Encouragement for divorced, widowed and never-married women in the Church

Choosing to be a disciple of Christ can help singles find peace and joy now and make an impact in their congregations, taught presenters at BYU Women’s Conference

PROVO, Utah — When her 25-year marriage ended, Samantha Fogg Nielsen of Gilbert, Arizona, made three choices. She decided to partner with God, to always rejoice in Christ, and to be steadfast in showing up.

“I have learned divorce is not shameful, it is not a failure — it is a part of my learning curriculum,” she said. “It has invited me to partner more closely and yoke myself more tightly with my Savior Jesus Christ.”

The mother of three struggled at first with different challenges brought on by her situation. This made it hard to show up in her ward meetings and participate in Sunday services. 

“But we need to know our ‘why’ — when we know why we are doing what we are doing, then there is purpose and power and nothing can stand in our way,” she said.

Samantha Fogg Nielsen is a single mother of three from Arizona who shares her story about being a divorced member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. | Kapri Roberts

When she turned the matter over to the Lord, and when she realigned her focus with her why, she was able to let her choice and focus stand and she wasn’t bothered by others’ choices and their decisions.

“The point is to remind you that we can choose to belong, even when it is hard. We can choose to belong on purpose because we matter,” Nielsen said.

In his April 2021 general conference address, “Hope in Christ,” the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President M. Russell Ballard, said more than half of adults in the Church today are widowed, divorced or not yet married. 

“Some wonder about their opportunities and place in God’s plan and in the Church,” President Ballard said. “We should understand that eternal life is not simply a question of current marital status but of discipleship.”

And in that same general conference, Elder Gerritt W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Our standing before the Lord and in His Church is not a matter of our marital status but of our becoming faithful and valiant disciples of Jesus Christ” (“Room in the Inn”).

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Said Nielsen, “The more important thing that brings us together is that we are disciples of Jesus Christ … even in our trying circumstances.”

Nielsen shared her story in a BYU Women’s Conference class on May 4. The class — titled “The Significant Impact of Single Saints” — was offered to women who were divorced, widowed or never married. 

“You are being thought of and you are loved,” Nielsen told the room of women. “Our experiences can be a light for others.”

Samantha Nielsen speaks to a class at BYU Women’s Conference in Provo, Utah, on May 4, 2023. | Natalie Broekman

Presenting with her was Angela Ahn, a woman from Riverton, Utah, who is not yet married. 

She said her testimony is not based on her martial status or anything else — it is based on Christ. “Why have I chosen to stay? I have chosen to stay because, for me, there is no other choice.” 

She said that by strengthening discipleship in Jesus Christ, single women can experience joy, peace, connection and full participation in Church and make an impact right now in their congregations.

“Our joy and eternal well-being are not dependent on an outside source or circumstance, instead they are dependent on Christ,” she said.

Angela Ahn shares her experience of being a single member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a BYU Women’s Conference class on May 4, 2023. | Mary Richards, Church News

When Ahn was 15 years old, her parents were hit by a drunk driver. Her father passed away, while her mother was bedridden for the next 18 years of her life.

After that happened, Ahn struggled with a lot of anxiety. She had to train herself to cast out fear and instead focus on her faith in Christ. She shared with the audience different ways this can be applied to their situations.

For example, a fear-based thought could be, “I feel worthless being single.” But focusing on Christ can change this to, “I am a beloved child of God.”

With fear, someone may think, “I can’t go to the temple by myself.” But focusing on Christ, the thought could be, “I am looking forward to communing with my Heavenly Father in the temple,” or, “Who can I invite to go with me?” 

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Strengthening discipleship in Christ allows single members of the Church to feel connection and belonging in their congregations, Ahn said.

Satan will have single people believe they don’t have a place beside families in the Church, Ahn said. He wants to draw lines and divide people. But the Lord has asked His people to be of one heart and one mind. Having a shared experience in Jesus Christ can help everyone feel included in Church — and participate fully. 

“My life isn’t ideal, but I don’t think anyone’s life is ideal. That’s why we have the Church and have Jesus Christ — we are working towards an ideal,” she said. “We can serve faithfully and participate fully in the gospel right now.”

Angela Ahn, from Riverton, Utah, presented during BYU Women’s Conference on May 4, 2023, about how single members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can find joy, peace and full participation. | Rob Bradshaw

Ahn said single women can make a significant impact in the lives of others. Covenant-keepers promise in the temple to consecrate their time, talents and everything the Lord has blessed them with to help others and build up the kingdom of God. 

“Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father are depending on us, the single sisters in the Church,” Ahn said. “Our unique gifts, life experiences, strength and time are exactly what the Lord needs right now for us to serve in His kingdom.

“Our singlehood is the very thing that can unlock someone’s heart. Our singlehood could be the very thing that gives us the flexibility to serve in ways that others cannot. Our singlehood could be the very thing that allows us to connect with others. Our opportunities are limitless.”

Mailea Dalley hugs Samantha Fogg Nielsen after a class session during BYU Women’s Conference in Provo, Utah, on May 4, 2023, | Natalie Broekman
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