Quote of the Week

"I assure you that if you have to wait even until the next life to be blessed with a choice companion, God will surely compensate you."
President Ezra T. Benson, To the Single Adult Sisters of the Church, 1988.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Wait For It

(Singleness) doesn't discriminate between the sinners and the saints.
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway,
...I am lying in wait.

This is what the character Aaron Burr sings in the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton. His frenemy, Alexander, is relentless in his drive to succeed in life. Burr prefers to keep all his cards to his chest. He's willing to wait for his opportunities to come, while his friend seems to get everything he wants with very little effort. 

Never married women in the church can relate to Burr, it's frustrating watching the coach put others in the game while you're still stuck on the bench. With 150 Mormon women to every 100 Mormon men, it’s hard to be a single college-educated woman in Utah. To make mattes worse, women are held to a double standard: virtuously waiting for the other person to express interest, yet, if we aren't relentlessly competing for the attention of the few eligibles left in the rapidly shrinking dating pool, we face the very real possibility of ending up alone. The world tells us unless we become more marketable by objectifying ourselves, we will end up alone. Our only consolation is knowing that someday, our turn for temple marriage and eternal families will come.

If we continue to wait for it.

So, how do we get everything we want without lowering our standards? Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf in his General Women's Session talk, Fourth Floor, Last Door was all about faith. That is the key.

What is faith? Is it simply trusting in God that if we jump through all the right hoops, all our dreams will come true and we'll get everything we ever wanted?

Elder Uchtdorf referenced Hebrews 11:1 for the best definition of faith: Despite having no evidence, we continue to hope for the things we cannot physically see, hear or touch.

To hope is to wish for something, look forward to it with confidence and expectation, trusting that it will, eventually, come to pass.

Does this mean we wait for it? To wait is to remain in rest, in expectation, until what we want catches up to us. If we are simply lying in wait, doing nothing, how can we expect anything to happen? At the same time, we may feel we're already doing everything we can. Our desperation grows to make it happen because we want to be in the (temple sealing) room where it happens.

Life doesn't discriminate, it takes and takes, leaving us exhausted, wondering why we even bother to choose the right, increase our education, plug away at a job and stay true to our values despite opposition and ridicule. We may even convince ourselves that God has forgotten us. We justify our choice not to exercise faith and works. Having faith is the key.

Elder Uchtdorf said, "(Many of us) don't need a sea to part or a mountain to move." We just need better health, a loved one to come back to the fold, that perfect job offer or perfect dating opportunity to materialize, "an eternal companion to appear on my doorstep with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and an engagement ring in the other."

You may be the perfect candidate for that dream job or would make mister tall, dark and handsome in your singles ward the perfect date, God will never compel an employer to hire you or Mr. Right to ask you out on a simple date. You can fast and pray for those blessings till the cows come home, God does not force anybody to do anything.

Instead, we are invited to come unto Him.

Perhaps you, like me, tried to make all that happen-graduating from college, pounding the pavement with interviews, emulating Great Aunt Rose as insurance against ending up alone when the girl's choice dances and dating you initiated were all to no avail. I'm not twenty-four years old anymore. Young, scrappy and hungry was a long time ago for me.

The fact is, I'm in my Fourth decade and I've reached the Last Door.

I cannot force God to comply with my desires for the dream job I want or the temple marriage I long for either. I get that. I know the routine: I do all I can then trust in God to make up the rest. Trust that He hasn't forgotten me. That my life does matter to Him. That if I come unto Him, I will be blessed.

Trust and Faith. Just keep knocking, seeking, and it shall be opened keeping in mind that all the blessings may not come until the Millennium. In the meantime, there's bills to pay, married people and family members to serve, friendships to tend, hobbies and talents to develop.

The opportunity to be a married wife and mother, to bear children of my own is all I've ever wanted. That's probably not going to happen in this life, but 

I'm willing to wait for it.

Here are the links to my book blogs:

All (well, eventually) the Anita Stansfield books summarized here, it's a work in progress!

All the books in Gerald Lund's Work and the Glory series. Finished!

All the books in Ron Carter's Prelude to Glory series, Alexander Hamilton references included!

Sweet Valley High author, Francine Pascal's side project, Caitlin, a teen romance series.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Singles: Telling a New Story

I recently came across three powerful and uplifting articles "Dear Single Members," "Why Chastity Only Gets Harder," and "Singles at the Temple"  as part of an Exponent II blog series entitled "Single and Married in the LDS Church." Written by this regularly featured author, Suzette's heartfelt essays on staying active in the church as a never married mid-single and the challenges we face really struck home for me. I encourage everyone to go to these links and read all of the articles in this series.

In her first article, Suzette gives singles a challenge to "Tell a New Story" and share it with other members that everyone might be strengthened in their testimonies of Christ. As single members who struggle to remain active in a church that celebrates eternal marriage and family, we are painfully aware of our label as the "square pegs" who just don't fit into those perfectly round (eternal) holes. No one takes us seriously. We are the outliers, the single points distant or separated from a main group for various reasons. Yet, singles should not let the condescending remarks and attitudes of "the marrieds" bother them. This is not an "Us against Them" debate. Our unique positions and lifestyles in the church give never-married singles the opportunity to grow and increase in wisdom; especially in our unique relationship with God, our family, friends and with ourselves.

Singles in the church who are active yet never-married have a unique understanding of loneliness. Living the chaste, wholesome life required by the gospel is not easy. Everything we do, every choice we make, (including abstaining from pre-marital sex which the world scoffs at,) is done without fanfare and without supervision. Gone is the cute, naive teenager, we stand on our own testimonies now, survivors, living life as best we can as fully grown adults, entirely on our own.We face solitary daily work and household chores, yet find time to serve and socialize with our friends. Most of us returning home every night to an empty residence. We worship on Sundays, often sitting alone, yet find joy in fulfilling our church callings, traveling, spending time with friends and family, pursuing new interests and hobbies, obtaining all the education we can.

This is not the life we would've chosen for ourselves. Or even our worst enemies. It wasn't supposed to be this way. Everywhere we go in the church, after all the individual ordinances have been met: baptism, gift of the holy ghost, and temple ordinances (up to a point) we are reminded that those who lack the final crowning achievement in our eternal progression-temple marriage-remain incomplete. This puts us in a very unique situation that isn't always acknowledged by church leaders and teachers or even family members.

According to Kristine Haglund, we live in "The Borderlands," a lonely place in the church where individual outcasts wander all by themselves. It's not as depressing as it sounds. Our solitary confinement gives us the unique opportunity for greater understanding of what Suzette calls, "Peaceful or Sacred Holiness" finding wholeness in our incomplete state. We are not "broken," and just because we lack spouses doesn't mean we are unlovable. "In our lonely places, we reach out to God and come to know His love, peace and virtues more intimately. We are made whole by this close connection." (Suzette, "Dear Single Members," Exponent II, May, 2016) By our example and teaching, by telling our story, we can help others come closer to God.

In my mind, I'm suddenly picturing never-married singles in the church as these awesome robed and hooded Obi-Wan Kenobis: medieval and wise Holy Men and Women of the desert, to whom all the Luke Skywalkers seek out for wisdom and advice. Those who have found peace and wholeness in their solitary confinement need to share this information with the world.

Singles should own their borderland spaces. We can tell a New Story of how our testimonies and understanding of the nature of God has been increased through the "peaceful holiness" we've achieved through our years of learning how live happy and fulfilling lives-without being married.  

While I have seen more acceptance and understanding toward singles in the church, singles still need to claim our "Borderland" spaces, making them our own by telling our stories; for "Zion's borders must be enlarged," (D&C 82:14).

As an unmarried single with no children, loneliness is an adjective I am all too familiar with. The challenge of how to endure loneliness without becoming increasingly bitter, especially towards God, is a personal trial and challenge I face daily. Peaceful Holiness is a nirvana I have yet to achieve. I'm no Obi-Wan, but I'm trying. I acknowledge the unique blessings that come from living the law of chastity but temple attendance for me is hard. I find myself challenging Elder Holland's reassurance in the recent Face to Face event that young single adults in the church are loved.

We are not loved, Elder Holland. That's why we're single.

It is then I must pause and reflect. As the spirit reminds me of the many people in my life who mean so much to me and I to them. I realize, I am loved. My nephews tell me this all the time, as well as close friends and family members. I am grateful for the many opportunities I have to serve others. Since quitting my food service job, which required working Sundays, moving back in with my mom and step-dad and finding part-time work, I would have no reason to keep attending church if I wasn't allowed to keep my records and continue to attend my old ward with my married sister's family. For me, church attendance is just too painful when you have to sit alone so I am grateful I have people to share a pew with. I still don't know why I was never blessed with a career that would allow me to use my two bachelors degrees so I could live more independently or why I was never asked to my high school prom. I still don't know the reason why I was born or where my place is in this world but I'll continue to pay my tithing, sing in the ward choir and spend time with my nephews who bring me such joy.

What I have learned being single is this: when we stop to count our blessings, we don't feel so alone and ostracized after all. That is the only cure I know for combating loneliness-keeping busy with work and hobbies and spending time with those we love.

I continue to wait upon the Lord.
That is my story.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Face to Face for YSA with Elder Holland

On March 8, 2016 a rare opportunity was given to all young single adult (YSA) members of the church (generally in the 18-31 age range) to post, tweet and Facebook specific thoughts, stories and questions which would be personally addressed and responded to in a live event by three prominent church leaders, including an apostle of the Lord.

Who wouldn't be excited?  It was like an exclusive general conference session. Just for us!
Three previous Face to Face events had featured minor LDS celebrities answering questions: Piano Guys, Lindsey Sterling, David Archuleta. On January 20 of this year, a special Face to Face for LDS Youth was held.
Now, at long last, it was our turn. We were finally being acknowledged.

Over three-thousand (Three-THOUSAND!) thoughts and questions were posted. Some were more youth-related, "How can I strengthen my testimony, get more out of my scripture study, help less active friends and family come unto Christ, put down my phone to prepare for a mission or date with God's plan for me in mind?"

The real "meaty" ones addressed issues pertaining to church doctrine. Was Jesus married? How can we have kids in the next life? If my temple-married parents divorced, who am I sealed to if one parent remarries in the temple? Same-sex attraction, pornography addiction, aging-out of the YSA program and feeling like a failure for not being married with a family.

Some of the more interesting ones which should've been addressed (but weren't) included:
A woman has reached a "certain age" who never felt the need to serve a mission, she feels stuck in a singles ward with no marriage prospects thanks to skewed numbers. When should she take out her own temple endowments?
Should a man struggling with addictions even bother to keep looking for a worthy temple companion when he feels so inadequate?
A woman is frustrated by the "dating crisis," she feels all the men in her singles ward (RMs especially) don't want to date, they just want NCMO, (non-committal-make-out) any advice?

Regarding the "dating crisis" among YSA, the real issue no one wants to address is that in most first-world countries, 21st century dating now equals premarital sex. Young adults of the world don't "date." They don't even have "boy/girlfriends" anymore. Instead, couples refer to themselves as, "We're seeing each other." or "We're together." Meaning they're having sex with maybe an occasional date on the side. Hopefully, one day, they will move in together and that will, hopefully, lead to marriage.
As a result, Mormon youth are returning from their missions and not dating. Not because they lack financial resources, because sex is such a big part of the picture now, taking over every aspect of the idea.
The wholesome 1960's era dating Elder Holland and Sister Stephens know has literally disappeared from our current culture. Sex has replaced dating. Because the church does not condone this, YSA women know they must wait while the men feel ridiculous asking a girl to the local malt shop. What if they turn him down? The horror! Instead they can take their time and play the field, browse the buffet, hanging out, be as choosy as they want while the growing number of single never-married sisters just want to give up and die. To every thing there is a season and the season of the malt-shop date ended sometime after 1989.

The best answers regarding the "crisis" Elder Holland and Sister Stephens' could come up with?
Here they are:

  • We're married and so can you!
  • God will bless you in the next life.
  • Keep living for the ideal which is temple marriage.
  • Find ways to serve others (especially "the marrieds" because you have so much more free time than they do!)
  • You are not defined by your marital status. (Um, yes we are, Sister Stephens. What part of "single" don't you understand?)

I felt patronized. I felt that, once again, church leaders wanted to avoid the most important issues plaguing the fastest growing minority in the church.
All they wanted to talk about was marriage but what about dating?
What about the LACK of dating?
Even the words "date" and "dating" were only mentioned in context to when these church leaders met and married their spouses.
When you're sixteen, it's okay if you still haven't been asked out on a date. It'll happen. It'll come
Age twenty-six? Not so cute anymore.
To be the ONLY ONE in your family ward still patiently waiting to be asked.
Feeling like one ruby among hundreds every Sunday at your singles ward.
Is it any wonder church attendance among this age group is falling fast?

In return, Elder Holland had a question for us.
"What do you do as a YSA to find peace and happiness during times of trial?"

A fair question.

Here's my answer:
"When I'm feeling most down and discouraged, I think about my two favorite nephews. How they make me laugh and feel good about myself. How much I enjoy spending time with them. Anticipating the next time we'll be together. This helps me forget, for a while, that I will not experience the joy of eternal families for myself until the next life. Not until after I'm dead. Yet, somehow, with God's help, I must learn to be accepting and happy with my life, such as it is. Right now."

Overall, it was a good broadcast. Elder Holland had many inspiring words for the YSA of the church. He made sure we knew we are loved, needed, appreciated.

I was especially pleased with his answer addressing the issue of same-sex attraction. Less attention on attraction, more on chastity. That really is what it all boils down to.

He left his blessing on the men who hold the Melchizedek priesthood: to be worthy of it and continue to use it; for good.

His blessing on the women was to stay active, work hard, endure despite the fact we outnumber men in so many areas of the church yet we are equally important in building up the kingdom of God. Our sacrifice (which includes continuing to live the law of chastity) will not go unrewarded.

You will be happy again.