LDS Singles

Thriving and Growing as an LDS Single


4 Comments

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.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

Unrequited Love

Thpurple-42887_640.pngey say that most people have dealt with unrequited love at least once in their lifetime, at least 98% according to an estimate in this article in Psychology Today . I think most of us who are single are nodding our heads sadly in agreement.

How to deal with it

  1. Remember that what was in your head probably won’t match what would actually happen had you been in a relationship with this person, no matter how good a person they may be. Even in marriages, the way you think things are going to go and the way they actually go are usually two very different things: and you don’t know this person that well.
  2. Most likely this has happened to you before. You overcame it and then you found new people to be interested in. Sometimes that took a while. Maybe it’s time again to get a better relationship with yourself, or your siblings or parents, or other family or friends. It’s hard when, each time, it seems like you’ve found an even better match for yourself but then it doesn’t work out yet again. This is not the end of the road. Maybe it’s time to focus on service or work or school or a church calling for a while.

Where do I go from here?

I hate getting over crushes or unrequited love: call it what fits you best. You have to go through the pain of realizing that something you’d hoped for, something important to you, may never be. At certain times in my life this has been harder than others. I had someone writing me when I was on my mission. Towards the end he was still writing. I was freaking out because I wasn’t sure what I thought, but in theory (because of the letters he was writing), he was still there.

Only he wasn’t. I got home to find out that he was engaged to someone else. It was a heartbreaking time for me. I had at least hoped I’d come home to have him as my friend, there, to talk about my mission with, as we’d corresponded nearly the whole time. Even though I wasn’t sure that I wanted more than that, the loss of the friendship was the most difficult. heart-642154_640.png

Another time period in my life I really liked someone and just wanted to get to go out with him. What I didn’t know what that he was dating someone else on the sly (heard of “stealth dating?”) and so when I told him how I felt he turned me down. Even though I felt embarrassed, I tried again a few months later. I got the same response and was mortified when I decided what a fool I’d made out of myself. To this day I still wonder if the girl he was dating (who became his wife) was bugged by me, or if she realizes that I’m long over it and that I saw almost immediately that they were a much better match, once they finally “came out” as a couple.

Getting over both these situations was painful, but tools our Heavenly Father has given us ultimately brought peace and healing for those times and others. In Isaiah 49:16 the Lord reminds us that he’s always there for us:

16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

 

Heavenly Father does want us to be happy and if we pray for his help, He will help us move on and he will help us through the pain. The pain can be a bittersweet opportunity to look at ourselves and say, “Why am I hurting? What was I expecting?” and we can use these answers for future goals and expectations. Sometimes some of the greatest things we do come on the heals of painful experiences.


Leave a comment

Facing Fears in Dating: from a BYU Devotional

Fear in Dating
from a BYU Devotional, “Daddy, Is Jesus Real?” Overcoming Fear through Faith in Christ
Scott Esplin, BYU Dept. of Church History, Jan 19, 2016

shield-492992_640.jpgI invite you to reflect on the last time you experienced the feeling of fear. Was it wondering if you’d be accepted into one of the many competitive degree programs here at Brigham Young University? Or waiting to see if the girl you asked out wants to go out again? Or worse yet, wondering what to do if she does? For me the feeling is as recent as sitting on this stand, looking into the faces of so many, and knowing that, through the miracle of technology, thousands more are watching this message.

Like you, I can testify that the feeling of fear is real. Indeed, of this powerful emotion, Elder Bednar taught in last April’s General Conference:

Notably, One of the first effects of the fall was for Adam and Eve to experience fear. This potent emotion is an important element of our mortal existence.

Today I want to visit with you about overcoming the fears that are an essential part of our experience in this Earth life.

One of my favorite classes to teach here on campus is the Doctrine and Covenants, because I find it highly relevant in my own life and in the lives of my students. In a well-known episode from the text, Oliver Cowdery, the primary scribe for the translation of the Book of Mormon, was offered the opportunity of the lifetime: to join Joseph Smith as a translator of that sacred book of scripture. Oliver was instructed,

“Ask that ye may know the mysteries of God, and that ye may translate and receive knowledge from all those ancient records which have been hid up according to your faith, and it shall it be done unto you.”

(unsure on source, text of talk still unavailable)
Shortly thereafter, when Oliver failed in his attempt to translate a portion of the Book of Mormon, the Lord explained the reasons for his failure, outlining several causes:

 5 And, behold, it is because that you did not continue as you commenced, when you began to translate, that I have taken away this privilege from you.  Doctrine & Covenants 9:11

I’ve long wondered what it was that Oliver feared that he did not continue as he had commenced. Knowing that the project was of eternal importance, did he fear making a mistake, and thus marring the sacred publication?

I was the age of most of you when this scriptural episode came to have special meaning to me. I was in grad school here at BYU, and began asking out a particular girl. And, as things progressed, I became scared. Fear caused me to not continue as I had commenced. I was afraid of making the wrong decision; one that I knew was important and, ideally, eternal. My poorly thought out solution to this fear was to stop asking the girl out. As weeks turned into months, I buried myself in other things, all the while praying if I should pursue the relationship that I clearly wasn’t doing anything to nurture.

Finally one Sunday I was in church here on campus when I finally made up my mind: I would pursue the relationship. What would be the worst that could happen? “Maybe I would get married,” I thought. I called her apartment, only to learn that she had gone home that weekend. I left a message for her to call me when she returned, which, incidentally, is ideal for someone gripped by dating paralysis. The last thing a young man really wants to do is talk.

That afternoon my dad called. “Have you heard the news?” he asked. The girl was engaged.rings-877936_640

She returned my call later that night. “Scott, I heard you called.” “Yes, I was just calling to congratulate you on your engagement” was my response. Fear of the future had kept me from continuing what I had commenced, and the time had passed. I thought often about that experience, and the Lord’s instruction to Oliver Cowdery concerning fear, the next six years of my single life.

So how do we overcome fears, act in faith, and move forward towards an uncertain future? Eleven years ago last fall I was dating my wife Janice. The week before Thanksgiving I invited her to come home with me to Southern Utah for the holiday weekend. She accepted. And then, once again, I became really scared. I’d taken girls home on road trips before. And for those familiar with Interstate 15 between Provo and Southern Utah, usually by about the town of Nephi, they became the longest weekends of my life.

I started to think of the ways I could uninvite Janice. With fear swirling in my head, I came to campus on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Preparing to teach my class that day, I stumbled across these words at the beginning of Doctrine and Covenants Section 67.

1 Behold and hearken, O ye elders of my church, who have assembled yourselves together, whose prayers I have heard, and whose hearts I know, and whose desires have come up before me.

As a 30 year old Elder, I had a desire, and had been praying for a long time that I might find a spouse and begin an eternal companionship. I could relate to these early saints. The Lord continues:

 2 Behold and lo, mine eyes are upon you, and the heavens and the earth are in mine hands, and the riches of eternity are mine to give.

In my office at the Joseph Smith Building that morning, the thought struck me: maybe marriage is one of the riches of eternity, and maybe it is God’s to give. The revelation then warns:

3 Ye endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessing which was offered unto you; but behold, verily I say unto you there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason that ye did not receive.

I realized if I didn’t face my fear of an uncertain future, I might never receive the blessings the Lord had in store for me. night-819579_640.jpg

I took Janice home for Thanksgiving, and the weekend went wonderfully. Returning to Provo, however, my worst fears of carrying on an extended conversation with a girl were realized: a snowstorm forced the closure of Interstate 15 and the two of us were stranded together in the car between the Utah towns of Beaver and Fillmore for several hours with no choice but to simply talk to each other. As our three hour road trip turned into seven, I realized that if we could survive this time together, maybe we could also face my fears of eternal marriage.

From these experiences I learned a valuable lesson: as you experience faith to overcome future fears and uncertainty, you will see God’s hand in your life. In fact, just a few short verses later in the Doctrine and Covenants, in Section 67, the Lord promises:

 10 And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual.

I now look back on those years of post-mission single life, and like the saints in the Doctrine and Covenants, realize that God was in my midst, and I couldn’t see him. There were lessons I needed to learn, primarily about overcoming fear, coupled with experiences both my wife and I needed to have, that eventually prepared us for each other and our future together. As I stripped myself of fear, the day came that I could see God’s hand, and receive the riches of eternity, but they only came as I exercised faith.

Facing fear in our life isn’t limited to dramatic experiences involving unknown future events like relocating at the command of the Lord or finding an eternal companion. Indeed, the happiness of some is crippled by fears of past failures and the foreboding worry that the present and future can never become bright again.

This is an excerpt. Listen to or watch the entire devotional address here.

faith antidote fear.png


Leave a comment

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.

trujillo-peru-temple-exterior-1449771-wallpaper.jpg

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.

light-1030988_640.jpg


Leave a comment

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.

Collage-individuals


4 Comments

Marriage Won’t Solve Your Problems

248936_444158605660219_430948644_nA kind, attractive, hard-working, intelligent and spiritually minded sister in our ward that I admire a great deal and look up to made a statement in Relief Society that echoes a sentiment that I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot lately: “I was thinking the other day how nice it would be to have a cute man to go home to (note: husband, of course) to talk over my problems with,” she then followed that by saying, “but I’m realizing today that i can turn to the Lord to help me with my problems.” Another close friend said recently, “I know that getting married won’t solve all of my problems, but…” when most of her conversations on the matter betray the fact that she actually is expecting that to some extent, and having a hard time giving up that wish. Any man would be blessed to have either of these ladies as a wife, not to mention every single one of the other women at church that I hear these statements from.

Lately it seems like these kind of comments have been happening more and more, several times a month if not occasionally several times in one Sunday. Being the somewhat more jaded divorcee in the group (not sure how many of us there are, exactly) I feel for these women and I hope they get all they’re looking for.  The longing to be married probably won’t (and shouldn’t) go away, and probably neither will the temptation to hope that marriage will come and solve everything, the same way we wish for other things that we don’t have: but hopefully there can be a turning to Heavenly Father for gratitude and other ways of dealing with these wishes, rather than the temptation to feel bitter and even jealous of others who are married.

What is marriage?

What is marriage? Well, it’s learning to love your spouse even when you realize that you’ll both continue to be imperfect. It’s having a hard time with something at work, and coming home so grateful to have someone there to talk with about it, only to find out that he’s still getting used to this marriage thing, too, and he’s really wrapped up in one of his own problems, and hardly listens to you. It’s then working out this problem, then working it out again later in your marriage, and yet again, when it presents itself in a different way.  It’s a blessing. It’s a blessing because you learn patience and longsuffering, and hopefully he’s a good person to learn it with because you love him/her, right?

cause pain bornWhen I was going through my divorce almost ten years ago, suddenly the women in our ward were coming to me, telling me their marriage problems and how they’d been getting through them. I think both they and me were hoping that I’d find something in their problems that would help me with my failing marriage, but that wasn’t to be. Instead, what I got was just as valuable: I heard what a lot of “normal” marriage problems were for young families. I realized, unhappily, that my last hopes of saving mine probably weren’t going to work. I did gain quite a bit of fear that I’d ever find a happy marriage, and a lot of worry for my two children. But I hope that didn’t make me anti-marriage.

I’ve been in some great relationships since then, even if they didn’t “work out,” and had ten years of learning all kinds of other things that I wouldn’t have learned in quite the same way if I had been able to get married again quickly. In my case (and I can judge only my case) I needed these past 10 years to grasp what was ahead of me with my health, in making the best decisions for my kids, and in learning to let go of all those expectations I’d had for my life.

For you women and men who have never been married:

  1. You are just as worthy of getting married as any of your married siblings or friends are. For some reason, it hasn’t happened yet, but Heavenly Father loves you just as much as anyone else.
  2. We are promised compensatory blessings for the trials we experience in life. For this reason and others, we just can’t compare ourselves to each other.
  3. Sometimes I hear women say that maybe Heavenly Father is saving them for a future apostle or someone who is otherwise amazing. Well, maybe so…but are you now judging the husbands of all those who are already married? Does the Lord not love us equally? Give up your fears of the scary parts of dating, and maybe you will run into that wonderful person for you, (and actually talk to him) who is wonderful for you in the ways that other peoples’ spouses are wonderful for them.
  4. Remind yourself of #2 and #3, Otherwise you may be setting yourself up hoping for an unattainable Cinderella story that will end up disappointing you and that you’ll have to work on overcoming after you get married.

“I’m not progressing”hopscotch

In church, one of the single women who has never been married opined that she often feels like she’s not “progressing” because she’s still not married. I feel for her. I’m also pretty sure that it’s Satan who is tempting her, and all of us singles, to feel that way. While we do want to feel that “push” to get married, when we’re doing all we can, we in our situations are learning our own lessons from our unique circumstances that Heavenly Father has prepared for us. I highly recommend reading and reviewing this talk by President Hinckley to singles in which he encouraged us to:

Be Anxiously Engaged in Good Causes
For those who do not marry, this fact of life must be faced squarely. But continuous single status is not without opportunity, challenge, or generous recompense.

young-adults-serving-1154938-galleryI believe that for most of us the best medicine for loneliness is work and service in behalf of others. I do not minimize your problems, but I do not hesitate to say that there are many others whose problems are more serious than yours. Reach out to serve them, to help them, to encourage them. There are so many boys and girls who fail in school for want of a little personal attention and encouragement. There are so many elderly people who live in misery and loneliness and fear for whom a simple conversation would bring a measure of hope and brightness.

 

He also talks about:
-Recognizing the divinity in ourselves and others
-Thanking the Lord for blessings and challenges
-Being anxiously engaged in good causes
-Continue to Learn
-Serve in the Church, and
-Be prayerful.

Many of you have probably read Seth Adam Smith’s aptly titled blog entry that went viral, “Marriage Isn’t For You.” What he learned, from the excellent advice that his dad gave him, was this:

My dad giving his response to my concerns was such a moment for me. With a knowing smile he said, “Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

Recommended resources and talks online:

A Conversation with Single Adults
Gordon B. Hinckley
From an address delivered on 22 September 1996 at the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

To the Singles of the Church
Kristen M. Oaks • CES Devotional for Young Adults • September 11, 2011 • Brigham Young University

Savor Every Moment of Life
By Janice Southern

**Kristen Oaks: A Single Voice (book)