A sister shares insights about living a full, rich life as a single member of the Church.

During this year of celebrating the legacy of the pioneers, I have thought much about being a pioneer, enduring faithfully to the end. In a way, my experience as a single person (I was divorced almost a decade ago) has some parallels to the experiences of the pioneers. Certainly I’m not pulling a handcart across the plains, but I have learned much about living a rich, fulfilling life in the face of adversity.

As it did for the pioneers of old, the gospel of Jesus Christ has guided me and helped me as I’ve journeyed toward my destination—exaltation with a loving Father in Heaven. Following are my “single lessons”—just a few things I’ve learned, as well as pitfalls to avoid, as a single member of the Church.

  • Stay close to Heavenly Father. We need to pour out our hearts to him about how we are feeling but should not expect him to always tell us what to do or to always provide immediate answers to our prayers. We are to ponder our problems in our minds, coming up with possible solutions we can then present to him (see D&C 9:7–9).

  • Stay involved in ward activities. We shouldn’t isolate ourselves. It is sometimes difficult to attend meetings and ward activities when we feel alone. But as soon as we arrive, we’re no longer alone! (see Eph. 2:19). Remember, it is not just the responsibility of others to greet us; we have a responsibility to greet others as well.

  • Maintain a close relationship with immediate and extended families. Spend time with our family members when possible, be involved in their lives, offer support and love in all they do, and invite them to be a part of our lives (see D&C 130:2). But we must not depend on our family for all our social life. If we have children who are married, we should remember it is the natural order of things that they establish their own homes and enjoy activities with their own immediate family and friends. We can be sure they understand that we love to be included but that we don’t always have to be a part of their plans. Also, when we invite them to our homes, we shouldn’t make them feel uncomfortable if they already have other plans.

  • Develop a circle of friends. I am part of a wonderful group of women who get together once a month to have dinner and discuss families, work, travel, books, movies, concerts, and any other topic that comes up. Some of the women are married; most are single. They are a great source of wisdom, love, and support.

  • If you are harboring feelings of anger or bitterness toward a former spouse, start today to eliminate those feelings. Bitter feelings serve absolutely no useful purpose; indeed, they serve only to poison our soul and impede our progress. Our Heavenly Father will sort out all things, including hurtful relationships. Our responsibility is to forgive everyone, not to deliberately hurt anyone, and to show the pure love of Christ to our fellowmen (see D&C 64:10).

  • Decorate for the holidays. I guarantee that it does wonders for our emotional state if we decorate our homes, invite loved ones over for refreshments and activities, and attend Christmas productions and activities. Last year I was hanging mistletoe from the light in my entryway when my daughter entered. She looked at the mistletoe, then looked at me and said, “Hope does spring eternal!”

  • Don’t dwell on disappointments and hurts. We all have emotional lows now and then, but this isn’t the exclusive province of singles. We shouldn’t pretend that low moments don’t exist, but we should keep them from becoming a way of life. When we’re having a bad day, one of the best ways to get past those lows is to perform a small act of kindness or service for someone else (see Mosiah 2:17).

  • Don’t sit around waiting for someone to fill your time. Remember all the things you were going to do when you found the time? Well, this is a great time to take a religion class, do family history, increase temple attendance, write a personal history, start a reading program, do some traveling, or develop a hobby—to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27).

There are those of us who are single and who would very much like to be married. President Gordon B. Hinckley has counseled singles to live happy, moral, productive lives and not be intense about getting married (see “A Conversation with Single Adults,” Ensign, Mar. 1997, 58–63).

Ultimately, salvation is an individual quest. The love and support of family, friends, and Church leaders are important, but in the end we will be judged by our individual commitment and adherence to gospel principles.

One of my favorite quotations, from “The Visiting Teacher,” states: “As we build our faith in Jesus Christ, we are better able to cope with our challenges. And because we enjoy greater stability in our lives, we have more strength to help others who struggle with their own challenges. As we do so, we find ourselves becoming more like the Christlike beings our Heavenly Father wants us to become. … There is no guarantee of overnight results, but there is absolute assurance that, in the Lord’s time, solutions will come, peace will prevail, and emptiness will be filled” (“The Rock of Our Redeemer,” Ensign, Dec. 1996, 65).

Our Heavenly Father lives. His Son is our Savior, Jesus Christ. They are mindful of us. They want us to have everlasting joy. As we celebrate this beautiful season of the year, let us dwell on our spiritual status rather than on our marital status.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh

Irene E. Dearden is a Gospel Doctrine teacher in the Moss Hill Ward in the Bountiful Utah Central Stake.