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!!!!!!!! Search error!  If the URL ends something like .htm/  or .htm# delete the character(s) after .htm and hit return.

The LDS restorationist movement including the Mormon churches

Divorce and the LDS Church


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The permanence of marriage:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) greatly values marriage and abhors divorce. Some quotations by Church presidents:

  • "Christ's ideal pertaining to marriage is the unbroken home, and conditions that cause divorce are violations of his divine teachings. Except in cases of infidelity or other extreme conditions, the Church frowns upon divorce." President David O. McKay 1

  • "President Spencer W. Kimball said that relatively few divorces are justifiable. He also told members that divorce frequently results from selfishness and other sins of one or both spouses." 2

Couples in the LDS Church experience a very strong social pressure to stay married -- particularly in Utah and other areas of North America where there is a large concentration of fellow believers.


Temple sealing:

Although the Church disapproves of marriage terminations, it does permit both divorce (the legal dissolution of a civil marriage) and annulment (a decree that a marriage was illegal or invalid).

In most Christian marriage services, the bride and groom promise to be faithful to each other "until death do us part." This is also the state for civil marriages; they last until either a divorce or death terminates the relationship. However, the Latter-day Saints take this belief one step further. They believe that a temple marriage is normally forever. It survives death, and can continue into the afterlife, if the couple is obedient to the gospel. "...the husband and wife--and their family members past and present who are Mormon--will be together forever." 3

In the past, Latter-day Saints women were handled differently from men:

A woman could only be sealed to one man at a time. Thus, before she could be remarried in a temple ceremony, she had to first obtain a sealing cancellation, or "temple divorce." This required permission from the LDS church's First Presidency. Some sources say that she also had to obtain permission from her estranged husband. 4 However, this rule did not seem to be uniformly enforced.

If a wife was unable to get the necessary permission(s), then a civil divorce/remarriage was her only option. Prior to 1999, she could only obtain a temple divorce if she was also ready to marry another man in a temple ceremony in the immediate future. More recently, the regulations were relaxed so that a woman could obtain a temple divorce if she first obtains a civil divorce and after legal issues are resolved.

Men were handled differently. The church permits a man to be sealed to more than one wife.

These rules have since been changed so that men and women are now treated equally regarding temple divorces. If either a man or woman had been sealed once they cannot be sealed again while their former temple spouse is alive, without first requesting and receiving a cancellation of earlier sealings.


Divorce rates:

Brigham Young University professor Daniel K. Judd computed in the year 2000 that only 6% of those Mormons who marry in a temple ceremony subsequently go through a temple divorce. This is a small fraction of the rate in the general American population. 3 Unfortunately, the value may not be accurate:

  • Most Mormons who have their marriage sealed in a temple ceremony and who subsequently divorce do so in a civil ceremony. This avoids the rather complex temple "cancellation of sealing" (divorce) procedures. Thus, their divorce is not counted in the above figure.

  • Some Mormons marry in a temple ceremony, divorce in a civil procedure and subsequently remarry in a second temple ceremony. This would count as two temple marriages and zero temple divorces -- thus reducing the apparent divorce rate.

Overall, the Mormon divorce rate appears to be no different from the average American divorce rate. A 1999 study by Barna Research of nearly 4,000 U.S. adults showed that 24% of Mormon marriages end in divorce -- a number statistically equal to the divorce rate among all Americans. 5 Members of non-denominational churches (typically Fundamentalist in teaching) and born-again Christians experience a significantly higher divorce rate; Agnostics and Atheists have much a lower rate. 6 More info.

This data is supported by an earlier study the National Survey of Families and Households. It found that about 26% of both Mormons and non-Mormons had experienced at least one divorce at some time during their life.

This simple statistic obscures an interesting factor: Mormons who marry fellow believers have an extremely low divorce rate:

"A 1993 study published in Demography [magazine] showed that Mormons marrying within their church are least likely of all Americans to become divorced. Only 13 percent of LDS couples have divorced after five years of marriage, compared with 20 percent for religiously homogamist unions among Catholics and Protestants and 27 percent among Jews. However, when a Mormon marries outside his or her denomination, the divorce rate soars to 40 percent -- second only to mixed-faith marriages involving a Jewish spouse (42 percent)." 7

One might speculate that the religious and cultural differences between Mormons and non-Mormons (and between Jews and non-Jews) is often so great that the chances of a successful, harmonious marriage are much reduced.


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LDS Church books on marriage and divorce:

A search on Amazon.com for Mormon books on marriage and divorce produced the following three listings. They are all are all out of print. However, new and/or used copies can usually be purchased below normal cost from Amazon.com, through one of their Marketplace Sellers:

Deseret Bookadvertises a book written from an LDS Church perspective:


LDS Church support groups on the Internet:

All of the groups that we have found are hosted by Yahoo!:

  • LDS_LAD discusses "Latter-day Saints' Life After Divorce."  See: http://groups.yahoo.com/ It is rather inactive.
  • LDS-divorce-support (LDSDS) is "for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose lives are affected by divorce and would like to give and receive support from others." It is a high traffic list. See: http://groups.yahoo.com/
  • LDS-divorce is  "For but not limited to members of the LDS church who are going thru or have been thru a divorce. This list is for sharing information and support." It is a moderate volume list. See: http://groups.yahoo.com/
  • LDS-divorced-dads is "for LDS dads who have gone thru or are going thru divorce. This is a support list only, a list for sharing ideas and experiences." See: http://groups.yahoo.com/ 

References used:

  1. David O. McKay at the 1969-APR General Conference, IE 72 [June 1969]:2-5. Cited in Kristen L. Goodman, "Divorce," at: http://www.lightplanet.com/
  2. Spencer W. Kimball, "The Time to Labor is Now." Ensign 5 (Nov. 1975):6. Cited in Kristen L. Goodman, "Divorce," at: http://www.lightplanet.com/
  3. William Lobdell, "Holy matrimony: In era of divorce, Mormon Temple weddings are built to last," Los Angeles Times, 2000-APR-8. See: http://www.adherents.com/ Mirrored at: http://www.divorcereform.org/
  4. Andrea Moore Emmett, "Only for Eternity," 1999-FEB-1, at: http://weeklywire.com/
  5. "Christians are more likely to experience divorce than are non-Christians," Barna Research Group, 1999-DEC-21, at: http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/ This article is no longer available online.
  6. Ken Larsen, "LDS divorce rate at U.S. National Average," Birmingham AL News, 1999-DEC-30.  http://www.mormonstoday.com/000102/
  7. Bob Mims, "Mormons: high conservativism, low divorce, big growth," Salt Lake Tribune, 1999-MAR-6, at: http://archives.his.com/smartmarriages/

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 Home > Christianity > Christian faith groups > LDS Restorationist > here

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Copyright © 2002 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-FEB-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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