*This was written by a friend of mine who wanted to get this message out. --JL
To Whom It May Concern: June 28, 2011
The inactivity within the Church for singles over thirty is at least over 80%. It’s unreal. It’s surreal. It’s tragic. And it is largely invisible. Without a doubt, I am convinced that this is the largest problem the Church faces today. It is a legitimate crisis. If you have come to believe otherwise, then you have been acclimated and blind to the biggest problem in the Church today. The problem with age thirty-plus singles inactivity affects every other program in the Church. It touches missionary work, temple work, Home and Visiting Teaching, the ability for wards to fill callings, and the list goes on.
I think I have a solution to the singles problem for people over age thirty in the Church. In my experience, I have both seen and heard many people complain about the Mid-Singles Program (and for obvious reason.) It seems painfully obvious to me that no matter how many problems exist in the program, there remains one problem which, if fixed, would make major improvements to the program as a whole and, hence, people’s lives.
Here it is: If we found a way to get small numbers of singles together on a regular basis to have actual fun, while simultaneously allowing them to meet new people on a constant basis, then we will have done something.
The reason the standard activities are non-effective is because they are geared toward large numbers of people. No sane person would ever go on a first or second date to a Church dance or Fireside. Ever. They are anti-social, confusing, usually embarrassing, and usually no fun. And most importantly, they are no place to meet or get to know anyone. Yet, this is really all the Church offers at this point for singles over thirty. Those activities do not provide an atmosphere conducive to finding an eternal companion.
THE STAKE ROTATION SYSTEM: Let’s use my city as a template. For example, there are some sixteen stakes throughout the Denver, Colorado region right now. What if each of these stakes was to be paired off to have activities with another stake in the same region for three months? Then three months later, each stake could switch and pair off with another stake in the same region for another two to three months. This process could be repeated throughout the region until all stakes have spent time with each other. For Denver, on the three month model, everyone in the region would have the opportunity to meet every other single in the region within a two year period. Then, hopefully, the number of singles would shrink for the right reasons, for once.
Granted, the corresponding stakes would have to communicate with each other in order to plan activities, (and get permission from whomever), but the advantages are clear:
1) The numbers would be smaller by far. I believe that 20-25 people are a perfect number. There is real potential for good conversation, along with the ability to get to know someone.
2) Anyone who went would be meeting people they already knew from their own stake, as well as new people. A perfect mix!
3) Because the stakes would be paired off for two-three months, anyone who was interested in someone would have the opportunity of meeting them two or three more times…even if the two stakes met only once per month (three activities.) Who can’t get a phone number in that amount of time?
4) Because the groups are small, they would have more freedom to do things that actually foster good conversation (i.e. game nights, hikes, restaurants, etc….)
*Number four is important. People need something to get them talking…something that makes them be their fun self. Dances usually don’t do it. Firesides never did it. (How could one person talking while a hundred others sit and listen ever be anything remotely social? And don’t give me that bit about meeting in the foyer afterward! The very definition of lame.) And, honestly, volleyball barely works either, say what you will. I swear, if all we did was game nights with this rotating stake idea, we would improve the collective situation 1000%. Believe me; I have seen evidence of this so many times at game nights with less than twenty-five people.
And now for the rest of the story. I pitched this idea in a letter to Church leaders in 2007. One of the Seventy called me about it several months later. He seemed to like it a lot and mentioned that they might try it in Boston as a test city. Obviously, I was very excited.
The General Authority also told me that the Brethren had some reservations about it because they preferred activities be held in Church buildings as opposed to people’s houses. That way they could have more control over potential mishaps like stalkers, immorality, and whatnot. I sent him another letter disagreeing with that idea. I told him that I personally felt that there was more control in a home because stalkers can’t really do their thing, and as far as immorality goes, people tend to leave the party before anything like that happens. But I could be wrong. Anyway, that was the last time we spoke.
Nothing ever came of my idea. There was no test in Boston and I have not heard from them again.
I know personally that the Brethren care a great deal. They are running a worldwide Church, however, and singles are just one element of what they are called to manage. But there remains a palpable gulf between them and the singles. And the wheels of change seem to be a bit gummed up. Somehow, the communication lines between Church leadership and the singles in the Church remain a bit inoperable. The result feels as if we, the singles, have no real representation within the Church at all. Yes, we have plenty of people to tell us that they care, and we believe that they do. And we all know that, yes, if we do not find a spouse in the world, we will find one in the next. Still, some of us cannot help but look over the situation and think, “Yeah, but does it really have to be as bad as that? Can’t we at least make some sort of collective attempt at fixing the problem now (in this life), so at least some of us might enjoy the fruits of marriage in this life? Isn’t it logical to believe that if the program got better, then maybe some of the inactive singles might come back, thereby improving the program just by adding to our selection of potential mates?”
It is for this reason that I ask each reader who agrees with me on this, to please pitch it to everyone who will listen. Everyone in the Church should be aware of both the problem and its potential solution (s). Once we have a collective conversation, something might just get done. We, the active singles, must stop being ashamed of ourselves. We have to make our local leaders and the members of our wards recognize us as a force to be reckoned with… that we are neither an embarrassment nor a tragedy, and that we will not allow ourselves to be disenfranchised. In fact, those of us who are active remain some of the most devout people in the Church. Our call to worthiness is a higher one than those who are married. We work, raise kids, and perform the business of life, without the blessings of a spouse. We deserve to be respected and heard. If we are expected to be married eternally in order for us to fulfill our desired destiny, then we deserve a functional means to bring that to pass.
Please, stop being scared. Open your mouth. You will not get excommunicated for telling the truth in a respectful way to the very people who claim to care and who have the means to help make good changes. You will not go to hell for stating the obvious in an effort to help the Church retain its members and help them get married. Let’s not let another generation of single Mormons suffer this deplorable situation. Finally, if you believe that the idea I have shared with you might make a difference, please give it a try. Present it to local leaders, and do what you can.
Thank you and Godspeed,
COMMENTS VERY WELCOME