“Could the Church set up a pen-pal club for single adults?” Ensign, July 1980, 31–32
Margaret Smoot, member of the Relief Society General Board It is likely that this question has been asked, at one time or another, by many single members of the Church who feel such a club might be an opportunity for new friendships, for sharing insights and information, and also for assistance in the meet-and-marry process. Most of the inquiries mention this last reason, and considering the ratio of single women to men in some areas, a pen-pal club may sound appealing.
Yet the answer lies in a careful consideration of the possible ramifications of such a programmed solution. Although the need is a valid one, Church sponsorship of a pen-pal club is an unsatisfactory solution for several reasons.
First, the logistics of planning and implementing the system would be difficult. Second, the danger exists that the system would be used by individuals for self-serving purposes. And third, the Church has responded, in a more traditional manner, to the needs of the singles by establishing the single-adult programs—Young Adults, Young Special Interests, and Special Interests.
Single members comprise approximately one-third of the total Church membership. Even given that only forty percent of those people would want to participate in a pen-pal club, the number of names needing processing, matching, and contacting might well reach 400,000 or 500,000. Such volume would require a computer and the full-time effort of a staff. Accelerated Church growth and the need to conserve Church resources make the costs of the project prohibitive.
Even if a letter exchange program were viable, some individuals, both within and outside the Church, might use the list as a quick, simple way to further self-serving goals or commercial plans. It is Church policy not to distribute names and addresses of members or organizational leaders. Although a pen-pal club theoretically would circulate through priesthood channels, the potential would exist for the list to go to individuals who would use it to send annoying or inappropriate mail.
It is questionable also that a pen-pal club would help encourage relationships leading to celestial marriage. Certainly that possibility is real; success stories can be found of couples who first became acquainted through letters and later, having met in person, got married. Conversely, many postal relationships flounder when the individuals meet face to face. In-person growth and development are crucial to a relationship.
The Church is sensitive to the need for single people to get to know each other, and provides single-adult activities on ward, stake, region, and sometimes multiregion levels. Firesides, conferences, seminars, retreats, home evening groups, interest clusters, dances, wards for singles, newsletters, and other social events can get single members together.
Working within Church programs, single Latter-day Saints adults can develop activities that facilitate the meet-and-marry process, that allow them to meet people outside their immediate stake or region, and that lead them to stronger, better relationships with each other and with our Heavenly Father. When the program was beginning, Elder Marion D. Hanks, a managing director of Melchizedek Priesthood MIA, stated that we should “not attempt to foster a program but a sense of who we are.” That admonition surely still applies today.