|A one act play by Valerie Kent
Valerie Kent is a Registered Nurse and former Mormon. She is married to David Kent and has four children. She works full time at St Vincent Healthcare and is a graduate student at Gonzaga University. She describes herself as a freethinker and feminist. She enjoys reading and has recently has begun writing about her early experiences as a Mormon wife and mother.
This play may be reproduced free of charge. The author requests notification of production.
A man and a woman are seated across from each other at a desk. The desk has a nameplate on it with the words: Bishop Cannon. The man is wearing a conservative suit, white shirt and tie and is clean-shaven. The woman is wearing a worn dress and looks like she has been crying. She clutches a wad of Kleenex in her hand. The man keeps his hands carefully on the desk in front of him while they talk.
Bishop Cannon: Sister Jensen, how did it come to this? Don’t you realize what a serious step you have taken today? Surely you don’t want to divorce your husband and destroy your family—you have been married for what, 13 years?
Sonia Jensen: 13 and a half, Bishop.
Bishop Cannon: 13 and a half years of marriage and four beautiful children—I don’t see how you can even consider throwing all that away.
Sonia Jensen (looking up to meet his eyes for the first time): It has been a long time coming. I haven’t been happy since about the first six months, but I stayed in it because of the promises I made. That and the children.
Bishop: Exactly. The promises you made. You and Dick were married in the Salt Lake temple, right?
Sonia: Yes, that’s right.
Bishop Cannon: So you are aware that when you married this man, you married him for more than this life, you married him for…
Sonia: For time and all eternity. Yes, that was the line they fed me. They also told me that he would take care of me and the children as well, didn’t they, Bishop? They told me that he would be a good provider and that he would make good decisions and that he would help me to raise all of these wonderful babies that I was supposed to give birth to as my role in (with sarcasm) “God’s Plan” didn’t they? That’s what I was promised in return for my promises. Only the church and the man didn’t live up to their end of the agreement, did they?
Bishop: Now, Sonia, I am aware that Dick has had a few problems…
Sonia: A few?? It was before we moved here, back when we lived in Missoula that I first realized that I was in trouble—I went to the bishop then too..
Bishop: What do you mean?
Sonia: I was pregnant with our third child—I had a 4 year old and a two year old—little education and no way to support us, or I’d have left him then—(she looks up at the bishop again) That was when I found out about the post office box.
Bishop: The post office box?
Sonia: The post office box that he had opened up for bills to come to—bills that he didn’t want me to know about.
Bishop: What kind of bills?
Sonia: Bills from the credit cards that he had. And the loan that he had taken out—supposedly to help his mother—for over $15,000! He told me at the time that the money was for his mother—now I have no idea if that was even true. He had that post office box for over a year before I found out about it, Bishop. Tell me how that was fulfilling his part in the promises we made that day in Salt Lake City!
Bishop: And you went to see the bishop at that time?
Sonia (snorts): Yeah! I was so devastated. So betrayed and so angry! Not only did I have these two small children to think about and the upcoming baby, but also he had just lost his job—supposedly because the company was “downsizing”! (Laughs painfully) Do you know he was fired from every job he ever had while we were married? And whenever he was fired, I always went back to work, to carry us through until he found work again, always carrying the guilt that the church imposed on me, for working instead of being home with my babies. What was I supposed to do, Bishop??
Bishop: Tell me what the bishop then told you to do, Sonia.
Sonia (sits a little straighter in her chair): He told me it was MY fault, Bishop.
Bishop (incredulously): your fault?
Sonia: He told me that my husband lied to me because he was trying to protect me. He told me that I should be grateful that I had such a good husband who would shelter me from difficulties like money problems. Oh, he also told me that my anger was the cause of my husband’s need to lie to me.
Bishop (chuckling): Well, Sister Jensen, you do seem to be a little angry!
Sonia: I have to be angry, Bishop. If I don’t stay angry, I won’t have the strength to do this. The strength to carry it off.
Bishop: Well, I can tell you one thing. The Lord and His Church NEVER condone divorce. This divorce idea is wrong. I have prayed about this, Sister—you know that as your bishop I have the right to receive revelation on your behalf. The Lord has told me that divorce is not an option for you. You need to remember the counsel from the scriptures that God would never give you anything that you cannot handle.
Sonia: The Lord told you that I should stay married to Dick?!
Bishop (gravely): Yes, He did, Sonia. In fact, I have a hard time believing that Dick could be as bad as you say. He is a fine sunday school teacher. Everyone says that they can really feel the Spirit in his lessons. Now, tell me this—if he was as dishonest as you say—how could that be? How could he deceive me?
Sonia: In another church, he’d have made a good preacher. He is a fine storyteller. Just because you feel warm fuzzies when you listen to him does not mean that he can hold a job, or that he helps me with anything in the house or yard. It certainly does not mean that he isn’t capable of lying to you or me or God himself. For goodness’ sake, Bishop, you hired him to do accounting work for you a few years back—tell me, why did you let him go?
Sonia: See? I am telling you, Bishop, if you thought he was a poor employee, he was a worse husband! Now imagine having to live with that for 13 and a half years!
Bishop: If you could only see the eternal picture, Sister Jensen. This life is but a moment…(spreads his hands and arms in front of him in an expansive gesture)…all your sufferings on this earth are but a moment in the Lord’s time. Just think how you will feel when you enter heaven…
Sonia (incredulously): Your church is advocating suicide!
Bishop (shaking his head): No. Not suicide…if you—
Sonia (cutting in): Yes, suicide! You are telling me that all my problems will be over when I get to heaven—if that is true—why not end it all now?? You know, I’ve actually thought of that. If I can’t divorce him, and if heaven is supposed to be such a perfect place of happiness, why not?
Bishop: Sonia! You know that Heavenly Father would not condone your choosing to end your own life!
Sonia: Heavenly Father! Whose father anyway? Your god tells me I can’t even enter his perfect heaven unless I have a husband who can lead me in! What kind of a father is that god to me? A god who would tell his daughters that they must bow down to their husband’s decisions, even if they are wrong! You don’t even believe the things I am telling you—just because I am a woman—and my husband is a man!
Bishop (taking a deep breath): Sister Jensen! You need to be careful what you say! Your former bishop was right—you are an angry woman…
Sonia (more confident now): Yes, that’s right. I am angry. And you know, you are the one who should be careful. There are others out there like me. The women in this church won’t be sleeping forever. One by one, we will wake up to see the ties that you and your god have placed on us.
Bishop: To tell the truth, Sister Jensen, one of the things that frighten me a little bit about what you are saying is that your complaints are not all that different from those of many of the wives of the brethren in this church. My own wife might think that I don’t help her enough, or that I don’t include her in family decisions enough. Where would I be if she suddenly decided that she was done being patient with me? You can’t just suddenly decide to quit your marriage because your husband isn’t the perfect man!
Sonia: Have you listened to anything I have said here tonight? I told you that this wasn’t sudden. I told you that it has been hell for years! I told you that I had to get to the point of suicide before I knew I had to get my children and myself out of this situation! It wasn’t a sudden decision! I warned Dick when I started nursing school that when I was finished, if he hadn’t changed—
Bishop: When you went back to school? (shakes his head again) I should have been paying more attention. When a wife makes a decision like that there is trouble at home…I should have come to see you sooner.
Sonia: I don’t think so. The problem was not me getting an education. The problem was that I shouldn’t have been encouraged by this church to marry before I had the skills I would need to take care of myself. (looks at her watch) Hey—the sitter is going to have to leave soon—if we are going to have Dick come in, it had better be now.
Bishop (stands and walks to the door): I think you need to pray about this more, Sister Jensen.
Sonia (tired again): I tried that route, Bishop. It helped about as much as this talk.
The Bishop shakes his head and opens the door.
Bishop: Dick? Come in please.
Enters Dick, a man in a suit that doesn’t fit well, his tie loose around his neck. He looks like his hair needs washing and he isn’t wearing any socks with his dress shoes. He shakes the bishop’s hand and sits in a chair next to Sonia, across the desk from the bishop. He looks at her apologetically and she looks quickly away.
Bishop: Well, Dick, I don’t think I have been able to convince her yet.
Sonia (quietly): Yet?? The paperwork has been filed guys.
Dick: How does this work in the eternal sense, Bishop?
Dick: Yeah…I mean…if she decides to divorce me in this life—we were married in the temple, you know?
Bishop: Yes—for time and all eternity. So she will still be sealed to you in heaven, even if she divorces you here.
Dick: So how does that work then—in the eyes of the Lord we will still be married?
Bishop: Um…yes, I think so.
Dick: So, morally then…I am asking…like if we were to have sex after our divorce..?
Sonia gasps and looks back and forth between the two men, who go on talking as if she wasn’t there.
Dick: Would it be a sin, you know, from the Church standpoint?
Sonia: Sex?! (shaking her head)
Bishop (puts his hand under his chin in contemplation): I don’t know if the Brethren have ever made any statements about that—I guess in the Lord’s eyes she still would be your wife…
Sonia (stands up angrily, looking alternately at each man): I can’t believe you are even discussing this! I can’t believe I was stupid enough to think that this meeting would help anything. I am out of here! (she opens the door and slams it, walking quickly off the stage)
Dick: See, Bishop? She is always so angry! I don’t understand. (He shakes his head and looks at the floor. The bishop gets up and comes to put his hand on Dick’s shoulder.)
Bishop: She is a prideful and angry woman, Dick. I am very concerned that if she does decide to divorce you, she will leave this church and take your children with her.
Dick (standing and walking towards the door): I can’t imagine that happening, Bishop. She’ll change her mind. She has a dozen times before.
Bishop: We’ll hope so, Brother.
The bishop opens the door for Dick and Dick exits. A few seconds later there is a knock at the door. The bishop opens it to find a man standing outside holding a fat envelope.
Man: LeGrand? LeGrand Cannon?
Bishop: I am Bishop Cannon.
Man: I don’t know about any Bishop thing—are you LeGrand Cannon?
Bishop: Yes. Yes I am.
Man: I have a certified document here for you, sir.
Bishop (takes it from his hand and signs the paperwork): I can’t imagine what it is—must be church papers.
Man (as he turns and walks away): Looks like divorce papers to me, sir. Bad break—sorry.
Lights fade out as the bishop stares at the papers in his hand in disbelief, murmuring audibly, “My God…”
(spell check not used in this post) I am LDS. I have a firm testimony in the gospel. I have faith that the church is true. I base my faith on scripture, prayer and the peace they bring. I am still active because I beleive the gospel is perfect, however the people are not. If I went to church for the people I would have stopped when I was 16 and the bishop told me that I was the reason that the young men in the ward were touching themselves improperly. I let him know that the young men in th ward can control their thoughts just as well as I could and whatever touching they did was of their own accord. A few years later his daughter became a teenager and went off the deep end, at which time he apologized to me. I have not felt pressure to get married or pop out babies.
My husband and I waited five years to start a family and no one, including our bishop said a word. I taught in the Young Womens Program for three years. All that was ever incouraged was education, both spiritual and academic. Marraiage was a positive, however most of the girls in my class came from parents who were divorced and keenly aware that the 'happily ever after' scenario doesn't always work out that way. Divorce is really not as big of a deal as this play would have it be. It sounds like her bishop was a real asshole. It sounds like her husband was a genuine loser. I would have divorced him long before having four children with him. And to address the slanted view of temple marriage in this play: Men need to be married as well to enter heaven, it is not as if they are all there to begin with and we women sit ouside the gates. And NO, it is not okay to sleep with someone you are divorced from even if you have not had your temple marriage disolved. It specifically states in the marriage and endowment ceremoney that being ...'legally and lawfully married...'is a requirement.
I am a successful Realtor. I make more money than my husband and handle all of our finances. He is my partner in life and has never tried to make me 'Obey' him. We have two beautiful little girls that are of the same value as any other child in the eyes of God. I find nobility motherhood and strength in womanhood. This playwrite sounds as if she has had an unhappy life and for that I am truly sorry. Her only mistakes is thinking that the church could have saved her marraige and that she didn't leave him long ago. - 02/11/2005 - from K Monte
(spell check not used in this post) Okay, one thing about this writer, she obviously doesn't understand all of the doctrinal teachings of the church. Not ever has our church taught you can't go to Heaven unless you are married. We believe there are three glories of Heaven: Telestial, Terestial, and Celestial. With in the Celestial Kingdom there are more levels in which you can rise to now or in that time. In order to reach the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom, you must go thru all of the ordinances of the temple, including marriage. All of the glories of Heaven are good. Hence the reason they are called "Glories" or "Kingdoms." No, our church doesn't agree with divorce, but they wouldn't look down on you for it.
My visiting teacher is currently getting a divorce, that didn't stop her from receiving a calling as Stake Secretary. The Bishop loves her just as much as before, and the stake president as well. If a bishop was to ever act as this one did in this story, then it is a problem with the bishop, not the church. The woman should have taken the time to keep her faith and speak to some one of a higher calling, such as her stake president.
I haven't seen a single working mormon woman get looked down upon due to the fact that she works. One couple in my ward owns a dental business TOGETHER! A lot of the women in my ward has jobs. Yes, we do think being a house wife or full time mom is just as good. Problem with so called "femenists" is they whine about every thing that THEY think is wrong and don't care about the opinions of these house wives and full time moms. I think of my self as a femenist, but that doesn't mean I believe every woman in the world should be a CEO. I don't believe every man or person in the world is qualified for such a thing. Every one is better at one thing or another, and if it happens to be house wife, then more power to them.
Problem with the people on this site, people are going to judge our religion because of what people who THINK they know about us say. Why? You wouldn't go to a butcher to learn about becoming a surgeon? Then why ask anti mormons or Catholics, Protestants, etc. about Mormons? People are just so picky and spend too much time whining about how they think people should be more like them, when they first should worry about there own selves. Honestly, think about it, until you have felt that you have perfected your self in what ever belief you may have or personality flaws, do you really think you should be treating every one else as if they are imperfect? If you are a true Christian, you would be more worried about making your self more Christ like rather than trying to rip apart the beliefs of some one else's church. - 08/21/2004 - from ldscalypse
After Sonia gets through opening up and spilling her guts to the "esteemed" Bishop, the Bishop should look into her eyes in a very poignant manner, pause and then respond softly, "Sonia, have you ever been mouthed?"
I can't take the credit for this, it's from the late Debbie Laake's "Secret Ceremonies". - 06/20/2004 - from cactusman
my sister is going though the same thing - I hope she be leaveing the church as iam working on now. Valerie! , thank you for a great play. - 04/02/2004 - from stevejudy
Wow it's earie how this play sounds almost exactly like my life, married in second year University, pregnant on Honeymoon,then each year after. I knew on my honeymoon that things were not right, but I stayed because of guilt and the then I had children. I wasn't ready to be a mother, certianly not to be married, and how much we suffered financially. It was a really shitty nine years and I feel sort of heartbroken that I allowed my life to take such a unhappy direction. I didn't ever really want children, as a young person, of course I love them, but I was always more interested in studying and my art than mothering or being a "wife". Thank goodness my husband got fed up with my despression about our marriage and left, I thank him for that everyday. We both left the church and I found a person who not only helped me to see reality, but who showed me that you can be a very happy person outside of this religion. - 09/14/2003 - anon
Heavy. Very heavy.
Come come ye saints.
No toilet paper here!
But with joy,
Wipe Away! - -2/12/2003 - from Exmo Joe
What a great story! Thank you. - 02/09/2003 - anon
ohhh, i just loved that! thank you for putting a smile on my face :o) - 10/17/2001 - from batjames
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