DIVORCE MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN SOME CIRCUMSTANCES
BRENT BARLOW TEACHES COURSES ON MARRIAGE AT BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY AND IS A LICENSED MARRIAGE COUNSELOR.A recently divorced young wife and mother wrote a letter not long ago and asked me an interesting question: When is divorce justified? It is an interesting question but a difficult one to answer.
Diane Medved, a psychologist from Santa Monica, Calif., has written a book titled "The Case Against Divorce." Even though Medved reviews the many disadvantages of divorce in today's society, she also notes in one chapter that divorce is warranted in cases such as physical or mental abuse, substance (drug) abuse, insanity and infidelity, particularly when repeated continually by either or both spouses.Divorce is very difficult for those involved, especially in ending a relationship where love and compassion may have once been present. This is particularly so if the marriage was initially intended to last for eternity and didn't even make it through mortality. The grief and pain are compounded if children have been born to the couple choosing to separate. Perhaps those of us who have never divorced will never totally comprehend the impact of the experience. Extended family members, friends, neighbors and others sometimes make the divorce even more difficult by being less than understanding.
Not long ago I was given an article written by Rodney Turner, a religion professor at Brigham Young University who recently retired. I have the highest regard and esteem for him. As an undergraduate and graduate student at BYU I took several religion classes from him. Turner was also on my master's degree examination committee, and he can ask penetrating questions. During my association with him I learned to appreciate his keen insight into the application of religious principles in day-to-day living.
In his book "Women and the Priesthood," Turner notes the following: "Pretense - maintaining appearances for appearance's sake - meant nothing to Jesus. He was a realist. Although he taught that divorce was contrary to the will of heaven, he nonetheless allowed for it under certain circumstances. God permits divorce in fact; he does not condone it in principle. Forbidding divorce on any grounds whatsoever is both unscriptural and immoral. The Lord would not have given the church the authority to bind and to loose if such were the case. (Matthew 16:19; 18:18)."
The religion professor continues, "What hypocrisy to claim that thieves and murderers may repent and enter heaven but that those who err in choosing a mate must be condemned to a lifetime of marital hell. Is a woman to be prisoner of her husband regardless of how he may abuse her just so long as he does not commit physical adultery? Such a restricted view would allow the practice of all manner of soul-destroying tyrannies with seeming impunity.
"Human judgment is fallible - especially when we are young and inexperienced," he concludes. "Mistakes are made. Nothing is gained by perpetuating a relationship which is hopelessly wrong. . . . An enduring relationship - whether with God or man - cannot be coerced; it must be achieved without compulsory means - being founded upon the natural harmony of its component parts." (Pages 264-265.)
We thank Rodney Turner for his insights. Perhaps you have additional comments or observations on when divorce may or may not be justified. If so, write to 1230 SFLC, BYU, Provo, UT 84602.