When we attempt to superimpose these eternal truths into an imperfect mortal state like the one we now live in, an added measure of sensitivity and consideration is needed for many faithful individuals. In mortality there is a lot of "breakage," and things don't always work out the way we hope. The leaders of the Church have always responded to these realities with love and reassurance, while never yielding on the principles of truth they teach.
Women Who Do Not Have Marriage Opportunities in This Life
All women have a desire for companionship. They want to be wives; they want to be mothers; and when men refuse to assume their responsibility of marriage, for no good reason, they are unable to consummate marriage. Brethren, we are not doing our duty as holders of the priesthood when we go beyond the marriageable age and withhold ourselves from an honorable marriage to these lovely women, who are seeking the fulfillment of a woman’s greatest desire to have a husband, a family, and a home. (CR, October 1973, 119-20; or Ensign, January 1974, 100).
You good sisters, who are single and alone, do not fear, do not feel that blessings are going to be withheld from you. You are not under any obligation or necessity of accepting some proposal that comes to you which is distasteful for fear you will come under condemnation. If in your hearts you feel that the gospel is true, and would under proper conditions receive these ordinances and sealing blessings in the temple of the Lord; and that is your faith and your hope and your desire, and that does not come to you now; the Lord will make it up, and you shall be blessed -- for no blessing shall be withheld.
The Lord will judge you according to the desires of your hearts when blessings are withheld in this life, and he is not going to condemn you for that which you cannot help. (Doctrines of Salvation, compiled by Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-56], 2:76).
You young women advancing in years who have not yet accepted a proposal of marriage, if you make yourselves worthy and ready to go to the house of the Lord and have faith in this sacred principle of celestial marriage for eternity, even though the privilege of marriage does not come to you now in mortality, the Lord will reward you in due time and no blessing will be denied you. You are not under obligation to accept a proposal from someone unworthy of you for fear you will fail of your blessings. Likewise, you young men who may lose your life in early life by accident, or a fatal illness, or in the terrible conflict of war before you have had an opportunity for marriage, the Lord knows the intent of your hearts, and in His own due time He will reward you with opportunities made possible through temple ordinances instituted in the Church for that purpose.
Do all you can to comply with the laws of God pertaining to an exaltation in the kingdom of God. The Lord will judge you too by your works, as well as by the desires of your hearts, and your reward will be assured. (Ye Are the Light of the World [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], 308-9).
Marriage is honorable. It’s a plan of God. It is not a whim, a choice, a preference only; it’s a must.
We are talking to normal young people. Generally there are husbands for most young women. There might be an occasional young woman who does not find her companion, but there is little excuse for the normal young man. I tell young women who seem to have missed their chance for desirable marriage that they should do all in their power to make themselves attractive physically in dress and grooming, mentally in being knowledgeable on many subjects, spiritually in being responsive, emotionally in being genuine and worthy. And if one fails to find a companion after having done everything possible, then there will be provision for her in eternity. (“Marriage is Honorable,” in Speeches of the Year, 1973 [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1974], 261-62).
Just as those who do not hear the gospel in this life, but who would have received it with all their hearts had they had it, will be given the fulness of the gospel blessings in the next world -- so, too, the women of the Church who do not in this life have the privileges and blessings of a temple marriage, through no fault of their own, who would have responded if they had an appropriate opportunity -- will receive all those blessings in the world to come. We desire all you sisters to know how much we love and appreciate you. We respect you for your valiant and devoted service and have many opportunities to observe how dedicated you are! (TSWK, ed. Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 295).
If a man and his wife are saved in separate kingdoms, for instance, the celestial and terrestrial, automatically the sealing is broken; it is broken because of the sins of one of the parties. No one can be deprived of exaltation who remains faithful. In other words, an undeserving husband cannot prevent a faithful wife from an exaltation and vice versa. In this case the faithful servant would be given to someone who is faithful. (Doctrines of Salvation, compiled by Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-56], 2:65).
When two Latter-day Saints are united together in marriage, promises are made to them concerning their offspring that reach from eternity to eternity. They are promised that they shall have the power and the right to govern and control and administer salvation and exaltation and glory to their offspring, worlds without end. And what offspring they do not have here, undoubtedly there will be opportunities to have them hereafter. What else could man wish? A man and a woman in the other life, having celestial bodies, free from sickness and disease, glorified and beautified beyond description, standing in the midst of their posterity, governing and controlling them, administering life, exaltation and glory worlds without end! (“Remarks Made at the Salt Lake Stake Conference, Salt Lake City, Saturday, March 13th, 1897,” Deseret Evening News, 27 March 1897, 9).
Many of the sisters grieve because they are not blessed with offspring. You will see the time when you will have millions of children around you. If you are faithful to your covenants, you will be mothers of nations. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected by John A. Widstoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941], 200).
God bless those mothers who are not yet permitted through no fault of their own to be mothers in very deed, but who are nevertheless mothers at heart. The Lord looks upon the hearts of men and women, and their intent, and they shall be judged according to their will and their desires. Such mothers shall not go through eternity childless. . . (Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard, compiled by Bryant S. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1949], 206-7).
. . .the wife is to obey the law of her husband only as he obeys the laws of God. No woman is expected to follow her husband in disobedience to the commandments of the Lord. (“Maintain Your Place as a Woman,” Ensign, February 1972, 50).
I never counseled a woman to follow her husband to the Devil. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected by John A. Widstoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941], 201).
Women With Special Health Concerns
Presidents David O. McKay, Hugh B. Brown, and N. Eldon Tanner (The First Presidency):
Where husband and wife enjoy health and vigor and are free from impurities that would be entailed upon their posterity, it is contrary to the teachings of the Church artificially to curtail or prevent the birth of children. We believe that those who practice birth control will reap disappointment by and by.
However, we feel that men must be considerate of their wives who bear the greater responsibility not only of bearing children, but of caring for them through childhood. To this end the mother’s health and strength should be conserved and the husband’s consideration for his wife is his first duty, and self-control a dominant factor in all their relationships. (Letter to bishops, stake presidents and mission presidents, 14 April 1969).
The Church has always advised against birth control and that is the only position the Church can take in view of our beliefs with respect to the eternity of the marriage covenant and the purpose of this divine relationship. There are, of course, circumstances under which people are justified in regulating the size of their families.
Where the health of the mother is concerned, and where the welfare of other children would be adversely affected, parents sometimes, under the advice of their physicians, deem it wisdom to take precautionary measures. . .
The Church cannot give a blanket or overall answer to the question which would be applicable to all situations. Seeking divine guidance and searching your own souls is recommended, but in a long lifetime of counseling on these matters, the General Authorities of the Church are united in recommending generally against birth control. (Quoted by Mark E. Petersen, in The Way of the Master [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 114-15).
Mothers Forced to Work Outside the Home
Normally, the husband is the breadwinner. We believe that the place of the woman is in the home, as a general rule. We realize that some women may need to be employed when their children are grown, or when there have been problems in their home and the breadwinner has been taken from them. The most sacred privileges that a woman could have are in the home, to be a partner with God in the creation of children. (Ensign, February 1974, 2).
The Church recognizes that not all women in the Church will have the opportunity for marriage and motherhood in mortality. Of necessity, some of our sisters have had to choose careers as a means of their own livelihood, and in some instances to provide for their families. But we do not encourage our young women to enter careers as lifelong objectives nor as alternatives to marriage and family. There is a godly and noble reason for this counsel. (Woman, 70-71).
Just as nothing makes us appreciate good health more than sickness, or companionship more than loneliness, those of us who find ourselves in any of the circumstances outlined above would be the first to appreciate the counsel of the leaders of the Church regarding these paramount matters. We who may have been deprived of these blessings for a season would be among the staunchest defenders of these eternal principles and ideals. Certainly, nothing will make us more worthy of those blessings in eternity than to valiantly defend them here and now, especially in light of our personal and often painful circumstances.
How tender our hearts been made to feel when we hear a valiant single sister defending the law of eternal marriage, when she herself has had no prospect of fulfilling her hopes in this life. How noble is the single parent, a mother forced to work full-time for the temporal welfare of her family, a Spiritual Living instructor in Relief Society who teaches with conviction the importance of mothers staying home to nurture their young children. How courageous is the childless woman who testifies of the supernal work in this life of mothering, who reaches beyond her family circle to embrace those in need of her love and gifts when denied the blessing of her own offspring.
There are no greater souls than those who fight on in faith against the greatest of all odds and the improbability of fulfillment, who hold dear the very principles and covenants they are personally denied as they stand patiently outside the gate for a season. They go forward in faith, hoping on, believing on, trusting in God’s promises despite all the adversity and hardship arrayed against them. Like Job they are constrained to say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (See Job 13:15).
Perhaps no one in our experience exemplifies the possibilities of the total fulfillment of all the promises of the Lord more than faithful though obscure Sister Maischt. This account is taken from an inspiring biography of Elder F. Enzio Busche:
Shortly after our baptism, Jutta and I became aware of an elderly sister named Sister Maischt, whose enthusiasm for the gospel and the church was so extraordinary that the shabbiness of her outward appearance did not matter much. From her looks, she was as close to a fairy tale witch as anyone I have ever seen – always wearing the same, long, ugly black dress, and never clean, always smelly. She simply did not try to look groomed or acceptable.
The missionaries were always very embarrassed by her and tried to prevent her from approaching us, which she often attempted. However, as a young convert, I did not see her outward appearance so much as I was fascinated by her relentless enthusiasm. No one knew her very well, and only later did I learn the whole history of her background.
She was originally from East Prussia, about 1,000 miles east of Dortmund. She had five children who had been killed by the Russians. Her husband was killed. She was raped several times. Her farm was burned down. With a little handcart, she made her way to Dortmund to a piece of land she had inherited there. She lived in a shed without plumbing or electricity and lived off the food she grew on her land. She never talked about the details. When anyone asked her about her background, she would immediately change the subject and talk about the goodness of Christ, the support of angels, and her testimony of the Book of Mormon.
One day, in the early days of my membership in the branch, I was questioning why I was there. There were some people in the branch with seemingly unrefined speech and behavior. I was standing there in our humble meeting place, undecided about whether I would ever come back, when she approached me with a look of determination, thrusting her face so close to mine that I could not avoid her smell. She yelled at the top of her voice three times, “Brother Busche, it is true!” Her words sank deep into my soul, touching my spirit. In a strange way, I was never offended by her smell, or her ungroomed hair, or the holes in her shoes, or the dirt on her shirt, or the wrinkles in her stockings. I can still feel today the power of her testimony penetrating my soul.
One day, as I drove home with my wife and our little one-and-half-year-old son, Markus, we discussed Sister Maischt and the fact that she walked two hours one way to go to church. We debated whether we should make the sacrifice and leave thirty minutes earlier on Sundays to give her a ride to and from church. We felt good as we finally agreed that we would arrange our time to do this service for her.
How surprised I was, however, when I presented her with our suggestion the next Sunday. She said, “Brother Busche, you cannot do this to me. I’m an old lady. How can I ever show the Lord how much I love Him, how much I adore Him, how much I depend on His atoning sacrifice for my salvation, and my desire to serve Him? I’m too old and too ugly and too forgetful to serve as the Relief Society president or even as a teacher. The greatest joy of my life is on Sunday when I can get up early in the morning, walk to church, and take the sacrament. Yes, it is a long walk and, yes, my legs hurt and my back hurts, but every step I rejoice. Every tree and every shrub is my friend. I know every person behind every window. I greet them all with my heart and with my testimony. As I walk, I sing the hymns and when I arrive, I’m through the hymnbook and my heart is full of joy and gratitude because my walk is a celebration of my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. And you want to take this away from me? You can’t do this to me. Let me walk.”
In a strange way, this woman taught me more about the gospel of Jesus Christ than I may have learned in Sunday School classes. Her commitment was total. Whenever she spoke, she bore her testimony. Yes, she looked funny, and people were embarrassed to associate with her, but the more I think about it, the more I know that she was probably one of the most compelling teachers I have ever had in my membership.
Long before I was able to go to the temple, she told me of the urgent need for each member to go to the temple as often as possible. One time, she reported she had been in the temple in Switzerland at least once a month since the temple had opened. That was much more than anyone else in the branch had accomplished. When she could not get anyone to take her to the temple, which was ten or twelve hours away, she somehow saved the money to go by herself by train. Not a month went by that she did not manage to go to the temple.
When I became branch president, one of the most touching experiences of my service was receiving the tithing envelopes from the members. I was deeply touched by the faithfulness and commitment of even the poorest in the branch. Sister Maischt in particular. When I first received her tithing, my heart was touched, but then I saw, to my surprise, that she had added a very large amount as a fast offering. It was nearly fifty percent of her tithing. In comparison, I said to her, “Sister Maischt, you don’t have to do that. This is a lot of money for you.” She rebuked me in another outburst of conviction. She stomped her foot and shouted, “Brother Busche, you are new in the Church. You don’t understand yet. This fast offering is for the poor and this is serious. We must not let the poor go hungry.”
I learned that she did not consider herself poor. I also learned that she refused any help that people offered. I never saw her in any other dress or in any other shoes, and I doubt that she had any. I knew that she lived in a little shack without sanitary installation, but she considered herself rich.
One day, she came to me and gave me a large amount of money. If I remember correctly, it was about 1,500 marks – the equivalent at that time of perhaps $1,000. She came to me and said, “Brother Busche, this is money for my funeral because this will be the last week of my life.” I protested and said, “Sister Maischt, you are going to live much longer. You are not going to die.” She said, “You don’t understand. The Lord told me that my time of probation is over and that I should come to you to arrange for my funeral. This is the money, and these are the songs and speakers.” She handed me a piece of paper with the arrangements for her funeral.
When she did not show up the next Sunday in church, the Relief Society sisters visited her. They found her dead in her hovel, calmly and peacefully gone. Yet her influence remains still because once in a while, I feel compelled to speak about her. In my mind, she is a monument of womanhood that I know will stand in the day of her resurrection, in prominence and beauty, and stands for me as a beacon of light in these days when we are so easily distracted by the things of this world. (Elder F. Enzio Busche, Yearning for the Living God, 166-170).
The prophets of God love the saints, and wear out their lives in service to them. They teach these priceless truths to bless our eternal lives, never to persecute or to injure our tender feelings and longings in righteousness. They realize there are special circumstances that from time to time preclude even the most valiant souls from fully attaining access to and living the higher law pertaining to the patriarchal order. They have no desire to injure or bring pain to their beloved brothers and sisters by teaching these important truths. On the contrary, they will magnify their faith and hope in these teachings of eternal truth to the end the principles will bless and strengthen all despite the personal circumstances we may temporarily find ourselves in.
Likewise, the leaders of the Church have no desire to persecute or estrange the wayward, who may have voluntarily chosen to live contrary to these glorious truths. The invitation to enter in at the gate is always open to those who stray. It is always their hope these teachings will soften hearts, change lives and bring indiscriminate eternal happiness to all.