Two weeks have passed since General Conference and the resounding call from the pulpit to not delay marriage. And now we the singles must ask ourselves if this counsel is going to require a mighty change of heart in each of us? And, if so, how are we going to do it?
I have spoken to many singles from many different backgrounds over the past two weeks. The reactions have varied widely on how to accept this counsel and encouragement. The first question I heard was, “Is this a commandment? Are we being told we have to get married?” Or is it just counsel? Many have asked “what is the Church going to do to help me get married?” Others have blatantly stated that since their divorces they are just not ready for marriage. Many have expressed sadness at how marriage is all they have wanted but have not yet found, and how this counsel doesn’t change anything. Hearing others talk about “singles need to put off getting married and just go do it” as if finding love and an eternal companion is a simple choice, has been a heart-breaking slap in the face to some singles. And other singles have shrugged it off and said “so what?”
I can also tell you what hasn’t happened. My phone hasn’t suddenly started ringing off the hook with calls from eligible men. Although, I suspect there was some individuals who thought that maybe this sort of thing would happen across singledom. Men haven’t been lining up outside of jewelers, and their hasn’t been an increase in bridal gown sales. But what did you expect? It has only been two weeks!
If we, and by we I mean the collective, caring, membership of the LDS Church in general, want to see more marriages happening sooner a few key things will need to happen. The following is all just in my humble (and very educated on this one particular subject,even if I do say so myself) opinion, and not the result of any sort of study, poll, or commandment. Just my real life experiences as a single LDS woman over many moons.
Church-wide Changes in the Singles Program
Plain and simple change will have to come in the singles programs from the top down. A major change has already come in Utah (but only in Utah) regarding student wards and YSA wards. Student wards will soon be disbanded and combined with geographically assigned YSA wards, which will be a part of YSA stakes. Good for the YSA’s of Utah. Unfortunately, this change only effects the YSA’s of Utah, and not anyone else.
The current singles (regardless of over 30, mid-singles, or YSA) program is just not working Church-wide. It is more successful in some towns than others. And in some towns it is completely defunct. For major change to happen, it will come from the top down. While I have my own ideas for how it should change, I do not believe this is the time or place for me to share such opinions. Especially since the opinions of nothing more than just one opinionated woman isn’t what matters here. What matters is what does or does not happen from the top of the Church on down.
Regional and Local Changes
As stated previously, in some towns the singles program is successful, and in some it is a near failure. Personally, I live in a town where to the best of my knowledge there isn’t a program for singles over 30. And this is exactly the sort of thing that needs to be fixed. Local and regional leaders need to be aware of existing singles programs, and how many singles are under their jurisdiction, so that the information can be passed on to the singles. And if a program isn’t working, leaders need to take a greater interest in making it work. If there is a small number of singles, call up the next town over or the next stake over and start making introductions.
Singles are highly unlikely to stick their necks out and say, “Hey! I’m all alone over here! Please someone notice me!” They are much more likely to just disappear into the woodwork. Be aware of your singles! Help them by making sure there is a functioning singles program in your stake.
The biggest thing that will help singles (regardless of age) actually date and get married will be actually getting to meet other singles! This should be just about the least shocking statement I have ever made, and yet, it is probably one of the most needed statements! As a single living in a small town without a singles program, I implore you. If you want me to date, introduce me to someone! But not just anyone! We need to be meeting the right kind of people.
Right now my options are limited to the bars in town (where I’m highly unlikely to meet the right kind of man), Internet dating, or driving four hours to the next big town and to attend singles activities. And yes, I have driven those four hours more than once! If you want me to meet someone, you’ll need to tell me, “Hey, have you met Fred? He’s single and is in the XYZ ward.” Otherwise, I may never know he exists. Help your fellow singles out (whether you are married or single) by letting singles know where the other singles are hiding. Because contrary to popular belief we do not have words written in invisible ink on our foreheads that only we can read that sends the signal, “HEY! YOU! I AM SINGLE!!” (But wouldn’t that be convenient if we did?)
Individual Change- the biggest and most important change
Last but not least, if more individuals are going to stop putting off getting married, or make themselves more available to marriage, a change of heart will have to come at the personal, individual level. Making the decision to date with marriage in mind has to come at the personal level. No one else can make that change or decision for you. There are a lot of people out there waiting for a brick to fall from the heavens with a note attached that says, “Marry the girl in the red shirt standing directly in front of you!” Others are waiting for the day their cars are paid off, their educations are finished, or they can afford to purchase a home. As Elder Scott said in conference – get on with life. Why are you holding up one of the most important endeavors of your life over money?
Singles, I know it is tough. We are often faced with making the decision between logic and potential romance. And now we need to marry the two together (no pun intended). We have received counsel from the prophet and now we need to choose to make the “romantic choices” (the ones that give us better opportunities to date and meet other singles) our logical choices. These decisions need to be made prayerfully and individually. No one else can determine where you just might find love, or who you should love. (But I’m going to add my two cents in here- if everyone you know and value in your life thinks you need to consider a romance with a certain individual- wise up and listen to them!) After all, it “only takes one!” You just have to find where the one person is, whether it be in the Salt Lake Valley or the Sahara.
It is up to you!
Last but not least, remember the words of the prophet
“Find someone with whom you can be compatible. Realize that you will not be able to anticipate every challenge which may arise, but be assured that almost anything can be worked out if you are resourceful and if you are committed to making your marriage work.” President Thomas Monson.
And when all else fails, quote Jane Austen, “I am determined that nothing but the very deepest love will induce me into matrimony.”
Single Friends- give it to me straight! Let’s hear it from you now! Are you taking this new counsel to heart? Are you making any changes? And if so, what are they? How did this counsel make you feel? What do you think? Leave your comments below! And thanks for reading!!
Erin Ann McBride is a writer, dreamer, blogger, and social media addict. Equal parts Mary Poppins, Carrie Bradshaw, and Mother Theresa, she goes where the wind blows, writes about relationships and dating, and is devoted to serving others. You can get more of her at the Story of a Nice Mormon Girl and on Twitter as @erinannie. She says that if you aren’t friends with Meridian Magazine on Facebook, you are missing out.