I am a Mormon.

My name is Laura Barlow Leavitt and I am a Mormon, who willfully and joyfully married an ex-Mormon atheist. We were both orthodox and rebellious about the way we did it. After two months of virtuous dating (and 13 years of friendship), we eloped to the Manhattan courthouse, til death do us part. We called our parents and friends and families to let them know the next day. (The pic is of him with my nieces and nephew a few weeks after we got married.)

I think many have wondered how dedicated I could possibly be to my faith after such a drastic move toward a lifetime of seeking middle ground. Some of the most outspoken criticism I've heard was from a good friend who's a non-denominational Christian. He couldn't imagine waking up to someone who didn't believe in God everyday. Maybe my reasons for marrying Wayne sound like excuses to some, but I'd like to emphasize that I in no way intend to leave or even slowly slink away from the church. I make efforts to attend church weekly, the temple monthly, and read the Book of Mormon daily. I am grateful for the gospel in my life and try to live in a way that demonstrates that gratitude. Wayne knows how I feel and offers support. He's willing to give feedback on the flyers I'm designing for the upcoming primary activity, holds my hand in a moment of silence before each meal while I bow my head and silently pray, holds me while I'm kneeling to say bedtime prayers, and never complains about the 10% of each of my paychecks that goes straight to tithing even when we're short in other areas. He listens carefully and empathetically when I'm bawling over spiritual experiences and even once hugged me and let me cry on his shoulder when I discovered that a dear Mormon friend had become an atheist. When I stopped to laugh at the irony he said, "Laura, it's ok. I get it."

The most difficult part of being married to an atheist, is that I believe he's my one and only, my soulmate, that we were meant to be, that God has somehow stamped our civil marriage certificate with his seal of divine approval although that makes no sense to some. And Wayne, conversely, by default of his atheist belief system, cannot believe in such a romantic idea...sigh. But I should also clarify that his expressions of love never feel cold or limited and that our affections feel quite balanced.

I think it's important to view things from his angle too, to acknowledge the sacrifices of what it means to be married to someone who's a believing Mormon. I cannot describe or explain the reasons why he opted to leave the church; I'd never want to force words in his mouth about something so personal; but I know that it came sincerely for him and that it was very difficult. He's been met not only with disapproval from many close around him, but is now viewed as an outsider by the culture that brought him up. And unlike many who take such departures from their native cultures and beliefs, he's made efforts to continue relationships with those still on the inside loop. Our marriage solidifies that familiar role as outsider and sinner when he comes in contact with the community through me. Every time the home teachers or visiting teachers come over, every time I invite the missionaries over for a meal, every time someone in the ward invites us over for Sunday dinner, every time we attend a ward party together. I watch in admiration as he handles these individual scenarios with grace, friendliness, and respect.

I just don't see how I could have shut him out of my life. He makes me breakfast, lunch, and dinner almost every day. He tells me he loves me in his sleep. When I couldn't go to an art museum with him, he texted me the titles of the paintings so I could google them. He gets teary-eyed just reading about the steps of childbirth because he's so excited about the family we're going to start.

Is this not the point of the gospel of Jesus Christ? To love others as he has loved us? To overcome difference? I don't believe in a God who would simply shun someone who brings so many blessings and so much love to my life. I believe that through the atonement, all are granted mercy and that everyone will have a chance to return to live with Him. To those who would dismiss Wayne as having already blown his chance, I say, "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

I don't think it will always be so easy because nothing ever is. But I feel no dichotomy that the two things I am most grateful for in my life are Wayne and the gospel of Jesus Christ. 


Carroll said...

Beautiful! Printing this for the family record!

I would like to mention at your wedding reception I only saw acceptance especially from Wayne's family. I was so impressed at their unity and love.

Thanks Laura. Tell Wayne we love him. We do!

Andrea said...

You are such an amazing writer Laura. You two make a cute couple. Your patience and dedication to each other is a great example. I and I'm sorry we didn't make it to your reception/get to see you when you were in Utah. Our car decided to give us a Christmas gift by being in the shop for almost 2 weeks. We didn't make it to the friend reunion either. Best of luck with the up coming birth and the rest of your pregnancy!

ben and shera said...

Stumbled upon this while purusing facebook. Almost cried reading this, I had no idea meeting Wayne for the first time, all I could see was your undeniable happiness and love for one another. You inspire me in so many ways, I think Ben and I are forever in awe of you. I 1000% agree with you that to live as Christ does is to love as He loves. It must be so easy to love a man as wonderful as Wayne seems. Congrats on your pregnancy, again had no idea and could not be happier, you guys are going to make EXCELLENT parents.

Darilyn said...

Really beautiful. Wayne is one lucky man and you are one lucky lady. Also, can we be friends forever?

Whitney Shepard said...

I am happy for you both... I am so proud of you, Laura. I'm so happy you are in such a good place.

Hang said...

What a beautiful story, Laura.
It made me smile all the way through while I was reading this post.
I am really happy for your little family and new addition is coming soon.

You are Wayne are so cute together.