“Alone, but Not Lonely,” Ensign, Aug. 1992, 53
I remember saying the words out loud: “I will never have to go to church without him again.” It was December 1945, and my husband was finally returning home from three years of navy service during World War II. It had been lonely and difficult, but it was all worthwhile when I held him in my arms again.
But within six months, my husband had been killed in an automobile accident, and I began a lifetime without him. Reflection and prayer helped me determine that I would dedicate my life to the Lord and to a very young son. Through the years, it has been a joyful experience to learn what I needed to do to maintain my own spiritual commitment and deal with bouts of loneliness.
I have found support and friends everywhere—individuals in and outside the Church, married and single, male and female. Because of my own situation, I have developed an avid interest in the single Church member and have wondered how others have dealt with the challenge of being alone. A number of single members throughout the Church have provided insight.
Obviously, there are almost as many approaches to overcoming loneliness as there are people feeling lonely. Solutions can be found in hard physical labor, pursuing an education, developing hobbies, or immersing oneself in a job. However, the remedies most often cited are service to others, Church activity, and associations with family and friends.
LeEtta Pratt of Richmond, Virginia, says, “I spend little time with the word lonely. The world is so full of wonderful people and meaningful things to do.
“Service in the Church has everything to do with preventing loneliness,” she continues. “The world is so full of needy people; there are physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. With the gospel, we have so much to contribute.”
And from San Jose, Costa Rica, Ines Solan writes that serving another person not only gives her joy, but “fills some emptiness” inside of her.
As he fills his home teaching assignment in Manila, Philippines, Nicomedes Abonitalla, Sr., has been able to avoid loneliness. The counsel in section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants, he says, “keeps me reminded of my spiritual and temporal responsibilities to the Lord’s children.”
Brother Abonitalla combines work and family. He runs a jeepney business in Manila and employs his children. While maintaining jeeps for passengers, members of the Abonitalla family spend hours working and talking together.
Many singles are blessed through the companionship of family members. Children and grandchildren provide freedom from loneliness for Adonal Noble of Brampton, Ontario. He sees family members nearly every day, visiting with his children and romping with the grandchildren.
For those who don’t have immediate family members, extended family can provide family fellowship. Irma Anderson, a faculty member at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, has five nieces and nephews who attended the school. They often gathered around her table for a home-cooked meal. And Sister Anderson spent hours in the Hart Gymnasium, cheering on two of her nephews who played on the school’s basketball team.
I, too, worked at Ricks College, and during my twenty years there I was richly blessed with the companionship of the youth of the Church. As adviser to student organizations, I served as hostess for numerous meetings, meals, and parties in my home. These associations filled my life with activities, love, and friendship.
Loneliness can also be alleviated by reaching out to others. “Other people can be lonesome, too,” observes Roger Cook of Malvern, Australia. “A single person who fellowships someone else, whether single or not, is twice blessed.”
Many singles are seeking for guiding principles as they develop a philosophy of life. Gospel teachings and the scriptures are some of the best sources to turn to as one copes with loneliness. I have found comfort and consolation in many scriptures as I have studied them through the years. My challenges are put into perspective when I read: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33.)
Evelyn Rodriguez of Makati, Philippines, writes that “scriptures are a reminder of God’s infinite wisdom, his tender mercies, his miracles, and most of all, his love for us—and shame on me for ever feeling lonely.”
Diane Dunford of Salt Lake City observes that the gospel “offers so many challenges and opportunities.” Temple attendance, family history research, welfare assignments, and home teaching and visiting teaching assignments are just a few of those opportunities.
Without a doubt, prayer is one of the greatest sources of strength for Church members—married or single. Many echoed my own feelings as they talked of the comfort of knowing that there was always someone who would listen to them and care about them. I certainly do not feel alone when I am praying.
Single people can find comfort in the teachings of the Church about marriage. Sister Anderson expresses the feelings of many. “It is hard to be patient,” she admits. “But it’s comforting to know that living righteously brings the possibility of someday being sealed to someone and of bearing children.”
Bonnie Searcy of Rexburg, Idaho, says that without somehow feeling the influence of the Spirit each day, she has “failed to ‘live’ each day.” Sister Searcy feels that “joy is obtained from well-made decisions. Since I want the most out of life, I would be the silent thief if I did not give to life the equivalent of what I take out of it.”
Worldwide, single Latter-day Saints face both challenges and opportunities. Being alone but not lonely means radiating a positive, gospel-oriented attitude. Being alone but not lonely means finding joy in serving the Lord and his children. For the single Latter-day Saint—as for the married—serving the Lord and serving his children fill life with rich meaning.