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A Mormon congregation might provide one or two "subs for Santa" to needy children, he says. His singles took care of 125, raising more than $40,000 in one night.
A group of the singles works with Salt Lake City’s Calvary Baptist Church to provide breakfast every Sunday at Pioneer Park, says Nielson’s wife, Heidi.
Mormon mid-singles congregations
Bloomington Hills Seventh Ward, Utah
Charles River Ward, Massachusetts
East Bay Ward, California
Emigration Second Ward, Utah
Glendale Ninth Branch, California
Lake Ward, California
Logan 18th Ward, Utah
Monument Park 19th Ward, Utah
Oak Hills Eighth Ward, Utah
Pacific Beach Ward, California
Parley’s Seventh Ward, Utah
Potomac Ward, Virginia
Sunset 12th Ward, Utah
Union Fort Ninth Branch, Utah
Washington Parkway Ward, Utah
"You can find anything you want to find here," says Jordan Callister, Elders Quorum president No. 1. "There are so many people here for the right reasons. It’s like a mecca of single people coming together."
Kristen Rushton, one of the Relief Society presidents, says the size can be overwhelming "but we are organized for interaction with smaller groups."
Callister and Rushton say the rules help manage the ward, but the bishop has wide discretion to make exceptions.
There is no stigma for divorced members, says Rushton, who works at Myriad Genetics. "We make an effort to reach out to everyone. "
The goal, they say, is not just pairing off, but worshipping together.
"We have a lot of very talented people," Rushton says. "It’s a spiritual experience every Sunday."
Not a group, they say, to be pitied.
Misperceptions • Lauren Henderson, who recently married, applauds the LDS Church’s effort to help its singles.
"I don’t know another singles group," she writes in an email from the Dominican Republic, "with as many opportunities to meet and mingle as LDS singles."
Still, says Henderson, who spent a number of years in a mid-singles ward, the message too often is about what they lack, rather than what they bring to the Mormon community.
In one church service Henderson attended as a single, an LDS high councilman’s wife felt sad for the singles because, unlike her family ward, the unwed didn’t have any mission presidents or general authorities among their congregation since top Mormon leaders are always married or widowed.
"I looked around at the congregation full of friends and saw the woman who started and ran a nonprofit organization in Salt Lake City, the successful journalist, the CEO of a successful company, and multiple graduate degrees," Henderson says, "I thought to myself, ‘Many people don’t have a ward full of exceptional, talented people like the people I’m surrounded by right now.’ "
She loved the camaraderie and courage of other singles.
"We came without the push of a spouse or parents. We picked one another up and carpooled. We encouraged our friends to be there," she says. "I was, myself, sitting between two friends who were trying to come back to church and feel accepted. Singles love the gospel, but don’t feel they belong. Their testimonies are strong and fragile at the same time. I wonder how many chose not to come back again after those remarks that day."
Mormonism is about "uplifting each other," Henderson says, not beating anyone down. "We don’t really need advice on dating — I think we have that covered — as we much as we need the uplifting gospel message, love and support."
Adrift among the couples • Married Mormons "do not understand what it means to be single," wrote Marie Cornwall, a retired Brigham Young University sociologist in a 1987 Sunstone essay that still represents her view. "Their understanding of single life is based on their own experiences when they were young and less mature. Having married, they attribute their sense of adulthood to marriage and family."
Cornwall, who has never married, says single people measure their adulthood by career promotions, financial stability and associations with other adults.Next Page >
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