By Cory Bickmore
You may have heard of the Young Single Adult congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as “singles wards.” Many unmarried Mormon twenty-somethings attend these wards each Sunday to learn the gospel while staring at one another, wondering to whom they might propose marriage. I was one of these people.
Whatever city I moved to during those years, I sought out the local singles ward, hoping to accomplish at long last the stated purpose of their existence, namely to become ineligible to attend them due to wedded bliss before becoming ineligible to attend due to old age.
What follows describes the typical Sunday for me, the average older attendee of the average singles ward. (For those paying attention, this particular ward followed Schedule B, which means all meetings proceed in reverse order, with priesthood and Relief Society first, sacrament meeting last, and the universe flowing backwards until it consumes itself and everyone dies.)
I join the fourteen other young single men scattered about the rear of the elder’s quorum classroom. Our ability to cram in the back rows while managing to avoid sitting directly next to one another always impresses me.
An elders quorum president seven years my junior tries to bring the meeting to order, but the Relief Society's hymn drifting in from next door hampers his efforts. To help my spiritual leader, I begin a tally of the most overused LDS words and phrases by the day’s teachers, speakers, and classmates.
We sing “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” for the fourth time in two months. I ponder what a grand joke it would be to just once sing “As Sisters in Zion.”
The announcements part of the meeting plods on. Fearful suspicion rises within me that I may be the only person in the building with no activity to announce.
A pert young woman enters to make an announcement. Murmurs like wow and whoa ripple through the room. Enthralled, we fail to hear anything she says.
The elders quorum instructor wishes aloud he had less teaching time. He asks us to “bear with” him. I promptly don't.
He lets slip the day's first marriage reference. Eyes glaze over. Numerous handhelds (prehistoric smart phones) come out in defensive reflex.
A half-dozen activity sign-up sheets make their way around the room. I sneak in a Sign-up Sheet for Those Who Want No More Sign-up Sheets. The fellow in front of me throws it in the trash. I hate him for ten seconds.
Our instructor exhausts his prepared material. To compensate, he trots out a quarter-hour filibuster containing no less than five sports analogies.
Despite his predicament, the instructor manages to keep us several minutes over. On the bright side, my tally of overused LDS words and phrases has racked up lots of hits. At this time currently holds a modest lead, but my money is on opportunity.
I go Teacher Shopping between the three Sunday School classes. I settle on the one with the comfiest chairs, and the cutest teacher.
Said cute teacher commits the day's second marriage reference. She compounds the situation by encouraging we males to date more.
The bishop slips into class. He leaves two minutes later.
My buddy Ben and I engage in an inspirational comment war. I win 7-5 when he gets distracted by a game of Tetris on his handheld (a Bronze Age smart phone).
The teacher shares an uplifting story from her mission. I applaud her courage by winking at her. She ignores me.
The bishop returns. He leaves again. I wonder if he has ants in his pants.
The chapel fills as sacrament meeting nears. The ward population has mysteriously tripled. I select the pew most likely to entice an attractive girl to sit by me.
A large man with dark hair and a beard sits next to me. He wears a pink tie. My hopes are dashed.
With some alarm I notice the program lists three speakers, a very special musical number, and a visiting high councilor on stake business along with all the hymns, prayers, and ordinary ward business. My shrinking stomach whimpers in fear, yet I take solace in the fact I am a handsome man.
Our bishop’s second counselor crushes my hand while being “glad to see” me. The Pink Tie Giant acts like his hand doesn’t hurt during his turn, but his tears betray him.
The bishop begins the meeting on time. I am excited.
With no young children to scurry about, the chapel wraps itself in silence during the sacrament ordinance. I always like this.
The first speaker, a girl of eighteen, chokes up while relating the anti-sin analogy of frogs boiling to death in a gradually warming pot of water. I decide to henceforth oppose cruelty to amphibians.
For some reason, I start singing Michael Jackson’s "Smooth Criminal" to myself.
The Pink Tie Giant leaves early. No girl moves to fill the vacancy.
“Smooth Criminal” continues its romp through my brain.
A male quartet sings their very very special musical number, “Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy.” It sounds much better than when they sang it last month.
The final speaker mentions his marriage engagement several tens of times. He, too, is wearing a pink tie. I worry my fashion might be out of step.
He uses the term concerted effort to describe the actions of a single person. I make a concerted effort not to laugh out loud.
The last speaker dumps the last half of his talk “in the interest of time.” I force myself not to dash up and hug him on the spot.
The chapel erupts into a maelstrom of young single adult prattle after the closing prayer. I review my tally of the day’s overused LDS words and phrases. As expected, opportunity has defeated at this time by a substantial margin, with honorable mentions going to grateful and moisture.
I take the opportunity to go home to eat a tasty dinner and drink some moisture, much to my stomach's delight at this time.
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