#hearLDSwomen: Single Sisters and the Jedi Hand Wave

I could fill volumes because not only am I a woman, I’m single, so I don’t have a man attached to me. Doubly invisible.

When I move to a new ward, I show up at church, and people don’t ask me what I do. They say “What does your husband do?” And when I tell them I don’t have one, they’re at a loss as to what to say to me. (Usually, they fall all over themselves to reassure me that my terrible fate of singleness is only temporary and that I should cheer up and be patient. Even when I’ve made no commentary whatsoever on my feelings about my marital status.)
– Trudy


I’m not sure how best to put this, but one of the things I find most annoying is what I call the “Jedi hand wave” answers that we get as single sisters – “we don’t know, but… ah, it’ll all work out.”

We’re told in the temple our salvation apparently requires not just Christ’s intercession but the intercession of our spouse – with no information on who will fulfill that role for me.  “It will all work out in the eternities.”

We’re called through the veil by a man – married sisters by their husbands, but who will call me?  Best answer I got was “…Someone who loves you.”

Add to that the worship (to the point of fetishization) of The Family and being told weekly that the best and divine role of women is to have and raise children…where does that leave us? (Hand wave) “You still count. It’ll all work out.  These are not the droids you’re looking for.”

It’s not good enough.
– Kristin


Pro Tip: Acknowledge that there are gaping holes in our doctrine concerning single women. See women as whole people separate from their marital status.

Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)


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22 Responses

  1. Em says:

    Also, if it’ll all work out and maybe husbands aren’t intermediaries between us and Christ, can we stop that altogether? I don’t want to diminish the specific marginalization that single sisters feel, just express frustration with an ideology that takes women an extra step away from God. If “someone who loves me” is going to help me, could it maybe be my mother in heaven? Or the Savior? Could my mortal loved ones just stand by my side instead of acting as my superior?

  2. Cameron says:

    I have a very stubborn “Oh, I need a husband? Then Jesus is my husband. So there” attitude, both in the temple and elsewhere. If the Church had nuns, I’d sign up. As it stands, I must validate my own path, because no one else will do it for me.

  3. RoseE Hadden says:

    My dad likes to say that a religion needs to provide three things: an explanation of the nature and purpose of the universe, a code of conduct, and a narrative about what happens after death.

    Mormonism DOES NOT PROVIDE this third item to the single sisters.

  4. EmilyCC says:

    Just Jedi-wave that cognitive dissonance away! (Sorry, kind of snarky)

    But, I have seen this wave too many times, too. It’s almost like they’re trying to physically clear their discomfort because there is a gap in doctrine, and it is uncomfortable.

  5. Julie says:

    I think the “marriage is a must for exaltation” is a false doctrine. Hence there’s no need for a separate doctrine for single people.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Even as a married sister, I have a super hard time believing that marriage is required for exaltation. Not getting married in the temple is what originally sparked these thoughts in me. How could it possibly be fair to require another person’s faithfulness to secure my personal salvation? This “promise” that I will be sealed to SOMEONE in the eternities is not really all that comforting to me. Cross your fingers that if I have to be sealed, it will be to my current, non-believing spouse. I’d rather not be a second, third, or hundreth wife to some “faithful” man and his loving first wife who are kindly doing me a huge favor by letting me join their eternal family because MY family that I CHOSE in this life wasn’t good enough. Ugh! It gets me super fired up to even think about it!

  7. MJC says:

    As someone who married at the age of 30 here in Utah and who has an aunt, three adult nieces and many friends who are unmarried, I am very sensitive (hypersensitive?) to the self-confidence destroying insistence in our church that women are only valued when they are married. It absolutely galls me when I hear yet another conference talk or lesson on motherhood. Why can’t we celebrate these good women and take advantage of the marvelous gifts that they have to offer us rather than treat them as pariahs? In the church we like to say that all are alike unto God, but obviously it doesn’t apply to His children who are supposedly trying to emulate Him and His son Jesus Christ when we consciously assign second class status to those who, through no fault of their own or for specific reasons, are unmarried women.

  8. Tim says:

    I have been protesting for many many years the annual Mother’s Day mother worship talks in sacrament meeting, and handing out chocolates. I say it has nothing to do with the gospel of Christ and is a silly tradition that hurts and offends many people. I heard recently that our ward council decided to stop the practice.

  9. Lily says:

    I heard recently that there are more single women in the Church than married ones. Maybe its time to pay them some attention instead of acting like they are a side note.

  10. amandamae says:

    I have told every bishop I’ve had since grad school (so we’re up to six at this point) that I struggle with church because the church doesn’t know what to do with me. I even had a visiting teacher supervisor who had assumed I was married and was shocked to find I wasn’t. Took her months to grasp that. Even at family gatherings of my very large Mormon extended family I’m on the sidelines because I don’t have toddlers to chase or a priesthood calling to compare notes on. It’s hard out there.

  11. Hilary says:

    I’m less concerned about there being ambiguity around the afterlife as a unmarried person- I don’t personally expect every question to be answered about HOW the grace of Christ’s atonement makes up for my sins or missed experiences on earth. I guess I accept that that’s a part of faith, and my business in life, single or otherwise, is to life a meaningful life.

    I personally am more challenged by the standards and culture that I feel limit the opportunities for single disciples of Christ to have a meaningful experience in mortality. Our standards ask us to put up certain walls between ourselves and the ‘world’ to keep ourselves clean and safe from sin. But what if that’s all we’re doing?

    Why is it better to stay a clean, unblemished statue than to experience life? Is that even really congruent with the gospel?

    Isn’t the Atonement offered to allow us space to live, gain experience, and even make mistakes? If the plan isn’t working for us- if trying to stay clean means limiting the people we can love and the experiences we can have in mortalitiy- why can’t we have the generosity to acknowledge that the Atonement is enough to cover us when living within the narrow path of the gospel may mean hardly living at all?

  12. Rivkah says:

    Hilary, as a single, never-married woman in my 40s, I find it interesting that you would consider a woman in my (our?) situation to be “hardly living at all.” Yes, it’s tough to be single in our very family-oriented church, as these comments demonstrate. And it’s tough to be celibate. I wish some things in our church culture would change, but the expectation of abstinence for the unmarried is not one of them. In the midst of the difficulty, my life continues to be rich and meaningful – both because of the church and in spite of it. It’s interesting that you think you have to choose between either putting up walls, living the gospel path, and being miserable, or leaving the path, having sexual experiences, and finding the meaning of life in that. I don’t recognize that dichotomy in my own life at all.

    • Hilary says:

      Rivkah, I’m sorry if you find my experience an indictment of yours; that was not my intention. We may be similar in age (mid 30s) and situation and yet can have differing experiences of our circumstances. I admit that I find these circumstances more limiting than others do, and do not mean to say that one can not have a fulfilling life simply because they are celibate.

      Lots of people are celibate, in and outside the church, for lots of reasons and still have meaningful, full, productive lives. Personally, part of having a full life is to open myself up to possibility, to hope, to other people and for those reasons I’ve found it mentally and emotionally unhealthy to tell myself I have to live in a pretty clean little box and keep the world out of it.

      That’s where I am at in my life journey, and that too takes faith. It takes faith to believe that Christ’s Atonement can compensate for my weakness, as it can legitimately be called a weakness.

      • Rivkah says:

        Clearly you need to do what you feel right about, but your belief about the Atonement is one you came up with on your own. It’s not intended to help people plan out and rationalize their sins, especially the pretty serious ones. It’s not a “get out of jail free” card. The law of chastity is difficult for pretty much every person who’s single (unless they’re asexual). You don’t have a unique weakness in that regard.

      • Hilary says:


  13. sfinns says:

    I sometimes think of my life as single in the church as similar (though much more privileged and nowhere near as hard) to the black members who joined the church prior to 1978. It must have been a social and cultural hardship in many ways, yet they sacrificed to have the blessing of the baptismal covenant and receiving the Holy Ghost. If they could stick it out, so can I. I want the gospel in my life, I want the covenants, the temple, and all those things in my life. There are questions, sure, I have had painful experiences and feelings because of being single in a family oriented church, but this is where I belong. I belong in the Lord’s church, no matter what. I won’t be waved away. Ultimately, this is all between Him and me. He is sticking by me and I’m sticking by Him.

  14. TheWanderingLost says:

    Utah Mormonism has a major issue with singles. At the moment, 60 percent of single members in Utah are women. That means if we ‘Jedi Hand Wave’d all the singles into eternal marriages, 20% of women would not have a eternal partner.


    That is a massive problem, and one the church needs to address immediately. Men are leaving the church in droves, myself amongst them. If there does not come some solution for this, my expectation is that the women will be right behind them.

    Living in Provo, I am asked constantly why I do not attend. My answer is simple. As a single male in my 40’s, there is no place for me in a family centric church. I’m not needed, and even more, I am not wanted in traditional ‘family’ wards. I attended what is referred to as a ‘mid singles’ (32 to 50something) ward, but did not connect. The desperation was palpable.

    In addition, the number of wards available is not nearly capable of handling the amount of singles. I’ve known of such mid singles wards where dating was a condition of being added to the rolls. That struck me as ludicrous, and admittedly, has colored my attitude for years.

    We all want to belong. I spent many years trying to belong. I was indirectly told at age six that, being deaf, I am not good enough. That lesson has been reinforced dozens, yea, countless times in the years since by both male and female members and non members. I have finally decided that if I am not wanted, then I’ll acquiesce. It has been and continues to be a very painful process to accept that the Mormon Dream of eternal marriage, or even temporal marriage will never become a reality.

    As the original posts mention, there is much confusion about what the future hold for those who never marry, and those who never have the opportunity to marry. All we have to go on is the NT verse about there being no marriage after this life, a vague and ill defined comment that is doubled down upon in Section 132, verse 16 and damningly, 17.

    That’s precious little to hope on, but I refuse to accept that I am essentially damned because I was denied the opportunity to participate.

  15. Joni says:

    If the best answer we have is “don’t worry, everything will be fine when you’re dead” then we really don’t have answers at all.

  16. CS Eric says:

    My wife and I were talking about this last night. As long as there are old maids in Utah that the apostles can marry when their first wives die, they aren’t going to care about it (yes, I know the term is offensive. But those old guys don’t seem to care very much either way. So long as they have theirs, why should they worry?).

    We are both widowed, and so went through the shock of being a Person in the church as part of a married couple to an Embarrassment after our spouses died. I was single for nearly 7 years, and she was for less time than that, but still long enough to see and understand that if you aren’t married, there is no place in the church for you. And the difference in advice was also not terrible helpful to either of us. The solution for me was to remarry, and it didn’t seem to matter very much to whom; the solution for her was to rejoice in the fact that she and her husband had been sealed, so she will be happy again in the next life–after she is dead.

  17. kibitz says:

    It’ll be worked out in the hereafter = you’d be better off dead. Thaaanks.

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