New Series: “Single and Married in the LDS Church”

Single“The church still struggles with ways to value variations on its strong family theme,” I recently said to a friend in a discussion about The Family Proclamation.

The theme variation that most directly impacts me is singlehood. As a life-long single member of a church that values marriage, couple sealings, family history and child rearing it is often difficult to keep my footing.

I do believe the gospel is for everyone and I (fortunately) have a caring spiritual home in the warmth and openness of my ward – but still there are struggles. I grieve the life I had intended for myself and the children I hoped for. I wonder about the next life as a single daughter of God. I am continually forced to “fit myself in” to lessons and talks that do not allow room for my variation. (Luckily, I no longer worry about where to sit in sacrament meeting, because my ward is inviting on every pew.) For other single members, the struggle to fit into their ward, socially, is significant. Some feel confused and hurt by counsel from uninformed Bishops. And many wrestle with self-esteem because of their inability to meet an unattainable standard. For all singles there are painful realities couched within Mormon Doctrine about the links between marriage and salvation.

Like most single members, I love families. I am blessed with a good family of origin, I value the families in my ward, and I believe that the family unit is a great way to traverse the journey of mortality. However, the continual rhetoric about “The Family” can (often in unintended ways) exclude single members and create pain in our lives. Whether we choose to stay with the church, or leave it, life can be lonely and full of self-doubt.

Conversely, I’ll be the first to admit that single life is pretty sweet. There are advantages that I would not like to trade for another life’s path. I am not waiting; I am not half-a-soul. I am, myself, a whole daughter of God ready to serve and contribute and share. That is how I hope to be seen.

The church rarely turns away from work – and I believe there is work to do on full inclusion for single members. Problems can be found in curriculum and in our ideas about eternal life. Problems can be found on both sides of the single/married coin: in the attitudes of married members toward single members and in the attitudes of single members toward ourselves.

For the next two weeks, this series, “Single and Married in the LDS Church”, will address some of these problems and concerns. It is our hope to inform, explain, and find solutions to bring the Body of Christ together. Our contributors are mostly single themselves and themes will include

  • the unique contributions of single members
  • dispelling myths about singles
  • how to be a good parent to single adults – and how to including singles in your community as a married member
  • how to speak for ourselves in positive says – as single members
  • the interface of single members in a variety of contexts, such as sexuality, employment, the temple
  • a focus on specific single situations such as single parents and divorce
  • an introspective look at grieving as a single member

We hope you will enjoy the series, share the posts with others, and comment with your own stories and experiences.

 

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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21 Responses

  1. Lily says:

    As he never married life long member I’m looking forward to the series.

  2. Lily says:

    Darn the AutoCorrect. As a never married lifelong member I am looking forward to the series.

  3. HOA says:

    I hope you will address the plight of single divorced men as well as women. I don’t think people realize how hard it is for them. The assumption is that a divorce is always the guys’s fault. That men can’t be victims of abuse…they can….and that somehow they are less worthy than divorced women…can’t be ordinance workers, can’t be bishops (with a few exceptions…etc.). I think that statistically speaking divorced men are far less likely to remain active than divorced women…. Who takes care of the divorced man…meals, rides etc when he has surgery…he doesn’t have VTs.

    • Suzette says:

      I hear you HOA. Things are tough at church for divorced men. We do have a piece planned about single men in general … and there will be a touch on divorced men. I wish we had a more to draw from.
      And, I’ll just point out that divorced women can’t be Bishop’s either. 🙂

  4. Liz says:

    I am so excited for this series, Suzette. I can’t wait to hear the stories of my sisters and brothers and to learn from them.

  5. Susan says:

    I don’t go to church anymore because there is no place for me there. I’m unmarried and childless by choice and listening to hours and hours of talks about marriage and families was getting really old. The final straw was the day I told the new home teacher and his wife that I wasn’t married and she crossed her fingers on both hands, raised them over her head, and said loudly MAYBE SOMEDAY!

    • Suzette says:

      No doubt … church can be a tough place for singles. I know first hand that a Bishop told a single woman to start looking for her brown horse because the white horses had already passed her by. 🙁

  6. Ziff says:

    Thanks for doing this series. I look forward to it!

  7. Sabra says:

    I’m looking forward to future posts as well. I’ve been getting looked past at family wards (no one talks to, sits with or fellowships me) even when I attempt to start conversations and participate in lessons. Family wards are some of the loneliest places I’ve ever been in. Then there’s the more age appropriate and socially satusfying YSA wards. However, they only provide a temporary protection and respite because they’re supposed to be temporary; which can be patronizing in itself.

    • Suzette says:

      Yup. It’s a tough spot. I think singles ward (in general) can alienate marrieds from singles and visa versa. Not my favorite solution. And family wards can just be lonely. We still have much to do in bringing our people together.

      • Sabra says:

        I went to a YSA ward in Dallas that was toying with the idea of de-linking marital status and age by having members 30 and under stay in the ward even after they got married. I don’t think they ever followed through but I think I like that idea.

    • Sharon says:

      I agree that singles place in conventional wards (I prefer that term to “family wards”) is an area that really needs work. I think separating singles out for as long as we do in the church is part of why we struggle so much. For many in the church singles are out of sight, and therefore it’s easier for them to be out of mind. It would be a big adjustment, but I really believe that if we made an earlier cutoff age for singles wards (say, 25 or so), there would be more singles in each conventional ward, the high numbers of singles in the church (over 30%) would be more visible to the rest of the church, and we could signal adulthood by working and contributing in a conventional ward instead of by marriage. There could still be plenty of singles activities to participate in, but I don’t think marital status should dictate your worship congregation for over twelve years.

      • Suzette says:

        I could not agree more. And for some they are defined by their marital status (in a singles ward) from age 18 to age 45. That is a LONG time.
        I call it “annexing” – singles from the rest of the church. In our Stake the singles wards (3 of them) have their own building. So, the other wards LITERALLY never see them. Out of sight; out of mind. They only come in to sight when they marry and move into conventional wards. i think it reinforces stereotypes for the married culture that singles are “waiting”, unable to contribute until they are married, need fixing, etc.
        We have to separate adulthood from marriage – and singles wards are not helping (in my opinion). I know there can be a case made for singles wards, but I’m not a fan.

      • Emily U says:

        I like your idea. With the possible exception of university student wards, it would be a very interesting experiment to get rid of singles wards, and see what the effects are on the issues that you raise.

      • GR says:

        Even worse, the mid-singles magnet wards are some sort of “slight reintegration” from the separationism of the singles wards. Attending one really feels like you’re the “colored folk” tolerated in the “white folks'” service, as long as you stay over there in the cheap seats and don’t expect anything said from the stand to be of benefit to you.

  8. spunky says:

    This is a long-over due topic that needs to be addressed! Thank you for spearheading this series, I am really looking forward to learning how to be better at including everyone at church.

  9. Sharon says:

    I’m so glad you’re having this conversation, Suzette (and Exponent II)! One of the biggest difficulties about having a productive conversation about singles in the church is helping singles know how to talk about our demographic. Often we get stuck in only talking about our individual situations. Being able to see the wider community of singles and communicate it to the wider church is a needed and important step. Cheering you on!

    • Suzette says:

      We agree again. We, as singles, must learn to talk about ourselves in a more productive way. I actually have a post coming up in a couple of days all about this. We must start acting like adults and speaking of ourselves with confidence. I do think other infantilize singles all the time and it’s so annoying. On the other hand, we sometimes earn the title by not asserting our own adulthood. More to come.

  10. FLJ says:

    I’m married, but I’m still looking forward to this series. I have family and friends in this boat, and I’d like to do anything I can to help.

  1. May 13, 2016

    […] Special Series on Specific Topics – most recently: Singles in the LDS Church […]

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