An Open Letter to the Gentlemen I Disagreed with on Facebook Yesterday

This post is in reference to some odd cultural quirks that exist among people in the LDS faith. For those of you who are not members of my faith and may not understand our culture, please be considerate.

Dear Gentlemen I Disagreed with on Facebook Yesterday,

Yesterday I commented on a status of a friend who reposted a “Mormon problem”: “When you realize that boys will soon be saying: ‘Yeah, I’m only gonna marry a girl if she’s a return missionary.'”

I stood up in defense of single sisters who choose not to serve missions. I explained that in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord lays out something called the Oath and Covenant of the priesthood. In short, it means that men who hold the priesthood have made a covenant with God to spread His gospel. Modern day prophets have explained this to mean that all worthy and able young men should submit papers to serve a mission. If they cannot afford a mission, there are systems in place to help him pay for it. But they have a duty, they are under covenant with God to serve missions. Sisters, because we do not hold the priesthood, are under no such obligation. Single sisters are welcomed to serve missions, but church leaders are always careful to explain that sisters have absolutely NO obligation to do so. Anybody who says otherwise has the sin upon their heads.

In response to my defense of single sisters, I was referred to the definition of a joke, and another gentleman mockingly said “I’m sooooo offended.” I would like to explain why comments like the above are NOT funny, they are not even offensive.

They are hurtful.

I do not know you, the two gentlemen who found my sense of humor lacking. You are friends of a friend on facebook. But I assume that you are married. And because you live in Utah, I assume that there aren’t many single sisters in your ward. And not only are there probably not many single sisters in your ward, but if there are, I further assume that you are not in their confidences. They do not tell you the things in their hearts.

But I do know many single sisters, and I am in some of their confidences, so allow me to explain.

The above comment is in reference to the fact that yesterday President Monson lowered the age of eligible sister missionaries to 19 instead of 21. While that specific comment is in reference to a new church policy, similar comments have been made to mission-eligible sisters for years. Comments like “If you’re 21 and not married, why aren’t you on a mission?”

In regards to the fact that sisters are under no obligation to serve missions, allow me to tell you that their decision of whether or not to serve a mission is intensely personal. It was probably a decision made on their knees in earnest prayer to God as to what He would have them do with their lives. It is probably similar to a process you went through to decide if you should marry your wife. Sisters who decide not to serve missions do so in the full knowledge that God supports their decision, and that it was made with Him at their side. But then they go out into the world, and this spiritual and personal decision is held up to the scrutiny of their peers. People who do not know these sisters well feel the need to question, poke and prod into a decision that those individuals have no right to. The decision of whether or not to serve is between a sister and God, but others butt their way into that decision, weighing it under their insensitive noses with nary a consideration of how God feels about that sister’s decision.

Comments like that hurt because that sister made a decision in lockstep with God, but other people feel the need to not only judge, but to find her lacking for it.

Comments like that hurt because she probably wants to be married. She probably wants children. Being a member of a family-centered church, she would probably prefer to have done those things than had to have made ANY decision regarding whether or not to serve a mission. Comments like that remind her that she is not married, and they often make her feel judged and inadequate for not being married, even though her marriage status is in no way her fault (or anybody else’s business, for that matter).

Comments like that make single sisters cry. I have seen their tears.

And before you tell me that comments like that are funny, I would invite you to consider whether or not the Savior, upon hearing a comment like that would laugh. Or whether He, as He did when His friends Mary and Martha cried, would stop and cry with those sad sisters.

I’m going to tell you, because although that last statement was somewhat rhetorical, there is a wrong answer to it. The Savior whose life is recorded in the New Testament and the Savior that I have come to know through prayer and who has carried me through my personal trials–He would not laugh. He would extend His love to those sisters who weep because of the insensitive words of others.

That is why that comment is not funny. That is why I do not need to reconsider the definition of a joke or further mock single sisters who already have a hard time of it.

Sincerely,
Eliza Meeks

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5 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Gentlemen I Disagreed with on Facebook Yesterday

  1. I am just underscoring a point you already made.

    D&C 68:7-9 (see also vs. 1-2):

    7 This is the word of the Lord unto you, my servant Orson Hyde, and also unto my servant Luke Johnson, and unto my servant Lyman Johnson, and unto my servant William E. McLellin, and unto all the faithful elders of my church—

    8 Go ye into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature, acting in the authority which I have given you, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

    Note in particular that vs. 7 says “…and unto all the faithful elders of my church…” This is not just addressed to Orson Hyde, but to all faithful elders: missionary service is a priesthood responsibility. There is no way around it. Sisters are not under the same mandate to serve as are Melchizedek priesthood holders. It is nice that now, if they so choose, they can serve at age 19, but IT IS NOT REQUIRED OF THEM.

    Dad

  2. Go you. Thanks for saying what needs to be said; it could not have been written better. In my opinion, those who make hurtful comments like what your aforementioned gentleman did, is simply another manifestation of what happens all too frequently. Many people believe that their opinions ought to be everyone else’s, and if they are not it is their duty to attack, not simple state. It is what bugs me the most about today’s political climate. Thank you, again. –Rachel Woodfield Reece

  3. You tell em, sister. I really appreciate this. I found myself frustrated yesterday with similar insensitive and immature posts and comments. Thanks for taking the time to spell this out.

  4. Hm I never thought of that side of it. I thought first of the sister who DO serve missions and have to put up with the “you’re just here because you couldn’t get married” attitudes. We just can’t win for losing, can we? Our lives don’t revolve around marriage any more than men’s lives do. Some people just need to wake up and smell the 21st century.

    • I agree with your “we can’t win for losing” comment. A sister’s choice to serve or not serve a mission is HERS, and should not be held up to the scrutiny and judgments of others, particularly because it was most likely a decision made through prayer.

      And the “you’re just here because you couldn’t get married” attitudes bug me, too. Some sisters get married after they serve missions, some sisters get married after not serving missions, and some sisters never marry at all. And in any circumstance, it’s her personal journey that she should be making with God as her guide, not somebody else’s insensitive comments.

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