“Singular Living,” Ensign, June 2003, 56
For Latter-day Saints who are single, it may seem challenging at times to be part of a church with a strong emphasis on the traditional family. Yet single members have much to offer the Church, and, conversely, the Church can bless their lives in numerous ways. As Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has stated, “Some of our Father’s children are married, some are single—but the gospel is the same for all; the doctrines are the same for all” (“Belonging to a Ward Family,” Ensign, Mar. 1996, 15). Here, members share their insights into the experience of being single, as well as ways in which they have found happiness and fulfillment.
I consider myself a member of the Church who happens to be single rather than a single member of the Church. I do not allow the fact that I am single and childless to distance me from the fellowship and harmony the Church offers. My life is filled with varied experiences and wonderful people. I have found that the best antidote for loneliness in my life has been a cheerful attitude, a ready smile, and a willingness to extend myself to others. Instead of sitting in corners waiting for someone to notice me and draw me out, I make the effort to join in right away.
This was not always the situation in my life; in fact, I was painfully shy for many years. An experience several years ago led me to resolve to change. While on vacation, I visited a ward in a large city. After sacrament meeting, I waited in the foyer for someone to reach out to me and tell me where to go for Gospel Doctrine class. When that didn’t happen, I finally decided to approach someone despite my fear and ask for directions. Surprisingly, the person I asked was also a visitor—as were several other people standing nearby who overheard my question. We were all waiting for someone to tell us where we should go. This was a great learning experience for me. I realized that everyone wants to be part of the group, but many are hesitant to make the first overture of friendship. Since making this discovery, I have found it much easier to be the person who initiates reaching out.
We all lead busy lives, but I have found that by extending friendship to others, my life has been richly blessed, far beyond the effort and time I have invested.
Kathe Green, Carson City Second Ward, Carson City Nevada Stake
My husband, Richard, and I were sealed for time and all eternity when I was 31 and he was 36. It was the first marriage for both of us. We experienced many wonderful moments together and enjoyed married life greatly. Nine months later Richard died suddenly, and I found myself in a different category: widow.
Although my experience has been painful at times, I have found many ways to find happiness and fulfillment as a single member of the Church. I believe happiness is a choice; our circumstances don’t automatically make that choice for us. Though the road to happiness is never easy, the trip is worth the struggles.
Any time I feel discouraged, lonely, or left out, I know it is time to reach out to others. As I have helped others, I have actually gained more than the recipients of my service because I have let the sunshine back into my own life. One can’t help but be happy while making a difference in someone else’s life!
Another thing I try to do often is to read the scriptures and Church periodicals. There are so many stories of people who have been in difficult circumstances and have overcome discouragement. I feel the Spirit of the Lord when I read these materials, and I am spiritually uplifted.
Sherrin Benson McHenry, Cedar Eighth Ward, Cedar City Utah West Stake
Because I live alone, it can sometimes seem that I am left to bear the burdens of day-to-day life on my own. But I am not alone.
Each one of us who has been baptized and confirmed a member of this Church has been given a tremendous blessing: the gift of the Holy Ghost. We must always seek to take advantage of this gift. If we are living worthily, we have the promise of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost 24 hours a day to guide and comfort us in all our daily decisions and struggles. While I do not currently have the support and companionship of a spouse, I do have access to this great gift, which President James E. Faust has called “the greatest guarantor of inward peace” in our world today and an association to cherish above all others (see “The Gift of the Holy Ghost—A Sure Compass,” Ensign, May 1989, 32). Being single provides me with an excellent opportunity to strengthen this association.
Keith A. Miller, Palo Alto First Ward, Menlo Park California Stake
After many years of dating without finding an eternal mate, one can become understandably disheartened in the process. As a single member of the Church, I followed the advice of our leaders and did not become obsessed with the goal of marriage. Yet at times the worthy endeavor of finding a companion seemed discouragingly impossible. After all, successful courtship calls for the agency of two individuals to coincide—no small feat!
When I would begin to question the effectiveness of my efforts, I would quickly remind myself of one simple truth: while I knew there was no assurance I would marry in this life, I also knew that to do nothing would guarantee my falling short of this goal. As long as I kept trying, however, there was always hope. For me, to keep trying meant going on a blind date, attending a Church dance, expanding my circle of friends to include those with whom I might not routinely associate, or simply summoning the courage to ask out someone new. Although uncertain of the outcome of such actions, I wanted Heavenly Father to know I was doing my part to obtain the blessing of marriage. If I had the requisite faith and patience, I was confident the Lord would “consecrate [my] performance … for the welfare of [my] soul” (2 Ne. 32:9).
Along with praying, fasting, attending the temple, and working toward personal improvement, I continued to date. Realization of my marriage goal came slowly and unexpectedly, but at long last I met the woman who would become my wife. Michelle and I were married on 12 August 2000 in the Denver Colorado Temple.
Jedd Fowers, Carrollton First Ward, Carrollton Texas Stake
Of course single members face periods of grieving, whether we mourn the loss of a spouse, a relationship, or hopes for the family we had envisioned. Yet I have found great comfort in the knowledge that all adversity is temporary. We have been assured that if we will be patient in our afflictions, our righteous longings will be eased and we shall have all the blessings of which we are worthy. D&C 121:28 promises “a time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld,” and D&C 121:7 reminds us that our “afflictions shall be but a small moment.” If we endure these tests well, God will exalt us (see D&C 121:8).
The Savior knows exactly who and what we are; He does not judge us on the basis of our education, possessions, or marital status. “For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). I am so grateful for the Savior, who fills my needs with His unshakable love, and for the priceless gift of the Holy Ghost. I truly know why He is called the Comforter.
Lara Kerr, Paso Robles First Ward, San Luis Obispo California Stake
As a young woman, I dreamed of the wonderful husband and children I would have someday. I dated, and at one point I became engaged, but things didn’t work out. Eventually I earned a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree, and I found a job teaching school. Yet despite what I had accomplished, I was unhappy, lonely, and bitterly disappointed that what I hoped for most had not yet come to pass. I somehow felt I had let down Heavenly Father and my parents because I was not married.
I assumed that because I did not have a family of my own, I couldn’t enjoy the blessings that come from Church participation. I began to feel the Church was not for me. My activity waned and then stopped completely. All kinds of thoughts entered my mind that I felt justified my inactivity.
One summer I had the occasion to do a lot of driving. I grew tired of listening to the radio, so I decided to listen to some books on tape. For some reason I found a box of Book of Mormon tapes my mother had given me many years before. I decided I might as well listen, even though I had no interest in the Church. Looking back, I know it was divine intervention that led to that experience. As I listened to the tapes, the flame of my testimony began to rekindle, and I couldn’t get enough. I later read more Church material, and finally I made the decision to attend church one Sunday. From then on, I rarely missed a meeting.
I have since learned how wrong I was in believing the Church had nothing to offer me as a single person. I now spend much of my time on Church-related activities that keep me close to the Spirit of the Lord, and I have met so many people who have enriched my life and whom I love deeply.
The day I went to the temple was a day of rebirth and reawakening for me. Yes, I learned the importance of the marriage covenant, but I also learned that the blessings of marriage will someday be available to all who live worthily. I learned that our own personal relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ should be of paramount importance to each of us. I learned that we make temple covenants individually with the Lord.
I have realized that God has a plan for me, as He has for all of us. I know that no blessing will be denied those of us who are single if we endeavor to live close to the Spirit, obey the commandments, partake of temple covenants, and do our part to find joy and happiness. We can find joy in this earthly journey and be prepared for the blessings of eternity. I regret those years I spent away from the Church, but how grateful I am for the happiness I have found since returning to the fold.
Deanne Ercanbrack, Sharon Park Fourth Ward, Orem Utah Sharon Park Stake
Instead of labeling myself as “single,” I consider myself to be a “family of one.” I do not deny myself the enjoyment of family life just because I do not have a husband or children. For example, as a “single,” I felt exempt from family home evening. As a “family of one,” I spend my time on Monday nights studying the scriptures and gospel subjects of particular interest. I occasionally invite other families, particularly single-parent families, to my home for family home evening, thus giving me companionship while lightening their load. I also frequently visit my parents on Monday nights.
As a “single,” I felt uncomfortable attending ward activities designed for families. As a “family of one,” I go and have a great time. I don’t sit by myself at church; I look for someone sitting alone or a mother who needs help with her young children. I listen to the lessons and talks about marriage and family and store away ideas for the future. In class discussions I often share insights into family life that might be missed by those who are busily involved with their own family responsibilities.
I try to concentrate more on the generous blessings the Lord has given me than on those I do not have yet. I know that with His help, and if I am worthy, I will eventually extend my current family of one to an eternal family of many.
Karen Elder, Mint Canyon Ward, Santa Clarita California Stake