As a single Latter-day Saint, church experiences are different from the “norm.” I took some time to talk with a dozen or so singles and former singles (particularly those who spent some real time being single past the age of 21) and invited them to tell the rest of us what they’d like us to know about their experience as singles in the Church.
Not surprisingly, I found the conversations eye-opening and enlightening, and some of the themes and opinions came up again and again.
1. No two singles are alike.
Generally speaking, we singles share in common the fact that we’re single and LDS. But beyond those two characteristics, we are each very much individuals with our own histories. Some singles have never married, some have married and divorced, and some are widowed. Some are college educated, and others are not. Some are lifetime members, and others are adult converts. Some have children, and others don’t. We have our own strengths and weaknesses, talents and interests, challenges and triumphs. We’re good at finding common ground with each other, but don’t assume that just because we’re single and LDS that we we think and act the same. We thrive on being valued as the individuals we truly are.
2. Most of us want to marry (for the first time or again), but we’re not desperate to marry.
In other words, please don’t constantly ask us if or when we are going to get married. Trust us—if we had found the right one, we would be married by now. Sometimes, we really do appreciate your efforts to find us a match, but keep in mind that even if you know a single man or woman who has a pulse and is an active member of the Church, these facts alone do not necessarily make him or her a good marriage prospect for us. Even so, if you feel prompted to introduce us to someone you think may be a fun date or a good match, go ahead and introduce us, but don’t pressure us to go out with them. We’re more likely to marry successfully if we’re given a little time and space to seek inspiration for ourselves.
3. We sisters would like your help to find a few more good men.
Or make that a few thousand more good men. One single sister from Oklahoma City had this to say about being a single sister in the Church: “The singles conference I just got back from had 700 women and 200 men attending. Ridiculous! Where are all the men? Inactive, I believe. We need elders quorums and high priest groups to get out there and do their jobs contacting these guys. There is no way they can be righteous priesthood holders when they are inactive with no friends at church. Most of us single sisters would just rather stay single than end up with a man who does not have a strong testimony and is not a valiant priesthood holder.”
4. We value your friendship.
We share some terrific friendships with other singles, but we share some wonderful friendships with our married friends as well. While we may not have the same marital status as our married friends, we often share many other things in common with them. In some cases, we share a love of music, everything from Broadway musicals to participating in the ward choir. In other cases, we may share an interest in the outdoors, including camping and hiking. And oftentimes, we simply share a similar outlook on life and a deep and abiding belief in our responsibility to make a positive difference in the world around us through consistent and compassionate acts of service.
5. We appreciate your sensitivity to our unmarried and possibly childless circumstances when you deliver your sacrament meeting talks and share your Sunday lessons.
We love the fact that the Church is family-centered, and so we understand that many talks and lessons are necessarily written and prepared with families in mind. Even so, we appreciate it when teachers and speakers take into account that not all of us live in homes where there is the ideal of a mother, father, and children. We do not expect or want to be pitied for our lack of such a family situation, but we are positively impacted when teachers and speakers make an effort to tailor their lessons, in part, to speak to our particular circumstances.
Those of us who are single women without children have been especially touched on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day when the speakers have honored the difference we try to make in the lives of children not our own, whether those children are our nieces and nephews, the children we teach in Primary, or our neighbors’ and friends’ kids. We feel loved and wanted when ward members make an extra effort to help us feel a full part of this wonderful and vibrant family-oriented church.
6. We need diligent home teachers and visiting teachers.
A good number of us have not experienced the blessing of having faithful home teachers and visiting teachers. But we know what a tremendous blessing this can be in our lives. A single mother of two has this to say about her faithful home teachers: “I make it a point to thank my home teachers’ wives for allowing them to spend time bringing a message to us, as well as teaching me to do things like how to caulk the cracks in my windows.” Please know that whether we have family nearby or not, we benefit immensely from having diligent home teachers and visiting teachers.
7. We love to serve in Church callings and in other Church-related volunteer capacities, but we often have less free time than others might think.
For those of us who do not have children, we find that our married friends sometimes assume we have fewer responsibilities and far more free time than we actually have. In reality, many of us work hard to keep our heads above water with demanding jobs, the sole responsibility for the care and upkeep of our homes, and the needs of friends and family, sometimes including our aging parents.
Please know that we very much desire to serve in the Church, and we are committed to doing so as we seek to prayerfully balance our Church service with the demands and needs in our personal lives.
8. We enjoy serving in a variety of Church callings.
We are happy to serve in the nursery and in the singles group, but overall, we enjoy serving in a wide range of callings, everything from Primary teacher to Relief Society counselor to ward missionary. Wherever we are asked to serve, we seek to use the special skills and knowledge we have gained from our work and professional lives to magnify our Church callings.
9. We hope you’ll celebrate the good in our lives with us.
While we may feel down at times about not being married and, as the case may be, not having any children, we find there is still much good to celebrate in our lives. It means a great deal to us when our LDS friends share in our excitement about a job promotion or in our enthusiasm for a talent we are striving to develop. We work hard to create happy lives no matter what our circumstances and, truth be told, our happiness naturally doubles when shared with others.
10. Know that you make a powerful and positive difference in our lives.
If you ever wonder whether you make a difference in our lives, be assured that you do. We can recall numerous times when your friendship and caring have made an important difference for each of us. One formerly single mom can remember a period of time in particular when some married members of her ward made a big difference in her and her daughter’s life.
She had just come through a difficult divorce and found herself unexpectedly the sole parent and provider for her toddler. This young mother’s heart ached as she thought about her daughter growing up without the benefit of a dad to help raise her.
Thankfully, two couples in her ward, sensitive to her and her daughter’s situation, invited them into their homes to share dinners and family gatherings. The young mother found enormous comfort in knowing that although she couldn’t give her daughter a dad at that time, members in her ward had thoughtfully and lovingly filled in some of the gaps.
For LDS singles, Church experiences can be trying, but with the understanding and support of our friends, family, and ward members, it is much easier. Being sensitive to our needs shows us that you love and appreciate our contribution to the community—and we couldn’t be more grateful.
Check out these excellent resources for LDS singles:
Sister Oaks's A Single Voice
In a church that is focused on family, singles can feel discounted and discouraged. Oftentimes the very resources meant to support people can inadvertently cause pain. This thoughtful book addresses tricky questions, such as, “Are there ways to ease the transition from a singles ward to a home ward?” and “What are some specific ways to make single life happier and more fulfilling?”
John Bytheway's What I Wish I'd Known When I Was Single
Is there a “one and only” for me? I know marriage is important, but why is it so urgent? What do I do while I’m waiting? These are the hard questions of the young single adult years, made all the harder by the pressure many feel to move from “solo” to “duet” status. In this insightful book, popular author John Bytheway explores how to take on life as a young adult: what to expect, how to cope, and where to turn for answers.