“She won’t join the church because we won’t let her practice polyandry.”
That’s what my husband told the Stake President at his last interview. We’ve gotten a little tired of well-meaning, missionary-minded Latter-day Saints asking us why I’m not Mormon—as though “Mormon” is the correct answer and I’m somehow deficient for having missed it—so we’ve begun playing a game of how much we can shock people with our answer when they ask. The polyandry thing is holding up pretty well.
We need not mess around with my fellow evangelicals in a similar fashion; just hearing that my husband is one of those accursed cultists is usually enough to bring a Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot expression to their faces.1 Spoken reactions range from, “Wow. Now how did that happen?” to “Bless your heart, we’ll have to pray for him.” I don’t at all mind people offering to pray for my marriage, but I’d rather have them ask me what in my marriage needs prayer. There’s better things to pray for than just my husband’s general Mormon-ness.
That said, treatment from our respective faith communities hasn’t actually been all that bad. Mormons seem to have some kind of code (written or unwritten, I’m not completely sure) for accepting interfaith families into their communities, though the fact that I’m a freak with a degree from BYU in spite of never having been Mormon usually throws people for a loop. And while my particular flavor of interfaith marriage is a bit of a shock to the evangelical system, marriages to unbelievers aren’t. Paul devotes a good section to it in 1 Corinthians and even assures people that “the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife.”2 The same verse promises that the kids in an interfaith union are holy, too. Not such a raw deal when you think about it.
So how does a Mormon-Evangelical interfaith household function? Here’s how we roll:
- I don’t drink coffee, tea or alcohol. I’d kind of like to sometimes, but I was already abstaining from them as a BYU student at the time of my wedding, so I figured it wasn’t too much of a sacrifice to keep doing what I was already doing.
- Regardless of who is working, our tithe gets combined and then split 50/50, half to each church.
- Our daughter alternates which church she attends every other week.
- Once a month I visit the LDS church. Once a month he visits my church. We try to maintain at least some level of contact with the other person’s faith.
- We have home teachers. We have Family Home Evening every Friday night, alternating lessons from the Bible and the Book of Mormon for it, with guitar-led evangelical worship songs for the music.
- I read to our daughter from the TNIV New Testament and Psalms every night, and usually my husband listens. He says he’s going to start reading to her from the Book of Mormon every morning, but he kind of sucks at doing it. We don’t really teach the D&C or PoGP in our home; I figure if our daughter wants to learn about those, she’ll have to learn at her father’s church.
The question people usually want to know is, how are the children handling it? Aren’t we going to bork them spiritually?
So far we just have the one who is three years old, but she’s handling it well for her age. She recognizes both faith congregations and loves them both. She likes the nursery workers from both communities. She likes having the Bible read to her and listens pretty attentively for a three-year-old. She doesn’t like FHE; we’re working on that. Only time will tell how she handles it as she gets older and realizes the differences between the two communities.
The dance we’ve choreographed for making our two faiths work within our household is intricate, and in so much as it brings our family together I think it’s been a success so far. I’ll admit it though: we do not share a deep, spiritual connection, and it certainly isn’t for lack of trying. I try to share with him when I come across a passage or speaker or a book that excites me, and he’ll try to do the same, but it’s clear to me now that the things which inspire me spiritually just don’t have the same effect on him, and vice versa. Our reactions to each other in this department tend to be polite but detached. If there’s any reason to avoid an interfaith marriage, it’s this.
On the other hand, our emotional connection is deep, our friendship unquestionable, and when our interests aren’t shared they’re often complementary. He was unflinching in agreeing to move our family across the country to Chicago so that I can attend an evangelical seminary, and I can’t imagine being married to anyone who’s more fun or more fiercely devoted to me and my daughter. Many people in same-faith marriages can’t say the same.
I know that there are other T&S readers who have interfaith marriages. Feel free to share your stories, because I’d love to hear them.
 Except, of course, in Utah, where most evangelical Protestant churches are used to the presence of a few interfaith couples.
 1 Corinthians 7:14 (ESV). I’m aware that some people don’t believe Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. I’m not one of them.