Within the Church, we grow up striving to get married in the temple and build an eternal family. Because of this overarching goal, it can be hard for us to recognize that abuse and divorce happen within the Church.
Getting married in the temple does not guarantee a happy and healthy marriage. One LDS actress candidly shares her experiences with abuse and divorce in a temple marriage.
Who is Monica Moore Smith?
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If she looks familiar to you, you have probably seen her content coming from Utah. Her works include Saturday’s Warrior in 2016 and lots of church videos. The most memorable is Bullying: Stop It.
Monica Moore Smith met her ex-husband in 2017. They became engaged 6 months after meeting. The pair married in the Provo City Center Temple on February 3, 2018.
After 2 years of marriage, Smith made a public statement via Instagram announcing the separation. She said, “In spite of what might be seen as appearances to the contrary, there has been over a year of anguish, discussion, study, prayer, and (mostly solo) counseling with regard to my marriage. On February 7th, I left the apartment [we] shared and minimized all contact with him out of my concern for my safety and well-being. Earlier this month I filed for divorce and he was served last week.”
Since this announcement, she has used her personal experiences and platform as a way to share information with those who may be struggling with similar issues.
Recognizing Abuse in a Relationship
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Sadly, I must make a public statement. In spite of what might be seen as appearances to the contrary, there has been over a year of anguish, discussion, study, prayer, and (mostly solo) counseling with regard to my marriage. On February 7th, I left the apartment Justin and I shared and minimized all contact with him out of my concern for my safety and well-being. Earlier this month I filed for divorce and he was served last week. Several of my friends, colleagues, and followers—including some Justin has never met—have let me know that he has contacted them privately with libelous information, under the guise of seeking marital advice. I appreciate those of you who have had the courage to come directly to me in such an uncomfortable situation. If he has contacted you in such a manner, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Throughout this difficult process, I have tried to be fair and as kind as possible—even declining to take recommended steps to protect myself, because I was told they might damage his reputation and hamper him from moving forward in life. However, I cannot stand by while false information about me is being spread. Thank you for your love and support at the very difficult time. – Monica ❤️
Smith did a live Q & A on Al Carraway’s Instagram page to discuss her experiences. She stated, “I don’t think anyone goes into a marriage thinking that they are going to get divorced.”
After over a year of therapy, Smith decided to file for divorce. She has continued to go to therapy and shares educational information on her social media platforms.
You will naturally have differences with your spouse and it’s important to acknowledge those. Having differences and disagreeing or fighting does not necessarily constitute abuse. Make sure that you are able to clearly discern between disagreements and abuse within your relationship.
Her advice for anyone facing abuse in their relationship is to “listen to your gut.” Trust yourself and make your health a priority in your life.
In general, abusers use mental tactics in order to get you to stop trusting yourself. In the process, it is common for someone to feel like they are crazy. Other tactics used by abusers are gaslighting, codependence, and isolation, just to name a few.
Within the Church, spiritual manipulation can be used. An abuser may twist temple covenants or misinterpret scriptures to manipulate you into thinking you are not in control.
She provides an extensive list of books that were helpful to her throughout this process. This list includes Should I Stay or Should I Go?, Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft, and Boundaries in Marriage by Dr. Henry Cloud.
These books helped Smith to say that “once you have the vocabulary to explain what happened to you, you can heal.” After recognizing and putting a name to the situation she was in, Smith eventually began to heal.
Finding Hope and Peace After Abuse and Divorce
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Breathe. If you have hit a low point in your life and don’t know if you will make it…. Please listen to me. 🙏🏻 • • There is ALWAYS light at the end of the tunnel. GOD WILL NOT LET YOU FALL WITHOUT A SAFTEY NET. If you miss the first one, stay calm, he has as many safety nets as you need! ❤️ • • • I felt abandoned by God because I so desperately wanted the pain to stop. But I KNEW he loved me too much to just forget me. So, I got up anyways and decided to push through in faith. 💫 “I don’t know what’s in store, I’m tired, I’m scared, but I know you want what is best for me, so I will trust God that I can make it through this.” • • He is putting others in your life to help you, giving you little nudges, and blessings all around. You might not see it now and THAT IS OKAY. I don’t always either. ⬇️ If you can’t handle everything. Don’t! 🙋🏼♀️ Let God handle it with you. He can take whatever you throw at him. Don’t act like you don’t need help because we all do. It’s not a weakness. Humility to ASK is a strength. ✊🏼 Stop trying to be “strong” and let God take a turn. • • • • Hindsight is 20/20. Little did I realize how much God was there for me the WHOLE ENTIRE TIME. I wish I could tell my past self that. • So, don’t give up on yourself. Don’t give up on God. Because he will NEVER give up on you. ❤️ Just keep swimming. ☺️
For Smith, healing included recognizing things for what they are, educating herself, and recognizing that God will provide her with peace and hope.
Getting a divorce does not mean that you are breaking your covenants. If someone is abusing you, they already broke that covenant. You severing your relationship with them for your personal safety and well being, you are not wrong for leaving.
A quote by Dr. Henry Cloud says, “It takes 2 people to make a relationship work, but it only takes 1 person to destroy it.”
Smith says that while dating she prayed and fasted to know if marrying him was right. She also admits that she did not pay attention to some of the red flags. She continues saying that “it is important to try to grow in your ability to discern and make smart choices so that you don’t get swept away by someone who could eventually abuse you.”
In the live Q&A previously mentioned, Smith bears her testimony saying that she was pleading with God. She then said, “I’m at this huge loss but God always compensates.”
She continues, “God wants us to feel love and light and peace. God wants us to be on the path of growth and I couldn’t be on the path of growth in that relationship.” Her hope and faith for the future after abuse and divorce inspiring and honest.
How has God lifted you out of a dark time? Share in the comments.