By Sarah Stiefvater
The Young Single Adult stake of the Mormon Church in Buena Vista will be the first of its kind outside Utah and Idaho.
The new YSA stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be formed in the city April 15.
A stake is a group of congregations, the Mormon equivalent to some Christian denominations’ dioceses. Each stake is made up of different wards, or branches, and usually consists of fewer than 5,000 members.
A Young Single Adult stake serves single members of the church ages 18 to 30.
The Buena Vista YSA will serve members of the existing Buena Vista and Roanoke stakes, as well as students from Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute.
“This new stake will be completely focused on meeting the spiritual and social needs of young single adults in Buena Vista, Lexington and Roanoke,” Walter E. Ralls, Jr., president of the Buena Vista stake, said in a press release.
Many members of the Buena Vista stake who will be joining the YSA stake are students at Southern Virginia University, the only private liberal arts college that embraces the values of the LDS church.
Richard G. Whitehead, acting president of SVU, is excited about the development.
“This is monumental and will be a great blessing in the lives of our students,” Whitehead said in the same release. “We are grateful to the Church for its continuing efforts to meet the needs of our students as the university grows toward our goal of 1,000 to 1,200 students.”
“I think the new stake will be very well received because essentially, the stake was formed for us,” said Garret Bernal, a student at SVU. “The students of Southern Virginia University will constitute most of the YSA stake.”
According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, men and women ages 18 to 29 made up 24 percent of the total Mormon population in the United States in 2009.
This concentration is higher in Buena Vista because of SVU’s presence. According to the 2010 Census, of Buena Vista’s 6,650 residents, about 800 are students at SVU. Ninety-two percent of SVU students are members of the LDS church.
Ralls says that in addition to serving the students and other young people, the new stake will indirectly serve the Buena Vista stake as well.
“It also will bless the lives of both members of the YSA stake and our stake by providing more opportunities for service and growth in the new leadership callings,” Ralls said.
The Buena Vista Young Single Adult stake will consist of five student wards and will begin meeting at SVU next month.
Bernal says he is excited for the new stake and thinks that it will help him as he tries to live his life “as a disciple of Christ.”
“I think it is important for young single adults to have their own group,” Bernal said. “Being a member of a YSA stake means you are surrounded by others who share your goals and are eager to help you achieve them.”