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