Celibacy in (New York) City

As I reported on my recent post, I received Elna Baker’s book, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, Christmas morning. My interest in this book was piqued by a bcc interview with Elna, and a bcc review of the book. I will report here that I loved the book and highly recommend it. I especially appreciated Elna’s honesty in telling her story. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s funny as hell.

The meme of the beautiful Mormon single girl trying to remain celibate in NYC reminded me of JL and her blog, Celibate in the City, which I used to read regularly (although now it is an invite-only blog, I think, and I haven’t read it for some time). The Mormon boys are all weenies, there are too few of them and too many amazing, beautiful women competing for them, there are an abundance of handsome non-LDS guys interested in them, but serious dating in the non-LDS world at some point entails actual sex. And for these young Mormon women to try to navigate between those shoals is really quite a fascinating thing to watch.

I have to admit that I’m a little bit torn about the whole celibacy thing in these scenarios. The Mormon part of me thinks it’s great, that these women are real-life heroines standing up for traditional values. I seriously admire them for holding to their values.

On the other hand, if I were in their shoes (and it’s unlikely I’ll be a beautiful, single young woman living in NYC anytime soon), I’m not at all certain that I would make the same choices. I know it will shock a lot of people, but if after giving the Mormon guys a reasonable chance, if the pickings really were that dismal, I think I might give up on the celibacy thing and pursue an actual relationship outside of the Church. I suspect this isn’t going to be a popular suggestion on a Mormon blog. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t hold to the celibacy standard forever if I were an Elna or a JL.

What do you think about this? Is it celibacy in all events come hell or high water? Or are there circumstances under which you can envision caving on that in favor of an actual, real-life romantic relationshiip?

Comments

  1. As an out gay man who’s also a faithful member of the Church, I must admit this conversation is an on-going one in my head … loneliness is the great soul eater.

  2. “…serious dating in the non-LDS world at some point entails actual sex.”

    And we wonder why people think LDS are arrogant?

    I am sure that this is true for a certain significant portion of the population. But many of my non-LDS friends and relatives have dated and married without having sex first. Including some married in the last year.

    If I were single and dating non-LDS, I would refer them to that line from the movie Norma Rae, where she says something like, “Kiss me…if that’s good, then everything else will be, too.”

    BYU professor Brent Barlow did his dissertation on LDS women who married non-members, and the many positives and some negatives.

  3. A good friend hung onto celibacy until her mid-30s, then had a fling with an unsuitable non-LDS guy which gave her a son. Possibly she could have found a non-LDS guy who would have made a good husband if she’d given up on the LDS scene several years earlier.
    She’s a great mother and wouldn’t trade her son for anything. Was she wrong to have that fling? Not in my book.

  4. I’m completely with you Kevin, and had exactly the same thought while reading the book.

  5. Some of my planned upcoming blog posts are on being a celibate single woman in her 30s in the church (and also how the church’s discourse on sexuality, marriage, etc., is so not meeting my needs). A quick summary, though: I totally think being celibate, as hard as it’s been, has been the right choice for me up to this point in time. However, I can envision circumstances when this could change. But it’s a decision I’d make very carefully and deliberately, and with prayer thrown in for good measure.

  6. I don’t think sex needs to be a part of it–but I do think that women (and maybe even sometimes men) living in areas where LDS dating options are slim shouldn’t feel bad about branching out and dating quality non-members (without the sex).
    For some people, online dating may help.
    For others, they’ll have much better marriages with a high quality non-member than they will with a low quality member.
    I’ve spent 4 years in Europe (and if you think the LDS singles scene is bad in New York…), and my experience is that the happiest members there are those that find a good spouse in the church. Failing that, the happiest are those who marry a good spouse outside the church.
    The least happy are the ones that, at 30, out of desperation, go to BYU to try to find a spouse, or those who marry a member because they’re told to marry a member.

  7. Anon Today says:

    I am also a single, celibate, late-20s woman in NYC, and it drives me crazy when Elna Baker is held up as some kind of refreshing, honest example. Admittedly, I have not read her book, but I did read her Glamour article, and I can’t believe the praise she is getting. She may be celibate, but–at least in the Glamour article–she’s certainly not chaste! In that respect, she is decidedly NOT representative of me or most of the active Mormon women I know. And giving up my temple recommend for the sake of sex just seems like such an obvious birthright-mess-of-pottage-type decision. Sure, I have my share of lonely times, but no romance is worth breaking the covenants I’ve made.

    Like Naismith said in #2, dating a non-member doesn’t have to lead to sex. If a guy won’t respect my values, he is not worth my time, Mormon or not! So suggesting that a lack of fantastic Mormon guys is permission for me to fudge my obedience seems foolish and dangerous.

  8. Anon Today says:

    BTW, I should add that I’m posting anonymously because I wanted to be able to say that I’m in NYC without compromising my usual semi-anonymity. It’s about my geographical privacy, not any embarrassment about celibacy.

  9. I would just like to know where all the amazing, beautiful, and single Mormon women in their 30s are.

    As a 30 something single male, I am definitely thinking of pursuing a relationship with a nonmember. The nonmember women my coworkers want to set me up with are much more accomplished and better looking than any Mormon women who will give me the time of day. Ideally I would like to find someone who is willing to wait. But I suppose the danger of dating nonmembers is falling for someone who doesn’t want to wait. If I do fall for someone like that, I can’t see myself being strong enough to end the relationship.

  10. “What do you think about this? Is it celibacy in all events come hell or high water? Or are there circumstances under which you can envision caving on that in favor of an actual, real-life romantic relationship?”

    For me, it all comes down to my temple covenants. I promised God that I would obey the law of chastity, and I intend to keep that promise. I don’t think that has to foreclose the possibility of romantic relationships. If a man I date doesn’t respect me enough to accept that I’m not going to sleep with him prior to marriage, then he’s not the kind of man I want. I still have enough faith in humanity that I believe there are decent guys out there willing to wait.

    I’m starting to seriously consider dating outside the church, since I’m not having much success dating within the church, and I’m getting old enough that my likelihood of success in the church dwindles each passing month. I don’t see any situation where I would premeditate breaking the law of chastity. I can’t be trusted to keep a commitment I made to God, why would someone think I can be trusted to keep marriage vows?

    This isn’t to say that I’m some asexual never-tempted angel. Celibacy is difficult. It’s harder at 27 than it was at 21, and I suspect it will get even more difficult as time passes. However, the blessings I get from living worthy to enter the Lord’s house are worth it.

  11. The last sentence in my penultimate paragraph should read “If I can’t be trusted to keep a commitment I made to God, why would someone think I can be trusted to keep marriage vows?”

  12. Steve Evans says:

    Keri, there’s no good answer to your question, but I’d just note that every one of us comes short with respect to our commitments to God, and yet relationships and marriages continue to exist and occasionally survive. So yes — clearly if you cannot be trusted by God on major points, maybe other human beings shouldn’t trust you…. but then again, maybe they will anyways.

  13. Mephibosheth says:

    I think Elna Baker’s own experiences in the book refute the idea that dating nonmembers requires sex. At certain points in the book she is literally throwing herself at these men and they repeatedly refuse to take advantage of her. It restored my faith in humanity somewhat.

  14. I get the goody-two-shoes grief whenever I say what Anon Today and Keri have said, and since I’m already going to be taking a beating on the “pink” thread I’m not looking for another one here. So I’ll just say thank you, Anon Today and Keri, for speaking up and for living as you do.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 13, the main example of that is the atheist guy. Elna acknowledges that eventually she’ll see that he treated her honorably by refusing ot have sex with her. She’s still too close to it to see it clearly, but yes, he really was honorable towards her. 99% of men who have a beautiful woman come on to them the way Elna did aren’t going to have the same scruples that he did.

    But he acted this way because the possibility of an actual relationship simply didn’t exist for him, because she was Mormon, a virgin, and would never have sex with him (since he didn’t believe in marriage, either). So yes, he acted honorably towards her, but no, a romantic relationship wasn’t in the cards between them.

  16. The life of the Mormon Nun is hard, and it’s not for everybody. Here’s something I recommend in my dating rules:

    My suggestions for LDS women when looking for a mate:

    1. Someone who will treat you well.
    2. Someone of good character.
    3. Someone who will respect you on your spiritual path.
    4. An active priesthood holder.

    Prioritized in that order, and the first three are non-negotiable. It is easier to turn someone who fits 1-3 into someone who fits 4 than it is to turn someone who isn’t 1-3 into a 1-3.

  17. D. Fletcher says:

    Sex is overrated. All anybody really needs is a good friend.

  18. Aaron Brown says:

    This discussion reminds me of a related one on a T&S thread from several years back (Julie’s post, I think) concerning whether LDS girls should be encouraged to wait for an LDS husband under any and all circumstances. That was a fun and interesting thread, and someone should link to it.

    AB

  19. I’ve tried writing a response to this post and I keep coming back to two basic points – so basic it’s laughable.

    a) There are a lot of dynamics in play in regards to who marries and who doesn’t.

    b) It’s hard sometimes to understand why some people are married and some others are unmarried.

    How’s that for a couple of sentences.

    But every time I try to write something more specific or profound about what I’ve observed, I feel like I’m failing to take certain factors into account. This is just one area where it’s probably best not to judge too quickly.

    Part of the problem here is that in order to respect the privacy and dignity of others, one can only speak in generalities. Can’t exactly say “I have observed such-and-such about so-and-so and have learned the following …”

    But generalities simply do not do justice to the nuances of the multitude of individual experiences that are out there.

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 16, I think that’s a terrific formulation.

  21. I agree. I think Blain is onto something there.

  22. Eric Russell says:

    “The Mormon part of me thinks it’s great, that these women are real-life heroines standing up for traditional values.”

    Traditional values, Kevin? Seriously? Are temple covenants traditional values? I’ll tell you what, I don’t give a damn about traditional values. I obey the law of chastity because God – the very same God, by the way, who created the universe and sent us to earth – commanded it.

    Am I mistaken on that point? Is fornication merely a cultural over-belief held over from a puritan era? If someone wants to try to present such an argument, I’d be very interested in witnessing the theological gymnastics that would be required to make it. But until someone actually tries, I find it irresponsible to suggest that the law of chastity is anything short of what we understand it to be.

  23. Eric,

    I’m certainly not going to present an argument that fornication is somehow acceptable in the Church. A single adult who is completely dedicated to living up to temple covenants has only two choices: remain chaste or get married. Therein lies the dilemma for single adults. Do we settle for someone we wouldn’t marry otherwise, or do we continue to deny basic desires (not only for companionship and sex, but children as well) in the hope that Mr. or Mrs. Right is still out there. I think it’s natural for people in that situation to consider whether keeping the commandments is still the best course.

  24. Velikiye Kniaz says:

    Bravo, Anon Today, Keri, Ardis, and Eric Russell! It seems that todays trend is to compromise with the world a concession at a time. Ultimately, instead of a “True To The Faith” membership we have a whole new generation of ‘cultural’ Mormons. What a sorry state of affairs. I remember the advice my non-member mother gave me about pe-marital sex, “Well that’s all very good and fine, but can you live with her for the rest of the 23 hours and 55 minutes in the day?” Her point being if you get to know a woman well enough and respect her values, you really don’t need to take her for a ‘test drive’. I guess the parable of the ten virgins will need revision for the 21st century; only one, maybe two will have enough oil in their lamps when the Saviour returns. And a final noteto Silas Grok; Steady on, brother, build yourself a large circle of entertaining and interesting friends to mitigate that loneliness. Add to that some evening classes to further develop your interests and talents. Without suggesting enlistment, “Be all that you can be!” It will serve you well in the next life where you will be richly compensated for all that you sacrificed for the Gospel’s sake in this mortal world.

  25. I recall reading a book in the summer about “Quitting Church:Why the faithful are fleeing” by Julia Duin -I think I got all that right! Anyways she thinks that people quit church of any kind because of boredom and chastity. I see her point. Its hard to grow up in the Church and do everything and not get married. Why is God interested in creating a family with some 21 yr old recent RM and not me? Why are there maried chaperones at SA activities, especially when they are like 25 yr old married people chaperoning singles over 60? I feel for what men and women are left who are single, active and over 35 in the Church. Some people would think guys are secretly… which if you aren’t you don’t want people thinking that about you and so some people say screw this Married persons Church and drop out. I’m 31, active, and divorced and have a child and don’t live in an area with anyone my age, anyone single that is. 90% of my friends are married. I gave into the intense pressure by my YSA bishop and married and it didn’t work out and he just laughed and said “well now you won’t be a polygamist in heaven like the rest of us!” implying I’m going to cancel my first sealing-which I’m doing and get remarried in the Temple again…and get to be like him…Thanks bishop…

  26. If a man I date doesn’t respect me enough to accept that I’m not going to sleep with him prior to marriage, then he’s not the kind of man I want. I still have enough faith in humanity that I believe there are decent guys out there willing to wait.

    I appreciate this comment. Being single and chaste can be very hard (I’ve been there — I know to some degree from personal experience what it’s like), but I think it is essential to see it in the light of faith.

    I also have a really hard time with the idea that agreeing to engage in premarital sex is somehow the magic bullet to really being able to find a meaningful relationship. Not only do I think it’s untrue, to me it also minimizes the very real sacrifice (!!) people make to keep the law of chastity and the very critical part this law plays in Mormon doctrine, covenants, and standards. I think it also wrongly implies that Mormons are the only ones who care about standards of chastity.

  27. I read Elna’s book and I liked it a lot, partly because she really is remaining true to her beliefs in the face of difficulties and partly because she refuses to generalize that her choices are the choices everyone should make. I am absolutely certain that she and others who keep the law of chastity are and will be blessed for that choice. If she or anyone else decide to forego those blessings, however, that doesn’t make her or anyone else less of a person.

    She’s not throwing herself at guys, Mephibosheth, she fell in love with exactly one (non-member) guy that she wanted to marry and who wouldn’t have her, and she got engaged to another (member) guy who she came to realize was not right for her.

    Her struggles and her story are real. It’s unfortunate that reality doesn’t fit the world view of some folks, but there it is. I’m very proud of her for making the choice to forego a sexual relationship because she thinks that’s the right choice for her. If, at some point, she decides that’s not the right choice for her anymore, I’ll still be proud of her.

    I think she’s a terrific example of a member of my church and only about one one-thousandth part of that has anything to do with her sexual choices. She isn’t defined only by sex. She’s terrific in about a thousand ways that have nothing whatsoever to do with her sexual status.

  28. “Or are there circumstances under which you can envision caving on that in favor of an actual, real-life romantic relationship?”

    I caved on the chastity point. I subsequently married a non-member. After a lot of soul-searching and nearly a year with missionaries, I’ve repented of breaking my covenants and my husband joined the church. So, I guess my story has a happy ending.

    In any case, I agree with Ardis and m&m. Having experienced this situation myself, and the pain it caused me, I would encourage others to not follow my path.

  29. Velikiye Kniaz,

    So do I get any points for actually keeping the law of chastity for 33 years? Or am I going to be out of oil for wondering whether it’s the best course?

  30. I absolutely agree with those who choose to live up to their temple covenants. I also have experience with being a YSA, dating LDS men, and dating non-LDS men. Every serious boyfriend I had valued pre-marital chastity, whether he was religious or not. Because of this, I agree with those who say that we should date people with compatible values, whether or not they are the same religion. That being said, my parents do not have the same religious beliefs: one is LDS, and one is agnostic. This caused a lot of pain in our family, so I decided to marry someone who shares the same values and is a member of the same church as I am. This really narrowed my marriage prospects, since I was looking for an open-minded, faiithful LDS man who valued education, achievement, and humor. It was a true miracle, a gift from God, that I got married.

    This may sound weird, but I had a contingency plan, just in case I didn’t find a spouse like the one described above. Here was my plan: if I didn’t marry an LDS man during my child-bearing years, then in middle age I would start dating non-members. As long as I found someone who accepted that I am a Mormon, then I would accept that he was not a Mormon. I would not have any biological children who would be confused by the parents’ different religions. I would still be responsible for keeping my individual covenants with God, and I would have a full life with my husband. Not problem-free, of course, but it seemed to me like a good plan.

  31. I don’t know about VK, but you get mad props from me, Joseph, and I think blessings you have and will continue to receive are much better than any “points” anybody might give you.

  32. Those who are talking about temple covenants seem to be assuming that all LDS singles have made them. That is certainly not the case. Does that make any difference?

  33. Those who are talking about temple covenants seem to be assuming that all LDS singles have made them. That is certainly not the case. Does that make any difference?

    Baptismal covenants include the law of chastity, too.

  34. Celibacy until temple marriage is the standard. You want a fling, you’re going to pay for all of the emotional and spiritual consequences for doing so. And even if you never see the excruciating agony of those consequences in this life, you will at the judgment bar when you understand the full weight of what you’ve done.

    The Law of Chastity is a gift, whether we realize it or not. And I don’t mean like those lame bath salts you inevitably get for Christmas every year that make you smell nice when you choose to use them. The Law of Chastity spares us from grief and heartache a loving Father in Heaven would love nothing more than to spare us, whether we are willing to accept and stand by that publicly or not.

  35. Mommie Dearest says:

    Angie’s comment #30 illustrates just a little bit of the complexity of this issue. Actually this isn’t really a single issue, it’s more like a whole continent of interrelated issues, and for those of you who have never actually had to live on this continent, well, you might count your blessings and be thoughtful in your comments.

    I’ve commented before about my good opinion of Elna Baker’s struggle and her honest writing about it.

    I need to express my absolute admiration for women (and men) who live the law of chastity completely, having done so their whole lives in spite of any and all pressures. They live the standard. They are spared the grief and heartache that comes of breaking the law of chastity, but they are sometimes not spared grief and heartache that results from the side effects that can come along with their commitment. Sometimes that heartache has as lasting of consequences as the real ones I deal with, as one of those who chose poorly, broke the laws, married a non-member, raised conflicted children, etc.

    I don’t know quite how to deconstruct it all for the purposes of posting a blog comment illuminating it with truth and light.
    Sometimes I think our loving Heavenly Father doesn’t want to spare us grief and heartache at all, but designed a world where we would be sure to get caught in a few bogs.

    All I know for sure is that he gave us a clear commandment in the law of chastity, and there are a few who really live it all their life long no matter what, and I’d rather die than demean their commitment to obedience. Surely He loves them dearly. I do.

    On the other hand, what of the rest of us sinners who have had to make full use of the atonement? There are a large number of these “on the other hand” type questions, and I have no answers for any of them. I could raise a lot of related questions though, there are any number of tangents and threadjacks that we could explore.

    I’m not convinced that praise for Sister Baker’s book means that she is being made into some sort of poster girl for the “modernization” of standards. Is it possible to expand the discussion of these issues to include what she has to say, without it being an attack on the standard the Lord has set?

    Does this discussion always have to include an ill-begotten competition between those who succeed in obedience the first time, and those who need to repent until they learn obedience?

  36. I’m a huge fan of the law of chastity. I’ve lived it for my entire life. But I think that violating this law doesn’t necessarily mean that you “want a fling.” Yes, choosing to disobey the law of chastity is a violation of covenants. Yes, choosing to disobey the law of chastity can have a variety of negative consequences. (And I totally recognize that I have been blessed for my own obedience to this law.) But I think there is a difference between trying to figure out difficulties with the law of chastity in a committed relationship with someone who doesn’t share all of your values and just deciding indiscriminately that the law of chastity doesn’t apply to you.

  37. “But I think there is a difference between trying to figure out difficulties with the law of chastity in a committed relationship with someone who doesn’t share all of your values and just deciding indiscriminately that the law of chastity doesn’t apply to you.”

    Amen to that, sister.

    m&m, certainly it’s true, in a sense, that the baptismal covenant includes the law of chastity, but only in the sense that it includes all of the commandments. If it were the equivalent of the temple covenant, why would the temple covenant be required? Clearly there is a difference, and those who talk of violating temple covenants would be well advised to not indiscriminately apply that language to those who have made none.

  38. Does this discussion always have to include an ill-begotten competition between those who succeed in obedience the first time, and those who need to repent until they learn obedience?

    I actually don’t see the discussion as being as such.

    I think it’s too easy to try to move the target/tweak the law to justify sin in the midst of the complexity of life (which in the end will not really help and could add to the pain, either short-term or long-term). It is also too easy, though, to condemn and judge in “final judgment” kinds of ways when people have made mistakes — which is also wrong.

    But I think it’s still very important hold clearly to the standard. imo, holding the law’s line is essential to understanding and appreciating the ability of the Atonement to enable repentance in “on the other hand” situations (and isn’t it a wonder that there is such a thing as repentance? — because we ALL need it!). It’s that whole ‘if you say there is no law, you say there is no sin’ thing — if we try to remove sin by changing the law, we remove the understanding of the need for (and blessing of) a Savior to repent from sin.

  39. Clearly there is a difference, and those who talk of violating temple covenants would be well advised to not indiscriminately apply that language to those who have made none.

    I think you are right that there is a difference, in a way. For example, I believe the possibility of excommunication for breaking the law of chastity is higher for someone who has been through the temple. But baptismal covenants are still covenants, and the law of chastity is still a law folded into those covenants. So, on the flip side of what you are saying, I think we need to be careful not to minimize its importance, even for those who have not yet made temple covenants…even as I think I understand what you mean.

    I think, too, that there are blessings of living this law that are available for anyone, under covenant or not, in the Church or not. And there are natural consequences for violating it, whether in the Church/under covenant or not.

  40. #35, Mommie Dearest, I love your entire comment. Thank you.

    Let’s make no mistake here, Elna Baker has not made any temple covenants at the time of this books writing. Just so we’re clear.

    As an aside, and as a non-member in my twenties, (joined church at 29) I knew NO ONE- not one single soul- never even heard rumors of one- who did not sleep with their partner before marriage. Not that that matters to covenant keeping mormons (myself being one), but we are more different on this than perhaps we know or realize.

  41. Kevin, I have to admit I’m surprised at what you wrote. I’m thinking chastity is kind of up there in the things God promotes. So it only really matters if you don’t have to wait toooooo long to satisfy those urges?

    Trust me, I’m not minimizing physical desire. Suffice it to say, I think intimacy is one of the finer things in life. But it sure seems you are minimizing the commandments surrounding it.

    I’ve read some of EB’s writing. She is funny and engaging. But, as others have said, I’d hardly call her a glowing example of standing for gospel standards. To be crass (warning: um…this is going to be crass), it almost seems that she follows the reasoning of a kid I knew in high school: as long as there’s no insertion, I still a virgin.

    It seems, as a friend in Florida once pointed out to me, that we think that only those who almost lose their virginity and then boldly “stand for their values” (or those who do lose it and then repent) are really tempted. And that somehow this level of “keeping it real” is the benchmark for behavior and worthy of grand praise.

    Maybe it’s really those are committed to living the law of chastity — even though they, too, are sorely tempted — and who actually keep their clothes on and their hands off others’ privates who are “real” examples.

    But that wouldn’t make for such clever and fashionable writing.

  42. “A single adult who is completely dedicated to living up to temple covenants has only two choices: remain chaste or get married.”

    Chastity is not synonymous with celibacy. Let’s not confuse the two.

    Also, although I don’t want to threadjack from the real concerns of single persons, I have to question this dichotomy. Chastity is just as important after marriage, and there are many challenges to chastity after marriage, including celibacy.

    A lot of passionate, sexually fulfilled marriages still go through long stretches of celibacy due to illness, separation, childbirth, etc. And their happy sex life may be terminated far too soon due to health conditions or loss of a partner. (Of course, this pain is dismissed by young people who ignorantly think only they have hormones and that older folks are too shriveled to care about such things.)

    Fact is, many people experience more celibacy after marriage than before.

  43. Another Anonymous Chick says:

    I’m a single, 35-year-old lds woman who could talk on this topic all day long (and often do with my friends). First, I enjoyed EB’s book. I didn’t buy all of it, but overall I could relate.

    Joseph (#23) – I tend to agree.

    For me, the debate over whether to remain celibate isn’t so much about dating a member vs. nonmember (I’ve dated mostly members, and the nonmembers I’ve dated have respected my decision not to sleep with them), but about what is the best course for me. As I hit my mid-30’s, the reality has hit that I likely will never marry or have children (though I absolutely want to). There are so many variables that go into a decision to marry (or not marry) someone, and if all of that never matches up, I’m not convinced that remaining celibate until I die is the way to go. Do I respect those who remain celibate? Absolutely. Can I remain celibate? Yes. Am I healthier – emotionally, mentally, or spiritually – for that decision? I don’t think so.

    I don’t regret (what I consider to be) the good choices I’ve made. And I admire and respect the decisions of those who choose to remain celibate while not married. At this stage in my life, however, I don’t think celibacy is as noble, rewarding, or healthy as it was 10 years ago (cue nasty comments about possible STD’s and out-of-wedlock pregnancies…).

  44. “but serious dating in the non-LDS world at some point entails actual sex. ”

    You’re implying that non-LDS women have no choice but to have sex, which is not true. There are practical and emotional reasons for not having casual sex, above and beyond theological reasons.

    I know quite a few non-LDS women who date without sex for long periods of time. LDS women don’t have a monopoly on personal standards!

    I don’t think that a woman should ever feel obliged to have sex for any reason other than her own personal desire. And that includes the assumption that a man will not continue to date her unless she puts out. The sexual revolution of the 60s was supposed to be about increasing personal freedom and autonomy. Not about merely replacing the dictates on a woman’s sexuality with another form of the same thing.

  45. Earlyschmearly says:

    Hm. I wrote a post two hours ago that has not shown up. Basically, my point was that practically no one (single) keeps the law of chastity entirely, because the law of chastity includes no sex thought or masturbation. Does keeping the law of chastity as a single person mean one is required to be asexual? Should people with high sex drives be punished if they can’t “control themselves” thoughtwise?

  46. I’m extremely grateful my wife dated a non-Mormon (me) and kept her standards of chastity. My admiration for her standards is a (not the only) reason I joined the Church. That’s really all I can add to this topic.

  47. Anon Because says:

    I waited until marriage (in my mid-30s), was chaste, did what I was supposed to do.

    I regret it. Deeply.

  48. Velikiye Kniaz says:

    RE: #29
    Joseph, I am certainly in no position to award you any ‘points’ for your exceptional diligence in keeping the law of chastity. But I absolutely believe that our Father in Heaven will richly reward you beyond your comprehension for your self control and self discipline. Because you have overcome the world in this aspect of your mortality. From what I can tell through my contacts with non-members and lost and fallen Saints, you are a rare man in these times. That you pay such respect to the powers of creation that you possess certainly will please our Father in Heaven, since His unequivocable commandments indicate how seriously He views these matters. I know that yours is not an easy burden and it is likely a lonely one. I can fully empathize with you, since my life in this sense is much the same as yours. And no, you won’t be out of oil. Your lamp will burn brighter than most others and when you pass into the eternities I believe that you will not regret being a real man among concourses lesser men who had neither the self discipline nor the strength of conviction you possess. Never feel any shame for this; you can, at any moment, transgress the law if you so chose, but for those who thoughtlessly forsook chastity in adolescence, it is considerably harder for them to embrace and live up to the standard of chastity that has become a part of your life. Everything that I have said has equal application to the sisters who also have chosen the same higher path. I respect and honor you all, and fully expect that in the eternities I will likely have to bow when I am in your presence.

  49. #17 – “Sex is overrated. All anybody really needs is a good friend.”

    Yeah, well, it’s easy to say it’s overrated if you’ve had it. If you’re still waiting to find a marriage partner, it can seem like a gaping hole in your life. My heart really goes out to my single friends who have so much love to give but can’t. They are frustrated! Part of me wishes they’d date (& sleep with) a non-Mormon boyfriend. But there are emotional dangers inherent in that; breaking up, getting hurt, feeling guilty, missing temple worship. And I don’t wish those pains for them, either. It’s hard.

  50. And by love to give, I mean the kind of intimate, sexual love you only have with a marriage partner. Of course they can love others in non-sexual ways.

  51. It’s not like Elna holds herself up as the perfect, chaste, Mormon woman. She’s well aware of the gray area here…chastity is absolutely more than no sex outside of marriage.

    The point of the book isn’t to hold herself up as some standard but to start a serious conversation in a funny way. There are YSAs who struggle with reconciling their desires with their faith, and the reality that some people don’t marry, or don’t marry mormon. There are nonmormons with high standards and mormon idiots. There are fewer people to date once you get into your 30s. We as a family oriented church don’t always know what to do with YSAs or part member families-or understand what struggles they are going through.

    It is true a more conservative person may have slightly different struggles than Elna-but the choice made early on as opposed to in the hotel room, is still difficult, heart wrenching and real.

    I am in favor of chastity, but seeing how I married when 23, I feel as I have little room to talk.

    yes there are issues that come up after marriage-but to say they are comparable to having no present hope in ever having sex…not the same. I think most 30yos have matured enough to recognize that work and family mean that marriage is not all sex all the time.

    There is also a competing desire…the desire for intimacy. A married person can retain that whether they are currently able to have sex for whatever reason. A single person at times feels no hope of ever having that…how will a relationship be with a non member? what long term consequences are there? Are there good Mormon people just around the corner, or 5 years away

  52. Eric Russell says:

    Aaron, here is that post. It was briefly the bloggernacle’s all time greatest thread, but then all the good comments were deleted.

  53. StillConfused says:

    I think celibacy is a personal decision based on a number of factors. The risk of pregnancy is a big one. Also emotional/sexual maturity is another. If you would be emotionally damaged by having a sexual relationship “not work out” then you shouldn’t have a sexual relationship.

  54. “the law of chastity includes no sex thought”

    Just for the record, no it doesn’t.

    A law means absolutely nothing if it’s viewed in a way that makes it impossible to live.

    I admire those like Ardis and others who believe something strongly enough that they live it while others around them don’t. I also respect those who make choices I didn’t have to make – like those who truly love someone and marry them even if it’s outside the ideal they come to believe they will never have if they don’t marry someone they truly love.

    Those are deeply personal choices, and I can’t condemn others for making personal choices like that just because they don’t meet my ideal. I have not had to face the choice being discussed here, as I married the girl whom I loved when I was 16 and she was 15. It would be the height of judgmentalism and arrogance to assume I can judge someone whose life is that different than mine.

  55. Elan Baker reminds me of “Twilight’s” Bella, only more crude. I have the same problem with both of them getting as close to the edge as possible, and only the man keeping them from ruining their souls at least untill some grave repentance. If the man did go all the way, in both real life and fictional, what then?

    Although I agree that Mormons aren’t the only ones who practice celebacy and chastity, they are becoming one of the few left who do. Recent polls have shown this to the case. Sex before marriage is the norm and even expected these days; and Mormons haven’t been immune to this trend. I agree with Anon Today, Alison Moore Smith, and others that Elna is not a “glowing example of standing for gospel standards” any more than the fictional Bella is in Meyer’s books. By the way, I would love to read a book about Anon Today’s experiences living in NYC even if might not be as clever. This is especially the case if Elna, “is decidedly NOT representative of me or most of the active Mormon women I know.”

  56. Earlyschmearly says:

    Ray, are you saying that a chaste person may fantasize about sex whenever and about whomever? Please expound! I was always taught that the law of chastity involved avoiding sex thoughts (and certainly not initiating them).

  57. Earlyschmearly says:

    An LDS single/divorced/widowed person is expected to be chaste, celibate, and abstinent. Many choose to be celibate and abstinent without being chaste. Others choose to be periodically abstinent. Those who are truly both celibate and chaste ultimately may find such repression to be unhealthy.

  58. #56 – There is a HUGE difference between “no sex thought” and “fantasiz(ing) about sex”. There also are a wide variety of “sex thoughts” and “fantasi(es) about sex”.

    Living the Law of Chastity doesn’t force someone to be non-human.

  59. Earlyschmearly says:

    From the current Gospel Priniples manual, page 39:

    Satan Wants Us to Break the Law of Chastity
    Satan’s plan is to deceive as many of us as he can to prevent us from returning to live with our Heavenly Father. One of the most damaging things he can do is entice us to break the law of chastity. He is cunning and powerful. He would like us to believe it is no sin to break this law. Many people have been deceived. We must guard ourselves against evil influences.
    Satan attacks the standards of modesty. He wants us to believe that because the human body is beautiful, it should be seen and appreciated. Our Heavenly Father wants us to keep our bodies covered so that we do not put improper thoughts into the minds of others.
    Satan not only encourages us to dress immodestly, but he also encourages us to think immoral or improper thoughts. He does this with pictures, movies, stories, jokes, music, and dances that suggest immoral acts. The law of chastity requires that our thoughts as well as our actions be pure. The prophet Alma taught that when we are judged by God, “our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God” (Alma 12:14).

    *********
    And yes– I agree that strictly keeping the law of chastity–especially as outlined here– is non-human.

  60. I think it is more of an issue of what we consider most important in our lives. Kevin seems to be viewing things from a mortal/limited perspective in this blog post. Considering sex, just because one has not found a mate? Why? What is there in sex (besides the good orgasmic feelings) that makes it worthwhile?

    Should we extend such to other considerations? Should we all go out and get drunk on occasion, just because that’s how many in our society have a good time?

    I am proud of those, who out of no choice of their own, are single celibates. It shows great will power, and determination to serve and obey God to the end. Exaltation is not about the easy road. If it were, then we wouldn’t need to be valiant in our testimonies to achieve it (D&C 76).

    It amazes me what we, as Christians, do to follow God’s will. We give up many things, or hold out for a better hope.

    As it is, true intimacy is not an easy thing to achieve/sustain, even for the married couple. Divorce is high, because intimacy (not necessarily sex, but a true closeness) is hard to manage over the years. I know many people, and have counseled many people who are extremely lonely, even though they are married. Sex is not a good trade-off, as it is a temporary fix, and not true intimacy. Eternal things require patience and hard work.

  61. Joseph, #9:
    “I would just like to know where all the amazing, beautiful, and single Mormon women in their 30s are.”
    I know quite a few between the ages of 29 and 31. In fact, half of the LDS girls I was friends with in high school are still single (and all are amazing and beautiful). College graduates, grad school, well-traveled, returned missionaries, etc. Only one guy from that group is still single (and he’s also an amazing guy). All are 29 or 30.
    Those women are out there. They might not live where you live, and you might have to redefine your definition of “beautiful,” (although many of these women are beautiful in the traditional sense too) but those single, amazing, beautiful women exist.
    That being said, once you’re 28 or 29, and especially once you’re too old to attend young single adult wards, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dating outside the church if your options are too slim within the church. I also think it’s important (and possible) to remain chaste while doing so.

  62. #59 – Fwiw, that doesn’t change anything I’ve written.

  63. To me, this is an interesting discussion, not so much in and of itself but by the fact that it is even being had. It seems like chastity is pretty open and shut — you’re either chaste, or you’re not. Doesn’t mean you can’t go back and forth, but I can’t see how so many denominations seem to have changed or rejected the standard.

    I’ve struggled with the concept of polygamy, since to me Joseph was either commanded to live it or he wasn’t, and if he was, there must have been a purpose. It certainly didn’t result generally in improved family life or child rearing. The only purpose I can see was to place the believers in stark contrast to the unbelievers and see if they would live the Lord’s command. I wonder if simply keeping the law of chastity today is a similar sacrifice, as that standard is so different from the world’s.

  64. Just a Girl says:

    As someone whose marriage has fairly recently failed, I have a strange outlook on this.

    Firstly, I think it is much harder to be chaste in mind and body after a person has experienced sex than before. That being said, it is still possible.

    Secondly, sex for physical relief really isn’t all that important. Thinking about it all the time inflates its importance in our mind, much as dwelling on food during fasting leaches a fast of its meaning, and makes it more difficult to accomplish.

    Thirdly, I think viewing celibacy as cruel and unusual punishment comes from twisting the meaning of a true, divine, sexual relationship into exactly how most people see sex. It is a common problem, but unfortunate.

    In the end, sex is just sex, people. Dogs do it, cats do it, slugs do it. The consequences of sex outside of marriage far outweigh the pleasures.

    I kiss the ground I walk on, and thank the Lord almost hourly that I followed the law of chastity before marriage. As dire as my straits are, they would be far, far, FAR worse had I not had that law to follow.

  65. “Actually this isn’t really a single issue, it’s more like a whole continent of interrelated issues, and for those of you who have never actually had to live on this continent, well, you might count your blessings and be thoughtful in your comments.”

    Never more truly said.

    Elna’s problem isn’t that she’s chaste or not chaste really, it’s that she’s pretending to “be” in a married’s sexuality while single. It’s only AFTER that initial pretense, that she lands squarely in the middle of the in the chaste problem. Bella (fictional, I realize) has the same imaginary mix up. We’d be horrified with this pretend play by a 5 year old but tolerate it easily from someone who’s physical body is more mature.
    Satan specializes in the wrong kind of pretend play. He pretends to be God all the time, without the covenants. Never works out the way he wants it to. Never will.

    The Dark Continent of lds singlehood is not made very clear, “light” in part due to people who are NOT single having the lion’s share of comments on ONLY one piece of the complexity, namely sexual relationships. We are trying to have singles talk about a married sexuality. It doesn’t work for a bazillion reasons. (Maybe more than a bazillion – I lost count about an hour ago). Maybe we need our own “restoration” and light out of the dark ages. or… maybe not.

    I’d love to see a thoughtful thread, restricted to comments by never marrieds, covenant keeping, over 30’s, and I think you/we would discover things you ne’er thought was the case.

    And I don’t mean the “give me your tired, your poor” kind of invitation that I see all over the bloggernacle when it comes to singles. Ughhhhh…. It’s hard, sure, but I’m not less because I keep my covenants. AND my covenents are not more than anyone else’s because I’m married. (Just plus one.) It’s not a sum total competition.

    A different comment base will lend a different discovery but as long as the married/prev married mainstream gets the bulk of comments, it’s “threadjacked” to the discovery that I believe might be useful for all.

    I’m not (repeat NOT) offering alternative sexuality of any type or shadow, just a sexuality that is complicated in a different way than it is with married folk. (ps. Did you notice the NOT part. I meant that. really. meant. that.)

    But those avenues are glossed over, “non-sexy” if you will, and as ignored as this comment is going to be in a downpour of a need to obsessively talk about the lds mainstream/married assumptions about sexuality.

    To be mag cover “sexy”, I would title the thread – Covenant keeping lds singles are not spiritually castrated. or something “sexy” like that. Catch your attention? I think so.

  66. I certainly would never give this advice to my sons or daughters.

    Compromising your moral values just because you are lonely or desire sex is not wise.

    I think you’re misinformed. Serious dating, and “actual real-life romantic relationships” as you call them, do not require sex to be fulfilling.

    The best sex is with a loving, trustworthy and committed spouse.

  67. Another Anon says:

    As far as I am concerned, abstinence before marriage is a settled issue in the church. That said, as a single adult in the age bracket under discussion, I fully appreciate the difficulties faced. However, there seem to me some misconceptions in lots of the comments:

    1. It is assumed that the supply of good, older single LDS men is extremely limited. This may be true in some regions, but isn’t more broadly. I have noticed that single LDS women tend to be more inclined to move to cities with large LDS singles populations than men. This means that those places (D.C., Boston, etc.) get huge imbalances of women. However, in other places this is not the case. In my ward, there are about three great, active guys with graduate degrees for every two girls, including those fresh out of high school (I am moving soon partly because of this).

    2. LDS men are portrayed as having poor dating skills and as insufficiently aggressive. This is true, but some training for both genders could help things move along. A reduction in gossip would also really help. I can tell you that fear of rejection is one thing. I’ll face that gladly. But the gossip channels can be astonishingly harsh and unforgiving. I’ve been badly gossiped about for sins such as not opening a car door on a first date. The gossip is often justified by astonishingly superficial statements like: “If he doesn’t open the car door for you, what else will he fail to do if you marry?” Being talked about like that after a casual first date is a major obstacle to dating.

    On another note, I’m grateful for my bishop. He married late, and understands that abstinence throughout your twenties and beyond is a different challenge than abstinence until your twenties. It has saved a lot of good members of my ward from discipline that was unnecessarily harsh. He also has kept the boundaries strong. Impressive.

  68. John Mansfield says:

    This reminds me again how underrated mediocre marriages are. It is unthinkable to say to a spouse “You are an average, ordinary person. I’m glad to be married to you given my alternatives.” People will contemplate fornication or lifelong singleness before considering a functional or slightly disfunctional marriage to a merely adequate or somewhat inadequate person.

  69. Kevin,

    I respect your honesty and I too have wondered if I could have remained celibate if I had not gotten married shortly after my mission. However, I really object to your wording at the end where you use “actual relationship” as a euphemism for “sexual pre-marital relationship.” Having read your posts for many years I feel confident you didn’t intend to marginalize chaste pre-marital relationships as not being “actual” relationships, but that is the unfortunate implication of your (twice) wording at the end of the post.

  70. There may be all kinds of unwritten rules and assumptions that this thread is bringing out unintentionally.

    Maybe there is a discussion forum that could be organized and focused. Categorized and unscattered. (I’d probably ask Ardis to help organize too. She’s excellent at organized thinking/writing.) Maybe others who are interested. If any.

    Many of those commenters are hitting on something below the surface that we never really focus on.

    Is it a well circulated myth that men over 30 unmarried are fill-in-the-blank.? What is the truth and how do we debunk the myth, whatever it is?

    Do single women outnumber or only in certain areas?

    Are there myths about single women over 30? What are the most common ones? Have the myths evolved over time?

    Are conversations about any or all aspects of older singlehood/ship driven by the married?

    Is it (covenant keeping) different for over 30? Over 40? Prev married? Never married? Silus G? Or is it so different for each and every individual that the conversation isn’t necessary? Is it helpful to lump in categories and attempt to discover anything or does that just create unnecessary divisions where cohesion is desperately vital on these soul tearing issues?

    Love to connect for a discussion to see what can be publicly organized. Not willing to do any harm, accidentally or otherwise. Others? g y p c e at yahoo dot c o m

  71. Maybe my wife and I are doing it wrong, but there’s never been a time when when we’ve finished engaging in sex that I thought: “Now THAT would have been worth facing Church discipline for!”

  72. LOL! Eric that’s awesome. Maybe you should try that as a post-coital compliment. It reminds me a lot of the compliment that got the guy stoned in “The Life of Brian.” Probably would work about as well, too.

  73. I live in Canada and in an area with extremely few singles in their 30’s, like I can count active maybe 10? 6 women and 4 men? maybe. The single adult program is more so the over 50’s, widows, widowers. This is how I see it. Alberta has vast amounts of members from all age ranges but its very, very expensive to live there and I know women who have grown up in Calgary and are in their mid 20’s and have never had boyfriends. From what friends have told me it seems like a toxic situation, so many girls to choose from and so the guys go for the very, very pretty ones and so people get picked over and forgotten basically and surprise, surprise, singles in some areas just say I’m done. On the flipside its so expensive to live there and I can see guys being reluctant to marry and move from there unless you both have roots there and have a dynamite job. Having said that, where I live we get couples from Alberta who come here to get training and I’d say 90% of them move back to Alberta with their degrees. Some stay though, like I can think of one couple who have stayed here. The single scene in Canada is like a wheel, all spokes lead to Alberta and its not the wonderful end of the rainbow as it appears to be. If you live in areas like mine, you go inactive or wait, with all what that waiting entails. Obviously people here do date and the pressure is intense because you hold on for grim death to someone because it could be a long time before someone else comes around. My bishop is oblivious to the singles scene, having gotten married when he was all of 21 or something. As I say I feel bad for the over 30 women and men here, whats left of them.

  74. yet another anon says:

    I just read the book yesterday and, while I enjoyed it greatly, it also irked me. I recently got married in my late 20’s to a guy in his mid 30’s and though it’s been fun to explore the more physical nature of our relationship now that we are married, neither of us define our pre-marriage life as an on going battle against the temptation of sex. I kept wanting to tell Elna to go back to school, volunteer, get a hobby, do something other than obsessing about sex! I realize that she probably emphasizes the sex stuff for comedic effect but I felt my single 20’s were richly spent working hard to obtain an advanced degree and learning about who I am. Yes it was hard to live in an area where there was only 1 active LDS guy at my stage of life, who I dated and who then decided to leave the church. . .but I greatly enjoyed all that I learned and experienced during that time. NONE of which had anything to do with getting myself into compromising situations with men and then agonizing over whether to do it or not. Just my 2 cents. . .

  75. Kevin Barney says:

    Jacob J, no, I didn’t mean to suggest a relationship without sex is not an “actual” relationship. Several people in this thread have complained that it is possible to have a relationship outside the church without sex. That may well be true. I don’t really have any personal knowledge, which is why I was following what is reported by Elna and JL in the NY context (or substitute Boston or D.C. or some other east coast, metropolitan center), that in their experience such is not really possible. Elna said that the longest relationship she was able to maintain was four weeks, and that was only because for two of those weeks the guy was out of the country. JL reported many similar experiences.

    Things may be different in the midwest/west, or if you date evangelicals or religious Jews, or if various other factors are present. But my impression is that outside of our Mormon early marriage culture, most people don’t jump into marriage after only a few months, but only after years of serious dating. And the vast majority of those people are in general unwilling to go years dating someone who will not have sex with them.

    If you succeed in finding such a relationship, terrific. Of course that’s a real relationship. But from what I’ve read, for most people that’s not a realistic possibility.

    If people have experience surviving long engagements with non-LDS boy/girfriends with no sex whatsoever, I would certainly be interested in hearing about it. Of course it’s possible in theory and on the margins, but it doesn’t seem common or very likely.

  76. #67 – where do you live!?!? I’m telling my girlfriend to move there!

  77. I am so dismayed by this whole conversation.

    As someone who grew up non-LDS, and dated as a non-member, and married as a non-member, it’s boggling how myopic the LDS point of view on this can be.

    People, Mormons are different that ANYONE I ever knew before I joined the church. And most Mormons I know don’t realize just how different they are, and when pointed out, tend to deflect genuine observation and experience with platitudes about how “normal” we are.

    As I am now counted among the sheep, we ARE different. Substantially, socially, religiously, and often interpersonally. I’m not complaining. But don’t think for one second that just because you say others are like us, that it’s true. It’s just not. Peculiar is the perfect word, and it fits us to a T.

  78. I think Mormons are myopic because we are told be like Nuns and monks our whole lives, can’t look at someone physically because your “lusting”, you can’t wear certain styles of clothes because you could run the risk of being “walking pornography” and you could be put on church discipline for engaging in any sexual encounter that is non abusive, or rape, this includes kissing if you had my bishop when I was an early teen.Forget the whole topic of “licked cupcakes”. We have a “celestial marriage” class in my case taught by a couple who were in the mid 70’s, great people, but seriously the 1950’s are over. Then if by some miracle you get married your all of a sudden supposed to have a healthy sexual relationship. Your supposed to somehow know how to navigate that and deal with marriage that the manual never talks about. I think when it comes to relationships and sexuality the Church is so , so screwed up, I love the Gospel but I don’t know what the answers are.

  79. let’s not forget other Christian brothers and sisters still believe in saving themselves sexually before marriage :) or at least they should lol .

  80. By the way, I was just listening to the song and not watching the video. Having watched some/most of it now, there is at least one image in that video that I don’t like. Feel free to delete the link or to substitute it for another (there are other “Stretch and Wait” videos on youtube that are available).

  81. For the record I’m not in favour of sexually active 15 year old’s or 24 yr old’s. but neither am I in favour of prudishness. I went on a some dates with a girl and I wanted to hold her hand and she was hyper ventilating into a bag, instant turn off for sure! I don’t know where the boundaries are or what the answers are and its easy for a married person to say never do ABC because they can go home and do ABC and they don’t have to live with their own advice.

  82. Anonrightnow says:

    My husband and I dated for two years and did not have sex until we we married. We left the church in 2002, met in 2004, married in 2006.

  83. Anonrightnow says:

    We were in our late 30s.

  84. #78 “I think when it comes to relationships and sexuality the Church is so , so screwed up, I love the Gospel but I don’t know what the answers are”

    The Gospel only gives us a skeletal framework about things. We’re taught chastity, the importance of marriage and family, etc., but we’re not necessarily taught how to stay chaste, improve our marriages, or raise children. Just that they’re priorities. Sure, people give their 2 cents all the time, but it’s not doctrine, and what works for some doesn’t work for others. Some parents spank; others would never be so barbaric. One girl might keep herself chaste because she doesn’t want to be “used gum”, whereas another might find that metaphor wholly offensive. I remember as a young man hearing over the pulpit that lots of exercise and cold showers would help me control my “impulses”, but my experience was that the healthier I felt, the healthier my libido.

    So, while I don’t think it’s inappropriate for church members to share tools or techniques, it’s often better to stick to doctrine. That means we’re not going to find all the answers within the walls of the church. And I personally don’t find that a deficiency, simply a recognition that outside of hard doctrine people are different.

  85. Kevin Barney says:

    Anonrightnow, that’s very interesting. Was your lack of sex during your two-year engagement in any way based on your Mormon backgrounds, or was it for reasons independent of your former Mormonness?

  86. 75 I would like to issue the standard Steve Evans apologetics line: Yes, I know Kevin Barney solicited salacious information about your frustrated or fulfilling sex life in an online forum but trust me, in real life he isn’t pervy at all!

    I’m kidding. I actually think Kevin’s innocent inquiry underlines Tracy M’s point; ya’ll are a people apart.

  87. I know that now about the Church giving a skeletal system about how to implement events in your life but i definately didn’t until it was too late. It took a divorce for me to divorce myself from certain ideas I just accepted and never questioned because you aren’t supposed to. I am still working through other things I was taught that have proven to be complete nonsense, for example, my bishop taught us that you can’t be happy unless you’re married. You simply can’t. Now I think that if you’re not happy you shouldn’t be getting married. In talking with my sister about all this stuff she said she ignored it all from him and decided she was going to do with her life what she wanted and her life is turning out great!

  88. Anonrightnow says:

    It’s difficult to say. It probably was related to our former Mormonness, but before meeting each other, we had both had long-term relationships with others without sex, too. The guy I dated was Jewish, and had only had one lover (at 40+)

    FTW, we have a great sex life.

  89. Dude that’s not how I do apologetics at all!!

  90. @74: Thank you! It’s probably just me and my personality, but I really don’t get the obsession with sex that some attribute to single members of the Church. I say this as a single woman in my mid-20s who would like to be married, but has not yet found the right person. I don’t want to be married just so I can have sex all the time, and nor do I spend my time wishing I could just get nekkid with someone already. Personally, I look forward to marriage for the emotional intimacy rather than the physical intimacy. I don’t let myself be defined by physical desires, and I think I am a happier person with healthier relationships because of it.

  91. Anonrightnow is having great sex FTW!

  92. Are there Canadian females who can corroborate or refute my generalization about the scene in Canada?

  93. FTW is actually the appropriate phrase I guess.

  94. 89 My sincere apologies. I’m new around here…

    91 I choose to believe that it was not a typo; rather, ARN, is a confident, sexually adventurous woman who knows when she has a good thing going. So she wins. Unlike Eric, who is doing it wrong.

  95. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    FWIW, I have to agree.

  96. See? Steve, SLK and CWC agree! What an unholy cabal.

  97. Other Alias says:

    #90 – “Personally, I look forward to marriage for the emotional intimacy rather than the physical intimacy.”

    Exactly.

    35, single, celibate. *If* I find the right person, at some time in this life, sexual intimacy will only be one part of building the emotional relationship that would characterize my ideal marriage.

    Why would I choose to abuse that tool by using it in a relationship without a serious and permanent commitment?

    This is in addition to the covenants I have made in the temple. How could I pretend that I would be faithful to my spouse if I cannot be faithful to the Lord?

    Our entire lives are but a small moment, and my expectation of myself is that I control myself and my actions for that moment, even if I do so imperfectly more often than I would like.

  98. Anonrightnow says:

    LOL–FWIW/FTW/FTR–I mixed those three up. Oh well, they all apply.

  99. Steve Evans says:

    “I really don’t get the obsession with sex that some attribute to single members of the Church”

    Ask a dude.

  100. Another Anon says:

    #76 Love to have your friend come . . . though I am moving soon. I’m sure she’d be mobbed. Mature capable women do not stay long in my singles ward.

    There are another set of views that I think are interesting coming up. And that is the role of sexuality as a servant of the higher value of emotional intimacy in marriage. Perhaps I am alone, but I read the D&C as in real tension with that idea. To my reading LDS doctrine sees the physical body, its pleasures, etc. as essential and valuable in their own right, not only as servants to emotional or spiritual concerns (e.g. of section 93 – neither the spirit nor the body can have a fullness of joy seperated – note both can have joy, both joys are seen as valuable and complementary). That includes sexuality. Thus, to my reading, LDS doctrine sees physical intimacy as complementary to emotional intimacy, rather than merely supplementary.

  101. Kevin Barney says:

    Now it’s no. 99 FTW!

  102. StillConfused says:

    I have gentlemen friends in their 40s and 50s who are divorced and have told me that they want to get married right away so that they can have sex. They are not concerned about making sure that the gal is a good fit, that her financial goals are the same, that the blended family will get along, etc. They just want to get laid and feel that they must be married to do so. I would frankly rather they go see a hooker then put two families through the nightmare of an unhealthy marriage motivated by the groin.

    On the other hand, I know a widow in her early thirties that had a sexual relationship. He said that the relationship was casual and while she agreed to that at the time, it is clear that it was not casual to her. She is obsessed with the man, who has since moved on to a new gal.

    So my thing is that people should act in a way which they feel is healthiest for where they are at that stage in their lives. But please don’t get married just because you are horny.

  103. Those of you who are single and are downplaying the role of sex in your life after marriage might want to rethink saying that out loud. Just a suggestion.

  104. BCC: Just another friendly blog where anonymous commenters discuss their sex lives.

  105. Re: Anon & singles scene in Canada

    I made a comment earlier addressed to the OP that appears to be stuck in Moderation land, and it referenced this somewhat. I happen to be a 30 yr old female in the LDS singles scene in Calgary, Alberta and I suppose it’s as you describe, Anon. As well, I’ve traveled a fair bit and think that LDS singles-land is pretty much the same in urban centres the world over, ie) crummy over the age of 27. However, I can’t really speak to sparser branches as my experience is specific to a 700+ singles scene. *shudder* I’m actually really excited to move on to a family ward.

    FWIW, I’m dating a non-member at the moment and have been for 6 months, a rare gem of a man that respects my adherence to the Law of Chastity. Not that it’s been easy – it’s awfully frustrating at times – but he loves me and considers me worthy of the wait. Do I tell him ‘no thanks’ and wait for that priesthood holder (that might never materialize) or embark upon a multi-faith marriage? The latter, while I assume riddled with challenges, is obviously more appealing.

  106. John Mansfield, that is the awesomest comment ever.

  107. Gotta agree with #78 that it’s very difficult to grow up in the church and come out as an adult with a healthy view of sexuality. You go from anything remotely sexual being a deadly sin when you’re single to sex being a sacred act in which you may share in the divine powers of procreation when you’re married. Turning sin into sanctity is a hard mental leap to make, and either way it’s very, very serious.

    At some point sex should just be fun.

  108. cantinflas says:

    “nekkid”

    The fact that you call it that tells me your not ready.

    I pretty much agree with Kevin.

    A related topic I’d like to hear more about from someone smarter than me (i.e. most of you) is fornication. I can’t recall any instances in the scriptures where pre-marital sex is fornication. Fornication in the Bible, in particular, mostly looks like idolatry to me. Adultery is clear, but not fornication. It is, of course, settled that modern teaching is that pre-marital sex is fornication, just wondering what is the basis for that teaching.

  109. Just a couple thoughts sexuality…
    First, I remember reading somewhere (it’s been well over a decade, I don’t remember where, but it was in some anthropological article, probably) about how for women before 30, when studied/polled specifically, what they really wanted was not sex/intercourse, but touch. And that in the average woman’s life, the amount of physical touch they received peaked just before they “gave in”(my wording) to a man’s pressure for sex. So for any single women out there considering abandoning celibacy, it might be worth a careful personal scrutiny of what it is *exactly* that you want. If it’s sex, great. But if it’s the touch that many/most LDS people seem to being not getting enough of, then you (statistically speaking) may get more if you “walk right on the edge of the cliff”, as it were. (Gotta love that old seminary analogy.)
    Second, as to the comment about lacking the maturity to have a sexual relationship end without being hurt…um, it’s not a matter of maturity. It’s a matter of biology. Starts with a little hormone called oxytocin, and goes from there. There’s a fascinating book on the subject, “The Alchemy of Love and Lust”, wherein, among other things, the issue of how physical touch, generally, and sex, specifically, set off a chain reaction of hormones and chemicals in the brain that emotionally bond you to the one starting this reaction. Which, once understood, is a great motivator to not engage in a sexual relationship that does not have a very sure committment, as the chance of emotional anguish is pretty much – from a chemical standpoint – guaranteed.

  110. usually I’m just an anon reader, but in the case of Elna’s book and singles and sexuality, well, I had to comment, seeing as I’m also a single lady living in nyc.

    1) LOVED elna’s book and recommended it to non-lds friends who also read it and loved it. She is hilarious, and I’d say that for the most part people don’t take her as a spokesman for the church– just as a comedian from a different culture who can write in an amusing, intimate way about relationships that almost every single person i know obsesses over (the idea of when to have sex and what does it mean).

    2) Her book made me a little sad for her. I know Elna, and when I finished, I really just wanted to go have a heart to heart with her about being mormon, near 30, reasonably attractive and a virgin in this crazy city. It is hard, I readily admit that! But, I have to say, it is so much harder the closer you come and the greyer you treat the law of chastity limits. Dating member and non-member guys alike, when you are repeatedly in compromising situations where sex is an option, it becomes huge and that desire to have sex obscures any good reason to NOT have sex. I’ve learned this for myself.

    The thing that many people who marry earlier maybe don’t realize is that we go through a lot of significant relationships, and a lot of break-ups as singles as we get older. We deal with rejection and heart ache and disappointments. I think we all, male and female, long for intimacy- emotional, physical, and spiritual, which all go together. I also feel (and this is again, my personal experience) that if someone is LDS, makes covenants, and understands the law of chastity, and wants a healthy relationship, it will be awfully difficult to break the law of chastity, because that puts those other things out of balance.

    I echo what many of you have already said, that any non-member or member who won’t respect that isn’t worth being with. So, my vote is, abstinence before marriage, and complete fidelity within, and marriage to someone who respects you completely. And to someone who can take you to the temple, whether now or later (potential). While it’s lonely for the time being, I’m convinced it’s worth the wait.

  111. Anon in Canada says:

    I’ll corroborate the Canada story, Anon. My friends and I have tried to list the 30-something men in Canada who (like us) have a degree, a career, a temple recommend, and are generally together and socially adept. We simply outnumber them. The last midsingles conference I went to literally had groups of two women each speed dating one man (they had to call it “speed meeting”).

    Having to forego love, sex, companionship and a family of my own is a real possibility for me at this stage in life. It’s not like being a nun – nuns choose to sacrifice these things to be closer
    to God (whereas I am unable to participate in our highest earthly ordinance because of it). It’s a fine balance between getting on with life, and keeping a foot in the increasingly heartbreaking social scene.

    I concur that married leaders mostly just don’t get it, and it’s just maddening to hear them try to relate their 2, 6 or 10 years on the YSA scene to my situation.

  112. Ask a dude.

    Or a woman over 30.

  113. Amen, KLS.

  114. Eric Russell says:

    Anon in Canada, maybe you should move.

  115. To Anon in Canada,

    Do you live in Calgary and are reffering to the Back to life reality midsingles event in the past summer sometime? if so would have totally love to have gone! I have a child so I can’t leave and I am a TR holder, very active and am getting my career on the way and I’m like where the heck are the women?!

  116. Anon in Canada, Sorry I shouldn’t have asked you where you live! I should have asked were you reffering to the event in Calgary!

  117. # 7, #10 and #14 said it well, and all articulated different aspects of what I thought. I haven’t read all the posts but will come back. I’ve got to get away from the computer.

    For me I’m single, never married, early 40s. I’m proud I’ve kept the standards I have. Not one person save one stake pres has ever “praised” me on this, I wouldn’t expect praise. I do hope one day if I’m ever so lucky to be married that spouse will appreciate this. The problem is the world (and some church members) seem to think something is wrong w/those who’ve maintained these standards.

    There was an excellent article in the Gen Conf Ensign about Moral Agency, the talk where Elder Christoferson referred to young lady who followed the law of chastity due to it being the right thing to do.

    More so than this law I think are the issues of loneliness,etc that occur by not having a loving relationship w/a spouse/significant other.

  118. In the trenches says:

    OK, I don’t think Elna’s book is really about the sex at all. I mean, it is, but it’s not. It’s about not fitting into either box–the “typical” LDS woman box and the “single girl in the city” box–and what you’re supposed to do with that.

    Take me. I’m 30 and single. I can count on one hand the single LDS men I’ve gone on dates with since I graduated at 21 from BYU because I’ve lived in areas with very few single members and therefore have been in family wards for basically all of my 20s. I’m cute. I’m smart and independent and have a really great career. I get asked out ALL the TIME by non-member guys, cute, nice ones. I’m human. I want to go on dates with nice, cute boys. But I also have 14 years of dating experience and I can tell you, it is a CONSTANT walk on a tightrope to date non-member guys, because it’s not just intercourse, it’s everything else that leads up to intercourse, too. It is EXHAUSTING constantly trying to enforce those boundaries, even with very well-intentioned and respectful guys, and it is difficult if not impossible to do it successfully 100 percent of the time. (I would say that is also true with two LDS people once you get past your mid-20s … it is just a different deal when you are 27 than when you are 17 or even 22 or 23. I’m sorry, but it is. Trying to give a relationship time to develop the way it should to enter into a marriage and also walk that line is HARD, no matter who is involved.)

    So anyway. Her point is, what do you do with that? On the one hand, you live your life and go out with the occasional LDS guy who comes along. On the other hand, you’re 30 and you want to have a baby someday with a nice guy, and that makes you think really hard about what you are willing to give up or not give up.

    Add on top of that the culture in the church, which at best is clueless and at worst is downright mean-spirited about its single members, and it becomes a bigger, more complicated issue than you might think. It is SO trivializing to say it’s just about some biological urge to have sex, and it’s insulting to the average 30-year-old’s intelligence to trot out pregnancy and STD scare tactics (hi, it’s called condoms and birth control). It’s about what most basic human beings want out of life and what the best way is to accomplish that, and the very real difficulties that come from trying to walk either path.

    (P.S. As an aside, I was just at a singles conference where they told us that 2/3 of single men 25 and over are inactive/have left the church. It seems relevant to throw that out there.)

  119. Now this thread has turned into “sleepless in Calgary”. I for one am hoping that Anon and Anon eventually fall deeply and madly in love… Aw Shucks.

  120. Eric Russell says:

    In the trenches, maybe you should move.

  121. Anon in Canada says:

    Eric Russell – there’s the rub! On the one hand, I totally see your point – I’d change cities/countries for other big goals in life (grad school, career opportunities, etc.), so why not to accomplish my social goals which are, when it comes down to it, even more important to me?

    On the other hand – how long do you go from city to city chasing something that may or may not exist? At some point I’ve got to invest some time in climbing the corporate ladder so that if I’m going to be single, I can afford to fill my life with other satisfying things (travel, entertainment, hobbies). It also becomes more difficult to leave my social networks, as they fill the “companionship” void when a gal is single.

  122. It is crummy over the age of 27! I haven’t been on a date since 2007 when I divorced, not because I didn’t want to, its because there isn’t anyone my age here!
    Martine, I would make a decision and then pray about it. I have seen all types od arrangements go well and also flop.

  123. Mommie Dearest says:

    The tone of #118 kinda turns my stomach.

  124. 123. Mommie Dearest, the original 118 has been put in the mod-queue- what is not 118 is not the rude comment.

  125. I can’t speak for #118 but sometimes its the situation that turns our stomachs! The remarks you get from people, “oh you’ll find someone,” how do you know?, “Good looking guy like you not married?”, thanks… “Are you dating?” Like who? I can’t recall ever envisioning myself being divorced and single again and being in the position I am. I like my life but I don’t want to be single forever.

  126. Mommie Dearest says:

    woops. sorry. #118 is now perfectly fine, and my tummy is all settled.

  127. #103 – Those of you who are single and are downplaying the role of sex in your life after marriage might want to rethink saying that out loud. Just a suggestion.

    # 112 – Or a woman over 30.

    AMEN.

    #71 – Maybe my wife and I are doing it wrong, but there’s never been a time when when we’ve finished engaging in sex that I thought: “Now THAT would have been worth facing Church discipline for!”

    Disagree. Try not having sex (and the intimate relationship that comes along with it) for 30-something years, going months, or years, at a time without being touched by a man…. and then let me know if you feel the same way. Disagree.

  128. Cool. Actual comments by lots of people who’ve actually stayed single past the age of 25.
    Let me say it–you deserve a lot of respect for staying chaste for such a long period of time. That, as well as being on your own for so long, takes a lot of strength.
    How you deal with being single is up to you and your specific situation–whether you decide to date only members, or whether you date quality nonmembers too. However, I would hope that a quality nonmember would respect your wishes to remain chaste before marriage, and I hope your level of communication and honesty with that nonmember would be good enough so that you could make that wish–and the reasons for that wish–clear.
    Again, you have my sincere respect.

  129. a “quality nonmember”?? And people think Mormons are snotty and exclusive?

  130. Leila (#127),

    I’ll grant you part of your disagreement with me. The intimate relationship I have with my wife is the most important thing in my life. However, that relationship is worth far more than just the sex. I was just short of my 30th birthday when we married, and even then the marriage relationship was more important to me than was the sex (and we waited until we were married).

  131. CS Eric,

    Of course the marriage relationship is more important (and worth more) than just the sex.

    I was almost 40 when I married. And for me, that relationship might have been worth facing Church discipline for. That’s all I’m saying.

  132. #131 >>>I was almost 40 when I married. And for me, that relationship might have been worth facing Church discipline for. That’s all I’m saying.<<>>Those of you who are single and are downplaying the role of sex in your life after marriage might want to rethink saying that out loud. Just a suggestion.

    # 112 >>>Or a woman over 30.

    That too.

    Walk a mile, blah blah blah.

  133. *sigh* Part of my post was lost.

    #131 >>>I was almost 40 when I married. And for me, that relationship might have been worth facing Church discipline for. That’s all I’m saying.

    It would have definitely been worth it for me.

    “Quality nonmembers.” Gah.

  134. I think one of the struggles with dating in the LDS Church, even where there are plentiful people on both sides to date, is the unrealistic expectations we place on each other. I’m not talking about sex, per se. We look for the “perfect” eternal soul mate. Sadly, we often spend our time looking, when we should be spending our time becoming what we would like. The same works and holds true within marriage. Many marriages become miserable, because we tend to want to remake our spouse, rather than being happy with a decent, average, human-being.

    I remember having a member of a stake presidency chew me out for not being married (at age 25). I hope we’re getting past such attitudes in the Church, as every individual is different. We aren’t plug and play. I couldn’t force women to marry me. What I could do was develop myself intellectually, physically and spiritually, so when the time came, I’d be ready for marriage. And then after marriage, I had to learn how to be extremely forgiving of my spouse, who did things differently than I did. Since then, I’ve learned to do things her way – makes everything much easier…..

  135. I showed my completely inactive unmarried 28 year old sister this thread. She really wants to get married and since she is not interested in being LDS she is of course planning to marry outside the church. She has the exact same complaints about the quality of the non-LDS men as the single LDS women have about LDS Men. They are geeks, unmotivated, addicted to porn and video games, and all the good ones are taken. She says she has no idea where to meet a good non-LDS marriageable guy. her non LDS friends feel the same way.

    So my observation would be that there is nothing unique about older single women facing difficulties finding a marriage partner. What makes the LDS situation different is the whole LOC thing.

    Finally I never see threads in the bloggernaccle about the struggles of the single 30 plus active LDS male. Why is this? Talk about a disfavored group. There is little supportive language for these guys. Just fire and brimstone

  136. Ouch. Reading about stake presidents chewing out the unmarried makes me worry. I hope that day has passed. I have an RM son with Asperger’s. Like all other things in his life, he will grow into the point where he is ready to be married. But now isn’t that point. It’s not a matter of unrighteousness or geekiness; when he’s ready, he’ll be great. I just don’t like the idea of anyone telling him that it’s a sin that he isn’t married yet.

  137. “They are geeks, unmotivated, addicted to porn and video games, and all the good ones are taken.”

    Maybe the supportive language could start with not saying stuff like that about them.

  138. The unsupportive language starts in YM! Being called deadbeats, look what the cat dragged in, these guys? type stuff it continues into adulthood if you don’t fit into any church category-married or successful. I agree with you BBEll and Rameumptom! I hear from my bishop on frequent basis that quotation from Pres. Kimball “any two righteous LDS members can get together and make it work” as if we are two robots, Mormon Female Robot A can get married to Mormon Male Robot B or C or D or E and it will work because thats just one person’s opinion-I Love Pres. Kimball but I think its just his opinion! People are more complex then that!

  139. 129, 133:
    Sorry. Guess I should have qualified members with “quality” too.
    I think there’s a pressure for Mormons to marry other Mormons, even when those marriages are not compatible (and sometimes when one of the partners in the marriage is–I’ll say it–nonquality). I’ve seen members marry nonmembers who were very good to them (and good people), and I’ve seen members marry members who were lousy people. Guess what marriages are happier?

  140. There is little supportive language for these guys. Just fire and brimstone

    Especially if they’re gay.

  141. Put me into the camp which believes that commandments and covenants can and should be ignored when they become situationally inconvenient.

  142. I really feel bad for the 25+ members getting a hard time because they aren’t fitting into the church’s cookie cutter culture. Nobody should try and tell you when it is right for you to get married, that is your decision.

    The reality is most first marriages in America are occurring at an older age than marriages in the LDS church. So there is nothing wrong with waiting, it is just looked down on within the church. Church leaders should consider extending the YSA ward age to 33 or 35.

  143. I myself am a member of the over 30 unmarried set.

    http://religions.pewforum.org/portraits

    According to the recent pew forum 44% of self identified Mormons are male and 55% are female. If we assume the percentage of active male and female members is similar (a not unreasonable assumption). This means ~21% of active female members in this life (in North America) for absolutely no fault of their own will not be able to marry an active male member of the church this is not a small fraction. Personally I think this is one of the best arguments for reinstating polygamy :).

    I really feel for the late 20’s and up single sisters in this church. They are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. For many if they restrict themselves to only marrying active temple worthy LDS members. They have essentially doomed themselves to a life of spinsterhood. There is quite simply not enough active LDS males to go around. Frankly strictly following church council to marry only in the temple creates a class of LDS “nuns”. Except many of these nuns want husbands and children and they did not deliberately chose a life of celibacy for the churches sake in contrast to say Catholic nuns.

    On the other hand if they date nonmembers this has its own set of problems. For one the church discourages marrying nonmembers and as far as I know no official exception is made for the over 30 crowd. For another marrying out of your faith and raising children has its own potentially problematic issues.

    Frankly for many there seems to be no optimal solution. Myself I think the church should perhaps modify its advice on marrying nonmembers at least for the late 20’s and over crowd.

    Also I think this issue is complicated by how the law of chastity if viewed. It is easy to see why for example murder or theft is a sin. Why you shouldn’t have sex with someone you deeply care for is not quite as clear cut. Please don’t misunderstand me I am not arguing sex before marriage is necessarily okay. I am saying the law of chastity might require a bit more faith than say the law against killing people.

    When a person is staring down the barrel of the late 30s and the biological clock is getting close to midnight. And visions of living a life without family and dieing alone in a old folks home are dancing in their heads. Why exactly they shouldn’t pursue a sexual relationship with a quality nonmember starts requiring a whole lot more faith. I deeply respect those who keep the law of chastity until the day they die. But I also don’t view violations of the law of chastity for those older singles in the church in the same fashion as for teens and early twenties.

  144. Our YSA ward here a few years ago asked all over 31’s to go to their home wards and surprise, suprise guess what happened? inactivity. I do agree though a 37 yr old man or woman going to a YSA ward would feel really out of place.

  145. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db19.htm

    “During the latter half of the 20th century, there were notable increases in the age at first marriage among Americans and related increases in the proportion of unmarried and never-married adults.”

  146. Eric Russell says:

    FWIW, I find the vast majority of church members are extremely supportive of older singles. I don’t think there’s an institutional problem with respect to the treatment of singles and I don’t think there’s a cultural problem either – excepting perhaps a handful of folks from an older generation.

    Agreed that the age limit of YSA wards should be extended.

  147. Another Anon says:

    I think the conversation here has moved in a better direction. I am glad to see people defending the single men of the church. I, and most of my single male friends have PhDs, great careers, and are faithful members in every conventional way (Do our PhDs make us “geeky”?). There are quite a few of us. And most of us would love to get married.

  148. Eric Russell says:

    (Do our PhDs make us “geeky”?)

    No, but insisting on being anonymous in a benign conversation does.

  149. That’s a good point. We all face the reality of 21st century career demands, particularly 4+ years needed to invest in education. We all know how much your job and your income has an effect on your family life and marriage, so obviously anyone thinking seriously about marrying would plan to go to college. Which may require putting off marriage for a little longer.

  150. Ha ha, how about “just another PhD” instead of “another anon”

  151. “That’s a good point. We all face the reality of 21st century career demands, particularly 4+ years needed to invest in education. We all know how much your job and your income has an effect on your family life and marriage, so obviously anyone thinking seriously about marrying would plan to go to college. Which may require putting off marriage for a little longer.”

    Thats the smart thing to do, however, some of us were raised on the Hartman Rector Jr. you can have marriage, school, kids, church calling and work all at the same time and for some it works and for some it doesn’t. I had a phrase he said once about when we get to judgement, god will say “It says here you have a PH.D, great where’s your family?” I just accepted it and never questioned it or thought otherwise and now I think differently.

  152. As I see my single peers struggle post-YSA, I wonder if the great programs that the church offers haven’t made us “soft.” A well run YSA/Institute scene spoon-feeds us spirituality through institute classes, firesides and quick rotation bigger callings, and a social life through these things plus activities, FHE’s, dances.

    When we turn 31, all of a sudden we’re left to our own devices, and while we all know that socializing isn’t the reason we attend church – we’ve spent the last 13 years conflating our spiritual and social lives. At once, a large part of the satisfaction that came with our church lives is gone, we feel set adrift, and we have to seek social satisfaction in different settings (which brings with it a new set of challenges and temptations).

    I don’t want to suggest that we should have specialty wards forever (it becomes humilating to be cordonned off because of marital status). But it’s often a difficult transition – have we just been spoiled?

  153. I can speak from personal experience it is extremely difficult to have marriage, school, kids and work all at the same time. If you are not careful, it can be damaging to your marriage and family relationships. I am married with 6 kids, work full time and am going to school part time on the side. If not for refusing church callings I would have one of those too.

  154. “I wonder if the great programs that the church offers haven’t made us “soft.””

    Wrong thread!!

  155. Sarah, in my opinion, I think more attention should be given to this because it is an issue for many members. The community within the church is one of its best attributes and ideally, as you age within the church you shouldn’t feel a sense of loss of that community feeling.

    The transition from YM to Elder’s quorum or YW to RS can make you feel like you just aged 10 years. The transition from YSA to OSA can make you feel like you moved into an assisted living facility. It can be a huge adjustment for people and I don’t think that means they’re spoiled or soft. It just means they value the community they have built within the church, and that’s a good thing.

  156. “I can speak from personal experience it is extremely difficult to have marriage, school, kids and work all at the same time. If you are not careful, it can be damaging to your marriage and family relationships. I am married with 6 kids, work full time and am going to school part time on the side. If not for refusing church callings I would have one of those too”

    As can I and it failed miserably for me. Sometimes I think my life is ruined and not what the Church brochure promised and other times not.

  157. If “being touched by a man” is such an issue, could a male hairdresser, massage therapist, etc. help fill the void?

    Also, I wasn’t aware of any big prohibition against marrying non-members. Encouragement to marry within the faith, sure, but no real problem if that doesn’t work out and one does find a good non-member. In Brent Barlow’s dissertation, he talks about entire congregations that came to be when women married non-members and then raised a righteous generation of young missionaries and leaders. Our stake patriarch, executive secretary, and so on were all converted by their wives who married them as non-members.

  158. Sterling Fluharty says:

    This is a great thread. I’m going to take Kevin Barney’s questions seriously. I actually interpret Elna Baker’s story another way that nobody has mentioned. Do any of you remember those maps with the names of the literally dozens of men she had kissed on dates in NYC? Studies have shown that the majority of young single women in this country read a lot into a kiss because they subconsciously use it to determine the genetic compatibility of a potential mate. I don’t think Elna was exempt from this pattern, especially since she put a lot of effort into finding someone with whom she could spend the rest of her life. Now for the analogy. Elna talks about non-Mormon singles who believe they need to have sex with someone to figure out if they are compatible with them. Can we blame them, given the divorce statistics in this country, for trying so hard to find someone with whom they are compatible? Now obviously we have good reasons for objecting to this kind of sexual experimentation. But how can we not sound hypocritical when we try to persuade singles that they need to evaluate potential spouses by learning everything they can about that person’s intellect, spirituality, education, humor, ambition, etc., but then advise them to avoid making sure they have compatible levels of sexual passion? Rhetoric about covenants is not going to be very persuasive with anyone but faithful Latter-day Saints. I am more impressed by Dr. Neil Clark Warren’s discussions of how to evaluate compatibility between potential spouses, especially since he talks about analyzing sexual compatibility while still abstaining from sex before marriage. For that matter, can anyone give me reasons why Dr. Warren’s 29 proven dimensions of compatibility, which have attracted over 20 million subscribers to the eHarmony web site, would prove problematic for Mormons? I know he uses divorce statistics and psychological theories about identity formation to discourage people from getting married before their mid-twenties, but aside from that where would even the most faithful among us find fault with his attempts to make sure that people who consider marriage are as compatible as they can be? Would we even be having this discussion about the consequences of slim pickings if Mormons in the U.S. or Canada started considering all of North America their dating pool, rather than just their town or region, and used new technologies to start looking, in secure and scientifically valid ways, for potential spouses with whom they could be compatible?

  159. # 156, I am sorry to hear that. Sadly it is a common problem when we try to juggle too many balls at once.

    #157, I agree. We are not the only church that produces “marriage quality” men and women. I found the church when I was set up on a date with an LDS girl in high school. We are now married – and I must say (ahem, harrumph) that I am an excellent husband and father lol.

  160. It is what it is and I was taught and believed that anything less then the Hartman Rector Style marriage was selfish and I kick myself now for just accepting it and not questioning it because you’re not supposed to question a GA.

  161. “Studies have shown that the majority of young single women in this country read a lot into a kiss because they subconsciously use it to determine the genetic compatibility of a potential mate”

    You mean like those studies published in teen girl magazines?

  162. Anon, I’ve learned some of those same lessons myself. I hope it all works out in your favor in the end.

  163. #146 Eric “FWIW, I find the vast majority of church members are extremely supportive of older singles. I don’t think there’s an institutional problem with respect to the treatment of singles and I don’t think there’s a cultural problem either – excepting perhaps a handful of folks from an older generation.”

    Forgive him, he knows not what he says.

    I don’t think “extremely supportive” means what he thinks it means.

    It’s a, huge, silent, go-inactive, give-in-to-temptation, problematic issue without a voice and people are not aware nor supportive, mostly because they aren’t aware at all – AT ALL.

    Tip-o-the-iceberg here. The stories are legion and would knock your socks off. But would consistently get interrupted/drowned out by a story about a teething child, a third trimester, a teens soccer game/pine car derby/football scores etc… Or the ever famous – except-for-a-few-whiners contribution.

    It’s a “Nobody Knows” story waiting to happen.

  164. Thank you very much, I hope it works out for me too!

  165. On the topic of how unusual the Mormon focus on chastity is: I’m in my mid-thirties and live in the midwest, and most of my close friends and family are religious Catholics. I know maybe half a dozen Mormons.

    Of my many under-40, non-Mormon married friends, religious or not, I cannot think of a single one who I think waited until marriage to have sex (the vast majority lived together for several months or years before marriage, so even in those cases where they haven’t actually told me anything, it seems pretty doubtful that they waited). I have heard about friends actually dealing with the no-sex-before marriage issue exactly twice since I was high school:

    1. A married Mormon friend mentioned that he and his wife had waited–a statement that was met with open disbelief on the part of many people present.

    2. A non-religious friend asked me if he would be a jerk if he broke up with his girlfriend because she didn’t want to have premarital sex. She was Mormon.

  166. Anna, it’s only unusual from the standpoint of broader American culture. But I think the argument for chastity has good reasons.

    According to the CDC “there are approximately 19 million new STD infections each year — almost half of them among young people 15 to 24 years of age.”

    But instead of arguing against abstinence, what are the arguments in favor of premarital sex? Maybe we should ask ourselves what is there really to gain from premarital sex?

  167. Oh, I’m not arguing that the Mormon focus on abstinence is bad. I think there’s lots that’s good about it, and I generally admire the Mormons I know for living up to their professed religious beliefs to an extent others I know do not.

    With my comment, I merely intended to point out how difficult it would be for anyone with a commitment to abstinence to operate in the non-Mormon dating world, even if they tried to date other religious people. In the present American culture (which is the culture in which everyone operates, whether it’s good or bad), “what there really [is] to gain from premarital sex” is access to the vast majority of potential dating and marriage partners.

  168. re: 166
    Maybe we should ask ourselves what is there really to gain from premarital sex?

    Maybe hot premarital sex?

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist….)

    This is a fascinating conversation. It reminds me of a book by retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong: “Living in Sin?: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality ” A great read that addresses everything being discussed here. You can see the synopsis here:

    http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Living-in-Sin/John-Shelby-Spong/e/9780060675073

  169. Well that’s an undeniable fact, with LDS members representing less than 2% of the population we are kind of missing out on a lot of potential dates and mates.

  170. In response to the idea that it would be helpful to raise the age limit of YSA wards– that would NOT be helpful!

    I think that one of the main reasons that family ward leadership worry about what to do about the “single problem”, marrieds are insensitive, and single members feel out of place and opt for inactivity is that we are completely segregated from anyone else who is married for church. We are expected to attend singles wards to meet a spouse– which makes singles wards an atmosphere not necessarily of spiritual growth but of desperation and competition (as Elna so aptly described in her book). Those who get married early on have the attitude of victors in this game, like they’ve somehow done something right (sorry, but they do, whether they are aware of it or not). Those who graduate at 31 feel like they have the plague when they get kicked out of their wards and begin to attend family wards where people aren’t used to interacting with single people (especially the poor men over 31 who are considered to have something seriously wrong with them) and thus are condescending. My vote would be to abolish singles wards all together (except maybe for undergrads 18-24 or something) and then just accept people for what they bring to the whole church, irregardless of marital status. Beef up on the “soft” YSA activities that more people would be likely to attend and which are more appropriate for meeting a potential mate.

    I go to a family ward– there is no singles ward in my stake boundaries. I love attending a family ward and am more motivated than ever to get married and have a family because I see good examples of that around me. We have a good number of singles here, and that helps everyone see how we can contribute and learn from each other. It makes me hopeful.

  171. Abolish the singles ward? That icon of Mormonism? Oh the humanity!

    What about a last chance singles ward for 30-35?

  172. In the trenches says:

    #146 Eric: “FWIW, I find the vast majority of church members are extremely supportive of older singles. I don’t think there’s an institutional problem with respect to the treatment of singles and I don’t think there’s a cultural problem either – excepting perhaps a handful of folks from an older generation.”

    No. Just … no. For the most part, I don’t think it is intentional, but most people in the church have absolutely NO idea how to treat a single person. (How about like everyone else, for starters? All of my non-member friends have both married AND single friends … it is SO weird to me that it’s so different within the church.) The insensitivity is mind-boggling, but even worse is being completely invisible. You don’t get invited to “couple” gatherings and you don’t get invited to stuff with kids (when I AM invited to something, I go every single time, even if I’m tired, even if I worked all day, if nothing else so I’m not a hypocrite). I made a goal to show up to church in my home ward every single Sunday of the year, and do you know how many “Wow, haven’t seen you at church much” comments I got? Too many to count. I was there EVERY week, participating in EVERY meeting, all three hours. It would almost be comical if it wasn’t so pathetic.

    (And big YESes to Nos. 163 and 165.)

  173. Struwelpeter says:

    Just for the record, I think we need to get rid of the term “Family Ward” which is exclusionary of singles. On the other hand, I love the term “Ward Family.”

  174. Ditto to comments #163 and #172. There are serious institutional and cultural problems (and I’m speaking as someone who’s been in some pretty supportive wards when it comes to singles).

  175. I’m starting a series of posts over at Zelophehad’s Daughters on being an “older” single in the church. I’ve got one post up, and I’ve got at least four more planned. I’d love for any singles on this thread (there have been a bunch of fantastic comments by y’all) to come over to ZD over the next few weeks and share your experiences. Just click on my name, and it will take you to the blog.

  176. Kevin and other BCC people–sorry for the threadjack. :) Now back to the conversation.

  177. #163,
    I think you people need to just lay off. Stories about pinewood derbies kick arse.

  178. Steve Evans says:

    #163: “It’s a “Nobody Knows” story waiting to happen.”

    Comparison FAIL.

  179. It’s perfectly reasonable for a LDS person with limited LDS dating prospects to start dating outside the LDS pool. Although there are complications with a mixed-religion marriage, it is certainly possible to find marital happiness with someone who may be outside your religious tradition but who still shares your basic values.

    It is also not that freakishly Mormon to abstain from sexual intercourse until marriage. Abstaining from all sexual activity prior to marriage may be a freakishly Mormon thing that places us in the company of only the most rigid and conservative religious groups, but I don’t really know how other religious groups approach the law of chastity, and I don’t know how closely most Mormons adhere to the FTSOY standard of chastity. I do know plenty of non-Mormon people who abstain/ed from sexual intercourse while unmarried (though they did not all necessarily abstain from certain sexual activities that Mormons are expected to abstain from while unmarried). You can find people like that out there. People who respect your faith (the kind of people you would want to marry, unlike those who don’t respect that part of you) are more likely to respect the sexual boundaries that are based on your religious beliefs and be willing to have a relationship with you on those terms.

    But it is hard to meet “quality” people (of any religion) who share your interests and a mutual attraction. Dating really does kind of suck, whether you’re having sex or not.

  180. My “family” ward has a twice-divorced man as a counselor in the bishopric. So maybe we do “get” a thing or two about how to treat older singles (i.e., put them to work).

  181. Re: #170 — Yes, second the motion, you are completely correct. YSA wards spiritually stunt their members. Their social functions could easily be replaced by an active stake SA program, and single members attending normal wards could instead learn that being a Latter-day Saint is about learning to be a servant to all, and not being the hottest item in a meet (meat?) market, as Elna so accurately describes.

    With all due respect to Steve (#154) this is relevant to the thread topic. Getting married to another Latter-day Saint is good and important. But the almost exclusive, hothouse attention to that issue inherent in segregating singles in their own wards contributes to the narrow focus on the issue of celibacy which gives rise to the kind of “either-or’ dilemna posited in the original post. When getting married is the total focus of one’s Church life (as it is so often in a singles ward) one is deprived of possibilities for developing a broader spiritual foundation which can support an active LDS life if one finds oneself older and single in the Church.

    One aspect of this discussion I find intriguing is the contention of many commentators that there is a third option — keeping the LoC in a relationship with a non-member. I agree with the commentators who suggest that pre-marital abstinence is now essentially unknown outside strictly religious circles (and dating someone deeply committed to another religion presents hosts of problems that can outweigh the advantage that they may practice pre-marital abstinence). However, on the outside chance that there are non-LDS who are willing to practice pre-marital abstinence for the love of a Mormon, I wonder if we should not be more instiutionally open to the idea? Many faiths address inter-faith marriages in a non-hostile way. What if a non-LDS fiancee or fiance were welcomed with a series of discussions not of a proselyting nature, but about what it means to practice a Mormon religious life, and encouraged to participate in the ward free of proselyting pressures? Would it change the ground described by Kevin, Elna, and JL if marrying a non-member who respected the LDS partner’s faith committments was held out as a worthy option, if not ideal?

  182. Steve Evans says:

    Jim, I was just joking in my #154, referring to the thread where it’s apparently our doctrine now that women are to be “soft.”

    I love your ideas in your third paragraph, by the way — although my father once starred in a Church video about marriage to non-members (as the villain, no less!).

  183. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 178
    I’m not so sure, Steve. For example, in the long run the story of contemporary gay Mormons who attempt to live the LoC may be viewed as quite similar to the Black LDS experience pre-1978. Ty Mansfield may be more like Darius Gray than you think.

  184. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 182
    You’ve got to get that up on YouTube for us, Steve.

  185. JWL – I absolutely LOVE your suggestions in the third paragraph. Discussions like that would really help me out right now. Most with church leaders end up in a ‘are you REALLY sure you’re not interested in taking the discussions?’ show-down, and that just isn’t going to happen right now. I’m going to see what I can arrange…

  186. Steve Evans says:

    Mike, credible analogies can be made, but I view the experience of Black LDS to be fundamentally different from that of gay members. Your mileage may vary, of course.

  187. Steve Evans says:

    And I’ll gladly get the video up if someone has a VHS converter….

  188. Kevin Barney says:

    Seraphine, no problem, I certainly want to point people to your series and look forward to reading it myself.

  189. Abr. 3: 25
    And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

    John 14: 15
    ¶ If ye love me, keep my ccommandments.

  190. Eric Russell says:

    Well, an anecdote battle isn’t going to get us anywhere. But it seems to me that the words and actions of church members regarding singles are easily misunderstood and misinterpreted, especially if we’re feeling sensitive about our status. I find it best to respond to such members with compassion instead of anger or resentment. I think it’s fair to say their intentions are generally good.

  191. Eric, I don’t think anyone is denying that people’s intentions are good. They totally are, and I have had countless positive interactions with people in my family wards. I think what a lot of the singles on this thread are trying to say (they can correct me if I’m wrong) is that even though people may have the best of intentions, there are both *institutional* and *cultural* problems that make it difficult to be a single member of this church. Some of it is how the church is structured, some of it is how what you hear about at church week after week is discussions of family, some of it is blindness to the struggles that single members face. For me, it’s not about comments that I misinterpret. It’s just that the church is overall not that single-friendly.

  192. #188

    Are you implying that being single and not by choice we are breaking the commandments?

  193. When I was an undergraduate at BYU (2003), I did a paper on LDS interfaith marriages. I could only locate three sociological studies which had been done on the topic: Brent Barlow’s 1972 dissertation (as mentioned by Naismith on this thread), a 1969 master’s thesis by a Jack Harold Peterson, and a 1981 study by Howard M. Bahr. I summarized their findings in my paper.

    Barlow found that LDS women who marry outside the faith are less likely to convert their spouses than LDS men who marry outside the faith by a ratio of 25% v. 48%. No telling how well that statistic holds today.

  194. Eric Russell says:

    Seraphine, I think your concerns are on a different level than that of most of the commenters in this thread, which seem to focus on the specific words and actions of fellow ward members.

    But for the record, I agree that the church isn’t “friendly” towards singles in the sense that it validates singlehood, and I don’t think it should be. Marriage and family is a fundamental purpose of life and if someone is an exception to that, they have to understand that they’re an exception.

  195. #189
    me: “people aren’t aware of it- AT ALL”
    Eric: Well, telling me about it (anecdote sharing) isn’t going to get us anywhere

    My point (smile)

    But let me share that frequently I’ve acted/spoken, or done something that has made someone feel less or invisible. I’m trying to learn from my situation and be able to teach what I know. So clumsy at it. I’m the offender more often than the offended. Prolly even in my response to you. I was attempting humor. Not worth it at your expense. (probably not even that humorous although I chuckled a little bit-not in a mean way)

    You were pointing out the goodness in people and I agree with you on that – wholeheartedly. People have been so very good to me. So often, the Lord has a way of “giving us a heart” with suffering of our own.

    And I’m with you – my skill almost never matches my intention of “goodness”. Hopefully both will rise in the process. For all of us.

    I like it that you see the positive side of folks.

  196. #193
    ETERNAL marriage and ETERNAL family is the fundamental purpose of life and I’m no exception to that.

    not yelling in caps, just emphasizing.

  197. Kevin Barney says:

    Jack no. 192, I fear that your own marriage is going to skew those statistics. because the odds of you converting are somewhere south of slim to none. So that men having more luck converting their wives finding isn’t working in your case!

  198. Something I wonder about too is what callings single members can get in family wards. Like I recall being in bishopric mtg. as a secretary and their was a need for a new primary president and someone qualified was turned down because she wasn’t married. Yet in the other ward the entire primary pres. was either single or divorced, when this fact was pointed out it was chalked up to “well they do things differently”.

  199. #181 JWL – I disagree. I think that YSA wards aren’t spiritually stunting so much as they’re socially stunting. They provide more social opportunities, certainly. But we aren’t forced to learn the skills that would allow us to feel confident when we leave the YSA scene. We’ve been segregated from our married counterparts for 13 years, and so we feel alienated from/by them when we enter the family ward. It’s hard to remember that empty-nesters, divorcees, childless couples, etc. aren’t “the norm” either, and it’s easy to feel like we alone are on the fringe.

    That said, I loved my time in the YSA. I feel that the leadership and teaching callings I had (that I wouldn’t likely have had in my 20s in a family ward) allowed me to grow spiritually in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise, and prepared me for the leadership calling I have in my family ward now.

    I disagree that the dissolution of YSA wards is the answer (I think it would be a shame to cancel the figurative prom because some of the girls aren’t asked), but I do agree that facilitating the transition or carving a larger niche for the 30-something-and-single crowd might help in retention.

  200. Re: research on marriage to non-members, I didn’t read the Barlow paper, but did read his bound dissertation because he got his doctorate at the same university my husband did. I was interested because Barlow had been a high council advisor in our student ward at BYU.

    Anyway, living in the area of his research for a while, and still having friends there, I’ve been able to follow up through the years in a way that Barlow did not capture in his own dissertation. Some of the non-member spouses DID finally join later, one a few months before their 50th anniversary. And particularly of interest is the children who were raised in the church, then served missions and married in the temple and now serve in leadership.

    But isn’t it a shame that there hasn’t been any research done in decades?

  201. Re: 194: “But for the record, I agree that the church isn’t “friendly” towards singles in the sense that it validates singlehood, and I don’t think it should be. Marriage and family is a fundamental purpose of life and if someone is an exception to that, they have to understand that they’re an exception.”

    Eric, your lack of empathy is astonishing to me. Trust me when I say that single members understand that they are an exception. For faithful single members it is a gut wrenching, frequent tear inducing, constant heartache of understanding. Not only do they deal with the loneliness of being single, they accurately see the lack of potential dating partners, and they are literally told that this life experience that they would do anything to change, will also keep them out of the highest level of heaven. What is the most often “comforting” phrase that they hear? “You’ll find someone in the next life.” That’s right–they are told the spiritual equivalent of “this life’s pretty much a wash for you. Then you’ll die.” Then, based not on scripture, but on an oft repeated cliche, they’re told “don’t worry, then you’ll get to marry a dead guy.”

    Eric, trust me when I say that you probably should install an edit button on your mouth. And also concentrate a little more on the “as I have loved you love one another” parts of the gospel.

  202. Steve Evans says:

    Karen, if in LDS doctrine marriage represents the most solemn/holy covenant one can make, should it downplay that fact?

  203. It’s not a zero sum game. You can emphasize the significance of marriage AND make Mormonism and the Church a place where single adults feel less marginalized. If Jesus could figure out how to make outcasts feel central in His kingdom, we should be able to keep D&C 132 from making monogamists singles feel like lepers.

  204. No Steve, but…

    There are ways to acknowledge truisms without being a tool. Saying that being friendly towards singles would “validate singlehood” and to insist that those singles need to be always reminded that they are an “exception” is just cruel, and very un-Christlike.

    We are not talking about a birth defect here- we are talking about a social and religious expectation. And to constantly alienate a single person, when they might want more than anything in life to meet that goal, is just appalling.

    I’ll be single here in a few weeks. My situation is not the same and anyone else’s, but the fact is I will be an unmarried woman in my 30’s. Should I wear a placard around my neck so those who feel I need to “understand I am an exception” are not made uncomfortable by my singlehood? If I told everyone that I am single because my husband is an addict and abdicated his responsibility towards his wife and children, would that make my singlehood okay? It’s a bogus attitude, and it serves no one.

  205. Steve Evans says:

    Brad, agreed in principle, but nobody knows how to get people to marry. That’s the real problem the Church is facing — marriage rates are declining globally, and marriage remains the summit of our ordinances.

  206. Yes. But you’d think that thousands of years would teach us that treating people-who-don’t-X as outcasts is not the most, um, effective way to motivate or enable people to X. It’s not as if the reason why some LDS remain single, despite their best efforts, is that they just don’t quite understand well enough just how important marriage is.

  207. Snave Evans says:

    Exactly right — but…… no. We clearly don’t know how to do it, but for that matter neither do the Catholics, nor any government. Witness the desperate incentives of Northern European nations as an example. Nobody knows how to get people to marry each other.

  208. It is a mystery. But if everyone married out of fear of stigma, that would hardly be a solution either.

  209. And finding ways to increase marriages is pretty far off the topic of how to treat someone who isn’t married. Bottom line: individuals have to value other individuals regardless of race, gender, marriage status, age, appearance, orthodoxy, political views, etc. etc. Is that any less of a central tenant of Christianity than families are? Why are we so bad at it?

  210. Maybe we could temper our obsession with the modern, Western, upper-middle-class family model by reminding ourselves that Jesus was an over-30 single guy who mostly hung out with social pariahs and taught that people who weren’t willing to abandon their families for the kingdom weren’t worthy of it.

  211. Karen, I disagree — I think finding ways to increase marriages is entirely central to the topic of why mormons treat singles the way they do, don’t you?

  212. It might be, Steve. But it’s also an entirely unjustified rationale for why we treat singles the way we do.

  213. Aaron Brown says:

    Yeah, Brad, but that’s the Jesus of our corrupted text. Remove all those evil, conniving scribes from the picture, and you’d see a Jesus that conforms with all our modern Mormon notions of righteousness. Including our dress code even.

  214. Yes, even Adam and Eve conformed to our dress code.

  215. I don’t know single people in their 30’s who are actively avoiding marriage and hiding away and refusing perfectly wonderfully spouses. Sure some of the older singles I know have taken periodic breaks from dating-but that seems rather reasonable-and sometimes life just gets busy. I don’t understand how they would be breaking a commandment anymore than infertile couples would be by not having children. You can’t do what you can’t do. There is agency of other people involved, or biological factors in the case of the couple.

    Yet I’m thinking we dont’ always know what to do with childless couples either .

    Either way I don’t see how friendship = endorcement. How silly. There are single women called in leadership callings-I don’t exactly notice any single men on a called … hmm.

    So is friendshipping my neighbor being neighborly or endorcing everything about their lifestyle? just silly

  216. It would be concerning and insulting to me if my singlehood was interpreted as an ongoing sin of ommission, and one that ought to be punished by stigmatization. Believe me, I know that I’m not able to participate in the highest ordinance on my own. I want it, but it’s simply not something that’s totally in my control. We wouldn’t disapprove of a missionary whose papers are in, but hasn’t yet received the call.

    Withholding validation or accomodation from our single members in order to teach us a lesson is ridiculous and seems a bit like shunning to me.

  217. Those are all good points. It’s not like anyone can just decide to get married next Thursday. There’s the little issue of finding an appropriate and willing partner.

    Women in this regard tend to get a condescending pat on the head, since of course “it’s not their fault” that nobody proposed marriage. Men, on the other hand tend to get blamed not only for their own singleness, but for the singleness of women as well. On one hand, women are encouraged to be choosy, but then it’s men who are blamed when they can’t find someone willing to marry.

  218. Please tell me that no one is seriously arguing that the church should be careful about being too welcoming to singles, because then they might not realize how important marriage is. As Brad (206) said, the reason that singles aren’t married isn’t because they somehow missed the message that marriage is important. LDS singles are well aware that they’re supposed to get married, regardless of how well (or not) they’re treated at church. Really. I promise.

    I can relate to a lot of what Karen H. said in 201. Much of the time, I feel like I’m holding on by my fingernails when it comes to maintaining activity in the church. My ward is fabulous, and yet it still feels just brutal some weeks to go and deal with the implicit message that I’ve failed at the most important thing in life. I have to admit that for me, this is less an incentive to redouble my efforts to get married than an incentive to simply not go to church anymore. I wish I had something more constructive to say, but honestly, I’m at a loss.

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t hold up the ideal of marriage. But I don’t see the church as being in serious danger right now of over-validating singleness, such that we need to use extreme caution when it comes to being single-friendly. And if we’re going to err, I’d rather we err on the side of attempting to be inclusive.

  219. We know how to teach, admonish, celebrate resurrection without shunning those who haven’t been resurrected yet. Why not marriage?

    It’s as if we had a tent city spring up in our neighborhood and we don’t want the property values to drop.

    Why are we collectively afraid that if we acknowledge/learn to meaningfully include ALL those who want to be married (including those who aren’t yet married), that we will somehow loose out on our marriage teachings or understanding of marriage?

    Promise, no harm will come. More people will understand marriage, inclusion, welcoming “strangers”, Zion-like hearts of one mind, without abdicating one iota of gospel principals or eternal understanding. We will all be safer from the worldly views of non-marriage if we stick together rather than if we innocently shun one another inside the Zion baptismly-gated community.
    And will be a light of understanding to the world. What a light we could be. Wow.

    *My use of tent city metaphor quickly falls apart as my condition isn’t less, it’s just different. But it’s a beginner’s metaphor – with training wheels – 3 training wheels.

    And you would probably have to change the Ward Valentine Day dance to a dinner and dance to include the singles, two young widows in our ward etc. RS would have to bring more food Feb 14th (in US anyway).. hmmmm maybe that’s why….

  220. I would be interested in hearing Elder Richard G. Scott’s views on singleness as he is a Single adult and has been for some time now. I don’t know what the single scene is like for an Apostle but it would be interesting!

  221. Eric Russell says:

    Brad, I think it is a zero-sum game. As long as the church maintains that marriage is the ideal, some people are going to feel marginalized. There’s no way around it. Whatever else you say or do to try to be inclusive towards singles, it’s ultimatly going to ring hollow so long as the church maintains its position on marriage.

  222. Eric,
    If you’re suggesting that it’s impossible to maintain an ideal without making some people feel at least some degree of inadequacy for not fully measuring up to it, I think that goes without saying. If you’re saying that the need to retain marriage as an ideal means that it’s impossible for us to make the LDS experience less alienating for singles who wish they were married, well that’s just ludicrous.

  223. Eric Russell,

    Our YW/YM and younger YSA aren’t marginalized because they haven’t been endowed yet. Rather they’re taught to make it a goal and to do it at the appropriate time. No deadlines, no stigma.

    At what age did I cease to be someone who has set a goal to participate in the next available ordinance, and become someone who just has to deal with the fact that because I’m unmarried, the church has no obligation to be friendly to me? Do we start fostering this atmosphere of unfriendliness towards others at 18? 21? 31?

  224. Another Anon says:

    We often have to train our bishopric members in my singles ward. They call the conventional wards “Adult Wards.”

    After some time, they usually turn out alright.

  225. Anecdote to share – Man at pulpit two months ago telling us you couldn’t learn about families until you had your own children here on earth. He’s preaching to his 17 yr old daughter who consistently argues she doesn’t want children. I’m caught in the crossfire. So is the young ward widow who’s husband died recently of cancer before children came. My prayers raced to her over several pews.

    My silent response – I mocked him in my mind – then I repented – then I know to tell him that Abinadi got burned, Alma/Amulek/Mishack & Co spared – Nephi had to kill a man – Abraham is spared the task. Brigham took some temple workers off line to build a rail so that not everyone would have to walk the plains to that temple but could train out.

    The Lord still teaches us what each sparrow needs to learn. He can do it without being confused about eternity for all of us.
    Can you not tell the difference between the 17 yr old who is vocal about not wanting marriage or children to keep her from her imagined music super-star career and me?
    That’d be bad on several levels.
    Wheat and tares don’t look that much alike here for pete’s sake.

    My marriage path is different. May come later, may not come here on earth. Hope it comes next Thurs – I’m actually free that day (in the early afternoon only though) and more than ready… But – The Lord is in this. The hand is not without the foot.

  226. Sarah, you don’t understand. If we stop treating single adults like pariahs, we will LOSE marriage as a central, culminating element of our religion!

  227. Does the bishop of a singles ward have to be married?

  228. Yes, Mike. So do his counselors.

  229. Eric Russell says:

    Brad, unfortunately, I don’t think it does go without saying. But now that you have said it, we’re all good.

  230. Another Anon says:

    #227 Yes. But counselors do not. However, they usually are.

  231. When I was in a singles ward in the early ’80s, both bishopric counselors were single elders in their early 20s. There’s a passage in the Doctrine and Covenants that says elders can serve as counselors to a bishop. I don’t know what the current policy is, but I don’t think it’s an absolute rule that counselors have to be married, even in a “regular” ward. Branch presidents are quite often single.

  232. Eric Russell says:

    Left Field, are you saying that single people aren’t regular? That is offensive.

  233. He’s saying they’re exceptional.

  234. #221 “Brad, I think it is a zero-sum game. As long as the church maintains that marriage is the ideal, some people are going to feel marginalized. There’s no way around it. Whatever else you say or do to try to be inclusive towards singles, it’s ultimatly going to ring hollow so long as the church maintains its position on marriage.”

    Possible translation:
    Some over-sensitive people are always going to exist and going to take offense no matter – on any issue.
    Me too – “o those whiners just wear ya out, don’t they?”

    Granted.

    Dismiss “them” and let’s get to the people on this thread, who are not those people.

    There are things we (me too) can do so that the people on this thread and our kindred souls aren’t stung by our words/deeds.

    Eric may be pointing out that we want to be careful of sounding hollow in our responses to these ever so painfully real, eternal-impacting issues so that people here can hear the message. Can’t be trite or hollow or dismissive but has to be meaty and genuine, engaging, intelligent and sensitive. And should probably include a mention of pinewood car derbies #177 for interest. Big order to fill! Can we do it?

    Yes we can.
    *I have this phrase next to my food storage can stack. Cracks me up every time.

    #224 Yup – I’ve often had to “manage up” in terms of stake councils and singles etc. When you can get their attention, it turns out well. Great bunch if otherwise unaware.

  235. Eric Russell says:

    You mean, as in, exception-al?

  236. Anon in #138 says: “Pres. Kimball “any two righteous LDS members can get together and make it work” as if we are two robots, Mormon Female Robot A can get married to Mormon Male Robot B or C or D or E and it will work because thats just one person’s opinion-I Love Pres. Kimball but I think its just his opinion! People are more complex then that!”

    Actually, original context for Kimball’s quote was to already married people as a way fo explaining that they don’t need to get divorced and can work it out.

    This has to be one of the most abused out of context quotes in the Church. It’s worse than the one about teaching correct principles and letting people govern themselves.

  237. #236
    Thank you! Its my Bishop’s favourite quotation and I have heard variations on it too! Its like what do they expect from me, haphazardly marry someone just to get married and be done with it?

  238. Anonrightnow says:

    Re 236, if the original context of that talk was to already married people, why was that talk first delivered at a BYU devotional to the mostly-single student body in 1976?

  239. #238
    Because he knows that in about 6 weeks, most of those people will be married and he won’t be back before then. Duh…

  240. Anonrightnow says:

    ‘Soul mates’ are fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price.”

  241. Anonrightnow says:

    I am convinced that the authoritarian, heavy-handed opinions of prophets in the past have contributed t unhappiness and discontent among older singles/divorce(e)s of our generation.
    As a teen and young adult under Kimball, I heard and read statements like this (also from the infamous Marriage and Divorce speech):

    “Honorable, happy, and successful marriage is surely the principal goal of every normal person. One who would purposely or neglectfully avoid its serious implications is not only not normal but is frustrating his own program.”

    As a 21 year old unmarried BYU alumna in Provo, I was constantly wondering how “normal” I was not to desire marriage at such a young age. After all, President Kimball had stated that I was abnormal.

    “Every divorce is the result of selfishness on the part of one or the other or both parties to a marriage contract. Someone is thinking of self-comforts, conveniences, freedoms, luxuries, or ease. Sometimes the ceaseless pinpricking of an unhappy, discontented, and selfish spouse can finally add up to serious physical violence. Sometimes people are goaded to the point where they erringly feel justified in doing the things which are so wrong.”

    For a long time (actually, until I left the church) I secretly looked down on anyone who had been divorced, thinking they were selfish and not worthy of my attention as a prospective marriage partner.

  242. Here is the actual quote in context.

    Also, note the continued emphasis on not just marrying anyone. I had forgotten that part.

    The main point of the quote is how to make a marriage successful to avoid divorce. It had nothing at all to do about selection of a mate in context.

    Context:
    A Union of Minds and Hearts
    In selecting a companion for life and for eternity, certainly the most careful planning and thinking and praying and fasting should be done to be sure that of all the decisions, this one must not be wrong

    Understanding Hearts
    Two people coming from different backgrounds learn soon after the ceremony is performed that stark reality must be faced. There is no longer a life of fantasy or of make-believe; we must come out of the clouds and put our feet firmly on the earth. Responsibility must be assumed and new duties must be accepted. Some personal freedoms must be relinquished, and many adjustments, unselfish adjustments, must be made.

    The actual quote now —

    Understanding Hearts
    [Note that we are now talking about making a relationship work after marriage now]. Two people coming from different backgrounds learn soon after the ceremony is performed that stark reality must be faced. There is no longer a life of fantasy or of make-believe; we must come out of the clouds and put our feet firmly on the earth. Responsibility must be assumed and new duties must be accepted. Some personal freedoms must be relinquished, and many adjustments, unselfish adjustments, must be made.

    One comes to realize very soon after marriage that the spouse has weaknesses not previously revealed or discovered.

    Actual Full Quote in Context —
    A Never-Failing Formula
    [Note the context of post-wedding] While marriage is difficult, and discordant and frustrated marriages are common, yet real, lasting happiness is possible, and marriage can be more an exultant ecstasy than the human mind can conceive. This is within the reach of every couple, every person. “Soul mates” are fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price.

    [He now explains the price.] There is a never-failing formula which will guarantee to every couple a happy and eternal marriage; but like all formulas, the principal ingredients must not be left out, reduced, or limited. The selection before courting and then the continued courting after the marriage process are equally important, but not more important than the marriage itself, the success of which depends upon the two individuals—not upon one, but upon two.

    The formula is simple; the ingredients are few, though there are many amplifications of each.

    First, there must be the proper approach toward marriage, which contemplates the selection of a spouse who reaches as nearly as possible the pinnacle of perfection in all the matters which are of importance to the individuals. And then those two parties must come to the altar in the temple realizing that they must work hard toward this successful joint living.

    Second, there must be a great unselfishness, forgetting self and directing all of the family life and all pertaining thereunto to the good of the family, subjugating self.

    Third, there must be continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration to keep love alive and growing.

    Fourth, there must be a complete living of the commandments of the Lord as defined in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    With these ingredients properly mixed and continually kept functioning, it is quite impossible for unhappiness to come, misunderstandings to continue, or breaks to occur. Divorce attorneys would need to transfer to other fields and divorce courts would be padlocked.

  243. Thats the thing though your deemed selfish for not getting married or waiting to get married until after you’ve got your education, job and then if it doesn’t work out then your selfish for it not working out.

  244. #243

    Anon, I hear ya on this, but I want you to think of a moment. Is there a better way to put this and keep the marriage ideal? I don’t think there is.

    Also, if this really bothers you, Kimball’s quote is actually on your side in context. After all, if you have a marriage fail, it says here it was due to selfishness, not necessarily your selfishness.

    Note how he states: “the success of which depends upon the two individuals—not upon one, but upon two”

    The whole pont here is that both must be unselfish for the marriage to work out. If one of the two is selfish, the marriage will (according to this quote) not be successful.

    So this talk does not say that if your marriage doesn’t work out it’s because you were selfish.

  245. Another Anonymous Chick says:

    Lynette (#218) – Amen, amen, AMEN.

    Being single is, to me, the natural state of being. Most adults are single at some point (spouses die, people divorce, marry “later”, etc. etc.). So to treat it as if it is a disease, inadequacy, or failing is just so silly. It’s part of life. We all know marriage is important, and why in the world would we exclude someone based on whether they have entered into that covenant?

    I agree with Lynette that it is like hanging on by your fingertips sometimes. Individual people are great, but the group vibe is that there is something wrong with you if you are not married – you have indeed failed at the most important thing in life. And what self-respecting person would continually participate in an activity that leaves them constantly feeling like a failure? I wish I had answers… and I wish we could stop treating single people as a problem.

  246. 244 was worded badly. This is what I was trying to say in the first line. (Please don’t be offended by the bad previous wording)

    Anon, I hear ya on this, but I want you to think of this thought for a moment: “Is there a better way to put this and keep ‘marriage’ as the ideal? I don’t think there is.”

    But your mileage my vary. Still, I’d have to agree with any idea that if your marriage failed it logically means you were selfish. This isn’t stated by Spencer W. Kimball (and he actually denies that) and any one that says such a thing would be wrong, even if they are a general authority — not that I know of any GAs that have ever said such a thing.

  247. Ack!

    Typo again!!!

    “Still, I’d have to agree with any idea that if your marriage failed it logically means you were selfish.”

    supposed to say:

    “Still, I’d have to DISagree with any idea that if your marriage failed it logically means you were selfish.”

  248. Anon and on says:

    The biggest reason why singlehood is looked down on is because in LDS doctrine marriage is tied to eternal exaltation. Doctrines like that diffuse out and influence church culture.

    So it’s like if you’re an older single in the church people judge your lifestyle as somehow choosing to go against God’s will.

  249. #242 – So…. basically, you can have a happy, successful, eternal marriage, if you and your spouse are both perfect. Of course it’s a “never-failing” formula… It’s never failed because no one’s ever been able to follow it.

  250. Mytha, I didn’t read it that way at all.

  251. If the point is to emphasize our values by going out of our way to exclude those who don’t “measure up” for whatever reason, why limit that exclusion to singles? I move that from now on all adults in the Church who are unendowed, single, divorced, have an inactive spouse, lack a current full-privileges temple recommend, drink caffeine, have seen an R-rated movie in the last year or wonder whether the priesthood-temple ban was inspired be asked to sit in the pews to the left of the speaker, behind a curtain. When especially holy topics come up the unworthies can be politely invited to adjourn elsewhere so their contaminating presence doesn’t inhibit the spirit. /snark off/

  252. Sorry. I have SWK issues.

  253. First I’d like to recommend this: “Adult Virginity and Other Things”

    http://lydaclunas.livejournal.com/176383.html?format=light

    It’s a woman writing about reasons for choosing virginity (beyond just religious), and how society in general has stigmatized this choice. She’s not Mormon, by the way.

    Second: re #43 (statement that chastity seems a lot less noble at 35 than at age 25). I’m bothered by the whole idea of “nobility” in this context. Being noble isn’t my goal. Hopefully it can be a nice side-effect of obedience.

  254. Pedro A. Olavarria says:

    #192
    No. KB asks:”Is it celibacy in all events come hell or high water?” The answer is: YES. We are here on earth to learn, grow and be tested. Obedience to all the laws and ordinances of the gospel is the name of the game. That is how we prove to the Savior that we love Him.

  255. #254

    Thats for salvation. Being unified with the Saviour and thereby being unified with God is the atonement.

    “Jesus Christ came to accomplish the at-one-ment, not the great alone-ment. He came to overcome our separation from God and from one another. He seeks to bring us to his father, to himself and to each other, at one, through the gift and power of His Atone-ment. Even though we do need some space for ourselves, something deep inside of us instinctively responds to this gospel of belonging, drawing us to certain people and to God”

    Elder Bruce C. Hafen and Marie K. Hafen

    I think having a healthy view of sexuality is one way to be unified with yourself and to another person. For example you love yourself as it says in Matthew and you want to meet someone to share love with, emotionally and physically. This isn’t really something you get at Church although you should!

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