On March 8, 2016 a rare opportunity was given to all young single adult (YSA) members of the church (generally in the 18-31 age range) to post, tweet and Facebook specific thoughts, stories and questions which would be personally addressed and responded to in a live event by three prominent church leaders, including an apostle of the Lord.
Who wouldn't be excited? It was like an exclusive general conference session. Just for us!
Three previous Face to Face events had featured minor LDS celebrities answering questions: Piano Guys, Lindsey Sterling, David Archuleta. On January 20 of this year, a special Face to Face for LDS Youth was held.
Now, at long last, it was our turn. We were finally being acknowledged.
Over three-thousand (Three-THOUSAND!) thoughts and questions were posted. Some were more youth-related, "How can I strengthen my testimony, get more out of my scripture study, help less active friends and family come unto Christ, put down my phone to prepare for a mission or date with God's plan for me in mind?"
The real "meaty" ones addressed issues pertaining to church doctrine. Was Jesus married? How can we have kids in the next life? If my temple-married parents divorced, who am I sealed to if one parent remarries in the temple? Same-sex attraction, pornography addiction, aging-out of the YSA program and feeling like a failure for not being married with a family.
Some of the more interesting ones which should've been addressed (but weren't) included:
A woman has reached a "certain age" who never felt the need to serve a mission, she feels stuck in a singles ward with no marriage prospects thanks to skewed numbers. When should she take out her own temple endowments?
Should a man struggling with addictions even bother to keep looking for a worthy temple companion when he feels so inadequate?
A woman is frustrated by the "dating crisis," she feels all the men in her singles ward (RMs especially) don't want to date, they just want NCMO, (non-committal-make-out) any advice?
Regarding the "dating crisis" among YSA, the real issue no one wants to address is that in most first-world countries, 21st century dating now equals premarital sex. Young adults of the world don't "date." They don't even have "boy/girlfriends" anymore. Instead, couples refer to themselves as, "We're seeing each other." or "We're together." Meaning they're having sex with maybe an occasional date on the side. Hopefully, one day, they will move in together and that will, hopefully, lead to marriage.
As a result, Mormon youth are returning from their missions and not dating. Not because they lack financial resources, because sex is such a big part of the picture now, taking over every aspect of the idea.
The wholesome 1960's era dating Elder Holland and Sister Stephens know has literally disappeared from our current culture. Sex has replaced dating. Because the church does not condone this, YSA women know they must wait while the men feel ridiculous asking a girl to the local malt shop. What if they turn him down? The horror! Instead they can take their time and play the field, browse the buffet, hanging out, be as choosy as they want while the growing number of single never-married sisters just want to give up and die. To every thing there is a season and the season of the malt-shop date ended sometime after 1989.
The best answers regarding the "crisis" Elder Holland and Sister Stephens' could come up with?
Here they are:
- We're married and so can you!
- God will bless you in the next life.
- Keep living for the ideal which is temple marriage.
- Find ways to serve others (especially "the marrieds" because you have so much more free time than they do!)
- You are not defined by your marital status. (Um, yes we are, Sister Stephens. What part of "single" don't you understand?)
I felt patronized. I felt that, once again, church leaders wanted to avoid the most important issues plaguing the fastest growing minority in the church.
All they wanted to talk about was marriage but what about dating?
What about the LACK of dating?
Even the words "date" and "dating" were only mentioned in context to when these church leaders met and married their spouses.
When you're sixteen, it's okay if you still haven't been asked out on a date. It'll happen. It'll come
Age twenty-six? Not so cute anymore.
To be the ONLY ONE in your family ward still patiently waiting to be asked.
Feeling like one ruby among hundreds every Sunday at your singles ward.
Is it any wonder church attendance among this age group is falling fast?
In return, Elder Holland had a question for us.
"What do you do as a YSA to find peace and happiness during times of trial?"
A fair question.
Here's my answer:
"When I'm feeling most down and discouraged, I think about my two favorite nephews. How they make me laugh and feel good about myself. How much I enjoy spending time with them. Anticipating the next time we'll be together. This helps me forget, for a while, that I will not experience the joy of eternal families for myself until the next life. Not until after I'm dead. Yet, somehow, with God's help, I must learn to be accepting and happy with my life, such as it is. Right now."
Overall, it was a good broadcast. Elder Holland had many inspiring words for the YSA of the church. He made sure we knew we are loved, needed, appreciated.
I was especially pleased with his answer addressing the issue of same-sex attraction. Less attention on attraction, more on chastity. That really is what it all boils down to.
He left his blessing on the men who hold the Melchizedek priesthood: to be worthy of it and continue to use it; for good.
His blessing on the women was to stay active, work hard, endure despite the fact we outnumber men in so many areas of the church yet we are equally important in building up the kingdom of God. Our sacrifice (which includes continuing to live the law of chastity) will not go unrewarded.
You will be happy again.