#hearLDSwomen: Priesthood Leaders Sided with My Abusive Ex During My Divorce

When I was divorcing an abusive spouse, my church leaders sulked and comforted him, but I was left out in the cold. They didn’t know what to do with me. It was incredibly lonely. My bishop did connect me with a women’s group at the time, I will give him that, but ecclesiastical support was very minimal. It’s why I’m nervous to go through with a sealing cancellation after all these years.
– Anonymous

 

After getting divorced, I was denied multiple times for my request to cancel my temple sealing. MY sealing. But multiple men decided I couldn’t do that. Then, when I was seeking to get remarried in the temple, I was granted a temple divorce and had to write a letter explaining why I got divorced. I kept the letter short, direct, and to the point. Literally, I could have written a novel detailing all of the abuse. After submitting the letter, I got a call from my ex’s stake president thanking me for my words, and then asking me to take it all back. Because I needed to put myself in my ex’s shoes and think about how badly he must feel. He said it was time to stop being selfish and only thinking of myself. My letter could have repercussions on his callings, and I wouldn’t want that, right?!

My abusive ex was protected and I was left feeling completely disregarded. (I did not take back my letter.)
– Anonymous

 

At the end of my marriage, I had gone to my bishop. My husband was laid off from his job and would not give us any of his funds to help with the bills. I was struggling to pay them and knew my husband was very motivated by priesthood authority. I went and humiliated myself and asked for help, and the bishop said that this was a “family thing” and that he was not comfortable getting involved with a priesthood leader in his home. I went home and felt so low, and then a few weeks later without a word to me, they offered my husband the opportunity to be a high priest. I was shocked. My husband came to me and said, “if God had a problem with me keeping my money, do you think He would make me a high priest? The bishop told me he thought it would boost my husband’s confidence.

I felt invisible and that I was not important or valued, but he was.
– Sherry Andersen

 

Pro Tip: Believe women when they say they’ve been abused. Give support and resources when a woman is leaving an abusive spouse.


Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)

 

Photo by Ali Morshedlou on Unsplash

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10 Responses

  1. Men in the church are peers with church leaders, fellow priesthood holders and members of their quorums. And they need other men, to fill all the roles of the church that women aren’t allowed to fill. Church leaders don’t know women as well, since we are banned from serving with them in the priesthood, and they don’t need women as much, because we aren’t allowed to fill the many male-only callings in the church. Add to that that men may better understand the perspective of another man over that of someone of the opposite sex, and this whole system is set up to ensure that men are believed and nurtured over women.

  2. Dani Addante says:

    They made him high priest to boost his confidence? That’s awful. What about the woman’s feelings? That Bishop was completely blind.

  3. Mary says:

    I didn’t feel like re-typing my comments, so I did a cut and paste on my comment from another thread. The rewards my ex received were being called to the Elders Quorum Presidency by one bishop. The bishop who had him bless, the sacrament, gave him a temple recommend, used visiting teaching, home teaching and various activities to stalk me on my ex’s behalf and feed him information about us all while this bishop kept from me that my ex had been excommunicated. This bishop did nothing to hold my ex’s feet to the fire when he was deadbeat and committing fraud. A ward member threatened my son and this bishop called that person to the Primary. A later bishop tried to explain that they were trying to make my ex feel loved through the repentance process. Another bishop gave him a second wife in the eternities. Congratulations, my ex feels loved.

    Here’s the post. Sorry for its length.

    …The other night, I went to the mailbox and there was an envelope addressed to me in my former husband’s handwriting, but the return address was a bishop’s office. The letter was a formal request for reinstatement of priesthood and temple blessings and a sealing clearance. The letter wanted to know how I felt.

    To be clear. He wasn’t excommunicated for abusing us. He was excommunicated, because he was living in sin with a woman who wasn’t a member. The report is that she is very nice, but wasn’t interested in Mormonism. He eventually married her and then he was rebaptized. He sent us a copy of his talk he delivered in Sacrament meeting after his rebaptism. In all capital letters he stated that the Stake President had said that ALL HIS SINS had been forgiven. It was news to me he’d even been excommunicated and I can tell you we never received any kind of phone call from this all knowing Stake President inquiring as to whether any kind of restitution or repentance had taken place with us.

    How do I feel knowing the man that tried to kill my younger son and beat my older son will be having his sealing to his sons restored?

    How do I feel knowing the man who abused me and tried to systematically destroy my personhood will have his sealing to me restored?

    How do I feel knowing that the man who raped me will be sealing himself to another potential victim?

    How do I feel when I have had the responsibility of being a single mother while he has taken off and been entirely free to live with a woman and enjoy her without any commitment to her and been able to travel to foreign countries and have a terrific time while I am dealing with broken pipes, and dentists? How do I feel when I told my bishop there is only one way to truly be free of abuse and not have it in your life that he then renewed my former husband’s temple recommend and had him bless the Sacrament every week until he moved out of the ward?

    How do I feel knowing that I am the one who was abused and who watched my children be abused–because standing up to my abuser made him worse–who suffered financial loss and responsibility gain, who has been shunned by my ward? How do I feel as time and time again, I see my former husband getting rewarded as my children and I are simply brushed aside? How did I feel as I handed my son the letter to read about his father asking for his blessings to be restored and I see my son pass out as he’s reading the letter? I literally watch him stiffen up and every lanky inch of his nearly 7′ frame stiffen up and fall to the floor at the news his father is being rewarded by this church, again. How do I feel?

    Of course, I didn’t write one single word of that in my response. I know they don’t really care and they’re just going to do what they want to do. The only reason they want to know my feelings is so they can inform my bishop who will call me into his office and browbeat (preach long-sufferingly and patiently), gaslight and mansplain to me until I either succumb or agree just to get him to stop talking and leave me alone. The bishop could call to my remembrance, Elder Holland’s talk about the Prodigal Son and remind me that every robe in the closet and every ring in the drawer is mine. However, in my case–a woman’s case–in the Celestial Kingdom, every robe in the closet and every ring in the drawer is not mine. They are my former husband’s. His to let me have access to according to his good grace and, instead of my being the sole beneficiary I will now have to share those robes and those rings.

    How do I feel? I will tell you how I feel. I feel forsaken. I feel shafted. I feel completely and totally eff-ed by this church.

  4. Annonymous says:

    My son was abused by his wife mentally, physically and spiritually. He was told he had to keep going back every time he left. He left the church and his wife when he couldn’t do it anymore. Unfortunately he suffered from anxiety so severe he could not work or even be around people at all. I spoke to an LDS therapist who told me no one should ever tell anyone to stay in a relationship like that. After being hospitalized twice and a few years later he is working and doing much better.. starting to rebuild his life. I do hope one day he comes back to church because before he got married he was very happy being a member. But the abuse goes both ways and no matter what is told to someone they have to make their own choices. Even if they are church leaders whom I respect.. they are still just human and make mistakes. I am sorry for the women who feel they have been mistreated.. it is wrong.. but again they are just men.. priesthood holders but men.

    • Mary says:

      One day, I was telling the man who was my ex some new information about my father’s mistress. That my father had abused her, too. My former husband shrugged his shoulders and said, “oh well, women can take a lot of abuse and they’re okay”.

      My jaw dropped and I just looked at him flabbergasted and walked away. Later, he came up to me and said, “I’m sorry you were offended at what I said, but they’re your feelings and you need to deal with them”.

      That’s how your comment of your being sorry if I felt I was mistreated came across to me. I get that bishops are just humans and we need to forgive. Did you read the part where I said my ex tried to kill our son? There comes a point where we need to stop saying the bishops are human and we need to start facing the hard truth the system is flawed, fatally flawed. This isn’t about the bishops. This has been going on too long and is too widespread. This is about the system.

    • ElleK says:

      I absolutely agree that we need to extend grace to people for being human, but as Mary stated, these stories (your son’s included) demonstrate a deeply flawed system that facilitates tragedies like these over and over again. The system is broken. With changes in policies, proper training of leaders, and accountability/oversight, stories like these would be much less common.

      • Mary says:

        Absolutely. I’m sorry for what Annonymous’s son experienced. Even one time–be it at the hands of a man or a woman–is one time too many and it indicates an area where improvements need to be made.

    • Anna says:

      I’m sorry for what your son experienced, but did you notice he got rotten advice from priesthood leaders about staying and forgiving and getting abused more? This is the problem we are complaining about here. Bishops have no training and tell people to stay in an abusive marriage, because the only thing the church bothers to train them in is that marriage is sacred and that they must never break up a marriage. But the training they lack is that when there is abuse, no matter the gender of the abuser, the marriage is already near irreparable. The only sound advice is that they need to think seriously about divorce, because abusers need help, but almost always refuse to seek counseling.

      It isn’t one bad bishop. But a systemic problem that bishops are told they can get inspiration in cases of “bad marriages” so they think that the ideas that pop not their heads are the right answers straight from God. The church teaches them this. And while bishops can get inspiration, it also takes “studying it out in their minds” and looking to professionals for help to get good inspiration.

      But it is worse for women than men, because bishops at least have the experience of being men, so they have a starting point with the idea of how would they feel if their wife constantly said horrible things and threw frying pans at him, or attacked him with a knife.

      My experience at a battered women’s (and we counseled with male victims as well as women) shelter in Utah was that most most of the men were told to seriously consider divorce, while almost all the women were told to go home and forgive, and the battered husband got more support during and after a divorce than a battered wife did. So, women are hurt worse by the church’s system.

      Yes, men get abused too, but it is mostly emotional or battering that goes both ways. (Men are stronger and usually fight back and the woman ends up injured worse) Women are injured more often, more seriously, killed more often, harmed more financially by leaving, and given much much less support from the church.

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