A dear friend–who is a single, never-married, 40-something, extremely faithful LDS woman–emailed this to a few friends. I share it with her permission, having edited out identifying information:
I received a call today from high councilman Z to meet with Pres Q in our stake pres on Sunday after Stake conference to talk about single adult needs in the stake.
The man explained that Pres Q wanted to know what my/our needs were in the stake and how they could offer a program for us. (I hope that’s not code for calling change. – That’d make me sad all over.)
So on the fly, I was trying to understand what I could bring to the table to help and HC Z said that many single adults don’t participate in the single adult activities and Pres Q wanted insight into why.
I thought that kind of stuff was optional, like church ball, or choir.
Do they have a council to round up mothers who don’t participate in Playdate/Park day?
Frankly, the thoughts in my head right now are pretty complainy-whiney oriented re the single adult programs. (I always feel like a snob when I complain about church programs. I do it (complain), but I feel like a snob.)
Single adult programs are poorly understood and amazingly worsely executed. Is that a word – worsely – if not, it should be, just for this context. Single adult programs are the worsly-est. ughhhh.
How do I be more constructive in the meeting? I really don’t want to be an all out dork and whine the whole time.
To which I replied: “If you were sitting with us at dinner and I asked, “What could the church do to better meet the needs of single adults?” what would you say?”
To which she replied:
Julie, that question helped.
1) I tend to ramble and
2) this was a big topic that wasn’t going to fold into an hour discussion with the stake president doing 15 min of the talking, I made notes and created a top 3 list to make sure I hit with a follow up invitation to continue the conversation.
I met with him from 12:30-2 today and the companion member of the high priest had to leave because he left his wife waiting in the car. They may have originally alloted only half hour so I don’t know how far I went over. If they wanted a sip of water, they got it our of a fire hydrant.
I hit these points:
1) Single in the church is an unfamiliar issue with most attempting to address it. (Bishops/Stake members) They aren’t in the situation and while other issues are familiar like divorce, abuse, apostasy etc… being single in the church won’t be something they share opinions or experiences about. For whatever reason, it’s the unfamiliar situation.
That got several “hmmm’s” and provoked some note taking.
2) If you are wanting to talk about singles being inactive in singles programs that is Conversation 1,
if you are wanting to talk about singles being inactive in the church, that’s conversation 2.
Conversation 1: Singles programs are generally based on what we do for 19 yr olds and they aren’t applicable at my age/stage of life. Generally they are spiritually unhealthy places to meet (i.e. darkened cultural halls with music etc). I’ve nothing against dancing if you leave the lights on and make it a folk dance or a line dance that evokes community and inclusion. A dark room full of wiggling people is not a good thing for divorced adults missing intimacy. If you were looking to meet your current wife, where would she be?
Pres Q: Sister Q would be at the temple.
Pres Z: Sister Z would be out and about serving someone, I’d have to meet her at a service project.
More notes taken, slightly more furiously this time.
Conversation 2: It takes double strength to attend church when you get so many odd social comments (gave example of a few – my top 3 fav’s) and have to endure endless innocent pushing-away as to our situation and standing in the church. (gave example of a comment from Pres F only last night).
2a) We don’t go to primary and teach the kids that they can’t be like God until they are married with kids of their own and ignore the time between being 5 and 23. We address it, we give them things to do, we encourage them and plan for their futures. If they hear that they have no purpose and can’t progress until they are 23, they might leave too.
2b) And especially lets not water down the doctrine. We believe in marriage. It isn’t ok to want to be single but/and…
God has more than one way of teaching me and blessing me, in his own time. Abinidi gets burned at the stake, Pres Monson gets a drunk driver in a convoy in Argentina that misses his car by inches and spares his life. Both are testimonies of the Lord’s will. There is not ONE way. The Lord is more creative than that.
Notes stopped and they both stared at me. I don’t know if they were watching to see if I was espousing wrong precepts or fascinated at something they hadn’t heard before (Unfamiliarity issue mentioned in first topic)
3) Brought in unfamiliarity again as a possible case in point. Talked about Sister A coming to RS out of YSA ward. Told them I watched big alligator tears form on her face her first Sunday from the front row. RS lesson chatted about all kinds of stuff and we went on around her. I told him a married RS pres might or might or might not have noticed that. The spirit works for all and I’m not claiming special dispensation, but there are things life has taught me and I knew what that was. I met with her after church and asked her if she was feeling X, X, and X. She wept for an hour or two and said yes, and she didn’t know what to do about it. She was grateful to be in the family ward but didn’t know how to feel about being away from the YSA ward.
She was the only name I mentioned other than Pres F, other instances had all been anonymous. Pres Q piped up with, “I know Sister A and I’m surprised that someone as faithful as she would have any struggles, I guess there’s a lot I haven’t thought about”.
More note taking as I went on about other experiences and expectations including individual situations about how to make my own confidence in prayers stronger, due to the fact that I’ve been praying about marriage for umpteen years and still…. well, you know. But I can pray to find my car keys and nail it about 2x every other year so I know Heavenly Father cares about my loosing my car keys.
That all took the time up. He commented with “I guess this issue is not for the faint of heart and I didn’t realize there were so many ways to see it. I’ve talked with a few other singles already. I guess I thought that some singles are happy with thier lives and just don’t need the church to do anything because they don’t have time to attend.
My comment: It’s true. Some are busy and fulfilled with responsibilities of raising children singly, having grandkids, 2 jobs, hobbies etc… Others will say that because the current status of what the church offers outside of the block meetings is the dark dance hall and no one I know wants to get accosted by their Bishop for not going to those places. When you try to talk about why you don’t go, it easily appears arrogant. So I’m happy to tell you I too am busy, and happy.
And I am happy to be in the gospel. I offered to be on a committee or to come meet with them again.
He said “I think we’ll put a cap on that”
We closed with prayer.
I wish I could have said something fascinating to make them want to talk to me again about it but I don’t know why I even wanted that. I’m happy to be done with the meeting. Just opening that can of worms is hard to fold it all back in when I want them to understand it like I do.
I guess what I really want is to pull them “up to speed” on the issues the way I understand them so we can have a conversation on the topic without it having to be a conversation that goes like this:
Him: You have the opportunity to be married in the hereafter.
Me: Thanks, I know that too.
Him: I know there’s a stake dance on Friday, you should go and be available.
So that’s what I would have told you at dinner. And we would be well past desert by now.
I want to make clear that Pres Q didn’t end the meeting with the imaginary example of the conversation about the dance that ends the email. He was very overwhelmed and considerate of my conversation. I felt his love and concern very strongly.
They both said repeatedly, “This is a lot to digest”. So they were very considerate and probably drowned, overtime and needed to be somewhere else. I appreciate very much their even spending those 90 minutes hearing me and appreciate that about our Stake leaders. That may have been well over their busy schedules to even consider that and I don’t want to sound unappreciative of thier personal sacrifice, especially when I overtook of their time.
I am grateful that they care. I hope I didn’t overwhelm them. (I prolly did though).
I am extra grateful they talk to others as well so they can get a clear picture.