The LDS restorationist movement
including the Mormon churches:
Divorce and the LDS Church
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.
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 during a temple marriage, the woman is "sealed" forever to her husband. This sealing 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
However, a woman can apply for a Temple Sealing Cancellation. This is sometimes informally referred to as a "temple divorce." Rachel Bruner, writing for About.com said:
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 ... 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
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. 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.
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" 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.
This data is supported by an earlier study the National
Survey of Families and Households. Itfound 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:
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)."
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.
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:
A. Dean Byrd, Ed., "Finding Wholeness and
Happiness after Divorce" at:
http://deseretbook.com/ Two Desert Book customers both rated the book with 5 stars out of 5, describing it as "The most helpful book I've found" and "Best book on divorce available."
LDS Church support groups on the Internet:
All of the groups that we have found are hosted by Yahoo!:
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:
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.
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: