The Single Years: A Burden or a Gift


It seems that one of the unintentionally best kept secrets in the Church is that a multitude of unique blessings and special opportunities are available to single members.

In our anxiety to marry, we can easily neglect the many unique opportunities to prepare ourselves, not only for marriage, but for eternal exaltation.

As a single, thirty-three-year-old convert to the Church, I have often been impatient for fulfillment of the temple marriage promised in my patriarchal blessing. Yet, in the eight years since my baptism, I have become increasingly aware of and grateful for the special blessings that come to faithful single members.

We have time and the privilege to spend it as we wish. But we are also accountable for the manner in which we utilize that priceless gift of time. As single Church members, we can either bemoan our single status and live on the edge of desperation, or we can use this interim period in our lives as a time of active, creative waiting. I am firmly convinced that how we spend this time has critical importance for both our present and ultimate happiness as well as our eternal progression.

An initial consideration is the question of career or occupation. I have often been asked, “Should a single Latter-day Saint woman involve herself in the type of career that requires heavy time commitments and costly, extensive education?” My feeling is that to generalize is to err. Some women find great satisfaction in meeting the challenge of a demanding career. As a medical school professor and diagnostic specialist, I find great personal fulfillment in the service of others. I enjoy the deep satisfaction of pinning down a particularly elusive diagnosis. Through prayer and priesthood blessings, I have also received a comforting, personal reassurance that what I am currently doing is pleasing in the sight of the Lord.

However, such a demanding, time-consuming career may not be the answer for many or even most women in the Church. I have to confess that the greatest, most lasting joys in my life derive not from my somewhat unusual occupation, but from quiet, anonymous acts of compassionate service. As singles, we have time to learn the secrets of becoming a great blessing in the lives of others. It is all too easy to be so concerned with our own needs and problems that we become spiritually deaf to the cries and heartaches around us. With the aid of a willing bishop or Relief Society president, we can learn who in the ward needs a hot tureen of soup, a lawn mowed, or some sympathetic company. A loaf of warm bread or a freshly baked pie left on the doorstep will surprise and cheer a confined person.

Never will our time be so unencumbered as now. We have time to take an institute class or home-study course. We have time to begin and follow diligently a personal scripture-study program. The self-discipline thus developed will make us useful for the remainder of our lives.

We have time to become widely read if we will but seek out of the best books.

We have time to develop a variety of talents and interests. During my medical training, I didn’t have a very generous income. One year, I decided to make all of my Christmas presents myself. Searching for ideas, I bought a paperback book on batik (the art of dyeing designs on fabric). To my delight and surprise, I discovered an undeveloped artistic talent. The art gallery owner who framed the batiks I had made for presents liked them so much he invited me to produce a one-man show! With brisk sales from the show and subsequent commissions, I not only supported myself during my residency but saved enough for a partial down payment on a house.

We have time to begin that long-overdue genealogy. My brother—who is also a convert—and I dutifully began the data-gathering process and were delighted to discover an entire new source of joy and excitement. Now the entire family is involved in collecting old photographs, tracing records, and constructing our family tree.

The great satisfactions of regular, diligent Church service cannot be over-estimated. I am a member of the Sunday School general board, yet I also experience great joy in serving as a ward Sunday School teacher.

We have time to get in good physical condition. I ski, play tennis three days a week, and jog with my golden retriever dog. The joyous exhilaration of strenuous regular exercise will uplift the spirit and emotions as well as streamline the body.

We have time to get involved with families in our ward or branch, becoming a friend to younger children. I am invited to (and eagerly anticipate) baseball games, piano and violin recitals, Christmas plays, swimming parties. By the force of our own example, we can quietly encourage our young friends to follow gospel principles as they reach toward adulthood.

We have unencumbered, quiet time to spend with our Father in heaven. I cannot overestimate the impact fasting and prolonged prayer have had in my life. After reading the book of Enos, the course of my life changed abruptly when I, too, decided to approach the Lord in extended prayer. The results were startling. Not only did I receive direct personal guidance for my current and future life, but I gained an unshakable testimony of the Lord’s special love and concern for my well being.

But what can we do when those inevitable moments of loneliness or discouragement creep in? Earlier this month, I experienced one of my rare, brief periods of depression. The loneliness I felt was almost unendurable. The neighbors were home and—as I had done so many times in the past—I sought the comforting warmth of their friendship. I was uplifted through the loving concern of these cherished friends and neighbors and discovered a simple truth: In our hours of need, there are loving hands around us to uplift, strengthen and assist us. Look around. I promise you they are there.

And when discouragement weighs heavily, look around again. Recognize discouragement for what it is: one of Satan’s subtlest yet most devastating tools. He would convince us that we are unworthy of respect or affection, enticing us to wallow in the mire of self-pity. I have found that a sure cure for depression is to realize someone out there needs me. In blessing someone else, my needs and problems are quickly consumed in the warm glow of knowing that I have brightened another’s life and that what I have done is pleasing to the Lord.

Let us then rejoice in this precious treasure, time, and thank the Lord for a special gift. We truly have time to become interesting because we are interested.