In our religion, we value marriage highly--more than anything except perhaps God Himself. We believe marriage is central to His plan of happiness. Accordingly, when a marriage fails, we often think we have failed at life. We have often heard talks in church about how the divorce rate reflects the failings of a wicked world.
If we are divorced, we think something has gone horribly wrong, that God's plan for us has been thwarted, and that our lives are completely broken and off course. In a very real sense, we worry that we don't even really have a place in God's kingdom any longer. Do these thoughts sound familiar? Have they been spinning in your head for years?
Perhaps you have asked, "How could divorce be part of God's plan for my life?" Our Latter-day Saint perspective tends to be fairly perfectionistic, even to the point of being formulaic. We believe that if we "live the gospel" life will just sort of work out for us, at least in the things we consider to be biggest and most important--like our marriages.
Please remember that Job suffered as a test of his faithfulness and not as a punishment for sins. In fact, the Book of Job describes him as a "perfect" man. (Job 1:1.) And that perfect man lost everything: his wealth, his family, his friends, and even his health. People judged him and wondered what evil he must have committed to bring these trials on himself. (Job 4:7-8,, 8:20, 11:14-15, 17.)
Didn't we learn in primary that we are all here to be tested and tried? Weren't we taught that we are even here to make mistakes, repent, and learn from those mistakes? But somewhere in the middle of all of that teaching we started to believe that there are limits to how big our mistakes can be before the atonement of Jesus Christ no longer applies. We think he only saves us from the small sins, but the big ones are all on us. Not only that, we are being punished for failing in marriage, even though we did the best we knew how at the time. It sounds kind of ridiculous when I say it like that doesn't it?
I have a good natured little brother who died an excruciating death from a brain tumor at age 17. He didn't get to finish growing up. He didn't get to serve a mission on this earth. He didn't get to go to college or get married or have children. He never got to meet any of his nieces and nephews. Was that his path? I know that, before his death, he gave a powerful example of consecration and submission to God's will. It seemed like a very harsh thing for God to require of a teenage boy. But it gave him the character of a giant. I believe he lived as long as he was supposed to live on this Earth. I believe his mission call was to the spirit world, where I'm sure he has done great work.
It might be tempting to think that my brother was too young to die or that the plan of God was somehow thwarted because he was unable to be married for eternity while he was in this life. But the plan of God was not thwarted. God knew and ordained his path before the world was. Suffering and death are a part of life. They are part of the pilgrimage of mortality.
I think most of us are fairly accepting when it comes to trials we can easily believe we did not bring upon ourselves. But, when human agency is involved, we are inclined to look at our trials and believe the divine plan has been thwarted--at least where we are concerned. We even perform strenuous mental gymnastics to lay the blame at the feet of our partners and portray ourselves as innocent victims. Why? Because if the plan of God has been thwarted, we don't want to be the ones responsible for thwarting it. We resist growth because we don't want the blame we feel we might incur by admitting our imperfections.
We have unique doctrines in our faith that can help us understand why our suffering is meaningful. Most of the Christian world believes that because Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, the rest of us are consigned to a fallen world. Most of the Christian world believes that the human race is living out Plan B and that Jesus was necessary because something went wrong with the plan. The scriptures of the restoration teach us that the fall was part of God's plan all along (see Moses 4:6). Adam and Eve's fall did not usher in Plan B.
There was no Plan B. Again, suffering, mistakes, misuse of agency, and the general pain and chaos of mortal life were all part of the divine plan to perfect us and make us like our Father and Mother in Heaven. We need to learn to love when love is not returned. We need to learn to forgive. We need to learn to love people in spite of their fears, insecurities, and imperfections. And, for some of us, divorce is a part of our pilgrimage. Divorce does not reflect a divine plan that has been thwarted. It reflects a divine plan that is working.
My marriage to Cathy was not Plan B. I am not living out Plan B because my first marriage didn't work out. Our marriage is Plan A and probably always was. But, to be prepared for it, I had a lot to learn--and I learned a lot from my previous marriages. So I bless those marriages, painful as they were, because they made me the person I am today and capable of a more joyful marriage now and forever.
If you believe life has gone horribly wrong and the plan of God is no longer working in your life, remember Job. Remember also that you have (or can be) anointed in the house of God to become kings and queens, to reign over vast and numberless dominions. You have the seeds of that power within you right now. You have all the kingly or queenly power you need to stand up and claim your blessings through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
I have said it before and I will say it again. Our mission at Love in Later Years is not just to help heal emotional wounds and help a few people get married. Our mission is to help create kings and queens. That is the way we see you--as royalty with infinite potential.