LDS Singles

Thriving and Growing as an LDS Single

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Elder Gerrit W. Gong on being a perfectionist in dating

gerrit-w-gong-10.jpg  From an Ensign article, here. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior commands us: “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The Greek word for perfect can be translated as “complete, finished, fully developed” (in Matthew 5:48, footnote b). Our Savior asks us to become complete, finished, fully developed—to be perfected in the virtues and attributes He and our Father in Heaven exemplify.2

Let us see how applying the doctrine of the Atonement may help those who feel they need to find perfection or to be perfect.


A misunderstanding of what it means to be perfect can result in perfectionism—an attitude or behavior that takes an admirable desire to be good and turns it into an unrealistic expectation to be perfect now. Perfectionism sometimes arises from the feeling that only those who are perfect deserve to be loved or that we do not deserve to be happy unless we are perfect.

Perfectionism can cause sleeplessness, anxiety, procrastination, discouragement, self-justification, and depression. These feelings can crowd out the peace, joy, and assurance our Savior wants us to have.

What helps those who battle perfectionist tendencies? Open-ended, supportive inquiries communicate acceptance and love. They invite others to focus on the positive. They allow us to define what we feel is going well. Family and friends can avoid competitive comparisons and instead offer sincere encouragement.

Another serious dimension of perfectionism is to hold others to our unrealistic, judgmental, or unforgiving standards. Such behavior may, in fact, deny or limit the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement in our lives and in the lives of others. For example, young single adults (insert: or older) may make a list of desired qualities in a potential spouse and yet be unable to marry because of unrealistic expectations for the perfect companion.

Thus, a sister may be unwilling to consider dating a wonderful, worthy brother who falls short on her perfectionist scale—he does not dance well, is not planning to be wealthy, did not serve a mission, or admits to a past problem with pornography since resolved through repentance and counseling.

Similarly, a brother may not consider dating a wonderful, worthy sister who doesn’t fit his unrealistic profile—she is not a sports enthusiast, a Relief Society president, a beauty queen, a sophisticated budgeter, or she admits to an earlier, now-resolved weakness with the Word of Wisdom.

Of course, we should consider qualities we desire in ourselves and in a potential spouse. We should maintain our highest hopes and standards. But if we are humble, we will be surprised by goodness in unexpected places, and we may create opportunities to grow closer to someone who, like us, is not perfect.

Faith acknowledges that, through repentance and the power of the Atonement, weakness can be made strong and repented sins can truly be forgiven.

Happy marriages are not the result of two perfect people saying vows. Rather, devotion and love grow as two imperfect people build, bless, help, encourage, and forgive along the way. The wife of a modern prophet (insert: Camilla Kimball) was once asked what it was like being married to a prophet. She wisely replied that she had not married a prophet; she had simply married a man who was completely dedicated to the Church no matter what calling he received.4 In other words, in process of time, husbands and wives grow together—individually and as a couple.

The wait for a perfect spouse, perfect education, perfect job, or perfect house will be long and lonely. We are wise to follow the Spirit in life’s important decisions and not let doubts spawned by perfectionist demands hinder our progress.

For those who may feel chronically burdened or anxious, sincerely ask yourself, “Do I define perfection and success by the doctrines of the Savior’s atoning love or by the world’s standards? Do I measure success or failure by the Holy Ghost confirming my righteous desires or by some worldly standard?”

For those who feel physically or emotionally exhausted, start getting regular sleep and rest, and make time to eat and relax. Recognize that being busy is not the same as being worthy, and being worthy does not require perfection.5

For those prone to see their own weaknesses or shortcomings, celebrate with gratitude the things you do well, however large or small.

Read the rest of the talk here.


The Different Sides of Single and Chaste

By Suzette, from Exponent II, (from the series: Single and Married in the LDS Church)Single-1.jpg

I was almost 21 years old (just pre-mission) when I went through the temple for the first time and covenanted to “live the law of chastity”. At the time, I assumed I would have to “contain” my sexuality for a few more years – and then stay faithful to my husband for all the years after that. I didn’t think it would be very hard.

But, here I am, more than 20 years later – and I’m still on the “contain my sexuality part”. Because I stayed single, I’ve had to make the choice about staying chaste (according to the LDS temple covenant) many times. It is not an easy choice. And it is not an easy lifestyle.

In 2011, Nicole Hardy wrote an article in the New York Times called “Single, Female, Mormon, Alone”; it generated a lot of discussion among my single friends.  In her article (now a book), Hardy describes her decision to leave her celibate, Mormon life and explore sexual experiences. Her choices are different from mine, but that is not what bothers me about the article. I am bothered by the fact that she sees choices other than becoming sexually active as adolescent and even foolish.

She writes: “Most troubling was the fact that as I grew older I had the distinct sense of remaining a child in a woman’s body; virginity brought with it arrested development on the level of a handicapping condition, like the Russian orphans I’d read about whose lack of physical contact altered their neurobiology and prevented them from forming emotional bonds. Similarly, it felt as if celibacy was stunting my growth; it wasn’t just sex I lacked but relationships with men entirely. Too independent for Mormon men, and too much a virgin for the other set, I felt trapped in adolescence.”

Hardy’s experience may tell one side of the story, but I have another. Rather than feeling that my choice of chastity leaves me stuck in adolescence or handicap, I feel it heightens my consciousness around my own body.  I consider my sexual feelings deeply because I am compelled to consistently reconcile my beliefs and my desires.  I have considered my choices and fully own my sexuality. This depth of feeling creates, for me, keen consideration of intimate relationships – and a confidence that I am choosing for myself.

I am tired of the word “virgin” being tied to ideas like naive, simple, scared, fragile, and ashamed.  I would like to see the word make a shift to connect with ideas like courageous, determined, strong and sound … all attributes of a fully aware and responsible adult.   Making a choice is empowering. Gone are the days when I live the law of chastity for fear of my Bishop or the Lord. It is my choice – and I can own that. (And I can feel comfortable with my single friends who make other choices – and own those as well.)

There is still another side to this story. I give the Hardy credit for describing a situation that has my complete empathy: living chaste, at arms length with ones sexuality, into mid-adulthood is a hard way to live.  Sex is a normal part of adult life.  It is, however, a missing part of my live or the lives my friends who live single and chaste.  We are not only missing the act of sex, but the intimacy of shared living.

Many adults live without sex for a few years into adulthood while they finish college or “find the right one”, but we live without sex for an additional 15, 20 years or more. Over time, this physical isolation changes us; creating a wound in body and spirit. It is a dark hurt of longing, unsatisfied yearning, aloneness, and insufficient closeness.

The situation is exacerbated by the feeling that this wound is invisible to our married brothers and sisters who see only the benefits of a chaste life.  It seems that for them there is no real difference between chastity at age 17 and chastity at age 40.  Their sermons about the benefits of “saving ourselves for marriage” don’t fall on deaf ears, but seem to lack understanding. It seems that married leaders equate their 20 year old single experience to our current situation. We do see the benefits of living chaste, but our situation differs for that of a youth. Making sensible choices in a passionate moment is not as difficult in mid-adulthood as it once was.  We’ve had practice with drawing boundaries and are fully aware of consequences.  The harder part is the living; making the choice every day as the loss of a shared bed and a life companion grows. We miss intimacy into the deep parts of ourselves and know that some of those losses cannot be restored.

While choosing a chaste life comes with its price, I still believe it has been a powerful choice for me.  I feel strong. I feel free. I feel whole. And the scope goes beyond myself, which gives me reason to continue choosing it. On its own, the law of chastity may fall short on benefits, but combined with all the principles in the gospel of Christ, it holds greater weight.  All of these principles, together, create a tight weave in the fabric that connects me to God and to others in my faith community. It provides a sense of safety that spreads throughout my life.

Living chaste allows me to participate fully with my community of Saints – and holds me in solidarity with them. This community sustains me with their own faith and trust. I am better and live richer because I am whole with them.

By choosing to live chaste, I sacrifice parts of myself and am built stronger in others parts. My relationship with Christ allows me to believe that His atonement will, in time, heal my wounds and deepen my understanding.

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Myths (from the series: Single and Married in the LDS Church)

re-posted from Exponent II by permission

Singles question myths.jpgby Amanda Waterhouse

Marriage is not simply a relationship or tax status in our church. It’s a blessing, a rite of passage, a necessary part of salvation; which leaves single adults in a tricky place. If marriage is a blessing, why haven’t you received it yet? Why don’t you deserve it? What did you do wrong?

Of course, the flip side to the myth that single adults are single because of some worthiness issue is the idea that it’s not your fault at all. You just haven’t been given the opportunity to get married yet. All too often I have been reassured, “I’m sure you’ll be married in the next life!” by well-meaning members who don’t recognize the inherent double blow to self-esteem in a message that implies:

1) you’ll be better (i.e. “fixed”) in the next life, thus reinforcing the idea that something is wrong with you now, and

2) you are not enough. It’s tricky to maintain a strong sense of individual worth when you are constantly reminded that no matter how good you are, you won’t be good enough until you are partnered with somebody else. I am a child of God, but I’m not worthy of exaltation so long as I’m a single child of God.

Free agency further complicates this idea. When marriage becomes a matter of choice rather than a spiritual achievement or opportunity, it’s a gendered choice – men do the choosing and are failures if they do not choose correctly; women wait to be chosen and are failures if they are not picked.

And it’s just that – waiting. The idea that your life doesn’t actually begin until you’re married and have “a family of your own” traps single adults in a liminal space between adolescence and adulthood. A wedding, particularly a temple wedding, acts as a significant rite of passage in the church; and the church doesn’t know quite when to treat those who have not completed that ritual as full-fledged adults.

Marriage equals maturity; therefore singles must be immature. Singles wards and groups are not only given second-class citizen status in their segregation, but they are assigned married couples to “lead” them. When a newly-married couple in their early 20’s is placed in a leadership position over older single adults, the message is clear – a marriage certificate bestows more life-experience and capabilities than years of living as an independent adult. No wonder many Mormon single adults buy into this myth as much as non-single member do, to damaging effect. All too often single adults embrace a semi-adolescent lifestyle, neglecting critical responsibilities such as creating wills, saving for retirement, or establishing their own homes. We lose sight of the “adult” by focusing too much on the “single.”

Some of the most damaging myths about singles in the church are rooted in some of the most beautiful doctrines of the gospel, which makes it so much harder to untangle the truths from the myths. It’s worth it, though. Free agency, eternal families, celestial progression, and a real understanding of individual worth are worth the struggle to remind my fellow members and the struggle to convince myself over and over again that myths about single adults are indeed just myths.

Amanda Waterhouse teaches theater and a whole lot more in a high school outside of Denver. She loves traveling, Michelin restaurants, Marvel movies, and the Oxford comma.

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A Shout Out to Single Men (from the series: Single and Married in the LDS Church)

Re-posted by permission from Exponent II. Suzette:

single-man.jpgFour years ago, I published this post on single Mormon men. I think this series on singles is a good time to bring it back (with a few edits and updates) for a re-post. This article does not address divorced men in specific, but the same principles apply. Divorced men in the church are often viewed with more suspicion and judgment than never-been-married men. I hope this post will help us to re-evaluate how we view and treat our single men.

Throughout my single adult life, I’ve heard a lot criticism about Single Mormon Men (SMM). People say that they are selfish, lazy, irresponsible, and just plain weird. Everyone seems to have an opinion about SMM, including Nicole Hardy who calls them “left overs: awkward, uncompromising, and unlucky” (“Single, Female, Mormon, Alone”, NYTimes, 1/2011). I’ve read many unflattering theories for their singleness on Mormon blogs across the internet.

These men rarely get a break: the prophet is on their case about being unmarried, bishops keep the pressure on about dating, parents are ever inquiring, and ward members eye them suspiciously. Even single women (I am very sorry to say) seem to have free reign in their verbal flogging. There is a constant call for them to grow up, man up, career up, and get married already.


The SMM response to this censure? To walk away.


Jared Whitley writes “most single LDS males are probably not willing to complain … so they do the only thing they can do: suffer in quiet desperation [or] seek refuge elsewhere. [This] means leaving the Mormon Church, which compounds the imbalanced gender ratios among LDS singles.” (How Targeting LDS Males for Declining Marriage Rates Misses the Mark )


This needs to change.


These men are kind, genuine, engaging people – who are largely undeserving of the criticism they receive.

My experience with SMM is different from the opinions above. I have many positive experiences with SMM.

  • Last spring, for example, I put together an Easter event and rounded up dozens of people to help and to sing. Half of those who said “yes” were SMM.
  • Yesterday, I called three friends for a favor; the one who came through was a SMM.
  • In my daily life, SMM are interesting parts to my email strings, intelligent contributors to my conversations, and fun companions on a variety dinners, outings, and road trips.
  • They have given me blessings when I’ve been ill, brought me food when I’ve been recovering, reviewed my resumes, proofed my Exponent articles, and, along with my girl friends and married friends, have supported me in difficult times.
  • In their wards, I have watched them camp with the Young Men, visit the needy, lead missionary efforts, teach lessons, and sing in choirs.

To be realistic, they do have problems. But these problems are no more remarkable than yours or mine. Yes, they have disappointed me. And so have my single girl friends, my married friends, and my family.

I’d like to have more SMM around. I believe if they feel valued and loved in their friendships and wards – they’ll stay around. And we’ll be better for it.

 How to keep SMM around?

  • Appreciate them for all the ways they serve.
  • Give them callings at church that will allow them to use their skills and talents.
  • Call them for blessings.
  • Invite them to dinner, parties, and fun events.
  • Talk to them (for heaven sake). Ask them about their jobs and their interests.
  • Support them when they are in need.
  • Don’t make assumptions – any assumptions.
  • Be short on advise and long on love.

In short, treat them like you treat your friends. I believe if we engage our SMM, we will find our Mormon community stronger, more vibrant, and more supported. We need all the members in the Body of Christ.

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How to be a Good Parent to Single Mormon Adults (from the series: Single and Married in the LDS Church)

by Amanda Waterhouse at Exponent II, reposted here by permission. See the original post here. Singles: you may want to pass this along to your parents! It’s very tastefully done.

Note from Suzette: Amanda has spelled out several excellent ideas for good parenting to single Mormon adults. These same principles apply if you have single adult ward members or single adult friends. These missteps really do happen! (ie: couch sleeping, kids tables, invasive questions on dating, strange advice on marriage that might have applied years ago, awkward family picture moments, and even ignoring.) Hoping that when we all know better – we do better.


I’ll begin succinctly: Don’t treat a single adult differently than your other children.

You may not intend to; I hope you don’t intend to; but it is not unusual for single adults to be given an “other” status in their own families as much as they are given one at church.   Here are a few things to keep in mind that may help keep your interactions with your single child in balance:

  • Be aware of accommodations you make for the spouses of your children that put the single adult in a less-than desirable place. I understand the instinct to give more privacy to the marrieds, but if it is really fair to expect the single adult to always take the couch/backseat/kid’s table? (Yes, kid’s table. It happens.)
  • Don’t assume that their schedule is more flexible/less important than everyone else’s schedules. Yes, it is easier when there’s only one person’s time to account for; but please remember the toll it takes to always be the one who accommodates everyone else.
  • Be careful with the lure of grandchildren. By all means be outstanding, present, supportive, loving grandparents; but please recognize that the single child may be left out. Do you visit the single child as much as the ones with grandkids? Do you see the single child in his/her home, or do they only see you when they join you at the married’s house? When the family gets together, is it all about the babies and the recitals and what the kids want to do, or is there time for the adults to be adults?
  • Take an interest in their interests. Find out what your single child is doing and then learn about it yourself! Just as you might bone up on the latest Pixar release to talk to your grandkids, keep up with your single child’s hobbies, interests, and career.
  • Acknowledge that the older your child gets, your personal experience with singleness loses relevance.
  • Talk to your single child. Rather than focusing on what’s not happening, focus on what is happening. This doesn’t mean that talking about dating is completely taboo; it can be just as annoying to have your parents avoid that subject altogether. Just be aware of the balance of topics in your conversations and make sure that you acknowledge everything your single adult is rather than what he/she is not.
  • Understand that it is challenging to be single in this church, which means your single adult might have doubts, ask questions, or feel like he/she just doesn’t fit in as a Mormon anymore. Don’t freak out about this or rush in to “fix” things. Listen to your child; hear his/her perspective.
  • Remember that marriage doesn’t fix everything. Your child can have a full, enriching, fascinating, and worthwhile as a single adult. Love them, support them, listen to them, and please just make sure they know that they are enough, just as they are.

Amanda Waterhouse teaches theater and a whole lot more in a high school outside of Denver. She loves traveling, Michelin restaurants, Marvel movies, and the Oxford comma.

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Exponent II Series: Single and Married in the LDS Church

Exponent II (an online magazine for LDS women) is doing a series of articles this week on being single in the Church and they’ve graciously given me permission to re-post them. Please go check out their site here. The opening explanation is by Suzette: 

“The church still struggles with ways to value variations on its strong family theme,” I recently said to a friend in a discussion about The Family Proclamation.

The theme variation that most directly impacts me is singlehood. As a life-long single member of a church that values marriage, couple sealings, family history and child rearing it is often difficult to keep my footing.

I do believe the gospel is for everyone and I (fortunately) have a caring spiritual home in the warmth and openness of my ward – but still there are struggles. I grieve the life I had intended for myself and the children I hoped for. I wonder about the next life as a single daughter of God. I am continually forced to “fit myself in” to lessons and talks that do not allow room for my variation. (Luckily, I no longer worry about where to sit in sacrament meeting, because my ward is inviting on every pew.) For other single members, the struggle to fit into their ward, socially, is significant. Some feel confused and hurt by counsel from uninformed Bishops. And many wrestle with self-esteem because of their inability to meet an unattainable standard. For all singles there are painful realities couched within Mormon Doctrine about the links between marriage and salvation.

Like most single members, I love families. I am blessed with a good family of origin, I value the families in my ward, and I believe that the family unit is a great way to traverse the journey of mortality. However, the continual rhetoric about “The Family” can (often in unintended ways) exclude single members and create pain in our lives. Whether we choose to stay with the church, or leave it, life can be lonely and full of self-doubt.

Conversely, I’ll be the first to admit that single life is pretty sweet. There are advantages that I would not like to trade for another life’s path. I am not waiting; I am not half-a-soul. I am, myself, a whole daughter of God ready to serve and contribute and share. That is how I hope to be seen.

The church rarely turns away from work – and I believe there is work to do on full inclusion for single members. Problems can be found in curriculum and in our ideas about eternal life. Problems can be found on both sides of the single/married coin: in the attitudes of married members toward single members and in the attitudes of single members toward ourselves.

For the next two weeks, this series, “Single and Married in the LDS Church”, will address some of these problems and concerns. It is our hope to inform, explain, and find solutions to bring the Body of Christ together. Our contributors are mostly single themselves and themes will include

  • the unique contributions of single members
  • dispelling myths about singles
  • how to be a good parent to single adults – and how to including singles in your community as a married member
  • how to speak for ourselves in positive says – as single members
  • the interface of single members in a variety of contexts, such as sexuality, employment, the temple
  • a focus on specific single situations such as single parents and divorce
  • an introspective look at grieving as a single member

We hope you will enjoy the series, share the posts with others, and comment with your own stories and experiences.