Why singles wards are really, really, really bad ideas and they should be dissolved, effective immediately

Note: Whew, this drew a lot more consternation than I was expecting (considering the last one I wrote about how prophets don’t necessarily fulfill the standard role as oracles in our Church drew barely a peep!). This is hastily written, overly dramatic, and can come off as totally mean. I wrote it with two hours of sleep and while trying to study for a cognitive psychology quiz. I didn’t mean to say you cannot have good experiences in the singles ward system, but I do stand by my argument that singles wards are redundant and unnecessary. So if you haven’t read this and you’re faint of heart, you might consider skipping this one out.

I have no love for singles wards. My experience in the singles ward circuit was humiliating, demoralizing, and nearly cost me my faith. I know of some people who thrive in the singles ward atmosphere. Let me say this loud and clear:

The vast majority of people I know don’t really like singles wards, and there’s a lot of reasons why, and I’m going to detail them right now, this very instant, so that you will know why singles wards are just really bad ideas that need to be dismantled.

1. Singles wards are artificial

Why do most Mormon geographical wards work so well? Because they’re geographical, and not left up to choice. I’ve seen the effects of church shopping on a community. The entire area devolves into a giant popularity contest as church leaders try to woo members away from other churches and cannibalize each other. It’s not pretty. Mormon wards, however, are divided up geographically, so that you’re forced to rub shoulders with people you normally wouldn’t hang out with. Most wards tend to have a pretty even spread of lifestyles and demographics. You have older people, young people, youth, teens, young couples, well-established couples, all learning from each other and working with each other for a greater cause. We exercise charity, we have opportunity to practice it every day, and it prevents the kind of clique-ish behavior humans so easily display. If you think cliques in a ward are bad, I had friends in high school who lost friends because they didn’t go to the “cool” church. It can get bad, and geographical wards eliminate a lot of those problems. That’s why we strongly encourage people to go to their geographical wards.

Except singles wards are not geographical. They are artificial in their construct. You have a very Stepford-esque situation where everyone is roughly the same age as you. Most are going to school or working for themselves. None (usually) have any children. There are no older people to give you advice, sans the frazzled bishopric who works overtime to work with a transient ward of people who don’t know what to do with their life. There are also no younger people to serve and give you a new perspective. In fact, there isn’t a whole lot of learning going on. A group of 20-somethings can only contribute so much before they just…run out of perspective. This creates an incredibly spiritually deficient atmosphere.

2. Singles wards have agendas

Singles wards are about getting married. Full stop. You can get out of the never ending circus only by getting married or turning 30. They are completely designed to help you find your spouse and that’s that.

This is wrong. Worship is not about finding the man or woman of your dreams. When we partake the Sacrament, you should not be scoping out the crowd. Every time someone speaks, you shouldn’t be judging whether they could be a potential mate/rival. Worship should be about God, not hormones. Unfortunately, in a singles ward, it is inescapable. People may deny it, but when the entire system is rigged to force you think about your unmarried state and changing it, how could you escape? It’s like when people tell you to not think of purple elephants – you can’t help but think about them now. When the entire system is designed to remind you that you need to get married, it’s impossible not to think about, when you should be thinking about God and service.

3. Because of the agenda, singles wards are ripe with all kinds of weird, creepy forms of compromised authority and stewardship

While I was single, my then girlfriend (soon wife)’s brother was also my roommate and and the elders quroum president. He struggled to rectify a really annoying trend in his hometeaching statistics.

Home teachers almost never visited their male charges. However, they did visit their female charges without fail every month. Sometimes several times a month.

Wait, let me add one more twist to the numbers.

Only the pretty ones had home teacher visits.

I do not think this kind of behavior was endemic to just our singles ward. I would imagine that this is the case for many singles wards. And it opens itself up to some really weird priesthood issues. One should not be using callings to score dates or chase skirts. Ever. This is just a really bad thing. But, again, with the agenda enforced so thoroughly within the very structure of the singles wards, how could you not run into this kind of situation?

I know of men who try to capture wives by manipulating spiritual events and feelings to their favor. These stories are not uncommon, and they are dispicable. We should not endorse or encourage any structure which only facilitates this kind of spiritual abuse.

4. The “younger” singles wards are too transient; the “older” singles wards are too stale

Because of the nature of young people, the singles ward demographic is constantly changing. Nowhere is this more apparent than BYU, where entire swaths of the ward leave every six months, only to be replaced by the “new crop.” This transient nature prevents the ward from providing a very important function that congregations should provide – they cannot act as an anchor for your family or your worship practice.

In my current ward, one of the counselors of the bishopric go out of his way to greet us every Sunday, to ask us how we’re doing. He encourages us every Sunday to think about staying in Redmond (with a twinkle in his eye, of course). He’s been in the ward for over 30 years. He’s seen the comings and goings, and for some reason, it provides a type of stability. We can learn everyone in ward and then become established ourselves, helping new people in. The entire ward isn’t changing overnight every six months. It’s nice, stable, and helps provide an anchor to an otherwise frenzied pace of life at that age.

Unfortunately, the “young” singles wards (usually localized around colleges) cannot provide that kind of anchor. They shift constantly. There’s no anchoring, no familiarity, no “old guard” to help you learn the ropes of the ward’s particular culture. Nor do you even care, because let’s face it – if you’re still there in a year, you’re surprised yourself. Nobody really tries to get to know each other because what’s the point? You just have to start the process over.

Sadly, the absolute opposite happens to the “older” singles wards (usually localized in cities and rural areas). They’ve been there for a while. Everyone has probably already dated everyone else – multiple times. And no marriage candidates. They go to church, but there’s no spiritual nourishment because there’s limited chances to serve in a meaningful way or to learn from the lifestyles of others around you. No matronly grandmothers to give you advice, no teenagers to joke with. Everyone is single, working (or in higher education), and completely burnt out in dating (after all, that’s the entire purpose of the singles ward). They’re just waiting to turn 30 so they can move on. The prospects of new people moving in are slim, definitely nowhere close to the singles wards they experienced in college. Everyone goes to church one Sabbath at a time, slowly marching through time until they can finally, bitterly leave the ward. And this is if they had the inexhaustible stores of spiritual stamina to endure such horror every week. Most have just stopped going to church by now. They’ve been shut out from the community they once loved simply because they’re unmarried. I’ve been in one of those singles wards. It’s like going to church with Dementors every Sunday.

We often say that for young single adults, this is the most critical point of their lives. So why, when they enter this most critical point of their lives, do we isolate them from the rest of the religious community, away from the good advice, the good role models, the good perspectives, the age and the wisdom that comes with it, and instead shut them up inside an echo chamber of angst and limited perspective? If this is the most critical point of their lives, we should surround them with all the love and support a geographical ward can muster (answer: a heck of a lot). Instead, we deprive them of one of the most beautiful expressions of Mormon culture when they need it most.

And explain to me why this whole set-up isn’t completely messed up.

5. We have a vast body of young single adults who want to serve but we refuse to let them

This is where the real damage of the singles wards come in. We have a vast army of young adults who want to serve the Church, who are begging to serve the Church, but we don’t let them. Think about it. These people have jobs, maybe some schooling, and have very little attachments. They have no spouse or kids. Unleash them into the wards!

A friend of mine lived in an area with no singles wards. He went to the family ward out of necessity instead. The elders quorum president called him to be a counselor. He worked intimately with many of the families of the ward. He grew in the leadership position. He was surrounded by good, honorable, older men who tutored and mentored him and became role models for his future. In turn, the ward got a counselor with little worldly attachment or obligation, who spent most of his evenings after work zealously in the service of God, visiting less actives and the sick and afflicted, spreading the gospel to those who might have otherwise fallen through the cracks.

I have friends who are tired of the singles ward. They want to move onto the family wards but they can’t because they’re nowhere close to 30 yet. They’re graduated from college, they work, and they don’t have much obligations outside of that. Imagine if we could channel all of that energy into young adults serving in the primary, Relief Society, the respective quorums and young women groups. What if we could turn all of that desire of service into effective home teachers who served families of all types and sizes, giving and receiving service in return? Imagine if we could have these people surrounded by wonderful, strong role models, people who have weathered the storms in life and still firmly believe in their faith, and who can in turn provide wonderful experiences for our single adults? But we don’t. We deny them of the very opporunities they are begging to have in order to progress in their faith and find spiritual nourishment. And you know what happens? Most of them don’t have patience for this malicious tomfoolery and shinanigans (that’s right, I called both of them). They drop out. And the funny thing is, aside from their lack of church attendance, they are Mormon through and through. They talk like Mormons. They live like Mormons. They think like Mormons. They believe like Mormons. And they’re proud of their Mormon heritage. They just don’t understand why the community the love so much would shut them out and act like they don’t exist or are worth nothing. How painful this is for them! It wounds them to the core. This is incredibly depressing for me to watch.

They want so desperately to serve and live the gospel. Instead, what do we do? Insist in corraling them into their respective singles wards where they eventually become bitter or simply stop coming. What a loss.

6. Singles wards don’t really help you to get married

Now, I can hear all of you saying, Brother Ted! There is a third option! You can just get married. But let me tell you something, you young whippersnappers. Singles wards won’t really help you get married.

Wait a second, I hear you chiming. I met my spouse at a singles ward! Darn it all to heck, you met your wife at a singles ward! And I will say, no, I really didn’t, and probably neither did you.

I met my wife because my roommate happened to have a really hot sister that would come over to visit and I would cover her with blankets when she fell asleep on the couch and walk her home every night for curfew.

Sure, we went to the same ward. We even talked on occasion in said ward. But both of us took our worship seriously. We didn’t really think that Sunday School class or fast and testimony meeting was a super appropriate opportunity to hit on someone. And neither should you.

Let’s say we dissolve all of the singles wards and incorporate all of them into the family wards. You will have singles meeting other singles in the context of the family wards! Except this time, they’re not super pressured to omg date right now and get married and pop out the babies because they are meeting in the context of community worship and not the meat packing plants that are today’s singles wards.

Let’s say your singles ward dissolves and you end up in a family ward that doesn’t have another single person of the opposite gender. That’s okay; you’re not  going to church to hook up anyway, and besides, it’s not like we don’t already have multi-stake singles events anyway. Because we totally do, you guys. Asking a girl out during Gospel Doctrine? Not cool, man. Asking a girl out during a singles dance because man, you two have just really been grooving well all night long? Niiiiiiiiiiiice.

That’s the thing. I can guarantee you that you will find other Mormon singles, and you will hang out (I am, of course, dealing with places where there are enough members. If you live in Eastern Europe, that’s a whole ‘nother story and singles wards themselves don’t even exist so problem solved I guess?). And it will be in these interactions outside of church that you will fall in love with and find your potential spouse and partner-for-life. I did not fall in love with my wife because she batted her eyelashes at me while Brother so-and-so droned on about faith at the pulpit. I fell in love with her when I showed her Katamari Damacy and she squealed in delight. I fell in love with her because we would take walks and she would hold my hand and snuggle up close. I fell in love because she would come over in cute hats and bake cookies and then tell me seriously how accounting is super-awesome. The fact that she was a strong member only solidified my love for her, and I didn’t have to meet her in the singles ward to find her. In fact, I really didn’t.

Looking for a spouse is like looking for a job – most likely, you will not get a job cold-calling all of the establishments you want to work with. Most likely, you will run into potential employers by word-of-mouth. Your friend will tell you about a sweet job you should look into, and you do. And most likely, you will find your job that way, not by purusing the classifieds. It’s the exact same thing when looking for a spouse. In fact, if you go into super-spouse-hunting mode, you really just end up scaring them all away.

We are taught to believe that the singles wards will help us find spouses, but it’s not true. People have been finding spouses long before singles wards existed. It’s true, they did! Ask, you know, every person who got married in the church before the relatively recent invention of singles wards! Unless you’re saying how they met didn’t count. Don’t tell them that. They’ll get mad. Have a little faith for the future, instead.

Singles wards won’t help you find a spouse. Single young adult activities? Sure, go to those absolutely. But when you go to church every Sunday, you should not feel like you’re being judged for spousal qualities or judge others for the same. You come to church for God. You come to church for Jesus. And if you’re coming to church for anything else, you’re doing it wrong.

So let us recap:

1. Singles wards are spiritually deficient by design.

2. Singles wards put marriage, dating, and hormones before God for Sunday worship.

3. Singles wards provide channels of really creepy spiritual manipulation, which should not be tolerated ever.

4. Singles wards deny opportunities for service and strong role models in the church and deprive people at the time they need it most the best Mormonism has to offer.

5. There are many singles dissatisfied with singles wards begging to be let into family wards, ready to serve with gusto and zeal, and we refuse to let them in because apparently not having a spouse is the equivalent of leprosy.

6. Singles wards don’t even really accomplish their designed purpose; singles activities do, and we already have both, so we might as well get rid of the former system that is sloughing unmarried young single adults over the age of 23 out of the church like a leper does limbs, right?

Any questions?



Filed under religion

23 responses to “Why singles wards are really, really, really bad ideas and they should be dissolved, effective immediately

  1. dteeps

    Very interesting. I agree. Mostly. With the caveat that I met my wife in our singles ward ( and YES I DID – if I hadn’t gone to Church, and other Ward Activities, I would not have known my wife well enough to marry her), I do think that the concept of Singles Wards is wrong. Or at least misunderstood.
    But I think you have something wrong here – you keep insisting that a single person CAN not go to a regular ward, and as far as I know there is no such regulation. Single people (even before they’re 30) are allowed to attend whichever ward they are most comfortable in. But I will admit that they may not always feel welcome in a regular ward, since most of the members expect a young single adult to attend the YSA ward.
    That, to me, is the real problem. People look too much at other people and expect too much of other people, when really Church is all about the personal relationship with God.

    • Ted

      If there is no official stance on whether people can go to YSAs or family wards, it is certainly not reflected in reality. I have known of many single adults who try to go to family wards, only to have the bishops refuse to give them callings or even bring their records into the church because they *should* be going to the singles ward.

      And if you did meet your wife in the singles ward, I would argue that you could have met her and socialized just fine with her in a family ward setting as well. 🙂

  2. Amen and amen. I belonged to several wards that referred to themselves as “Leper Colonies.” And I encountered the sort of spiritual manipulation by home teachers that you described more than once. It usually manifested itself in the form of a “revelation” that I shouldn’t go out with some other bloke.

    • Ted

      Ah, the leper jokes I was making independently. I think it’s sad that some wards consider themselves the “Leper Colonies.” That’s really sad.

  3. Two of my sisters met their spouses (maybe all three of my sisters?) at singles wards. At least one of them wouldn’t have met her husband in a normal family ward. They lived in different neighborhoods, wards, and stakes. She actually wasn’t even supposed to be attending that singles ward in Salt Lake, but she and a friend had heard it was a really good ward and went. And this cute older guy got up and gave a talk that she thought was awesome, and later she told him to ask her out. And he is absolutely perfect for her.

    Anyway, I know a lot of singles wards are kind of screwy, but they’re not all bad.

    • Ted

      A lot of wards in general are kind of screwy, I’ll admit, but singles wards can have their own really special brand of screwy. I firmly believe that at the current moment, our church culture caters almost exclusively to the youth (and in a loving but somewhat outdated way) and to married families with children. Anyone outside of this slice of the demographic pie, especially single adults and students, are cordoned off into their own wards which don’t provide as many service and learning opportunities until they grow into the demographic.

      I can understand that the Church encourages everyone to move into that demographic, but it’s a dangerous move because there are quantitatively large amounts of people in the Church who are simply not ready to move into that demographic. We should not promote reckless marriage or childbearing (note I did not say marriage or childbearing in general, but the reckless kind). We shouldn’t pressure people to fit a certain mold in order to enjoy the full services and culture the Church has to offer. And I think that’s especially where the unique brand of singles ward screwiness comes from – this immense pressure to perform and rapidly make really important life decisions that will affect your life forever. I feel that such pressure is unhealthy and unnecessary.

      And while I understand singles wards do provide ways for people to meet when they couldn’t otherwise, could not stake-wide and multi-stake-wide activities properly fill in this role?

  4. Colton G.

    You recall that story about the guy who asked the girl out and then drove her up to the temple? He parked in the parking lot and told her he had revelation that their future children’s spirits were in the car with them. Yeah. That.

    Everytime I’m in a single ward setting and i hear the words marriage, or engagement, I roll my eyes. i really miss the 2nd ward with Bishop Darington for the main reason that he did not emphasize the get married now mentality that is pervasive everywhere else on the campus. I have literally moved out of complexes because the student body was so dating-minded, that it made me uncomfortable to be in that ward, or even that complex. Plus the complex itself sucked.

    While Single Wards in and of themselves are flawed in their inception, at the same time, it is really the only decent way for some people to meet someone. Versus classes where you have sometimes half that amount of time to get to know someone, or even happenstances moving across a college campus and you see some pretty girl but can’t exactly stop and say “You’re hot” and then eat a mouthful of mace.

    But then again, what do I know? The number of girlfriends I’ve had can be counted on no hands.

    • Ted

      Again, I believe there a plenty of venues for single people to meet. We have Institute classes for one (and Institutes often have their own social functions) as well as stake-wide and multi-stake-wide singles activities. On top of that, with the advent of social media technology, it certainly wouldn’t be hard for single Mormons to track each other down in areas close by? I don’t feel we need to deny people learning opportunities for the sake of having people marry within their faith. As a last ditch effort, we can do what the Jewish people did (who were also concerned about marrying within the faith) and set up a system of matchmakers! I say this only in half jest.

  5. You’re going to be disappointed in November when the church publishes its new handbook of instructions. I have it on good authority they will soon require every stake to have a singles ward.

  6. E-rock

    I for one have enjoyed singles wards to a great extent, with a great environment to associate and do things with other studly guys and svelte women-folk. In fact, I enjoy them so much, I’m always in the market for another 🙂 This means Beth’s news is great: more wards to check out!
    Singles wards are always enlightening, whether it be the gospel doctrine teacher making people squirm with obscure doctrine or the speaker informing the congregation that it is our Christian duty to subsidize healthcare. On top of this there are unique service opportunities in the singles ward: like the munch and mingle committee.

    • Ted

      Oh, E-rock. Your singles ward hopping ways make me smile. 🙂

      I can’t tell if you’re saying all of this in tongue-in-cheek (knowing you, you’re probably half serious, half joking).

  7. I’m sorry you’ve had such horrible experiences. Based on my experiences in 4 different Salt Lake Valley singles wards over the last 6 years, you are extremely wrong. I was going to list a point by point rebuttal to your claims, but I suspect that you are over-stating things in order to bait comments, so I’m not sure I want to feed into that.

    According to you, liking singles wards makes me a freak. Not that I need to defend my relative normalcy to you, but here goes anyway: I am average looking. I grew up Mormon. I have minor social anxiety issues, socialize with new people only occasionally, and date very rarely. I have had varying periods of inactivity/activity, have had single’s wards callings as RS pianist, Gospel Doctrine teacher, visiting teacher supervisor, and family home evening committee member. I work full time. I watch R-rated movies. I read my scriptures. In my opinion, I’m a very average, if somewhat socially withdrawn, 28-year-old LDS female.

    I go to church every week. A member of the bishopric makes a point to chat with me after sacrament meeting, because he knows I’ve recently struggled with activity. In a meeting with this bishopric member, I’ve recently expressed a desire to increase my social activity, which led to my recent calling as an FHE committee member. My bishopric, RS president, home teachers, and visiting teachers all know about my goal to go through the temple and are helping me do that. When I take the sacrament, I think about the atonement, not the hot ass on the tall guy that just handed me the tray of bread.

    No matter what you say, singles wards ARE optional. In fact, my bishop transfers our records back to the geographic ward if he hasn’t heard from us in months. If we condemned the organization for what a rogue bishop or misguided branch leader has said or done, then we’d have to throw out the entire church. About home teachers abusing their priesthood authority to get dates (do you really think women are that stupid?), you said, “We should not endorse or encourage any structure which only facilitates this kind of spiritual abuse.” By that argument what religion, or institution for that matter, should we endorse? I would like just one example. (I’m betting I’ll find someone who has abused it.)

    Singles wards are collections of people. Your characterization of them is extremely offensive. I am one of those people. So let us recap. Those first four statements at the end of your post? Replace “singles wards” with “Jamie” or “Jill” or anyone you know that goes to a singles ward.

    1. Jamie is spiritually deficient by design.
    2. Jamie puts marriage, dating, and hormones before God for Sunday worship.
    3. Jamie provides channels of really creepy spiritual manipulation, which should not be tolerated ever.
    4. Jamie denies opportunities for service and strong role models in the church and deprive people at the time they need it most the best Mormonism has to offer.

    So. Here’s some questions: Do you really think those are true? Do you really think I can’t find spirituality in a ward where everyone (according to you) is just like me? Do you think I can’t look outside of my ward for LDS role models and mentors that aren’t my age? Do you really think I’d manipulate someone, or (being the woman) allow someone to spiritually manipulate me? Do you really think I can’t find opportunities for service, within my ward or outside of it? (My current ward has more service activities than my family’s home ward ever did, so I’m not sure what you mean by this. Callings are not the only way to serve.)

    All that said, I don’t think that singles wards are perfect. I agree that marriage is a top priority in a singles ward, but isn’t marriage a top priority in the entire church? Last I checked, marriage is required to enter the highest kingdom. If you want to change that emphasis, you will need to change the gospel. The focus on physical appearance and superficiality is an actual problem in single’s wards, but I’m extremely certain that doesn’t go away once you get married. Do you really think people in a family ward aren’t silently judging people as they take the sacrament. (I actually have a story where a man in my ward growing up verbally judged the deacon handing him the bread.) The characterization of singles as lepers is only perpetuated by posts like these. If a congregation of single individuals creates this abomination, what makes you think they won’t poison the family wards in small doses? Or that they’ll be cured by marriage?

    Have you ever even been to an actual singles ward? Not counting BYU wards, those are different. It’s ok to be single while you’re still in college. BYU imposes an artificial time limit that makes people think they better get married by “x” date or else. (I’m starting to wonder if your post only really applies to BYU wards, and really, BYU social culture in general.) Being a single adult professional in the LDS church is a different beast entirely. Most of our friends our married, and several with children. The nature of our church, the nature of LIFE, makes married people and single people drift apart socially. We’re told we have to be married to get into the highest kingdom, and as women, we can do the math and realize that we are running out of years to have children. We can also do the very obvious math of the 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of women to men in these wards. It’s extremely hard. We’ve been socialized, for the most part, that the most important thing we can do is to get married and have kids, and we’d be fools to not realize that it’s not going to happen for everyone. For me, singles wards are about people in this situation bonding and learning how to construct a different viewpoint. Some of us will get married, but most of us are no longer on the path we expected to be on. As great as different perspectives can be, can you try to imagine how heartbreaking it is to sit through a relief society lesson on how to bring the spirit into your home and have woman after woman tell stories of raising children that do not (and may never) apply to you?

    I feel like this is all just word vomit now, and I apologize if I’ve been rude. But this post is very rude. I love my singles ward and I am not a freak. You need to reconsider the basis of your opinions.

    • Ted

      I often run into this problem, and it’s probably due to my lack of empathy, or maybe it’s because I’ve had my head buried in books about sociology and anthropology for too long. So first of all, I am sorry you took this diatribe of mine so personally. I really am. I sincerely apologize for any offense that I put across.

      For me, a system or organizational structure can be deficient without people being deficient. People have the remarkable capability to find meaning and worth in even the most faulty of systems. For example, a lot of African governments are horribly deficient and full of abuse and gross negligence. However, I would never for a minute insinuate that Africans in general reflect the state of the social structure they live in. Many Africans can and do find meaning, hope, and fulfilling lives within such a structure. So do not for one minute think that because I feel the singles ward structure is less than optimal that I think the participants are logically thus less than optimal.

      If singles wards are truly optional, than I haven’t heard of it in my own experience. I have been in several BYU singles wards (of course), I have also attended several singles wards back home when I was in Seattle (and unhappily unmarried) for extended periods of time. I also served in two singles wards for extended periods of time (read: not just six months) on my mission. One was incredibly great, and one was…it had it’s share of problems. If this is true, however, I now have new advice to my friends who chafe under the singles ward system – leave. And I hope the local leadership will allow it to happen without badgering them or bullying them into going back.

      With that said, I still feel that singles ward structures (not the people) are sub-optimal. Everything a singles ward has, a family ward can have just as well, except with greater opportunities. I am not suggesting that single people never hang out again ever, and I’m not suggesting it’s impossible to find spiritual experiences within the singles ward framework. I’m suggesting that when it comes to Sunday worship services, being integrated into the larger family ward would in the long run prepare someone for lifetime membership, as well as continue to enrich the lives of those around the single young adult. Just as you are able to find service opportunities within and outside your singles ward, these young single adults could surely find ways to socialize and meet up outside of Sacrament Meeting (many Mormons already do).

      As much as people do develop long-lasting friendships within the singles ward, it still stands that the entire purpose of the singles ward is to promote marriage within the faith. Otherwise, we would allow married people who met in the singles ward to stay in the singles ward and continue to have those enriching relationships with their friends, right? But even if I may be wrong about singles wards being not optional, I am pretty darn sure that a married couple cannot stay in a singles ward for long before drawing ire. Long lasting friendships in a singles ward is epiphenomena – it’s a side-effect byproduct of the singles ward, yes, but it wasn’t the initial purpose of the singles ward. The initial purpose is marriage within the faith.

      And again, I’m not saying you can’t have meaningful relationships in a singles ward setting. What I’m saying is it’s not the singles ward’s initial purpose, and it would be just as ridiculous to say that you can’t develop meaningful relationships with people in family wards. Family wards are designed first and foremost to bring together a geographical community in communion with God. It’s designed to provide lasting relationships. That is it’s primary objective – perfecting the saints through the development of relationships that provide opportunities to serve. I would argue that the singles ward’s primary objective is not the same.

      I understand what it is like to some point how it feels for single people (or for in our case, married with no children) to be in lessons where people talk about bringing the spirit into our home. My wife comes home in tears from time to time because she feels so marginalized. I’m pestered all the time when we plan on having kids, why she’s working and I’m going to school and when I’m going to get out and work so she can stay at home (we tried that once – we nearly ended up killing each other). But if this is the case, we should also avoid General Conference and the Ensign. They have plenty of that pressure exuding from them.

      It’s a really rough transition, those ages from teenage to adulthood. Especially in our society, where we have a lot of freedom and choices to shape our lives, we more than ever need to have the empathy and understanding that not all of us will live the stereotypical Mormon life. Members across the entire board need to understand that post-adolescence is awkward and just as painful as our teenage adolescence. And we cannot know unless we rub shoulders. Members across the entire population and demographics need to understand each other, and we can’t do that if we’re all hiding in our own respective wards.

      The ignorance we display categorically as a people about single/no-kid lifestyles is because we specifically take people who live single/no-kid lifestyles and quarantine them into different wards. Geographical wards provide plenty of opportunities for people to see that those of a different race, lifestyle, socioeconomic class, family size, age group, or what have you all have special needs, that they are people, too, and that everyone has their own specific gifts to display. I feel the singles ward system hides away those who are different from the image we would like to portray – fruitful, happy, large, nuclear families – and because of this, both young single adults and nuclear families suffer as a result.

      If you are able to have an incredibly fruitful experience in the singles ward that is very awesome, and like I told another friend who shared a similar thoughts as you, I am sincerely happy to hear that you’re experience with the system is so positive. But just as you exhort me to remember that some people really like the singles ward experience, I would exhort to you that there are plenty of people who miss the days when they felt connected to a larger community, who wish they had more opportunities to serve, and who feel like second-class citizens in the Church because they feel forced into this less than optimal situation. My solution is that I feel singles wards are redundant and can be eliminated completely without much loss (except for the initial shock of such a widespread change in the Church culture and system), and if you think otherwise, it is certainly your right to express so.

      I understand that we can look at the singles/married student wards as baby steps into full integration into family wards, but we miss the critical point that we start out in family wards to begin with. Family wards deal with families, yes, but they also have widows and widowers, divorcees, single parents, children galore, surly teenagers, older grandparents, and people of all forms, shapes, sizes, and circumstances. Surely we can integrate singles and married students into the mix without having to artificially pop them out of the Mormon experience? And surely all parties can benefit from the mutual communion and experiences with each other?

      Again, I apologize about calling you a “freak”. I wrote it as a joke, and I can understand why you would be so immensely offended by it. I sincerely apologize again.

  8. Ted

    As a blanket statement, thank you for all of your responses and comments and I appreciate the fact that you take the time to express your opinion, even if you vehemently disagree with me, which is fine.

    I just finished reading 40-ish pages of cultural anthropology and ended up passing out in my chair in the hallway, waking up thirty minutes later to my legs completely fallen asleep, and I’ve only had two hours of sleep last night so here goes.

    I realize the post stirred a lot of controversy, and it’s most likely because I used some really strong language. And, yes, I came off as being a really, really big jerk. And for that, I apologize sincerely. I wrote this in the morning, sleep deprived and angry (because of the conversation I had last night with a friend about his struggles with the church lately; his struggles are not unique in any way).

    Anyway, I will try and take the time to answer to each comment personally. If entire words get dropped and the arguments are a mess, you now know why, but call me out on it anyway.

    Again, thanks everyone!

  9. Thanks for this insightful article so sad yet so true and this is exactly why I left my singles ward and I will be sharing this on fb hopefully more of my lds single friends will get the message.

  10. lyndsey

    All my life I have been led to believe the Church was/is family minded (especially when I joined many years ago. Now my son doesnt want to go to the regular ward which he loves but spends his time ogling pretty girls and being rude to me. He is totally confused> He admits his heart says local ward but the influence of his housemate says ysa ward. The singles wards so indeed split families up. Just the opposite teachings of what the Church is supposed to stand for.

    • Ted

      Thanks for your comment! I would definitely argue that overall, the Church is super family-minded (the difference is so noticeable when transitioning from single adult to married adult to married adult with kids). It is a shame that the singles ward does have the unintended effect of splitting up families, which also I think is not healthy (and I had not considered this effect before). I pray things work out between you and your son!

  11. Brad

    “…and not the meat packing plants…”

    Cue Beavis and Butthead.

  12. Brian13

    I think there is a difference in the location of the YSA wards. I hear horror stories about 700+ member YSA wards in Utah, but my experience in a California YSA ward was much different. There was a good mix of younger adults and those pushing 30. Yes there were clicks, and people you describe that had the wrong motivation when going to church and the activities. But overall I loved my experience in the singles ward.

    After getting married and having kids my father was actually called to be a YSA Bishop. A family member who had been complaining about those wards prompted my father to offer up a different perspective on the singles ward. Where does someone have as many opportunities to serve than in a singles ward. Most of the time they are struggling to fill responsibilities. In a family ward you have the “old guard” to fulfill counselor positions, clerks, instructors, what-not. Sure there isn’t a primary or youth that needs people to serve in, but there are plenty of callings to go around. Your example of the single man who was called as a counselor is great, but in a YSA ward he could’ve served not just as a counselor but as the Elder’s quorum’s president or a counselor. Instead of a single sister or brother getting “banished” into the nursery or to teach sunbeams (which are awesome callings having personally served in both) they might be able to serve in the Relief Society presidency or in some ancillary position to support the R.S. So I think that singles ward DO offer ample opportunities for service and growth, but without the training wheels that family wards provide.

    There is this feeling that YSA wards are just meat markets, and heck I thought it at times as well, but when you have the right mind while attending you don’t see it that way. And those members who try to manipulate spiritual situations to their own benefit are lacking in moral judgement that it doesn’t matter what ward, single or family, they’re in. How often have we heard stores in a priesthood session where we are instructed to honor our priesthood and the proper way to operate within it.

    There are times that I miss my singles ward, I mean how rare is the occasion when there isn’t a crying baby, or a toddler running around the isles trying to make it to the stand in Sacrament meeting? Instead of scoping out the hottie 3 rows over I can concentrate that much more about what the Atonement means to me. Far too often people like to blame their surroundings for why they’re having a bad experience, when they should be looking inward for ways they can improve themselves or even the singles ward they are attending.

  13. Interesting perspective. I agree that singles wards are difficult but I don’t agree that they should be immediately dissolved and all singles should attend family wards.

    To your first point (and this actually impacts a lot of your other points), singles wards are not artificial. They do have geographical boundaries… so that doesn’t really work and, like family wards, their attendees are determined based on their position in life vis-a-vis the family. The family is not only central to LDS theology, but to LDS society as well. Young Single Adults are in a space that anthropologists would call “liminality”. They are ambiguous, betwixt and between, deconstructed and preconstructed. They are “young” but not “youth”. They are “single adults” not simply adults. Sociologically they are positioned between their natal family of their youth, and starting a family themselves. Liminality isn’t a bad thing, it just needs to be handled correctly and it shouldn’t be dwelt it. The purpose of the singles ward is to get people out of the singles ward. Of course they have an agenda… Mormonism has an agenda!!!! And the two agendas align.

    Where I do agree with you is that the current model of the singles ward is not accomplishing that goal effectively. I don’t think the three hour block, with one hour being passive participation, and the other two hours being Sunday School (thats pretty much what priesthood and relief society amount to) takes advantage of the gifts, talents, and station of the liminal group. I actually don’t think that the model work very well in general but that is a different conversation. A model much more focused on creating community and outreach would be far more effective. Church student wards kind of accomplish this because there is the larger student community that enlivens the members but that happens despite the three hour block and not because of it.

  14. Nathan doyle

    Your right that they need to go, but your reasons why arent really accurate

  15. MiggyD.

    As a male who just “aged out” of the singles ward this article captures my sentiments quite well. I only wish I left sooner. In fact, the past year I spent half-a$$ing my religious worship because it was in a singles ward that I could not stand. Much of that is likely my attitude, but the constant “perving” of the cute girls in Sunday school drove me mad!
    My career involves me working with families and children, and lately has given me the clearest perspective on family life and fatherhood, not YSA church. Anyway, I appreciate that someone verbalized my feelings and heres to the “family wards”. Now me next decision, English or Spanish ward?

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