Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mormon Messages: Elder Dallin H. Oaks Speaks Out On Marriage And Divorce; Divorced Members Are Not "Second-Class Saints"

While searching for some other information, I found this video in which Elder Dallin H. Oaks discusses marriage and divorce. Posted on July 6th, 2009, it consists of excerpts from an article published in Ensign Magazine in May 2007. It is just as relevant today as it was then -- perhaps even more so:

You can read the full address HERE. The address was originally delivered during the Sunday morning session of the April 2007 General Conference.

Highlights: Elder Oaks notes that the concept that society has a strong interest in preserving marriages for the common good has been replaced for many by the idea that marriage is only a private relationship between consenting adults, terminable at the will of either. The weakening of the concept that marriages are permanent and precious has far-reaching consequences; many young people, influenced by their own parents’ divorce or by popular notions that marriage is oppressive, either avoid marriage altogether or cohabitate without commitment.

In regards to eternal marriage, performed in our temples, Elder Oaks had this to say:

The kind of marriage required for exaltation — eternal in duration and godlike in quality—does not contemplate divorce. In the temples of the Lord, couples are married for all eternity. But some marriages do not progress toward that ideal. Because “of the hardness of [our] hearts,” the Lord does not currently enforce the consequences of the celestial standard. He permits divorced persons to marry again without the stain of immorality specified in the higher law. Unless a divorced member has committed serious transgressions, he or she can become eligible for a temple recommend under the same worthiness standards that apply to other members.

Elder Oaks does recognize that some marriages become difficult. But rather than consider divorce the first resort, he wants us to consider it the last resort. Elder Oaks suggest that for most marriage problems, the remedy is not divorce but repentance. Often the cause is not incompatibility but selfishness. The first step is not separation but reformation. Divorce is not an all-purpose solution, and it often creates long-term heartache. Spouses who hope that divorce will resolve conflicts often find that it aggravates them, since the complexities that follow divorce—especially where there are children—generate new conflicts. A couple with serious marriage problems should see their bishop; if he can't help, he can steer couples towards those with greater expertise in counseling.

But Elder Oaks does recognize that some marriages do indeed become insoluble. When a marriage is dead and beyond hope of resuscitation, it is needful to have a means to end it. No one is expected to remain married to spouses who are chronically abusive or who persistently betray sacred covenants or abandon or refuse to perform marriage responsibilities for an extended period. And contrary to anti-Mormon propaganda, the LDS Church does not officially consider divorced members to be "second-class Saints", although an occasional overzealous or insensitive bishop or stake president may wrongfully infer so. Nearly any calling can be extended to a divorced member, except that of bishop or stake president.

In the final analysis, Elder Oaks suggests that the best way to avoid divorce from an unfaithful, abusive, or unsupportive spouse is to avoid marriage to such a person. If you wish to marry well, inquire well. Associations through hanging out or exchanging information on the Internet are not a sufficient basis for marriage. There should be dating, followed by careful and thoughtful and thorough courtship.

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