Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » The Woman Alone 1: Achieving Interdependence

The Woman Alone 1: Achieving Interdependence

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 01, 2013


Objective: The single woman will understand the need for successful interdependent relationships.


“For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.” (1 Corinthians 9:19.)

The Church has expressed genuine concern over the welfare of the single adult members. New programs have been initiated for single people, and helps are being offered to assist them with their special problems. The intent of this new emphasis has not been to concentrate on the differences between single and married people but rather to demonstrate the greater number of similarities. We are all God’s children and should enjoy a similar relationship with him and with each other, regardless of any circumstance. One of the first needs is to rid ourselves of any false notions about the word single.

Discussion Question

What are some negative connotations of the word single?

Use this question as a device to have the sisters realize they may have held some possibly negative attitudes toward singleness. Do not dwell too long on the question. Follow the same procedure with the next question. They represent opposite extremes.

(Possible answers to this first question may include: isolation, loneliness, lack of anyone to trust or to count on, self-sufficiency to the point of purposely excluding others, independence to the point of selfishness and haughtiness. The term can also suggest failure in marriage or failure to marry, with its accompanying sense of guilt and feelings of acceptance. Since the Church stresses home and family, feelings of guilt can be especially acute for the single woman.)

Single means unmarried and has been adopted, for convenience, to describe the person who is not currently married and living with a mate.

Discussion Question

What are some positive connotations of the word single?

(Suggestions may include: independence, freedom, career, travel, education, and so on.)

A purely positive definition of singleness is as much a distortion as a negative definition. Singleness should not be glorified any more than it should be slandered. A single person, like a married person, is first of all a person, a human being, a child of God.

A single woman’s set of circumstances may require her to work doubly hard to achieve the satisfying kinds of interdependent relationships that are so crucial to gospel-oriented living. The family unit, which consists of mother, father, and children, lends itself naturally to a system of interdependencies. Each member of the family looks to each other to perform certain functions. Sometimes these expectations are not mutually agreed upon and met, and conflict results, but the very survival of the family unit requires some mutual dependencies.


What happens to the woman who finds herself living outside the standard family unit or, if she is widowed or divorced, living only partially within it? Because as a member of the Church she wholly subscribes to the gospel ideal of home and family, she might well see herself as somehow on the edge of the Church, unable to enjoy its most basic inter-relationships. And this feeling of alienation may even extend to her perception of her relationship with her Father in heaven. She may feels he has failed him, and she may forget that he listens to everyone’s prayers and depends on each of his children. Our Church callings come to us as faithful members of His kingdom, not because we are or are not single.


A woman who cuts herself off from the Church and other people because she is single misunderstands one of the most basic gospel principles, the principle of interdependence. And any ofher acquaintances who seek to cut her off for that reason misunderstand the same principle. Our interdependence began in our premortal life where we associated as spirit children of our Father in heaven. When Adam was placed upon the earth, “I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten, that it was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore, I will make an help meet for him.” (Moses 3:18.) So Eve became Adam’s companion. Adam and Eve became a family, an interdependent unit. They were cast out of the garden for disobedience, and Adam had to earn his bread “by the sweat of his brow” and “… Eve, also, his wife, did labor with him.” (Moses5:1.) Theirs was an interdependent relationship. They were obeying a principle that operates continually in the gospel. We do not live isolated lives. Through working together and living in a system of mutual dependence, we influence each other and we develop character. Companionship extends beyond immediate family units to friends, classmates, fellow workers, and even to our ancestors.

The very organization of the Church, built on a foundation of apostles and prophets, illustrates the principle of interdependence. The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians about spiritual gifts, states clearly the concept of interdependence in the Lord’s church. He allowed for individual differences within the unity of the whole. We are not all the same, but we all have something to give and something to receive. (See 1 Corinthians 12:5-12, 14-22, 25-27.)

A sister, widowed when her five children were very young (ages two to eight), called a family council the day after her husband’s unexpected death and discussed her decision to go on to graduate school. While in school, she made special efforts to spend time with her children, to make them part of her work. Cooperating as a unit, each functioning in his individual way, the family saw her through the master and doctoral degrees. Not only did she maintain a close relationship with her children, but she kept her family dedicated and active in the Church. She taught her children responsibility and interdependence. They decide things together, and depend on the Lord, but individually they do much for themselves and each other. They seem to understand the three principles of interdependence discussed earlier. The nineteen-year-old daughter is a good example of this interdependent spirit. One summer she volunteered to do all the shopping and cooking for the family. She said that asa homemaking major in college she needed the experience and felt she could help the family at the same time.

Even though the children have grown up in a fatherless home, they have not been deprived of the relationships, attitudes, and experiences that build character in men and women. Both sons are Eagle Scouts and received their Duty to God awards. All of the children have exceptional scholastic records. They also have interest in athletics, music, and various other hobbies.

There have been many single women in the Church, women of great courage and faith like this sister, who have made significant contributions to the lives of others. Sister Harold B. Lee is a good example of a woman who was single for many years, who married late in life. She took an orphaned child into her home, cared for and reared her, and gave service to the Church and to all around her.


With the help of the Lord, family, and friends, and with courage, faith, and hard work, anyone can live a life of accomplishment. The single woman has access to the spiritual aids and inspiration of a gospel life. The single woman should not view her role as a barrier, but as an opportunity for increased growth and rich relationships with her fellow beings and her Father in heaven.



  1. Wow, fascinating. I missed the intro post, so it was a mystery to me what the source or date was on this as I was reading. For a moment, I entertained the idea that you were writing this as a kind of open letter to the curriculum cmte, here is a well-done lesson you could include. I suppose I could find some things to quibble about, but I think overall very well done. Rock on 1974 church.

    Comment by Cynthia L. — July 1, 2013 @ 9:46 am

  2. Thanks for commenting, Cynthia. One of the things I liked about this lesson was the recognition that a single woman (or man) can have a “gospel-oriented li[fe]” — that we’re not freaks or damaged souls or half-persons or “less thans” — but that we may have to work a lot harder at it because we don’t have the family structure that supports that kind of life. I think this is the first time that I’ve seen such a recognition — everything else, even without being explicit, or with writers’ probably being unaware of their bias, assumes that we are in limbo, unable to live real lives, just waiting for the (probably post-mortality) spouse who is going to make it possible for us to finally begin to do anything worthwhile.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 1, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

  3. I started to comment on the intro whether the lessons would include people single by divorce or death. Since virtually all of those who have been married will eventually find themselves single again one day, I think the lessons are great. “They seem to understand the three principles of interdependence discussed earlier.” I looked at the intro lesson and read this one, but I can’t find the “three principles of interdependence” discussed – am I missing something?

    Comment by IDIAT — July 1, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

  4. Yeah, I’m not sure exactly what is meant there, IDIAT, it’s probably poor editing of an earlier draft of the lessons. I can pick out several points I think are probably the “principles” being discussed, but there’s certainly not anything set out in a format that lets us know exactly what was meant (that the need for interdependence goes back to the premortal world, that no one can live in isolation so God gave us families, that we’re all different and each has something to contribute — I’m guessing those are the three principles meant because each is supported by a scripture reference).

    And it *is* inclusive, as to types of singleness, isn’t it?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 1, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

  5. Interesting. When I hear things like “interdependence” in the church I automatically think Covey. Is it possible that he was involved this early? I seem to remember hearing he was involved with the development of the MTC.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 1, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

  6. Thank you for posting this, Ardis. I especially appreciate the paragraph about living outside the standard family unit. As a divorced mom, I deal with the guilt of divorcing and the fear of raising a family alone, especially when my own testimony is so shaky from my marriage, without either the support provided to full families or the support provided to singles.

    I totally feel like I have failed my Father in Heaven, that I am ultimately on my own, and it is absurdly comforting to hear that I am not the only one to feel that way, even if I feel little of the connection to Him I once did.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 1, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

  7. This is very interesting to me. I think that these lessons were written and published when there were several powerful single women on the Relief Society General Board. At that time several of us single men met with a committee of the General Board of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association. They had been encouraged by the Relief Society General Board to create lessons like these for single men. It did not work because the committee was thinking of “young men,” younger than us, but more importantly they did not respect us because we were single. We did ask why was there no single men on their board like singles on the Relief Society Board and they answered by saying that single men were not worthy to be on a general Church board.

    Comment by Jeffery Johnson — July 1, 2013 @ 11:19 pm

  8. Ouch!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 2, 2013 @ 6:09 am

  9. Jeffery, I’m sorry.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 2, 2013 @ 8:52 am

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