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Empty Arms: Solace for the Soloist

Carol writes:

I have read with great curiosity about the “empty nest syndrome,” since I am not married and have no children. Perhaps sometime we can talk about the “empty arms syndrome,” i.e. the similar (yet dissimilar) feelings of women in the Church who have never had the opportunity to give birth (or adopt, because of our single status). The best advice I can give to those who are so afflicted, is to read, and re-read and memorize if necessary the talk given by Sister Smoot, General Relief Society President, at the April 2000 General Conference. It is titled We Are Creators. Her words are far too choice to summarize!

Please, you sisters who are grieving because of children who have left the nest, please read this! Our Relief Society President has given us truly inspired words which should help to ease the heartache. As for me, I’m 46 and still not married, so I can tell you sisters that there is something worse than having them leave home; not having children at all is infinitely worse! But it’s a temporal concern, and a temporary problem, that will be “fixed” in the eternities to come.

God bless!

An anonymous reader asks:

We have had some interesting opportunities to explore differences and some of the unique ways our motto, Charity Never Faileth, might guide us. Can you help us find some helpful approaches for deepening our relationships with our sisters with “Empty Arms”? I think our marital status is sometimes the most divisive factor in certain settings. How can we undo that stigma and help to carry the emotional burdens of our sisters who suffer silently, at times, from “Empty Arms”?

Kathy says:

Carol, thanks for the new angle. Please read on about adoption, a subject you mentioned in passing. I’m going to forward some information from an LDS friend who has researched your issue at great length and has adopted an adorable little girl as a single sister and cancer survivor herself. Please bear in mind that we are not experts at all, and Mormon Momma is not in any sense endorsing any of these sources. That’s not our purpose we share these sources only as resources for you to take a look at and evaluate independently if you would like to. We are looking forward to exploring single sisterhood, and hearing more from you, specifically.

Also, thanks so much for the tip on Sister Smoot. Those of us who were able to tune into Women’s Conference a week ago, were also privileged to hear Sister Dew’s talk, Are We Not All Mothers?, on the different applications of the word “Motherhood.” It included all women, not just those who are blessed with husband and family in this life. Also a very praiseworthy read.

Jeannie says:

Last Sunday in Relief Society, it was announced that a dinner was being held for couples and members of the ward 18 and over. This announcement was unintentionally ambiguous. My recently divorced friend leaned over to another divorced sister and said half-jokingly, “Does this mean we can’t go?”

Before I was a contributing author to “Circle,” the wording of this announcement would have glanced off me without a second thought. I want to take this opportunity to thank you sisters; single, divorced, childless (either through infertility or empty nest), raising “special” children, or those having to leave empty arms because of terminal illness. What a blessing you have been in my life.

In these few months, you have opened my eyes and raised my level of sensitivity to issues that seemed quite removed from my own. You have allowed me a glimpse into your world and I have felt for a brief moment, your suffering, joy, despair, and faith. You have edified and enriched my life so much. Thank you, dear sisters for your loyalty and for making “Circle of Sisters” a part of your lives, as well.

Special Guest Carole Casteen writes:

It ?s an interesting question, and a difficult one. Marriage and family are the heart and soul of our Church, so much that our prophet and his apostles issued a proclamation specifically regarding these issues. Perhaps the better question (and certainly a much easier one to answer!) is how the single, never-married women in the Church can face the reality of empty arms, get over the disappointment (and grief I might add), and get on with other important ways to serve in the Kingdom of God.

As a single, never-married woman without children, I ?m familiar with the occasional but deeply felt ache of being so different from so many other women in the Church. A difference that was not of my choosing. In a recent fast and testimony meeting a sister stood up and bore her testimony that the blessings of her children and grandchildren came about through her baptism in the Church. I had the urge to tell her after the meeting that maybe I needed to be rebaptised because I had neither children nor grandchildren, so maybe the first baptism didn ?t work? (It was only a fleeting and humorous urge, which I fortunately ignored.)

The fact that there was a proclamation by a prophet of God and his apostles regarding marriage and the family is evidence that these matters are vitally important, not just in this life, but eternally. The lack of marriage and children has the capacity to yield deep sorrow for those of us who haven ?t yet experienced these blessings, because these blessings carry the potential of joy a joy that is unparalleled by any of mortality ?s other experiences. The absence of that joy means that our hearts ache when we don ?t experience those blessings in the expected time frame.

How we react to our circumstance (be it single status or lack of children) is up to us. “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.” How true for every individual born into mortality, regardless of marital status. Single members of the Church have a different kind of pain. Whether or not we suffer is our choice. We can choose to wallow in self-pity, foolishly choose to seek something that is not attainable, or we can accept our situation and move on and upward in building the Kingdom of God.

The Lord will have, one way or another, a chastened and refined people. Some married members of the church receive their chastening via dealing with the problems as well as the joys of marriage. For some members, refinement may come through dealing with problem children, financial setbacks, personal or family illness, personal lack of faith or lack of testimony of family members. Single members of the Church aren ?t spared the refiner ?s fire, and rightfully so.

Married members sometimes have a hard time imagining the challenges of single members. A simple analogy might suffice. Being single is sometimes like being a child outside a toy store. We press our noses against the windowpane, looking at the wonderful toys inside and watching the joy of the children inside the store merrily playing with their toys.

We wistfully dream, “If only I had that toy,” or “Wouldn ?t it be wonderful to be inside, like the others, playing with the toys!” It’s probably been that way for some of us, at some point or another, and it ?s not a happy experience.

But as with most of life, our attitude determines the quality of our experience. We can either look at the glass as half-empty or half-full. If we take the effort to look, we may find that we have ample toys outside the windowpane within our easy grasp. As long as we are keeping the commandments, trying to stay healthy, and making the most of the talents and opportunities that we have been given, we don ?t need to worry about our marital status. We do need to worry that our self-esteem comes from knowing who we really are daughters of God and that He loves us enough to send His only begotten Son as a sacrifice for us. Unless we make that knowledge part of our very souls and being, we won ?t have the self-esteem required to make it through this life without becoming angry, disillusioned, cynical, and defeated.

Recently I had an interesting patient come to see me. She was 95 years old, quite spry, and completely alert mentally. Her entire demeanor and countenance were absolutely positive. After a few questions I discovered that her nephew had driven her to my office because she didn’t have any children (she had stopped driving a few years ago). She said, “No, I didn ?t have any children.” But she quickly added, “I have lots of nephews and nieces and I ?m a mother to them all!” Her glass, all the days of her 95-year old life, had clearly been half-full.

Single members of the Church need to trust in the Lord completely, that He is in control, that He will give us every blessing that we ask for in His own due time. We need to get to the point in our lives (and this applies equally to single and married women) where we can truly say that He is great, that He is good, and that He has given us an astoundingly beautiful world to enjoy. As A.W. Chambers said, “It is a beautiful and blessed world we live in and, while life lasts, to lose the enjoyment of it is a sin. ?

The Lord has promised us, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when yea do not what I say, yea have no promise. ? D&C 82:10. The Lord is bound to bless the righteous single sisters (and brothers) of this Church with the blessings of eternal marriage and posterity if they merit those blessings. We know that His promises are sure. So we must ask ourselves, do we need to see evidence of that, or do we have faith that his promises are sure? If we know that His promises are sure, then we won ?t need to see our eternal partner and children because we know that we will see them in the eternities to come. The Savior Jesus Christ paid the price in the garden of Gethsemane for the sins of each individual who came into mortality, irrespective of marital status or family status. His love is for all of us, and He desires that all of us have joy both in this life and the life to come. Single members of the Church just have to wait a little longer than others to receive the full blessings of that joy. If so, so be it.

In the meantime, there are multitudes of opportunities for single members to assist in the building up of the kingdom of God. The scripture, “…. but as s for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. ? Joshua 24:15, applies equally to single and married members of the Church. As single members, we may have unique opportunities to serve Him in our Church callings. Wouldn’t every Relief Society president love to have a single adult woman in the ward who can always be relied upon to do her visiting teaching? Wouldn ?t every bishop love to have a single adult priesthood holder who can always be relied upon to do his home teaching? Wouldn’t our prophet, President Hinckley, be thrilled if all of the single members of this Church had charity, the pure love of Christ, and its accompanying spiritual power, which would enable them to reach out to others in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ?

We must look beyond our own face in the mirror, beyond our own circumstances, to find true joy. The opportunities are there for us to serve if we will but seek them. If we continually focus on what we do not have, quite simply we won ?t be able to focus on serving others, and we may lose the Spirit and the gifts thereof. The gifts of the spirit are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Galatians 5:22. These gifts are available freely to any member of the Church who is willing to make the sacrifice to obtain them. That sacrifice may involve taking the time to study, and re-study the Book of Mormon. According to Elder Russell M. Nelson, reading the Book of Mormon can help members of the Church (single or married) with their personal problems. “Each individual who prayerfully studies the Book of Mormon can also receive a testimony of its divinity. In addition, this book can help with personal problems in a very real way. Do you want to get rid of a bad habit? Do you want to improve relationships in your family? Do you want to increase your spiritual capacity? Read the Book of Mormon! It will bring you closer to the Lord and His loving power. He who fed a multitude with five loaves and two fishes- He who helped the blind to see and the lame to walk can also bless you! He has promised that those who live by the precepts of this book ‘shall receive a crown of eternal life.’ D&C 20:14.

In 2 Nephi 32:5, we are told that if we will receive the Holy Ghost “it will show unto you all things what yea should do.” As single sisters in this Church, if we live with and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we will not fail to receive all that we have been promised, both in this life and the world to come. There may be a few bumps in the road at times, but none of us were promised a smooth ride. What more could we ask for?

Alison says:

Sister Ardeth Kapp and Sister Sheri Dew both general church leaders, one single, both childless have shown anyone who didn’t already know that one need not have children to be a powerful source for good in the Kingdom of God.

Although I would, of course, not choose to give up my children to exchange places with anyone, it has occurred to me that their great and particular service may not have been as effective ?or even possible ?had they had children.

When God’s command to “multiply and replenish the earth” is not available to us, there are so many other commandments and pieces of counsel that we can engage in, probably to a greater extent than those with children. Use that time and energy for good and it will be a worthy offereing!

Special Guest Linda Vaughn writes:

“It’s so difficult to attend church. I feel invisible; it seems people deliberately avoid me. No one asks how I’m doing. I even tried another ward last Sunday, but didn’t feel part of that ward either. I feel so alone.” This sister is a convert and sealed in the temple to her husband and two children a year ago. She recently filed for divorce from her husband of 15 years.

“I want things to go on as they always have with my friends in the ward. I want to be included in dinner parties and activities. My circumstances may have changed but I haven’t.” This sister is a lifetime member whose husband of eight years filed for divorce leaving her a single parent of their one child.

“Oh, how I long to be married and have children. I was promised in my patriarchal blessing I would be; but I guess the Lord is working on his time schedule, not mine. My biological clock is ticking louder every day.” This single professional sister is in her 30’s.

“It’s so difficult to come out to church. It’s the music that still gets to me.” This convert sister was widowed a year ago from her husband of sixty years.

“I sit alone on the bench in Sacrament Meeting looking at the loving husbands with their arms around their wives as emotions of loneliness wash over me.” This divorced sister is a convert of two years and a parent of one child who elected not to join the church.

Our church membership consists of people in a variety of circumstances. Our ward families can include the typical “family,” extended families, the elderly, youth, babies, widows, divorcees, and single adults. The level of diversity brought by each individual enriches each of our lives.

Do we, as individuals, embrace our sisters regardless of their circumstances? Do we gravitate to sisters whom we perceive as experiencing circumstances similar to our own? Would we dare leave our comfort zone to reach out and embrace those whose life styles are different? Marital status should never be a pre-requisite in choosing those whom we embrace in the spirit of charity. Sure, we find it a challenge to stretch the bubble and tiptoe into new territory, but that is when and where growth is set in motion.

Everyone has felt alone, regardless of his or her situation. Our Savior felt alone as he hung on the cross knowing death was imminent but not knowing the hour. We know how it feels when we are overcome by loneliness. We want others to notice us and love us for who we are. We want to feel included and of value. As sisters, it is not our responsibility to judge another’s situation and determine whether we can or cannot fill her empty arms with unconditional love and acts of charity.

How can we begin to detach the stigma from our divorced sisters and brothers? Simply stated, through acts of charity. Elder McConke noted in Mormon Doctrine, “Charity is more than love ?it is everlasting love, perfect love, the pure love of Christ ?love so centered in righteousness that the possessor has no aim or desire except for the eternal welfare of his own soul and for the souls of those around him.” Those possessing pure love are selfless, provide acts of kindness, and are long-suffering and patient.

We tend to be reticent in approaching the sister embroiled in the crisis of divorce. We may avoid the recently widowed sister for fear of saying the wrong thing. When I was divorcing, I know that some ward members were aware of my situation and others were not. I was never sure, because only a few members had the courage to broach the topic. Some days I needed a good hug. Other days, someone to talk to or to laugh with and, truthfully, some days I wanted to feel alive again and not discuss it at all.

We do not need to know the details surrounding a divorce. We may not agree that divorce is a viable choice. Sometimes curiosity about the minutia of the disagreement clouds our intent to provide acts of charity to those in need.

So go ahead and approach that widowed or divorced sister on Sunday; put your arm around her and sincerely ask how she is doing. You’ve set the act of charity in motion. Be guided by the Spirit as to whether you should acknowledge her situation and let her take the lead in the conversation. She may reply with nothing more than a brief “fine,” or she may begin to weep and want to talk. Remember, you can’t fix her situation, but you can listen to her. Don’t be offended if she is brief with you. It’s not you who trouble her, but the overwhelming responsibilities that she faces as a newly single parent or sister.

Follow up with a phone call, include her in activities, and embrace her like the sister she is. Try to love her unconditionally. Offer to help. I know from experience that she will feel valued and loved because of your effort to leave the safety of your comfort zone.

Alison says:

I have been happily married for over 16 years. I have five wonderful, healthy children. In truth, I realize that I have no right, nor room, to complain of having “empty arms.” Indeed, some days the arms feel rather too full for comfort. Still, there is a part of me that understands some aspect of this phenomenon.

When my husband and I were dating, I told him, “I will have two children if I like the first one a lot.” Much to my surprise, a spiritual epiphany of sorts about six weeks after the birth of our first child changed the number to four. The second child’s birth upped the ante to six.

In spite of my change of heart, my five children have come about only after ten pregnancies. To be sure, I realize this is not the most difficult road to bringing about a family. Being an adoptee, I am personally aware of many more difficult avenues. Still, loss of pregnancy is a real loss of the hopes and dreams for a child that comes complete with real sorrow.

After my fourth miscarriage I joined a private, moderated, internet email list reserved specifically for those who had experienced multiple miscarriages. I joined the group for up-to-date medical information and support as both are sadly lacking in the medical community and the population at large. (The general attitude from both groups tends to be, “Big deal. At least you can get pregnant. Just try again.”)

This kind of support system serves a vital purpose. Still I was struck by the negativity and self-pity that permeated the group. Many of these women were not just sad, nor just searching for answers, nor just seeking advice or comfort. Many were centering their lives on their misery.

One week the majority of the discussion focused on how many of the women spent hours every week watching “A Baby Story,” a docu-drama of sorts following a real woman from mid-pregnancy to delivery, “even though it tortures me.” A long, heated thread addressed how to properly chastise anyone within viewing distance who might dare to be happily pregnant (along with the parallel thread of chastising those daring to be unhappily pregnant). Another week discussed primarily all the rude, insensitive things every person on earth had said to them.

Having seen both sides of this issue, I feel that an equally important part of this equation lies with the person with the aching heart. We need to be open about our needs and desires. We need to be pleasant and receptive. We need to be difficult to offend and to take what is offered in the best possible light. We need to let our lives include something besides the pain we carry.

Personally, speaking to others about the miscarriages was therapeutic. Not so much because it gave me a shoulder to cry on, but because it gave me a chance to use my own shoulder for someone else. Since I didn’t hesitate to speak about my experiences and answered questions openly, I was often the first person others turned to when they experienced a similar situation. The feeling that my sad experience could help others was healing and rewarding.

Certainly not everyone will deal with a loss in this way. Still, an honest word such as, “Thank you for your concern. I would really rather keep this private.” is likely to be respected.

I am reminded of an LDS Relief Society listserv I was on a number of years ago. Periodically women would join and express their pain at “not being included” or being “left out” or “without friends” in their wards, for one reason or another. Each time the outpouring of love and caring was overwhelming. And I could not help but wonder if the response would not have been exactly the same in their own ward if they had just mustered up the courage to pour out their hearts in the same way and to give the sisters who lived near them a chance to love them. In my experience, the women in the church are just looking for an excuse to serve those in need.

Bearing one another’s burdens is part of our duty. Sometimes we just need to help others realize what our burden is and how they can lighten the load.

{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:11 pm

    Lisa from Tempe, Arizona, says:

    Here’s a copy of a note relating to adoption. Another good website to visit is Rainbow Kids. There are tons of others as well. If you want to use any particular agency, I’d use Wasatch International Adoptions in Utah. I can put you in touch with my LDS contacts there, who are super. They would also be a great resource.

    I’ll also provide contact info for my cousin-in-law who became an attorney in order to fight more assertively for placements of orphaned kids with prospective adoptive parents. I think it is always wise to consult an attorney and I think I would involve my bishop and LDS Social Services to be sure I was exercising wisdom, and to invite the Holy Ghost into the decision as an active partner. My cousin’s mailing address follows:

    Renee Green
    1775 York Avenue #7A
    New York, NY 10128-6906
  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:11 pm

    Cyndi writes:

    Hello. I just read your story on Circle of Sisters. I am 41, single, never married, and childless. I so long for a family that at times I ache for it. Having plenty of hand me downs and family items received from my grandparents, I wonder at times, when the blue mood hits, to whom I can pass these things down. I have cherished these family items for many years since they were entrusted to me. Yes, I am “aunt” to many friends’ children and those of a few family members but it just is not the same. As much as my heart aches for a family of my own, I refused to do as non-member friends suggested and just go out and get pregnant (it is too late for that now). I am at that age where ward members don’t look at me as “being alone” as much as they do the elderly sisters who they invite for dinners and such, but this is OK, I think my time will come.

    I am adopted and would have loved to adopt a child since that is an option for a single sister, but financially I barely make ends meet. Having been on disability for the past few years from work related injuries which have given me permanent physical problems, I have trouble taking care of myself and my home let alone trying to take care of another person while being alone. I don’t feel sorry for myself until those “blue” times hit and then it all comes in on you at once. I am a very shy person and can only blame myself for not going to all the church functions and being part of the crowd. In the small town where I live there are very few if any single brethren in my range to meet, and most don’t care for large ladies.

    My biggest “silent” fear is that of growing old alone! Thanks for the stories. I am still not sure why I wrote, but it is early in the morning and I could not sleep and came across your Circle of Sisters to listen to me.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:11 pm

    Nancy writes:

    Thanks for the articles, they are very helpful.

    The empty arms experience is different when the couple is married, faithful, and battling infertility. We endured this for over 11 years as my husband served in bishoprics and I served in Relief Society and Young Women. To sit in a circle in Relief Society where all the sisters are asked the same question, “How do you know you are blessed?” and everyone listens to the reply, words do not describe the devastating feeling when the sisters sitting on each side of you say “I know Heavenly Father loves me because He gave me 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 children.” Or, “I know the only reason to come to this earth is to bear children.”

    I am currently gathering information to write a book about our experience and other couples’ experiences to encourage awareness and sensitivity toward couples who battle infertility. Too many hateful words were said to us over the years and so by sharing our experience I hope it will help other couples from feeling devastated and insignificant, and offer them faith, hope, and endurance.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:12 pm

    Linda writes:

    Nancy, I appreciated your comments and thank you for noting another area where we as sisters need to be more sensitive. One of my dearest friends has battled the war of infertility and the searing pain associated with comments regarding children as blessings. I would encourage you to respond to the question, “How do you know you are blessed?” with examples of blessings you have received. As you know, blessings are given in other areas of our life that exclude children. You may open the eyes of other sisters regarding your blessings, thus broadening their scope of possibilities. Heavenly Father shows his love for us in all areas of life.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:14 pm

    Gloria writes:

    I read with great interest the thoughts and feelings of those sisters expressed in this article. I have been on both sides of the fence. I understand the process of loss and mourning of what might have been had I been a married sister. I always found Mother’s Day the most painful Sunday to endure as the deacons passed out flowers to the mothers in the congregation.

    Yet, I was fortunate to have forged wonderful friendships with many married sisters as we served in the ward and stake levels of leadership. I embraced their children as well as my nieces if I felt the need to nurture. I also was diligent in having a full personal, and professional life.

    At the age of 39 I married a warm and caring divorced LDS man with four young children. We were married in the Washington, DC, temple and within the first year of marriage gave birth to a healthy daughter. Does that make me special? No. Have I been “chosen” for a higher purpose? No. Does that set me apart from the needs and problems of singleness in the church? No. What it has given me is greater empathy toward those precious sisters. As I have served in leadership positions I have given them a voice because I have an understanding of what it is like to be an single sister in the church. I also understand the fragileness of life and how fast my position can change at any given time. There is more to this story, but suffice it to say, “the Lord is in control.” I have had the blessing of being an instrument in His hands and serving in my present day role.

    I can’t help but be reminded of a saying my former boss (also a single woman) would say to me. “Bloom where you are planted.” I choose to bloom.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:14 pm

    Linda writes:

    Guess what? Mother’s Day is my most dreaded day too! I applaud you for your strength in forging friendships with married sisters and your determination to move forward in your life and “bloom” regardless of your situation. Another fine example of what a huge part attitude plays in our daily life.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:14 pm

    Paula from Windsor, Colorado, writes:

    I read the most recent column with great interest. It seems that we need to be sensitive to the needs of others and pray continuously for the gift of charity. It can be so easy to live silently in pain but it takes talking about it to someone who will sincerely listen and then change their behavior to fit the needs of that person. In my situation many people will think that I have everything, a wonderful husband and two beautiful children. However what many people don’t know is that I suffer in silence with the fact that I have had three consecutive miscarriages and I am not sure if I will be able to have any more children. I am often asked, “So when are you going to have any more children?” Or better yet, “You are so blessed to have two wonderful children; just be grateful for that.” I know that many people look at me and think that I am selfish because I choose to only have two children, which is not true. These people, while their intentions are in the right place, have no idea how much it hurts. I am reminded every time I look at my son he will never know what it is like to have a brother, nor will my daughter ever know what it is like to have a sister. I will never again go through holding that precious new gift from Heavenly Father, giving love and caring, teaching the child to pray or to love Jesus. That can be just as painful as not being able to have children or not having a husband.

    While it is true that there are so many women out there who don’t seem to fit in to the traditional family model it does not mean that they, with much effort of their own, cannot be contributors to church and families. I look to my aunt who was not blessed with children in this life but she still managed to make a great impact on her 51 nieces and nephews. (Yes, that is right, there are 51 of us!) She would often call and want to talk with us before she wanted to talk with my mom or dad. She would send us gifts.

    I still have the book she sent me when I found out I had to wear glasses. She often wrote to me on my mission. She was there when I was married. She made me feel as though I was her favorite niece but after talking with many of my cousins we realized we all felt the same. As an adult she has amazed me with her knowledge of our family history. We all know that her days on the earth are few but she can leave with a clear mind that she served us all so well. The one thing that she never did was make excuses or give up because she didn’t have the ideal LDS family. She never let that stop her from sharing her talents with others.

    Keep up with writing this column. You are blessing the lives of so many of us.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:14 pm

    Linda writes:

    Paula, you have helped us understand yet another area of charity that requires stepping out of our comfort zone. Yes, definitely, we need to approach those whose situations differ from our own.

    You certainly continue to serve as a member missionary through expressions of charity such as friend-shipping members who struggle with our language. I have often thought that comments from others about one’s personal choices and/or decisions are mere attempts of communication. I am uncertain how the number of children we bear is proof of our testimonies. You continue to pour your love on those two beautiful children and to teach them the principles of the gospel. They are blessed to have a mother committed to righteousness, as well as one who appreciates the “gifts” given daily from Heavenly Father.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:15 pm

    Jennifer from Sydney, Australia, writes:

    I am grateful that I have a strong testimony, because without it I would not have endured very long at all. Every Sacrament meeting, every article, every ward activity reminds me that I don’t fit. So many talks and articles all point to the fact that I am not “doing the right thing.” I am not living with a husband and all of my children. This is not by choice but by circumstance. But still every message on families hurts.

    I was the only family member to join the Church and I feel very alone for most of the three hours on Sundays. It is getting to the stage where I don’t know which is best: to arrive early and be conspicuous sitting on my own, or to arrive late and squeeze past all those family groups. Why do people always sit at the end of the rows? The latter option might at least make me look like I might be sitting with them (sort of). Older converts are already disadvantaged, as we did not get to know everyone through young adults, our children did not make friends through primary, we don’t remember Bishop _________ who moved to ________ Ward, etc. Every Sunday when there is a talk on families please make a point to provide extra fellowship to all of those who “don’t fit in.”

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:18 pm

    Linda says:

    Jennifer, au contraire. You do fit in! Your circumstances may not meet the “norm,” and that is the point. We tend to believe it’s our circumstances that determine who we are. Do you think the Lord favors one of his children over another based on circumstances? Of course not. What makes you who you are comes from within you.

    Try to hear or view all the messages of the gospel, formal or informal, with an emphasis on what you can glean from the material, adapted to you as a unique individual. In other words, in what areas can you apply the message that will help make a change within you that will benefit not only you but also those around you. This positive direction will increase your testimony. Pray for strength to understand what you are made of and how/where you can perform acts of charity for others in your ward, at work, or in your neighborhood. After all, who doesn’t enjoy being the recipient of a warm, sincere smile and a simple, “Hello, how are you?”

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:18 pm

    Ruby Welch from Brisband, Australia, writes:

    Hi There!

    I am writing from Brisbane, Australia. I am also single. I was divorced twice and brought up my family on my own. In my patriarchal blessing I am also promised a choice companion whose love will be an eternal source of joy and happiness to me. I am very well aware that the Lord has his time plan. We would like to have things happen instantly in this fast world of ours. However, when I pray to the Lord for this husband, I pray for someone who is totally compatible with my feelings about the Church, who is a righteous priesthood holder, and who will love me and respect me with all his heart as I will him. You see, many of us singles pray for a husband. But we should never just settle for any marriage because there can be a lot more unhappiness arising from a marriage which does not work, than being single.

    My family is my joy. I have 13 grandchildren and I am involved in their lives and in the care of babies. Besides that, at 65 I am still doing a PhD at university and the singles of our ward have formed a support group for each other. Surely, the Lord emphasizes marriage in His eternal plan and righteously so. But the plan is eternal and so is the time span. We know that He keeps his promises when we do our best. In the meantime he speaks peace to our minds and we need to be patient. At one time I asked the Lord when this choice man would come? I immediately received the answer: He, too, is preparing for a choice woman. Oops…! That made me realize that I had a lot of work to do meanwhile.

  • klgreen1 July 1, 2007, 11:19 pm

    Dear Ruby:

    You sound like the most motivated lady I’ve ever met. 65 and earning your PhD! Congrats!

    I couldn’t agree more that “settling” for a husband, be it out of desperation or plain fatigue, is rarely a winning situation.

    Tell us more about this support group for singles ?it really intrigued me. Is it part of the ward activities Ccommittee or something independent?

    Best of luck in your studies, with your family, and in single activities. Thanks for writing!

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:20 pm

    Lee from Salt Lake City, Utah, writes:

    When I served as Relief Society president, we tried so hard to included every sister. Some wanted us never to talk about motherhood, being a wife, etc., because others would feel left out. It is a difficult line to straddle.

    I think now of a remark Elder Ballard made to our region’s stake presidents a few weeks ago (my husband is serving in that calling now). He said, “Teach the correct principles and the exceptions will be blessed.” Sometimes we try so hard not to talk of hard things that we neglect to teach true principles. Sheri Dew was truly inspired as she uplifted all sisters at our last Relief Society general meeting.

    I know that we must be filled with the Spirit when interacting with each sister. Some need more tender care and careful words than others, and we must be careful not to offend, but rather to be a blessing to them. We must have courage and teach truth so we can be instruments to bless.

    I have often remarked and truly have a testimony that we are more alike than we are different and we should build on that. Each sister has something to add to my life and I treasure that. Maybe because I was blessed with four brothers and no sisters that I learned great appreciation for the sisterhood I feel with those around me.

    I pray that I may help fill the needs of the sisters that I come into contact with and that I may truly be God’s instrument for good.

  • Jeannie Vincent July 1, 2007, 11:21 pm

    Dear Lee:

    Leadership is difficult at times, especially when you have sisters with such diverse needs. Trying to put all of them “under one hat,” as the Germans say, is very challenging indeed. Elder Ballard’s message is a great beacon to all who must make decisions which directly affect the exception.

    It would be just as false to omit the words “motherhood, wife, and children” from our teaching as it would to promote the doctrine that those blessed with children are more loved than those who have none. I agree wholeheartedly with Sherri Dew’s position and am so glad you made reference to her. She is a very gifted lady whose words are permeated by the Spirit and delivered with power.

    Your sisters are very lucky to have a leader so sensitive to their situation. Truth is unchangeable. If presented in a tactful way, with the Spirit, it should not offend those who are in tune.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:21 pm

    Linda writes:

    Lee, can I clone you? I appreciated your charitable comments and your desire to assist sisters you come in contact with. Your awareness level holds an important part on your priority list when you possess that kind attitude. Each principle of the gospel contains a blessing for all of God’s children.

    Thank you for joining our Circle of Sisters.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 1, 2007, 11:22 pm

    A number of years ago, when I served as a leaders with the Laurel class, I was advised to “soften” the lessons on the importance of temple marriage. Of the ten girls in my class, only two had the blessing of living in a home with both their mother and father to whom they were sealed. And some were concerned that their feelings would be hurt.

    While I understand the sentiment, I couldn’t understand the advise. If anyone needs to hear the truth about the importance of temple marriage, it is those who do not have an example of it at home! Yes, the truth may be painful when they realize what they are missing in their current families. But how much more tragic if they go on to make the same, uneducated, and unwise choices as they choose their own spouses! How much more painful to marry outside the temple and have children to whom they are not sealed before they understand the true consequence of that choice! Let them, at very least, have the information to make an informed decision!

    Similarly, let us not water down truth. Rather, let us all rejoice in the eternal truths that all worthy members will some day be blessed with!

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:23 pm

    Elyse from Dalles, Oregon, writes:

    Oh thank you for your articles, it does help the loneliness to know that we are not alone. I am a divorced mother of six, all but one are independent now. I was married for 31 years; a convert whose husband was baptized with me when we had been married for five years. He never took it seriously but the Lord did not release me from my responsibility as his wife for many years. I have been single now for almost four years. I know that I endured to the end and it brings me great satisfaction to know that I did my best even though my husband never grew in the gospel. My children became powerfully positive and although we are still on the road to recovery, we know that there is more happiness and light farther down that trail. My husband made many bad choices, all of which affected us one way or another.

    Sometimes, I feel like “Why me?” and “He had the best years of my life.” It is difficult especially realizing how much my grown children are still suffering, to cling to the hope that it will get better. I have been blessed with six wonderful children, 12 beautiful grandchildren with more on the way, and I am only 54. I would so love to be married again, but this time to a righteous priesthood bearer. I guess my test today is not one that I planned for. It is the proverbial “Test #5” (from Carol Lynne Pearson’s poem).

    Patience and endurance are not over and wishing will not make it so. I know the Lord is mindful of our family and that we are so blessed because we are sealed and do love each other. Thanks for letting me vent. I know that I am one of the lucky ones. My arms have been filled and the spirit fills them now. I agree that we need each other and I hope that more of the single sisters will start to reach out to each other. I am a co-owner of an adult foster home and my business partner is also a member of the church and a widow of six years. We love the singles and do all we can because we know first hand what that loneliness feels like. That’s the plan. Pain plows the heart and makes room for compassion, mercy, and future growth.

    Recently I gave a presentation titled, How the Atonement Has Affected My Life. I hope will be helpful.

  • Jeannie Vincent July 1, 2007, 11:24 pm

    Dear Elyse:

    I have often wondered if it isn’t more difficult to have “had and lost” that never had a marriage at all. I’m not in any way minimizing the pain of never finding a mate, but with divorce comes that basis of comparison which raises it’s ugly head from time to time. Children bear scars that are in need of healing (as you’ve mentioned), and sorting out the emotional damage must be truly overwhelming.

    It sounds as if you are really at peace with your decision. That must be a source of great comfort for you and your family. I’m also very happy that you have a friend in similar circumstances to share that burden of loneliness. I loved your last sentence and will try to remember it when my heart is being furrowed.

    Thanks for writing.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:24 pm

    Shannon writes:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I was a single member until I married at 35. So I know what it’s like to be a single member of such a family oriented Church. I am now married to an inactive member which, in a lot of ways, is like being single. And the counsel given in this article is for every sister no matter what her situation.

    Thank you! Know that You are a Child of God

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:25 pm

    Carole writes:

    Thank you for your comments. Enduring to the end does give great satisfaction, if we can keep our eyes focused on our ultimate goals, and not on the momentary (although painful) temporal trials of our faith. The key to happiness seems to be understanding the difference between circumstances not of our doing, and for which we are not responsible, and circumstances for which we are responsible. As long as we’re doing the best we can to remedy the situations for which we are responsible, we can have inner peace.

    For those situations out of our control we simply have to partake of the healing balm of the Savior; to trust completely in Him, and turn the situation over to Him. He can’t remove our troubles from us, but by turning to the scriptures, and looking for ways to serve others, we can find peace.

    There are a variety of service projects in every ward and community, including the service rendered to our ancestors as we search them out and do their temple work. The added advantage of doing our family history work is that we begin to see very clearly that time is a temporal commodity. As we link generations upon generations we understand that our own situations aren’t permanent! The joys of our eternal family associations will be ours, if we will do the work.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:25 pm

    Marilyn Green Faulkner from Poway, California, writes:

    Hi sisters,

    I am actually Kathy’s sister-in-law, and I just wanted to thank you for the excellent discussion on single women in the church. It is clear from the response that you touched a nerve that needs healing and the kind of therapy that only sharing can provide. Great job.

  • klgreen1 July 1, 2007, 11:26 pm

    And even better regards to you, Dear Aunty Mar. Thanks for writing to us, and special thanks for visiting the Circle of Sisters.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:27 pm

    Patty J. writes:

    I realize that we are members of this church because of the gospel. However, friendships are important. I was married for 16 years and have two teenagers. As their dad was a career Navy diver, the three of us were alone a lot and bonded wonderfully. We share, do chores, disagree, and still love each other in spite of our teenage/mother generation gap. Their dad now lives in one state and we live in another.

    When I was married I was Relief Society president and was fortunate to be able to homeschool my children. They joined me in service projects, meetings (as appropriate), and wonderful timex with missionaries, grandma, sisters, etc. We loved it. Therefore it makes it very hard to move into a ward that has literally watched each other grow up. We are the new family. Not only the new family, but the single sister with two kids. My kids have been asked to pay attention in class to a particular subject “as they don’t have a dad at home and they need to learn this” or “as your mom is single you may not be aware” or “you must get married.” My kids are becoming resentful as they feel it is a slight to me.

    It is also hard to be active in activities as most women in our ward are fortunate to have husbands who work and allow them to stay home. I have to work to support my kids, something my children understand and help me with. If I am unable to help in the ward, I am not asked again. If I don’t attend activities I do not receive the follow up calls asking if I am OK. I am not invited to dinners (unless of course they happen to invite a single man that I might want to meet but don’t bring the kids). I am not allowed to have the missionaries over unless I invite another couple.

    I realize this may sound like sour grapes, but it is difficult feeling out of sync with a family ward. Having to explain that people don’t really mean what they say when they state that “your mother really should look for a husband.” A lot of activities in my ward are held during the day so that sisters do not have to be out at night. It was wonderful serving in the Relief Scoeity Presidency, but it makes it harder now as I would love to join in, but I do not like to take away from my children and/or work to do so.

    I guess it all comes down to the fact that I realize this church is true, but sometimes members sisters create a clique because of callings and the fact their husbands get along, etc. This can be ostracizing. I hope this is not something that I did when I was married.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:27 pm

    Carole writes:

    PJ, It seems as though you are experiencing what many of us have experienced: the social transition into a new ward. I’ve experienced it myself. This may be particularly difficult if there are few single-parent families in the ward. However, this may in fact be a golden opportunity for you and your teenagers to enrich the lives of others in your ward! That ‘out of sync’ feeling won’t last long if you go out of your way to meet others in the ward. Why not invite others to your home for dinner, on a rotating basis? And, call the ward activities chairperson to let him or her know that you are willing to help out with activities that won’t interfere with your work or family schedule. If you let them know of any special circumstances regarding your work schedule, they will know when you can be of assistance. Most if not all wards have an evening Home, Family, and Personal Enrichment Meeting, which hopefully won’t interfere with your work schedule. By faithfully attending this meeting, your circle of sister friends in your ward will grow! Yes, your immediate family circumstances are different from those of the married sisters in the ward, but that shouldn’t stop you from learning from them and loving them.

    When ward members make comments such as, “your mother really should look for a husband,” it is, in fact, a compliment to you! Because those who make those comments really do, deep down, love you and want the best for you and your family. Perhaps those comments, instead of eliciting a negative response from you and your family, can provide the opportunity for you to sit down with your teenagers (perhaps as a scheduled family home evening), and review the Proclamation on the Family and what it means to your family. Ward members don’t make these comments to intentionally offend.

    Here again is an additional opportunity for you to teach your teenagers one of the most basic teachings of the Savior: love one another. When we truly love one another, we will not be easily offended. We may need to get on our knees and ask Heavenly Father for the ability to forgive someone who has unintentionally made a comment that hurts us. Again, an opportunity to teach teenagers about forgiveness and the power of prayer. This new ward may in fact be a great opportunity for your family to learn firsthand some important gospel principles! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 1, 2007, 11:28 pm

    Carole, you are so right! A number of years ago my husband was called to serve as the activities committe. Not on the committee. As the commitee! When asked if he could have committe members called he was told, “No. You don’t need them! You have the entire ward at your disposal!”

    Anyone who has served in this capacity knows that this, translated correctly, means, “You have no one at your disposal.” Because you will have to ask 23 people to set up tables to get a single affirmative. And ask for something requiring thought and the ratio increases infavorably and exponentially! In other words, it’s much more efficient to simply do it yourself ?or with your wife, who feels eerily obligated to assist you in locating dry ice for the Halloween party ?

    Anyway, PJ, trust Carole on her advice to volunteer to the activities and you will undoubtedly have at least two people in the ward who file a petition to have you sainted. Oh, wait, that’s another church ?

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:29 pm

    Linda writes:

    PJ, thank you for especially sharing your last comments about the church being true. The comments or behaviors of members should not discourage us from attending each Sunday to partake of the sacrament to renew our covenants. It is true that friend-shipping is also important to us. We like to know we aren’t invisible, huh?

    I’m sure you have lots to share with the members in your new ward and the challenge for you is to do just that. I think it is wonderful that you and your teenagers are close and that you all support each other emotionally. The comments made to them are inappropriate. Perhaps you should talk to those involved with the spirit of humble and sincere communication. Yes, you are single and yes, you are a daughter of Heavenly Father. Think of yourself as such, rather than a single parent who has to work, who can’t always participate, or who can’t invite the missionaries over without a couple present. You’ve been in leadership positions. Continue with the spirit of charity and people will respond to you. More than likely they are as unsure about you as you are about them.

    Cyndi, one thing I dread is growing old alone also! Fill your life with acts of charity and it will come back to you ten fold. Being shy can make this more of a challenge at first but you can overcome it by repeating good deeds for others. Enjoy the hand-me-downs of precious memories but focus on the joy these items and memories bring to you rather than the disappointment of having no one to pass them on to. More than likely the next recipient would not feel the same about the treasurers as you do.

    Remember too, that the Lord hears your prayers and knows the ache of loneliness in your heart. He has a time line we have difficulty relating to, but we are promised we will be blessed with the righteous desires of our hearts.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:29 pm

    Oris from Oceanside, California, writes:

    I wish someone could let Cyndi know that if she has enough to barely support herself, but can care for her own needs, there are sisters who are raising a family alone and would be happy to share their homes with her, thereby relieving the financial burden for both. If Cyndi cannot work, but can be in the house when the children come home from school, what a blessing it would be. If she were to give herself so generously in this she would soon have a “family” to call her own.

    I raised my children mostly by myself. I have been married four times, the first three ended in divorce because of extremely difficult circumstances. My last and good husband died after only 10-1/2 years of marriage, and left me with one more child to raise by myself. How grateful I would have been for someone like Cyndi, just to be there at the end of the work day.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:30 pm

    Mary writes:

    I enjoyed very much reading the comments of the sisters. It is such a blessing to know that we each are an individual of great worth as the Young Women Theme says, “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father Who loves us….” and we should remember that more often for ourselves and for those around us.

    I am married to a worthy priesthood holder and am the mother of seven children. Along the road of life I have faced many challenges and much adversity. I expect to continue to experience the same for the rest of mortality. Shortly before my mother died unexpectedly (at a young age), I listened to Elder Marion D. Hanks give his final address as he became an emeritus general authority. He quoted a thought which had been sent to him. It said: “To believe in God is to know that all the rules will be fair, and that there will be wonderful surprises.”

    What happens here in mortality is often not “fair,” but then no one said it was going to be. As I understand it, Heavenly Father told us not that He was going to give us all “fair” experiences, but rather that He was going to test us and give us experience we had not been able to have in our pre-earth lives. But the rules by which we will be judged are fair, and there will be recompense (beyond measure) for blessings delayed or unattained here and they will be “wonderful surprises.”

    Our job here is to prove ourselves worthy and to “endure well” the circumstances we have, doing the best we can and striving to live our lives in an inspired way, in keeping with the commandments, and serving and blessing where we can. We can have peace in this life, as we wait for unattained blessings to come. One day, after a series of difficulties, my sweet young fourteen-year-old daughter looked at me and said, “We must be doing something right we are encountering so much opposition!” When I am discouraged, but living the gospel the best I can, I repeat her words!

    May Heavenly Father bless us all to accomplish our earthly missions, to be grateful for all we do have and find peace and love in the knowledge of His plan and the glorious blessing of His Son in our mortal and eternal lives.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:30 pm

    Linda writes:

    Eighteen years ago when I got married, I had three miscarriages the first year of our marriage and another one the following year. After the fourth miscarriage, I was so depressed and I remember thinking that I didn’t care if I ever had any children. I remember having support from some good friends. Shortly after the fourth miscarriage I received an invitation to a baby shower for a young unmarried girl in our ward, I remember thinking “how insensitive,” but I also realized that not everyone around you knows what is going on in your life. I sent a gift and regrets that I could not be there.

    As friends around me became pregnant, I prayed for strength to be truly happy for these friends, I learned to serve and be genuinely happy for them. A wonderful thing happened. When I stopped having pity for myself, I truly was happy for these friends, I also had an inner impression to try some things to find out why I was losing these babies. The things I tried helped; I ended up pregnant again, but threatened to lose this baby as well. I was sentenced to bed rest for the first three months because the doctor said my body was so used to aborting, that it “thought” it was supposed to do so. After the three and a half month mark I was fine. Later I delivered a healthy baby. I went on to have four more healthy babies. From all of this I learned that if I could lose myself to serving someone else in the low times in my life, it buoys me up and helps me to be happy. I still wonder about those babies that I lost. I had a dream the night before I learned I was pregnant, that I was carrying a little girl. I saw her. I now have four boys and one girl who looks nothing like the one I saw in my dream. I, too, feel that the Lord will know what is best for us and the babies we lost. My patriarchal blessing says I will bear both sons and daughters. I realize that can be in the eternities as well, but there is comfort in that blessing. Thanks for listening.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:31 pm

    Bradley writes:

    I personally do not have any children, yet. However, my parents went through a miscarriage which until this day is rarely discussed. As a child, I remember my brother telling me we had a brother or sister that died. Being only about nine years old, I didn’t believe him. I asked my parents, and I do not remember them ever talking about it to me.

    My mother has always wanted 13 children; a baker’s dozen. Having grown up in a home with only two sisters, my mom also wanted sons especially. She married and had eight children five boys and three girls. My mom is a “born mother.” She is the oldest of three girls and she helped tend my aunts when they were small. My oldest sister, now 31, was actually a twin. When my sister was born, my mother learned she was pregnant with twins, but one died very early on.

    Although my mom was sad to lose a baby, she was blessed to have another baby who did live. Ironically, we learned that one definition for my sister’s name (Tamara) is “Twin”. My mom did not know that at the time.

    It still hurts my mother to talk about this baby, as she never reached her goal of 13 so has always wanted more. I have told my mother that eventually, in the eternities, she will probably have a whole nest of children waiting for her. I think my mom would adopt another 13 if she could. With eight surviving children, that means she will have 16 if all marry in this life. There is not much difference between a son-in-law and a son in my family. (I sometimes forget those who marry my siblings are not my actual siblings.)

    Although the gender of the baby is not known, I have always thought the baby was a girl. As a genealogist, I have this baby in my family records. This child never received a death certificate, as far as I know. However, it does not hurt to have this child in my Personal Ancestral File. I honestly think that if this child is going to join our family in the eternities, he or she would like knowing that they were remembered and included in our family in this life.

    Maybe someday I’ll meet this long lost sibling of mine or maybe that child joined another family. Either way, Heavenly Father knows best.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:31 pm

    Pat writes:

    Thank you for having a thoughtful and meaningful discussion about miscarriage. There are many things about miscarriage which are misunderstood and kept in the dark but those of us who have experienced this horrible loss need to express our feelings. I agree with those things that have already been said but I also feel like I need to put my two cents worth in on the subject.

    I have been pregnant six times and miscarried four times. I had already had one child so the first time was a real shock. I had no symptoms and no bleeding: just a problem with the doctor not finding a heartbeat and then confirmation with an ultrasound. I learned many things during the experience; namely that Heavenly Father is there and has a great love for all of His children. I felt blessed for trying to do what was right even when the results are not what we expected. Even during that difficult time I felt much joy and rejoicing about many aspects of the gospel. Just a few months later I was blessed to be pregnant again and I continued to feel strength and I was blessed with another child.

    I have had three miscarriages in the past two and a half years. I didn’t realize how much of an emotional toll that it had on me until I was recovering from the effects of the last one and realized I had been pregnant five times in five years and had only one child. I knew I needed a break. Emotionally I was drained and my spiritual well was dry. I have spent many months analyzing how to deal with this whole issue and have been preparing myself to try again. I have a wonderful doctor who is helping me get to the bottom of this and I feel a lot of support from him and his staff. But I agree with Alison that it is important to tell people when you are pregnant. I tend to hold things inside and it is difficult because I don’t want to disappoint my family and friends. I have found that I needed the support and prayers of those people more than anything. I have tried it both ways and I have found my recovery is much quicker and easier to deal with when I tell people around me. I know I have many to talk with and I know with their support I will be able to make it through another pregnancy again, no matter the outcome. I can’t do it alone.

    Also don’t give up on explaining your feelings to your husband. My husband didn’t get it the first time but his eyes have gradually been opened through sharing my feelings as well as other experiences he has had. I prayed long and hard to share what I feel with my husband. I joked that it took me having four miscarriages for him to finally understand me, but his understanding has been gradual and he is so supportive. It has been a difficult and spiritual journey for both of us and our marriage is stronger for it. I don’t have the answers about why miscarriage happens but I do have the faith that one day all things will be explained to us.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:32 pm

    Elaine writes:

    I have read all of the comments and cried at the great feeling of “loss” in most of the letters. My almost nine-year-old son was the victim of an auto accident and went on before. I also had a miscarriage some years before that accident and the feelings were entirely separate. My gospel understanding was not very developed when I miscarried, so my feelings were a bit detached and as I was able to conceive again quickly, my energies were occupied with the present. I haven’t thought often about that small spirit, except that perhaps he or she is in a better place and perhaps knows my young son who went on before.

    I have inactive living children whom I grieve for more then the sweet children who may be waiting to welcome us, and who may be able to associate with my earthly father who also left us too soon. I feel blessed to have had that pure spirit for the short time he needed to be here. We don’t have complete understanding, but I see in my mind’s eye those spirits waiting to renew the bond severed prematurely. I am even more determined to continue to be worthy of those that are perhaps waiting. No, this isn’t “doctrine” and there is a great deal of known truth to focus our minds on. However, the possibility is comforting. My heart goes out to all the sisters who have experienced separation from a child of any age. Time, prayer and a comfort blessing from the priesthood all soften the never forgotten reality.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:33 pm

    Sister Adams writes:

    I had one daughter, then I had trouble getting pregnant so I went to the doctor and went through all the trials of fertility. When I would get pregnant, it would be naturally and then I would lose it. I had three miscarriages. Needless to say it has been devastating to me. I have read the book Gone Too Soon: The Life and Loss of Infants and Unborn Children. I felt it addressed the issue of stillborn babies and gave those mothers a sense of peace, knowing that they will again have the opportunity to see their child. But not with miscarriages. I also feel that those who have had miscarriages but have other children or went on to have other children after their miscarriages have a sense of peace.

    It’s difficult for me to understand my situation. I feel that I must have disappointed the Lord and He doesn’t think I have been a good mother to my daughter. (Everybody tells me that is ridiculous.) But you can’t help but feel that, especially when you felt you should have had more children. Life goes on and I love my daughter very much but the hurt is always there and I feel like I failed in one of the most important callings here on this earth.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:34 pm

    Karen writes:

    I wanted to thank you for such a wonderful article about a heartbreaking subject. My first two pregnancies ended in miscarriage. I too heard all the well meaning friends telling me that I was still young and could try again, or at least it’s better now than later. I was devastated by the losses, and longed to have someone tell me that they understood and would be there to listen if I needed it. I was married to a non-member at the time, and not allowed to go to church.

    I went on to have other children, then nineteen years after the first miscarriage I found the book, Gone Too Soon and it was a comfort. I had remarried, this time a worthy priesthood holder, and in the temple. When I found that book I was pregnant again, and we had just gotten the news that the baby I was carrying had a rare chromosomal problem, trisomy 13. I was told that I probably wouldn’t be able to carry her to term, and that if I did she would probably be stillborn or die shortly after birth. Having had two miscarriages, I hoped and prayed that this baby would at least be born alive so I could take comfort in knowing that I could have the opportunity to raise her if I kept my covenants. I felt selfish in praying that this baby, who was so severely affected by this condition, would be born alive, but I couldn’t help myself. I did eventually add, “if it be thy will” to the end of my prayers. My last baby was born alive, and lived only a very short time.

    The book, Gone Too Soon, was a huge comfort in both the previous miscarriages and in the loss of the last precious baby. I highly recommend this book to anyone who experiences the loss of a baby by miscarriage, stillbirth, or as an infant.

    I now know how to talk to someone who is going through this experience. I hug her, love her, and offer her an ear to listen if she needs it. Thank you once again for your insightful article.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:34 pm

    Betty writes:

    I, too, have experienced the pain of an unfinished pregnancy. I have lost four. The first two at 16 weeks and one at 24 weeks and one at just two months. I was sure that some how it had to be my fault, but did not know how or why as I wanted each of them so much. The most comfort I received was the one at 24 weeks. Friends and family sent sympathy cards and flowers. They acknowledged that I had had a baby. The other three I received the usual advise such as there must have been something wrong with it and you can have others and you are lucky to have the two boys you have, all of which was no comfort at all. I also had a live birth at eight months, but my water broke at seven months and I spent 27 days in bed before he was deliver by C-section. This one did live and though we both were two sick people it was worth it all.

    I thank God for every healthy live birth born to this world. After all this I can, I can bear personal witness that the pain of having one stray in the teen age years is by far the greater pain. The others I know if it is possible they will be a part of our family as they were born under the covenant.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:37 pm

    Jennifer from Provo, Utah, writes:

    I have never before read Circle of Sisters, but something in the title caught my eye this time. I am in the process of returning my life to normal after experiencing my second miscarriage a month ago. (My first daughter was born in 1997. My first miscarriage at 12 weeks followed in 1999. My second daughter was born at the end of 2000, followed by a second miscarriage at 11 weeks a month ago.) The Lord in His infinite wisdom may see fit to change my circumstances in the future, but for now, I have learned some things about my current situation that may be of use for others.

    The first (and probably most important) is about faith and trust in the Lord. I was just listening to this past October General Conference again last week. Elder L. Whitney Clayton spoke about faith in his address entitled “Help Thou Mine Unbelief,” and several passages struck me with force.

    To have faith in Jesus Christ means to have such trust in him that we obey whatever he commands. There is no faith where there is no obedience.” Faith comes from hearing the word of God and is a spiritual gift. Faith increases when we not only hear, but act on the word of God as well, in obedience to the truths we have been taught. Mary ?s reply to the angel ?s announcement provides and excellent example. Mary was told by the angel Gabriel: “Thou shalt conceive in they womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest.” Mary then obediently said to Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

    You might be saying, “Now wait. What on earth does obedience have to do with my situation? This miscarriage (or my inability to conceive or carry a baby) was forced upon me without my choice. How can I be obedient?”

    It is not the actual obedience that I am referring to in the above passage. Instead, it is the attitude that accompanies the obedience. The willingness to submit our own will completely to the only One who knows us and our needs perfectly. The attitude of trust so great that we will obey (or willingly submit to grievous trials) no matter what it is He asks of us. Many times the natural man is too weak to willingly submit to hard things. I have come to know that sometimes the only way this attitude comes is through heartfelt prayer with nothing more than a tiny spark of desire hoping and wanting the ability to feel this way. The desire expressed through humble prayer allows the Savior to change our hearts and makes way for the great gift of healing. I testify that with this willing submission even through painful periods of loss comes a peace that can come in no other way. This has been my experience with both of my miscarriages.

    October 1999 General Conference took place one week following my first miscarriage. One of the brethren spoke about Mosiah 24:14 and it touched my heart to the core. My heart cried out that this had been my experience of the previous week. Yes, it was painful. Yes, it was stressful. But the Lord had seen fit to bless me with the peace that only comes from submitting my will to His and allowing Him to carry that burden. I had come to know the Lord in a way that can only be experienced through suffering.

    Another lesson I was reminded of and relearned is about the power of the scriptures in our lives. My first miscarriage turned me towards the scriptures as I have never studied them before. I needed an anchor, which I found in the scriptures.

    In his talk titled, “One Step After Another,” Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin shared:

    I know many feel that the path is hard and the way is dark. But like Erik, the courageous mountain climber, we are not left without a guide. We have scriptures that reveal the word of God to mankind through the ages. When we feast upon the word of God, we open our minds to eternal truths and our hearts to the gentle whisperings of the Holy Ghost. Truly God ?s word, through scriptures, is a “lamp unto [our] feet, and a light unto [our] path.” As we read about the great souls who have preceded us, we learn that they too had times of discouragement and sorrow. We learn that they persevered in spite of hardship, in spite of adversity, sometimes even in spite of their own weaknesses. We learn that they too continued to press forward, one step after another.

    One such example is found in the lives of Sarah and Abraham. We often hear about the “Abrahamic test” or trial, but what of Sarah ?s own “Abrahamic test?” She, who was barren (we don ?t know whether she was unable to conceive a child or whether she was unable to carry a child) in a time and society where a woman ?s worth was dependent on her ability to give her husband children. One who has not experienced this test can only wonder at the depth of pain and suffering that accompany such a trial.

    Sarah and Abraham spent the majority of their lives living on promises. The Lord had promised them posterity. Sarah had to wait until she was 89 to bear Isaac close to the end of this mortal life. Abraham was promised a land of inheritance. He lived his entire life with this promise, which was never realized during his earthly sojourn. But we have been taught that promise will be realized in the next life. Such it is with some of us. We who are righteous are promised posterity. Some will realize this promise in the normal course of events, some will experience miracles like unto Sarah, and some, like Abraham, will rely on promises throughout this mortal experience and will only come to realize them in the next life. I don ?t know why each of us experience what we do. I only know that the Lord ?s plans and timing are perfect in His infinite wisdom.

    Joseph Smith, in speaking to the Twelve Apostles, said:

    You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham [and I add Sarah] and other men [and women] of God.

    President Hugh B. Brown said of God ?s command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, “Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham.” Might we not all need to learn something else about our own selves? Larry E. Dahl writes: ” Knowledge about ourselves thus gained [through trial and sacrifice like unto Abraham ?s] puts our relationship to God on a higher plane.” How are we to be tested like unto Abraham and Sarah? Child sacrifice might not relate to our time and circumstance, but the wrenching of our heart strings does relate. And of course, a miscarriage (or inability to conceive or carry a child) does indeed wrench the heart strings.

    Not very much is said on the doctrine surrounding miscarriage. I personally believe this is due to the very nature of miscarriage every miscarriage is different and comes about from a different reason. Following are some personal examples as to why I believe this.

    I have come to strongly feel that my first miscarriage was due to the fact that there wasn ?t a spirit for the body my body was preparing. On the other hand, I have a dear sister and friend who shared this experience with me following my first miscarriage. She had also experienced a miscarriage (hers during the second month) and had deeply grieved over her loss. She struggled with acceptance and was humbly, yet earnestly seeking answers. One day while pondering in the temple, she saw in vision the son she had lost. An adult spirit, he came to her and told her his name, and assured her his earthly mission of gaining a body had been accomplished, and told her not to grieve anymore. What a wonderful experience for a mother dealing with loss! However, she had to take the first step to earnestly and humbly seek and to petition Heavenly Father for answers.

    I truly believe Heavenly Father is waiting to teach us about our individual miscarriages. In fact, I believe He wants to teach us if we will take the time to sincerely ask with real intent, to ponder, and to wait upon Him for His answers.

    My second miscarriage is too new to for me to have developed any strong feelings regarding it. However, I would like to share a portion of a blessing my husband gave to me a month ago. I feel this can be applicable to any sister if you take out my name and substitute your name.

    Know, Jennifer, that you will understand the meaning of all things. You have sought to understand, Jennifer, why the Lord has dealt with you in the way He has. This does not grieve the Lord in any way, Jennifer. In fact, He is gladdened when His children seek wisdom of Him and seek to understand His ways; and while there is a difference between the despairing question and the true desire to understand His ways, He knows, Jennifer, that you are faithful. And, while at times your faith may be tried, He knows you are desirous to do His will; and thus, He will answer the questions you ask. He will share with you His wisdom and His understanding and His plan for you and your family here on the earth as you seek that knowledge from Him.

    Jennifer, be patient at this time. Although the Lord loves you, your walk upon this earth will not be wholly without struggle or difficulty. The Lord requires that you struggle, Jennifer; and yet, Jennifer, if you will look unto Him, you will find comfort as you see beyond what the mortal mind sees and understand through the spirit the workings of the Lord. Jennifer, seek to draw near to the Savior. Draw near to the Lord at this time; for the Lord would teach you. And yet what your mortal mind sees may be disheartening to you but, Jennifer, if you will draw near to the Lord, He will show you more than what the mortal mind sees and thus, you will be at peace. And indeed, Jennifer, you will be full of gratitude and thanks to the Lord for the blessings He will pour out upon you at this time in your life.

    I have found peace through the thoughts I have shared above. I have felt the Lord ?s hand in my experiences. I don ?t know all the answers, yet, I have faith that I will one day know them all. Miscarriage is not my choice, but I have become a better person through the way I chose to deal with it. My heart goes out to all who have experienced a miscarriage or who will yet experience one. My prayer is that we can all turn to the Lord and become better rather than bitter.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 1, 2007, 11:37 pm

    Thank you all for you kind words and contributions. I feel compelled to mention that sometimes God’s answer is simply “no.” Sometimes he will not tell us all that we would like to know or even all that we feel we should know. Sometimes we are denied the vision or closure that others may have been given. Sometimes our trial includes enduring in faith even without the blessed assurance we yearn for. But when that is his answer, we can be sure it is for the best.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 1, 2007, 11:13 pm

    Linda, thank you!

    While I’m sure that hearing other women say they are blessed to have children may remind you that you do not have that particular blessing, I honestly think it is wrong-headed to be angry, dismissive, or even to feel “searing pain” at hearing such things. At the root, isn’t that just covetous? To be unwilling to rejoice in the blessings of others (even those we don’t have ourselves)?

    After all, isn’t the absolute truth of such statements further evidenced by the yearning you have to fill your own arms? Children simply are the greatest gift! They are His own children! Even being temporarily denied this blessing doesn’t diminish its significance.

    My husband is a dear, wonderful blessing from God! But the fact that God saw fit to allow me to marry someone far greater than I deserve does not diminish the love God has for my dear, never-married, childless, faithful, returned missionary brother!

    And, as Linda said, doesn’t such a reaction hamper your ability to give appropriate thanks for the many things with which you have already been blessed? Life is not about what you do not have, it’s about what you do have ?and what you do with it.

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