When the Gospel Doesn't Seem to Make a Difference

Salli's Divorce Support Blog


As I've pondered these considerations, having experienced my own divorce, there are two things I've come to understand that can be important factors in the failure of a temple marriage. They are: selfishness and agency.

I’ve come to realize that if either spouse allows selfish pride to go unchecked in their choices and actions (toward their family members or in their individual lives), while consistently diminishing the importance of the sensitive feelings of others, rather than opening their hearts to the natural compassion, kindness, and forgiveness that ought to rule, such habits will create a wedge that can eventually result in irreconcilable differences.

And because agency has a lot to do with the condition of our heart, our ‘freedom’ to make uncaring choices can gradually create insurmountable trouble between partners.

Let's put it this way: We can be unforgiving and withhold familial affection and still hold regular FHE. We can cling to our habits of unkindness and incivility, insisting on always being right, or always having our own way, and still be in church every Sunday. There are many behaviors that lack team spirit in a marriage that can prevent the joy of marriage and family life from thriving; all the while we may still appear to be 'living the gospel'.

The hardness of a person’s heart can prevent one from recognizing damaging habits and can thus undermine the full effects that living the gospel are meant to foster in a family and in a marriage. If we choose activities, hobbies, habits, thoughts, or behaviors that detract from the spirit in our lives, the positive effects of living the gospel will always be diminished.

Or in other words: You can't add a negative number to a positive number without lessening the total sum.

So, one spouse who may be committed to virtuous principles, added to one spouse who claims to be committed to the gospel but who has more of a tendency, than not, to complain, criticize, become angry, withhold affection, or too often make self-interested choices--will not promote a happy family life.

Put two people together who exhibit these behaviors and chances are even slimmer for success, no matter how faithful they are in doing their home and visiting teaching.

The purpose, of course, in implementing the precepts of prayer, and gospel study, and following the programs of the Church in our lives, we hope will have a softening effect upon the hearts of all in the home, but there is no promise that those principles will always have the same effect upon every individual.

And why? Because of agency.

Individuals have the right to choose their paths. Individuals can choose to go through the motions of living the gospel but never experience a mighty change in heart.  

Unfortunately, even temple covenants cannot prevail over an individual’s choice to break them. And once broken, in many cases, divorce results.

That doesn’t mean the marriage wasn’t right in the beginning; it doesn’t mean those who promised ‘forever’ weren’t sincere in their declarations; nor does it mean that the Lord, knowing the end from the beginning, didn’t possess the foreknowledge that the marriage wouldn’t last.

But it does mean the Lord knew the great potential of such a union and of the individuals involved. And somehow I find it very kind, as well as very wonderful, that the Lord is willing to let any of His children try to give temple marriage, and the solemn covenants involved, their very best; even if He knows it won’t always guarantee a “happily ever after”.



Great thoughts! Sometimes, a marriage comes together and feels right--even though it won't ultimately last--because there is a lesson to be learned in the process of it all. There are no total failures when we learn from them and grow. We can move on and be strengthened and ready for the REAL "ever after" when it comes our way.


Thank you for sharing some interesting thoughts. Like you, I have learned actually that PART of my earthly calling has actually been TO BE SINGLE after a divorce. There are deep, personal, "counseling" conversations with individuals that were I still married or even had only a "married perspective" would not have been able to REACH. I'd offer one caveat to your thoughts. Toward the beginning of the article you state, "...our ‘freedom’ to make THOUGHTLESS CHOICES can gradually create insurmountable trouble between partners." While I've been on the gospel-end of this relationship-equation, I've come to discover (IF I'm being honest with myself and to the other marriage participant) that such language is unfair and even judgmental. My wife of 14 yrs THOUGHT long and hard about her choice(s) to exercise her agency and step away from the life in the gospel which I choose to live. I'd suggest that instead of rendering judgment upon those who decide they cannot/WILL not follow a path holding to the iron rod, that we realize as your article directs, that these individuals are fulfilling the directive in Abraham 3:22-23. They are indeed "proving themselves" to the level of glory in which THEY are most comfortable and happiest. For me, taking this latter perspective has enabled me to recognize the positive in each choice; ESPECIALLY the WHY's of MY OWN choices that sometimes challenge me. At the same point, it allows me to release "judgmental" tendencies (which are not for me to render ANYWAY) while recognizing the FUNCTIONAL rewards of said choices. Thank you for sharing. I offer these thoughts in love and with respect. Your single brother, Damon

Margaret Slighte

Thank you for this wonderful and insightful blog. I have come to The Church after 46 years of life, one failed marriage of 22 years, as a single woman. Your insights and words have helped me to understand my own situation as well. Thank you, again. May the Holy Spirit continue to be within your words with His Heavenly Love and Light.


Thank you for these words and for the comments too, you don't know how they have helped me as I am now going through my divorce. I just have a question though, when you say 'it does mean the Lord knew the great potential of such a union and of the individuals involved' does this mean then that we have failed as individuals because we did not live up to the potential the Lord saw in us? Also if one person in the marriage uses their agency where does that leave the other person in terms of their spiritual salvation? I'm thinking here that my husband used his agency which affected me and now we are breaking temple covenants on top of covenants already broken as a result of previous behaviour. Repentance is going to be the key factor but, whether it's just the mixed rollercoaster of emotions I'm feeling about the divorce anyway or not I don't know, I just feel so guilty and unworthy whereas he is going about living his life like nothing is happening.

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My name is Salli.

Divorced and full of fret and regret, I found my 'Reason for Living' on the internet. Now, my life is lots of fun, married in Portland, Oregon.

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