Scott Sonnenberg: Dealing With Divorce

Wed Apr 15 10:00:33 EDT 2020
Episode 76

What happens when an eternal marriage doesn't end up lasting for eternity? Like many children in the Church, Scott Sonnenberg grew up singing “I Love to See the Temple,” and “Families Can Be Together Forever.” That treasured ideal was shattered shortly after Scott returned home from his mission and his parents went through a divorce. He promised himself at the time that divorce would never ravage his own marriage—but, as he explains on this week’s podcast, that is exactly what happened. On this week's episode, Sonnenberg shares how he's navigated being a member of the Church when a forever family seems out of reach, and how the Atonement has given him hope through his trial.

I think when we teach about how families are central to everything that we believe in, it’s about your family—whatever that family may be.
Scott Sonnenberg

Quote from Bruce R. McConkie: "I believe that the most important single thing that any Latter-day Saint ever does in this world is to marry the right person, in the right place, by the right authority;…" (Bruce R. McConkie, "Agency or Inspiration," New Era 1975). For the full talk, see: ChurchofJesusChrist.org

Speech by Hugh B. Brown: "God is the Gardener," May 1968, see speeches.BYU.edu

Show Notes  
2:51- Faith and Family Centerstage in Athlete’s Life
13:07- When Your World is Rocked
15:18- Others’ Perception
16:51- Challenges Associated with Divorce
18:36- Meeting Childrens’ Needs Along with Your Own
21:31- Why Doesn’t God Stop Us?
26:13- Lessons Learned
29:33- The Trauma of Losing Your Eternal Marriage
32:36- Balance in Sharing
37:40- New Hope
41:02- Blending Families and Shared Custody
45:57- What Does It Mean To Be “All In” the Gospel of Jesus Christ?


Morgan Jones 0:00
Hello everybody, I hope that you are staying safe and healthy. We are running out of in-studio interviews. I'm actually recording this on the floor of my parents' closet. So you're gonna start hearing more that may have a bit lower quality than what you've come to expect from this show, but we promise that we will continue to give you the highest quality interviews possible. And we hope that you'll continue to hang out with us. We appreciate your patience so much, and we also just want to say thank you to all of you who have shared this podcast with your family and friends, whether on social media or through word of mouth. Thank you for every rating or review that you've left us, every kind piece of feedback that we've received, it all really means the world and we love the community that this podcast has created. If you want to be even more involved with this podcast, please be sure to follow our Instagram account at Allin.podcast

Morgan Jones 1:00
Scott Sonnenberg now has many people's dream job as an NBA executive. But even before that, he had achieved his dream of playing college basketball. So you might assume Scott is one of those people that everything has always just come easy too. But six years ago, after three years of fighting to save his marriage, Sonnenberg went through a very painful divorce. He recalls struggling to eat or sleep. But today he looks back and can see purpose in his path. Scott Sonnenberg is the Chief Global Partnerships Officer for the LA Clippers. Previously an executive with the Chicago Bulls, Scott has nearly 20 years of experience in prospecting, negotiating and closing partnerships across the globe with some of the largest companies in the world. But more importantly, he is a husband and a father. This is All In and LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am honored to have Scott Sonnenberg on the line with me today. Scott, welcome.

Scott Sonnenberg 2:13
Thank you. It's great to be with you. I appreciate you having me on.

Morgan Jones 2:17
Well, I am so grateful, first of all, that you are willing to do this. I think that the experiences that you have to offer will be so helpful to so many that will listen to this, and possibly many that have felt alone at times. And so thank you so much for being willing to share your experiences.

Scott Sonnenberg 2:37
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I've learned that through this process, many have gone through similar situations and it can be tough to talk about and tough to, to navigate through. So hopefully I can provide a little bit of help along the way.

Morgan Jones 2:51
Yeah. So first of all, Scott, you have spent much of your church service working with the youth, which I find interesting because you told me in an email that you first met the person who would later hire you at the Chicago Bulls, your senior year of high school. Tell us a little bit about, kind of, Scott, the teenager.

Scott Sonnenberg 3:13
Well, as a teenager, I was a handful. I'm one of five boys. And for any mother who's raising all boys, there's a special place in heaven for her because it takes an extreme amount of patience, just to keep us alive. So being one of five boys, I was the middle child. So every stereotype they say about the middle child was true with me. I love the attention. I was the tease. I had my two older brothers and they would beat up on me and then I would dish it out to my two younger brothers. We were all very, very competitive. I just remember growing up, watching my brothers play basketball, watching my dad play basketball thinking, that's what I want to do. I want to play basketball. I want to be great like them, and they pushed me and pushed me and pushed me. And that's really what helped instill within me a desire to play basketball and to compete. Now from a spiritual standpoint, I grew up outside of Chicago in a town called Warrenville, which is right next to Wheaton, Illinois. And in Wheaton, I had a great group of friends, they were born-again Christian friends, they had strong values, good people to be associated with. Obviously, their beliefs were different than ours, but they had good strong values. And I think what helped instill within me a desire to learn more about the gospel and to strengthen my own individual testimony is because of the constant questions that I was receiving from my friends outside of the Church. They would ask me questions about what I believe and why I believe certain things, and as a result, it challenged me to study and learn more. So, so my upbringing was fantastic. I grew up, obviously loving basketball, being a large part of my life, but then growing up in an environment surrounded by friends who had good strong values and morals, not necessarily of my faith, but of, you know, the same type of character.

Morgan Jones 5:20
I think that's so interesting that you touched on. And I think many people that are listening to this podcast will be able to relate to this idea of when you grow up somewhere that you are the minority as a member of the Church, it often requires that you figure out pretty early on what you do believe, and it kind of leads to this searching. And I think that's something that people in certain parts of the country will really be able to relate to. I know, I grew up in North Carolina, so that resonates with me. As you went on, you ended up, you played a year at BYU, a year at UVU, and then at San Jose State, is that right? Basketball?

Scott Sonnenberg 6:05
Yes, yes, that's right. That's right. It was always my dream, growing up, to play basketball at BYU. That was always what I hoped to accomplish. I was able to play there in '96 and then following that year, I served a two year mission in Las Vegas. After returning home, I transferred to Utah Valley, which was a junior college at the time. And then on to San Jose State to finish up basketball. I played three years there. I had a medical redshirt year in there. But I finished up playing playing in San Jose State and then moved back to Chicago shortly afterwards.

Morgan Jones 6:42
And Scott, while you were at San Jose State, the school newspaper wrote an article about you and your then wife and the title was "Faith and Family Centerstage in Athlete's Life." Why do you think that that caught the attention of your school, like, at large?

Scott Sonnenberg 7:04
Great question. People looked at me as different. I was not your typical college student. I was a returned missionary. Obviously faith was important, my teammates knew that on Sundays I was in church, I wasn't hanging out with them. The parties, the college parties that you see, you wouldn't find me at those. And my first year at San Jose State, I even had some of my teammates say to me, "Hey, you know, how come you don't come hang out with us more?" They just, they just thought it was it was odd. And so, you know, but then, but that was something that I was used to regardless having grown up in Chicago, you know, the West suburbs of Chicago. But it never deterred me from who I knew I wanted to be. You know, that lifestyle was never really a part of my life. I had values that I had instilled within me all growing up. And when I got to school, a non-LDS school was playing basketball, I was perceived as a little bit different. In fact, my first year at San Jose State, I was single, I was dating a little bit. And then towards the end of the year, I met my then wife, I went back to Utah for spring break, we went on a few dates, she ended up moving out to San Jose. And over the summer, we dated, got engaged, and got married within just a short period of time. So I remember coming back, my junior year to play basketball at San Jose State, and I'm sitting there in a, it was like a basketball welcome meeting with all my teammates and family and friends and I'm sitting there with my wife, my teammates didn't even know that I had gotten married. I stand up and introduce the woman sitting next to me as my wife, my teammates all turn around thinking, "What in the world happened over the summer with Scott?!" So I think, you know, they just, yeah, they perceived that I was on a different path. But they respected that. I loved my teammates, I keep in touch with many of them today. And they respected the path that I was choosing and they honored that. They never pushed me to do things that I didn't want to do. And so when the school paper came to me and wanted to do an article, I was captain of the team at the time, and wanted to do an article about my life, as they interviewed me, they came to realize that really faith and family is at the center of everything that's important to me. And that's what the article was about.

Morgan Jones 9:28
I love that you touched on the fact that your teammates, kind of just respected who you were and that's been my experience as well is that when we are firm in who we are, people kind of just accept us for who we are. And to the point that many times, I'm sure you can relate to this. I've had people be like, "Oh, Morgan doesn't do that." And I think that's admirable, in terms of the people that we surround ourselves with.

Scott Sonnenberg 9:56
Mm hmm. Absolutely. Absolutely. And what I've learned from a business standpoint is when you are working with people, and they look at you as someone with integrity, they want to do business with you. And I think it's helped me tremendously in my career and helping me move up the ranks within my career. It's helped me in building relationships with clients because they know that what I say is my word. And that's in large part due to the fact that I am a strong member of the Church. In fact, when I had started with the Chicago Bulls, it was within my first year that I was in the midst of negotiating a big multi-million dollar deal with a company out there and our owner of the Bulls, Jerry Reinsdorf, as we got to talking, somehow it came out that I was at BYU and that I was a member of the Church. And he turned around quickly, he was in the front passenger seat turned around quickly, and he said, "Wait, you're a Mormon?" And I didn't know how the conversation was gonna go from there. I was hoping and praying that he had good experiences with Mormons. And I said, "Yeah, I am." And he said, one of my business partners that helped me all throughout my real estate career, which really helped him earn the money to buy the Bulls way back when, was a member of the Church. And he said that members of the Church are some of the strongest, most faithful people that I've ever worked with, and it's great to have you on the team. Inside I'm thinking, "Oh! Thank goodness he had a good experience!" But, you know, people have always looked at my faith as is being what makes me, and you know, I'm really proud of that.

Morgan Jones 11:47
Yeah, I think it's cool too, when you have that experience, where people are like, "Oh, I've had a positive experience with other Latter-day Saints." You're like, "Oh, thank goodness that those people were good examples." And we all kind of become this collective whole in that moment. And so I love when stuff like that happens. Okay, Scott, we're gonna have a little bit of a spoiler alert right now, because you just talked about how you met your then wife. And so, for those who are not familiar with you, we're going to be talking the rest of this episode about divorce, and the marital issues that you experienced and the things that you've gone through since then. But up to that point, correct me if I'm wrong, it seems like your life had pretty much gone the way that you had planned.

Scott Sonnenberg 12:38
Yeah, absolutely. I was very goal-oriented. Basketball being such a large part of my life, that really helped instill within me to set and accomplish goals. And so I had a checklist, you know, it was play basketball at BYU, go on a mission, be sealed in the temple, be a good father, be a good husband, be a good priesthood holder. It was check, check, check, check, check. And I felt really confident on the the path that I was on. Absolutely.

Morgan Jones 13:07
So then, when things started to kind of go south in your marriage, how did that rock your world?

Scott Sonnenberg 13:17
Well, it did. It rocked my world tremendously. Because I didn't see coming, to be honest. And I know, my ex-wife would agree. We had a good marriage, we had a good relationship. You know, we have four kids, and we had a good healthy home. What I, you know, I knew some of the struggles that she had had previously, and she's been very open and I certainly wouldn't share anything that she wouldn't be comfortable with me sharing. But she, you know, she had a difficult upbringing, not having a father in her life. And she looked at me as someone that filled that void for her, someone who is that provider, that caregiver, that person that would love her unconditionally, a void that she had all throughout her life. But because I filled that void, she perceived me as, you know, that father-figure instead of that companion, so to speak. And again, she would be very open in sharing this. So, that was hard and, you know, we went through years of counseling, trying to, you know, trying to get to the root of this and try to build a closer connection and closer bond. But it was difficult. It was a trying time, definitely the most difficult period of my life. Prior to that, my parents had been through a divorce shortly after my mission, and when my parents went through the divorce, I thought, "Well, I'm never going to do that. I am never going to go through that." And then, there I was, you know, in a situation where I was faced with the same thing. And what I came to realize is that, you know, in a marriage, it's not a one-way street. You both have to be on the same page, growing in the same direction. It doesn't matter how hard you're working or what you're doing, you've got to both be putting in the effort if it's going to work.

Morgan Jones 15:18
Yeah. Scott, for someone like you that had been successful and very goal-oriented, how did things not working out in your marriage affect your self worth? And how did it make you feel that people perceived you? Did you worry about that?

Scott Sonnenberg 15:39
Yeah, absolutely. I worried about that. I even, you know, from a business standpoint, my business is very much about building relationships with clients and I love to, you know, to bring my family around them. You know, again, family has been such a crucial part of my life. And I was proud to bring my kids and my my wife around. And I was worried about how my clients and how others, friends, and, you know, people that I associated with would perceive me as a result. And that was hard. That was hard. And you do feel a little bit like, you want to explain things more, but you have to be sensitive to the fact that not everybody is going to understand, you know, what went on in our relationship, and it's not fair to give bits and pieces of what went on. You just have to have the confidence that people know you, and they know who I am. And they know what's important to me. And they know, you know, what my values are, and have faith that they'll draw their own conclusions based on that, because you have to be very sensitive to, you know, discussing those things, you know, be sensitive to the relationship.

Morgan Jones 16:51
Yeah. Scott, what are some of the other emotions and challenges that are associated with divorce that people who haven't gone through it might not be aware of or might not consider?

Scott Sonnenberg 17:07
Oh, well, divorce takes a tremendous toll on you physically, spiritually, emotionally. You know, we went through about three years of counseling in trying to keep the marriage together. And I was a fighter. I was gonna, you know, continue as long as I possibly could. The talk continued to ring in my mind - I love listening to old talks and some of my favorites are from Elder McConkie. And Elder McConkie, in one of his talks and talking about eternal marriage said, you know, the most important decision that you'll make in your life is to marry the right person in the right place at the right time and by the right authority. And that continued to ring in my mind and I thought, this is like life's purpose and I've failed. I've failed at that. And that hurt to think that I failed at that. And what I came to realize, as I contemplate more and more on that is it's not necessarily that I, that I failed at that. I put my whole heart and soul into everything, into the marriage, into everything that I've done. And if that's the result, then, you know, then that's what I have to live with. And I have to have confidence that the Lord has other plans for me and has a better path for me to take.

Morgan Jones 18:36
Yeah. Scott, how do you, in a situation like this, how do you prioritize your children, while also making sure that you're taking care of your own needs? Because you add children into the mix, and I think that makes things even more difficult.

Scott Sonnenberg 18:55
Yeah, the kids. The kids have always been at the forefront and it's difficult when you're trying to balance a career, your time with your kids, and then also trying to have some type of social life. And early on, I overdid it. I overcompensated as a result of the divorce. In fact, my wife still teases me. Shortly after the divorce, the kids would come over - I love to cook, and I love to bake. And I always wanted to have home-cooked meals for the kids when they came to the house, and our custody arrangement is such that the kids stay with me for a week and then they stay with their mom for a week. So during their weeks with me, I wanted to make sure that they had great home-cooked meals and treats and all sorts of stuff. And so, I said to the kids early on, I said, "Guys, we're going to have dessert every night after dinner." And the kids, they're all excited and yeah, that lasted for a little while, and when we don't have dessert nowadays, the kids will bring that back up and say, "Hey Dad, remember the time that you told us that we were going to have dessert every night?" And my wife looks at me like "I can't believe you told them that." But it's, you know, you have to make the kids a priority. But you also have to, you know, like you said, you have to remember to take care of yourself. And you can't do everything. And then, in addition to that, being married and having stepchildren as well, you have to make them an equal priority. And even with with my kids, and now that I'm married, my wife is my number one. You know, our relationship is most important. And as that falls into place, the relationship with my kids falls into place. They see what a healthy relationship, what a healthy marriage looks like, you know, and then with the co-parenting with my ex-wife, we, you know, we're on the same page to ensure that the kids are getting the love and attention that they need with all the different activities and all the different things that they have going on. But it's important to never lose sight of the fact that you have to continue to take care of yourself, especially spiritually during that transition. That was a hard transition for me in entering into life as a single dad. That was a difficult period. But I think, you know, keeping your, you know, your spirituality, at its highest is the most important to carry you through it.

Morgan Jones 21:31
Yeah. I want to talk a little bit more about that spirituality because I do want to get to your current family and marriage. But before we get there, I think it's important to talk about some of the ways that something like this affects one's faith. And the thing that I always think - I'm not married - but I always think if I were in that situation, I think I would struggle with thinking, you know, why didn't God stop me? or why did I feel good about marrying this person? Because we're a people that seek confirmation from God. And I thought it was interesting in your email to me, you mentioned that you're preparing a stake conference talk on personal revelation. So what have you learned about answering those questions like why doesn't God stop us from going through hard things? Or why do we feel good sometimes about things that end up not working out?

Scott Sonnenberg 22:33
Well, that was a question I really, really struggled with during the divorce. I remember very distinctly, we were living in San Jose and I went to the temple, I was fasting that day, I went to the Oakland Temple, went through a session and sat in one of the sealing rooms and and offered up just a heartfelt, sincere prayer asking if this is the person I should be sealed to. And I received a definite yes. Without a doubt, I knew it. And so I went home later that day, and my wife, we talked about it, and we started making plans. And then I proposed a little bit later. And so, fast forward all these years later, leaving the courthouse following the divorce, the first place I went to was back to the temple. Of course, this was in Chicago, and I sat there in the temple. And my question was, why? Why did this happen? I felt like I was doing everything right, and being a good father and husband and priesthood holder. And I just, I had a hard time with that. You know, and I didn't understand it at the time. And I didn't get an answer right then and there. I think the only thing that kept coming to my mind was be patient. Just be patient. There's the talk from Elder Hugh B. Brown - again, I love listening to these old talks - Elder Hugh B. Brown gave a talk called "I Am the Gardener Here." And in that talk, he talks about this bush that was chopped down and 'How could you chop it down? He was growing, and it was thriving.' But then, you know, the gardener knew that it would be best to chop it down because if it did, then it would grow and reach its full potential. And that talk continued to ring in my mind, as well. I didn't know what my full potential was at that time. Now here we are six years later, and I can see that everything happened for a reason. Everything absolutely happened for a reason, and I received - to go back a little bit - I received a blessing shortly after my divorce from a very close friend of ours, someone who had known me all growing up. In that, he told me that, you know, and of course, I'd gone on to be sealed to my companion, but in that he said that the Lord had a purpose for me. And after that blessing, he pointed out the fact that this is how it was always meant to be, don't question that. The fact that I went through the divorce, and ended up with my eternal companion, the companion I have now, we were sealed in Nauvoo. You know you think, well, how can that be? You know, certainly the Lord doesn't expect you to get married just to be divorced. But I had full faith and confidence in the fact that this was the Lord's plan for me. And I can say that now because of how my life is right now and how happy I am and I know what a healthy marriage feels like and a good home. But it took time. And I think that's what people need to understand is it takes time to get to that point. And so the only thing that came out of the temple shortly after my divorce is just be patient. Just be patient. And in time, it'll become more clear and now it has become more clear.

Morgan Jones 26:13
Scott, when you look back on that, and that period of your life, what do you feel like you did learn? Like what are you, how did that experience make you stronger or refine you or refine your faith and strengthen your relationship with God?

Scott Sonnenberg 26:33
Well, it made me rely wholeheartedly on the Savior. I had to put all of my energy every last ounce of it into the Savior to get me through it. I mean, it was a difficult difficult period when I was going through the divorce. I was losing weight, I had hard time eating, I couldn't sleep at night. And then on top of it, the callings I was given during that time, I was early morning seminary teacher, I was the young men's president. I had these callings, these very time consuming callings, and I think it was the Lord's way to say, "Hey, I need you focused on me. If we're going to carry you through this and I need you focused on me." And so I didn't have time to cry myself to sleep because I had a seminary lesson to prepare or I have young men's activity to prepare for or a young men that that needed me. You know, even when I was called as young men's president, that was in the middle of my divorce. I even said to the bishop, "Are you sure you want me in this calling? I'm supposed to be the, you know, the example for these boys in and I'm going through divorce." And he said, "The Lord wants you to be young men's president now." And so, you know, all of those things just brought me closer to my Savior. And you know, and it goes back to when my parents went through their divorce and how much I relied on the Savior to carry me through that, and the constant trips to the temple for strength, you know, the extra hump prayers and studying my scriptures and doing all those things that I knew would strengthen my relationship with Him because that was, is, was and is, my sure foundation, that foundation that is immovable. Regardless of everything that is happening in my life, that's the one thing that I could always rely on. And what I noticed during that period of time, is I felt like there was just a special conduit to heaven for me. I felt like the Lord really knew me and what I was going through because they were answers that would come much more clearly than I think, you know, than I've had in other situations. Sometimes when you pray, you seek revelation, you know, it's hard. It's hard to understand what the Lord's trying to tell you to do. But I feel like when you're going through these trials like this, and you're doing what you everything you're supposed to be doing, there's just a special conduit to heaven where you feel like the Lord is really there. He's really listening. He's really giving you answers. There are numerous experiences that I had, there were very vivid experiences that the Lord was telling me to do things. And, it really felt that he knew me. And he knew what I was going through, and it was there to help.

Morgan Jones 29:33
Yeah. I mentioned to you, Scott, that my friend recently went through a divorce in a similar situation as you and he helped me come up with a few questions. And I thought these questions were so good and likely will be more helpful than anything that I could come up with for those that are listening. But one thing that's unique to our culture in the Church is this idea of an eternal marriage versus a marriage just for time. And that's something that we talk about so much in the Church. And one question that he had was, did the trauma of losing your eternal marriage affect you spiritually? How did you navigate that? And what advice do you have for others going through it?

Scott Sonnenberg 30:20
Mmm. Great question. I know for me, and everybody's different in their own situations. I think for those that have friends that are divorced, or family members or whatever are going through it, the number one thing is be careful not to judge. Everybody's path is different. And people learn differently. And people learn through their own mistakes. They learn through the mistakes of others. And so number one is it's important not to judge the circumstances that people can find themselves in. But as it relates here to your question: because of that sure foundation that I've always had in the Gospel, and I think that comes from, you know, my testimony and obviously serving a mission and in doing those things, I never thought, like, you know, this isn't for me, because I was doing everything that I was supposed to be doing and didn't work out the way I thought it was supposed to work out. I never questioned my testimony. I never questioned my faith. I questioned why some of the things happened in my life the way that they did, but in an answer to that, the answer that I received was just be patient, and things will start to unfold, and they have. And so, but it never really affected me in a sense that my testimony was was faltering. And in large part, not only because of how I'm grounded, but I've got four children, you know, that I wanted to teach them and continue to teach them how important the gospel is and how the gospel can carry you through tremendous, tremendous trials in our lives, as it's carried through me through through mine. And so, not only did I need to be that rock for myself, but I needed to be that rock for my kids where they can look at me as an example of someone who's gone through this, and to continue to make sure that they're at Church every week and their activities and to be following up on their scripture study and in all the programs that the Church has. Those were all very, very important to me in keeping me grounded.

Morgan Jones 32:36
Scott, I think it's so important, one thing that as I thought about your situation, and also my friend's situation, I think it's so important for all of us who observe these types of situations not to make assumptions. And I'm curious, as a man, if you ever felt like people made assumptions about the reasoning to why your marriage didn't work? And how do you navigate the balance between telling people what happened in order to feel understood while not oversharing and keeping confidences and trust with your ex-wife?

Scott Sonnenberg 33:16
Yeah, no. Good question. You know, I go back to the fact that I have to trust that people around me know me and know what my true values are, know what my principles are, know me to the core. I don't think I necessarily felt judged by being a man so to speak in a divorce. I know a lot of people who looked at our situation and thought, "Well, I didn't see that coming." In the same way they looked at my own parents when they went through the divorce: "Well, we didn't see that coming." And so that's hard because that's just, again, for someone who has had faith and family at the center of their lives to go through a divorce, you think, "Well, that that's not supposed to happen." And that was a struggle for me. But that was something that I just had to work out. I had to work that out myself and realize, hey, yeah, it happened. And, you know, it's all about where you're headed. My grandfather used to always tell me and tell everybody that he come in contact with, he'd say, "You know, it's really all about, you know, where you're headed, not necessarily where you've been." And I always have felt like I've been on the right path and continue to be, and I just had to have faith in that and not worry about what other people may perceive or what people may think of the situation.

Morgan Jones 34:43
Yeah. Another question that my friend had Scott was, our culture seems to know how to handle a spouse's death or divorce due to reasons like infidelity, but sometimes these more complex situations can cause the person going through them to feel isolated. And so he said, what advice do you have for someone who feels alone while going through a divorce for unique reasons that are hard to explain?

Scott Sonnenberg 35:13
Yeah. You know, especially in our culture, you know, I would sit in, you know, in primary or sacrament meeting and hear, "Families can be together forever," and I would just cry. And you hear so much about how the adversary is, you know, the families are the target. And that's true. What I had to come to understand is that, yes, families are absolutely a target. But it, specifically in a marriage, it's a two way street. You've both gotta be on the same page if it's going to work. And families are central to our Father in Heaven's plan. But all families are different, you know, some are blended families like mine. Some are single mothers trying to do their best with their children. Some are single fathers trying to do their best. Some are a couple that can't have children. And some are the stereotypical, perfect, you know, relationship with, you know, husband, wife, kids, in the home. Every family is different. So yes, family is central to our Father in Heaven's plan, but there isn't a one size fits all for families because that may not be possible in certain situations. I know as a single father, I was doing my absolute best as a single father, and was raising my kids and I felt where I lacked, my Heavenly Father helped make up that difference. And I feel like when we're doing everything that we can, the Lord makes up makes up the difference. And now I'm blessed to have an amazing, amazing companion, who is at my side and is there helping with the kids and caring for them, and is an amazing wife and mother, and now we're a team. And that's my family now. But she was a single mother for a period of time. And so every situation is different. And it's hard to not look in the mirror and say, "Well, my family doesn't look like that one." Because we don't know what kind of trials families are going through. I think you have to just focus on what you can control and what your family situation is right now, and let that be your focus. I think when we teach about how families are central to everything that we believe in, it's about your family, you know, whatever that family may be.

Morgan Jones 37:40
Scott, I am a sucker for a good love story. So I need you to tell us how you met your wife.

Scott Sonnenberg 37:48
Well, we both went through divorce at about the same time, and coming out of the divorce, yeah, we didn't know each other. We were both living there in Chicago, my wife is originally from Mexico City. And coming out of the divorce, I had put my whole heart and soul into everything, in trying to keep the marriage together, and once we realized that this wasn't going to work, and once the divorce was final, I hit the ground running and I was ready to start dating. My wife, on the other hand, didn't have any interest in wanting to date. And so shortly after our divorce, a member of my stake presidency who's now the temple president in Chicago, came to me and he said, "My daughter is serving in the primary presidency with a young lady that I think you should meet, and she's got two young boys." And he showed me a picture and I said, "Well, yeah, I definitely would like to meet her." And it was a few months later that we were supposed to meet up. Now, my wife had no interest in dating, and so she had to be tricked into being introduced to me. And the way that her friend did that is she said, "Hey, did you want to go to a Bulls game?" And my wife, my now wife, she said, "Oh, sure, sure! I'll go and bring bring the boys with." So we had it all planned out, and we were going to meet up. She didn't realize that she was being set up. Here's what's interesting, is I got really sick that day. And we didn't end up, and so I had to call our mutual friend and say, "I'm not going to be able to make the Bulls game tonight. So you know, this isn't gonna work out." So she ended up going to the game, us never having really met, and realizing after the fact that she was being set up and said, "I would have never wanted to go if I knew I was I was being set up." So that's the first time that we were supposed to meet, it didn't happen. Now, fast forward eight months later, and I was dating - we never met at that first moment - I was dating, I had been in other relationships, she had now just started to date and get comfortable dating again, and then our paths crossed officially. And I immediately went up to her - it was at a stake activity for her stake - she was in the neighboring stake, the Joliet Stake, I was in the Naperville Stake. We managed an activity and I talked her up for a good hour. And she wasn't really interested. My wife is, she's just, she's so humble and so sweet and kind, and, you know, the thought of, yeah, I was the vice president of the Bulls at the time, and in her mind, she thought, "Well, Vice President of the Bulls probably means big ego, and I don't know if I'm going to be interested in that." And so I really had to pursue her to get her interested. And eventually, she gave me the time and we were able to go on a few dates and she realized, oh, yeah, I'm a good guy and we hit it off. We hit it off after a few dates.

Morgan Jones 41:02
So then what is your blending of families? What does that look like, if she had kids and you had kids? And then there's that factor, you mentioned earlier, custody agreement. So how does all of that work? How do you balance all of that?

Scott Sonnenberg 41:16
It is a balance. Yeah, so the way our situation works is, you know, my kids go back and forth one week at a time, she's got a little bit set up with with her kids' father. But the blending of the families occurred really over a period of time. Once we were dating for about six months, we felt it was time to introduce the kids and so we met for ice cream once and it was something very casual for the kids to kind of get to know each other. And they're all about the same age. Our kids range from ages nine to 15. And so and, there's again, there's six, so they're all tight in age, and they all just kind of clicked. And over a period of time, we would do more and more activities. Then on Fridays, they would come over and then they'd come back on a Saturday. And sometimes we go to Church together on a Sunday. And that lasted for a good year. And then it got to the point where kids would say, or my kids would say, "Dad, we're tired of saying goodbye to Vanessa and the kids." You know, "We're tired of saying goodbye to them at night." And that's when Vanessa and I realized, oh, okay, you know, we're all ready to take the next step. And then it was a short time later that, you know, we made all the preparations to be sealed in Nauvoo. And that was just an incredible day, and to see all the kids and to see how happy they were, and, you know, it was just a real, real blessing and I could really start to see why everything happened the way that it did.

Morgan Jones 42:55
What does your family mean to you now? Having gone through all these of these experiences, what does your family specifically, and then just family in general, mean to you?

Scott Sonnenberg 43:07
Well, family is everything to me. My kids, my step-kids, my wife, that's that's everything to me. That's my biggest source of happiness is when I'm when I'm with my kids. The toughest part about divorce is not being able to be with your kids as much as you would hope. But I've noticed that when I'm doing things with my kids, when I'm doing activities, when I'm cooking with them or baking with them or doing anything, that's when I'm happiest. That's when I'm enjoying life the most is when when we're doing things together. Our time together, because it's split, I really try to take advantage of every minute that we have together. Every weekend we do something fun as a family, every weekend that we're together. And then of course, the various activities. I've got a great, you know, co-parenting relationship with their mom, and so, you know, there'll be things that come up, and, you know, can I pick up the kids to take them here during her week? And she'll say, of course. And she'll say, can I pick up the kids to take them there, and, I'll say, of course, and so we've got a very good relationship. And in my ex-wife, she lives less than a mile away. And so the kids can really go back and forth, you know, as they choose, and so we've got a good relationship in that sense, which is healthy. And it takes time to get to that point, also. You know, I can imagine some people are maybe listening, thinking, well, I haven't heard too many situations like that. You know, it takes time and it takes time to heal. Those first couple of years were really, really hard coming out of the divorce, and it hurt a lot. And I realized that the longer I hang on to this pain, you know, I'm just not going to be able to recover, my heart's not going to be able to recover, and I need to get through this. So, you know, it takes time and everybody goes at a different pace. But I feel like now the place that we're at in our co-parenting and the relationship that we have, and the relationship that we have with our kids is in a healthy, healthy place. I take their mother into consideration in a lot of the decisions that we make. When we all made the decision to move to Los Angeles, the first call that I made was, obviously to my wife to see if she was open to it, which being from Mexico City, she was absolutely on board to moving to sunny California. And then the next call was to my ex-wife to see if she would be open to relocating, which she was very excited about the possibility. So you know, it's a challenge, and yes, we don't agree on everything, but you work through things because, ultimately you're a family.

Morgan Jones 45:57
Thank you so much that you shared so many things that I wouldn't have considered. So I really, really appreciate that. Scott, thank you so much for sharing all of this. As we wrap up, the last question that we always ask on this podcast is what does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Scott Sonnenberg 46:18
I think for me to be all in means that whatever you're going through in your life, whatever your situations are, whatever your circumstances are, continue to make the Savior the focal point. Continue to turn to him. That's what has carried me through some of the most challenging times of my life, and, and continues to carry me today. It's about keeping the Savior at the center. And that relates to how you live your daily life, how others perceive you, how they look at you, the kind of example that you're setting, how you're parenting. Every facet of your life should reflect the Savior. And know that trials inevitably will come. I think that was difficult for me to realize because I thought, well, if I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, then maybe I won't see the same kind of trials that others have. That's not necessarily true. We can be doing what we're supposed to be and still have tremendous trials placed upon us. And I've certainly seen that in my life, and as we put the Savior first, know that He will carry us through that. And I think that's what it means to be all in.

Morgan Jones 47:31
Thank you so much, Scott. Thank you for giving of your time. It means a ton.

Scott Sonnenberg 47:36
Thank you. I appreciate you having me on.

Morgan Jones 47:39
We are so grateful to Scott Sonnenberg for joining us on this week's episode. As always, thank you so much for listening and a huge thank you to Derek Campbell from Mix at Six Studios for making us sound good. Please stay home and stay safe. We'll be with you again next week.

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