If you live in anywhere in the Upper Midwest, and you’re the sort of Mormon who goes to stake conference, then yesterday you were sitting in a church building somewhere listening to some piped-in talks from Salt Lake City, the concluding one being given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks. His remarks were very Hinckley-ish, running over a wide range of topics pertinent to both administering the affairs of the church and living a Christ-like life. At one point he directed his comments to the single adult members in the church, and he told a short story, which I actually thought was an almost perfect analogy of the situation facing most single adult members of the church. Almost. To summarize as best as I can recall, his analogy went like this:
Imagine that you feel a great passion for stargazing, and to that end you have been drawn to membership in a stargazing club. It’s a good club, with lots of opportunities for going outside a looking at the stars. The club provides all the resources necessary for stargazing–the telescopes, the transportation, etc.–but stargazing takes place at night in all seasons, it can obviously sometimes get cold, and having a warm jacket is important. You don’t have a good warm jacket, but you were told that, as a member of the club, you’d be able to get a hold of one. Well, a stargazing activity is planned and you’re there with everyone else, and they all have their club jackets on. But there isn’t one for you. When you ask about this, you’re told “Well, look around, no doubt you can find one somewhere.” So you look, but there aren’t any available, or at least not any that fit you. You ask further about this, and you’re told, “Just keep coming out to the stargazing activities, and be diligent, and you’re sure to find a jacket eventually.” In the meantime, though, you’re getting cold. And to make matters worse, other members of the club keep coming up to you, saying “Why don’t you have a jacket? You really ought to have a jacket. Try looking harder for a jacket.” And you notice that most of your fellow members seem to spend a great deal of time talking about their jackets. How warm they are, what a blessing it is to have a jacket, the different types of jackets, how to repair jackets when they get torn, how to add new pockets to your jacket, and so forth. Really, stargazing isn’t turning out to be nearly as rewarding as you thought it might be.
Some might not care of this analogy, but I thought its homely examples and wisdom were really quite accurate and compassionate. So, overall, a very fine and challenging picture of the reality in so many branches and wards and stakes across our church. Why don’t I think it was perfect, though? Because, after telling that story, Elder Oaks proceeded to express his fervent wish both that single adult members could feel more a part of church life and that married church members could be more inclusive of them. Somehow, he missed the obvious punchline–whether intentionally, or because it genuinely didn’t occur to him, I don’t know. But either way, I don’t see how anyone could take that analogy seriously and not immediately come to the perfectly logical take-away:
Maybe we can’t make sure everyone has a warm jacket, but at the very least, wouldn’t it be a rather kind thing if all the other members of the stargazing club STOPPED TALKING ABOUT THEIR JACKETS ALL THE TIME? I mean, it’s a stargazing club, not a jacket club, right?