Feature Stories

How single parents bless the Church


This article is part of a series highlighting how Latter-day Saints of all backgrounds, experiences, and circumstances bless and contribute to our church community.

“I am raising two teenage boys on my own, and they are the only reason why I attend Church,” declared a woman, whom I will call Digna. In this brief and bold introduction of herself, I sensed pain and discomfort. Her hair was tightly tucked in the back of her head, and a stern expression filled her face. I could tell she was not certain why she had been invited to the meeting we were sitting in. Her tone and body language suggested that maybe, for a long time, she had felt judged because of her circumstances and marital status. I perceived deep pain in her heart and a longing for belonging.

It was a Sabbath day in Argentina. The local leaders had arranged a gathering right after the regular Church Sunday meetings. Its purpose was for me, then a member of the General Relief Society Presidency, to have an open conversation with a group of about twelve sisters of various ages and from different walks of life.

My sincere reply to Digna’s introduction was, “That is probably one of the best reasons for you to be here, Digna. Your love for your boys is a beautiful motive for you to come. I am grateful to have you among us.”

My sincere reply was, ‘Your love for your boys is a beautiful motive for you to come. I am grateful to have you among us.’

As the conversation continued and I learned about those sisters’ challenges, opportunities, strengths, and miracles, and as we were able to counsel together, Digna’s face started to relax. I could see that she was feeling the true spirit of the gathering because she occasionally participated in the conversation.

At the end of the meeting, I gave Digna a heartfelt hug and said to her, “Thanks for coming, Digna. Your comments were insightful and inspired. I admire your determination to bring your sons to Christ and to be an example to them. I hope you know that you are needed in His work. We need your faith in the Savior, your strength, and your perspective.”

That evening, I spoke at a youth devotional in the same city. After the Spirit-filled devotional was over, a sister came to me and said, “Sister Aburto, I have something for you and your husband in the kitchen.” She had a big smile on her face and long curly hair. Her countenance was warm and bright. My husband, Carlos, and I followed her to the kitchen, where she shared with us the traditional mate drink and some exquisite pastries she had lovingly made herself. After several minutes of enjoying that delicious feast, I finally realized that she was Digna, the same sister I had met earlier that day! She looked so different that it took me a while to recognize her. She was radiant and happy for the opportunity to give us that lovely offering.

I relate to Digna in a personal way because I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints right after I separated from my first husband. I had a three-year-old son at the time and was desperately looking for a way to raise him in an environment of faith in God and righteous principles. Mighty storms were beating upon me and our little family, and I had the real intent to build our home upon a firm foundation, upon the rock of Christ.1 I was blessed to find a community of Saints in the Church who embraced me and my son, and where we were brought to the Savior, “nourished by the good word of God”2 and given opportunities to serve.

As I visited Church units in many places around the world on assignments for my calling, I met many women and men who, like Digna, were raising their children in a uniparental family. In fact, they represent a high percentage of Church membership across the world, as expressed by President M. Russell Ballard when he pointed out that “more than half of adults in the Church today are widowed, divorced, or not yet married.”3

Maybe because of our righteous personal and collective pursuit of an ideal family life—which is something that many among us do not have—some unmarried parents could feel that they do not have much to contribute to God’s work. However, thanks to the different circumstances and experiences that we all have gone through and have had in our lives, each of us has a unique perspective that is valuable and needed in our efforts to follow the Savior and His gospel.

Maybe because of our righteous personal and collective pursuit of an ideal family life—which is something that many among us do not have—some unmarried parents could feel that they do not have much to contribute to God’s work.

President Ballard beautifully taught, “Some wonder about their opportunities and place in God’s plan and in the Church. We should understand that eternal life is not simply a question of current marital status but of discipleship and being ‘valiant in the testimony of Jesus.’ [Doctrine and Covenants 76:79]. The hope of all who are single is the same as for all members of the Lord’s restored Church—access to the grace of Christ through ‘obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel’ [Articles of Faith 1:3]. As it happens with each of us who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our contributions are unique and important.”4

When Jesus Christ was on the earth, He invited all to Him. He called all to His work: rich and poor, men and women, young and old, and everyone with a willing, humble, and believing heart. He saw Zacchaeus, who had climbed into a sycamore tree to be able to see the Lord as He passed by. Even though Zacchaeus was not a popular man, Jesus abode at his house and ministered to him.5 The Lord also invited several women from Galilee to follow Him and allowed them to minister to Him.6

I have witnessed the unique and important impact that people from different sorts of life have in God’s work, in their families, at Church, and in their communities, particularly those who are raising children without a spouse. Because they are navigating life in their own unique way, they have developed a particular capacity to receive guidance from heaven through the Holy Ghost. They are also able to feel empathy towards others in similar circumstances and to minister to them with a special degree of sensibility.

  • Single parents understand the importance of helping care for one another’s families. I know a single mother who formed a group of women in similar circumstances who helped each other by taking turns taking care of their children to be able to attend night classes or other activities.
  • Single parents are examples of reaching out to others and building networks of support for themselves and their children. A single father volunteered as a soccer coach with the intention to expand his and his children’s circle of friends.
  • Single parents tend to be compassionate and open-minded listeners. A divorced woman looked for opportunities to visit with recently divorced women to lend a listening ear and give them support.
  • Single parents’ unique experiences enable them to offer support to others with empathy and understanding. A single mother went back to college after her divorce to become a therapist who specializes in counseling divorced men and women.

Since that Sabbath day in Argentina, I have asked myself these questions: What could have brought such a drastic change in Digna’s attitude that day? What was it that helped her feel that her contributions were valued and that she was accepted as part of something important? Is there something that each of us could do to ensure that parents like her, who are raising children by themselves, know that we value their unique contributions and perspectives as we all seek to gather Israel in preparation for our Savior’s Second Coming?

Could each of us make a conscious effort to speak with more sensitive language at Church in a way that does not imply that we are all in the same stage of life and having the same experiences?

Could each of us make a conscious effort to speak with more sensitive language at Church in a way that does not imply that we are all in the same stage of life and having the same experiences?

Some examples of how to be more inclusive:

  • If you were raised by a single parent or have been a single parent, mention that fact as you share your faith story. As you do this, others in similar situations will realize that they are not alone and may get the courage to share their own story.
  • Be mindful of the different life circumstances in which others may find themselves, and try to include them in your talks, lessons, comments, and interactions.
  • When thinking about or discussing families in which a mother is raising children by herself, recognize that even though there may not be a priesthood bearer in the home, because of the sacred covenants she has made with God and through her righteousness, “from those covenants flows an endowment of His priesthood power upon [her],”7 as President Russell M. Nelson taught.
  • If you have been blessed by a family that is closer to the ideal, avoid giving thanks in public in a way that may hurt others in different circumstances. For example, consider avoiding words that put two-parent families on a pedestal.

Let us join President Ballard in inviting Digna and others in similar situations to “never forget that you are a child of God, our Eternal Father, now and forever. He loves you, and the Church wants and needs you. Yes, we need you! We need your voices, talents, skills, goodness, and righteousness.”8

As we continue to look for ways to invite others to come unto Christ and to receive of His redeeming grace, let us remember that our Savior “inviteth … all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”9


  1. See Helaman 5:12.
  2. Moroni 6:4.
  3. M. Russell Ballard, “Hope in Christ,” April 2021 General Conference.
  4. M. Russell Ballard, “Hope in Christ.”
  5. See Luke 19:1-10.
  6. See Matthew 27:55; Mark 15:41; Luke 23:49.
  7. Russell M. Nelson, “Spiritual Treasures,” Oct. 2019 General Conference.
  8. M. Russell Ballard, “Hope in Christ.”
  9. 2 Nephi 26:33.
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