Bringing a positive focus to one's life through service to others, self-improvement and spiritual awakening was the message single adult members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints received during a fireside held at the Tabernacle on Temple Square Sunday night.
Those attending were urged to recognize the individuality of each member and to realize that God loves each person as an individual and that no group within the church should be cast into a stereotype."The church is for all members," said President Howard W. Hunter, President of the Council of the Twelve. "In acknowledging the single or married state of individual church members, we hope we are not misunderstood, for our intent is not to stereotype you. All of us, single or married, have individual identities and needs, among which is the desire to be seen as a worthwhile, individual child of God."
In a video presentation, Richard Flamm, a young returned missionary; Rebecca Olsen, a returned sister missionary, Cub Scout leader and high school teacher; and Ginger Evans, a divorced mother of seven, formed a panel of single church members interviewed by Elder Marion D. Hanks.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, first councilor in the church's First Presidency, echoed the sentiments of President Hunter in his concluding speech.
"Somehow we have put a badge on this large group. It reads `singles.' I wish we would not do that. You are individuals, men and women, sons and daughters of God, not a mass of look-alikes or do-alikes. Because you do not happen to be married does not make you essentially different from others. All of us are very much alike in appearance and emotional responses, in our capacity to think, to reason, to be miserable, to be happy, to love and be loved."
The remarks came as part of a special fireside broadcast to church meeting houses nationwide and in Canada and Puerto Rico as part of the church's satellite television network. It was the church's first fireside directed solely to single adult members.
President Hunter cited a message from church President Ezra Taft Benson, published in the church magazine "Ensign" last November. That message to single church members said in part, "We see you as a vital part of the mainstream body of the church. We pray that the emphasis we naturally place on families will not make you feel less needed or less valuable to the Lord or to his church. The sacred bonds of church membership go far beyond marital status, age, or present circumstance. Your individual worth as a daughter (or son) of God transcends all."
The clarion call of the church is for all to come unto Christ, President Hunter said. He cited a passage in the Book of Mormon that says the Savior "inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female (and we might parenthetically add single and married) and all are alike unto God."
"This is the Church of Jesus Christ, not the church of marrieds or singles or any other group or individual," President Hunter added. "The gospel we preach is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which encompasses all the saving ordinances and covenants necessary to save and exalt every individual who is willing to accept Christ and keep the commandments which he and our Father in Heaven have given."
President Hinckley cautioned that while the church encourages marriage, it is not something to be rushed into nor delayed unduly. He also had words of encouragement for those who are growing older but have not married.
"For you in this category it can be a wonderful season of your lives. You have maturity. You have judgment. Most of you have training and experience," President Hinckley said. "You have the physical, mental and spiritual strength to lift and help and encourage.
"There are so many out there who need you. It is not enough to work at a word processor 40 hours a week and feel that you have done all that you can do," he continued. "You are needed. There are young people to be taught in the organizations of the church. Refine your skills. Accept every challenge and assignment. Put time and effort into the preparation of your lessons. Keep your spiritual batteries at full charge and light the lamps of others."