Jul 9, 2011
In this recent post on the Wheat & Tares blog, the author, Jake, bases his article on the statistic that temple-sealed Mormons have a miraculously low divorce rate of 6%.
In support of that percentage he uses a number of sources, the first being a 1984 News of the Church article referencing a study conducted by BYU sociology professor Tim Henton and the church’s Kirsten Goodman of the Correlation Evaluation Department. Their report finds that:
“Nontemple marriages are about five times more likely to end in divorce than temple marriages.” About 5.4 percent of LDS males who married in the temple were later divorced, and about 6.5 percent of the females. By comparison, some 27.8 percent of nontemple LDS marriages ended in divorce for men, and about 32.7 percent for women.”
After quoting a 1993 Salt Lake Tribune article citing the low divorce rate amongst Mormons, the Wheat & Tares post references this LA Times April 2000 article, which cites BYU professor Daniel Judd’s claim that only 6% of Mormons “undergo the demanding temple marriage breakup.”
The author ends his summary of statistics by briefly mentioning the counter argument to the low-divorce-rate hypothesis with the following, “Now something that has been pointed out is that these statistics may not be fully accurate and representative, due to the fact that getting a temple divorce is notoriously difficult to do and the 6% represent only those who have had their marriage both legally and ecclesiastically divorced.”
After offering that caveat, it is concluded that: “The consensus seems to be that even if it is not as dramatically low as is portrayed, it is clear that Mormon marriages divorce rates are lower than the national average rate.”
This conclusion seems premature. I’m not sure there is an agreement that “Mormon marriages divorce rates are lower than the national average rate.” Further, we are never presented with the information that would counter the low percentage of Mormon divorces.
I followed a link in Jake’s article to the Ontario Consultants of Religious Tolerance website (religioustolerance.org), which provides the following information:
Overall, the Mormon divorce rate appears to be no different from the average American divorce rate. A 1999 study by Barna Research of nearly 4,000 U.S. adults showed that 24% of Mormon marriages end in divorce — a number statistically equal to the divorce rate among all Americans. Members of non-denominational churches (typically Fumndamentalist in teaching) and born-again Christians experience a significantly higher divorce rate; Agnostics and Atheists have much a lower rate.
This data is supported by an earlier study the National Survey of Families and Households. It found that about 26% of both Mormons and non-Mormons had experienced at least one divorce at some time during their life.
That information is very important as it confounds the church-approved messages regarding Mormon temple marriages that are repeated ad nauseum over the pulpit.
Let’s interpret the doublespeak of BYU professor Daniel Judd’s claim that only 6% of Mormons “undergo the demanding temple marriage breakup.”
Is he really saying that only 6% of Mormons get divorced? No, he isn’t. He is only saying that 6% of Mormons actually go through the process of severing their temple marriage. It is a lie of omission. He doesn’t clarify that an individual who gets a secular divorce doesn’t necessarily go through a temple sealing cancellation.
From what I’ve found, in order to get a temple sealing cancellation one needs permission from the First Presidency. If you’re a woman, it is customary to receive written permission from the ex-husband. (Need I even add that if you’re a man, such permission in not necessary?) Understanding what it takes to get a temple sealing puts Henton and Goodman’s 1984 study in the proper context and explains why only 5.4% of males and 6.5% of females get a temple divorce. After all, if females want to remarry in the temple, they need a sealing cancellation with permission from their former spouse. Men don’t have to play by the same rules and their numbers are lower for it.
My biggest problem with the whole fraudulent “6% get divorced” regurgitation, is that it prevents an honest discussion about temple marriage from ever occurring.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the average U.S. divorce rate in 2009 was 3.4 per 1,000 people. Utah’s divorce rate for 2009 was 3.6. Since 1990, their numbers have looked like this:
(The full chart for divorce rates by state can be found on CDC’s website here)
If you’ll allow me to use Utah as a representative for the Mormon church, data suggests they have consistently been above the average U.S. divorce rate. Even with falling divorce rates, their numbers mirror the rest of the nation whose rates of divorce are also in decline.
In reality, temple-married Mormons get divorced like everyone else. It just so happens that they don’t go through the trouble of getting permission from a group of strangers as well as their estranged ex spouses to complete the church’s requirement for a temple sealing cancellation.