Mormon-Catholic Mainstream Marriage
Let me explain how the Mormon Church is going to be mainstreamed. The same way that Jews are being mainstreamed and the same way my family is being mainstreamed. Over half of American Jewish kids are now in inter-denominational families where only one parent is of Jewish heritage. Most do not convert but do keep sort of a remembrance and honor to their Jewishness in their life. My family is a bit more complex.
I was a TBM (True Believing Mormon), and RM (Returned Missionary). I was engaged to a nice Mormon girl in college. I had read widely in the fringe material and imagined myself to be a great Defender of the Faith. Somehow none of it bothered me until my fiance jilted me. I went to Salt Lake to Grad school and had a hard time with the student ward there. No one was dating and dating wasn't something anyone wanted to invest the time or money into until they found someone worth getting married to. It seemed backwards to me. I was too busy at school to take time to sort out my feelings about religion for the first year. After that it was too late.
The next fall I met a beautiful young girl on campus, fresh out of high school with the cutest New England accent. She was tall with nice legs and she wore these plaid wool skirts and long dark socks. I was most attracted to about 4 inches of her bare knees. She also had a pretty smile, large dark brown eyes and long soft hair. We went to a movie and I kissed her. This started the typical positive feedback system where you like a girl so you kiss her which causes you to like her even more; so you kiss her even more and around and around the cycle one continues with further physical involvement and little rational evaulation of character attributes or anything else.
She was only 17 and came to Utah to skii. She didn't even know that there were Mormons in Utah when she got off the plane. She was Catholic and attended all girls High School in Boston, so her dating experience was extremely limited. Had I not been confused about religion, I would have immediately dismissed her when I found out about her religion. But I imagined that I was doing missionary work, at least indirectly.
We started going to Big Cottonwood canyon where we would build a campfire, cook some burgers, roast marshmellows and neck. One time she pushed her socks down to her ankles and let me massage her legs below her knees. I thought I would die she was so attractive and I told her that I loved her for the first time. The next time we went to the canyon she said five words that changed our lives.
I always was taught and believed that we have much freedom and can choose our course in life. That our background and circumstances are not as critical as our decisions. I suppose that I had made a series of choices that brought me to that point. And I could have responded differently. But it seemed like I was being swept along the river of life by a swift strong current against which I lacked the strength to resist.
The five words were: "I'm not wearing any panties." Later she told me that she didn't think it would happen that fast and she had not planned for things to get so out of control. She just wanted to see what it felt like to be with a guy in skirt and not wearing anything and having him know about it. But we went all the way which didn't seem very far at all. I guess she found out. I took her home with me and to bed. The next few days were like a honeymoon. We were together most of the time and entirely preoccupied with each other. I flunked a couple of tests and didn't even care. Our lives were totally out of control and it was so wonderful. On Sunday morning we stayed in bed and I felt waves of guilt. I knew that I would have to face the music eventually. But why ruin today?
This went on for over a month. One day she said we needed to have a talk about the future. She had seemed upset for a few days before for unknown reasons. I wish I had been more sensitive and able to read her mind. What she wanted was for me to propose to her. She set it up pretty nice. But being a typical clueless guy, I didn't get it. Proposing first was the sort of little thing that women value so much. It had never entered my mind. How, I wondered, had I gone from being an uptight TBM with a little baggage no one knew about, to being love sick over a teenage Catholic shack up honey? I don't know.
When it became clear that I thought the conversation was over, she told me that she thought she was pregnant. This totally shocked me. I thought that all Catholic girls were promiscuous and on birth control. I imagined that the Priest went down the row and popped those little pills in their open mouths while they knelt during mass along with those stale waffers. I didn't realize that Catholics don't believe in any birth control except the rhythm method. She thought that since I was older and more experienced (hah, I was a Mormon virgin before her), I was taking care of these things. Not that we both didn't know better conceptually, we were in strong denial on multiple levels until reality caught up with us. She was in tears when she told me and I wish I had asked her to marry me right then. I did say that I would take care of her. But she walked through a few days of the darkest fear. I regret doing that to her far more than violating some religious covenant.
I needed a couple days to think. I went over all the options. Abortion, didn't feel right and I wished I'd read more about it on both sides of the argument. Adoption, again I didn't know what to think having never seriously considered it. Supporting a woman and child from a distance, but not being married to them seemed like such a bad choice. I realized that what bothered me most was that she got to make the choice. I could try and influence her but in the end she had the power and responsibility. I surrendered it by not getting married to her first. And she was hardly more than a child making the most difficult decision she would probably ever face. I also realized that I didn't hardly know her but marriage seemed like the only decent option and a dangerous one at that. So I took her to Mikado's Japanese restaurant and gave her a ring out of a crackerbox. We went ring shopping that night. She seemed more relieved than estatic.
I took her back to rural Utah to meet my parents. She didn't want them to know why we were getting married on her first visit. She wanted time for them to form a good opinion of her. But somehow they knew. They didn't say much but it was impossible to hide the fact that she was from Boston and not a Mormon. My dad, always the character, but insensitive asked her why the pope wears a clown's hat and how many cathedrals get set on fire every year by that round smokey thing the Priest swings around. She forced a stilted laugh. He asked if they were still burning witches in Boston. She said no but there were modern practicing witches. Next they railed on Kennedy and said someone ought to shoot Ted too. She coyly responded that is why there are no guns allowed in Massachusetts. My brother claimed that he had a friend from back there somewhere and he had a gun. She said that must be why he left and came to Utah. She was determined not to dislike them. Now we laugh but it was intense!
Next came a phone converstion with her parents who corrected my grammar and pronounciation and my political views; stuffy but not so bad. We never got around to telling them that I am not Catholic. They assumed I must be. She decided to have a small quiet wedding in a couple weeks at the court house with only parents invited. This saved her parents money flying lots of people out and insulted my tribe. But in retrospect it was slightly better than to elope which we strongly considered. It also avoided telling her parents very much since they assumed we wanted to get married quickly and didn't want to wait for a time when the only cathedral in Utah was available. No Priest either and if her parents were deep inactive Catholics, my parents were positively kookie Catholics asking them if they had ever heard about The Church. We left and there was no reception afterwords.
We buckled down to school. She got severe morning sickness and dropped out of college and has never returned. Another heavy price to pay for our sins. This occurred about the time that the lust started cooling off and we were getting on each other's nerves. The process of serving another person is what builds love and respect and trust. We ignored unhelpful interference from family and church alike and focused on our goals. Which were: first her and the baby; and second getting through school, so we could have a decent income and future. The dream turned into sort of a nightmare. But we still had each other if we stopped to appreciate it.
Next was Christmas in Boston. What an uproar when her family found out she was pregnant and married to an infidel. Good thing they didn't have guns. To keep her parents from killing us both I agreed to let their Priest try and convert me. The first meeting was terrible. He feebly tried to debunk Mormonism. Priest: Did you know horses are mentioned in the Bof M? Me: Yes right here in 1st Nephi, 2nd Nephi, 3rd Nephi, Alma, Enos, and Ether. Priest: And no horses in America when we first brought the gospel to the natives? Me: First you killed all the warriors, raped all the women, spread diseases everywhere and stole all the gold; then you force converted the survivors. Priest: Yes that may be true but we are talking about horses. How can you believe the Bof M with this obvious lie? Me: Oh that is not much of a problem; do you know about all the other animals in the Bof M? They are all wrong. No cattle, no flocks, no sheep and goats in ancient America. Every single reference to animals is Old World. Priest: Really? (Pause). Did you know that Steel wasn't invented until 1800's? Me: Yeh, and haven't you heard about the problem of brass and ziff? All the metals have various problems. Priest: Well I'm not much of a scientist, lets talk theology. Do you know about the problem of Deutero-Isaiah and how the Bof M can't be true if there really was another later author of Isaiah? Me: Yes I do and have you compared King James Matthew and 3rd Nephi? And Paul's 13th chapter to the Corinthians is in the Bof M? Every argument the Priest made, I came up with a better one for him against Mormonism. It got so ridiculous that I twisted him into defending Mormonism while I was on the attack. At the end I told him that obviously he was ill informed about my religion since I had spent the entire afternoon arguing his side for him. I got him to admit that he had never even read any of the Bof M or even one book about Mormonism, for or against it. Only a few slick paragraphs in his Catholic material. Later, my FIL would tell me that the old Priest told him after the first meeting that I really kicked his ass, but from the opposite direction than what he expected.
I noticed something about my wife who sat silently beside me. Even though she and her family only went to church about once or twice a year, it would please her greatly if I did convert. She was rooting for the underdog Priest. So I decided to fake conversion. I didn't make it too dramatic. I wanted to start with common ground where we both agreed and then look at the major differences and see if I could at least accept the plausibility of her faith. This led to the Trinity which I do not understand and think is nonsense. The Priest agrees on both points, but says that God is a mystery we mortals can not understand. I parroted the temple film and said "that is the beauty of it" and he agreed. Catholicism as explained to me by this gentle old Priest was so wishy-washy that it is hard to find anything to disagree with. The infallible Pope no one listens to. No sex before marriage is a total joke. Birth control is a don't ask and don't tell. When you start to realize how much native superstitions are allowed to remain in converts in foreign countries, it would not be much of a stretch in my mind to get that Priest to let me use the cathedral for temple ceremonies. (This would save Hinckley millions and there are catholic cathedrals almost everywhere a Mormon might want a temple). So to the delight of my wife and in-laws I converted. I took several visits over about 6 months because I was having so much fun and learning a few things. Every time her mother bought plane tickets to come out and mess with us, I offered to use them to further my conversion. This left my family in charge of helping out. Of course we didn't tell any of my Mormon family or friends back home. In Utah we were underground once a year Catholics if that.
A funny thing happened in the married student ward. I avoided the Bishop and posed as a deep inactive because I did not want to be excommunicated for getting my wife pregnant before marriage. But she, being an interested non-member was treated like a queen. And gradually she came to like many things Mormon. She listened to the sister missionaries and honestly told them what she didn't believe. She gave them pointers on how not to be so offensive. She was especially disturbed by polygamy and tithing. But somehow she got it in her head that since I had converted to her faith, she would convert to mine. And so she asked if she could be baptised even if she didn't believe all of it. They said yes as long as she would agree to keep the (few) commandments mentioned in the interview. But she asked if I agree now, do I actually have to do it? What if I pay one month's tithing and stop, will you excommunicate me? No, the sisters said, but we won't baptise you in the first place if that is your plan. So I got to baptise my wife a Mormon. This delighted my family. Of course she did not tell her family or friends in Boston.
We moved to the South after I finished school a few years later. I met up with a pretty slack old Bishop who wanted me as his Scoutmaster. I told him I was unworthy to work with young men. Horsefeathers he replied. Eventually around a camp fire late at night, I gradually fed him details and he gradually let me know that as far as he was concerned there would be no disciplinary actions against me. Later my wife got the idea to get married in the temple. For that Bishop it was no problem. She also had this massive wedding like event on our first anniversary in Boston. So we've been maried to each other more or less three times and no divorce yet, which we don't believe in as Catholics.
We go to both churches. She likes the Mormon social scene every Sunday. She is real good at playing like a new member in need of a friend, and is real good at dodging undesirable callings. I try to keep the heavy hitter TBM types in the ward perpetually pissed off at me so they never consider me for any serious callings. I can also claim too busy at work at any point and even fake illness when necessary. We have our kids in catholic private schools and pay their tuition out of tithing. We go to mass twice a year. She never really gave up coffee, tea or wine at extended family events. Right now the Catholic Wednesday night youth activity is better than the Mormon one and so we tell our Mormon friends that we are doing missionary work. We also quietly tell the ward leaders that we will start bringing other Catholic kids to their YM/YW program when it gets better than the Catholic one. The Baptists have the best Scout troop in this area and we do Scouts with them. Both our families are happy as long as they don't visit us. Things get real tricky when either side comes to town and we have found it best not to go to church at all, but to go on some local side trip.
I marvel at how this has all worked out. I did not choose to travel this path. It feels like God guided me along it. When a man is young, he has strong sexual impulses and they get him into situations that lead to parenthood, and hopefully marriage and family in some order or another. The illusion of freedom is prevalent, but if you will stop and think, you will admit that fate had over a 90% part and you had less than a 10% part in how it all worked out. If a man is lucky to attach himself to a good woman and takes care of her, he will find himself providing for a nice family, but likely under circumstances that little resemble his original dreams and intentions. If he has many problems along the way, and most problems are beyond his control, he will quickly find his life a mess. And there will be little he can do to solve the problems. This is why Jesus told us not to judge one another.
The Mormon church will fail to the degree that it tries to control people. It will succeed to the degree that it provides real service and beneficial help to its members. To those few people who want to be dominated and controlled, the Mormon church is perfect for them. I am basically free from their strict control and we would leave in a heart beat if they tried to pull any damaging stunts. And I get the feeling that they know it. Even my family. So they are nice Mormons and generally help us and we help them. They only have as much on you as you let them.
It does seem to me that we Mormons are going through a phase where our top leadership is obsessed with control. What my dabblings in Catholic history tell me is this control phase usually precedes a phase of severe loss of control. The Spanish Inquisition preceded the Protestant Reformation. Also, I have noticed that some form of virtually every Mormon controversy has been fought over and over at some point in the 2000 years of Catholic history. So for now we dance a delicate waltz between two faiths and hope our six children can sort out the confusion for themselves and take the good of both into the future that God has prepared for them.
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