Last weekend, Sister Bonnie Oscarson spoke at women’s conference and made, what I assume she knew would be, a controversial statement. “We fail to teach our young women that preparing to be a mother is of utmost importance because we don’t want to offend those who aren’t married, those who can’t have children, or to be seen as stifling future choices.” A longtime reader contacted me and wondered whether BCC would address this line. I asked her what she would say, and her response broke a little piece of my heart. “I’m not exactly sure how to articulate how much that hurt and why, exactly. Maybe the gist of it is that *I* feel like I’m part of the “us” but keep getting reminded that no, I’m not. Since I don’t have children, the thing of utmost importance in the Church, I went from being less valuable to my community to some kind of enemy to my community.”
Here is the sermon I wish our reader had heard:
My dear, beloved single sisters in the gospel. I see you. I see you going to church every week, serving in your callings. I see you volunteering to do service projects, and helping out your fellow ward members. I hear your competent and thoughtful contributions to lesson discussions. I am so glad that we can sit together in church and outside of church and that I can be strengthened by your friendship and love. Like me, and many other married sisters, I know that you have dedicated a good portion of your life to service in the kingdom—and that service has blessed many.
I also see that many of the things we do and say in church cause you pain. I’m sorry. I know that you faithfully attended young women’s classes hearing all the time about the importance of temple marriage and family life. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you to have such great faith and loyalty in the church, and not have your life go along the lines of the “ideal life” picture we painted. Because of the way we taught you, your vision of what was possible didn’t include singleness—not really. But you found yourself living that life anyways. You had to learn a very lonely lesson without much support.
And we have not stood by you like we should have. It has been easier to ignore you, to cutely relegate you to matchmaking singles activities with married chaperones much younger than yourself, and then assume that either you weren’t trying hard enough—or perhaps you are just unmarriageable. We have failed to call you to very visible and responsible positions. Many of us have found it easier to limit our friendships to other families with children. And of course, the men in the ward have socially ostracized you as well. This leaves you attending and serving and trying…and being consistently left out of the narrative and on the edges of the ward family.
And I see that your personal life has suffered as well. As fewer and fewer dating opportunities have come your way after years of being single, you are left without much hope of changing your marital status—particularly if you still hope to marry in the church. If you live far from family or close friends, you may go for days or weeks without social interaction outside work or the benefit of simple human touch—the embraces of people who love you. I see that it is alienating and painful and so very, very unnecessary. I see that you may have decided to forego educational opportunities in favor of leaving yourself available for marriage, and you are now in financial risk and unable to deal with financing your eventual retirement. I see that you may be seeking mental health care to deal with the stress and alienation of your total commitment to the church juxtaposed with your church’s less than total commitment to you.
I see you. And now I’m asking you, my sister: please help me repent. Please help me be more like our savior who said “come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” As God loves me, I will love you. And I will rejoice in the love you show to me and the rest of our congregation. You are not my enemy. You are not an obstacle in my efforts to teach my children. You are a daughter of God. And I see you.