Divorce and Remarriage an Abomination for Mormons? Answering a Christian Friend.

This is a response to some questions from a friend who has been in a number of abusive relationships and marriages, and is a devout mainstream Christian. Her questions sprang from a vow she made as a small child to marry once and forever. Looking at that in the light of some of the statements found in the Bible regarding, divorce, women and remarriage, she wondered if she was now destined to be single forever because she had broken this vow and the rules shown in these statements. My response is closely tied to the questions you’re not seeing, but I tried to put enough context in that you could see basically what I was responding to.

Yeah. Many have made such vows to marry once and forever, and lots of clean and pretty young Mormons with a couple or three small children and a few years into the process look down their noses at those who were not able to make it work. Life has a way of teaching us that there is more to it than we understand. I can’t speak too much to the Catholic perspective. I respect it, but I don’t understand or share all of it that I do understand.

Yeah, I know some folks get hung up on that notion of “wife forever” in a coercive way. I am not a biblical inerrantist, so hanging on a few proof-texts really isn’t my style. My personal theology includes the notion that God is not a jerk. He’s not going to force someone to be miserable through eternity for things not their fault or for bad choices they have repented of. There is a Mormon notion that God doesn’t function through compulsory means, and that individual choice is eternally protected. By “notion” I mean “core doctrine,” in this case. So, there isn’t really much doctrinal support for the notion of wives-as-chattel, and strong (IMO) doctrinal opposition to it.

I think the term “fundamentalist” fits these men you speak of who feel they can ignore the laws of men that they don’t like because they are following the laws of God. That doesn’t make them wrong about everything, but it does mean that they worship their beliefs more than I’m comfortable with – I see the first commandment prohibiting worship of anything that isn’t God. Dogchurch.org has a bunch of good things to say about fundamentalism.

I’ve co-moderated mail-lists for Mormons experiencing divorce for a very long time (back when mail-lists were relevant modes of conversation), so I’ve spent a lot of time talking about these things and thinking about them. I believe that Jesus took on himself all of our sins and sorrows and pains and weaknesses and overcame them all, and that he offers to free us from them as we are able to accept his offer and let them go. So, when we break vows, break promises, and otherwise are sinful and weak and human, his grace/forgiveness/etc. is able to overcome our imperfections and make things right through eternity. This doesn’t do away with all of the consequences of our choices, but it gives us a way to transcend those consequences, and come out the other side with more wisdom, love and growth that we can offer to each other as we act as his hands to bring his love to others.

We were not put into this world to be perfect – we weren’t even put into this world with the possibility of being perfect. Learning how to choose the good while having the opportunity to choose bad/evil/wrong is what the world is here for – a necessary process if we are to become more like God. We can’t do that without becoming humble, and we can’t be humble without having weakness, so God gave us the characteristic of weakness so that we could be humble.

Lots of preamble, I know. Sorry. But I can’t get to your question without those pieces being on the table first.

I don’t have an answer to how or when I will or might remarry. I’ve left behind guilt over creating a failed marriage a long time ago, and I’m mostly past the guilt over the damage that choice brought to the lives of my children, and the price they continue to pay for that. But I have no doctrinal problem with remarrying – there are no scriptural prohibitions I am aware of against a man remarrying. I am aware of the women-as-chattel references in the Bible that make women remarrying adultery (there’s a bit of that in Mormon scripture that green-lights plural marriage), but I see that as a cultural artifact of a time when women were seen as chattel in a way that they no longer are in my culture. Deuteronomy and Leviticus provide lots of rules and restrictions and guidelines that I don’t feel bound to, and most Christians seem to not feel bound to many as well. Few observe the dietary restrictions, celebrate the feast days, or count their steps on the Sabbath – we don’t even celebrate the Sabbath on Shabbat, for the most part. All of us pick and choose which parts of the Bible we’re going to follow, based on some kinds of standards, and how we follow them is based on our own limited understanding and interpretation. I respect people who engage in that process earnestly, and who listen for whisperings from the Holy Ghost about how to do better.

I do not respect people who want to use scripture as a club to beat people up and claim a position of superiority. Jesus was very challenging to those who followed him, and following him now remains a challenge, but the path he shows is one of loving and caring about and for others, especially those who are our enemies, and of challenging those who are close to us who think they have it all figured out, and outright castigating those who hypocritically judge and condemn others by standards they are not willing to subject themselves to, even when they are within the body of fellow-believers.

I don’t believe that you are broken and worthless because you married an asshole and had the wisdom to protect yourself and your children from him by divorcing him and staying away from him. Making the choice to marry him seems a not good one to me, from my perspective, but Jesus already paid for that one, and forgiveness and healing is available (and, I propose, has been granted to you to the degree you have been able to accept it). He knows your heart better than I do, but I see an immense amount of good in you, and I don’t see any need for you to fear facing him – less need for such fear than for most people I know. I don’t know that you will or should die single. Whatever the outcome of that is, I wish you safety and happiness. And Mormonism teaches that you will be given the opportunity to accept the covenants we make in our temples, through which you will be given the opportunity to accept an eternal mate if you did not receive such an opportunity in your lifetime. The deciding factor will be whether you have prepared your heart to live a celestial law, and I have no concerns on your behalf in regard to that.

Marie Osmond is a great example of humanity in Mormon life. She is very high profile, and has experienced divorce (twice), depression, and the loss of a gay child to suicide – all things Mormons aren’t supposed to experience – and has done so in the public eye. Many, many experience these things, and seeing her survive them and continue on, and to have the support and love of her family is a great gift to those who are watching her, IMO. I don’t think she’s made every choice correctly, but, as I’ve stated, none of us can. I don’t see her as having ever been the property of either of her husbands. Receiving forgiveness for her choices to marry or divorce stupidly (if she did so – I don’t know enough to know) is her business, but I don’t see anything limiting Jesus from giving it to her if he wishes, and I believe he wishes to forgive everyone if they only would accept the forgiveness. I see her as more comfortable in her skin than she was when she was younger, and that is a sign to me that she has been able to receive some forgiveness for her failures as she has been able to humble herself before God and accept it.

Imperfections are human. Paul said that it was in his weakness that he became strong. I believe him about that.

One Response to “Divorce and Remarriage an Abomination for Mormons? Answering a Christian Friend.”

  1. 1
    Kris Carlstrom says:

    Blain, this is exactly the reason that I came to be a member of LDSDS. These are the words I needed. I joined 8 years ago, and I am happy to consider you AND Teresa to be lifelong friends. I thank you so much for this wonderful insight. It has been 8 years since my divorce, and at that time, I did feel that I had let everyone down… Family, church leaders, friends, etc. And this gives me new insight on why after all these years I am still being judged by people in my ward. I have let go, and I often tell people that I go to church to build my relationship with Heavenly Father and his son, Jesus Christ, and to strengthen my bonds with them, not to impress my neighbors. You have perfectly explained why I feel the way I do. Thank you so much for sharing this.
    Kris

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