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.

Perfectionism

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.


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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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Recognizing the Spirit in Dating: Part 2

You can read Part 1: Jennifer and Parker’s story, here

light-bulb-1002783_640.jpgMy voice teacher in college, whom I looked up to. once said that it takes a lifetime to discern between emotion and the Spirit. Emotion can be overwhelming, whether it’s positive emotions or negative. Sometimes the positive emotions we get swept up in can be particularly hard to tell from the Spirit. Emotions, temptations, and fears can play just as much a part in confusing us in dating as they do with any other aspect of our lives.

Things that can get in the way understanding promptings in our dating lives:

-Overwhelming emotions

When I was a kid, my older sister had a copy of a book by Brenton G. Yorgason called From First Date to Chosen Mate that I would guiltily sneak into her room sometimes to read. She was seven years older than me and that made her stuff….cool. Later I inherited the book and didn’t have to sneak to read it anymore.
One section of it that I really appreciated was the section on “real love” versus “infatuation.” To sum up, some of the counterfeits of love found in infatuation, you may already guess: you like how you look with that person, you like how they make you look to others, they fill an emotional need for self-esteem, etc. You can still get a used copy of it on Amazon. 
Or, this blog post, “7 Signs That You’re Not Really in Love”on Family Share by Yordanka Pérez does a pretty good job of summing up the same idea. We like to think that we’re not affected by our emotions as much as we are sometimes, but emotions can be powerful and something we always need to work at to be aware of in our relationships.

-Mental Dating

Speaking of pressing forward in faith, “Mental Dating” is a term that I learned from a friend who is a therapist with a Ph.D. in psychology from UCLA.  It’s what a lot of us do when we meet someone attractive who strikes our fancy: we think about what they might be like, and in the extreme, spend a lot of time thinking about it. It’s not a truly productive form of work for your dating life. I’m not claiming that some escapism in the form of entertainment or even daydreams don’t have their place, but we need to realize that sometimes when we engage in “mental dating” in our heads, the made up scenarios on the stage in our mind may be replacing reality via the lack of interaction that we’ve actually had with them. I can pretend in my mind that, for instance, that actor Chris Pine is my best friend and woos me the same way he does Anne Hathaway’s character in Princess Diaries II, but it does not mean that if I met him in real life that we would or could or would even want to interact in that way. And we may find ourselves “understanding” this when it comes to Hollywood crushes, and yet we’ll let it mess with our minds with that handsome man or charming woman we met at church or an activity. In our minds they already have a slew of qualities that we’re looking for, yet we’ve never been on a date with them to actually find that out. In contrast, the person you’ve never talked to may have qualities you’re not aware of until you actually do talk to them and get to know them.

-Misunderstanding Stewardship

The Spirit leads us to do good things, and sometimes things we’re afraid to do. However, it won’t take away from the God-given plan of agency. The Doctrine and Covenants talks about God’s use of “stewardship,” something that is applied throughout the Church and in our own families. We can receive a positive answer about someone else: that they may be good for us or even a good marriage partner. However, we do not have stewardship over others when it comes to answers they receive for themselves. I may find that Heavenly Father gives me favorable impressions via the Holy Ghost about someone else, but as that person is looking at their possibilities, I may not be the best for them. Heavenly Father may not let me know that I am right for them. I believe this may be one of the most confusing kinds of answers we can receive that may take more picking apart and time to think over after receiving. For me, I’ve decided that it’s not the feeling that I need to concern myself over, but rather, “What did the feeling/prompting really mean?”  (Positive promptings about someone else may mean that getting to know them is a good idea, but not necessarily that they’re “the one.”) And that once I can set aside the overwhelming emotions associated with dating and relationships, I can once again have heaven’s help in helping me interpret answers with humility: with my heart and my head, and come to some conclusions that follow all of God’s laws, including the stewardship of others, without feeling like the misinterpretation of the answer means that must be a foolish, silly person. God loves us. Always use that lens of His love.

So what things will help us recognize the Spirit? Obviously church leaders and the scriptures are full of advice on this.

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Trujillo, Peru Temple

Some positive advice from leaders

From the recent “Face to Face” for the youth with Elder Rasband, Sister Bonnie Oscarson, and Brother Owen. (And yes, it was geared towards the youth, but it contains great stuff for us older people too.) One of the youth asked a question about recognizing the Holy Ghost, and this was some of the advice they received. You can find this about 22 minutes into the broadcast:
-Act on small promptings and over time you’ll get better at recognizing the Spirit, and the Lord will trust you with more. There is always room for all of us to improve on recognizing the Holy Ghost: if it invites you to do good, it’s the Holy Ghost.
Elder Rasband, quoting the Young Women/Young Men theme for 2016: “Press Forward with steadfastness in Christ. Feast Upon the Words of Christ.” That will help you feel the Spirit more often. (See more on this below.)
Sister Oscarson: The Holy Ghost may come as a thought, a feeling, or a clear thought: move forward and trust he’ll give us corrections on individual promptings if need be. (Think Nephi getting the plates from Laban.)
Sister Oscarson: Moroni 7:16

16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

Words of a Prophet

President Monson said recently in General Conference that “I reiterate what we have been told repeatedly—that in order to gain and to keep the faith we need, it is essential that we read and study and ponder the scriptures. Communication with our Heavenly Father through prayer is vital. We cannot afford to neglect these things, for the adversary and his hosts are relentlessly seeking for a chink in our armor, a lapse in our faithfulness. Said the Lord, ‘Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.'(D&C 90:24)” If we aren’t doing are part with our prayers and scripture reading, to improve and learn, how can we expect more blessings when it comes to receiving the Spirit? Conversely, by doing all we can in these areas, we can expect blessings.

Galatians 5: 22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Press Forward

Elder Neil A. Andersen said in a commencement address to BYU Hawaii in 2013:

Developing spiritual strength doesn’t come from leaning back; it comes from pressing forward, constantly seeking more light and knowledge from heaven… We cannot rest. Press forward.

As was said by Elder Rasband and Sister Oscarson, sometimes we receive just a little bit of light and we need to trust it and “try it out” by moving forward with it, believing that Heavenly Father will give us more when it is needed.

Have Patience

And from Elder Richard G. Scott:

I have discovered that what sometimes seems an impenetrable barrier to communication is a giant step to be taken in trust. Seldom will you receive a complete response all at once. It will come a piece at a time, in packets, so that you will grow in capacity. As each piece is followed in faith, you will be led to other portions until you have the whole answer. That pattern requires you to exercise faith in our Father’s capacity to respond. While sometimes it’s very hard, it results in significant personal growth.

He will always hear your prayers and will invariably answer them. However, His answers will seldom come while you are on your knees praying, even when you may plead for an immediate response. Rather, He will prompt you in quiet moments when the Spirit can most effectively touch your mind and heart. Hence, you should find periods of quiet time to recognize when you are being instructed and strengthened. His pattern causes you to grow.

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Star shaped container, or something less conspicuous?

Tupperware_plastic_containers.jpeg

Even though I’m in my forties, I find that I still learn from college students when it comes to dating. My cousin’s daughter, Julia, who is a junior at BYU, was explaining the “star-shaped container” theory to me over Christmas break.

Now bear with me. It may sound cheesy to compare dating to Rubbermaid® or Tupperware® containers, but it’s good.

She said that some people find their mate quickly because they’re “star-shaped”and so it doesn’t take as much looking around to find your “lid.” It’s an easy match. The rest of us are, perhaps, rectangles or squares. Some of us are glass containers, some Rubbermaid®, some Tupperware, Ziploc®, or….let’s say Anchor Hocking®. If we’re the plastic or rubber lid, we may go with glass or a plastic container. But we’re slightly different sizes and it’s not easy to sort through that big bin of lids.

I don’t think it’s a difficult analogy. The difficult part comes if you over-analyze it.

Here’s a fun over-analysis: “Maybe I’m a limited edition Sponge Bob Ziploc® lid and the bottom doesn’t have any matching pictures, so that’s making it hard.”

Here’s a useless over-analysis: “But what if I want to marry a rectangular baking dish and I’m a round plastic lid.”

Another over-analysis: “No one wants my type of container.”  Ouch. Don’t do that to yourself!

Fun analysis: “I’m a baking dish and I’m just too hot to handle.”

Bad analysis: “There’s only one person out there for me and I’ll know it when I see it.” You may give up just when you’ve found “it.”

Good analysis: Keep trying lids!


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Who Are the Singles in Your Neighborhood?

Blog FH photosWhen I was growing up, I was well aware of the singles in the church. My Dad had been the “ripe old” age of 31 when he met and married my schoolteacher Mom, who was 25. They were “ancient” by the standards of 1960. My Dad had served an LDS mission to Canada, come home and volunteered for the Air Force for the Korean War (and received a “Dear John” letter in the process), then inexplicably graduated from the University of Utah as a fraternity president without getting married; despite what my aunts and uncles described to me as a healthy social life and even a few dates with a granddaughter of the President of the LDS Church at the time. 1567

When my Mom passed away in 1980, my Dad then married my Step Mom, who was also considered an “older” single at the age of 28. My parents were aware of what it felt like to be single in a church filled with families and talk of families. We had the “older” singles over for Thanksgiving and Sunday dinners on more than one occasion, and my Dad would invite his LDS, BYU grad bachelors from work over for dinner too. They were real people to me who had interests and family in other places and wishes for the future.

So, as an “older” and divorced single, recently when I read this excellent article by blogger Katie Bastian in the Deseret News, I did what every good singles blogger would do and (oh no!!) read the comments section. Some of the comments disturbed me. **This blog post is a gentle reminder that marrieds can sometimes develop a sort of amnesia as to what it was like to be single.** Singles, feel free to send ward members here who may be experiencing said amnesia. Or, perhaps, send a link to this page to some of those  “scary posters.” My attempt is to try to be patient and civil, since after all, we are all still trying to figure this all out. This may be a meager attempt at putting my two cents in, but I felt like I needed to try something.Heawon

The photos here are of friends of mine, all singles, most of them over 40. I also included photos of their parents or grandparents or old photos with friends. They’re good members of the church who serve well in their callings and have been there for me in many a time of need. One of them taught what my teenage son said was “the best Sunday School lesson I’ve ever had.” (My son can be a tough customer. He’s a freshman at an Ivy League school now.) The same friend was my kids’ favorite person to get candy from at the church’s Trunk or Treat, as he served it out of a real hearse with the license plate “LDSGOTH.” Paul Halloween

I kept thinking of family history while contemplating this post. All singles have ancestors, the same as the married folk do. And lest you be tempted to quote Elder Hales from today’s Saturday afternoon session of General Conference and wonder why older singles “played through their 20’s,” remember that that quote was for the singles. Excellent, excellent advice. Elder Hales came and spoke to the “Midsingles” in Los Angeles when I was living there. But, if you’re not single, it’s not your job to try and figure out which singles ended up single “because it’s their fault” and they played too much. Let the Lord make that judgment. Make friends with the singles in your ward today and let the Lord and the individual worry about that. It’s not your stewardship, no matter how well-meaning you may be. 

Tracy and mom

These are the singles in your ward: brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, mechanic, engineer, teacher, student, co-worker, visiting teacher, home teacher, babysitter, piano player, artist, doodler, volunteer Little League Umpire….  And for some, “mother, father” rather than “Single Mom! Single Dad!”

And family history? Do you think our ancestors care only for their progeny who have had children? I highly doubt that. They are on the other side, cheering all of us on.

The photos are from four friends: one works in insurance, one is a librarian at an inner city library, one a mathematician with a famous scientist for a grandfather, and an office services coordinator who loves to take care of ward beach parties. Their favorite hymns are Our Savior’s Love, The Spirit of God, Nearer My God to Thee, and I Stand All Amazed, respectively.

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