7.15.2007

The Singles Crisis in the Church: A Manifesto

No mincing words here. I am fed up.

My mother told me last year that there are now more singles than marrieds in the church* (Does anyone know where this stat comes from?). You would never know by looking around on Sunday. Single people tend not to go to church. And I can tell you why. Socially, the church acts as an auxilary for the family, the nuclear family. Who wants to drag themselves out of bed and get dressed up every week so they can be made to feel less than a real person? Those single people who are active have my full admiration. I wish I were that strong. I believe in the gospel. I believe in Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon and the prophets. But I hate going to church.

The function of the church absolutely needs to change. It is past time. They will continue to lose their single members if something major is not done. What should be done?

First of all, the church needs to become a family for single people. A place where they can go to get unconditional support and love. Structurally, I think that might be achieved in the following ways:

1. Every ward should have family home evening at church every Monday. there should be a committee which runs it. Everyone is invited to attend. This will not only help singles, but new members who want to get a better understanding of what family home evening is about.

2. Every ward should have a calling in the bishopric for a single man, who will minister to the needs of single members. He will also voice their needs to the ward leadership, so they will not be left out.

3. Likewise, every ward should have a single woman in the Relief Society presidency whose job is to minister to the single women.

4. Once a month, sacrament meeting should be devoted to talks for and by and about the needs of single people. If there are more of us, than there are of you marrieds, then why the heck do we have to listen to crap about how to raise children week after week? That's absurd. Our spiritual needs are different. Trying to live with the law of chastity is extremely difficult, and we need support at church. Trying to maintain one's hope for an eternal family is extremely difficult, and should be supported at church, not undermined as it is now.

This would also address a problem that few marrieds have likely noticed, single people rarely get asked to talk in church and rarely get important callings. That is also absurd. We have more time than most married people, so we may be able to do more in big callings than family folk.

In short, it makes no sense that the church is so far behind with the social reality, that Satan is winning, the family is becoming endangered, and most members are not part of a marriage.

P.S. I expect to get the usual comment from some members, that I should stop complaining and see what I can do to be more Christlike and improve my ward. Blah blah blah. There is a time and a place for anger. Even Jesus got angry. A majority of the church members are being driven away by an outdated institution that marginalizes them. It is time to get angry. It is time for something to be done.

*I have no knowledge as to the actual veracity of this statistic. See comments for more info.

34 comments:

a spectator said...

You are right. Just about every week, I am struck by how Church is so geared toward one specific type of family even though relatively few of us have a family that mirrors it. Even comments in RS, are geared toward mothers of youngish children while MOST of those in attendance are single, grandmothers, or without children. Crazy!

Anonymous said...

Angry? No, not angry like that.

Anonymous said...

These statistics you refer to are very misleading. There are many SINGLE widows that have been happily married and had a great family life. There are many SINGLE youth that should not be married yet. And there are many many SINGLE kids in primary that are also not married. Also there are single people that go on missions—they do amazing good for the church.
If we can just try to have a positive outlook on life and not be constantly trying to make others feel sorry for us we will find that the Spirit is a wonderful companion until and, even after, we find a more physical one.

Anonymous said...

... I think you’re missing the point. Church is for the sacrament--not for the social life. Maybe you are still single because you wine too much and have a bad attitude. Try looking at things with a positive perspective, that is what attracts people--not constant whining and complaining that you've always been made a victim. I have been single in the Church for a long time and found ways to get spiritual fulfillment.

Matt B said...

JL - These are very good points, and it's a problem that the leaders of the Church have been increasingly aware of, I think - you're seeing more articles about finding spiritual fulfillment while single in the Ensign, for example. Further, despite what anonymous 2 says, the number of never-married adults is very much on the rise - active unmarried adult women now outnumber their male counterparts nearly two to one.

So, despite the claims of the anons, this is an institutional rather than individual issue.

Personally, I think eliminating singles wards would be the single most effective strategy.

"Church is for the sacrament--not for the social life."

No. Why can't we just take the sacrament in our homes alone? Church is about participating in the Body of Christ. More than virtually any other religion, Mormons are saved in collective rather than in isolation. The social aspect is of profound theological importance.

Kevin Barney said...

JL, I'm very glad to see your resurrection.

Ardis Parshall said...

Why is it that so many marrieds -- usually anonymous -- feel free to diagnose the reason for someone's singleness? Bleccch.

JL, while I'm not as frustrated as you are at the moment, you do describe a problem for lots of us. Better than that, you make suggestions that might actually work!

It might be impractical to expect a single in the bishopric and RS presidency all the time, but having singles serve when available certainly does improve the lot of singles. My ward's RS *president* has never been married, and this is one of the best Relief Societies I've ever known.

Our ward recently went to a pattern of having three speakers rather than two in Sacrament meeting. It's amazing to see what that simple change has done for us singles. The old habit of ALWAYS having couples speak has disappeared, and as long as the bishop has to make multiple calls anyway, he tends to ask three unrelated people, regardless of their marital status. Not only does that mean singles are no longer invisible, but it also means we get real talks from both married and single: no more wasting half the time with family introductions and all the how-we-met stories that used to plague meetings when couples were asked to speak.

Tim Butler said...

I'm a single guy, early 30's, and living on the West Coast. I'm in a family ward.

To begin with, I want to gently suggest that your statistics may not be correct. In 2001, 68% of adult mormons were married. Only 18% were single, while another 14% were widowed or divorced. It's been six years, but divorce rates in the US have actually dropped during that period, so there are probably not many more singles now than then.
http://www.gc.cuny.edu/faculty/images/image022.gif

Anyway, I know of no faith that is as kind to singles as is the LDS faith.

The ward assigns each of us 2 people to come to our homes monthly, check to see that everything's okay. (home teachers) Sisters are assigned four people. (+ visiting teachers) Well-intentioned people frequently ask about my welfare and try to set me up on dates (which can be a little annoying, but hey, they're only trying to help). They sometimes invite me over to dinner, and I know they would drive out to my apartment and bless me if I felt sick or in need of assistance. If I need help moving, or finding a job, or with just about anything else, I'm sure at least a few people would pitch in, even if they hardly knew me. (Yeah, people sometimes don't do their home teaching, etc. But most churches don't even try anything like home teaching.)

The Church in our stake has an entire young single adult congregation. For those of us who are older, there is a single adult organization that plans firesides, activities, and retreats for single adults.

Anyway, I don't think my needs are very different than the needs of married people. I need the atonement, just like anybody else. I just have one more ordinance to complete. For this reason, I would rather we stuck with sacrament meetings that apply to everyone. Even sacrament talks that discuss marriage and kids are good future advice for singles.

Nobody has ever actually tried to make me "feel less than a real person." Some people feel awkward around me, or don't know how to approach me, but that's okay. They're doing their best, just like I am.

I've been in a family ward for about 6 months, and its true I haven't been asked to speak. So, maybe the Church could improve in this regard.

Still, I know of no other organization that provides its members, including its single adult members, with so many services, and with so much warmth. This is probably why so many of my single LDS friends go to Church, and why very, very few of my single Catholic or Protestant friends go to Church. I'm very grateful to be a member of the church--I don't where I'd be without it.

[insert Peter-Priesthoodish testimony here] :)

God bless you, JL.

Anonymous said...

JL

I can relate to your feelings. Our singles group meets in family ward and I almost gave up attending RS after hearing about ways to raise children week after week.

Being a single male in the church is easier. Your divine role is not that of a mother. Each week in Elder's Quorom, you do not hear about raising children and being a mom over and over again. Males have the priesthood, a calling that they can share and gives them self-worth.

It took 3 months for the bishopic in our ward to relize that the many (25+) singles in the ward were not youth, but could hold callings and add great things to the ward. Recently, singles have been speaking in every sacrament meeting and are finally being called to real callings.

I don't have a real answer for what will solve the singles issue. I have so many amazing single friends who struggle with their self-worth every day because they don't receive attention from guys. With so many amazing girls to choose from and so few guys why do people think single women in the church struggle?

I cannot hold the priesthood. As much as I try to add to my ward and participate in making it a better place, I don't really have a defined role. In fact, I think sometimes single women are seen as liabilities. It's sad to feel this way, but I know I'm not alone in this sentiment.

For now, the only advice I can give is to focus on finding your own happiness in the gospel, not the church.

Tim Butler said...

Sorry, the full link to LDS marriage stats didn't copy.

Try this:

Go to:
www.gc.cuny.edu/index.htm

Type in "aris" into the search box in the upper middle right

click on the second line of the search result, titled
[PDF]aris data from 2001

Scroll down to page 26.

J.L. said...

Thank you to everyone for your helpful comments.

To Tim,
It sounds like you have a great ward. I have asked my bishops, in 3 different wards, to please send me home teachers since I have no access to the priesthood. I asked some of these bishops more than once. I never had one visit. In the last 3 years, I had one visit from relief society sisters. And last year, when I was extremely ill with a kidney infection, my mother called my bishop to have someone help me out with a blessing, and no one ever called or came. I had to walk through the snow 2 miles to go to the local clinic to get antibiotics. If you have ever had a kidney infection, then you can sympathize with what that walk took out of me.

My "statistic" was hearsay from my mother, so I don't stand by it.

Thanks for the links!

Anonymous said...

Sorry for this however, I believe that no matter what, there is always going to be a big group of morons at church who want to make it their special organization. Whether its married or single or animal lovers or whoever.

Having said that, we all learn at church that we have the ability to act and not be acted upon. The key I believe to surviving in a family ward as a single person is to recognized family people or whoever who are self-righteous, and then at the same time realize that we don't go to church to prove our own supposed righteousness, but instead to seek forgiveness through the Sacrament and promise to be kind to other people unconditionally.

The tendency that many people, especially self-righteous holier than thou church people is to spank and punish. However isn't it true that the blessing of church attendance and the Sacrament is to gain access to the Spirit through the abovementioned practices ( not spanking, but kindness and humble repentance)?

One thing I think is funny is to watch people try to maneuver their way into the bishopric. I believe it is in keeping with my theory that people want to be right, and they think that being in the bishopric proves they are 'right'. The fact of the matter is that noone is right, we all can do better. But I think that many people don't like to admit weakness or being wrong in any degree. I like to act cocky myself so I know all about this.

Coincidentally, I was recently doing the long distance thing and it isn't real enough. The full interpersonal effect is a challenge I think. But there are always people wanting to give it another try. I guess maybe a person needs though to keep on trying to find the person that's compatible. Someone's out there.

Sorry for the preachiness but I was just sharing.

the House of Payne said...

I have no problem with you being angry, but I sure do have a problem with having talks especially for us singles. They'll be as boring and useless as the talks on child-rearing and marriage-building, but with more embarrassed and embarrassing references to sex. Ugh.

Here's my manifesto: Make church shorter! Also, with motorcycles and tigers and wheels of fire!

Anonymous said...

I was very interested to hear your comments on this subject, as well as everybody's responses. I have been a member for almost two years now and have been overwhelmed by the family I have inherited. I, too, am single, and being a convert, have no easy access to the Priesthood either. While it may seem unfair, I have found that asking for things I need have made me form more of my own identity and my faith and need for Christ in my life. I am sad to hear how many unfortunate experiences you have had trying to find support, and it certainly must be disheartening to ask and have things fall through. However, I like to remember the promise that the Lord never gives us any trial or temptation we cannot handle. Also, that we chose our family and life in the preexistance. We were placed in the life we have now because we will go through the specific trials and circumstances we need to be the people that the Lord wants us to be. So perhaps dealing with such disappointments has long been forming the patience, faith and forgiveness you are demonstrating? Even if you do not find out why things are the way they are now, you know you will one day. The Lord is not wasting your discomfort and tears.

Also, I think we should remember that there is nothing wrong with the organization of the Church. The organization is perfect, the members are human.

AHLDuke said...

JL, I am in almost complete agreement with what you have said. I quickly grew tired of the way I was treated as a single person. I tried going to a family ward, even though single, in an attempt to take myself out of the rat race and the silliness that is a singles ward. In the end, people were friendly, but they always looked at me funny when I explained what I was doing and I felt like I was always being left out to some degree.

Unfortunately, I don't know what we can do about this problem. I personally resolved some time ago that I would treat LDS singles like everyone else in the Church, meaning I would have the same expectations and respect for them. There is no need or justification to be condescending. Getting married is no badge of honor and should not be some way to boost my rank or status within the Church.

I also know it is not polite to trivialize someone else's pain or frustration and pretend like this is some phase that they are passing through. I think that the members of the Church, and maybe the leadership as well, need to acknowledge that singles can be treated as adult members of the Church with all of the same responsibilities as other adults, instead of treating them like quasi-youth. The problem is out there, and there is no use hiding behind the perfection of the structure of the Church to get away from it.

Part of the reason some people (like a couple of commenters here) have a problem when a particular demographic within the Church speaks up about its particular problems with the status quo is that there is the idea out there that we are supposed to shed some portion of our individual identity in the Church and just be Saints. But when the normalized Saint is a white married person with a couple of kids, if I am single or without children or non-white, it doesn't make sense to ask me to shed some part of my identity to become like them. Its getting late and I don't know if that made any sense to anyone but me (I'm not sure it made sense to me either).

Oh and I'm married, so blowing commenters' stereotypes about bitter single people out of the water...

East of Eden said...

i don't know where your mom got that statistic, but I would disregard it if she can't say exactly where she got it.

As for the reason you go to church, it's not all about families dear. The Gospel is set up to bring the individual to Jesus Christ thru the ordinances of salvation--some of those individuals happen to be in families. If you are not attending church you are missing out on the ordinance of the sacrament, which points us toward the atonement of Christ. The sacrment also helps us to remember our baptisimal covenants.

We also, all of us, need to remember that as Children of God we are part of His family, and are never alone. If you are a visiting teacher, you have a family or families that you can be part of. Lessons about children are just as applicable to those with the kids as they are to those with out--because we are part of the family of God, the Ward family, the families over which we have stewardship and so on.

I understand how you feel, I was single in my 30s. It was hard to go to church. Now I'm married and suffer thru infertility. Has listening to talks and lessons about children gotten any easier no, it has not, but I know that I have something to offer. my ward. I don't have to have a man on my arm and a babe on my hip to be a contributing member of the Church. We all have talents to share, and who knows, you might have something that only you can give to your ward. You're missing out and they are missing you, by not going.

Read the talk "Are We Not All Mothers?" by Sherie Dew. Sis Dew is a single sister--in her late 40s or possible 50s now. She talks about the divine mission given to ALL women to mother, nurture, and tend our Father's children. You as a single sister are not exempt from that.

If you are not happy with what your ward is offereing, have you spoken to your bishop about what you can give back? Have you offered to head up the organization any of your suggestions? It sounds to me like you are afraid of your potential and what you might be able to offer others. Take a leap of faith and do something for someone else, you will be surprised how you will be taken care of if you do this.

The Church does not single out the single, but you have to find contentment in what is in the Church. The Church culture is not perfect, and there will always be things that will irritate you about that, but the Gospel is perfect, and that's what you need to focus on.

Life is not easy, and it will never be what we expect it to be, but somehow you need to find why you believe and act on those beliefs, otherwise you are missing out on important blessings and oppurtunies to grow and serve.

Jaynee Doe said...

Oh E of E,

I’m so glad you know how I feel!

If only I’d had you to set me right before now.

I think it was the “dear” that did it, but suddenly I get it.

And what a ninny I am. (thunk) I could have had a Sherri Dew (thunk)

Because you’re right. I AM afraid of my potential and what I might, oh just might, be able to offer others.

Oh wait. I don’t give a crap about any of that stuff.

And you sound like an idiot reading out of a 1950s estinghouse Refrigerator Manual, Dear.

Life is not easy, and it will never be and . . blah blah blah

Do you really think JL is so tupid she hasn’t heard your pablum before?

Why do you think she’s angry?

Jaynee

J.L. said...

To directly address some of these comments, and defend myself...

I haven't been called as a visiting teacher since I was in a singles ward 6 years ago. I haven't had visiting teachers myself in 3 years. I would love to give and serve, but I haven't had a calling in 4 years, despite having asked multiple bishops for a calling. The last time I was asked to speak in church was 5 years ago.

When I do go to church, I take the sacrament and then leave.

I will grant what some commenters have suggested, that talks about being single would suck, touche'. But there should definitely be some mechanism to be sure that singles get to speak in church too.

AHLDuke said...

JL, thanks for being the first commenter on my new blog. If what you said in your last comment is true (and I'm not doubting it), then your bishop(s) are seriously failing as shepherds of the flock. It seems so negligent as to be almost callous. I don't know your bishop and so won't speculate about his own personality traits but I wonder if other members of your ward (single or not) experience a similar lack of attention. That being said, I agree that it is easier in such a situation to be forgotten if you are the single person.

Re: E of E's comment. This is exactly the kind of patronizing and trivializing attitude that I mentioned in my first comment. Married people like to think that they have "made it" and that if single people would just get their heads screwed on straight, they could get married and "make it" too. I think they fail to see that in a lot of ways, the deck is stacked against singles (especially women and especially if they have been single for a while). Most of those obstacles are not some truth ordained from on high that is not a fixable issue within individual wards and branches. Personally, I do not think I would take the inclusion of singles in leadership roles as far as JL but I think that the principle she is asserting here is a true one. We just recently had a single sister called as RS President, no, not just one of the counselors, but the President. And there are a ton of older, married women who would be well qualified for such a position (not all of whom were pleased that the Bishop jumped over them to give the calling to her, as if they had some right...). And guess what? the church did not fall apart! She seems to be as capable and compentent than any RS President I have ever seen. Not that there was ever any doubt.

Now, having said all that, I don't want this to seem like criticism because I really am on JL's side, but if you want a calling and want a speaking assignment, or an HT/VT assignment, leaving immediately after the sacrament is probably not the best way to get the bishop's attention. Just a humble suggestion...

Smash said...

You are right, JL. Church is not supposed to be a painful experience. It's SUPPOSED to be a time to commune with the Lord and to be UPLIFTED by our fellow members. And, that absolutely does not happen for most single people I know at church.

And, I absolutely abhor when smug married people say we single people just need to change OUR attitude. Perhaps you, smug married person, need to change YOUR attitude to be more inclusive and less judgmental.

And, you are right--men have it way better than women do. We are put out to pasture at 24 if we are not married. Singleness completely impedes our ability to progress in the eyes of fellow churchgoers.

So, it doesn't really matter if the church's organization is perfect because it IS being run by imperfect people who are alienating a huge chunk of the membership.

Beijing said...

JL, my heart goes out to you. I know exactly what you mean about wanting to feel like a whole person at church, a full participant.

Do you have anywhere you can go where you can feel that? Keep going to church on Sundays, by all means, but maybe you can find some other group to go to in addition to church that will provide the social inclusion and fellowship you seek. Look at meetup.com or in your local weekly paper for groups that might appeal to your interests.

Or start your own "outcasts club" (but don't call it that, or people might not be interested). For example, decide to serve hot dogs at your house every Tuesday night at 7. Or decide to go to Panera (or similar place where you can sit around for a while) dutch treat every Saturday at noon. Invite everyone you might be interested in getting to know better, male or female, Mormon or not. If they can't make it the first week, let them know they're welcome any week. If you give it a few months, I'm sure you will find some good friends that way.

Matt said...

There may be change on the horizon in the Church...

Here in Huntington Beach,CA and in other stakes in SoCal we have an established "Midsingles" program where all 30-something singles in the stake, all attend the same family ward together. So there's family ward boundaries for families and all 30-something Midsingles in the stake attend as well. So my ward we have over 120 active 30-something singles in a family ward. So we're half midsingles/half families. We have Midsingles FHE, Firesides, Institute, Dances, Dinner Groups, etc, etc.

And Midsingles practically "run" the ward, so the lessons, talks, comments are geared to both singles and marrieds. In fact our Father & Son outings are called "Father OR Son" outing. If you are a father or a son you can go.

Also, the marrieds help us with our single activities and vice versa and we have "ward" activities for everyone. It's the best of both worlds.

Single parents can attend as well since we have a full Primary program just like any other family ward.

Since most of us have YSA roommates and hang out with them all the time, including joint FHE once a month, most YSAs transition over from one week to the next when turn 31.

Elder L. Tom Perry came to our last Stake Conference and fully endorsed our efforts with the Midsingles in our stake. Several other stakes are following suit. And soon all stakes in SoCal will have this program.

We also are developing seperate single adult programs for 40-something singles, 50-something singles, and Senior Singles 60+ so there's a continum of single activities for a little something for everyone.

Anonymous said...

"Every ward should have a calling in the bishopric for a single man, who will minister to the needs of single members. He will also voice their needs to the ward leadership, so they will not be left out."

A ward should have someone in that position, who is a counselor in the bishopric, btw, and heads a committee. In our ward that includes the relief society president, the bishopric member, a male and female singles representative, and a representative from the high priests group (one of the group leaders).

It is an important committee.

Stephen M (Ethesis)

Single Gal said...

I am in the ward Matt speaks of and I think it pretty much sucks. It is basically a ward within a ward. They cater to the singles instead of the ward as a whole. I am not able to handle going to church very often and am trying to figure out where I will start attending. I feel like I am in the twighlight zone when I go and had to stop in order to stop thinking I was crazy.

Many families in the ward have gone to the stake president to complain that the family ward has turned into a singles ward.

Instead of focusing on singles or marrieds, I would prefer that we focus on Christ. I think if we as a religion focus our meetings on the Savior, salvation, etc. then the whole singles, married, family thing will not come in to play as often.

IMO, the reason singles find it so difficult is because the bulk of singles want to be married. When we have lessons on families, etc and we are constantly reminded that we are single. It is like salt in the wound. The problem is that we aren't focusing on the right things in church. Lessons shouldn't be geared to specific groups at all. By focusing on the Savior it won't matter if we are single, married, widowed, all that will matter will be that we are followers of Christ. That is what matters.

stacer said...

I agree that sometimes it's hard to be be a single in the church, and I've been angry about the situation, too. But I don't think that any of your proposed solutions would help any more than women holding the priesthood will help women's in the church who feel left out of leadership.

I really feel that by emphasizing the differences between singles and married, by segregating singles from marrieds, we breed contempt as much as anything. But that's not what church is about. The social aspect of church is for teaching us all to be members of the kingdom of God, and I think that should bring joy to us whether we're single or married.

Perhaps the lesson here is that we as a culture need to stop worshiping marriage so much and start worshiping the Lord in wisdom and truth. That's the lessons I've been learning lately, at least. And I think the commenters here have been way too harsh on East of Eden--she may be married now, but she's speaking from experience, too. I am single and I agree with her. We need to each decide: why do we go to church?

Something I've been thinking a lot about myself is about what really, really matters in my life. I'm coming out of a long bout of sickness myself, and years of financial stress (which I'm still paying off). I completely sympathize with having no home or visiting teachers--in my last ward, the first visit I got in the year I'd been there was the week I left the ward.

In going through all those struggles, I came to realize that the reason that so many people paid no attention to me is because they are so caught up in their own trials, struggles, and joys. People are innately selfish, or at least self-absorbed--and I'm no exception. Perhaps the only way I was able to cope at times was by reaching out of myself and volunteering--whether to tutor kids at the local library, or to babysit for someone in the ward--and that helped me at least to make limited connections, though it was still completely draining. I still felt some measure of buoyancy from that reaching outside of myself, and over the course of time as I was able to get my health and finances in order, I have been able to come to a place of peace (for the most part) about other parts of my life.

I may never get married, and that's okay. I'd rather be single than wish I were, as the saying goes. I still don't want to go to church sometimes, but it was actually just today that what has been building up in me for years finally came to a head, and I glimpsed what this is all about, for me: that this is truly just a moment in eternity, and that what the Savior did for me is so profound in comparison, that truly, I'll be okay.

I'm sure this is so personal a revelation that it's practically meaningless, if not trite, to a stranger on the internet. But it seems to me that the whole premise of single vs. married is the wrong question.

Matt said...

"Single Gal", why not transfer your records and attend the regular family ward where you live, if attending our ward sucks so much. It's a option to be there on our ward as a midsingle, not a complusion.

While, I can see where you are coming from on some points, I think your a lot your comments you said on both posts are completely not true or relevant today.

Sure the "scene" may appear elistist when we started a few years ago, but most of those folks have either moved on or got married. In fact, so far this year we have 9 midsingles marriages. So with new blood coming in and old blood moving out, the dynamics of the ward are constantly changing.

Second, while in the beginning some families were unsure of the mixed midsingles/family ward concept, nearly all families now appreciate the set-up. And while there are a lot activities for midsingles, there's also joint ward level activities as well. It's up to you to decide what kind of activities you want to participate in either just for the midsingles or for the entire ward.

Also, if you look around in the ward, I think out of the 120 active midsingles in the ward, only one person I know has had any "enhancements" done. That may be more of the YSA scene than the Midsingles. And if everyone, as like you infer has boob jobs, so what? How does that impact you from attending church on Sunday?

You talk about feel alone, and isolated because of your trials. I for one understand where you are coming from. However, there's some responsibility on your part to actually allow people into your life, too. When people in the ward try and try to reach out to you to no avail, or when you show up for a few minutes for church and then leave, how are people especially those new in the ward, learn to know who you are and befriend you? It's like you're not giving anyone the chance to know you and then critize them for not reaching out to you.

Eve said...

I've been married for eleven years, but my husband has been basically inactive for the last nine and we can't have kids, so I feel like a virtual single at church. I have no words of wisdom whatsoever, but I do sympathize. It takes everything I have just to show up weekly and do my calling. Church is far and away the loneliest place in my life. I have a recurring fantasy that we all show up and worship in cubicles. There are just too many bad conversations waiting to happen (so why isn't your husband here? So how can he possibly not believe in God? So why don't you have kids? So have you smeared this yellow herb on your stomach every night? So....)

I believe in the gospel. I believe in Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon and the prophets. But I hate going to church.

Amen, amen, amen!!!

Anonymous said...

JL,

Wow, your ward and previous bishops clearly let you down big time. (not giving you a calling, not giving you a blessing when *asked*??--they should have done that without asking!!) I guess the only comfort I can give you is that things are NOT that extreme in the wards and stakes I've been in. So the church is true, just not your ward! (kidding!! sort of...)

And most of your complaints are spot on. I think your proposed remedies are maybe a bit extreme in the sense that requiring anything this specific seems dubious in a worldwide church with VASTLY different populations and needs in each unit. For one thing, as some other commenters have pointed out (with varying degrees of tact), there are demographics other than singles that ought to have more of a voice than then currently do. So making it a hard-and-fast rule seems unwise. But certainly it should be something that leaders explicitly keep in mind as they make callings. And again, not just singles but all demographics (class, race, BIC/convert, with/without kids, age, etc). This seems to be the case in our stake where all the major presidencies (stake and ward) have a token single or at least no-biological-kids person on them. Maybe it was by accident, certainly all are more than well-qualified. But I tend to think it was by design.

Digression: as far as implementing presidency affirmative action, I would say class is a huge one that should get more attention. In my experience, the "elite" callings often seem to go to the most financially well-off folks. I've been in several wards that were composed of the extreme ends--the uber-rich and those who (literally) clean their houses and mow their laws for a living, with not many families in the middle. It can make for some very awkward situations, especially exaccerbated by the lack of representation of the lower class in the leadership. (end digression)

Not to minimize your suffering or excuse it, but one thing that I think has the side effect of marginalizing singles is that singles tend to move around more. Although I've seen plenty of counterexamples, it seems the tendency is that they don't call the "new guy" to be in the bishopric or RS presidency, even if the new guy is a nice happy white family with 6 kids. There tends to be a preference for known quantities--since people know them and trust them to be their leader (not a very good excuse IHMO). Maybe a more charitable interpretation would be that they can be better leaders if they are already close with most of the ward (hard to lead a bunch of people when you don't know half their names). Again, I think there should be conscious efforts to avoid this kind of thinking, which leads to unwelcoming cliquish behavior and sense of superiority based on the immaterial statistic of duration in current home. And I don't expect that you'd feel any better knowing you are discriminated against because of frequent moving, rather than for being single. Just an observation.

Finally, at the risk of being annoying and patronizing, I must say you really should give your ward another chance. Give a search for a kindred soul another try. One thing I thought of doing when I was struggling with infertility was using my musical talent to offer to families in the ward to come to their home for FHE and I would present a musical lesson for their FHE. Takes a burden off them having to plan something for a week, and many people are shy of music themselves but would like to have more in their homes. I was too lazy to ever do it (I know, pathetic hypocrite I am now telling you to do it), but maybe there is something similar you could do to feel more connected?

At any rate, I wish you better luck in future wards...

stacer said...

By the way, there's a really great article by President Faust in the August issue of the Ensign addressing many of these issues you're dealing with. Perhaps you should take the article to your bishop and say, "This is how I feel, and this is what President Faust has to say about it."

Bookslinger said...

"When I do go to church, I take the sacrament and then leave."

That explains why you don't get any callings.

Anonymous said...

This post and several of the comments leave me feeling sick. Church is not about "us" v.s "them"--"singles" v.s. "marrieds", and that's what a lot of you are making it!! I am single. I am 30, I have been a bridesmaid EIGHT times, and I know how much it sucks to see my friends get married and then try to give me advice on how to do the same. But seriously, is it the married members' faults? No! If I am unhappy and left out it is only because I chose to be!

Church is what you make of it. If you don't get called to be a VT, stop feeling sorry for yourself and start serving others--visit the RS President. That will get her attention! Leaving after Sacrament Meeting is no way to let the Bishop know that you are serious about wanting a calling. If anything, it tells him that he'll probably have to call someone else to fulfill your part. If you step up and take some initiative your Bishop will notice! And really, the best way to forget your woes is think about someone else for a while...perhaps helping those poor "marrieds" at church who can't even hear the sacrament talks because their kids are screaming...

Rocketgirl said...

Sorry I'm late to the party on this one - I'm married and in a family ward, and I hate it. I miss the singles ward, where you are a PERSON and not a statistic. Where RS lessons are geared towared people, not just "motherhood" gahhhh. And I am a mother, by the way. Last week this woman in the lesson talked about how women were so lucky - men have to work and we just get to make babies, yay! I was offended for myself, and I was sitting behind some wonderful friends of mine who are single and their life's work is to help special needs kids. Not just spit out babies, gahhhhh. I feel for you!!!

jlang14 said...

JL, whomever you are, I commend you in every way for you honesty.
Recently, a friend and I sent a 22 page letter to the apostles and the
prophet on this issue. Please email me separately at jlang14@mscd.edu

We should talk.

As for those of you chastising her for her honesty, you should be
ashamed of yourselves. I heard that statistic three years ago from the
pulpit. So deal with it, Pollyanna (s).

Fact: It is the Last Days.
Fact: After age thirty, singles have as much control over their single
status as the average preschooler in the nursery.
Fact: There are many churches out there who provide much better
programs for their singles. And, guess what? No stigma!
Assumption: LDS Singles over 30 have a better chance of marrying a
Hindu, Jew, or Moslem than they do of marrying in the Church, or out
of the Church...meaning that those previously mentioned religiouns
also espouse chastity and marriage. Not many other people or
organizations do. This is because it is now hip to live with someone
in a sexual relationship and "play house" for five years...and then
lillypad to someone else when the going gets rough. This can be seen
even in the Christain world. As for those of us who must date out of
the Church to date at all, we must put our Temple worthiness on the
line...because chances are they will want to be sexual with you within
a month, but never marry.

For those of you who must brandish "Dewisms", please think again
and "Shary L, Don't." I respect her and her strength, but having other
singles quote her (or the Lord, for that matter)in defense of a broken
program, are merely slowing down desperately needed progress.
Advice for such advisers: Analyse your private reasons for being so
uncomvoratle with JL's thoughts. Is it because you are afraid of
holding two conflicting ideas in your heads at the same time (Such as:
The Church is true, vs. The Singles Program is cancerous?.) Or is it
that you are, yourself, out of touch with your own anxieties regarding
the issue of being single after age 22? Just realize that, although
the numbers may not hold the whole picture, we ignore them to our
detriment.
Did anyone that is currently married in the Church meet at a Single's
Dance? A Fireside?
What Middle Singles need is to be empowered. They need to be able to
control their own programs. Small groups should meet other small
groups (for a total of no more than 20 people (this is because, no
matter what the activity is, if you are dealing with a crowd of
people...then you are very likely either alone in that crowd or
gravitating to the people from your ward), and they need to be from
two separate parts of town so they don't end up meeting the same
people they have seen for the past five years at Church on Sunday.
This way, each person can look forward to meeting new faces, getting
new phone numbers, new dates, and who knows what....

My final thought: This is the same organization that brought the world
the Book of Mormon, crossed half a continent, built Utah, and achieved
worldwide status in less than two centuries. Scratching up a fuctional
Singles Program should not be out of our reach. But until people
(marrieds and singles...but espeially singles) decide that there is a
real need, than we can all expect to be looking forward to activities
that most nursing home residents would find insufferable.

jigga-what said...

lol, i hate singles wards their horrible horrible institutions but the church is still true down with singles wards.