A Single Voice

I prayed and wished and begged the Lord for an eternal family. I ultimately realized that I had to being to live to have such a family, that everything I did as a single woman would dramatically influence the blessings I hoped so deeply to receive. *Single at Church* When we are single, our Church associations become especially meaningful to us. Our wards are unique because they provide the kind of social experience many Americans aren't getting any more. They bring together people of different ages and backgrounds, build on shared beliefs rather than on narrow self-interests, rely on voluntary participation in meaningful calling, and provide a place where people can support one another. They provide a sense of religious and personal connectedness. Our wards, however, are not immune from the social forces reshaping America. Americans are spending increasing amounts of time alone during commutes, at work, with computers, and in front of videos and television. We are becoming more insular and having less outreach in our lives. The result is that members--single members in particular-may receive less fellowship than they anticipate or desire. In the Church the consequence of feeling isolated and alone is often inactivity. Members who feel no bonds of fellowship, who are not integrated into a ward, do not stay active for long. In the fraying society that surrounds us, a single member of the Church, to remain active and involved, has to develop a deep and abiding testimony of the truths of the gospel and not depend solely on the programs of the Church for happiness. Our outreach to others becomes extremely important. Our singleness should not deter us from that. One single sister in our stake confided to me, "During my youth I always planned on getting married and never focused on becoming a disciple of Christ." Our purpose must be very clear. At baptism we covenanted "to be called his people, and [to be] willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light" (Mosiah 18:8). We need to base our commitments on the Savior and on our relationship with our brothers and sisters in the gospel, not on our marital status. *The Blessing and Challenge of Self-Reliance* President Marion G. Romney taught: "Self-reliance implies the individual development of skills and abilities and then their application to provide for one's own needs and wants. It further implies that one will achieve those skills through self-discipline and then, through self-restraint and charity, use those skills to bless himself and others." Self-reliance, as taught by the prophets, is a fundamental component of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Single women face a paradox: how do they develop self-reliance and at the same time prepare to be true collaborators and partners within a marriage? How does living as I prepare a person to become a we? Whether in this life or the next, the opportunity to be joint decision makers with another person is a desired blessing. Yet many of us will develop finely tuned solo skills in managing careers, making financial decisions, setting educational goals, and addressing health needs. The single life requires an ongoing series of personal decisions about daily life and future plans. Collaboration may be limited to the workplace, civic involvement, and extended family. The gospel principle of self-reliance is quickly understood by many singles. As a single woman, I never wanted anyone to pity me for being single or vulnerable; I learned that every one of us is at times needy and vulnerable. Out of necessity I learned to become strong and care for myself. I had to make house payments, enroll in insurance programs, and make investment decisions. If I didn't take care of myself, no one else would. I learned that decisions focusing on self are not intended to be selfish - they are necessary to ensure a productive, happy, and secure life. But gospel living also requires consideration for others, love unfeigned, an understanding heart, and becoming joint heirs with Christ. Singles often must look for specific ways to develop and retain these skills and attributes. *Learn to Be Comfortable with Yourself* Joseph Smith was an example to everyone in the Church. He was true to himself. Every account of him tells of his natural affable manner, his love of children, and his majestic leadership and prophetic power. He was comfortable with who he was. He was multidimensional and whole. We can all become more comfortable with who we are. By comfortable, I mean much more than just accepting ourselves - weaknesses, warts, and all. I mean digging deep inside ourselves, finding core beliefs, and relying on them. One friend I love to be near is magnetic and charismatic and warm because she knows herself. People gravitate to her because she has made peace between herself and the difficulties life has shown her. She has made Heavenly Father her best friend, and she is a friend to everyone else. She loves herself and cares for herself. She surrounds herself with very simple good things: lovely paintings, good music, fresh fruit, a cat who adores her, and time to ponder her spiritual self. She has mastered the art of living well, savoring every moment, and relinquishing good books, noble ideas, and meaningful conversations. She is totally comfortable in her own skin - even down to her toes in her comfy Birkenstocks. Her contentment is contagious. *A Need for Greater Kindness* President Howard W. Hunter admonished: "We need to be kinder with one another, more gentle and forgiving. We need to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We need to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. In short, we need to love one another with the pure love of Christ, with genuine charity and compassion and, if necessary, shared suffering, for that is the way God loves us." Unfortunately, many of us live in a harsh world and try to fit in by being cool. We sometimes bring the ways of the world to Church with us. Cool does not suggest human warmth and is often characterized by arrogance and emotional indifference. Cool may mean using sarcasm, cynicism, or ridicule. The common response in this human ice age is to create distance, to become defensive, and to protect ourselves. This defensiveness often makes unattainable the warmth and joy that we desire. Simple kindness and genuine caring can rekindle that warmth. To learn principles of kindness we need only look to the gospel and the teachings of our Savior Jesus Christ, which are clear on how to treat one another. One winter when my husband and I spoke at a University of Utah Institute fireside, I felt impressed to slip in a story about kind words and the ability they have to shape lives. I told of Bryce, who complimented his wife on all she did and how his loving remarks brought confidence and dignity to a woman who had previously thought herself of little value. It was only a very short reference in my talk, but the young man who gave the closing prayer repeatedly referred to speaking kind words. He prayed that we would all be kinder in our speech and more considerate with our words. After his prayer he had tears in his eyes as he shook hands with Elder Oaks and me. I did not know if he felt he was the victim of harsh language or if he desired to stop using it himself. I did feel the depth of his feeling. *Excerpted from _A Single Voice_, Deseret Book.
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