On June 13, 2021 at 4pm, we joyfully watched a historically significant Face to Face event produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the first of its kind for this specific audience (ALL single adults, age 31+).
Single adults make up over 50 percent of the adult membership of the Church, noted Sister Bingham, “that is a significant audience!” Sister Eubank said that as a single adult herself, she is happy to have open conversations with other single adults, “Every member, no matter their circumstances, has so much to contribute, and we hope to better recognize this.” Elder Andersen added, “To those adults, whether you have never been married or are widowed, divorced, or a single parent, you are needed in God’s kingdom. We are grateful for all you do to progress the work of the Lord.”
Watch this event online for inspired words of counsel and comfort, specifically for singles of our Faith. We highly recommend watching this if you are single or if you love and support a mid-single in your life. Here's a link to watch the playback at any time: Single Adult Face to Face
To help prepare for this event, review President Russel M. Nelson’s April 2021 general conference address: Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains
We have a friend currently serving on the Single Adult group committee for the Church, who was involved in planning this special event. She asked for our feedback and we had so much to say that we decided to do a podcast on our thoughts about it. To hear our commentary, listen to episode 14.
LILY Pod Episode 14:
The First Church Wide Devotional for Mid-Singles
In light of Sister Bingham's comments on Face to Face, we would really like to increase our effort to make our Love In Later Years (LILY) Facebook Group a gathering place for mid-singles and those who are interested in their welfare – to fellowship, receive edifying thoughts, and alleviate loneliness. The more the merrier! We currently have 683 wonderful members and would like to grow that number to 1,000 by the end of July 2021!
Come join us and please share with friends and family: LILYFacebookGroup
Also follow us on Instagram (where we post different content): LILYInstagram
Forward this email to a friend. If they would also like a little more love and light in their inbox each week, they can subscribe to our free weekly LILY Letter at www.loveinlateryears.com
When I graduated from law school, my first job was as a law clerk for the Chief Justice of American Samoa. In some ways it was the best job I ever had. I'll never forget the first morning I woke up there after arriving in the night. I walked outside and saw paradise. It was so beautiful I almost couldn't believe it. I learned a lot by living in that culture for two years -- both professionally and in life. My Samoan name is Siafa.
Friends told me that the veil is thinner in Polynesia, and I even sensed this among many Polynesians on my mission in Australia. People told my former wife and me that the Island of Ofu was "haunted." They told us a story about some other palagis (white people) who were snorkeling during Sa (evening prayer hour) and drowned. We did feel the presence of spirits on Ofu, but they seemed kind and welcoming. We didn't snorkel during Sa though.
"Sa" means "sacred." Every evening in Samoa all the church bells ring at about 6:30 p.m. to gather everyone in the village for prayer. It is an important and sacred ritual that they observe. If you are driving and the bells ring, you pull over. If you are in a store, you wait until Sa is over to leave. You show respect and avoid interrupting prayer time. It is a quiet time in the islands. I have profound respect for this ritual. I don't know if it would be possible to get everyone in a town or even in a neighborhood here in America to pray together at one time every single day. But I think having a personal and family prayer ritual when the world stops and we talk with God is a beautiful idea -- particularly in the lives of mid-singles, which can get so easily taken over by the duties of single parenting, while simultaneously bringing loneliness for adult company.
"Sa" is also part of the word Samoa. "Moa" means "center." Some say that Samoa is the sacred center of Polynesia. I think of the sacred center as existing within us. The sacred center is a heart at peace with itself.
Probably the most profound thing I learned from the fa'asamoa ("the Samoan way") is commitment to family -- and Samoans have big extended family organizations called "aigas." When you drive through a Samoan village at night and see 20 kids playing volleyball together or swimming in the ocean, you can bet they are all cousins. The village is not just a collection of random people. They live together because they are all related. Sometimes a child will become bonded to an uncle or aunt or grandparent or some other family member, and end up being raised mostly by that person. They call that a Samoan adoption. It is informal. The natural parents don't object to it, because the child is right there in the village and they can see him or her everyday if they want to. I knew a middle-aged woman who had never married who had a "daughter" who was essentially a niece who had just become very close to her, and she was basically raising her. But in a large sense the village was raising her all together.
For single parents especially, we need a village too. We need our church families, our extended families, and our mid-singles community.
Because of the way families are organized in Samoa, nursing homes are virtually non-existent. In fact, people there believe it is shameful to leave the elderly alone to die without their families around. In Samoa, the elderly are the most respected people, and their wisdom is sought after. I think America could learn a lot from that.
Special lifecycle events called "fa'alavelaves," such as weddings and funerals, are highly celebrated in Polynesia. It is not uncommon for Polynesians to cross oceans for the wedding of a second cousin. It's not something we relate well to in America. I hope your wedding feels like a celebration of life for your whole family, rather than just a legal formality.
The hallmark of their culture is to love and be loved. I have often found that the most commonly selected hymns in a particular ward often tell you a lot about the culture. In Cokeville, Wyoming, the ranching town where my dad grew up, they commonly pick hymns about hard work like "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel" or "wake up and do something more than dream of your mansions above." In Samoa, the hymn people always wanted to sing was "Love at Home." Tells you something doesn't it?
Another thing I learned from Polynesia is how to relax. (I could actually use a couple of months in Polynesia now to help me relearn that lesson.) Polynesians don't live to work. They work to live. Everyone on the island from the governor on down is off work by 4:00 p.m. and they spend long evenings together with their families. They have a special way of roasting pig called an "umu" which gives it a delicious smoky taste and makes it really tender. It takes several hours to roast that way -- providing people with a long conversation while the food is cooking. Big family dinners are always a celebration, and they prepare enough so everyone has a huge plate of leftovers to take home. Julia and I went to a wedding once where we literally lived on the leftovers for a week.
Sometimes we Americans are just busy being busy -- and we forget that life should be about joy and feeling good inside. Polynesia can help you to gain real perspective on that. Very few people there are lonely because everyone is surrounded by lots of family and loved ones.
One final thought about polynesians is that they hate to hurt anyone's feelings. They don't generally come to the point very readily. We Americans are often pretty blunt. Samoans take their time in communication and often talk around and around something rather than coming directly to the point -- because they want to be understood without shaming or contradicting the other person. They believe every person is important and a gift from God.
The local matai and village council system in Samoa operates on the principle of consensus, kind of like the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. On any major change, they continue talking until all objections are resolved or at least withdrawn. It takes a long time for them to make decisions, but when they do, the decisions always command popular support because everyone had their say and no one was left behind. What if we could run our marriages that way? What if we decided that having our own way at the other person's expense was not acceptable, and that we wouldn't move forward with a decision or end a discussion until both people were satisfied with the outcome? What if our spouses knew we would not be satisfied with the result until they were? It is more time consuming and it requires more discussion, but it is also an important way for both spouses to feel valued and to have a life they are satisfied with. Perhaps we can use more intention in both dating relationships and in marriage to use the principle of consensus in making decisions.
I don't know how many of you have experience with Polynesian culture, or how well you relate to this essay, but I hope it provided a little insight and perspective that will help in your life.
This afternoon, we were privileged to watch the FIRST EVER Face to Face Event for Single Adults (ages 31+). This event had a different approach than others before, considering it’s for a more mature and experienced audience. It will be a blessing for so many! We have a friend currently serving on the Single Adult group committee for the Church who was involved in the planning process. Please watch this online for inspired words of counsel/comfort, specifically for singles of our Faith. It’s an invite for ALL singles - never married, divorced, or widowed. We highly recommend watching this. Here's a link to watch the playback anytime:
The first presidency asked us to also study President Nelson’s talk: “Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains” from Apr 2021 General Conference, which you can find here:
After watching the premier of this special event this afternoon, we had so much to say about it that we did a podcast. Listen to our thoughts on this first ever churchwide mid-single devotional on LILY Pod:
14. The First Churchwide Devotional for Mid-Singles by LILY Pod • A podcast on Anchor
Jeff and Cathy discuss the first churchwide devotional for single adults over the age of 30 in a Face to Face with Relief Society President Jean Bingham, Sister Sharon Eubank, and Elder Neil L. Anderson.
In light of Sister Bingham's comments on Face to Face, we would really like to increase our effort to make our Love In Later Years (LILY) Facebook Group a gathering place for mid-singles and those who are interested in their welfare to fellowship, receive edifying thoughts, and alleviate loneliness. The more the merrier! We would like to have 1,000 members by the end of July 2021! 💕 Come join us and please share with friends and family:
Those of us who are "culturally safe" can choose to be spiritually mature, loving, and kind.
We echo what was said in this article, written June 1st. For our LGTBQ+ mid-single members.
HaPpY SaBbAtH DaY from our home to yours. It's so exciting to attend all of church again! We enjoyed a full 2-hour church service with our entire ward this afternoon for the first time in over a year. Since Covid-19 hit Utah in March of 2020, it hasn't been an option to attend most of the time (we did it at home for many months and then started rotating Sundays for 1 hour to keep numbers low and contact limited). It felt very special to be with everyone again and NOT wear masks. The following week we were able to attend for the first time as a family (with the kids).
We have renewed appreciation for what we used to take for granted. So happy to have church back in session!
I remember a talk given in a singles ward about "spreading it to the edges." It referred to sandwiches, or toast such as this that I made for my son this morning, as a metaphor for spreading goodness to the edges of our lives, to make our life experience as delicious as possible.
Since then, I have learned about the law of attraction and how what we put our focus on we get more of. If we will intentionally focus on and spread the good, our world becomes better.
ON TRANSITIONING FROM MARRIAGE TO CELIBACY
There was a recent BYU article about "Transitioning from Sexually Active to Sexually Inactive" that got a good deal of well-warranted criticism. The author (who has never been divorced or widowed) gave a heartfelt and vulnerable apology for the insensitivity of the article. In fairness, she was assigned to write the article by a professor she worked for. The following was my response to her apology. I hope it was mostly constructive and helpful. That was my intent.
Paige, my wife Cathy and I are both divorcees and we have written a book to mid-singles, which will be released this fall. I think the biggest omission in your article is, honestly, an empathetic acknowledgement of how difficult it is to adjust to celibacy. There is NOTHING else in life that can fill that gap -- and an article suggesting that other things can compensate just fails to understand. Adult human beings are not designed for celibacy. Once we are used to being partnered, going back to celibacy is one of the hardest things we've ever done. Any other idea like, "just pray" or "exercise more," is not really going to help very much. You might as well be honest and just say, "it hurts like the devil, you deeply crave intimacy and can't have it, and you will be sorely tempted, and there is nothing you can do about it without breaking your temple covenants." That would be honest and empathetic. You can say, "We don't make covenants to follow Christ only when it is easy."
Writing to divorcees, you will get nowhere with unbridled Latter-day Saint idealism -- and making the gospel seem easy. Divorcees in the church have long since learned that it is not accurate to say, "If you just live the gospel everything works out." Be honest with them and show empathy and they will at least feel understood. Treating them like they have returned to adolescence with "For the Strength of Youth" lectures on chastity is guaranteed to turn them off.
I'm not trying to be critical at all -- just some feedback for future efforts.
At our recent General Conference, President M. Russell Ballard and Elder Gerrit W. Gong both highlighted the fact that a majority of adult members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are now unmarried, widowed, or divorced. Among other things, Elder Gong emphasized that, “Our standing before the Lord and in His Church is not a matter of our marital status but of our becoming faithful and valiant disciples of Jesus Chris” and that, “Adults want to be seen as adults and to be responsible and contribute as adults.” So often, mid-singles of our faith have been treated by other adults as if they had returned to a state of adolescence. Many of you have been lectured about the law of chastity the way we were in our teen years, as though we had not matured in our ability to make moral decisions or to create evolved relationships.
Often people assume that singles must have missed out on the secret possessed by married members of the Church. It is comforting to believe that divorce cannot happen to us. We were among those who sometimes judged divorced or unmarried members for not getting married or “not making their marriages work” – before we, ourselves, were divorced. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12.)
We are living in an era where a universe of possibilities is open to mid-singles of the Church. President Ballard made clear “that eternal life is not simply a question of current marital status but of discipleship and being ‘valiant in the testimony of Jesus.’” He quoted President Russell M. Nelson, “In the Lord’s own way and time, no blessing will be withheld from His faithful Saints. The Lord will judge and reward each individual according to heartfelt desire as well as deed.” If an eternal marriage is your heart’s desire, the Lord has promised that it will be yours, in this life or the next, if you are true and faithful and remain on the covenant path. As President Ballard reminded us, “The hope of all who are single is the same as for all members of the Lord’s restored Church - access to the grace of Christ through ‘obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.’” Love in Later Years is here to help you achieve the spirituality, personal development, and relationships you desire.