Many people whose husband has left the church have shared with me that they have noticed that he starts treating them like they’re less intelligent because they have faith in the gospel.
If you’ve had this happen, you know what I mean. You may get statistics quoted to you, or church history, or LGBTQ issues, or the idea that you blindly follow old white guys. Maybe he suggests that you use the church as a crutch because you can’t face reality. You may even get the – seemingly kind, but actually patronizing – “I’m so glad your beliefs can comfort you,” as if you were a little child who needs something to hold on to.
The reason you react how you do is because of what you are thinking about the situation. If you don’t like how you feel in this situation, you have the power to change it. I want to offer four ideas for handling this scenario by adjusting your thoughts.
First of all, which I understand might feel like a stretch to you, consider what if you could believe the situation was completely neutral? What if instead of thinking your husband said something degrading about you or the church, you simplified the circumstance to its most basic form? The most basic fact is that your husband said words to you. If he just said words to you – any neutral random words – what would you think? You could literally think anything you wanted in the world. People say words all the time. When people say words, you can think whatever you want. You could even choose to think, “I love him,” and then you could feel love and compassion. If you are thinking loving thoughts you will act from a feeling of love. The result – at least for you – will be that you get to feel love. It is possible to choose whatever you want to think in any situation. This could be seen as a completely neutral situation. He said words.
Another way to look at it is to consider, what if it just didn’t bother you? It might not be neutral, but it’s just not going to bother you. You like the Yankees; he likes the Mets. Big deal. “Okay, I get it,” you think, “You don’t like the Yankees, no problem, I’m still going to continue to be a Yankees fan.” Imagine what it could it look like if it just didn’t bother you. “I get it you, you’ve done some research that made you not like Joseph Smith. No problem. I’m still going to continue to believe as I always have.”
But what if it does bother you and you can’t seem to think about it differently? That’s our third way of looking at it. Sometimes it’s easy to let things go because they don’t resonate with us. For example, if you have brown hair and someone says, “I hate your blue hair,” you wouldn’t be offended because there’s nothing to be hurt about. You don’t even have blue hair. At other times things will bother you because they do resonate with you. If you have freckles and you are self-conscious about them, and someone says, “I hate your freckles,” you’d feel a little hurt because you do have freckles, and you’re still a bit insecure about them yourself. That’s where we are sometimes with issues in the church. Some issues resonate. For example, I don’t’ have all the answers to the LGBTQ questions. There’s a lot of them, and they are deep and meaningful and worth contemplating, but I’m choosing not to give up on my faith in Jesus Christ and the restoration of the gospel because I don’t have all the answers. The third way to deal with it is to let it bother you, but not let it bother you that it bothers you. In other words, be okay that some things still bother you.
My favorite scripture is 1 Nephi 11:17, “I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” As the Givens put it in their book The Crucible of Doubt, “It is crucial to remember that cognitive dissonance lives on both sides of the faith divide, with believers and nonbelievers alike…In the memorable word attributed to the arch skeptic Voltaire, ‘To believe in God is impossible; but not to believe is absurd.'” (35-36) It’s possible to be intelligent and still have some things about the church bother you.
Finally, let’s look at a fourth alternative. What if you could actually be grateful for your spouse’s accusations? I took a while thinking about this option. How could you be thankful for this? The scriptures tell us to “Thank the Lord thy God in all things.” (D&C 59:7). This is a thing. Your husband tells you its ridiculous that you believe in the church for such and such a reason. And then it came to me! This is the perfect opportunity to bear your testimony without “officially” bearing your testimony. You can simply say, “I can see that you’ve got some questions about Joseph Smith (or whatever the topic of the day is), but I have faith that Joseph Smith was called of God to restore the gospel.” Boom! He just offered you the opportunity to bear your simple, concise testimony. You can be grateful for a chance to share your testimony.
I love the words of Terryl and Fiona Givens, again in The Crucible of Doubt, “Faith that we elect to profess in the absence of certainty is an offering that is entirely free, unconditioned, and utterly authentic. Such a gesture represents our considered and chosen response to the universe, our assent to what we find beautiful and worthy and deserving of our risk. “(emphasis added, 144) I hope that one of these four ways – or a combination of them – can help you if you feel that your spouse is treating you as “less than” because of your faith.