What my divorce taught me about my Mormon religion

Last night my dad hugged me.

It was in a dream of course.

But I needed it. I woke up, wiped my wet cheeks, and stared out the window to the streetlight that glared into the midnight hour. And I knew, right then and there, why I had been given that hug and that consolation that I’m loved.

hospital bed with dad

My divorce was finalized just a week and a half ago but the journey isn’t over, of course. Far from it.

It’s been a trek of hearing people’s opinions, digesting what matters and what does not, reading messages that either make me sad or make me smile, and figuring out who is meant to stay in my life and who fell away. It’s been an experience unlike any other, an experience that has been refining me, strengthening me, and testing my weaknesses and my boundaries. I’ve felt pure joy for the first time in my life, watching as my heart grows strong and my smile a little more permanent. I’ve also felt what despair is.

I’ve looked in the mirror to see a better version of Kayla–regardless of the downpour of rain that’s hit my world within the past few months. A better Kayla formed from the fire.

And yet–even when you have found the life you love–there will be those who say it’s wrong. There will be brick walls that stand in your way and try to stop you completely.

Through this, most of all, I’ve learned a lot about my Mormon faith.

salt lake

I’ve had people tell me that I should just leave my church because I’m changing so much. There have been those within the church who look at me sideways when I say I’m still Mormon, because my lifestyle no longer includes a temple marriage or a cute house on the corner of an Idaho street or a perfect life framed by perfect smiles. It’s unconventional now.

I’m not the “perfect” blogger with a “perfect” life and a “perfect” story. I’m not arm in arm with a priesthood holder husband or leading a cute primary class with him. Things have changed drastically and I’m walking a path that nobody expected Kayla to walk. I’ve had people say I’ve let them down, that I’m a disappointment–that the changes in my life weren’t expected from “someone like me”. And the judgments–oh the judgments. They have surely come…let me tell you.

And yet–I have come to love my religion more.

That might not make sense and at times it doesn’t even make sense to me. But it’s something that needs to be said and needs to be talked about. Since joining the Mormon church seven years ago I was on the side of the fence that never got judged or talked about. My life could be measured in visiting teaching visits, cute Sunday dresses, monthly temple trips, and fulfilled callings. I was one of the people looking out at those who struggle, those with addictions, those who are divorced or single parents, those who are homosexual, those who have lost their way in life–and although I felt a level of compassion, I never understood what it’s really like. Part of me, at times, would even judge. Just like those who are now looking in at me.

judging

Never, not until now while I’m standing with those who are set apart from the status quo, have I realized that I haven’t truly understood my religion until now, when everything has been stripped from me and I’m working from the ground up again. Never have I truly understood until now the TRUE meaning of what it means to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It isn’t about fitting in or dressing the part. It isn’t about being the perfect housewife or raising the perfect kids. It isn’t about swallowing your struggles and wearing the smile that everyone expects from you.

It’s about the atonement. It’s about the moment that Jesus Christ cried to his Father in Heaven and carried a splintered cross up a hill just to cover your scars in his blood. It’s about carrying those who cry out for help and not being afraid to cry out yourself. It’s about serving–not because you’re fulfilling some monthly duty–but because you know how it feels to need help. This religion is about the basic truths that lie in the pages you continue to read, even when you’re completely alone and doubt every word. It’s about the prayers you say when no one is listening and the resolve to believe when everything in you wants to give up.

And it has nothing to do with anything else.

jesus

One of my favorite stories involving the prophet Joseph Smith is when he was helping an elderly woman in her yard who needed help. She said to him very sternly that he and his people are very kind, but that she’d have nothing to do with his religion. With a smile he simply said, “Well ma’am, you can say kindness IS my religion.”

We need to remember that.

We need to remember each other.

Since writing about my divorce I have been so blessed to have had countless people write to me about their own struggles, reaching out to not only uplift me, but to ask for advice or a word of encouragement. And although I fall short for giving the perfect advice, I know without a doubt that we can never fall so far away that we’re distant from the Lord’s love. Regardless of what people say or how you even feel about yourself, the Savior is real and He loves you all the same–exactly where you’re at.

The people within our churches–not just mine, but of all kinds–need to revamp their perspectives. We need to be better. We need to remember why we’re there and refocus on what it’s all about. We get so caught up in the culture of our congregations and the events and the responsibilities and the people we see every Sunday and although those things are positive and needed as well, we tend to forget the basics. We have a habit of forgetting that churches are hospitals for the sick and not meeting places for the perfect. And each of us are on our individual journeys that require love, attention, refinement, and lots and lots of grace.

family

I’m grateful for a struggle and a change in pace that opened my eyes to this. I wouldn’t have seen it any other way and I wouldn’t have recognized that I was so disillusioned and not truly getting the point.

Be careful with one another. He has entrusted us to each other. Just like my Dad offered within a dream that will probably always stick with me, we need to embrace one another more and set aside differences. We need to love.

THAT is the reason for your church and that’s what I’ve quickly discovered about my own.

HE is the reason I want to be better every day. HE is the reason I want to love better.

And HE is the reason that I stay.

 

 

 

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35 thoughts on “What my divorce taught me about my Mormon religion

  1. What an awesome observation and awakening to a truth…….I truly learned that myself some 30 years ago as I went through the same thing in my life. He is faithful!

  2. I haven’t been through a divorce, so I can’t really relate to your story in that regard… but I find your perspective on still finding value in your faith incredibly refreshing and inspiring. I am what I would consider an eternigator of your church, too afraid to actually dip my feet in the ocean, so to speak. You make me feel like there would be a place for me, just like you found a place, too.

    It’s a shame so many people pass judgment when it’s no one’s place to do so. I try to keep the perspective that the Lord is the only one who shall judge, which helps deter me from judging others. I wish more people could do the same, because judgment just doesn’t help most of the time.

    I truly believe that everything happens for a reason (good or bad) – and yes, I know that is cliché. The highs and lows in life are there to refine us and strengthen us, as you said. They help shape us into the people we are supposed to become – even when it’s not our plan.

    “It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.” ~Dieter F. Uchtdorf

    If the above is true, and I do believe it is (I love Pres. Uchtdorf!), then I think your life’s story will have the right ending 🙂

    Sidenote: Your photography Instagram came up on my IG feed, and I noticed that you live in my area (one of your photos was geo-tagged in Granite Falls, I believe… I live in South Everett/Mill Creek area). Small-ish world!

  3. This is beautiful, Kayla! Thank you for this wonderful reminder of the central, predominant role of our Savior’s atonement. Without the atonement, nothing else matters.

  4. I’m so sorry that there has been those of our faith that have judged you so harshly. I was in the ward as your family investigated and joined this church, I worked with your dad in cubs and I worked with you in primary for a short time, your family has always been inspirational to me. You’ve been through so much in such a short time but you’ve always been strong and your faith unbreakable. That’s why I could never judge your choices, because you would never do anything impulsively or just cause it seemed the easier road. I’m glad you’ve found some peace and the love you’ve needed.

  5. I am glad to read about your decision to stay with the church. While your life may no longer be “ideal”, there is always a place for you. May you always feel His peace and guidance.

  6. Hello;

    In one of your past blogs you had this painting–

    I was wondering if you could tell me the artist.

    Thanks Darlah edwards

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  7. Kayla:

    I so feel ya sister. Ive been through what you just went through and it sucks. Plain and simple. You wonder what happened, whose fault it is, what will others think of you/me, blah blah blah. You feel judged, broken, and wonder if HE really cares.

    Due to my own human nature and greed, I finished a 3 year prison sentence 3 years ago where HE reappeared in my life…or maybe I just pulled my head out and realized that HE was there all along. It was my decision to pull away from HIM.

    I tell people, within the walls of a federal prison camp in Colorado, I became reacquainted with HIM in a very personal way. I lived the atonement for that time every day. I yearned for HIM. I studied HIM. I learned that the opinions of others dont mean squat to me anymore. I dont care about the houses, cars, size of my bank balance – the very things that I thought was important. I could care less what people think of me. What matters more than anything is what HE thinks of me. Period.

    Since that very dark time in my life, I have been re-baptized, I teach gospel doctrine in my ward where I refuse to play ‘Sunday School answers’…I lead discussions that require thought and take people to a place outside their comfort zone because i use my experience to teach principles for the sinner…I am 4 months away from getting my temple blessings restored, etc. i could go on and on…Ive been blessed like no other.

    Just know, you have a broken, formerly bitter and now better brother praying for you and cheering you on as you walk this walk.

    Hugs!

    Darren

  8. Thank you for sharing this! You took the words right out of my mouth. I too just finalized a divorce which is painful and can be embarrassing but this is so beautiful and I couldn’t have said it better! Thank you for your inspiration and providing hope for me!!

  9. Wonderful comments. I won your temple book contest a couple of years ago about love stories and temples. I too am a divorced Mormon (now happily remarried) who can identify completely with your feelings. The gospel of Christ is one of love. Forgive and try to forget all the opinions and judgments. Blaze your own path. Happiness awaits. Sincerely Trent Rogers

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  10. After first reading about your divorce, I have had so many thoughts I wanted to share. I waited. I realize, now, the reason why I waited. Kayla, He just spoke to me through you. Your heartfelt words are exactly how I felt and continue to feel after my divorce. I struggle with the pain of it daily; however, my faith and trust in the Lord has never been stronger. I guess I needed to be humbled. I am grateful He saw what I could not. Thank you for opening so many hearts and minds. You are loved.

  11. You are so right. The point of the church is to be a disciple of Christ. The structure helps us with that, but the point is to be a disciple of Christ, and beyond that, nothing else is nearly so important. I’m so, so sorry to hear what you’re going through right now. The divorce of my parents made me feel like an outsider for a long time, and in many ways I still do sometimes. But it’s hard to feel like an outsider when you have a personal relationship with Christ, right? When you remember the entire Rock of the religion is your friend, then you know you belong, even if you don’t fit in with everyone else. You’re an amazing person and your testimony is beautiful.

  12. Hi Kayla, I too was one in shock when I first read of you getting divorced. But I will not judge you or your former husband. I almost did it about 5 years into my marriage and then 18 years. I think you are a smart and spiritual person and know what was right for you. And for heaven’s sake, no one needs to leave the Church because they got divorced. There is no shame I say. I know Heavenly Father wants our temple marriages to succeed but sometimes it just isn’t right to be together. I want you to know that I admire you and your strength and testimony. And keep on writing….you have a wonderful way of putting your thoughts and words together. Maybe you will write books in the future.

  13. My divorce was finalized 3 weeks ago and I completely understand what you’re saying! Thank you for putting the feeling into words. I have never been happier, which doesn’t make any logical sense but it does with the Atonement. I’m excited and grateful that we both get to move to the next, exciting chapter of our lives!

  14. That was beautiful and really made me think. Thank you for sharing and putting what you are going through out there for everyone to see. I like the perspective that have on our religion. We do need to just embrace each other.

  15. We all go through things, and we all need to remember that.

    Yesterday, I was talking with a friend who was very frustrated about something that happened over the weekend. As we talked, she expressed some deeper frustrations that go much farther back than the weekend and she asked me, “Why does [so and so] get to have everything?” And I stopped her and pointed out some of the things that [so and so] has to deal with and how she doesn’t really “have everything.” I think, too often, we get wrapped up in assumptions and forget that everyone has something they’re dealing with.

    I don’t know if that makes sense, but I was thinking about it a lot as you were talking about dealing with judgment and learning about not judging others but empathizing with them. I agree with you that learning how to do that is really the point.

  16. HUGS to you Kayla. Life is a journey and each of us will take a different path, what a kind reminder to be gentle and love unfeigned. Heavenly Father loves you ; )

  17. I’ve never understood why people would say you should leave the church if you still believe in it’s principles. The gospel isn’t about fitting the cultural mold, it’s about finding Christ and living in his light. I’m glad that you’re able to see past all the nonsense and have found happiness in the gospel!

  18. My same experience of many many years ago when the “standards” and “expectations” of the “church” were even more narrow. … So well articulated and appreciated but know, your hard won convictions will never cease to be challenged by the evil one… And probably even more so for you because you have the courage and forum to reach out to so many others. God speed.

  19. What a great post. All the times I gave a lesson in relief society this was the exact message I tried to get across to the sisters in my ward and Ibthinkbit was because my mother had been divorced and raising 6 kids on her own we were never really accepted in our ward

  20. My Mother was divorced 3 times and married 4. I saw the pain and sorrow in her face, she felt that she was not good enough to ever have a happy marriage. The men she divorced from were before she found the gospel. They tested her with disrespect, abuse, pushing her around. The were alcoholics, had relationships with other women, misused family funds gambling and cheating other on business. She saw it as her fault. She was guilty of nothing other than trying to create a good, healthy, string family with men who had no wish to do the same. They were all good in the beginning at misleading her and getting her too believe they were something they were not. One man was a member of the church and didn’t tell her until they were married 6 years. He was an alcoholic, abusive, a list a cheat, the opposite of what a priesthood holder should be. She worked so hard to make ask her marriage work. She was always faithful, loving, hard working, willing to give up anything in her life to make the marriages work. They didn’t. It was like they did everything to destroy the marriage and destroy the relationship. She joined the church during her third marriage and found peace she had never thought possible. She ended up ad Relief Society President. She was so happy. She found the stent you resize she deserved better than she had been treated sand out husband#3 out. A few years later she met a widower. They had lots in common. He wanted her to marry him. She refused. He had to savor the gospel, for real and take her to the temple and he did. They were both so happy. All the heart ache and pain was swallowed up on the gospel and the Saviors church. I asked her if it was worth it. To go through all of pain. Without hesitation she said yes. They are both gone now but I know they are happier at any other time in their lives. It doesn’t matter what others think it day, it matters what your religious leaders help with and tell you. You will find happiness in certain..things silk become clearer for you as you live the gospel and follow the Savor. What others think or say is of no matter. They have no right to judge. Pray they don’t ever have to endure the same. Some will and it will hurt horribly as you have learned. You have learned great lessons and devoted more faith. That’s why we are here isn’t it? Hold to the iron rod. You will be amazed the gifts that come to to you. I can guarantee this. I’ve been married to the same wonderful woman for 35 years. I credit my Mom for not giving up and showing me how faith brings miracles. Don’t let others hurt you or direct your decisions. Let the Spirit be your guide. Peace ad happiness will be yours.

  21. I loved this. I have been through a divorce, it wasn’t temple marriage but it was still hard. The judgement was what hurt more than anything. When I refused to talk about why I got divorced I lost friends who felt that it was definitely my fault since I didn’t want to discuss it. Thankfully I have my sweet husband now who helped me pick up the pieces and never judged me. It’s hard but life gets so much better! 🙂 Glad you got a hug from your dad. What an amazing gift.

  22. Thank you. There are echoes of my own experience here, not because of divorce but because I never married. I felt I had no place in a church so focused on family units and succumbed to discouragement and became inactive. The biggest slight was when I was told by my one & only VT (who was also single at the time) that I was no longer allowed to have HT because it didn’t look right to have two men visiting a single woman. I have felt so betrayed by the church I loved and served. I felt so alone and unwanted. I still don’t go to church…it’s been so long now. I have rediscovered what is important. though….Our Father in Heaven, His Son Jesus the Christ and THEIR undying, unconditional love for me. I believe more deeply in the doctrines of the church now than I ever did before…they are so clean, so pure apart from the “cultural doctrine” or the judgements of others. I know this has been a testing of my faith…I failed at first…but am getting stronger every day and am so grateful for the Atoning sacrifice of our brother, Lord and Savior. Love having the internet with so much access to information and other people. It’s been a journey. Now, when I look at people or talk to them(I have a job where I’m on the phone all the time & sometimes they are NOT happy!)I try to picture seeing them in the Pre-mortal existence, as a brother or sister I’ve known, surrounded by the love we all shared then and were excited to share this earthly experience. Everyone is here to learn and we all have our own struggles. I’m getting there…never perfection of course..but Father and Brother are always there to help…Thanks for sharing you story and thanks for listening to mine.

  23. Thank you, I love this. I felt many of the same things when I had to come home from my mission early because of my health. That devastation, plus learning about my autism and related difficulties vastly expanded my perspective and made me face the same decision: stay or leave? In the end my choice was the same as yours. “Lord, to whom shall I go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”

  24. My wife of almost 15 years is communicating to me basically the same info you just explained in your blog. I love my wife and miss my kids however see feels prompted and the need to get a divorce. I’m struggling with this. If you don’t mind sharing with me what happened in your marriage on your own time I could really use some help. I’m struggling because we had a temple marriage and we are both worthy to go to the temple. I haven’t felt good about this, however when I go and express my feelings to those that know both of us she feels like I’m hurting her and judging her. Just reaching out

  25. I have deep scars on my soul left behind by members of the church who were super cruel to me. I’ve had every reason to leave, and almost have a couple of times.
    But the Savior… 100%, He is the reason why I have stayed, and why I study the scriptures and/or conference talks every day and pray every day. Because of Him, I’m not going anywhere. Just because some people are awful, doesn’t take away the truth of the gospel, or the truth that the Savior lives and that His Atonement was for people like me, and like you, and for even for those cruel, judgemental people. His message was one of the purest form of love. No amount of evil can ever break that truth. He loved me when no one else did. That’s why I stay.

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