DEVELOPING SPIRITUAL INTERDEPENDENCE WITH THE LORD
Objective: The single woman can receive all the blessings of eternal life if she will develop a spiritually interdependent relationship with God.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5, 6.)
Our goal is to develop ourselves completely as women by acknowledging and increasing our interdependence with others and with the Lord. We have both the right and the responsibility to develop spiritually, even though we may need to go outside our own homes to develop interdependent relationships. However, it is a mistake to think that being single limits interdependence with others and with the Lord.
Spiritual interdependence means that we know where and how we fit into the Lord’s plan. It means appreciating the full weight and responsibility of having free agency and of doing good. At the same time it means acknowledging that we are dependent on the Lord for the gift of the Atonement and for daily direction. We must also realize that our service to him is most often expressed by serving others.
This interdependent relationship is universally available to everyone. The Lord promises, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelations 3:20.)
Our attitudes may prevent us from taking advantage of the Savior’s offer. Specific examples of attitudes that single women may let stand in their way are: (1) a feeling of unworthiness to be married; (2) in the case of a divorcee, a feeling of failure; (3) a feeling of urgency to get married to anyone at all costs; or (4) expecting perfection in a potential mate. (See Elder Simpson, Oct. 1973 Priesthood meeting talk.)
One single girl felt deeply depressed every time she read her patriarchal blessing because it promised that she would marry if she remained true to the commandments. She reasoned: “God doesn’t lie, so the reason that I’m not married is because I haven’t been faithful enough. I’m unworthy of the blessings of being married.”
1. How did this attitude affect her spirituality?
2. What could you say to a sister with these feelings?
Note that she is only seeing two alternatives, either being married or not married. A third alternative is not yet married. God did not say when her faithfulness would be rewarded. You may wish to share a story President Harold B. Lee told about a sister whose patriarchal blessing contained several specific promises, all of which had been fulfilled by the time of her death except the blessing of becoming a mother. He commented,” According to my measures, no earthly human could have lived a more nearly Christlike life than had she. Why then had this last promised blessing been denied her?” The last funeral speaker, the stake patriarch and former stake president, explained the doctrine that ‘life’ did not begin with mortal birth and does not end with mortal death. When a patriarch pronounces an inspired blessing, such a blessing encompasses the whole of life, not just the phase we call mortality.” (Harold B. Lee, “For All Eternity If Not for Time,” Relief Society Magazine, Oct.1968, pp. 724-25.)
Feeling of Failure
One sister had felt guilty and ashamed for fifteen years because her marriage had ended in divorce. She was living with her parents, sought little social contact, and refused about half of the offers for dates that she did receive. “I should have tried harder,” she said. “Marriage is the greatest responsibility that we can be given in this life, and I failed at it. I’m sure that Heavenly Father is disappointed in me.”
1. How is this attitude affecting her spirituality:
2. What could you say to a sister with these feelings?
Point out that by treating herself as a failure, she is making it difficult for the Lord to communicate anything else to her. Also, to some degree, such an attitude denies the principles of repentance. Feeling guilty is not always the same thing as being guilty. Feeling lonely is not the same thing as being unlovable or useless. Possibly the counsel of a priesthood leader would help.
Feeling of Urgency to Get Married
This feeling may cause several consequences: willingness to marry outside the Church or willingness to marry any Church member regardless of compatibility or worthiness. Consider this example of the first type: One bishop tells of a single sister who came to him deeply troubled, “I know that marriage is a commandment of the Lord, Bishop. I’ve tried to be obedient to all the commandments, but I’ve never had a chance to marry in the Church. Now I’ve met Thad. He’s not a member, but he’s a good man, and I’m sure he’ll join the Church someday.”
1. Are there some other commandments beside the commandment to marry that this sister should consider?
2. How is her spiritual relationship with the Lord affected by her attitude toward being single?
(The teacher should be tactful.) Many fine sisters have married nonmembers who later joined the Church, and it is also true that many fine men are not members of the Church. The Lord does not condemn these marriages, but neither do they receive the special blessings promised those who marry in the Lord’s way – in the temple.
The desperation to marry may urge a woman to marry a Church member regardless of compatibility. Another fine single sister confided to her mother, “Dan has asked me to marry him. I just don’t know what to do. He’s as active as anyone could ask and has a strong testimony, but I don’t love him. Almost the only thing we both like to do is go to movies – other than that and Church work, we have almost nothing in common. Should I marry him? I want a home and children so much.”
1. What is the relationship between this sister’s attitude about marriage and her relationship with the Lord?
2. Is love essential in marriage?
(This is another area requiring tactful discussion.) It is possible to weaken our spiritual interdependence with the Lord by turning marriage into an idol instead of the beautiful ideal toward which we strive. We must realize that the wrong kind of marriage is also spiritually destructive.
OBEDIENCE IS NECESSARY
Confirmation from the Holy Ghost and the willingness of both partners to work hard at marriage can make an unromantic marriage very successful. But obedience to the covenants and commandments after the wedding ceremony is as important as confirmation from the Holy Ghost before marriage. Many marriages, even with that initial confirmation, have ended in heartbreak because of disobedience to the covenants. In the absence of strong confirmation, we must not delude ourselves into marrying with the idea that we can “endure to the end” an unhappy marriage in this life because it will suddenly turn into an ideal relationship in the next. President Joseph Fielding Smith made it plain that love and respect should both be part of marriage when he said, “No woman will be condemned by the Lord for refusing to accept a proposal which she feels she could not properly accept. In my judgment it is far better for our good girls to refuse an offer of marriage when they think the companionship of the man would be disagreeable, or if he is one they do not and believe they cannot learn to love. … The Lord will judge her by the desires of the heart.” (Bruce R. McConkie, comp. Doctrines of Salvation, vol.2 [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955], 2:77.)
Some sisters feel troubled by the thought that if they fail to marry in this life they will, at best, be ministering angels in the celestial kingdom. Under what circumstances might this be true?
Stress again that the Lord regards the heart and judges by the motivation. Fasting and prayer are indispensable as a woman considers a proposal, so that she can have confidence that her actions find favor in the Lord’s sight. In discussing exaltation for faithful unmarried women, Joseph Fielding Smith states:
You good sisters, who are single and alone, do not fear, do not feel that blessings are going to be withheld from you. You are not under any obligation or necessity of accepting some proposal that comes to you which is distasteful for fear you will come under condemnation. If in your hearts you feel that the gospel is true, and would under proper conditions receive these ordinances and sealing blessings in the temple of the Lord , and that is your faith and your hope and your desire, and that does not come to you now; the Lord will make it up, and you shall be blessed – for no blessing shall be withheld.
The Lord will judge you according to the desires of your hearts when blessings are withheld in this life, and he is not going to condemn you for that which you cannot help. (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:76.)
NO SUBSTITUTES FOR SPIRITUALITY
Thus we have seen that our efforts to develop spiritual interdependence with the Lord can be subverted if we hold destructive attitudes about singleness or feel a frantic desire to marry regardless of circumstances. But spiritual interdependence may also be undermined if we become involved in substitutes for spirituality.
What are some ways in which we avoid a genuine relationship with our Heavenly Father and the Savior?
1. Letting our feelings become a kind of revelation for us and persuading ourselves that if we feel good about something the Lord approves of it. We must be sure that such feelings do not contradict the teachings of the scriptures, the Church, and our priesthood leaders.
2. Turning the Church into a hobby that absorbs all of our time with meetings and activities. The weightiest responsibility we have is to “know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.)
3. Reducing the doctrines of the gospel into stimulating intellectual exercises only.
4. Interpreting every occurrence as a sign of divine favor or disapproval.
5. Confusing love and dependence by focusing all our emotional needs on one person: a family member, a friend, a priesthood leader, or a child if one is divorced or widowed.
DEVELOPING SPIRITUAL INTERDEPENDENCE
How can we develop spiritual interdependence with the Lord? The idea of interdependence with the Lord may seem unusual at first. There are many ways in which we are dependent on him, but how is he dependent on us?
1. The entire plan of salvation is based on our willing cooperation. (The teacher might point out how each step on our part is dependent on a previous step by the Lord. For instance, Heavenly Father called the council, we decided, Adam fell, Christ atoned. If one step had been missing, the other steps could not have followed.)
2. He is especially dependent on us during mortality to teach salvation to each other. As an example, Chauncey Riddle of the Philosophy Department, Brigham Young University, emphasizes our responsibility to bear testimony so that the Holy Ghost can operate.”Your witness is the occasion and opportunity for his witness. Thus you are an important and even indispensable part of the Savior’s plan to save mankind. If no man bore true witness of God, the occasions for revelation from God would be so sharply diminished as to throw the world into another black night of apostasy.” (Speeches of the Year [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1970], p. 10.) In other words, the Lord relies on us to be his missionaries, to staff his church, to teach his classes.
3. He also counts on our hands to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
4. In Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s words, we are “to rejoice in the Lord, to praise him for his goodness and grace, to ponder his eternal trust in [our] hearts, and to set [our] hearts on righteousness.”(“Think on These Things,” Ensign, January, 1974, p. 47.) Such praise helps us understand our true relationship with him, teaches us gratitude, and makes us open to learn from him.
5. We can love and obey him. Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “Just think of giving him the one thing, the one gift, that he would never take. Think of giving him that one thing that he would never wrest from you.” (BYU Devotional, December 7, 1971.) That one thing is our ungrudged obedience. The Lord desires it, but will never compel it. He said that our love can be measured by our obedience. And knowing how we yearn for love, how it is the very food that our spirits live on, think of what our love means to our Heavenly Father. We sometimes forget that our love extends back into the premortal life, that we are learning it again in mortality.
6. Since he desires to bless us, we can help by acknowledging that we are indeed dependent on him. One young woman said that being able to acknowledge her continuing need for the Lord actually solved two problems for her: it freed her from the impossible standard of always seeming competent, and also from her shame at seeking the Lord’s help only when she was absolutely driven to it.
This question may sound easy, but think about it. What can God do for us? The Atonement is already accomplished if we will accept it.
(The teacher should emphasize that what we really need is to be loved and helped to progress. Guide the discussion to emphasize the means available to develop our personal relationship with the Lord. Answers might include reading the scriptures, studying our patriarchal blessings, praying and receiving answers – one sister said that her testimony began when she realized that the Lord cared for her enough to listen to and answer her individual prayers – hearing the testimony of others, loving and serving others, and participating in the temple endowment. Bring out the point that the Lord knows us intimately and is willing to reveal us to ourselves – not only our weaknesses, but also our unexplored resources and strengths.)
The quality of our relationship with others is a major factor in our interdependence with the Lord. (Lesson 4 discusses how we can develop our relationship with others.)
Sometimes salvation seems like an abstract and impersonal goal, but Elder Marion D. Hanks interpreted it in a strikingly warm and human way in relating this story. “After a meeting with a group of students recently one young man waited to ask a question. ‘Elder Hanks,’ he said,’what are your goals? What do you want to accomplish?’ I observed his seriousness of purpose and answered in the same spirit that my strongest desire is to qualify to be a friend of Christ. I had not responded to such a question just that way before, but the answer did put into words the deep yearnings of my heart.” (“Forgiveness: The Ultimate Form of Love,” Ensign, January 1974, p. 209.)
Christ “stand[s] at the door, and knock[s].”(Revelations3:20.) He is in our lives now, to the extent that we welcome him. To receive him with all our hearts, we must purify ourselves. By the testimony of the Spirit that has been here today, which labor are you called to? Where does your conscience tell you to strengthen yourself? He wants to love us with his perfect love and bless us with his matchless promises: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”(1Corinthians 2:9.)