Is there a place for a divorced/single woman in the Church?
Response by Marsha Steed Keller
I was once young and full of hope and excitement, promise and innocent dreams. I married my first date and high school sweetheart, waited for him on his mission and then became engaged a month after he returned home. Soon we had four beautiful children, a temple marriage and I was the bishop’s wife. Then, life turned upside down.
I found myself at 42, a single mom, no college degree and feeling shattered, hopeless, broken and filled with fear. I also found that being single in the church is very different than being married.
I could sugar-coat it and say that it is all how you look at it (people said that to me); that it is only for a little while until you heal (estimated a year) or that that it will all work out in the end (which it will, but NOT what I wanted or needed to hear at the time). I won’t. Instead I’ll be honest. Being single in a church that has a firm and solid foundation of family and marriage, can be difficult when one is or becomes single. Sometimes it feels like fitting in is impossibly difficult. That is the truth. However. . . . It is not a bad place. It is not a scary place (with some tools to help) and it is not an impossible place to be.
The leaders are very VERY cognizant of the single adults in the church. Truly they are. They pray daily for Church members, and they meet and plan constantly for what will best serve the different life circumstances of the members of Christ’s body.
What I will do, is share five things that I found helped me immeasurably to navigate my time as a single woman.
First and foremost, remember who you are. Remember that you are still and always a daughter of the Most High God. A queen-to-be, a child of infinite worth. This is essential, though sometimes difficult to remember. Remember it.
Second, remember that being divorced is a different experience. It is not who you are, it is simply an experience you are currently having. It may change (probably will) in this life, and it may not, but it is not who you are. It is simply a place you are plunked in at the moment for either your own learning, the education of others, or both.
Third, remember to have fun. Really. Take time for yourself, even if it is only 20 minutes. Refill however you refill the best. Chocolate, silence, running, friends, whatever. Just do NOT dry up until you are worthless to everyone including yourself.
Fourth, remember that if you WANT the Celestial Kingdom, you already have an eternal mate . . . Somewhere. He exists. Now. Somewhere he is thinking about you, loving you, hoping for you, and making himself worthy of you, just as you are praying for him, thinking and longing for him and knowing that your union (though interrupted at the moment ) is eternal. It isn’t a future event, it exists now, you just don’t know him yet (ask Michael Buble’!)
Lastly, and honestly the most importantly, keep at it. Keep getting up. Keep reading your scriptures even when you don’t want to. Keep attending church even when you aren’t sure it even matters anymore and it only causes you to cry all the time. Keep singing the hymns, even when the memories are so strong you can’t get the words out, and keep praying, even when you aren’t sure that there is anyone listening. There is! I know, I’ve felt all of those things, and learned that HE never leaves. When we are ready, we return, and His arms are always always ALWAYS open.
Is there a place? Yes. That doesn’t mean that it is the same place as before. A broken cup, even if repaired perfectly, still knows how it feels to be dropped and broken. You will always have this as part of your experience. But you can be even stronger and more beautiful through it all, through the Atonement. And you can have compassion for others walking this path.
You are divine. Different isn’t a bad thing. You are worthy of fun and laughter and you are loved deeply and eternally right now. You can keep going. Endurance isn’t a chore, it is like a diamond, enduring, brilliant, stronger than most anything and always reflecting the light it receives outward in a dazzling array of color.
There is a place for a divorced woman, right there in the second row, next to the wounded stranger who also has no wedding ring on, but a heart that is a home to every tender soul.
p.s. Now I’m once more a ‘married Mormon woman’, I found my unlikely heartmate with a cowboy hat on!