By Elizabeth Ostler

The Gospel Doctrine Lesson #8 focuses on a section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew 5. The objective as stated in the manual is “[t]o encourage class members to come unto Christ by applying the principles he taught in the Sermon on the Mount.”

Our Objective

To comment on the Savior’s thoughts on divorce as recorded in Matthew 5:31– 32. More specifically, to focus on what happens after the divorce and how the teachings in Matthew 5 can help us cultivate resiliency so that we may find our way to joy and fulfillment.


During the time of Christ, acceptable conditions for divorce were debated by rabbis and the outcomes varied, with some being very conservative and some being very liberal. Here, Jesus is reaffirming the sanctity of marriage and counseling that divorce should only be permitted in cases of infidelity.

Even though the Church advocates marriage and teaches that a celestial marriage is necessary for exaltation, It recognizes that sometimes marriages need to end and for more reasons than just adultery (thankfully).

The Church’s official statement on divorce is:

When men and women marry, they make solemn covenants with each other and with God. Every effort should be made to keep these covenants and preserve marriage. When divorce occurs, individuals have the obligation to forgive rather than to condemn, to lift and to help.

Divorce can be a difficult thing to talk about, especially in Sunday School. Regardless of whether your divorce was a conscious uncoupling or a street fight or somewhere in between, it sucks. It really sucks. It’s messy, painful and life-altering. It can be shaming and debilitating.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

Divorce is not just the loss of a relationship, of a person of great significance in your life. It’s also the loss of dreams, and hopes. I have found that the only way to get on the other side of any trial is to go through it. In the case of divorce that means feeling all the pain and emotions. Be angry. Be sad. Be relieved. Be scared. Be hopeful. Be all of it. If you allow the emotions to flow, to be experienced and validated, they will last but for a moment.

Many of the Beatitudes encourage us to be humble.  Humility can be a great teacher if we allow it. If we humbly set aside our stories of who we think we’re suppose to be and what our lives were suppose to be like, we open ourselves up to becoming better receptors for all that the Lord is wanting to bless us with.

The disciples of Christ are the salt of the earth. Just because your marriage didn’t work doesn’t mean that you are a failure or that you have lost your savour. A divorce is a new beginning. It can be the resurrection of a stronger, more grounded you. It can be an opportunity for you to find yourself.

I’m divorced. The best thing I ever did was dedicate the year after my divorce to getting to know myself again. Through a lot of self-awareness/introspection and therapy, I was able to see my light, believe in it and share it. I have been greatly blessed for having done that hard work.

Divorce lands you face to face with your imperfect humanness.

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

If getting divorced hadn’t already thrown you into a shame storm, this scripture just may do the trick. I challenge that the “without flaw” ideal of perfection isn’t what’s being asked of us. It negates the necessity of a Savior and speaks more to Lucifer’s plan than of Christ’s.

I think another, lesser known definition is what is meant in this scripture,

“Lacking nothing essential to the whole.”

If we align ourselves with Christ and accept the Atonement in our lives we are lacking nothing essential to the whole, and are therefore perfect in Christ. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can be whole again after the deconstruction of divorce.

My divorce gave me a greater understanding of the multifaceted nature of the Atonement and increased my capacity for forgiveness. The long road of forgiveness is a necessary part of healing the wounds of divorce. It can also be hardest part of the process. It took me nearly a decade to feel forgiveness towards my ex-husband. I’ve learned that there is a fluidity to forgiveness in certain circumstances. Though I would say that I’ve forgiven him, there are still times when something will happen that triggers me and I have to find my way back to forgiveness.

Related Mormon Women Project Interviews

A Better Doctor, A better Christian, Ines Pinate

I know marriage means two people but I could not handle that situation anymore…. Sometimes some members of the church disagree with the idea of divorce, but I think there is a reason why divorce exists, especially if your marriage is hurting you so much.

Moving Past Forever, Kenna Christensen

My divorce has been the best thing that has happened to me. I never once was upset with Heavenly Father. The second I found out my husband was leaving me, I was on my knees. The first few months my knees were literally blue and purple because I was always on my knees–I had bruises! That was the only source of strength I had, and it was the only source I needed. It wasn’t that I was gaining strength through learning all these doctrines; my testimony and my strength were founded on the love I know my Heavenly Father and Savior have for me. It was just such a growing experience for me.

Snapshot Portrait, Mary Decker

My life was crumbling around me. I was sad, angry, depressed, and mourning the loss of my marriage. My husband had kicked me and my baby out of our own home. I was homeless and helpless. One night, while pleading to my Heavenly Father, I very distinctly got the feeling that that very moment was going to be the crossroads of my life. I had to choose then and there: Was I going to be happy and have the life I had dreamed about, or was I going to wallow in the mess and become bitter, sad and lonely? It was up to me. Then and there, I chose to be happy.

Critical Thinking for a Critical Time, Catherine Humphrey

I showed the children, “This is how you manage. You get the most education you can and you take care of business yourself.” Women cannot be helpless.

Other Related Women’s Voices

Ensign Article
Author’s Name Withheld, “Hope and Healing after Divorce.”

Healing from divorce is not easy. Despite the abuse and heartache that happened in my own marriage and the shock and pain that accompanied my divorce, the learning and growth that continue to come from these experiences have been my greatest blessings. I have learned to rely on the Lord and to become an advocate for myself. And although there are still days when I struggle to look forward with faith, I accept where I am and then trust that the Lord will completely bind up my broken heart

General Conference
Barbara B. Smith, “Relief Society in Times of Transition.”

A transition may prove an opportunity for spiritual, physical, intellectual and psychological development—or it can become a time of serious deterioration. The way is new and often difficult. It takes a great deal of courage and sometimes support from others to make a transition a time of growth.

Mormon Channel Daily Podcast
Dating After Divorce