so, yesterday i gave a talk in church. my bishop asked me a few months ago to talk about being single in the church. a daunting task. i lost a few sleepless nights over it. however, i felt pretty good about what i was going to say--about my experiences of being single in the church. since this is technically "my journal" i'm going to put it here so that i can look back at it. however, the best part of my talk (other than when it was over haha) was afterwards. so many people came up to me and hugged me, and thanked me for being so candid and honest and for representing the singles in my ward. married people thanked me as well. i recieved an email from a single woman in my ward and a family brought me and the girls cookies and a thank you note as well. it was all so touching to me and made me grateful to have so many caring and thoughtful people in my ward...L
Good morning everyone. The Bishop asked me to speak today about being single in the church. I told several people about my assigned topic, and after most of them asked me ‘no, what are you really talking about?’ I received a lot of advice—ranging from “you should really give it to them” from some single people to my oldest daughter who admonished me to go easy on you. I’d like to preface my talk by saying that my experiences and feelings as a single member of the church might differ from another single persons. Some singles are male, some are widowed, and some have never married. Some are older, some are younger. A number of us are single parents and others have no children. I pray that I will handle this topic with sincerity and honesty and tell you the feelings of my heart.
My first thought about this subject—other than the fact that I do have a lot of experience in this area--is that being single in the church is not the same as being single in the gospel. In the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are all equal, we are all loved. Race, gender, financial status, converts or life long members—these are not factored in. We are all God’s children and we are all looked upon the same. However, in the church it doesn’t work that way exactly, because the church is made up of imperfect people. Including myself.
I wanted to find some sort of analogy that would be a good visual at understanding what it feels like to be single in the church. Imagine that you get invited to a party. There are about 300 people there and you walk in wearing shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops only to see every other person in black-tie formal wear. Can you picture that? Can you imagine your feelings? Would you feel self-conscious, alone, embarrassed, thinking everyone is looking at you and talking about you, mad at yourself, and tempted to leave and go home? That’s pretty much what it feels like to be single in the church. You got invited—that’s the important part—but you don’t feel like you fit in. If I could use only one word to describe what it feels like to be single in the church I would say “lonely.”
From the time we are little in the church there is a pattern we follow. You get baptized, and if you’re a boy you go on a mission and if you’re a girl you go to BYU. You wait for your missionary or you find another RM and get married in the temple, have 4 children and live happily ever after. Now, I’m partly joking, but there is some truth to this. When your life doesn’t follow this pattern you feel that you are not in the circle of the church anymore—you are now on the outside looking in. You feel like you don’t belong and it’s a lonely feeling. The two instances that remind me most that I am single are when I go to bed at night and when I walk into church. All other times you might be conscious of it but you have work, kids, school, daily life, etc. to distract you. So the first thing I would ask the married members to do is to be friendly, and say hello to the single members. Trust me—the minute singles walk in that door, they’re faced with isolation and feeling disconnected. Of course, we single members need to meet you halfway as well.
When you are single there is not as much opportunity to make friends in the ward either. When you’re married you have more chances to make friends. Couples invite each other to go out on weekends, there are elders quorum parties to go to and meet people in the ward, and there are adult ward parties for couples. And even though I know that I am welcome at an adult ward party it is awkward to go to events by your self. Singles don’t have that opportunity to mix as much, or get to know people as well. Then when you are at church, most of the lessons taught are about how to make your marriage work or are about families, raising kids, and if you don’t have that in your life you wonder why you are there. Lets face it—a large part of the church is social. If it weren’t then people wouldn’t be upset when ward boundaries change.
The first time I was single I was in my 20’s and I had two small children. I was the only person in my ward that was divorced. I had no friends, no home teachers, no visiting teachers, not a soul that ever was friendly towards me and made me feel welcome. After a while I just quit going and became inactive. When I read this talk to my girls they said “mom, don’t tell them you were inactive.” But I believe in being honest and sharing how truly difficult it is to be single in the church. I truly felt like I was all alone, like I was an outcast. I don’t blame anyone for my inactivity except for myself. That was my choice. However, I think that single people need good home teachers and good visiting teachers, and an understanding bishopric. I am grateful that I have all of that in this ward. A funny story—my visiting teacher came over one day to visit me and she commented on how nice I looked and pretty and was I going somewhere special. At this point I had to say to her “Denise, I’m single. I have to try and look good all the time.”
I’d like to relate a personal story that happened to me recently. About six months ago as I came to church and sat down; I was worn out and tired, feeling overwhelmed and inadequate, and I looked around and wondered why I was here at church. In my head I talked with God and told him that if I were supposed to be here that one of the speakers would speak directly to me, and that if not then I wasn’t coming back. Well, the two youth speakers did well, but it wasn’t for me. A returned missionary spoke and had a great talk but it wasn’t my talk. Then a high councilman got up and the first thing he said was that his wife had been admonishing him in his talks to make it more personal and to talk about his life. So he started to talk about how his parents had divorced when he was young and how hard it was for his mom and his brothers and him. He spoke about how members get caught up with lists of all the things we are supposed to be doing. And how the basics are what we should concentrate on—having prayer, reading the scriptures, and having family home evening. All the things that I was doing with my girls. And I knew then that Heavenly Father was listening to me, he knows how hard it is to be a single parent, he knows my trials, he knows that I am on this road alone, he listens and answers my prayers so that I know he is there. It gave me hope and courage and strength. But I will tell you that through all that I still struggle with coming to church at times. It’s not always easy. I sometimes feel that church is always structured towards couples with children. But I know that Satan wants me to feel inadequate and useless and stay at home. In D&C 122:7 God is speaking to Joseph Smith in the liberty jail and he tells him “above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” I know that in my experiences of being single I am learning things I could never learn otherwise.
In a 2008 Ensign, an article entitled “single and steadfast” said. “finding satisfaction, meaning and happiness in life may require singles to first confront their sense of loss and then learn to live more peacefully with what is neither ignoring nor emphasizing the future. Getting married is not the sole definition of success for singles. Success also includes being courageous and faithful in the face of loneliness and uncertainty, though it may not be the success singles most want.” In Proverbs 3:5 it says “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Lets face it—some times we are not going to know why we undergo all the trials that we do. We can’t see as the Lord sees, but I do believe that everything happens for a reason. All of us have our trials and hardships. The trick is to find peace and contentment no matter what adversity you have to face. There is a reason I’m single. I don’t know why, but I do know that as I try to be brave, and faithful that the Lord will bless me. Maybe not in the form of a husband, but in other ways. However, if anyone knows a tall, dark, handsome, single guy, you know where I live.
In closing I found a few articles in this month’s Ensign that dealt with being single. Joseph B. Wirthlin said “quote article step-by-step”. Another article entitled ‘similarities and differences’ stated that “we are all God’s children is our common heritage. Our differences lie only in the details and the packaging of our lives…but the similarities among Heavenly Father’s sons and daughters are so great that if we choose to focus on them instead of our differences, unity is bound to increase. I pray that we will all focus on our similarities and overlook the differences. When reading my talk my girls they said “mom, its so negative, can’t you tell them some positive things. So the positive side of being single is that I never have to ask permission to buy a new pair of shoes. I want my children to know that they are the biggest blessing in my life and I’m so grateful to them and love them dearly.