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The LDS Divorce Survivors Non-Profit Organization, a Facebook-centered community of more than 2,600 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are going through or have already completed a divorce process, will conduct its annual retreat in Lehi, Utah, October 27-29, group administrators announced today.
The retreat, coming into its second year, offers speakers and activities intended to instruct and encourage LDS church members as they make this often emotionally shattering transition from marriage to single adulthood once again.
Lisa McDougle, who organized the group in 2011 and serves as chief administrator, said the retreat is a valuable resource for divorced members who so typically feel they no longer fit into a church culture that emphasizes marriage and families.
“Divorce certainly affects a significant number of church members,” McDougle said. “When a marriage splits apart, the individuals involved are often left to flounder on their own. Unlike with illness or death, no one brings them a casserole.”
The LDS Divorce Survivors Retreat, like the Facebook group, provides a forum where divorced members can see they’re not alone and learn good ways to cope with their situation and focus on Jesus Christ.
“Through speakers, workshops, and emotionally rejuvenating activities, participants can learn how to hold themselves and their loved ones together during this stressful time of life,” McDougle explained. “We want them to be instructed but also to exchange experiences and to have fun with others who share their same situation. If they aren’t letting their hair down and outright laughing at some point, I’m going to feel like a failure. There are few groups who need to laugh more than this one.”
Keynote speakers for the conference include Dr. David Christensen, former Director of Seminaries and Institutes of the University of Utah; Kent Merrell, a motivational speaker and neighborhood unit leader in Salt Lake City; Jessie Clark Funk, an inspirational singer, author and executive director of the non-profit Ivy Girl Academy; and Merrilee Boyack, a local attorney, author and life coach.
Seminars taking place in addition to the keynotes will cover topics such as post-divorce financing, self-defense, home and Internet security, safety in dating, methods for natural healing, and the power of the atonement. Other presentations will bring light to temple ordinances post divorce, blended families, red flags of toxic and dangerous relationships, and overcoming trauma and betrayal.
While the focus of the retreat is on spiritual and emotional enrichment, it also includes activities meant for relaxation, McDougle said. These will include a river boat ride at the mouth of Provo River, karaoke based on “Survivor” themed music, catered meals, and a “formal jungle dinner.” Because the retreat goes into Sunday morning, it will include spiritual services that day, as well.
Most of the activities and seminars will take place at the Hillcrest Building, 1120 N. 150 W., in American Fork, starting at 9am, Friday, October 27th.
According to BYU communications professor Robert Wakefield, the LDS church offers several systems for assistance to its members. But even with those systems in place, it is not difficult for divorced members to feel isolated and unsupported.
“As sincere as local church members or leaders may be, it is hard to appreciate the crisis that leads up to and through a divorce unless you have gone through it,” Wakefield said. “Unfortunately, too many end up even leaving the church and walking away from their one true means of support—the Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Wakefield is involved in the group because his own son was divorced five years ago and still deals with custody battles from that breakup. Wakefield recognizes the great need for such a group to exist.
“The LDS Divorce Survivors Facebook group offers a private community of support from those who have been there and have remained in the church. Any church member or former member who is divorced can join, but they are screened first to make sure their intentions are to gain support and not to harrass ex-spouses.”
This past spring, administrators of the group published articles in LDS-centered magazines and then reposted links onto Facebook. Since then, the group has ballooned by more than 2,000 and continues to grow at more than 100 per week.
“We have no doubt that there are many more church members out there who are desperate for help,” McDougle said. “We want to let them know that real support exists online on a daily or even an hourly basis, and at this retreat as well.”
Registration for the entire retreat, including meals, is $75. Additional, cheaper registration options are also available. Interested individuals coming from beyond Utah or Salt Lake counties can stay overnight at the Timpanogos Inn, 195 S. 850 E. in Lehi for a reduced nightly rate (hotel deadline, September 27th).
For additional information and to register, interested participants can go online to www.LDSDivorceSurvivors.com.