Dear Elder Oaks:
You broke my heart tonight. You compared my beautiful life to disease, disability, and depression. You called my marital status an affliction. I have never been so hurt before. Your words hurt me in ways I didn't know possible. As difficult and lonely as my path may be, it is not an affliction.
I know that you meant well and that your words were meant to be ones of comfort. You spoke of the Atonement and how Christ knows my pain. You explained that the Savior often walked alone and knew and understood what it means to be lonely. I agree and I believe. I am grateful for the intent of your words. It is why I am not offended or angry.
Just truly broken-hearted.
Imagine a mother finding out that her child is considered disabled. Or a person finding out they have a disease. How crushing it must be in those moments. That's exactly how I felt when you called my life an "affliction."
I know there are many who took comfort in your words. There are plenty of singles who were grateful to be acknowledged for their pain. And I am very happy for them. It did mean a lot to hear a General Authority acknowledge the challenges of being single with more than just routine commentary about dating. I am grateful that you respected and spoke of the pain we often feel. But again, I am not afflicted with singlehood. And it hurts me to be labeled as such.
The diseased and disabled and those with afflictions require extra service and attention. They are not able to give as much service and sacrifice to the Church [without considerable assistance from others]. Singles should not be put into the same category or consideration as these special demographics.
I am the Young Women's President in my ward. I have been in several YW presidencies. I am a temple worker. I have been a Primary worker, a Relief Society teacher, a ward missionary, and conference co-chair. I give more of my time to the Church than your average person. And I always have.
My marital status is not an affliction. It is an assistance and blessing to others. It has never held me back. It frees me to serve and help others in ways that a married parent cannot do. I am an asset to others.
I am, however, afflicted with people who do not understand or relate to my situation. I've always found that odd. Weren't we all born single? How is it so hard for married people to remember what it was like to be single? I am afflicted with people who give bad advice. I am afflicted by people who think that being single is a choice, or that dating should be the same at 40 as it was at 20.Where is the advice for dating over 30? Surely when you were dating your second wife you must have noticed that it wasn't the same as dating when you were in college. Why has no one ever offered anything other than comfort to us? Why has no one ever acknowledged that singles are an asset to the Church? And that our lives are just as full of joy as they are of pain? Why is it so taboo to acknowledge that singles can have happy and fulfilling lives? If you don't want us to feel afflicted, acknowledge our contributions and potential.
I am afflicted with a great deal of pain every time I am treated like a second rate citizen at church. For instance, the time I had to sit through a YW lesson about female role models, that by definition excluded me as a role model because I am single. (Ironic that I am the YW president, but not considered a role model.)
I admit and recognize that loneliness can feel like an affliction. I do not belittle that fact.
Being single can be hard. But it is not a disease. It is not a disability. It's not an affliction. It's simply a state of being. Your words came on a day where I was feeling more pain and loneliness than usual. I found no comfort in your words. Instead, this new label made me feel worse, like I had no purpose or meaning. I had no idea people thought such an awful thing about me. And it hurt more coming from you, than anyone else. After all, you are the one Church leader who experienced singlehood and dating later in life. I always thought you understood us better.
Please reconsider calling singles "afflicted." Acknowledge us for all that we give the Church. Acknowledge that we are assets. And that we do it alone. We do just as much, if not more, than our married counterparts, and we do it without a support system.
I am grateful for your words of comfort. "Sometimes His power heals an infirmity, but the scriptures and our experiences teach that sometimes He succors or helps by giving us the strength or patience to endure our infirmities." These are words of comfort for many things. But please, do not call my marital status an infirmity. I am so much more than that. I am an asset. And I am a daughter of God.