Hearing from our beloved leaders during General Conference serves to anchor us singles in a daily whirlwind of stresses, and inspires us to continually do better and be better. What can we, as LDS singles in particular, gain from the recent talks? I have some thoughts on this, though they are not by any means exhaustive or limited to all there is to gain in our particular situations. But they are a start to the ongoing discussion on what it means to be single in an LDS world.
1. As single Latter-day Saints, we find ourselves in unique, and in many ways, unprecedented situations. We belong to a church in which eternal marriage is not only deeply rooted in our faith but essential for our eternal happiness and well-being. It is the very center of our existence. And yet, we find ourselves single, whether through divorce or having never been married. Where does that leave us? Many question our faith, or our own sanctity within our faith. Many face feelings of alienation and stigma. But God sees our true value, one that isn’t based on marriage status, or any status for that matter. We should strive to do the same, for ourselves, for each other. He also has a plan for us we cannot possibly comprehend with our limited vision and understanding. Imagine a faint pinprick in the dark sky, representing our own tiny comprehension and knowledge, amidst the whole universe of God’s limitless understanding. Be patient, star by star the universe will be revealed. In the meantime, be glad your life in God’s capable hands and seek simply to follow his gentle guide.
2. There are, perhaps, more temptations, more pains, more fears, more challenges than ever in the history of the world. Divorce and long-term singlehood in the church has become pandemic. Business as usual no longer applies, individually or church-wide. We now date in a digital age, the landscape of which is completely altered from prior dating experiences. Dating as a Latter-day Saint, post divorce or after long-term singleness, brings carnal challenges and sacrifices unfamiliar to the general population in their 30s and 40s. Unprecedented numbers of members in their 20s and 30s are leaving the fold. Alcohol, drugs, pornography, promiscuity, depression, anxiety and inactivity plague many. But they don’t define us. Regardless of our challenges, God’s atonement can bring us back to the path, and through Him and those He sends into our lives, we can have the strength to endure and overcome all our trials, regardless of how overwhelming.
3. To socialize or date or none or both, to dig in deep or skim the surface, to compete for resources or share the wealth, to reach out to or be reached for: each day we face a litany of choices that form the foundation and direction of the path we struggle. For some, the answers come easy, for others, it’s an ongoing struggle. But one thing is clear: we are not alone in our circumstances and challenges, and our numbers as LDS singles grow every day. We need not feel alone and lonely in our challenges. While most of us would not choose to be single, there has never been a better time to be single. We have so many resources available us, so many opportunities to form meaningful connections, to feel that Christlike love for and from one anther. God has placed us in our particular circumstances to lift and join forces with one another. This is not a time to compete for attention or debase others. The more we lift others, the more we ourselves are lifted. Reversely, the more we tear others down, the lower we ourselves become. There are plenty of resources to go around, and more still as we all rise together.
4. It’s easy for LDS singles to feel marginalized and alienated from our married LDS counterparts. And yet, we have so much intelligence, strength, devotion, inspiration, talent, wisdom, experience, enthusiasm, love and friendship to lend to our fellow men and women — in the mainstream church, with each other, and in the world. Inspiration has led many in the LDS singles world to provide service opportunities, retreats, hikes and weekly activities for one another. Growth opportunities are endless. Testimonies are not only born at the pulpit but in quiet conversation, which serves to guide one another towards a gospel-centered life. A simple smile and kind word lifts burdens we cannot see. Let us not be shrinking violets, but tall pillars in every circumstance and endeavor. God has called us, US, to use our unique insights and abilities to usher one another forward through the dark and to his kingdom.
5. We are all in this together. TOGETHER. It is easy to compare others against a yardstick of expectations and even commandments: occupation, dwelling, mission, temple recommend, appearance, age, etc, etc. Such a superficial checklist is not indicative of a person’s worth or spirituality. Someone may hold a temple recommend and yet struggle silently with serious addictions. Another may be working their way back into good standing but be filled with the light of God. A checklist does not gauge a person’s soul. Nor should there be divisions made between the “in-crowd” and the “out-crowd.” Such stratification is childish and shallow, and lacks Godly love. Lastly, we cannot adequately compare ourselves to others, because again, our measuring stick is hopelessly limited. There is so much we cannot see in others: their struggles, their achievements, their beauty, their relationship with God and others. We are called only to love with a singleness to God’s glory.
I can only scratch the surface on all there is to gain from our great leaders from this past General Conference, or what I at least have gained. We may be single but we are not alone, and we are not weak. We are, in fact, strong and a force that can move mountains. God loves us in our strengths and in our imperfections. And He will use us to bring forth His kingdom.
I’ve been working to improve myself particularly on lesson 1. It is so difficult to not try to control every aspect of my life, and not see it as a sign of shortcoming when things don’t go my way. And there is a lot that feels isn’t going my way. I never thought I would be divorced. I never thought I would be struggling to make ends meet. It shakes up that feeling of, “If I do A, then B will happen.” Sometimes you do exactly what you’re supposed to do, or what you imagine you’re supposed to do, and the outcome is not expected. But as I’ve been turning the reigns over more and more to God, still putting in all the effort I can, but leaving flexibility for His will, I see my life moving in directions I had never imagined. I’m excited to see where this one goes.
I challenge you to pick one of these lessons, or one you have found, from this last General Conference session and work on aligning your life with it for the next week. What is your experience?