“Seminars Help Women with Nonmember Husbands,” Ensign, Jan. 1981, 69
“My husband doesn’t really care what I do with my life spiritually, as long as it doesn’t interfere with his life,” wrote one sister. “I sometimes feel very much alone.”
Said another, “I feel that my husband is preventing me from progressing. I resent this and sometimes take that resentment out on him. Then I become depressed and the whole atmosphere of our home gets dark.”
Leaders of the Wichita Kansas Stake realized that the challenges these two sisters faced were not unique to them, and so resolved in 1976 to better meet the needs of sisters with nonmember or inactive husbands. They began in December with a seminar for bishoprics, ward Relief Society presidencies, and the appropriate sisters. The seminar featured counsel from Stake President Kent P. Evans, as well as testimonies and encouragement from sisters who had good relationships with their inactive husbands.
Those who attended left the seminar with new determination to make their marriages work despite challenges and obstacles.
That first seminar was only the beginning. The stake presidency encouraged the stake Relief Society to follow up the seminar with more help for those sisters. We sent out letters to all those who had attended, expressing our appreciation and further encouragement.
Then Brother John H. DeLaMare, director of the Missouri agency of LDS Social Services, became involved. With his assistance we were able to develop an anonymous survey for the sisters to fill out, which helped us better understand the problems they face. The response was overwhelming; many took this survey as an opportunity to pour out their frustrations, and in the process we learned a great deal about their situations. (Such a survey, of course, should be handled carefully and confidentially.)
Based on the results of the survey, stake leaders planned another seminar for October 1978. Probably the most successful part of the program was the discussion groups that we held, wherein a sister could meet with a few others and share her experience. In the process the sisters learned that they were not alone in their problems—and they discovered some workable solutions as well.
Following that seminar, in 1979, we held special discussion groups after the Social Relations lesson in Relief Society.
The response to our efforts has been most rewarding. In addition to the sisters learning that others share their feelings and concerns, they also:
—began to better understand their own situation. Many of the sisters had totally given up hope of eventual exaltation. The seminars and discussion groups helped them to see that, if they persevered in righteousness, exaltation was an honest possibility.
—came to the realization that their leaders, especially those in the bishopric and Relief Society presidency, truly empathized with them. They realized that even though a leader may not have experienced the same challenges as they had, the Spirit could give understanding.
—came to the realization that there are challenges in marriage regardless of religion. Even though religion often seemed to be the focal point of their problems in marriage, usually those problems had a deeper root.
These new insights have had a significant impact in the lives of those sisters who participated. Said one: “Relief Society has mended my home, which was coming apart. The mending has come because of my dear sisters who love me and encourage me.”
Another sister made this comment: “I suddenly realized that without knowing it I had placed my husband last instead of first, that I made him feel less than good enough for me. I felt the solution would come if I sought the Lord’s counsel through fasting and prayer—and it did. He opened up my mind and showed me my faults and helped me change them. Our home was immediately a happier place to be. Our marriage relationship became once again like that of two sweethearts.”
Few of the husbands of these sisters have changed their attitudes toward the Church—that’s another challenge we face. But the sisters have changed their attitudes toward their husbands, and that has brought great blessings into their homes.
As one sister remarked some time after the seminar, “We still have our problems, but as long as I can hold up and keep praying I know we will make it. I realize now that the key to success in our relationship is how I feel about my husband, how I accept him. As I accept him for the good man he is, our marriage will be enriched, whether he ever becomes a member of the Church or not.”