Dear Ms. Feverfew –
Today is the 182nd Annual General Conference for the LDS church. You already know that, but I suspect you probably weren’t listening to any of the talks today. Don’t worry – it’s OK. I believe in a God that is so large and loving that he won’t condemn you if you miss conference. Even if you miss it for the next couple of years, He will still love you and adore you and think you are one of His most spectacular creations. Trust me, I know this first hand.
Anyhoooo, one of the speakers, Elder David S. Baxter – a member of the Seventy from Scotland, gave a brave and fearless talk in the afternoon session directed specifically towards single parents in the church (here’s a link to watch it – he speaks at about the 1:00 mark: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/watch/2012/04?lang=eng&vid=1538843401001). Now I know some sticklers will say, “Well, he wasn’t an apostle so his talk doesn’t count nearly as much” but…but what he has to say is still very important and worth listening to. Or reading. I have transcribed the entire talk and have include parts of it here (obviously, the emphasis is mine…). Elder Baxter starts out by saying,
“My message is for the single parents in the church, the majority of whom are single mothers, you valiant women, who through the varying circumstances of life, find yourself raising children and running a home on your own. Perhaps you have been widowed or divorced, you may be coping with the challenges of single parenthood as a result of taking a wrong turn outside of marriage, but now living within the framework of the gospel, having turned your life around.
(Just had to insert a note: This is the first time in any church meeting I recall hearing single mothers who are single because they got pregnant outside of marriage included so specifically in the counsel to single parents. Usually they “qualify” single parents as those who are single because of divorce or death. The rest of the single moms are treated like…well, one only need read these letters to discover how they are usually treated).
Bless you for avoiding the type of companionship that would come at the expense of virtue and discipleship; that would be far to high a price to pay.
Although you may have at times asked, “Why me?”, it is through the hardships of life that we grow towards Godhood as our character is shaped in the crucible of affliction, as the events of life take place while God respects the agency of man.
Whatever the circumstances or the reasons for them, how wonderful you are.
(There is is again – whatever the circumstances or the reasons for them. Death, divorce, or a mistake outside of marriage. Kind of reminds me of what Elder Cook said when he was quoting President Hinckely about single parents who are single for whatever reason…)
Day to day, you face the struggles of life doing the work that was always meant for two, but doing it largely alone. You have to be father as well as mother.
You nurture your children. You cry with them and for them. You want the very best for them but fret every night that your best may never be good enough.
He then tells of his own mother who raised him for most of his childhood and teenaged years as a single mother. They were poor and she struggled with loneliness.
…yet despite all of this, there was a dignity about my mother, a tremendous sort of determination, and sheer Scottish grit.
There are many of you good women across the church in the world who face similar circumstances and who demonstrate the same resilience year after year. This is not exactly what you hoped or planned, prayed for or expected when you started out years ago. Life has had bumps , detours, twists, and turns, mostly as the result of life in a fallen world that is meant to be a place of proving and testing. Meanwhile, you are striving to raise your children in righteousness and truth, knowing that while you cannot change the past you can shape the future.
Along the way, you will obtain compensatory blessings, even if they are not immediately apparent. With God’s help, you need not fear for the future. Your children will grow up and call you blessed and every single one of their many achievements will stand as a tribute to you.
Please never feel that you are in some kind of second tier subcategory of church membership, somehow less entitled to the Lord’s blessings than others. In the kingdom of God, there are no second class citizens.
Thank you sisters, for doing all that you can to raise your family and maintain a loving home where there is goodness, peace, and opportunity. Although you often feel alone, in truth you are never totally on your own. As you move forward in patience and faith, providence will move with you, heaven will bestow its needful blessings…
Through your righteous living, you and your children may enjoy the blessings of being part of a complete eternal family. Member and leaders, is there more that you could do to support single parent families? Without passing judgment or casting dispersions, might you mentor young people in these families?….In the absence of fathers, are you providing role models worthy of emulation?
Single parents, I testify that as you do your very best in the most difficult of human challenges, heaven will smile upon you. Truly, you are not alone. Let the redemptive, loving power of Jesus Christ brighten your life now and fill you with the hope of eternal promise. Take courage, have faith and hope. Consider the present with fortitude and look to the future with confidence.
Now stop and think for one moment how different our lives would be if we had been met with this kind of compassion, this kind of understanding, and this kind of counsel when I first went to LDSFS. Think of how different our lives would be if this was the counsel Bishop F. had given me in February/March of 1993 instead of the standard NCFA-party line about “good mother = birth mother” and that I was being selfish for parenting you.
Actually, I can’t think about it too long because then I just dissolve into a puddle of tears. I know I can’t change what happened to us, I can never get you back as my daughter. But I can spread Elder Baxter’s message of hope to all that have ears to hear and hearts to understand. And perhaps some other family will have a different outcome than you and I. Perhaps some other single expectant mother who was listening to conference today heard the words of Elder Baxter and heard they are a valid family in the eyes of the Lord, that they needn’t give their precious child away to qualify for the blessings of the Gospel in their family life.