Food Storage & Other Adventures in Motherhood

Mormon Journey Part 5: Communication & Translation

by heather

So my husband and I found ourselves in a mixed faith marriage, and it sucked. The tension made our relationship  painful. I knew that his mission had been hard and that he struggled with depression through a good part of it, but it wasn’t until very recently that I fully realized how very damaging his mission had been to his mental health.  I met with our bishop once about it, and he had had multiple conversations with Alan about his ‘faith crisis’. He told me that the only good thing that had come out of Alan’s mission was that it strengthened his relationship with me, and he didn’t have any advice for me.

My husband and I talked about divorce occasionally, but we both thought about it on a regular basis. We were both pretty miserable. He was sad because I resented him for what I felt was betrayal and I could not wrap my mind around how this was happening. I had done EVERYTHING that good Mormons are supposed to do. How was this happening? There were so many times where I thought ‘If I hadn’t had that dream where my Grandpa told me that I was supposed to marry him, I would be out of here so fast. There must be a reason for this. There is a reason that I was supposed to marry him specifically, I just need to keep sticking it out.’  My family sometimes insinuated that I should leave him, but I had reservations.  I’m ashamed now that I would seriously think about leaving him just because he felt differently about religion. I really did love him, but we wondered if that was enough. Looking back on that dream, I have wondered ‘Was it just a dream? It was a very realistic dream. And it wasn’t something that I would have fantasized into existence, it wasn’t a message that I was looking for’. The mind is a very complex thing, which I do not pretend to completely understand. Whether the dream was communication between myself and my dead grandfather or ‘just a dream’, at this point is hard to say. To me, it makes me believe that there is a life after death and we have deceased relatives who look out for us. Regardless, I am grateful that it happened. I am so happy that we stuck it out. I honestly feel like he is the best man for me and am so glad that we have come this far together.

After he left the church I prayed and fasted so hard, and one day while I was praying I got the impression that I needed to ‘just love him’. That answer seemed to sit well with me. If I were speaking to a loving heavenly parent, that seems like something they might actually say. But that didn’t make the big problems go away. I prayed some more and several months later I felt like I needed to re-read all of the letters that he had sent me when he was on his mission. (Yes, I saved every one.) Reading them a few points stood out to me.

1) Although we were in a rough spot at that point, when we were young he was head over heels in love with me and said on more than one occasion that he felt like we could get through any trial as long as we stuck together.

2) My husband at his core was a person who valued honesty and integrity and I respect that.

3) There was more going on during his mission than he was communicating home to me (or his family).

Eventually (it took awhile) I decided that I needed to communicate better with him. A few months ago I came across a talk called Family Communications by Marvin J. Ashton that seemed to articulate exactly what I felt at that point. I recommend it to everyone. I don’t care if you’re Jewish, Ex-Mormon, Hindu, Mormon, single, married or divorced, if you have interactions with other human beings, you should read this talk. Here’s a few of my favorite quotes:

“To be effective, family communication must be an exchange of feelings and information. Doors of communication will swing open in the home if members will realize time and participation on the part of all are necessary ingredients. In family discussions, differences should not be ignored, but should be weighed and evaluated calmly. One’s point or opinion usually is not as important as a healthy, continuing relationship. Courtesy and respect in listening and responding during discussions are basic in proper dialogue. As we learn to participate together in meaningful associations, we are able to convey our thoughts of love, dependence, and interest. “

“Listening is more than being quiet. Listening is much more than silence. Listening requires undivided attention. The time to listen is when someone needs to be heard. The time to deal with a person with a problem is when he has the problem. The time to listen is the time when our interest and love are vital to the one who seeks our ear, our heart, our help, and our empathy. We should all increase our ability to ask comfortable questions, and then listen—intently, naturally. Listening is a tied-in part of loving

“Try to be understanding and not critical. Don’t display shock, alarm, or disgust with others’ comments or observations. Don’t react violently. Work within the framework of a person’s free agency. Convey the bright and optimistic approach. There is hope. There is a way back. There is a possibility for better understanding.

“Often parents communicate most effectively with their children by the way they listen to and address each other. Their conversations showing gentleness and love are heard by our ever-alert, impressionable children. We must learn to communicate effectively not only by voice, but by tone, feeling, glances, mannerisms, and total personality. Too often when we are not able to converse with a daughter or wife we wonder, “What is wrong with her?” when we should be wondering, “What is wrong with our methods?” A meaningful smile, an appropriate pat on the shoulder, and a warm handshake are all-important. Silence isolates. Strained silent periods cause wonderment, hurt, and, most often, wrong conclusions.”

“When family members tune each other out, communication is not taking place. Words spoken are unheard, unwanted, and resisted when we fail to understand the basics for proper interchange….Proper communication will always be a main ingredient for building family solidarity and permanence. May our gracious and kind Heavenly Father help us in our needs and desires for more effective family communication. Communication can help build family unity if we will work at it and sacrifice for it.

And that pretty much brings us to the post that I wrote back in January. At that point I was still a believer and I thought if I just love him and I just listen and I research, then I will be able to bring him back to church. If we honestly look at the facts together we will come to the truth.

So we started researching from LDS approved sources. I started learning things from lds.org that were new and confusing. I went to talk to our bishop (new bishop). He told me not to get worked up about these things. He said that he himself had gone through a faith crisis a few years ago and one of the things that helped him was listening to Mormon Stories podcast. So we started listening to that every night together after the kids went to bed. It was helpful, listening to that helped us understand each other so much more. It helped us understand some of each other’s issues. At that point Alan said ‘I don’t even care if you stay in the Church, our marriage is better because we are communicating and have more understanding.’

A few weeks after my post, my brother called me. We didn’t speak very often, but he called to tell me that he had done a lot of research and that he could answer any of my concerns. “Oh really, well that would be great. Why is that I am almost thirty years old, have been an active member all my life and I had never heard the actual way that the Book of Mormon was translated?”

“What?! Well, that’s because you’re stupid! Everyone knows that.”

One of many images depicting the classic story from the Ensign

This is response hardly brings resolution to my concerns. Resorting to name-calling doesn’t answer anything or make me feel better about “his answers”. He also told me that my bishop was ‘misguiding’ me. That one really bothered me, because I know that my bishop is a great neighbor and an all-around descent guy. According to all the LDS primary, young women’s and gospel doctrine manuals, Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by looking at the gold plates through a Urim and Thummim behind a curtain while his scribe was on the other side. This is what the missionaries teach,  this is how it is portrayed in church movies and paintings, this is what I always had been taught. However, in a talk given by Russel M. Nelson in 1993, he quotes David Whitmer, one of the first witnesses as saying:

“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.)

Since learning about the stone in the hat business, I have talked to several people and the vast majority of them had never

According to David Whitmer, Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon using a rock in a hat.

heard of it. When I brought this up with my parents (life-long members), they told me that it wasn’t true, that it was all anti-Mormon lies. My mother asked me “Why in the world would Moroni, Nephi and all of the Book of Mormon prophets go to all of the effort of inscribing and hiding the brass plates, if Joseph Smith wasn’t going to use them, but translate the Book of Mormon using a rock in a hat instead?” That’s a good question, and one that I haven’t been able to find a faith-promoting answer for.  As it turns out, South Park is more accurate than what I had been taught at church, at CES Institute classes or at BYU. Now I don’t really care if Joseph Smith translated it from a rock in a hat or from a tattoo on the backside of a unicorn, I just wanted the people who claim to speak for God and have authority to tell me how to run live my life to be honest and consistent with what they say. It made me realize that if the words of a current member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and one of the first three witnesses to the Book of Mormon could be considered anti-Mormon literature, then anti-Mormon literature was a myth. And here was undeniable, in-my-face evidence from the Church’s own website that the organization that I had trusted so much had not been completely honest with me.

In my researching I really wanted to know ‘Why would the church not be honest about the Book of Mormon being translated using a seer stone in a hat?’ Is a seer stone any less miraculous than a Urim and Thummim? Isn’t any divine communication miraculous? I believe the reason that the LDS church isn’t very forthright about teaching everyone that the Book of Mormon was revealed using a seer stone, is that Joseph Smith used this very same seer stone in con-games (glass-looking) that he was convicted of in 1826, before he ever founded the LDS Church (1830). Hugh Nibley, a famous defender of the Mormon faith, said “If this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith and would be ‘the most devastating blow to Smith every delivered.”  The Myth Makers (1961), p 142  Of note, Hugh Nibley said this ten years before the rumored court records were found. (I found the above image of the court records from this BYU studies article.)

The issue about the translation also made me realize that I had to go on more than feelings. I had had a testimony that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon using plates and a Urim and Thummim. I had felt spiritual reassurance that this was truth. I knew that this was the basis of the restoration of the one and only true church on the earth today. I had had a strong testimony of something that as it turns out was blatantly false. I had prayed about it and felt it to be true, and obviously it was not. I could not just determine truth by what felt good to me, but also by a hard honest look at the facts.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Update 1/2015: Here are the essays from LDS.org that refer to the Book of Mormon translation process and that “The Book of Mormon is more spiritual than historical”


7 Responses to “Mormon Journey Part 5: Communication & Translation”

  1. Profet says:

    I too had the same strong testimony, I think that is why it hurts so bad when we discover that we can be conned, our feelings used against us. Little wonder some end up bitter apostates, if you caught your spouse cheating and lying about it it would surely bring on feelings of anger wouldn’t it?

    • heather says:

      Very good point. I think it is interesting that having a spouse leave a religion feels so much like betrayal, even logically I know (and knew then) that it is not the same thing. And coming across to the other side I definitely see how people can have bitter feelings after leaving.

  2. Troy says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I am enjoying the series.

  3. Camille says:

    Now we’re talkin!

  4. […] also included some good advice for family communication in the latest installment of her exit (or exist ) story, as well as another interesting point: As it turns out, South Park is more accurate than what I had […]

  5. Steve says:

    Just curious. Is your bishop Bill Reel? If so, he’s definitely one of the “good guys” who gets it and I believe is trying to make life better for people who want to stay or are otherwise stuck in the church.

    http://mormonstories.org/mormon-bishop-bill-reel/

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