If you’re an LDS single who hasn’t heard some ignorant, insensitive remark from our married friends in the Church, then you better buckle up. Your ride is about to get a little bumpy.
We’ve all been there. From asides in casual conversation to statements in class lessons, we LDS singles have been made to feel not completely accepted because we don’t have our own family. Often we hear some variation of “get with the program.”
Last time I checked, the “program” is making and keeping as many covenants with God as we can. Of course we should strive to make every covenant possible. But sometimes that means doing the best you can in this mortal life — however far that gets you — and then trusting in the Lord to make up the rest.
Still, some of our married friends constantly hit a nerve. We want to tell them a thing or two. Sometimes I have, using references to a place where the sun doesn’t shine.
But that was before I changed my way of thinking. Now I just tell myself “Babes in sacrament meeting.”
The parable of babes in sacrament meeting
If you’ve been to a general membership ward (note I avoid the atrocious term family ward), you’ve rarely if ever experienced an administration of the sacrament in silence. That’s because little children often break that silence.
This last Sunday was no exception for me. The children seemed especially restless. And I recalled just a couple of weeks ago when a child cried out, “No, Mom! That’s mine!” It all adds to an atmosphere that at least superficially seems like anything but reverent.
Of course, no one blames the child. We might cast a nasty look at a parent of a particularly obnoxious child and think, “Hey, why don’t you do something about your kid?” But we never blame the child.
And we all know why. The child is innocent. The child doesn’t know any better. It makes no sense to hold children to a standard which they cannot reasonably meet.
Likewise, many of our married friends, and particularly our leaders, have no idea what we LDS singles experience. Because they married young, they don’t know what it’s like to be older and single in the Church. And older could mean you’re 25, 35, 45, or more.
It’s not fair for us to expect them to avoid saying and doing insensitive things when they simply don’t understand completely what we experience. The LDS singles experience must be had to be understood. Because many of our married friends never really experienced that, they simply don’t understand. So why should we respond to their insensitivity with the expectation that they should understand? That’s not reasonable. They’re babes in sacrament meeting.
Seek first to understand
I’m not saying our married friends shouldn’t try to understand us singles. Nor am I advocating we singles quit trying to be understood. The desire to be understood is a basic human need. At the same time, we aren’t likely to be understood when we don’t first seek to understand others.
Gandhi was right when he said we must be the change we seek in the world. The insensitivities we LDS singles experience within our subculture will not cease until we LDS singles take the lead by following the Savior and exercising patience. We need to remember babes in sacrament meeting.
When we exercise patience with our leaders and other married friends in the Church while seeking first to understand them, we clear a space that invites them to understand us. Good-hearted people will respond by filling that space with desires to understand us. The godly desire to understand then outweighs the natural desire to be understood.
Those who haven’t lived our LDS singles experience cannot fully understand it. But that doesn’t prevent others from achieving a partial understanding. Certainly, if we are to live in Zion, singles and marrieds need to be reaching after all the understanding of each other possible. We should never use failure to achieve totality to justify not trying to achieve what part we can.
The change we LDS singles truly seek in our culture — one in which our married friends help us to feel truly a part of the fold of God — must start within us. It’s time for us to quit sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to change and start making that change happen. It’s time for us to stop criticizing others for what they cannot reasonably do and start looking inside ourselves for the seeds of patience and understanding that will sprout a better experience for everyone.
Let us look to the Savior and follow His example of patience. And it can all start with four simple words: Babes in sacrament meeting.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show and podcast to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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