Let’s face it: being an unmarried Latter-day Saint is really rough. We are a church focused on marriage and family. Adult church lessons often are taught with the assumption that everybody in the audience is already married. But in every ward I have been in, there are many adults who are not married, and many of them despair of ever getting married.
So, what kind of comfort can we offer these people?
Many Church members do not know that Book 2 of the Church Handbook of Instructions is on-line. In the handbook we find the following:
Faithful members whose circumstances do not allow them to receive the blessings of eternal marriage and parenthood in this life will receive all promised blessings in the eternities, provided they keep the covenants they have made with God.
Notice the word “will.” If you keep your covenants you will receive all “promised blessings” in the eternities. What are the “promised blessings?” The assumption, if you read the handbook, is that you will have your own eternal family.
Similar promises have been made by modern-day prophets. But I thought I would highlight this promise in the handbook. I know many people who feel alone and lonely as they proceed through the years unable to find a spouse and form their own families. I hope this promise in the handbook will bring them comfort.
What do you think?
I’ve also heard this over the years, essentially “Do what you can, and the Lord will make up for the rest.”
But, as Ardis Parshall puts it (not an exact quote, but close)
“You’re essentially telling me I’ll be better off when I’m dead.”
Unfortunately, too many singles take the message “You have to be sealed in the temple to be exalted”, and when they combine it with “I can’t/won’t get married in this life”, and then conclude: “Since I can’t be exalted anyway, I might as well marry a non-member or leave the church.”
However, there’s another teaching that exemplifies that it is not an absolute requirement to have your sealing in this life: those who die before the age of accountability. The scriptures promised them exaltation, and they obviously don’t get sealed in mortality. So there is a way for worthy people to find a spouse and get sealed after mortality.
I originally joined the church back in the early 80’s, and from what I remember reading back then, from the teachings of President Kimble and others of his generation, was that it was better to remain single than to marry outside of the church. I have not heard that repeated since his days.
You will also notice that it says “anyone” rather than just single sisters. So, we not only extend that promise to Ardis and other sisters, but also to the men who have not had the opportunity, either.
I think we can all live very fulfilled lives here, even if we don’t have the opportunity in this life to marry, we can accomplish lots of wonderful things that prepare us for the celestial realm and exaltation. I think God wants to maximize the number who receive exaltation. Not all of us get the chance in this life to check off all the boxes for exaltation. Look at how many tens of thousands of LDS never have had the chance to go to the temple in this life. Look at how many blacks never could go to the temple, simply because they could not hold the priesthood pre-1978. Should we condemn them for marrying outside the temple? I should hope not.
Yet, even though Elijah Abel could not go to the temple, he could serve as best he could. And I can see him sealed to his wife now for eternity.
We check off as many boxes as we can in this life. And we serve, develop our spirituality, and make decisions via the Holy Spirit (such as marrying a non-member), and whatever decisions we make in conjunction with the Lord, he will bless us, regardless of whether we have checked off a box.
I find it not at all comforting. Good to know, but not comforting.
I, for one, have come to terms with the likelihood of never marrying again. I am far happier now than when I was married, and when I was dating. My life it’s now complete in a way it never was when I had a man in my life. And I have decided to go where the evidence takes me. If the Lord ever wants to change my mind, I have faith that He can and will. But I am focusing on far more important things.
Is now complete. Editing on this phone is too difficult.
Oh, and let’s not forget the proxy temple work for all the millions (and eventually _all_ the bazillions) of people who never accepted the gospel in this life. That’s further evidence that there is hope for those who are worthy, even if they don’t get their sealing done in this life. As I see it, if the all-so-important sealing ordinance can be done after one crosses the veil, then the lesser important things like finding someone to be sealed to (and who also wants to be sealed to you) can also be done to.
What are all the rules and exceptions? We don’t know _all_ the rules and conditions and exceptions yet. We’ve only been given a sub-set. But the snippet Geoff quotes from the handbook has been repeated by the brethren often enough, and for long enough, that we can have faith in it.
SilverRain echos a refrain I’ve heard from many singles. The phrase “you’ll get your chance in the next life” is often cold comfort, and sometimes even feels offensive and dismissive. Singles don’t want to sit at the back of the bus in this life, without the respect and blessings everyone else enjoys, patiently waiting around for their opportunity in the next life which will finally give them the respect and blessings they crave.
I think what singles would rather hear is, “Your life has meaning and purpose today, not just in the next life.” Life today can be just as joyful and blessed for a single as it is for a married person. Everyone’s circumstances are different, but God’s spirit and love for us is the same, and can be enjoyed by anyone who turns to Him and follows His plan for their lives. It’s good to know that things will be nicer and more fair in the next life, but who cares? Life is for today.
Julie Beck, actually has said the most enlightening thing on this topic I ever heard from the church:
“No one is better positioned than you to work in temples, serve missions, teach the rising generation, and help those who are downtrodden. The Lord needs you.”
This is a rare and wonderful admission coming from a church authority. Singles actually are better positioned on many fronts to serve in the church than married folks. Yet they are routinely ignored, passed up for callings, and relegated to a culturally maligned status.
How ironic that an apostle of the Lord once had this to say about singles: “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I (single). But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.” 1 Cor 7
The apostle Paul celebrates the special status and position of singles in the church. They are unique, they are especially positioned to serve the Lord, even more than those who are married. IF they want to get married in the next life, fine, they can. But that’s a long way off. No sex is going to be happening till after the resurrection, and that doesn’t happen until after the 2nd coming, which could be in who knows how many decades or even centuries. But why spend a life pining after the resurrection when there is a life to live today?
I might add that just the thought that I need comfort for my single status is kind of ludicrous to me. Considering the nature of my married life, and considering the lack of any prospect that offers much improvement on my current life, I would say there are several married people I can think of who are in more need of comfort than I.
Not only is this cold comfort, but it’s impossibly vague. What are “all blessings”? The one thing most singles I know ask is: Does that include sex? Because if it doesn’t, I’d rather use it than lose it. Face it: no one knows what happens after we die. Nope; not even the leaders. Why take this gargantuan gamble? President Kimball was known to have strongly discouraged marriage outside the temple, except for when it was geographically (like transcontinentally) impossible. It was he who initiated that ridiculous story about the newlyweds killed in a car crash after their non-temple wedding and woe be into them for not valuing the temple enough. I call BS.
It’s unfortunate that our marital status places such a heavy burden on some of us. I know people who have left the church or have stopped coming to church because they are single (never married,divorced, widowed) and do not feel welcome. And that, to me, is just plain nuts.
Interesting how repeating Church doctrine can bring out so many negative comments. SR, as for providing comfort, I would suggest you talk to any bishop or bishopric member and ask them about the state of happiness of the majority of single Church members in their 30s and 40s. They will tell you this is a major problem area for members. Does this mean you cannot find happiness as a single member? Definitely not, and Nate’s comment #6 shows the many ways that single members can serve in capacities that married people cannot. Just to use one example, in our stake many single members spend a lot of time at the temple, which frankly is an extremely difficult thing for many married people with small children to accomplish.
There is a difference between “providing comfort” and “implying that you are not happy if you are not married.”
That may be true, Geoff, about the singles not being happy. But I find it ludicrous. Silly. Ridiculous. It’s vaguely reminiscent of that line in Ever After, “If you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners corrupted from infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded, sire, but that you first make thieves and then punish them?”
If we misinterpret the doctrine of eternal marriage and families, making the people of the Church focus on outward appearance over inward value, and then “comfort” them when they are then sad because they don’t meet those misinterpreted, surface-deep “doctrines,” then what is to be concluded but that we make the depression and then try to “comfort” people out of it. THAT is why so many singles find this “Church doctrine” (which it is not, I might add) condescending and cold comfort.
Being married is not the same thing as being eternally married. I know many married people who are much farther from the doctrine of eternal marriage than some singles. In face, some singles (such as myself) CHOOSE to remain unmarried rather than enter into a marriage which, irregardless of temple sealing, is less than eternal.
And let me clarify one thing. While I do believe that faith in the Lord and His ability to grant blessings to the faithful, including the blessing of eternal marriage, is certainly doctrinal, it is not doctrinal that this applies merely to singles in a way to be rendered “comfort.”
This applies to ALL people, married or single. Being sealed in the temple is no guarantee of eternal marriage. Believe me, I have discovered this for myself.
I was an older single gal at one point. I’d been in and out of singles wards for 10+ years before I got married. I feel that I went thru all of the emotions, heartaches, ups and downs that a single member of the Church can go thru. My thoughts in no particualr order:
1–Church is what you make it. You can choose to sit and feel sorry for yourself, or get out and live your life. I spent far too much time feeling sorry for myself and allowing myself to feel guilty from well meaning but misguided church leaders in regard to dating and socalizing (which I think even a singles ward bishop has no business bugging people about.) I say this as a person who was an older single, then as a person who went thru similar feelings and a similar journey as my husband and I navigated the waters of infertility. We had to make similar choies to be happy when we didn’t know if we could have biological children.
2–When I decided to just live my life on my terms in reagard to my single status, life was much better. I wanted to be content and gave it over to God. I remember very well a prayer that I said and just told the Lord that if he wanted me to be married he’d have to take care of it because I was done trying and that I was going to go and be happy. But, isn’t that what life is anyway? Giving it over to the Lord and trusting him. What were my terms? I decided to just go to church and try to learn the Gospel, serve in my callings, serve in my family, enjoy my family, enjoy my job and do the best I could at what ever I was doing. I was no longer going to feel guilty in the eternal marriage lessons in RS. I was no longer going to whine and complain about dating and I was not going to let others’ opinions determine my happiness….oh, and I was also not going to shy away from kindly correcting well meaning, but stupid comments from people about being single — even when that person was the bishop of the ward.
3–Lamenting over: not having a boy/girl friend, being sexually active, having an active dating life etc, etc, etc…is a WASTE OF YOUR TIME. Quit wasting time and get out and live ilfe. Living life and enjoying what you have will make you a happier person in the end.
4– I do have an absolute testimony of obeidence to commandments, coventants and staying faithful. I really do believe in the promise that if we are faithful we will have all blessings granted to us — in the Lord’s time. The Lord will always have our best in mind…he wants us to be happy, he gives us trials to make us stronger and better people, if we let that happen. In my single days, when I was truly striving to do what was right, I was happier and more blessed.
5–I would highly recommend to any single brother or sister, to jump out of the singles ward and attend a family ward for a while. You might like what you find there…the opportunites for service and growth are endless. And you never know who you will find in a family ward…that’s how met my husband, by going to my home ward with my parents.
Finally, it does no good to make snide comments to people who are single. Instead of asking “Are you dating anyone?” I’d suggest asking “Tell me what you are doing these days?” “What adventures have you been up to lately?”. There is more to life than a person’s dating/marital status. Each of us has so much to give…focus on that, building up people, highlighting the good they do, and not focusing on what they seem to lack.
Wow, Joyce, great comment. I especially like your suggestion in the last paragraph. I have to admit I have asked some single people about their dating, and in retrospect it would have been better to ask about their life adventures.
I don’t think promises of eternal blessings should ever be deemed as “comfort”. No matter what the subject; marriage, children, family sealings, etc., such a promise does nothing to change the longing and desire for things to be better now (when such desire even exists).
The problem is when we use things like marriage, children, and even temple attendance as easy “checkboxes” we can use to determine the faithfulness of others. We ignore the fact that though we each have a part in determining these things in our lives, most of it is out of our hands. For some people, the judgement of others ranges from the self righteous, (you’d be able to have children if you were just more righteous), to the cold “comfort” given by those who have to those who have not, (don’t worry, you’ll get it in the eternities).
I’m glad the doctrine exists that our attainment of blessings is not limited to this life, but we should never use it to try and placate those who desire to have those blessings sooner, rather than later.
“Comfort” is perhaps a matter of semantics in English. The word comfort in this sense is I believe meant “Hope”.
As I have thought about this more, I think I have come up with a better way of explaining just what I find so troubling about all of this.
My life now is not “really rough.” My life was “really rough” when I was married to someone I was afraid of, when I could feel the blessings of an eternal marriage slipping through my fingers because of the choices made by my spouse. When I felt compelled to run defense on his behalf to ward members and others. When I was miserable and thought it was all my fault, some intrinsic failing in me. THAT is when I needed “comfort.” That is when the blessings of eternity seemed utterly out of reach.
By comparison, my life is full of joy, hope, and light NOW. Not when I was married. And there are a great many temple-sealed people who are in the same boat as I was when I was married. I made the choices I did to become single out of a complex mix of lack of other acceptable choices and guidance by the Holy Spirit. I am so much happier than I was then.
And while I still hold onto a belief that not all marriages are that way, and not all relationships between men and women are the way mine have been, also I have had no personal experience to support that belief. Even those few relationships I have had with men I respected left me feeling used and worthless. Which has left me with a burning desire to stay single until I can find a man who can value me as a person, and not solely for the functions I can provide him. Since I believe that the largest part of why I end up as the value equivalent of a used tissue reside in my personality, in things I can’t change, I truly believe that I can come closer to the Lord single than I can married.
While there may be a person who changes that belief in the future, and I believe in a God of miracles, I have not locked the door on marriage. But I am not operating under the misguided illusion that marriage solves ANY problem, or makes life ANY easier on its own merits.
In regard to my last paragraph, Geoff, there are two expeiences that I had that inspired that feeling in me.
1– At a family gathering, one of my crazy Great-Aunt Ruths (and don’t we all have a crazy Great-Aunt Ruth? I have two — lucky me!), came up to me and said, “Looks like you have the same problem as my Granddaughter.” “Oh what’s that?” “Well you’re not married!” Deep breath! “So, what you’re telling me is that I should just go out and get married to the first guy that comes along, even if he doesn’t have a temple recommend, just so I can be married?” She thought about it for a second and then said, “I guess you’re right. Men are hard to take care of, better have a good one then.”
2– At another family gathering (My Big Fat Mormon Family!!)…I asked a cousin who I had not seen in some time how he was doing. He responded rather defensively, “I’m not dating anyone.” I just looked at him and said, “That’s not what I asked you. I asked you, how you were doing. I could care less if you’re dating anyone.” He softened at that and we had a nice catch up.
So, another point…..being married is GREAT! I love it. However, it’s not the end all be all — It’s the start of a part of your life, and I agree with who ever said it upthread, that sometimes I think we look at it like a box to check off our lists of things to do, instead of really just taking the time to live and learn and enjoy our lives. Who we are should not depend our our marital status. I think, sadly, a lot of kids rush into getting married in the LDS Church, because it’s the cultural expectation, without any thought to ETERNITY, what marriage is really about (it’s not playing house), kids and all of their issues and so on. It is important I think for single people to have marriage as a goal, but also to not get so hung up on it they feel like failures.
We are all loved children of God, no matter what. Everyone has something to offer — be it single, married, in the family, to the ward, to a community etc. I know all of this might sound really cheesy and really “standard answer”, but it’s true. Make the most of whatever situation you’re in right now.
I would like to point out that the Holy Ghost is the Comforter. Comfort can mean a lot of things — hope, happiness, joy, helping people feel the Spirit and plain old providing a shoulder to cry on. President Monson provided comfort to a lot of widows, as we know. All he did was go visit them and help them with various issues. Part of the duty of Church members is to comfort each other. Everybody needs comfort at times — I am happily married but I often need comfort. You should see me after a bad meeting at work or when my kids scratch the car with the rocks trying to “clean” it. I definitely need comfort then.
Offering comfort is not saying, “oh you poor pitiful person, I am superior to you, so I am helping you.” Good people offer comfort in any way they can. Christ offered comfort, the prophets offer comfort, and the Comforter offers comfort. I don’t see it as a negative to offer comfort. This does not mean that anybody reading this actually needs it, but I personally know of dozens of people in my personal life who are in their thirties, unmarried and unhappy about it. Joyce makes an excellent point that one of the best ways you can offer a single person comfort is by not making everything about their being unmarried, which only makes them feel worse. But I also have close friends who often bare their souls to me, expressing how they wish they were married but cannot find the right person. These people are definitely looking for the kind of comfort mentioned in the Church handbook.
SR, I think all of us would agree that being single is much better than being in a bad relationship. Many of us have been there, including me. And yes, a year after my divorce (when I was 25), a mbr of the stake presidency called me to repentance for not getting married! Silly me, for not rushing into things….
While I understand the desire for many to have a close relationship, sex, etc., I think we tend to make these things bigger than they really are, simply due to expectations, both in and out of the Church. In this world, we have couples that cannot have children, people living in abject poverty, suffer from terminal illnesses, addicted to a variety of things, etc. I currently am counseling several couples in one of our stake’s units, who are struggling with marriage after decades of unhappy marriage!
I would much rather live this life single and no sex than to be like billions on earth wondering where their next meal will come from, or ducking from decades-long war, or never even getting a grade school education.
Sometimes, as Joyce noted, we have to quit having ourselves at the center of the universe, quit pitying ourselves, and do what we can to make for a fulfilling life. Many live wonderful lives without marriage in the temple, without children, without sex, or without many other things. Let’s not spoil it with our being spoiled, or by insane expectations the Church members place upon each other….
I’m not single and haven’t experienced the death of a spouse. I only speak for myself here and don’t suggest that someone “ought” to do what I say. If something happened to my spouse, I would do my best to find someone to marry, not someone to make me happy, but whom I could help make happy. I think since I was married young, I was married while I was practically “too stupid” to know better (or just being guided by the spirit without my realizing it). Not that I made a poor choice by any means, but I didn’t really approach the relationship as analytically as some of my friends who married later in life did. Looking back now, I think if I had waited another 4-5 years, I probably would have been on that epic LOTR-like quest to “find the right person” to give a ring to.
But now with the benefit from experience of having been too stupid to know better (or serendipitously guided by the spirit), I can look back and see how I hope I would act moving forward if something terrible ever happened to my wife. I really do hope that I could find a good person who was striving to live the gospel and then do the best I could to love them and make them happy as their companion.
And I thank this post for helping me to formulate those thoughts, because most importantly, it helps me to realize what my behavior and actions should be today, with the woman I cherish as my best friend right now.
Geoff, I see your point. I guess what I’m asking you (in general, not specific) to examine is WHY they are unhappy. Sure, a part of it is probably loneliness. But I wager a large chunk is people feeling like they have no value in the Church of God without a spouse. Neither one of those lacunae are soothed by being told that in the next life, you’ll get an eternal spouse. If anything, it exacerbates the pain by pointing out that 1) you have little chance of getting it in THIS life, so you’re stuck being lonely for the foreseeable future, or suggesting 2) that you really aren’t worth anything now, but in the great unknown after death, you may be worth something (which is what Joyce is touching on with her suggestions.)
The truth is that everyone feels lonely sometimes, even within a marriage. I personally believe that it is part of our separation from God. Another truth is that singles are worth just as much as their married peers in the Kingdom of God, with a completely equal opportunity to be exalted. Rather than “comforting” them about their marital status, tell them they are needed and wanted just as they are, and demonstrate that by putting them to work in the Kingdom. That’s mostly what any of us who love the Lord really want, anyways, isn’t it?
Rameumptom, that is a great portion of my point.
Chris, that is a great attitude.
Sometimes I wonder, however, if we place far too much store on “being happy” or “making happy” in marriage. Is that really what an eternal union is ultimately about?
But that is another discussion for another time, I suppose.
SR, excellent comment. Can you give some specific examples of how people could do the right things with their unmarried friends? Joyce gave the excellent example of not always bugging them about when they are getting married. Ask them about their lives, the adventures they go on, etc. What would you suggest? Also, how should members of bishoprics deal with this issue (if at all)?
I would suggest wiping marital status off our lenses and replacing it with discipleship.
And bishoprics could try to guide other people in that direction as well.
“Can you give some specific examples of how people could do the right things with their unmarried friends?”
It’s like single people are some other species. Like they’ve been arriving from Mars in unexpected numbers. How do we handle these new creatures? Will they want food? Do they sleep, like we do? Will they want clean towels? Would they like to be reminded that they don’t come from among us? How tough is it to understand that they do not want to be treated differently because they are not fundamentally different. They will want to be seen, as near as possible, as all the things they are, which set of things is the same as any person might contain. Marital status says virtually nothing about a person – not their strengths, weaknesses, past or future.
Goodness Mormons are weird.
I <3 Thomas. You made me laugh. 🙂 Perfectly said.
Thomas Parkin, if only all people were as flawless and perfect as you, then no guidance of any kind would ever be needed. But alas we live in a fallen world where many people fall short of your so obviously superior behavior. In the meantime, please excuse those of us who are lesser creatures who may sometimes offend without intending to. We are hoping to make ourselves better while trying to find empathy and understanding – while we strive to be as perfect as you. Thank your for your exalted example.
Wow, Geoff, I took Thomas’ comment as smart satire, not an expression of his superior worth or behavior. I can testify that if you replace the word “single” with “divorced” in his comment that it beautifully describes my church experience since getting divorced.
I wonder if the Mars 1st Ward has any room in the elders’ quorum? Maybe I’d be happier there.
Well, as a divorced person, I can tell you that I haven’t suffered even a raised eyebrow — ever. But I do accept the fact that others have gone through tough times. People can be jerks sometimes — that is certainly true if you read comments from Mormons on Mormon blogs.
The whole purpose of this post is to try to provide “comfort” (the much-maligned word) to people who may be going through tough times. I don’t see how Parkins’ snarky comment provides comfort to anybody. It comes across to me exactly as I said in #28. People are often thoughtless and unkind without meaning to be. Perhaps we should give them the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming that all people have bad intentions? Just a thought.
Geoff – “People are often thoughtless and unkind without meaning to be. Perhaps we should give them the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming that all people have bad intentions?”
Reminds me of a favorite saying: “If you want to be at peace with the world, here’s what you should do. When you judge others, look at what they intended to do. When you judge yourself, look at what you’ve actually accomplished. This attitude is bound to keep you humble. By contrast, if you judge others by their accomplishments (which are usually shortfalls) and yourself by your intentions (which are usually lofty), you will be an angry, despised little man.”
– Guy Kawasaki
Minam, good point. There is probably something there we all could learn, including and especially me. 🙂
Sorry for not being gentler, Geoff. I don’t doubt that your heart is in a good place. I consider your question to be symptomatic of the problem it means to address. I did my best to demonstrate that. It wasn’t meant to be addressed at you.
I assure you that I am not a very good person, and I don’t pretend to be. There is something to be said for letting one’s feelings come through. We’re all grownups.
Yeah, my response was a bit over-the-top also. Sorry about that. It’s funny how when you first write something it seems brilliant, witty and pithy and then when you see it five hours later it seems just mean-spirited, which is not at all what I intended.
Look, I really do think this is a problem for Church members: as I say in the beginning, we are a marriage-oriented church, yet we have all these single people who we want to feel comfortable, but many of them don’t. In SR’s case, she has moved to a happier place, and that is great, but many haven’t and are struggling with this issue. And because most people are well-intentioned they will say things like, “Hey, how’s dating going for you?” not realizing how incredibly hurtful that can be. And in Paul’s case, there might be people saying things about divorced people that are insensitive (and believe me I worried about that when I got divorced, but in my case it hasn’t happened). Anyway, the spirit of this post was meant to be, “wow, isn’t it great that there is some hope in the eternities,” but it mostly turned into a grumble-fest, which frankly I find pretty frustrating. Is there a way to discuss this issue without making people even unhappier? The answer of this post would appear to be “no,” or perhaps the answer is a completely different approach. I dunno.
You did ask what people thought. The answer to a misconception of marriage which causes some people pain is not to comfort the hurting one as much as it is to not cause the pain in the first place by misunderstanding the doctrine. That is what I was trying to say. Not that trying to comfort others is bad, but that it is vastly better to focus on the root of the problem. If you try to accomplish the first without the second it comes across as condescending.
Joyce had some great advice, so positive and I appreciated her advice on asking a single person more about life and not about dating. I think many in the church think of life as a single line — with a beginning and an end — but when you think about it, eternity has no beginning and no end, and can indicate that this life is not all there is. I believe we have many lives, many experiences to go through before we ever reach that ultimate celestial kingdom. The idea that this life is your one chance to reach that goal, would mean very very few will do so.
The promise that we’ll be reunited with our loved ones in the resurrection may be cold comfort for those facing the stark realities of bereavement. However, it is doctrine, and the scriptures teach that the resurrection brings those who follow Christ hope. Those who worship Christ and bring Him into their lives do find the doctrine of the resurrection a source of hope, comfort, and peace. Imagine if someone said, “We shouldn’t teach the doctrine of resurrection and reunion of families, because it doesn’t dull the sharp, immediate pain of bereavement.”
Those who do not find someone with whom they can build an eternal relationship with in this life will have the opportunity in the next. That is church doctrine, and although it may feel like cold comfort to those who suffer from acute loneliness in this life, it is nonetheless truth. And like the doctrines of the resurrection, post-mortal conversion, ordinances by proxy, etc., I believe it is meant to be a source of comfort. To say that we should stop teaching it because it doesn’t adequately address the loneliness that single Latter-day Saints feel would be similar, in my mind, to saying that we should stop teaching the doctrine of the resurrection because it doesn’t adequately assuage the pain felt by the bereaved.
Those who do not find someone to build an eternal relationship with in this life, either because they were never able to find someone willing to build that relationship with them (even if they marry a spouse who is subsequently unwilling to build an eternal relationship), are not excluded from the highest degree of the Celestial kingdom as a result. Cold comfort? Maybe for many. But should we stop teaching it? And should we stop teaching marriage as a prerequisite to exaltation? No, never.
Thanks, LDSP. Phew, what a relief to read a comment like that. It brings me comfort.
LDSP, it is true that the doctrine of the Resurrection does bring comfort. Without it, death would be almost unbearable. It is one of the most beautiful of all doctrines of the church. I love what Gustav Mahler says in the Resurrection Symphony:
O believe, my heart, O believe:
Nothing to you is lost!
Yours is, yes yours, is what you desired
Yours, what you have loved
What you have fought for!
You were not born for nothing!
Have not for nothing, lived, suffered!
What was created
What perished, rise again!
Cease from trembling!
Prepare yourself to live!
But we sometimes lose sight of this promise in the pain of the moment.
Yes, there is a problem with not teaching a doctrine because it is insufficiently comforting.
I wasn’t saying we should stop teaching it. I was saying that we should not misunderstand it as a singles only doctrine. It applies just as well to the thousands of LDS in a non-eternal temple-sealed marriage.
And that it is extremely condescending to share it with singles in an attempt to tell them they shouldn’t mourn.
Just as it’s condescending to tell a bereaved person that they shouldn’t mourn the loss of a loved one because they will see them again in the post-mortal life.
But I don’t think most people do either.
The pain of bereavement usually fades with the passage of time (except perhaps near the anniversary markings of a loved one’s passing). I’ve got most of my “boxes checked”, so I can only say this from observation, but it seems like the issues singles deal with do not fade with the passing years.
Jessica, you are right. The pain that many feel at the prospect of never marrying, or building an eternal relationship with the person to whom they’re married, is one that often never fades with time. This is, for example, one of the challenges that some who struggle with same-sex attraction face.
Many have said that although a good God might take a loved one from us, He would never permit someone to spend their life without an opportunity to build a family with a loved one. And therefore, the doctrine that prohibits same-sex marriage must be false, or compassionately changed. Because it isn’t “compassionate” to believe in a doctrine that implies that some among us might never receive a blessing in this life that others might receive.
But this is the case for many of us in other ways. Children, for example, are a blessing that some receive and others don’t. And that decision is God’s discretion. There are many blessings in life that some receive that others don’t. Fortunately, none of those blessings (like an eternal marriage) are things that must happen in this life in order to receive exaltation. Cold comfort for those who experience it, because even if they never fear that exaltation is outside their grasp, they just want the love and companionship in this that those who do marry experience. Marriage is one of those, and for some who experience same-sex attraction, they face the prospect of potentially never marrying in this life. And that’s painful, and there’s little one can say or do to ease that pain. But sometimes painful answers are the truth. And more importantly, sometimes God asks us to do things that are hard. Very hard. We need to do better and finding ways to reach out to those who experience these trials and provide a support for them.