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Why are they leaving? Isn’t it bad enough that their family fell apart? Why would they let their religious convictions stray? According to my studies by a survey taken between 2011 and 2015, 95% felt that they were no longer wanted in their “eternal family” oriented wards. The sisters felt that the other sisters feared they would become predatory towards their own husbands by becoming single. They did not feel that their needs were being met.
They complained that they felt like “the elephant in the room.” They felt ostracized, alone, and shunned. It’s true that the word “divorce” scares the average human. The toxicity of the experience would bring only the closest of friends to stay at their side. Others are too fearful. “What if they want to talk about it?” It’s almost like others feel it’s contagious. A deadly plague.
According to studies, few knew of the struggles that were taking place in the marriage, usually for a very long time. The reasons for divorce are varied, but heart breaking. Most assume they just didn’t “kneel by their beds and pray together daily” or “go to the temple often” or “go on their Friday night dates.” In fact, most have done these very things. According to my studies, here are the reasons for divorce in the LDS Community:
Satan is alive and well in targeting LDS families. It is hard to believe that folks who go to church every Sunday can suffer such terrible things in their families. But it is happening, all around us, unfortunately. Struggling families are hard to spot in the Mormon arena. Just because they look all put together when they come to church on Sunday does not mean that all was well at home.
With the rise of pornography addiction came personality disorders, other addictions, infidelity, and abuse. These behaviors usually were followed by plummeting financial priorities. Usually these families struggled through years of reading every book available, and going in and out of counselors and family therapists, and years of fasting and prayers before coming to the realization that it is time to get out for their own safety and sanity.
The worst thing that could happen to these victims after a long spell of trauma at home is to go to church and be judged, and treated differently than before, and gossiped about. It is almost as if we have a culture of “accepted trials.” If you have a loved one die, you get a casserole. If you have a baby, another casserole shows up on your doorstep. If you have cancer, more casseroles. But if you have mental illness, have made mistakes, or go through divorce, no casserole for you. These are not acceptable trials.
A lot of the factors pointing to whether a family is able to “land on their feet” after divorce, and stay active in church has to do with who their support group is. According to the study, the social groups that were the most helpful during divorce:
- FRIENDS OUTSIDE OF THEIR WARD……………………24.81%
- WARD LEADERSHIP……………………………………………….15.50%
- HOME TEACHERS……………………………………………………6.20%
- WARD MEMBERSHIP……………………………………………….5.43%
So, what can we do as ward members to better support those going through divorce, or who have been in the past? Here are some ideas from my studies:
- A listening ear. Often they have been silent for a very long time because we are taught not to complain about our spouse. The decision to split up is a hard one and they often need validation that they are making the right decision, and that they can get through it.
- Personal visits, lunch/dinner together, time spent together. It feels like everyone in their lives goes into hiding when they are going through divorce. Don’t be that friend. Make an extra effort to give them support.
- Phone calls, texts, emails, check ups. “Hey, just wanted to check with you and make sure you are holding up ok. You are in our prayers! We are so sorry you are going through this.” Just check in with them on occasion. Let them know you care.
- Don’t gossip. Allow them their privacy without putting them up on public display with “the latest bit of juicy information.” Many false stories will be circulated by sensationalists. Respect the family by not spreading rumors or passing along, or listening to gossip.
- Treat them like you used to. Don’t be different around them. Don’t be afraid of them. They are still the same people they were before, and are more vulnerable, and hurting more than ever. If you were their friend before, be that true friend now. If you went on outings with them before as couples, don’t exclude them now. If you are their Visiting/Home Teacher, visit monthly, call regularly.
- Don’t judge. There is no way you can know both sides of the story, and how they got to this unhappy place. And it really is not your business. Your job is to support them and love them, regardless of who is at fault. Don’t take sides. It is a terrible trial for both.
- Give them a hug. Physical contact is very limited during this stage of their life, and an appropriate hug is very healing. Touch is powerful. Don’t be afraid to embrace them. It will mean the world to them.
- Pray for them. They will need all the prayers they can get during the court battle, and afterwards, in starting their lives over again.
- If children are involved, volunteer to watch them during attorney meetings or court hearings. As Primary or YW/YM leaders, Home or Visiting Teachers, reach out and give them extra attention and love during this world shattering event in their lives. Let them know you are available anytime they need to talk. As a Priesthood holder, be available to give them blessings when needed.
- Pray to know exactly how each member could be best supported. Some want to be left alone. Others need someone to lean on. One member received flowers and a note from a friend and it meant the world that someone was thinking of her during her darkest time. Heavenly Father knows the needs of these suffering children best, so ask.
“…..Behold a sower went forth to sow, and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up and chocked them; But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.”
Let us be members in a ward family of “good ground” where seeds can put down strong roots and survive trials within the safety of a ward family’s tender embrace. It is so much easier to retain our members than to try to reclaim them once they have tasted the bitter cup, alone, on stony paths where they can be devoured by the world. The best place for recovering from broken families is inside of Christ’s Church. Let’s never be responsible for being thoughtless, unkind, or fearful of our fellow Brothers and Sisters in this unhappy trial of divorce.
Remember, “it takes two”……..to keep a family together. And a loving ward to keep them safe within the bounds of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God bless you in your efforts to love one another as HE has loved us.