On Unnecessary Transitions

Eliza N. is an editor who lives and works in Salt Lake City. She grew up in the Midwest and misses the cornfields. When she’s not working, reading, or watching Netflix, she enjoys running, playing volleyball, and hanging out with her dog.

I am a 31-year-old single Mormon. Upon my 31st birthday at the end of last October, I had until the next general conference to transition to either a family ward or a mid single adult ward. (Mid singles wards, if you didn’t know, are cesspools you wouldn’t wish on anyone.) I’ve had a lot of time to consider how much this transition was going to suck, and suck it did. I attended my new (family) ward last Sunday, and as expected, there were many tears and new-kid jitters.

As someone who spent twelve and a half years attending young single adult wards, I feel qualified to make this statement: The best thing we can do for single adult members of the Church is get rid of the singles wards programs.

A friend’s nine-month-old must have known I was struggling and held my arm during Sunday School. It was so comforting I cried again.

A friend’s nine-month-old must have known I was struggling and held my arm during Sunday School. It was so comforting I cried again.

“But wait! I met my spouse in a singles ward!” you say. “Singles wards must be wonderful and are doing what they’re meant to do!” Good for you. But newsflash: If you met your spouse in a singles ward, there is a high likelihood that you would have also met in the regular ward that you likely both would have been in. Additional newsflash: This only works for half of us anyway (see here). “But wait! I don’t want to be stuck in a family ward by myself as the only single person! I’d miss my friends!” Newsflash: Your friends in your singles ward would likely all be in the regular ward with you.

Before I am written off as bitter and unenlightened for not seeing the wisdom behind singles wards, let me say that I have no problem with the idea of singles groups—within a mainstream ward, have second-hour or maybe even third-hour classes specifically for singles. That’s fine, but don’t water down sacrament meeting or the whole ward experience. Hold singles activities, both or either at ward or stake levels. All the social needs singles wards currently meet—which seems to be their entire purpose—can easily be met in other ways.

A lot has already been said and written about the weird culture and experiences single adults face in the Church (see my favorite piece here). While the infantilization is definitely one of the worst parts of being a YSA, there are myriad other issues with drawing a boundary based on marital status.

When I think about young single adults, I inevitably think about the barely acknowledged flood of this age group leaving the Church. I have seen so many friends leave. I wonder if it would be any different if this demographic were still included in and embraced by the mainstream membership of the Church, if they were never kicked out and made to feel like they no longer belong in the “real” Church, but were still useful, functional parts of the body of Christ. Any transition stage—whether it is from family ward to singles ward or back again—is an opportunity for members to slip through cracks.

You can see how easy it would be for a 31-year-old single member of the Church who hadn’t attended their singles ward in a while to stave off concern from that ward with “Well, I’m moving to the family ward”—a family ward that doesn’t know they’re supposed to have a new member moving in. I suspect this kind of slipping-through could go on for a long time before anyone noticed that someone had gone missing. Yet keeping track of members transitioning across the wards would be completely unnecessary if all members of the Church were always kept under the same organizational umbrella. Singles wards may have served a beneficial purpose at one point in time, but in this generation when young single adults are holding on to the Church by their fingertips, the time to end the singles wards program has come.

Not only are single adults getting the shaft with the singles wards programs, but mainstream wards are also missing out. There is a significant amount of talent, capability, and spirituality that mainstream wards would benefit from but can’t, because some of the individuals that could bless their wards aren’t married. When singles cannot contribute to the Church beyond the metaphorical kids’ table they are stuck at, they are stunted in their development as disciples of Christ.

Something should also be said about the fact that the transition is often just as difficult for those who move to family wards because of marriage as it is for those who age out of the system. When a newly married couple moves from a singles ward to a family ward, their church experience shifts. Suddenly FHE is actually done at home, with just their spouse, and there is no built-in way for them to stay connected with their friends. This adjustment seems to only accentuate the kids-table nature of the singles wards. Stuck at the kids’ table, these marginalized single adults have no way of making their needs heard, no one knows how to relate to them other than to give them (crappy) dating advice, and the focus of their Church experience becomes their relationship status (or lack thereof) instead of growing closer to Christ.

This last problem is the most troubling to me. Instead of my Church experience over the past twelve and a half years being about the Savior, a significant amount of it has been about dating. Awkward jokes over the pulpit about dating, worrying about being attractive-but-modest enough to compete with all of the other women in the ward vying for dates with too-few men, entire activities and Sunday School classes and firesides and stake conferences about dating and marriage—where was the Savior in all of these? It has sometimes been difficult to discern if I attended church to worship the Savior or to worship the institution of marriage.

Let’s put it this way. The Church can do one of two things: Give our young people a marginally higher chance of getting married, or give our young people a higher chance of growing closer to Christ and staying active and engaged in the Church. The preferable option seems obvious, but until our organizational structure changes, we will continue to have a wide gap through which our Heavenly Parents’ kids slip through the cracks.

Comments

  1. I appreciate this post. The part about newly weds being tossed into a new, unfamiliar Ward was eye-opening. Isolating a new couple from all their old (single) friends by surrounding them in a family Ward of strangers sounds, well it sounds heartbreaking.

    So what are the chances that single wards will become part of church history in the near future?

  2. I had a very positive singles ward experience (aside from the fact that I did indeed meet my spouse there), but I completely agree that singles wards need to go. We can keep singles programs (activities and whatnot) and stop quarantining members who aren’t married. As I said, I enjoyed my singles ward experience, but that was mostly due to the fact that I had opportunities to serve that would not have been given to me as a single person in a family ward. Rather than having “singles” wards and “family” wards, we need to work harder on integrating singles into our ward families.

  3. TLDR; You’re absolutely right. Fantastic post.

    I live in the Midwest, in my 40s, and single. There were no singles wards for several years, and I loved being in my family ward. I served in the YW, played piano in Primary and Relief Society, and while some elements of family ward traditions were tough, we had great YSA supplemental activities. Between three stakes (at the time–now there are four within driving distance), we had a fireside every month, a dance every month, plus additional activities through two Institute programs. These were an important part of my social life and I met a couple of boyfriends through those activities.

    Then I moved to Salt Lake for a couple of years, and the transition to a singles ward was disorienting.

    When I was 29, I moved back to the Midwest and singles wards had been established. I went for about a month, but when I realized that weekly church meetings had replaced the thriving social events the YSA program had fulfilled, I went back to my family ward, and I have been in family wards ever since. (No other option in my area anyway once 31 hit–no midsingle wards because most of them aren’t going to church anymore). With one exception, I have been embraced by the members, my skills have been utilized and matched to callings and talks I’ve given, and yes, sometimes the family rhetoric stings a bit, but I have strategies to cope with those Sundays.

    Like many, I’ve had my difficulties with staying in the church, but spending almost my entire 18-31 year-old life in family wards–I’m certain–has helped.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Seems like it should be a no brainer, doesn’t it? Great post, Eliza N.

  5. Every family ward I have been in would have benefited from having the singles as part of the flock. It’s frustrating to watch talented young adults go to a large singles ward in another stake where they get lost among the numbers. We truly need their participation, energy and friendship in our ward.

    Too many end up underutilized, slip through the cracks, or stop going altogether when they realize no one in either ward really has any idea where/if they are attending.

  6. JeannineL says:

    Even though I met my husband in a singles’ ward over 25 years ago, I still think they are of the devil. And I have encouraged my kids to stay in family wards. I think they’ve done much better there. BUT. Even in family wards I think it’s too hard to be single.

    Actually, I’m finding that as my nest is about empty and I’m heading into a childless state that my church universe is kind of dwindling. Weird. What’s up with that?

  7. lauraisangry says:

    100% agree. I’m tired of singles wards, but the family ward I would be assigned to has 350 active people and all the singles stay in the singles ward until they are like 35. The family ward would have nothing for me to do. To be fair, most of the singles wards I’ve been in have also had nothing for me to do, but this current one is kind of tiny and sad and pathetic. There are so few men in the singles wards I’ve been in that “getting everyone married” certainly isn’t a realistic reason to keep them around (we’re talking 10 to 15 men in a ward with 50 active women). There’s nothing that a singles ward can offer me that I can’t get from an all comers ward with robust singles activities.

  8. Oh, Eliza, beyond the fact that my heart aches for you and the others forced through this experience, this was so well thought out and well written. I hope it is widely read.

    In many cases, including mine, singles wards replaced strong, mixed “university wards” near large colleges. Outside Happy Valley, these combined young married couples, often grad students, with young single students and were also open to local singles who wished to attend. Primary was small but Sunday School was pretty vibrant. The change to singles wards was made shortly after I was married, and my wife and I left our ward at the Institute building, which was dissolved to create the singles ward, and drove halfway across town to our new ward.

    All I can think is that it must have seemed like a good idea at the time. As you’ve made clear, and many others support you, it was not. Time to fess up to it and change.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The institutional rejection I felt from getting kicked out of my ward was extremely painful. I felt so much shame and like a total failure: no success could compensate for my failure in the home. And I had to deal with that without my familiar ward support structure.

    I landed in a lovely family ward and am mostly okay three years later, but (for better or worse) my testimony of the institutional church as a representation of God’s pure and perfect love for his children is unlikely to ever recover.

  10. I had exactly the opposite experience. I loved my years in singles wards. As a newly divorced person, they provided a welcome home and way to make immediate friends who have stayed with me for decades. I not only went through that “cesspool” called a mid- singles ward but lived in a single’s ward that had no upper age limit. I learned much about some of the various serious problems faced by Church members such as violence in marriage and mental illness. Because of that, my real tutoring in being like Christ came in the singles ward. I do not think I would ever have learned these lessons in a family ward. The married couples who joined our ward were sometimes seriously changed by the experiences, developing long lasting friendships with the singles, greater understanding of their concerns and the realization that these same serious problems exist in family wards but there no one felt that could discuss these issues openly. For those married counselirs and their wives who found themselves unable to change, we loved most of them anyway. Some we just had to tolerate until they thankfully left us.
    I watched people who would have been marginalized in family wards develop talents, teach and lead organizations. I watched the adjoining family wards copy our parties because they seemed incapable of releasing the creativity of their own ward members. I saw people pull through for each other even until death, not just the Relief Society president, but the whole ward.
    Then I watched that ward repurposed into a mid-singles ward and its older members placed in family wards. The members missed the closeness of the friendships they had enjoyed. The married people in the new family wards seemed stunned at the talents and abilities the singles exhibited. I went years without being home taught once I entered a family ward. I no longer had a Church home. The members of the family ward I joined were preoccupied with their children and marriages. I would love to be back in an older singles ward. I am sorry they no longer exist.
    A friend of mine put it best. “The only place in the Church I am not treated like a single is in the singles ward. There I am just a follower of Christ.”

  11. DeepThink says:

    I recognize that when the plurality of YSA’s attend a singles ward in a given area, it may be less interesting to attend a family ward, but the undercurrent of this post and some comments that the YSA’s are “forced” into this experience is incorrect. Any single can stay in a family ward if they like. And those same singles can continue to attend any social activities offered by the singles ward. I’m not commenting on the overall position of the OP. Keep or Dissolve. I think there are good arguments on both sides. I just want to clarify in this comment that no one is prescribed to attend a singles ward.

  12. laserguy says:

    Those who claim that their viewpoint “should be the no-brainer” often indicate that they lack the creativity, or intelligence, to see that there is another side.

    I got married at 29, then I “graduated”, I had been in the singles ward during my entire grad school program. I am honest enough to recognize that there are pro’s and cons to each “vision” and there are GA’s pro and con against both forms of singles wards.

    Some unstated reasons why singles wards are a good thing.
    Sisters A and B are interested in Brother C. Brother C and Sister B get married. Does Sister A want to see them at church the week after their marriage and honeymoon. I would probably agree it would be better for Sister A to get over it quickly, but alas, the human condition is not always in its best form.

    Very often, forcing the unchosen to fellowship with those types of situations may cause more pain. Allowing some space may help others.

    I know that some here will just claim that “no one is like that” or that “they should just grow up”, but that’s an arrogant reaction (I know, surprising at BCC). This is more cut and dried than you are willing to admit, which severely discounts your credibility.

  13. I wholeheartedly agree, Eliza. Maybe if there were more singles in family wards (i.e., if we weren’t such an exotic species), we singles wouldn’t hear lame-ass comments like “You’re going to be an instant grandma when you get married.” Because at 37 my only option is to marry a desperately lonely old widower.

  14. The Church has already tried “singles programs” – and they were less effective than the current program. It turns out that a “50% success rate” (to be crass) is pretty good for a singles ward.

    To paraphrase Churchill, the current singles ward program is the worst kind of singles program, except all the others.

    That being said, reform should be on the horizon. The forced transitions and infantilization absolutely need to stop.

  15. I have mixed feels about this. I currently attend a mid-singles ward and it really works for me. I have not had good experiences as a single person in family wards. I was generally made to feel like a pariah out to steal people’s husbands and had a hard time even finding a place to sit.

    Maybe these kids of things would be less common if there were no singles wards? Maybe. Idk. I do miss the diversity that comes with a traditional ward. And I am so tired of tired dating advice and the pressure to dress so as to attract the attention of the opposite sex while remaining tastefully modest each Sunday.

    So yeah, I hear you. And you’re not wrong. But I don’t know if I personally can go back to a traditional ward as a single person.

  16. Angela C says:

    My current and previous wards are both “magnet” wards for singles, and I honestly love having the mix of singles and married in the same ward. We had about 50/50 split in Singapore, and now it’s more like 30 singles / 70 married. Because it’s a magnet ward, singles are just normal and expected. But I do feel they are under-represented in leadership.

  17. My suggestion: forget church and go out and mingle in the vast non-LDS world. You won’t have this environment hovering about you pitying you and indirectly making you feel bad about yourself and discover that it is normal to be 31 and single.

  18. Another thing is that young adults with disabilities, who are not able to go to a singles ward, are not around members of their age. My daughter tries to go to institute so she can be with members her own age, but with the curriculum they have it is getting harder and harder her to go. The church is losing her to a church who has a disability program, and I support her in it.

  19. Right now, singles in every single ward are given opportunity for leadership–RSP, EQP. In many, if not most, family wards, the family ward doesn’t know what to do with them, they’re seen as outsiders, and they don’t have much of an opportunity for leadership. Married women in the ward sometimes feel threatened and lash out at single women who attend family wards. Otherwise, though, singles are often ignored. They don’t get callings as quickly as other members. They’re lonely.

    I’ve seen this in several wards in the Mormon Corridor. Quite often, my wife will be the only ward friend some single sisters in their 30’s have. I can imagine it’s hard for many of them to come to church.

    It may be different in a ward where the single person already has ties. But many singles don’t–they move to a new ward following a divorce, buying a new house, or after starting a new job, and it’s difficult to become part of a ward that doesn’t know what to make of you.

    If you’re single and a family ward works for you, great. But most family wards aren’t doing a decent job welcoming the singles that do attend.

  20. Only thing worse than a singles ward is a married singles ward.

    Wtf are those about?

  21. Angela J. says:

    I attended a single’s ward from the age of 21 to 28. Without it I don’t know if I would be an active member of the church today. During my time there I met many people and friends who I would not have met otherwise. (Our boundaries covered approximately 6 stakes.) The way their actions and words shaped my testimony is beyond words. They taught me that being a member of the church does not mean being perfect and we are all growing together. I have yet to get this feeling from my current home ward, but I am hopeful someday, somewhere I will. Maybe a single’s ward is not for everyone but I saw many YSAs who were left by the wayside in a home ward, myself included, find a place in the gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason I would hate to see them ever go away.

  22. Eliza Nevin says:

    I’d like to address the comments about the benefits of singles wards (and the cons to being a single member of the Church in a family ward), particularly laserguy. I fully acknowledge that there are pros to singles wards. I will absolutely miss the quiet sacrament meetings, and the perhaps greater opportunities for leadership callings. I mean, obviously there are pros and cons to whatever the situation. There is so much gray, always. And yes, being single in a family ward is going to be really hard to, and I don’t expect that they’ll know what to do with me. But that’s just what I’m saying: Family wards don’t know what to do with singles because USUALLY singles are shoved off into singles wards, where no one has to think about them. When one shows up because of the unfortunate circumstance of not having gotten married in time, everyone panics and things get awkward.

    Having ALL of the singles of the Church accepted and intermingled with all of the other members of the Church could normalize being single and bless everyone–and sure, there will be cons. But imagine a ward like Angela C and even Cari described–with wide age ranges of singles, with wide life experience bases. Where the single members of the ward are taken seriously and integrated, are given the same opportunities for leadership positions, where they are embraced and everyone is working together to build the kingdom of God, regardless of their marital status. That’s my vision for the Church without singles wards.

    And to DeepThink, I appreciate your comment, but that has not been my experience. When a single 26-year-old friend was happily attending a married ward and serving in its Young Women presidency, a bishopric change initiated her being forced out of that married ward and she was yes, forced, to attend a young single adult ward, against her wishes. This may be a case of leader roulette, but even if singles are/were not forced to attend singles ward, the system is still not working so that they would feel comfortable or confident enough to do otherwise.

  23. marcella says:

    Just before I graduated from high school a YSA ward was formed in my stake. The Sunday after graduation I was there. Why? Because I did not want to be called to teach Primary – pure and simple. At age 12 before the church program went to the block schedule I was called as nursery leader. With that experience, I knew what was waiting for me. Indeed all the girls in my class who decided to stay in the family ward were called to primary or nothing at all.

    Instead I got to serve in RS and was eventually called to be a counselor. It was a great experience for me and not something I would have had in my family ward.

    In the regular old family ward I attend now I see the same pattern every summer. The youth who don’t go off to the singles ward in another stake are called one of two places – the women are called to Primary and the men are called to YM. Every time. No wonder so many of them leave.

  24. Anonymous for now says:

    Singles wards have their good points, sure. I attended both family wards and singles wards in my 20s, and I liked my singles ward experience. But as this very well articulated post points out, the transition is *rough*. I doubt it was anyone’s intent, but by indicating that 31 is the “sell-by” date, over 30 singles have an additional unhelpful stigma in a church that already puts marriage on a very high pedestal.

    The hardest part of aging out for me was being virtually ignored in the family ward. They had my records and knew I was there, but I went weeks without anyone greeting me. When I finally introduced myself to the bishopric, they were distant and weirdly wouldn’t make eye contact. Then I showed up with my boyfriend one Sunday, and we were like celebrities, young couples and the RSP & EQP coming to meet us. It was an awful, awful feeling. That experience didn’t cause me to leave the church, but it certainly didn’t make me want to stay. We can do better.

  25. Adam the Younger says:

    I echo Marcella re: calling opportunities. I spent a couple adult years in a family ward before moving and attending a YSA ward. In the family ward, young single adults almost universally served in primary, and I was no exception. I enjoyed the experience, don’t get me wrong, but I’m finding even more growth (and an overall better use of my strengths) teaching GD. I don’t see standard wards providing those kinds of opportunities.

    Of course, that’s more of a weakness of how family wards work than a strength of singles’ wards. Thanks for the thoughts, Eliza.

  26. There’s a lot to respond to here, but I feel like most of it has been well addressed. Singles wards aren’t perfect, but they provide many more blessings than they deprive.

    And this sentence caught me off guard. “If you met your spouse in a singles ward, there is a high likelihood that you would have also met in the regular ward that you likely both would have been in.” I’m not sure what singles ward you were in, but most singles wards span 8 to 12 home wards. As much as I respect and appreciate the challenges that go along with the singles ward program in this post, this statement is just plain false. A more reasonable statement might be that you could have easily met at institute or other singles activities.

  27. Michelle M says:

    My ward was recently made a mid-singles magnet ward for our large (geographic and numerical) stake. It’s new, but I really enjoy it. Within the three-hour block, there is a special mid-singles Sunday School class. It seems to be striking a good balance. I love having new sisters working with our young women. (I do think mid-singles is a little different than YSA, however.)
    I attended a university ward which was later converted into a Singles Ward. I feel like some of the dynamic organization within the stake and also coordinating outside of the stake fell apart at that point. It was as though running the 3 hour block replaced some of the more creative activities that facilitated stronger friendships (and marriages, I’m sure). There was still the stake kids/uni kids divide in some senses. I think many people thought the YSA Ward met all the needs and so the vibrant intra- and inter-stake singles coordination dissolved, sadly. That ward is very small now. I moved, and attended a family ward as a single and later several more after marriage. I much prefer integration with significant human and capital resources expended to support an active web of activities and interactions outside the three-hour block.

  28. whizzbang says:

    I am Canadian, 37 yrs old, but I don’t live in Alberta and let me tellya, online dating or it’s nothing. In my area my older sister was the RS Pres in the first YSA Branch (now it’s a ward). She said that prior to forming the branch there were less marriages but more activity but after forming the branch there more marriages but more inactivity so I guess marriages is more important than people leaving the church

  29. Great post. It seems like the best thing might be different in different places, for different people. I know my home area had success with a magnet ward, where singles from a 5-ward area all attended the same married ward.

    Also, it seems that none of the intended links above work for me, e.g. “This only works for half of us anyway (see here )”, “here” has no link.

  30. @whizzbang: Thanks for pointing out the links are broken! Sorry, everyone. I’ll get someone on it.

    @Tim Underhill: Seriously, dude, WTF?

  31. bmcarson says:

    That first Sunday in the family ward after transitioning can be incredibly hard. I hope you soon feel at home with your new ward family.

    I know I’m late to the party but I’m just reading this now and feel I have to respond. I am 43, never married, and in my adult life have attended all kinds of wards: family, YSA, mid-singles. All had their challenges. All had their blessings. None have been cesspools. All have been imperfect ward families for members of the church striving to keep their covenants.

    I’m tempted to address your arguments against singles wards point by point but I’ll skip instead to the conclusion. In my last family ward the percentage of singles who were active hovered somewhere around 15% and those were almost all women. The formation of the mid-singles ward hasn’t brought all those singles back, but the ward leadership has made focused outreach to the less active members a priority from the beginning. Yes it would have been nice if that had happened in the family wards but it didn’t and we are having some success with this model. Many single men in particular have struggled to feel assimilated in family wards and find the singles wards to be a better spiritual home. It is simply not the case that abolishing the singles wards would give young people (or not so young single people) a better chance at staying active and engaged in the church. Everywhere I’ve seen a singles ward added as an option, activity has gone up. Maybe it’s not the ideal solution, but we don’t live in an ideal world.

    In a church where we are used to being asked to serve and worship where the institution tells us I think it’s wonderful to have the chance to choose our ward. I did not intend to move to my current mid-singles ward when it was formed but after some fasting and prayer I became convinced it was where I belong. I wouldn’t insist that be the answer for everyone and if I had decided otherwise I wouldn’t be saying that the mid-singles ward should be abolished. Maybe the real solution is to treat the decision as the serious choice that it is and to emphasize to the singles that they are responsible for making that choice in the right way and then owning it. That’s not infantilization. That’s empowerment.

  32. Michelle says:

    I much prefer singles wards to family wards. With everyone my age married with children in my family ward, there’s essentially no one who can relate to me. While I hate the meat-market aspect of singles wards, the biggest thing is that there are other people who actually understand my situation, and they don’t feel compelled to set me up with their single nephew/son/grandson/co-worker/person-they-know because I’m “pretty enough I should be married.” While I understand the assertion that without singles wards, family wards would know what to do with single members, I’ve seen the exact opposite, especially in areas where there aren’t singles wards available. You’re treated with kid gloves because they just don’t know how to deal with someone who has never been married or had kids. It’s absolutely foreign to them. Either that, or you have the kindly grandmother befriending you, but no one your age because they’re too busy dealing with their kids. And every. single. lesson. focuses on spouses and kids, so you’re always the odd (wo)man out, no matter what you do. /rant

  33. Lo, these many years, the over 30s singles ward I was a part of, you had to have an interview by your family ward bishop, have a temple recommend and be interviewed by one of the bishopric of the singles ward AND attend 5 times in a row before they would let you in…and you felt immense pressure to actually go to the ward.
    I told the 1st counselor interviewing me, “You are making a lot of people jump through a lot of hoops to be in a group nobody ever wanted to be in in the first place.” He then proceeded to give me advice on life with your spouse AFTER YOUR CHILDREN HAD ALL GROWN UP AND LEFT THE HOME. Dude. I’m in an over 30s singles ward. I’m sure that advice is relevant to you but man, read the room!”
    I later `joked’ with the bishop when it came time to renew my temple recommend, “These wards are like the leper colonies of the church. We don’t know what to do with you, so we’ll throw you all in this pit together and maybe some of you will find another leper and manage to climb out, but hey, good luck!” and he smiled and nodded.
    I looked at him and yelled, “YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO *AGREE* WITH ME!!!”

  34. Eliza N says:

    The links are finally fixed, if anyone wants further reading.

    @Jeff Atwood: That story is hilarious and so frustrating at the same time. I relate! And your description of the wards is spot on.

  35. FINALLY someone fixed those links

  36. Eliza N says:

    I mean GEEZ

  37. Rebecca says:

    Yes exactly! Singles wards are so contrary to the purpose of belonging to a congregation! It’s about learning from and serving people of all different ages and backgrounds and developing charity. So many of the arguments for the existence of singles wards are because people had good experiences in them or poor experiences in family wards. But I don’t think any one is arguing that there aren’t great people, or great activities or that the spirit can’t be felt in a singles ward. But all those things can be true in a regular ward and without the negatives of creating feelings of failure or depression in singles that are not married although they would love to be, depriving family wards of strength from single adults (in one singles ward I was in, the stake presidency asked us to move all the inactive records to family wards, as if they didn’t have enough inactives to look after), depriving singles from healthy interactions with children, elderly, married couples, helping with funerals and new babies (there’s more to life than dating!)

    The answer I think is working at deemphasizing the importance of marriage in our rhetoric. Marriage isn’t necessarily in the cards for everyone and that doesn’t affect one’s worthiness or righteousness. Single members can teach gospel doctrine, they can be in RS and EQ presidencies, even in the bishopric. You can even invite single members to your social events, they can be your friends, they can be great “aunties” or “uncles” to your children,. Single adults have always played importance roles in communities in accomplishing things busy parents can’t always do, we shouldn’t be shunning ours.

    I’ve heard that general authorities are very mixed on their support of singles wards but the reason singles wards won’t die is because there is a higher rate of lds marriages with them. But I think that helping everyone become their best self and have a close relationship to the Savior should be the goal. Not marriage rates.

  38. Eliza N says:

    @Rebecca: That’s so well said. You’ve made so many great points! I think that’s where I’m landing: While recognizing that there are great things about singles wards and you can definitely have positive experiences in them, what we are sacrificing by having a separate church structure for singles does not seem to justify the few positives that come from it. Because we put such an extreme emphasis on marriage by cordoning singles off into areas where they are theoretically supposed to find a spouse, we are asking singles to put getting married at a higher priority than coming to Christ. If we put anything at a greater importance than coming to Christ, then we are churching wrong.

  39. I’m on the fence about this. I attended singles wards because it was “where I belonged,” while at BYU ages 17-22. I wasn’t the biggest fan then, but I thought that’s what I had to do and where I had to be, so that’s what I did. I really missed children and old people and hated the “meat market” competitive aspect, but I also found value in the strength of sharing so much (common experiences and stage of life-related things) with so many around me (basically I agree with everything brought up in this article, related to those aspects). At 22, moving to an area outside of the mainland US with no viable singles ward option, I settled into a family ward and loved it–had a calling in Primary, loved being part of a Relief Society with sisters from all ranges of age and experience, and still had a great time with YSA from our YSA-dedicated Sunday school class. Then moving across the world to the South Pacific at age 24 (I live in New Zealand), again there were simply no YSA ward options. Therefore, I continued to enjoy the family ward and took part in the many activities and programs Stake YSA programs across the city, provided. But then last year, in May, the first Presidency approved the creation of two YSA wards in the Auckland-area. Due to my calling in the family ward and, again, my personal dislike of the traditional YSA scene, I immediately vowed to never move over. But within a few months the Spirit spoke to me, I ate a big piece of humble pie, and I took the plunge back to a YSA ward last August (I’m now 27). I can’t speak for the world, but my testimony of the value of YSA wards has developed tremendously in my current ward. I see the incredible blessing it has been for the YSA here, whom I have known and loved the past three years. There has been a night and day difference–a HUGE amount of growth for the YSA in our ward: more people going on missions than ever before, more people choosing to pursue education now than ever, and yes, more dating, engagements, and marriages too (this is a great thing from a culture where dating often just doesn’t happen, or where there is so much pressure and responsibility on YSAs in family wards that they never get a chance to actually talk to each other). Since the beginning when the area-leaders announced it, there has always been instruction from the pulpit so that all leaders and members know that being part of the YSA wards or remaining in a family ward is a personal choice. Many of my friends have chosen to remain in their family wards, and they are neither judged nor prodded to change–we were all only asked to consider it an option. The family wards and stakes continue to sponsor special YSA activities and firesides, and the YSA wards themselves continuously have activities. From my point of view, it is a win-win situation, and my testimony of inspired leaders has grown–perhaps YSA wards are not for everyone, but I do see the value in them and I appreciate the opportunity I have to make the choice. I know friends who have come to the YSA ward for awhile and then gone back to their family wards. Someday I may do the same, as I feel directed by the Spirit. But for now, whether it was to humble me or open my eyes to the real value, or for some other reason, I am grateful both for the creation of and my place in my wonderful YSA ward. (PS–Hi Eliza :)

  40. Eliza N says:

    Hi Kasia. :) Thank you for sharing you’re perspective!

  41. Eliza N says:

    Oh my gosh YOUR. It is time for bed, clearly.

  42. antodav says:

    For the first two years of my membership in the Church, the YSA Ward was all I knew. I can’t imagine my formative years as a Latter-Day Saint without it. Especially in Florida, where the LDS population is comparatively very small, the YSA program was indispensable in helping me to learn the principles I needed to learn, gain practice with my responsibilities as a priesthood holder, build friendships, experience fellowship for really the first time in my life, and be tested and tried with time to overcome my weaknesses and the most sinful aspects of my nature before graduating into a full family ward.

    Maybe in Utah, as with most things, the experience was completely different. But for me, the YSA ward was an invaluable experience (although I admittedly did not ultimately find my spouse through it), one that I would not have given up for anything. I doubt I would have even stayed active in the Church during those early difficult years if I had been thrust directly into a family ward without first gaining familiarity with Mormon culture and the various nuanced minutia of LDS life by being a YSA first. I could not disagree with the premise of this article more; it seems to be approaching the subject from a definite position of life-long member privilege.

  43. Marianne says:

    I stopped feeling single when I went to the family ward. It was a huge turning point not to have my worship entwined with my marital status and dating prospects any more. I was immensely grateful to have the opportunity to be with people with a much wider range of challenges and perspectives.