A response to the General Conference remarks regarding Divorce:

Divorce General Conference Jesus Christ Mainstreaming Mormon Doctrine


Dilution of Doctrine, or Lip service?

In the last session of LDS General Conference, both Elder Oaks and Elder Faust gave talks that mentioned divorce.

This paper asks and proposes answers to the Questions:

  • What were the Past remarks / ‘doctrine’ regarding divorce?

  • What direction are current GA remarks headed in on this subject?

  • Were the latest remarks consistent with (recent) past pronouncements?


  1. In the LDS church – religion, and culture, Doctrine is tendered in-with a dogmatic presentation. It is said Not to be subject to negotiation or even discussion. Doctrine – the living of individual Christ-Like lives, is presented in a manner that is Not subject to human will or wishes; Its origin is Heavenly, it’s purposes and methods are sometimes mysterious or even foolish to people who are ‘Children of a Heavenly Mother & Father’.

  2. Leaders of the church claim the privilege to ANNOUNCE God’s will to us; Not to alter, change, or modify it.

  3. All scriptures in-from the Bible are somewhat suspect, because the Bible is correct ‘only as translated correctly’. The Book of Mormon is presented as doctrinally correct and superior to the Bible.

  4. LDS doctrine makes little (if any) distinction between ‘serious transgressions’ and ‘non-serious’ transgressions.

  5. Some people say that the LDS presentation of Christ’s gospel is being ‘watered down’, ‘Mainstreamed’ to fit into common Christian culture, increased acceptance in the world.

  6. Great changes – departures from well established principles-policies-‘Doctrines’ are most always loudly heralded – announced, with Great amounts of fanfare: Witness the granting to black males the LDS Priesthood.

Past sayings & Scripture:

A) TRUE TO THE FAITH A GOSPEL REFERENCE © 2004 BY THE First Presidency. Subject: Divorce, page 49:

“This growing plague (divorce) is not of God, but rather is the work of the adversary.”


“Even a rickety marriage will serve good purpose as long as two people struggle to keep it from falling down around them. One who destroys a marriage takes upon himself a very great responsibility indeed. Marriage is sacred!

To willfully destroy a marriage is to offend our God. Such a thing will not be lightly considered in the judgments of the Almighty and in the eternal scheme of things will not easily be forgiven.

Do not threaten nor break up a marriage. Do not translate some disenchantment with your own marriage partner into justification for any conduct that would destroy a marriage.

This monumental transgression frequently places heavy burdens upon little children. They do not understand the selfish yearnings of unhappy adults who are willing to buy their own satisfaction at the expense of the innocent.” (‘Marriage’ May, 1981 Ensign)


It hath been written, that whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whoso shall marry her who is divorced committeth adultery” (3rd Nephi 12:31,32)


“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16)

E) The Doctrine & Covenants:

“Thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbor, not do him any harm.” (42:27)

“…and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled.” (42:88)

Throughout the scriptures:

  • Repentance & Forgiveness are not optional, they are the Basis of Christ-Like living.

  • Retaliation & vengeance are Prohibited.

Note BOTH the ‘evolution’ of this ‘doctrine’, and also the disparity between Faust & Oaks.

Faust gives a moralistic approach, Oaks a legalistic.

Elder Faust tells us that:

Divorce can only be justified in the rarest of circumstances

“Divorce can be justified only in the rarest of circumstances. In my opinion, “just cause” for divorce should be nothing less serious than a prolonged and apparently irredeemable relationship that destroys a person’s dignity as a human being. Divorce often tears people’s lives apart and shears family happiness. Frequently in a divorce the parties lose much more than they gain.”

Elder Oaks says that:

“When a marriage is dead and beyond hope of resuscitation, it is needful to have a means to end it.”*


“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.”**


Isn’t ending a marriage without adultery/fornication (abuse) a ‘serious transgression’?

There are ‘obviously’ some ‘optional – discretionary’ divorces done in the church…

The D&C says: Thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbor, nor do him any harm (42:27)…


In his remarks, Oaks seems to draw little, if any, distinction between the initiator of a divorce, and the respondent.

*Question: Who can decide ‘When a marriage is dead and beyond hope of resuscitation’?

  • A greedy spouse, who covets all the marital assets?

  • A spouse who is under the effects of hormonal changes or other medical condition(s)?

  • A spouse who is mentally ill?

  • A spouse who has a track record of not being responsible /accountable for their own shortcomings-challenges-mistakes?

Only the initiators of divorce claim this privilege, of course.

Comment: A blind Captain could pilot an ocean liner between the positions of Faust & Oaks. Faust is moralistic, Oaks is legalistic.

**Question-Statement: The LDS presentation does not make a distinction between ‘serious transgressions’ and ‘non-serious’ transgressions.

Would not initiating a divorce be ‘A Serious transgression’ in light of A, B, and C above? Is not there a Temple Recommend question dealing with impact on the family?

* “5. Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?”

Oaks quotes scripture as saying that:

“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery”

And gives us the Biblical reference….BUT: Why Not the (almost identical) reference from the Book of Mormon (3rd Nephi 12:31,32) ?

Does Oaks NOT want us to believe that teaching/concept/principle?

(announced in Both Cases in the personal words of Jesus Christ)?

The Christian values of Love for neighbor: Honesty, Kindness, Mercy, Patience, Forgiveness & Repentance should be important if not our top priorities. Forgiveness & Repentance are important attributes of continuing any relationship, especially marriage;

Divorce is incompatible with most if not all of these.

In my humble opinion, divorce also gives the initiator a great sense of ‘Church sayings & doctrine be Damned; I’m going to do what I feel (know?) is best for ME’. That is the type of thought that tears people away from faith rather than brings them closer.


Is Oaks backing off of the First Presidency statement “A” above, now less than 4 years old? Would he have us discount or disregard it?

One is left to themselves to decide; it appears to be the case.

Church leaders say they cannot change/modify anything given by those above them.

Is Christ ‘above them’?

Comment: Ambiguity – equivocation serve no one, save confusion.

10 thoughts on “A response to the General Conference remarks regarding Divorce:

  1. Pingback: anxiety » A response to the General Conference remarks regarding Divorce:
  2. I find the multiple colors, fonts, and highlighting make this almost impossible to read. It’s like trying to watch TV through a giant spinning pinwheel.

  3. If you can get past the colour issues this is pretty good. I printed it on my B&W laser.

    However I feel that the criticism is actually a little unfair. Oaks could not possibly be expected to specify the circumstances under which a divorce is acceptable. They would enter a realm of micro-management which would be undeniably cultish, and this would draw equal criticism from the author.

    This is one area where the church has abandoned theological rationality to bow to member pressure.

    I think a couple will know, mormon or not, if their marraige is beyond saving. The only thing that irks me is the constant references to divorce rates increasing. Is that true? It is no longer true in the UK.

  4. Sorry about the colors — I guess we need to work out a more specific formatting policy.

    To distill this down to discussion questions, it would appear that the G.A.s are contradicting the words of Jesus according to scripture. So I would ask:

    1. Are Oaks and Faust contradicting Jesus or is the author misreading the scripture?
    2. According to LDS doctrine, are they authorized to contradict (modify? clarify?) statements about divorce attributed to Jesus?

    Add to this the confusing factor that many would say that the G.A.s are the ones who are right in allowing a bit more leeway on the issue of divorce than Jesus appears to allow…

    Also, if you feel this discussion veers too far in the direction of anti-Mormon, please say so.

  5. this original post seems to just be a rant. granted, we have all done that at times. but in this case, its does nothing more than to point out a change in the church. isnt that what we want? changes? so what the fuck? we hammer people when there is any amount of change?

    there are valid discussions related to divorce. for example? when is it justified based on religious differences? how can being a nom be valuable if it salvages a meaningful and jointly-pursued relationship? there are cases for divorce and valid cases to work through divorcable stuff, many of them.

    in my opinionm, the frequency of divorce is not a reflection of any amount of decay in our society, it is simply a reflection of social acceptance and access to divorce. by ranting and raging against the man and the church, it fails to recognize the empowerment that individuals have in our society.

    i am not defending every senseless and selfish divorce. not at all. i am simply saying that it is meaningless to rage against oaks and faust on the topic, without any substance.

    shouldnt we be jumping up and down that there is some change in the counsel from the authorities? the two key highlights in this thread, to me, are positive. Faust says there are some reasons for divorce. Yep. We all agree. And Oaks says that divorcees can go to the temple. Yep, folks on this board actually wish any ol person could go to the temple, without all the hoops and judgments and baggage that comes with it. Sounds like Oaks just took one more hurdle away for someone. Yippee.

    Dont get me wrong, I hate Oaks. I think much of what he said was a backhanded slap disguised as comfort. But, lets find the bad counsel and point it out, without being too caught up in contradictions with moronic scriptures and idiot comments of past leaders.

    can someone please reformat my comments with random acts of boldness and rainbow coloring?

  6. This is a diverse and inclusive blog, and we welcome a rainbow of fonts, ideas and posts. Don’t get stuck in your black-and-white font mindsets!! Drop your color-based stereotypes and look on the heart, not the outward appearance.


  7. I liked the colors. They made me happy. 🙂

    On a serious note, I think the author was trying to point out that the church leaders, in this case Oaks and Faust, inconsistantly address this issue and so it is suspect. He wrote: “Leaders of the church claim the privilege to ANNOUNCE God’s will to us; Not to alter, change, or modify it.” This is true.

    So if these men are speaking for God, are we supposed to buy into the idea that God is wishy-washy about divorce? If these guys want to waffle and change to support growing times, great; but let them preface their remarks with “This is my opinion, and I won’t cite scripture because you might construe it as being from the horse’s(God’s) mouth.”

    These guys are walking a tightrope between their docterine and becoming mainstream. It will be interesting to see how that unfolds given the rapidly changing world in which we live.

  8. chanson- The colors aren’t a big issue; I did read it twice though because I’m not wearing my contacts. 😉 LOL

    I agree with Mayan Elephant “i am not defending every senseless and selfish divorce. not at all. i am simply saying that it is meaningless to rage against oaks and faust on the topic, without any substance.

    shouldnt we be jumping up and down that there is some change in the counsel from the authorities? the two key highlights in this thread, to me, are positive…”

    and JulieAnn “These guys are walking a tightrope between their docterine and becoming mainstream. It will be interesting to see how that unfolds given the rapidly changing world in which we live.”

    It’s only going to get more interesting as time goes by. Sit back and watch them hang themselves, it’s kinda fun. 🙂

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