Eye Single

A dear friend–who is a single, never-married, 40-something, extremely faithful LDS woman–emailed this to a few friends. I share it with her permission, having edited out identifying information:

I received a call today from high councilman Z to meet with Pres Q in our stake pres on Sunday after Stake conference to talk about single adult needs in the stake.

The man explained that Pres Q wanted to know what my/our needs were in the stake and how they could offer a program for us. (I hope that’s not code for calling change. – That’d make me sad all over.)

So on the fly, I was trying to understand what I could bring to the table to help and HC Z said that many single adults don’t participate in the single adult activities and Pres Q wanted insight into why.

I thought that kind of stuff was optional, like church ball, or choir.

Do they have a council to round up mothers who don’t participate in Playdate/Park day?

Frankly, the thoughts in my head right now are pretty complainy-whiney oriented re the single adult programs. (I always feel like a snob when I complain about church programs. I do it (complain), but I feel like a snob.)

Single adult programs are poorly understood and amazingly worsely executed. Is that a word – worsely – if not, it should be, just for this context. Single adult programs are the worsly-est. ughhhh.

How do I be more constructive in the meeting? I really don’t want to be an all out dork and whine the whole time.

To which I replied: “If you were sitting with us at dinner and I asked, “What could the church do to better meet the needs of single adults?” what would you say?”

To which she replied:

Julie, that question helped.

1) I tend to ramble and
2) this was a big topic that wasn’t going to fold into an hour discussion with the stake president doing 15 min of the talking, I made notes and created a top 3 list to make sure I hit with a follow up invitation to continue the conversation.

I met with him from 12:30-2 today and the companion member of the high priest had to leave because he left his wife waiting in the car. They may have originally alloted only half hour so I don’t know how far I went over. If they wanted a sip of water, they got it our of a fire hydrant.

I hit these points:
1) Single in the church is an unfamiliar issue with most attempting to address it. (Bishops/Stake members) They aren’t in the situation and while other issues are familiar like divorce, abuse, apostasy etc… being single in the church won’t be something they share opinions or experiences about. For whatever reason, it’s the unfamiliar situation.

That got several “hmmm’s” and provoked some note taking.

2) If you are wanting to talk about singles being inactive in singles programs that is Conversation 1,
if you are wanting to talk about singles being inactive in the church, that’s conversation 2.

Conversation 1: Singles programs are generally based on what we do for 19 yr olds and they aren’t applicable at my age/stage of life. Generally they are spiritually unhealthy places to meet (i.e. darkened cultural halls with music etc). I’ve nothing against dancing if you leave the lights on and make it a folk dance or a line dance that evokes community and inclusion. A dark room full of wiggling people is not a good thing for divorced adults missing intimacy. If you were looking to meet your current wife, where would she be?
Pres Q: Sister Q would be at the temple.
Pres Z: Sister Z would be out and about serving someone, I’d have to meet her at a service project.

More notes taken, slightly more furiously this time.

Conversation 2: It takes double strength to attend church when you get so many odd social comments (gave example of a few – my top 3 fav’s) and have to endure endless innocent pushing-away as to our situation and standing in the church. (gave example of a comment from Pres F only last night).

2a) We don’t go to primary and teach the kids that they can’t be like God until they are married with kids of their own and ignore the time between being 5 and 23. We address it, we give them things to do, we encourage them and plan for their futures. If they hear that they have no purpose and can’t progress until they are 23, they might leave too.

2b) And especially lets not water down the doctrine. We believe in marriage. It isn’t ok to want to be single but/and…
God has more than one way of teaching me and blessing me, in his own time. Abinidi gets burned at the stake, Pres Monson gets a drunk driver in a convoy in Argentina that misses his car by inches and spares his life. Both are testimonies of the Lord’s will. There is not ONE way. The Lord is more creative than that.

Notes stopped and they both stared at me. I don’t know if they were watching to see if I was espousing wrong precepts or fascinated at something they hadn’t heard before (Unfamiliarity issue mentioned in first topic)

3) Brought in unfamiliarity again as a possible case in point. Talked about Sister A coming to RS out of YSA ward. Told them I watched big alligator tears form on her face her first Sunday from the front row. RS lesson chatted about all kinds of stuff and we went on around her. I told him a married RS pres might or might or might not have noticed that. The spirit works for all and I’m not claiming special dispensation, but there are things life has taught me and I knew what that was. I met with her after church and asked her if she was feeling X, X, and X. She wept for an hour or two and said yes, and she didn’t know what to do about it. She was grateful to be in the family ward but didn’t know how to feel about being away from the YSA ward.

She was the only name I mentioned other than Pres F, other instances had all been anonymous. Pres Q piped up with, “I know Sister A and I’m surprised that someone as faithful as she would have any struggles, I guess there’s a lot I haven’t thought about”.

More note taking as I went on about other experiences and expectations including individual situations about how to make my own confidence in prayers stronger, due to the fact that I’ve been praying about marriage for umpteen years and still…. well, you know. But I can pray to find my car keys and nail it about 2x every other year so I know Heavenly Father cares about my loosing my car keys.

That all took the time up. He commented with “I guess this issue is not for the faint of heart and I didn’t realize there were so many ways to see it. I’ve talked with a few other singles already. I guess I thought that some singles are happy with thier lives and just don’t need the church to do anything because they don’t have time to attend.

My comment: It’s true. Some are busy and fulfilled with responsibilities of raising children singly, having grandkids, 2 jobs, hobbies etc… Others will say that because the current status of what the church offers outside of the block meetings is the dark dance hall and no one I know wants to get accosted by their Bishop for not going to those places. When you try to talk about why you don’t go, it easily appears arrogant. So I’m happy to tell you I too am busy, and happy.

And I am happy to be in the gospel. I offered to be on a committee or to come meet with them again.
He said “I think we’ll put a cap on that”

We closed with prayer.

I wish I could have said something fascinating to make them want to talk to me again about it but I don’t know why I even wanted that. I’m happy to be done with the meeting. Just opening that can of worms is hard to fold it all back in when I want them to understand it like I do.

I guess what I really want is to pull them “up to speed” on the issues the way I understand them so we can have a conversation on the topic without it having to be a conversation that goes like this:

Him: You have the opportunity to be married in the hereafter.
Me: Thanks, I know that too.
Him: I know there’s a stake dance on Friday, you should go and be available.
Me: Meh

So that’s what I would have told you at dinner. And we would be well past desert by now.

I want to make clear that Pres Q didn’t end the meeting with the imaginary example of the conversation about the dance that ends the email. He was very overwhelmed and considerate of my conversation. I felt his love and concern very strongly.

They both said repeatedly, “This is a lot to digest”. So they were very considerate and probably drowned, overtime and needed to be somewhere else. I appreciate very much their even spending those 90 minutes hearing me and appreciate that about our Stake leaders. That may have been well over their busy schedules to even consider that and I don’t want to sound unappreciative of thier personal sacrifice, especially when I overtook of their time.

I am grateful that they care. I hope I didn’t overwhelm them. (I prolly did though).
I am extra grateful they talk to others as well so they can get a clear picture.

31 comments for “Eye Single

  1. Hi, this is my first post here, after a long tome of lurkerdom. Your post hit home with me, a single 26 year old guy. While I am in the YSA’s, and not in the family wards, I fell alot of the same issues your friend brings up. I have my own struggle with this, that I could bring up in a separate post, about this from the male perspective. I fell that too often singles in the Church are given one of two responses, both on opposite extremes, and not helpful at all. They are:
    1. The “pooh-pooh” response. That is, “Everything will work out for the best, You will have an opportunity in the next life”
    2. The recriminations, especially aimed at men; who, to be honest, we sometimes need it. These aren’t helpful to the people who don’t need to hear it.

    Anyway, enough of my own issues. I am very glad that your friend was able to have such a good conversation with her stake president.

  2. Thank you for sharing your conversation and honest feelings. I’ve had similar experiences (dark halls and overwhelming perfume!) and had conversations with Stake Presidents and High Councillors along the same lines you describe. I don’t know how things went with your stake, but it didn’t much change in mine. That’s ok, I’m not dependent on activities to anchor me. I’ve made a point of creating a solid and fulfilling life for myself as a single, and spent as much effort preparing to be a righteous, contributory partner in marriage. I’m not arrogant or hoier-than-thou, it just seemed like the logical thing to do. After a number of blessings over the years, counsel in Gen.Conference and the fact I didn’t want to be miserable all my life, what else should a woman do? I gave them my point of view, and turned it over to the Lord. I would really like to see some serious effort go into developing programs for Adult Singles besides the dreaded Meat Market dances. We have so much to give that is untapped, it’s very wasteful of a huge resource.

  3. I don’t know where your friend lives, but I guess the Single Adult experience is a little different where I do. Our stake is spread out and I have no idea how many single Adults there are, but not a high concentration (of active members), I guess. There is a YSA branch that draws from several stakes around.

    But after 30, it’s Single Adults. I have never heard of them doing any dances, but occasional gatherings that center on eating. So single people from 30-death are expected to WANT to socialize with each other? I just don’t think those gatherings are going to get many people who are not of retirement age. In fact, the Singles Rep in my ward must be in her 80s–a sweet old lady who wears a wig. Not great PR for an organization that would want to attract membership from the marriage-seeking population. It seems like it would make more sense to have separate activities for the folks interested in just getting out of the house, and those looking for a marriage partner.

    Of the recent marriages among Single Adults in my stake that I know of, they have been long-distance internet affairs, not Singles Activities romances.

  4. This is why Bishops and SPs should be required to read in the bloggernacle at least a half-hour a week. The idea that they are hearing these concerns for the first time and feeling like they have a lot to digest is a shame.

  5. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling when someone listens to you express your thoughts on something as personal as whether or not a church program is fulfilling one’s needs.

    Your friend did her entire stake a huge service. I’m glad she had a chance to have her voice heard.

  6. I was wondering WHO is planning those lousy singles events? We are talking about adults here, right? Do the singles adults get to plan the activities that interest single adults?

    I was reading the bio of the new Swedish Seventy today, and he talked about a program they have in Europe, that combines Institute with Young Single Adults. Do single adults and stake and ward leaders even know about all the options the Church has already developed?

    I’ve been asked to speak to a couple of single adult firesides, one for college-age singles and one for mature singles, many of whom are formerly married with kids. In the older group, two of the people were sort of obsessive, and my adult daughter (who came along) through they were single for good reasons. We definitely should make sure that Church activities for singles are safe ones.

    The Church does a lot of sociological data gathering. Has it collected data on how LDS couples find each other outside of local Church functions, Institute, or BYU, e.g. using internet sites that match up LDS?

  7. #4 ESO–
    Some areas have mid-singles (30-40ish) wards or “magnet wards” (normal wards that also include all mid-singles from the stake or multiple stakes who want to attend). Most areas (including my own) do not, but it’s an idea that has potential.

    I recently asked a high councilman in my stake how many singles between age 30 and 45 actually attend the singles’ activities. Answer? None. Statistics about how many people who are active when they age out of the YSA ward but less active five years later are astounding. I think this particular demographic may very well be the most overlooked in the church. Hopefully the mid-singles programs will become more available than they currently are.

    Makes me grateful I got married before I aged out of the YSA ward–many of my friends did not.

  8. Great post. Sadly, it fits in with more than just Single Adults. Our Church tends to have a group mentality: Boy Scouts, Primary, YSA, etc. We tend to act as if One-size-fits-all is the correct recipe for everything.

    Yet, I’m now pondering the issue of a young man in my ward who probably will not come back to Church because Scouts is not his cup of tea, and no adult in the program has tried to customize a portion of the program to this young man.

    My daughter just told me that in her ward out west, she was driving along and saw her son’s cub scouts at the park doing an activity. When she stopped to ask what was going on, the leaders sheepishly admitted to not notifying her of the activity, because her son has emotional issues that they did not want to deal with. So, they’ve intentionally been holding activities without him. My grandson, 8 years old, already feels lonely enough without being shunned by adults, etc.

    My youngest son, who is 30 and single and has some social struggles, has had members ask him if he were gay or something! That took several months to encourage him back to Church.

    Sadly, things haven’t changed much in decades, as I recall being 25 years old and having a member of a stake presidency chew me out during a temple recommend interview, because I wasn’t married.

    Perhaps one of the things we need to focus upon is Jesus’ parable of the 99 and 1 sheep. We tend to hover around the 99, because it is easy and safe for us. And it is easy to then point our fingers at the 1 sheep, even to shun him/her because the one is different.

  9. In a church where family is everything, there is unfortunately no room at the inn for those who are either not married or not part of a family. Singles are viewed as weird, special needs members who have no value in and of themselves. Nothing has changed in the last 50 years, and unless something dramatic happens nothing will change in the next 50 years. We will still be asking the same questions and coming up with the same empty answers.

  10. When she stopped to ask what was going on, the leaders sheepishly admitted to not notifying her of the activity, because her son has emotional issues that they did not want to deal with.

    Holy cow. I can’t even fathom that. (Said as a cub scout leader who bends over backward to accommodate all boys)

  11. Stephanie,

    Yes, I’m convinced many of us Mormons are going to have to burn in hell for a while (buffetings of Satan) until we truly become Saints…..

  12. #9–that story breaks my heart.

    #10–who is not a part of a family? Just because one is not married does not mean that they have no family. I suppose there is a small minority of kids who really did grow up in a foster care situation and feel that they are without family, but most people have families. That we preference a spousal relationship over a sibling relationship is more accurate.

  13. I think a big part of the problem for singles in the church is the way they are looked down on. To many people, a never married 30 year old is still looked on as a quasi priest/laurel while a teenage bride and her just returned RM who are instantly treated as adults.

    Why is it that local leadership feels the need to provide “chaperones” for the Single Adult dances? That is very demeaning to say the least. It is as if the leaders are afraid we are going to sneak off to the Primary Room to make out. Most of us live on our own and if we want to sin, we could do it in the privacy of our own homes. We do not need to sneak off to an empty classroom at the church. When the chaperones are young enough to be your kid, well that is just too demeaning.

    So many of the activities for the Single Adults are the exact same activities that they have for the youth e.g. roller skating, Disney Movie night, board games etc. After twenty years of those types of activities, it gets pretty old.

    Do Single Adults really need a Standards Night? Again, after twenty plus years, if the concept Law of Chastity has not sunk in, well then it never will.

    These are just my thoughts for what its worth.

  14. “To many people, a never married 30 year old is still looked on as a quasi priest/laurel while a teenage bride and her just returned RM who are instantly treated as adults”

    I think this is exactly right. I have a wonderful, amazing thirty-something friend who just married and is getting the cold shoulder in her ward from the former teenage brides, now twenty-somethings with their children. As if this amazing friend has nothing to offer because she is childless. It’s beyond bizarre.

  15. It sounds like it boiled down to adults wanting to be treated like adults regardless of their marital status. Maybe we shouldn’t try so hard to meet the needs of singles and try instead to meet the need of all adult members of the church.

    Some attitudes would have to change.

  16. I believe the most effective thing the Church can do to help single adults is to reach out to single men. There are far more active single women than single men in the Church, and with numbers like those, the marriage prospects for most single women are pretty dismal. It’s easy to feel discouraged.

    As hard as it is to be a single woman in the Church, I believe it’s far more difficult to be a single man. We women tend to get pity, which we don’t want, but it’s a heckuva lot better than the criticism and blame that men get. Church doesn’t tend to be a very welcoming place for single men.

  17. What I find hard being single/never married in the church is that the Bishop and others “don’t know “how” to help us or know what to do with us. It seems that the singles in my ward always end up in Primary and they stay there for years because everybody thinks this helps us feel “needed”.
    What I also find hard is that I feel like I’m fighting to be treated like an adult. I don’t live close to my family and yet every holiday I spend it alone because holidays are family time.
    Everybody gets the idea that you should be in the Singles Ward and then you would feel more comfortable, because you would be around others like yourself.
    I know that my Priesthood leaders don’t understand, but neither does my R.S. leaders so I just kind of sit alone and try to blend into the woodwork.
    I’m thankful that I have a testimony of the gospel, because that makes going to church a little easier.
    I just think my ward has given up on me.
    The church is always making rules about who can visit and not visit. The missionaries want my help and they will come to my door and ask me for it and ask if they can do anything for me but they aren’t allowed inside my apartment so even if they could help they’d probably call the bishop and tell him. I just don’t get it. I love talking about the gospel with them, but not anymore since I refuse to stand at my door and act like there is something wrong with me since I’m a single sister.

  18. I think in certain places they should abolish the YSA wards. I have heard where I live that when they didn’t have a YSA ward they found that less ysa’s were getting married but fewer were going less active and then when they created the ward that more were getting married and more were going less active.

  19. I can completely relate to this post! I hope you thank her for me. I’m a 35 never-been-married woman and it’s been a challenge to attend (or desire to attend) any single adult activities.

    I’ll never forget my 31st birthday when I had the sad realization that I would now be asked to attend single activities that could also include my widowed grandpa. NO THANK YOU!

    That being said, I was once in a ward where the Primary President and the Young Womens President were both never-been-married women in their 30’s. A proper use for fantastic single women!

  20. I am really lucky right now in my YSA ward, but in the past, especially at BYU, I wasn’t so lucky. I am not treated as an adult while people who are 8 year younger than me are, just because they are married. Also, why are single men treated worse than single women? No one seems to understand that to get married requires two willing partners, and the agency of someone else that you can’t control.

  21. “I know Sister A and I’m surprised that someone as faithful as she would have any struggles, I guess there’s a lot I haven’t thought about”.

    Ken Sez: Ummmm … if we’re faithful, we ain’t gonna have no struggles? Do I have that right? (Maybe I should turn on the gas and stick my head in the oven, then … Sheesh!) (Yes, Ken, but you need to realize that you’re simply not faithful ENOUGH!)

    I won’t tell you what my first response was, in its entirety, after reading that, but it included the word “released,” followed by the word “shot” …. It’s a good thing the Church is true; I’d have left it a long time ago for idiotic comments like that stake president’s if it weren’t.

  22. My brother’s a stake president; I won’t except any stake president from the “should-be-released-and-then-shot-for-idiotic-comments” rule … not even him … (Of course, I can’t imagine him saying anything like THAT in a MILLION years … but then, maybe I simply don’t know him as well as I think I do.)

  23. Bfabbi: “Also, why are single men treated worse than single women? No one seems to understand that to get married requires two willing partners, and the agency of someone else that you can’t control.”

    WHAT????!!! You mean, with my eternal welfare at stake, I can’t just pick someone I think would be a suitable candidate, bop her over the head and … OK, um, never mind!

  24. #25 – Worked for the boys in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Where is a good avalanche when you need one….

  25. I’ve been a SA grandma for six years and annually we’re invited to attend a mandatory SS class to discuss how the ward can meet our needs. It rarely gets off the ground and my reactions range from feeling oddly uncomfortable to it’s a total waste of our time. The problem, you see, is lumping us all together, where absolutely no two are alike. So kudos to the above stake pres for at least realizing that much. Even if we were all alike in circumstances, we’d still be unalike in how we feel about it. My needs aren’t your needs and so in our little arbitrary get-together, the squeakiest wheel takes the stage. And squeaky wheels, lacking a little oil on their joints, don’t represent the rest of us. (Happily.)

    Sister X is appalled nobody cares enough to come remove her snow whereas I’m grateful to have that forced opportunity in the dead of winter to get some much needed exercise. On the other hand, I’d love it if somebody helped me shovel out because they pay enough attention to know when I have a time issue rather than physical one. And what’s the chances of that? An example in my case which fits no one else, … would that someone walking by noticed that I haven’t noticed my poor cherry tree is suffering a serious aphid attack! So now it’s ugly and the old lady who lives in this house which shares the church fence is worried and embarrassed, and has no dad, husband nor son (nor female in the know for that matter), to solve this problem.

    But those are just the pathetic thoughts most of us get when we’re not as self-sufficient as we thought we were or would like to be. I mean, really. I’d need a v-e-r-y spiritually in tune home teacher or neighbor with a lot of time/$ to kill, to specifically know when/what I need, much less actually have the skills I lack to weather the challenges life dishes out. And just as importantly, I still need to figure it out rather than feeling I’m justified putting my problem in someone else’s lap, just because some hierarchy assumes some “ward” responsibility over me. I’m not opposed to asking for some help on occasion, but I am opposed to expecting other people to pick up the pieces in my life that I’ve let fall, whether voluntarily or not. (What I w-o-u-l-d like, however, is as a matter of course for all YM/YW leadership to ask every single and/or old person they know what general service projects would be helpful. It’s part of their agenda, so why not operate off a list?)

    When someone steps up, either accidentally or moved upon by the spirit, it’s a Plus in my life. And when they don’t, could be I’ll learn a thing or two in the process. And I can always ask … after I’ve kicked myself for not paying attention, done my internet research, been to the big box store to outfit myself for my aphid counterattack. (And live in shame a few more days until the rain stops.) All of which I rather think has little to do with my ward but more with HF helping those who help themselves. And I truly do feel His help in my life, partly because He sees fit n-o-t to protect me from myself. Just like married folks.

  26. living in zion: “#25 – Worked for the boys in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Where is a good avalanche when you need one….”


  27. I’m a 35 years old single woman, never been married.
    There are WAY too many things I could add to this list. I have spent the past 3 years living in Utah, prior to that I lived in DC. I have learned that different areas treat the singles very differently.
    In DC I found that for both over and under 30 the Leadership was working to provide the Singles options. The “church” was very involved in providing a program and options. And for the most part, singles run the programs.
    In Utah I found the exact opposite. Lots of entreprenurial minded folks were trying to make a buck off the singles by throwing parties and huge activities. They were filling the void that the “Church” was missing. Where would you rather go? A stake center dance with “singles of all ages?” Or a private house party with a DJ? While on one hand I commend those who tried to fill the void, I found I hated such activities. They didn’t keep LDS standards, and so I’d find myself surrounded by sluttily dressed women, and men who enjoyed looking at them. It was a magnet for the singles who had grown tired of not fitting in and had gone inactive.
    On Monday I begin a column for singles on Meridian Magazine. My #1 intent with my column will be to help get all the different types of singles and their situations better known to Church members in general.

  28. @29. Erinannie,
    I look forward to reading your column. I haven’t quite seen what you have in Utah. I am in SLC, but I am still in the YSA.

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