Reactions to Single, Female, Mormon, Alone

So this column was definitely the digital equivalent of kicking over an anthill.

Times and Seasons solicited responses from a variety of people. A few who prefer to remain off the record noted the following:

(1) The money line is “who doesn’t want children;” she pretty much guaranteed that no one would be interested in a temple marriage with her by taking that position.

(2) As a Church, we pity older single sisters and shame older single men. It is no wonder that the men abandon ship which, of course, only makes the situation worse for the women.

(3) There are some interesting similarities–but also differences–between what we ask of homosexuals and what we ask of single adults.

Two people were willing to share their thoughts at length. Chris J. says this:

Yesterday I celebrated my thirty-second birthday. While friends born in the mid-80’s jokingly remark that any number starting with “3” is a frighteningly large one, I feel like I’m still just getting started, and that my life is still very much in the offing. I’m fulfilled daily by challenging work, energizing hobbies, regular travel, and loving family and friends. But it’s probably clear where this is heading: I’m also single and somewhat adrift in a church—and perhaps more significantly, a culture—that isn’t quite sure what to do with me, and with many others in my shoes.

Not to worry, though; I’ve no plans to rail at the insensitivity of leaders and fellow members, nor to harangue any particular auxiliary, norm, or individual. And while my quandary may not be fully understood and appreciated by many of the Mormon families with whom I interact, I do feel cared for, noticed and relevant in my ward and in the Gospel writ large. One can’t judge the Church too harshly here, after all. It’s not easy for any institution to strike a balance between the unapologetic promulgation of an ideal and the consistent expression of compassion for the misfit. Neither the General Authorities nor the doctrines of the Restoration can counsel and comfort away life’s tendency to make things very messy sometimes. Nor did Heaven ever intend them to.

I write because last week as I grimaced through another long Friday afternoon in the office, my malaise was dispelled by this Modern Love column in The New York Times. Now, it’s become somewhat en vogue to tell a progressive periodical how the über-conservative sexual norms of the Church have frustrated one’s attainment of the Post-modern American Dream. (I get it. I read The New Yorker and listen to This American Life.) But despite the undercurrent of real bitterness that seems common to these stories of liberated angst and sexual rebirth, the challenges they describe are nevertheless real and undeniably daunting.

Yes, much of the article strikes me as little more than a well-crafted, post-hoc justification for a faith lost and a patience exhausted. And one can’t help but wonder how the author concluded that principle couldn’t possibly endure under the weight of her emotional fatigue. But I can still relate to the author’s frustrations on nearly every level. The feeling of displaced youth and arrested development that she describes are all too real in my own experience. I can’t accurately describe the sense that while I’ve accumulated all the trappings of adult life, my physiology (and its attendant psychology) feels stuck in second gear while the engine revs and is threatened by a slowly-emptying gas tank (pardon the analogy). There’s definitely a sense that my chances of being let in on the great secret wither with each passing year, and that my continued ignorance leaves me developmentally out of whack, with repercussions for my relationships of all stripes. It’s more than just being on the outside looking in, though; it’s the persistent feeling of unsettledness that leaves so many personal triumphs and tragedies—and the overall arc of my life—doggedly incomplete. It’s the fear that the longer I go without that ultimate relationship, the less-capable I am of having the faith necessary to trust in and commit to anyone for the long haul. And it’s the failure to make sense of it all that stirs the cauldron of doubt on a regular basis.

But I’m still undaunted. Of course this trial seems unfair much of the time; that’s what makes it a trial. It doesn’t fit with that recurrent testimony of the faithful sister who assures us from the pulpit that she eventually found the man of her dreams because “the Lord keeps His promises.” It may not easily reconcile with that one part of a patriarchal blessing, and it doesn’t dovetail nicely with the frequent Sunday School implication that an eternal relationship and sexual fulfillment are the sine qua non of mortality, and the right and expectation of every faithful Latter-day Saint. But it also doesn’t mean the Law of Chastity isn’t a real law of Heaven, or that there isn’t an explanation for my current state—even if that explanation is “That’s life”, or, in the parlance of my generation (Y), “It sucks to be you.” It is what it is: another of the countless perplexities this life throws at us. It would be the height of pride for me to assume that this trial trumps those of others, or that because I yearn so badly for something promised by Heaven to the faithful, that it must be mine no matter the cost. Or worse yet, to buy into the modern distillation of sex into just another step along the way to adulthood, to be experienced in circumstances of one’s own choosing. No, I’m confident that’s not how it works. I may not understand the mechanics of hardly anything of cosmic significance, but I do know two things: (1) Life is messy and (2) It’s supposed to be. We learn despite—and often because of—the chaos of contradiction, in endurance of the other, and in the agony of delay. We’re here if nothing else, to grow for growth’s sake, with periodic rejoicings and struggles serving as the clinical material that make our progress possible. And that growth, that most-central purpose of my existence, is something well worth fighting for—even if my mind, my body, and my faith must be dragged, kicking, screaming (and sometimes quivering) every step of the way.


LB is a mumblety-something single woman who sent me a series of emails responding to the article. Now, I realize this is long, but I think it is well worth the read. (You need to know that LB may very well be the most Christ-like person I’ve ever met. Remember when I was pregnant and the baby was diagnosed with a severe disability? LB said, “Every Monday [=her day off] is yours.” I will never forget that.) (Note that italics are used for quotations from the article.) LB’s thoughts:

The girl in the article will be easily dismissed by a priesthood leader because he will focus on the what she is planning. Many comments on Zelophed’s Daughter post headed that way with the argument that sexual maturity, at any cost, would yield more satisfaction. So the argument gets dismissed.

Why can’t someone who isn’t headed toward apostasy be published in the NYPost and complain that single populations are getting dismissed and marginalized in a culturally sweeping way. They could never have those marginalizing attitudes at my workplace, it would be called out as discrimination.

Why do my complaints have to be (ever) paired with this? I want to be able to speak up about an issue but not threaten to sit in a planned parenthood waiting room. Part of it is my fault. There isn’t an easy path way to speak.

It’s the same as reverence in Sacrament. Our meeting yesterday was way over the top. Two new single sisters (3 weeks old) both separately complained to me about how we are so disrespectful to Christ in our meetings and they heard we/Mormons don’t worship Christ and now they know why (noise in Sacrament). (Eye opener, huh!)

But I know if they talk to the Bishop, they will be lectured on being more patient and long suffering-everyone has gotten used to the noise levels. WE are literally the frog in the hot water, slowly getting hotter in an effort to include the worst of parenting skills in our community. One sister, a year old convert, ask me yesterday if Mormons just come to church because they are supposed to because she can’t ponder anything over the roar and soon will be doing the same because there won’t be any reason to come to Sacrament because she will have lost it entirely.

Same solution problem – she should be able to go to the Bishopric and offer solutions but likely she will be dismissed almost entirely. They will be more concerned about her testimony than about the noise in the Sacrament.

More to come-


There are two issues here that will yield different conversations as stand alones and a third conversation if conflated.

1) Never married mormons lack a “required to enjoy life in a mortal state” psychosocial maturity that can only occur with a physical experience.
2) Never married mormons are not easily granted a symbolic, social, psychological standing/presence/respect in a mortal community that could make the gospel congretation more like Christ.
3) Never married mormons lack a physical and social experience that will result in stunted maturity in the community at large.

If anything, uncommitted physical experience seems to stunt social and psychological maturity rather than the other way around. I can remind you that if the 1st and 3rd were even close to being correct, that the porn industry would be awash with self-realized, humanitarian, mature human beings.

So I’m not taken with her solution but am caught by her writing style and her keen description of what it’s like socially being a never married single mormon woman.

And though I can take on issue 1 and 3, I’m wayy more interested in issue 2.
(BTW: 2 doesn’t lead to 1/3 but if you are already in 1 or 3, it’s certainly a contributor).


I realize that that the porn industry and what this woman is planning is not synonymous, so that is a, probably unfair, comparison. BUT… her assertion/assumption that the physicality would promote maturity is deeply in question. Even when paired with “love” in a committed relationship sans covenants.

“But what did I know? I was a 35-year-old virgin, preparing for my own “first time,” which, incidentally, didn’t happen until I was well into 36.
I was not frigid, fearful or socially inept. Not overweight or unattractive. Didn’t suffer from halitosis or socialanxiety disorder. I was a practicing Mormon, and Mormons “wait” until marriage. So I had waited, spent the first two decades of my adult life celibate and, for the most part, alone. Because only after the trial of my faith would I be blessed with an eternal marriage, which, I prayed, would also blow my mind in the bedroom. “

1) “First two decades” seems to indicate broadly 20 years. Mathematically speaking, she is 35, which indicates that she didn’t have to wait 20 years unless she started counting when she was 15. Seems to be a dramatic flair, designed to attract an audience that can’t wait through a 90 minute movie to have a relationship consummated.

2) The fearful,socially inept, overweight, unattractive causal theory also muddies these waters tremendously.
1) I know lots of fearful, socially inept, overweight and unattractive women who are married and were so when they got married, so that’s not why people don’t get married. Turns out there’s lots of evidence that I can get married whatever (fill in the blank) I am.

But later she zings it. I-we all- would die to know what “it” is that keeps us from being married and are so anxious for someone to offer up something we could do about it.

The major discouragement in my life comes from not knowing what to do about it. And the recurring and easily socially reinforced fear that it is my fault for being so (whatever) and if I would only change, I could be married. So devastating and so constant.
I have countless experiences where I have a testimony that the Lord answered my prayers and tended my needs individually. I’ve been spiritually guided in locating countless lost car keys, why can’t I find a lost eternal companion. Sooooo painful,

An amputee stops praying to have their arm attached 20 years after the amputation. And there is no stigma attached to one who lives life fully without the arm. You can even celebrate them for being so industrious, positive, and adaptive. Not so with single status.
There is no reverence, celebration or recognition for managing without a spouse and being positive about it. No lessons in the handbooks. I’m never allowed to be proud of what I’ve done (living faithfully alone). No encouragement or support to live within my condition successfully, though many say “be happy where you are planted-but you have to want your arm back”. Sooo painful. Sooo confusing.

3) May just be me, but I don’t think it’s ever dawned on me to pray, at this stage at least, to be mindblown in the bedroom when I’m praying about eternal relationships. That also seems to be a dramatic flair intended to underline the physical issues. But nor do I pray to be mindblown in the bank account or mindblown in the comedy department either. (I would like someone who is gainfully employed and at least mildly humorous). I don’t know if those qualities are equally desirable but I do know that if I had spent the last two decades praying for money in a marriage, I might begin to have some slightly skewed thoughts about finances emerging from my emphasis on its importance.


“It never occurred to me that I would remain unmarried, especially in a system where marriage is not only a commandment, but also one of life’s primary purposes. Turns out, though, that there is no place in that community for a single woman who doesn’t want children.

My only available choice within the church was to wait for my reward in heaven, as Mormon doctrine promises that single members denied marriage, family and sex lives on earth will have them after death. Needless to say, this wasn’t a compelling argument.”

1) It doesn’t occur to any of us that we would remain unmarried. That’s the problem. There’s no preparation, no roadmap, no encouragement. There is no blueprint for remaining single for those of us who do. Why not?

You can adapt the chapel for people with wheelchairs without making everyone an amputee.

2) The compelling arguments remark is lost on me. I might want to be financially rich. I will have more personal funds if I didn’t pay tithing. Not paying tithing only becomes a compelling argument if I focus primarily on more money. If I want to be part of the relief and assistance of the poor, the argument becomes very compelling. It depends on your focus point.

3)Waiting to have family after death – Oh boy, here goes –

I have imaginarily threatened to march down the sacrament isle and tackle the next speaker I hear teaching false context, albeit not false doctrine about how there are some celestially necessary lessons you can’t learn single/childless/families in the (earth bound) church until you get unsingle/with child/with family (here and now). It’s rampant and dangerous for more than just the single members.

While there may be some lessons that we need, there is never only one way to teach. And if there is, the Lord isn’t a proponent of it.

Scriptures tell us that some prophets get burned, some are martyred on a cross, Moroni faces lengthy aloneness. Joseph is reminded that he had the bonds of friends around him. The Lord will teach all of us in different ways.

Imagine Abinadi saying to Alma/Amulek at Adom-ondi-amen “The Lord only values what I know from my earthly experience”. Imagine a conversation about “the best way” to seal your testimony with your blood between Joseph and Abinadi. (which wins the rock, paper, scissors game, fire or bullets?). A few people don’t even die but are translated. The only sure things in life are death and taxes and death is an exception for some. Only one way? Really? Where do we get that stuff?

PS: I want a family here and now, more than you will ever understand. Don’t misunderstand that. I have a testimony of families. I’m practicing “family” life in every way that I can. FHE, genealogy etc…

I just want to celebrate what I know from my experience wanting a family. It’s so valuable. It just doesn’t look anything like changing a thousand diapers or suffering through a labor pain. That doesn’t make it less. Just different.

So does God want me to remain single in this life. Don’t know. Can he teach me what I need to need to know in my single state and prepare me for celestial marriage. YES He Can.

I lack no more than anyone else. Save it be a welcome seat in a chapel rather than a “That’s saved for my children to have more room”.

In other words, what I’m missing most is earthly and mortal, not celestial. Those talks always imply that I’m missing a celestial piece that might be necessary and I’m not. He’s seen to that.

“…because she judged him faithful who had promised” Hebrews 11:11


“Most troubling was the fact that as I grew older I had the distinct sense of remaining a child in a woman’s body; virginity brought with it arrested development on the level of a handicapping condition, like the Russian orphans I’d read about whose lack of physical contact altered their neurobiology and prevented them from forming emotional bonds. Similarly, it felt as if celibacy was stunting my growth; it wasn’t just sex I lacked but relationships with men entirely. Too independent for Mormon men, and too much a virgin for the other set, I felt trapped in adolescence.”

She’s catching two salient issues here for single adults, especially “older” single adults.
1) The church community treats me as though I were not quite an adult yet, even though my personality overall is very un-teenager-ish.
Co-worker noticing my compact purse: I wish my wife would carry a smaller bag, it just looks so efficient.
Me: Smile with the compliment. I do try to be efficient in my daily life.
Stake President noticing my compact purse: That looks just like my grandaughter’s little dress up purse.
Me: Silently repenting before I say something rude out loud because this is not the first time today I’ve been compared to a child.

Me: I just don’t know what to do to increase my chances of getting married.
Co-worker: Have you tried online dating or group speed dating, etc….
Me: I just don’t know what to do to increase my chances of eternal marriage.
Bishop of another ward: I’ll tell you what I tell the 16 year olds…….
PS: 16 yr olds don’t get married and I don’t date anything like a 16 year old. The only commonality we have is that 16+ years ago I was one (a 16 yr old).

2) We aren’t stunted in growth by being single. We are stunted in growth by sin. If I’m single because I sin, I’m stunted. If not, I’m not missing anything the Lord can’t provide for me. We don’t “grow” the same way on earth. There’s no arrested development going on here (except that related to sin). Just different development.
AND-people who are married are just as at risk to being stunted in growth by mis-treating a marriage partner. So both parties are at risk of stunted spiritual growth.
2.a. There are growth opportunities that I can’t have single. Got it. But they aren’t the ones that will stunt me if I’m doing all I can towards the goal. Some travel the path in covered wagons, some travel in handcarts. Same destination. So if you say that those traveling in covered wagons was a more spiritual experience than those pushing the handcart, you might want to examine the premise. I might be learning all I need to know about families right now, even with the temporary lack of the eternal covenant of marriage. All to be given later, as I’m worthy.
2.b. We teach that you can’t “grow” without being married and having children. It’s just not so. But nor is it the case that you will never need it. It just isn’t available right now for some and that doesn’t make my mortal experience any less worthy or worthwhile in His eternal plan for me.

She’s conflated the stunted growth idea with how other people usually respond in general and the teaching that single’s are “stunted” by lack of marriage covenant experience. And then she’s thrown in the sexuality piece and compared it to infants being touched. Poor connection of data points, but she’s captured the pain, oh so well.


“I knew, as an unmarried, 30-something, happy-without-children Mormon woman, how it felt to grow apart from one’s community. I knew what it was to be fundamentally bound to an ill-fitting life, to be the object of pity and judgment, to feel I had no choice but to be the thing that made me “other,” and to be told that if I prayed hard enough, God would bless me.”

This is the kicker. How do you not grow apart? How do you tolerate being ill-fitting in the community that you need? How do you tolerate being the object of pity and judgment so often?

1) Palmyra Sister Missionary greeting – “You aren’t alone are you?”
EACH and every time I entered a missionary site, I got this greeting. I was there for a seminary preparation and several friends had been invited but were unable to afford the trip when I could get time off work. YES, I was there alone and enjoying it very much.

Museum Staff of several area museums in Palymra and Kirtland: That will be $5.00 please. We are glad you came. Enjoy your visit!

Folks – We aren’t helping here. I’ve got hundreds of these.

And before you respond by reminding me that everyone gets occasional comments that sting, yeah, got that. Made them myself, unfortunately.
But I bet I can match your every one with five of my own. Innocently offered, but always unaware of the impact. Constantly, constantly offered.

Imagine having people in the ward mention your spouse every time you introduced yourself, referring to them as “that person”. Not occasionally, but frequently. You would begin to wonder why that remark was made so often. Becoming self-conscious, you might begin to wonder what they saw.

Same way we try to help teens navigate peer pressure from those who don’t keep our standards, singles need help maintaining a sense of community with fellow saints constantly commenting.

Single sister just joined our ward 3 weeks ago. She’s well on her in life and told me the other night that she missed her old church. She said that she just felt so alone in this church and that she stuck out as a single and she didn’t feel that in her old church. (I don’t express my frustration ever to a new convert)

Three weeks, people, three weeks and she’s been hit already with it.

What can we do to express family values by INCLUDING this wonderful, now-Saint, who has joined our ranks and wants to be part and parcel of our return to Christ? She shouldn’t have to experience that. It shouldn’t be part of our ethos. That exclusive nature isn’t necessary in order to emphasize family and does harm to our (all of us) understanding of eternity.


“So why wasn’t I dating Mormon men? In a nutshell, the pool is small, and people marry young, for obvious reasons. The leftovers were left over: closeted gay men, porn-addicted virgins, along with the merely awkward, uncompromising and unlucky.”

1) People think you are being a snob/too picky, when they ask you if you are attending stake dances and you reply with a sigh and a headshake. Pool is very small and dwindles with a per-second, per-second speed, with every year of age. It’s a nice group of saints to go to a fireside with and you get cookies but it’s not a viable marriage environment. You’d have more luck going to a bar and trying to find someone gainfully employed who would convert.

I was stake singles leader in Salt Lake and I saw firsthand that it’s more a group that needs ministering to, than a group that is anywhere near a marriage pool.

Several years ago, a 37+ yr old single female friend converted to the church in another city. Inside her first week as a member, the bishop excitedly told her to attend the singles activity. She being new and obedient, thought it was an assignment to attend. She called me afterwards that night, almost in tears. She said that was the most broken group of people she had ever seen and if she had to go she would but didn’t want to have to attend that group to be faithful.

Stereotyping, maybe a little but it is a common discussion and attitude with singles and if it isn’t reality and the singles are being harsh with each other, we still have a problem that needs to be addressed.

Don’t send me to a half-way house to find a mate. And let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

And yes, happy, proud and privileged to go minister, befriend and work alongside the most broken people Liz has ever seen, but let’s not confuse that inclusion with marriage potential.

And more than well aware that I’m part and parcel of that broken group of people. That’s also very confusing and alienating.

Whatever is going on, contributes to the damage of men especially and there isn’t an easy help up and out of the damage that compounds as a single. We are left alone and adrift (and I’m not talking about sexuality at all).


“Obviously, I was left over, too — I was just never sure what my problem was. Until one man let me know. After overhearing a friend and me comparing our weekend horror-date stories, he walked up to me and asked, “You know what your problem is?”

No, I did not know what my problem was. And I was dying to find out.

“Your problem,” he said, “is you don’t need a man.”

I thought that was a good thing — to be able to take care of oneself.

He asked if I had a job.


“A car?”


“A house?”



“Of course.”



“That’s your problem.”

“Excuse me?”

“Men in the church are raised to be providers. We are the breadwinners, the stewards of the household. If you have all the things we’re supposed to provide, we have nothing to give you.”

“What of love?” I asked. “What of intimacy and partnership and making a run at the world together?”

“Nope,” he said. “We’re providers.”

Lots of conversations around this topic – feminine/masculine roles in dating and attraction
Unable to understand much of it in terms of roles, partially because I was not brought up in the church.
A good friend mused outloud over lunch one day
“You know, when Rick and I were married at 19, we had a toaster and a watch between us and the future was open to our imagination, your situation is different. You own property, retirement accounts become at risk, you stand to loose a great deal of your life investment both personally and emotionally if you find someone at your age. You know who you are and who you want to be unlike a 19 year old can even dream about. It’s a whole different process from the ground up.”

Finally, I had freedom to not be the single teenager. It’s different in this universe. Very, very different.

What I need in a marriage now is very different than what I needed in a marriage at 19. Wholly different. And it’s not at all about being set in my ways. It’s about needs and direction and life experience.

And I don’t need a man who thinks he might be good at taking care of a 19 yr old. I don’t need a provider. I need a husband, a partner, a kingdom co-worker.

Is that the problem? Do we stunt/not encourage men’s growth so they don’t see the need for changing their viewpoints and the women just grow up single and then there is no real role congruity, on top of a small choice pool?

Are we trying to court each other like we did when we were 19 and it just isn’t working well?

If the only problem was just the lack of choice, then every single male should easily be married and you would have only single women in church single activities. But the issue is bigger than that and I’m not sure why.


“Perhaps the failure was mine — I’m sure many church members see it that way. I was too weak to endure. They’ll say I should have waited another decade, or spent my whole life alone if that’s what God required.

I’m just unwilling to believe that’s what God wants for anyone, and was unwilling to continue spiraling further into a disconnected life, feeling abandoned, being discounted.”

1) The constant idea that you are a failure as a single is the worst of the worst tools in the devil’s toolbox. We would never do anything to have people with disabilities feel like they couldn’t be saved without mortally using their limbs or cognition abilities here on earth. But we freely remind singles that they are lacking and probably at peril.

2) Unwilling to believe that’s what God wants for anyone? Didn’t read much scripture did you? For being the “Good News”, it carries an awful lot of trial and heartache. People loose family, loose lives, get beheaded, hung upside down and nailed to a cross. In our own moment, people are starving worldwide and dealing with much less than we have been blessed with here on our continent. You have to be willing that He will ask each of us to suffer here in mortality and may ask some to suffer more than others and in vastly different ways. This can’t be the reason for disobedience, ever. It’s not His way.

Spiraling, disconnect, abandonment and discounted can be addressed, but not with her response. The disconnect to the community widened exponentially with her actions so it’s not a solution.


It’s extremely difficult to float the notion that I’m not eternally harmed by not being mortally married the same way it’s difficult to talk about baptism’s for the dead vs. taking the covenants while you are mortal.

We know that those who don’t have the opportunity will be offered full restoration. So why not put it off till then? Math 20:1-16
If everyone gets paid the same, why not show up late in the game?

When we have that answer for baptism’s and marriage covenants, we’ll have something to chew on. Meanwhile, we are all scared the world will have it’s way with us so we preach that if you don’t get baptized/get married while you are alive, you miss something eternal. It’s incentive based religion and we don’t know how else to encourage people not to wait to get married or wait to be baptized.

So we want everyone to be baptized (now) and married (now).

And we have, as a group, far fewer manners with those who have not been now-married.
We blame, assume, attribute motives when we don’t know and subtly ostracize because of our misapplied beliefs.


Here’s the other tension it causes.
I just read the Salon article on Mormon Mommy Blogs setting an appealing example. Great article and discloses the desire in people to follow His plan.

Imagine a plethora of Mormon Single Blogs and Salon liking that genre. Wouldn’t be a good thing necessarily. We’d travel, go to movies, sleep through the night without interruptions of sick family members, and go to the grocery store without screaming children. It’d look great on paper if we wrote well.

Adam fell that man might be and men are that they might have joy, but not if you are single?

So I can’t glory in the blessings I have outloud really without leaving a false impression that that is all there is to joy. And I’ve had more than my share of comments like “Well she (Me) can use any brand of shampoo she wants to because she doesn’t have to buy for the whole family.” “You got to go through airport security alone?, I don’t even want to hear about your trip at all.” etc….

I just feel really stuck sometimes.

But I like my life. It’s full of good friends and great promises.

AND, my life is unimaginably lonely and difficult, and that’s not a well understood situation in my community and that makes it even more alienating.


“We are providers”

Great. Love to hook up with a provider. But not if by “providing” means I can’t be self-sustaining. It’s not the provider part, it’s the negative insistence that I not also be a provider and contributer. And if that messes with roles, either eternal or mortal, then I’m sunk for sure.

Here’s why: . . . in a matter of six months, I’ve accomplished a new roof, a new furnace/ac system and a major car repair hiring, and DIY a dryer, outside faucet, disposal, fire alarm, porch light and kitchen faucet. All on a low budget, high quality, thought out dime. And it’s not the first time I’ve DIY’d life.

So you want to be a provider, come on in, we’ll add a gazebo in the back yard because I can’t do that alone. But don’t insist that I not be able to be self-sufficient or a creative problem solver.

And if that is what is happening, it gets much more pronounced as you get older (past 24 or 25 when things start to demand some self-engineering or many discretionary funds) There is no reasonable way to maintain much degree of helplessness, even if I wanted to.

And how is any of that essentially different than sewing clothes or coming up with baked dishes nightly. It all takes a little creativity and study but not fundamentally different to unscrew several screws on an electrical cord attachment than re-threading a needle on a sewing machine. Placing a grommet is not that much different than a placing a caper in a seafood dish so it tastes extra special. Matching a red electrical cord with a red wire on a ceiling fire alarm just isn’t that hard and may be easier than braiding a small child’s hair when they don’t want to be still.

And I see this hubris as dangerous as people who refuse to marry or have kids because they enjoy money a little too much. You can’t want someone else to be lacking in order to have a role to fill and marry them.

But if it is a cultural misunderstanding that males must be providers to be covenant people, then we better start warning of the dangers.


Well, then. Lots of food for thought.

86 comments for “Reactions to Single, Female, Mormon, Alone

  1. An amputee stops praying to have their arm attached 20 years after the amputation.

    Sexual desires do not stop even 20 years after they’ve begun. Very very different than losing an arm (though granted, I’ve never lost an arm, and cannot speak with experience as to the association, but my guess, neither is the author of this point).

  2. I definitely enjoyed reading the responses. I’m not in the +30 category yet but just because the journey is hard doesn’t mean you should quit. Life is tough. Get over it.

  3. wow. wow. wow. Thank LB for me, please. So much of what she has said is what I’ve felt but not found words to express — and some of what she notes I recognize without ever having dared notice it before. Thank you, Julie.

  4. I recall being told by my YSA Bishop that you can’t be happy unless you’re married.I just believed it and so did many others who are now divorced, inactive or in not the greatest of marriages. I now believe that maybe marriage isn’t a good idea if you aren’t happy, because it is too much pressure on someone else to make you happy somehow. Loved this article Julie M. Smith!

  5. Wow. Just, amazing! The first response gave words to the feelings I’ve had in my own heart. The second group of responses were articulate and beautiful. Please thank the authors on my behalf.

  6. Very thoughtful stuff. I think the first in particular does a good job straddling the line between recognizing difficulties on the one side and limited solutions and options on the other.

  7. I have yet to read the response from LB or any that follow, as I do not have the time right now. But I read all that you wrote prior to that and even though I am male and have been married for decades, I could feel the frustration.

    I have not been active for quite awhile now and I do not know how heavy the church comes down on its young people these days concerning sexuality, but it was extremely heavy when I was young, starting from the moment the earliest communications came through to me.

    There were two things, and two things only, that one could do that were more vile and wicked than to have sex before or outside of marriage – to shed innocent blood, and to deny the Holy Ghost when one had absolute knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel.

    While these things were certainly frowned upon, one could beat tiny kids, bully people, be mean, rob banks, break windows, steal from widows, burn houses down, lie, cheat and do all sorts of evil, cruel and mean things and none of these – NONE – was so wicked as to have sex. None was so difficult to repent of. Sex could be repented of, but not easily, and it would leave scars in your soul that would be there forever.

    Hence, it was taught that were certain things that we must not do, because, even if we repented, we would sorely regret these actions in later life.

    Now that I am in later life, I find that I do not regret one thing that I did that the church told me not to do, such as experiment with alcohol and drugs. In fact, I am glad that I did these things, because it has given me a greater understanding of the world and of myself. Yet, I greatly regret the fact that in such a major way I did comply with the dogma, out of horrific fear for my eternal soul, that fear being a fiction hammered into me.

    I greatly regret it, in fact.

    This mortal life passes by but once and whatever promise of eternal bliss anyone seeks to achieve, mortality has its own wonderfulness that cannot be experienced in any other realm and once missed and over, it is over.

  8. Oh, can it, Bill. The church never taught any of the baloney you type here. The church teaches chastity because it *is* important, not because robbing banks and breaking windows doesn’t matter. It repeats the theme of chastity endlessly because it’s an endless problem — not many people have an irresistible desire to steal from widows and burn houses down.

    If drugs and alcohol are your idea of the wonderfulness of mortality, you apparently have already found your bliss. Get back to me someday on how eternal that is, though.

  9. “There were two things, and two things only, that one could do that were more vile and wicked than to have sex before or outside of marriage – to shed innocent blood, and to deny the Holy Ghost when one had absolute knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel.”

    I would disagree with Ardis. The church absolutely teaches this, and has for a long time.

    “Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?” (Alma 39:5)

    “Unchastity is next to murder in seriousness.” (Gospel Principles, Chapter 39.)

    “Very few of us will ever be guilty of murder or of the sin against the Holy Ghost. But the law of chastity is frequently broken, and yet it stands next to these other sins in seriousness in the eyes of the Lord. My beloved brothers and sisters, are we living in accordance with these scriptures? Do we clearly understand the seriousness of sexual sins? Do we constantly stress the blessings that come from obedience to this law?” (Ezra Taft Benson)

    “In God’s sight, sexual sins are extremely serious because they defile the power God has given us to create life. The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder or denying the Holy Ghost.” (For The Strength of Youth pamphlet).

    The sin next to murder is a frequent theme, and has been for a long time.

  10. My main thought when I read the original article was that it is a very natural reaction to try to attack what we perceive as giving us pain, even if the attack is misdirected.

    So many times, I hear a “if you don’t like the way it is, you can always make it happen otherwise”. But with my experience, I’m not surprised that most singles feel that it has to be a black-or-white, endure the marginalization or leave sort of decision.

    That, to me, is the true problem. Not the law of chastity or the principle of eternal families, but the feeling that it has to be either/or.

    I am beginning to believe that almost everyone has many reasons not to feel like they fit in the church. But I’m also beginning to believe that is part of the point of having a church at all.

  11. But Kaimi, certainly not in the rhetorical way Bill claims. The Church only frowned upon child abuse, but sex was death? Seriously?

  12. Kaimi, since you comment specifically to disagree with me rather than to agree with Bill, I think any discussion can only be disagreeable to all.

    I’m off to break widow’s windows on my way to burn down a bank.

  13. Ben,

    The doctrine is very clearly, and frequently repeated. There is a hierarchy of sin:

    1. Deny the Holy Ghost
    2. Murder
    3. Sexual transgression
    4. Everything else.

    Given statements from Alma (not to mention frequent repetition from church leaders), it seems pretty clear that under church doctrine, having sex *is* worse than robbing a bank. This seems like a very straightforward application of very clear doctrinal statements of unquestioned authority. I’m not sure why it’s such a surprise.

  14. It would be a travesty for comments to such thoughtful responses to the origional article to get derailed so early on. Especially to get derailed by someone who admittedly has not read the responses in the OP. There are many other discussions of this article that have degenerated already.

  15. Ardis, good on ya. Just don’t fornicate while burning down the bank =)

    I enjoyed these responses. Strange that I would find them more valuable and insightful than the article they are a response to.

  16. I probably shouldn’t focus on the irrelevant minutia, but here goes:

    I don’t get the Planned Parenthood angle in the Nicole Hardy column. I grew up in conservative Northern Utah, and didn’t have the same anti-PP attitude that the author did. And invoking Planned Parenthood seems to be done to create a dramatic atmospheric, mostly. Unless I’m just ignorant (and that’s always a possibility) there was no reason why Hardy couldn’t have chosen to visit her own OB/GYN to be fitted with an IUD. It just wouldn’t have given the column the same dramatic flair.

    That said, it was a very well-written and thought-provoking column.

  17. I think that worrying about which sin is worst is rather a waste of time. No sin is the only acceptable amount, in the end.

    I think the “ranking” of sin has more to do with how many people it hurts, and therefore how difficult it is to repent from, more than how horrible it is.

  18. “Given statements from Alma”

    The great thing about Alma to Corianton (where the don’t you know the only thing worse is murder comes from, I believe) is that no sooner does he give him heck fire for his dalliance than he sends him right back out on his mission. “What we’re you thinking? Now, go and try again.”

  19. While it might be fun to get into the Ardis/Bill/Kaimi fracas, I will go a whole other direction.

    It is interesting how chastity until death was a very respected virtue in the early Christian church with a number of church fathers celebrating those that chose to deny themselves marriage in order to remain pure in God’s kingdom. Even in modern Catholicism and Orthodoxy, marriage, while a sacred sacrament, is still not as highly regarded as the sacrament of marriage to the church/Christ. Now I know there are a lot of philisophical reasons why the Catholic and Eastern churches disregard the body as sinful, etc…, but at least they have a place for the unmarried and regard the single life as a holy existence, even when that life is not one of chosen celebacy.

    I know a number of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox monastics that live in the world, work regular jobs and live in regular houses, but they have a community of other singles to engage with and they are viewed as critical assets to their larger religious communities. It would be nice if there was a path of singlehood in the church that one could choose where service trumped the need to be married.

  20. i totally get the Planned Parenthood angle. I lived in SLC for 20 years as a single (age 20=40) and PP was considered downright evil. Only women who “wanted to be immoral” or sneaky teenage girls ever went there (tongue in cheek).

    I commiserate with most of what Nicole Hardy had to say. Yes, as an older single I felt less than urbane, not-so-sophisticated, and very childlike. It was bad enough I sipped ginger ale at parties; I got to give my date a chaste hug goodnight at the door, too. At 45.

    It’s really too bad that adults with normal desires (actually even more heightened for lack of expression) are made to feel like eeeeeevil depraaaaaved caaaaarnal monsters for wanting to experience sexual intimacy. Marriage not in the cards? You can’t wait 40 until after death? What are you; a wuss?

  21. If I can diverge for just a moment, I want to tackle that comment in the OP about LDS not respecting Christ because of the “noise level” in Sacrament meeting. In every Sacrament meeting I’ve ever attended, there has been the sound of children but no more than is reasonable for a church that emphasizes family as much as ours does and no more than I’ve experienced at the meetings of other faiths I’ve attended.

    I am, in fact, proud of the support our church provides for families. It’s not perfect, of course. But at least it’s there, unlike some others. When I was home for Christmas this year, I planned to attend a meeting of my grandmother’s church, figuring she’d like the chance to show off her great-grandaughter. My dad was so hesitant about bringing the baby – like it was inappropriate! – that I just canned the whole thing. Well, DUH. Forgive the language, but like hell I’m handing my nursing baby over to a nursery. There’s no way they have enough adults to care for toddlers and infants. And what if she gets hungry?

    The woman I thought was my friend and who I usually sat with started going on about how some other ward she once attended banished (not her word) all moms with small children to the back row and how quiet and peaceful it was and how she could really feel the Spirit. All I could think was “Sheesh, those poor moms. I bet they had a great, really fulfilling spiritual time back there in their little noise ghetto.”

    For all the moaning and hand-wringing about how the church does or does not meet the needs of its minority members, I’m proud of how it puts its money where its mouth is in this regard.

  22. Ardis – Ben: You may have been raised differently, but the Mormon Church that I grew up in absolutely did teach this. Absolutely.

    And Ardis – this statement of yours is absurd and completely over the top:

    “If drugs and alcohol are your idea of the wonderfulness of mortality, you apparently have already found your bliss.”

    I made no such claim. I do not use either and I do an awful lot of work to help combat the damage that both bring into this world – but earlier in my life I did experiement with both and I do not regret it. The experience did increase my knowledge and understanding of the world. This is not to say that I recommend it, but only that I am better off for having tried. Those who get taken over by it, never to get out, definitely are not better off.

  23. The reason that marriage is a valuable experience is because it is HARD, especially when it entails raising children. It is hard adapting to sharing your life with your spouse (who may be a dunderhead like the guy who is quoted as saying that Mormon men are trained to be “providers”–I don’t remember ever hearing that notion in 50 years of priesthood meetings).

    So the living one’s life as a single person is HARD? Probably so, but so is not being single.

    The key point the gospel teaches is that life is HARD for everyone, eventually, and whether it helps us turn into saints or bitter losers is how we respond to the experience, whether we hang onto all our sins and faults or offer them up as a sacrifice, the way the Lamanite king did, and become a broken hearted child submitting to the Father.

    So single LDS can remind themselves that they are being tested by being single, while others are being tested by being married.

    Marriage is partly an opportunity to learn how to be unselfish; not everyone takes advantage of the opportunity.

    Being single is also an opportunity to learn how to be unselfish; not everyone takes advantage of that opportunity either.

    I remember how when my wife was expecting our first child, many women in the ward competed to tell her how awful childbirth would be. The strange motives and behaviors of people as people, especially when they harm other people, are not part of the Gospel, but part of the faulty aspects of the Natural Man that we are supposed to learn to discard. People who get down on other people at church because they aren’t married, or don’t have kids (or have too many kids!) are twits who haven’t learned the first thing about exercising the compassion for others that we all covenant we will have when we are baptized.

  24. “People who get down on other people at church because they aren’t married, or don’t have kids (or have too many kids!) are twits who haven’t learned the first thing about exercising the compassion for others that we all covenant we will have when we are baptized.” Irony = thick.

  25. The idea of stirring up an ant hill is such an Austin image–do Northerners grok the concept?

    Also, it is a tribute to T & S that these excellent writers felt comfortable sharing their thoughts anonymously with you.

  26. How do you not grow apart? How do you tolerate being ill-fitting in the community that you need? How do you tolerate being the object of pity and judgment so often?

    Have a calling you enjoy, have a social life outside church, and don’t listen or react to the rude questions/comments. Things have improved since I got a new calling about a year ago. I give a little mental pat on the head and a “bless your heart” to keep from responding. I still get questions about kids and work from time to time, but the frequency has decreased.

    It only took me 3-4 years of dating (until I was 20) to realize that the only way I was going to get married was to find someone who would be interested in converting and that’s what worked for me. I know it’s not the preferred method, but the LDS pool is so small and relatively homogeneous outside the mountain west that if you’re a woman outside the norm (don’t want kids, want an advanced degree, want to work, etc.) you have to expand the pool.

  27. Thanks for this post.

    As someone who was single past the age of 25, and who is now married–yes, being married is hard. But being single and wanting to be married, especially as one starts getting older, is significantly harder. Especially in the church. I think that’s why I appreciate this post as well as some of the comments made by never-married people in the previous post–they actually understand what it’s like to be single and a bit older.

    And frankly, although my wife and I don’t always get along, I am in no way “being tested by being married.” It’s definitely preferable to the alternative.

  28. “You can adapt the chapel for people with wheelchairs without making everyone an amputee.”

    The list of topics in the Church to which this nugget of wisdom could be usefully applied is practically endless.

  29. Thanks for posting this, Julie, and thank your friend for taking the time to articulate her thoughts. I think I will come back to this post often.

  30. Raymond #25:

    who may be a dunderhead like the guy who is quoted as saying that Mormon men are trained to be “providers”–I don’t remember ever hearing that notion in 50 years of priesthood meetings

    You never heard this?

    By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.

    Emphasis mine. Raymond, that would be from The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

    That said, taking one goofy guy as somehow representative LDS men in general is unfair.

  31. “…to be the object of pity and judgment…”

    This struck me as incredibly egocentric. I hate to break it to the author, but my problem is that I don’t think ENOUGH about the singles in my area, not that I’m looking down my nose at them. I certainly don’t spend time pitying or judging them. I don’t have that much time on my hands!

    Spot on, E.D. #28. I had two dear single LDS friends in Florida. Both wanted to get married in the temple, but had few prospects. One was very aggressive in presenting single men to the missionaries. Another moved to Utah and then to Arizona. Both expanded the selection pool and both were married (in the temple) before their mid-30’s.

    Of course your mileage may vary, but when you’re looking for a compatible person that fits a particular criteria, the more options you have the more likely it is that you’ll find what you’re looking for.

  32. Adris #10

    The church never taught any of the baloney you type here…

    seconding Bill, it certainly did when i was growing up.

    oh and btw, i didn’t experiment with drugs or alcohol so i’m confident you’ll not be blithely disregarding my experience.

  33. Kaimi #11

    thanks for the references. i was pretty sure i didn’t just imagine the whole thing.

  34. Ardis #35

    seeing as your comment that the Church has never taught the things Bill claimed was immediately and concisely followed by a comment documenting that they absolutely have, you’re not really the best positioned judge of whose comments on this thread are or are not foolish.

    btw, it’s nice to see you acknowledge, if backhandedly, the absurdity of judging sexual trangressions more harshly than violent crimes.

  35. Julie M. Smith

    thanks for posting this. you pick up an article that could easily be disregarded, take it for what it’s worth, and layer it with commentaries that try to further the discussion rather that stifle it in predictable ways. nice work.

  36. Ardis – Sorry for the inadvertent misspelling.

    Fact is fact is fact, however. Your calling fact foolish does not change fact. And if you read the comments, you can see that others here know it to be fact as well.

    And this statement of yours remains false and ignorant and you should apologize it, for I never said nor implied any such thing:

    “If drugs and alcohol are your idea of the wonderfulness of mortality, you apparently have already found your bliss.”

  37. These are both thoughtful and provocative responses to the NYT article.

    Chris J.: Although you have written specifically in response to the NYT article in general, you have done an exceptional job elaborating on a theme which needs to be considered by all of us in church much more than it is. It is in the nature of all organizations to damage at least some people. No organization, no matter how inspired, can ever pursue its objectives without some collateral damage to those who don’t fit comfortably within the culture created and promoted by the organization. The church is no exception. You have written from the perspective of a 32 year old single Mormon man but, as you point out, important challenges are faced by other groups who also don’t fit the idealized (but seldom realized) norm.

    We have created a culture within the church which functions extremely well in many ways. However, in so doing, we have marginalized and thereby inflicted significant damage on many people. A high percentage of the single adults in our church culture are casualties. When that happens to any of us, we have a choice. We can focus on the injustice of it all and thereby define ourselves by what we lack, or we can recognize the situation for what it is, accept that it sucks to be us, and then take action to build a meaningful and fulfilling life notwithstanding the obstacles placed in our way by our circumstances and culture.

    Those of us who are casualties would do well to adopt your attitude. Those of us who are not (yet) casualties must admit that we are often part of the problem, acknowledge the painful truth that the church we love often screws up terribly, and then work to mitigate or, better yet, prevent the damage.

  38. Sorry for the inadvertent misspelling.

    I think we need Frank to come clear some things up for us.

  39. I confess I still feel pain when people talk about miracles and about children.

    Yet, I don’t insist that others don’t talk about such things, and have experienced both myself.

    Anything can bruise someone. The question is not whether or not we can be bruised or if we are bruising, but what we intend, how we intend it and what we do.

    It would be nice if posters were kinder to Ardis, rather than embroiling themselves in attempting to attack and alienate her in a thread that discusses how single women are treated.

    Was irony the intent? Or something else?

  40. When I read Bill of Wasilla’s (#9) comment, at first I thought, “Huh? What church were you going to?” Then I remembered that long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I remember hearing those lines on a regular basis. Pretty much I heard them in Teachers/Priests Quorum and in the MTC or something. So, if someone stopped going to church shortly after finishing with Priests Quorum, for example, or stopped really paying attention around then, it actually might seem like that was a big emphasis in the Church. I doubt they bring it up much that way with the young women.

    Is it a very simplistic way to think about sexual morality? Yes. Are 17-year old boys generally thinking about sexual morality in a flabbergastingly simplistic way? Pretty much. So look, hopefully we grow up, and we start being able to hear a slightly more subtle message. I’m afraid Miss Hardy may not have heard it.

    Sex is sacred and to be approached accordingly. For mature listeners who are there and listening, there are plenty of more age-appropriate messages to be found at church.

  41. Ben H, if you married shortly after hour mission and didn’t attend singles wards, you probably didn’t constantly hear about the supposed enormity of sexual sin and the horrors breaking the law of Chastity entailed. You probably didn’t know anyone who was disfellowshipped or excommunicated for having sex. You probably didn’t hear singles ward bishops younger than you advise ward members to not even kiss anyone before marriage, “because of what kissing might lead to.”

    Week after week, lesson after lesson, interview after demoralizing interview, many singles in the Church are constantly chastised and warned about the dangers of sex outside of marriage and how “close to murder” unmarried sex is in the Lord’s eyes. I most definitely experienced what Bill did.

  42. Re: the traditional ranking of sins
    Couldn’t we assume that there is a range of sexual sin (child molestation, rape, adultery (which can include assault/manslaughter on the spouse with an STD), down to consenting non-married adults using bc, down to maybe closing in on 2nd base, down to having a minor sexual thought). Then also assume that honesty has a range (stealing an old person’s entire life savings down to a little white lie about liking something). So the range of sexual sin is higher on the serious scale than this other sin (dishonesty) but it is possible for an individual sin from the sexual category to be lower than an individual major dishonesty sin.
    It is a little ridiculous to be discussing this since sometimes discussing things like this is merely an excuse to justify a sin. But I agree with the idea that some sexual sins almost as serious murder, even if some aren’t.

  43. Can he teach me what I need to need to know in my single state and prepare me for celestial marriage. YES He Can.

    I am sorry to hear that people are still trying to insist that singleness is a sin. I feel like the messages we get are different than this, but if this message is still lingering in the culture, I’m just sad.

    I have such a strong conviction that God can and does and will compensate for ALL of us, because in some way or another, our lives fall short of ‘the ideal.’

    I have a great deal of respect for my single friends and I know from my own experience (albeit limited) how hard that is and can be.

    it’s the failure to make sense of it all that stirs the cauldron of doubt on a regular basis.

    I appreciated this and could relate to it as well. I think that can be the case whenever life doesn’t meet an ideal, but I felt that very intensely when I was single.

  44. Not to get tangental, but exactly why is the traditional hierarchy of sin so bad? I know Nibley suggests that the passage in Alma might not be referring to sexual sin in general but ritual prostitution. However others note that we can see sexual sin as serious while allowing for degrees of seriousness in sexual sin. I suspect the reason many see this as such a horrible hierarchy is because they’ve bought into a kind of cultural libertarianism which sees sex as not hurting anyone (beyond the risks of STDs or pregnancy). I guess, although those are pretty serious. But why should we accept American culture’s view of ethics with the associated “greed and materialism is good” and so forth. For that matter why should bank robbery be seen as so serious? Everyone is mandatorily insured, no one typically gets hurt, and the amount of money is almost always small. Much smaller than the typical white collar criminal who often steals hundreds of thousands of dollars instead of $3000 – $5000.

    It seems to me that the risks of illegitimate sex are much greater than the short term hurt of robbery of even a fight. The modern claim is that recent technology alleviates these risks such that the ethics ought be considered different now from say 1920. Perhaps. But how do we consider the calculus of a broken home? A spirit who could have been born into a strong home that now has a much greater risk of being born into a struggling situation.

    Put simply, if our ethics and hierarchy depends upon these risks (the risks from bank robbery versus sex) how do we calculate? I’m not sure. But when I try to think through it I have a hard time merely discounting the traditional values out of hand. Further, even if sex is extremely serious no one is saying the atonement doesn’t work and that we can’t repent. But perhaps we are saying that these matters are serious enough that we should treat it as flippantly as our society does.

  45. Stephen, you seem to be a little confused about who attacked who.

    I made an observation concerning what I was taught about sex as I grew up in the church. This is something that was absolutely hammered into me and that I believed. In that sense, I related with the frustration voiced in the OP, even if that frustration interpreted differently in her life than it did in mine.

    Ardis did not merely question my observation, but attacked me personally and falsely. Since then, a number of others have left comments noting that they were taught the same as I regarding sex.

    This hardly constitutes an attempt to attack and alienate anyone.

    jks – My point was never what we as individuals can agree upon regarding the ranking of sin, but only on what I was taught growing up in the church – namely that sex outside of marriage was the third most grievous sin, second only to murder and the denial of the Holy Ghost. Kaimi subsequently outlined this in very simple form to grasp.

    On a funny note: I apologized for having inadvertently misspelled Ardis, but in review I see it was not me but another poster who inadvertently misspelled.

    Proofreading has never been my strong point.

  46. This is an excellent post. I especially learned a lot from the remarks of LB. It’s more obvious to me now that, when single people are infantilized in the church, we are not giving them the credit they deserve for having lived just as many painful years as the rest of us mumblety-something members.

    I have taken a dim view for a very long time, of the way the church culture celebrates All Things Family, too often at the expense of celebrating say, repentance, or the healing balm of the atonement. Or perhaps how many different ways a body can come unto Christ. Which things are needed by all, and available to all who sincerely seek them. Without regard to almost any status, male or female, bond or free, married or single.

    In the words I read up top in the OP, I could see myself in some of the thoughtless attitudes suffered by the single members. I also appreciated the clear-headed way Nicole Hardy’s original points were validated and gently deconstructed for us clueless ones. (For the record, I don’t like judging her. I don’t like judging Ardis or Kaimi or BillofWasilla. I haven’t been assigned to do it, so I’m gonna refuse.) I appreciate LB’s help in navigating the path of good judgement.

  47. What I need in a marriage now is very different than what I needed in a marriage at 19. Wholly different. And it’s not at all about being set in my ways. It’s about needs and direction and life experience.

    And I don’t need a man who thinks he might be good at taking care of a 19 yr old. I don’t need a provider. I need a husband, a partner, a kingdom co-worker.

    I think that of all that LB wrote that I responded to, these lines may be the greatest of all.

    It explains why the teenager-appropriate activities (dances, baseball games, lying on blankets looking at the stars) that are planned for the singles in my ward (all of whom are over 35) miss the mark, and suggests the kinds of activities (genuine service opportunities rather than those that are barely disguised mixers, firesides and discussion groups on gospel and adult social topics) that would be more satisfying.

    It recognizes that we are fully adult and mature in the gospel, something that is missed by leaders who pass us over for meaningful callings and by ward members who think of us as a problem to be solved rather than as a resource to draw on.

    It puts the lie to all the assumptions that single women must be flirting with married men if they talk to them in the halls about something that was said in Sunday School, or that somehow something inappropriate is being prevented by not allowing single women to host missionaries for dinner or to ride with men in cars.

    It looks forward to the lives we still have to live rather than backward to experiences we (or you) think we have missed.

    Mostly it’s a recognition of who we are now, who we have become, what we want and expect from life now. Loved it. Thank you, LB.

  48. Very thoughtful post, Ardis.

    All your points are well taken and those who plan activities for young singles would do well to read them. I can see some dangers in single young women hosting missionaries, due to my own memories in the mission field, particularly involving a just about timed-out senior companion eager to go home who often had us accept being hosted by two beautiful young sisters and while nothing untoward ever happened, it sure did cause some gossip and hard feelings in the community.

    After he went home and I became senior, it took me awhile to undo the damage. Later, at BYU, I dated one of the sisters several times – not ever in search of a relationship, but just because we were friends who got along well and enjoyed each others company.

    My comment on your blog was sincere, by the way. I am happy to find a source with so many historical items – and I LOVE the old photographs.

    My invitation for you to visit my blog remains. As I am most definitely a lapsed Mormon (but still a loving defender of my heritage), you may not like all that you read there, but you might also find me to be a very different person than you have deemed me to be.

  49. I have to admit Ardis, as a person who married relatively late (35), I’d much prefer dances and staring at the stars as a way to meet people. I always found firesides as a way of socializing pretty lame.

  50. Clark, I’m musing over the difference between getting to know someone by standing upright in a lighted room and discussing something while looking him in the eye … versus getting to know someone by lying on a blanket next to him in the dark, or trying to have a conversation with him in a stereo-blasted dance hall, again in the dark, if I even pass muster at the singles dance meat market to get to talk to a man.

    Actually, I’d prefer the long-term service project. But in any case, the lights have to be on!

  51. Julie – I think that you did a great job on this post. I read (as in I didn’t skim) the entire thing.

    I, too, have had the experience of being a single Mormon woman. My experience was a little different – as I was married at a young age, then divorced in my mid-twenties (with two children). Being a single mother was challenging (obviously) in so many ways.

    However, I was inspired by the examples of other single women I knew at the time, and through the history of the church.

    There are many challenges in being single and Mormon, yet there were blessings I experienced that I still hold very dear.

    So – thanks for the post. I feel like you really handled it thoughtfully. -chococatania

    p.s. when I was single, I didn’t feel horribly ostracized. I didn’t live in Utah, and I don’t know if that makes a difference or not. The people in my ward were loving and kind. I didn’t attend the singles ward on Sundays (I did go to activities, though). Most of the people there were open minded about me and my past. I wasn’t afraid, and I didn’t feel judged. Maybe there were people judging me, but I didn’t notice it. I just went on – confident in the life I was living at the time. It was a good experience for me.

    I guess what I’m saying is: I wonder how much of our feelings of being judged are imagined or real.

  52. Catania, I’ve never felt judged for my singleness (well, except on blogs in discussions like this one where it will be terribly easy for someone to respond to my 56 with a remark blaming me for my single status because I haven’t tried hard enough by organizing the kind of activities I’ve identified as adult rather than juvenile) — but I do think we’re very often left out.

    A single woman isn’t being judged for her singleness, for instance, when she is asked repeatedly by multiple families to sit somewhere else because this bench — the whole bench — is needed for a family. A single woman isn’t being judged for her singleness, either, when a ward plans a progressive dinner or small dinner groups but leaves her out with the assumption that she’ll understand and not mind that this activity is for couples only. A single woman isn’t being judged for her singleness when a bishop gives a Fifth Sunday lesson on personal journals, teaching that “everyone” should keep a journal because it’s a duty to “your grandchildren” oblivious to the possibility that everyone won’t have grandchildren. Single women aren’t usually judged, but are often invisible.

  53. Oh, can it, Ardis. Single women are not “invisible” in this church. This is the age of Sheri Dew! Many Relief Societies have stopped holding functions in which husbands are invited just so single sisters don’t feel left out. The church teaches marriage and reinforces family relationships because they are important. Stop being so hyper-sensitive if a large family nudges singles, couples and a few small countries off of “their” bench.

    Honestly, I’m just teasing Ardis. While my wife and I married 15 years ago, we married pretty late by Wasatch Front standards. I learned just a bit of the trials of living the single life as an active LDS. There is some beautiful commentary in this post and in the comments. Hang on folks!

  54. Ardis, I think different people just like meeting people in different ways. There is no one size fits all. Just that in my 30’s I enjoyed going dancing and met lots of people that way. Ditto normal parties. I have to admit that most church functions I never really felt like it was the social situation where I’d ask for someone’s number. I suspect a lot of guys are like that. About the closest I came was hitting on a roommate’s FHE co-partner (he was in a single’s ward still while I was in a regular ward). Of course I guess that worked out since I ended up marrying her. Although our early dates were admittedly dancing and looking up at the stars, for whatever that’s worth.

    Regarding the original thread, while I was pretty frustrated as an older single I never felt marginalized or ostracized. Honestly there’s just inherent structural difficulties in all this. There are no easy answers and I think people want the Church to provide easy answers and get mad when the Church can’t. I’ll even admit that I was mad at times. I think though that part of the problem is how everything fit together when we were younger and as one gets older you lose that more and more. I’m not sure that now as a married couple it fits together any better. It’s that just that you are so swamped with callings, children and just keeping up that you don’t have time to think about it. Whereas when I was single you had huge swaths of time to think about all this. Honestly I’m far less social now than I was as a single in my 30’s. It’s just that now I’m too busy or exhausted to worry about it.

  55. Clark, I believe I am speaking for other singles as well when I say the problem is not that we expect the Church to provide easy answers and get mad when it can’t, but that we are giving the Church easy answers and they are falling on deaf ears.

    As for the remainder of your comment, as a previously-single, previously-married, again-single, working mother, I can say that as a spouse, you have a built-in social structure. You probably don’t even realize it because it is just a part of your life. It is different as a single.

  56. SilverRain, what are the easy answers? I don’t think I’ve seen any real answers anywhere, much less easy ones.

  57. I think the comments, especially in the original post, are for the most part thoughtful and reflect real-world experience. I was an older single in the Church myself (who narrowly avoided being described by a Steve Carell movie title by a mere 10 months). I understand all too well what Ardis describes in #58–possibly well-meaning but probably just clueless actions or words that hurt. I used to absolutely hate couples who would scratch each others’ backs, hold hands in Church, that sort of thing. I do it now myself, not really out of spite, but because I can, and because it was something that I hated mostly because I really, really wanted it.
    Now I’m an EQ president in a ward and have a couple of elders who are older and single, as I was, and I have a hard time trying not to “fix” them–that impulse was something else I hated. Because all I have is my experience, all I can do is relate what helped me the most, and try to minimize their exposure to what helped me the least.
    Service, as Ardis points out, is probably the best thing someone can do, single or not. The older singles ward I met my wife in has an annual auction that raises money for a Sub for Santa fund–the year I was there, they raised $20,000.
    Also, the instruction in that ward was quite simply the best I’ve ever run into in the Church, and it’s mostly because everyone there was fully invested. There are a lot of options, including the option that this post had its genesis in, for single Mormons. Quite a lot of single male Mormons just drop out. Those who stick it out, for whatever reason, tend to know exactly why they stay, and are better not only at explaining it, but living it.
    I’m glad this came up–it’s something I need to keep remembering, and hope I can use whatever influence I may have to try to change things, at the very least in the ward I attend now. I especially like some of the things that LB had to say–I really do think we need a sea change about how we see and how we describe our fellow members.

  58. SilverRain, I spent all but the last six years of my life single, so yes I know alot of what you say. But no, I don’t think there are easy answers here. There aren’t any panaceas. Others like yourself obviously disagree. As for built in social structures, I think it really depends upon what you mean by that. Certainly I have social structure. But then I did when I was single as well. (Arguably a lot more when I was single) Now my social structure is all oriented around doing things for my kids. Which is exhausting.

  59. “Mad.” “Looking for easy answers.”

    I’m concerned that these terms have even come up in a conversation in which I have been taking part. They don’t come from me — they come from the stereotypical assumption by marrieds that singles are definition be “lonely, bitter, maladjusted, highly disagreeable, sour, gay and insane.”

    These terms and worse (can anyone say Adam Greenwood?) are the way T&S threads on singles usually end. And so endeth my participation in this one.

  60. Re #29 Tim “And frankly, although my wife and I don’t always get along, I am in no way “being tested by being married.”

    That’s really grand for you, but of course you are a male who gets a better deal out of marriagse–you aren’t expected to give up your name and career and body (to the ravages of pregnancy and childbirth). Absolutely, I am tested by marriage. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (and I’ve been to grad school, been a single mom, and served in the Army). The constant negotiation can be wearisome.

    I never felt like I fit in at church, despite being married. My husband travels a lot for work, and so I often have to attend church social events alone, or not at all. I have no interest in scrapbooking or quilting, or other things that bring LDS women together.

    The single adults in our stake have a bi-monthly scripture study class that I hear is wonderful. I would love to do that, since I serve in primary and get no adult gospel interaction. I am not allowed because I am not single. So there are plusses and minusses to to every status.

  61. Naiasmith– do you study the scriptures with your husband/kids? Many singles have noone with whom to study scriptures, hence an official study group for singles.

  62. No, I don’t study scriptures with my husband/kids. Like many busy LDS families, we are rarely all home together. Whoever is home at supper reads a scriptural passage, which is not the same as studying.

    I have single LDS friends who live with other single LDS friends, so I am not sure any one status is more prone to that need.

  63. Ardis, I was using those terms because that was often how I did feel while single and older. Especially after getting the boot from my singles ward. Of course I didn’t use gay or maladjusted. But I was indeed often lonely. I’m certainly not saying that’s true of everyone. And in hindsight I probably blew my feelings out of proportion. But I don’t think it bad to simply acknowledge some people feel that way.

  64. Naiasmith, a good idea would be to start a scripture study group open to all adults, or better yet find a way to study with your own family.

  65. I find blogs are a great way to do scripture study myself. Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t do it with our kids. (I need to do better there) But check out Feast Upon the Word. (Sorry for the slight diversion from the main topic – but blogs like that really help my scripture study)

  66. “Naiasmith, a good idea would be to start a scripture study group open to all adults, or better yet find a way to study with your own family.”

    Why is it “better” to do it with my own family? If I am not judging folks for not being married, then why do you get to judge me for wanting an adult scripture study? Scripture study with a 2-year-old is important for teaching them, but does not qualify as scripture study for me:)

    And yes, I agree that the single adult scripture study should have been open to all adults, but they wanted it as their own special place. Were we to start another, it would perforce be all marrieds. Only the younger couples won’t come because they already have a group at the institute.

    Yes, I admire and appreciate the FUW blog, but that’s hardly the same as human interaction.

    And yes, I understand that my husband will not always have a church calling that keeps him away every weeknight except Monday and occasionally Friday. It’s just that it has been so many years that I scarcely remember what that is like.

  67. #63 Eric R.—I wrote a post out of frustration with the effect my efforts had here.

    Clark—Try the kids and being single. That is not the social structure to which I referred, which again indicates that despite your assertions to the contrary, you really don’t fully realize what social structure you have simply by having a spouse. Going from single to married replaces one structure with another. The switch doesn’t work in reverse, believe you me.

  68. SilverRain, my confusing is more about how you are using the term. I’m pretty aware of the relations I’m in. It’s more the communication here that I’m confused upon. It most likely is just the case we’re using words differently. It seems like you just think I’m not saying things right and that therefore I don’t understand my relations. But I rather doubt that to be the case. (I could well be wrong, but since I honestly don’t quite understand how you are using your terms I suspect the issue is at this stage a semantic one)

  69. Of interest perhaps: In the building used for meetings next to the Ogden Temple; there is a room with large glass windows and speakers set aside for mothers. While its been at least 10 years since I’ve been in that building, its interesting to note that some “recognition” of the noise that families can make during stake conferences and large meetings was made, and that the architecture of the building was changed accordingly. Good solution or bad, I couldn’t say. However, it was not a “mothers’ ghetto” and I do recall seeing fathers with children in said “glass noise room” also.

  70. Seeing all the hair-splitting that’s going on with church doctrine here and remembering all too well how sinful and evil I felt as a young adult when I was sexually attracted to someone, I am SO glad I’m gone.

    What hits me especially hard about some of the commenters is the holier-than-thou tack. The gist is, “YOU must not be an active member or attend church regularly, because MY ward never taught that. My experience is clearly superior and yours is invalid.”

    Ugh. This kind of squabbling is what turned me off to religion.

    I’m not in favor of any religion that thinks you’re less “righteous” or “chosen” for something that when it comes down to it, is completely beyond your control. If you’re the last kid picked for the soccer team and everyone else is already paired off, the church (intentionally or not) makes you feel like there is something wrong with you. And I’m sure people 40 or older feel pretty weird hanging out in a singles ward with a bunch of 20-somethings.

    By the by, if we’re all supposed to emulate Christ, how come nothing is mentioned about him having a Celestial marriage with children? (I guess, like many hard questions in the LDS church, this would be answered by the old stand-by “That’s too sacred to talk about,” just like any mention of Heavenly Mother). I’m not saying marriage is bad, nor is having children, I just find it funny that the central tenet of the LDS church is not embodied by Christ.

  71. I’m not sure it’s hairsplitting when someone describes something unlike what they’ve experienced. It’s not always wrong, but when something just seems alien to ones experience it’s unsurprising people question it.

    Regarding Christ having children there are of course old traditions of this. (Indeed those traditions became the basis for that book The Davinci Code) As for why it’s not in the NT it probably just didn’t seem pertinent to the authors and their intentions with those texts. The bigger question is whether we have all the accounts of Christ in the NT. Of course the LDS perspective is we don’t.

  72. I was mostly referring to the disagreement over how grievous a sin not maintaining your chastity was… whether it was right up there just beneath murder. This comment was quite the gem:

    “The church never taught any of the baloney you type here. The church teaches chastity because it *is* important, not because robbing banks and breaking windows doesn’t matter….If drugs and alcohol are your idea of the wonderfulness of mortality, you apparently have already found your bliss. Get back to me someday on how eternal that is, though.”

    Quite charitable and the perfect example LDS people should be setting. Especially the last sentence, which basically says, “I’ll be sipping lemonade in my Celestial mansion while you’re in your lowly Telestial shack.”

  73. Heh, you can drop the sarcasm any time now. The bitter attitude only hurts ya and your high-horse holier-than-thou attitude probably doesn’t make you any friends in the real world. (yes, uncharitable for me to say, but alas, I’m no longer LDS, so I felt zero guilt just then).

  74. But I meant it, Goner. I was wrong to speak to poor ol’ Bill that way. You have shown me exactly why I was wrong. I have indeed profited by your example. Why should you not want me to tell the world what you have done here? Hey, world, Goner has shown me the light!

  75. H.Bob (#64): I think the comments, especially in the original post, are for the most part thoughtful and reflect real-world experience. I was an older single in the Church myself (who narrowly avoided being described by a Steve Carell movie title by a mere 10 months).
    ROFLMREO! I blew past “being described by a Steve Carell movie title”—Ken, while getting his back waxed: “Aaaaaaagh! KELLY CLARKSON!!!”—without even taking my foot off of the accelerator 15 months ago … I’m stubbornly single because—well, honestly, I’m not much of a catch: couldn’t find a job even in a great economy; dunno what I’m gonna do NOW … Oh, well; if push comes to shove, I can keep sucking on the government’s … ummm … female milk-producing organ … indefinitely. (I’m on SSDI.) That’s probably easier than trying to convince an employer I have anything to offer!

    Since we men aren’t supposed to worry about supporting you women, I need a Sugar-Mommy: any volunteers? ROFL, ROFL, ROFL … [Sigh!]

  76. #83–Ardis, your point would be better taken if you could disagree without being disagreeable.

  77. Re: stereotypical assumption by marrieds that singles are definition be “lonely, bitter, maladjusted, highly disagreeable

    I was watching “The Hiding Place” that I ordered from Netflix, with single Corrie Ten Boom, her sister and her father hiding Jews from Germans during WWII. She had a conversation with a disagreeable Jewish man who asked her if she had ever known love. She answered that there WAS once a love, but that she didn’t have the refinement that he was looking for. He asked her about loneliness. She replied that she was not lonely; she had her family and her God. He asked her if that was enough. She answered heartily that it was “MORE THAN ENOUGH.”

    That interchange sticks with me during threads on this topic. I think her attitude was uncommon then, and rare now. Nevertheless, I wonder about the influence of media with the decrease of this type of attitude. Single individuals in this day have full knowledge of the definition of orgasm, the realm of sexual positions, that men seek other men and have sex with them in parks, YMCA clubs, and Adult Book stores. Children who have full access to DirectTV’s diverse offerings probably know much of this before puberty. And you know that I am dated because I haven’t already mentioned the information that is disseminated through cell phones, facebook accounts, etc.

    I’m not saying that we should be blissfully unaware of this information, but I wonder how much more easy it would be to have Corrie’s attitude that our family and our God is ‘more than enough’ if we filled our days with the types of activities that she did during an age when information about what a single person is “missing out on” was not presented in the saturating and alluring manner that it is in our day.

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