Maren Stephenson describes her and her husband’s experience, depicting the Mormon world that is so alien to all of us:
When Sean replaced his temple garments — the sacred underwear he’d promised to wear day and night — with boxers, I couldn’t take it anymore. It was too much betrayal. I called up a neighbor with a husband like mine and cried. But instead of empathy, she offered questions that stunned me into silence. Was Sean addicted to pornography? Watching R-rated movies? What sin had brought him to this terrible place?
Eventually she joined him and struggled to ignore the fact that Joseph Smith was obviously a vulgar fraud:
Whoa, we suddenly have 10 percent more income. Whoa, our weekend free time just doubled. Whoa, we can try alcohol, coffee and tea — the trifecta of forbidden drinks… Ironically, the Mormon Church teaches that marriage can only thrive if God is an equal part of it. But when we left God out of it, we were free to love each other completely, to share the burden of our grief as two individuals with no one else.
I’ll never get how it’s allegedly enriching to see your marriage as tripartite, facilitated by a middle man to which you both promise a bond. That seems to take one of the most personal and intense relationships and render it indirect, less loving, more like a contract with penalties than a mutual, willing unification. The wrongs you do to one another become wrongs to God. That may help marriage to thrive in the sense that we are forced by fear into staying loyal. But to be genuine, you surely have to love and commit to your partner for their own sake entirely. Religion, as it does in so many areas of life, storms into that activity and perverts it.