He hopes it will stem the tide of “wandering” young people who “ward hop,” going from place to place, rather than becoming involved in a particular ward.
—From an April 15 Salt Lake Tribune article quoting a Kearns bishop enthusiastic about the Mormon church’s plan to create young-single-adult (YSA) wards, thus bringing unmarried students and unmarried
nonstudents under the same tent.
You see them wandering from ward to ward, these forlorn young people in search of eternal companions. At the break of dawn, you see them, if you are up early retrieving your Sunday newspaper or walking the dog or loading your golf clubs into your car. You see them trudging up to the still-locked glass doors of the ward house and peering into the dim interior, conjuring perhaps a vision of a future mate.
Sometimes they linger by the entrance, waiting for Sunday school to begin, now and then scanning the horizon for potential partners. Other times they wander off, hoping to happen across some undiscovered ward where, during the opening hymn, they will glimpse, three rows up and to the left, their divinely designated spouse.
During the day, the wandering young people clog the sidewalks as they hop from ward to ward, rarely staying in one place long enough to establish that familiar foundation upon which a solid eternal union must be built. The wandering young people are more fidgety than the kids sprawled on the floor with their coloring books and scattered crayons. Without warning, the wandering young people will suddenly bolt from the benches, moved perhaps by a burning urge to resume their search, leaving behind crushed crayons and broken fingers.
The news about these wandering, ward-hopping young people brought back memories of my own wandering, ward-hopping days. I feel great compassion for today’s young wanderers, who don’t seem to bring to their wandering the joie de vivre that I and my fellow wanderers brought to our ward-hopping wandering. In the words of the old German folk song, “The Happy Wanderer,” we former wanderers “loved to go a-wandering.” Today’s young adult wanders are distinctly down-at-mouth.
In contrast, as we hopped from ward to ward, we would lift our voices in song: “Val-deri, val-dera, val-deri, val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.” Even on those gloomy days when we thought we couldn’t possibly partake of one more squashed piece of sacrament bread or take one more shot of sacrament water, we soldiered on, wandering to the next ward, drawn ever onward and upward by the prospect of encountering our eternal mate, if not in the next ward, then perhaps the next one after that, or the next, or the next.
It seems a shame that today’s young people have not been as successful as my generation in taking their wandering to its divinely sanctioned conclusion, i.e., eternal marriage. Not that our eternal marriages stayed ripe until their expiration dates. Several of my fellow wanderers have had several eternal marriages, wandering from temple to temple to get it right. But our hearts were in the right place.
At least we got on with things. We knew of a surety that “God-given sexual power is to be used only between a husband and wife,” as a Republican delegate to the Salt Lake County Republican Convention so aptly phrased it. I don’t know, as of this writing, whether the Convention will adopt Elder Baxter’s resolution, but I sincerely hope it, in its capacity as an organ of the church, will. It is my fervent wish that such a resolution will be a spur to all those ward-hopping wanderers out there to screw their courage to the sticking point and stream their divine sexual powers into the appointed channels.
I am somewhat troubled by the church’s plan to assign young people to particular wards, rather than allow them to range far and wide. According to Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy, assigned YSA wards will “provide enhanced opportunities to meet other people and to give opportunities. And we want to deliver these opportunities in a geographical area.” Let’s hear it for opportunities! But as fruitless as wandering and ward-hopping has been for the present generation of young people, I fear that fencing them in will prove equally fruitless, or if fruitful, will lead to in-breeding.
Meanwhile, please join me in a verse of “The Happy Wanderer”: “Oh, I love to go a-wandering/ Until the day I die!/ Oh, may I always laugh and sing/ Beneath God’s clean blue sky!”