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In the 1969 speech “The Loneliness of Leadership“, Gordon Hinckley discusses the loneliness that leaders feel-both spiritual leaders and secular leaders and how true leaders stand up for what they believe to be right regardless of consequences. Examples he uses include Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and recent converts to the Church who are ostracized and cast out for their belief.

He concludes with the following:

I like these great words of the Lord given to those who would go out and teach this gospel:

I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up. [D&C 84:88]

I think that is a promise to each of us. I believe it; I know it. I bear testimony of its truth to you this day.

After reading this, I thought about times in my life when I’ve had to stand up for what I believed to be right, according to what I felt that God had put in my heart.

Joining the Mormon Church

When I was 9 years old, my parents divorced and I moved with my mother to another state. We had been raised members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), but after the divorce we gradually quit attending church.

I remember my mother inviting people over and having study sessions on why the Mormon religion is false and although I don’t think she knew I was listening, it did have an affect on me. Also, she confided in me a lot of negative information about my father that influenced my opinion of him as a person. He remained a practicing Mormon, so as a child, I blamed the Mormon church as well as all of the negative things that I heard in my home about Mormons. I hated Mormons.

At school I would bully them. Tease them. Gradually, it evolved into where I was not only teasing Mormons, but all people of faith. I was very young-11 years old- but I was getting involved in drinking, vandalism, and heading down a very negative path.

One day my mother came to me and told me that I should go and visit my father as I hadn’t seen him in 2 years because of my hatred for him and his religion. I told her I didn’t want to go, but she told me that legally I needed to and also it would be good for me. Looking back, I think she recognized a lot of the negative things in my life and thought I needed a father figure.

Before I left, she sat me down in the my bedroom that was in the garage of our old house and told me that when I visited my father that he would try and make me go to church with him. She told me that I didn’t have to go and to make sure that whatever I do I didn’t become Mormon. I looked at her confused and wondered why she would even worry about that because that was the last thing I wanted to do. I just wanted to have the 2 week trip over with.

To make a long story short, I visited my Dad. I noticed a very peaceful feeling almost immediately when I was in his home. Something I didn’t realize I had been craving. I also noticed that he wasn’t as bad as I had been told and that he was actually a very sincere and fun person to be around. He had remarried and my new step-mom was very kind and patient.

The other thing I realized was that the Mormon church wasn’t bad. In fact, I felt peace there that I hadn’t felt anywhere else (when we left the Mormon church, we went “church shopping” to a bunch of churches like Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, non-denominational, etc). After only a short time, the Holy Spirit shared with me a vision of my life and what would come of it if I stayed with my mother in that situation at the time, or moved in with my Dad. It was clear to me and I feel blessed that the Lord put it into my heart that I needed to join the Mormon church and also live with my Dad.

When I had the conversation with my mom, I knew that if I came back home with her, I was too weak at the time to stand up for what I had felt in my heart and I would fall back into my bad friends and behavior. I told her I was staying with Dad. She and I had a big blow-out conversation on the phone that ended with her telling me that if I went back to the Mormon church and my Dad she wouldn’t talk with me again. That hurt me deeply, but I knew what God had put in my heart and I had faith that I should follow that. So I chose to stay with my Dad.

Years later, after I had experienced a lot of psychological and emotional pain (which I wrote about in my book Discovering Light: 12 Steps to Overcoming Anxiety and Depression without Medication), I realized I needed to make amends with my mother and forgive her. Funny thing was that she put the blame back on me by saying I imagined that she had said that. I’ve forgiven her regardless and I’m very glad that I made that difficult decision years ago because it has changed my life a lot.

Other Experiences

Since becoming a Mormon, I have had to walk a lonely road at times. I haven’t been perfect by any means, but largely the Lord has blessed me.

There were times in college when young ladies wanted to sleep with me and I turned them down because of what I believe.

There were times in Europe when I was working after having served a mission in Germany where I was ridiculed and cast out of a home I was staying in because I wouldn’t drink with them.

In my career, I’ve found that people are very accepting for the most part, of my beliefs and I’ve made some great friends as I don’t shy away from my faith, but stand up for it. I’ve found that for the most part, people are drawn to that.

Most importantly, I’ve found that I feel the Lord’s comfort and Spirit come over me in a way that I can’t describe as I’ve been all alone and decided to stand up for what I feel is right. I’ve found that Heavenly Father surrounds us with love when we do this and we come to know Him as a father more deeply in these times.

Your Turn

I’ve shared a few examples of standing up for truth and your beliefs and how God blessed my life.

I’m sure that you have some stories as well. We would all love to hear them, so please share.

I was out with the sister missionaries the other night visiting a family they are teaching.  The family is a great young couple just starting out in life in their early 20’s.  They are very new in their careers and have all the aspirations that young couples have such as: earning enough money to live comfortably, raising children, and making their dreams come true in life.

While I was there, I felt that I needed to ask them why they are meeting with the missionaries?  She said it is because she sees how happy people who have faith are and she wants that in her life and in the lives of her children.  Her husband, once was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (i.e. Mormon).  He said that he decided around the age of 18 that he wasn’t going to stay active as a member of the church.  However, after a few years he notices a void in his life and said that he also shares the same desire and knows he will “come back” someday.

They also shared experiences they have had learning about the Gospel from his parents, who are active church members.  We read scripture together and I shared some stories of my conversion.  He then shared a story of revelation that had come into his life at a young age and shared a witness of God answering prayers.  He also said he felt a desire to pray and read scripture with his wife, which they never have done.

jm_300_BOM3.p-P1.tiffAfter the meeting, I couldn’t help but think that this meeting must have been an answer to the prayers of his parents.  I also thought of my own conversion story as well as that of Alma the Younger’s in the scriptures, where the children, who are rebellious are saved through the faith and prayers of their parents.

Since you can read about Alma’s conversion story, I’ll briefly share my story and how it relates to my father.

My Conversion Story

After my parents’ divorce I became very rebellious at a young age.  Although I was very young, I was getting into some very bad addictive habits and I was angry at my father, God, and especially anything related to the Mormon Church.

One summer, my mother persuaded me to go and visit my Dad, which I did reluctantly.  The one thing I didn’t want to do was go to church, which I knew my Dad was actively involved in.  Upon my dismay, he told me that as long as I was staying with him, I had to go to church.  So I did and hated it.

However, after a few days I started to notice something and my heart started to change.  I noticed my Dad wasn’t what I thought he was and he actually cared for me.  I noticed a feeling of love and peace in his home that I hadn’t felt in a long, long time.  After staying with him for a couple of weeks, my heart had changed so much that I knew I wanted to live with him in an environment that was away from the bad friends and influences I had without a father figure in my life.  I also started reading scripture and praying and God softened my heart through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When I told my father all of this, he started to cry tears of joy and told me he had been praying for this to happen as he saw me slipping into a dark place.  As I look back on things, I realize that it was indeed a miracle because I had no intentions of ever coming back.  It was solely through my father’s faith that I was blessed with the grace of the Good Lord to experience what I did at that time and have experienced many times since then.

This message is to all of you parents out there who may have a child who has made some wrong turns.  My heart goes out to you as I am a father of young children.  At their tender ages, I can’t imagine them making bad choices as they are so innocent and full of love and life.  If you have older children who have strayed, I’m sure you see your older children and remember them when they were young and so close to God.  Don’t give up hope.  The lives of the young couple I met with this week with the missionaries, Alma the Younger in the scriptures, and my own life are testimonies that through the faith of parents’ sincere prayers, our children can return once again to light and truth from God.

If you are like me, there have been times in your life when you have prayed for an answer over and over and it appears that no one is listening.  Sometimes you may wonder if there is even a God at all.  Sometimes you may wonder if the Divine experiences and revelations you have received were something contrived by your own mind, or not.  Some may feel they haven’t ever felt God’s love in their life due to terrible circumstances. If you feel that God isn’t answering your prayers, ther is a great talk by Neal A Maxwell, former Mormon apostle: “Thanks be to God“.

Here’s an excerpt taken from the talk:

Yes, even in our prayers, we can, unintentionally, ask “amiss.” (2 Ne. 4:35.) No wonder humility is such an everlasting virtue. For us to accept God’s “No” as an affirmative indication of his love—rather than a lack thereof—and as a signal that we have asked amiss, this is true humility!

How often have you and I in our provincialism prayed to see ahead and, mercifully, have been refused, lest our view of the present be blurred?

How many times have we been blessed by not having our prayers answered, at least according to the specifications set forth in our petitions?

How many times have frustrating, even gruelling, experiences from which we have sought relief turned out, later on, to have been part of a necessary preparation which led to much more happiness?

“And now when Alma heard this … he beheld that their afflictions had truly humbled them, and that they were in a preparation to hear the word.” (Alma 32:6; italics added.)

How many times have we impatiently expressed our discontent with seemingly ordinary and routine circumstances which were divinely designed, shaping circumstances for which, later on, we were very grateful? Alas, have there perhaps not also been those times when we have been grumpy with God or, unlike Job, even “charged God foolishly”? (Job 1:22.) How many times, naively, have we vigorously protested while on our way to a blessing?

Therefore, our faith in and thanksgiving for Heavenly Father, so far as this mortal experience is concerned, consists—not simply of a faith and gladness that he exists—but also includes faith and thanksgiving for his tutoring of us to aid our acquisition of needed attributes and experiences while we are in mortality. We trust not only the Designer but also his design of life itself—including our portion thereof!

I really like this quote because many times in my life I’ve prayed for something I think I wanted and God was patiently waiting for me to be ready to receive it. 

For example, I prayed for a number of years to meet a good lady to marry and start a family with.  However, whenever I met a lady who I thought would be good, I felt God was telling me to wait.  Sometimes I would try and force a relationship against the will of God and of course the relationship wouldn’t work.  It wasn’t until I humbled myself and realized I had some personal issues with feelings of abandonment and anxiety that I needed to overcome that I realized God was being merciful to me (and the girls I had been trying to force things with) by not giving me the “green light” so to speak to get into a serious relationship.  After I had dealt with overoming my feelings of anxiety, depression, and abandonment (which you can read more about in detail here), did God place a lady in my life.

What experiences have you had with feeling that God wasn’t answering your prayers, only to find that He really was listening?

 

Recently, one of my church friends and I had a long discussion.  I had noticed tension in his relationship over the past couple years, but he hadn’t openly discussed it with me until the other day.  He told me he wasn’t sure if he knew what love for his wife was anymore and went on to discuss how they had entertained the idea of getting a divorce.

Divorce is something I do not take lightly.  My parents fought throughout their 10 years of marriage and I constantly worried as a young child if they would get a divorce as I would listen to them fight when they thought we were asleep.  My world was crushed when at the age of 9 my parents were divorced.  Over the 25 years since their divorce, I have seen personal heartache and struggle, struggle and conflict with my siblings, and my parents have been affected emotionally and physically as a result of it throughout the years as well.  I’m positive some within my family are not over it.

In addition to my own experiences with divorce, I have seen grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and cousins go through divorce.  The heartache felt during a strained marriage and emptiness from the aftermath of a divorce are real.

With all of this in mind I said a silent prayer to myself as he confided in me.  I wanted to make sure I relayed to him what was helpful for him and what God wanted him to hear.  As I prayed and thought, I remembered reading a story in Spencer W Kimball’s book “The Miracle of Forgiveness“.  It is about a lady who, against her church leader’s advice went ahead and got a divorce simply because she had “fallen out” of love and she thought it would be easier do go it alone.  A few years later, she approached her leader and he asked her if life was better now that she was divorced.  She said that she regretted getting the divorce and wished she would have worked harder at loving her former husband.  I shared this story with my friend and urged him to try everything in his power to make the marriage work and love flicker again.  Not only for his sake, but for his wife and daughters’ sakes as well.

Spencer W Kimball gave another address back in 1979 entitled “Oneness in Marriage” that provides guidance on how to have a happy and successful marriage.  The following four points are very valuable tools for both my friend and anyone considering marriage or currently in a marriage, which will be discussed.  (The direct quote is in bold letters with additional commentary underneath the quote).

1. There must be the proper approach toward marriage, which contemplates the selection of a spouse who reaches as nearly as possible the pinnacle of perfection in all the matters which are of importance to the individuals. And then those two parties must come to the altar in the temple realizing that they must work hard toward this successful joint living. 

This is a very serious step that I think many people take too lightly.  The possible “pinnacle of perfection” is different from one person to the next.  In my opinion, one would be wise to write down the non-negotiables of what one wants in a spouse and then some that would be nice to have but not essential.  When dating evaluate this and especially when considering marriage, make sure the potential partner lines up with this.  If it is very important to you, and the partner isn’t appearing that they will compromise, it is easier to break off an engagement or someone you’re dating than it is to get into a marriage.

For those who are already married and may have taken the marriage a bit too lightly before entering marriage, it still isn’t too late.  Write down what is non-negotiable, etc. and share it with your spouse.  Come up with a plan of how you see marriage working out together and work towards it.  If you are having a hard time doing this, get some marriage counseling.  There is no harm in this and if both parties want to make it work, it can be good to have an outside, unbiased, professional perspective.

2. There must be a great unselfishness, forgetting self and directing all of the family life and all pertaining thereunto to the good of the family, subjugating self.

Selfishness is a marriage killer.  I’ve seen friends and family go through divorce because an individual (or both individuals) are not willing to compromise or admit their mistakes.  It is very hard to make a marriage work if both parties are not willing to admit their mistakes and then forgive and forget the mistakes of their partner.

3. There must be continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration to keep love alive and growing.

There are many quotes on love, but one of my favorite most-recent quotes comes from Elder Uchtdorf.  He states “love is spelled T-I-M-E…time” and I agree completely.

When my father remarried, he set a very good example of regularly dating and spending time with my new mother.  Often it was as simple as going to the grocery store together, but they made sure that once a week they had alone time.

I’m not sure that they realized how much my younger brother and I watched them as they spent time with each other and their love grew. It made a very strong impact on me and how I wanted my relationship with my wife to be someday.  Kids can tell when love is alive and well between parents and it affects areas of their life such as school performance, relationships with friends, and self-confidence. 

4. There must be a complete living of the commandments of the Lord as defined in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As my friend talked about how discouraged he was and how negative he felt towards God and life in general, I wondered about his relationship with God.  I asked him a few questions and he did say he hadn’t been praying, studying God’s Word.  I knew he hadn’t been going to church regularly either. 

From personal experience, when we shut out God by not allowing him in through prayer or scripture study or other uplifting activities, it gets very hard to remain positive.  I highly recommended that he start doing these things again, even if he didn’t feel like it.

My prayer is that some things we talked about help him pick himself up and start trying again with his marriage and relationship with God.   I realize that in many circumstances damage is irreparable and divorce is inevitable.  However, if both parties are willing to pick up the pieces, forgive and forget, compromise, and begin again by setting goals together, happiness and love can once again return into the marriage. 

I realize that many of you have had experiences either personally or second-hand with divorce and would welcome your responses.  If this were your friend, what advice would you give?

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