We all feel the influence of language in every aspect of life. That’s because encoded in language are ways of thinking about and perceiving the world around us.
For example, we call a container containing cookies a cookie jar because that’s what it does. A cookie jar is a jar that contains cookies. Likewise, we call that small wedge placed in the gap underneath a door to hold it in place a door stop. That’s because that’s what it does; it stops the door from swinging.
Language reflects how we think about and perceive our world. So if we want to improve our thinking, we must improve our language. That’s just as true about LDS singles life as it is anything else. Given the widespread use of less effective language regarding singles, many of us need to wash our mouth out.
Enough with “singles program”
Singles program provides a good example. That word program suggests all singles need are activities and all leaders need to do is organize activities. Singles planning committees shouldn’t concern themselves with outreach or friendshipping. Just throw singles together and they’ll naturally pair off, right?
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — singles don’t need a slate of activities as much as they need true friends who’ll walk with them along the road of life. I don’t remember the literally thousands of singles activities I’ve attended. However, I do remember when a friend reached out with kindness or compassion. Those times are memorable because they contain what matters most.
That’s why we should replace singles program with support networks. Support networks describe what singles really need — friends who support each other along the road of life. Changing our language in just this one way will change our thinking about how we all should relate to singles. And what goodness such a perspective of support can bring to the world!
Out with “family of one”
I’d shout “Hallelujah!” if that one phrase were the only one requiring elimination from our vocabulary. But, alas, there’s more.
I once posted about an experience with my stake president who used the phrase family of one while speaking in sacrament meeting. As I questioned him about it, his responses garnered my respect. He willingly admitted he made mistakes and that his use here was one of them.
In the three years since that encounter, I can’t remember hearing family of one, which suggests it may be going the way of the dodo bird. That’d be fantastic if true. I don’t want people to walk on proverbial eggshells just to talk to me. I understand a family by definition requires at least two people. And I’m perfectly OK with that.
The Church seems to have caught a ride on that train. Recently the General Authorities have been speaking of individuals and families. This practice — using individuals and families instead of family of one — rightly promotes the family. Its continuance gives me hope other vile vocabulary choices will find extinction.
Down with “family ward”
And, in my view, no LDS phrase is more vile than family ward. Oh, what screeching of fingernails on a chalkboard I hear every time someone uses this pernicious expression!
And that expression is pernicious. It provides an identity crisis alienating many LDS singles from the Church. Just like cookies jars get their name from what they are and what they contain, so too do family wards get their name from what they are and what they contain. Family wards are congregations for families; the name alone says singles don’t belong there. No matter how much our married friends may insist to the contrary, language by its nature reveals how we truly think and perceive the world.
I’ve suggested before we should replace family ward with general membership ward, because that’s who really belongs in these congregations — the general membership of the Church. In my ponderings since, I can understand many wanting a shorter expression. This too is in the nature of language. Using general ward conveys the same meaning — that the general membership of the Church belongs there.
In all we do, we should be meeting one another’s needs. Using support networks communicates that intention more effectively than singles program. Trying to be sensitive by watering down the meaning of family with the phrase family of one doesn’t really serve anyone well. And using general ward communicates we all really do belong better than family ward.
Language matters. It reflects how we think about and perceive the world. If your language needs some improvement, then wash your mouth out. Use soap if needed. When we improve the language we use, we improve the way we think about and perceive our world. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show 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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