The Great Divide
I’m 25. I’m not married. And I’m a Mormon. (Wouldn’t that make a great ad?) There are very few of my LDS friends who are my age and still unmarried. In fact, I did a quick review of my Facebook friends and found that all of my friends from high school are married, and about half have at least one baby.
As a young-but-old-enough-you-should-be-married-by-now lady, I would like to ask my fellow humans who are married to be aware. The following are all things that have been said to me at some point:
“It’s ok, if you don’t marry someone in this life, the Stripling Warriors are going to need ladies!”
(You do remember there are only 2,000 of them, right?)
“You can be my sister-wife.”
“So…you do like guys, right?”
(Yes, but why is it a problem if I don’t?)
“It’s because you have too many opinions/are too educated!”
(If that’s true than I’d rather be alone)
“There’s this guy in my ward who you would be great with! Well, I don’t actually know anything about him, but he’s single…you’re single…”
(So we must have a lot in common, clearly.)
“Don’t you want a family?”
(I have a family; I have a mom and brothers and aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and grandparents…you get the idea.)
While most of these comments were well intentioned, some were not; some were annoying, most were hurtful. It has been my experience that there is a disconnect between married and unmarried people in the church, especially women. A lot of this goes back to single’s wards.
I know the argument for singles units is to better meet the specific needs of unmarried members. However in my experience the cons have far outweighed the pros. The YSA wards and branches I have been in have underfunded and under-manned (once, literally; we did not have enough priesthood holders to fill all the callings where priesthood was necessary – another argument in favor of female ordination, but that’s another post). Often we were excluded from Stake activities. Again, this was usually the result an unintentional oversight or miscommunication, but I think that helps the case for integrating YSA women more; it’s easier to ignore someone when you don’t see them.
The disconnect between family and YSA wards and branches also makes the transition in to married life more difficult. Friends of mine who have gotten married and left the single’s branch for a family ward have told me they felt isolated; they lose a big part of their support system just as they are beginning the tricky process of navigating married life. In addition, because they don’t know the sisters in their new wards, they miss out on some potentially really helpful mentoring from more experienced women who have been where they are.
Most importantly, by separating single people, it is easy for other church members, and most importantly leaders, to loose touch with what the needs of the YSA members actually are. And because there are more single LDS women than men, this also means that Sister’s concerns get pushed even further out of the forefront.We should be taking every opportunity to strengthen women’s voices. Inadvertently (I hope), YSA women are all to often left out of conversations.
Even with the existence of separate YSA branches, we should be doing more to integrate unmarried women in to the church. I’m lucky to live in an area now where this is happening. The stake Relief Society presidency meets with my branch Relief Society presidency regularly. There are members of my YSA branch on the stake high council, and in auxiliary presidencies. The Stake Presidency comes to our meetings on a regular basis. A book club in another ward makes it a point to invite women from my branch to participate. It has been a blessing to be able to learn from and serve with all the women in my stake.
Having seen the possibilities, my hope that it is possible for these things to happen has been restored. YSA women have a lot to learn and a lot to offer, and there are so many ways to help them do both outside their singles’ units. These sisters need help learning how to use their voices. Separating them from potential mentors does no one any good. So it is my further hope that, especially as we celebrate the founding of Relief Society, we can remember all our sisters who need a voice, and help them claim it.