no idea what the hell they’re talking about. There’s nothing easier to give someone else than advice that doesn’t apply to you.
In the end it came down to this for me: I believe the most important thing for which I’ll be judged is how I treat my wife rather than my church.
Robert Kirby can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.
Kirby on ‘Person 2 Person’
You can watch Robert Kirby’s “Person 2 Person” interview with Shauna Lake at the top of this story, or at