Michael McAlpine’s Story Part 2

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You may wonder what has happened to me and my family once I decided to leave the Mormon Church. That was September 2012 and so about 15 months ago. I left, but the family continues to attend. I don’t think it is too unusual to find LDS families with some children who no longer attend or one spouse who doesn’t. However, in these examples, it is usually the case that one of those family members has just stopped attending. In my experience, it is more unusual that a spouse quits going because they have converted to Christianity.

I am writing this not just to let the curious know what has happened but to help anyone who may be having a similar experience to mine.

First, a little background. In 2006 my family and I moved to New Zealand from our home in Niagara Falls, Ontario. We sold the house and moved to Christchurch three weeks later. We had not jobs or home to come to, and no good reason for making such a big move. We had no friends or family here and again, no good reason to move. It was really my idea as I had always wanted to come here. My wife joined me in my curiosity and decided that she could also take the plunge. So, we were a little adventurous. If you want to know how the move and transition has gone, please get in touch.

Anyway, the point is that I have made a big move in the past and my wife has come along, though at some sacrifice to her. She has kindly accepted the adventures that I have taken her on and accepted that I sometimes may make a quick decision once I make up my mind.

Moving churches has not gone quite as smoothly as moving from Canada to New Zealand. My wife saw my struggles and listened to me talk to her and a friend of mine from time to time. She never really had much to say until I decided in February 2013 that I wanted to get baptised at the Anglican Church I had been attending. I hadn’t considered that I was a baptised Christian and so felt I needed and wanted to be baptised. My wife struggled with this and wondered if we would still be married as I was giving up Mormonism and those temple rites. This was a very hard time for my spouse.

If it was hard for her you might wonder how I could have made it so. I don’t want to get too personal here, but I can say that my wife and I have a different view of Mormonism. My wife doesn’t believe that the Mormon Church claims to be the one true church on the earth and is the exact church in form and praxis as the early Christian church as Jesus laid it out. Further, if there is something she doesn’t accept, she doesn’t put it on the Mormon shelf we have been hearing about at conference the last few years, she just doesn’t subscribe to it, never mind doubting. Neither does she believe that the Mormon missionary program is about, in Mormon terms, the final gathering of the faithful prior to the return of Jesus, the Missionaries are not out there trying to convert people and make them Mormons. There are lots of other examples, but the point is that I realised I was not married to a believing practicing Mormon like I thought I was. In that case, I didn’t feel that I needed, for family unity reasons, to stick it out. With no strong objections from my wife, I felt empowered to proceed as I desired.

Doing so has not been consequence free. The LDS have only one building here in the city we live and two small branches. This means that every other year the family attends church in the afternoon. Sunday for me this year has meant that I go to church in the morning and then the family disappears for about four hours each afternoon to go to the Mormon Church Sunday program. I have used this quiet time at home to read or bake bread or cookies for when the family came home. But, as the year progressed I have felt isolated and hadn’t anticipated that. Also, the family is very resistant to coming with me to church even once in a while. This has left me feeling a little marginalized but as a consequence of my own choices.

My place as a father has been usurped somewhat by the church. The family was placed on the list of those families needing special support and my son invited in regularly for chats with the Branch President where he is made to feel the pressure of serving a mission for the church and at the same time feels the pressure of how I might feel about that. I can’t help but take notice of the local church’s approach of closing around the rest of the family and ignoring me, not acknowledging that our family has needs that the church cannot meet and that as a parent and husband, I matter and that the family and I belong to each other, not the church. This is one of the failings of the LDS church. Congregational leaders don’t have the training to properly deliver pastoral care.

Where does this little narrative take us? It is a little surprising that moving to the Antipodes was easier than leaving Mormonism, easier for my wife and family to support. Conversations with my teens are hard due to what I call denominational triumphalism. The kids see one church is absolutely true in every way, and any other cannot be. A value judgement is made and dad gets the short end of the stick. Talking about anything that has a religious colour is somewhat off limits, but at the same time, we never talked about these things before.

In closing, I want to say that there is no simple answer when it comes to leaving Mormonism individually. Staying for family unity reasons is a very significant reason to stay and should not be discounted. In staying it is possible to share the Christian experience with those you know. Leaving may be just the thing for you and may work out well, but be careful, you may feel left behind and your family may feel you left them. Again, be considerate and guided by love.


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Categorised in: Michael McAlpine, Mormon Stories

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