I Have a Question

Questions of general interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

I have been taught that the highest purpose in life for women is to be wives and mothers. If that is true, what is the purpose or the worth of my life as a single woman?

Mary Ellen Edmunds, associate director of training at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, and a member of the Relief Society general board.

There are many unmarried Latter-day Saints who share this concern. But a proper perspective can make a significant difference in our view of our intrinsic worth as women and of our potential for progress and contribution.

In Moses 1:39, the Lord tells us that his work and his glory are “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” We are his own spirit children. Our worth is not a result of circumstance, or even of our particular level of obedience or righteousness. It is part of our heritage as children of God. No condition, no action, no attitude or thought can change or diminish the love he has for us or the worth of our souls in his sight or his plan. Our worthiness may change, because of our choices, but our worth is eternal in the eyes of our all-knowing, all-loving Heavenly Father.

As a single woman, I would be making a serious mistake if I judged my Heavenly Father’s love for me and his feeling for my worth on the basis of having or not having a marriage and children right now. Furthermore, it is not true that marriage and children automatically bring happiness, any more than it is true that those who are without marriage or children have no worth and no purpose. There are many women with children who feel overwhelmed by life and have little self-worth, who feel lonely, tired, and frustrated.

It is unfortunate that some single Latter-day Saints become discouraged and retreat from life, let go of self-worth and self-image, feel cheated and unwanted, and think about themselves all the time. This usually leads to a lot of self-pity.

It may take effort for single women to keep from building walls that cut them off from other people. If we listen to Satan, it is easy to develop resentments because others appear to have more happiness and more opportunities than we.

A better course is to be the best we can be, work and serve selflessly, and get a lot of mileage and joy out of every experience, every day. The truth is that everyone in this world has some things we do not—and we have some things that they do not have. Sharing can do much to overcome self-concern, murmuring, and spiritual aches and pains.

Then, too, there are things we cannot learn if we spend all our time alone. We may become too comfortable thinking only of ourselves, putting all of our own wants and needs first. Instead, it may be important for us to make an effort to be with others, to learn with them and from them. One of our great goals in this life is to learn to live together, in a society united by love and respect.

Part of our purpose in life, in fact, is to learn how to treat others as our Father would, to esteem others as ourselves. (See D&C 38:24–27.) We are likely accountable for the ways in which we lift and bless, as well as for the ways in which we may harm or offend. In this context, it is important for all of us to realize that we can do much to help single individuals—particularly women—feel a sense of value, of belonging, of contributing. May we be kind and gentle when we make broad statements, basing our perceptions on what really matters in life.

And what does matter most? That we love God and our fellow beings, sharing with them the gifts our Father has given us. This is what pleases God most. It is important at any moment in our lives to know that what we are doing pleases our Heavenly Father, that we are involved in activities which help him accomplish his work, and that we are helping to prepare the world for the Savior to come again. Nothing can bring us greater peace.

It is a revealing and sanctifying experience to count our many blessings, naming them one by one. Oh, how we ought to thank and praise and trust and serve our Heavenly King, who has made our blessings possible!

Life is much more satisfying when we focus on all we have, instead of on all that we do not yet have. We have faith, we have hope, we have charity. We have a body, a chance to repent and change, and a chance to become as God is. We have time and agency and shoes and water and the ability to read and think and pray. All of these are blessings which say to us, “God loves you. Great is the worth of your soul in the sight of your Heavenly Father.”

We have the promise that he has reserved for us gifts beyond our comprehension. President Ezra Taft Benson has observed that “not all women in the Church will have an opportunity for marriage and motherhood in mortality. But if those of you in this situation are worthy and endure faithfully, you can be assured of all blessings from a kind and loving Heavenly Father—and I emphasize all blessings.

“I assure you that if you have to wait even until the next life to be blessed with a choice companion, God will surely compensate you. Time is numbered only to man. God has your eternal perspective in mind” (General Conference, October 1988).

We must be careful not to let a particular circumstance dictate our happiness or sense of worth. We must seek for the faith, the gratitude, and the perspective to do well in every circumstance in which we may find ourselves. Then we will come to a point where we trust our Heavenly Father completely and are profoundly aware of his love for us and our worth and purpose in his sight.

[photo] Photography by Steve Bunderson