Elder Ballard speaks at the Education Week devotional.

Editor’s note: you can listen to a podcast discussion on this topic below.

It was a crisp winter morning when I first saw the man who would become my husband. I was wearing a silk dress and stilettos, but what sealed our future was my lipstick. For the single ladies, it was ‘Wine with Everything’ by Revlon.

Not only does this sound like a low budget advertisement, it is also a load of lies. I love my Revlon, but that is about the only truth in that introduction. It is called a joke and there is nothing wrong with a good joke. Personally, I believe our Heavenly Father has a healthy sense of humor. Many recognized that Elder M. Russell Ballard took a humorous tone in a recent YSA devotional. He asked the men to wake up and look around and suggested that the women stop looking like men and put on some lipstick. For those who missed the joke it led to quite an uproar.

Whether or not Elder Ballard’s comments were appropriate is not a debate that I want to have nor do I think is necessary. He is still an apostle. We can choose to be offended or we can look for the sliver of truth that exists in comedy. For me, that truth is that women should look like women! Rouge or no rouge. I have seen a lot of women walking about in this world, and they all look different. That is my point.

So let’s clear up this identity crisis with a quote from Sister Margaret Nadauld:

Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.

This kind of woman could be any one of us. The picture doesn’t dictate lipstick shades or any other physical attribute. I believe Elder Ballard had a purpose and his comments were possibly taken out of context. I am making a different point. Married or unmarried women can and must be strong women of God.

Regarding marriage let me suggest one thing. It will not instantly solve all of your problems. Perhaps because a temple sealing is one of the last on the list of major covenants we need to enter into, we assume that we are headed for the Celestial Kingdom once we tick marriage off the list. Sometimes we forget that we spend the majority of our lives renewing covenants, part of which is enduring to the end and continually progressing towards perfection. Marriage is where some of the hard work begins.

One of the best addresses to single adults about marriage was given in 2011 by Sister Kristen Oaks. She considers herself the poster child for single adults because she did not get married until she was fifty-three. This talk is honest, true, and funny. At one point, Sister Oaks recalled a blessing she was given while struggling as a single adult. She still remembers the counsel word-for-word:

If you cannot bear the challenges and difficulties of single life you will never be able to bear the challenges and difficulties of married life.

While this was specific advice to Sister Oaks at the time, it supports the idea that each one of us needs to be the best disciple of Jesus Christ that we can be. When marriage is an option, try not to expect your spouse to fill your shortcomings or plan to fix their flaws. This union brings two people together and pulls them like taffy in every direction, but the further they stretch the closer they come to perfection. Some days it is a fight to keep the taffy from breaking. Other times it is simply delicious to taste.

Sister Oaks said that life will always be a challenge whether we are single or married. So take the lipstick or leave it at home and consider this more encouraging quote by Elder Ballard: “The world needs to see that this church, of all organizations on the face of the earth, honors women.”