My friend called me up a few days after she taught a Young Women’s lesson a few weeks ago. The lesson started out well – talking about adversity and challenges we face in the world. The Beehives were listening – not as attentively as she had hoped – so she gave them another challenge.
“Write down five of the worst things that could ever happen to you,” she said, desperate to get the Beehives completely engaged, as she handed out pens and paper. Suddenly, everyone seemed to be completely excited, taking a long time to think out the five worst things that could ever happen to them. At the end of this activity, she had wanted to show them that horrible things could happen but even if any of those 5 worst things happened to them, they would still have Christ.
However, my friend didn’t call me to tell me she taught a Young Women’s lesson. She called to let me know that on every single girl’s top five was “not getting married”.
My initial feeling – horror. Pure horror. I mean, I quickly ran through the top five worst things that could happen to me and “not getting married” is not even close. Famine, living in a confined space forever, those hit the list. In fact, “not getting married” isn’t not even on my top one hundred. The more I thought about it, it wasn’t the fact that this was on their list that horrified me the most – it was the fact that these girls were TWELVE. Aren’t twelve year olds supposed to be thinking about – well, I don’t know, not marriage.
After I hung up the phone, it hit me. I mean, I had been frightened because of the girl’s answers, but where had they got the answer from. I thought about what I learned in Young Women’s lessons. Marriage, marriage, homemaking, marriage, marriage, dating, Jesus, more marriage. How can I even be horrified with these girls when that’s all they get to learn week after week? How many lessons did I have that were about “how to prepare for a career” or “how to prepare for college or stuff after graduation”? Um, none.
But being single is like some horrible curse – no one can imagine themselves being single and being LDS. That’s just not supposed to happen! The other day in church someone said, “Well, I don’t want to get married now, but I’m going to get married someday.” Suddenly, I found myself saying, “What if you don’t? Get married?” I didn’t mean for it to be rude, but she looked scared. “Of course I’ll get married!”
In 1990, a study of LDS members showed that 18.7 percent of LDS women in the church had never been married. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an exact statistic for this year. I do know however that the number of single, never been married women in the church has grown). This statistic is not put here to be cynical. It’s just to say that the “I’m-Going-to-Get-Married-Because-I-Can’t-Be-Single” is a little bit, well, outdated. No, not even that. It’s flat out ridiculous. Those girls in Beehives, they shouldn’t be scared of not being married. If they get married, good for them. If they don’t, good for them. What if we taught lessons about going to college and getting an education (and not for the purpose of finding an eternal companion)? Or about following dreams and making them real?
Not getting married is certainly not the worst thing that could happen to anyone. Of course, many of us can snicker and agree with that statement, but many young LDS females don’t feel that wait. I mostly see a problem within the Young Women’s lessons and parts of the YW program (or maybe it was just my program — there were too many mutual activities about homemaking). We’re talking about six years of get married lessons – only increasing the I-Can’t-Be-Single Syndrome. So maybe I’m putting too much blame in one place. Which makes me wonder – how can we fix this and what else is even causing the problem in the first place?