Despite our neverending discussions of various sorts of marriage, I don’t think we’ve had an extended conversation about divorce. I don’t have any particular wisdom to offer; I’m mostly curious about how a bunch of smart Mormons might think about the issues involved.
A very quick overview of statistics on Mormon divorce is available here. The upshot is that U.S. Mormons on the whole divorce almost as often as non-Mormons, although I’ve read in other places that the divorce rate for temple marriages is substantially lower, except when the age of the bride is <21 and/or the groom <23 (?)–divorce rates for those marriages were higher than the national average for all marriages. (This is not especially surprising, since young couples are the most likely of any group to get divorced.)
Just a couple of questions to get the discussion started:
It seems that temple marriage increases the level of commitment of the parties to the marriage, with good results. However, it also raises the stakes considerably–if we really believe in eternal marriage, then it becomes more important than it might otherwise be to get out of an untenable union.
Although divorce has generally been tolerated among Mormons, especially during the era of polygamy, official rhetoric has never reflected this reality. Is there a way to preach the ideal without increasing the agony of those whose marriages don’t measure up?
Finally, what are the circumstances under which you all think divorce is justified? It seems to me that there is broad agreement that physical abuse is a good enough reason to leave (although as recently as 1993, the Ensign published an article on divorce that was laudatory of a woman who stayed with a man who beat her–grrr!). Likewise, adultery is generally considered acceptable grounds for divorce, although I think there is a lot of admiration for couples who manage to put the marriage together again after adultery. A recent book group discussion of Carol Lynn Pearson’s _Goodbye, I Love You_ with Mormon women in my ward had support for divorce if one member of the couple comes out at around 60%. What about pornography abuse/addiction (there have been a couple of poignant letters from wives read over the pulpit lately)? Emotional abuse (what constitutes emotional abuse)? Irreconcilable differences (are there any between righteous couples)? What about one spouse leaving the Church?