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Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Sister Kristen M. Oaks

“You are loved and you are important.”

That was the message of an apostle and his wife to 2,500 single adults gathered for the 2016 Mid-Singles Conference held in Salt Lake City on Aug. 7.

The conference, held in the Salt Lake Institute building near the University of Utah campus, was based on the theme, “Press Forward with a Steadfastness in Christ,” and included classes, service opportunities and entertainment over three days of events and activities.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, addressed conference attendees — sharing experiences, personal insights and words of encouragement during the closing devotional on Aug. 7.

“As I have continued my lifelong interest in singles — having been raised from childhood by a single mother — I have been interested in the increasing numbers of singles in the United States and in the Church,” he said. “Singles are such an important part of the Church. They are an important part of the country, too.” Elder and Sister Oaks touched on a variety of topics and issues facing Church members today. Drawing from their own experiences, the couple shared counsel that has helped them during various times in their own lives.

“Kristen and I — she more than I — are former singles ourselves,” Elder Oaks said. “She was single into her mid-50s until we were married. I was single between the death of my first wife and my meeting Kristen two years later.”

Elder Oaks shared personal letters he had received from single members of the Church. Recognizing many in that demography are motivated and high-achieving, he encouraged listeners to not place a higher value on independence than on “opportunities for and the fulfillment of desires to be interdependent.”

Sharing an excerpt of a letter from a single woman in the Church in California, Elder Oaks told of her observation of “capable, beautiful, LDS women” and “capable, hardworking and kind LDS men” who are trapped by fear and doubt.

Another letter shared by Elder Oaks spoke of Church members “shackled by fear to marry.” It is when men and women become team players that they can succeed together, he taught. “Interdependence is the kind of life the Lord desires for us.”

Elder Oaks also warned against being influenced by the wrong, worldly messages. “We have to be careful when we are single and we don’t have a spouse to steady us, that we are not unduly influenced by worldly messages. For example, the world seeks and honors the accumulation of money, property, car, home, travel, graduation before marriage, etc., etc., etc. Jesus said seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.”

In another letter, Elder Oaks shared the journey of another single woman. Rather than focusing all of her time and efforts on her desires to be a wife and mother — both honorable goals — she realized the deepest desire of her heart should be becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. “To me that was a fascinating new thought in terms of priorities,” Elder Oaks said.

Sister Oaks spoke of the protection and love Heavenly Father has for each one of His children. Quoting from President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, she said, “The Lord knows what you will need to do and know. He has prepared opportunities, and when you put spiritual things first, … your power will increase and you will be grateful.”

It is important to have faith in the Lord and in His timing, Elder Oaks taught. “We have a Heavenly Father who loves us,” Sister Oaks said, adding later, “He weeps with us when we suffer and He rejoices with us when we do what is right. He loves us so much that He provided us with a plan of salvation and sent His Son to atone for us. … Our happiness and our salvation are everything to Him.”

It is by staying faithful and valiant that the Lord is strengthening His members for the days that are coming, Sister Oaks said. “Sometimes those things we consider great trials prepare us for blessings,” she said. “So I say to you, stay on the path, continue to press forward.”

Elder Oaks warned listeners of the enslavement and bondage that come from addictions — a harmful substance, pornography or philosophies that detract from righteous living — and encouraged them to use their time wisely.

“In my life I have seen many examples of persons who were addicted through an excessive expenditure of time to sports or video games or whatever it may be. This is a good time to issue a caution about that.”

Elder Oaks posed a question to Sister Oaks about dealing with being older and single in the Church. Sister Oaks responded by reminding listeners of the protection and love their Heavenly Father has for them. She also spoke of being one with Christ.

“We are torn between a world that teaches openly that motherhood, children, marriage and family are not important,” she said. “Many of us who most value family time must still work to ensure that there is food on the table and a roof over our heads.

“Single sisters are torn between a world and a job and a family they don’t have yet. And so I say to you, respect your feelings, sisters. They are God-given. I testify these yearnings are divine. Embrace them, and learn to balance them and thank God for them. They are a gift to remind us of who we are — celestial beings in a telestial situation. This is not our eternal home.”

She encouraged listeners to remember the Lord needs people to be spiritually strong, knowing and understanding their divine identity as children of God.

“Elder and Sister Oaks were tremendous,” said Elder Peter F. Evans, an Area Seventy. “They were funny and warm. They were encouraging and inspiring. They both know personally the challenge and difficulty of being alone as a single adult in the Church. They spoke from their own experience and offered tremendous counsel and expressions of love. Following the event they both expressed the feeling that there was tremendous faith among these members.”

mholman@desnews.com @marianne_holman

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