Viewpoints and Facts about Mormon Divorce
Here in So Cal, several of my LDS grad student friends (who run the gamut in church activity) gather weekly to discuss various Mormon themed topics. We each pick a week, a subject, some articles and then sit down for an hour and a half to have an invigorating discussion.
Today was my day, and I chose divorce. I was inspired by Oaks’ GC talk which I felt made some great points:
- “In ancient times and even under tribal laws in some countries where we now have members, men have power to divorce their wives for any trivial thing. Such unrighteous oppression of women was rejected by the Savior”
- “To avoid so-called “incompatibility,” they should be best friends, kind and considerate, sensitive to each other’s needs, always seeking to make each other happy. They should be partners in family finances, working together to regulate their desires for temporal things.”
And also some points that troubled me, of which the following was the most striking
- “A woman who persisted in an intolerable marriage for many years until the children were raised explained: “There were three parties to our marriage—my husband and I and the Lord. I told myself that if two of us could hang in there, we could hold it together.” (italics mine)
The above illustration of a woman who chose to stay in a horrific marriage made me very concerned for women and men who endure marriages – intolerable marriages – filled with perpetual unkindness, humiliation, and more, because one spouse and the Lord are hanging in there.
What was your reaction to Oaks’ talk as a whole? Any other portions that particularly struck you?
Structural Weaknesses in Mormon Marriage
During our discussion I brought up Harold T. Christensen’s 1970’s article, “Stress Points in Mormon Family Culture,” which details a few reasons as to why Mormons were particularly prone to divorce at that time:
1. premature marriages brought about by raging hormones, sexual guilt, pre-marital preganacies, and glamorized visions of marriage and love
2. underplanned parenthood in which Mormons become disillusioned with the reality of raising large families
3. the authoritarian family structure in which females have been socialized into roles of dependency and in which men are taught to be the ultimate authority in the home, which often leads to women feeling unfairly dictated to.
Several members of the group agreed that some of these structural weaknesses in Mormon marriages have improved over the last 30 years, and Amelia added another weakness – sexual incompatibility regarding expectations- that has decimated a few of her friends’ marriages.
Can you think of any other structural weaknesses in contemporary Mormon marriages that can often lead to divorce or difficulty? How pertinent are the ones listed above?
Some facts about Mormon divorce (most gleaned from the Encylclopedia of Mormonism from the early 90’s)
- Brigham Young was divorced a number of times, usually quite amicably
- There was a high rate of divorce among polygamists from 1847-1877
- In 1920, there were 3 times as many divorces outside the church as inside the church
- Mormons today are as likely as other Americans to get divorced, though there divorce rates are slightly higher in the first three years and slightly lower afterwards. About 26% of Mo and non-Mo have been divorced
- There are higher rates of divorce for Mo’s who marry before 20 and after 30, have less than a college education, or marry outside the faith.
- There are higher incidents of divorce among Mo’s who marry within the faith, but not in the temple. Perhaps 5x more likely.
- 1/3 of female headed Mormon households (usually because of divorce) are living in poverty despite a high rate of employment among these single mothers.
- Divorced members have lower religious participation than married ones
Do any of these facts surprise you in any way? (I was struck by the 1/3 of female headed LDS households that are living in poverty. This is a testament to me personally of the importance of women getting an education.)