Change the culture
Heaven indeed hears our cries. This past weekend the Church released a new series of seven videos. I’m excited to see what seems like the Brethren in Salt Lake attempting to change the culture of the Church. Without diminishing the role of the family in the gospel plan, they seem to be encouraging members to replace our current family-centered culture with a Christ-centered culture, one in which all members feel they belong.
The speakers in the new videos don’t directly call out the problem of singles not fitting in with the family-centered culture of the Church, although they scream that very message as I watch them. I suspect the Brethren want to speak in more general terms so their message can have broader application.
Whatever their reasoning, I support the Brethren. Although not every video addresses the problem many singles have with attending church, most of them do. And they do it without mentioning the words single, married, or family.
Here’s the new videos by speaker and title.
Note that all the brethren are apostles and the two sisters serve in general auxiliary presidencies. Although all these videos are outstanding, the comments from Elder Christofferson and Sister McConkie most impressed me.
Since I’m a gentleman, let’s consider the lady first. Sister McConkie does a bang-up job of calling attention to the neglected and ignored among us. Even though she never says the word single, you know she’s talking about singles.
Sister McConkie admits she knows “people who come to church every Sunday so they can be inspired and uplifted and who just simply walk away feeling judged and unloved, unneeded, like there is no place for them at church. We need to do this differently.”
Can I get an amen? Seriously, if that’s not a call to change the culture, albeit a tongue-in-cheek one, I don’t know what is. She continues,
We cannot allow judgement to dictate the way we interact with people. It’s just not right. . . . We just cannot be or even call ourselves a disciple of Christ if we are not helping others along that path. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not marginalize people. People marginalize people. And we have to fix that. We need to be sensitive and love them and allow them the opportunity to grow and to blossom and to be their best selves. They have talents and abilities and personality that is needed in the kingdom of God, and if we’re going to build the kingdom of God on the earth we need everyone to come, to come and do their part. And we need to recognize that.
When anyone’s shadow darkens the door of the chapel, they ought to feel immediately embraced and loved and lifted and inspired, that when they walk out that door, to go and be better because they know the Lord loves them and because they have friends in their faith.
Wow! That sweet vision would make a wonderful reality for LDS singles everywhere! We need to walk together, singles and marrieds, helping each other along the journey to our eternal home.
I love that bit about building the kingdom. If we’re going to be serious — I mean really serious — about building God’s Kingdom on earth, then we have to include every faithful soul. We do play a part, but it’s not about us. It’s about everyone, and that means reaching out to include everyone so everyone can play their part.
Elder Christofferson does no less in maintaining that glorious banner. He directly pursues the question of fitting in with a positive and emphatic yes. Like the speakers in the other videos, he never uses words like single, married, and family. Yet we all know his words apply in that context.
He then brings up Paul’s classic analogy that we’re all “many members yet but one body” in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:20). I especially love Paul’s rhetoric questions: "If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?” (1 Corinthians 12:15–17)
In God’s design for His Kingdom, everyone willing to make covenants with Him is needed. The problem comes when many LDS singles don’t feel needed. I love how Elder Christofferson acknowledges the reality of such feelings and then offers a two prong solution:
The diversity we find now in the Church may be just the beginning. Frankly, I think we’ll see greater and greater diversity. In the ancient church there was tremendous diversity.
And it’s not just diversity for diversity’s sake, but the fact that people can bring different gifts and perspectives and the wide range of experience and backgrounds and challenges that people face will show us what really is essential in the gospel of Christ and that much of the rest that’s been perhaps acquired over time and is more cultural than doctrinal can slip away and we can really learn to be disciples.
So on the one hand, we’ve got to be better as a people at receiving and helping and walking together with everybody, and on the other hand, every individual needs to be determined that they’re going to have a place in the kingdom of God. They’re going to have a place in the body of Christ. And others who are thoughtless or careless or worse can’t prohibit that, can’t drive them away, can’t take it away from them” (emphasis added).
Yes, LDS singles need to own their life and control their reality by controlling their focus. At the same time, I love Elder Christofferson’s recognition that some of what we do is “more cultural than doctrinal [and] can slip away.” I’ll gladly place our alienating family-centered culture on that list. Of course, changing that culture means coming together and being real disciples of the Master. But isn’t that we should be doing anyway?
A new day is dawning. The time when LDS singles needed to have the mark of belonging to the Church community to get the help they need is dying. Rising is a time when true disciples of the Lord reach out and bring all willing to make covenants with God together in a grand, diverse unity of the faith.
Single and married will be situations, not identities. And the culture we embrace and promote will center on the Savior, He Who spilt His precious blood so that all of us could be redeemed.
The time has come for us to walk together. The time has come for us to embrace a true unity of the faith. The time has come for us to be true disciples of Christ and start building the Kingdom for real. The time has come for us to change the culture.
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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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