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?