A Catholic Reader Struggles with Questions about his Marriage to a Mormon

He writes:

I know you probably get many, many emails and I’m also certain that your time is stretched thin. I have a dilemma that I brought upon myself and everywhere I turn makes it more confusing. First, I am a convert to the Catholic Church, having entered in 2005. I am also a convert to the LDS church a few years later. I married a Mormon a few years ago and we have been relatively happy, until I started going back to the local catholic parish. I have tried to share with her why I believe that I belong in the Catholic Church. The priest here tells me that it would be imprudent to do anything other than go to church with her and to Mass on Saturday. He even went as far as to tell me that I SHOULD be going to the Mormon temple with her. She is very sensitive and I really do love her and don’t want to hurt her. 

 I talked with the missionaries yesterday about the so-called “Great Apostasy” and they had nothing. I showed them the scripture in the New Testament in their bible and they basically told me that I need to read the BofM and gain a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and that I would then see that the “Great Apostasy” was as they claim. None of it makes sense. These folks, including and especially my dear wife have been horribly brainwashed. I can only hope that invincible ignorance is enough to keep them out of hell, but I don’t really know.

 How should I handle the predicament that I find myself in? Do I follow my priest’s advice and maintain the status quo, or do I cut ties with everyone of them except for my wife? I did forget to mention that I got a radical sanction last year, so that our marriage is recognized by the Church. Do you have any suggestions, recommendations, ways to minimize the confusion on my part? My catechesis largely came from the Baltimore Catechism. I absolutely love the Church and the liturgy, especially the “Extraordinary Form”. I do accept that Pope Francis in the Successor of St. Peter and I believe the our Lord is fully present in the Blessed Sacrament. 

 Any help that you may be able to offer would be immensely appreciated. Thanks and have a great day!

First off, let me apologize for my slowness in replying.  I have been laboring on a book since last fall and since then have had to cope, along with the rest of the world with pandemic and economic disaster.  So please forgive me.

Secondly, let me stress that I am not clergy, spiritual director, or in any way qualified as a counselor, therapist, or marriage expert.  Nor do I claim to know much about Mormonism, nor to have the ability to read hearts and minds.  I’m basically a loudmouth with a keyboard.  So do not take a word I say as The Word of the Lord.  If it helps, good.  If it seems meh or worse, harmful, huck it  overboard without a second thought.  I’m only replying because you asked what I think and I feel like I owe you a reply.  I don’t at all feel like my reply is necessarily worth the electrons you are burning to read it.

In a nutshell, I think your priest is on the right track.  That doesn’t mean I think there is any truth to Mormonism.  I don’t.  The issue is not Mormonism.  The issue is the dignity of your wife as a creature made in the image and likeness of God and the obligation you have (which you obviously feel or you would not be writing) to honor that.  Before we are Christian, Mormon, Jew, Muslim, gay, straight, or any other descriptor stuck on us, we are human beings made in the image and likeness of God and therefore entitled to be honored and loved as such.  It is, of course, desirable that your wife come to understand that the Jesus she worships with imperfect knowledge filtered to her through Joseph Smith and the Mormon religion has handed himself down to us fully through the sacraments and teaching of the Church.  But the best way for that knowledge to come to her is through your love and respect for her.  So honoring her where she is, is the best place to meet her and accompany her as the Holy Spirit (not you) reveals Christ to her.  The good news about being Catholic is that you not only don’t have to convert anybody, you can’t convert anybody.  That is the Holy Spirit’s job.  Only he can do that.

So take this as an opportunity to live your faith and not as a threat to it.  If, as the Faith teaches,. Jesus Christ really is present in the Most Holy Sacrament and the Church is the primary sacrament of salvation and *you* are a sacrament to her through marriage, then you have an awful lot going for both of you in terms of God being in your corner and working to bless you both.  Don’t fret over matters like “Who is going to hell?”  God wants nobody to go to hell and that is very good news.  Focus rather on how you can  bear witness to the love of God at work in your lives.  Don’t water down your own Catholic faith, but also don’t feel like you need to pressure her into submission to it.  Any choice that is not free is not a real choice and the choice to obey our Lord’s leading in whatever direction he calls us must, above all, be a free one.

So suggest to her (if it’s not already what you are doing) that you both go to Saturday Vigil Mass and then the Mormon Church on Sunday.  Talk about what you can do to live the love of God and neighbor.  Make love, not defeating somebody in a theology debate, the focus.  You are right in understanding that there is no Great Apostasy and therefore no need for Smith’s “revelation”.  So be at peace about that.  Now listen to your wife, not for truth claims about the Mormon faith, but about what it is she fears losing if she leaves the Mormon Church and what it is she seeks that is good (and therefore from Jesus).  That, it seems to me, is your path toward unity in the Holy Spirit.  Communion in the Eucharist lies at the end of that road.  It will not come from fear or from beating her or anybody she loves in a fight.

Above all, address yourself to our Lord in the Eucharist and seek as best you can to be pleasing to him in love.  He will supply what it is lacking and help you with your sins and faults.  He is with you both, not against you.

Hope this helps!


6 Responses

  1. What a great reply!

    I love my Mormon friends, I think God sent them our way because they are good, and I had a bad stereotype in my head. It neutralized my salty thoughts. Even if the Book of Mormon is a bunch of bunk, I can’t imagine anyone going to hellfire for it.

    What I still chuckle about is putting my foot in my mouth. Even though they keep a place in Utah, I didn’t think our friends could possibly be Mormons, (too cool for that) and asked them if the Mormons ever tried to “get them”.

    I used to go to a Baptist service with my husband, when we first started dating. We argued a bit about it, but would do both the Baptist service and Mass every weekend. I still feel a big debt of gratitude to the evangelicals who were a good influence on my husband while he was growing up in an extremely worldly household. I listened to some good sermons!

    I look at life as a pilgrimage, and don’t regret that Protestant footnote in our lives. God is patient, allowing good to come of detours, and being able to see through the eyes of others. 🙂

  2. When my wife and I and our children were in RCIA, from January, 1995, we attended 8AM Mass, and then went to the 10:30AM Reformed Church (we had been one of the three families who founded that church). We finally stopped the latter at Easter – it was becoming clear that it was more upset for them to see us than not to see us. We love them and I am happy to say that they have continued to do well in our community.

  3. “That doesn’t mean I think there is any truth to Mormonism. I don’t.”

    Really? “Nostra Aetate” states, regarding the non-Abrahamic religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, that there are elements of truth in these religions:

    “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.”

    Surely, similar elements may be recognized in LDS communities.

    1. Fair enough. Yes. Insofar as Mormonism affrms what Catholic teaching affirms and rejects what Catholic teaching rejects, there is truth in it. But of course, what I was driving at is that I don’t believe for one second that the founding story or Mormonism is true, the Smith is a prophet that the bushwah asserted by the book of Mormon is true, or that it is a new revelation of Jesus.

  4. I’m way late to this party but wanted to leave a thought or two. First, I’m also in an “interfaith” marriage, so – solidarity! I totally agree with the advice to attend sacrament meeting with her (whether she agrees to come to Mass with you or not). Something else would be to always be super respectful of her time commitments to her church (I know LDS folks often have a lot of them); I really appreciate my agnostic husband’s efforts to never question or complain about the time I spend at Mass, adoration, prayer, etc., even when it interrupts time he’d like to be spending together.

    I do want to question this: “He even went as far as to tell me that I SHOULD be going to the Mormon temple with her.” I’m not sure if your priest was thinking of Sunday “sacrament meeting” when he said that, or if he was really referring to the LDS Temple-temple, but since that was the wording in the letter – my advice would be definitely *do not* go to the Temple with her. For one, you couldn’t really in good conscience get/hold/use a Temple recommend, since you aren’t LDS; and if you could, there is a world of difference between attending a Sunday service and listening to a sermon or some testimonies that may or may not contain distinct LDS theology, and receiving another religion’s ‘sacraments’ as a proxy on behalf of a deceased soul.

    A lot of non-LDS folks don’t know or understand what happens in the Temple, so I’m guessing that if your priest did specifically mention the Temple, he was envisioning something more along the lines of fancy services at a Cathedral….it’s questionable whether Catholics are even permitted to receive the symbolic bread and wine/juice at Protestant services; we definitely shouldn’t be receiving the ordinances of a different religion intended to help the dead become Mormon in the afterlife.

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