In this three-part episode, long-time listener Glenn brings on his divorced parents and fellow siblings to discuss their family’s divorce from an LDS perspective.
Tags: divorce, family, john dehlin, LDS, Mormon
I’m two thirds through the Podcast and really enjoying it. So far, my favorite line, “If only one of our parents had left the church, it would have been so much easier (laughter).” There you have it, the Mormon mentality. Divorce happens because of sin, or apostasy from the church. It can never happen, because two people simply grow apart. Outside of Mormonism, your personal relationship to God is often individualistic. No one enters heaven via the long coat-tails of someone else. I look forward to part III, I admire the openness of this family. I don’t see them as a former family. I see them as individuals sharing with us, a perplexing condition now seen fairly often. Shalom in advance.
The tone began fairly uncomfortably and had uncomfortable moments, but that raw authenticity of family dynamics was what made it so enjoyable.
I found myself having many mixed feelings about the father. He struck me as unpleasant at first, but as it when on I felt sympathetic for him having to be on this podcast at all, not only having to rehash what must have been a very painful experience of being left by a wife who revealed she never loved him, but to do in a public forum and that I couldn’t expect to much from him because of it. Though his poor me behavior when his kids disagreed with him about things was off putting.
Much of this podcast was only nominally about Mormonism and more about this particular family’s issues, but of course many of those issues were based on their being Mormon. This has been one of the more unusual Mormon Stories podcast, in my opinion. I enjoyed it very much, but in a different way than other ones.
One part I would like to comment on is where john says ‘I don’t think there is anybody who would say Mormonism gets family wrong for the most part’ then goes on to list several elements where Mormonism get’s family wrong. (pressure to get married, encouraging marriage at too young an age, pressure of callings etc.)
Might I add other ways Mormonism get’s family wrong: Requiring women to covenant to obey their husbands, overly stigmatizing divorce, devaluing non-traditional families, particularly homosexual ones.
I would go so far as to say that Mormonism gets families more wrong than right. Obviously their encouraging of families to be close and value each other is positive, but I believe it to be outweighed by their unhealthy family values. This particular podcast illustrates how the Church’s over emphasis on particular family forms can be harmful to those who aren’t able to fit the mold. Even though this couple has had such a positive experience through their divorce they still say they don’t ‘believe in it’. Were the Church to have a different approach towards families and divorce they wouldn’t need to maintain this dissonance.
I would like to say that the father did a good job at not placing blame on the mother, even though he probably could have easily done so, having been the one who was left. I thought his not bad mouthing of her was admirable.
I’m surprised this episode hasn’t garnered more attention since this is such a huge issue within Mormonism. It was fascinating to hear a family re-process through what happened to them (individually and collectively) through a divorce process. I really appreciate Glenn taking the time and effort to set this up. This couldn’t have been easy for him to convince his family to do this — and it couldn’t have been easy for them to agree to it. So, my kudos and thanks to all of them. This was a window into a world I am living in right now.
I do want to take issue with one thing John Dehlin said as he was moderating this panel. “We can all agree that Mormonism does family right” (or something close to that). Nope. I have to emphatically disagree.
A church that demands 10% of your earnings (which can be as much as 50% or more of your discretionary income after you pay the essentials such as the mortgage and utilities and such) is not a family-friendly church.
A church that demands that you freely give 5, 10, 20 or even more hours per week to a “calling,” which prevents you from spending time with your family is not a family-friendly church.
A church that intentionally divides families by castigating heretic or apostate members of your family as lesser people is not a family-friendly church.
A church that actively encourages young people who are not emotionally, financially, or otherwise ready to get married to not only get married, but “not delay” in starting a family is not family-friendly.
Sorry, John, the church does not “do families” well. It is intrusive and divisive. And that, in my humble opinion, is a huge part of divorce. It sets up many families to fail, not succeed.
John was misquoted by Swearing Elder. John said that “I think we can all agree that the LDS Church CAN do family right” (emphasis added). I think this same statement can be made for any Christian church. Whether you are religious or not, I don’t think that you can argue that the teachings of Jesus (I call these the “primary principles” of the LDS Church) wouldn’t be beneficial within the family or marriage environment. Now, that said, I understand that some “secondary principles” of the LDS Church can add burdens to a family and a marriage (service and tithing are two examples). I’ll even concede that the CHurch can be intrusive at times. However, I highly doubt that most LDS divorces happen as a result of not paying tithing, time spent serving to the Church, or even the castigation of “apostate or heretic” family members that have left the church. In fact, I would be willing to bet that the reasons that LDS marriage ends correlates very closely with why any other marriage ends.
that was the same thing my comment was about!
I don’t want to belabor this point of how the Lds Church gets families wrong, but I hold in my hand a book published by Byu titled ‘Latter-day Saint Social Life’, which includes an interesting survey related to this topic.
The book is a collection of sociological studies of the Latter Saint population as compared with the general population and other religious groups.
Tucked in the end notes of one chapter are the results of a study, which isn’t mentioned within the text.
The issue is, ‘Mean Times Per Month with Child(hours)’:
Lds men spend about 4.1 hrs/month having private talks with their children, Non-lds spend 5.4.
Lds women spend 8.8 hrs/month while non-lds spend 9.9.
Lds father spend 4.7 hrs/month helping with homework, Non-lds-5.8
Lds mothers spend 11.6 hrs/month non-lds 11.1
These differences are not huge, but meaningful. If the Church’s emphasis on family were a necessary and productive thing, we would expect Lds parents to spend more time than non-Lds, with their children than rather than equal or less.
The reason’s are easy to imagine. Being a member of the Church requires many time commitments which allow less energy and moments to be spent with family.
It seems to me, the one area the Church get’s families right (encouraging time together etc) is something people already know and do without needing be told, yet is hindered by Church activity.
Quality, awkward, revealing, and enlightening podcast.
I come from a sealed and divorced true-believing LDS family. My mother is on her third marriage and still sealed to my father (whatever that still means), my father remarried and had two additional sons, he passed away shortly after I returned from my mission. I now have my own small family of three and find myself in a whole new area of coming to grips with my experience. Along the same lines as “I don’t believe in divorce but I am thankful for it,” I find myself relying on a saying that “no marriage ever began with the intention of divorce.” Somehow that creates some clarity for me, but I can’t put my finger as to why.
My most tender confusion with my experience actually delves into the question of repentance and acceptance. Clear on-going sexual abuse was at the basis of the break-up in the family. Within the world of the church though, my father was able to find a new life, he married a much younger wife (continue the stereotype found on “Modern Family,” it fits here) and started a new family, a sort of “re-do” family. He was accepted in his new ward and apparently well-respected. Whenever I would visit him he would often be praised an adored in his new ward. I always found vivid dissonance thinking about the contrast of experience in the church toward my father and mother. I thought I believed in repentance and was on the surface please to see my father finding acceptance, but I also found it bitingly odd that my father had such an easier time starting afresh in the church community than my mother.
My father, the abuser, and my mother, the protector and victim, had what I would call unjust rewards for their behavior. Dad being unjustly unquestioned in his ward and mom being unjustly suspect as the divorcee in her ward. Is this a mormon issue? A question of geography with dad in California and mom in Utah? Is it a gender issue and our perception of men and women in the church? My mom sometimes referred to the handling of the abuse within the church as influence of the “good old boys club.” Of slapping a hand and bringing him back in with as little discomfort as possible.
This podcast was nicely appropriate as to its civility by the causes and means of the divorce. I loved it for revealing how to handle issues of when the ideal pattern was followed, reality hit and struggle for reconciliation back to the pattern.
I’m all over the place with this post. There is a peek into my Mormon Story with divorce.
The Mormon experience with divorce is broad and complex.
Well, THAT was akward. Not sure I wanted to be the fly on that wall….
It’s not awkward, it’s life. Sincere kudos to all who stepped up and made themselves available. Maybe John can get Al and Tipper on next to describe what it’s like after forty years.
It’s awkward and it’s life. I don’t really understand the drive that made me want to do this and I am still in a bit of shock that my parents agreed — it’s cuz they love us and wanted to show that love. But I think it has been good, so far, for all of us. It opened some discussions that had otherwise been unopened for far too long — and now we have a good reason to call up out of the blue and talk – “what kind of reaction are you getting, etc etc.” I hope its helpful to listeners as well. At the very least I hope it is entertaining. I enjoyed it and have shared it with my kids (13, 9, 6) and they enjoyed it, too. They knew their grandparents were divorced, of course, but never really knew anything about it. And by the way, if anyone is curious to hear the muppet sing, I have a rainbow video on my blog.
Just wonderful. Deeply insightful and thoughtful people. I can relate more than I can say.
This was a great program. I appreciate that you try to interview people with such a wide variety of experiences and view points.
As for how right (or wrong) the Church gets families, I wont try to quantify, but after having been out for a number of years, I think the affects of having left have been overwhelmingly positive. On a temporal level we have had more time and money and far less stress and tension. On a spiritual and emotional level I feel we are more tolerant and loving with each other. Leaving was the right choice at the time and the years since have confirmed that decision.
Keep up the great work!
Thanks to everyone who participated in this podcast. It was an excellent glimpse into a deeply personal and important issue. I appreciate your willingness to share this experience with me so that I can learn from it. Thanks.
Glenn and family – thank you. This is amazing. I am sure there are many who will benefit from this discussion. My parents divorced after 22 yrs of marriage with some of the same threads – marriage looked good on paper, both “strong” in the church, seemed affectionate toward each other, dad surprised by mom’s “sudden” realization that she has been miserable.
This interview has been helped me clarify some of my own thoughts and questions that have been left in the shadows. The fact that other people have had similar thoughts / reactions / questions of faith is comforting. Thank you for that.
This is incredible. Kudos to all the family for putting this out for all of us to learn from. I appreciate your openness; it has enriched my life.
Commenting on the Mormon approach to families, I would qualify John’s remark a little: “Mormons often get the theory behind heterosexual, monogamous couples with traditional expectations right.” We preach a lifestyle that suits certain good, simple people really well; we do not always practice what we preach. The lifestyle we preach is not the one-size-fits-all that church headquarters claims: it really only works well for those who are naturally suited to it (as many of us, including John, are). So I agree with John and with his critics. Hopefully as the church matures it will adapt its theories to match healthy realities in the world (embracing a less restrictive view of the family that the famous “Proclamation” encodes, for example). Meantime, I do not want to pretend that it does not help anyone at all: are we so sure that all Mormons would be better off ditching their concept of family (which likely includes some good things–love, compassion, trust, loyalty, etc.–in addition to the overly strict gender roles, misunderstanding of human sexuality, and overemphasis on infantile obedience).
Great podcast. It really demonstrated the necessity of picking the right spouse the first time around. While sometime necessary, divorce is a painful path that creates wounds that can never truly be healed.
I have come to realize that there are differences between “eternal families“ and “eternal marriages.“ The official LDS church may tend to promulgate a much narrower notion of the concept of “family” as being more exclusive than it really may be in the “eternities.” The notion that “families are forever” holds true for me far more than “marriages are forever.”
When a divorce occurs in a family, and especially when there is offspring, this family never ends, it is just rearranged in a different way. To consider that the vital aspects of a family ceases to be because a legal document declares the end of a legal “marriage,” or a letter from a particular department at LDS church headquarters declares a cancelation of sealing, is absurd in the extreme. Again, marriages end, never families.
Civil divorce and cancellation of sealing in the LDS church is allowed because of the hardness of the peoples’ hearts, “but in the beginning it was not so.” It is a convention reflecting the social fabric of our day and the peoples’ mind-sets that ensue. However, “in the end,” i.e., after our sojourns on earth, do you really think that two people who were married “for time and eternity,” had children, but then ended up getting a divorce and a cancellation of sealing are going to be in the highest heaven together ***and not love each other*** notwithstanding what happened during the rigors, follies, etc, of earth life?
The ***specific*** sealing may have been be cancelled, but not the sealing ***power***. Only unrighteousness can so-called “cancel” or nullify that ***power***. A person is saved in righteousness, which effectuates the sealing ***power*** and not whether or not he or she had a divorce or cancellation of a specific sealing. In the eternities of the highest heaven there will be only those who can manifest a type of perfect love within a state of a type of perfect righteousness that is hard for many of us to fathom while we “look through a glass darkly.” In the societies of the gods having had a divorce or specific cancellation of sealing won’t mean a hill of beans, HOWEVER, the malevolent, selfish, sinful and other contemptible agendas or reasons for that divorce, and if wasn’t eventually reconciled may have mighty implications and residual effects for some members of that family. And that is not an easy row to hoe and sometimes puts the principals at greater risk in losing their salvation than had they learned to cope (LOVE) and “endure to the end.”
My thoughts only on this subject and I apologize for having come across as being so didactic, but sometimes I am dismayed that there is not more instruction in our church lesson manuals about this. I think the reason for the absence of these teaching is because the Brethren fear that it will open the gates wider for even more divorces to occur.
Paul I appreciate what you said and how you said it ………It puts a whole different aspect on my future divorce. thank you
Another great one, John!
Glenn & Family,
Thank You for being willing to participate! I loved how honest and loving you were towards each other!
I took a couple things away from listening, “I don’t want to hurt, but can not be silent!” This is a great way to put it, you don’t want to intentionally hurt anyone, especially a member of your family, but you can’t sacrifice yourself to avoid the hurt!
I loved Mom’s comment on how she views Testing, as a scientific experiment! I’ve always viewed it as a test, in the traditional educational way, either you pass or your fail! I’m trying to incorporate this view into my life now, what a stress relief to let go of trying to do perfect on every test!
I agree with many of the comments above, Mormons do family well, but not perfect! The church takes a lot of time and money away from the family, but it also provides a place to grow and learn as a family. The church doesn’t do part member families well; being the only convert in my family, I was often encouraged to move and leave my family if they would not convert to the church because their influence would not be good on me.
I’ve reconnected with my family as I’ve gone inactive from the church, and we have our issues as all families do, and even though we are not united in faith or by covenants, we are united in our love for one another!
Glenn, I admire your candor and the courage it took for your family to come together in such an open forum. In my own family with two married parents I’m not so sure we could be so honest and naked with one another about our lives, let alone to be recorded discussing tough issues. Is the experience itself what was required to get your family to a place to be so honest? Maybe an irrelevant question because regardless this took guts. Thanks for putting it together.
I loved the podcast. My inlaws divorced after 25 years of marriage. What was so devasting about the divorce was the my FIL was a seminary teacher, upon separation he was fired. What does this say about how the Church does families right? How does firing seminary teachers reflect on the LDS Church? What message did this send to the youth who come from divorced families? IMHO there is room for a whole lot of dysfunction instead of honesty when a family is financially held hostage by marriage.
After hearing the dad talk, I went to my wife and said “I’m sorry I am a man.” I then told her to give me a list (we’ve been happily married–at least pretend happily– 35 years) of things she would like me to work on. I told her I’ll tell you the things I can’t change and the things I can work on at this time.
Another podcast not to be found anywhere else……..thanks, John.
That was extremely awkward to listen to. I felt like a voyeur…
However, I am sure it was helpful to many who have had similar experiences.
You left us on a cliffhanger. So what happened with these lists? What was on them? Were they well received? Did it make a difference for good or bad? Is what you did something you would recommend?
This episode irritated me to no end. My parents divorced when I was 11. The only similarity between the situations is divorce. Our situation is almost totally opposite. So congrats to you but I still hate being around my folks and my step-parents. I guess I was hoping this podcast would help me not avoid them as much. The only worthy comment by Dad was his very last comment. Otherwise he was an aggravating lawyer to the core. The sibs are excellent examples of forgiveness for sure.
You are reminding me of a Leo Tolstoy quote:
“Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
My listening cycle is quite a bit behind, and I’m just in the middle of the set right now. It’s been quite a difficult listen, because I can so relate to the people speaking, most painfully with your dad. I didn’t make it anywhere near 27 years together with my wife, but when he says that 20 years were good and then 7 were hard, and she says it was hard the whole time, I get a really clear understanding of what was going on — she was giving herself up over and over and he was just enjoying that things seemed to be going his way. So, when that quit working, and she started wanting things to be different, he just wanted everything to go back to to the way they were, and that just doesn’t work. He has reason to feel deceived and lied to, and it was all done trying to be for his benefit, and she paid the price for her “sin” in that every day (but not every minute). Until it was just so broken that they couldn’t pretend anymore. She couldn’t pretend anymore. And everybody had to deal with the wreckage that they just couldn’t keep from falling all over everybody. It’s painful, and deeply embarrassing.
And he doesn’t understand what went wrong or why. He accepts, theoretically, that he could have done better, but honestly doesn’t know what. As far as he’s concerned, he did everything right, and it was her use of free agency that stole from him what he thought he should have. What he thought he had, but never really did.
I run into folks like both of them on the divorce lists all the time. I plan to do a show with John about that sometime. Probably should do it sometime soon. I can sometimes get through to them with some useful pieces, but it’s hard. And I’m only dealing with them in a text environment — listening to their voices was a lot harder than just reading it on the screen.
Might have more to say when I finish listening. But thanks for putting this together — it’s valuable.
The mom is a selfish jerk.
I’m *way* behind on my listening cycle, so of course no one will read this. However, this has been one of my favorite podcasts. My heart goes out to each and every family member. Articulate, thoughtful, honest people, each and every one. I find myself wondering how much damage has been done overall by the words of a very good man, president Kimball, who indicated that any two people could make a good marriage if they tried hard enough. Some people are just not compatible. All marriages take work, but underneath all the grind and trial, the couples should enjoy each other. There must be communication, tenderness, trust, and fun. I am glad that this has worked out for everyone concerned.
I’ve only had the chance to listen to the first episode. Even so, I can’t begin to tell you how helpful this has been for me. I appreciate this ‘family’ sharing these candid & vulnerable experiences. Thank you so much.
I am currently “studying out in my mind” whether or not I should divorce my husband of 23 years and these podcasts were very helpful. They gave me a tremendous perspective on how it effects each member of the family. I have 3 teenagers, including a 19 year old son who is leaving on a mission soon. I currently stay in the marriage because I do not want to devastate my children. Yet, I earnestly desire to be in a healthy, happy relationship like the mom and dad here found with their current spouses. Thank you for giving me so much to think about.
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