In 1922, the older teens and young adults of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association discussed a lesson entitled “The Destiny of the Unmarried.” The text of that lesson is presented below.
Before you read further, clarify your expectations, as a Church member in 2009 familiar with Church teachings. Do you expect this lesson to praise, condemn, or console the unmarried? to defend a conscious choice of lifelong spinsterhood? to warn against the eternal consequences of such a choice or fate?
The Destiny of the Unmarried
I. The Image of God.
That man and woman should always stand together is proved by ancient and modern scripture. We are told that: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen. 1:27.) “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord.” (I Cor. 11:11.)
The modern prophet Joseph Smith taught that no woman could enter the celestial kingdom without having been sealed to some man; but neither can a man enter there without his wife. This need not seem at all arbitrary for no man or woman can enjoy the full degree of the completeness of earth life without the association of their mate and the making of the home ties. If the full joy cannot be had here, how much less can it be complete in the next world!
Since marriage is ordained of God, and commanded of Him, man is not justified in refraining therefrom except for good and sufficient reasons.
President Joseph F. Smith after quoting the following: “And again I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man,” (Doc. and Cov. 49:15.) said:
I desire to emphasize this. I want the young men of Zion to realize that this institution of marriage is not a man-made institution. It is of God. It is honorable, and no man who is of marriageable age is living his religion if he remains single.” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 341.)
II. The Incomplete Image.
There may be reasons why a few men should not marry and undertake the responsibility of caring for a family. Incurable disease, mental or physical, should deter any man from such responsibility.
There are many women who can never know on earth the great joys of motherhood, and of united blessedness. Incurable ill health should deter women as men from marriage.
But there is a more deadly reason than that why countless women today (and the same condition has existed in the past) must remain spinsters all their lives. The horrors of war have taken men by the thousands, leaving their possible wives and sweethearts to face life alone for all time. Is it not time that such injustice should be prevented?
These general causes have given rise to two classes of spinsterhood:
1. Voluntary Spinsterhood.
There may be good and sufficient reasons why some women should not marry. But the woman who does not care for a home and family is a very rare being indeed.
a. Voluntary spinsterhood may come to the woman who as a girl allowed herself to be classed as the flirt and who through caprice threw away her chances of matrimony. She, of course, is deserving of her fate. One should never trifle with the serious affairs of life.
b. Very rarely a woman who is especially gifted and plans for herself a “brilliant career” may refuse matrimony – but these cases are few.
c. Difference in religious faith is another cause for voluntary spinsterhood and should receive serious consideration. there are cases where the desired mate is of other and incompatible religious faith. This condition affects the young men as well as the young women of Israel. The leaders of our church stand firm in their advice to the young people that if they will refrain from uniting themselves with the unbeliever they will receive manifold blessings therefor both here and hereafter.
There is one sure way to prevent this condition and that is by refusing to associate closely with any one whom one would not be willing to marry should one’s impulses lead in that direction. This is not a narrow view to take, for while we cannot and should not try to seclude ourselves from “the world” yet it is not necessary to be on the most intimate terms with any but a chosen few. Man has a right to choose his friends. Christ associated with unbelievers but he did not make intimate associates of them. The reward of life congeniality will be well worth any apparent sacrifice.
2. Involuntary Spinsterhood.
That one should be forced through uncontrollable circumstances to lead a life of “single blessedness,” seems a great injustice. There are many reasons for this condition, some that are justifiable and some that seem most unjust.
a. The death of one’s sweetheart may be a justified cause for failure to marry. In that case one must be sure that the deceased is one’s true mate, then the passage of time does not seem so interminable.
b. The responsibility for a dependent father or mother, or for the raising and training of young brothers and sisters, may be a sufficient cause to justify one in refraining from marriage. In these cases one must be one’s own judge entirely. Certainly such unselfishness will not go unrewarded.
c. The most frequent cause of involuntary spinsterhood is that one does not receive a congenial offer of marriage. Again one must be one’s own judge in such matters. Some people are so constituted that they can take a second or third choice and make the best of it even if it isn’t the perfect state of their girlish dreams. In such cases the securing of a home and the possibility of the priceless gift of motherhood makes any sacrifice seem worth while.
There are other dispositions that are so positive that daily happiness could never result unless one is truly and deeply in love. One takes a very grave risk in marrying without the perfect love that should unite husband and wife. The grind of daily cares and annoyances needs the poise and adjustment of continual love and perfect understanding in order to secure the atmosphere of love and joy in the home. And this living home atmosphere is the birth right of every child born into the world. If he doesn’t have it he is cheated of something for which no amount of wealth or one-sided attachment can atone. Prayer alone can guide one in making such decisions.
III. The Ultimate Destiny.
Those who refrain from marriage for any good cause have much to do in life and if they live right have a promise of a glorious reward in the future life. The gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed through Joseph Smith teaches that justice and happiness will come to every worthy soul.
1. The Justice of God.
It is a great comfort to know that if one is willing to obey a law but has no chance to do so that one will be accounted worthy of sharing the blessings of obedience. No one can question the justice of our Father in heaven and in this respect one may be assured of an ultimate joyous adjustment.
As has been stated before, marriage is a ceremony pertaining to this earth and while the association of men and women will continue throughout eternity the ceremony uniting them must be performed here. If some unpreventable cause has operated to separate on this earth those who belong to each other, and if the ceremony has been performed here, then readjustments will be made on the other side so that they who belong to each other will be united throughout eternity. Oh, the comfort of this knowledge and the joy of this promise! One can endure imperfection if necessary for time if one can be assured that perfect joy may be enjoyed in eternity. A mate will one day be found for every righteous woman.
IV. Duty of the Unmarried.
There is much work in the world to be done by those who are not so closely bound by the ties of home and family. Ruskin tells us that “Pleasure comes through toil and not by self-indulgence and indolence. When one gets to love work, his life is a happy one.” So there is much happiness in store for all who will to find it.
The first duty of the unmarried, then, is to take their active place in society. If a life job is not cut out for one and found waiting, then one must hustle and find it.
1. Life Occupation.
The world today is more friendly to women than it has ever been before. Every woman (as well as every man) should have a life work – one for which she is fitted and which she loves better than any other. If a woman can’t have the one she likes best then the simple part of wisdom is to find one that she likes next best. And into that second-choice job she should pour all the pent up zest she would like to give to the work she likes best. If that is done, she will be sure to make a success of her life.
a. The love of home and the desire to make a home is the wish of every normal woman. There is no reason why every woman cannot make a home – if it is only a tent or a one room apartment. She can have the “home atmosphere” there if she so chooses. She may also have the chance to make a home (in the real sense) for father or mother or brother or sister. “Home is where the heart is,” we are told, and if that be true every woman may have a home – though it be not the perfect one of her dreams. There are times when one must learn to be satisfied with a half loaf of bread or go hungry – and a half loaf is far better than no bread at all.
Any effort put forth by the girl in learning to be a good home maker, thereof, can all be used, for wherever she is she may have the privilege of making a home.
b. The love of children is also innate in the breast of every normal woman. The same philosophy of the half-loaf holds in this respect. If a woman has no children of her own “to mother,” let her look around – she will not have to look far – and find some child that is starving “to be mothered.” The process of mothering includes very many acts aside from the one of giving the breath of life, and these can often be performed just as well by one who may not be bound by the ties of kindred.
Some young women have wished for motherhood and mourned its absence so sincerely that they have adopted one or more children with the most gratifying results.
With the world in the condition it is today, no mother-heart should long be unsatisfied!
2. Active in Social Betterment of World.
The cares of raising a family are so many and so taxing that the entire attention of the mother is required while the children are young. It is entirely fitting that much of the so-called social betterment work of the world should be executed by those who for one reason or another have not the full responsibility of home on their shoulders.
Those who are not married must possess and transmit to the world as their children; faith, hope, cheer, trust, sincerity, and happiness! Thus all have the chance to help make the world a better place in which to live.
1. (a) Discuss the fact of men and women being made in the image of God. (b) Just what does that mean?
2. Do you think that woman’s active participation in the affairs of government might not hasten the end of war?
3. What are you doing to make of yourself a good citizen?
4. What do you intend doing with your life in case you never marry, and why?
5. What are you doing now to prepare yourself as an active member of society?
6. (a) How may those who do not marry have the joys of home and children? (b) Do you know any children who are hungering for mother love and how may they get it?
7. Tell how you feel about the splendid teaching of your Church regarding the ultimate complete happiness which may be enjoyed by every righteous woman.
Well? Is this what you expected? Why, or why not?