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Should singles wards focus on families?

The complaints of singles are many, but probably the most oft repeated I hear in LDS singles wards is, “they should stop talking about marriage and families in singles wards.”

All societies and associations, including the adult single members, have a vested interest in fathers and mothers and families. Elder Boyd K. Packer said to the single members of the Church,

“We talk a lot about families. Sometimes in bitterness, you will want to say ‘all this talk about families, but I don’t have a family, and …, ’ stop there! Don’t add that extra phrase, ‘I wish they would stop talking so much about families.’ You pray that we do keep talking about families; about fathers and mothers and children and family home evening, temple marriage and companionship and all of the rest, because all of that will be yours. If we stop talking about it, then you, among all others, will be the losers.” (Melchizedek Priesthood MIA Conference, June 1973)

The Reasoning

There is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5)” and one standard for exaltation in God’s Kingdom. So, how does a focus on the antithesis of our purpose here, regardless of the station in life, help? It doesn’t. The justification is usually the same, “I’m here to worship not to be pushed and prodded into marriage.” The singles ward is a choice and a privilege. Any single person has the option of attending a family ward, surrounded by families and crying babies, or a singles ward. No one is forced into a singles ward. If you live in an area with enough singles to have a ward or branch, consider yourself lucky. I thought I was done with the singles ward after 15 years. I attended a family ward for a month. Two weeks into it, the Bishop wanted to visit with me and kindly asked, “what do you want?” He said, “the ward has 108 single people, 100 of which are 55 years or older, nevertheless, you can choose for yourself.” That was an easy choice 🙂

Leo Tolstoy described failing families perfect when he proclaimed, “all happy families resemble one another, but all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way.” It could well be said of single saints:

All happy singles resemble one another, and all unhappy singles are unhappy and complain in their own way.

The more you are active in the gospel and not just the church, the more you’ll understand this and rejoice in it.

Undermining the Church

If we error regarding the purpose of the singles ward, we rob ourselves of the reason for our existence and the church. The church doesn’t change, neither does the doctrine based upon race, ethnicity, age, or marital status. Neal A. Maxwell put it simply: “To err regarding the purpose of life is to err everlastingly.”

“This goal is glorious. All Church activities, advancements, quorums, and classes are means to the end of an exalted family.” Additionally, we promised to work toward exaltation, not just singleness or salvation.

“We accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. [Heavenly Father’s great] plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.

That proclamation on the family helps us realize that celestial marriage brings greater possibilities for happiness than does any other relationship.16 The earth was created and this Church was restored so that families could be formed, sealed, and exalted eternally.” Celestial Marriage, Russel M. Nelson, Conference October 2008.

“The Church was created in large measure to help the family, and long after the Church has performed its mission, the celestial patriarchal order will still be functioning. Strengthening the Family, Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, October 1970, pp. 21-25 The singles ward was created in large measure to help singles progress into the next covenant in life through a temple marriage. All other forms of association, entertainment and organization is ancillary to this.

The Commandment

The trend towards selfishness and singleness is not only applauded, today it’s pushed. Yet, the commandment to marry remain universal and unchanged. Why would anyone who understands the doctrine of Christ, want to hear the ways of the world or diminish the commandments in Church? A celestial marriage in the temple of our God is the highest and most enduring type of marriage that our God can offer us. Complaining singles make this out to be a devilish doctrine which distracts them from their pursuit of the world whether it be singleness, care, pleasure, or riches (CPR).  Their gospel hobby horse seems to be ridding the church of direct doctrine, personal responsibility and reminders of their duties.

Scriptures declare that “it is lawful that [a man] should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation.” Another affirms that “the man [is not] without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” These truths are absolute. Members of this Church invite all people to learn them and to qualify for eternal life Celestial Marriage, Russel M. Nelson, Conference October 2008. Thus,

marriage is not only an exalting principle of the gospel; it is a divine commandment.

In all churches, in all parts of the world we talk about the commandments. What they are, why we have them, and how we can eventually follow them. Brigham Young was asked by a member what the most important commandment was, he replied, “the most important commandment is the one you’re struggling with the most right now.”

By their fruits ye shall know them

I’ve been in various singles wards in three states for years. In all the wards, I’ve been involved with bishoprics or ward councils. The wards with the most marriages came from the leadership who talked about marriage the most. There was a stark difference between them too. Not just a 10 or 20 marriage difference, but hundreds. One ward in SLC that avoided talking about it had two marriages in a year. One ward in the DC Metro area that focused on marriage had over 100 marriage in a year. Yes, there was opposition, complaining, comparing, and condemning. No surprise there. Yet, the leaders who had purpose to lead singles to the next covenant, not just sit in church, combined with passion and didn’t see their time in a single ward as “another calling”, focusing on the complete doctrine of Christ including marriage, not caring about but putting up with the opposition, had lasting fruits for themselves and others.

The Doctrine of Christ

“The doctrine of Christ allows us to access the spiritual power that will lift us from our current spiritual (or single) state to a state where we can become perfected,” and enjoy the union of marriage. Source We focus on what we can become, not who we currently are, the problems or challenge we face, the disagreements we have, our rank in society, or the status of our relationships.

“And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen” (2 Nephi 31:21).

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