My family went camping recently. Sometimes it’s really nice to get away from it all. Connect more with nature. Breathe fresh air. Enjoy campfires and camp cooking. Sleep in the cool night air. Turn off the electronics.
Well, not all the electronics. Cell phones seem like a must, even while camping. And the spot we picked was chosen particularly because it had cell service. Cell service, but no electrical power. And that’s where the problem began.
My wife is practically inseparable from her cell phone. She’s a very social person and probably has a touch of attention deficit as well, so a cell phone is nirvana to her. Particularly texting people. And shopping online. Or maybe not exactly shopping, but browsing different things to buy. So she uses her phone a lot. And when we’re camping, she uses it a lot less than normal, but still pulls it out from time to time, especially if she’s bored. Which can happen, particularly if, like her, you suffer from insomnia.
So during the night while we were all sound asleep and she was awake and trying not to go mad from boredom, she pulled out her phone and started browsing craigslist or whatever. That worked great until her battery died. No electrical outlets. Now what? After a bit of thinking, she pulled out my phone to continue her activities. Of course, then she got to wondering: has he been contacting you-know-whom?
So she went exploring on my phone. Contacts. Call log. Inbox. Sent emails. Deleted emails. Any communication apps. Browsing history. When I woke up in the morning, wondering what time it was, I checked my phone, and the battery was dead. She confessed: “My phone died last night, so I used yours. And I went through it, looking for her. Thank you for keeping it so clean.”
But that started a conversation. “So how are you feeling about her?” she asked me, and as I was starting to stammer some kind of response, she interrupted. “No, I don’t expect that you’ll tell me the truth.”
“Do you want me to tell you the truth?” I asked her.
“Of course,” she said.
“The truth is, I miss her,” I replied. “But I feel like I’m not allowed to miss her. And I’m sad. Almost all the time, I’m sad.”
We talked for a long time, in whispers, before the kids woke up. She enumerated a list of about 8 things that she thought I thought were areas of my life with which I was dissatisfied. She asked me if I wanted a divorce. I assured her I had no intention of that. She insisted: “I wish you’d just tell me. I would like to be prepared.” We went back and forth on it several times. She wanted me to say something like, “I want to be with you now and always,” but the best I could agree to was, “I have no intention of divorcing you right now.” Finally in our discussion I stumbled upon words that seemed to fit: “I can’t tell you today what I want, but I do know I won’t live the rest of my life feeling the way I’ve been feeling lately.”
“How have you been feeling lately?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, struggling for words. “Sad. Lost. Trapped.”
“What’s going to change that?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe just time.”
As we talked about divorce, she mentioned that she had discussed other people’s divorces with them, and the almost inevitable response that she was told was that divorce was worse than a death. “When someone dies,” she told me, “other people can move on. But with a divorce, you still have to deal with the other person. You can’t just grieve and go on.”
I don’t think she was encouraging suicide over divorce, but I’ve thought about it in those terms in the past as well. It would be better for the children if their father died than if he divorced their mother. Yes, both would be devastating to them. But with death, they wouldn’t be asking themelves what they had done, why their daddy didn’t love them. They would attribute it to God’s will and figure out a way to move on with their lives. If I divorced, though, they would experience all of the same feelings as with a death, but would also question over and over again what they meant to me, and what I meant to them.
Later that day my sister came out with her children to camp with us for the night. I spent some time talking with her. She had been researching on the internet almost night and day about the truth claims of the church. She had stuck with the apologist websites far longer than I had, and was deeply confused about which stories to believe. We spent a long time talking about some of the claims on either side of the issue and about which ones made sense, which issues could be overlooked, which seemed more likely, which better fit what we knew about, and which were confusing. She asked me what I felt was my “main issue” with the church, and I told her about the Book of Abraham. She then told me that her biggest issue was David Whitmer’s publication “An Address to All Believers in Christ,” because it so clearly laid the groundwork for an explanation of when and where Joseph went wrong, and the evidence it presented was so plainly accurate. There was no question about whether David had just made up some arguments against Joseph. The facts couldn’t be argued, although the conclusions were still subject to opinion.
We also talked quite a bit about what the realization about the church had done for each of us in our lives. She told me that she used to really worry over her decision to marry a non-Mormon. She spent years agonizing over it, focusing on every incompatibility, disagreement, etc., blaming it all on his disbelief in the church. Looking at it now, she told me, she saw it all differently. A temple marriage wouldn’t have cured all of her marital problems. She said that she had spent five or six of the most difficult years of her life trying to figure out how to love him selflessly and remain in a marriage where she felt she was giving everything and was getting nothing in return. And the reason she didn’t just leave? Because the church taught that marriage was important enough to be protected. I didn’t dare ask the obvious question: if you could do it over again, knowing that the church is not true, would you have done it differently?
I explained to her that I was conflicted about the church in my life. It has been such a deep part of my life, influencing every major decision and most minor decisions, that I wouldn’t be who I am had I lived without the church. In general, I like who I am, so where does that leave me? I am thankful for the church at the same time that I am furious at it. I want it completely out of my life. But at the same time, I also want its values and its direction and its assurances in my life. I have a beautiful family, wonderful children. Almost anyone would be more than happy to trade their life for mine. And while I love my family and appreciate them, I feel like I’d be perfectly willing to accept such a trade. I don’t understand how I can have everything so perfect in my life and want none of it. No. It’s not that I don’t want it. I don’t know how to describe it. I don’t want it to have come the way it did, amidst lies and deceptions.
What is more important, the method, or the result? I’ve often heard, if you want to be successful, find a successful man and do what he did. If you want a happy family, how can you argue with the method that brought that happiness? I don’t understand it. I don’t want to be caught up in Mormonism, even as I relish and admire and want what it brings.
I think that’s why I want out. It’s not that I don’t love my wife, my children. It’s that they represent the fruits of the church, and I am still so mad at the church that I feel tempted to throw away everything in my life that is connected with it. At the same time, I’m too meticulous a person to act so rashly, and so I don’t act on these impulses that would turn my life upside down. But they take their toll nonetheless, emotionally, mentally. I feel so lost. So trapped. So sad.