Sunday, October 9, 2011

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism

[There is] one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Ephesians 4:5-6
I attended a mid-singles conference this weekend in the Bay Area. It spanned three days, with social activities on Friday night, spiritual/educational lectures on Saturday, and a church service on Sunday. Saturday was fantastic, and my report on that can be found here. Today's church service, however, wounded my soul deeply.

The keynote speaker for today's service was Julie Beck, the general president of the Relief Society. When President Beck got up to speak, I was hoping that what had been a wonderful Christ centered conference would be concluded with yet another message focusing on the Savior. Sadly, this was not the case.

She began by sharing a story about how she and her husband don't have much in common in the way of interests or entertainment choices, but they're both devoted to the Gospel, so their marriage has a strong foundation. Then she said that the general authorities prayed for the singles regularly and that it is their hope that instead of dwelling on our singleness, we grow firmer in our faith in Christ. So far, so good.

Then the talk took a nosedive. She shared her belief that as long as a man and a woman are committed to the gospel, they can make a marriage work. Then she lectured us on the plan of salvation, told us that our unborn children were waiting to be born and that we're letting Satan delay the Second Coming by not marrying and having those children, and said that we need to go to the temple and pray, and then we'll be able to get married.

As harsh and unkind as that all sounded, I could tell that she was speaking with the utmost concern, so I was able to brush all of that off as someone who married young and doesn't quite understand that it takes more than two temple recommends and some prayer to have a marriage. (I was reminded of Sister Dew's quote to the effect that if all it took to find a husband was prayer, fasting, and temple attendance, she would have Nephis lined up at her door.)

But the talk got worse. In her exhortation for us to all just get with the program and get married already, she mentioned that she didn't want the single people to be like (some group in the Book of Mormon, but I didn't catch who), and be a separate church. So we need to get married already so we won't be a separate church.

That's right. The general president of the Relief Society just said that single people aren't a part of her church. [1] If you want to know why the singles are leaving the church in droves, I can tell you. It's because of remarks like that. It's because we're told that there's something fundamentally wrong with us and that marriage is the only thing that can make us worthy to worship with the rest of the saints.

God doesn't put those qualifications on His fellowship, though.
Yea, if they will come, they may, and partake of the waters of life freely. Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
Doctrine and Covenants 10:66-67
So, it doesn't matter if you're single, married, old, young, gay, straight, black, white, etc., as long as you come to Christ, you're a part of His church. And you're absolutely welcome in mine.

[1] I recognize that President Beck isn't the most gifted public speaker and that she probably meant it another way (though I can't fathom what she could have meant that wouldn't be so deeply hurtful). But I still left the meeting in tears.


Petra said...

1. Awful. AWFUL. I'm so sorry you had to sit through that.

2. It's not exactly the fault of single people if it seems like they're a "separate church"--um, the Church purposely organizes them into singles wards to keep them separate. If she feels so strongly about this, she should stop blaming the victims and start getting them structurally integrated.

3. I hate the attitude that when the Church has a problem dealing with single people, it's the singles' fault rather than the Church's--that is, they should just all get married so the Church doesn't have to worry about them anymore, rather than, say, the Church changing to better accommodate single folk. As if, once again, the single people are "broken" and we just need to fix them. Sigh.

TopHat said...


Deborah said...

Last I checked, there is no record of Jesus being married. Too bad Sister Barbara Thompson didn't speak -- first counselor, never married, wonderfully accomplished. I wonder what she would think of such a talk were she in the audience?

Erstwild said...

Some married sisters get so "catty" around divorced or single sisters that it's a good idea to keep singles separated. Yes, how singles are treated is often appalling. But, I don't see how her talk will improve anything.

And, being on that level of leadership in the Church also makes Sis. Beck close to immune from having to either apologize or explain what she meant. And, I don't see this getting enough media coverage to make someone in the LDS PR Dept. explain what was said.

The good news is that General RS President is often not a Position held for life.

Erstwild said...

Now that I read this again, the *BIG* reason the Second Coming has not happened is the Gospel has not been preached in all nations. I've never seen anything that said there had to be a certain number of Temple Marriages or LDS children around.

Maybe it's a mindset of another generation, but my grandmother told a second cousin to "just get married", like the cousin could just push a button & it would happen.

Ziff said...

Yikes, Keri! That's really bad! As Petra says so well, if singles are considered a different church, um, who's pushing that agenda? Not singles. A remarkably tone deaf comment for her to make.

Anonymous said...

ugh! What a painful experience it must have been to sit through that talk. Here's to the hope that someday we'll have another Chieko as RS president.


Jessica said... Nuthin' else I can think of to say.

April said...

So sorry you had to suffer through this talk. I was single longer than most Mormons, and I endured many a married person accusing us of being single due to pickiness or irresponsiblity or lack of faith or whatever. Now I am married, but I am just as flawed as I was before I married. When a person happens to get married has nothing to do with personal worthiness and is largely out of a person's control, in my opinion. Also, I am teaching the signs of the times lesson at church next week, so I have studied them thoroughly, and there is nothing in there about Mormons having to marry off and birth a bunch of kids before the millenium.

Keri Brooks said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. I've updated the post with the link to my report on the fantastic talks on Saturday.

Petra - I think you're spot-on about the church itself contributing to the problem of turning singles into The Other. Part of why I don't attend a singles ward is because I don't want to be a willing participant in my own marginalization. (Plus, I love teaching the Sunbeams.)

Deborah - I wondered about Sister Thompson's thoughts as well.

Erstwild - I hope you're not being serious. Yes, some married women are insecure around single women. But that's no reason to banish single members to a leper colony or make us walk around with a scarlet "S" on our chests.

April - Yeah, I had never heard of that being a sign of the times. Besides, I would think that delaying the Second Coming would be a good thing because it would give people more of an opportunity to repent and accept the gospel!

Paula said...

Do you think that there's a written version of this talk available? Perhaps the people who planned the conference would know?

Keri said...

Paula - I doubt there's a written version available. She said at the beginning of the talk that she had been thinking the day before about what to say to us and wasn't really sure what she should talk about. Her remarks seemed off the cuff. (Not that she didn't prepare, but more that she was speaking from notes or an outline instead of a pre-written talk.)

Erstwild said...

Keri: I'm not joking at all. My wife's sister got divorced from her husband after he became FLDS, one of the few times she had ever countered his wishes. She had a number of children, yet, one of the sisters in her ward in Idaho said they were afraid she was going to take away someone's husband.

A similar thing happened to an LDS friend from work in her Central California ward. And, I've heard a few other such stories.

Anonymous said...

Quite some time ago, while I was a student, I was part of a singles ward. Students were a minority in the ward, and tended to have less money than the non-students. One day, the bishop made an announcement that something or other would cost $X for students and $Y for "members". It didn't have the sort of emotional impact you've described here, but I've been surprised by how memorable the moment was.

I'm all but certain the bishop wasn't conscious of it, and there was no visible reaction from anyone. A minor slip of the tongue is not usually memorable, but in this case it was all too obvious from the bishop's conduct on other occasions that he did view students as (at best) second-class members. He did try not to let it show, but some things are difficult to conceal over long periods of time.