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Guest Post: Arise Up

By Kellie Purcill

Today’s Guest Post is by Kaki Olsen. Kaki Olsen grew up as a Boston Mormon and still holds her faith in the Red Sox as sacred as her regular religion. She has held many callings, ranging from Ward Chorister to full-time missionary in San Fernando, CA. She currently works at a group that helps applicants for disability, but is also a novelist, essayist and part-time writing mentor. Her first novel, Swan and Shadow, will be released in March, 2016.

Kaki

Mother’s Day is a perennial challenge for some people. There are widows whose children have lost touch, women struggling with infertility, women who have had miscarriages, women who struggle to feel like good mothers… The list could go on for pages.

This past Mother’s Day in my family ward, I started crying mid-rest hymn and couldn’t stop. It was so bad that I had to go home for Sunday School and come back when I had pulled myself together.

I am what I call a Re-Single Adult. Twelve years ago, I reconnected with a friend from BYU and we married in the Salt Lake temple eleven years ago. Ten years ago, a judge granted me an annulment on the grounds that my my in-laws’ withholding his history of violence was fraudulent. I have not been able to find love since.

I was told many things before marriage about preparing myself for the sealing ordinance. Since 2005, when I moved into a dorm at BYU and started going to singles wards again, I have heard even more statements, such as these verbatim examples:
“This ward has a low marriage rate because you do not understand the importance of the plan of salvation. If you did, you would marry.” ~Stake President
“You dishonor the priesthood by choosing to be single.” ~Home teacher
“The Lord sends eternal companions to those who have improved themselves enough to merit them.” ~Fireside speaker

Don’t mistake me; I have a good life. I’m gainfully employed, professionally published, religiously active and surrounded by friends who support me. I speak two languages, play six instruments and travel worldwide on my own dime. The response to this last thing, however, illustrates a point I’ll be addressing: I’ve been told that I travel to fill the hubby-and-baby-shaped hole inside of me. I am full of the light of Christ, but as a single, I am apparently empty inside.

Proverbs 31:28: “Her children arise up, and call her blessed.” You may think that my tears were a result of having left my temple marriage without children. The person who told me recently that my baby-hungriness could have been fixed if I had just stayed with my ex certainly thought so. It is not that simple. I cried because it has been years since anyone called me blessed.

I went looking for instances in which people arise up and call singles blessed. Robert D. Hales in this last General Conference had wonderful words of counsel for the unmarried adults of the church, but it was a talk full of cautions about our single habits. I had to reach back to 1997 to find an address that saw single adults in the same glowing light as mothers. (If you would like to read that, it’s “A Conversation with Single Adults” by President Hinckley.) Women who are on a first-name basis with the maternity ward staff are lauded in every conference; those singles who are still subjected to perennial lectures on extra-marital sex are not.

My intention in this post is not to whine about the injustice of being single. My intention is to address my fellow single sisters and assure you that someone arises and calls you blessed.

To the single women of the church, I see you and so does the Lord. In Proverbs, it describes you as someone who opens her mouth in wisdom and kindness. People are trying to constantly fix you so you can be marriage-worthy, but you are virtuous women and your price is above that of rubies. This virtue is not dependent on whether or not you are in the repentance process; it means that you are working out your salvation. You are not afraid to ask the priesthood for help and to offer it to them. You often serve as the family to those who have none. You bear with patience the affliction of people who well-meaningly tell you that Captain Moroni is saving himself for you in the next life. You serve inside and outside the temple. You serve and strive and are constantly improving yourself, not because it will let you “merit” a husband, but because it is your habit. You are obedient to counsel and hearken unto the word of the Lord. You have an ear attuned to personal revelation.

I exhort you as the prophets would to hold fast to your faith. This is not because you are single, but because you are a prized and beloved child of God. You honor your Heavenly Father’s plan with your life. Whatever the future holds, I look to it with the hope of recognizing how I have been rewarded for my faithfulness. This is something I anticipate regardless of whether mortals appreciate it.

It has been 18 years since President Hinckley had “A Conversation With Single Adults,” but let me close with his words: “Please be assured of our love… respect…[and] our confidence in you…I bless you that if you will walk in faith and righteousness you will know much of happiness…and you will experience the love of the Redeemer of the world.”

About Kellie Purcill

lives way on the other side of the planet in her native Australia and gives thanks for the internet regularly. She loves books, her boys, panna cotta, collecting words, being a redhead and not putting things in order of importance when listing items. She credits writing as a major contributing factor to surviving her life with sanity mostly intact, though her (in)sanity level is subject to change without warning.

15 thoughts on “Guest Post: Arise Up”

  1. Your post is a great encouragement, especially as I've found re-singles (such an apt term!) tend to be their own cheer squad in so many ways, and credit for facing the challenges tha come with being single is often forgotten in the bustle of days and living.

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  2. So beautiful. I was single until I was nearly 38. Fortunately, I did not have to endure many of the ignorant comments and statements you have heard (or maybe I have blocked them out of memory?), but it is unfair to judge someone in their trial, especially in a trial that they do not have complete control to get themselves out of. We all have our individual trials and our job, and our leaders' jobs, are to encourage and support each other through the trial. Thank you for this gentle reminder.

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  3. How about if your friends rise up and call you blessed? Thank you, Kathryn for your beautiful post. I love you, and am blessed to be your friend.

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful post. it touched my heart, and I too remember that talk by President Hinckley.

    Would you please ask her, when she was on her mission in San Fernando valley, California if that was in the early 1980s? Back then, I was inactive due to not understanding that part about staying with an unrighteous man. In fact, I was in hiding when two sister missionaries came and told me about a ward close to where I was living. They went and told the Bishop about me, and bless his heart, he came to where I was working and invited me to come talk to him. He was truly a man of God and he and his wife fellowshipped me back into the fold.

    I know that God does love those of us who are single. Even Isaiah spoke about us when he shared about the last days. There are just not enough righteous men for so many of us, nonetheless, God will provide when this is all over.

    Anyway, let her know if she is one of those sister missionaries, I love her. I am so grateful she did not reject me when I rejected her and said "I don't want to go to a Church that is full of hypocrites." BLess her heart. The Sunland Ward was not full of hypocrites. If they had the Priesthood, they honored it! Enough said.

    Thank you for posting her post. Gentle hugs to you.

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  5. Thank you, Selwyn. I'm lucky to have some very good friends on both sides of the marriage line who err on the side of encouragement. I remember hearing a story (possibly apocryphal) about Sheri Dew having an amusing dearth of sympathy for a young man who had been chaste for a whole 19 years and found it to be so hard. I'm told all the time not to worry–I'll be a cool aunt like Sheri Dew–but that's the most regular props single women seem to get.

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  6. In an ideal world, trials would be a thing that we observe but never judge. One of my daily struggles is to not turn struggle into competition. In my job, I daily hear things like "I'm sick of people getting disability just because they've got PTSD and I'm in PAIN and can't get anything!" I feel like a lot of our reflexes in human psychology follow a similar vein. And I don't doubt that you have repressed memories of comments. My congratulations go to you for your ability to have such insight on both sides of the single line.

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  7. Hi, Midge, the author here. I wish I could take credit by being that sister missionary. I was born in 1980, so didn't come to that valley until March of 2002. The work out there was still a bit of proselyting and a lot of reactivation. I hope you find that missionary someday because she would love to hear about your memory of her. I remember being on Temple Square in 2004 to show two friends around when a young man asked me in Spanish to take his picture. In the course of the conversation, I mentioned that I learned Spanish as a missionary in California and we realized that I had been one of the sister missionaries who reactivated him. He was on Temple Square that day to meet up with his family to go to the temple and it was one of the best moments of my life.

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  8. I love this post. It's beautiful and timely. I have been privileged to be friends with some spectacular women who also happen to be single. The ways they have blessed my life through their wisdom, adventurous spirits, courage, and example are myriad.

    Your post reminds me of the last chapter in the Ezra Taft Benson book where he says the following,

    "Walking in His way is the greatest achievement of life. That man or woman is most truly successful whose life most closely parallels that of the Master.”"

    I love this because Pres. Benson focused on becoming like the Savior, which can and should be done by everyone, regardless of marital status.

    I recognize that the current focus on the family and marriage reflects societal trends that are alarming. But teaching on the family should never become demaeaning or belittling to our single brothers and sisters.

    Many hugs to you!

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  9. Thank you. I've never read that bit by President Benson and have now saved it for later use in church service. As a Sunday School teacher for Gospel Principles, I used to say that God created the plan of salvation with the intention of withholding its blessings to those who come to earth. Being married or single isn't what determines whether or not we can make covenants or live in accordance with the gospel.

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  10. I try to talk to everyone about themselves, what they are interested in, etc. I don't want to be the one causing someone else pain by saying something stupid.

    My current concern is when YW lessons are about marriage and family, as over half of the girls have divorced parents. Thankfully it's not as many as they had when I was a youth.

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  11. I am in love with this post by Kaki Olsen. Words are not enough to express my gratitude to our heavenly for such a wonderful and faithful woman and her talented writing.
    Be faithful and you will surely see the hand of the Lord on your behalf.

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  12. Preach. And might I add–how important it is to not be silent in lessons and conversations when even subtextual comments are made that imply single men and women are somehow "less than." I realized I couldn't keep complaining to my sister about the lack of empathy in church members if I chose to stay silent.

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  13. This was beautiful and much appreciated. I really believe the Church has lost its way in this regard. Our focus should be on the Savior, always, regardless of our circumstances. Our obsession with marriage and reproduction is off-base with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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