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Ask A Friend: I’m Aging Out Of The Single’s Ward And Feel Like A Failure


Dear Paul,

I’m aging out of the single’s ward and I feel like a failure because I’m still unmarried. I’ve made good choices throughout my life and I’ve worked hard to put myself out there in the dating scene. Despite my best efforts, nothing significant has happened to me in terms of relationships. The gospel is supposed to make us happy, but it’s hard for me to feel that way when each Sunday, I’m constantly reminded that I lack the blessing I want most in my life. How can I motivate myself to continue being active in the church when I feel like a failure?

Dear Writer,

Thank you so much for your question. I can understand the feelings and frustrations you are experiencing. Two weeks before I turned 31, the church organized five single stakes in my area and then reemphasized the church policy that singles wards are for those aged 18-31. I remember sitting in that stake conference surrounded by literally 1000’s of attractive singles, and facing the reality that in two weeks, I would no longer be a part of those single’s stakes. 

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Transferring to the family ward at 31, never having been married, was a tremendous challenge. Not only had I never been married, but in ten years of attending a single’s ward I had never even had a committed girlfriend and now I was being cut from one of the most significant sources of dating prospects, the single’s stake. My last Sunday in the single’s ward was so hard on me. I met with the Bishop in tears, not understanding why I had never even come close to finding a spouse, or even a girlfriend! I went home discouraged and sad. 

However, I received a text message that afternoon from a friend, inviting everyone to a birthday party for her roommate. Even though I didn’t know the roommate, I figured that I was no longer in a position to turn down opportunities to associate with others singles and determined I would go to the party. There, I met a very beautiful girl named Amie who recognized me from one of my comedy performances. We began chatting that week and enjoyed some fun conversation. I mentioned to her that my first Sunday in the family ward was coming up and that I was feeling a little apprehensive about moving on from the single’s ward. 

When I showed up to church, it was overwhelming for sure. I sat in the overflow by myself surrounded by happy families with their rows of children and wondered why the Lord would have allowed me to end up in this position. It was then, out of the blue, that Amie came walking in and sat next to me. That was the first time I had seen her since we met at the party and ultimately ended up being our first date. Amie also became my first girlfriend. So think of that, for ten years I had been in a single’s ward and NEVER had a girlfriend, yet on my first Sunday in the family ward, at age 31, I had my first date with my first girlfriend.

To me it was the Lord teaching me that He was still aware of me, that He knew who I was and that He had a plan for me and perhaps most importantly that He had not forgotten me. Amie and I dated for two months and had a wonderful relationship. We ultimately determined that it was not to lead to marriage and we went our separate ways, but have maintained a warm friendship since then.

I have now been in that family ward for two years, and there are a few things that have helped me stay in my ward and find peace and joy in my circumstance that I would like to share with you:

1. It is sometimes easy to view the church and the gospel as something that is supposed to serve us and give us happiness. We want blessings, opportunities, joy, a family, financial stability and often feel that it is the obligation of the church and the Lord to give us those things. When we are lacking something such as an eternal family, it is easy to become frustrated and blame the church and the Lord for not providing these blessings, especially when we have always lived the gospel, paid our tithing, served in the church, etc. And why shouldn’t we expect those blessings, didn’t the Lord say, “Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in my name it shall be given you?”      

Whenever I would feel this way, I would be reminded of the great words of Jesus Christ, “He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt 10:39). These words remind me that I was put on this earth to be a blessing to others and to serve others and the Lord. That also means being willing to accept whatever calling and position the Lord sees fit to give me. If that means I needed to leave the single’s ward so I could serve in my family ward as a single person, then so be it, because it’s not about me. The church is not here to serve me, I am here to serve the church, God and His children. Reminds me of the famous JFK quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” (Can you hear JFK’s voice in your head when you read that?? 🙂 ) Think of that same quote but with the church, “Ask not what your church, ward, and stake can do for you, but what you can do for your church, ward and stake.”    

As I changed my focus to how I can use my talents, gifts and my situation to serve my ward, not only did I feel peace and joy restored to my heart, but I was able to see more and more the wisdom of the Lord and His timing, which leads me to my next point.

2.  It is human nature to want what we want, and to want it right now! Elder Maxwell delivered a speech that had a great impact on me, which I think about often when I begin to feel impatient with my situation as an unmarried, mid-30’s man in the church.

He said, “Patience is tied very closely to faith in our Heavenly Father. Actually, when we are unduly impatient we are suggesting that we know what is best—better than does God. Or, at least, we are asserting that our timetable is better than His. Either way we are questioning the reality of God’s omniscience as if, as some seem to believe, God were on some sort of postdoctoral fellowship and were not quite in charge of everything.”

As difficult as it may be sometimes when I am feeling unhappy with my circumstances and that the blessings I have not been promised have not quite been realized, I remember to have faith that if I remain true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, that Heavenly Father will order all blessings for me when I am ready to receive them, when they would be of greatest value to me, and when they would allow me to fully become who He has envisioned for me to become. I have to remember that I am a child of God, not an “adult.” I am learning, growing, and progressing, but as a child I do not fully understand or comprehend all things that my Father does. Think of a child who at a very young age wants to play with matches, but a loving parent who knows best hides the matches. When the child is a teenager, now the parent gives the child matches and teaches how to safely build a fire. There is wisdom and order in our progression through mortality, and God is our perfect Father who knows best when to bless us with certain opportunities.

Learning to submit fully to His will and trust that He really does love me, and knows what is best for me, and wants to bless me in the way that He feels is best is always challenging, but as I have allowed myself to grow in faith of God’s power and knowledge, I have felt the reassurance that His blessings will be realized.

3. As much as I would LOVE to be married to a special woman and have the blessings of children and a family, I recognize that there are many opportunities that are available to me as a single person, which would not be available if I had the responsibilities of husband and father. I decided I would take full advantage of those opportunities. I started my own business, joined a jazz band at the community college, took a stand up comedy class, started producing comedic videos, auditioned for commercials, joined a gym, started a basketball group that plays several times a week, etc. If the Lord doesn’t want me to be married right now, then I sure ain’t going to waste my time as a single person! 

Think of any married couple you know with children and think about all of the opportunities they forfeit on a daily basis! Granted, we all would gladly make those sacrifices when we have a family, and we certainly should not procrastinate having a family for those options. But if you aren’t married, enjoy being single and explore all of your talents and gifts! Join a pottery class, learn how to draw, try yoga, join toast masters, take a road trip somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit, start a community outreach program, run a marathon, join a book club etc! The possibilities are endless!

And think about it, what could be more attractive to a possible future spouse than those who are well-rounded, out enjoying life, exploring new activities, gaining experience, and learning how they can improve themselves? Even if you’re a single parent, bring your kids along with you, explore these opportunities when your ex’ has the kids, or drop them off at grandmas one night a week! Enjoy the fact that if nothing else, you do not have to answer to a spouse and ultimately can come and go as you please!

It’s a tough time my dear friend, my heart goes out to you. I know what it’s like to spend countless evenings alone, feeling unloved, undesired and unwanted. I know what it’s like to sit in sacrament meeting completely alone and to see family after family fill the pews with their children, all smiles and giggles. I promise you the Lord loves you and is aware of you. You will feel His love and guidance as you seek to lose yourself for His sake by serving others. Trust that God is infinitely wise and learn to have patience in His timing, and finally just live it up as a single person, worthily of course!! Go enjoy all the opportunities that you can enjoy that would be nearly impossible if you had the responsibilities of a spouse and/or children.

You’re going to make it through. I bear my witness that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of Christ, and that the 1st Presidency and Quorum of 12 Apostles are inspired by God, even when it comes down to a policy such as the age limits on singles wards. There is purpose, and a reason for all things. Live the gospel my friend, and you will find what you seek. 

Editor’s note: There are also midsingle’s wards available for LDS single adults. You may find a list of midsingle’s wards at http://midsingles.wordpress.com/midsingles-wards-list/

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Paul Green

Paul Green

Paul Green, is a real estate broker and professional improvisational comedian, actor and trainer. He has trained thousands of professionals and teenagers on principles of leadership, communication, team building and creative thinking and has provided heart-filled advice and encouragement to all who he has had an opportunity to interact. His greatest passion is helping individuals find creative and uplifting solutions to the many challenges of life by applying the principles and doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He looks forward to hearing and understanding the challenges of his readers and helping them to overcome these challenges.  For his full bio, click here

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CC Image courtesy of Librarian by JeremyHall on Flickr

Highlights of October 2013 General Conference weekend

Featured image CC courtesy of JeremyHall on Flickr

What is General Conference? 

One of the blessings of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being able to learn from a living Prophet and modern-day Apostles. Our church leaders address us at General Conference, a semiannual gathering in which members of the church gather worldwide for a series of two-hour sessions. Because General Conference is an opportunity to hear inspired messages from the Lord’s servants, many church members view General Conference with the same anticipation that people have for the Super Bowl.    

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To prepare for conference, members of the LDS church are encouraged to search our hearts for a question or issue we need answered. By having a specific question in mind as we learn from our church leaders, the doors of personal revelation open to us as we receive answers by the power of the Holy Ghost. Because I wanted guidance as I brainstormed future blog topics, the question I took with me for this session of General Conference was simple: How does the restored gospel of Jesus Christ address common issues or concerns that face LDS single adults? With this question in mind, I was excited about the opportunity to partake of this spiritual feast.

Jason, Daniel & Kirsten, Tiffany, and Erich

Jason, Daniel & Kirsten, Tiffany, and Erich

I woke up early and served a delicious continental breakfast, so we could feast physically as well as spiritually, as we gathered in our home to watch the first Saturday morning session of conference. Aside from my roommates Daniel and Erich, I watched conference with my blog teammates Kirsten and Marc. My friend Jason also was able to join us and we also had a special guest, Tiffany, who was visiting from Rexburg, Idaho.  Tiffany is a longtime friend of Kirsten’s and because she’s a Canadian Asian, Tiffany’s affectionate nickname is the “Canasian.”

Saturday Morning Conference Session 

During the first session of conference, I particularly enjoyed President Uchtdorf’s talk, “Come, Join with Us.” In this talk, President Uchtdorf addressed common challenges that cause members to distance themselves from the church, such as doubt, perceived inadequacies, or feeling that they don’t quite fit in. Ultimately, President Uchtdorf addressed each of these issues and explained how the church needs the unique talents and perspectives that each member brings to the church.  

President Uchtdorf said, “The Church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling, and the exhausted. It is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet…If these are your desires, then regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church.”

President Uchtdorf’s talk was meaning to me because as single adults, it can be easy to feel that we don’t fit in a family-oriented church or that our doubts or human frailties somehow disqualify us from the fellowship of other church members. However, as long as we desire to keep the commandments, regardless of our circumstances, there is a place for us in the Church. This is the Lord’s church and He wants us to partake of all the blessings that come through church activity.     

Erich & Daniel vs. Tiffany and Kirsten

Erich & Daniel vs. Tiffany and Kirsten

After the morning session of conference ended, we played a few games of foosball. Because Erich is a pro foosball player (he plays competitively every day at work), to make things even, Erich and Daniel played with one of their hands behind their back. Kirsten and Tiffany did well and surprised Daniel and Eric with a few trick plays, although in the end, my roommates were still triumphant. We then went outside and tossed around a football in our neighborhood until it was time to head back inside for the Saturday afternoon session of General Conference.

Saturday Afternoon Conference Session 

During the second session of General Conference, I was touched by Elder Holland’s talk, “Like a Broken Vessel,” which addressed the challenges of mental illness and emotional disorders. Elder Holland testified that “broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed” and bore a powerful testimony of how gospel principles give us strength to overcome our challenges.

Elder Holland said,“So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend… We are infinitely more than our limitations or our afflictions!” 

I felt Elder Holland’s talk was particularly relevant in addressing some of the challenges that face LDS single adults. Because LDS single adults often don’t have as strong of a support system as married members, it can make it even more difficult to overcome mental or emotional challenges. However, despite our circumstances, there is always hope. Whatever challenges we have don’t define us. Rather, through the strength of the Lord, they can refine us. The Lord loves us and even if we feel like a “broken vessel,” we are all in His hands and need to trust in His ability to make us whole.

Group Photoshoot and Dinner With the Missionaries 

Group picture between conference sessions: Jason, Erich, Daniel, Kirsten, Tiffany, Malcolm, Marc

Group picture between conference sessions: Jason, Erich, Daniel, Kirsten, Tiffany, Malcolm, Marc

After the afternoon session of conference, we adjourned to the backyard and Marc was kind enough to take some professional group pictures. Through our friend Jason, we also had the privilege of hosting the Sister Missionaries for dinner. Sister Del Nero and Sister Allen joined us for a meal and we were somehow able to fit nine people around our modest sized table.

Sister Del Nero and Sister Allen join us for dinner

Sister Del Nero and Sister Allen join us for dinner

Sister Allen shared a spiritual thought from President Uchtdorf’s “Forget Me Not” talk and encouraged us to find happiness now, rather than putting our happiness on hold while we wait for a future event – such as marriage, for example – to find happiness. It was an excellent message for a group of LDS singles and it was a blessing to have the missionaries in our home.

Priesthood Session of Conference

After dinner, the men got ready to leave for the Priesthood session of General Conference, which is a session in which our church leaders specifically address the men of the church. Because the women of the church had their special session of conference last week, Kirsten and Tiffany decided to hang out at our home while the men went to the local church meetinghouse where the Priesthood session was being broadcasted.

At the church, we met up with Donovan, one of our longtime friends. During the priesthood session, I connected with Bishop Gerald Causse’s talk, “Ye Are No More Strangers.” Bishop Causse’s talk explained how in the church, no one is a stranger or an outcast. All members of the church belong to a worldwide family and should treat each other accordingly. Our congregations do not belong to us – they belong to Jesus Christ. In light of this, we have a sacred responsibility to reach out to others, especially those who particularly need fellowship.  

Bishop Causse said, “Unity is not achieved by ignoring and isolating members who seem to be different or weaker and only associating with people who are like us. On the contrary, unity is gained by welcoming and serving those who are new and who have particular needs. These members are a blessing for the Church and provide us with opportunities to serve our neighbors and thus purify our own hearts.”

This talk really hit home for me because there are many LDS single adults who distance themselves from the church because they don’t feel that they belong. In fact, it’s estimated that at least 50 percent of LDS single adults are less active. This makes it critical for active members to effectively reach out to single adults who may feel like strangers in a family-oriented church. Because this is the Lord’s church, every member should feel loved, included, and valued.  I believe there would be a greater number of active LDS single adults if we learned how to more effectively reach out to all of our brothers and sisters, regardless of their backgrounds or personal circumstances.

End of Conference Party 

Sarah, Jason, and Bridgette

Sarah, Jason, and Bridgette

After priesthood session, we drove home and hosted an end of conference party. Our friends Bridgette, Sarah, Ronnie, and Paul joined us and we had a great time playing foosball, pool, video games, and card games. It was a great opportunity to unwind, relax, and enjoy time with friends. After the party, I made plans to meet up with Marc to watch the Sunday sessions of General Conference, since my two roommates and other friends had plans to watch those sessions with their families.   

Conclusion 

I am grateful for the chance I had to learn from our inspired church leaders and have my personal question answered. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, I know that our church leaders are called by God and that we are led by a modern Prophet, Thomas S. Monson. If we follow their counsel, even through our challenges and trials, our lives will be greatly blessed.

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