“What if you don’t get married until you’re a grandma?” my little niece queried one day. “Isn’t there something you can do?” She wondered why I could not just ask a man to marry me. When I asked her where I might find a man to ask, she said a grocery store would probably be a good place to look.
Many times I have pondered my niece’s innocent question “Isn’t there something you can do?” and wondered if there actually is anything I can do to change my life. I realize marriage is a goal I should work toward. But getting married just so I will not be single anymore is not a sufficient reason for marriage. Instead, my greatest desire is to progress toward eternal life, which will include being married to someone who also has been progressing toward the same goal.
One of the things any Church member—married or single—can do to bless his or her life is to apply the principles and counsel contained in the divinely inspired document “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”1 For some of us single adults, there may be times when the blessings of family life seem distant and unattainable. However, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counseled that we should “live whatever portion of the plan [of happiness] you can.”2 In examining the proclamation from the viewpoint of single adult life, we can learn many principles that will help us find happiness and purpose in our lives.
The proclamation teaches that “all human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.” This statement shows that each individual, regardless of marital status, is a member of a family—God’s eternal family. We are literally His sons and daughters, and consequently, we have reason to be happy.
The proclamation teaches of our inheritance of godly characteristics and of our potential to become like God. This knowledge can help all of God’s children find comfort in the midst of trial. Single individuals in particular can be reassured that Heavenly Father loves them as His precious children, even if they do not presently experience the love of a spouse in a traditional family setting.
When I have felt lonely or concerned about my single status, I try to remind myself that the most important aspect of my identity is that I am a child of God, sent to earth to be tested and to learn patience. The proclamation teaches that as God’s offspring, I “accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life.” President Lorenzo Snow (1814–1901) taught, “If a young man or a young woman has no opportunity of getting married, and they live faithful lives up to the time of their death, they will have all the blessings, exaltation, and glory that any man or woman will have who had this opportunity and improved it.”3 Therefore, singles can still receive all the blessings of eternal life as long as we strive to keep our covenants, live worthily, and serve the Lord and His children.
Another important concept found in the proclamation is that “family relationships [can] be perpetuated beyond the grave” and that the ordinances of the temple “make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.” One of the choicest blessings God has given His children is the opportunity to receive eternal ordinances in the temple for ourselves and then to provide those same ordinances for our kindred dead.
Single adults, although not without demands upon their time, talents, and energy, may have more freedom than married couples in choosing how they will spend their leisure time. One wise use of our time is to attend the temple “as frequently as time and means and personal circumstances allow,” as President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95) admonished Church members.4 Single members of the Church can become more connected to their eternal family doing family history and temple work.
As I have participated in family history and temple work, my love for my own family and my appreciation for my heritage have grown. In addition, I have recognized more fully the fact that this earthly experience is only a brief period in the eternal scheme of God’s plan. I know that I am an integral part of an eternal family that is depending on me to help them receive the blessings of the gospel. As I develop this eternal perspective more fully by working on my family history and attending the temple, my concerns about daily life become less significant and more manageable.
Another important proclamation principle states: “The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”
As a single adult, I am grateful that the prophets again reminded us of the eternal principle of the law of chastity and the importance of children. President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated, “The gift of mortal life and the capacity to kindle other lives is a supernal blessing.” However, he also noted that because of the importance of the procreative power in Heavenly Father’s eternal plan, the adversary has fought against that plan by influencing our society in a “rapid, sweeping deterioration of values … characterized by a preoccupation—even an obsession—with the procreative act.”5
The world teaches that immorality is acceptable. Our society provides a constant barrage of movies, television shows, magazines, books, and other media that portray the procreative act as nothing more than the satisfaction of a physical appetite. Gone is the understanding found in the restored gospel that keeping the law of chastity actually brings great blessings, not the least of which is a pure heart, free of guilt and free from the consequences of sin. As Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy stated: “The power to create new life is given to men and women for a season. … For those who are obedient to eternal law, the procreative power is restored in the Resurrection. For those who are disobedient to righteous principles and are unrepentant, the power is never returned.”6 Each single individual has the challenge to fight against succumbing to immorality. However, the battle can be won, and the blessings of living a chaste life far outweigh any transitory physical pleasures.
The proclamation warns that those “who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.” Church President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) reminded us that “the greatest responsibility and the greatest joys in life are centered in the family, honorable marriage, and rearing a righteous posterity.”7
While most single adults in the Church desire to have a spouse and children, there may be times when we lose sight of this goal. We may need to periodically reevaluate our conduct and desires to ensure that we have not misplaced our priorities on worldly pleasures and accolades. In other words, we may need to ask ourselves if we are spending too much effort on our professions or leisure pursuits such as travel, social activities, or hobbies. While none of those activities are wrong in and of themselves, they should not become the focus of our lives.
Pursuing our ultimate goal of marriage requires a certain amount of time and energy and a willingness to put forth the effort to make possible relationships work. Elder Scott counseled singles not to overlook people who may have great potential, because some desirable attributes “are best polished together as husband and wife.”8
Sometimes we may find ourselves being overly concerned with marriage, an attitude which can lead to feelings of frustration, failure, and loneliness. President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “Do not give up hope. And do not give up trying. But do give up being obsessed with it.”9 We should heed his sound counsel.
As we study the proclamation and become grounded in our faith in Jesus Christ and in Heavenly Father’s plan for His children, we will be able to keep our priorities centered on the family. We can find joy in knowing that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us with a pure love that never fails, even if we do not experience the love of a spouse during mortality.
All people, whether married or single, have the responsibility to live the principles of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” By doing so, we will find great happiness and comfort now and the blessings of eternal life with our families in the life to come.