Single Purpose

August 11, 2008 | 95 comments
By

I thought Ardis’ comment deserves a bigger audience:

The truth is that we (single women) never do hear anything aimed at finding value in our mateless, childless circumstances, except for how we can be of use to families:

* The articles to singles in this month’s Ensign were all for young dating singles still expecting to get married, not for singles who are now unlikely to marry and who need to find purpose in some other direction.
* In my ward’s first Sunday RS lessons for July and August (taught by our RS president and counselor, with topics assigned by our bishop), we focused on the importance of family, with the only two remarks aimed at singles being “you can support families by babysitting so mothers can go to the temple or go on dates with their husbands” and “you might not have any use for this now, but listen to it so that in the hereafter you know how to be good mothers.”
* We often hear that “no righteous woman who does not marry in this life through no fault of her own will be denied these blessings in the eternities” — an eternal promise, but not one that gives much direction for this life.
* In the 2008 Worldwide Training linked by WillF, Elder Holland acknowledged the presence of single adults, but explained that the meeting would not be addressing us (except as children of our parents) because the family ideal was more important than our circumstances.
* Sister Beck, as I quoted, promised us the blessings of motherhood in the next life without offering any purpose for our lives now.

I know individual single women’s lives have great value, and I recognize that many lessons address all women, or all men and women (we all need to repent, exercise charity, pray, be chaste, and all the other things we learn), but there is never anything to teach us our value in the absence of families in the same way that Church leaders offer advice and support and counsel to families. I’m not at all minimizing the blessings to come in the eternities; but I don’t live in the eternities. I live in mortality, and need something here and now that I’m just not getting from the Church organization and teachings.

Thoughts? Reactions?

95 Responses to Single Purpose

  1. Tiffany on August 11, 2008 at 11:29 am

    I fully concur with Ardis. I don’t know this from my own personal experience, but I have seen the lives of some of my amazing single friends. One friend has accomplished so much and is a truly outstanding woman. And I hate the thought that some people look down at her because she is not a mother or wife.

    I know motherhood is important, but not everyone has that opportunity and throwing a feeble bone like, just wait until you die. . . is degrading to those women who take their lives and build up their talents and really contribute to the world.

  2. Hunter on August 11, 2008 at 11:29 am

    I have a female cousin who has never married, and is getting along in years such that it may never happen. I hate, hate, hate to hear comments from family, however subtle, that somehow this single cousin’s life is not complete. For heaven’s sake (and quoting Claudia Bushman), we come into this world alone, we go out of it alone. Sometimes I think we could preach a bit more of the we-are-all-children-of-God doctrine along with the eternal-families doctrine.

  3. Jim Cobabe on August 11, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Julie, While I appreciate the candor, I ask in all sincerity how we are to distinguish any single people? Do single women fit in any less than single men? I think not. Does the Church offer anything for me that it doesn’t also extend to someone like Ardis? Not that I know of. People who fall through the cracks are generally pathetic. We don’t fit in.

  4. sister blah 2 on August 11, 2008 at 11:56 am

    > People who fall through the cracks are generally pathetic.

    Um…..did I read you right? Cuz, uh….kinda speechless here.

  5. Ray on August 11, 2008 at 11:56 am

    I think a start would be to re-read Elder Wirthlin’s wonderful talk and really accept what he taught. Perhaps the next step would be to go out of our way to do everything possible on an individual level to include single adults in our own lives. I am ashamed to say that I can’t remember the last time my wife and I invited a single adult over for dinner with our family. That shouldn’t be.

    One of my fondest wishes is that we simply would stop judging each other and our individual situations. I understand and have no problem with the need to preach an ideal, but I also understand that not one of is living fully the ideal we preach. Each and every one of us struggles with some aspect of life that constitutes a thorn of mortality – and I am bothered more than I can explain that some people’s thorns are harder to soften than others.

    I really struggle with this one. I do want to emphasize marriage and motherhood in a world that is devaluing them more and more. I don’t want to weaken the ideal, particularly as it is crumbling in many of the areas around me. I do want to encourage my daughters to be worthy to enter the temple – and to not delay marriage if they find someone with whom they want to spend eternity. I value the concept of eternal marriage above nearly all else in the Restored Gospel, and I want my daughters to experience what it is like to find true perfection (wholeness and completion as one united entity) in a marriage.

    However, I want my daughters, first and foremost, to feel worthy and special and noble simply because they are daughters of God. I don’t want the importance of their mortal existence to be tied solely to marriage, and, while I realize that the Church’s teachings in their purity don’t devalue single women, I also realize that (as Ardis said so eloquently) single women and men live in the here and now – so they need praise and validation and worth and power and fulfillment to the highest extent possible in the here and now.

    In the end, I believe it comes down to our actions – including our words, but more how actively we are willing to ensure that their voices are heard and lives are immersed and opinions are valued in the Church. In many ways, it comes down to accepting their lives as legitimate lives (every bit as “right” for them as marriage is for the married) – and resisting the urge to impose the ideal individually we still must teach collectively.

    I wish I had a better answer, but never-ending awareness is a start – along with never belittling the struggles of a single adult in a family-focused religion.

  6. sister blah 2 on August 11, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Arrrg, yes, I did read you wrong. “WE don’t fit in.”

    Ardis and Jim, I’m really sorry about it all. Guess I’m still kinda speechless :-) because I don’t know what else to say other than sorry. Ardis, you did a great job of articulating the specific issues though. I know it was all a real struggle before I was able to get pregnant. And you’re right the “someday in the hereafter” thing is only comforting to a limited extent.

  7. Coffinberry on August 11, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    “I am ashamed to say that I can’t remember the last time my wife and I invited a single adult over for dinner with our family. That shouldn’t be.”

    I can tell you, you are missing out. Our family has more-or-less adopted three older singles into our family. They join us for Thanksgiving, Fourth-of-July, Christmas, birthdays. Now two join us for D&D adventures (4th Edition is SUCH a breeze for newcomers to play!) and assorted Sunday evening games. They call on my husband as if they were family if they need blessings. They function as aunts and uncles to our kids, and sometimes sit with us at church.

    Get to know the older singles in your ward, because you and your family are probably missing out on some wonderful folks.

  8. Jane @ What About Mom on August 11, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Maybe we can circulate a petition to bring back Sis. Dew?

    I wonder if this highlights (among other things) just how hard it is for us to step outside our own experiences and imagine what life for others must be like. I had never considered divorce in any personal context until my sister’s husband left her 4 months ago. Now she faces all these questions of singlehood (with 3 kids) that before she might have ignored.

    It’s been said before: being a mom (esp a sahm) is often unrewarding. And sometimes I wonder if Church leaders emphasize how important it is in order to try to redress the lack of paycheck, respect, and adult interaction that comes with wiping bums all day. It’s almost like reverse discrimination or affirmative action, maybe.


    Two things struck me about the DN article about the Sunstone panel. First was this:

    ‘Lori Winder quoted one secular author regarding motherhood, saying, “We are fed up with the myth that it’s the most honorable and important thing we do … and if you don’t love every second of it, there is something wrong with you.”‘

    Presumably Sister Winder agrees with this quote, and it really just kills me. Honestly, I don’t know anyone who thinks that one must love every second of motherhood in order to not have “something wrong with you” or to believe that it’s the most honorable and important thing we do. Ludicrous. Does the doctor love every second of residency and internship? I doubt it. Does the astronaut love every second of training? Do we expect fathers to enjoy every second of fatherhood, and if not then they just aren’t doing it right?

    These people need to step out of the dark ages of June Cleaver nostalgia motherhood that I’m pretty sure never existed and take a look at how real mothers act, think, and feel. Yes, I hate some aspects of motherhood. Yes, I wish being a sahm didn’t include the aspects that aren’t shiny and bright. Do I think that since some parts of my job suck that the job as a whole is not noble or important, or that I don’t realize how incredibly lucky I am to get to enjoy the good parts of it?

    The second “off” thing was the whatwomenknow.org website. I’d never been there, though I’d heard about it, and um, you can’t leave comments on there. It’s not a space for discussion or dialogue. It’s a “sign this and join us or don’t.”

    That seems a little odd for a group who are protesting the ‘unilateral pronouncements’ that come from church leaders.

  9. bbell on August 11, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    I agree that this is a difficult issue and that can be difficult to be a single person in a family oriented church.

    This is not a new issue for the LDS church. A quick look at my wifes family history reveals that her ggrandfather had 6 daughters born between 1890 and 1913. Of these 6 only 2 ended up married with children. These were women in SLC who were the granddaughters of a FP member and nieces of BY. They were exposed to many many eligible LDS men during their lives but never got married.

    I suspect that in another 100 years we will have the same struggle for single sisters and I might add for single men.

  10. Matt Evans on August 11, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Ardis’ comment rests on a bigger problem: the weaknesses of “purpose” and “meaning” in the gospel generally. God’s work and glory (purpose) is to offer immortality and eternal life to more people, the purpose of those people is to help extend immortality and eternal life to more people (raising families, missionary work, temple work), and in the eternities those people will assume God’s work to offer immortality and eternal life to still more people. The gospel doesn’t explain well what purpose or meaning immortality and eternal life entail in themselves. In this sense all of us share Ardis’s question.

    The NT and BoM pin on eternal life their material hopes (rest; limitless water, food and sweet fruits), which of course were scarce in their cultures, and our modern abundance has resulted in those promises being emphasized less. Relationships, especially family relationships, have filled the gap.

  11. Lynne on August 11, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    I married relatively late, so I understand where Ardis is coming from. I loved President Faust- especially for the following quote from a 1999 general women’s conference:

    “I wonder if you sisters can fully appreciate the innate gifts, blessings, and endowments you have simply because you are daughters of God. It is a mistake for women to think that life begins only with marriage. A woman can and must have an identity and feel useful, valued, and needed whether she is single or married. She must feel that she can do something for someone else that no one else ever born can do.
    ….

    My great-aunt Ada never married. Perhaps she believed in the philosophy: “When fretted by this single life, which seems to be my lot, I think of all the many men whose wife I’m glad I’m not.” In any event, she was one of the first female medical doctors in the state of Utah. When I was a young boy, my brothers and I slept out in the enclosed back porch of our small home. One day I was jumping on the bed, trying to see how high I could go. I jumped too close to the wall and tore part of my face on a nail that was sticking out. I need some excuse for the way I look! Aunt Ada was called to come and sew up the wound. At other times, when we didn’t feel well, she fed us castor oil and milk of magnesia. She came with mustard plasters and burned our chests when we had colds. Today when I have aches and pains, which is becoming more frequent as I get older, I wish Aunt Ada were here to keep me healthy. Every time I look in the mirror and see the scar—a permanent record of my encounter with the nail—a great love for Aunt Ada swells in my consciousness. She filled a precious, loving role in my life.”

  12. sjl on August 11, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    True. Life must be the meaning of life. Simply enjoying the beauties and adventures of living. Jesus said he came to give life more abundantly–that’s it. Thats the purpose. Making babies, preaching the gospel, standing up for justice–all these are means to and end, not ends in themselves.

  13. Gerald Smith on August 11, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Once again, I suggest we consider that talks, like Sister Beck’s, discuss the principle and not the exception. Given that there are as many exceptions as there are people, there is no way for leaders over 13 million people can give solutions to every individual.
    For this purpose, we have personal revelation. Too often we make ourselves into victims, because the Church or the Government isn’t filling our needs. Justice Clarence Thomas once stated that a person cannot be a victim and a hero at the same time. I agree with that concept.

    There are times when we all need help. That is what family, friends, and local Church auxiliaries/quorums are for. But they are also filled with imperfect people, who will often drop the ball. Of course, often we are disappointed or angry at such people for not anticipating our needs, though we have never actually expressed them to anyone in particular.

    For those that do not fit in Sister Beck’s perfect description of the principle (and most of us do not), we have been given the Holy Spirit to reveal to us how this applies to us specifically. It may be that now is the time to be perfecting ourselves for the future – even if without a spouse and/or children. I’ve known Jim Cobabe for many years now, and I know that while he would love to be married to a wonderful woman, and have children to embrace him, he may have to hold onto the hope of the promise; and for now make of himself the most wonderful and able person he can become. In such trials and tribulations come exaltation, but only if we strive through with faith and hope; and not whimper through them as victims.

  14. John on August 11, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    As a single adult man with no options to get married it hurts just the same. Of course, the men don’t have the support network that the women do. For the women, they’re seen as to not have had the opportunity. For the men, you’re usually told that it was your fault that you didn’t find someone so when the judgement day comes you’ll have no excuses. Also, when it comes to support networks, the women are a thousand times better at comforting people and so the support network for women is a thousand times better than for men. When have you ever seen someone try and comfort the single guy? People usually act like you have some kind of contagious disease or that your a former criminal or something.

    I’d like to hear some ideas on how to combat the overwhelming feelings of loss, emptiness, despair, failure, depression and worthlessness. Especially, when you’re reminded of your failure every time you go to the temple, or go to church, or go an activity, or see your family, or go to the grocery store, or go to the movie theater, or go to work, or generally leave your house for any reason. They always say success outside the home can’t compensate for failure within. Without having someone to love, your home becomes a prison with a lifetime sentence.

    As for the ensign article, I find that talks written by people who don’t know what it’s like to search for years and years and still be unsuccessful are one of these two types:

    1. Say any two people who love Jesus can be married and successful are always spoken by people who had no trouble finding a mate. (last fireside I went to)
    2. Say how life can be great for singles and then end with a story about someone getting married. (like this month’s articles)

  15. Jacob F on August 11, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Re: John #14 – any two people who love Jesus can be married and successful

    I’ve always thought that’s what you tell couples after they’re married!

  16. ZD Eve on August 11, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks to Julie for pulling out Ardis’ very thoughtful observations.

    For a variety of reasons the issue of those who don’t fit the church’s model of family has been on my mind a lot lately. Just yesterday I was set apart for an RS calling, and blessed to minister to the needs of both young mothers and older women whose families had grown. There was no mention of anyone in any other category (to be fair, those are the two largest groups in our ward, and the young member of the bishopric was obviously trying his best to inclusive–but it was revealing nonetheless about how we often categorize each other).

    Jim and John, your words break my heart. I wish I had some comfort to offer. For whatever it’s worth years of infertility have sometimes made me feel hopelessly sidelined and broken at church.

    I also wish I had something useful to say about the topic, but I’ll be reading with interest for suggestions on how run-of-the-mill ward members like me can do better at avoiding patronizing assumptions and make talks, lessons, etc. actually speak to everyone’s varied situations.

  17. Jim Donaldson on August 11, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Our ward is overwhelmingly single, i.e., we have 375 families and 450 members. The individual most often equals the family. However, the families with kids at home dominate the ward leadership. I think it has to do with who has the greatest investment in the quality of the ward, and those families do. That sounds unfair, but when you look around, you’d have no complaints about the leadership. They are the ones who should be serving. Having said that, we very often have single people as RS presidents and counselors, Primary presidents, Elder Quorum Presidents, members of the bishopric, etc. Maybe the key is that we don’t have the luxury not to have them. We need the help. We have a whole pew full of a group I characterize as the “Norwegian Bachelor Farmers,” in homage to Garrison Keillor. One is the ward clerk, one is an assistant to the High Priests group leader, and on and on.

    One of the things our ward emphasizes in talks and lessons is that we are all members of families, even if you aren’t the mom or the dad right this minute. To say we are a family oriented church doesn’t mean that the only family that counts is the one with six people at the dinner table every night. Even if one is a single adult, he or she is still a brother or sister, aunt or uncle, cousin, son or daughter, and so forth. We talk about how to function in those roles frequently. The fact is that our roles change regularly throughout our lives, obviously, with just maybe a quarter or a third of it spend as the mom or dad with kids at home.

    My wife and I were married 2 days before her 32nd birthday and we have two grown single adult daughters. My mother was a widow for 25 years. So, we know a little about being single in the church.

    On the other hand, I think that if we have to prioritize our efforts, I agree that tending to the families with children at home is clearly what we, as a church, should do. I saw figures a few years ago that indicated that church-wide, Primary attendance dances around 75%, yet we only send 10% of Young Men on missions. Somewhere in that Teenage Wasteland, we lose 2/3rds of our kids. Some are never really lost, just lazy or doing other things, and some come back (I did), but if there is a “crisis” in the church, that’s where it is. Adults can and should get it together–but kids need others to help, and the time is relatively short. Thus, I think, the nuclear family emphasis in public preaching and teaching.

    Ardis says: “… there is never anything to teach us our value in the absence of families in the same way that Church leaders offer advice and support and counsel to families.” If this is so, it falls equally on all of us, married and single, male and female. Nobody is told that their life in the world has ‘value’ or that their employment or other interests are important, apart from its necessity to provide for the family. We are all told to get educations, mostly so that we can do that.

    The awful truth is that our value to God is in the building of the kingdom and in functioning in our families, in whatever role we find ourselves at any given moment. The rest is worldly stuff. I admit that’s hard to take. But if you need validation, one can’t expect, really, others, or the church, to validate you. The only validation that counts is your own and that of God, who is not interested in most of what we spend our time doing in this life, except for church and family. That’s what makes life here frustrating. Our agendas are so different from God’s.

  18. c.p. on August 11, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    I am a younger single adult so I realize my attitude may not be shared with those nearing 30, nearing 40, nearing 50. But I am very happy with the activities and opportunities available to me, sometimes solely because I am single, such as: Having large groups of dedicated friends, freedom to move and travel based on what is best for me and my career, a close relationship to my own family. I see excitement in my life that I don\’t see in the lives of some of my friends who have already begun their families.

    During the leadership conference earlier this year it was made clear that “marriage is a drag” thoughts are of the world and should be avoided- and I completely agree. But reading the Ensign articles it seemed counterproductive to “encourage” singles with the message was that someday “we’ll come out of this”.

    How can the church celebrate each individual if we are not supposed to celebrate any of the benefits of a young single life?

    In response to the overly excited blogs of young families a friend recently joked that we should start our own laying out the incredible blessings afforded us in our single life. It is a challenge for all members and leaders of the church to consider the identities of singles as valid as those of their married counterparts.

    And the challenge is that the apologetic tone directed at single saints is a social product but it’s based on some solid doctrine. In the Ensign article it says eternal progression may sometimes SEEM dependent on marriage- that is because in every other issue it IS dependent. The Ensign articles were very thoughtfully written, but it is still a struggle for the church to validate the many single members while holding steadfast to the true principle that marriage is ordained of God.

  19. Jenilyn on August 11, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    I have an issue with the statement “there is never anything to teach us our value in the absence of families.” Sorry, that is a cop-out – no one is responsible to give or teach us our own value or tell us how to live our lives- that is something we have to discover ourselves. I am a never-married woman in my mid-forties so I am looking at the possibility of not marrying – however; I refuse to be a victim and I refuse to let other’s comments (including church leaders and teachers) determine how I feel about myself or how I live my life. Quit worrying about what other people think and get out & live life – there is so much available! BTW, the Lord does not care about our marital status – He just wants us to follow him.

  20. Juliann on August 11, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Jim, I agree with almost all of what you say but I think we need to stop talking about and for situations we do not share. Marrying at 32 doesn’t give one a good view of being single for life. Telling people at an age where the chance for childbearing and probably marriage are gone that they don’t need validation isn’t helpful. The “family” is validated all Sunday and in everything churchy there is. I have to ask how those in that group would even know what it is like to *not* be validated. (Much as I hate that word I can’t think of a substitute). It is like a wealthy person lecturing the poor on how to be grateful for what they have. It isn’t convincing and can be construed as condescension and I think that is the point that continues to be missed in these discussions.

  21. Ardis Parshall on August 11, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    I chose my words so carefully, yet there still is misunderstanding. I am not (and by extension, I suppose other singles are not) looking for “validation” as singles. I am not a victim, and I really don’t care two cents what most strangers think of me.

    What I mean by value and purpose in life is something to dedicate my life to, to achieve and build and return to God as the increase of my talents. Something that fills the measure of my creation.

    Parenthood and raising a righteous posterity is the obvious act of creativity and purpose that the Church teaches as the most important way of filling the measure of your creation (although I get it, and don’t need to be scolded here for not understanding, that merely procreating doesn’t fill the measure, and that parenthood may not satisfy all the cravings you have for a purpose in life).

    When the door to that primary purpose is shut, what can take its place? It’s *that* search for an eternal purpose for our mortal lives that I wish could be addressed by the Church, if only once in a very great while.

    Merely holding a job and earning money so that you can get up the next morning and go to work to earn money so that you can get up the next morning and go to work to earn money doesn’t give purpose to life.

    Merely entertaining yourself with more and more advanced education without doing something worthwhile with that education is no better at giving purpose to life than amusing yourself with sports or movies or PS2.

    Merely giving service to others, if the service is trivial and doesn’t draw on your talents and isn’t part of a larger purpose may give usefulness to your years, but not purpose.

    Hearing the ignorant self-righteous say “get over yourself” or “pray harder” or “the Church shouldn’t be expected to meet the needs of failures like you” doesn’t give purpose, either.

    I think I have finally found my purpose, something that makes me impatient for morning to come so that I can get back to work on it, something that requires me to stretch my inborn talents and develop new ones, something of service, something that only I can do, something that I can present to God in the end as fulfilling *a* worthy measure of my creation, if not *the* primary one. I’m lucky to have finally found it.

    I also lost 25 years searching for it, 25 years I could have been working on it. The years weren’t entirely wasted because I was hardly sitting on my duff waiting for something good to happen to me, but I’m way behind where I could have been had anybody helped me find my way. It’s *that* counsel and advice that I wish the Church could offer to supplement the counsel and advice given to couples and families. I needed that counsel every bit as much as any Laurel needs the counsel to prepare for marriage and family. Without it, we lose thousands upon thousands of members who could have made a contribution but who gave up before I did.

    And Jim, your statement that “Even if one is a single adult, he or she is still a brother or sister, aunt or uncle, cousin, son or daughter, and so forth” is flatly untrue. Some of us have no living relatives, or are as cut off from our relatives as if they *were* all dead. Besides, until you’re willing to surrender your roles as husband and father for the sheer joy of being nothing but a cousin, remarks like that will remain patronizing.

  22. LRC on August 11, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    re #14, and speaking to the rule, not the exception:

    Fully one-third of the members of the RS are single (that would be around 2 million women), and all those who are married are “at risk” of becoming single, either through divorce or widow-hood. It’s a pretty big exception to write off that many people. And since most of the talk, week in and week out, at church on Sunday deals with the exaltation of the family, it can be pretty hard for any single people to feel totally accepted, useful and worthwhile in such an environment. Perhaps that’s part of the reason so few stay 100% active during their single-hood.

  23. ZD Eve on August 11, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Ardis, your observations about purpose make a lot of sense to me. As a YW and a young adult I never seriously entertained the possibility that I might not have children, and I really could have used some help thinking about how I might make a meaningful life for myself and meaningful contributions to others in the absence of any children to raise.

  24. Claire on August 11, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Ardis, I am a long-time lurker but your thoughts have reflected mine so much I am finally moved to comment. I have a successful life – a good career, a home I own, and a ward that is supportive and loving. But in the past few years that I have spent attempting to find that kind of purpose of which you have speak (using all the methods I\’ve used to receive answers in the past) I have begun to struggle with my faith as a whole. The lack of that answer has exposed cracks in my own foundation that I never dreamed existed. The process has exhausted me spiritually. If you have any advice to offer those of us who have not found our answers, I would love to hear it. At the very least, I desperately need motivation to continue seeking.

  25. Nat Whilk on August 11, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    @22: “most of the talk, week in and week out, at church on Sunday deals with the exaltation of the family

    This is not true of my ward, and I’d be surprised if it were really true about any ward. I’ve just skimmed through the Gospel Doctrine and Joseph Smith manuals, and it appears to me that the overwhelming majority of the material in there is as immediately relevant to single members as it is to married ones.

  26. Ardis Parshall on August 11, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Nat, in my ward those matters are uniformly discussed as “how can I teach these principles to my children?” or “how can I sustain my husband and he sustain me as we strive to learn this?” Yesterday’s Sunday School class, for instance, was all about how a close study of the chapters where Alma is addressing his sons will help us learn how to counsel our own children. Yesterday’s Relief Society lesson was a discussion of preparing our families to live as Zion. So be as surprised as you want, but it’s “really true” about my ward.

  27. Kylie Turley on August 11, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Ardis, John, others–thank you for your openness and honesty. While I have friends I interact with regularly (and, yes, we have invited our single, male friend over for dinner on more than one occasion), I realize from your comments that I have not (and perhaps cannot totally) understand what it is like to be in your shoes. I taught the lesson on Alma and his sons a few Sundays ago, and, while the questions in the manual were generally worded in that format, I should have thought to word them in a more inclusive way, at least some of the time. Luckily we have some wonderful people who answered the questions I didn’t ask and applied Alma’s advice to his sons more generally. BTW, have you read Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Solitude of Self”?

  28. Ray on August 11, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    #21 – Thank you, Ardis. That was profound and deeply moving.

  29. Raymond Takashi Swenson on August 11, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Ardis (#26), I am sorry that your ward’s Gospel Doctrine lesson was focused on counseling techniques rather than the message of repentance and redemption that comes through so clearly in Alma’s chiasmic testimony of his own repentance and his admonition to Corianton to understand God’s judgment and that our life here and now is our input into that future event.

    I was visiting my son’s ward, and the High Priest group instructor (a substitute), instead of focusing on the beautiful teachings of Joseph Smith about the specificity of our hope for resurrection and reunion with our family members, decided to give us a “seven steps of grieving” and estate planning lecture. When I teach lessons at church, I do tend to bring in additional material, but I do so to illuminate the core message, not to replace it altogether.

    I recall reading (I believe it was told by Kim B. Clark) about a stake in which the stake president asked the bishops, when giving assignments to speak in Sacrament Meeting, to ask the assigned speakers that, whatever their topic, they needed to relate it to the Atonement of Christ. That is what Sacrament Meeting is about, after all. If all of our teaching in Church points toward the Atonement, then it will be good, by definition (Moroni 7), and should be of value to us whatever our life circumstances.

    On the other hand, the fact that there is so much emphasis on living the gospel in families reflects the fact that families have a lot of inertia, and that it is all that parents can do to move their family in one direction, as opposed to atomistically breaking apart and going off in all directions. It is a challenge that is not met without encouragement (I see a lot of that in Sister Beck’s October 2007 talk) and guidance.

    I would hope that the bishops in wards with adult singles would ask them to speak in Sacrament meeting or serve in callings as teachers and leaders so that they can share their own testimonies of how they live the Gospel even though they don’t have the burdens and blessings of spouses and children. Part of the function of a ward as a quasi family (having to take people as we find them, rather than shopping around for an amenable congregation) is to share insight into how other people live the gospel, both so we can understand and love each other better, but also so we can be prepared for the life changes that will come to most of us, and our children, over time.

  30. david on August 11, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    but explained that the meeting would not be addressing us (except as children of our parents) because the family ideal was more important than our circumstances.

    I find that very distressing, and I am a married man, I can’t imagine what someone who is single would feel about that statement.

    The part that is most distressing to me is that it ignores the world wide church. Anyone who has served south of the Rio Grande can probably vouch that your average ward or branch consists mostly of sisters that are either 1) single, 2) divorced, 3) married to a non-Mormon spouse, or 4) married to a spouse that is flagrantly unfaithful (to the point that the marriage is meaningless). Is it right to ignore the majority of members in the fastest growing areas of the church, at least with respect to this topic?

    Related to this, what do we tell sisters who live in areas where they outnumber active males 4 or 5 to 1? What do you tell sisters who have at best a 20-25% chance of marrying a Mormon? It seems like there are two options. We could tell them to just get married because family is important and hope that too many don’t go inactive. Or, we can stick to our guns on the importance of temple marriage and watch 75-80% of these women to die single. What’s more important family or temple marriage? It’s a hard choice in my book. Whatever your answer is it seems silly to ignore these women because the family ideal is more important than addressing the needs of singles, when only a tiny minority could possibly ever marry in the temple.

  31. Craig H. on August 11, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    I think this is what I was trying to get a little bit with my silly little blog on “Master Status.” Why should any of us assign to someone else at church the Master Status of “single?” If we’re all brothers and sisters, why would single be first? Rather than Fellow believer? Fellow Christian? Brother? Sister? Wouldn’t that go far toward eliminating some of the alienation single people, or other marginalized people, feel? Wouldn’t it help us not to look at everything through the lens of family life but instead focus on individual virtue and progress and challenges? That’s something we’d all benefit from, whether in families or not.

    It’s not enough to acknowledge pain and alienation, in my view, of groups that feel marginalized or that we tend to marginalize, even unintentionally; rather we all have to be integrated in a way that makes us all feel equally valued.

  32. Nat Whilk on August 11, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    @#26: “Nat, in my ward those matters are uniformly discussed as ‘how can I teach these principles to my children?’ or ‘how can I sustain my husband and he sustain me as we strive to learn this?’

    What makes that especially remarkable is that in a recent thread you said: “My ward is made up almost entirely of people in their 80s and 90s”. Since most people in that age group are unmarried and don’t have children living at home, it’s very odd that these matters would be uniformly discussed that way by them.

    Yesterday’s Sunday School class, for instance, was all about how a close study of the chapters where Alma is addressing his sons will help us learn how to counsel our own children.

    Lesson 29 is not at all representative of lessons in this year’s Gospel Doctrine manual in this regard. The word “parents” is used a total of 38 times in the 48 lessons and 214 pages of the manual, and fully 14 of those uses are in Lesson 29 alone.

    Yesterday’s Relief Society lesson was a discussion of preparing our families to live as Zion.

    Only 1 of the 7 discussion questions in Lesson 15 in the Joseph Smith manual relates to building Zion in the home. The other 6 are just as relevant to singles as marrieds.

  33. Ardis Parshall on August 11, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Remarkable, isn’t it, that the teachers continue to teach to the few younger people in the room? the ones with families?

    Perhaps not as remarkable as your doing such a close statistical study of the manual, or your apparent expectation that all printed questions are discussed as printed.

  34. Juliann on August 11, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Nat, even people who are in their 80s and 90s will have been married at the usual rates. They would be very unlikely to relate to being single rather than married no matter what their current status. At some point I still have to ask what makes men think they can speak for women or married people speak for never married people or parents speak for childless couples with such uninhibited assurance. There should be at least a hint of reluctance in doing that. There too often isn’t when it comes to church topics and that in itself should point to a lack of awareness that may be the unintended result of our family focus.

  35. Nat Whilk on August 11, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    @#32: “Remarkable, isn’t it, that the teachers continue to teach to the few younger people in the room? the ones with families?

    Yes, especially when the manuals are so jam-packed with material relevant to everyone.

    Perhaps not as remarkable as your doing such a close statistical study of the manual

    I felt it was worth it to take a few seconds with a search engine to demonstrate that yesterday’s Sunday School lesson was atypical and, therefore, not a very good “for instance”.

    or your apparent expectation that all printed questions are discussed as printed.

    I don’t expect that questions are discussed as printed, but I do expect lessons to be discussions, and I do expect students to bring up the issues from the prescribed material that are important to them. It sounds like your ward has a silent majority that is complicit in its own oppression by a tiny minority. That’s very strange.

  36. Sarah on August 11, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    I much prefer Sunday School discussions and Sacrament meeting talks about eternal families and how to teach your children, than YSA ward Sunday School discussions and Sacrament meeting talks about how to find a husband/wife or date or be more attractive (in all kinds of ways) to members of the opposite sex. I usually last about three weeks in YSA wards.

    I’m not sure that church leaders have a special obligation to make me feel better about my life, but I’m young and haven’t done the forty years in the wilderness thing in terms of being single in the church, and I’d probably dismiss most of what they said as being patronizing or immaterial or counterproductive, if they did get around to saying something to make my singleness less galling. Also, I’m profoundly ambivalent about the whole marriage thing for myself — it seems like such a great idea, but a fairly disastrous and unpleasant reality most of the time. My Facebook profile currently contains a prediction that the sister who’s fourteen years younger than me will probably get married before I do, for a reason. And I’m kind of okay with that, no matter what I hear from church leaders (my family is so unorthodox I doubt anyone will even have super-secret thoughts about how sad my lot is.) So I may not be terribly qualified to comment. ^_^

  37. kevinf on August 11, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    I was really touched by Ardis’ words. A number of years back my wife and I were assigned to home teach several single sisters in our ward, who were almost exclusively young, divorced, with one or two children.

    I at first thought it would be an easy task, but I found them frustrated, angry, and not very trusting of my wife and I. We persisted, and generally felt like we were making progress. Then I had a couple of eye opening experiences that have stayed with me.

    First, one of these sisters kind of blew up at a ward event about how unfriendly and uncaring the ward members were, and how she always felt out of place. One of the things that hurt the most, she said, is that no couples in our ward had ever invited her to go do something like a movie or dinner, as they would with other married couples. That made me angry, because my wife and I had indeed invited here on a couple of occasions, that she had turned down. In retrospect, I realized that those rare invitations may have been even rarer in the ward, leading to the isolated and unwelcome feelings she was expressing.

    Second, our HP group was assigned to help out at a multi stake senior single adults dance. Most of the participants were older, in their 60′s and 70′s. It was both enlightening and heartbreaking to see these folks who really wanted not to be single, struggle within the context of a family church. But most interesting was that we had invited our home teaching single sisters to help out, and several of them did. Part way through the dance, one of them, in front of my wife, asked me to dance with her. My wife had no problem, but I was a little uncomfortable. This sister then told me, “If this makes you feel weird, that’s what I intended. I know you want to be helpful, so this is my way of helping you feel how I feel everyday of my life in the church”.

    I don’t know that I’ve learned the lesson fully, but I have always tried to be more aware of adult singles in our ward, and try to be less condescending and more accepting. I think my wife gets it better than I did. Ardis has found a niche, and it’s a delight to me. What can we do to help others find that same kind of fulfillment?

  38. Nat Whilk on August 11, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    @#33:”Nat, even people who are in their 80s and 90s will have been married at the usual rates.

    Questions like “How can I sustain my husband and he sustain me as we strive to learn this?” are no less odd for widows than they are for never-marrieds.

    At some point I still have to ask what makes men think they can speak for women or married people speak for never married people or parents speak for childless couples with such uninhibited assurance.

    Or followers speak for leaders?

  39. Ardis Parshall on August 11, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    So I’ll round up some of the great-grandmas in my ward and we’ll stage a coup in next Sunday’s class, Nat.

    It’s pretty clear that you don’t understand women of any age. Might be time for you to sit back and listen and learn.

  40. kevinf on August 11, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Nat,

    Maybe it’s just me, but your comments come across as akin to taking ice cream as a refreshment to the lactose-intolerant self-help meeting.

    Reread Elder Wirthlin’s talk, and quit telling all these good folks that they’re really piccolos after all. Take it from a long-time tuba, there’s too much woodwind, and not enough brass.

  41. Nat Whilk on August 11, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    @#38: “So I’ll round up some of the great-grandmas in my ward and we’ll stage a coup in next Sunday’s class, Nat.

    Raising your hand and making a comment about material in the manual that’s relevant to you wouldn’t be a coup. It’s how discussions are supposed to work.

    It’s pretty clear that you don’t understand women of any age. Might be time for you to sit back and listen and learn.

    Telling people you disagree with to shut up, on the other hand, isn’t how discussions are supposed to work.

  42. Mark IV on August 11, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    My wife and I are doing the labels for our Christmas cards while we watch the Olympics (yes, we are weird that way), and I was astonished to realize that probably 98% of the cards we plan to send are to a Mr. and Mrs.

    If I wanted to make an excuse, I could say that our friendships with other married couples are the result of getting to know them through activities their children have shared with ours, but that is a very poor excuse, given that our ward over the past 15 years has been about 40% single members.

  43. Juliann on August 11, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Kevin, perhaps the first thing we can do is find out what those who do not fit the norm are comfortable with. To me, being invited to something because I am single instead of a friend is distasteful. I learned to say no and mean it when married members pushed me to go to ward couple parties soon after my husband died because it would be good for me and I could sit with them. Sometimes I have to wonder how we can produce such braindead people in a church that preaches caring for others. The point isn’t the stories (we all have some)…it is why we are producing so many people who can best anyone in giving service but who are oblivious to others who do not share their life circumstances.

  44. kevinf on August 11, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Juliann,

    Your comments echo some that my wife’s younger sister had after her husband died suddenly in his 40′s. She was in no mood to be a pity object, and probably hurt some feelings of folks who were just trying to be helpful. Her bishop, I think, is till scared to death of her, after his well intentioned but clearly clueless efforts to help. He offered to help with her finances, without realizing that she was the one who handled all the finances in her home to begin with. Her signature was on all the tithing checks, not her husbands.

    You bring up the solid issue of “friendship first, service/missionary work/everything else second”. If we’re friends, everything else that happens comes across as sincere, as opposed to the assignment or project label that we too often want to apply to others.

  45. Ardis Parshall on August 11, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    /Nat

    I appreciate the comments of so many of you and don’t know why I get sucked in (I’m such an easy target) by buzzing mosquitos instead of responding to thoughtful remarks, by those who recognize what I tried to get at, and those who challenged me with their alternate experience, and the one or two requests for help. When I commented yesterday I didn’t expect this to grow into a discussion of its own.

    Claire, I’m not really prepared to explain how I found my niche or know exactly what would have helpd me find it earlier. I’ll have to think about it and how and why it finally happened, and post either on my own blog or ask to guest here. I’d really like to respond to John (#14) too, who found ways to express feelings I share but don’t dare say in a public forum.

    Thanks for posting this Julie.

  46. KLC on August 11, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    As someone who got married two weeks shy of his 38th birthday I’ve read the comments with more than the usual interest. I have to agree with Juliann’s comment, few things made me madder in those days than having someone who got married 6 months after they left their mission instruct me on what I needed to do to get married or explain to me why I wasn’t married.

  47. Nat Whilk on August 11, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    I have apparently been very, very lucky. I’m single, well past the midpoint of life, and have been treated wonderfully by all sorts of Latter-day Saints in all sorts of wards. Whether they talk about families with me or avoid the topic, whether they sit by me at church or give me my space, whether they invite me to activities or set me up with their friends or just leave me alone, I sense that they care about me and are trying to do right by me.

  48. Ugly Mahana on August 11, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Ardis, I hope you don’t mind my numbering my thoughts, since they are distinct.

    1) You pose articulate and thought provoking questions. I particularly appreciate the tone you struck when you expressed regret for not finding purpose earlier in life. You make a powerful point about teaching individuals how to find purpose, and the spiritual cost of not doing so.

    2) Having read your comments and posts for a while now, I knew before you said it that you are not posing these thoughts out of self-pity. Learning to act and serve and [i]live[/i] is such an important lesson. I admire your enthusiasm.

    3) If a talk or a lesson were given on this topic, I think you could serve as a success story. In addition to making history fun and meaningful by illuminating real life individual stories, you routinely stand up for truth, even truth that is, I gather, sometimes difficult for you to swallow. Thank you not only for exemplifying stretching, but also for calling on the rest of us to stretch, too.

  49. kevinf on August 11, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Nat,

    I should probably apologize. Some of my comments to you were certainly not very nice, a product of not really knowing anything about you. I’ll probably find out that you’re lactose intolerant yourself. :)

    I’ve also been very lucky, but in a different way. We’d all be a lot better suited to talking to each other if we only took the time to learn a little more before we start judging. And I think that’s Juliann’s point. And Ardis, as well. Then we can better understand about the value of our contributions.

    Just a small aside. My wife and I were in Utah last week visiting family (and not attending Sunstone or FAIR). On Friday afternoon, we took our youngest son to the Church Museum of History and Art, a favorite place of mine. I have a tendency there to get choked up about the littlest things, particularly the art.

    One of the temporary exhibits was entitled “Women’s Gifts”. I entered with not very high expectations, especially seeing they had chosen yellow as the predominant color, painting all the walls behind all the exhibits.

    But I was amazed, and then completely overcome. There was a page of Utah suffragette hymns, including one called “Women Arise”. There were some pretty amazing works of art, and a few others that really caught me by surprise. One of the most powerful was one of those silly puppet like creations made out of an old pair of nylons that look like people. It showed a senior missionary couple, with their name tags, kneeling over a collection of letters and photos.

    Married or not, the women who contributed to that exhibit have done something truly wonderful for me, in a way that I can barely express. Whenever I go to the Museum, I generally end up walking around red-eyed and sniffling, trying to wave off all the museum volunteers who sense a “missionary moment”, when it is just a confirmation for me of the true meaning of service in the church. As Ardis shows so well in her blog, there are no insignificant lives, and we need to help each other figure out what gifts we all have to bring to the banquet.

  50. fmhjanet on August 11, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Funny, Ardis, that you should post this. The whole time I was considerng what to say on the now-infamous panel, I was thinking of how much it irked me that the very valuable contribution*you* make to the church and your community so frequently get reduced to “those single sisters can find a way to be useful *in spite of* not accomplishing marriage and maternity”. You, and people like you, are not ancillary. I wish we had a more formal apparatus for recognizing such contributions. I try very hard to be a good SAHM (you know, the rampant spoiling of the toddler and all) but don’t doubt that as an individual you, in your purpose, add more to our church community than do I.

    Thus I hereby declare it “I Love Ardis” day. ‘Cuz you know what? I love Ardis. She’s in my ward so I’m doubly blessed–Ardis online and Ardis at church (when I’m no skipping church to be all hospitalized, that is).

    Thanks for giving her remarks wider coverage, Julie!

  51. fmhjanet on August 11, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Nat said: It sounds like your ward has a silent majority that is complicit in its own oppression by a tiny minority. That’s very strange.

    It is strange, Nat. But it’s also extremely common.

  52. MoJo on August 11, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    From other thread, Juliann said:

    Mojo, I do remember being told that singles could participate in motherhood by helping mothers. It was quite common years ago and I am dismayed that Ardis is hearing it still.

    Good gravy. :shaking head sadly: Inactivity has its blessings, it seems, but I was the shoulder on which a sister sojourner cried. She served as Relief Society president twice and pretty much was seen as the go-to woman in her ward/stake because she was single and “had time.”

    I married relatively late, so I understand where Ardis is coming from.

    I did too, at 34, on the cusp of the end of (my) fertility. My friend married for the first time at 46; her chance for childbearing was over and she wanted children more than I did.

    I can’t speak for any men (‘cuz…I ain’t one), but I don’t imagine it’s any easier for y’all; please don’t think I’m excluding you.

    Ardis said:

    I also lost 25 years searching for it, 25 years I could have been working on it. The years weren’t entirely wasted because I was hardly sitting on my duff waiting for something good to happen to me, but I’m way behind where I could have been had anybody helped me find my way. It’s *that* counsel and advice that I wish the Church could offer to supplement the counsel and advice given to couples and families.

    Amen.

    And let me add this, since no one’s thought to bring it up or I skimmed too fast or the issue’s getting skirted on purpose: Celibacy is a b*tch. I have my thoughts on how much that’s driving the hurt feelings and insensitivity and I don’t think it’s insignificant. It doesn’t seem to be acknowledged that this is a serious lack in a single LDS woman’s life, particularly as she gets toward the age when she becomes the hormonal equivalent of a 17-year-old boy.

    (Yes, I am indelicate. IMO, delicate gets no one anywhere after a while.)

  53. Ray on August 11, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Just a quick note:

    This is the type of discussion I love. Generally thoughtful, considerate, articulate, candid . . . I’ve really enjoyed this.

  54. Jim Cobabe on August 11, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    I don’t deserve the disservice that “single” does to me. Perhaps Ardis is the same way. If you need to categorize me, please forget the whole thing. Yes, I realize that being single in the Church makes me a little different. That’s okay with me. But if your placing me in a marginalized category makes less of me, no thanks. I’ll join someone or something that can accept me as a peer.

    Same as for Steve Evans.

  55. Confutus on August 11, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    As a divorced adult man with a long time being single, I was already well familiar with these experiences of loss, emptiness, despair, failure, depression and worthlessness. When I was faced with divorce, they returned, compounded, by the shattering sense that I had failed. It was a bitter thing indeed to reflect on how many of my hopes for eternal happiness were so poorly founded Then to try to rebuild a life from the rubble, not knowing whether to expect pity or blame from anyone I might confide in, and not desiring either….that’s an ongoing process.

    Not that I blame the leadership of the Church. There is reason to emphaize the ideals they do. What I have found is that mambers at the local level often lack charity, and instead use the teachings of the gospel which ought to bring joy as clubs to beat others into silence or submission. This is not something that can be cured with more programs.

  56. Bookslinger on August 11, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    John (#14), and Ardis (various comments),

    As a single adult (50-ish), I’ve found a degree of purpose in trying to fulfill the 3-fold purpose of the church, perfect the saints, proclaim the gospel, redeem the dead. Still being an ex-member puts me on hold for many things, but not all things. The elderly sister I took to church Sunday, and the non-member without a car who I took grocery shopping this week didn’t much care that I was single or an ex-member. I can still do genealogy work, and submit names for temple ordinances. A high priest in my previous ward did my father’s temple work for him, and I still have a box of family stuff to go through and submit names for. I create flyers for single adult events and assist the stake reps. The full-time missionaries appreciate the marked copies of the Book of Mormon I supply them with. Two of the elders will likely never forget meeting a Swahili-speaking person within a few days after I gave them a Swahili Book of Mormon. A zone-leader from Somoa will likely never forget me arranging for him and his comp to have dinner with the non-member sister (sibling) of a fellow Somoan member of his home ward. The non-member lady was living in the ward he was serving in, and he knew nothing about her.

    The deacons and teachers in our ward likely don’t know my name, but just know me as the guy who never takes the sacrament, but shows up every week anyway. I don’t know if that’s an overall good example, but I hope the message they take away is: You can always show up, you don’t have to stay away.

    I keep on the look-out for new-faces or rare-faces at church. And if no one else greets them, I make an effort to. I’ve visited wards where I was invisible, and I can help make sure that doesn’t happen to others.

    The “perfecting the saints” part can be difficult without a calling, since Mormons like to have a plan and be organized about things. But by keeping my eyes open, I can spot little things that don’t need a calling. The redeeming-the dead (genealogy) and proclaim-the-gospel can also be done individually without a calling. Though I say I don’t do missionary work, I just give out books; so it’s kinda-sorta a freedom-of-speech issue with me. IE. when I offer to donate foreign language copies of the Book of Mormon to public libraries and university libraries, they don’t care about my membership status. I don’t have to bear testimony, and rarely do when speaking to people.

    Sometimes I day-dream about Chinese-Americans serving as full-time missionaries in China, and when asked how or why thehy joined the church, they say that some guy came into their parents restaurant and gave them this blue book.

    Over on Nauvoo Forums (http://www.nauvoo.com/ubb/cgi/ultimatebb.cgi) someone asked about singles and legacy. I think redeeming-the-dead and missionary work create legacies with the connections forged by those activities. The dead likely know who sought them out, who submitted their name/information, and who performed those ordinances. Those who join the church, either in this life or the next, also likely remember who introduced them, or at least planted the seeds.

    I also remember reading Ensign stories about those who always remember those seemingly mundane things that helped keep someone active in the church during their formative years, or during stressful times.

    Yeah, I know how irritating it is to have people lean on you “because you’re single and have plenty of time” when in reality, I find the opposite is true. As a single, I don’t have someone to share one half the chores, shopping, bill-paying, cleaning, cooking etc. You just have to learn how to say “no thanks” to them, and to ignore the condescenders you give you the “You poor single person” routine.

    I think the bottom-line is that even the smallest things done for the least of Christ’s brethren serve a great purpose. There’s a lot more to do than baby-sitting. But then, playing Barbies-and-dinosaurs with a friend’s four-year-old at their house on Thanksgiving has been one of my favorite memories. Maybe that’s why I like hanging out with little children or the elderly, they’re so easy to please and are thrilled with the least bit of attention.

  57. Howard on August 11, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Adoption? Foster parenting? Big Brother Big Sister? Mentoring? Tutoring? There is no shortage of children without parents.

  58. StillConfused on August 11, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    I am divorced. I don’t feel that makes me any less of a person etc. As far as Church activities and such, I don’t attend them in any event so I do not feel a sense of loss at the exclusion from couples events. I do not mind the lack of member assistance on home projects etc. Frankly I am better at home improvement projects than the men in my neighborhood. But what is hard is that I am never given home teachers and my son spent the ages of 14 to 18 without any priesthood influence. Am I to be blamed for that? That is the one area where I can’t be the man of the house.

  59. Merkat on August 11, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    The bishop picks topics for the first Sunday RS lessons? Does he do the same for EQ lessons? Is this normal? I always picked my own (RS). Sorry threadjack. Am interested to read comments as this is a topic I’m interested in.

  60. quin on August 11, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    I can’t get this off my mind and I think it needs to be said because I know there is something much deeper and more important going on here. Forgive me if I’m wrong…

    How much of the marginalization reported to be taking place-is actual, factual, out in the open and easily recognized by anyone REALLY taking place?

    First, I ask because I believe that there are just as many people who take offense when none is meant and/or are in the habit of embellishing the words of others to justify their own personal agendas as there are people who are inexcusably rude, dismissive and condescending. From normal, average, adults I believe BOTH behaviors equally pathetic and unrighteous. Shouldn’t we as members of the human family and in particular those who have taken the name of Christ upon ourselves members be extremely careful not to engage in either one?

    Second, and more gently, I ask because sometimes what begins with the normal doubts and fears and questions that everyone faces, can and does sometimes grow into a much larger problem. Sometimes instead of using our trials to learn and grow, we turn them into crutches that hold us back. We usually deny that’s what we are really doing and attempt to bury the evidence under tons of emotional debris, but as eternal beings, we are always subconsciously aware of the “body in the basement” so to speak. Whenever another person comes too close to the particular “thing” we buried, we experience negative emotions-most commonly anger-but anger is a secondary emotion triggered by a primary negative emotion like fear or loneliness or unmet needs.

    Whenever we are forced to face the “body”- it triggers a negative primary emotion related to it, but this involuntary/reactive emotion dissipates almost instantly and becomes a secondary (and learned/voluntary) negative coping or defensive emotion. If we’ve learned that a certain reaction effectively keeps our secret safe, we employ that emotion, and the more we use it, the faster it becomes a habit. Someone who personally believes that certain emotions like anger are evil or wrong, (or who thinks that others view specific emotions as wicked) will learn to express different emotions as long as they turn the tables and put them back in control of the situation and don’t make them look or feel like a bad person at the same time.

    One of those responses, assuming the role of the wounded, the victim, the “pathetic” is a learned response, a secondary emotion, not a primary one, but it comes with a bullet proof side benefit-our society never EVER allows anyone to focus blame of any sort on victims. Victims are showered with love, safety, protection, and pity. Other people step forward to fight the battles of victims, all they have to do is incite the crowd. Our natural instinct is to view the perpetrator as bad, evil or wicked while we view the victim as the opposite-good, pure, and innocent.

    Every human being loves to feel good and pure and righteous because they are positive emotions. It is nature to desire these feelings and want people to view us in those ways. As children we learn to get people to respond (manipulation) how we need/want them to through cause and effect. If whining produces the desired result, we learn to whine. If screaming does, we scream. If sucking up does, we suck up. As we mature, if we are surrounded by loving, mature, spiritual and sensitive friends and family, we learn how to ask when we need something and how to give in return. We learn that our goodness and “value” does not depend on achievements or lack of them-because the love and value we are shown doesn’t change randomly. We are free to be ourselves without fear of rejection or condemnation.

    If we don’t grow up in this kind of environment, things often turn out differently. When children grow up without being loved as they deserved to be loved, or valued as they deserved to be valued by those around them, they learn to find alternative ways of getting their needs met. It becomes a habit to out in ways that prompt the validation and praise and acceptance they craved both then and now, but rarely get.

    For example, lets say that as a little girl, every time I made a mistake, didn’t finish my chores, or allowed my room to get messy I was chastised and shamed by an adult in such a way that I grew up associating “messy” with “disgusting” or “lazy”. I hear Sister Beck’s talk and think “I’m sure she would consider my home ‘messy’.” Because that is way too too close to my “body in the basement” suddenly I feel “disgusting” and “lazy”. I cry in my bathroom until I have no more tears, but those negative emotions are still exposed. I was never taught where they come from or how to really deal with them, so I seek out some positive feedback, some kind of assurance that I’m lovable and valuable to fill in the void I feel. By habit, I go into “victim” mode-and call a friend and tell her I’ve been hurt so badly that it caused me to weep and tell her “who” hurt me. Instant validation pours over the phone line as I’m being told that I am a great mother and wife and that Sister Beck is completely out of line.

    There’s nothing wrong with seeking out others to help soothe our pains and heartaches, it’s a natural human response. We all deserve to feel important and good and worthwhile because inherently we ARE those things and no one ever has the right to take that knowledge away from us. But we must be careful as adults who try to equalize the world or restore what we lost by tearing others down to build ourselves up. The Holy Ghost is never at work when we are proclaiming that an innocent person (or group of people like “The Church” or “members”) are to blame when something they say or do causes us to emotionally react to crimes committed against us in the past or by others.

    Deep breath-click submit…

  61. JKS on August 11, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    I view the purpose of life is to follow Christ and build his kingdom on earth. Yes, much of that work is done within families. Without a family, an individual should still be actively engaged in this work.
    I don’t know what it is like to be single for years get up in the morning and not have a long list of things I’m supposed to do that are “vitally important” for others besides myself.
    I do know that we are all weighed down by burdens. No matter what our burdens are, we can still seek to do the Lord’s will. He can and will help us if we ask and keep trying.
    I read a wonderful Ensign article once about a woman who said she was bitter that her husband wouldn’t agree to her getting her endowments. She was angry that she was denied the blessings of going to the temple. One day she was complaining about it and the RS president wasn’t sympathetic and told her she could go do baptisms for the dead. This woman said she was so busy being bitter and angry she wasn’t taking advantage of the blessings that were available to her.
    I don’t mean to be unsympathetic. I do think however that sometimes we get into the grass being greener and we don’t notice our own beautiful lawn. I do it too.
    I don’t feel like the whole church is geared toward families. I’m not a YW or a primary child or an Elder or a HP. Yet those programs are there. RS is rarely about raising children. I don’t know, do I just live in a diverse ward or something? We have single, widowed, divorced, married, old and young.
    I assume it is more an “attitude” that is prevalent that is difficult to bear.
    Are we just too sensitive? Everyone seems to feel left out. Newlyweds. Singles. CHildless. Divorced. Married to nonmember. Parents of wandering children. Guess what? All those married people aren’t always happily married. Some of them are going through difficulties that make them feel bad too, like their lives are ruined.

  62. Jim Cobabe on August 11, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    On the other hand…

    Maybe I really am pretty worthless. I just do a lot of stuff to cover up that fact…

  63. Matt Perry on August 11, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    So, as a gay and active latter-day saint, I wonder: How much prodding do we need to live good, single, lives? What exactly would be said in an article specifically aimed at us singles that isn’t widely known?

    I find myself thinking that if they singled out the singles for an article on how to live right, it would come off as patronizing. I, at least, am quite capable of finding meaning in my life without a partner (of either sex) and without being given a customized, sorry-you’re-single paint-by-numbers kit.

    On the other hand, I can’t stand priesthood, sacrament, or Sunday school lessons that talk about family. I find myself an alternative occupation, without fail. They’re just too painful.

    It would be nice to receive some special attention, as single members of the church, but we can get by without it. What we _need_ is to not be subjected to unrealistic expectations. Perhaps when that one-in-seven lesson rolls around, we can hold an alternative class in the foyer.

  64. Ardis Parshall on August 11, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    Listen, folks, I believe you-all mean to be helpful with your suggestions and preachings. You’re missing the point, though. I (although some commenters have made it clear that they have very similar struggles, I’ll put it as *I* and take the heat for everybody) don’t feel marginalized, don’t feel like a victim, am not offended, and don’t feel that anybody has shortchanged me, so all of your well-meant scoldings are irrelevant.

    The point is this: Since I can’t fulfill my primary role in mortality, I must find a secondary role. That role, in order to be satisfactory, must be worth while (i.e., more than busywork), and must help me grow as a daughter of God (i.e., bring a measure of joy to me as well as being useful to others). Don’t your roles as wife/husband and parent have those elements, among others?

    Since we learn about our primary roles from gospel teachings and get training and support in carrying out those roles from the Church, it would be very helpful if I could get occasional — not constant, not exclusive, but simply *occasional* — guidance to help me in finding that secondary role. You know, to make sure that secondary role is compatible with the gospel, and helps to build Zion, and, well, just because I’m a daughter of God and a member of His earthly kingdom just the same as you are,

    But please, disabuse yourselves of the notion that I’m offended or a victim or in rebellion with respect to church leaders. My telling you what would be of greatest help to me as a single woman struggling to find purpose in life should be no more scandalous than one of your people turning to you as a home/visiting teacher and telling you that she needs help with home repairs or a referral for medical care.

  65. Ray on August 11, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    #59 – quin, I understand the psychology behind what you said, but I really don’t see how it fits here. Nobody here has said a single word about being a victim; in fact, the main commenters have expressed explicitly that they are not victims and simply want help finding purpose that can help fill the absence of marriage and parenthood. They are actively looking for ways to find joy, not wallowing in misery.

    Your comment seems to imply that those who struggle to come to meaningful terms with being single in a marriage-focused church just have to work through whatever emotional abuse they suffered as children. I don’t think that you believe that (at least, not universally), but that’s the message I got as I read the comment.

    #57, if that was the comment that prompted yours, did not claim victimhood. It made a plea for Priesthood influence in the home, when that has not been provided. That’s a valid and righteous desire. Period.

    JKS, sometimes the grass really is painted as being greener for some than for others. It’s hard to hear (week after week) that the greenest grass is outside your reach – especially as your hope of having that greener grass fades with time.

    Matt’s comment is profound, imho. Unrealistic expectations are brutal, especially when they are applied year after year after decade after decade. Maybe we need to internalize Elder Witrthlin’s orchestra talk a little better. It applies so well to this conversation.

  66. Ray on August 11, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Obviously, I was typing as Ardis’ comment was posting. Sorry if it was somewhat redundant.

  67. aloysiusmiller on August 12, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Well everyone’s primary role is to bear one another’s burdens and to bring others to Christ including one’s family. Family goes backward and forward and in eternity it is all “present”.

    The New Testament says that we become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. So it strikes me that missionary work is also very important. The Jews all emphasized lineage and descent from Abraham. The Apostles emphasized descent from Christ through rebirth in baptism. Family history is all about rebirth in baptism. Raising children is all about rebirth in baptism. Missionary work is all about rebirth in baptism.

    I don’t mean to devalue family. It is a primary vehicle for making all the good things happen but it is a truly excellent vehicle not an end in itself. Family, tribe, clan etc. without Christ is a frequently horrible thing to behold.

    There are many ways to bear burdens and bring others to Christ.

  68. Lupita on August 12, 2008 at 1:08 am

    Since we learn about our primary roles from gospel teachings and get training and support in carrying out those roles from the Church, it would be very helpful if I could get occasional — not constant, not exclusive, but simply *occasional* — guidance to help me in finding that secondary role. You know, to make sure that secondary role is compatible with the gospel, and helps to build Zion, and, well, just because I’m a daughter of God and a member of His earthly kingdom just the same as you are.

    Ardis, you couldn’t be any clearer. I think it’s an entirely reasonable request. There is nothing wrong with noting existing inadequacies. I think struggling to find purpose in life is incredibly difficult and the blessings of marriage and motherhood do not automatically end that struggle. Not that that’s what you’re saying…I find you quite brilliant and hilarious and am completely jealous of Janet sharing a ward with you. I don’t have any preaching for you but just a sincere thank you for not giving up because the Church needs more people like you. That sounds trite and I’m sorry but it’s late and well, the best I can do.

  69. Naismith on August 12, 2008 at 7:39 am

    I think a lot of leaders support the notion of valuing single members, but aren’t sure about how to operationalize that notion. Too much, and it is seen as patronizing; too little, ignoring.

    When I was Relief Society president in my ward, I always had an unmarried counselor. This was not by design, as a token position to be filled by a single. Rather, it was simply that I felt inspired to call a certain sister, and when she had to be released because of family demands (elder parent issues), the person that I felt should fill that role also happened to be single.

    I don’t remember them bringing up these issues, which they were in a great position to do. I would have of course been happy to consider whatever they thought was appropriate.

    I did have an eye-opening experience when we travelled as a presidency to a multi-stake meeting. A sister from another ward was being helpful and informed my counselor (who calls herself a spinster schoolmarm) that Primary was meeting in another room. When we insisted that she was indeed serving in RS, the other woman laughed as if it was the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard. They were friends, so part of it was good-natured, but I had never thought of it as strange to have a RS counselor who was single.

    And I would hope that Sheri Dew got rid of that particular stereotype forever.

  70. RhondaJF on August 12, 2008 at 8:07 am

    I think the more pressing problem is that we know so little of what the Afterlife holds for anyone except those sealed in the temple as families. Therefore—all single people who can\’t or don\’t marry, especially late in life, will never feel as comfortable as they would in other faith traditions because of the doctrine of Eternal Lives.

    I used to find it downright creepy when people would tell me as an older single that I could \”have my pick of the Stripling Warriors in the next life\” or when an elderly man (80 to my 40) would look at me with a twinkle in his eye and say that I could be his plural wife in the hereafter.

    Marriage and families–being the only revealed purpose-activity of post-life existence–is what will always be preached in the Church, not just as the ideal, but as the normative, the approved, the sanctioned, the honorable.

    A few years ago I started visiting other churches after Sacrament Meeting, and I was amazed at how inclusive the congregants were. No one asked about marital status, kids, etc. Several were gay-friendly congregations. I began to be a little wistful, knowing that these scenarios–of complete inclusion–would never, ever happen in the LDS Church.

    Then I started thinking: \”Do I really, truly believe in the gospel and the covenants I have made?\” I concluded that if the answer was \”yes,\” it didn\’t matter that the Church wasn\’t for me as a single person; I was duty- and honor-bound to belong to a church that had no duty for and did not honor me. Sure, my life feels soulless the older I become, but as I\’ve heard for decades, \”it will all be much better in the next life.\” I know if sounds morbid, but I can\’t wait for that day to come!

  71. MikeInWeHo on August 12, 2008 at 10:46 am

    I was hesitant to join this thread because I’m not single or active in the Church, but what the heck….

    Some of the comments from the single people here make me terribly sad for them, in particular Matt Perry and RhondaJF. I’m not saying this as some disgruntled DAMU-type, on the contrary. I’d be thrilled if my family (two guys + kid) were welcome in the Church, but we’re not. But as someone who made different choices and finds life so fulfilling and often joyful, it breaks my heart to hear from people who find much of church “just too painful” to listen too and wind up with a life that “feels soulless.” If you see no hope except in death, something is very, very wrong.

  72. jimbob on August 12, 2008 at 11:03 am

    “In the 2008 Worldwide Training linked by WillF, Elder Holland acknowledged the presence of single adults, but explained that the meeting would not be addressing us (except as children of our parents) because the family ideal was more important than our circumstances.”

    I didn’t attend the Worldwide Training, so I can’t say for certain that Holland didn’t say this, but it sounds very similar to what he said in a stake conference I was at not long ago. What he said at that stake conference was that he understood that some people weren’t going to meet the ideal of a two-parent household with kids, but that the church had a responsibility to continue to teach that as the ideal, because that is the eternal unit. What I didn’t hear was Holland say that marrieds are more “important” than singles.

    But maybe he gave the mean version in the Worldwide training. Doesn’t sound much like him, though.

  73. Bookslinger on August 12, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Rhonda, (#70), “I think the more pressing problem is that we know so little of what the Afterlife holds for anyone except those sealed in the temple as families.

    And what we know of what the afterlife holds for exalted beings is also precious little. (And being sealed in the temple doesn’t gaurantee exaltation, etc., etc.) All we basically know is that exalted beings go on to rule worlds, create worlds and create more life, and non-exalted beings don’t, but have the possibility of assisting their exalted brothers and sisters. (That hint, though not explicit in description, is at D&C 132:16, “… are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.”)

    We don’t really know what it means to or how to rule/create worlds or create life yet, either. The caricatures of Mormons ruling over non-Mormons or of multiple wives being “eternally pregnant” are ridiculous. Yet, I perceive that some women in the church think they are expected to be “eternally pregnant” in the next life.

    We just don’t know what eternal or celestial glory is. We have some nebulous adjectives and a lot of similes in the scriptures, but what goes on in heaven and the eternities is apparently forbidden to be written by those few who get a glimpse of it.

    (I realize I’m continuing a threadjack here…) There are so many exceptions to the “have to be married in the temple” rule, that I think it’s unreasonable to focus on that as the be-all and end-all. A temple wedding is one very important mile-post. But it’s not a “deal-killer” if it’s un-attained in this life.

    My belief is that the vast majority of those among the exalted in the CK will be people who died before the age of accountability (I picked that up from Kaimi’s estimates), and those whom various scriptures call “the heathen” who had absolutely no contact with any portion of the message of Christ (or any form of christianity) in their lives. (I’m not referring to modern people who merely didn’t have the missionary discussions.) Then, those who lived “worthy lives” on earth and never heard the message of the restored gospel, but accepted at their first chance in the Spirit World (ie, the “Alvin Smiths”) may very well also outnumber sealed-in-mortality Latter-day Saints.

    We’re told that the majority of the people for whom we do temple work “accept the gospel.” But we aren’t told where that puts them, exalted in the CK, 2nd/3rd degree in the CK, or the Terrestrial Kingdom, or the Telestial Kingdom. Even those who will end up populating the Telestial will all have “‘accepted the gospel” by the end of the Millennium when the great judgement takes place and “every knee bow, every tongue confess,” etc., according to the Revelation of St. John.

    Lack of a temple wedding is -not- a block on progression or learning or achieving in this life. And neither is it a guarantee of any sort that one will progress in this life or in the next. It is a very conditional if/then type of covenant.

  74. CS Eric on August 12, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Julie,

    Thanks for posting Ardis’ comment.

    jimbob, Elder Holland opened the Worldwide training by giving a list of people the training would apply to. I wasn’t on the list, and so I went home.

    Ardis, thanks again for being so eloquent and forthright on this topic. I am married, so I don’t completely understand your perspective, but my wife and I have not had any children who survived more than a day or two, so our perspective is similar–we are a category of family that the Church doesn’t address, and even as kind a man as Elder Holland specifically doesn’t address. How hard would it have been for them to devote five minutes in the Worldwide Training to those of us on the outside looking in? I had the training on my calendar for a month, and took time on a Saturday to dress up and go to Church. None of my bishopric attended the Training, but I did. Couldn’t they throw me a bone? The General Authorities are smart guys, and far more spiritual than I am. Couldn’t they share some ideas about a living a meaningful life now instead of telling us everything will be better after we die?

    It’s been five years now since my wife’s last miscarriage, the one that led to her hysterectomy. As the weeks and years have gone by, it has felt less and less like My Church. Most Sundays it is “Used to be My Church.” I feel more like I belong to some kind of Bloggernacle Ward than I do to the one I live in. If I hadn’t found the Bloggernacle, I’m not sure I would still be attending IRL.

    I admit it, sometimes I do feel like the victim. Part of the reason Ardis is one of my heroes is that she’s been able to get past that. I hope I can get past that feeling someday, too.

  75. Jim Cobabe on August 12, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    All the talk criticizing those who complain is a bunch of hot air.

    When you are in trouble, you still have individual rights and feelings. Think about what advice you get, then make up your own mind.

    Hard to reject well-intentioned advice, but this is what it comes down to. Either you control your own life and destiny, or you surrender your will to those who profess to “help”. Often, the most erstwhile are the hardest to get rid of. I’m always suspicious of “helpers” that won’t go away.

    Ultimately, dying is always available as a last alternative. The worst thing about death is the finality of it. Difficult to change your mind, once you are dead. But I’m sure that death has saved a lot of needless suffering for appropriate individuals. In any case, don’t rule it out as the final option. Just be sure, before taking that route.

    My dad has argued man times when I expressed my own suicidal feelings, “Wait for tomorrow. Maybe it will be better.” I have never found a valid refutation.

    So, what does that mean, for hopeless miserable people? A lot of are sitting around, waiting for things to get better. Maybe they will, maybe not. Why not keep ourselves busy in the mean time? Perhaps we can even do sometlhing .worth while, even just by happenstance.

    Maybe life has no purpose, other than that. I’m not sitting around waiting to find out..

  76. Nat Whilk on August 12, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    @#74: “jimbob, Elder Holland opened the Worldwide training by giving a list of people the training would apply to. I wasn’t on the list, and so I went home.

    The transcript of the training is here. Elder Holland said: “You realize we are addressing the entire adult population of the Church in this broadcast.” I’m glad I stayed. The roundtable discussion, in particular, was very enlightening.

  77. James on August 12, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    re: #72 In that snip, Elder Holland’s message was summarized in a way that left out a lot of his point. What he actually said was that the invitation to both married and single adults was a conscious decision. After completing that thought he went on to discuss that the leaders of the church “know that others in our audience and in the Church are not now married, nor do some have an intact family fitting the ideal we regularly refer to in the Church.” Later in the talk, he said that, “I hope this helps you understand why we talk about the pattern, the ideal, of marriage and family when we know full well that not everyone now lives in that ideal circumstance.”

  78. Steve Evans on August 12, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    #54 “Same as for Steve Evans.”

    Leave me out of your delusions, thanks.

  79. CS Eric on August 12, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Nat,

    I’m glad you stayed at the training, and enjoyed it. You are obviously a better man than I am, as all your comments in this thread have shown.

  80. MikeInWeHo on August 12, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Most. depressing. thread. ever.
    Prozac, anyone?

  81. Kevin Barney on August 12, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    I just saw this; thanks for posting it, Julie, and thanks for the cogent thoughts, Ardis. (If it helps any, I love, admire and respect you and your work, which strikes me as serving a big time purpose in building the kingdom of God and which I for one have found very helpful and enlightening.)

    I also want to second mojo’s comment in #52 about celibacy. Which reminded me of a story.

    This divorced sister (mother of like nine kids) met with the bishop and expressed the sheer agony she felt for not having been touched by a man in ages. And he responded, “Oh, is that a problem?” And she thought to herself, “Well, duh, HECK YEAH it’s a problem” (that’s just me trying to imitate Mormon patois.) Of course, after meetings he would go home to his wife; he had no concept of what it would be like to go years and years without that kind of human intimate connection with another person. I simply couldn’t do it for too very long and greatly admire those who somehow manage it. It’s a very difficult thing we ask of our single brothers and sisters, and yet we just ignore it and pretend that it’s not an issue. To my mind it’s an absolutely huge, very difficult issue.

  82. Naismith on August 12, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    “And he responded, “Oh, is that a problem?” And she thought to herself, “Well, duh, HECK YEAH it’s a problem” (that’s just me trying to imitate Mormon patois.) Of course, after meetings he would go home to his wife; he had no concept of what it would be like to go years and years without that kind of human intimate connection with another person.”

    Do you know that he and his wife had a wonderful, satisfying sex life, or is this just an assumption?

    Because really, marriage is not a guarantee of sex. Work-related travel, various responsibilities, health issues, and medications can all have a profound negative impact on marital intimacy. A Newsweek article a while back reported that 10-20% of marriages are sexless, and many others do not have as much sex as they would like.

    And yet the same rules of chastity are required for all of us, irregardless of marital status or whether our spouse is in Iraq.

    It might well be that the bishop had a wife to go home to, but it might also be that she was on anti-depressants and has no interest in sex.

  83. clark on August 12, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Sex is pretty important for marriage. If a marriage is sexless there are probably serious problems in the marriage. Even if it is for medical reasons it’ll be putting a strain on the relationship.

  84. Nat Whilk on August 12, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    @#79: I posted #74 to point out that Elder Holland doesn’t appear to have said what you perceived him to have said. At what point do people take some responsibility for their own perceptions and reactions? As tempting as it might be (and I’ve been guilty of succumbing to that temptation in a big way for long periods of time myself), emulating the Tragedian from The Great Divorce is not a good way to live one’s life.

    @#81: I didn’t say anything in reply to #52, but now that it’s been seconded, I’ll voice my dissent. I, for one, am not desperate to be “serviced” by a generic member of the opposite sex. Physical intimacy is only of interest to me as a part of a committed relationship with someone I dearly love. That’s not a statement of an ideal; that’s just the way it is for me.

  85. Nat Whilk on August 12, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    @#79: I posted #74 to point out that Elder Holland doesn’t appear to have said what you perceived him to have said. At what point do people take some responsibility for their own perceptions and reactions? As tempting as it might be (and I’ve been guilty of succumbing to that temptation in a big way for long periods of time myself), emulating the Tragedian from The Great Divorce is not a good way to live one’s life.

  86. Nat Whilk on August 12, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    @#81: I didn’t say anything in reply to #52, but now that it’s been seconded, I’ll voice my dissent. I, for one, am not desperate to be “serviced” by a generic member of the opposite sex. Physical intimacy is only of interest to me as a part of a committed relationship with someone I dearly love. That’s not a statement of an ideal; that’s just the way it is for me.

  87. aloysiusmiller on August 12, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Very depressing indeed MikeInWeiHo. I thought membership in the church was about being a disciple of Christ. I thought everyone who was being a disciple felt Christ’s love and that was belonging enough (actually wondering here what could be better than that). Makes me wonder what’s in the water. Maybe discipleship is too abstract for us so we have to look at other things like marital status, sex, sexual preferences, race etc. as as characteristics that define our worth or acceptance or whatever in the church. I have no doubt that there are members who define their status as married as making them something special that should be catered to just like I see members (and ex-members) demanding some kind of acceptance based on all the attributes I have listed. They’re missing the point.

    But I also have no doubt of the importance of families. They are important to single people just as much as they are important to married people. Every single person I know had at least a mother and a father and I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t have at least a modicum of family. Is it possibly to be a human being without a family (post birth) of some sort?

    The better the family the better the human being (on average anyway). Can I hear a single person deny this? So will single people deny the next generation the church’s important emphasis on the family just because they are not parents? Suck it up! The most effective way to learn discipleship is the way we each learned it — in a Christ centered family. But just remember, the family is about teaching discipleship not about teaching family.

  88. E on August 12, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Once again, Mike (#80) is exactly right.

  89. mormonmagmeister on August 12, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Wow. The discussion inexorably gravitates to sex. Amazing.

    Anyway, I hope that all of us take the time to pay attention to what we are hearing from the Church, as well as what others are hearing. It’s always instructional for me when someone explains the various messages (both explicit and implicit) that they hear (whether by inclusion or omission) from the Brethren or Church publications or Church culture. I’ve found that singles, both young and old, are great folks, and they have a wide range of opinions on what the Church is telling them about their lives.

    Personally, I hope that none of them take the messages of the Brethren and Church publications to be anything other than what they are. For instance, the articles in this month’s Ensign were aimed at young singles who are dating and looking forward to marriage. How many such articles have there been? Young singles would probably say that there haven’t been enough, though recently there have been more. There’s probably a reason the Ensign is focusing a bit more on them. Now, if more singles without the prospect of marriage voice their feelings, perhaps the Ensign will start publishing more articles for them. It’s entirely possible. In the mean time, we should remember the Ensign’s recent article called “Cultivating Sensitivity to Others,” from the June 2008 issue. It has good advice for all of us.

  90. mormonmagmeister on August 12, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Wow. The discussion inexorably gravitates to sex. Amazing.

    Anyway, I hope that all of us take the time to pay attention to what we are hearing from the Church, as well as what others are hearing. It’s always instructional for me when someone explains the various messages (both explicit and implicit) that they hear (whether by inclusion or omission) from the Brethren or Church publications or Church culture. I’ve found that singles, both young and old, are great folks, and they have a wide range of opinions on what the Church is telling them about their lives.

    Personally, I hope that none of them take the messages of the Brethren and Church publications to be anything other than what they are. For instance, the articles in this month’s Ensign were aimed at young singles who are dating and looking forward to marriage. How many such articles have there been? Young singles would probably say that there haven’t been enough, though recently there have been more. There’s probably a reason the Ensign is focusing a bit more on them. Now, if more singles without the prospect of marriage voice their feelings, perhaps the Ensign will start publishing more articles for them. It’s entirely possible. In the mean time, we should remember the Ensign’s recent article called “Cultivating Sensitivity to Others,” from the June 2008 issue. It has good advice for all of us.

  91. mormonmagmeister on August 12, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Wow. The discussion inexorably gravitates to sex. Amazing.

    Anyway, I hope that all of us take the time to pay attention to what we are hearing from the Church, as well as what others are hearing. It’s always instructional for me when someone explains the various messages (both explicit and implicit) that they hear (whether by inclusion or omission) from the Brethren or Church publications or Church culture. I’ve found that singles, both young and old, are great folks, and they have a wide range of opinions on what the Church is telling them about their lives.

    Personally, I hope that none of them take the messages of the Brethren and Church publications to be anything other than what they are. For instance, the articles in this month’s Ensign were aimed at young singles who are dating and looking forward to marriage. How many such articles have there been? Young singles would probably say that there haven’t been enough, though recently there have been more. There’s probably a reason the Ensign is focusing a bit more on them. Now, if more singles without the prospect of marriage voice their feelings, perhaps the Ensign will start publishing more articles for them. It’s entirely possible. In the mean time, we should remember the Ensign’s recent article called “Cultivating Sensitivity to Others,” from the June 2008 issue. It has good advice for all of us.

  92. m&m on August 12, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    I haven’t read all of the comments, but I am responding to the idea that we ‘never’ hear anything about singles and their purpose and worth.

    I think at the local level, that can be true. It will depend on individual sensitivity and understanding from local members and leaders. When I was single, I had a phenomenal experience, so I wouldn’t say that there is ‘never’ anything positive for singles that isn’t tied to families or eternal purposes and blessings. But I recognize that there are those who are insensitive, and this ought not to be. But I believe our leaders have addressed this.

    For example, Pres Faust said: “No one should feel isolated because he or she is single. ” (from the first article quoted below)

    At the institutional level, I do think there *is* support for singles, and that it isn’t all couched in promises of eternal blessings or demands that every worthy effort be somehow tied to or supportive of families. I believer there is much support and encouragement for singles in their lives now.

    For example, see some of these articles (snippets follow):

    If you are striving for excellence—if you are trying your best day by day with the wisest use of your time and energy to reach realistic goals—you will be a success whether you are married or single.
    (James E. Faust, “Welcoming Every Single One,” Liahona, Aug 2007, 2–6)

    The First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, and the other leaders at Church headquarters are mindful of you who are single. We constantly pray for your happiness and well-being. We recognize that many of you have special challenges in your lives, and our hearts and our prayers reach out to you.
    The Church is for all members. In acknowledging the single or married state of individual Church members, we hope we are not misunderstood, for our intent is not to stereotype you. All of us, single or married, have individual identities and needs, among which is the desire to be seen as a worthwhile individual child of God.

    Howard W. Hunter, “The Church Is for All People,” Tambuli, Aug 1990, 41

    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.
    I believe that for most of us the best medicine for loneliness is work and service in behalf of others….
    Another thing to remember: there is a great potential within each of us to go on learning. We of this Church have been given a marvelous promise by the Lord. Said He: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24).
    What a remarkable statement that is. It is one of my favorite verses of scripture. It speaks of growth, of development, of the march that leads toward godhood….
    To all of you, accept every invitation to serve in the Church. Be true and faithful, be loyal and supportive concerning this glorious work of the Lord. Every one of us is a part of this great cause and kingdom….
    In conclusion, please be assured of our love. Please be assured of our respect, of our confidence in you. Insofar as I have the right to do so, I bless you that if you will walk in faith and righteousness you will know much of happiness, you will have the temporal blessings you need, you will have friends with whom you can share your thoughts and your feelings, and you will experience the love of the Redeemer of the world.

    (Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Conversation with Single Adults,” Liahona, Nov 1997, 17)

    Each of you is a valued and important member of the Church. As such, you make vital contributions to the holy work of God in our day.
    Please remember that we have all been single, are now single, or at some time again may be single; so being single in the Church is not so extraordinary. In large measure, our challenges and blessings come to us as individuals, regardless of our marriage status….
    [He also quoted Pres. Kimball, who said: "“To [the large group of young men and women in this category] we say this: You are making a great contribution to the world as you serve your families and the Church. … You must remember that the Lord loves you and the Church loves you. … We have no control over the heartbeats or the affections of men [or women], but pray that you may find fulfillment.”

    (James E. Faust, “A Vision of What We Can Be,” Ensign, Mar 1996, 10)

    Pres. Faust includes the promise that no eternal blessing will be denied those who are faithful. But it was in the context of hoping that people will find fulfillment now, not patronizingly suggesting that the only way they will truly be worth anything is in the eternities. I think it’s really important to recognize this — that they remind us all of these blessings because MANY people (single AND married) have lives that are less than ideal and can leave some wondering if eternal blessings will be lost because mortal blessings have not been fulfilled. But that shouldn’t be misunderstood as patronization, or ignoring the value and worth of individuals and what they can contribute and experience in this life regardless of their marital status (or success!).

    These quotes were found in a matter of only a few minutes. I saw others but have already included a lot. And if I were to dig more, I am certain I would find many more such articles and quotes.

    I know the challenge and pain that can come with singleness. I was there once. But I think it’s important to recognize the love and respect that is there for all of us from our leaders, and the support for us to do our best in our spheres, whatever the specifics of our situations may be. The leaders have to teach the ideals of marriage and parenthood, but in doing so, they have not forgotten that there are many whose lives don’t fit the pattern.

    And as I said above, I think it’s important for all of us to remember that there are those who are married who are in silent pain, too. I think overall, we could all be a little more sensitive in realizing that life is usually less than ideal and that ‘in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see’.

    We need to stop using ideals to judge and critique each other in a vacuum. After all, most of our lives are less than ideal, and that is part of the program of mortality…to help us learn to rely on the Savior to make our lives complete and whole, and to rely on His eternal promises, which we all rely on.

  93. quin on August 12, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Mike (in #80) IS right that this thread is depressing. But I don’t think everyone here is depressed for the same reasons.

    If I felt that my life had no “ultimate purpose” because I wasn’t married or didn’t have children, of course I’d be depressed. I’d be wrong, but I’d still be depressed.

    What depresses me is that so many people seem to misunderstand the gospel, distort every message from Church leaders to mean something that was not said, and do not have a real, deep, empowering relationship with the Savior of the world that would prevent all of the above from happening, including the depression in most cases. (excluding chemical/genetic imbalances)

    An excellent book that I recommend for ANYONE who feels like their life has no specific purpose or meaning is Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado. Not an LDS author, but a powerful religious pastor whose viewpoints on most things are in harmony with the Revealed Gospel. This book walks you through the fabulous process of understanding your own unique gifts and God-given talents so that you can discover the best way to make your life meaningful and filled with joy. His writing style is easy to understand and the tools he teaches can be used by anyone, anywhere to better understand their divine destiny and value.
    There are two full sections at the end that ask specific questions about your life, what you enjoy doing, what you wish you WERE doing, and then he walks you through the process of integrating your answers into a workable plan. He also delves deep into the scriptures and places your answers beside gospel principles, which is extremely enlightening.

    If nothing else has worked and you really are sincere about wanting to find answers that will work, I hope you’ll give it a shot. It is really just that good.

  94. Ray on August 12, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    That’s the answer, then. Take sincere expressions of yearning for support and turn them into signs of depression. Shift all responsibility for fulfillment to those who live faithfully within the Church but not within the primary focus onto those members, by telling them to “suck it up”, take medication and read self-help books. (as good as those books might be in general) Wow.

    I’m done on this thread. It’s reached the same place as the one on which the original comment was posted.

    That’s depressing.

  95. Ardis Parshall on August 12, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Based on the course of this thread, here’s how you-all would have responded had I written “My car broke down and I am stranded”:

    My car runs great; I don’t know what she’s complaining about.”

    “So fix it already.”

    “So take an airplane.”

    “So take a pill.”

    “I know just how you feel — my chauffeur was 14 seconds late picking me up today.”

    “Here are quotes from 73 apostles acknowledging that cars break down.”

    “Quitcher bellyaching — at least you’re not paying $4 a gallon for gas.”

    And then there would be kevinf and Ugly Mahana and another small handful of people who really heard what I said and not what they expected to hear, who would say:

    “I’m changing into my coveralls and will be right down, toolbox in hand” and “I’m leaving right now to drive around my neighborhood to be sure nobody else is stranded and needs a lift.” Thank you,

    Julie, will you please close this dog of a thread already?