When life isn’t ideal
On yesterday’s post, which, among other things, discussed Mormon women and motherhood, a reader named “h” asked a question that feels rooted in a lot of pain — pain that too many women can likely relate to.
What about married LDS women who want children and feel ostracised because they don’t have any in spite of being married for 10+years?
My heart aches for you, h, and doubly so — to not be able to have children when they are desired is a heavy cross to carry, and then to feel ostracized can make that pain all the more intense. I know enough about Mormon culture to know that sometimes such unkind attitudes can be real, so I’m not going to minimize that reality.
But still, I am going to talk about doctrine, because I think that is where the answer to your question really lies. I think this is true for anyone who may feel like they don’t fit in somehow because of less-than-ideal circumstances in their lives. In reality, there will always be people around us who fail us. But our doctrine is that God never will, so I believe the answer for any of us is to look to Him in our pain. That is something I’m working on a lot in my life. It’s hard work, but I do believe it’s good work, necessary work, blessed work.
My pain is different, although not unrelated. I cannot have more children because of health issues, and it’s not been infrequently that I’ve felt “less than” because I haven’t been able to fulfill that desire of my heart to the extent that I have wanted to. I also am unable to do a lot of things — such as hold a Sunday calling or attend meetings that fall in the morning — because of my health. I have sometimes felt that people think I must be doing something wrong, that if I only changed this or that, I’d be able to do the things I want to and even feel like I should be doing.
But I’m coming to believe that these “less than ideal” situations can be learning opportunities if we will let them — especially giving us opportunities to learn to lean on God and trust His voice — and His plan.
I’m moved by scriptures that remind us that we will be judged according to the desires of our hearts. See, for example Alma 41:3-5 and this part of a roundtable discussion with several of our leaders:
The Desires of the Heart
I know of many couples who desire to have children and aren’t given that blessing. Their challenge is the challenge of not having children, and we need to be listening and supportive and encouraging toward them. And I also believe that the desire to have children in the single sisters and in these couples probably won’t go away if they’re righteous, because that is a God-given desire. It speaks to their very natures and the training they received in the heavens. So that longing will not go away. But the Lord will bless them.
And that longing will weigh in the final judgment. One of the most comforting passages in all of scripture for me is in the 137th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 9, where we’re told that the Lord will judge us according to our works and according to the desires of our hearts.
Elder Oaks has talked about this before:
[T]he law of God can reward a righteous desire because an omniscient God can discern it. As revealed through the prophet of this dispensation, God “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (D&C 33:1.) –Elder Dallin H. Oaks
President Packer also recently addressed trials like childlessness, and declared that “In the eternal scheme of things—not always in mortality—righteous yearning and longing will be fulfilled.” Our hearts and desires matter to God, even if others don’t see and know our hearts.
In relying on God’s mercy and knowledge of our hearts, as well as personal revelation which is essential for us to remain grounded through hard trials, I believe we can come to find peace in spite of pain, even when — and perhaps especially when — that pain is exacerbated by the weakness or unkindness of someone else. I know this isn’t easy, so I’m not just throwing words out there thinking that it’s going to suddenly make your life better. But I do believe God is our answer, and the power of the Atonement is real, no matter what our struggles.
One other thing that has helped me not feel so “different” in my less-than-ideal-ness is simply to be honest in talking to others about the struggles. I think sometimes when we are open with our pain, it helps people have more compassion and helps them realize that so often, hasty judgments simply reflect a lack of understanding and information. I believe our culture can be improved as we are willing to open our hearts and allow others the opportunity to mourn with us as we mourn during difficult trials.
I mourn with you and I know others do, too. I’m sorry you have felt ostracized, but I do believe there are many whose hearts go out to you, even if you may not feel that right now. I know trials like this can feel so lonely, but as Sister Beck recently said in an LDS Living interview,
“I feel a lot of empathy for sisters who are having difficult challenges…. In the end, it’s between them and the Lord, and no one else can solve it. And I’ve learned that’s okay.” She clarifies, “It isn’t that I don’t care or don’t notice. I’ve been out in the world and I’ve seen hard things—heartbreaking circumstances, just about every challenge, and I can wear out my life on every challenge. It’s overwhelming and I’m not equipped. I have limited abilities. We can’t expect to be ‘fit companions of the Gods,’ like Eliza R. Snow said, if we haven’t had to do the work to become that. A lot of that is lonely work between us and the Lord and calling upon His Atonement to help us through our experience. The journey is what makes us.”
h, once again, I’m sorry for your pain. My heart hurts for you. Know that God knows your heart. He knows your life, your pain. He knows your desires. Trust Him and His promises. Seek Him earnestly through prayer, scripture study, pondering the messages of our leaders, attending the temple, recording tender mercies in your life…. Lean on Him when you feel that someone may be unkindly judging you. Know that others walk this path, too, whether because of infertility or other reasons. Know that our leaders are aware of the fact that women like you struggle with this hard burden.
I pray that you will be able to come to feel and know of God’s love and awareness of you more than ever before, and perhaps even be able to be an instrument in His hands to reach out to others who also struggle, and to help those who don’t to understand a little better and mourn with you.