You see us sometimes, on some Sundays. The days we actually go. The adult singles . You see one person sitting alone here or there among the pews. Mostly, they go unnoticed. They don’t have squirming, screaming babies to draw your attention. They didn’t have play group with you last week. They’re not in the bishopric. A single might teach your children in primary, or gave a particularly memorable talk once, so his or her name you might know.
A small number of brave and faithful singles (divorcees and widows included) fight the good fight in your congregation; they who try to immerse themselves in the ward. Who tried to fit in, to participate, be a good saint and make the Lord proud. And yet, she or he probably went home after church, had dinner for one, made a few phone calls, and fell asleep alone, again. Crying. In fervent prayer. Unnoticed.
Those brave souls try to ignore the patronizing comments, the looks, the judgment and exclusion they get every week at church. They try not to let it make them feel bad and hurt their self-confidence. They try not to dwell on the endless disappointment of dating and not dating. They try hard. Week, after bloody week. Year, after year. They pray, they read the scriptures, they are righteous and obedient. Most have only the Holy Ghost to comfort them. They can survive that way. But they will not thrive. Without love, support, and inclusion, they wither. A loving community(family) of others is essential for each human success.
That handful of valiant singles in your ward are the exception. (And most of them have likely been inactive at one time. Or, they have supportive families nearby.) The other 90% of our single adults (over age 30) could not keep up the fight by themselves. The world took them. They’ve left the church officially or they just slipped away. Recent converts are especially vulnerable. There are common reasons why single adults go inactive. Many of those reasons have to do with the institutions, the communities, and the lack of marriage prospects. The singles have no control over those things. We cannot continue to place all the blame for this latter day apostasy on them.
Over and over again, the singles are told that they have to be stronger, stalwart, unshakable, invulnerable. They are told it is not the job of the church to emotionally or socially support them. No? Then whose job is it?
We have not lost one sheep, dear saints, we have lost the whole flock. When the entire group goes missing, whose fault is it? Is it possible for the flock to be filled to 90% with weak, errant, rebellious, or less worthy sheep? No, of course not. When the whole flock is lost, the problem is not with them. The problem is with their shepherds and the ranch. When the whole flock is lost, it means there is something wrong with the system.
What kind of shepherd loses 90% of his flock then goes home grumbling about his crummy sheep? When the master asks him to account for his flock, can the shepherd stand proudly and say, ‘They left, Lord, because they were weak.’? What will his Master say in return? Won't it be akin to “No. They needed you. You didn’t feed them. You didn’t keep them safe. You gave them no reason to trust you and follow you home."
Christ commanded us to be good shepherds. But the wolves are now gorging on the feast of our singles. The ones we so complacently sent to pasture with an admonishment to be stronger and pray more. They are standing in the enemy’s storm with no partner, no family, and little to no church support. They are lonely, rejected, and tired. That was not the Lord’s plan. Do you think you could withstand the storm of the world raging against you and your testimony if you were alone? Are you that strong? Very few are. And the Master is weeping.
I hope someday our singles will find warm shelter among their loving brothers and sisters. Maybe someday we will seek them out and bring them home. I pray it won't take too long for us to be more diligent and keep the wolves at bay.