Be My, Be My Little Baby

At a recent Singles’ activity, the late twenty somethings were organized into several, smaller groups and then assigned an animal. They were given these instructions: we will blindfold you, mix up all the groups, make you get on your hands and knees and then you must make the noise of your animal until you have united your entire animal group. The first animal to gather, wins.

My friend refused to play. This is what 5 year olds play, she said. Stop being immature, her friends said, and just play the game.

In a ward where I lived in the middle of the country, the bishop decided we needed a chastity talk. That’s funny to me since most of these women hadn’t been kissed in the last really long time, let alone were near any sort of law of chastity boundaries, but he told us to be clean and he told us in detail what that meant. It meant being home from a date by 11pm since nothing good happens after 11. It meant only being touched where the garments were not. It meant praying before and after every date to make sure that the Spirit never left you.

He was more sharp-shooting with the Elders’ Quorum. Marriage, he said, is not an all-you-can-eat buffet of sexual intercourse. It is just as hard to keep the law of chastity after marriage as it is before. He said. He also gave a curfew, guidelines as to how to kiss, where you can touch (let the garments be your guide) and an all-around stern talking to the men about the crying women in the Relief Society that need to be loved but not molested.

I’m not certain why it is hard to treat Mormon singles as adults but every singles’ ward I’ve ever been in, and this marks my 12th year in a singles ward, has a problem with this. We are little children to be corraled and herded toward marriage. We are not the working, functioning adults that we are in the rest of the world. While I do not doubt that marriage grows you up and that having children grows you up even more, it does not guarantee maturity and/or adulthood. I’m sure that most people recognize this so I wonder why my activities are Primary games, we still have dances in the gym, I am told when to be home at night. I wonder why we, the Singles, act like teenagers when we try and ask each other out, when we date or even when we sit in the same room together trying to study the scriptures or bear our testimonies.

I believe it is the fault of singles’ wards. Here’s my big idea: get rid of them. These wards for singles were formed in the 60s when the Brethren noticed that the activity of 20-30 year olds was somewhere around 20%. I’m not certain what it is today but Stapley told me once that it was around 13%. They were formed to help them make communities that they could belong to and be faithful in and so that they could meet other Mormons and get married, since Mormons that marry Mormons are far more likely to stay active for life than those who are single or marry outside the Church.

Here’s the current problem: separating single people from the main body of the Church distorts both marrieds and singles view of the other, and sometimes of themselves. Family wards think singles are just happily moving along toward marriage and graduating to a family ward and adult status. Mostly we probably don’t make it on your radar. Single people feel like they’re hanging around until they meet the one and then they can marry and grow up and be like you. But it robs both sides of the valuable interation that could occur. Single people are like married people, except they’re single. Regular interaction in intimate communities, like our Mormon wards, brings compassion and understanding and a way to utilize each other’s gifts for the building of the kingdom. (I realize the hidden sexual meaning in that, but it’s not my fault as I am single and juvenile). I miss interacting with kids and elderly folk in my Church worship. I miss being a part of a diverse Church. And you may not know it but you miss me too.

Most people recommend going to a regular ward, but that doesn’t work because single people still want single friends and they’re hard to maintain if you’re not going to church with them. Many single people lose their sense of belonging in the Mormon Church and leave, remember Stapley said only 13% of us are still active. So we need to make a new space and we need to face the fact that many of us are not going to get married and that our marital status need not determine our placement and interaction with the Church.

So I say let’s kill the Singles’ Ward. May it rest in peace. What do you say? Do you married folk even think about it? Do you think an influx of singles in your regular wards could make things better, worse or you still might not notice?

Comments

  1. Steve Evans says:

    I don’t care what we do, so long as we can get rid of those stupid animal-noise games. Your friend was right.

  2. I think I was a bit of a killjoy, because as long as I remember I refused to play degrading party games. Ugh.

    I really do think you outline one of the greatest challenges facing the church in this generation, Amri. Sadly, I don’t have any ideas how to address it. Though, building the bonds between the community of Saints is always good.

  3. Steve Evans says:

    J., it’s not that hard — treat single people like human beings! We’re all in this together, let’s treat each other as such and get rid of these self-imposed segregations. You can preserve singles-only activities, etc. while still keeping unmarried people as part of your ward family.

  4. I thought the animal noise game sounded like fun. Good party games tend to involve things that are a little embarassing as part of breaking down people’s comfort zones so they can connect at a more real level, since everybody else is doing them. The same challenge can be made to any activity that comes by “I’m not doing this. It’s stupid.”

    As to the singles wards, I’ve seen the ebb and flow of these things in my stake over the past twenty years. What I attended wasn’t a single’s ward — it was a “student sacrament” that included PH/RS after the sacrament meeting. A few months after I started attending it, the Bishop (it was dependent on the ward that the university is in) and the SP got up and told us that they were disbanding our student sacrament and that we were to attend our home wards. This was due to concern on the parts of the bishops of the stake about the number of YSAs that were not attending (I don’t think we had more than 20 any of the times I was there), while all of them were nominally supposed to be with us.

    After a number of years (maybe 10), they formed the University Branch, and it was attended by YSAs from all over the stake, and they met at the Institute, just like we had. They had much better attendance than we did in my day, and they did a full meeting block with SS. I attended it a few times as I was in the Institute Choir, but I stayed a member of my own ward.

    It was during my Institute Choir time that they reorganized it as the University Ward. It has been around for nearly a decade now, has been renamed (it’s now just 4th Ward, aka the Singles Ward), and has moved from the institute to one and then another of the other buildings in the stake. I’ve attended it once in the past year, when I confirmed a friend who I’d baptized last April.

    I think that this ebb and flow was a healthy process, and I think it would be better to have that seen as normative than to either universalized Singles Wards or to eliminate them all. If it’s not working, then I think the local leaders can decide if it’s time to break it up and send people back to the family wards, and then try again later when it might work better.

  5. Gilgamesh says:

    Having never attended a singles ward -except BYU, which doesn’t count – but having been in singles ward bishopric – I am kind of in the middle. I think it is important for the church to have a viable singles program, so singles can meet those who share their values. On the other hand, singles wards play to the lowest common denominator – the 30 year old, out of work, basement dwelling, computer junkie, sex crazed single man and the low self esteem, sad and lonely, depressed, I can’t be complete until I am married woman.

    The solution – actually give real callings to singles. Why does a bishop have to be married? Why can’t a 40 year old professional single man be a bishop? Call singles onto the high council. Have single sisters in prominant stake positions. Show the church that singles are not just waiting for marriage until they can be leaders.

  6. It depends on my mood as to whether I would play stupid games like that. Sometimes they’re fun and sometimes I feel like I’m be patronized by the activities chairperson.

    I’m not certain I’m entirely opposed to university wards but once you graduate from college or reach a certain age (like 22 or 23) I say there should be no more. Make everyone go to a normal family ward. There will be a big enough singles group but they can interact as normal Mormons without wearing their marital status as a little patch.

    I know in NYC they recently made the over 30s go back to regular wards and I think my friends have liked it. I think the Church just needs to go a step further and integrate all the singles in.

    It depresses me because some of the smartest, kindest Mormons I have met that have left were single. And no matter how potent your testimony is, if you just don’t feel like you belong eventually you lose your fire and you leave.

    It seems strange to me, since my faith questions are intellectual, but I know I would not struggle the way I do had I married when I were 22 or younger and found myself operating in the typical Mormon way. I’m glad I didn’t marry then but my Church life would be pretty different now.

  7. Gilgamesh, I’m so with you on the callings part. But those are old Church rules. I think the killing of the Singles ward would happen before that. My single male friends over 30 aren’t even allowed to serve in the temple. Which is weird since we’re always so short on Priesthood holders anyway.

  8. I loved the Singles Ward in Bloomington Indiana. I never felt treated like a child, even when I acted like one. I could say the same of my current married life though too. The one big difference is the Singles Ward in Bloomington definitely had higher caliber speakers in Sacrament.

    Here in San Antonio, you can go to Institute and Singles FHE, and still go to your regular Ward and get the best of both worlds, I guess. While there are enough singles in all of San Antonio, so far as I know, they would only add 1 or 2 singles to each ward in the area. Thus getting rid of the singles ward program would be about the same as choosing not to participate in it.

    I am not sure about this 13% activity rate for singles, since I’ve also heard that 40% to 60% of the addult church is single, and if this activity rate is correct, that would mean almost 90% of married lds are active, which I can promise you is not the case.

  9. I “graduated” 10 years ago, but I loved two of the singles wards I went to. I didn’t like two others, but went to them a much shorter time. The bishops in the good wards didn’t see themselves as babysitters. I made friendships with people there that I would have never met otherwise, including my wife. The only time I would have met single LDS people my own age in a family ward would have been at college. It was refreshing to see people my own age excited about the gospel.

  10. Matt, that 13% number was the average for YSAs in the United States. For example, in two stakes that I know of, the activity rates are ~6% and ~8%.

  11. I’m also a little sketchy on your calculations…I have no idea what the actual number is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if church activity world-wide were somewhere around 25%.

  12. I loved being in a singles ward. It was a great opportunity to socialize with other single members of the church and it was a great opportunity for me as a younger adult in the church to receive some of the callings that typically only go to older more established members of family wards. There are negative aspects to singles wards chiefly the perception that they are little more than meat markets for aspiring brides and grooms. That said I think singles wards are a great opportunity for young adults who want to have fun spiritually uplifting church experiences with people in their own age groups. I think doing away with these wards would be a mistake.

  13. I think the 40-60% number comes from including the widowed and widowers. President Hinckley is a single adult. But I can’t comment on the YSA numbers.

  14. I’m with J. in that I’m not sure exactly how many people are active it’s still got to be pretty darn low.

    I really loved some of my experiences in singles wards too. I’m not bitter and angry about them (except maybe about being given a curfew) I loved them but I believe that if singles were expected to fully participate in family wards they would and with a sufficient number then I could have similar sorts of experiences with those singles just in the family wards. There is power in worshipping in more diverse circumstances and I’m convinced that there will still be good times in a family ward.

  15. Though I think the number is more like 25% to 30%

  16. Julie M. Smith says:

    It is just as hard to keep the law of chastity after marriage as it is before.

    ???

  17. Do y’all have good reasons that the fun you had in singles wards would not happen in a regular ward? If there are, I could be persuaded to change my position but I just think that if you get enough singles in a family ward you can make the same thing.

  18. Amri,

    I don’t understand how dividing up all the singles in one stake into their respective home wards would provide people with similar oppourtunities. My experience was quite the opposite. Perhaps the demographics are different in the family wards I’ve attended, but I wouldn’t have interacted with LDS people my own age in my home ward in my early 20’s. Perhaps with is one program in the church that benefits those outside of Utah much more so than those in Utah.

  19. Julie I have no idea what that means but we all still laugh about it! Was he admitting that his wife didn’t want to have sex? Was he admitting that he wanted to do things to her that were “unchaste”? I don’t know, but we speculated for weeks and weeks.

  20. I believe it is the fault of singles’ wards. Here’s my big idea: get rid of them.

    I believe it is the fault of the neurotic singles. Here is my big idea: get rid of them.

    OK, the animal noise game was stooopid. I wouldnt have done it either. But, so are the endless litany of inanely themed dances, so at least someone is trying something different…if stupid. Having “married late”, I skipped more than my share of singles wards and singles wards activities and left the one I attended when it conveniently reorganized its boundaries. The ward I was in was led by a handful of genuinely good PH leaders who absolutely did not push the marriage thing and absolutely were focussed on the singles ward being an opportunity for single people to contribute within their own community.

    That said, the ward was totally screwed up because the people attending the ward were, by and large, a bunch of screw ups (sure, I will include myself in there as well). One of the guys in the ward accurately described it as “The Island of Misfit Toys” It was awful to see how neurotic and dysfunctional we all were, and the gossip and anxiety and deceit was horrid. All of this was created by us. Sure, blame it on the Church, the Church Culture, whatever. But, seriously, it was us. We were a bunch of self-absorbed, crazed, delusional nuts trying to push square pegs into round holes and not being happy with the results in the end.

    I hated the activities, so I hung around with people who had similar sorts of interests and we went and did our own thing and whenever noobs came in with similar interests we invited them to go. It was poorly organized and we did whatever, had fun with it and that was that.

    If you arent happy with the singles ward, then stop attending or do something to change things.

  21. J. I was trying to stick within the US, but the EOM says activity in the US and Canada at between 40 and 50%. That was the number I was going by. I am not sure as to the 40-60% being single number’s origin. I heard it at church or on the naccle at some point, and am having difficult tracking it’s origin. The EOM says something entirely different. It would be really nice to get updates on some of these statistica.

  22. ED- that’s hilarious! You cannot persuade me that singles are crazier than marrieds though. Sorry.

    Thanks for the advice but I think this problem is bigger than me just changing wards.

  23. J.–I know I’m not very smart and all, but how can you have negative activity rates??

  24. Amri, lend me your ear and I will convince you they are. You would laugh and cry over the antics of this ward. If I could but selectively hand pick the cast and crew of this ward-which-no-longer-exists and assemble them for one evening, the stories we could tell and laugh about now…since time heals all wounds…you would leave the wiser for the experience and doubt me never again.

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    A lot of these difficulties would be resolved if we just had an adequate critical mass of LDS singles, whether in singles wards or family wards. There is a catch-22 in the activity rates: people go inactive because there are not enough singles to make for a decent experience (whether singles or family), and there aren’t enough singles to make for a decent experience at least in part because so many are inactive.

    If you can hit critical mass so that you’ve got a substantial amount of relatively normal LDS singles participating, a lot (though of course not all) of those inactives will come out of the woodwork to reconnect. But that’s a huge if, and in most of the Church the bodies for an adequate program just aren’t there.

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    To illustrate my last point, I read a study once that concluded that, on average, you need to have a group of X size for there to be enough people where most will be able to find a mate within the group. I forget the number, but I think it was 300 or something like that.

    If I were looking for an LDS spouse, I would have to look within several neighboring states just to find 300 active LDS singles (over 30).

  27. ED: “You would laugh and cry over the antics of this ward.”

    OK, spill some. You know that we live for such stories.

  28. Those are squigly lines not negative numbers, Kristine. Matt, I’m still not following you. The 13% number for US Single Adults activity is what our Area president gave us when they started a new pilot program for Single Adults last year.

  29. As a primary president, I’d love to have a few more bodies to fill teaching and presidency positions! However, do you think the average 22-year-old would want to be stuck away with a primary class each sunday? How much has your perspective changed over the years? I totally agree that marrieds and singles should be more integrated and comfortable with each other. You don’t feel like you’ve reached adult status in the church, but I feel like I’ve reached old-married-fart status since I have 5 kids. Would we really be able to hang out?

  30. Julie M. Smith says:

    J–

    What was the pilot program?

  31. Julie M. Smith says:

    However, do you think the average 22-year-old would want to be stuck away with a primary class each sunday?

    Virtually nobody wants to be in Primary. I’m not sure why we would take the feelings of a single 22yo into account when we don’t think twice about calling a mother of young children to the Primary.

  32. I think there’s another benefit to resolving singles’ wards: good examples for the youth.

    I grew up in Los Angeles and for whatever reason, I’m not sure if singles’ wards existed or not, all the singles attended the family ward. This means that as a young man all of my teachers were recently-returned, single missionaries. Their examples were instrumental in getting me on a mission.

    Just a thought.

  33. Julie, it was a program first tried in SLC then moved to Seattle and Pheonix. Basically it created a regional Singles program and focused on activities that were not delimited by geographical constraints.

  34. I wonder if it would be helpful or interesting to see a survey of how many readers/commenters met their spouses in singles wards.

  35. #21 is correct as far as I know as far as activity rates in general. 40-50% is the North America rate. Kevin Barney and I have discussed this at length in previous posts and we tend to think its about 45%.

    This is why I doubt the 13% number for YSA. It creates a situation where 80% of the active church is married people and their dependent children. I doubt this highly.

    The wildcard is the SA population. How many are they how active are they?

  36. I met my wife by meeting her parents first in a normal ward.

  37. NoNameNedra says:

    I do think that singles wards treat the single members like children, but often it depends on the ward leadership.

    I’ve had bishops and their wives actually call the singles ward members their “kids”, even when the ward members are the same age they are.

    I’ve been in wards where the chastity talk (usually a combined PH/RS meeting) is extremely condescending, and the bishop and his wife often gloat about their ability to do what singles are expected not to do. One bishop even said that we singles should try to wait and have our first (or next) kiss over the altar from our spouse when we marry (i.e. make that our goal)!!! This bishop said he did just that (well, he was 21 and had just come off a mission–not 32!!!!).

    In fact, I think the main reason singles are inactive is the attitude that Church leadership has towards them, and particularly the unrealistic expectations about the law of chastity. I think that if the temple recommend question re chastity were eliminated (i.e. don’t ask/don’t tell) there would be a greater level of activity in singles wards. Let people repent in private; there’s no need for a single woman and a married man (bishop or stake pres) to discuss private sexual issues. It’s unseemly!

  38. One ex-bishop gave me his reason for single wards. He saw many of his youth go off to the big city, Albuquerque, and become inactive. There were three stakes in Albuquerque, so without a bishop of a singles ward there, he found it difficult to find leaders to hand off stewardship to.

    For myself, being single in normal wards was a very good thing. I was called to work with cub scouts; that gave me interaction not only with a variety of church members, but also with other people in the community; my future mother-in-law provided my first den leader training, and then suggested to her daughter when she came to town, “He works with the scouts. That’s a nice thing for a young man to do.”

  39. Here’s my thoughts from the trenches. I am 22 year old, female college grad attending a singles ward. I attend a singles ward because I love being around people my own age of my own faith who are experiencing many of the same things I am. I have gone through various levels of participation in ward programs, and our ward has gone through various levels of clique-ishness, marital frenzy and inclusiveness. The people there want to be there– and our Bishop reminds us regularly that it is an elective ward. I am all for keeping the singles ward– but that is perhaps because I’ve been to enough wedding receptions where all any married person cared about was whether I was married or not and would rather that not infiltrate my Sunday worship. People in my singles ward seem to really care about who I am and what I am doing, and that matters a lot to me.

    Stapley has mentioned the multi-stake pilot program. I am the chair for my multi-stake group in the Seattle area. I don’t want to thread jack, but in very short, it is an amazing program that has committees on ward, stake, multi-stake and regional levels, strong leadership and a fat budget. We have recieved the statistic of 10% activity from our area seventy. The statistics in our stake closely mirror that trend– aside from our very active singles ward, we have on average 8 active singles in our 12 other units. Most bishops have reported that they do not know the 100+ YSAs on their rolls. From working with these wards, it is very apparent that these family wards are severely lacking the resources people-wise to make the effort necessary to reach out to these YSAs. I am grateful that the Brethren are finally taking a good look at what can be done for the YSAs. The pilot program is making a big difference in our area- not just in terms of activity, but unity amongst wards and stakes. I think it will have a huge impact once implemented church wide, as Elder Packer has said it will be. But unfortunately, activities can only do so much (many married people are involved in implementing our program, and appear almost shocked at how capable we are) to change the isolating marriage culture that so many YSAs (myself included) squeamishly try to navigate. And I agree, I could live my life quite happily if I never, ever have to sit through another law of chastity talk again.

  40. 12 other units, respectively. oops. We have a freakishly large stake.

  41. #31 – personally I try very hard to take the feelings of others into consideration when looking for people to staff primary. Unfortunately, sometimes a warm body is the best I can get. I’d have a difficult time myself accepting a calling to nursery and being happy, but I would do it b/c somebody else has done it in the past (or is doing it currently) for my child. A single person wouldn’t necessarily have that same “service by reciprocation” obligation. I specified an age b/c I know that at 22, even though I was married, I would have much rather been in RS where I could socialize. Now that I’m older, I value other things and also know how important Primary teachers and such other callings are. I figured the same would be true for older single people as well.

  42. Here’s a Quibble I have with this. Out of 100 Youth males, 50% are active by the time they are 16. Here’s an old article that supports this data, which was recently made current at a local church event with data from the GA YMP.

    So, over 50% of our YSA are innactive even before they are YSAs…

  43. cew-smoke says:

    Ah, my fondest memory of being single and getting to go to the singles ward? You could hear a freakin’ pin-drop during the sacrament meeting. I’ve never been able to listen to talks so attentively and get so much out of them as I did then.

    Now with my two rugrats running around like crazy people or if they are doing well then the kids right behind us crying, yelling, etc. I only ingest about 50% of what I hear on Sundays. Not that I would change it for the world mind you, but I can say that was one really nice thing about it.

  44. So why is it considered a kind, friendly, welcoming thing to do to invite singles to sit with your family in Sac Mtg?? I’ve always figured they’d run away screaming.

  45. Just on chastity talks…

    I served in a student ward bishopric when I was first married. I also have a relative that could very well be Amri’s student ward bishop given the geographic region and age group she’s describing. Given that, my experience is that student ward bishops hit chastity talks hard and do so in great specifics because of self-preservation, at least in part.

    Student ward bishops spend an incredible amount of time counseling, and in my anecdotal experience, far more than your average “normal” ward bishop. In addition, I would guess somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 out of 5 people who schedule time to see student ward bishops are there to talk about chastity. Moreover, when they get there, many ask if what they’ve done breaks the law of chastity. Accordingly, bishops are trying to practice a little preventative maintenance. They are trying to let people what they do and don’t have to come see them about, and are trying to stop everyone else from needing to come at all.

    Admittedly, there are good and bad ways to have chastity talks, and pedantic and less pedantic ways to go about it, but I’m not sure that delving into specifics necessarily means you’re being treated like a child. It may just mean the bishop hopes that talk will allow him to be at home a little more.

  46. We always looked forward to the yearly YSA Ward “Chastity Chat” that came every September at the beginning of the new semester.

    On one memorable occaision the Bishop used baseball as an analogy and called up a young man and a young woman from the audience and showed us where the “strike zone” was located.

    Awesome.

  47. I’ve never been in a singles ward- we were married with a toddler when we got baptized.

    My impression is that, other than college wards, those singles ought to be part of the standard ward community, that they should be with everybody else, serving and friendshipping but they could have extra singles activities too.

  48. One of counselors in the bishopric in our BYU singles ward was an ob/gyn. He was the one assigned to give the chastity lessons at the beginning of the year. No idea what he told the guys, but he shocked quite a few of the girls with his bluntness!

  49. Single in the City says:

    This post really resonated with me. I had to switch singles wards recently after our bishop told us that the most important part of our Sunday worship was not taking the sacrament, but the “Munch and Mingles”, where we socialize as singles. This only perpetuates the meat market feel of the singles ward. The color-photo ward “Menu” does not help either.

    This bishop has recently called many elderly couples (I think 4 now) in the ward to leadership callings. This has sent the message to the ward that the singles are not able or mature enough to run the ward by ourselves even though at least 70+ people are present each Sunday. At activities it is not unusual for most of the bishopric and their wives, plus many of these couples, to attend. Talk about feeling babysat.

    I don’t have a good solution to the singles ward dilemma. I like meeting with people who are in the same chapter of their life and often feel like our classes and meetings have a spirit that is rarely found in family wards. I say keep them, but stop pushing the marriage thing. Let it happen naturally.

    One soapbox item: Post-grad educated women probably outnumber the men here 3 to 1. The few men that actually have some ambition sit back and let the women ask them out. It is extremely frustrating and damaging to the self-esteem of the many wonderful, beautiful women who live in my area.

  50. Talon, did he discuss first, second, and third base as well? The analogy strikes me as a really bad idea.

  51. So far as I know, Elder Dallenbach of the 70 originated the strike zone analogy. I have seen him speak on the topic once publicly myself (in 1999) and heard a report from a stake president in Indiana that he used the same analogy locally there as well.

  52. The reason I am not a major league baseball pitcher right now is because I had, in my coach’s words “control problems in the strike zone”. Maybe that would describe some of my dating disasters as well.

  53. I guess I’m not objecting to the analogy itself, but to its usefulness in YSA wards. A teacher’s quorum might benefit from it, but why treat our single adults as though they were 14 years old?

  54. Mark IV

    I don’t remember any talk about the various bases (although he may have said something about not giving anyone a “walk”), but I do recall quite clearly that in showing us all where upper zone of the “strike zone” was on the young lady he had called up, he was practically putting his hands in/on her stike zone(s), much to her embarassment.

  55. Thanks for this post. My wife and I got called Sunday to be the YSA coordinators for our ward. We have our first meeting tonight, and I’m not sure what to expect. The 10% number is about right for our ward–we have 33 YSAs and 3 active. From what little I know so far, the YSAs in our area do pretty well as a regional group. Half the bulletin boards in our chapel are covered with announcements for YSA activities.

    What things work? We want to help, but not be condescending. I know it can be rough sometimes, since I was pushing the limits of YSA-hood when we married. We met and married from a Singles Ward, and two of the bishops we had there were wonderful–they were run like real wards, only with very tiny Primaries, since there weren’t very many single parents.

    We are looking at getting out of the apartment living lifestyle and back into the homeonwners’ lifestyle. One of the things we are looking for now is a place where we can host barbecues and parties. One of our goals is to have our place be one where the people can find a friendly face and just hang out if they want.

  56. Mark XXIII says:

    Marriage, he said, is not an all-you-can-eat buffet of sexual intercourse. It is just as hard to keep the law of chastity after marriage as it is before.

    Was that former bishop a former Catholic?
    I suppose his comments are code for discouraging oral sex. I think its been decades since I’ve been a ward where a bishop presumed he could dictate intramarriage behaviour to a married couple. Such a statement could not have been made without immediate disagreement (and some amount of mocking) from multiple sources in the last several wards we’ve lived in.

  57. Master Of The Obvious says:

    Activity rates among singles is low because singles want to drink booze and have sex. If you don’t believe me, find out what percentage of singles who don’t attend church drink booze or have sex. While correlation is not causation, I’m guessing very few people want to go to a place where they are told their previous night’s activities are wrong.

    It is infinitely easier to be a member of this church when you are married. Abolishing singles wards will not change that. I’m agnostic on the question of whether it would improve the worship experience of singles as a group. Certainly it would improve the worship experience of some member, but many others would no doubt be less happy in a traditional ward. In any case, Amri is correct in thinking that adult singles ought to be treated as adults.

    Adult marrieds ought to be treated as adults as well, but that’s a different topic.

  58. I am currently serving as the Bishop of a YSA ward. I recently had a debate with my SP about whether the YSA wards in our Stake should be abolished. Although I think that some of my ward members would be better off in a regular ward, I am convinced that a significant portion of our ward would become inactive if we did that. It is easy for those whose commitment is lukewarm (and they are legion) to get lost in a ward that is designed for families. Since I am not single, I have no personal experience, but a great many singles have told me that they feel very isolated in a regular ward.

    It is true that the YSA wards probably do seem too much like meat markets, and that is too bad. However, I am able to spend a huge amount of time on individual counselling that would never happen in a regular ward. I know every member well, I have meet with all of them individually, they have all been in my home on several occasions, and we have a sense of unity and camaraderie that far exceeds anything I ever experienced in a regular ward.

    I do think that members of YSA wards are sometimes treated in a condescending manner. I have heard enough horror stories to know that this problem is too common. I don’t understand why we assume that twenty something marrieds are any more responsible or mature than twenty something singles. I have never given the marriage talk, the chastity talk or castigated people for not dating enough. After I had been Bishop for several months, I had several of my ward members tell me that noticed that I never talked about those topics, and they thanked me profusely. To be honest, it never really occurred to me that I should spend any time on those issues. I am quite confident that nobody in my ward is in need of any reminders from me that they are not yet married and so maybe they do something about that, and I am equally confident that they all know where the “strike zone” is–to use that rather unfortunate analogy.

  59. Struwelpeter says:

    The real question as to the appropriateness of Singles Wards is whether they help accomplish the mission of the church to bring souls to Christ, and whether they do so more effectively than the alternatives. I, for one, have come to believe that the church most effectively does this in scenarios where the congregation is diverse. What do we gain by grouping congregations by ethnic background, age, etc. Part of me would love to be in the Short Fat Ornery Litigators Who Have a Hard Time Getting their Home Teaching Done 1st Ward, but I doubt that I would see the spiritual growth there that I do in my current ward.

    I fully acknowledge the occasional need for language-based wards so that those who truly cannot understand the gospel in the language of the ward in whose boundaries they live can be spiritually fed. My experience tells me that many of those who attend foreign language wards do so for different reasons–often explained to me as the need to “preserve culture.” The church’s job is not to preserve culture; it is to bring souls to Christ.

    My experiences in singles wards, one ward pre-mission, and one ward post-mission, were radically different. My pre-mission ward was very gospel focused, with good spiritual meetings, and fun, inexpensive activities that did not demand too much time or money. I experienced much spiritual growth there, and think I can speak for the majority of the other members in saying that.

    In contrast, the ward I attended for two years after returning from my mission was a classic meat market, with much more emphasis on Super Activities than on the Savior. I really did not enjoy it.

    I’m not sure there is a simple answer to this all, or a one-sized fits all solution. I suspect some in my second singles ward had a positive experience and would be shocked to hear how negative it was for me.

  60. #47, we may have been in the same BYU ward. That counselor is the reason I will only ever go to a female ob/gyn.

  61. My former stake invites all the young singles in the stake to attend the same “family ward.” It’s not a perfect solution, but seems to provide the benefits of both scenarios. The young singles have their own separate gospel doctrine classes, but meet with the “families” for sacrament meeting and RS/Phd meetings. The bishopric includes a young single member as a counselor, and singles are fully integrated into the other leadership positions and callings in the ward.

  62. Beijing,

    If you were in Horne Hall in the 1993-1994 range, the it was the same counselor. I thought it was funny, or at least watching the reactions of many of the girls was. I think I’d been exposed to a little more than the average Mormon girl; I was the only Mormon in my high school, other than my sister, so what I heard at school and from friends prepared me for some of what the counselor had to say.

  63. Singles’ wards are definitely good for chastity talk stories. They make me laugh til I cry. In a talk about pornography, that same bishop kept saying that pornography was such a penetrating topic while simultaneously pounding his hand into his fist.
    There are two wards that meet together in Boston, the other Bishop treated us like his peers.

    JAB-If I feel a part of the community I’d serve anywhere, bc it’s my community. Just don’t leave a single girl in nursery for too many months.

    Gary, anytime you make a change you’re gonna lose people. My theory is that in the long run, you’re going to be able to keep more singles active for longer if they are full participants in a family ward with a good YSA group to have activities and scripture groups with.

    CS Eric-I think just be friends with them and keep activities going with some spiritual mixed in there too (like a scripture group) We just want friends that understand us, and for singles at least some of those should be single because our church is a married church but all our friends shouldn’t be single. That stunts us. That’s why we need friends in our community that are old and young, married, divorced, male, female etc. Good luck and don’t give up even if sometimes you plan stuff and no one comes. That’ll probably happen to you too.

    Master of the Obvious-while sex and booze are very alluring, seriously most of my friends would have stayed if they felt like they belonged. The sex and the booze happened way after they stopped going to Church.

    And Single in the City–this is a hard stage to be in, no doubt about it. In Boston we do counts sometimes how many women before the first guy sitting in the pews of sacrament meeting. The low: 24 girls before we hit the first guy. The high: 62. We want to be loved and get married but more than that going to church with people that are exactly the same as you are (smart, capable early thirties women with a lil bit of a Mormon complex) is hard work and doesn’t make good religion in my mind. I don’t have advice for you unfortunately, just that I know what you’re talking about and it totally sucks.

  64. I like the suggestion of #60. Even as a married-with-children member you can experience isolation in a family ward if you don’t find anyone with some interests in common with you. Having all the young singles attend the same ward would up the numbers for them but also provide all of us a way to get to know each other – because I do think it goes both ways.

  65. Seriously JAB, if I had a running partner like you (even though you’re married and I’m single) then I would be well-adjusted from the good talks and in amazingly good shape.

  66. I did run for 3 years with a single friend and we both got a ton out of it – from the talking as well as the exercise. But, in the normal course of events, I’m running around doing Primary stuff on Sunday and how would I go about developing a friendship with a fun, busy single person unless they were my counselor or something (so we’d have reason to spend quantities of time together). Opportunities just don’t seem to easily present themselves to develop a friendships – schedules are totally opposite for one thing.

    I did have a thought, though probably a wrong one – maybe bishoprics assume that young, single, working women are too busy for heavy-duty callings so they call the SAHM with a more flexible schedule instead rather than run the risk of overloading the working person. I’m sure there’s a million counter-examples out there, though. I think that putting singles in leadership callings would go a long way towards integrating the ward, though, b/c they’d have more input on the type of activities that occur.

  67. JAB- I don’t know why singles don’t run the Mormon Church, except that GBH is single and he does run the Mormon Church. While I am busy, my life is much more discretionary time wise. I can make room for a calling if I need to/want to or if I’m just the greeter at church then I can fill up my life with the other stuff I want to do. You and others have a certain amount of time committed to your families. So, seriously, why again don’t single people have all the major callings? Anyway, I basically think it just depends on the person and how much they can give, regardless of their marital status.

  68. Eric Russell says:

    Being in my 7th Singles/Student Ward, I am familiar with all you say, amri. But I doubt any of the problems would be solved by eliminating Singles Wards. As ED points out, it’s the people, not the ward. Even in a family ward, what few singles there were would still get together and play childish games. The only thing that integration would do would be to provide fewer opportunities for interaction among singles.

    No doubt an influx of singles would be a boon to any family ward. But you know what? Screw them. Seriously. They’re already married for goodness sakes; they should have little to complain about.

  69. Interesting thread–I am in a family branch that also functions as a singles ward (they ask the singles in the area to attend the branch). I’ve found that I have more in common with the married folks and so hang out with them more than I do with the singles, who still get together to watch Disney movies and play silly games. I do appreciate having the singles concentrated in one place because we do have many life issues in common and so can discuss how that influences our approach to the gospel. And sometimes, honestly, I do have my fingers crossed that my special someone will move in and I’ll meet them in church. But I also am so glad that I am in a family setting because most of my friends in church are marrieds. I think I have more common with them because I am older and post-grad, unlike most of the singles. I like the idea of having options–I don’t think that there is one easy fix to the problem of why single (men especially) often leave the church.

  70. This post really resonates with me. I’m a 25 year old YSA attending a family ward. My current ward is great, but in my previous ward, I felt like I had to constantly justify my decision not to attend a singles’ ward.
    There is no singles’ ward in my stake, but several of the neighboring stakes have them, and many people leave the stake to attend the YSA wards. This leaves about 10 active YSAs in my stake (I’m the only one in my ward), which makes it difficult to have activities.
    Personally, the lack of activities doesn’t bother me as much as it did when I was younger. I actually feel I have more in common with my married friends in my ward than I do with the 19 year old YSAs in the stake. This has to do with being closer in age, and having similar life experiences (i.e. mission, college, careers). I do occasionally wonder how I’m going to find someone to marry, but it isn’t a pressing concern to me right now. If it happens, it happens, but I’m not going to make it the focus of my church experience.

  71. When the members of our stake’s singles ward over age 30 were “kicked out” and sent “back” to their regular home wards, very few continued to be active. I am told that in California, similar experiences occurred 5 or 10 years ago when the area presidency directed the disbanding of singles and language units (which directive was overridden by the First Presidency before all such units were eliminated).

    No one forces young single adults to attend singles wards. We have several young single adults in our ward who have chosen not to attend the singles ward, and they are doing fine in our wards–they are active and have callings.

    Having a singles ward creates an option for young single adults that married adults do not have–a choice of Church congregations to worship in on Sunday. The young single adult, thus, can choose where he or she can best meet his or her spiritual, emotional and social needs. I think some can better meet their needs in a regular ward and others in a singles ward. I see no benefit to eliminating this option in the hope that everyone’s needs will be met through only one option.

    I am of the same opinion with respect to language units.

  72. Since I’m on haitus, I’m not really here, but here’s what I think:

    Never been to a Singles ward, convert at 29- but I know a few singles now in our stake, and I would LOVE to have them in our regular ward. As a relative outsider, the whole culling of the twenty-somthings is just bizarre. I don’t get it- aren’t there other, social perhaps, ways to meet LDS singles than actually AT sacrament meeting?

    If a singles ward is anything like the singles scene I remember from before marriage, ugh… pressure and stupidity.

    I wouldn’t have played that game either. I’m all for hilarity and I can even go for looking stupid sometimes, but a blindfolded barn animal? Ugh. Nope.

  73. Master Of The Obvious says:

    amri,

    You are also probably right that many more YSAs would stick around if they felt they belonged. On the one hand, the church aspires to be more than a social club. On the other hand, fellowship with the saints is supposed to be a key part of the religion. At the end of the day I suspect few YSA’s feel like they belong.

    It’s hard to be single in the Mormon church. Institutionally we have few well-defined places for singles–so in order to remain connected to the organization a single must work harder to carve out a place in the community. I admire very much those who have done so. The Relief Society President in my ward is a personal hero to me in part because of how fully she partakes in the life of the church, seemingly never feeling diminished by her single status.

  74. I’ve had both good and bad experiences in singles wards. I think when singles wards work well they allow people who are facing similar concerns/in a similar place in life to connect and find like-minded people (and they allow singles in the church to not feel so alone). Unfortunately, I find that because many of the people are in similar places in life and facing similar concerns, a lot of the people in the ward are worried about the same kinds of things, and the worry just seems to get amplified; and if the leadership and ward membership isn’t careful, this amplified worry can turn the atmosphere of the ward quite toxic (I don’t know how else to describe it).

    About 5 years ago I finally had to leave the singles ward I was in because the atmosphere there was driving me crazy (and then I had some roommate issues, and some problems with the bishop). I *loved* the family ward that I went to. (And, Julie, I got called to serve in the Primary, and I *loved* it. When I got released because I was moving, I was very, very sad.)

    Anyway, sorry, Amri that I don’t have any solutions. Though I do agree that the whole condescension thing is a problem and needs to stop, whatever happens with the singles wards themselves.

  75. I am in a unique position, but I really enjoy it! The small urban branch I attend is set up so that all of the single adults in the Stake area plus all of the families in the Branch area are able to worship together and serve each other. I am in the last year of my undergraduate education, and I absolutely love this branch. I will be a little sad to move on to the singles ward in Boston when I graduate in May. I’ll surely miss the chance to speak with such a wide range of sisters in the Relief Society (young mothers, strong matriarchs who literally anchor several generations of their families, ancient Baptist women who randomly wander in, middle-aged divorcees, etc.), see random little kids kneeling on the floor with drawing pad on their chairs during Sacrament meeting, and still interact with people my age/in similar stages in life.
    In response to an earlier statement (#29)

    However, do you think the average 22-year-old would want to be stuck away with a primary class each sunday?

    I actually love working in Primary! I may be an exception, but after spending all week surrounded by college students, I find it refreshing and so uplifting to be able to share a little bit of time with these amazing children, many of them the first generation of their family to live in America. In fact, teaching the Primary children has often been the only thing keeping me going to church. I really feel necessary; there would be a serious consequence if I didn’t attend. It has helped me to focus on the true meaning of Christianity: love and service. Not to mention that they always put me in such a fabulous mood that I’m forever grateful to them for making my Sundays a little brighter. :)

  76. (“they” = “the children,” in my last sentence, in case that was unclear)

  77. Okay, maybe I’m cynical, but someone has to say it:

    I think singles wards are in place–and often encouraged–because in a way members are encouraged to spy on each other. From the VT/HT program to bishop’s interviews, the Church is designed to lovingly pry into other people’s buisness.

    Without wives or husbands to keep people in check and to nag wavering folks to go to church, pay tighting, or stop watching R rated movies, the singles ward is the next best thing.

    It was in singles wards that I was told to confess masturbation to the bishop, even though the bishop was only two years older than I! That would never, ever, happen in a married ward–a married woman confessing her private actions to a young bishop? ONly if adultery were involved.

    In singles wards, sometimes the bishops and his wife will match couples up together, or TELL A POTENTIAL SUITOR THE WEAKNESSES OR STRENGHTHS of another member, just “to be cautious.” In my ward (actually, Amri’s ward, several years ago!)we knew who slept around and who didn’t pay their tighing. Once the bishop “accidentally” sent a list of temple worth members to everyone on his d-list–all members of the ward. Everyone now that tithing and LoC issues were the only reason for denying recommends. My, the speculation that went on that month! and beyond!

    Sorry for the typos. For some reason I cannot see the screen when I type? Does anyone else have this prob?

  78. I agree with Stapley that this issue is one of the greatest facing the church. I wish we had more of a historic perspective on it. When did singles become so different from other adult members? What is the history of singles wards? Did all of this start with the baby boomers? Is marriage the solution for singles or is all the talk about marraige merely the symptom of something else? Do statistics about delayed marriages and decreased births, in and out of the church, prove that LDS members have been steadily following the ways of the world? If things were not always this way, should that give us hope that our problems can possibly be reversed?

  79. The downsides to integrating singles into family wards? Keep in mind I am speaking as someone who has been in a civil marriage for 5 years before joining.

    The older people (and maybe some younger) would be nagging the 20-somethings about “when are you gonna get married?”

    Young ladies might find that the only eligible guys are the young Elders or Sisters, especially in an area like mine where only 1 out of 10 students attend college in-state.

    The presence of young children might trigger the old “biological clock” to tick a lot louder.

    Being surrounded by married people might cause a sense of “left-behind-ness.”

    I felt this way when I was in college and all my old high school buddies were married and had kids already. I felt like the only guy who married late at the ripe old age of 24. My wife got weird looks from the hospital staff when she informed them that our daughter was her first pregnancy, being 25 at the time. Her roommate in the hospital was 16. I’m not even talking about Church members looking at her like an old spinster.

    This is obviously not strictly a Church issue. For that matter, where I live there’s only 1 stake, each family ward serving 3 counties!

    There of course would be positive things about integrating families and singles. The education majors could take on callings in teaching Sunday School, Primary. I’m not so sure about teaching Seminary since as a 20-something, hours before noon didn’t exist for me.

    Of course, it would be more convenient to allow families to attend the singles branch in my area since I live in walking distance from the University. The nearest stake is in the next town.

  80. While singles’ wards are for some, I hated them. I found them deeply depressing. I had no special desire to be married at that time (I was only 24, for Pete’s sake!) and the desperation on one hand and the let’s-play-church vibe on the other was stifling. It is true that sometimes the activities felt like they had been adapted from youth activities–but these were organized by the YSAs themselves.

    So I went to a family ward where there were only three married people on the Ward Council. And we had informal FHEs and BBQs every now and then. And nobody ever said anything to me about getting married. (Although I was assigned SA sisters to HT more than could be called coincidence.) And when I did get married, I was the ripe old age of 33 and my wife was RS president of a family ward, and she had been primary president before that.

    There are single RS presidents andhigh councilors and stake YW presidents; in my UK stake, there was a single councilor in the stake presidency. (Although not for long–he got married within a year.) The issue needs creative thinking and open mindedness and the singles’ ward structure does not always facilitate that, but it certainly could.

  81. Isn’t it ultimately about giving up stereotypes (and dealing with the reality behind those stereotypes)? It sounds as if singles who live in areas where there are fewer members feel more utilized and thus are less separated from the larger congregation. Bishoprics must extend heavy duty callings to singles b/c there is no one else and thus any (false) reason they may have for not giving callings to singles is overcome. When singles have higher profile callings and are interacting with more people, then they become more a part of the ward.
    I don’t have an outgoing enough personality to invite random people over just for the sake of meeting them. I have to have some interaction with them first and working with someone in a church calling or VTing or ward choir or something goes a long way toward feeling comfortable with someone.

    On the other hand, some of the responsibility for fitting in lies on the shoulders of the singles. Yes, married couples should invite singles over for BBQs, etc, but singles should invite marrieds over as well – whether as couples or just one of the pair for a girl’s night out or something. When you’re invited to the Pampered Chef party or the Stampin Up party, go. It’s not about liking the product or how you feel about that form of sales, it’s about meeting other women (I think single men have few options for integrating than single women). If you’re willing to run at 6am, find out who else runs and ask if you can join them or make a general announcement that you’re looking for a running partner and be willing to go at a time that isn’t necessarily the best time for you.

  82. I agree jab! I am a single in a married ward and am currently on an outreach mission to the married people my age. After hosting a few “mixed” events (married and single) they’ve now started to think of including me in their couples activities. Sometimes it can feel lonely being the only single person hanging out with a bunch of couples, but that’s real life (both in an out of the church). I think we have to be proactive about trying to find our place, whether it’s in a married or a singles ward.

  83. Carol F. says:

    “I know I would not struggle the way I do had I married when I were 22 or younger and found myself operating in the typical Mormon way.”

    I find this difficult to believe. You say you struggle now when you have absolute control of your schedule to read scriptures, pray, and attend the temple. I think the future will be much more bleak–when you do not even have time to shower, or when you have interrupted Chinese-water-torture sleep for years on end, when Sacrament Meeting is (in the words of an investigator) like Chuck E. Cheese’s. Believe me, there is room in the typical Mormon way for less faith.

    “The one big difference is the Singles Ward in Bloomington definitely had higher caliber speakers in Sacrament.”

    I got married at 29 out of the Singles Wards after my 40th blind date or so. I acutely remember the feeling of not having been “picked for the team”. On the other hand, what I still miss now about the singles wards (after eight married years) is loving leaders, well-planned talks and activities, everyone putting their best foot forward—really trying (!), and most of all, time to reflect during the Sacrament. I loved looking around during the Sacrament (this is Arizona) and seeing almost all of the heads bowed in prayer. That is not even a possibility now. I have tiny, tiny goals in Sacrament now.

    “On the other hand, singles wards play to the lowest common denominator – the 30 year old, out of work, basement dwelling, computer junkie, sex crazed single man and the low self esteem, sad and lonely, depressed, I can’t be complete until I am married woman.”

    The family wards also play to the lowest common denominator – and how very low it is. This makes for some altogether uninspiring lessons where I live. So you can count on at least two times to feel lonely as a woman with an education.

    “Adult marrieds ought to be treated as adults as well, but that’s a different topic.”

    I agree! I would love to have that discussion sometime.

    “Do you think an influx of singles in your regular wards could make things better, worse or you still might not notice?”

    I think that they would be welcome and spice things up a bit. I think it would translate into only 1-2 people per ward, though. And I think eventually the singles in their 20’s would wish for the singles wards again. My friends in their 30’s have had much luck going to family wards and marrying after a few years. A lot of them married guys they had met earlier in the singles wards, though.

  84. I loved my YSA experiences – loved them. Of course, I LIKED being around a whole bunch of single people. I liked the social aspects. Friday night dances – four hours of dancing without nasty smoke and drunk people hitting on you – FUN. I still miss the dances, and I got married over 11 years ago. I met my husband at a YSA dance, and my best friends (male AND female) to this day, are people I met in YSA wards and had great experiences and friendships with.

    But I’ll be the first one to admit that in my YSA ward, church wasn’t about church. It wasn’t about spirituality. It was about dating. Testimonies were given to make an impression, every ward activity was an opportunity to interact with the opposite sex. Of course, at that point in time, I didn’t care. I wasn’t there for church either. I was 100% active and always had been, and I was faithful and had a testimony, but I wasn’t thinking about Jesus when I got ready for church. I was thinking about Scott or Mike or whoever.

    Basically, I think the YSA wards serve a pretty specific purpose. It may not be politically correct to say so, but I do think it’s a valid purpose. People in our religion typically (not always, but typically) want to get married, and the higher the concentration of single people, the better opportunity you have to find someone you click with. At some point, I can understand that becoming tiresome, but I don’t think you’re going to be able to get a massive group of single people to get together and eliminate the meat market mentality. That’s human nature. I think if you want to be around other young singles, you’ve gotta expect it, more or less.

    Oh, and when I was attending, the rule was that if you were 30 and over, you were not allowed to attend the YSA ward. You had to attend your family ward. They did not have an over 30 singles ward in our city.

    Treating mature singles like children though – inexcusable.

  85. I am 22 and have no desire to work in the primary.

    I love my singles ward, and I love the leadership we have and the opportunities we have to serve. I wonder, however, if the isolation isn’t to our detriment sometimes. A lot of YSAs put marriage on a pedestal as some kind of trouble free solution to all life’s problems, I think in part because they are not exposed to a variety of married people. Conversely, I think we experience as much discrimination and offense from well-meaning marrieds as we do because they are kept away from us.

  86. Have you seen the latest statistics on the marriage rate at BYU? Only 53% to 54% of the students who graduated in 2006 were married. In only a few years, most of the people who graduate from BYU each year will be single. Given this trend, I think the Church is unlikely to abandon its progams for singles.

  87. Fascinating discussion. I’ve spent over a decade in various singles wards, with occasional forays into family wards. The singles wards have been a mixed bag–some wonderful and some terrible. But on the whole, I can’t say that I think their existence is a bad thing. My experience is that it’s much easier to feel marginalized in a family ward, where singleness is likely to be viewed as the defining characteristic of a person. I like being in a singles ward because in that context, I don’t feel like my singleness is seen as central to who I am. I’m at a point age-wise where I’m probably going to transition back to a family ward in the near future, and that’s the thing that worries me the most; in a singles ward I feel like I get to be a person, and in a family ward I fear I’ll be reduced to a “single.”

    I’d also add that the worst condescension I’ve encountered has been in a family ward. I still remember the day we were asked to fill out forms for something or other, and the demographic categories included “adult” and “young adult.” All married people were explicitly included in the “adult” group, but singles under the age of 30 were “young adults.” And that pretty much summed up my experience in that particular ward.

    On the other hand, I really can see the points that have been raised about wards ideally integrating people who come from a variety of backgrounds and drawing on the diverse strengths they bring. I should also admit that while my own experience with family wards as a single hasn’t been good, I’ve known other singles who’ve had more positive experiences with them.

  88. Am in the singles branch presidency. It is an odd mixture that the SP has chosen. The three of us are *ancient*, the BP in his mid 70’s, me, mid 60’s and the other councilor retired. Two of us have had prostate operations!

    It appears to be working. There is not much condescension here, we are old enough to have gotten over it this.

    I am reminded of the Australian aboriginal custom of marrying the young people at puberty to the old men and women of the group. This was to teach the young some manners. After the old people had died, the young, but presumably educated, people were left free to choose their own mates.

    So, we are, presumably, called to teach manners. Does it work? Oddly, I guess it does. My own children are all older than 30. If I do not know how to talk to younger people with respect after this, I do not know how I would ever learn.

    One comment: my youngest son, who did not like the singles branch, pointed out that there are some really odd pairings in the singles branch. Not that this is bad, just unexpected. People with way different backgrounds meeting and marrying. Just an observation.

    I am very much in favor of the singles wards and branches. I guess it is not good for everyone, like my son, but for most. The members of the branch get to talk twice a year, too.

  89. Isn’t it sad that wards marginalize single adults? There SHOULD be no “ites” among us and we SHOULD be ONE IN CHRIST.

    I’m a big believer in trans-generational communities and think that a 22 yr old NEEDS to be learning from the 88 year old elderly widow, and that the 14 year old mia maid NEEDS to ALSO see a college/career single adult female as a YW mentor. (Think about it . . . right now, all the YW see are wives and mothers . . . they don’t get to look at YW leaders 5-10 years older than they are who are unmarried.)

  90. Why are we compartmentalizing ourselves— it is an inherent part of our LDS culture. Think of how many SEPERATE classrooms it takes to run a full-size ward!!! Boy are we good at cubby-holing ourselves. Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, Christ and Martha crossed cultural boundries such as age, marital stautus, gender, etc. However we are trying to ENFORCE ourselves in making spiritual friendships within very narrow and unnatural contraints.

    Also, aren’t singles wards kinda like the blind leading the blind when it comes to big issues across the life span? Are they accomplishing the basic mission of the church? Are singles being spiritually nourished? In the handful of singles wards I’ve been in, the bishop’s wives and other PH leader’s wives either attend the family wards by themselves or get very anxious to return to the family wards. I believe they are craving a part of the spiritual nourishment that comes from relating with all ages and stages (primary kids, youth, elderly etc.) that they just empty without.

    I’d vote for a return of the singles to the wards and a strengthening of singles programs and institute programs.

    *D Allen, I’m on the other side of the camp from you. I don’t think that exposing YS to the spectrum of human development (babies to elderly folks) makes the young single’s biological clock EXPLODE. Why are we trying to HIDE human developmental stages? Isn’t it better to learn from them and remain part of the ‘circle of life’ instead of just the spoke (so to speak). Even if some young kid feels the tick tock of a bio clock when cooing at a baby, all they need to do is wait five minutes to see the terrible twos exit from the sunbeam class, see a disheveled mother of 5 kids under 8 chase after them, or get suckered into volunteering at weebelos day camp for a week to shut that tick tock off.

  91. Not Ophelia says:

    Well, FWIW I was called to my singles’ ward primary . . .

  92. I have to say that I was very happy to leave BYU and go to a family ward on the East coast. I had a bishop who was no respecter of persons, and I had a fantastic experience. We were really a family. I loved it. I loved my student ward experience, but I tend to be one to agree with the integration idea once that era is over. I am a fan of having singles as part of family wards. I think it can benefit everyone.

    My single male friends over 30 aren’t even allowed to serve in the temple.

    That’s strange, because I have a single, almost-40 friend who is a temple worker. I wonder if there is a set rule about this, or if it depends on the area?

  93. Julie M. Smith says:

    I always find it interesting that some singles complain that married people see them as defined solely by the ‘single’ label. Of course, in making that observation, they are defining other people solely by the ‘married’ label.

    (I’m not sure why, but I have more single than married friends. It may be because I don’t fit the Scrapbooking Domestic Goddess Mold. It may be because I socialize [sometimes] without my husband, making it more comfortable, perhaps, to socialize with single women than it would be if everything were done by couples. I don’t know.)

  94. I didn’t read all of the replies in detail, so forgive me if I’m repeating someone here…

    The bottom line is this–if you like you’re different (e.g. attending a different ward from everyone else that is based only on your marital status), you’re going to be treated like you’re different. Singles’ wards are freakin’ ridiculous. Don’t go. Eventually what will be left is a self-selected group of immature little yahoos who enjoy kindergarten games and do need talking-tos by people with an overinflated sense of self-importance. Or maybe the institution will just wither and die a long overdue death.
    Finally…if, at this point in the history of technological development, you can’t keep in touch with friends outside of church, well…You’ve got bigger freakin’ problems than a singles’ ward.

  95. This is not going to happen, but if the Law of Chastity question were omitted from the temple recommend question for singles wards, or if there were a “dont’ ask, don’t tell” policy about sexual behavior (i.e. let adult singles repent on their own instead of crawling to the bishop for every real or imagined infraction, no matter what the bshopric or SP says)–this is the only way singles wards could be successful.

    Single congregations in other faith work, precisely because of this difference. Adults are treated like adults rather than wayward children who constantly need correction, supervision and shaming.

    It makes perfect sense for adulterers to consult with a bishop and spouse a la marriage counseling, but I’ve never understood why single adults are treated like adolescents when it comes to their private sexual matters–whether or not they are even sexually active. This is why a lot of people I know hate singles wards.

  96. I have always understood the principle rationales for singles wards to be (1) attracting people who are interested in associating with their peers, (2) providing a sufficient number of potential marriage candidates to facilitate marriage and (3) avoiding the stigmatiziation of being one of few single people in a primarily married environment. How are any of these applicable in areas such as major metro areas where a majority or very large minority of the Church members are single? In such areas, where singles would constitute a huge part of each ward if everyone went to a standard geographically defined ward, it seems to me that you could have the best of both worlds — extensive interaction with fellow singles but also service and interaction with many other kinds of Saints.

  97. Re 95:

    How would that change in a family ward? The bishops there still ask about both fornication and adultery, regardless of marital status.

  98. I agree with 95. Why should adult singles have to answer questions about their sex lives at all? It is disturbing on any number of levels. If singles were allowed to repent in private, whether in single or family wards, the activity level would be much greater.

  99. Why should adult singles have to answer questions about their sex lives at all?

    The same reason married adults do. Bishops have very specific mandates to restrict many of our sacraments and ordinances to those willing to live their lives in certain ways, for one. In that regard, it would be difficult for a bishop to fulfill those obligations without at least being able to ask questions. Moreover, the church has long believed that counselling with the judges in Israel tends to bring a more full and real repentance process.

    If singles were allowed to repent in private, whether in single or family wards, the activity level would be much greater.

    I don’t know how this could be proven without potentially disastrous effects on the church. More importantly, greater attendance is not necessarily the most important goal; real repentance and understanding of the atonement is. You and I can probably disagree on whether a bishop is instrumental to that process or not, but my experience is that an enormous amount of people only really understand the gravity of sin–particularly sexual sin–after discussing matters with a bishop.

  100. As far as I can tell, in the last 20-30 years, bishops have been much less stringent about church discipline and what constitutes disciplinary-worthy action. I have nown adulters who are restricted from taking the sacrament for a couple of weeks.

    On the other hand, you have singles wards, the primary purpose of which is to ensure that the singles marry–either each other, or other LDS members. Bishops of singles wards often assume that because we are all human and therefore all sexual beings, everyone is on the road to fornication and degredation, whether or not that’s actually so. I once asked a bishop, after he kept asking me “Are you SURE there’s nothing else you want to go over re. the law of Chastity? Are you SURE?”–“How would you feel if you had to confess each and every time you had a sexual experience?” If it’s not adultery (i.e. cheating on another person, breaching a marital vow) than IT SHOULD BE PRIVATE. Everyone has some kind of sex, sometime. And it varies from bishop to bishop how much it’s expected to be confessed or “dealt with.” People–especially not single people, who feel bad enough for being alone–should have to be made to grovel for having sexual thoughts, masturbating, or anything else.

    And that’s the troupble with singles wards. Singles are not asexual adolescents with jobs and car payments.

    Also, ome single members even use the information they get from the VT/HT network to see who’s dateable, who’s sleeping around, who’s had disciplinary action taken, etc. It’s not just worship–it’s an IRL dating service.

    Sorry for the typos. It’s taking forver for the words to show up after I start typing.

  101. As far as I can tell, in the last 20-30 years, bishops have been much less stringent about church discipline and what constitutes disciplinary-worthy action. I have nown adulters who are restricted from taking the sacrament for a couple of weeks.

    I’ve served in three bishoprics in the last ten years in which I sat through probably a couple of dozen disciplinary councils, and can state that this statement is categorically contrary to my experience.

    If it’s not adultery (i.e. cheating on another person, breaching a marital vow) than IT SHOULD BE PRIVATE.

    You’ve said that twice now, but I’m not sure where you’re getting it. Bishops deal with serious sin. Period. Admittedly, adultery is probably more serious than fornication because there are more covenants involved, but fornication breaks covenants as well, and does so quite seriously. It looks to me that you’re parochializing (sp?) the bishop’s duty as that of marriage counsellor only, as opposed to a judge in Israel.

  102. I’m not sure if it’s just because I’ve had friends that went through such bad experiences with bishops forcing them into confessionals, but I”m with Rach. Bishops shouldn’t go digging when the person doesn’t want to bring it up. And I have met bishops that go digging. Definitely not all bishops of singles wards, but some of them seem down right pervy in the aggressive way they try to help you be sexually pure.

    I think I said this already, but Singles’ Wards exist primarily to get people married right? With Mormon demographics the way they are, it is high time we realize that not all Mormon women are getting a Mormon man. No matter how much faith or obedience or promises in patriarchal blessings. There just aren’t enough faithful men for the faithful women. I think we should solve problems now with that in mind, rather than just trying to think of more ways for people to meet each other.

  103. Policies and practices constantly change. Not too long ago in Church history, excommunications and disfellowshipments were announced in public in Sacrament meeting or Elders Quorum meetings, etc.

    For the purposes of those in singles’ wards, it’s roughly the same thing. If you don’t have a temple recommend and still pay tithing, going in to meet the bishop is pretty much a way of putting a red F on your shirt.

    There is no reason sexual sins by single members (everything from thoughts and masturbation to full on intercourse) can’t be confessed of and repented in private with God. Generally, if people have premarital sex and then confess decades later in order to avoid the shame of telling the bishop (e.g. for engaged couples) they are not disfellowshipped, ex-ed, or otherwise punished. I think all single members should take note, or that the Church leadership should make a statement about it.

  104. There is no reason sexual sins by single members (everything from thoughts and masturbation to full on intercourse) can’t be confessed of and repented in private with God.

    None except that you’d be lying in the temple interview.

    Is confession a policy? I don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone else does either. If it’s just a policy, it probably has been a policy in several dispensations. But so long as the church is the depository and administrator for our uniquely effacacious ordinances, the answer to that question doesn’t matter.

    Keep in mind, only God forgives, and most repentance is has to happen with just the sinner and God. No bishop has the right to forgive. But as I’ve stated above, for what I believe to be very wise reasons, bishops are asked to help jump start that process, and otherwise protect our sacraments.

    Generally, if people have premarital sex and then confess decades later in order to avoid the shame of telling the bishop (e.g. for engaged couples) they are not disfellowshipped, ex-ed, or otherwise punished.

    Your example assumes confession. Again, the bishop isn’t there to forgive, only to help the repentance process and protect the church. In this example, both have already occurred, probably. And nothing in that hypothetical absolved these sinners from the need for confession.

  105. Sorry. I think I’ve made it abundantly clear that I am incapable of using the block quote function.

  106. Re: Trends in Church discipline

    “I’ve served in three bishoprics in the last ten years in which I sat through probably a couple of dozen disciplinary councils, and can state that this statement is categorically contrary to my experience.”

    Jimbob,

    My experience in serving in various bishoprics and on a high council during the past 23 years is quite different. Of course, I am aware that there continue to be disparities in the way different leaders feel inspired to call on formal discipline. Nonetheless, in my experience, since a relative high point (or low point) in the mid-1970s, the frequency of councils and the severity of sanctions imposed has declined over that period.

  107. makakona says:

    wow, i’m surprised to see how singles wards have changed! when i went, there was NO way they’d have allowed anyone with children in, never mind actually allowing the children themselves! i had a friend who conceived out of wedlock, placed the child with adoptive parents, and STILL wasn’t allowed back to the singles branch.

    i thought the barnyard game sounded fun, but maybe sans the hands and knees part? i never really had any issues with our singles wards. but i did have a branch president sit down with me and someone i had JUST started dating to talk about chastity. i was mortified and didn’t understand the relevance, given that we’d barely met and had only been on two dates.

    our stake has a TON of ysa/sa activities, yet we have loads of ysa’s and sa’s in our ward, ranging from fresh into college to all the way up the ladder. everyone seems to do just fine and the single adult men even have (gasp!) callings. i guess it’s more common for single women to have rsp or ywp callings than it is for single men to have eqp or ymp callings? our ward seems to be even steven.

  108. Eric Russell says:

    Rach, poising TR questions about chastity in terms of treating adults like adolescents is disingenuous at best and verging on DAMU level hostility in actuality.

    amy c said, “Why should adult singles have to answer questions about their sex lives at all?”

    Why should anyone? In fact, why should adults have to answer questions about their personal finances, their personal underwear or their personal beliefs? Why have temple recommend interviews at all?

  109. I think I said this already, but Singles’ Wards exist primarily to get people married right?

    Is this the case? I’ve always thought part of the reason was to help single adults not feel or get lost in the shuffle, and to have a strong group of people they can relate to to help them stay active during a time of life when many fall inactive. I could be off there, but that was the understanding I had (can’t tell you exactly why at this moment, but….)

  110. There just aren’t enough faithful men for the faithful women

    You may be right but the solution to this is not advocating marriage to nonmembers. It seems to me there was a solution discovered back in the early days of the church. Let’s see now, what was it called…

  111. NoNameNedra says:

    I can vouch for the “adolescent” treatment of unmarried members, especially in singles wards vis a vis temple recommend questions.

    Basically, you have the only married people in the ward (bishop/bishop’s counselors) asking about single people’s private lives–not as equals, but as “judges.” True, bishops in family wards are also judges in Israel, but they’re on an equal plane. They’re asking other married people if they are happy in their married lives and cleaving to their spouses, or asking this question as peers. In singles wards, they’re trying to find out if someone (another adult, no less!) is doing something they ought not, and scolding them for acting on any physical desires. One ward bishop I know (singles ward) actually told people that if they found hand-holding too tempting and tantalizing, that they shouldn’t even hold hands with their dates! That’s just wrong…and patronizing.

  112. NNN,

    Married members are asked if they live the law of chastity. Single members are asked if they live the law of chastity. Over zelous bishops in singles wards have pressed too much. Over zelous bishops in family wards have pressed too much. If you think your bishop is over zelous in his questioning, tell him. If he continues, tell a member of the stake presidency.

    BTW, the law of chastity gets muddier when married, not more clear.

  113. The beauty of singles wards is that if you don’t like them, you don’t have to go. You can always go to your family ward. Hell, I went to a singles ward in another stake for a period of time since I didn’t like the one in my stake. Since getting married, there have been a number of occasions where I wished I had the same lattitude of picking my ward as I had as a YSA.

  114. KyleM
    Actually if a Singles Ward exists in your area and you decide to go to a family ward, it is much harder to find and maintain Mormon single friends if you don’t go. I’ve tried. You lose your single Mormon friends and I do think they are important. So I want single Mormon friends and to worship in a diverse community. That’s why I want to get rid of them, so people don’t have the choice, go to the ward that’s closest and make friends of all types there.

  115. “BTW, the law of chastity gets muddier when married, not more clear.”

    KyleM, can you explain that please? That sounds along the lines of Amri’s bishop who said, “It’s just as hard to keep the law of chastity after marriage as before.” I don’t really understand that since my understanding is that when there are two consenting adults, and both partners are comfortable with what’s going on, it’s all pretty open.

    I’m not seeking prurient details, I’m just curious about the reasoning behind your statement.

  116. BTW, the law of chastity gets muddier when married, not more clear.

    I disagree emphatically.

  117. I disagree that the LOC gets muddier when married. LOC is easier to follow because you have a spouse and can legally and lawfully engage in sexual behavior. Sex is encouraged.

    I once overheard a conversation between a singles ward bishop and a married ward bishop.

    SWB: My job is to keep them out of bed with each other
    MWB: My job is the keep them in bed with each other.

    Violations of the LOC while married (esp married with child) seem to have more long term implications for married people then single people the exception being out of wedlock birth. Divorce, seperation from children tend to follow LOC violations while married.

  118. cj douglass says:

    I’m a little suprised that in this whole thread the “meat market” parallel has not been mentioned. I never had a problem with Bishoprics treating us like adults. The problem was, from my viewpoint, the continual backbiting about who was dating who. You go on one date with someone and it becomes front page gossip in the RS. One sister in particular made it her goal to ridicule and mock me and my wife’s(at the time fiance ofcourse) relationship because I went on one date with her. The whole thing made me long for a family ward where teaching and learning the gospel were top priority.

  119. cj douglass says:

    Kyle,
    Actually, in the few places I’ve lived with a lot of singles(NY, DC) they’re crackin the whip on going to your own ward. Even if you live in a stake that doesn’t have singles ward, they won’t give you a calling and won’t give you a recommend interview. Maybe its more lax in areas with less singles.

  120. sophia*rising says:

    I’m not Mormon, but I’ve attended the family and singles and family wards off and on for the past two and a half years with friends. When I went to the single’s ward, it felt like the thought bubbles above everyone’s head were “Don’t act like the only reason you’re here is to get married… tooooootally just here for the church, juuuuust here for the church, what, me? wanting to get married? oh, yeah, I’m single, wow, completely forgot!” It seemed like a flimsy coverup for a tame daytime nightclub, where everyone is obviously there to get married- it’s like a pressure cooker. After the first time I went there, w/ my friend and another female non-member, my friend said he was asked by no less than 20 guys who we were the very next Sunday- and if we were single and if we were members, etc. It made me really uncomfortable, and my friend wants to go back to his home ward. He said he feels skeevy because every interaction w/ a girl there has the feel of approaching a girl at a club/bar/dance, you can’t be friends w/ anyone w/out everyone asking if you’re dating, if you’re getting married, etc. It just didn’t seem…peaceful? I know it’s been said a million times before, but, at least the one I went to, only one word comes to mind- meat market. That being said, I understand the ultimate importance of a marriage between two active members- and single’s wards are good ideas. But there needs to be some sort of a revamp.

  121. Kelly,

    First off, the LoC is the same for everyone when it comes to getting a temple recommend. I can’t have sex outside of marriage and a single person can’t have sex outside of marriage. I must maintain modesty in dress, thoughts and speech just like my single counterpart. There is a lot of room for interpretation for both singles and marrieds. I believe there are more things left open for interpretation for married people, though.

    Interpretations of the LoC for married couples range from only having sex when trying to procreate to anything goes that your spouse is OK with. The stake president who signed my temple marriage recommend explicitly said that just because we would be married didn’t mean that anything goes even if we are OK with it, but he refused to elaborate. My wife and I had different ideas about what he meant even though both of us were there. There are many things that are open to interpretation.

    Can I kiss a woman other than my wife? What about on the cheek? What if I live in a country where it’s not only acceptable to do so, but expected? What about hugs? Can I be alone with another woman? I’ve known members who believe not. What about sitting next to a woman who isn’t my wife? Is it cheating on my wife if I have lunch with another woman? What if I confide things with that woman about my wife?

    I didn’t even mention actual sexual acts. Is unnatural or OK since my wife and I are OK with it?

    Now I didn’t say is was *EASIER* to live the law of chastity as a single person, just more defined.

  122. cj,

    There certainly may be less latitude in which singles ward a person attend. They still have a choice between at least two wards, though.

    My brother had to interview with the bishop to attend the ward he does. I think the bishop wanted to make sure he wasn’t a predator. ;-) I guess he “qualified.”

  123. Kevin Barney says:

    sophia*rising, I got a good laugh from your thought bubble comment. If I were in a singles ward, that would be exactly my thought bubble. I wouldn’t touch marriage or dating or anything having to do with it in conversation with a ten-foot pole, because I wouldn’t want people to know that was what I was thinking about.

    But that would indeed be what I was thinking about.

  124. Anon for This One says:

    Re 121: That’s a good observation, but what you’re essentially saying (and what we all know) is that a single peron can’t have any kind of sex at all (including masturbation) while a married person can have all the sex they mutually want in whatever shape or form they mutally want, as long as it’s with each other.

    Put that way, it doesn’t sound like exactly the same covenant, does it?

    The truth is that we are all sexual beings, and I thinki this is what makes it so difficult for singles wards bishops. They have to imagine or pretend that everyone of their ward members can and will be chaste. It’s easier to hope for that in a married ward, where the adults have actually promised and covenanted to be true to their spouses.

  125. The truth is that we are all sexual beings . . . .

    Pop culture drivel. According to the Gospel, we are spiritual beings first and foremost. The covenant to be chaste is associated with the endowment, which is often received long before marriage. It is the same covenant, with the exact same wording and the exact same meaning whether married or single. Covenants are intended to turn our hearts and minds from common, bestial drives to a higher, more spiritual plane. Defining ourselves as “sexual beings” sells us short on our true potential and focuses on the carnal, rather than on the spiritual.

    If singles’ ward members are focused on getting married to the near-exclusion of all else, that is a product of their own interpretation of the culture, not of the Gospel. It is completely unnecessary to define oneself by one’s marital status. The courtship dance will exist, whether in the fora of a singles ward or not. It is always up to the participant to decide which dances to sit out. Though marriage is an important step, it is only one step in our progress to God. I would wager it isn’t even the most important step.

  126. Anon for This One says:

    Point taken, SilverRain, but note that it was not I who said that we are sexual beings first and foremost. I agree that we are primarily spiritual beings. That said, we all–married or single–have sexual needs that are fulfilled or repressed in one way or another. It is an undeniable fact, and not just “pop culture.”

    I will also agree that many peop;le in the Church, including leaders, believe that asexuality is the preferred norm and sexuality is something we choose. Sexuality, IMO is not something we turn on or off, and we don’t just choose to become a sexual being once we marry.

  127. SilverRain says:

    At the risk of derailing this topic somewhat, I do deny your “undeniable fact.” I suppose that it has something to do with your definition of “need.” I agree that we have sexual desires and tendencies, but we have been asked to master those – to make them our tools rather than being a slave to sexual drive. They are not needs in the sense that we absolutely-must-indulge them or die. I don’t believe that sexuality is something we turn on or off like a switch, but it is something we can either seek to master and utilize, or something we excuse and indulge. When we define ourselves as sexual beings, we glorify that aspect of our mortal existence often at the expense of the spiritual. I also don’t believe that you have to “repress” sexual drive at any time.

    Though people may believe that asexuality is a preferred mode of operation, I know of nothing in the Gospel that encourages, deifies or glorifies asexuality. Rather, words are used like “normal,” “sacred” and “God-given” when referring to the nature of sexuality, and words like “control” and “restrain” when discussing how to utilize it outside of marriage. It is a pop culture myth that we are sexual beings. Though I have sexual drives, I choose not to define myself by them.

  128. 124: There is not a separate LoC covenant. In the temple, they don’t have married people make one covenant, and single people another. It’s the same covenant.

    I agree that in general it is more difficult to keep the LoC as a single person, though.

  129. I appreciate the LoC discussion and comments by KyleM and SilverRain and others. Although I am married, I have often wondered about the appropriate expression of sexual desires.

    If these desires are to be mastered, does that mean that our goal should be celibacy? If my spouse is less interested in “intimacy,” is that an additional argument that abstinance should be the norm for our marriage?

  130. “Mastered” does not mean “denied.” It means you are in control of them, rather than being controlled by them.

  131. Good point. But wouldn’t “mastering” or controlling also imply supression of these desires? And if suppression is good, is complete supression or denial even better? Is there any merit or value in seeking celibacy?

  132. No. I don’t think “mastering” and “controlling” do indicate supression. I think that’s a common misconception.

  133. SilverRain,
    Maybe this isn’t the best place to continue this thread, but I would appreciate additional insights about the difference between controlling and suppressing these desires, and I believe that many others may benefit as well.

  134. I work in a Hydro-electric plant. The water that produces the electricity is not suppressed, it is “channelled”, mastered and controlled. It does great good. If the water is suppressed it will find its own way and can cause great damage (floods). There is a great difference between mastering/controlling and supressing.

  135. Thanks timshel. I get the semantics now and agree with the principle that our desires should be mastered/controlled. I’m further revealing my ignorance here, but I don’t see how that translates into practice. It seems to make more sense to consider mastering in the sense of what we don’t do, but that sounds like supression again, so I can’t quite see what one does to master/control his/her desire. Does that make sense? Any ideas?

  136. the “meat market” parallel has not been mentioned

    Actually, I saw it several times (12, 49, 58, 59, 84). I like to call it a meet market. :)

  137. In my mind, mastering involves turning to the Master for help, strength and guidance. Suppression is simply an act of self-control that can often backfire.

  138. Now I’ve got Seinfeld on the brain.

  139. word up, Ann.

  140. Stay single, marriage sucks!

  141. James, you say:
    “Although I am married, I have often wondered about the appropriate expression of sexual desires.
    If these desires are to be mastered, does that mean that our goal should be celibacy? If my spouse is less interested in “intimacy,” is that an additional argument that abstinance should be the norm for our marriage?”

    I don’t think celibacy is at all the goal for marriages. There’s an enormous amount of emotional intimacy that is gained with physical intimacy. Suppressing all desire for sex will make you very unhappy, but, a prime time to control/master your urges is when you’re in the mood and your spouse is not. If your urges are disparate enough, then compromise has to happen – you wait sometimes and sometimes she says “yes” even when she’s not really in the mood. No control means you force the issue whenever you’re in the mood and that’s bad, as if that needed to be spelled out. :)

  142. Wow – I missed this topic and post until comment #141 had already been made? Dang.

    A few comments, some that have probably been commented on already.

    Gilgamesh: (#5) The solution – actually give real callings to singles. Why does a bishop have to be married? Why can’t a 40 year old professional single man be a bishop?

    Speaking as someone who was single until his mid-30’s and who did gripe about the calling issue, I still don’t think this is a good idea. Bishops for better or worse end up doing marriage counseling and deal with related issues. While there may be the occasional single man who could competently do that sort of thing, I think all the underlying issues of marriage are a mystery to most single men. So I can completely agree with the decision of the brethren here.

    On the other hand, I think especially in singles wards having single counselors to the Bishop is important. In far too many wards the Bishop has some rather odd ideas about single life. Most members appear to marry before 25 and think that single life after 25 is the same as before. When there really is a very different social situation. This leads to many problems, in my experience.

    Amri: (#6) I’m not certain I’m entirely opposed to university wards but once you graduate from college or reach a certain age (like 22 or 23) I say there should be no more. Make everyone go to a normal family ward. There will be a big enough singles group but they can interact as normal Mormons without wearing their marital status as a little patch.

    I’m very mixed on this. First off “singles groups” tend not to work too well. In my experience most “formal” activities suck and tend to be dominated by folks with, shall we say, less that adequate social skills. Encountering folks in a little less formal setting is better. Not just for dating but more important for all the other kind of socializations. i.e. doing interesting stuff in a non-church environment and making friends.

    I think the biggest problem most singles, especially those over 25, face is simply having a social life. It’s hard for those of us married with kids to remember. For us (OK, for me) finding an hour here or there to be free is a rare event. For singles it’s all free and the old saying about idle hands is true. If you don’t have LDS structure you’ll typically turn to non-LDS which can sometimes be problematic. (I’m not saying non-Mormons are bad, but say you don’t have LDS friends to hang out with on weekends and instead go bar hopping with non-Mormon friends. Things can deteriorate even if you try to maintain standards)

    Amri: (#6) Do y’all have good reasons that the fun you had in singles wards would not happen in a regular ward?

    Yeah. You don’t have the critical mass of people to find people to hang out with. And in a regular ward people with families are so busy that time is thought of in terms of months whereas singles just typically don’t think that way. It leads to frustration and often to inactivity.

    Julie: (#31) Virtually nobody wants to be in Primary. I’m not sure why we would take the feelings of a single 22yo into account when we don’t think twice about calling a mother of young children to the Primary.

    Virtually no one with half a brain wants most callings. They end up being helpful I think, but make life harder. I think that for young mothers it can be harder because having a teething toddler crying who won’t stay in nursery is simply harder. I don’t see what the issue with singles is though. I think that, if anything, they might do better. Most singles have far more time than most married people – especially those with young kids.

    John Mansfield: (#36) I met my wife by meeting her parents first in a normal ward.

    Yes, but the White Rock/Los Alamos wards were fairly different from most wards. Even if you met your wife first that way, don’t you think the single adult activities set the mood there? And interestingly those were largely created by the single adults independent of the Church.

    I’ll agree that my experiences there highlighted both the best and the worst of single life in a married ward. The first year I was there I kept waiting for programs. The next year all of us just did it on our own and I had the best experiences I’ve ever had in a ward.

    I think the biggest problem singles have is expecting the Church to fulfill their needs. While I completely understand this mentality, ultimately it just doesn’t work.

    Cew-Smoke: (#43) Ah, my fondest memory of being single and getting to go to the singles ward? You could hear a freakin’ pin-drop during the sacrament meeting. I’ve never been able to listen to talks so attentively and get so much out of them as I did then.

    Yeah. Although to be fair I’m typically so busy manhandling my toddlers that I rarely hear anything in Church anymore. But I agree that most single wards services was almost like the temple in terms of reverence.

    Gary: (#58) Although I think that some of my ward members would be better off in a regular ward, I am convinced that a significant portion of our ward would become inactive if we did that.

    One way to see this is to see the effects of the “over 30 rule.” For a while the area presidency in the Utah County area started enforcing that strictly. From the statistics I saw most went inactive after they left singles wards.

    While I think it wrong to view Church through a social lens, the fact is if we don’t feel a part of things we often stop going. While some suggest a family ward would make singles feel more a part of things, in practice what I see is that it’s just too easy for them to fall through the cracks.

    Of course the real problem is less singles wards than how singles are socialized to deal with dating and their feeling of not being married. I think that if we could overcome that then most of the problems would disappear.

    M&M: (#92) That’s strange, because I have a single, almost-40 friend who is a temple worker. I wonder if there is a set rule about this, or if it depends on the area?

    I thought it was an universal rule for men. It doesn’t apply to women. Is your friend male? I remember turning 30 and how that rule bugged me. Hitting 30 and being a single male introduces quite a few rules that can really alienate even folks with the strongest of testimonies.

    Amri: (#102) Bishops shouldn’t go digging when the person doesn’t want to bring it up.

    I disagree. I know many people who would have happily continued along in their path had a Bishop not asked them in for an interview.

  143. Anon for This One says:

    This is what I perceive the purpose of a singles ward to be:

    1. Provide younger adults with leadership training and skills in a somewhat full-functioning ward setting (i.e. no child/teen auxilaries)
    2. Provide single adults with social connections, dating possibilities within the Church that may lead to temple marriages, and service opportunities among peers.
    3. Provide singles with an attractive alternative to “wordly” single activities
    4. Help singles manage their sex lives and drives within an LDS context.

    I think singles wards fail miserably at (4) because there is no realistic way to do this. The mean co-ed jokes about overweight “sweet sisters” and the stereotype of the depressed, pathetic 30 year old male living in a basement bear this out. As comment 141 states so eloquently: “Suppressing all desire for sex will make you very unhappy.” Touche! The reason most singles in the Church are extraordinarily unhappy.

  144. Is your friend male?

    Yes, and over 30. :)

  145. #135 – I think the first step would be to stop seeing sexual desire as bad without indulging its penchant for mental imagery. It’s an attitude change. Second would be to channel the energy somewhere – let it galvanize you into asking someone out, to work out at the gym, to write, to read – anything. M&M also has it right – you use the opportunity to deepen your relationship with the Savior by teaming up with him to control it.

    #141 – jab is also right, in my opinion, when you’re married. Let the desire for your spouse galvanize you to doing something nice for them. I know for me, when I’m not in the mood, it’s usually because I feel overwhelmed with house chores or errands that need running. When my husband steps up and does some of the work, it gets me in the mood for more recreational activities. :) Using sexual attraction energies to serve your spouse (rather than demand attention) is a great way to work together as a team.

    Those are just ideas, every person has to find what works for them.

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