10.13.2010

"Maybe in the Next World"

From Elder Boyd K. Packer's talk "Cleansing the Inner Vessel" at the Fall 2010 Conference: 

To be entrusted with the power to create life carries with it the greatest of joys and dangerous temptations. The gift of mortal life and the capacity to kindle other lives is a supernal blessing. Through the righteous exercise of this power, as in nothing else, we may come close to our Father in Heaven and experience a fulness of joy. This power is not an incidental part of the plan of happiness. It is the key—the very key.
Whether we use this power as the eternal laws require or reject its divine purpose will forever determine what we will become. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
    .  .  .  .

When we obey, we can enjoy these powers in the covenant of marriage. From our fountains of life will spring our children, our family. Love between husband and wife can be constant and bring fulfillment and contentment all the days of our lives.
If one is denied these blessings in mortality, the promise is that they will be provided for in the world to come.


Ouch. Marriage and sex are THE KEY to human happiness. It brings us closer to God than anything else does. And some of us will be denied that. But, we will be provided for after we die. Even though we were created in order to feel joy, it's not going to happen for us until we are dead. Great.

I wish I found that comforting. But I do not. Do you know what it says to me? And probably to most singles -- Some of you won't experience real human happiness, or participate in the true purpose of human life or get that much closer to God.  We know that you are sacrificing your mortal happiness. But, don't feel bad because some day in the future, you will get your body back and will get to experience these things.

According to church doctrine that will be after the end of days and the second coming and the resurrections. Then, after all of that, I will get assigned to some man to be his 50th wife.  Pardon me for not being overjoyed.  First of all, it could take thousands of years!  And I can only imagine how much worse that sounds to homosexuals in the church.  Waiting thousands of years for love is not appealing.  That alone kind of makes me want to quit and look for love elsewhere.

It seems that what we always suspected is now confirmed true. No matter how hard they try, the singles won't obtain the same level of happiness. And yet, when you look around you can see the happy people outside the church. Many of them do just fine. Many of them live better lives than we do. They get married and have families and have happy productive lives. While there are plenty of unhappy married people at church. None of us is guaranteed a happy life. That's fair enough. But being single feels like we don't even get the chance for that kind of happiness. We never entered the race, winning was never a possibility. So a lot of us, at least 90%, decide to chase a happy life outside the church, giving up their eternal reward to do it. (I'm not referring to interfaith marriage, but apostatizing for the sake of a relationship.)

While the years tick by, that promise of a future happiness becomes more meaningless to me. Maybe that's a sign of my own weakness. The wavering of my faith. I think this happens to all the many, many singles who leave the church. They spend years watching their lives slip away. They obey, but time keeps passing joylessly. Happiness seems to get further beyond their reach. The temptation to find happiness NOW grows ever stronger with each year.  It chips away at our faith and our testimonies. 

"He who loses his life for my sake shall take it up again."  I know the scripture.  But, it's not like I'm one of the 12 disciples giving up my life to spread Christianity.  For what cause am I doing this? For exaltation? That doesn't matter to me.  Whatever I get in the end will be fine.  I obey because I promised to.  I obey because I love my God and I owe Him.  If my motivation were for a reward, then my obedience would be self-serving and of little worth. 

I'm trying to figure out how I feel.  I'm trying to clarify my own confused thoughts.  I am struggling with my faith.  I know I can't be the only one.  The other singles have spoken with their feet as they walked out the door.  The dilemma: Live for now, or live for later.  We can't have it both ways.    

What's my conclusion? Let's be honest.  Promises for the afterlife are cold comfort and a difficult motivator. I wish the GAs and bishops and everyone else would stop flinging that promise around as if it were a panacea.  Like that's all we need to make it through this life alone.  I don't think it helps. It doesn't help me feel better. And I think it is used as an excuse. They don't have to do anything about the singles because God will provide, eventually. Maybe in the next world?

It all comes down to faith. It always does. Give your life to the Lord, and trust Him.  Worry not about your future.  Obey, because He said so.  Know that He is a just god and be still. It's a hard road. It can be a lot to ask.  Some of us are asked to sacrifice our happiness here and now.  Look at poor Joseph Smith, what a miserable life he had!  He did what was asked anyway.  Like all the other prophets who suffered miserably.  Although their suffering served a purpose.  Maybe ours does too?  Does that help any? It would help me, I think.  Be still. Be still.

We may not have a fullness of joy, but it won't be a bad life. We will do good things in our obedience. We will grow and become better. We will have true friends and know love because of our charity. We can accomplish much. We can do more good works because we aren't tied to a family. We contribute to other people's lives and lift their burdens.  Maybe this is the purpose of our solitude?  Maybe our burden is to make other people happier.  In that, we can find contentment.  That may be enough for a good life, here and now.  I hope so. I don't know how much longer I can hold my breath for the next world.

11 comments:

Button Soup said...

Dear Celibate, as I read your post I sensed a roller coaster of emotion. Not unlike my own in the past. I have been angry, hopeless, desperate, anything to not be what I really was. I think of the line from the Hymn Where Can I Turn For Peace?: "In my Gethsemane". You may not know but you answered your question with your own words. You do not think Eternal Glory is worth the price you pay? Sister, I tell you IT IS! Just as we weep over the sacrifice in Gethsemane by our loving Savior, we also must pass through that gate. We must be CLEAN! The Lord knows us so well that our trials are tailor made to fit us perfectly. Some are single because that trial will stretch them enough to get them in. He loves you too much to give in to your tears now because your "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth" later would break His heart. If you remember in Disney's Pinocchio when the boys are at the island, in the end their fun and games bring them to destruction! If you or anyone else thinks you can "eat drink and be merry; nevertheless, fear God - He will justify in committing a little sin...there is no harm in this" (2 Ne 28:8) This is a lie of satan Nephi is warning us about it the latter days. Also Nephi says "for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell." (2 Ne 26:10) You mentioned that you wondered what you were suffering for? Then you said "For exaltation? That doesn't matter to me." My heart goes out to you. Honestly. You hit the nail on the head when you said "It all comes down to faith." It is the 1st principle of the gospel. Everything follows. I know it is hard to be alone. I know it is lonely and heartbreaking and it is almost impossible to feel good about yourself. And you are left out of things because you are somehow faulty. I used to think those in church leadership had no clue when they said to be faithful, fill your life with other pursuits while you wait. I used to think they were callous and cruel and had no idea what it was like for me because they didn't have to live my life. Well, neither did the Savior live my life, but He sank to the very bottom of it all and endured. All of it. Everything. All my doubt, fears, frustrations, worries, anger, lack of faith and temptation and sin. He suffered it all. This I tell you as my testimony. I know this to be true. He was able to bear all things. He endured. He is my example. The trial was not removed from Him, so it might not be removed from me. I am not sure who said it, and it was a couple of years ago, but think back to the story of Jacob. He works 7 years and gets tricked, and the sister gets to have kids while Rachel is barren. The point made in conference is that the scripture says: And the Lord remembered Rachel. So, liken this scripture to yourself, and know that He does know who you are. He is with you as you weep or throw things. He will remember how well you behaved when it was not fair. Life is not fair. We do not want to get what we deserve. We want something better. You might do it because you love Him, but you can still know the reward and be okay with that. Sister, please, if you get nothing else, know that the Lord loves you and it is worth it. All your pain and suffering is for your good. Do not believe the lies from satan that leaving the fold of the Good Shepherd is better. My favorite part from Elder Packers talk is that he points out that satan is impotent. Think about that. Literally. You can do something he never will. He is trying to pervert and twist it. Do not let him. Just think about how he cannot ever ever ever feel what you suffer over. And then endure to the end. But, be active and fill your life with the spirit at the same time. Then at least you will be in good company. I hope you work it out. I hope you soon have the faith to continue on. It is not easy, but nothing worth having is.

Brittney Deanne said...

One of my Mormon Co-workers said to me, teasingly, one day, "Maybe he (referring to my, uh, non-existant husband)died in the war in heaven!" Apparently, that is something they said all the time way back when. I found it less than amusing... haha.

City JL said...

He died in the war in heaven? --cute.

Button Soup,
Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate the time you took to write so much and be so thorough. I can tell that you really care. I'm not leaving the church. I have no plans to be disobedient or apostatize. I did answer my own question, as you said.

Here's the thing: We're told over and over that the gospel is supposed to bring peace and happiness. That obedience brings happiness. Packer stressed this in his talk. But the fact is that sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes obedience can lead to profound unhappiness. We were never promised a happy temporal life. It's dangerous for the church to teach otherwise, because when people see that obedience doesn't necessarily always lead to happiness then they question the church. And, promises of eternal happiness aren't always comforting. That was one of my issues that I'm trying to resolve in my head.

The other thing is: it's one thing for someone to be born without a leg and blame God for it, and accept the trial. But, singles VOLUNTARY submit themselves to suffering in the church. At some point we all find ourselves asking why we do this to ourselves. And we have to find an answer or perish. My answer is, because God said so. That has to be enough for me for now. We all have to resolve the contradiction, when the gospel brings more pain than it alleviates. It's hard. That's what I meant. Let's be honest. Pretending it isn't hard, isn't going to make it easier. The contrary in fact.

The last thing I want to mention is that I find the thought that God wants us to be single for our own good so we should just accept it, is dangerous fatalism. The Lord doesn't want us to suffer. He allows it for our own good. If we believe that we have to accept the suffering for own good, then what happens when we apply that elsewhere? For example, children are traded as sex slaves, but we don't want to say God wanted them to go through that so we should let it be. No. it's our responsibility to fix such a horror. It's our responsibility to alleviate as much human suffering as possible. Some effort on the church's part to help or accommodate the singles would go a long, long way.

I'm trying to make the contradictions fit together. Being single in the church doesn't have to be as hard as it is.

Thank you again for your loving comments. It helped me to clarify my thoughts a bit.

Jill said...

I'm on the older side (29) and single and to be honest I don't think that it is very productive to hope for some kind of huge cultural shift in the Church in regards to singles. For me the most beneficial thing is to do everything in my control to make myself happy without waiting for other people to cater to my specific needs and situation. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won't. It isn't a sin to marry outside of the church, just do whatever you want to.

City JL said...

I'm not waiting for a cultural shift within the church. It's not going to happen. All I'm saying is that it sucks. And this is how I'm dealing with it. And I'm sick of hearing about how we will be provided for in the next world. And sometimes all of this affects my faith.

Good luck finding a man outside the church who will date a woman without sex for long enough to marry her. They are a very very rare breed. I haven't found one yet that wasn't gay.

Nav said...

Jill - 29 is older? hahahaha

JL - can I ask a "don't become irascible over this" question? What are you going to do about your desires to change the way the church attends to singles? I have often had older, higher up (mission and temple president types) tell me the church is always looking for ideas from wards and stakes. May I suggest you talk to your bishop and stake president about a singles ward, or branch, or....?

What do you think the church should do?

Fei @ The Companion said...

It's funny you aren't consoled because I think too many women take consolation in the fact that they *will* be magically provided with a spouse in the next world.

That, for sure, is not the way it works. Just as opportunities are presented here, it will be opportunities too, that will be given there. Not a straight up "match made in Heaven".

I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but if intimate relationships haven't worked out for you in this world, it's not going to be much easier in the next. The same process of conquering self and learning to love others applies. The only consolation that promise brings is for those who have tried and tried and done their best and have happiness, but not marital happiness (whether they are married, single or divorced).

But that's me. I don't say such things as a way to poke at singles. I really truly understand the heartache and loneliness, at least to the much lesser extent that I have suffered myself, but I think being angry at circumstances is counter productive as is blaming yourself. But seeing that having a happy relationship is *mostly* within your power is well, empowering.

Screw promised blessings in the next life. We can all have them here and now.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Let us not for get that Joseph Smith himself said that we should be "anxiously engaged in a good cause." Doesn't trying to fix the problem with the singles in the Church qualify as being anxiously engaged in a good cause?

I mean, consider the statistics of inactive singes in the Church. I have personally heard from more than one Bishop/Stake President that the numbers of inactive single over the age of 30 hovers between 90-95%. Imagine the moment when the Titanic was between 90-95% under water. That is where we are now at in the Church with regard to singles. When should the bell go off? When should we start paying attention? When should we get a little bit creative about how we get singles totether to meet? When do we start a real Churchwide conversation?

Do you really think that this huge hole in Church population doesn't affect the entire Church in drastic ways? Consider home teaching, visiting teaching,callings, missionary work, etc... Not to mention drastically adding to the singles dating pool.

Finally, just a warning for singles who just want to stand by and blindly criticize anyone who dares question the singles program: You may feel very casual about the whle thing today, but you may not feel that way five years from now when you are still single. If that happens to you (and, beleive me, it can) do you want the program to still be running like it does in five years, or do you want it to have made improvements that actually help people mean and marry?

noyb said...

man! i am bursting with stuff to say, but i just cant get it out in a coherent fashion. suffice it to say that i agree with you-it does suck sometimes and sometimes the married with children types just dont "get it". in their efforts to "comfort" me, i had 2 different sisters tell me that either i could be blessed to be one of joseph smith's wives after the 2nd coming OR i could be moroni's wife si nce there is no scriptural documentation that he was ever married. now...if those artist renderings are even somewhat close to the actual likeness of moroni, I WILL TAKE IT. lol. i am rambling, sorry...
i totally get what you are saying and agree 100%. wish i had my thoughts a little more together. :/ singlemormonchick

City JL said...

Wow, quite an array of reactions.

Nav, I do have a project underway. It's big. If successful, it should accomplish something. And, my ward started a YSA sunday school and FHE after I went to the bishop about it. I was 30. Now I'm not interested in hanging out with 20 year olds so I don't participate anymore.

Fei, sometimes anger is useful. It's an excellent motivator. As long as you don't let it turn into bitterness which is self-destructive.

One of Joseph Smith's or Moroni's wives? Oh, goody, goody! That makes it all better. Didn't Smith already have like 50 wives before he died? If someone had said that to me I probably would have laughed in her face.

Sheila said...

Wow. This really articulates a lot of my thoughts. Thanks, JL - well put.

The 'afterlife' consolations are just laughable. "Be faithful in this life and you'll get to marry a dead guy!" - less than helpful. No wonder we're leaving the church in droves. It takes a great deal of fortitude to remain in a religion that touts marriage as the requirement for the highest eschelons of heaven.

A Christian friend of mine commented the other day (innocently, I'm sure) that people cannot possibly acheive real happiness without a partner and children, and subsequently cannot really understand their relationship to God, either. I've heard this sentiment in various forms in the church, so it was simultaneously interesting/depressing to hear it from another Christian of a different faith.

*sigh*