“What callings are open to single members of the Church?” Ensign, Oct. 1990, 54
Robert L. Leake, administrative assistant, Melchizedek Priesthood Department. Church callings are predicated upon an individual’s worthiness, ability, and willingness to serve, not upon his or her marital status. Single members serve in the church today in a wide array of callings that include positions in Relief Society presidencies, Young Women presidencies, Primary presidencies, bishoprics, elders quorum presidencies, and high priests group leaderships. They serve as Sunday School and Primary teachers, as Young Men and Young Women advisers, and as secretaries, home teachers, and visiting teachers.
In an average ward, approximately 330 Church callings need to be filled. Generally, all are open to be filled by worthy and faithful single members. With few exceptions, bishops are called from the ranks of the faithful married brethren.
In an average stake, approximately 80 Church callings need to be filled. Generally, most all are open to worthy single members. Tradition and practice suggest, however, that a stake president be married.
On occasion, some stake presidents and bishops, upon becoming widowers, have been released from serving. But others, as with General Authorities who lose their wives, have continued to serve for lengthy periods of time. Whether they continue serving as a bishop or stake president depends on their family responsibilities, time constraints, and the stress they feel as they struggle to adjust to the challenges of being newly single.
Of course, individual and family circumstances must always be taken into account when considering a specific person to serve in a Church position. And a certain calling might be more appropriate at one point in a member’s life than at another; as stated in Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Eccl. 3:1.) But to artificially separate worthy individuals into categories of those who may or may not be called to Church positions is just that: artificial.
Counsel given in the Melchizedek Priesthood Leadership Handbook calls for bishops and other leaders to “involve all single members in ward, quorum, group, or Relief Society activities, callings, and assignments.” Unfortunately some, including those in leadership positions, might be tempted to categorize individuals—a very counterproductive practice. Single members of the Church, even those who are less active, represent an enormous reservoir of talent and potential service.
This is particularly true of single returned missionaries. Many of these young men and women have held remarkable responsibilities in their roles as teachers, leaders, counselors, and interviewers. When these valiant servants return home, they are more than able to fulfill responsible Church assignments in their wards and stakes.
Similarly, many other single members, whether they are young or old, have coped with challenges in life that have prepared them to render service.
The Church units we call student and young single adult wards or branches allow single members to serve in callings that encompass almost the entire spectrum of ward officers and teachers. Many single members are very appreciative of the opportunity to attend and serve in these wards. Others prefer attending a conventional family-centered ward. In either instance, leaders should recognize the significant service that single members can perform. They are a great reservoir of talent that can be put to work in building the kingdom of God.