A lesson on caring for single sisters

This past Sunday, in the meeting we have of those ordained as an Elder, we had a special topic and teacher for our lesson. The lesson was on how we can better serve as Home Teachers to the single sisters in our ward, taught by one of these single sisters. Home Teaching is a program where the Elders and High Priests of the ward are put into pairs and assigned to met with each family, in their homes, once a month, to share a spiritual message and to try and help the family wherever we can. Usually, Elders aren’t assigned single sisters (by policy, probably because single sisters are perceived to have more need), but since we have 60 in our ward, we’ve all at least one family that consists of a single sister (sometimes with children), rather than a married couple (also sometimes with children).

Our ward may be a bit high on the number of single sisters, but I don’t think it’s all that high. There was a recent New York Times piece on women in the Church, A Growing Role for Mormon Women, that had an interesting infographic, showing the ratios of single men to women of different age groups in the Church. What particularly surprised me was that, while there were more men than women in the under 30 group, each group older than that has progressively more single women than men. Over 60, the ratio of single men to women is up to five women for every man. Some would say that the ratio of 12 men to 10 women under 30 is an indicator that young women are “leaving in droves” over perceived inequality, and that this ratio will continue. I think with the increased numbers of women serving as missionaries the ration will continue to skew younger, it becoming more noticeable earlier that the women who remain in the Church will outnumber the men, even below 30.

I’m kind of conflicted about the numbers of single women in the Church, especially those I see around me. I know they are strong women, many of whom are dealing with impossible circumstances of trying to raise and provide for a family on their own. They do not technically “need” someone else to share the load, but it certainly would make life easier if that were the case. I do not want to ever infer that these women are less than, incomplete people, or anything of the sort, but I do know that beneath it all there is a vulnerability, a need for the Priesthood power only available to men, that they feel in their homes and lives. I don’t think ordination would solve this (even if it may relieve it for some), but some things can only be helped when you can see yourself moving toward that next step of becoming like our Heavenly Parents, in a committed, equally yoked, sealed marriage.

That brings me back to the lesson. The lesson, as I said, was on how we can better serve the single sisters in our ward and was taught by one of these single sisters. She’d done a great amount of work, polling and talking to the single women in our Ward so she could communicate with us the special needs that were there. She’d asked the sisters what the top needs were for Home Teachers. The answers were not terribly surprising, as they tend to apply to all of the families we teach: 1. Show Up, 2. Make an Appointment, 3. Be Consistent.

There were a few comments from the men on how we were needed, especially to help with what I’d refer to as “moving big stuff” (y’know, manly man work) that I wanted to push back against, but I felt that I both couldn’t and shouldn’t. I was there to learn from someone who is one of the women in this group, not to lessen her time to teach by pushing back on this minor misconception. Thankfully, she put in some points that helped put these ideas down. She has her own home, in which she’s done her own yard work, tiled her own kitchen, done her own upkeep. There were also times when she needed an extra hand, like in removing a stump from her yard. She was glad of her Home Teacher who not only got together the people to get the stump out, but went the extra mile of filling in the hole and getting sod to grass the new bald spot. It wasn’t an absolute need, but she was very, very grateful for this service.

She also talked very passionately about the need of having the Priesthood available in times of need. She talked about how we need to build the relationships with those we are assigned to watch over so we’ll be one of the first people they think of when they need help, whatever that help may be. No one is going to call for help someone they barely see once a quarter, not even when something as seemingly simple as a blessing or just a shoulder is needed. These women keenly feel the lack of Priesthood power in their homes, and yet they are still strong in their faith and in the Church.

Priesthood holders are not here to “rescue” these women. We’re not supposed to be swooping in to make everything better. These women are not helpless children. When I attended Young Women’s camp as a Priesthood holder, it was not to be over anyone, to be the “manly man” to keep everyone safe, or to be the body to move the heavy stuff; it was to be simply available when a Priesthood blessing is needed. Yes, this could have been done by any Priesthood holder in the area, but it was important to have someone from each Ward, someone familiar to those being served.

That’s the key, really – familiarity. Knowing those we intend to serve is the only way we really can serve. Familiarity helps remove the broad misconceptions we may have about any group. I hope I can do a better job of being there for the families of every size and shape around me, especially for those I’ve been assigned.

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