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OBSERVATIONS ABOUT MORMON SINGLES WARDS


 C
onfessions of a Ward Hopper

Who Are You?

I'm a serial ward hopper.  I'm a thirty-two year old single male living in Salt Lake City.  Since getting home from my European mission twelve years ago, I have been ward hopping.  I have attended every LDS singles ward that has existed in the last decade from Provo to Ogden - and a few in Vegas, California, Washington and St. George.    I feel like I'm in a singles war rather than a singles ward.  I wander endlessly, searching for a spouse, and never finding one.  I don't know when my luckless expedition will end, but I know that I am an expert on Mormon singles wards.  I know everything about them -- as only a ward hopper could -- and I am so conflicted about them that I feel compelled to write this short essay for no reason I can explain.

How Do You Know?

I can drive through the parking lot of any random meeting house on Sunday and tell just from the cars in the lot if a singles ward is meeting inside.  When I'm hunting for a new ward, if I see minivans and SUVs, I move on to the next church.  If I see bumper stickers, old trucks, and sub-compacts, I park and go in.  I know what type of singles fill university wards, YSA wards, and single adult wards.  I know how their members think and what they want.  I recognize a hundred other ward hoppers I run into over-and-over as the years roll by.  We ignore each other because we know we can expose each other.  We're not really just visiting, and we didn't really just move into the boundaries. 

I know that ward hoppers favor the afternoon meeting times when the attendances are bigger.  I know most ward hoppers are Internet daters because they're into appearances and playing the numbers.  I can tell within thirty seconds of meeting another priesthood holder whether that Elder is addicted to porn by watching which women he glances at.  I can tell from the response I get to a single smile whether any young woman is from a small town, whether she is spoiled and stuck up, and whether she is a democrat.

I have seen everything in singles wards.  I have seen anti-Mormons testify the Church isn't true on the stand in testimony meetings while being video-taped.  I've seen "quiet" gay protests in Sacrament meetings where people sing out of up-side-down hymnals and read from up-side-down scriptures.  I have seen a reenactment of the "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera, complete with the Phantom in a porcelain mask fondling Christine on the stand.  I have seen Elders show up for church dressed like Vampires telling me they're "emos" (with skin-tight pants and painted black hair that could only have been styled by flushing their head down the toilet).  I have met two confused, fanatical bishoprics that require all potential ward members to pass background checks and own a car to join the ward.  I saw a Chinese horoscope appear printed on the back of Sacrament meeting programs.  I have seen the Qur'an quoted on a Sacrament meeting program . . . on Christmas!  I was informed that the Gay Pride Festival was coming to town in the announcement section on another sacrament program.  Yes, these events were not the norm and were very rare, but they happened.  And singles wards, like all wards, need to set apart a Gunnery from the Marine Corps to teach the Priesthood how to pass the Sacrament in an organized fashion, like soldiers, so they don't wander all over with the trays crashing into each other like bumper cars.  

What Do You Think?

I hate singles wards -- and so does everyone who attends them -- but we all keep going to them, pretending we like them, pretending like we belong, only because we all want to get married to someone who's LDS and we believe the wards are a necessary mine field in our lives.  The reason we believe this is because, in fact, they are necessary.  There is no where else to go to meet LDS singles in person and no other way to get to know them - particularly for those of us working a lot during the week.  I want to go to a home ward where I know there is more focus on spirituality, gospel and family.  I want to be married with kids to someone beautiful who's LDS, who's not spoiled, who needs me - and I need to find that person before I settle in a home ward.  I'm desperate, and my grip on innocence is slipping as I get older, and life passes me by without a ward or a spouse.

Several weeks ago, there was a knock on my door.  I opened it and the Elders quorum presidency of my local home ward introduced themselves.  I had never seen them before, even though I've lived in my apartment for two years.  They invited themselves in.  We all sat down.  They told me they were out trying to reactivate inactive ward members, and wondered if I would consider coming back to church.  I was shocked.  I wasn't inactive, I assured them.  In fact, I attend church every Sunday, usually more than once.  I told them I was attending a singles ward across town.  They asked why my records had been sent to the home ward.  I told them it was because I'd gotten too old to have them transferred to that YSA ward, but was attending anyway.  They asked why my records weren't at the older ward, for singles over thirty-one years old.  I was uncomfortable in that ward, I told them.  Everyone was obese and socially inept.  I didn't want to be on the inactive list, but I realized then that I have become a ghost.  I am a member of the Church who wants to be active, but nobody knows I exist.  I am in Church every Sunday, but nobody knows where.  I am everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Why Don't You Talk to Your Bishopric?

Although I attend church every Sunday, I don't have a bishop that knows me - and I miss my old bishops that used to like me when I was younger.  I consider myself active, but don't always know where to pay my tithing, so I stockpile it, and then pay in random places, or sometimes not at all.  My temple recommend expired two years ago.  I want to renew it, but I don't know which bishop to see.  I want to pay tithing at my homeward, but don't want to attend it because I need to keep jumping around singles wards looking for someone I haven't found yet.

I do date.  Sometimes I date a lot, but sometimes not at all.  I sometimes meet girls at the singles wards, but find there are only about four girls in each singles ward I would consider dating -- and they usually aren't interested in me for reasons that are painful and not totally clear.  I can often meet all the girls in a ward that I want to meet in a few weeks, realize I'm not connecting, and then I have to move on to another ward looking for others.  The girls I want to marry do exist.  I meet them from time-to-time, but it hasn't worked out with any yet.

I have met dozens of bishops and bishoprics . . . and I am amazed to say that I had never met a bad one out of dozens.  In fact, the most amazing things about YSA wards to me are the quality and truly Christian traits of their leaders.  I attend them in a constant state of profound surprise at the charisma, intelligence, charity, testimony, education, and commitment they demonstrate in their callings and to the ward members.  Even their families are committed to their callings, and the bishoprics have socials at their homes all the time.

Are you Inactive and Sleeping Around?

Never slept with anyone.  In the last ten years, I have kissed a lot of young women, but I have never broken the Law of Chastity - even though the thought has crossed my mind a few times, and has crossed the minds of girls I'm dating more than a few times.  I refuse to sell out all I've learned and believe for a ten minute thrill.  A third of the girls I kissed out of charity - to be nice to them when I didn't like them but knew they would feel bad if I didn't.  About a third of them kissed me for the same reason.  With regard to other third, we both genuinely liked each other, but the relationship just hasn't worked - mostly because of my own flaws, which I don't know how to get over. 

I have fought hard for ten years to maintain my virginity, and have managed to hold on to it, but loosely.  The older I get, the harder it becomes, in some twisted way, to abstain from physical intimacy - but not because of the physical urges.  For me, it's a matter of calculated relationship management.  I have realized the girls I date expect and want more physical intimacy that the Church permits as I get older.  It's paradoxic.  In some way, the intimacy improves the relationship.  In another way, the intimacy hurts the relationship - and I've seen relationships end for both reasons.  It's a Garden of Eden problem at every turn.  The only solution seems to be marriage, but I can't seem to get there.

The sad thing is that I don't want the watered-down physical intimacy anymore.  I have had just enough of it that it has ruined the mystére I used to image I would find only in marriage, and that drove me to marry early.  As a lawyer, I am always stressed out, and this causes me to get cold sores a lot, which I have found are a convenient excuse not to kiss girls and waste a lot of time after dates, so I won't medicate for them.  My current cold sore is healing and I'm worried it's going to cause me to have to waste lots of time with girls during the next few weeks, so I don't want it to go away.  I'm not really interested in kissing anymore.  I'm interested in getting married and all that happens in the dark afterwards, and don't really want to venture there anymore 'til I find the one I'll marry.

When I start sensing that a girl seems to like me, I get overly anxious and start confessing all my sins and talking too eagerly about all the things I think and want to share with someone, and then the girl gets worried I'm eccentric and bails out because she usually has a lot of other options - options she has for the same reason I'm interested in her.

What's Wrong with Girls in Singles Wards?

As many a two thirds of the young women are overweight.  These girls all think that because they have good personalities, or good jobs, or are well-educated that guys should care more about who they are than how they look.  Someone needs to make them understand that young men will never want to be intimate with them if they're even a little heavy, and they're doomed if they don't lose weight.  If these girls understood the world and men, they'd all quit their jobs, drop out of school, and devote themselves soley to losing weight.  It's that important.  While beauty isn't the only thing that matters in a girl, it is the gateway to the other qualities which no man cares about exploring without the attraction.  No amount of makeup will cover a size fifteen dress size.  Like men, women have an obligation to be happy, to procreate, to start a family, to experience humanity and love -- which means they've got an obligation to lose some weight to accomplish that.  Nobody would have wanted to kiss Sleeping Beauty if she were a fatty with a Ph.d.  Hate the game if you want, but you can't change the rules, and you women are chosing old maid-hood.  As Bruce Springsteen would say, you can't start a fire without a spark.

The other third of the girls who aren't overweight have a different problem, which I'll illustrate by describing what happens when I go to dinner with them: We sit down at a nice restaurant, and they begin to dawdle on about somebody who's suffering some medical or emotional problem.  They then begin to extol the virtues of holistic/herbal medicine and animal rights, which apparently this person who's suffering doesn't understand.  I nod in increasing frustration as they begin to praise vegetarianism, then proceed to pontificate about liberalism/feminism/homosexuality from mental notes they took in a humanities class being taught by some gutless, godless, liberal hippee freak at the University of Utah (or follower thereof who they hang out with at Starbucks or somewhere).  At least two-thirds of mid-single women in the Church have been herded like sheep into this stuff thinking it makes them smart, and soon they're into astrology and other weird illogical world views.  These women actually hold men in contempt who don't share their psychosomatic "enlightenment" on these philosophies.  Like I said, I have seen horoscopes appear printed on Sacrament meeting programs.   It seems like many LDS women who aren't married seek to take refuge in, and identify with, bizarre mystical or political belief systems, as if these beliefs have become their spouses, to the point they become blind to real life.  I am amazed how many women spend all dinner telling me about pharmaceutical companies conspiring to cover up a cure for cancer that holistic doctors have discovered, or who refuse to eat because they are doing "cleanses" with exotic fruit juices, as if somehow these fruit cleansers selectively form covalent bonds with all the toxins in their bodies and clean them out.  I am amazed at what a huge amount of women in the Church criticize the Church openly for what they perceive to be conservative/puritanical social perspectives on women, homosexuality, divorce, the temple, wedlock, and adultery/fornication - even totally active singles.  All of these beliefs have somehow replaced these women's testimonies and retarded their ability to appreciate and interact with traditional, non-artsy, down-to-earth males, which are the only males who can support a family.  Having to put up with this is one of the reasons men aren't going to college as much anymore.  

Then, there is another pervasive problem that I observe across LDS women before going on dates . . . pride.  It's the high school mentality that takes over half the girls in the ward.  The girls start behaving in YSA wards like they did in high school, forming cliques, and deciding which groups of people they'll socialize with and which they won't.  Many are only willing to befriend metrosexual slaves to fashion, and many ignore ward members who haven't integrated themselves into their cliques, or associated themselves with those who have.  I am convinced that the YSA wards create an environment that breeds a degree of superficiality, in which many of the best men (and some women) are overlooked because they refuse to participate in the superficiality, or lack the time or inclination to do so.  And, of course, no discussion of LDS dating would be complete without some reference to the vain, botox-loving, partying, cross-segment of the older female citizenry (e.g. largely divorced single-mother floozies) who have relegated themselves to perpetual adolescence, bouncing forever from one meaningless LDS party to another, seeking shallow flings with sleazy men as their fertility fades into the sunset; endlessly chronicling it all on Facebook. 

The men, of course, have problems too, in some cases.  They're overweight also, and many have grown up being sissies, tattletales, or general losers (to their credit some become aware of it and try to change).  I don't think weight matters as much for men, though, even though I recognize the double-standard I espouse in saying so. There are, of course, hypertrophied, immature womanizing male partiers making the rounds who are best avoided.  Some men start blaming their unhappiness in life on their parents rather than trying to change whatever is causing it themselves.  As a lawyer, I am taught to look for jurors in jury trials who do this because it's a sign they're easily influenced and gullible -- and is usually a sign of defensive attribution bias.

What About Your Testimony?

I defend the church like a Danite.  I always have, and always will.  My faith is solid as a rock.  I cherish the pioneer heritage my ancestors have legated to me.  Yet, I have had my testimony questioned by girls in singles wards because of the fact I sometimes sport a goatee and drive a motorcycle.  I've choked on tears as girls I loved and wanted to marry decided instead to marry other guys who later became gay, devoted their lives to playing XBox, or promptly went inactive -- but seemed like clean cut guys at the time to these girls.

I am so sick of whiners who attack the Church year in and year out, including gays, Jews, apostatized members, evangelical so called "Christians,"  liberals, my educated friends, and the like.  I once wondered out-loud on a talk radio program whether the Mountain Meadows Massacre was justified on some level.  I can't stand people who attack and condescend to the church.  I hate politicians like Rocky Anderson, and I won't usually vote for non-members running for elected office on that basis alone - especially apostatized former members.  Why should I feel bad, or bigoted, about it either?  This is Utah, and I want politicians who will protect, and not betray, its most important heritage: Mormonism.  I don't want a bunch of secular, touchy-feely imbeciles who appologize for Utah's culture and religious majority, or who think Utahans are sheltered and naive.  I resent academics who try to make impressionable/insecure coeds ashamed of Utah, or convince them that they have somehow transcended the non-existent Utah "bubble."  These people are weak-minded.  Utah has the highest mix of bilingual males per capita anywhere in the US, and the highest cross-segment of male Caucasians in the world who have lived in foreign countries.  Nobody is naive here except the person that fornicated at a frat party, or somewhere, after smoking weed and thinks they're enlightened because of it. 

Who Are You Really?

I am thirty-two years old Caucasian male, and will soon be thirty-three.  I went to BYU and then to lawschool, and now I'm a lawyer.  I'm 6'2, and fairly slim.  I used to body-build, but now I just drink Coke and watch FOX News.  I have thinning brown hair and blue eyes that are so piercing that sometimes I find whole rooms of people falling silent and staring at them as I enter.  I like to think I'm attractive and smart; but, in moments of pain and failure, I realize that I am not as attractive and smart as I've convinced myself I am.  I am constantly stressed about cases, clients, being single, money and my habitual disorganization.  My apartment is a disaster, and so are my cars.  My father is a convert to the Church, and totally devout.  He is in the Stake Presidency, and wants me to get married very much.  I want to honor his wishes.

I sue a lot of people.  I make over $100,000 a year, but waste a lot of it on toys.  I have two boats, two motorcycles, four cars, and part ownership in a plane - and I love owning them all.  I bought all these things thinking they would improve my dating life, but it doesn't seem to have worked.  I go fishing at Strawberry Reservoir alone sometimes, and go on a lot of motorcycle rides.

I never imagined getting home from my mission I would be this old and unmarried.  I came home young and innocent, and so anxious to meet a beautiful young woman and marry her.  It didn't happen, even though I proposed to several girls only to be denied, and it was a heart-breaking experience ending up where I am.  Now I'm getting older, and lonelier.  I'm sad and a cynical, and unsure what I need to do to get married and be happy.  I am also becoming increasingly worried that even if I get married, somehow my wife won't be happy with me and it will be a disaster because I'm getting too set in my ways now, so I'm scared of escaping the confines of the very situation I hate.

I used to gamble in Nevada, but I've overcome it, and that's the only big addiction I've had.  I would drive or fly a plane to Wendover or Vegas all the time and was addicted to Blackjack.  I wish so much I would have never started gambling.  It cost me a ton of money and has caused me problems and sadness of every kind.  I try not to break the Sabbath, but I do buy food on Sundays sometimes because I don't know how to cook.  Maybe I'm a hypocrite.  I'm the kind of guy who walks into Walmart on a Sunday night and looks around in dismay at all the Sabbath breakers who are wandering the store, and wonder how dare they be there.

I want to have a wife and a family.  I want to be better.  I want to provide for and help people I love - and as many other struggling people as I can, regardless of what they've done.  I care deeply about struggling people, and hold in high contempt those who attempt to attack people trying to make it, whether that attack is physical, emotional or political.  My little sister is going to USU.  She thinks I've become disassociated and too cynical.  To show her I'm nice and I love her, I gave her my credit-card and told her to use whenever she wanted.  She said she wouldn't, even in an emergency, but I told her she better.  I look at my statements each month, and she has never used my credit-card even once.  If she started blowing a lot of money with it, I would be happier because I would feel like my money is benefiting someone I love, but she won't spend any of it, so I sit at home and watch the news wondering what's becoming of me.

What's the Solution to All This?

I wish someone would tell me.  For now, it seems to be to just keep going.

Feel like emailing me?  Hopper@SinglesWardHopper.com