Being single in a family-centered church can be extremely lonely at times.
When so much of the gospel is focused on creating and raising an eternal family (and rightfully so), it is easy to feel isolated, abandoned, or simply forgotten when you are a “family of one.”
As the new schedule and curriculum was announced in October 2018, my heart ached hearing the continual references to the “home-centered, church-supported” shift. As a single member in my 30s, I wanted more involvement, not less! The shift to home-focused gospel learning felt like just another way to emphasize what I was fully aware that I didn’t have—my own eternal family. (And as great as my golden retriever is, unless the new program involved catching frisbees, she would not make the most effective study companion.)
But as I began to pray to embrace these changes, I realized my initial assessment was off-base—no matter what our marital status or family dynamic, we are each being asked to take ownership of our own spiritual conversion. We are not only being asked to do more, we are being asked to become more.
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As we take ownership of our gospel learning, we can individualize it to our needs, whether we are married or single, divorced or widowed. It is up to us to incorporate the gospel into our lives in a way that works for our situation.
Here are seven ways we can embrace the changes and thrive as single Latter-day Saints.
1. Take the Initiative
There are many ways to incorporate the new study guidelines into our lives. We have the opportunity to find out what works for us:
- Create a “family of singles” for a home evening group to study and to socialize.
- Host a weekly Come, Follow Me study group and meet with fellow YSAs after your Sunday meeting.
- If there are no other singles in your area, use social media to create a weekly study group.
- Facetime or Skype with family or friends for a weekly Come, Follow Me discussion.
- Once a month, host a Come, Follow Me discussion in your home. Invite single parent families, widows and widowers, singles, struggling families—anyone who could benefit from feeling needed and included.
2. Choose to Be Happy Now
Many single members have created a beautiful life for themselves. They thrive in their employment, they have a great group of family and friends, and they live the gospel fully and joyfully. They love their life! And they just so happen to not be married. They do not define themselves by their marital status because it is just a small part of their life. They fully understand that the scripture “men are that they might have joy” does not include an asterisk clarifying “but only if you are married.” They choose joy.
But for many of us, single or married, it’s too easy to put off happiness until we hit some arbitrary goal — “I’ll be happy when I find a spouse. I’ll be happy when we have kids. I’ll be happy when I lose 10 pounds. . . ." No matter where we are in life, choose to be happy now! Happiness is a choice.
Even in the midst of challenges, we can always find joy somewhere.As President Harold B. Lee once said, “Happiness does not depend on what happens outside of you, but on what happens inside of you. It is measured by the spirit with which you meet the problems of life.”
We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can always choose how we respond to it. We can’t control the well-meaning but hurtful comments others may make about our marital status, but we can choose to be kind anyway. The Savior invites us to be of good cheer, and His enabling power can help us feel happiness and peace in every stage of life.
3. Create a "Christ-Centered" Home
Whether you are constantly moving apartments, own a home with a revolving door of roommates, or only have your kids every other weekend, being single can often feel like you are in a constant transitory state. No matter what your housing situation, you can still always have the Savior at the center by focusing on inviting the Spirit into your home.
- Dedicate a clean, uncluttered space, free of distraction, for your daily scripture study.
- Consider what you bring into your home — the movies you watch, the books you read, the language you use, and the music you listen to. Strive to use entertainment that keeps the Spirit present.
- Dedicate your home through the priesthood.
- Make your house a refuge for others to feel loved, included, and welcome.
- If you live with roommates and cannot always control what influences come into your apartment, turn your room into your own personal sanctuary from the world.
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4. Serve Others
When the only person you have to look after is yourself, it is all too easy to fall into the mindset of “it’s all about me.” Service is a great antidote.
President Thomas S. Monson said,"To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. . . . 'Love thy neighbor' is more than a divine truth. It is a pattern for perfection."
There are many ways to serve others, whether it’s taking care of your aging parents or tutoring a struggling teen in your neighborhood. Whatever our specific talents, we can use them to bless the lives of those around us.
Service not only helps us become like our Savior as we develop charity for others, it can often help us with our own trials. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught this concept in the April 2011 general conference.
“Often, the answer to our prayer does not come while we’re on our knees but while we’re on our feet serving the Lord and serving those around us. Selfless acts of service and consecration refine our spirits, remove the scales from our spiritual eyes, and open the windows of heaven. By becoming the answer to someone’s prayer, we often find the answer to our own.”
5. Live the Gospel Fully
- Fully participate in your ward by attending all of your meetings every week. Make an effort to attend ward activities.
- When in a new ward, schedule an interview with the bishop to let him get to know you and your talents. Ask for a responsibility. Let him know you are willing to serve.
- Get to know members of your ward. If you are not naturally a social person, make an effort to talk to at least one person each meeting. Making a connection helps us feel valued.
- Establish a habit of regular temple attendance.
6. Look Past Labels
We do ourselves and others a disservice when we differentiate ourselves based on marital status. It often leads to assumptions that can be harmful to the way we see others.
When a new couple moved into my neighborhood ward, I felt certain the wife wouldn’t want to be actual, “real-life” friends with me, even though we hit it off the first time we talked at church. I was very single and she was newly married and just had a baby, so I just naturally assumed she would think we had nothing in common outside of church and would just consider me a "church friend." I was shocked when she asked for my number to include me in a get-together she was planning for some ladies in the ward. I just assumed I wouldn’t be included because I was single! I was holding myself back and getting in my own way of making friends based off of incorrect assumptions. This woman saw past my marital status and saw me for who I am.
Single, married, divorced, widowed — we all belong to the family of God. President Dallin H. Oaks taught thatthe only label that defines us is “child of God.”
“The only single quality that should characterize us is that we are a son or daughter of God. That fact transcends all other characteristics, including race, occupation, physical characteristics, honors, or even religious affiliation. . . .When we choose to define ourselves or to present ourselves by some characteristic that is temporary or trivial in eternal terms, we de-emphasize what is most important about us and we overemphasize what is relatively unimportant. This can lead us down the wrong path and hinder our eternal progress."
7. Keep the Proper Perspective
"The grass may be greener on the other side, but it still has to be mowed once you get there, too." I remember when Robbie Reid, my favorite BYU basketball player as a kid, said this and I've loved the thought ever since.
Trials don’t discriminate based on marital status. Loneliness is no respecter of persons. Marriage doesn’t guarantee that one will never be lonely. Many people feel alone, even within a family — marriage difficulties can make us feel alone. Having a spouse change his or her beliefs after marriage can be extremely isolating for the still-believing spouse. Divorce, death, children moving out—all can make us feel lonely or forgotten or unwanted.
Whatever our situation, we can look to the Savior for peace and comfort. He is with us every step of the way. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, "No one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another. I testify that He loves each of us—insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all."
Jesus Christ loves us unconditionally and can help us thrive in any circumstance if we rely on His divine help.
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