Blessed are the Divorced

Many of us have recently participated in the “Eternal Marriage” lesson from the Joseph Fielding Smith manual. The lesson’s final section carries the heading “As a husband and wife faithfully observe all the ordinances and principles of the gospel, their joy in marriage grows sweeter.” The paragraphs in the section, however, lean toward defining this joy negatively, in terms of avoiding divorce. This tendency can have the effect of making our divorced sisters and brothers seem “less than” those whose marriages are currently working.

Lest we believe that speaking laxly of divorce encourages people to “take the easy way out,” let me be clear: nobody wants to get divorced. As Tracy M has written, “The unraveling and separating of lives is painful and messy, no matter how mature or well-intentioned the parties.” Her post bravely pushes back against many of the facile narratives that we and others use to explain divorce. I encourage everyone to go read it, as well as her earlier post about divorce and children.

The issue here isn’t so much that our theology privileges marriage (to the extent that it privileges anything, as it inevitably must, some people will get the short end of the stick), but that this theological privileging manifests itself as a stigma within our community. I’m not here to argue that we should change our theology just because it causes people pain, but rather that we as a community have, at minimum, a moral responsibility not to exacerbate this pain unnecessarily. Indeed, I’d argue that we have an obligation to work on finding ways of bringing those left on the outside by our theology into the fold. This we must do if Zion is our aim, for Zion requires that we join together in one heart.

In fact, I’m going to suggest that Mormon theology itself gives us the resources to meet this responsibility. Sam Brown has argued that early Mormon thought about priesthood and sealing focused on uniting the human family in what he calls a “great chain of belonging.” Sometimes we talk, though, in ways that imply that divorce cuts people (and especially women) off from this chain.

Men, whether single, married, or divorced, remain connected to the chain so long as they hold the Melchizedek priesthood, which binds men together through lines of authority that are extended every time a man ordains another man to the priesthood. In terms of perpetuating the divine chain of interconnection, every Melchizedek priesthood holder has this potentiality (although few in practice perform very many ordinations). Even so, our teaching that the highest order of the priesthood can only be jointly exercised by husband and wife does limit the participation of single and divorced men in the part of the chain that is bound together by sealing.

The case is far different for women. Because our theology of how exactly the temple endowment empowers women is vague, their only clear access to priesthood comes through men, either as spouses or as priesthood leaders who issue callings wherein, as Elder Oaks recently taught, women act using priesthood authority. Single women may be sealed to their parents, but can only be end links on the chain (or web of chains) that connects us all. Divorced women have a more difficult situation: they either remain sealed to partners from whom they have been civilly divorced, or, if they have children who were born in the covenant, are bound through that covenant to their children’s father (which can make things all the more painful if the sealing is canceled). Because they (unlike their former husbands) cannot be sealed to a new partner without a cancellation of the prior sealing, they face greater obstacles to the perpetuation of their divine interconnection.

These theological points can pose real discomfort. What about the child whose sealing to an abusive natural parent seems irrevocable? The woman whose husband leaves her and soon ends up in a temple marriage with another woman? The husband who loves his children and longs to remain sealed to them, but whose ex-wife turns them against him? The children who, by remaining sealed to their natural parents, keep the wound perpetually open in themselves and in their parents? What if nobody’s committed any major sins, but the relationship just seems not to be working out, prolonged effort notwithstanding? I have witnessed these and other similarly painful situations in the lives of people close to me, sometimes more than once.

Our usual theological solution to these points of discomfort involves appealing to the next life, in which a merciful God will sort everything out. Given the complexities of most situations, looking to a God whose comprehension exceeds ours is probably the only recourse.

Again, though, I’m less interested in the theology itself than in how we apply it as a community that is striving toward Zion. While the appeal to the next life can provide genuine comfort for some, for others it can have the effect of reducing them to placeholders. As one friend put it, “It sucks to have people tell you you’d be better off dead.” We need, in other words, to find a way of including these people in our community now, not in some distant futurity.

One way to do this is through sacramentalism. Even if Mormonism doesn’t teach transubstantiation (beautiful idea though it may be), our doctrine of the eucharist is still one of real presence, albeit along more Calvinist lines. In the sacrament prayers’ statement that the Spirit may be with us, we are, through eucharistic participation, promised the presence in our beings of a member of the Godhead—a promise that can be actualized in the present.

The Spirit’s presence serves to cleanse our hearts, teach us truth, and comfort us in times of trouble, but it also serves, to use Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:13-14 (KJV), as the earnest of our inheritance, the present taste of a promise still in progress:

13 In whom [i.e., Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

The Spirit, that is, enables us to enjoy the fruits of sealing now when we trust in Jesus. We do not take the sacrament to remind us of our lack, but to experience, in real time, the blessings that Jesus’ sacrifice betokens. Partaking of the sacrament actualizes the Atonement for us in the present, no matter how much sorting out we still happen to need.

If the sacrament, frequently touted as the holiest ordinance outside the temple, can make our future healing real in the present, can we not extend this sacramentalism to the ordinances that bind the entire human family together? Can we make our weekly and daily life in community such that the divorced among us do not feel cut off from these sacerdotal ties? There is pain enough in the experience of divorce that we who call ourselves Christians do not need to add to it through careless applications of the very theology that promises the balm of healing. If the means by which everything will work out remain mysterious, let us as a community join together in faith, not leaving some of our members to wrestle alone with their pain and doubts. We cannot, after all, be saved without them. Now is the day.

I conclude with some practical suggestions about how we might more effectively build Zion together with our divorced brothers and sisters. I invite you to add further ideas in the comments.

First and foremost is to keep Jesus central in our teachings and worship. I see the value, with respect to families, in “teaching the ideal,” but the fact that even those who appear to be happily married fall short of the ideal means that, absent pervasive emphasis on the Atonement, constant harping on the ideal can become depressing rather than hopeful. We are called to worship Jesus, not practice familyolatry. We ought to bear deep testimony about his influence in our lives more often than we do. So teach LDS doctrine about the family, but don’t let it outweigh teaching about Jesus.

Second, we ought to be very wary of becoming Job’s comforters with respect to the divorced among us. We should be humble about how little of people’s situations we really know and not jump to conclusions about who is at fault. Don’t assume that the husband had a porn problem, that anybody was cheating on anybody else, or anything else of the kind. Even if you know that such things are true in a particular case, they do not capture the full complexity of the situation, so have some charity and back off. Remember your own shortcomings and put it all in the hands of Jesus. Show kindness, love, and a willingness to listen.

Third, we might also benefit from shifting the balance of emphasis in our sealing theology away from the nuclear family and toward the whole human family. The nuclear family is very important, because it is the laboratory for teaching us how to live in harmony with people who differ from us. These lessons, though, must be put to use far beyond our nuclear families if we are to realize the vision articulated by Joseph Smith in D&C 128:18, according to which the sealing power binds the whole human family together:

[I]t is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time.

It’s good for us to think about the serious labor of making our families work, but let’s keep the big picture in mind. As I’ve been suggesting, the big picture, especially considered sacramentally, has plenty of room for faithful people left out by the nuclear family model. God hasn’t left them out, so why should we?

Finally, remember that, no matter how sensitive you try to be, you’re going to end up hurting people (which is no doubt true of this post as well). Here’s where the Zion stuff really comes in. I love the idea of Zion, because it calls us to live the teachings of Jesus together in community with other imperfect people. This is hard, because we’re constantly bumping up against flaws in ourselves and in others. Zion calls us to love each other in our flaws, to be quick to forgive when others wound us (whether intentionally or unintentionally, as is often the case). It calls us to be charitable toward those whose life experience differs from ours. Beyond this, though, as Kristine wisely reminds us, Zion doesn’t just call us to share each other’s burdens and miseries, but each other’s joy as well. Zion, that great manifestation of Jesus’ grace, makes it so that others’ joy can also be our own.

Comments

  1. Back when he was BYU’s president (1983), Holland gave a sensitive intro to some comments on divorce in one of my favorite talks. “In even mentioning this I earnestly wish not to offend. I have seen divorce in my own family so I know something of the complexity, the pain, the accusations, and innocence that inevitably attend it. I do not speak here of specific lives or personal problems about which I know nothing and on which I would not pass judgment if I did. ”

    “Men, whether single, married, or divorced, remain connected to the chain so long as they hold the Melchizedek priesthood, which binds men together through lines of authority that are extended every time a man ordains another man to the priesthood.”

    Really? I’ve never thought of priesthood ordination or unfixed lines of authority as a substitute or weaker version of sealing. The idea that divorced men are not *as* divorced as women because of it just strikes me as very odd.

    “I’m not here to argue that we should change our theology just because it causes people pain, but rather that we as a community have, at minimum, a moral responsibility not to exacerbate this pain unnecessarily.” Well said.

  2. Ben: thanks for sharing that Holland quote. Words of wisdom, there.

    The idea that you find strange never occurred to me until I read the article by Sam Brown that I link to in the post. The relevant context is the lineal treatment of priesthood in D&C 84. It’s possible, of course, that I’ve misread Brown, but it seems to me that priesthood ordination connects men into lineal chains that are not available to women in the same way.

    That said, I don’t imagine that this kind of esoteric cosmic detail provides much comfort to divorced men, even if they’re aware of it. Certainly this fact should not be taken as diminishing the lived pain and complexities of their experience.

  3. “Because they (unlike their former husbands) cannot be sealed to a new partner without a cancellation of the prior sealing, they face greater obstacles to the perpetuation of their divine interconnection.” This is an interesting one. On another discussion forum, a divorced man who is about to remarry (including a temple sealing) was upset because the church would not grant his sealing cancellation request. He doesn’t want to be a “spiritual polygamist” by remaining sealed to his first wife from whom he’s been divorced for some time. He wants to start over. He states that the FP has denied his request. If he is correct, then I assume that he was denied because the FP doesn’t want to cut off or unseal his ex-wife and undo her connections, and yet, if she were to remarry, that is exactly what would have to happen first.

    This inaction highlights our theological problem, but in this case phrased the opposite way it usually is. Once more we see that women only have access through men, and men are not similarly restricted or vulnerable. While this inaction is intended to “protect” his ex-wife, the idea of this kind of inequality is very frustrating and points yet again to why women are accessories and afterthoughts in the deepest theologies of the church. Having said that, I believe these are theological problems that simply need to be understood and solved and till date have not been fully comprehended as problematic. As a woman, the structure creates an identity crisis for me that a man would not experience (or would experience differently). I don’t see myself the way the church sees me, and my vision of myself is far more palatable to me. I can’t fit size six shoes on my size nine feet.

  4. The doctrines associated with temple sealings are probably the most differentiating aspect of Mormonism relative to the rest of Christianity. They’re the focus of the whole church. I don’t think attempting to diminish their significance in an effort to reduce pain is a good idea, and I think terms like “teh family” and “familyolatry” do exactly that. If one feels the only way to succor the suffering is to attack the doctrine, then one is working in a different direction than the church.

    There are people who think the doctrine of the atonement causes pain, because repentance can be hard and painful. Should we just tell them to accept Jesus and not worry about it? The atonement is more than both those points of view and is never the source of pain. I think a similar thing is true of the sealing doctrines.

    Clearly, being sealed in the temple doesn’t mean we understand the sealing doctrines any more than being baptized means we understand the atonement. We’ve all got a lot to learn about both. I think a lot of pain is caused by thinking we know more than we do. You’ve got to have faith in a longer-term perspective. My family, like most, has plenty of issues that aren’t resolvable with my current understanding of the sealing doctrines.

    I think the best way to succor those in painful or non-deal/non-traditional family circumstances is to love them, make sure they’re included, and teach them to have faith in God and His long-term plan.

  5. Thanks for your perspective, Angela. I agree that we have not yet fully comprehended as a people that some of these things are problems. I believe that clarifying revelation will come only once we really do start to grapple with them.

  6. it's a series of tubes says:

    I’m not here to argue that we should change our theology just because it causes people pain, but rather that we as a community have, at minimum, a moral responsibility not to exacerbate this pain unnecessarily.

    Such an excellent summation of a principle broadly applicable, not just to divorce. Bravo.

  7. The doctrines associated with temple sealings are probably the most differentiating aspect of Mormonism relative to the rest of Christianity. They’re the focus of the whole church. I don’t think attempting to diminish their significance in an effort to reduce pain is a good idea

    That is manifestly NOT what Jason is doing here. To force such a reading of the post reveals simply that you are hoping to force this post into an “unorthodox” category that allows you to dismiss its sensible and important contemplations and discussions. You reveal yourself with this: “If one feels the only way to succor the suffering is to attack the doctrine, then one is working in a different direction than the church.” It’s only wishful thinking on your part that such a sentence accurately describes this post.

    To the contrary, Jason said (among other straightforward indicia of orthodoxy),

    I’m not here to argue that we should change our [sealing] theology just because it causes people pain, but rather that we as a community have, at minimum, a moral responsibility not to exacerbate this pain unnecessarily.

    So, basically the opposite of what you’ve accused, Martin. This post perfectly embodies Elder Bednar’s recommendations for using social media to bring Mormonism to the world. It presents powerful Christ-centered doctrine (and provides the additional service of reminding that Christ must be the center, and such doctrine as the sealing power flows from that center, not the other way around), discusses how that doctrine contributes to the building up of Zion, makes suggestions on how to improve to make life even better for those among us who are suffering because of divorce. In short, it is authentic, truthful, uplifts, teaches, and conveys the Spirit.

    I think the best way to succor those in painful or non-deal/non-traditional family circumstances is to love them, make sure they’re included, and teach them to have faith in God and His long-term plan.

    So, exactly what Jason is suggesting. So, you agree with Jason. So, since you’re accusing Jason of unorthodoxy and un-Mormon-y-ness, then you’re accusing yourself of it.

  8. Thanks, John. In fact, I hope that the post invites us to take a more expansive view of sealing theology, which is exactly the opposite of “attempting to diminish [its] significance.” I find great power in the doctrines of the Restoration, and I’m trying to suggest here that, for all we don’t know about how sealing really works, these doctrines are more powerful and offer a greater healing balm than we sometimes give them credit for being.

  9. And so, obviously, you’re just an anti-Mormon wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing BCCer, unfaithful blogger Jason. Because unfaithful bloggers always reaffirm and express awe at the Restored Gospel’s amazing sealing power, and look for ways to take it more seriously in bringing us closer to Zion and giving succor to those among us who suffer because of divorce and current attitudes/interpretations about divorce and how it intersects with the sealing power.

  10. Also, I never wrote “teh family.” Had that phrase appeared in my post, I would have gone in to correct the typo. I got the term “familyolatry” from a divorced friend. Take it as an expression of her felt experience.

  11. If we replace “The Family” for “Christ” as the foundation of our religion, then that is indeed familyolatry. No need to soften it by attributing it merely to the felt experience of a friend who is suffering. It’s objectively observable by anyone who has made Christ their foundation.

  12. John, I actually wasn’t intending to attack Jason – I was reacting to a general sentiment expressed many times on this topic on this very blog. I kind of skipped a step, “teh family” is BCC perma speak – I admit I don’t entirely understand their use of “teh”, but it goes way back.

  13. Well, you have two BCC permas repudiating the sentiment, so maybe the generalization isn’t altogether warranted.

  14. Yeah, generalizing about lots of people in a comment thread about a specific post to which the generalization doesn’t apply is so productive and insightful, especially when it also doesn’t apply accurately to the general population being ridiculed.

    Great post, Jason, with lots and lots to contemplate. It’s this type of post that has the power to initiate real discussion, and real discussion is the genesis of so much discovery – even if that discovery ends in different places for different people.

  15. Jason, thanks for this. I like your final reminder that, no matter what we do or say, we’re bound to hurt somebody (because both we and they are imperfect), but that we’re also obligated to prevent and soothe that pain, and to work to be truly empathetic. Like it’s a series of tubes said, wonderful reminder, not just in the case of divorce, but in the case of life generally.

  16. Amen, Jason K. When I taught the Eternal Marriage lesson, from the start I reframed it as a lesson not on “the blessings of marriage and how to have a great one” to “let’s look at the tremendous blessings we receive from Christ’s atonement regarding love and forgiveness.” My three posters were worded: “Eternal marriage is the goal.” “We live in a fallen world.” “God loves all of us.”
    The lesson as written was depressing for most of us.
    How about a modern version of Ephesians 1? NIV: “13. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14. who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

  17. God bless you, Beth. It sounds like you’re an example of how these things should be handled. Don’t shy away from teaching the doctrine, but be very mindful of how the doctrine intersects with lived experience, and above all teach the Atonement. Also, thanks for the modern translation. Readers of the Mormon Lectionary Project will know the value I place on those. This one is usefully clarifying.

  18. I hope some people who have experienced divorce will weigh in here. Jason asked for suggestions about doing better at integrating people who have been divorced, making them a more central part of the Zion community, etc. What are some practical things we can do that fit within the Church’s current framework? We can talk about issues with the practicalities of sealing until the seagulls fly home, but changes in that realm will come from those duly appointed to make such changes, as I’m sure all the BCC bloggers recognize. Not to say we shouldn’t explore such issues, only that as we do, we get down to the business of offering implementable suggestions as well, as Jason invites.

    Several people have already pointed out a crucial and more broadly applicable observation in this post, and it’s a good one: “I’m not here to argue that we should change our theology just because it causes people pain, but rather that we as a community have, at minimum, a moral responsibility not to exacerbate this pain unnecessarily.”

    Nailed it.

  19. Jason, I wrote the following back in 2010 about the same general topic but not specific to divorce. It is the best way I know to express my response to your post:

    “Single Adults: Some Thorns Are Harder to Soften than Others”

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2010/10/single-adults-some-thorns-are-harder-to.html

  20. Beth, what a great scripture to use. Mark it.

  21. Just a few things that hit me immediately:

    1) Require marriage for FAR fewer callings than we do currently, in real life, including Presidents. There are too many local leaders who assume marriage is required or even preferred for callings that are not required to be on such a list based on the handbook.

    1a) Where possible, encourage having as demographically balanced presidencies as possible.

    2) Remove the requirement for a married couple to serve as advisers to the Single Adult groups, especially the group for those over 30. Such a rule not only marginalizes unmarried and divorced adults, but it also infantilizes those adults. Often, the best adviser for a single adult group (younger and older) would be someone who understands personally their current lives.

    3) Talk more often about single mothers presiding in their home, even when they have sons who have been ordained to the Aaronic and/or Mechizedek Priesthood. I have heard that said once or twice in the past few years – but I shouldn’t have to try to remember how many times. A son should not be seen as the presiding authority in a home in which he lives with his mother. Period.

    4) Start talking about spouses and parents co-presiding in their homes. That would match our general discourse about equal partners much better than always talking about the husband / father presiding, and it would emphasize the presiding responsibility of single parents, as well.

  22. I was recently doing some sealings with the son of a late apostle well-known for his conservative, fundamental views (you probably can guess who I’m speaking of). He made an interesting comment to us that the sealing ordinance had two parts. The first was the binding after we enter the next life. This is conditional and (in some way we don’t understand) the Lord won’t require anyone to be unhappy. The second is a bit more important and its a kind of “trigger” to call down the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob under the Abrahamic covenant. He said that was why they try to keep the sealings a bit longer than the marriages themselves if possible. I am of the opinion that once we are endowed individually, if we remain personally righteous (as judged by our most merciful Savior and no one else) then we have the potential to receive the remaining blessings whether our sealings get cancelled or not.

  23. it's a series of tubes says:

    I am of the opinion that once we are endowed individually, if we remain personally righteous (as judged by our most merciful Savior and no one else) then we have the potential to receive the remaining blessings whether our sealings get cancelled or not.

    Terry, wouldn’t a faithful individual receive all blessings in the next life, up to and including exaltation, regardless of whether they were endowed or not in mortality?

  24. Ray: thanks for those suggestions. I’ve seen single women serve very capably as Relief Society and Primary presidents, on several occasions, and single men as Elders Quorum and Young Men’s presidents.

    Terry H: interesting insights. Certainly you’re right that a merciful God can and will work these things out, such that no righteous person will be denied blessings. I hope that we can have enough faith in these promises to embrace everyone, single, married, or divorced, in the present as valid and valuable members of the great web of belonging that sealing makes possible.

  25. To It’s a series … . My general attitude is that, like baptism, if you can be endowed in this life, you should do it here rather than have it done by proxy. Having said that, D&C 137 leaves open some speculation on that topic. If a person is faithful (assuming you are using a traditional view of that word) then I believe at the right time of their life they would seek the endowment. Those who have gone through this ordinance (and it is an ordinance of the Melchizedek Priesthood, D&C 84:18-22) receive great blessings and (at a point in the ordinance) they also call down those blessings upon themselves. To reinforce the point, it depends on whether or not for “faithful” members the ordinances are optional.

  26. Jason. That’s why I appreciate posts such as yours. The atonement is infinite in ways that we can’t comprehend. It will cleanse sin, but will also heal wounds and place everyone on equal footing to be fairly judged. Having faith in such a difficult to picture concept is where the real challenge lies. Perhaps that is why it takes an “infinite and eternal sacrifice” (Alma 34:10) to bring “about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentence” (34:15).

  27. Thanks, Terry. May your faith leaven the lives of those around you.

  28. Bhodges: I wish I had used that scripture in class, but I didn’t. It’s in the OP.

  29. Ah, but you chose a better translation, see.

  30. ^ This is what I get for letting my fondness for the King James language slip through every now and again… :)

  31. I don’t want to distract from the good practical suggestions in your post by focusing on theology, but I would like to say that I learned more about sealings, what they are, and how they work than I ever did before when I requested my cancellation without prospective remarriage.

    Obviously, that’s something that was deeply personal and spiritual to me. I’ve irritated people before because I hint at a different understanding without going into detail, but I believe the Church teaches it on an as-needed basis for a reason, and I don’t feel comfortable doing differently in such a public forum.

    However, I will say that there is much that can be learned about sealing by counseling with one’s bishop. My bishop had to escalate many of my questions up the chain to get answers that satisfied us both, but it was edifying for both of us.

    As a divorcee, the first thing I’d say is to not categorize people by their marital status. You can’t “bring those left on the outside by our theology into the fold” in any unified way. I am not a divorcee, nor am I a single. I’m a woman, a mother, a member. I don’t happen to have a husband, but I’m a far better woman, mother, and member without him.

    We divorcees, and others “left on the outside” need to realize that our pain is ours. It isn’t between us and other people, it’s between us and Christ. It isn’t anyone else’s business. And it is unique. Tracy M’s experiences are hers, mine are mine. They can provide insight, but they don’t define the divorcee experience in any universal way.

    Recognize the practical aspects: that a single, working mom can’t attend activities during the day, nor get her kids to activities by 5 p.m. Volunteer to help out. She’s going to have problems giving a talk when her young children have to be left alone in the pew. Sit with them while she speaks.

    But don’t categorize her emotions. They are hers to own and to deal with.

  32. Thanks for this, SilverRain. Of course my curiosity would like you to reveal what you’ve learned, but you’re right to keep these experiences to yourself. I especially like your suggestion not to identify people by their marital status, because, as you say, experiences differ sufficiently to make the categories useless. Let’s identify each other as sisters and brothers in Christ and try to love each other accordingly.

  33. I’ve just learned that frequent BCC commenter EOR has a post about marriage privilege over at Rational Faiths with some good practical suggestions for combating it. http://rationalfaiths.com/marriage-privilege-marriage-oriented-church/

  34. I got divorced almost 3 years ago, after being married for nearly 10 years ago. We were married in the temple, but he became inactive after a few years, and he asked for his name to be removed from the records of the church a few months before the divorce. Sealing is not really something I think about and have mostly just ‘put on the shelf’ for right now. I grew up in a home with an inactive father and have spent most of my life looking at the gospel from an individual lens; I don’t really know what it’s like to have a family with two active temple-going parents or really what a marriage like that looks like. I would love to get re-married some day and would love to be sealed in the temple to someone who actually lives the gospel and wants the same things I want–but to be honest, I’m fairly pessimistic about this being a realistic possibility based on my life experience thus far. So, to me, the idea of sealing is fairly abstract and pretty far removed from how I live my life.

    As far as my Church experience goes, I know I’ve had it fairly easy compared to many divorced members that I know. I tend to be somewhat socially oblivious and don’t notice a lot–I also think that many people in my ward didn’t even notice when the divorce happened because my ex-husband wasn’t attending church so they didn’t know him. We also have a wide variety of family circumstances in our ward and I’m not the only single parent–we have people who are divorced, re-married, single, single parents by adoption, etc. As far as how we interact with people in church, I think that focusing on Christ and the essentials of the gospel is the best thing to do. Don’t make assumptions about people based on their life circumstances–not all families are the same, not all single people are the same, and not all divorced people are the same.

    I’m not bothered by talk about marriage and why it’s a commandment or why it’s important to get to the Celestial Kingdom. I do have a testimony of that and I do want to be married again someday. However, I think we sometimes assume that preaching about the importance of something will translate into people doing that. People and life are much more complex than that. Just telling people that families are important and that they need to value them isn’t going to do a lot. I’d rather have more talk at Church that acknowledges the real, current circumstances of people and how to deal with them on a practical level.

  35. “I’d rather have more talk at Church that acknowledges the real, current circumstances of people and how to deal with them on a practical level.” Amen!

  36. It is regrettable if divorced persons feel out of place in Latter-day Saint settings — I’m all in favor of striving to help everyone feel welcome, but I don’t want to diminish the importance of marriage, either. It is good for a husband and wife to work together for the long term, and it is beautiful to see old couples aging together. Yes, I want to celebrate marriage.

    We need to see the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ as gifts. We desire everyone to receive the ordinances. If a person was born in the covenant or sealed to parents to a parent who later becomes criminally abusive, he or she should not hopefully reject the ordinance because of the later state of the parent. Same with a sealing to a spouse. A righteous person who makes a covenant with God in a sealing to spouse and then the spouse altogether abandons the relationship hasn’t lost his or her covenant with God — God will honor the covenant. Same with a child — if a child is born in the covenant or sealed to parents and later turns criminally abusive, the parents hopefully shouldn’t seek to cancel the child’s sealing to them, but should be appreciative for the ordinance.

    If a community stigma on divorce helps otherwise faltering marriages to be successful in the long term, then the stigma serves a useful purpose. But of course, I speak in a macro sense, not a micro sense. A community stigma on divorce should not resulting in a personal stigma on divorced persons. I hope every honest person feels welcome in every Latter-day Saint ward and branch.

    We invite everyone to to the best he or she can. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, and Charity in the Lord Jesus Christ will help take care of many or all of the small details. Isaiah 56:3-7 offers a strong promise that is applicable to everyone who doesn’t seem to fit the model.

  37. To add to Ray’s point above, in one ward I moved into, three out of four of the RS presidency were divorced. It was great because it wasn’t just a “token” divorcee – this was a disproportionate representation of divorced women in the ward. But it didn’t matter – they were every bit as fit for the calling as anyone else would be, perhaps more because they are just great sisters.

  38. Stigmatizing something that is either outside of someone’s control or is the right thing to do (as divorce is in many cases) is never a good thing. We can teach the importance of marriage without stigmatizing all who divorce – but we have to be conscious of the issue and address it head-on, or the stigma will occur naturally. We can teach an ideal, but adding stigma to not living it is wrong, especially since not one of us lives our preached ideal.

    I will add two more things to my list above:

    1) Teach the importance of family, but don’t teach it so often that it morphs into obsession. For many people, it now is an obsession, not just a core principle.

    2) Stop blaming people for a decline in the value of marriage who are not responsible for such a decline. Homosexuality and divorce (comprehensively) are not responsible for issues with marriage. Heterosexual spouses who don’t prioritize marriage and, in one way or another, don’t strive to be good spouses carry that responsibility. A man or woman who is divorced or unable to marry for whatever reason can value marriage every bit as much as someone who is married (and, in many cases, can value it even more). We need to blame our problems on those who cause those problems, not alternatives that allow us to avoid what it would take to address the issue properly.

  39. I am divorced. I don’t feel left out. I think being married is harder than being divorced. I like parenting on my own. I don’t think it’s other people’s job to make me feel included…but they do…and I am very thankful to them for their kindness. Their kindness has taught me how to look to take care of others…and not just be the one expecting to be included.

    Being married doesn’t make you happy. I see a lot of struggling people at church. Some people envy me because I don’t have their married people problems.

    I haven’t always felt such peace about my life situation. Going to Church brought peace to my life. Learning about God brought peace to my life. Slowly, I learned to look past some of the things people said in talks and realize they were just trying to teach an ideal that is wholesome and good, even if they lacked the wherewithal to express it in an edgier, complex, or inclusive manner. Sure, when I hear that talk–“how great my family is because it’s not a single parent home,”–I get up to use the bathroom and slowly walk back, not because I’m offended but to avoid laughing out loud. I find it odd that people feel sorry for me when everyone knows that marriages are fraught with problems–disagreement over money, emotional infidelity, regret, addiction, fighting, mismatched goals, uncontrollable anger–but we talk about it like it’s Disneyland…as if being inside it makes you privileged and being outside it means you should be pitied. Incidentally, I’m one of the few people in this world who don’t like Disneyland.

    As for the doctrines on sealing–I could not care any less. I realized that being on my own is giving me a chance to get to know God in a way I never have. Other people can do that while married. But for me, I think I needed my independence.

  40. veneer, I’m really glad you’ve found peace, and found God. That’s a good place to be. And I agree that we’d be better off talking about the practical challenges of making marriage (or just plain life) work, rather than the Disneyfied versions that sometimes get bandied about.

  41. Thanks for linking to my post, Jason. Particularly because I am an egomaniac, but also because I think this is a subject precisely where the rubber meets the road in creating Zion. It benefits married people to feel as if being married is the only true way and so getting people to see that divorced folks and those who were never married have just as much to offer and need just as much love is incredibly important.

    Only married people can change this type of thinking. Ray is right that we have soared right past seeing the family as ideal to flat out worshiping it. Families are definitely important–you will never hear me say different, but there is such a thing as too much emphasis and we are way past that stage.

    In the most simplistic terms and without going into too much detail I got divorced because I got married too young. I still love my ex husband, and I always will but our collective baggage simply did not fit together or inside the marriage. We are both way better people because of the divorce and so I can’t get behind a “stay married at all costs” mentality.

    We have within our grasp so very many ways to include single people in The Church that (while I certainly appreciate the effort) it is more than a little sad that this type of brainstorming is necessary. Faith, Repentance, Baptism, and the Gift of The Holy Ghost do not require a wedding ring so why should the Gospel that houses them?

  42. melodynew says:

    Great post. Great comments and especially the suggestions by Ray.

    I’ve been unmarried (divorced) for quite some time now. I was married in the temple to someone who wasn’t worthy to be there in the first place; someone who, to my knowledge, lived a lie and still does. He was an ordained Melchizedek priesthood holder. That was a joke. A mockery of God.

    My experiences in the temple, including my sealing, brought me a sense that I am a bearer of some sort of Melchizedek priesthood, at least in God’s eyes, if not in “man’s.” . . . I’m clothed in the metaphorical robes, have accepted the call, live my life worthy of the blessings associated with the covenants. For me, this matters. It doesn’t mean I don’t honor and appreciate worthy males who are ordained. It just means I don’t need one to be the head of my home. And for the time being, I don’t need one to work toward exaltation.

    All this time since my divorce, I’ve felt like a married woman living without a husband. I never felt “the priesthood” lacking from my home in twenty-plus years as a divorced, single mom. For me, God filled the gap and blessed me to know I was a partner with my savior in providing for my family. (Incidentally, I asked for priesthood blessings when I felt the need and I gave my children mother’s blessings when that felt right.)

    I agree that the culture of “married=celestial material” vs “unmarried=meh” was exhausting at times. But the older I get the less any of that matters. I’m quite certain I will have a good and worthy husband when I want one. I’m also quite certain that the “great chain of belonging” takes precedence over any other union, including that of woman and man in marriage. So, for me, marriage itself is no longer the welding link that gets me to heaven or even to exaltation. Marriage will happen when it needs to. But Love is the link. And that love connects us all to the attributes of godliness which will make us like God, married or not. It’s late and I’m tired, so I’m not sure any of this makes sense. But that is my experience – over many years of finding my place in the kingdom. As an unmarried woman I am no less worthy than I am as a married woman of receiving God’s grace and guidance in an eternal journey toward exaltation.

  43. whizzbang says:

    I am divorced as well. I agree that they should not require marriage to get certain callings. I know SO many just bad marriages but they are supposedly ‘worthy’ to be in bishoprics and whatever. You could be racist, homophobic, a mysogynist, don’t know anything about Christ and his teachings but heck you’re married so you are good to go to be a Bishop. I don’t get the fact that to get exaltation it all comes down to marriage. You must be married or you must want marriage if you aren’t married here. My bro. and a host of others aren’t married and probably shouldn’t get married but are otherwise faithful people, why force them into something that they may not want or are able to handle? I want to be married but my ex didn’t want to be in the Church anymore and doesn’t want our son to be baptized, so what am I supposed to do? he now thinks if he goes with one parent to join the Church he’ll be upsetting the other parent and what 11yr kid wants that pressure?
    Chastity is an issue. It’s hard to take advice from brethren who never have or have had to live with their own advice, they are all married.

  44. This is a great post on an important topic. As a child of divorce, I can testify that familyolatry is a real danger. Growing up, my mother would lament the fact that I was sealed to no one. (She hadn’t been married in the temple but was born in the covenant herself) I spent an unfortunate amount of time imagining my life in the eternities, floating around all alone while everyone else had family reunions in their “mansions above.” As a youth, I spent far more time worrying about marrying a member in the temple than I did about gaining a testimony of our Saviour. It saddens me to think about all of the wasted time and fear. I really wish I had been able to find comfort in Him instead of a sense of rejection, convinced that He only cared for “the ideal.” I know it seems silly now, but that’s how I felt at the time.

    As an aside, I am now sealed to my husband’s family and free floating for eternity doesn’t sound so bad anymore!!!

  45. Melodynew. Your statement, “I am a bearer of some sort of Melchizedek priesthood, at least in God’s eyes, if not in “man’s.” . . . I’m clothed in the metaphorical robes, have accepted the call, live my life worthy of the blessings associated with the covenants” is where the endowment places all of us. It comforts me to know that they are Melchizedek priesthood ordinances, with all of the power and blessings appertaining thereto. Those feelings are what adds to my faith.

  46. I have been thinking about Tracy’s posts on divorce (especially the one on children) since she first wrote them. I am in process of filing for divorce right now and we have three children under eight who’s hearts I’m currently watching break in real time. I guess I just want to say that so many of her words rang true and I am grateful for them. But these are the ideas that didn’t ring for me back when I never dreamed in a million years I’d be getting a divorce, and still don’t as I make my way with my children through the trauma of divorce. The first was this:

    “What my children and I experienced in our divorce— albeit, atypical of most divorces, LDS or not— was not just the loss of a husband and a father, but the literal loss of home, safety, financial support, family and any shred of security. Most children, mercifully, will never have to go through that, even in a divorce; but I want to yell from the rooftops, with a big Moroni trumpet, that the ones who might (mine) can and do turn into fine, well-adjusted, happy and healthy young people.”

    And the second was when I understood from her words the proposition that divorce is better for children even if the reason is that, “Two miserable people cannot raise happy children who know how to build healthy lives.”

    Please forgive me that my own words about why I disagree on these two thoughts and how they might influence those of us making the hard decisions are not going to be eloquent or maybe even make sense to most, I could blame it on my sleep deprivation, but fwiw it feels good for me to express myself here.

    First is that I am learning so much about trauma. And how divorce is traumatic for children. It reminded me of something I read years ago in the best book on child safety out there called Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane). In this excerpt I pulled he is speaking of “deniers” of child abuse or neglect, but over the years I have applied it so often to myself when I hear myself wanting to minimize something that I am about to do that will hurt a child:

    “…The final verse you hear as a denier scuttles away from responsibility is also the most offensive: “Well, kids are resilient, When bad things happen, they bounce back.”

    Absolutely not, says reality, they don’t bounce back. They adjust, they conceal, they repress, and sometimes they accept and move on, but they don’t bounce back. In fact, contrary to the apparent belief of some people, children don’t bounce at all.

    If I seem hard on denial, I have my reasons. One could say that true responsibility, moral responsibility for the bad things people do to children, must lie with the offenders, not the silent witnesses. Fair enough. But understand that the offender is also a denier, a criminal who chooses not to see the roots of violence in himself, chooses not to acknowledge the road he is on even when it’s clear where it will carry him, and chooses not to stop himself. Then later, most offenders choose not to see the cruel impact of the behavior they allowed to occur. And they won’t be alone in those choices, because for virtually every cruelty done to a child, there is an audience of deniers that stays seated, sees the signals and quickly closes their eyes.

    Deniers, more than any other people, have it in their hands to protect our children and change our nation. Why? Because the solution to violence in America is not more laws, more guns, more police, or more prisons. *The solutions to violence is acceptance of reality.*

    From there, you can hear the messengers of intuition. From there, you can evaluate risk and organize defenses. Reality is the highest ground you can find – and the safest – because from there you can see what’s coming.”

    And then this blog post by Penelope trunk called, “Divorce is immature and selfish. Don’t do it.” http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2012/02/28/divorce-is-immature-and-selfish-dont-do-it/ Here is a comment she wrote that I copied from another post where she had linked to her OP on divorce and someone had challenged her:

    “We have this discussion every time I mention my hatred for divorce. There is no data that says that kids do better with divorced parents than unhappily married parents. Kids do not put their parents happiness ahead of their own. Of course.

    The data about that you should leave your marriage for the sake of the kids is if there is violence. And even then, nearly one-third of the violence can stop if the person who wants it to stop makes a change. In one third of the cases it takes two people to create the violence.

    I write this to say that I think divorce is great for the parents. They get a second chance. They get a new home. They get a new spouse. The kids get nothing. They have no home, because two homes = no home just like two religions = no religion. They have no family, because each of their parents has gone off and gotten a new family instead of staying in their kids’ family.

    The idea that divorce was good for me because I met someone I love is preposterous. It would have been better for the kids to not have their family torn apart. It’s nice that we could rebuild a family, but it has a high cost for the kids, even though they adore my husband and call him dad.
    Parents are so incredibly full of shit when they say it was better for the kids.”

    I guess this is what I want to say. It is so freeing for me to really look hard at the fact that the data overwhelmingly suggests that divorce is traumatic for children (and usually the spouses, of course). To force myself to accept that in divorce “children pay a high cost” cannot be emphasized enough. And then as I force myself to not let myself minimize or deny that children don’t bounce, then – when I’m looking at the cold hard reality of what this choice to divorce is going to bring into my children’s life – only then am I at my safest vantage point, only then can I really make a decision that will carry with it the least amount of sight-blurring guilt as I watch my children navigate through the trauma of having their family dissolved.

    Because if I can say that ending a marriage with violence (keeping in mind that there are many types of violence) is the less hurtful choice for myself and my children, then I can stand with a clear view, having evaluated the risks, organized the defenses and acted with my clearest view of what is coming. For me, accepting that in my case the violence of divorce is less than the violence of staying together, that is what is bringing me peace. Not saying that divorce isn’t going to shred my kids’ hearts.

    It is. It sucks for them. And sure, some children are more resilient than others. But for me, to try and tell myself that my kids are resilient, that regardless of what I am about to do, they “can and do turn into fine, well-adjusted, happy and healthy young people.” takes me away from my highest vantage point – reality.

    I need to face the reality that they will suffer from the grief and trauma of this breaking apart of their family in different ways, over and over, throughout al the stages of their childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Families were meant to be together forever, and when they aren’t, it’s violence to our hearts. It makes me cry to write that, but it also steels me as I realize that what I want to offer my children in the midst of all the trauma of this world is an example of how a life lived truthfully is worth all the pain.

  47. Thanks for having the courage to share your story and experience. God bless you in your journey.

  48. Rebecca, your comment is a great reminder that we can teach principles, but, in the end, we simply must leave the individual choice in the hands of the individuals. Thank you for sharing it.

  49. “And even then, nearly one-third of the violence can stop if the person who wants it to stop makes a change.”

    Yeah, the “change” the person who wants the violence to stop makes is called getting a divorce. I won’t even address the quote that follows this one because the victim-blaming of it all makes my heart hurt too much.

    Divorce is traumatic for everyone. Children do get over it. Reality is important, and a huge part of reality is that children cannot be protected from life. Advocating people stay in a bad marriage “for the sake of the kids” is just beyond the pale. No one should spend their life suffering for someone else’s comfort.

    I come from a household where my parents 100% should have gotten a divorce. _That_ was selfish. It was selfish for them to play martyrs and tell themselves they were doing it for us because it made our lives that much harder.

  50. This points up the problem with making any kinds of generalized statements about divorce. The situations are unique, and the people going through the experience don’t usually have much practice with it. The OP is, wisely, about how to treat people, not about what divorce is or isn’t or when it should happen or when it shouldn’t.

  51. Jason,

    The suggestions are thoughtful, empathetic and eminently practical. As someone who has been a divorced person in this church, I can say I’ve rarely encountered the sensitivity and awareness displayed here in members I’ve actually come across. I think these suggestions really would help. It takes, I think, plugging into the whole notion of the human family being connected to overcome certain doctrinal facts about our church, one being that, according to the LDS church, my fractured and pasted-together family is considered inferior to a married couple sealed in the temple and having all their children sealed in the covenant. I’m not whining about this, merely pointing out that Mormons, like all of the rest of humankind, tend to get self-righteous about doctrines that they think they’re following and that can occasionally lead to snarky comments about single/divorced people in our church. I’d never criticize anyone for doing their best to live an ideal, but I’d also just note that, for some people, some of the stress of being single in this church has to do with being pitied/judged for being in the state they’re in. Thanks again for a great post.

  52. Exactly. Teach a generalized principle; respect individual choices by which people are agents unto themselves and act rather than being acted upon. Good overall rule about governing ourselves.

  53. I read this post before going to the temple today, and I had on my brain what Angela said in her comment at 10:31am. Anyway, I decided to participate in sealings today, and our sealer made a very interesting comment which I never knew about.

    He sealed a daughter to her parents, and the mother did not have a name, but she was simply listed as “Mother” (and as such, the sealing went like this: “Jane Smith” is sealed to her parents “George Smith” and “her mother”). After that family was sealed, the sealer stopped and explained to us in the room that the woman’s name is NOT needed in order for a child to be sealed to his/her parents (in cases where there is no earthly record of the mother’s name). He also clarified that the man’s name IS needed for the sealing to happen. He continued recounting that 3-4 years ago, Salt Lake actually changed this policy in temples to allow the father’s name not to be specified as well. However, very shortly after this policy change (he said “3 weeks”), the policy was reversed, b/c some people wanted this principle to be extrapolated to live women (allowing a live woman to be sealed to her children even if her sealing is broken with her husband).

    Anyway, this was all news to me. Firstly, I had never known that the mother’s name was not needed in a proxy sealing (but the father’s is), and secondly, the policy change above reiterates an interesting relationship between the proxy and lived experience.

  54. That’s strange, Corrina. Several years ago (probably seven or eight? definitely more than 3-4), my father participated in some sealings for an African American woman in his ward. Many of the children were sealed to parents one or both of whom were named “Negro slave.” In some cases, only one name was given (e.g., Henry, son of Negro slave and Mary). He was very impressed by that at the time, which is why he told us kids about it. Perhaps there was an exception for descendants of slaves? I have also seen cards with the husband/father listed only as “Mr. Smith,” no first name. I suppose that is enough of a name.

    I don’t at all doubt your recounting of the sealer’s words, but I’m not sure how a living person would suppose that she (or he, for that matter) could go to the temple and be sealed to her (or his) children without a spouse. It’s one thing not to know the name of the spouse, but it’s another to go in without any spouse at all. Or did he mean that the mother expected still to be sealed to her children after the sealing was cancelled? I thought that was already the case? Children do not lose blessings because of their parents’ actions?

  55. Rebecca, I previously posted that I am a child of divorce. Actually, my parents have been married a few times each! And sure, I have baggage, but who doesn’t? I also feel very blessed. These life experiences have given me compassion and empathy that I might not have had otherwise. Grief and trauma are an unavoidable part of life. But they can help transform and make us better.

  56. Villate–Interesting about the “Negro Slave” listed on the proxy card. Yes, I’ve done names that are simply “Mrs. Howard” or “Jane” (no last name) for example. But today in the sealings, there were definitely two cards that simply had listed “Mother” and no name, not even the last name of the man to whom she had been sealed.

    I didn’t get a chance to ask the sealer further information, b/c he had to leave immediately after to perform a live sealing. But in my mind, the reference that had come up when he said that was from the OP: “Divorced women have a more difficult situation: they either remain sealed to partners from whom they have been civilly divorced, or, if they have children who were born in the covenant, are bound through that covenant to their children’s father (which can make things all the more painful if the sealing is canceled).”

    Maybe it opened a potential “pandora box” of some sort for the living, b/c the sealer said Salt Lake reversed the no-name-father temple policy quickly.

  57. Regardless, I felt sad in the sealing knowing that a woman’s name is expendable whereas the man’s isn’t.

  58. Hm, very interesting. Perhaps it was only in my mind that the blessing/covenant remained. I suppose I thought/think of it as something that is only partly reliant on the people involved. In other words, the power of the sealing ordinance binds people together, but also transcends the relationships of the people who are part of it.

  59. I agree that there is great beauty in our temple practice not requiring earthly precision in regards to names (or places) in an effort to bind the human family together.

    It still remains unclear why a father’s name is needed but not the mother’s.

    In other news…there was one really cool male name today–a “Sir…., First Earl of….” who was sealed to his wife and children.

  60. Thanks to Corinna and Villate for sharing this information, which shows that, although sealing as a concept is clear enough in the big picture, there’s quite a bit of fuzziness in the details. It does seem, though, that this fuzziness disproportionately affects women, in two ways. The first is what Corinna brings up: the saddening possibility that “mother” is a placeholder role. I mean, I see that this is just a way of leaving it to God to sort everything out, but given that this is what’s going to happen anyway, maybe we don’t need to send the message that the precise identity of the mother doesn’t matter, whereas the father does. Second, given how esoteric some of this knowledge is (whether it’s doctrine or policy can be hard to tell), our institutional structures give men vastly greater opportunities than women to learn it. Men have access to all sorts of formal and informal channels, while women are dependent on what temple sealers tell them. And, given that most women are probably not privy to the conversations that temple sealers have among themselves, they have little basis on which to judge the quality of the information they receive. (This is not to question what either Corinna or Villate has said; it’s just to say that the deck is stacked against you getting good information here, which is unfortunate given how many women have a personal stake in such things.)

  61. I’m late to the game and would only add that a) one could interpret the Mormon Chain of Belonging as excluding women not currently participating in neo-Victorian nuclear families, and b) that would do violence to the vision of the Chain and its underlying hunger to have everyone connected, by hook or by crook. (In this case, through parents, patriarchal blessings, baptism, marriage, Christian love, temple endowment, aspiration, etc.) The Chain of Belonging was a strong-willed and self-conscious rejection of the implosion of familiality into the Victorian nucleus. I’m grateful for the OP’s clear-seeing call to be sure that people who feel bereft of the bonds of familiality are enwrapped in the love and connection that is the promise of the early Mormon vision of eternal connection.

    (PS there is a more charitable reading of ‘teh family’, which is that it is a rejection of secular atomism rather than deeper/broader connection, and that the critics of ‘teh family’ are misunderstanding the context of the support for neo-Victorianism. It may be worth allowing people to think through more deeply what classification systems are operative within their worldviews and how those classification systems might map–or more likely fail to map–onto the classification systems of their interlocutors or of their intellectual or religious ancestors.)

  62. Thanks, smb. Your comment means a lot to me.

  63. Anonymous says:

    I, too, am late to make a comment, even though I read this OP on the day it was posted. I believe the stigma of divorce is very real, and is wrong. I also believe that it comes from the highest echelons of the Church specifically to inform all members how they should feel about divorce.

    A few years ago, as an ordinance worker, I was witness to two of my fellow workers being escorted out of the temple in violent tears. Why were they being escorted out? Because a member of the Temple Presidency had found out that these sisters were separated from their husbands (one many, many years previously) and he unilaterally decided that they should not function for one more minute as an ordinance worker despite being called and set apart through due process. Apparently there was a policy (about separation and divorce) that had either ignorantly or willfully been ignored when these two good sisters were called as ordinance workers.

    The violence of their removal made a lasting impression on me, and I later heard through anecdotal information that the (little known, even to surrounding Stake Priesthood Leaders) policy was in place because regular patrons might see someone working as an ordinance worker who was either separated or divorced and think that separation or divorce was okay in the eyes of the Lord.

    Whether the anecdotal information is true or not, a stigma has definitely been created in my temple district about the status of a separated or divorced person (in this case woman).

  64. That is a terrible, terrible story, anonymous. I wonder if that policy is specific to your temple, or whether it is church-wide. Some investigation seems to be in order, like that recently carried out with respect to young women in the baptistry.

  65. Thomas Parkin says:

    It seems to me that nothing that happens in 70 or 80 (or much less) years of living on this planet can justly find “eternal” expression in the next life. Imagine blind Justice holding her scales, placing on one scale _anything_ eternal (meaning forever). What can she place on the other scale to balance that if she can only use mortal substance? Nothing. It’s absurd. Such anxieties are a remnant of Christian ideas of Hell. (If we can’t scare you into being good?!) It seems to me that this life determines our direction in a very important way, and that it is a time to prepare to meet God – but it isn’t as though things stop happening when this life is over. One of the great things about Mormon … cosmology … is that we don’t believe that we fall off a cliff into a static eternity after death.

    (I’ve been meaning, for a long while, to write something showing that the word “eternal” almost never means _forever_ in the sense that we usually take it. This applies to sister words and phrases like “without beginning or end”, as well.)

  66. Kevin Barney says:

    I believe the Handbook policy is you can’t call someone (man or woman) to be a temple worker if they were divorced within the preceding five years (unless the divorce came before baptism). The HB is silent on what happens when a currently called temple worker gets a divorce; there may be some local discretion in that case. As you can see from the link below, I think the Church’s bright line divorce policies are stupid, but as this is a HB policy and not a local one, changing it would be a tougher nut to crack than the menstruation thing, I imagine.

  67. whizzbang says:

    One thing to remember is that there is no such thing as “being divorced” divorce is a legal matter and not something like a skin condition or something. I had a YSA Branch Pres. who cheated on his wife and molested his daughter, wife complained to the Stake she got the “oh, he wouldn’t do a thing like that” line. He afterwards became a member of the Temple Presidency in one of the Canadian Temples. She again complained but it went nowhere and he later died, so I figure he escaped justice here but won’t in the next life. I saw his wife at Church last sunday (she still was visiting her now exed. daughter) and I was honestly surprised to see her coming to Church after the ringer she’s been through

  68. Warning: I guess I’m not the calm, mature person I appeared to be in an earlier comment.

    The last four weeks, the Sacrament meeting talks have been about the family–how “our” definition is better than the world’s and what happens when the world “gets a hold of our families.”

    According to the talks, Satan gets a hold of our families when there’s divorce. And then it’s all over. There’s no hope. No one rebuilds their life. Family members and children just whither up and become pathetic creatures.

    I’m not avoiding reality. I concur with Rebecca. It is more hurtful to children and self to pretend that fall-out doesn’t exist.

    But until the last few weeks, I really didn’t get the reason for this post or what my child had been internalizing in this uber-Mormon culture area where we live. When he tried to express it to me, I minimalized it…since I grew up neither nor LDS. But I finally grasp what he has been trying to tell me. There is a “culture” of one right way and it hurts him more than helps. It’s in our Sacrament meetings in the form of talks that tell my child that he has less than a quality life because of circumstances over which he has no control. Because he has one parent, he has two strikes against him.

    Really?

    If that is the case, why do we even believe in a Savior, the power of the Priesthood, or agency?
    Why do either of us bother coming to Church to practice joyfulness in the midst of our challenges? Why don’t we stay home and lament what we don’t have?

    Why don’t we go somewhere else to worship where the cultural rules of belonging aren’t subscribing to the theory that we are deficient because our lives don’t look like someone else’s? Isn’t the Gospel/good news that we need not live our lives pining for something else…or dwell on failures or perceived failures.

    Well, I’m not going anywhere else. And in a kind but clear way, I’m going to say this at church when the subject arises–don’t tell my kid he’s doomed. Because he’ll go somewhere else where he won’t have to hear such drivel repeatedly from the pulpit and in the classrooms. I’ll be damned before I let that happen. I hope we all will.

  69. Veneer: your last paragraph marvelously expresses a steely faith that I admire. No need to apologize for feeling worked up about this stuff. Those of its who can put a calm face on things often as not have a turbulent sea just beneath the surface. So carry on, speak out, and tell your kid he belongs.

  70. Seanamhair says:

    When you submit names of children to be sealed to parents, you are supposed to ensure that ordinances have been completed for the parents. Temple workers and the sealer ask you if this has been done for your kin.
    So, how can a baptism or endowment be performed for someone only known as “Mother” or as “Negro slave”?
    Smacks of sloppy, lazy research. If you haven’t got the details, then don’t submit the work.
    It’s not going to kill the person to wait another 5 minutes in spirit world time till the records become available – even if they have to wait till the millennium.

    And another thing – when did it become practice to announce an earthly title – sir whatsisbucket – in a sealing room or anywhere in the temple?

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