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Young single adults

LDS young single adults experience unique challenges and transitions in their lives, such as leaving home for the first time, seeking an education, serving missions, choosing careers and preparing for marriage. But their needs and responsibilities are not unlike any other Church member, according to Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy.

"We're all God's children," said Elder Jensen, assistant executive director of the Melchizedek Priesthood Department, which oversees the Young Single Adult Program for Church members 18-30. "Their path to salvation is not unlike anyone else's. The responsibility of all of us is to take the name of Christ upon us, to stand as a witness of Him at all times and in all places, to bear the burdens of others, to repent of our sins, be forgiving of others, to be charitable in our dealings."The challenge comes when some of us view singles as being different. They're not. They just don't happen to be married. They should simply view this period of their lives - like any other period of life - as a period of preparation for eternal life. They need to become well founded in the gospel and well founded in a career, and realize that life is long and they have many productive years ahead of them if they will prepare properly."

Elder Jensen explained that the Young Single Adult Program involves a ward- and stake-based organizational structure designed to assist with the social, spiritual and emotional needs of single members 18-30.

The program allows young single adult activities at a ward, stake, or even regional and multi-regional level. And when circumstances merit, young single adult branches or wards may be created. In addition, the Young Single Adult program includes student wards and in some cases student stakes located at major university or college campuses.

But a majority of young single adults attend conventional wards, related Robert L. Leake, administrative assistant to the Priesthood Department. The Church publication "Instructions for Priesthood Leaders on Single Members" explains:

"Conventional family-centered wards offer single members the greatest opportunity for a full range of Church experience . . . . Conventional wards offer many opportunities to serve, teach, lead and be with people of all ages."

The booklet further explains: "Temporary membership in a student ward or young single adult ward is helpful for some single members. Usually these are members who are going through transitions associated with schooling, improving employment opportunities, or relocating to a place where they can associate with more Church members." Elder Jensen added that singles units offer many opportunities for service.

Whatever the circumstances of young single adults, their challenges vary widely. (Please see accompanying article describing the experiences of several young single adults in the Church.)

Elder Jensen said: "There is a lot of pressure felt by young single adults to become educated and trained sufficiently to earn enough money to raise a family. This is complicated by the fact that economics now in many cases necessitates that the wife work. So women worry about their career preparation and wonder if they can ever have a more traditional-type family where they can be home with the children. These things concern a lot of young single adults."

A critical age for young Church members, he said, is 18, especially for young women, who leave Young Women and are expected to attend Relief Society. This transition is difficult for many.

Elaine L. Jack, Relief Society general president, told the Church News: "An 18-year-old member of Relief Society is as important as any other member. As they first come into Relief Society, we need to give the young single adult sisters more attention so they will feel comfortable in a new environment. We need to give them opportunities to serve, teach, participate on committees, and to be visiting teachers."

President Jack emphasized that each young single adult woman has a personal responsibility in making a successful transition into Relief Society: "We can provide the climate and organization, teachers and opportunities for learning, but an individual has to come to her own knowledge of what are her responsibilities. The basis of this is testimony. When she realizes what her beliefs are, she can then realize her responsibilities."

Leaving the Young Women organization and embarking on adulthood is quite an adjustment for these young sisters.

Ardeth G. Kapp, Young Women general president, explained that young women who have learned and are living the Young Women values are better prepared for the transition into Relief Society: "The Young Women program provides a statement of values based on gospel principles. This helps young women develop a basis for decision making and gives them a sense of identity, direction and purpose."

She added that most young women have expectations of temple marriage and family, but sometimes those expectations aren't fulfilled. "Having a spiritual foundation helps put in perspective unfulfilled expectations and increases courage, faith and optimism, with a strong sense of purpose in daily living."

Elder Jensen explained that although a young man has the option of remaining in the Aaronic Priesthood until turning 19, he "should be anxious to receive the higher priesthood, which is what he's been preparing for. All of the experiences he's had in assignments as an Aaronic Priesthood bearer are just a prelude for what he's to do in the Melchizedek Priesthood."

He added, "Priesthood leaders need to be aware that coming of age for a young man is challenging. Within the framework of the Melchizedek Priesthood programs, there is flexibility to adapt lessons and activities to the needs of younger quorum members. There are some quorums that have single members in the elders quorum presidency, which helps the younger members of the quorum feel their viewpoints and needs are being considered."

General Church leaders encourage local priesthood and Relief Society leaders to be aware of the needs of the young single adult men and women in their organizations and to provide for them opportunities to serve.

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