Young Single Adults Are Not Half-Humans

By: Jake
April 28, 2012

The church does not have a solid reputation of treating all people equally. Some unequal treatment is based on behavior (e.g. the heathen drinkers of alcohol), other distinctions are made for tribal reasons (e.g. other religions or unfamiliar backgrounds), and there are distinctions made for who people are inherently (e.g. one’s sex or sexual orientation).  Rather than being a revolutionary trail blazer of progress and equality, the church is too often the last group to get the message, or worse, the church is found kicking and fightingagainst progress rather than fighting for it.  In all cases, though, there seems to be preferential treatment toward white married middle aged American males. As I have observed before the church has some similarities to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, in particular the maxim that: ‘All animals are equal but some are more equal then others.’ Certainly, some members are more equal in the church then others.  I want to look at another area in which the church treats some members as being less equal then others: Young Single Adults (YSA) and Single Adults (SA).

Just how the church views singles struck me recently at a YSA dance. Walking into the building I was confronted by a throng of married couples.  The following conversation occurred:

SINGLE ME: So married life is that bad that you had nothing better to do then come and hang out with the YSA as they prowl around looking for their future spouse?

MARRIED FRIEND: Haha. Well as surprising as this may seem we are not here by choice.

SINGLE ME: So why on earth would you be here?

MARRIED FRIEND: We are here as chaperones.

SINGLE ME: What? Really? The average age of the people here is 24, are you telling me the church doesn’t trust 24 year olds without an adult here? I mean I can have my own house, a car, get married but I can’t be trusted in a church? If I wanted to fornicate I don’t think you being here is going to stop that.

MARRIED FRIEND: I know. I don’t get it, I am only here because the Stake President asked me to come.

At this moment the sheer absurdity of them being at the dance hit me. Half the singles present were returned missionaries; some were Elders Quorum Presidents.  The only difference between the singles and the “chaperones” was our marital state.  If I and my fellow YSAs had been married, we would have been seen as trustworthy, worthy to chaperone others, and capable of being in the chapel unaccompanied by a ‘real’ adult.  The fact that we were all single meant that we were not to be trusted in the building.  What on earth is the church thinking?

Here are three of my speculations.

Single people are a menace to society.

As apocryphal, and possibly completely fabricated as the quote from Brigham Young is, the fact is that many members think its true and they still quote it (at least I have heard it countless times).  Perhaps my view on this is jaded as I hear it so often simply because I am considered more of a menace than most singles.  However, what about us is so menacing?

Maybe due to our raging hormones voluntarily suppressed by our obedience to the law of chastity we have an increased risk of fornication. With no adult supervision by our same age married peers, potentially there will be more children born out of wedlock. And a society full of single parents is not as stable as the ideal two parent home.

On the other hand, with modern contraception (and the high cost of giving birth in the US) this fear of unwanted pregnancies isn’t that valid anymore. It’s relatively easy (for those who do violate the law of chastity) to have sex and avoid pregnancy.  So why are we still seen as a menace to society?

Single adults, along with Relief Society members are planning a revolution (or orgy).

In some ways the perceived need for adult supervision at a church event for YSA and SA is like the fact that Relief Society meetings and Young Women’s camps have to have a priesthood holder present as well. After all, if a male was not in the building then who knows what the sisters (and YW) would get up to. They may form an anti-polygamy faction like Emma Smith did, or get up to all manner of devilish schemes like encouraging equality, or equal responsibility between sexes.  This cannot be allowed.  A man is needed in the building to keep the women in check.  Although it may simply be that he has the keys, both metaphorically and literally – why are women and singles not simply entrusted with keys?

In the case of the YSA does the church think that without supervision by a married man the YSAs are going to descend hedonistically into a mass orgy?  That lone married man stands between us and orgiastic debauchery.  Then again, if we wanted to have sex, the chapel or any room in the church is not likely to be prime real estate for our wanton hook-ups.  After all, we are not teenagers; we have our own rooms, cars, beds and homes.  We live independently and don’t need a place to hide from our parents for illicit acts.  Given the choice between sex in our own beds, or the Relief Society room floor, it’s not a difficult one to make (the idea of sex surrounded by handmade sentimental decorations that adorn Relief Society rooms is a truly terrifying one!). Even if we really fancied the floor of a church room for our acts of love, then there are far more rooms in a church than chaperones can adequately police. Having a few married people in a church will not stop a particularly horny couple from finding a way round it, if they really want to.

The church is hallowed land, and sin must not happen on it.

The churches that we worship in are sacred buildings and as a result must be treated with respect. If sin defiles a building and makes it unfit for worship, then what about sins such as lying, judging, gossiping, gluttony, modesty, vanity, the love of riches and pride?Every week on Sunday we see many of these going on in the building yet these don’t result in the church being reconsecrated every week. So sins per se can’t defile a building, unless of course breaking the law of chastity (if it is true that singles are at greater risk for breaking the law of chastity while in the church) has greater metaphysical properties then other sins. Other sins simply stain our souls, but sex stains our souls, the building, and even licks our cupcakes so no one will want to eat them after we have been defiled. This does not make sense to me, if one sin defiles a building then any sin should have the same effect.

Whatever the reason for the policy, it is still demeaning to treat a group of twenty-six year olds as if they were sixteen. This practice is symptomatic of the fact that the church views single members as being incomplete, or half human (missing their better halves?). As if the rhetoric of being single is a sign of spiritual weakness wasn’t enough (just have more faith and you’ll get married!) we halflings are not worthy of the basic respect to look after ourselves in the church. We require a “complete” (meaning, married) human to look after us. Single members, like women, are not given the same respect and treatment as the married male members of the church. To adapt Orwell’s maxim it seems to me that all members are equal in the eyes of God, but in the eyes of the church married males are more equal than others.

Thoughts:

  • Why do you think the church sees single members as a menace to society?
  • Why do you think we need priesthood (read married male) supervision for YSA and Relief Society meetings?
  • How could the church improve its equality?

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29 Responses to Young Single Adults Are Not Half-Humans

  1. Stephen Marsh on April 28, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    Well, the general reason is that historically, YA activities that are not chaperoned are more likely to get out of hand than those that are.

    The mere presence of chaperones, who are pretty much harmless and not interactive, makes a quantitative difference in the amount of trouble that occurs.

    So, if you go just from statistical history over a course of about fifty years of experience in the 1900s (I doubt it has been updated since the year 2000), it makes sense without having to have a reason.

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  2. Bob on April 28, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    OP: Jake,
    You just don’t get it. It’s not about you, it’s about the chaperones.
    They are there to show you what REAL living can be like__married. It’s like them hosting a Tupperware party. Get the whole kitchen set!
    Also, it makes them feel better, they are not losers like you. :)

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  3. Bryce on April 28, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    This post made me LOL…but then I suddenly realized it’s spot on and then it just made me sad. The worst effect of all this “chaperoning” is that single folks start actually believing that they are less than complete. IMO, that makes them even more vulnerable to sin and sadness because they feel pressured to get into relationships that are probably unhealthy just so they can show progress toward having an official family status. I think the major problem starts with our terminology: why the distinction between Adult and Young Adult? And why is marriage the key hurdle to cross to be considered a full adult?

    I believe the presence of chaperones for adults causes the very misbehavior that having chaperones is meant to discourage. The folks who attend the events get to feel like incomplete adults, and the adults who don’t attend go make out someplace else. But darned if we don’t get to feel smug and self-righteous for heading off Satan at the pass!

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  4. whizzbang on April 28, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    as a divorced single adult I could care less what married people think or say about me in terms of my life. I think too some married people have the mentality that because it worked for them it will work for you. I was told today that I should move to Montreal because the married member found the women there beautiful-and I have a problem?!

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  5. Mike S on April 28, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    It’s all about control. In order to enter the hierarchy and have control, you have to be a man and you have to be married. Try to imagine a bishop or a stake president or whatever NOT married. Doesn’t exist.

    Therefore, you truly AREN’T eligible in the LDS Church for these roles unless and until you are a man and are married. And if you are not longer married (divorces, widowed, etc), you better get married again.

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  6. hawkgrrrl on April 28, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    I would like to officially change the name of the YSAs to “singleton halflings.”

    There does seem to be a perpetuating theme in the church that unmarried males are stuck in a perpetual commitment-phobic adolescence. I suspect that’s an old script from decades ago when marriage age was younger on average.

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  7. Douglas on April 28, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    Jake- quit being a crybaby.
    Yea, the Church’s practices at times seemeth archaic as all get-out.
    If thus saith the old boys in SLC, “There shalt be chaperones at YSA functions”, then appreciate that there are functions so ye whippersnappers may pareth off and accomplish the primary mission of the YSA program (e.g., whittling its numbers via temple marriages). Appreciate ye also the service of the married couples that glanceth at their watches and wish they were watching either the ballgame or ER.

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  8. Douglas on April 28, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    (#6) – Hawkchick, you slipped in a goodie while I was musing me thoughts, darned ya.
    Oh, yes, the poor buggers. For example, my younger son just recently turned 26, and has NOT big the big one yet, so I guess that he’s now “officially” inducted into the “MenancE to Society Society”, aka M.E.S.S. Good grief, the young man is knocking down a ChemE degree at the Zoo, after having served an honorable mission, and is making ends meet schlepping pizza. Realistically, I’d rather see him hit the big ’30′ before he settles down, which since he’s got Dad’s genes, he’s gotta keep something significant in rein. He’s man enough for the task. Is he “second class” in anyone’s mind? I’ll kick their heines if they think so! AFAIC, he’s got his priorities in order. Yes, I want good-looking grandkiddies and plenty of ‘em, but it can wait until he’s ready.

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  9. whizzbang on April 28, 2012 at 7:40 PM

    I have heard and seen some ridiculous things when it comes to singles in the Church. I still laugh though when two years ago? this bishopric member was talking to me about the details of lipstick…and then he made the comment that “if you were married you would know about this stuff” like yeah, when I was married my wife was telling me all about lipstick! idjut. besides I have sisters who I can ask about lipstick should I ever want to know about it…

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  10. Gilroy on April 28, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    While there are many reasons why I’m not active anymore, this is a big one. It wasn’t too long ago that I realized that as long as I was single (which could be a long time, considering I’m gay), I would never really be accepted by the church as a full-fledged man. This is despite the fact that I pay my bills, sign leases, travel out of state for work, cook my own meals, get involved in the community, and spend time on weekends studying for finance tests for my business degree. I know married, 21 year old BOYS in the church who don’t do any of those things. But of course I’m the “weird” one because I’m not married.

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  11. Jane on April 28, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    Our stake has about five women’s fitness classes that take place weekly. We are required to have a priesthood holder present or we will not be allowed to hold the class any more. One time, the priesthood holder was about 13 so don’t tell me it was for our safety, I could have beaten this kid up.

    I have found NOTHING in the handbook that says we have to have priesthood present at our meetings! Where does this from!?!?

    My old ward was fond of saying things like, “All adults are invited to attend, and young single adults are invited, too!” GAH!

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  12. whizzbang on April 28, 2012 at 9:48 PM

    I too wonder about the idea that ysa aren’t fully formed adults as some have gone through divorce and death and you can’t tell me that either of those things are not character building

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  13. Will on April 29, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    The church see’s YSA’s as a menace to the church because of what you are doing to yourself. As I look back on my life, the most critical lessons I have learned stem from my marriage and my kids.

    A huge part of this is being married to someone of the opposite sex is that Men and Women are so completely different it presents a significant and difficult challage — one that will make you or break you. This is augmented when kids enter the equation.

    Life is a test and marriage to someone of the opposite sex and raising kids is critical for growth, the growth necessary for eternal growth. Line upon line is the reality..

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 4

  14. Anselma on April 29, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    Oh, goodness. I’m one of the YSA reps for my ward, which is basically a bad joke, because I don’t go to YSA activities–ever. I mean, I like the people in my group fine, but I don’t feel the need to socialize with them outside of church, especially if it means hassling people for a ride off-campus. While the church certainly does treat singles as less than whole in its discourse, because I only show up for YSA Sunday School, none of that has the chance to bother me.

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  15. FireTag on April 29, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    Will:

    Certainly my wife and daughter have both taught me things I would never have learned otherwise, but I could probably say the same thing about any of life’s roads I could have taken.

    Your argument lends itself to the parody of arguing that one should marry someone they do not like so that the struggle will be even harder and the learning greater. Or even that one should engage in SSM — that will teach you a lot about patience in the midst of a whole SOCIETY of differences.

    I think both of those parodies are a little bit farther than I personally wish to stretch, at least in this parallel universe. I think I’ll leave those choices to those who actually are attracted to their mates.

    I’ll certainly leave the choice to be single or married to those who have to live with the choice, particularly when our society makes marriage less burdensome than divorce.

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  16. Jeremiah S on April 29, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    (13) Will – I find your characterization of the issue highly problematic.

    “because of what you are doing to yourself”

    It takes two people to meet, date, marry, and have children. It is not as simple as a personal choice that we inflict upon ourselves.

    “a significant and difficult challage — one that will make you or break you.”

    I have found that our Heavenly Father is the consummate teacher, preparing each and every one of us with an individualized curriculum. There are an infinite number of ways that He can and does test us with situations that will “make or break us”. I could go into various examples, but it is simply not true that the only way to learn and grow in this life is by being married with children. Many people are excluded by this, and yet they still develop faith, hope, and charity, and through the Atonement and God’s mercy, prepare themselves for celestial glory. They have faith and hope that even thought their circumstances in this life are not ideal, God will provide them a way to be married and raise children if that is their righteous desire.

    Sorry about the long post, but I would like to make one more point. As a people striving to create Zion, we really need to lose many of our preconceived notions about single folks (or any other folks that don’t easily fit in the mold). Not all single woman are frumpy and unattractive, and not all single men are lazy, selfish, video gaming, porn-addicted dodgers of commitment. Just because Elder So and So said it about some of us, it does not describe all of us. And even if it did, we are all charged by Christ to extend love and charity to one another, and to recognize that He is their Judge, and ours.

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  17. TheUsual on April 29, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    I’m a long time reader of these blogs and this particular post hit close to home as I was rather annoyed with my YSA ward today.

    I honestly get the feeling that our Bishopric coddles us ’cause they see us as incapable of running our own lives.

    It used to be at our dances all of the lights were shut off, now the back half is completely lit up, guess too many kids were sneaking in closer than a BOMs length apart from each other. We used to also have our dances till midnight then GBH came out with the whole “nothing good happens after midnight” thing well now we have them till eleven pm.

    Believe me I get the feeling too that YSAs aren’t really adults yet in the eyes of both our leaders and other married members of the church. At this point I’m not sure really what is to be done. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Thanks for letting me rant W&T.

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  18. [...] regardless of the PR department’s efforts. And part of the disaffection is due to simply not having a place for people who are different (and the place for half of the same people isn’t that great). [...]

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  19. Chino Blanco on April 29, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    Jane’s comment got a (sad) chuckle, mostly because it reminded me of this:

    Obama at the correspondents’ dinner: “Jimmy got his start years ago on *The Man Show*. In Washington, that’s what we call a congressional hearing on contraception.” 

    Heh. Good one, Mr. President.  Where some of us come from, we call it “the Priesthood.” 

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  20. Mike S on April 29, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    #13 Will: Life is a test and marriage to someone of the opposite sex and raising kids is critical for growth, the growth necessary for eternal growth.

    Talk to Sheri Dew.

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  21. hawkgrrrl on April 29, 2012 at 11:20 PM

    It is really silly to put SAME AGE OR YOUNGER marrieds in the role of chaperone to YSAs. That’s just messed up, any way you slice it. It’s actually quite similar to how I felt as a 22 year old sister missionary (with a 29 year old companion) when we had a 19 year old DL. Every single person in that situation resented it.

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  22. John Mansfield on April 30, 2012 at 5:34 AM

    Hilarious paragraph:

    “On the other hand, with modern contraception (and the high cost of giving birth in the US) this fear of unwanted pregnancies isn’t that valid anymore. It’s relatively easy (for those who do violate the law of chastity) to have sex and avoid pregnancy. So why are we still seen as a menace to society?”

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  23. lucy on April 30, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    “Why do you think the church sees single members as a menace to society?” – Because of blog posts like this.

    “Why do you think we need priesthood (read married male) supervision for YSA and Relief Society meetings?” – In order for
    bloggers to have something to kvetch about.

    “How could the church improve its equality?” – Why should it? Equality is the end of the liberal political agenda, not the end of all activity in the church.

    By the way, it’s not just “the church” that sees perpetual adolescence as a grave societal ill.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 1

  24. lucy on April 30, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    I feel your pain Jake, but you’re no more a menace than the rest of us.

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  25. Taryn Fox on May 1, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    “Why should it? Equality is the end of the liberal political agenda, not the end of all activity in the church.”

    Especially pre-1978.

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  26. Glass Ceiling on May 8, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    Why are all singles in the Church referred to as “YSAs?” Half the Church is single. They are not all under 30.

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  27. Glass Ceiling on May 8, 2012 at 7:55 PM

    Or is it that the only singles who matter in the Chuch ARE the YSAs? I’d hate to think that this is the case. And yet every time the singles get discussed it’s all about YSAs. Just curious.

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  28. Glass Ceiling on May 8, 2012 at 8:04 PM

    The correct, useful, and inclusive term is “single adults. ” (Just in case anyone missed the painfully obvious. )

    Thank you. It matters. I hate to say it, but some of you, single and married, will one day personally appreciate what I am requesting. Stats show it. The deplorable state of the singles programs in the Church affects us all in ways that most of us haven’t even begun to consider.

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  29. Glass Ceiling on May 10, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    Will,

    Your ” singles do it to yourselves ” comment earlier has to be commented on by me. Who in the world do you think you are?

    Kindly consider:

    1) It takes all kinds. Paul the apostle was not married.

    2) Some folks are gay, commitment phobic, mentally ill, or some other hardship. Others just haven’t found the right person.

    3) The singles program is plainly tragic as an organization. Nearly all singles are inactive. The active ones have very little choice in spouses and activities.

    So please, lay off your judgment, will ya?

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