Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are making some organizational changes in an effort to better care for young single members of the Church.
In some areas of the world, particularly in the western United States, there are specific congregations, or wards, for single Mormons ages 18 to 30. Until now, some of these were student wards connected to a university, while other wards for the same age-group covered a specific geographic area, giving each young adult multiple options for attending worship services.
Now, the Church’s First Presidency has simplified things by organizing all wards for young single adults by location. These wards will not distinguish between students and nonstudents but will be open to all singles age 18 to 30 in a specific geographic area. If desired, young adults can also choose to attend conventional wards.
“This age-group tends to drift a little bit to different units, different wards,” said Elder Steven E. Snow of the Presidency of the Seventy. “We hope this reduces confusion in their mind about where they should go to church, where they should worship.”
The focus of Church leaders is to make sure that all young single adults have a place to call home, with the opportunity to serve and have their own spiritual needs met.
“We hope it [the change to location-based young single adult wards] will provide enhanced opportunities for them to serve in leadership positions,” Elder Snow said. “We hope that it enhances their opportunities to meet other people and do meaningful service, and we want to deliver these opportunities in their geographic area, not require them to drive clear across the valley to attend church.”
Another reason for the reorganization is to help local congregational leaders, or bishops, build stronger relationships with those in their congregations.
“[These bishops] really focus on the needs of the young single adults, from age 18 to 30, and we think that will increase accountability,” Elder Snow said.
Although there are young single adult wards all over the United States, these changes will primarily impact those in Utah and Idaho. For the members along Utah’s Wasatch Front, an additional change will be that all young single adult wards will now be part of a young single adult stake (similar to a diocese).
This transition has been underway for more than a year, and new young single adult stakes have already been organized in several areas of Utah, including Logan, Ogden, Cedar City, St. George and Ephraim. These same changes will be implemented in Salt Lake, Davis and Utah Counties in Utah by June. In most cases, it will simply be a matter of realigning boundaries, but there will also be a net increase of 12 young single adult stakes: 8 in Salt Lake County, 2 in Davis County and 2 in Utah County.
“It’s been very successful. We’ve seen a lot of young people who haven’t previously been engaged with the Church for a long time start to come back,” Elder Snow said. “We are trying to get everyone in the fold. We want everyone to feel welcome.”