The church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints was interested in and talking about mid-singles before they were even born. As the number of Mormon mid-singles continue to increase, so does the chatter and complaining. As if complaining is a form of worship and changing the will of the Lord. As one myself, I have experience to discuss it, but this talk from 1973 says it best.
Isaiah said it best, “They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.” Isaiah 29:24
And the announced purpose of this last grouping was to focus attention upon those who have not, up to this time, been involved. They have come to us many times in the last few years saying, “We have nowhere to go. We don’t relate to the Relief Society. We are not young adults. We go to sacrament meeting, we go to Sunday School. Why can’t we have a program that is suited to our needs?” And so this organization, as set up, is now moving forward and is designed to focus on every individual, and to make everyone feel that they are wanted; and the leaders of the Church must be in the forefront in carrying out these programs suited to the needs of those in these age groups.
There is evidence of much enthusiasm for those who are now involved, but unfortunately we are getting some feedback over the Church, where some who have heard of this program are writing to us. Brethren, may I read one or two comments, and if these could be true as a sampling, I hope would not be repeated too many times.
Here is a sister who writes to us and says, “While I have greater peace of mind, there are times I do get discouraged. My bishop informed me of the Special Interest group in the Church. In this area, the program is still quite new and many people have never heard of it yet. I didn’t know it existed until about a month ago. I am sure there are many who need this program but they have been cheated because many of the bishops where we are are not converted to it. Therefore, they are not really trying to take the leadership in getting this thing started.”
“If anyone is to attain the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, one has to be married to a worthy companion,” another sister writes, “as well as being worthy individually. We sometimes make mistakes in choosing a companion, which sometimes results in a divorce. Or we may be widowed, and there are some who just haven’t found the right companion at twenty-five years of age.”
“Whatever the reason,” another writes,
“The want to be ‘needed’ is a very strong force. Without the Special Interest group a single person after the age of 25 is like a fifth wheel. As a Church, most of the talks are centered around the complete family unit. This concept I fully agree with, and certainly should be encouraged.”
Then we have here a sister who tells about her experience. Her husband passed away, and then she writes, “After the funeral services were over, I took my five children and went home, and was left to sink or swim. And I sank; I was all alone. How was I going to look after those five children? Oh, sure, the bishop would see that I didn’t go hungry and that we were taken care of, and we had enough food to eat, and so on, but we needed something more than that.”
And then she said this, “I need Special Interests because I need to know that there are other people in the world with feelings like mine. I need to meet other widows who have managed to raise their children alone successfully, without the hang-ups psychologists insist they will have. I need to know that some people’s problems are worse than mine, so I can recognize and count my blessings. I need people to talk to who fully understand my problems and needs. I need Special Interests because I have to learn how to handle my own problems. The first thing I learned as a widow was that no one else will help except in emergencies, and sometimes not then. As soon as the funeral was over, I repeat, I was left on my own either to sink or swim.
“Then,” she said, “your classes geared to the whole families don’t help us a bit, but a class I took this fall with the Special Interests showed me how I can communicate with my family and friends. There is no way you can fully understand our needs or problems, except you go through it yourself. Do you know what it is like to lose your wife or husband in death? It is nothing like losing your father or even your daughter. I know; I lost both before I lost my husband. Do you know what it is like to go through the hell of a divorce? Do you know what it is like to be a girl over 26, and still be single? You can’t know. We need each other. Some of us need small group activities. Some of us need large group activities where we can go and have to talk to people and visit. Sometimes we don’t feel like talking. Special Interests is not a dating bureau or a marriage bureau. As such it would be a complete failure. There are women in our stake who like to go places, but not alone. They come to our small activities hoping to meet other women with similar interests to go places with. One lady buys a season pass to the symphony every year, and she is still looking for someone to go with her.
We resent being invited to the Young Marrieds activities. To me it is like a slap in the face to have the Young Marrieds or elders announce that Special Interests are invited to their party. I know you may not understand why I feel so strongly about it, but other Special Interests I have talked to understand, and most of the others feel the same way. I feel like this new Special Interest program is inspired of God. It is what we need, if it is done like it should be. I needed it eight-and-a-half years ago. Thank the Lord my president is working hard on it to do his part. Will you recognize us as a special group of people, long ignored and neglected with special problems and special needs and special interests? Some of us are raising special children, boys without fathers, girls without mothers. They have special problems and special needs. If our needs aren’t met, you are also neglecting some of their needs.”
If you knew the processes by which these new programs came into being, you would know that this just didn’t come out of a brainstorm, the figment of somebody’s imagination; this was done after some of the most soulful praying and discussing that I believe I have ever experienced. We know, and we announced when it was given that this came from the Lord. This was an evidence of a thing that the Lord was giving us to do to meet a special need. But it troubles me when I read some of these things where sisters are pleading with us to try to do something to stimulate the activities where the bishops or stake presidents have not caught on to what it is all about.
In the early days of the Welfare Program, everywhere I went people were saying to me, “Brother Lee, how is the Welfare Program going?” And I would answer, “Just as well as the individual bishop of each ward makes it go. In some wards it is an absolute failure. In other wards it is going great guns.” And that is exactly what is happening with what we are now launching.
In some places we see the enthusiasm; if you were to start these activities now, you would catch the enthusiasm of the young people, and these young widows, divorcees, those who haven’t found companions. If we can catch them while their enthusiasm and anticipation are great, great things will come out of it; and we must ask you brethren now to remember that these things come from a source from which you brethren want to receive instruction. Please, I beg of you, don’t let these people down, who are pleading that you listen to your leaders, and follow the counsel that has been given in these Special Interest activities.
Now, there is another matter that I would like to talk about. There are some examples that point up an area of need which applies directly to young men in the past-25-age, who for some reason, and hard to understand, as holders of the priesthood, are shirking their responsibilities as husbands and fathers.
President Joseph F. Smith said, “The house of the Lord is a house of order and not a house of confusion; and that means,” as the Lord has said, “that the man is not without the woman in the Lord, neither is the woman without the man in the Lord; and that no man can be saved and exalted in the kingdom of God without the woman, and no woman can reach perfection and exaltation in the kingdom of God, alone. That is what it means. God instituted marriage in the beginning.” (Conference Report, April 1913, p. 118.)
President Joseph F. Smith further said this, which strikes right at the heart of what I want to emphasize: “I desire to emphasize this. I want the young men of Zion to realize that this institution of marriage is not a man-made institution. It is of God. It is honorable, and no man who is of marriageable age is living his religion who remains single. It is not simply devised for the convenience alone of man, to suit his own notions, and his own ideas; to marry and then divorce, to adopt and then to discard, just as he pleases. … Marriage is the preserver of the human race. Without it, the purposes of God would be frustrated; virtue would be destroyed to give place to vice and corruption, and the earth would be void and empty.
“… Now, every young person throughout the Church should understand this very thoroughly. The Church authorities and the teachers of our associations should inculcate the sacredness, and teach the duty of marriage, as it has been revealed in the latter days to us. There should be a reform in the Church in this regard, and a sentiment created in favor of honorable marriage, and that would prevent any young man, or any young woman, who is a member of the Church, from marrying except by that authority which is sanctioned of God. And no man holding the priesthood who is worthy and of age should remain unmarried. …
“Many people,” he continues, “imagine that there is something sinful in marriage; there is an apostate tradition to that effect. This is a false and very harmful idea. On the contrary, God not only commends but he commands marriage.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., pp. 270–274.)
From President Harold B. Lee, October 1973 Conference