A Shout Out to Single Men (from the series: Single and Married in the LDS Church)

single manFour years ago, I published this post on single Mormon men. I think this series on singles is a good time to bring it back (with a few edits and updates) for a re-post. This article does not address divorced men in specific, but the same principles apply. Divorced men in the church are often viewed with more suspicion and judgment than never-been-married men. I hope this post will help us to re-evaluate how we view and treat our single men.

Throughout my single adult life, I’ve heard a lot criticism about Single Mormon Men (SMM). People say that they are selfish, lazy, irresponsible, and just plain weird. Everyone seems to have an opinion about SMM, including Nicole Hardy who calls them “left overs: awkward, uncompromising, and unlucky” (“Single, Female, Mormon, Alone”, NYTimes, 1/2011). I’ve read many unflattering theories for their singleness on Mormon blogs across the internet.

These men rarely get a break: the prophet is on their case about being unmarried, bishops keep the pressure on about dating, parents are ever inquiring, and ward members eye them suspiciously. Even single women (I am very sorry to say) seem to have free reign in their verbal flogging. There is a constant call for them to grow up, man up, career up, and get married already.

 

The SMM response to this censure? To walk away.

 

Jared Whitley writes “most single LDS males are probably not willing to complain … so they do the only thing they can do: suffer in quiet desperation [or] seek refuge elsewhere. [This] means leaving the Mormon Church, which compounds the imbalanced gender ratios among LDS singles.” (How Targeting LDS Males for Declining Marriage Rates Misses the Mark )

 

This needs to change.

 

These men are kind, genuine, engaging people – who are largely undeserving of the criticism they receive.

My experience with SMM is different from the opinions above. I have many positive experiences with SMM.

  • Last spring, for example, I put together an Easter event and rounded up dozens of people to help and to sing. Half of those who said “yes” were SMM.
  • Yesterday, I called three friends for a favor; the one who came through was a SMM.
  • In my daily life, SMM are interesting parts to my email strings, intelligent contributors to my conversations, and fun companions on a variety dinners, outings, and road trips.
  • They have given me blessings when I’ve been ill, brought me food when I’ve been recovering, reviewed my resumes, proofed my Exponent articles, and, along with my girl friends and married friends, have supported me in difficult times.
  • In their wards, I have watched them camp with the Young Men, visit the needy, lead missionary efforts, teach lessons, and sing in choirs.

To be realistic, they do have problems. But these problems are no more remarkable than yours or mine. Yes, they have disappointed me. And so have my single girl friends, my married friends, and my family.

I’d like to have more SMM around. I believe if they feel valued and loved in their friendships and wards – they’ll stay around. And we’ll be better for it.

 How to keep SMM around?

  • Appreciate them for all the ways they serve.
  • Give them callings at church that will allow them to use their skills and talents.
  • Call them for blessings.
  • Invite them to dinner, parties, and fun events.
  • Talk to them (for heaven sake). Ask them about their jobs and their interests.
  • Support them when they are in need.
  • Don’t make assumptions – any assumptions.
  • Be short on advise and long on love.

In short, treat them like you treat your friends. I believe if we engage our SMM, we will find our Mormon community stronger, more vibrant, and more supported. We need all the members in the Body of Christ.

Suzette

Suzette lives in the Washington DC area and works as a Professional Organizer. She enjoys blogging and serving on the Exponent II Board. Her Mormon roots run deep and she loves her big Mormon family which includes 20 nieces and nephews, 6 sisters, 5 brother in laws, 2 parents - and dozens of cousins. Her favorite things about church are the great Alexandria wards, temple worship, and all things Visiting Teaching.

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14 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Such important reminders and advice, Suzette. Thank you!

  2. RT says:

    SMM are in such a difficult position in very traditional wards. We have a gentleman in our ward in his early 30s who I became casual friends with as he was part of a class I taught. We’d occasionally sit near each other at ward events (with or without my husband) (and by near – I mean on the same pew, not off by ourselves or anything). I’m at least 10 years older than him, but we always have interesting conversations and I genuinely like him. I heard thru the grapevine that he got reproached for sitting by me.

    Which made me absolutely furious, but I couldn’t see what I could do about it that wouldn’t make things harder for him or royally embarrass him (as he’s reserved to begin with).

  3. CS Eric says:

    Although I am single because I am widowed, I love this advice. The one piece of advice I wish more people would follow is to treat us like friends. As one small example, my bishop is always calling me a dear friend. But I have never been invited to his home. I know he means well, but a simple invitation shouldn’t be so hard.

  4. spunky says:

    This is excellent, Suzette! Thank you!

  5. Derek says:

    I’m single because I’m gay! 🙂

  6. someone says:

    Sometimes we just lose common sense.

    The principle is to treat *everyone* in a Christlike manner. Doesn’t matter if they are married, single, divorced, gay, whatever. Just treat single people like *people* and most of these things go away. Yeah sit by them, talk to them, dont run away from them, dont call them names, dont tag them, etc, but dont do that because “they’re single”, do that because they are souls that have just as much worth as you or me.

    *disclaimer: having been single, married, then single again.

  7. Kirsten says:

    My brother is a 48 year old, single, divorced man. The stress on getting married and being in a family has frustrated him for years. Every time he moves into a new ward, the Bishop seems to want to push him into dating the single women of the ward even before he’s learned his name. He hates it when he’s constantly asked about whether or not he’s got a girlfriend yet and then given advice on what he should be doing. Then they’re surprised when he doesn’t come to church every week. He gets so annoyed with the meddling and judgment…

  8. Tvice says:

    Thanks for this article. As a divorced man I became a SMM again in my late twenties. I remember one of my first sundays back to a singles ward was a stake conference and three of the speakers felt it necessary to point out how much the men in the wards needed to get their act together while praising the women. I agree that the women of the church are great, but for someone who had just gone through a very painful divorce hearing about how I was failing for being single didn’t help. I’ve always been an active member of the church but some of the messages I got as a divorced man made it hard to want to keep attending. Didn’t help that my wife left the church shortly after she left me and had made some hurtful decisions while we were married.

    I hope that we never get in the habit of praising one group while putting another down be it men, women, single, married, etc.. We are all children of God and have great potential and great things we can contribute.

    • Suzette says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s so tough. I hope we’ll all be better at loving each other. I know I love my SMM and I really want them to feel appreciated!

      • Maegan says:

        There seems to be an unfortunate theme in Mormon culture of continually wailing on the men while putting the women on a high (but patronizing) pedestal.

  9. KLC says:

    I was single for a good chunk of my adult life. I was always irritated by the mixed messages. When a bishop or SP or other visiting authority talked about *their* marriage it was always an eternal love story, a match made in heaven, a pairing of soul mates, a celebration of glorious love. Yet when these same people started talking about *our* future marriages it was an eternal service project where we just had to lower expectations, date more and then just ask someone for pete’s sake.

  10. Liz says:

    This should not be revolutionary, so why does it feel that way?! Thank you, Suzette, for these words of advice and reminders.

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