“How to Not Single Out the Singles,” Liahona, April 2021
“As we start the next ward conference meeting, please move to sit with your families.”
Comments like this always make me cringe a little. As a male Church member who is single, where should I sit? Sometimes I feel that other people aren’t sure where I should sit—or fit in—either. What can we do as a gospel family to help everyone, whether they’re married or not, feel welcome and included? Following are three ideas that may help.
The restored gospel helps us understand beautiful doctrines about eternal families. But I’ve seen how some cultural habits surrounding the doctrine leave unmarried people feeling like fringe members of the Church.
For example, I’ve attended wards that ask only married couples to give the opening and closing prayers at meetings. I’ve heard ward members express concern when a single man is called to the bishopric. These and other small actions can create an emotional barrier for unmarried people to overcome before they feel at home in church.
Are there any habits you or your ward could change to be more inclusive? This might be a good question for a bishopric or ward council to consider.
Sometimes even those of us who think we practice inclusion can be unintentionally exclusionary. For example, when I served as a nursery leader, I often missed announcements that were shared during the second hour of Church meetings. When I told a leader about this concern, he said, “But doesn’t your wife hear the announcements in Relief Society?”
At the time, I just laughed. But this good man’s response represented a mindset that excluded me. Do we view our fellow Church members as part of a “family ward,” made up of married men and women with children? Or do we view one another as part of a “ward family,” made up of individuals who care for and strengthen one another? Both views are important. While remaining aware of families in our ward, we can also get to know people individually—their circumstances, interests, needs—and perhaps prevent unintentional exclusion.
After the bishopric member invited families to sit together during ward conference, someone tapped me on my shoulder.
“I guess you’re in my family for the next hour,” a kind sister said, inviting me to sit with her husband and children. I am grateful for people like her who show they care about me and want me to feel welcome. Another such person was a bishop who regularly invited me to weekly home evening with his family.
Who could benefit from your family expanding their circle of fellowship? Your efforts don’t have to be perfect. A simple invitation can make a big difference.
I have a full life with many meaningful relationships, but I have plenty of lonely, empty moments when I long for more. Based on my conversations with other unmarried Saints, I believe these feelings are common.
However, I try not to feel sorry for myself. We unmarried people can be a powerful force for good in the lives of others. We can help strengthen friends, the families we love, and entire wards and stakes. The Church needs us! We shouldn’t leave the responsibility for connection in the hands of others. We can introduce ourselves in our wards, volunteer to serve, and speak up for what we need.
Lonely, empty moments will come no matter where we are in life or what kind of relationship we’re in (or not in). The closer we are to our Heavenly Father and the more we can feel His love, the more power we will have to do good, find joy, and connect with our brothers and sisters.