The topic of this post is stake conference, personal revelation, and how it’s my lot in life to be misunderstood. Today was stake conference. Elder Trythall of the Seventy was the presiding authority. This morning, before the general session, he held a meeting for all the YSAs. The meeting was a question and answer session. Nobody seemed interested in asking a question, so I opened up a can of worms by asking a question that seems to crop up frequently in the Bloggernacle, most recently at Zelophehad's Daughters in Seraphine’s excellent series about being a 30-something single in the church.
For background, I’m 28, so while I’m technically still a YSA, I’m on the way older end. As regular readers of the blog know, I’m in law school and feel strongly called to use my God-given talents in the legal profession, most likely in legal academia. This tends to make me unattractive to the typical LDS man who wants someone who is 19, blonde, and with little ambition. (I've been told that the reason I'm single is that I'm too ambitious and too smart. Don't even get me started there.) Anyway, here’s the question I asked:
There are considerably more active single women than active single men in the church. The numbers diverge more sharply as people get older. By my age, the ratio is about 3:1. Given these demographics, there are righteous women who will not have the opportunity for temple marriage in this life. When the choice comes down to remaining unmarried or marrying a non-member, what advice would you give to someone navigating this decision?He shifted uncomfortably and then asked the rest of the people gathered what they thought. The answers varied. One guy who couldn’t have been a day older than 18 mumbled that there’s always the afterlife. I’m sure he meant well, but telling me that things will be better when I’m dead is really not a helpful answer. A few other people chimed in, and the divide was very gender-based. The men seemed to fall on the don’t worry about it side, and the women seemed to understand the point of my question. Some women said to stay unmarried and have faith, and some women said marry a non-member and have faith. Although they didn't share any tips on how to arrive at that answer, at least they were engaging my question.
Elder Trythall didn’t really answer my question, but honestly, I didn’t expect him to. I understand it’s a hard question, and it’s one that the Lord and I have been discussing for a few years. Anyway, I’m pretty sure Elder Trythall misunderstood where I was coming from. He went off on a tangent about men with goatees, and basically said that we should look to what the church leaders are doing and copy them. He then delivered his opinion about facial hair, using iphones for scripture study, and what we should wear after church on the Sabbath.
He paid lip service to personal revelation, and he invoked Elder Oaks’s famous talk about general rules and their exceptions. Then he pretty much said that people really shouldn’t be exceptions. (That completely misses the point of the talk in my opinion.) Then he preached the importance of temple marriage. This was really unhelpful. I know temple marriage is important. That wasn’t the issue. The issue was what to do when temple marriage isn’t possible in mortality. I don’t know whether that will be the case for me, but even if it isn’t, there are women (and men, but mathematically speaking, more women than men) like me for whom that will be the case. We need answers!
After the meeting, Sister Trythall spoke to me. (She had been sitting near me in the meeting.) She was much more helpful. She had misunderstood the question when I asked it, and she took the time to really understand what I was asking. We had a good conversation about the pros and cons of each option, and I really felt like I was being taken seriously.
I went over to speak with Elder Trythall after the meeting, and that’s when I realized that he completely missed my point. He said that I needed to take an eternal perspective and that I needed to gain a testimony of eternal marriage. I told him that I was taking an eternal perspective and that I did have a testimony of eternal marriage, but that wasn’t the issue. The issue was math. He made some glib remark about mortal math and told me I was being too logical.
Last time I checked, my brain came from God. We’re told to study things out in our minds. Anyway, I told him that I recognize that if I don’t have a chance to receive the sealing ordinance in this life that I’ll have a chance to receive it in the next. However, my concern was with this life. If my choices are to marry a non-member and have children, or to stay single and die alone, I need to figure out how to navigate that. He looked at me completely uncomprehendingly. He seriously seemed not to be able to grasp that anyone who wasn’t sealed in the temple could possibly want to have a family. He didn’t quite come right out and say that it would be unrighteous to have children with a nonmember, but he came pretty close.
I left the meeting frustrated and near tears. I’m not one to share my deepest thoughts and emotions very often because I get misunderstood when I do. Anyway, then I had to put on a fake smile, pretend everything was ok, and make my way to the general session of stake conference. I wasn’t paying too much attention to the talks. I was still thinking about the earlier meeting. Then I realized that I already had my answer to the question I asked. Personal revelation.
Like I mentioned earlier, the Lord and I have been discussing this issue for a long time. I got my answer in September of last year. I went to a singles' conference praying for an answer to that very question. The answer came that I should marry a good man who loves me and who I love, and whose dreams I can support and who can support my dreams, and that I should not concern myself with whether or not he is a member of the church. I’ll admit that wasn’t the answer I expected. I still don’t know how that will play out. He might be LDS, and he might not.
So, when it comes down to it, it would appear that I’m more in the Chieko Okazaki camp and not the Sherri Dew camp. (I’m only bringing them up by name because they’re two female church leaders who I can think of who had to wrestle with this situation, and they were guided to different results. I’m sure they both followed the will of the Lord for them, even if for Sister Okazaki it meant marrying outside the church, and for Sister Dew, it meant staying single.) To my knowledge, the church doesn’t have a position on which option is better.
On the one hand, I wish I hadn’t asked the question, since it clearly made everyone uncomfortable, and I did already have an answer. On the other hand, it was an excellent learning experience for me. I was reminded powerfully that I am entitled to personal revelation for my marriage situation, and that the decision rests solely between me, my soulmate, and God.
If I follow the direction to find a good man without regard to religion, then if I am not sealed in this life, God will work it out in the eternities. He will not punish me for following what He has told me through His spirit.
The closing hymn at the general session was “Press Forward Saints”. I love that hymn. It’s a reminder to keep going when the going gets tough. I don’t know what’s in store for me, but I know it will be amazing. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:9.