My mother is a very quiet woman but also very true to her religious convictions. She is always there in the background, doing what is expected of her. My mother also possesses a very unusual blend of convictions; she is both a Mormon and a Democrat. Once, she even hinted to possessing pro-choice leanings; she believes people should be given the freedom to make their own choices. She dislikes Romney and always agreed with me when I grumbled about the authorities being a bunch of old white men that were out of touch with reality.
Now that I have left the Church, religion is a topic we rarely discuss; my mother clings to the belief that I left because church members offended me. I don’t want to break her heart any more than I already have, so I try to keep quiet about the real reasons I left.
Last winter, during a trip home, my mother and I engaged in a rare conversation about the Mormon church. Specifically, I mentioned the Church’s support of Proposition 8 and how hurt I was by their involvement in the matter. My mother didn’t know what I was talking about, so I explained that Prop 8 was an initiative to ban gay marriage, which at the time had been legal in California. The Mormon church had invested a lot of money and time into getting Prop 8 passed, to the heartbreak of many. After I explained about Prop 8, my mother was quiet for a moment.
And then, very gently, I decided to push just a little bit further. I mentioned how upset I was when I discovered Joseph Smith had 33 wives. I was in my mid-twenties when I found this out, in spite of a lifetime of learning about Joseph Smith. I asked my mother if she had heard about Joseph’s other wives. My mother admitted she had heard a little bit about the matter.
“But they were just spiritual wives.” my mother said. “They weren’t real wives.”
“Actually, no.” I said. “The evidence strongly supports the idea that they were actual wives. And the thing is, about a third of his wives already had living husbands.”
My mother was quiet for a moment, then smiled and looked at me. “Well.” she said. “I guess Joseph Smith’s unconventional marriages means that one day the Mormon Church will just have to support gay marriage.”