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Larry Barkdull
Wednesday, July 31 2013

Rescuing a Wayward Spouse

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A principle in this statement that is often overlooked is that they must fully repent and “suffer for their sins” and “pay their debt to justice.” I recognize that now is the time ‘to prepare to meet God’ [Alma 34:32]. If the repentance of the wayward children does not happen in this life, is it still possible for the cords of the sealing to be strong enough for them yet to work out their repentance? In the Doctrine and Covenants we are told, “The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God, “And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation” (D&C 138:58–59).


Mercy will not rob justice, and the sealing power of faithful parents will only claim wayward children upon the condition of their repentance and Christ’s Atonement. Repentant wayward children will enjoy salvation and all the blessings that go with it, but exaltation is much more. It must be fully earned. The question as to who will be exalted must be left to the Lord in His mercy.

There are very few whose rebellion and evil deeds are so great that they have “sinned away the power to repent” [Alonzo A. Hinckley, in Conference Report, Oct. 1919, 161]. That judgment must also be left up to the Lord.[xii]


John J. Carmack


In 1919 at general conference, Alonzo A. Hinckley, then president of the Deseret Stake of Zion, quoted Elder James E.Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as follows: “I promise the Saints in the Deseret stake of Zion that if their lives are such that they can look their sons and daughters in the face, and if any of them have gone astray, that the parents are able to say, ‘It is contrary to my instruction and my life’s example; it is against every effort of love, long suffering, faith, prayer and devotion that that boy or girl has gone,’—I promise you, fathers and mothers, that not one of them shall be lost unless they have sinned away the power to repent” (in Conference Report, October 1919, 161). Balm and hope abound in that counsel. We may not understand exactly how Elder Talmage’s counsel will come to pass in this life, but we can understand that there is more to the relationship of righteous parents and their children than we fully understand in this life and more help available with the problems that arise in that relationship than we grasp with our worldly logic. We are not alone in our struggle to save and preserve the sealing between us and our children.[xiii]

Gordon B. Hinckley

I leave my blessing upon you. May there be . . . a sense of security and peace and love among your children, precious children every one of them, even those who may have strayed. I hope you don’t lose patience with them; I hope you go on praying for them, and I don’t hesitate to promise that if you do, the Lord will touch their hearts and bring them back to you with love and respect and appreciation.[xiv]

Don't give up. Complete judgment can only be passed with complete light and truth. Your wife is not there yet. From your description, I suspect that she is dealing with unresolved past sin. Neglecting repentance or repenting only partially render us vulnerable to the buffetings of Satan. If we do not achieve a change of heart, the unresolved sin will act like a cancer until it overwhelms us. Pray that she can have experiences to come to grips with these unresolved issues then do what it takes to finally be rid of them. Of course, she will have to make this discovery on her own, and perhaps she will need a counselor and most certainly a bishop someday, but when she does what is necessary, she will find peace and reconciliation will follow.

Until then, love is the only answer. "Love casteth out all fear," John says. Make life safe for her while she is working things out. I promise that the Lord is working with her. He has marshaled angelic hosts to help. That is how He works most of the time, so pray for the ministering of angels. Because of your priesthood, you have the right. In the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood we are promised angelic ministry. Believe! President Faust used to speak a lot about angels, and Elder Holland spoke of it in October 2008 conference. Look up their talks on Your answer is in your priesthood.



Dear Larry,

On last question and I will leave you alone.  You mentioned unresolved sin.  Aren't those taken care of at baptism?  Why would those be an issue?

Husband of a Wayward Spouse


Dear Husband of a Wayward Spouse:

While it is true that baptism cleanses us from sin, it is also true that we can carry the effects of sin in our physical being. Remember, we are both spiritual and physical beings. For example, let's say that you became drunk, injured yourself then found the Church and were baptized. Your sins might be resolved, but you would still carry the physical injury that needs healing. Moreover, baptism cleanses us only if we have truly repented. Otherwise, the sin still needs remedying. 

Additionally, we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost at the time of confirmation, but that gift is not a guarantee that the Holy Ghost will always remain with us. The sacrament is the covenant that provides retention of the Holy Ghost. But if we do not partake of the sacrament worthily, the Holy Ghost will not abide in us and keep us clean. These ordinances are completely dependent upon our worthiness. 

An unresolved issue eats away at us until it invokes a reaction, and often that reaction drives us away from the person or thing with which we are at odds.


  1. Wow. Outstanding article Larry. Thank you so much.... Sending to all of my children.
  2. Beautiful, well spoken article that offers good counsel and hope to all of us facing the same heart breaking issue. Thank you!
  3. Excellent article! Once again Larry, you've blessed us with divine insights on issues that affect our lives. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your wonderful spirit. This article will bless the lives of many, including members of my own family.
  4. This article has great help for many, not just those with wayward spouses or children. It also helps with those of us who are grandparents and in-laws of those who struggle. There is much truth to feast on here. Thank you for your article, and not sugar coating it in any way. Love is the answer but it is hard to do sometimes when you aren't sure it is there anymore after being so mistreated. That is what I have seen, such mistreatment from the one who has gone astray. I feel for myself I just have to remember to give it to the Savior who can and will carry this for me.
  5. This article has great help for many, not just those with wayward spouses or children. It also helps with those of us who are grandparents and in-laws of those who struggle. There is much truth to feast on here. Thank you for your article, and not sugar coating it in any way. Love is the answer but it is hard to do sometimes when you aren't sure it is there anymore after being so mistreated. That is what I have seen, such mistreatment from the one who has gone astray. I feel for myself I just have to remember to give it to the Savior who can and will carry this for me.
  6. Again --- thank you! Having 4 or our 6 children "choosing other paths' from the gospel, your articles are MOST comforting. I very much enjoyed your quotes from Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith.
  7. Read this - great article
  8. what do you do when your spouse has removed his name for the rolls of the church, plus have wayward children,
  9. Additionally and sadly, the problem can also be sin. I have seen many loved ones start to look for fault in the church when the real problem is that they are involved in pornography or are attracted to someone other than their spouse. They may have done something that requires confession and going through church discipline and they may not be ready to do that yet.
  10. This is the best article I have ever read on Meridian.
  11. I actually disagree with the conclusions of the article. Not everyone who leaves the church does so because of sin. Some people just simply don't believe, and that's okay. We should just LOVE them, no matter what and not try to change them. We should respect each other's beliefs. Family FIRST, then church. Thanks!
  12. Wonderful article, Larry. So clear, so straight to the point, so very much true. I've experienced the principles from Rescuing Wayward children in my own life. I know that personal sanctification is the key. Thank you for helping me discover that.
  13. As someone who would have been once considered a wayward spouse, I humbly submit my opposing view. I've had a great deal of association with people who have disaffected for many reasons, and I don't think your characterization of the wayward spouse in an accurate one. I find them to be very clear in their expression and honest in their actions. You'll do better to trust that their words are accurate representations of what they feel and think than assuming sin or "spiritual flu". Your advice on how to respond, on the other hand, is excellent. Focus on the relationship! Don't do it with the expectation or requirement that your wayward spouse returns to belief, but for the purpose of establishing what degree of fulfilling relationship that you can. We may not all see eye to eye, but we can all enjoy healthy relationships with children, parents, spouses, and friends... regardless of belief.
  14. Spot on advice. My spouse while still believing in the church struggled with addiction and all the horrible shame that went along with it. It was when I decided that I was going to stay with him no matter what and worked hard on my own testimony and salvation and just loved him, that he was able to overcome his addiction. My independence and unconditional love, obtained by laying my pain at the Saviors feet, freed him from the shame and allowed him to come to the Savior and lay down his sins and fully accept the Saviors atoning gift. It's a beautiful thing. Now, after 14 long years, we go to the temple together again almost every week.
  15. As the wayward spouse in the family, may I suggest that members of the church look beyond the stereotype that wayward members are merely a)victims of "anti-Mormon literature" or b) wanting to sin. I began having doubts about the gospel long before knowing some of the more difficult aspects of church history. Sometimes it's just hard to believe in God. Sometimes it's just difficult to believe in modern revelation. Often members will arrive at these conclusions, and sometimes temporarily. But to reduce a persons change in beliefs to "must be sinning," or "read some stuff and became confused" can more quickly offend that person than draw them back to the fold. The best thing a person can do for their wayward spouse is to first acknowledge their feelings as valid, and love them anyway. But if you want to rely on old stereotypes to explain away their behavior, that just causes more pain.
  16. As the wife of a longtime "wayward" husband, I can say with some authority that this is not the approach to take. It is vital to distinguish loss of faith from hidden sins and addictions. However convenient it might be to collapse the first category entirely into the second, they simply don't always coincide. Entirely faithful members encounter disturbing material about church history, for example, that rocks their faith. It's unkind in the extreme to suggest that they are therefore "living a lie." Religion is a matter on which reasonable people can disagree. Until we understand that, we will be incapable of treating out differently believing and unbelieving family members and friends with the respect we would require of them. A marriage can survive one partner's loss of faith. But it cannot survive this sort of patronizing self-righteousness.
  17. Issues that are doctrinally and historically-based are not "attacks on marriage and family." Nor is the person sinning. Why not just listen and trust her experience? There _are_ hard issues out there that cannot just be explained away. They don't have to be a deal-breaker but treating them in such a sanctimonious, condescending manner may be. If she walks away from the marriage, it may well be due to the attitude this column advises.
  18. Some seem to believe it is somehow more noble and morally superior and more honorable to go searching the internet to learn the "real truth" about Church History, (or things others with ulterior motives suggest Church leaders are keeping from the members) than to just do as Pres. Packer suggests we do with things that trouble us or that we don't fully know or understand: "Put difficult questions in the back of your minds and go about your lives." (Oct Conf 1979) Don't fall prey to the other ploy that you must insist on 'finding out' what "they" are supposedly hiding.. It is NOT morally superior to try to find out all the "truth". All of us have more than enough to do to try to live a righteous life and keep covenants, and to help those in our care and concern do the same. This is morally superior to the other. Those who insist on playing the "we should be able to question if we want , and doubt if we want, and to search where we want for answers" game will find more than 'answers'--- they will find hidden poison cleverly disguised as palatable "truth". Sadly, I know whereof I speak. I live with it every day. Those who insist on daring to play with anti-Mormon fire are guaranteed to be burned and those willing to ingest the poison are likely to have their spirits killed. No supposed hidden "truth" that is supposedly being kept from you is worth the bitter bitter price you (and those who love you) will surely pay.
  19. There were parts of this I agreed with (focus on a positive relationship etc) but others I vehemently didn't. I'm an active member with kids. My wife stopped attending about 3 years ago because she no longer believes the church is true. No sins, no offence. No hidden issues. She is not "sick." She doesn't have "spiritual flu." She hasn't "casually discarded her beliefs" and she hasn't "used anti-Mormon literature as her rationale." The presumption that your correspondent's wife effectively has something wrong with her will eventually undermine the relationship. The only way my wife and I are able to have a full and positive relationship is full acceptance of the others position and no underlying attitude that the other is wrong. Our relationship is now better than before. She is happier and progressing more on her new approach to life. That may be a contradiction from our LDS perspective. I do not pray that she will return or "get better." I pray that she will be happy and I pray that I will be able to love and accept her for who she is. I see God's hand in her decision and am pleased with the more fulfilling life she has. I repeat: she is not sick and having that attitude will always place a wedge in a mixed-faith relationship.
  20. There is a great article on this in the June 2012 Ensign.
  21. Great article and solutions and applicable to any member of a family.
  22. The advice to focus on the relationship is spot on. Don't assume that there is necessarily other issues... church doctrine and history isn't always pretty, and it can be a big deal for many people.
  23. I appreciate the article. I think it was well written with much thought on relationships, behavior, and doctrine. We all have different trials and challenges. We may not have all the answers in this life. Love others as our Savior loves us. We will all need to live a Celestial law to abide a Celestial Glory. If we can't live that law, we won't want to be in that glory. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, men and women are saved by Obediance to the laws and Ordinances of the gospel. May we try to do this, and love and help others. Be patient with those who are are having troubles or may be weaker in faith, or at different stages in life.
  24. This article makes me wonder if the author has ever known anyone that has left the Church. It is so full of platitudes and cliches that it's almost offensive. Please don't compare the pain that my husband and I go through on a daily basis to "the flu." That makes light of something that just isn't. It's not the flu to have the man you married for time and all eternity tell you that he doesn't believe, doesn't want your children baptised, or boys ordained. It's not the flu to have to explain why daddy doesn't come to church with us while watching tears stream from her eyes. The flu doesn't break your heart in a million ways and make you worry about eternity. Focus on the relationship is good advice, but fight divorce. I would hope that neither spouse was married solely b/c they were the only Mormons around. I've learned a lot about myself, my husband, and the Gospel in the last ten years of attending by myself. I pray every day that it will change but until then, I trust. I trust in God and I trust in the two of us. That we married for real reasons and it will pull us through.
  25. one issue not mentioned is: some people have a hard time with all that 'togetherness' in the church. They aren't wired to work with others, need a lot of subtle approval, acceptance, encouragement, etc. especially from those who find it easy.
  26. I am living this situation; however, my husband did just as the article said: he chose to "go a different direction" and ended the relationship, after 31 yrs. of what I thought was a happy and successful marriage. The best thing I did, (through inspiration and atoning help), was that I "chose charity." We decided as a family to continue to love and pray for him. I admit, at first my reasoning was that "charity never faileth" and it would bring him back. It has been 5 yrs. and I am still single and now struggling with a couple of wayward children (2 out of 7). Choosing not to talk unkindly of him and to pray for him, was the greatest decision I have ever made. I have learned that Charity never fails, but the one it saves may be you, or others in the family. The story isn't over, but we are able to feel love and joy as we move forward.
  27. What a biassed article, filled with erroneous assumptions about members who become less active or leave the Church. 'I doubt that her issue is the Church.' Of course you do. Because the problem can never be the Church, right? We always have to assume the problem lies with the person. Wrong. So wrong. 'Give her a place to be "sick." As long as you see those who leave as 'sick' and the church as never the problem, you will never respect your spouse enough to listen and truly understand the real issues.
  28. I know that the response to the question is written in love and a search for understanding, but I truly believe that it can be a disaster. First of all, this idea that issues with the Church is not actually church related may be true in some cases, but in most cases it actually is the church. There's a recommendation of sharing your testimony, but God forbid you actually ask her what it is she's feeling upset about and try to understand her--what if she sucks you in? And it's setting up an us vs. her in your household. The fact that she has forsaken the church after being in it for so long means she has a legitimate reason for it. Your wife is not a wayward child. She is a human being, and I can only assume that she is intelligent and has common sense and a conscience. To turn from the church when your family still believes can not be easy for her and if everyone treats her like she's "sick" or "misguided by the devil" you will diminish her and lose her. You can choose a church that has indoctrinated to into believing it's the only way, or you can choose your wife, the mother of your children--you can have a huge problem or you can go on the journey with her and try to save your marriage.
  29. This is beautiful. It applies to all of us in one way or another. I am committed again to be kind and gentle and loving - and to not try to "fix" or "help" my husband all the time. Thank you.
  30. I think I disagree with Ami's assessment and agree with Brother Barkdull. I've seen too many women who were sucked in to groups that were more than on the edge and then started blaming the Church. I.E. a series of books written in the past couple of decades really caused the downfall of some women.
  31. I disagree with calling disaffected spouses "Wayward". This condescending attitude damages the relationship more than helps it. As long as the disaffected spouse is viewed as someone who needs fixing, the relationship will remain strained. The same goes for the disaffected spouse's view of the believing spouse. No one has the right to "fix" the others beliefs. I fear this article has done far more harm than good in preserving relationships. This article was discussed and dismissed on a Facebook group of believing spouses with disaffected other halves. Thank goodness the believing spouses saw how damaging the attitudes touted were in this article!
  32. Whew Larry ! The pros and cons of being a member and to stay faithful, no matter what, has been fully discussed by your fans and detractors. Yet everybody seems to agree that CHARITY NEVER FAILETH. Charity IS the PURE LOVE of Christ, not only His love for us, BUT our love for HIM and coming out of that OUR LOVE for our spouses, children, friends, neighbours and all men. The Saviour's Atonement is solely based on love and from that comes forgiveness - Pres Harold B Lee once made the comment that " when we can forgive all men, for sins that they have NOT COMMITTED yet, this is the true meaning of Charity." That is the pure love of Christ. Your replies to our poor brother who has a "wayward wife" are spot on and I sense are the result of a good deal of thought and deep prayer, so well done and THANKS Rex
  33. I disagree with some of the tenets of this article. Trust that your spouse is telling you the truth. Church history is messy. Do not be patronizing. I found great comfort and power when I accepted his decision and stopped trying to change him. Our marriage (and spirituality) has improved. He has not and will not return to the gospel and that is fine. The answer is love--only love. No conditions or expectations of return to activity. And it is not the "flu". This makes a brutal battle for one's faith sound like a trivial matter. Losing one's faith is agonizingly painful to watch, let alone to be the one experiencing it. There is no "mild illness" about it. It is not for the faint of heart and I applaud my husband for being true to himself, even though it is not what I would have chosen.

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