Disclaimer: Admittedly, I am on a soapbox today. I find myself completely unapologetic about that.
I’m not in the habit of rewriting scripture, but there is a particular verse in James to which I would like to take my red pen:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
I still remember the time a divorcée who had just moved into my ward called my house and asked for my husband. I don’t remember what exactly she needed, except that she needed a priesthood bearer, she had already met my husband, he gave her our number, and she thought to call him. I didn’t give it a second thought until later, after I met her myself, when she explained to me that some people do give it a second thought and aren’t entirely comfortable associating (or particularly allowing their husbands to associate) with divorcées.
I had no idea.
While most the people I know personally have been good friends and diligent home and visiting teachers to my friend—and to several other divorced women I know and love—I have since come to realize that not every sister who finds herself coping with the pain, sorrow, upheaval and hardship of divorce is so fortunate.
Sometimes the slights are seemingly simple and, I would hope, unintentional.
Like that time when someone came to my friend’s door, looking for someone else (who was also divorced). When the woman realized her mistake she said to my friend, “Oh. You’re the other one.”
Or when individuals or youth groups plan service activities for the widows in the ward, but overlook that other single women and mothers in the ward might be in equal or even greater need of such service.
But recently I’ve watched, angry and broken hearted, as another dear friend has suffered deeply at the hands of neighbors, home and visiting teachers, and even leadership who have been cold, neglectful and unsupportive. “This is not how it is supposed to work!” my troubled heart cries. “It” meaning the church, as the functioning organization charged with carrying about the work and living the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have covenanted to bear one another’s burdens no matter what that burden might be. We covenanted to “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” (Mosiah 18:8,9)
And I have become aware that this friend is not the only one.
So today I publicly submit the version of this verse in James the way it is written on my heart:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows and divorcées in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
What this means to me is that to live my religion purely and to be undefiled before God, I am to be inclusive and supportive. To be mindful of specific needs and specific times when someone might need a friend, such as weekends and holidays alone when the kids are spending time with their father. To love and serve faithfully, without stigma or judgment.
What does it mean to you? As a mother, sister, friend or visiting teacher?
If you are divorced, how can your friends and those who are called to serve you more effectively and completely serve you?