Thursday, January 27, 2011

Josh and Susan Powell, and an LDS Ultimatum — “Get Active, or I’m Leaving With the Kids”

December 24, 2009
By johndehlin
(This post has been updated)
Just saw this blurb in the Deseret News this morning:
When Josh and Susan Powell were first married, both were very active in the LDS Church, Petersen said. They were sealed in the temple. But once they moved to Utah, Josh Powell stopped attending church.
Petersen said the Powells’ marriage counselor instructed Susan Powell to set specific goals. Susan Powell told her husband that her goal was for him to become active in the church again by the end of 2009 and to have his temple recommend again by their anniversary in the spring. Otherwise, she was going to divorce him and take the children, Petersen said.
Let me start w/ the obvious:
  • Murder is heinous, disgusting, grotesque and horrible.  No excuses there.
  • I’m learning more and more that there is never ONE factor that “causes” anything.  There are always countless factors that add up to any one act or decision…and the same is clearly true here.  I am not advocating for the idea (in the slightest) that this potential LDS Activity ultimatum was “the cause” of anything…only a potential factor (of many)…if it bears out to be true at all.
  • Finally, let’s acknowledge up front that ALL of this (including the idea that Susan Powell was murdered and that Josh Powell was guilty) is completely theoretical.
But assuming this report is true — what do you think of an ultimatum like this…in isolation — “get active, or I’m leaving you and taking the kids” ….assuming an otherwise healthy relationship?
What if you were the one who had lost your faith….and what if you lost it because of reasonable issues like polyandry….or racism…..or DNA in the Book of Mormon…or the Book of Abraham….or sexism in the church….or the treatment of homosexuals in the church….or whatever.  Or what if you sincerely prayed about the church, and felt the “Holy Ghost” tell you to LEAVE the church?  Or what if the church just didn’t inspire you any more?
And then what if your spouse threatened to leave you and take the kids for following your conscience?
That would be a horrible thing to experience.  How trapped and desperate would you feel in this situation?
Murder is obviously a horrendously terrible solution to such a situation….but such an ultimatum would be a horrible thing to face, I think: your conscience, or your wife and kids.  Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of people contact me with this very dilemma — so I think this topic is worth exploring.  I know it’s directly relevant to thousands of people out there who are struggling in silence w/ their faith, wondering what will happen if they “come out” to their spouse regarding their feelings.
Here are a few ways to restate the point of this post:
  1. Is it fair to leave a spouse  and take the kids if they go inactive?
  2. Would God/Jesus want this?
  3. Would the church leadership want/encourage this?
  4. Could an ultimatum like this make things worse in a marriage, and even become dangerous?