7.05.2011

Letter to LDS Singles

*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.

PART II: 
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,

Jess Lang

COMMENTS VERY WELCOME

39 comments:

Eva said...

WELL SAID WELL SAID!!!! I think that is an amazing idea. I just recently left the singles scene after being single in the church for 20+ years. I wish I had been as articulate as you were in this letter. If it is ok with you I would love to copy this letter and send it to my bishop in my ward here in NC...and then to all my friends on Facebook and beyond. This message and idea needs to get out there. The 90% inactivity rate is terrifyingly accurate...I said to a Stake president once that if there were that many CHILDREN not coming to church that the leaders would be out knocking doors and searching them out to bring them back to church. The SAME needs to be done for the 31+ singles.
Eva

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Eva,

PLEASE DO copy it! And thank you for the validation. Actually, I wish I could tack it to every Mormon Facebook account on the planet. I feel like the future of the Church depends on these problems getting fixed. And, obviously, I believe that this idea is a good one ...I just hope others are as willing as you are to get involved and trying to get it implemented locally. Thanks again, Eva.

Jess

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Eva,

Let me know what happens if you would. My email is jesslangia@gmail.com.Or you could post it here. I guess I'd just like to know how it is being received. Are local leaders hip, or are they poo-pooing it? And how do the singles themselves feel? I'd be nice to know if we are all stuck in the Dark Ages, or if anyone besides the dedicated few even know or care. Sadly, so many have "voted with their feet" already. I just feel that something must give; and if so, why not now?

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Sorry, it is jesslangis@gmail.com

verysoreloser said...

I am not sure single people would go for your system, it sounds too complicated. Sorry, no offense, its just my opinion.

My advice to singles is for you to personally try to improve yourself in ways that you want that will be useful to others, and also be useful to others. Then when the time is right, you'll be prepared to take the next step.

Can you imagine settling down with someone who is so systems oriented that they plan out this huge system of living? You know, you brush your teeth 50 times on each side at 6:36 am sharp, then you take 5 steps to the left, 4 steps to the right, bow to your partner, do se do, etc, etc.

A lot of time I believe single people are single because they are controlling and scare off others based on their controllingness. Maybe it might be worth considering taking it easy on others. Find someone who will let you be you and you let them be them, and find a common goal and take it from there.

That's my open letter to all the singles.

Rachel said...

I partially, not to be confused with whole heartedly) agree with verysoreloser. I think it is the single person's responsibility to find others, not the church's. It is about our attitude, not others.

I am single, 38 and I am very active. I really don't think it is the church's responsibility to get me involved with other singles, that is my choice. I plan activites with other stakes all the time, just by asking friends of friends of friends and networking. And I don't need permission from the chruch to have people over, or plan an activity at the park. My gosh do we need the church to do everything for us? Or can we actually do things ourselves like grown-ups.

You know, it really tans my hide when people complain about being single and the church isn't doing anything about it and that "people in the wards are not treating me well", or "they won't talk to me", "can't they see that we poor pitiful singles are out here and want attention". Whaa whaa whaa. Really, people are inactive not because the church made them that way, or they were shunned. They made the choice to not be active. The gospel is the gospel no matter where you go, what your marital status is, and how you feel about it. We all have a brain to think for ourselves and take action ourselves. We have the choice to have the attitude that we want to have. I can tell you, when I was first in my ward, yeah I got the looks, the cold shoulder, but you know what? I went up to those people who gave me the cold shoulder and started to serve them. I started to talk to them, and get to know them. I made the choice to break down that wall. I didn't just say "Oh, they are so horrible, the church needs to do something about it." I found they were more scared of me, that I was of them.

People need to take responsibility for what they want and how they act. If you want to meet others, get the word out through facebook and find the singles by talking to people, or bishops, going to other wards or stakes in your area and have a fun bar-b-que at the park, or game night at your house. NO ONE IS STOPPING YOU! The more you tell the church they need to do something, the less serious they will take you. Come on, we are not 12 anymore, and don't need parent supervision. Pick up the responsibility tab and do something.

That is just my two cents.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Sore Loser,

It appears as if you equate Mormon singledom with OCD or Asperger's Syndrome . I am not sure why you feel this way , but I would love to know.
I am being sincere about this. How did you form your opinions and biases ?

Also, mentioned that you believe that pairing stakes off is too complicated. I simply as you, is it more complicated than seeing one-third to one-half of the Church population in a state of apostacy, as we now do?

I ask you, was the Westward Trek too complicated? Was building the SL temple as well? Was becoming a worldwide church? You see, all I am asking is that we try to preserve the fruits of the hard work that has already been accomplished.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Rachel,

I realize that scolding singles may feel powerful and righteous to you at this very moment ; but the Stake Rotation idea was conceived with 38 year-old singles (such as yourself) in mind. So why such strong protest?

First of all, do you really believe that the several BYUs were built because Mormons wouldn't be able to scholasticly function
in any of the myriad of other colleges /universities that already in existence within this country? Don't you think it had just as much to do with people finding Mormon spouses more easily ?

Now, also consider the fact that young single adults also currently enjoy the added benefit of singles wards. Furthermore, it is my understanding that they regularly receive a stipend from the Church budget in order to fund quality activities.

Please understand, I have no problem with this. I just find it interesting that young, comparatively care-free singles are afforded the "red carpet," while older singles (who are usually busy holding down careers and raising children ) are simultaneously expected to schmooze married members to 'earn' their respect, and to plan their own private and individual singles program.

If this is how it should be, then why does the singles program exist at all, for any age group? Why should the Church make any effort at all, since all responsibility ought to rest with each person alone? Why waste the Church's time, money, and manpower on dances, firesides, and conferences?

Finally, Rachel, do you really believe that the entire reason for the 90+% inactivity among singles age 30+ is simply because they never had a testimony, and are
just bad people? How is this even possible?

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Sore Loser,

Sorry for typos. In 2nd paragraph, it should say "I simply ask you..."

Rachel said...

Now do not try to put words in my mouth that I did not say. Also, please do not tell me that my “scolding” makes me feel “righteous” and “powerful”. All I was simply doing was stating my opinion because I am tired of running into these blogs of LDS singles that all have the same theme of, “it is the Church’s responsibility” and “it is the Church’s fault that singles are inactive”. When I left college for a year to take a break because there were some very difficult things going on in my life, I didn’t blame the college to say “they didn’t accommodate me, I am going to stop going”. And I would not say that anyone who leaves a school or takes a break from school would be because “they don’t have the intelligence”. Similarly, I would never say that those who are inactive “never had a testimony” or “are just bad people”. I did not say that, and I resent you saying that that is what I said. On the contrary, in fact I think that those who are inactive have a deep desire to do what is right, and have strong testimonies that they won’t deny, but are not able to act on at the moment, for various reasons. I simply believe that there would be a more underlying reason to why they are not active. As a clinical psychologist, I have actually had a strong desire to study this among older single adults in the LDS faith. There are reasons, consciously and subconsciously, why we do things, and it is generally not as simple as one factor. I am sure if you get to the root of the issue, then there would be a solution, but every person’s root is different.

Now I do believe that it is much easier for Satan to get a hold on single people for accountability. The thoughts run through their head Sunday morning “No one is watching, no one will know if I don’t go,” so they miss one week, then find it gets easier and easier to miss more and more church, and in turn, church activities. Then it has been so long since they have been in church that they feel self conscious about it and feel everyone is looking at them and judging them. Most of the time, it is our own mind that is making us feel this way, and nothing remotely close to this is happening. It is the same with feeling that married people have a stigma for those of us singles who are yet to marry. Now this is why I would say that people need to take responsibility for what they do and how they act. We are not able to change other’s behavior, we are only able to change our own behavior and the way that we can approach others. Through that, we will be able to change people, or our view of what we think is going on. So yes, there are many married people you have to “schmooze”, or feel you have to schmooze, but what do you do in your job? Don’t you in essence have to “schmooze” people until they get you? I believe that is called being nice and what Christ would do. I think that is just the nature of the beast.

To be continued...(it was too long to fit on one)

Rachel said...

I think that the reason that there are not more wards or accommodations for those singles over a certain age is because once you are past 30 you should be more responsible and able to go out into the world and take the initiative. For those 21-30, yes, they need the red carpet rolled out for them, because they don’t have their footing yet. They are trying to find out what they want to do, who they are and discover their faith outside their parent’s walls, or the walls of BYU or whatever school they went to. When I was in the 21-30 year old singles wards, those people who were 26-30, 90% were inactive, so what would the excuse be then? The church has every opportunity for those singles, but yet they are not taking advantage of it. In fact in most singles wards have over 50% inactivity. What would explain that? This is also another reason why I believe it is not just “the Church does not have something for me”. It is deeper than that.

I apologize if my last comment came off as “scolding”, I can come off very brash and harsh, because I just tell how I feel, no holds bar. (Part of the reason I am not married, I know that ) I should have put it this way, that if that is what you want to do, then just do it. Try to do things that don’t cost money, or little money. I have found people are willing to throw in $10-$20 if they can to help out. Try a game night at someone’s house, a bar-b-que at a park where everyone brings a side and their own meat, and other such things as that. I was trying to say that we don’t need some younger married couple watching over us to make sure we “make friends” and meet people. You try the trial run, and show the leaders how well it works. I think part of the problem is that many people keep talking about “the Church should do this and that”, but no one has stepped up to the plate and said “see what we did with the older singles in this area and it works!” I know you said that one might not have time with kids and a job, but think about all the married couples, and the leaders of the church, they are booked too. If it is our problem, then WE need to do what WE believe should be done. That is why I was saying that I initiate activities such as these in my area. Letters never work, action speaks for itself. That is what I meant by take responsibility and do something. I was not protesting the idea, just trying to get the church to initiate it, when we are perfectly capable ourselves. I just feel many times we rely on the Church too much, and think we need permission to do everything. If you are able to help get people in your area to start this and network with others to get it started other places, then it could really work. I hope this clarifies. Once again I apologize for the brashness, but I firmly believe that if you want it done, do it yourself. We all have choices to make everyday, to get up, go to church, or make something happen.


PS Sorry for the long dissertation.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Rachel,

Believe me; no one cares more about the singles than they themselves do. And there are obvious huge gaping wounds in the system, given our tragic numbers. Yet no one is going to go out of their way to throw light on the biggest problem in the Church today, no one but the singles themselves. Some write web logs, or books, and others just leave. The problem is just too embarrassing for the Church as a whole to deal with without pressure.

Finally, Rachel, please take a second to imagine how hard it is for anyone who is single to decide to leave the Church. It is not like there is any other church out there who will be able to answer the many questions that our church does. In other words, there is no real replacement for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When a single Church-member decides that the only way they can find love in the world is to leave the Church of their testimony, then they are truly presented with a real existential crisis, among other crises. When that person finally decides to leave, then it should be clear that they have lost all faith that the LDS Church cares about them. Your argument that singles don't need a system to find eternal companions is like saying that singles don't need home/visiting teachers either...because they "are adults now." I am not assuming that all inactive singles found it difficult to leave the Church, but it is probable that it was not an easy decision for most of them. To believe otherwise is to insult the idea of what a testimony is.

Some people believe that the our church is undergoing its "adolescence." We are a young church, and we have experience a staggering amount of growth in a very short time. We seem to be following the path of other older religions that had to find out the hard way that there was more to making a functional church than may be originally assumed. Whether this is true or not, we can agree that our church is going through some sort of crisis regarding elements of its membership. We, as singles, can either get involved and hasten the needed changes, or we can sit and watch the next generation suffer as we have, and possible as our parents have.

Please, all I ask Rachel is that you consider the value of not shooting the messengers. Stop being mad at people who are on your side. Honestly, you yourself (along with millions of others), may have been married by now if this problem were dealt with by now,(instead of shoved under the rug for decades.)Yet we are not married, are we? And who knows when we will be.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Finally Rachel,

90+% is a heavy number. Imagine only 8% of a pie in the pan. Very, very small. When should the collective bell go off within Church leadership, or even its membbers? At the 5% activity level? 2%? 0%?
When is it not wrong to take a stand, as a supportive, active, Latter-day Saint? At what point is it ok to do that, on behalf of millions? Ever?

Please read JL's piece called "Singles Crisis." The icon for it is located at the top of this site.

Thanks,

Jess

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Rachel,

ps: Internet dating, while still in its infancy, is loaded with problems. Too many to mention here. Meeting people in person remains the gold-standard, as it has for longer than we can count.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Sorry Rachel,

I just read your entry agian, and I have to add something regarding your views on current intactivity among all singles. THIS is the very reason I wrote my letter. Pretty much all activities that the Church offers today are geared for large numbers of people. It just simply does not work. (People can feel alone in a crowd just as easily as they can feel alone in their own home.) We simply cannot just act as if the Church has been creative about how to get folks together. Dances and firesides are generally it. The reason there is so much success in Mormon marriages at the front end is that so many Mormons go to Mormon collges. As they should. The availability of Mormon colleges is the best thing the Church has ever done on behalf of its singles. But what about post-college at any age?

My letter isn-t trying to confront every problem that exists in Mormon singledom. Just one: The large group model as being disfuntional, along with what I consider to be a simple solution for a church that takes on far harder challenges daily. And on that note: Yes, the Church takes on very difficult challenges in order to spread the Gospel. It is just sad that after all that effort to fill the bucket, there remains such a large hole which drains UP TO HALF OF THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH! How can we just continue to dismiss this over and over again by blaming it on individuals?

Rodger said...

It's been interesting for me to read this blog and the comments that
followed. I was also a "less active" who then became active again
when I was 30, and then married a few years later. From an
activities' perspective, the idea of pairing off with other stakes
periodically sounds like a great idea to me. While I agree with
Rachel that sometimes as members we can be too sensitive and it is a
person's choice to leave the Church (no one but myself was responsible
for the distance I maintained from the Church organization), I also
feel that we as members have a responsibility to refrain from
judgement or the implication that singleness is somehow a deficiency.
In Mormon culture I firmly believe that we have a chronic habit of
making people who don't fit some ideal feel like "others". We act
awkward around them, and tend to say insensitive things, or in other
ways single them out. Even if in a well-meaning way we try to "fix"
their singleness, we're sending the message that they are less, or
damaged, or sick, etc. When I was single, I was happy to be so, and
that was right for me at that part of my life. And Rachel, although I'm not trying to pick on you here and agree with you to a large extent, I'm not sure it's entirely fair of you (in reference to your "wah, wah, wah"
comment) to self-anoint yourself the judge of how thick or
thin-skinned others should be about whatever issue. I won't assume to know how your church attendance has been in your own life, but as someone who has experienced both activity and inactivity, it was a little tiring being told by people who had never been where I was, what was wrong with me or my testimony, or why I wasn't fully active. Frankly I was
treated like *insert expletive here* as a single in the Church, and
had I been more sensitive than I was, would have left as soon as I tried to come back. From my personal experience I have to insist that tolerance of
those who are different simply isn't the strongest of virtues for
Mormons as a whole. Even now that I'm married, my wife and I have been having trouble having children, and so the fun of continuing to have to deal with Mormon-brand narrow mindedness and judgementality continues. Of course it isn't every member, and we tend to befriend those members with similar experiences and background which helps a lot, but dealing with it year after year gets pretty old.

My main point here is that although the stake rotation program sounds great and like an improvement, it's still just a band-aid on a gushing, hemorrhaging wound. I sincerely think that in order for the trend to change, we as members on all levels of leadership are going to have to change our culture and psychology. Until then I don't think it's fair to expect people to show up to a church or activity where they are just going to be miserable. Everyone (active and less-active alike) will have to make some major adjustments first.

Rachel said...

I am going to address this in a couple ways, so please bear with me.

Jess- 1) I am not “shooting” anyone, merely offering my thoughts. And 2) I am in no way mad at all. I was just stating my opinion. My blood pressure has not spiked at all 

I do pose a question to you, because you referenced that the church is in its “adolescent” stage compared to other churches. So here is the question, whose responsibility is it for everyone else in the world to get married? Do Jews, Catholics and others have such extensive measures to make sure those people marry within their faith? It is not the church’s responsibility, but the members of those faiths to take it upon themselves to do such.


Rodger- I agree with you when you say that others need to refrain from judgment. The problem I find is that you cannot change others, only yourself, and by changing yourself you are able to help change others. Telling someone to change rarely works.

Let me reiterate that I NEVER said something was wrong with less active members, also, I would never judge someone’s testimony and imply that that is why they are less active. All I said was that there was a something much deeper than what people think on the surface of “not enough activities”.

Lastly, I absolutely and whole heartedly agree with your last paragraph. I think it was well said. But like I said earlier telling someone to change rarely works, so we start with ourselves and work on those around us.


Our society today is “all about me” and not much about others, except for blaming others. President Kimball said “Any excuse, no matter how valid it may be, weakens character.” This is something that I read everyday on my mirror and try to live by. There are no excuses, just taking responsibility. Yes, the view point of members of many members of the Church needs to change. Yes, there is a crisis with singles in the Church. But, the crisis with the singles wont be changed by simply adding a change of activity format, but getting to the real root of why the are not attending church. Like I have said several times before, you cannot change others, but change your actions. It is a ripple effect, one person making a difference to each person around. Then those people could possible change their heart and help those around them to change their heart.

Rodger said...

>Rodger- I agree with you when you say that others need to refrain from judgment. The problem I find is that you cannot change others, only yourself, and by changing yourself you are able to help change others. Telling someone to change rarely works.

We're on the same page there, and I apologize if I came off as accusatory toward you. However, shouldn't people make known how others make them feel? How can any group (church, nation, organization, family, etc.) reform if nobody says anything? Until the Civil Rights Movement, a large portion of the population of The United States lived every day under the delusion that everything in America was honky dory, and black people didn't have a thing to complain about--"Separate but equal," was their motto. I'm not suggesting that the LDS singles' plight is comparable to that of African-Americans under Jim Crow, other than to illustrate the point that until people did what was necessary to get the majority to see their unacceptable treatment, things were not good for them. Maybe that wasn't the best example, but nothing else comes immediately to mind. My point is, until people start to come forward with their experiences, how can anybody know what they are going through?

>Let me reiterate that I NEVER said something was wrong with less active members, also, I would never judge someone’s testimony and imply that that is why they are less active. All I said was that there was a something much deeper than what people think on the surface of “not enough activities”.

Okay, that's exactly the same point I was trying to make too. I doubt 90% (I wonder where that number came from--just curious) of singles over thirty are staying away from church because the activities are no fun.


>Our society today is “all about me” and not much about others, except for blaming others. President Kimball said “Any excuse, no matter how valid it may be, weakens character.” This is something that I read everyday on my mirror and try to live by. There are no excuses, just taking responsibility. Yes, the view point of members of many members of the Church needs to change. Yes, there is a crisis with singles in the Church. But, the crisis with the singles wont be changed by simply adding a change of activity format, but getting to the real root of why the are not attending church. Like I have said several times before, you cannot change others, but change your actions. It is a ripple effect, one person making a difference to each person around. Then those people could possible change their heart and help those around them to change their heart.

Again, I agree, but I do think a bit more vocalism could help--not that I call people out for every little thing I find insensitive, I'm sure I unknowingly do the same to others. I just think we as a group should communicate and make ourselves known. I also think many of us (admittedly myself included) have sore areas that have been rubbed red so many times by the same old treatment, that we do tend to become sensitive--obviously some more than others. I don't know that this is necessarily always the blaming of others or making excuses for ourselves, but perhaps sometimes it is.

Rachel, it seems to me that we agree, we're just expressing ourselves differently.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Roger and Rachel. I appreciate both your input. I just need to say a few things. The 90+ % is the average number found out by several singles across the US, having talked to stake Presidents, Bishops, Regional Presidents, etc. At the ward level it is most obvious. Missionaries see it constantly. Young single mothers are the first to join the Church and the first to leave (Gee. Wonder why....) Denver Colorado has been looked at closely for half a decade by several vigilant singles, as has Colorado Springs. The numbers are consistent. Mind you, Colorado is a mere State away from Zion. The numbers seem to get worse the further east you go. Keep in mind, the information is not exactly being published in the Ensign. But the information is not impossible to get. We do know officially that half the Church is inactive. I personally believe that most of them are singles.
I myself have spoken with Church leadership, and when I mentioned the number, zip was not corrected. But whatever. It is what it is.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Zip was not corrected...neither was I.

Roger, thank you for your comments. I must say though, stake rotation may be a bandaid...
But more like a full-on bandage for a serious wound. It may need replaced from time to time with other bandages just like it. But it'd be a bit more than a cursory afterthought.

You mentioned that other major changes needed to be made on behalf of the singles. I agree with you. Could you what you have in mind?

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

I can't type. Could you expand on that,Roger?

Rachel said...

Rodger- Absolutely people need to say something. I wasn't trying to say we should all stay silent, but do something. But that something that is said and done needs to be done in a tactful, non-accusatory way. I do not think that anyone should stay silent, but it is up to each of us to do something with our actions and words. In fact, it is healthy to let others know, in a respectful, calm and non-accusatory way how they made us feel. (That being said it is our choice to forgive them and let it go or not, but that does not mean they get a free pass, they need to know how their actions could effect others) We need to be the ones taking the first steps because others are not. That is my point that we need to stop making excuses as to why these things are happening and start changing them ourselves.

PS The example of the Civil Rights Movement, yes a little extreme, but a great use of an example!Although, I don't think going out and having "sit-ins" in the Prophet's office is a good idea :)

Jess- I understand what you are saying about the inactivity of the singles and single mothers in the Church. I am simply saying that having more activities and changing the way activities is not the answer to the problem, because the problem is deeper, and that is what we need to get to and solve.

Rodger said...

Rachel - Sounds like our ideas are pretty much the same.

Glass Ceiling - I'm not doubting your 90%, necessarily, and I wouldn't be any more surprised to hear a higher number. I am a little surprised that the overall activities numbers are so high at 50%. I could have sworn I had heard it was more like only about one-third of members at any given time are active (whatever "active" actually means). I'll buy 50% too, though.

To be honest, I don't know specifically what needs to change other than to say our own attitudes, and I think Rachel is right when she says it has to happen on an individual basis. Mormon culture is so fiercely conformist in so many certain key ways, that sometimes we don't know what to do with others who don't fit whatever we happen to perceive the mold to be. Take politics, for example. How many times have I heard and read members make the comment, "I know the GAs say one party isn't necessarily more in line with the gospel than another, but I just don't see how a faithful LDS could possibly align him/herself with the Democrats." Now I may be completely wrong, but the line of thinking I see here and in a lot of other important areas is, "I'm a good member, and I got married the second I stepped off the plane from my mission/vote Republican/had six kids by the time I was 25, therefore all other good members get married the second they step off the plane from their mission/vote Republican/have six kids by the time they are 25." Whether or not I'm right about that last part, though, it creates that category and label of "other". Another thing I think we as members are sometimes led to believe, whether intentionally or intentionally, is that if we keep all the commandments, all of our Mormon dreams will come true. We'll marry the man/woman of our fantasies in the temple, have the ideal number of perfect kids, etc., etc.--but if it doesn't happen the way we are told it should, maybe it's because we messed up someplace. Maybe it's because we weren't good missionaries, or maybe it's because we mixed decaffeinated Coke with regular that New Year's Eve ten years ago. Or whatever. I have heard members more than once (and Lord forgive me if I've ever done this myself) talking about the misfortune of somebody else, and they'll connect it to something they see as a transgression in that person's past or present. Sort of like when a certain Mormon political talking head recently suggested that the earthquake in Japan happened because people don't believe in God or need "to change some things." Okay, another extreme example, I know, but that's the way I feel we act as members sometimes.

I think it would be a lot easier for us to change if we stopped being so concerned with what are or aren't the deficiencies in others, and try to fix ourselves and not anybody else. Maybe Bro. or Sis. So-and-so is perfectly content to be single, or maybe they're not thrilled about it but sick and tired of having to explain or defend, or listen over and over to "someday the right person will come along". Maybe instead of rushing to the judgement or rescue of singles, we should just get to be friends for the sake of being friends with them, and then as we can get to know them in a natural way, we can find out how they feel about the issue, and if they'd like to talk about it, or be set up, or receive our words of comfort--in short, let's just treat them like the normal, capable, human beings they are.

I'm sort of rambling here, and maybe even ranting, but hopefully I'm making some kind of sense.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Rachel,

You said, "We need to be the ones taking the first steps because others are not. That is my point that we need to stop making excuses as to why these things are happening and start changing them ourselves."

You also said in an earlier post,
"Yes, there is a crisis with singles in the Church. But, the crisis with the singles wont be changed by simply adding a change of activity format, but getting to the real root of why the are not attending church. Like I have said several times before, you cannot change others, but change your actions. It is a ripple effect, one person making a difference to each person around. Then those people could possible change their heart and help those around them to change their heart."

I ask you,

1) what is the root you are speaking of?
2)How is "changing my actions" going to help the singles program of the singles situation?
3)And what actions should I change?

I and a friend wrote a 27 page letter to Church leadership in
2007, and got a positive response from a GA on behalf of all of the Brethren. He also told us that our ideas might be used in Boston as a test city. It never happened. This was four years ago.

I and others have asked many local leaders about the specifics of the situation (the numbers, the problems, the possible solutions.) We have also spoken with over a hundred singles across the country via phone and internet and recieved the same story over and over. Every one of the singles we have spoken with have said that the activities that are offered now are very disfuntional and do not foster an environment condusive to really meeting anyone in a quality way. They have all agreed that small activities that allow them to meet new people would be like a dream come true.

Ad far as singles "doing something on thier own" is exactly what JL and I are doing and have been doing for some timw. My writing another letter that is now on this website is hardly what I would call "rude" or "accusatory." When you say that that "people should start doing something themselves," what are you looking for specifically? If you are suggesting that we all go on-line and make THAT the new modis for Mormon dating, please understand that people have been doing this for years to little avail. It is obviously not the solution. When you say that people should start having parties at their home, that is exactly what I am suggesting here. The ONLY THING I am asking of the Church is that they take the Family Home Evening model that already exists for singles, and broaden it so these same folks that see each other every week can start meeting others in the region in small, fun groups. How is this too hard?

Are you uncomfortable that I actually said that the upward mobility of communication for singles is disfunctional? Was THAT rude?

I guess I keep asking you this question about rudness because you keep saying that singles should do things individualy to create change,and then you tell me that what I am doing is somehow wrong.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Rachel,

You also said, "I do pose a question to you, because you referenced that the church is in its “adolescent” stage compared to other churches. So here is the question, whose responsibility is it for everyone else in the world to get married? Do Jews, Catholics and others have such extensive measures to make sure those people marry within their faith? It is not the church’s responsibility, but the members of those faiths to take it upon themselves to do such."

CATHOLICS

They represent around 1 billion people on the planet. If you flirt with a coworker, the person in the check-out line at the grocery store, or the person waiting at the doctor's offic, let alone the club, you have a fair chance that they could very well be Catholic (just like you.) Then again, you might just meet them at Church. Also, even though they prefer that you marry another Catholic, their entire model of salvation does not rely on it.

As a Catholic, if you do date another Catholic and get engaged, there are classes that the Catholic Church offers to encourage a healthy marriage to come.

JEWS:

They have forevermore had matchmakers, for better or worse. They are, in general, a very close knit group. They tend to befriend other families with children of the opposite sex the same age as their own child/children. That way, whent he dating game begins for their kids, they have instant referals.

As far as older singes go, they tend to be more comforable setting these singles up on dates with mutual single friends. It just seems to be a natural part of their culture.

However, a few years ago, I watched a short documentary called "Unattached", created by J.J. Adler (a twenty-something single Jewish woman.) It was all about Jewish singles on the upper west side of NYC. Essentially, she proclaimed a crisis in the Jewish community with regard to singles (their inability to meet, marry, etc....)It was a fascinating film.

In my opinion, she was a bit more scathing on her own Church that anything I or JL have written. It is interesting to note that, rather than being chastised for her work, she recieved all sorts of awards for the film, and was embraced by her community for having done it. Very mature of those Hebrews. But then again, Judaism is roughly 5000 years old.

NEW AGE/UNITARIAN CHURCHES

There is a church in Denver called The Mile High Church. They embrace all religions, but try to represent the Judeo/Christian value system and scripture whenever possible. They are quite popular and enjoy at least a thousand people in thier three congregations every Sunday.

More importantly, they have a separate singles program for ages 20-30, 30-45, 45-60, and 60+. (And they even have a few gay groups.)Nothing seems to be too hard for these folks, but then again, they know that thier retention depends upon it.

OTHER PROTESTANT GROUPS:

They struggle a bit. However, they are free to marry any other Protestant on planet Earth. Therefore, they enjoy the same benefits that the Catholics do as far as being able to meet other Protestants. Them and the Catholics has somewhat toned down the rhetoric about premarital sex being a problem, so thier singles are free to do as they please without any real issue, essentially.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

(Cont...)Sorry for all of the typos. I really need to proofread, obviously. I hope you were able to get through it. :)

THE LDS CHURCH:

We are the only ones whose belief system REQUIRES chastity and worthiness as a road to marriage. We also are the only ones who apire for a temple marriage,as well as the belief that our very salvation depends upon it (with the understanding that we HAVE to marry another worthy Mormon in order achieve this.)

Also, we represent a whopping 1.5% of the US population. And, as only half of us are active, then the more accurate number is more to the tune of 3/4 of a percent. As far as Denver goes, I have heard that the 90+% inactivity is correct as far as singles over age 30 goes. Currently there are supposedly some 8000 singles of that age in Denver, and around 400 of them are active. Of that 400, some assume that half of them are attending the current activities.

--------------------


Finally, the singles crisis we now are witnessing is multi-fold in nature. When the Church as a whole finally wakes up to it, there will likely be books written, more internet weblogs, and maybe even a documentary or two. Until then, we sit and wait for something to happen... as we, the singles, get older and less hopeful of our lives actually funtioning according to our fondest dreams.
And our fondest dreams seem so accessible...meet another Mormon who you love, and get married for time and all eternity. How can it be so hard?

And yet it is. And I can personally tell you that the problem has been a crap-storm in peoples lives pretty much since the "Free Love" movement in the late 60s. In other words, it used to be easy enough to meet a non-member willing to play the chastity game with a Mormon. Some non-members held on to to those values until maybe ten years ago.(?) But today, those days are essentially just a bittersweet memory. Sure, there are exceptions...and you hear about them BECAUSE THE ARE THE EXCEPTION.

But today the unspokes rule is that if you are a Mormon dating a non-Mormon, you pretty much better hand in your temple recommend, (and maybe your membership.) Or, you could always just lie your way through, but that presents its own problems.

Anyway, I hope this has made it real for you, Rachel. Sorry for the typos. Please don't think I do not like you or that am angry at you. I just feel like the time for being angry or judmental at people who are actually trying something...anything...to improve the current situation for singles over age 30 in the Church should be over.

It is time for change; I think we can all agree on that. If the eforts of those trying to create change for the benefit of themselves and other does not fit your likeing, I apologize. But until people stand up and do something, nothing will change. The extreme majority of singles will continue to abandon their salvation, the work of our missionaries will continue be extremely frustrates, and the rift and animosity between the married and unmarried will continue to grow.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Roger,

I agree with alot of what you are saying. And you make your points very clearly and understandable. (and you ramble alot less than me, I promise.) :)

And, like you, I believe that the problems are many, and there is no one thing that will make it all better. But I do beleive that getting people together in a way that actually allows them to get to know another person without all the distractions so common to dances and firesides, will help a lot.

In no way am I assuming that all would be well once that was achieved. We still must deal with the other issues so common to our culture: gossip, married/single mutual animosity (conscious or not), singles expecting perfection in potential mates, singles not recieving certain callings, singles seen as unworthy, and the list goes on.

Again, sorry for all my typos. I hope you both could translate my chicken-scratch and understand what I was trying to get across.

Rachel said...

Notes-

I feel like I have to deabte with you, when that is not why I stated my opinion. I am not trying to attack anything that you have said or done, simply state and show one person's point of view. I was not attacking you personally, but trying to relate to you that I doubt that changing the way activities are done will do much in response to activity among single adults, as there is a much bigger root. You asked what the root was, to be honest, I don't know. That is why I had stated previously I would love to do a research study on that. (I am a bit of a dork that way, always wanting to study people and why they do what they do, anything I can turn into a research study, I will jump on it!)

I had written more of a response to what you had said and I just decided, I have said what I wanted to say, and if you are choosing to read other things into it, such as me telling you what you are doing is wrong, which I never said, then there is nothing more I have to say. So I end with this, I am glad that you are following what you are passionate about, as many people are too fearful to follow their passions.

Rachel said...

Note- PS none of my comments about being "rude" or "accusatory" were directed directly at you or about you. Any comments I made were for people ingeneral.

Rachel said...

Sorry, I thought I was done, but I thought I would just put this in here... You said Jews have alwayss had matchmakers, well, there is a mormon matchmaker... go to themormonmatchmaker.com

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Rachel, I guess we started out on the wrong foot. And I suppose it is a potentially explosive subject anyway.

Regarding Jews, they are also supportive of part-member families, or so I hear.

My only real point about Mormonism experiencing adolescence is that we have such low numbers compared to other, older religions. Add to that the fact that we cherish a value system that separates us from the rest of the western world. (And I am in no way suggesting that we change rge value system. ) Because of these facts, I feel that we need more help in matters of dating (at whatever age ) than other churches.

Given this assumption, no one cares more about the situation more than singles themselves. In other words, I believe it is up to us. Sure, we can do things on an individual basis, and I believe most singles do...and part of what we do is leave the Church. There just has to be a better way.

I just feel that if we began to act as a team, we stand a better chance of being heard.

Stephen said...

Can I copy this for cross posting to another blog?

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Stephen,

ABSOLUTELY ! Which blog, out of curiosity? (U promise to be merely a spectator. ) :)

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

I promise ...sorry. on an android.

luvinna said...

I just wanted to say that I agree with you about the way the Church handle's 30+ singles activites. I base my decision on if I'm going to attend an activity partly on how many people are expected to be there. I'm such an introvert that if there are more than 20 or so people, I completely withdraw into myself, don't talk to anyone unless asked a direct question, and sit there wondering why I came. I next to never attend the big Church sponsored activies/conferences because of the several hundered people they advertise will be there.

I think smaller groups are definitely the way to go and I really like the idea of local stakes combining for the smaller activites. The only relationships I've ever had were long distance - people I met at large regional activies or online - and those obviously didn't work for me. It's hard to get to know who someone REALLY is when you only see them in a few limited types of situations on weekends or once or twice a month (or less).

We're kind of starting to do this up here in Northern Colorado (Loveland, Fort Collins, Greeley) with our own NoCo Mid-singles group. There are usually only 15-20 people at the activites and I'm much more comfortable going to those. I've met several new people I probably wouldn't have met at one of the larger activites.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

Luvinna,

Good to hear from you. You may know some folks that I know. My email is jesslangis@gmail.com
I'd love to know more about what's going on up north. :)

Stephen said...

Going up at www.wheatandtares.org -- feel free to comment or update with additional thoughts.

Stephen said...

Notes From The Glass Ceiling -- Hawk at Wheat&Tares is interested in seeing if you would do some more guest posts?

Contact her if you would.

Thanks.

Geoffrey said...

At the risk of having my words rephrased to mean more than what they say, as verysoreloser and Rachel were - and knowing the original poster personally and having my words misunderstood in person - but having been asked by Glass Ceiling himself to comment (so if you don't care for my comments, give him an equal number of slaps) - I offer my two cents worth.

People - single and married alike - leave the church because their needs aren't met and because they feel isolated und unworthy and just plain lousy. How much they feel is based upon what truly happened (or didn’t happen) to them and how much their own feelings were exaggerated because they had insufficient relief or support at their most vulnerable - that varies from individual to individual. And because the needs and the hurts are individual, so are the solutions. There IS NO one-size-fits all solution. We can play the numbers game, sure, and many people will not only like, but thrive with Glass Ceiling’s smaller numbers activities – just as many thrive now under the insane energy of huge multi-state (staTe, not staKe) activities. People DO meet their companions at the dances – I don’t see how, since you can actually neither see nor hear who you’re talking to at those things, but nonetheless they do. Perhaps they “aren’t in their right minds” – God apparently loves all His children enough to actually bring together the loonies. And some of those loonies might actually be more interested in what their potential eternal companion thinks on Gospel topics more than how well they move on the dance floor, so those silly firesides are perfect for them.

People need to feel comfortable in their own skins before they can feel comfortable in any social gathering, church sponsored or not. And that’s easier said than done. If I knew how to do it, I probably wouldn’t be typing this comment – I’d be blissfully doing the hubby-daddy thing.

The church is here to HELP us figure it out for ourselves, not to do it FOR us. People leave because they made a series of decisions which led them away from church activity. A lot of the stuff that happens we have no control over. People can be really crappy towards one another. But we DO have a choice on what we’re going to do with our hurt. We ALWAYS have that choice.

People can chose to return - and we can help them recognize they still have that choice. We have the choice that even in our own hurt, we can reach out to others who are hurting and bring them back. If you’ve been paying attention to the last few General Conferences, you know we also have an Obligation to do so. It’s not all up to the Bishop, the Stake President, Relief Society President, Elders Quorum President, etc – nor is it up to programs.