Many LDS singles think being single makes them defective. But being single is not the problem. If we dig deeper, we can identify the real problem.
On one hand, we singles want to belong to a family-centered culture yet don’t have our own family. On the other hand, we don’t want to go anywhere else. Who else has a fulness of truth? We’re torn. And every week, church highlights what we don’t have, ripping that tear a little more.
Many answer this dilemma with singles wards. When I was in singles wards, I agreed with that “solution.” But now I don’t.
Yes, in wards of “their own,” singles feel belonging. No one, single or married, has to change themselves in any way. Singles go there. Everyone else stays here.
However, assuming that belonging equates with marriage exacerbates the situation. By providing a separate place for single saints to congregate, we avoid the real problem. And that creates larger problems for singles whether or not they marry.
The desire to be accepted within our LDS subculture often motivates those singles who do marry. Most rush the process. They don’t build the friendship needed for dating, let alone marriage. They enter quite unprepared into marriages which result in trouble and, increasingly, divorce.
Singles who don’t marry also struggle. The identity issues they avoided but never solved now confront them. Although serious, remaining unmarried isn’t the real problem. The real problem is basing Latter-day Saint identity on marriage instead of baptism.
Truly helping others
We’re all on the same journey to the same heavenly home. Those who accept baptism also commit “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and . . . to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life” (Mosiah 18:8–9). How can that not include helping each other on the journey home?
Sure, some of us progress through marriage without much if any help. But what about the rest of us? Shouldn’t we on the path home help those behind us? We support the family as an institution by creating new ones.
Yet the way we traditionally “help” create new families resembles how the Navy teaches recruits to swim — by throwing them into the water. Those who swim survive. Those who sink really weren’t wanted in the Navy anyway.
How is that any different from throwing everyone single into a singles ward and then hoping for the best? Sometimes it happens, but not always. Does that mean that those who don’t get married weren’t really wanted in the Church anyway?
Some singles feel that way. I know that feeling. But I refuse to believe singles have no place in the Church. The gospel is for everyone. God accepts all who do the very best they can.
I have a dream
I don’t deny that singles wards offer many opportunities for singles to grow as well as to meet potential eternal companions. But neither do I deny that more and more singles ward attendees age out without getting married. In addition, the average age at which young adults marry is increasing. If singles wards were the answer, then both trends would move in the opposite direction.
As a broader community, we Latter-day Saints don’t dig deep enough into the influences of our culture and the habits those influences promote. Because we all want to belong and our LDS culture conditions acceptance on marriage and family, it’s only natural to want those. Add our design as human beings to be coupled, and you’ve created real problems for the unmarried.
The solution is not a new program but rather a new attitude on the part of everyone — single or married. We need to switch basing cultural acceptance from marital status to baptism. We need to create a unity of the faith. By separating ourselves into smaller groups based on whatever status, we drive wedges between ourselves.
And wedges always move deeper. Hence the current push to divide singles into decade age groups. That’s the wrong direction. That divides rather than unites us. That encourages us to see each other through generational lenses which God doesn’t use. We need to come together, surrender to love, and work to see each other the way God does.
That means all of us — singles and marrieds — coming together in a general membership ward where everyone helps everyone on our eternal journey home.
Lehi had a dream in which he helped other members of his family partake of the fruit of the tree of life. I too have a dream. I have a dream in which we all come together and help every member of our LDS community family make and keep every sacred covenant available. I have a dream in which we all go home together. Let’s unite and make that dream reality.
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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