Martine Dirick Smith was born in Liege, Belgium and joined the church in 1970 at fifteen with her older sister and mother. She was immediately drawn to the tight-knit Latter-day Saint community with its many activities, as well as to the fact that the church had answers for a lot of life’s big questions. After graduating from high school she came to Utah and quickly met her husband, an engineering student and returned missionary who served in Belgium. Martine’s first child was born with a rare genetic condition and died at four months. Her second child was healthy, but her third also died of the same genetic condition. These experiences were incredibly painful, but her ward in Louisiana rallied around them as she cared for her last child, who died at thirteen months.
The deaths of her children, particularly her last child, shook her faith in the plan of salvation, as did some experiences with local church leaders (her stake president in Louisiana was excommunicated for embezzlement). As someone who questioned authority, the church became a less comfortable place for her. After over thirty years of church activity, she decided to step away from the church. Her husband, who served as bishop at one point, still attends sometimes. Martine has had a number of jobs over the years, but her most recent one was as the Executive Director of the Utah Association of Health Underwriters. She also ran for the Utah House as a Republican in 2004.
Martine has long-term connections with Latter-day Saints in Belgium, and she reports that many Latter-day Saint units in Belgium are shrinking or being eliminated. These disappearing branches and wards are putting strains on Belgian Latter-day Saints, as they have to travel long distances to get to church and don’t have the kind of strong local community she experienced when she was a teen in Belgium. Reflecting on her life, Martine does not regret joining the church. It enabled her to come to the US, to meet her husband, and to graduate from college. As someone from a lower middle-class background, she would not have had the chance to attend college in Belgium, and she’s grateful for the opportunities she’s had here in the US.
Read or listen to Martine Dirick Smith’s full oral history.