Tyler Young grew up in Texas where he learned a lot about serving and being a friend to the underdog. He served his mission in Kennewick, Washington, and now lives in Utah. He is passionate about helping youth learn skills to protect against and prevent bullying and serves as the Vice President of R.E.A.C.H., a non-profit that helps educate kids on history, literacy, arts and Anti-Bullying with live interactive programs.
I’ve had this notion running through my head the last little bit. Thoughts that, unbeknownst to me, have been swirling around within me for years. I hope to address such musings in a way that will be beneficial for those who can make a difference. A nice side benefit will be getting it out of my head for my own sanity.
My concern is the manner in which many well-meaning members emphasize eternal marriage and how it can sometimes be harmful to faithful members of the Church. Let me explain.
First off, I am not trying to diminish true doctrine in any way or cry victim for the pain due to my own inadequacies or disappointment at not being married. Rather, I want to see myself and other members of this glorious gospel become better, to become all that I know we can be. I believe this will come through a greater Christ-like attitude which is all I seek to build in myself and others.
I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all my life. I served a full-time mission in the Washington, Kennewick Mission. I have held various callings and met an interesting array of individuals. In all this time, however, I have not yet been privileged with the opportunity to meet my eternal companion.
While I am no longer within the young single adult age range, my words are intended primarily for those who lead that age group. Please note that I do not lump all leaders and members in the Church into this cultural concern. I know there are many who are doing wonderfully at supporting the singles in loving and empowering ways. This article can serve as a reminder that they are using their influence well and is not for them. However, even one leader with a belief that it is their job to get every YSA happily married, can create an environment that is counterproductive to the purposes of the Church and its singles programs.
A Different World
For most of the leaders who oversee this age range, their young single adult years have passed and there have been many wonderful and difficult experiences for them in between. Added to this is the fact that the current singles now live in a very different world compared to the one these wonderful leaders experienced. Of course, this is not to say all the circumstances they went through, and those we now go through, are completely different. Many of the same important choices that challenged them are ones with which we now wrestle. Part of my message is there are differences in how we view and experience life.
An adaptation of Romeo and Juliet I had to watch in high school comes to mind. In this version, the words and dialogue were the same as those written by Shakespeare. The setting, however, was completely different from what was envisioned in the original work. In this version, the events take place in a modern-day city with cars in place of horses and guns in place of swords. While the dialogue and overall message was still the same, the movie had a very different feel based off that modern setting.
This is how I view our experiences. Much of what we say and do is the same as what those more seasoned than us went through, yet the difference in setting and circumstances can make it, at times, seem as if there is little in common.
Looking back on my thirty-one years of life, I have seen many things I was taught that, with hindsight, I realize could have been handled differently. I am fully aware that those practices were done with the best intentions and in many cases with no knowledge or understanding of how such practices could be detrimental.
One such practice is how eternal marriage is discussed with singles. Now don’t get me wrong here, I in no way seek to diminish its importance in God’s plan. Rather, I seek to address how we teach this doctrine and how it affects those of us who have not yet attained this blessing. Additionally, I want to discuss how we believe, as singles, others view us and how we view ourselves.
What is Your View
I have always been taught eternal marriage is an important part of this life. I passionately believe what has been taught. I believe one can only “obtain the highest” level of the celestial kingdom by “entering into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.” That this is true is not in dispute. What I disagree with is how much emphasis is placed on it, particularly for those of us within the young single adult age range and singles in the Church as a whole.
Let me make it abundantly clear that we know this is indeed an important aspect of the gospel and Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness. I also assure you eternal marriage is something most of us want and are working towards. Side note: There are those who don’t want this, for whatever reason, that is ok, and may very well be part of God’s plan for them. These individuals should not be pushed to do something they don’t want. They know how it fits into God’s plan and they are exercising their God given free will to choose not to pursue it. They don’t need “saving”. What they do need is love, acceptance and an opportunity to serve.
The problem arises when both we, the single adults, and you, the married adults, lose sight of the Lord’s timing. I firmly believe that God has a plan for each and every one of us. He knows what will bring us the greatest happiness, what will help us grow the most, and what steps we must take to reach our fullest potential. For some, marriage comes shortly after high school or early in their young single adult years. For some, it comes towards the tail end of their young single adult years and still others, once they have cast off the title of young and are just single adults. Still for others, that blessing doesn’t come until the next life. For every one of us who are doing our part, the timing is right regardless of when it occurs.
God Has Divine Timing
I left on my mission at the age of twenty-one, when most my age were coming home. Some might say I was wrong for waiting, I should have gone at nineteen, or that I must have needed some repentance. To those people I say, judge not lest ye be judge, and now is the time to repent. For me, I was not ready to serve at nineteen. When I did go, I was much better prepared, and I was a much better missionary than I would have been at nineteen. While my blessings of serving a mission did not come until two years after when most receive theirs, they still came. I would not have changed one aspect of my decision of when to serve my mission. Each factor was a needed part of shaping me into the man I was then and am now.
While I am sure there are some who are unmarried who are not looking or are not interested in marriage at the present time, most of us singles are looking and trying. So, what changes do I think would be helpful for leaders to understand?
There are two.
The first is for both sides to have a little patience and trust more fully in the Lord’s timing. It isn’t the end of the world if it takes some of us a little longer to get married. When you believe and communicate this inspired insight to your YSAs, you will be amazed at how things change for both them and you.
The second, is that we need to be more mindful of how we teach and speak of eternal marriage. I have heard countless times of how it is such a blessing, and the untold amounts of happiness that come with eternal marriage. That’s great and I do look forward to that in my own life one day. However, the purpose of the Church’s single programs is not to get folks married, it, like all of the Church’s programs, is to bring people to Christ. Period.
Looking Beyond the Mark
One of the greatest dangers we face in this life is looking beyond the mark. Our mark should always be our Savior Jesus Christ and our relationship with him. Not the relationship we had with Him on our missions. Not the relationship we will have in the second coming when we see Him again, but the relationship we have now.
Additionally, there is a great danger of thinking some yet-to-be-attained future event will bring us happiness. I understand that expressing the joy and happiness of being married is meant to inspire us to date and look more intently for our eternal companion. However, sometimes, such verbiage can give unrealistic expectations and lead to heartache both now and in the future.
I will never forget when I was watching a video on Emma Smith, the wife of the Prophet Joseph, and all she did in her life and the amazing woman she was. Near the end of this video, I found myself thinking, “Wow I want a wife like Emma.” In the next instant I felt a prompting so powerful, intimidating, hopeful, daunting and inspiring all at the same time. The spirit whispered to me, “then you need to be a Joseph.”
I am still working at being a better individual and being the sort of man that could attract an Emma quality woman. I believe this is where the focus of the leaders of YSAs should be, not on whether or not someone is dating or moving towards marriage; rather, on inviting the members to come unto Christ to deepen their connection with Him. In so doing, you will build members who can withstand the fiery darts of the adversary that ensnare many members of this age range. You will give them confidence and a sense of belonging. Then, when other single members see what fine and stalwart members they are and they ultimately date and marry, you will have inadvertently helped them get married.
There Is Value in Every Stage of Life
As you treat us like you would any other member of the Church, you will see miracles both in our lives and yours. Deep down, that is what we want. We want to feel as though we are equals and that there is a place for singles in this glorious Church. Because when the focus is on getting us married, we feel like we are projects or unfinished works that have no value until we are completed.
When you speak of marriage, its joys and wonders, speak also of its hardships, difficulties and the intense amount of work it requires. Speak of how it is all worth it. Speak of the joy you had at being single and the evolution of that joy through dating and marriage. But please do not let us lose sight of the fact there is great joy in our journey now. A spouse is not a magical cure to all of our woes, and I fear that with the current culture it is often treated that way.
No One Wants to Be A Project
I have one final story to illustrate this point. This past summer my singles ward was doing some service in our community. One of the married leaders was there as a group of us were working on clearing and cleaning a small walking path by a lake. Every few minutes this leader remarked on how wonderful it would be to take a date here. He then remarked on the romantic nature of the spot and how this spot provided the opportunity to talk and even hold hands. Everything we did was drawn back to dating.
This repeated subject of discussion was very frustrating for me. I felt as though, in this individuals’ eyes, I was a project that needed to be completed, just like the path. I felt as if he thought we were unintelligent and incapable of remembering on our own that dating was important. I felt that my value in his eyes was only on what I could do to get married. I felt as though he saw me as an incomplete person without a relationship. While dating is talked about a lot in these age groups, it typically does not bother me. I trust in the Lord’s promises and believe that I will eventually find my eternal companion. However, this brother’s comments, while they may have been quite genuine and well intentioned, were the perfect example of the culture I am trying to illustrate in this article and which can harm and demean rather than uplift and encourage.
Had he instead said (once), “Wow I love what we have done here I’ll have to bring my wife for a romantic stroll.” This would have expressed the importance of an eternal companion, suggested a good spot to take a date, and bring that line of thinking to our minds (not that we need to be reminded). What other ways can you think of that would have been a better way to express these points but do so in a healthier way?
In addition, as you work to develop relationships with your young single adult and single adult members, some may come to you seeking dating advice. In those situations, by all means, give them advice, poke them, prod them (provided that’s what they want from you) and encourage them to keep going. Dating and marriage is an extremely personal matter and we need to feel that trust and love from you before we will be open to many of the insights that you are eager to share. With that said, the deeper the relationship, the easier such insights will come to you and the better prepared you will be to help us.
The Worth of a Soul
Remember the scriptures read, “the worth of a soul is great in the eyes of God.”
There is no cavate of, once they are married.
We are all important and of immense value to our Father in Heaven. Our value is not tied to anything outside of our soul, being the literal child of a loving Heavenly Father. He loves us the same whether we are married, dating, single, gay, straight, divorced, widowed, or any other descriptor. All we need to do is try and emulate that love and show each other that we are cared for just the way we are.
I believe your job as leaders of single adult members is not to get us married and not to make us perfect. That’s the Savior’s job.
Your job is simply through understanding and loving words and deeds to invite us to come unto Christ through faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and joyfully enduring to the end.
“This is The Way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.”