LDS Divorce Group sets annual retreat for Heber Valley


The LDS Divorce Survivors group, a Facebook-centered community of more than 3,800 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will conduct its annual retreat at the LDS Heber Camp on July 27-28.  The third annual retreat offers activities intended to instruct and encourage LDS Church members as they make this often emotionally shattering transition from marriage to single adulthood once again. This year the retreat offers added incentive by taking place at the camp located about two miles east of Heber City, as well as at points around Heber Valley and Provo Canyon.  Hank Smith, Ph.D., a motivational speaker and author who teaches at Brigham Young University, will give a keynote address at the retreat. Smith has more than 40,000 followers on Instagram and a Facebook fan page with more than 70,000 likes. Smith speaks at events around the world virtually every weekend. Unlike previous retreats that featured many speakers and workshops, this year’s retreat will focus more on activities to help each participant know that support is available from individuals who have been through the same experiences.  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.  “Without proper validation of the experiences of a divorced member of the LDS faith, these victims struggle to move on and heal from the past,” said McDougle. “They lose trust in their closest associations, and fear their existence is meaningless when important relationships turn into abuse or neglect.”  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 emotionally rejuvenating activities and speakers, 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.”  Activities of the retreat will include river rafting down the Provo River from the base of Deer Creek Dam, chair lift rides at Sundance, a zip line course, ropes courses at the Heber Camp, and other events.  BYU communications professor Robert Wakefield says the LDS church offers several means to assist 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 six years ago and still deals with custody battles from that breakup. Wakefield recognizes the great need for such a support 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 harass ex-spouses.”  “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. To pick up additional information or to register, interested participants can go online to LDSDivorceSurvivors.com.

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