Aug 24, 2011

Okay. So this will for sure be THEE LONGEST POST I have ever done in the history of my Roxy Marj Blog!  I didn't write the long letter below that you are about to read.. but I do have to say that I wish I was as good of a writer as this lady Megan Benton who wrote the letter [Jender, does she have a blog/website?] On Tuesday, I happened to come across this blog: Being Miss Jendar  which instantly caught my attention.  Most of you know that I am part of the LDS [Mormon] religion which I mention on here from time to time, AND that I recently got married [for the 2nd time] in the LDS Temple. My ex-husband however, was not Mormon and we did not get married in the Temple. So I have kind of been on both sides....[this info makes sense after you read the letter] I love what Megan has to say to her friend Jender [I copied the letter from Jender's blog, with permission] because of the points she makes about marriage and being Mormon. What I got from her letter was that it doesn't matter if you get married in or out of the Mormon temple but rather the kind of person you marry. There are just as many happy non-religious couples as there are religious couples. IT IS SOOO TRUE! Just because one is religious does not automatically mean you are better than someone who is not, AND being religious does not promise a happier life! I personally am religious and go to the LDS church because I believe it to be the best life learning institution for ME, and that will help me be a better person. Going to church every Sunday for a couple hours isn't always easy, and some weeks isn't always something I look forward to doing...just like when I was in College...BUT I kept going to my classes in college every week because #1 I was paying for it, but more importantly #2 I was learning how to be better at something. It would not makes sense to go my Digital Design class once a month or even once a year...If I did that, I would be learning the same thing I learned the first day over and over again. Does that make sense?  Annnyways, enough of that.... Megan is way more eloquent with her thoughts on this subject.

Here is Jender pictured with friends, she is in the middle. Totally Darling if you ask me! :) 

Megan's letter to Jender:

"To my dear friend Jendar and her other readers who are struggling with finding Mormon boys to date, and have realized they may be happy marrying a nonmber: 

First, I'm going to refer you to a podcast I listen to called "The Round Table." Get it on itunes, and listen to the July episodes. It's a podcast that discusses LDS Womens issues, by women. And it's not put out by the Church, so people will talk straight and reveal what they really struggle with. They talk about improving our marriages and spiritual issues in marriage, and they hold an interview with a woman who married a nonmember. She is happy with her husband and her marriage. Also, I want you to check out the "Mormon Women Project" blog, because it gives spotlight profiles on women who are doing amazing things in the face of real challenges, or breaking molds in Mormonism. Also, I want you to google "Joanna Brooks Ask Mormon Girl" and "Feminist Mormon Housewives" and the "Exponent II." They are all rockstar resources for getting to know your other LDS sisters in a way you never realized you could.

Lastly, if everything I say in this blog doesn't resonate with you, then by all means keep dating members of the Church and get yourself some online dating memberships. You can meet people you wouldn't have otherwise met through your weekly Church activities. Lots of people in the LDS Church are shy about it. Don't be. Consider 1 in 5 relationships today start from meeting online. That's 20%, pretty significant.

Here are my thoughts about dating nonmembers. Keep in mind that I am undergoing a faith transition. In other words, my beliefs in religion are becoming less literal and historical and much more symbolic in nature. So I'm coming at this from a liberal Mormon perspective. I realize that not everyone is comfortable with that. I was not, even 2 years ago. That being said, I would love for our church to get less focused on why we are Mormon, and why that is so great and more focused on how to make our characters Christ-like. I want us to stop focusing on why we are the best church in the world, and instead talk about how we as Christians can become more loving people. How to use some of our creative energies for real social problems. I believe there's a lot of beautiful doctrine in our church, but if we just focus on things like why we are so great, then we are becoming like the Pharisees. There's a lot that other religions have to offer.

What does that have to do with marriage? Well, I feel like our discussions on marriage in church have a lot more with getting yourself to the temple so you can be righteous. I think it would be earlier to talk about how do I live with this other person from day to day and be happy? In the global church, not that many women are married to members of the Church.

In the church in America, we're all about getting to the temple, and getting there NOW. We hear about a couple that "just" got civilly married and we hear oh, what a tragedy. Um, hello? That's a WEDDING that just happened! Two people are in love and just publicly declared monogamy! That's a BIG DEAL!

When we focus on spiritual compatability from a purely ceremonial perspective then yes, we have problems. But what about what happens day in and day out of your marriage? It's not just a matter of, does this person keep the commandments? We as humans are so much more complex than that. Meaningful relationships and bonds take place between all kinds of people, not just the so-called "Righteous Mormons." Consider this: most marriages outside of the Church are mixed-faith. I don't know how faith problems factor into their relationships, but many people manage to stay together even though they come from different faith backgrounds. Sometimes it's a matter of one spouse coming to the other's church to make them happy. Others it's a matter of raising the kids in a certain tradition. The point is, lots of other people do it. And their families don't seem to be bemoaning their poor lost souls the way that many Mormon families do.

I think that the way that we talk about marriage preparation in the Church leaves a lot of room for spiritual coersion in marriage relationships. And I think that's wrong. Let me give you an example. I recently had dinner with some other women in my ward, and a woman who I hadn't known just opened up to us and said her husband didn't let her use birth control. She's been married maybe two years and is already expecting her second child. She loves her babies but she seemed stressed. She goes to school and it sounds like she's the primary caregiver of her babies, because her husband works and studies too. Plus he sounds pretty traditional. She approached the bishop about her problem with her husband about the birth control. But our bishop refused to talk to her husband. I think that is wrong, and shouldn't happen. This woman's husband has spiritual justification for his actions: being the breadwinner, the priesthood holder, and some really old-fashioned Church doctrine about birth-control to boot. Has this man been taught in priesthood about equal partnership in his marriage? Probably, but he is taking the spiritual doctrine that he likes. As does, I might add, everyone, whether you fall on the conservative or liberal side of interpretation. Even the general authorities have different approaches on topics, and represent a broad spectrum of opinion. Google the talk "Liahona Mormon" and you'll read about how two different prophets of our church had different opinions on evolution. So, in other words, in all marriages, whether it's between two hippy-dippies living in Berkley who do naked yoga on Sundays, or two conservative Ultra Orthodox Jews living in Queens, there are differences in how the partners experience and express their spirituality. You want a partner who respects your spiritual path and does not guilt you into doing things their own way. The late Sister Chieko Okazaki, who recently passed, was a Japanese-American living in Hawaii when she converted to the gospel at age 15. She married a nonmember, but was completely respectful of his spiritual path and did not force him to come with her. Later he joined the Church. She later served in the General Relief Society Presidency in the 90s. Even if her husband had not converted, Sis. Okazaki would have, I have no doubt, had a tremendous spiritual ministry and influence on people.

Here's another thing to consider: it's really hard to find priesthood holders to date because they are leaving the Church. It's because they're finding out things about Church history online that is really difficult to deal with. Or they're unhappy with the Church because it doesn't speak to them in some way or another. It's happening with women too, but at a slower pace. In any case, I'm just saying that many people are faced these days with a spouse who leaves the Church. Or maybe you have are faced with wanting to stay in the Church or not. There are other really faith-testing trials that people go through that break their marriages. Lots of LDS couples get divorced. A temple sealing is not a stamp of approval from God than exempts you from all trials and a fast-pass to the Celestial Kingdom. You will be faced with trials you never expected. But the love you have for your spouse can be a relief. When both spouses approach their trials in a compatible way and can keep respect for each other through it, that keeps them together. Check out "The 7 Principles That Make Marriage Work" by the Gottman Institute. I suggested it to my mother who is a Relief Society president currently, and she commented to me how many wives in her relief society are having marital trouble and publicly bash their husbands. Not exactly marital bliss.

Ultimately what I'm saying is, you should fall in love and enjoy your marriage. I enjoy being married. I love my husband. He is adorable and completely his own person. Mormonism has bonded us together in kind of an unexpected way: we look for the spiritual edification that speaks to us in ways that touch our hearts and try to shuff off the self-congratulatory or bullying dogma. It can be a challenge. I have to really pay attention that I'm putting my faith in the big things like Christ, the atonement, forgiveness, loving our neighbors. If we were to get caught up in what I call the surface things or even "certain personality things" of Mormonism like facial hair or caffeine or movie ratings, we would go crazy. We know what works for us and that's what matters.

People change in all kinds of ways: they change their hair, their weight, their careers, their hobbies, their health, even their faith. Hell, people can even change their genitals. Our beliefs are constantly evolving and being challenged. Do you experience your faith the way you did when you were a kid? Should we experience faith the same way we did when we were in Laurels? No, we are constantly developing. That makes me realize how human my Mormon belief system is. That makes me ask myself, am I a Mormon first or a human? I think I'm a human first. And so is your spouse, and so are the prophets.

Good luck Jendar, and to all your readers. I wish you the best. No matter what your marriage decisions are, I will celebrate with you." 


What do you think about that letter? Whether you are Mormon or not, I am so curious to hear your thoughts!  One last thing before I forget.... Susan over at Freshly Picked just introduced me to Babble, heard of it? I was just browsing through some photos and came across this picture of Abby's kitchen wall covered in bundt pans!!! OH MY INSPIRING! When Jesse and I move into a house someday, I just gotta do this in our kitchen!


Travis said...

Preach on Sister Roxy! I loved and agree whole heartedly. Nice job!

jendar said...

I think is wonderful that you posted this on your blog. I hope that this post starts a conversation among women in the church. I think that we women in the church need to married good men, whether they're lds or not. my sister did, and although we were all skeptical at first, he joined the church and a year ago they got sealed in the temple with their twin daughters. my sister, who has been active all of her live, and who was 37 years old when she got married, knew that marrying this man was the right thing to do. anyway, I think we all have our different experiences and hopefully the man we choose, whether he is lds or not, will turn out to be amazing. the end.

p.s. let me know next time you're in nyc. x

Jaime Van Hoose Steele said...

I do like some of the points she says, but the examples and ways she tried to convey it just didn't work for me. Maybe I wasn't understanding her clearly though because she kinda started off on a bad foot with me. She said "I would love for our church to get less focused on why we are Mormon, and more focused on how to make our characters Christ-like. I want us to stop focusing on why we are the best church in the world, and instead talk about how we as Christians can become more loving people." Ummmm..the church already does that. I've never once gone to church to be preached to as to why we're the best church. In fact most lessons do teach us that we need to be Christlike and charitable.

Anyway, on the subject of marriage and being with someone of a different faith I read a study that a University in California did (I want to say it was Berkley, but I can't find it right now), the statistics of a divorce are significantly higher of those that marry outside their religion. I can see how it would be harder if you didn't believe the same things since marriage is not a walk in the park. It's work, but it's wonderful work! :-)

Andrea Jolene said...

I agree with Jaime's perspective; particularly the slight on not being "Christ-centered" when every conference talk, sunday school lesson, and missionary lesson focuses solely on coming to Christ and being more like him. I mean, the church is called "The Church of Jesus Christ..." I also struggled with much of the letters points which seems to be an interpretation of individual cultural perceptions of a principle that she may not fully comprehend as the Church conveys it. It's the same issue LDS members face daily, particularly in Utah, is this blurring between "culture" and "religious principles." Sometimes, the practice of individuals, even if it seems to be a majority of individuals in a single place, to adhere to a cultural norm that has sprung from a religious principles, suffers from something I call "mission drift" or "goal displacement." That trying to convey an understanding of a true principle through imperfect people is a huge challenge and sometimes what comes out has drifted from the "spirit" of the law vs. the letter of the law.I see alot of misinterpretation of principles throughout this letter.

As to temple marriage - a true understanding of WHAT temple marriage is vs. the cultural push to get couples there is very distinct in my mind. If you believe in the difference between what a temple marriage promises; i.e. blessings BEYOND this temporal existence, vs. a civil marriage, "until death do us part" then you must make a decision when dating. And sometimes, as very hard as it is, that decision may be a life of singlesness vs a life of marriage that lasts only until death. It's again, a matter of perspective. Is marriage important enough in its social construction here in this mortal toil to give up what could be eternally yours if you waited for a temple-worthy marriage? This earth life is but a very small moment compared with the eternities. Gods thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways our ways.

In the end, as a single 27 year old Mormon who greatly desires not only marriage, but a temple marriage, I feel I would rather remain single than give up those promises and blessings for the sake of temporal companionship only. I also have a great love and faith in the true and its truths - and because my religion IS my life - interwoven in my everyday decisions and choices - then naturally I want my spouse to share those precepts as well. And it's clear to me, if they do not, it would be very very difficult to try and push through an already very difficult road; one where the divorce rate is over 50% nationally. It really depends on how committed you are to your believe system.

This letter is making the assumption that because I want a temple marriage... somehow I'm saying all those very good "Christian" men aren't "good enough" for me or that somehow the non-Mormon dating pool is "lesser." But I feel in matters of marriage and happiness, you have a justification to "judge" what will be best for you and your future happiness. This isn't creating a diverse group of friends - this is marriage. This effects more than me, but children and grandchildren. Marriage is intended to add to our happiness and progress, thus, sharing a common belief system, I feel, would be intergal to that happiness. I desire an eternal marriage - therefore - I desire my dating to be more exclusive to Mormon men. For me, that is the only way to true happiness in life - not marriage - but marriage in a way that I believe is the best way to do it. And has the best chance of making it all the way.

ROXY MARJ said...

I really love and APPRECIATE your comments guys'!! Keep in mind though that this is a letter we all are reading without the tone of voice of the writer. Such an important tool when really trying to convey what a person is really thinking and feeling. Sometimes when I re-read my blog posts I think to myself "What the crap, I sound like a total snot!" When that was not the feeling I had inside of me at all. If this letter is read with a sarcastic tone in our head, it will come across as sarcastic...or if read with a peaceful tone..then it will read as a peaceful letter. It's just good to read different perspectives on
this topic, no? :)

It's definitely not the best to be wishy-washy when it comes to dating. It really needs to be all or nothing in my mind. The "ALL" meaning this person treats me like a Queen...or King, if you're a dude! That was one of the number reasons I knew Jesse was the one. I am O.C.D. observant when it comes to behaviors and his impressed me so much when watching him around his family. Jesse will drop anything he is doing to help out his family. And his siblings and Dad do thee exact same thing! This won my heart instantly because I have never had that in my own family, OR in my first marriage. There was/is always some bickering or "favor" tied to someone needing help. I.e. If I do this for you now, then you owe me later...So I KNEW that if Jesse was like this with his own family, that he would naturally be like that with me too!

As much as I do have a huge testimony of getting married in the temple to Jesse, I know that none of it would matter if I wasn't doing my part or Jesse his. Even now, after being married for 7 months, we somewhat flounder when going to the temple together. We both have to remind one another that there was no point in getting married in the Temple, if we are not going there on a normal basis. And that is where sharing the common belief system REALLY kicks in! We both LOVE being at the temple...but we're human and we have our "I don't want to go days" Luckily..they rarely end up on the same day together. :) Instead of focusing so much on wanting to get married in the temple [for the Mormon gals/guys] I think it best to focus on someone with the same belief system [this applies to all religious & non-religious]and then who is kind, caring, humble, teachable, willing to serve <- THAT's a big one, and passionately affectionate!!!! I remember my sister telling me a couple years ago that the number 1 cause of divorce was money issues, and at the time I agreed with her...but over these last couple of years I have changed my mind. I believe that it has to do with sex, and that is actually proven from what I've read. Hearing my girlfriends stories and even my own past story...being married to someone who is not passionately in love with you messes everything up. Because if you don't have that passionate love for one another, I guarantee the last thing on your mind is wanting to go and do a temple session together. :(

If what I just wrote didn't make any sense...please let me know. :/

jendar said...

all these comments are so great and so valid. thanks so much for all these comments. they really have gotten me thinking!

scout said...

nice Roxy, I liked the letter. I agree, that I don't think the church's number one intentions are to flout that we are the best church, but to help us all become more christlike and come to Him. But I too, get really uncomfortable, when "people" OFTEN give out the vibe that WE are the best, most righteous etc.. Being outside of Utah, especially, helps you realize that there are many wonderful people, religious or not, who dedicate their lives to being good, Christlike people. I have a hard time when people look at things so black and white-- in the church= good, out of the church= evil! so frustrating to me. Protect the family! uggh. I know there is a lot of crappy stuff out there. but MOST people you meet, you find, want to be good, decent people, and want to raise their kids to be healthy, happy, good people too. anyway.. kind of going off here.

but anyway, I liked it. all people are definitely imperfect, and therefore some of these cultural mormonisms are always going to happen. I just have to keep reminding myself that the church is good and helps me to become a better person, if I can get over getting annoyed with some of the people in it! I do see how differences in beliefs can get tricky, especially once you have kids. especially if you have strong opinions on how you want them to practice religion. if you can figure that out before getting married, and try to see how to be on the same page, then I would say go for it too, for all the reasons the letter writer stated. I personally, would rather be happy with a partner in this life, and work the rest out later, than be lonely in this life, and still work the rest out later... okay, enuf!

ROXY MARJ said...

Scout, I love everything you had to say! Totally on the same page as you girl! :) xo

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