The Strange Missing Element in Elder Oaks’s Very Fine Stargazing Analogy

stargazingIf you live in anywhere in the Upper Midwest, and you’re the sort of Mormon who goes to stake conference, then yesterday you were sitting in a church building somewhere listening to some piped-in talks from Salt Lake City, the concluding one being given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks. His remarks were very Hinckley-ish, running over a wide range of topics pertinent to both administering the affairs of the church and living a Christ-like life. At one point he directed his comments to the single adult members in the church, and he told a short story, which I actually thought was an almost perfect analogy of the situation facing most single adult members of the church. Almost. To summarize as best as I can recall, his analogy went like this:

Imagine that you feel a great passion for stargazing, and to that end you have been drawn to membership in a stargazing club. It’s a good club, with lots of opportunities for going outside a looking at the stars. The club provides all the resources necessary for stargazing–the telescopes, the transportation, etc.–but stargazing takes place at night in all seasons, it can obviously sometimes get cold, and having a warm jacket is important. You don’t have a good warm jacket, but you were told that, as a member of the club, you’d be able to get a hold of one. Well, a stargazing activity is planned and you’re there with everyone else, and they all have their club jackets on. But there isn’t one for you. When you ask about this, you’re told “Well, look around, no doubt you can find one somewhere.” So you look, but there aren’t any available, or at least not any that fit you. You ask further about this, and you’re told, “Just keep coming out to the stargazing activities, and be diligent, and you’re sure to find a jacket eventually.” In the meantime, though, you’re getting cold. And to make matters worse, other members of the club keep coming up to you, saying “Why don’t you have a jacket? You really ought to have a jacket. Try looking harder for a jacket.” And you notice that most of your fellow members seem to spend a great deal of time talking about their jackets. How warm they are, what a blessing it is to have a jacket, the different types of jackets, how to repair jackets when they get torn, how to add new pockets to your jacket, and so forth. Really, stargazing isn’t turning out to be nearly as rewarding as you thought it might be.

Some might not care of this analogy, but I thought its homely examples and wisdom were really quite accurate and compassionate. So, overall, a very fine and challenging picture of the reality in so many branches and wards and stakes across our church. Why don’t I think it was perfect, though? Because, after telling that story, Elder Oaks proceeded to express his fervent wish both that single adult members could feel more a part of church life and that married church members could be more inclusive of them. Somehow, he missed the obvious punchline–whether intentionally, or because it genuinely didn’t occur to him, I don’t know. But either way, I don’t see how anyone could take that analogy seriously and not immediately come to the perfectly logical take-away:

Maybe we can’t make sure everyone has a warm jacket, but at the very least, wouldn’t it be a rather kind thing if all the other members of the stargazing club STOPPED TALKING ABOUT THEIR JACKETS ALL THE TIME? I mean, it’s a stargazing club, not a jacket club, right?


  1. He gave the same short story in the regional conference for Utah and Wasatch counties last Fall. I also thought he had done an admirable job in putting this forward but also had the same exact thought as you as to the logical take-away.

  2. Lord knows I’ve tried to share my jacket with many, many others but for some reason that is frowned upon.

  3. You can always tell who has been in the club the longest, because their jackets just keep getting fatter.

  4. Is it odd that I spent the whole analogy thinking that jackets were a stand-in for something like “rock-solid testimonies”?

    Only afterward did I realize that it was either a spouse or a family.

    The perfectly logical, and 100% factual take-away to this statement is no one talks about their spouse all the time. However, the point is taken, that if listening to an inspired servant of the Lord, you felt like perhaps your way of being more inclusive is to take more care in how you should speak, then you should do that. I don’t think measuring others up to the personal thoughts you received on how you can tailor your conduct is necessarily universal though.

    To the extent we share experiences relating to our spouses, we can probably assume its because we are approaching the commandment to be one flesh. My wife is a part of me, her stories are very much integrated into my own experience.

    Testimony meeting yesterday we had one story that involved a husband-wife experience. A dozen or so of others that didn’t. All the time is obviously exaggeration, but even “most of the time” is hyperbole. Still, to re-iterate the point, if Elder Oaks told people to stop talking about marriage or their spouse as it relates to their life experiences, I think it wouldn’t lessen the regret others feel. Marriage isn’t something that’s only important because we talk about it, if the plan of salvation is to be believed it’s embedded in our nature and reflective of where we came from and where we are going. Won’t the feelings of loneliness and grief be there either way? The single sisters and brothers I know (at times) feel lonely whether they actively come to church or not.

    My personal thoughts on the matter is that whatever life circumstances we find ourselves in, we can have some intense feelings of loneliness (married or not) and depression. When we look to the Savior and point others to the Savior, then the sting of that loss can be swallowed up in Christ.

    The irony is, it would seem, in some sense, the prescription in this post is behavior modification. Another example (from a different point of view) of the oft accused Latter-day Saint fetish with perfection — “if only we can do it just like this all is well.” So add “talk about spouse less often” to the Mosiac list of traits we need to check off. (please don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting that any particular trait in that imaginary list is necessarily “bad”)

    The best advice I’ve seen is to remind ourselves (and others) what Christ has done for us, remind ourselves (others) of the good news of the Gospel, and point them to Christ and receive inspiration (and inspire others) how to serve the Lord. Whenever I’ve applied that approach and visited with others it improves a multitude of situations. Indeed, look to God and live.

  6. Maybe a more appropriate object would have been corrective lenses.

  7. Last Lemming says:

    #2 FTW

  8. Huh, I missed that logical take-away. I thought it was to go to the store and buy a jacket elsewhere.
    At church I am ultra-conscious about it. I avoid talking about my husband and children because I don’t want to offend anyone. In Relief Society it sucks to never refer to raising children in the gospel or never refer to how to apply gospel principles in a marriage. But I must think it is the right thing to do because I keep doing it. The hardest thing is trying to talk to people (in my ward usually older) without asking them about their families. I don’t know what it is like to be 60 or 70 or 80 and I’m not quite sure what their life is like and I can’t ask them if their wife is dead or if she is tucked away at home watching TV. I also can’t ask them for advice or wisdom or anything because we keep it all off limits. I simply assume they all have bad marriages and children who have left the church (if they have them) or babies who died in infancy and so I can’t possibly say anything that might make them feel bad even though they are women and chances are they poured the main part of their energy into taking care of their families for years.

  9. just sayin' says:

    Perhaps the “moral of the story” should not have been having members quit talking about their spouses and families, but about perhaps the Leaders not giving so many family-centric talks in Conferences. Often it seems that the overall theme of GC is the primacy of families rather than the primacy of Christ. I agree with the final paragraph of #5 wholeheartedly.

  10. Kaphor (#5),

    The best advice I’ve seen is to remind ourselves (and others) what Christ has done for us, remind ourselves (others) of the good news of the Gospel, and point them to Christ and receive inspiration (and inspire others) how to serve the Lord. Whenever I’ve applied that approach and visited with others it improves a multitude of situations. Indeed, look to God and live.

    I don’t disagree with a single sentiment in this concluding paragraph here. Indeed, I think that is exactly the point: we come to church, we partake of the sacrament, we commune with our fellow believers, we worship Jesus, all so that we can look to God and live. Which is what the stargazing in the analogy surely represented. My spouse and my family are part of me too, and they very importantly inform the way that I worship and make use of the ordinances of the church, but they aren’t why I’m there. I’m there for other reasons, the stars, specifically. Hence, too much talking about my family/jacket would seem an unneeded distraction, don’t you agree?

  11. cesc101 says:

    thanks for sharing this!
    i believe excessive talks about the jacket, have pushed those who don’t have (at the moment) to take steps they’ve spent their entire life regretting.
    [but candidly, i don’t see the trend changing anytime soon, because we are a family-centred organization, just my HMO!]

  12. Kristine says:

    It’s not talking about _your_ family that’s the problem. The problem is when people generalize from their own experience to make prescriptions about what will work for other singles/ailing marriages/wayward children, etc. “I went to the temple and received this revelation that helped me with my child” doesn’t hurt; “I went to the temple and received this revelation that helped me with my child; if only you’d go to the temple more, you wouldn’t be having so many problems with your child” hurts a lot. “I work hard at my marriage, and we’re very happy” won’t make most singles/divorcés feel bad; “marriages fail when people don’t work hard enough” will make lots of people feel terrible.

  13. I’ve had single members tell me they don’t want to come to our ward because of how often family is talked about. So I started paying attention trying to see just how often it is and to perhaps help my ward to follow your advice more and talk more about christ. I can’t speak for all wards but in our ward, family is just not talked about that often, every once in a while but we talk about christ and his gospel far far far more than family, it just wasn’t brought up that often. I don’t want to dismiss the pain felt by these members but I think that perception which is altered and sensitivity is greater due to the lonliness that is felt naturally by these members has a lot to do with this.

  14. Maybe he left the blank for listeners to fill in — one might think of a spouse, another might think of a rock-solid testimony , still another something else — I don’t know, just wondering… But the point is well taken — the purpose of the Church is to worship (the stargazing), not the _____ (the jackets) — I like the analogy.

  15. When I heard this a few months ago, I too thought it was a mostly compassionate analogy. At least I appreciated the thought. But my first reaction was that the logical conclusion should be that someone with a jacket should give away his/her own jacket to the “needy” folk without a jacket. (I’m sure I was influenced by the Primary lesson I’d recently taught in which Heber J. Grant gives away the coat his mother made for him to a boy who “needed it more than he did.”) In talking with extended family later, it turned out that a couple of my relatives had the same reaction to this analogy that I did. And then I thought, Oh, dear. Actually that’s an unfortunate analogy. So it goes with metaphors and analogies I guess.

  16. Another problem the stargazing club has, is that insists on its only owning one jacket.
    However, they keep losing members after they find out that the founder of the club owned lots of jackets and wore them at the same time.

  17. Sorry, that should read:
    Another problem the stargazing club has, is that it insists on its members only owning one jacket.
    However, they keep losing members after they find out that the founder of the club owned lots of jackets and wore them at the same time.

  18. wardcouncil says:

    And then there is the person who is wearing a rainbow-colored jacket who is told that she can either be cold and gaze at stars with the group or be warm and watch the stargazers from the sidelines.

  19. Joshua B. says:

    I rather liked the analogy.

  20. wardcouncil says:

    ldsbishop, I can’t think of an analogy that better supports polygamy than this one by DHO. Mia is right. Sharing one’s coat seems like the logical, even Christ-like, answer.

  21. Hello wardcouncil and ldsbishop, I said that in #2 but only LL recognized my genius!

  22. This just made me think of the Members Only jackets that were popular in the eighties. Working the reference in there somehow could have only improved the analogy.

  23. All English majors can easily see that the analogy actually breaks down when you start talking about sharing jackets because in this case jackets are code for a spouse. Also the church should just bring back gay polygamy already.

  24. Jacob H. says:

    Hand warmers make for a decent substitute.

  25. So is it therefore encouraged to try on lots of jackets before making a purchase?

  26. Reenvisioning the metaphor using contact lenses -and seeing them as standing for “family, including spouse”- seems to make it a little better, IMO.

  27. Welcome back Steve! I’ve missed your wit!

  28. “Hand warmers make for a decent substitute.”

    Also “monogamous sexual partners”.

  29. Further, I think Elder Oaks would recommend trying on a lot of jackets before you pick one. Just don’t write your name on any of them.

    The real problem among stargazers is when they wear parts of various jackets, or just have several jackets nearby, and never commit to wearing just one.

  30. But what about pants? Do they ALL wear pants regardless of gender?

    Also, has Steve been back long? Is that the real Steve? Has he been lurking for two years only to burst out with a polygamy joke he just had to share?

    I must say that I detest this for of Stake Conference and have been dreading the one we have coming up next month, but am now lokking forward to it to see if I get to hear this analogy in person and if it will have been tweaked.

  31. Joshua B. says:

    @27: He’s been back for a little bit, but sssh… don’t scare him away!

  32. Interesting that my only thought on the OP is to quote a comment I made last week in response to a comment on another BCC post:

    “… That does not inevitably lead to the conclusion that we’ll do just fine if the church backs off from the emphasis on marriage and children. I’m not saying the cultural critiques on this thread are off-base. I’m just saying that “emphasizing the priority of marriage and children” is the baby and the “questions of whether this emphasis is always communicated in the most healthy ways” is the bathwater. Go ahead and discuss the bathwater, just please acknowledge the baby.”

  33. DeepThink says:

    As a middle-aged jacket-less member, I *hope* the point of the analogy was to encourage community and inclusiveness. I do my best be included and generally am (I was recently released as RS President in a family ward after 3.5 years), but am aware that there are people in the ward that I consider close friends who have regular dinner engagements to which I am not invited. I am invited to group events like house parties. But I am not invited to dinners where couples are invited. It doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not that I am purposely excluded…I’m sure of this. It’s that I’m not thought of once the context of “couple” shows up in the engagement. It’s like there are blinders that go up. What, do you married couples compare sex notes or something when you double date? Maybe that’s it.

    A couple of years ago I decided to do my part to try to break down these barriers. So I picked two couples and invited them out to dinner and a show with me. It made sense to have five people instead of three, for everyone’s comfort. I made this invitation to 3 different sets of two couples and not one of them could make it happen, no matter how I tried. I don’t know if this was just coincidental or if it was just too uncomfortable for them, but it never happened. These are people that I consider good friends: I have lunch with them as individuals. I get into long email discussions on interesting topics, and sometimes phone conversations. But going out as couples/single just never happens. This is something I do regularly with my non-member couple friends. This needs to shift.

    As for those single adults who feel cold in the church because they are unpartnered, I believe that we have an obligation, married or single, to rejoice with those who rejoice as much as we mourn with those that mourn. The best I’ve ever heard this expressed is this post by Kristine. Read it if you haven’t.

    And #8, I really get the generosity of spirit of your approach, but frankly, I don’t want to live in a ward where the members are trying so hard not to step on toes. I want people to be who they are, and I want to be free to speak my truth and have it heard. The ward you describe sounds like it would be cold indeed, lacking the intimacy that makes us come together as a community. I realize that others are more sensitive than I am about these things, but I think it is our own individual responsibilities to LOVE each other, as we are, and ourselves included.

    When I go to someone’s birthday party, I am happy that it is their birthday, and I do not need to get a present on their day. My birthday will come. As such, I don’t need a chocolate on Mother’s Day or a Gal-Pal luncheon on Valentine’s Day. Mother’s Day is for Mothers and Valentine’s Day is for Lovers and I am happy to let them celebrate their days. In fact I find it a little embarrassing that there is an assumption that by casting a wider net on these days, I am somehow to feel better about my situation. It implies that I *should* feel bad about my situation. It’s like the time my sister had a dozen red roses sent to my office on Valentine’s Day so that everyone would think I had a boyfriend. It was a sweet gesture, straight from the heart. But what did she think I was going to tell my co-workers when they asked who they were from? Was I to lie? Or worse, tell the truth: “my sister.” These well-meaning outreaches miss the point. I don’t need to be in your life situation to be happy. I need for YOU to see that my life situation is one that you can enjoy, learn from and include. Stop seeing me as single and start seeing me as a peer, as someone who is interesting to invite with you to evening events, as you would any other couple.

    The other, final comment I will make is to stop seeing us as a threat to your marriage. I really recognize that this is your problem about your marriage. But I cannot tell you how many times I have been told directly or indirectly that I am not allowed to have a friendship with a married man in the ward (usually this message comes from the wife). Here’s a possibility to consider: The LAST person you should be worrying about is me. If I want to get it, I know how to go get it out there. If I choose to stand in the covenants of the gospel, consider the enormous amount of faith and depth of testimony it requires to do so and stay within Church standards. No one gets me up for Church on Sundays. I don’t have any children to have to be an example for. I do not have any reason to live the Church standards other than because I believe them: because I have raised my hand to the square and promised my God that I choose Him over all my own needs. That I chose intimacy with God over human intimacy, at a great cost to myself. It is a demonstration of sacrificial love. Do not marginalize that testimony because you think I may be lonely, or you don’t trust your husband. My testimony is hard won: I have paid a price. These faithful single adults (and also gays who choose to live the Church standards) should be honored for the depth of faith it takes when we do not have a family system on which to rely. Honor these faithful saints with your trust.

  34. it's a series of tubes says:

    Just clicked the virtual “like” button for Kristine’s #12 and DeepThink’s #33.

  35. I’ve heard that analogy before and I think it’s pretty good. It highlights the haphazardness of marriage. It doesn’t place blame on the jacketless. But what does it promote? I feel like in the end he’s kind of just saying, stargazing isn’t for those without jackets. So is he just giving a singles an out?

    So clearly, exaltation isn’t for you, have you thought about taking up an indoor hobby?

  36. Just as a note, as I remembered hearing this talk yesterday, Elder Oaks said he was quoting this analogy from an Ensign article. I looked it up and it appears to be from “Singles in the Ward Family” by Kathy Grant in 2002:

  37. The single vs. married couple and the single fairly newly dating couple vs. married couple dinner party barrier exists outside the church as well.

  38. Ardis E. Parshall says:

    Brava, DeepThink.

  39. Bryan S. says:

    Don’t forget the Married without kids vs. the Married with kids barrier! And then the ages of your kids matters too.

  40. He’s used this before. The BYU Memes page on Facebook has a bunch of jacket memes.

  41. Or maybe the analogy is that for some people, the Physics club is better. They meet indoors and you don’t even need a jacket.

  42. Bryan S. says:

    #33 DeepThink

    I bet if you were married and picked 2 other couples to invite on a dinner date there would be a high chance that all of them would flake out too. When we moved into a new ward we made attempts to get to know people outside of church. We managed to find only one other couple that didn’t flake out on us.

  43. great comment # 33. Lots of good advice there.

  44. Just having become a warm jacket… My partner was quite happy. I think she counted her blessings not to have some man to tell her what to do and children to absorb her energy. She says that she was fully included with coupled friends, FWIW.

    Let me say that her situation was sufficiently delightful that getting her to put on the warm jacket was a hard sell.

  45. The Church teaches that the jackets are wonderful without referencing other alternatives. My partner points out that there are many ways of living a fulfilling life which could be also taught in the Church.

  46. I see this analogy different. The club is the church. The church tells new comers that they will provide a jacket ( spouse) but when joined and requirements lived, no jacket is given. My interpretation – the church can’t give anyone a spouse and should not promise such. It’s up to yourself to seek a spouse.

  47. Me, I just ignore social cues that don’t fit in with my worldview. So, I’m friendly if I want to be, whether or not someone is married.

    It probably helps that I’m in the no-man’s-land of divorced-with-kids. *l* I can float from group to group and always have something in common with them.

  48. Oh, and as far as the jacket goes, if I think I’ll be cold, I don’t go that activity. But I still go on other days. Plus I generate a lot of my own heat, so I don’t get cold easily. It works quite well, and I’m happy with it.

  49. “but stargazing takes place at night in all seasons, it can obviously sometimes get cold, and having a warm jacket is important.” I think the seasonal thing is part of the metaphor. “Sometimes” it can be cold. But it isn’t always cold. Sometimes it’s hotter than Hades and the last thing you want is a jacket. Maybe one will be uncomfortable without a having a jacket for a season, but seasons come and go. Still plenty of time and opportunity to enjoy star gazing when it’s not cold.

  50. I’m amused by the comments from jacket-wearers who say they rarely if ever talk about their jackets. Jacket-discourse in the Church is so ubiquitous that you don’t even realize that you’re privileging jacket-wearers in every other breath! You may rarely ever say “My jacket is …” or “I love my jacket because …”, but ward activities, class discussions, home teaching assignments, temple ritual, assumptions about the next life, talk introductions, assignments to host the missionaries, many ward and stake callings, testimonies, decisions about whether your kids are likely YM/YW leaders, assumptions about who’s available when and with what resources, EVERYthing, is geared toward jacket-wearers and the assumption that of course everybody — or everybody who matters — has a jacket. You’re only kidding yourself when you say it doesn’t come up all that often.

  51. I’m aware that I breathe less than I’m aware of my jacket.

  52. It’s like a digestive system. You don’t give it much thought until it stops working. That doesn’t mean you don’t arrange at least three points of your day around it.

  53. Here’s a thought…
    The scriptures demonstrate the “ideal” proportional amount of time we should spend on subject.
    So let’s look at the frequency of certain words in the scriptures vs in general conference. This will give us a conference to scriptures ratio to see if we talk about things “too much” relative to their presence in the scriptures.

    General Conference Scriptures Conference to Scriptures Ratio
    Pioneer 311 4 77.75
    Savior 2114 290 7.29
    Service + serve 3522 753 4.68
    husband 842 207 4.07
    family 2379 608 3.91
    Mother 1425 435 3.28
    Joseph Smith 1700 595 2.86
    Faith 2322 1027 2.26
    wife 1300 608 2.14
    marriage 659 320 2.06
    Holy Ghost 1171 667 1.76
    Commandments 1593 918 1.74
    Jesus 3227 1948 1.66
    Moroni 484 317 1.53
    Child 2632 1850 1.42
    Spirit 2425 1722 1.41
    Father 2811 2036 1.38
    Repent 730 667 1.09
    Angel 774 747 1.04
    Sin 1363 1334 1.02
    Mormon 1434 2088 0.69
    God 2977 4434 0.67
    Lord 3028 4947 0.61

    If that list makes any sense, it’s clear that we talk about pioneers too much and we get sin just right.

    But if we aggregate family and godhead respectively, (excluding loaded words like father and child) we get
    God + Jesus + Savior + Lord+HG+Spirit 20740 18811 1.10
    Husband+Wife+Marriage 5180 1743 2.97

    So assuming “1” is the ideal ratio of time talking about something, we’re doing a good job talking about the things of God, and spend too much time on Pioneers, Service, and Family (inclusive) and Faith.

    Just for fun, of course as time goes on, I expect trends in the disparity will increase, so we better stop talking.

  54. Or in other words, proportionally we spend as much time talking about Joseph Smith as family.

  55. ps – “family” data was included in the metrics for husband, wife, etc. but just not in the row title

  56. Bryan S. says:

    Yeah that’s a tough comparison to make due to time. Perhaps a percentage of the whole would be a better measurement. Using your numbers I got this:

    Pioneer 311 4 0.8% 0.0% 53.8
    Savior 2114 290 5.1% 1.0% 5.0
    Servies+Serve 3522 753 8.5% 2.6% 3.2
    husband 842 207 2.0% 0.7% 2.8
    family 2379 608 5.8% 2.1% 2.7
    Mother 1425 435 3.5% 1.5% 2.3
    Joseph Smith 1700 595 4.1% 2.1% 2.0
    Faith 2322 1027 5.6% 3.6% 1.6
    wife 1300 608 3.2% 2.1% 1.5
    marriage 659 320 1.6% 1.1% 1.4
    Holy Ghost 1171 667 2.8% 2.3% 1.2
    Commandments 1593 918 3.9% 3.2% 1.2
    Jesus 3227 1948 7.8% 6.8% 1.1
    Moroni 484 317 1.2% 1.1% 1.1
    Child 2632 1850 6.4% 6.5% 1.0
    Spirit 2425 1722 5.9% 6.0% 1.0
    Father 2811 2036 6.8% 7.1% 1.0
    Repent 730 667 1.8% 2.3% 0.8
    Angel 774 747 1.9% 2.6% 0.7
    Sin 1363 1334 3.3% 4.7% 0.7
    Mormon 1434 2088 3.5% 7.3% 0.5
    God 2977 4434 7.2% 15.5% 0.5
    Lord 3028 4947 7.3% 17.3% 0.4

    Then for the two groupings you did.
    God + Jesus + Savior + Lord+HG+Spirit 36% 49% 0.7
    Husband+Wife+Marriage+Family 12.6% 6.1% 2.1

    I guess it doesn’t change things a whole ton, but a little bit. Of course I could poke plenty of holes in this anyway. We should probably spend more time talking about animal sacrifice too if we wanted to include that into the numbers. But like you said this is just for fun eh?

  57. MDearest says:

    Comment #32 surprised me. I always assumed that, at church, the baby is our covenants with the Lord, and the faith and repentance that keeps them active. The bathwater is whatever distracts us from that. Now I’m wondering if Elder Oaks thinks the same?

  58. I hope we don’t talk very much about things that appear frequently in our scriptures.

  59. about *some* things

  60. 57. I think you’re reading into what I said something I didn’t mean. I’m not saying that marriage and children are the most important thing in the church. I’m saying that in the context of a discussion about healthy ways to discuss the importance of marriage and family in the church, the bathwater is the unhealthy ways we address the topic. The baby is the importance of family and children.

    In other words, if there are unhealthy ways of emphasizing the priority of marriage and children in the church, let’s get rid of them (the bathwater), but let’s not throw away the baby (emphasizing the priority of marriage of children) with the bathwater.

    Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  61. Rob Perkins says:

    “Maybe we can’t make sure everyone has a warm jacket, but at the very least, wouldn’t it be a rather kind thing if all the other members of the stargazing club STOPPED TALKING ABOUT THEIR JACKETS ALL THE TIME? I mean, it’s a stargazing club, not a jacket club, right?”

    Bring blankets, and talk more about the stars. Otherwise the one without the jacket will go buy himself a blanket and stargaze alone.

    That is, to draw something out of the analogy, Bring fellowship for singles, and talk more about Jesus than marriage.

    Did Elder Oaks have anything to say along those lines?

  62. MDearest says:

    Lorin, thanks for clarifying that; it helps. Still, I believe Elder Oaks’ analogy is about not emphasizing family and marriage issues at the expense of teaching about and worshipping Christ and what He means to our salvation. Which sometimes is a problem in our weekly meetings.

  63. liz johnson says:

    Wait, did Steve Evans give up giving up the Internet for lent this year?!

  64. It would be nice if there was a way to talk more about the non-jacket options – you know, the benefits of single life. I’d like to find a way of describing the joy of sleeping uninterrupted for as long as I need to, eating cookie dough as a meal, and snuggling up to a very small, very fluffy dog at night. But when you try to work these elements into your testimony, it just doesn’t have quite the same ring as people talking about their spouses or kids. I don’t really mind people talking about their families most of the time. I’m happy for them. I just wish there was some appropriate counterpoint from the single life to talk about in turn.

  65. Ardis – I know it is hard to believe, but I’m in a ward where being a married with 4 kids is very very unique. There is only one of me. When I teach RS or make a comment in RS I am very, very aware that only 5 women in the room have any children at home (some only have a baby) so why on earth would I talk about gospel in the nuclear family?
    I have trained myself to bring it up as little as possible. And mentioning a husband is something I also do sparingly because I think it is inappropriate to bash on a husband or to brag about how awesome a husband is. So I only mention him if I feel I can hit the right tone.
    The problem is that I’ve been a mom 24/7 for 15 years. I recently was in a large group (not at church) and for the life of me I couldn’t think of something to say that wasn’t about my children, so I just tried to keep my mouth shut and wondered how I was supposed to be raising these children without needing/wanting to talk to process things that were on my mind. It is hard to turn off my brain when I am responsible for all of these family members all the time.

  66. I thought the jackets were testimonies, too, and thought he was making a very good point. But spouses, sure, I guess that works as well.

  67. Am I the only one bothered that jackets are mere brainless objects in this analogy?
    I was also puzzled by what it means to add new pockets to ones jacket. A (cosmetic) surgery of some kind?

  68. In the church/club, spouses are more like the telescopes than jackets–you can’t gain exaltation/see the stars without them. And it’s all about getting exaltation/seeing the stars.

  69. RobF: Except for the fact that people stargazed for thousands of years without telescopes; however, you do need sharp eyesight to see the stars, so glasses or contacts are what I would place in the analogy.

    But I definitely agree that exaltation -which includes both Christ and family, inseparably- is the object of the Church.

  70. it's a series of tubes says:

    Fortunately (though this doesn’t lessen the challenges faced by those currently jacketless), we know that all those who live faithfully will in the end have a jacket to their liking.

  71. Yes, jks, it’s difficult to comprehend your situation — are you in some kind of a specialty ward? Student ward, or branch at a retirement center, or American expats in a place where you can’t meet with local people? Because I can’t picture an ordinary family ward in an established region of the Church where there are only five families … that doesn’t provide for enough priesthood leadership in roles that are usually only entrusted to married men.

    Also, remember that “family” doesn’t necessarily equate with “children” — childless married couples also orient themselves and their speech toward the family unit, toward being one of a couple, who must consult with one another before agreeing to plans (service projects, Saturday activities, assignments on evening programs), who can be considered for callings that are closed to singles, who can participate in a temple prayer without difficulty, who can get tickets for Conference without the bishop’s reluctance that a ticket will go to waste because tickets always come in pairs, whose son isn’t passed over for a leadership role due to the lack of a father in the home to go camping with him or to set a “proper” priesthood model, who can do all kinds of things that you do without a second thought but which raise eyebrows when a single is involved. You just aren’t aware of them, because the milieu in which you move is designed for you. You’d notice if you were always an exception to the accepted pattern.

  72. Naismith says:

    Other than perhaps bishop, what callings are closed to singles? We’ve had single bishopric counselors, RS presidents, high councilors. And I’ve also been in mainstream wards that only had five families with children.

    I agree that there is value in relating to one another as people first. My lives have been greatly enriched by my friendships with singles. Personally, I think that sisters have an easier time because of RS activities. A single sister got involved with book club, and felt that she could relate to those of us who were married so much better because of that experience. She is trying to recruit other single sisters.

    As for the sons of single mothers being disadvantaged, that should never happen. Did young Dallin Oaks experience such prejudice? During my husband’s tenure in YM, he saw filling in those cracks as the most important part of his job, driving boys and taking them camping or whatever. And most of his quorum were from situations with non-member or no dad.

    Also, we all need to be careful about grass-is-greener mentality. Stating that marrieds can “participate in a temple prayer without difficulty” assumes that they are attending together, rather than taking turns sitting in the parking lot with the kids after a long drive, which has mostly been my experience.

  73. mad&sad says:

    I know I shouldn’t say this … but


    Qh, I just remembered, it is a straitjacket! ;(

  74. Wait – Conference tickets only come in pairs?

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