I’m a Proud Covenant-Breaker

Sometimes when I openly admit that I’m a covenant breaker, other ex-Mormons interrupt me and insist that I’m not. A covenant, they argue, doesn’t count if you didn’t really understand what the covenant was going to be. Since you didn’t know what was going to happen in the temple and you were so pressured into saying yes to everything in the temple, you aren’t the one breaking the covenant, the Mormon church is. The Mormon church lied about its history, lied about its power and priesthood, lied about being the only true church on the earth, lied about its prophets and apostle talking to God, so you’re off the hook. You don’t owe them anything when they broke the covenant first.

To that I say, look, I don’t need you to defend me. I’m a covenant breaker and I embrace this title. There is no possible way to live this life, Mormon or not, without being a covenant breaker. If you think that the Mormon temple is the worst example of people being tricked into making a covenant with an organization that turned out to be manipulating them, I don’t know where you live, but I don’t think it’s on this planet. I think one of the most important lessons of the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is that it’s impossible not to break commandments. Adam and Eve are set up. They can’t follow both of God’s commandments. God Himself has set them up in an impossible situation, because that’s what all of life is.

I broke my marriage covenants. No, I didn’t sleep with another man. But I changed the rules. More than once. I changed them because I changed and because I began to see the world differently. I changed them because I wanted different things than when my husband and I first got married. I’d argue that my husband also changed the rules, though he would probably disagree. But if you are in a marriage where neither of you are covenant breakers, my response to that would be — what is wrong with you? You’re saying you haven’t changed at all? You haven’t ended up breaking old rules of your original marriage contract, either explicit or implicit? You’re lying to yourself, my friend.

And then we get to some more painful covenants. When my children were born, I made a covenant with them that I would never hurt them, that I would always put my role as mother first and foremost in my life, that I would never choose myself over them. I have broken that covenant, too. Sometimes I broke it only a little and told myself it was good for my children to see that I had needs of my own. In fact, I still believe it was good for my children to see that and to treat me, even just a little, like I was an independent human being and not just a vending machine to fill their needs.

But I won’t pretend that I didn’t break the covenant worse than that. There were times in my parenting when I didn’t know what to do. My child was hurting me and I was hurting them, and sometimes I gave up, and pushed the child away. Sometimes I went to therapy and tried to figure out a better answer. Sometimes I got medication for me and/or my child. And yes, I’ve apologized for the times I have seen clearly that I did wrong. But also, this is part of life. This is part of being a parent. You’re always going to break that covenant that you make with that tiny bundle of helpless eyes and mouth that they put in your arms on the day of their birth. Always. You will never be sufficient. You will be selfish. You will do things that hurt your children, and sometimes you will do them knowingly.

I love my children. So much. I think my identity as a mother is one of the most important in my life. But I’m also a writer. I’m also an athlete. And guess what? I’m also just me, a person who is messed up, who has a wounded child living inside of her. I will apologize sometimes for making mistakes, but sometimes I’m going to embrace them, too.

I broke the covenant with my children when I was unable to stop the divorce that has been so long in coming. I broke the covenant with my children when I forced them into forever having to deal with two parents separately, every special occasion, every race, every photo shoot. They will always be choosing between us, pulled back and forth. It wasn’t what I intended to have happen when I married or when I gave birth to them.

And yet, it feels like it was impossible to do anything else. To be anyone else. I think everyone does this. The only difference is that I’m honest about it.

Author of The Bishop’s Wife mystery series, The Mormon Sabbatical Podcast, Princeton PhD, fiction editor at Exponent II, autist, she/her

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store