The Value of Shame in Mormonism

First of all, go and read a short article at the New York Times. You can find it here.

All done? Good. Here is my question:

Whom should this article shame?

The answer, I think, depends on the audience. It seems to me that she has two distinct audiences: Non-Mormon New York Times readers and Mormon readers (who aren’t necessarily New York Times readers, but who generally read anything having to do with Mormons).

For the Non-Mormon readers, her purpose appears to be anthropological. She is trying to project an experience regarding what it means to be an older, Mormon, single woman. I doubt that her experience should be universalized, although I’m sure that there are some universal aspects. From conversations with friends, I know that her conversation with the male providerer and that her experience with the gynecologist at Planned Parenthood were familiar. Of course, I don’t think that either of those experiences are unique to Mormonism; instead, I think that they are symptomatic of the concerns of religious American conservative culture. In any case, this is her single Mormon story. I was struck, in particular, by her self-description of her virgin self as an overgrown baby.

The image she projects to the non-Mormon audience is that of an innocent. Her attempts at self-corruption (seeing an R-rated movie and going to a sex-toy store) would likely strike a non-Mormon as childish, not in a selfish way, but rather as if this is what a child might do to emulate a poorly understood adult. Those may be things that adults do, but they don’t convey adulthood. Sexually speaking, Sister Hardy seems to be in the throes of adolescence, struggling to define herself. Even the initial setting, a first visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic, is probably more associated with the teen years, than with a woman aged 35. Mormonism makes (single?) women children in this viewpoint.

For that matter, I kind of think it is accurate to say that the church treats members who aren’t (legitimately) sexually active as children and this is particularly the case with women. Certainly, women have limited access to authoritative positions within the church. My impression is that single women are even further cut off. I would guess that the majority of Primary, Relief Society, and Young Womens presidents are married women. I know that Sis. Thompson, in the General Relief Society Presidency, is single and I believe that the church is looking to be more inclusive. But every talk that emphasizes the centrality of the family to our message equally emphasizes that the place for singles is somewhere else (not another church, but on the fringe of our ecclesiastical society).

The important thing here is that Sister Hardy’s status as an innocent means that shame is alien. If an innocent is caught in an R-rated movie or with a sex-toy, that’s not shameful (at least not for the innocent). Perhaps adult acquaintances should behave more responsibly, but the innocent, by definition, are incorruptible. Sister Hardy, as her non-Mormon boyfriends will tell you apparently, has the advantage of difference, but it isn’t the sort that gets you ahead in this life.

The message for Mormons, though, is different. Here is a woman talking frankly about wanting to have sex. She identifies intimacy as her ultimate goal, but she sees sex as a means to accomplishing intimacy and she sees it, however rightly or wrongly, as the obstacle that has kept her alone all this time. So, she’s getting birth control at age 35.

Further, she is attending R-rated movies and going into sex shops. I think that I can say that many Mormons would consider such behaviors shameful. Certainly, the contradictory emotions that her vaginal exam brings up include an expectation of shame and surprise at its lack. That she should expect shame at a routine medical exam, but that the male providerer feels no shame in dismissing her, is at the heart of a critique of Mormonism for Sister Hardy.

I think that she is expecting the Mormons in her life to be horrified. It would be simple to dismiss this woman as a crank, someone who can’t or won’t endure to the end. Certainly, the essay, though ostensibly intended to explain herself to non-Mormons, is designed to shock Mormons. She is choosing to be sexually intimate because that is necessary, she believes, for her to be a grown up. As I said above, I think, in the context of the church, she may be right. However, notice how she is coy with the circumstances of her trip to Planned Parenthood. Why is she getting birth control? Is she, for instance, going to get married? Did she wait until marriage as her Mormon upbringing suggested? Or not? It is impossible to tell.

I think that the Mormon reaction to this article hinges on how we interpret her circumstances. If she is getting married, I think that we don’t care about the visit (even if she isn’t getting married in the temple). If she is not planning on getting married, I think that Mormons read this article as a deliberate rejection of the church and its teachings. Certainly there is a lot of criticism here, but she also endeavors to tell what the church did for her parents. She tells how it enabled them to create an intimate relationship. She’s not blind to the benefits of membership; she doesn’t seem to be sure if it is benefiting her.

So, should Mormons be ashamed as a result of this article, or should the author? I think it is evident where her intentions lie, but I don’t think that the answer is clear.

Comments

  1. Eric Russell says:

    I kept waiting for a post, but it had been so long – in blog years – that I figured nothing was coming.

    As for the article: it’s complete garbage. I don’t care if she’s getting married or not. (She’s not.)

  2. Eric that’s a pretty strong reaction. Could you explain why you think it’s garbage?

  3. Eric Russell says:

    Veruca Salt learned how to write.

  4. I never comment on here but I guess now’s as good a time as any.

    I know many older single Mormons, and I know the thought of just giving up on the search for an LDS mate has crossed their minds (and yes they’ve told me) more than once. This woman is sharing a personal experience. Whether she shared it in the most productive way is up for debate I suppose, but her feelings are by no means rare and are shared by many single mormon adults…

    People are human. It’s a lonely world out there and it is normal and natural to want to have and share intimacy with those whom you love and/or are attracted to. To call the expectation of decades-long celibacy for our unmarried members “a struggle” or “a challenge” is really quite the understatement if you ask me.

    I’ve heard church members deride the Catholics for expecting lifelong celibacy from their priests, when they expect the same from their unmarried members (heterosexual and homosexual alike). I admire anyone who can actually live up to those standards but am not surprised nor dismayed in the least that someone couldn’t or wouldn’t. Unfortunately, doctrine in printed in black and white but life in the real world is all about shades of gray.

  5. Wow, Eric. Just wow. And that’s coming from someone who was pretty irritated by the article.

  6. Oh, and to answer the question in the original post, I don’t know that either the author OR the average Mormon should be ashamed. Maybe just a little bit more understanding (the Mormons, that is).

  7. Single Mormon Man says:

    I’m mildly offended by her depiction of Mormon men. Does she imagine that being an unemployable 35-year-old would make her more attractive to us? That we only want to provide and don’t want love, intimacy, and partnership?

    That said, I identify with her description of growing apart from the community. The Church doesn’t have any satisfying answers for someone in her situation. I can’t blame her for wanting a fulfilling romantic relationship, or deciding to have sex to further that desire. I just don’t think visiting a sex toy shop was a necessary step along that path.

  8. Back Row Elder says:

    John, your point of her witholding whether she is preparing to marry or not is a good one that I did not appreciate on first read. It’s an important one as you say. Her FB page does not indicate one way or another whether she is in a relationship. And her personal blog makes no reference to a relationship either. But all three make repeated reference to being single, and continuing to being a single Mormon woman. So that’s the relationship status that she is presenting to consuming readers. I didn’t think her essay was suggesting that she was preparing to marry, and the following is based on that assumption (which I realize is a risk).

    To me, the essay suggests that she has arrived at a place, after some transition, where the overriding virtue is fulfillment of the sexual experience. Like all of us, she wonders and imagines what that is and should be like prior to when it occurs. And what makes its fulfillment a virtue–regardless of marital status–is that is how she “naturally feels.” So she’s going for it.

    My question, then, is would she be OK if, say in 10 years, she is in a relationship and her dude says to her one day: “Hey honey, can we talk. I have recently felt a desire to be with other women. Its what I feel and it feels natural to want to do that. I’m curious and I’ve been thinking about them a lot. And remember that essay you wrote years ago? Yeah. So, can you empathize and understand how I feel? I know I committed to only you when we [got married/moved in together, etc.], but I’ve just come in to a place where that’s how I feel now. I’ll be responsible and discrete about it, and I am not interested in any long term relationship with anyone other than you. Are you OK with that?”

    Or, just reverse her and him, with her wanting to be with other men. Would she get a NYT column for acting on her new-found feelings?

    A big “F YOU” to her for characterizing single LDS men so negatively the way she does (porn viewing virgins or whatever), simply because they are struggling through the same thing she is struggling with.

  9. Your phrase “self-corruption” captures it. She reminds me of those child actors who tire of starring in Disney movies or “Little House”-type series and go off the deep end to prove they are no longer children, but only end up proving they are not yet adults.

    I find her story not so much shameful as pitiful. She has been living a celibate life without finding the genuine rewards of chastity. Now, apparently, she will be living a sexually active life without finding genuine intimacy, judging by her misunderstanding of what mature sexuality and real intimacy are (that is, judging by both her previous childish self-corrupting activities and by her failure to establish even an elementary level of emotional intimacy with her boyfriends that would make sex anything more than physical exercise).

    Pity at this point, rather than shame.

  10. I will admit – I loved Ms. Hardy’s article largely because her experience so closely mirrored mine. In my late 20s, with my prospects for temple marriage or even casual dating dwindling, I began to seriously consider where singleness, loneliness and celibacy fit into God’s plan for me. Eventually I decided that no matter what, these weren’t part of my plan for me.

    What is remarkable to me now is that despite three decades of Mormonism and the constant refrain that I must remain abstinent until married, I have never felt shame in sex. I was emotionally ready, I was on birth control and had a kind and generous boyfriend. In fact, not only do I not feel shame – every time I read LDS chastity rhetoric I thank my lucky stars that I dodged that bullet and did so in time to experience one of life’s great pleasures while I’m still in my prime.

    If anything, it’s the church that should be ashamed, for propagating such a silly and harmful idea as the law of chastity. Kudos to Ms. Hardy for having the courage and good sense to do what she did, and for sharing her story so eloquently.

  11. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 10
    I feel exactly the same way, Anon. Every time I read these accounts, I cringe and feel thankful that I got out when I did. There is much suffering and loneliness awaiting those members who don’t fit the Mormon mold. It’s reminiscent of the Japanese proverb: “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”

    Pity is in the eye of the beholder, it seems. I suspect Ms. Hardy will be just fine. So yes, Mormons should be ashamed of how their culture treats its older-and-unmarried members, its gay members, and all the other odd ducks who don’t fit the mold.

  12. What a bunch of mean spirited closed minded drivel… I’m talking about the majority of the blogs, not the article. The author is speaking of HER experience and nothing more, I don’t see a condemnation of the church or of Mormons. She finally understood she has an opportunity to live for herself and not out of fear of the judgments of others.
    #10 Anon- I applaud your honesty and while it took me a long time to realize it, I eventually overcame the guilt and shame I felt about sex whether within marriage or without. I’m always curious if the law of chastity so important, why is it spoken of so little in the scriptures (except when speaking of adultery.) It’s just sex, and sex toys are just sex toys, walking into a sex store doesn’t make you a ‘bad’ person (I think it’s much worse to go to the Relief Society sponsored gossip rings, I mean book clubs.)
    #8 The overriding virtue is not about Sex it’s about deciding for herself what is right for her own life. Also, your question is horribly stupid. If you look at porn today does that mean in 10 years you’re going to one day decide to commit adultery? Your question makes no sense. I think she does a pretty good job of describing single Mormon men, although I doubt that very many of them have addictions, it’s more of a shame issue.

    Also she is right about the church viewing you as a child until you get married. Unfortunately, if you get divorced early the child label goes right back on. It’s unfortunate the church feels it is necessary to separate the ‘singles’ from the adults, we really have some 2nd class citizens in our Mormon culture and they really are not represented by anyone in the church. Don’t tell me an 80 year old man that has been married for 60 years understands what a late 20 something or early 30 something single or divorced is going through. So the church just puts them in their own wards and let them have pretend callings and most of the singles are too dumb to realize they are 2nd class citizens until they get married or they realize it and accept it as the way life is. Fortunately for her she decided to live her own life.

  13. I’m glad someone finally posted about this article, as I’ve had ideas about it bouncing around in my head for the last week or so. And I’m glad that you, John C. took such a thought-provoking approach to the issues at hand rather than giving into the desire for shock and awe or immediate moral judgement.

    I was drawn to the article for many reasons: literarily speaking, it was a mature piece of prose that wove narrative and imagery in a captivating way. But more importantly, I read it as designing to be a “disruptive” reading in the sense that it challenged the two targeted audiences you mentioned in the OP. Non-Mormons saw a more dynamic depiction of an intelligent yet frustrated believer who demonstrates her knowledge of commitment to the church, yet still is seeking to make her own choices and decisions. And Mormons, as you note, case see remarkable resemblance of themselves in her narrative as she perceivably knows what is expected but is stifled by the juxtaposition of ideal and reality. And as you astutely point out, an unknowable fact (whether she is getting married or not) is the only thing that, after all this character development, will sway Mormon readers to either agreement or condemnation, implying that we should reflect on outright boundaries. I think that her prose and metaphors by themselves draw sympathy from each side. So, I would have to say that the article is not so much to invoke shame–though that is an important part–but to cause reflection.

    That said, after my reflection, I likely come down somewhere closer to Ardis in #9 than what the author probably wants. But it was a disruptive thought process to get there.

  14. I think the church needs to do more. The First Presidency placing single women in church leadership roles is an important step. Unfortunately, I know of very few wards where the ward actively includes single, childless 30-somethings.

    I have several LDS friends who are still single and in their early 30’s. Those who attend regular family wards state that the family wards don’t know what to do with them. The church itself, and certainly the church culture, has failed at holding on to them. While younger singles, older singles, and married families have ample opportunities within the church to socialize with people who are in their same position, those in their 30’s generally don’t. A few areas have midsingles wards, activities, or midsingles magnet wards, but the vast majority do not. A single church member in their 30’s cannot attend YSA activities, and feels very out of place at (older) single adult activities (dominated by the 45-and-older crowd) and in the average ward (where no one else is 30-something and single). I think the midsingles programs are great, and I think the church needs to expand them to other areas so more members have access to them.

  15. It’s easy to criticize someone for not remaining chaste, but I think it enormously stupid for those who got married in their early and mid 20’s (or earlier) to criticize those who remained chaste into their 30’s and then give up. You have no understanding of how difficult it is to remain chaste and to remain alone for that long. We should have more compassion for those in that position, and more compassion for those that finally, after decades of being chaste and alone, finally give in to temptation.

  16. Honestly, I’ve been reading the piece as an exit story. That’s what getting birth control and planning to have sex as an older single woman is, right?

    I’m not sure that it should be an exit story, but I’m fairly sure that the calculations necessary to make that decision result in this being an exit story right now.

  17. Celibate in the City’s blog is up and alive and public again – I remember it being a private inaccessible blog for awhile.

    CitC had a 7/22/2009 post titled “My Little Corner of the World” in which she wrote some pretty profound things, I think:

    “I do need to say that I am still fully committed to living the gospel and the law of chastity. I do not resent it anymore. I do not feel like it has caused me any suffering. Quite the opposite. I see how much suffering it prevented. It’s an instant jerk-not-worth-your-time-man revealer. Tell the man you won’t sleep with him and see what happens. His character shines through, like a light or a stain. When he runs, thank the Lord you escaped a hideous relationship with that one. Really. How many bad relationships go on and on because the two are entangled in a physical affair? Masking the problems in their relationships with sex. How many people married the wrong person because they were so enamored with the sex, only to pay the price later? Not me. Thank you Jesus. I’m lonely and bruised, but…. so much better than I would have been. It has blessed me. I can’t speak for others. I see now how fragile I was. How devastating sexual affairs with abusive men would have been. The non-sexual ones were bad enough. My injured soul attracted vultures. That couldn’t have been otherwise. What I was spared certainly could have been.”

  18. living in zion says:

    I read this an exit story, too. I understand her reasons for leaving. I get it that she is giving up on her dream of happily-mormon-after. I agree with Ardis (#9).
    In my ward, our RS pres. is a late 30’s single woman. She has also been primary pres. The YW pres. has also been a single woman in the recent past. The funny thing is the RS Pres. has remarked that since she is single without children, everyone assumes she all the time in the world to do everything. She would love to be ignored for a while.

  19. Placing single women in leadership positions is a nice first step, but as long as they still feel obliged to give talks with titles like “Are We Not All Mothers?” it’s pretty clear that we have some distance to go towards doctrinal and cultural inclusion.

  20. It was a good article. I read it much as an exit story as well, and several of the comments here confirm that rejecting celibacy and accepting the the “repressive Church” trope go hand in hand.

  21. I cannot thank God enough for finding a wonderful, beautiful wife. I hated being single in the church.

  22. I had a similar reaction that Ardis had. I felt a great deal of pity for her. She comes across as really immature. The facts are that many LDS people will never marry. Even though we have really high marriage rates. This is not a new occurance. A look back in my family genealogy reveals many single sisters in the extended family. My wife in fact had 4 single for life great aunts. None of them however wrote an article about getting ready to have unmarried sex with casual boyfriends and had it published in a major newspaper. Some of them according to family lore did have brief flings with non-member boyfriends.

    So I guess I am wondering what the point of the article is?

  23. We don’t know the circumstances of her decision to get birth control or of her deflowering. Let’s not speculate, okay?

  24. John C.,

    #23,

    She indicated in her piece that she had sex after she was 36, and her visit to Planned Parenthood happened at 35

    But what did I know? I was a 35-year-old virgin, preparing for my own “first time,” which, incidentally, didn’t happen until I was well into 36.

  25. That doesn’t convey any circumstance but age.

  26. “I read it much as an exit story as well, and several of the comments here confirm that rejecting celibacy and accepting the the “repressive Church” trope go hand in hand.”

    Perhaps–but I think John’s OP does a good job of asking the interesting questions. It’s too easy to say “the Church isn’t repressive, and anyone who thinks so will apostasize (and good riddance)” [I know I'm distorting your intent, Ben--finding the extreme form of your nuanced statement]. If it’s not unusual for people to feel so marginalized that they want to leave, and for them to point back to their experience of the Church’s instruction around sexuality as a source of pain, then it seems to me that we ought to at least seriously consider some of these questions before concluding that all is well in Zion and castigating those who leave for their personal failure. Surely we all have plenty of personal failures, and it’s partly a matter of luck if they’re the kind that don’t make it so hard to stay in the community.

  27. I do not judge Sister Hardy, and I’m not sure she is trying to shame anyone.

    But for me the issue is fairly straightforward–the law of chastity is a commandment, or it isn’t. It applies to everyone, no matter age or experience, or it doesn’t. We all make decisions about whether to obey commandments; and we are all pretty good about rationalizing why we sometimes should not have to.

    This is a separate issue, I think, from how the Church treats and incorporates its single members (which, I argue, has nothing to do with whether such members have or have ever had sex; there are lots of married members that don’t have much sex…).

  28. Yeah, I was also confused how this became a discussion of how singles are treated in Church culture — the article seems more a straightforward examination of the law of chastity and whether the author feels it makes sense for someone who is single.

    A theme picked up in John C.’s post is how the law of chastity can be seen as infantilizing us. But everything in the Gospel does that, actually. Think about the Word of Wisdom — the result is that adults who follow the Word of Wisdom only drink what the rest of the world considers children’s beverages: juices, coke and other soda pop, hot chocolate. Those are all kids’ drinks in the eyes of the rest of the world. I feel like a kid every time I order a hot chocolate in a coffee shop, and it might be in my imagination but I often seem to sense the server raising an eyebrow, suggesting “how strange, I’ve never seen a man in a business suit order a hot chocolate before”.

  29. John,

    It just conveys that her Planned Parenthood visit may have been over possible birth control, but she indicates that it didn’t happen, and only happened over a year later.

  30. Eric Russell says:

    What questions should we be seriously considering, Kristine?

  31. I don’t think that the law of chastity infantilizes us. I think that the centrality of the family to our message makes people who aren’t married seem infantile within the church.

  32. John C., sure it would ordinarily be inappropriate to speculate about someone’s sexual activities. If she hadn’t written a personal essay about it in the New York Times.

  33. 7: ” The Church doesn’t have any satisfying answers for someone in her situation.”

    ?!?!?!
    This is the same church were people trekked across the plains, lost fingers and toes, loved ones, lost their lives, be they single, married, divorced, widowed, or children. They did these things and saints all over the world endured this and worse precisely because a firm testimony in the gospel of Jesus Chris -has- answers that can enable us to weather the stormy seas of life. Married or Not.

    Focus on developing, maintaining, and growing a living testimony that is based on experiencing the gospel and no matter what life circumstances you find your self in (gay, straight, divorced, widowed, childless, tragedy, single, married) and you can have strength to not only endure, but do so with peace of mind and a clear conscience without offense toward man or God.

  34. I suspect that people’s visceral reaction and sympathy for or condemnation of the author is highly dependent on their own path through Mormonism. I’ve noticed in my interactions with (mostly local) leaders that those who come down hardest on these issues and most infantilize late 20s and 30s single members tend to be those who married in their early 20s right after missions, and thus never experienced a significant period of adult celibacy. I know that my own non-traditional journey (married at 28, divorced shortly thereafter, remarried a few years later) has greatly changed my thinking on these issues over the years. Also, being in a good marriage now has really removed what was a huge source of stress and frustration regarding sexuality during singlehood and my first marriage. I think it’s hard for those happily in the traditional mold to understand what these situations are like unless they have experienced them themselves.

  35. It’s hard to say much, yet I find a way ;). I was married young…well 23..which I consider young, but in Utah, not so much.

    Like #33 I have this sense that hard things are required of everyone…impossible things. The scriptures are full of God asking people to do very hard or impossible things. Abrahamic tests.

    Instead of saying certain laws infantilize us…perhaps we could say they humble us. I wasn’t asked to keep the law of chastity the way she was, but having 9 children isn’t a walk through the park. Some people see me as childish..not making more mature decisions to use more birth control and better contribute to society. 8 times post partum depression, 8 times pregnant…okay 20 the twins count for atleast 12. Sure I get to have sex and that’s great…but keeping the law of chastity isn’t a breeze for me.

    Now it is different because this is supposedly close to some sort of ideal we teach… in a way that helps me…because I can find leaders somewhat like me, and quotes about my life…That is great. I have those great quotes about washing windows and ironing. But we both..her and I, can read the scriptures about people doing impossible things.

    The law of chastity isn’t just have sex or don’t.

    The great thing I have is someone who loves me and has loved me for 16 years (okay 18 if you count the 3 years previous in which he loved me and I waffled). That intimacy and love and support—that’s what is lost outside of marriage–whether you get the joy of sex or not. A trip to planned parenthood doesn’t teach you how to forgive, communicate, love, try again, extend yourself when you’d rather not, repent again…life can teach you that. It is nicer to learn it in the realm of marriage…

  36. 16+3=19 sleepdeprived math brain.

  37. pdmallamo says:

    The only real perversion is celibacy, that wise old homosexual Oscar Wilde once famously said. Our pioneer forebears would certainly be astonished by our obsession with consensual adult sexuality. There are certainly more pressing issues in the body of the Saints, including child sexual abuse and incest. Any culture that sets up family & father as totem will have more than its share of these. #27, #33 – those comments might be more appropriate to an inflexible Catholic context. I am certainly not defending pre- or extra-marital sex as viable options, but please. Hardy confessed and she provoked (attacked), which would seem to be a response born of intense frustration. Obviously there’s a problem out there. The church is losing single women. Doesn’t anybody care?

  38. Another “I’m a single Mormon woman who is conflicted because I am not married at 35″ article. How many hundreds of these articles, blogs, etc. etc. etc. have been inflicted on us over the past decade? I am beginning to think that the problem is us, the audience, for consuming this self-indulgent navel-gazing. Having gotten to know more one more of the “over 35 and single” members of our fine organization, I have come to the conclusion that most are single because they want to be single. They don’t want the trouble, responsibility and “boredom” of marriage. They all talk about sex incessently, as if it is the be all and end all of existence. They are conflicted. They want sex, but they don’t want marriage. The conscience prevents them from getting what they really want–a good screw. So they blather on and on about their conflicted state. I say so what. If you want to mess around and not get married, you have my blessing. Just don’t burden me with it. And this is the last time I will ever read nonsense like this again.

  39. We can only hope that this will also be the last time you write nonsense like that. Again.

  40. Mark,

    Thank you again, and again, and again. Very insightful and well thought out. Thanks again.

  41. Focus on developing, maintaining, and growing a living testimony that is based on experiencing the gospel and no matter what life circumstances you find your self in (gay, straight, divorced, widowed, childless, tragedy, single, married) and you can have strength to not only endure, but do so with peace of mind and a clear conscience without offense toward man or God.

    That’s a nice sentiment, but how can you fully “experience” the gospel when you are constantly an outsider? And when you add to that the lonliness that often comes from being single, and the hopelessness that comes from trying to date within the church and constantly being shot down, I think I can see how someone might make a similar decision.

  42. Whoareally says:

    Britt k, could you explain how the law of chastity is difficult for a married mother of 9 to keep? Do you see how a statement like that might be considered patronizing and insincere to a never-married 40 year old virgin hanging on just because the church tells her so?

  43. I have a lovely single niece who is still young (28) and a slightly older cousin (34). It is not their choice. They are not avoiding it. They are not avoiding responsibility. Neither of them look like barbie though. One is physically disabled, which is a whole nother ball of wax.

  44. Anon (from #10) says:

    17 – thanks for pointing out the CitC is accessible again. I’ve always liked her writing and her life experiences. The paragraph quoted makes some really good points – the law of chastity can and does protect us from harmful and unhealthy relationships. However, it does so in the same way that abstaining from eating food will protect us from food poisoning, or abstaining from ever leaving our houses will protect us from drive-by shootings. Obviously she is happy with her decision to remain celibate, and I congratulate her, Ardis and others who find joy therein. Ms. Hardy description of her celibate lifestyle includes the words “spiraling further into a disconnected life, feeling abandoned, being discounted.” I felt the same.

    Sure the law of chastity prevented me from some bad relationships in my teens and 20s, but it did so by preventing me from having relationships at all. Common sense and taking great care with one’s dating choices can also prevent bad relationships and heartbreak.

    22 – that’s wonderful that you have so many single sisters in your family tree. However – I wanted a family of my own, not to be the spinster aunt.

    26 – very well said Kristine.

  45. John Mansfield says:

    I agree with John C.’s #31, though infantile isn’t quite the word I would use. Perhaps superfluous. The centrality of the family gets amped up so that any other sociality among the saints becomes a nuisance interferring with attention to our blood kin. Sometimes I have wondered if the reason Elder Packer had ten children was so he could have a variety of human interactions, since he has such a dim view of the interactions that ward members might have with one another. Singles programs are a symptom of a failing to create sociality in our quorums, Relief Societies, wards, and stakes. From age 24 to 28, I was very fortunate to be a single of a couple wards, one in New Mexico and the other in Baltimore, where a single could be a part of the life of the church side-by-side with the marrieds and there was a life of the church to be part of. I have fond memories of being a 25-year-old Webelos leader, the only single at committee meetings, working with people who became my friends, associating with boys and their families. Last month I looked at a photo of the neighborhood I lived in, where a forest fire destroyed dozens of homes and stopped just a couple houses short of the one I rented for a year and a half. It impacted me to realize that I had been present in four of the destroyed homes, opened to me by the families that had lived in them.

    Good nutrition is something that helps against the ills of low-level heavy metal exposure. When the sites that lead or mercury would incorrectly occupy are already full with what ought to be there, a degree of harm is reduced. Likewise the absence of good, proper relationships with people can leave us more open and vulnerable to improper relationships. It is a shame in the church when a lack of fellowship amongst us leads the lonely to turn away.

  46. Cynthia L. says:

    They want sex, but they don’t want marriage.

    Pertinax, where did you get the idea that they don’t want marriage?

    Also, what Mark B. said.

  47. Cynthia L. says:

    #44: That’s a great comment, John.

  48. The vast majority (in fact, as far as I know, all) of the many never-married LDS 30-somethings I know want nothing more than to be happily married. Comments like those from Pertinax show a degree of ignorance usually reserved for the comment boards on Yahoo News.

  49. I know there have been a few complaints about her characterization of the older single men in the church, but if it is in any way true, the men need to grow up.

    My sister isn’t the same age as the author, but she’s pretty close. When we sit down to talk about dating it makes me want to the single adult men in Provo and knock them on the side of the head. As she went down the list of the guys she had dated over the last six months, it was full of men confessing a porn addiction on on their second date, men still living with their parents, men discussing the need to wear garments while having sex (!?!) on the first date, men without jobs and men who wanted to know if she’d insist on using her college education outside the home once they got married.

    By the end of the conversation she was laughing and crying, not really understanding if she’d had a string of bad luck or was just attracted to the wrong guys. Problem is, her two single roommates have similar issues.

    So of course they’re plenty of great single LDS guys in their 30’s but there’s got to be a reason I hear so much about the exact kind of men the author described.

  50. Thomas Parkin says:

    “Pertinax”

    This sounds too much like a kind of drug. Is Pertinax right for you? Ask your doctor. You will walk in the sunshine again, in gardens and on beaches, with a smile on your face and a lover on your arm, and Pertinax can help. Please discontinue use if you feel dizzy, are going blind, can’t become *cough*, or find yourself middle aged and single in a culture that fetishizes the nuclear family.

  51. 41 God has asked the 40yo virgin to not have sex..that seems impossible and seems to be damning her growth and ability to love…arguably the gospel in a nutshell.

    God has asked me to have 9 children (argue that if you want). That seems impossible and seems in someways to be damning my growth and ability to love…arguably the gospel in a nutshell…

    I’m just saying we’re more alike than not… all related to how we keep the law of chastity.

  52. I don’t judge sister Hardy for her decision to choose non-celibacy (whether that be in marriage or not) I have too many shortcomings to possibly make a judgment on someone going through something that is in no way a challenge for me.

    However, I seriously question her equation of intimacy and sex. It is possible to have intimacy without sex. I have real intimacy with a number of friends of mine, with whom I’ve never had sex. They know my pain and my joy, and I know theirs. That is intimacy.
    It is also very possible to have sex without intimacy. I see evidence of it everywhere. I think you’d have a hard time arguing that sex always leads to intimacy, and if you did, I’d claim you an idiot.
    I hope she finds intimacy in her sexual pursuits, but I doubt thats how one truly finds it. I knew my wife for 6 years before we got married. I was intimate with her long before we were sexual. I’m glad we waited, FWIW.

    To the question posed in the OP, I think this article should shame the men that insist on sex before a relationship can develop. If anyone should feel infantilized by reading the article, it should be them.

    I think it should also shame the “friend” who claimed all Mormon men want to marry dependant women. That seems like a real over-generalization. I have seen some evidence of it, but I have seen just as much evidence against it.

    Unfortunately I don’t think the author’s intent was to shame either of them. I think her desired reaction was a softened version of Mike’s comment 11.

    So yes, Mormons should be ashamed of how their culture treats its older-and-unmarried members, its gay members, and all the other odd ducks who don’t fit the mold.

    Mormon’s feel enough shame dealing with our chastity problems, our WoW problems, our familial disagreements and strife. Do you really think we need to heap more shame upon ourselves for the way that those who leave feel? Aren’t we all “odd ducks” in our own way? I don’t hold your choice to leave, or anyone else’s, against you. But don’t ask me to feel more shame. Staying in the church is just as hard as leaving. And they both have their own rewards.

  53. MikeInWeHo says:

    Re: 50
    I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of traction with that argument, britt k. If you want to argue “God has asked us all to suffer in our own way….,” that might resonate better in here.

  54. MikeInWeHo says:

    “Aren’t we all “odd ducks” in our own way?”

    Perhaps, but some ducks sure look more odd than others.

  55. Back Row Elder says:

    (12) Jenkins – My scenario has nothing to do with porn. But I agree with you, and I think I said as much, that the overiding virtue is as you put it “deciding for herself what is right for her own life.”

    So if you read my scenario again, it asks the question: if later in life her husband or SO decided that what is right for him was to have sexual relationships with other women, shouldn’t she view his decisions as laudable and praiseworthy as her own because its what is right for him notwithstanding a prior commitment not to do so? It’s what is right for him, and it is how he naturally feels. So shouldn’t see understand and be supportive based on her own journey?

  56. 48, there is pretty severe selection bias in the sample of 30s unmarried adult men in the church. Stories like the ones you shared sadly abound in singles wards, though it is my sense that people like that never drop out of the pool (for obvious reasons). Like it or not, most (not all) of the good ones are taken at that point, which is bad news for the ladies given the gender distribution of older church singles.

  57. I agree that Mormon singles, particularly women, are infantilized within the church. The comments prove this: we’re comparing a grown woman to a child actor and deriding the quality of her sex life and boyfriends out of hand?

    I think that LDS culture does itself a disservice by equating marriage with spiritual maturity, allowing twenty-something-year-old married people to feel authoritative in passing judgement on forty-year-old singles. How is it fair to consider Mormon singles to be childish and naive for longing for sexual expression, especially when they are so often criticized for trying to refocus on anything other than finding a mate? I’m glad to hear that people have learned forgiveness, communication and love from being married, but marriage doesn’t give one a corner on spiritual growth.

    I don’t think singles like Nicole see sex as the ultimate goal of their being, but it’s got to be hard to feel like a well-rounded, full person when you’re perpetually trying to tamp that part of your personality down, feeling lonely, feeling guilty for having a sex drive, and being made to feel spiritually inferior because of your single status. Nicole’s act of “rebellion” seems to have as much to do with recognizing herself as a real, whole, capable person as with sex.

  58. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    I understand what the “Mormon mold” may be in some sense I guess. But I don’t understand it as it relates to the sexual context. Do people view the Biblical prohibitions on fornication, adultery, etc. as uniquely “Mormon” prohibitions? For those who believe in the Bible, these prohibitions originated with God, not Salt Lake City. Help me understand here.

  59. 53 – I don’t disagree, and I definitely am not trying to equate my difficulties with yours, we have definitely lived different lives.
    But I don’t see how the church can solve everyone’s problems. I find the Law of Chastity to be valuable and do more good than ill. I don’t claim it is for everyone, but I think if the world were completely chaste, it would be a better world than if it were completely un-chaste. Both would have their evil and pain, but I think one moreso than the other.
    Given that, I think that the Law of Chastity is still a good principle to teach our members. It won’t bring about a completely chaste world, but I think it will do more good than evil.
    On the family front, one of the few things that the world seems to appreciate about our faith is our intense focus on the importance of family. At the same time it alienates some people that don’t fit that mold. Anything we say to console them, alienates them further (as Kristine alluded “Are We Not All Mothers?”). So whats the answer, do we de-emphasize the focus on families? I think that would do more harm than good.

    I think that stories like this should be considered and taken under advisement. I think we should be aware of the pain and suffering that goes on in our congregations, among all types of people, and try to carry each others’ burdens in any way we can. But I don’t think any great institutional evil has taken place for which we should all feel ashamed. (at least not on the 30-something singles front)

    You can please all the people some of the time, or some of the people all of the time . . .

  60. How is it fair to consider Mormon singles to be childish and naive for longing for sexual expression, especially when they are so often criticized for trying to refocus on anything other than finding a mate?

    Excellent point.

  61. I think that LDS culture does itself a disservice by equating marriage with spiritual maturity, allowing twenty-something-year-old married people to feel authoritative in passing judgement on forty-year-old singles.

    I don’t know that I’ve ever felt spiritually superior to a 40-something single.
    Just because I might share an example in church of how my wife helped me mature, and our marriage helped us to grow, doesn’t imply that a single person can grow in the same aspects through different routes.

  62. . . . single person can’t grow in the same . . .

  63. I think the main problem that she hasn’t gotten much relationship traction with men (LDS and otherwise) is that she’s a poet.

    It’s the fact that she’s a *poet* that makes her a baby in a middle-aged body, not that she was a virgin.

  64. This is how I see it from here I stand (as a 27 year old single member) —

    The major hint, to me, of the fact that the author is not getting married, but choosing to turn against chastity, is in her description of her single male Mormon counterparts. It shows a definite superiority complex and selfishness. That attitude of unwillingness to accept any measure of blame for her place in life, or perhaps even trying to *change* makes me guess that this is all more an issue of pride, and not the sad tale of an innocent left behind.

  65. I in NO way said marriage gives you a corner on any spiritual or emotional growth. I have just found it more helpful to see how I am similar to others than see how others dont understand me.

    I’ll just shush now and “like” all B russ’ comments

  66. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    (54) If I understand you, you bring up an interesting point. And I think it may go in line with the OP. One of the ostensible values, or reasons, that the NYT may have ran this column is because it appeals to our universal want of self-liberation, the emancipation of the self from constraints (wherever they come from, in this case a religion). Another reason is that the essay impugns the source of constraint, in this case the LDS Church, which is also appealing to readership. And because of the universal appeal to “exposing” constraints on our ability to follow how we feel, the issue of shame on the Church (and its adherents) arises.

    But if the virtue–as many have praised here–is self-emancipation through following “how one feels”, that principle may not work consistently for her (or society) eventually. It will most like lead to conflict in her own life at some point. Eventually, someone in her life–as Back Row may be saying–may wield the same principle sword her way, and should she then be ashamed (like the Church here) for not respecting it?

  67. Ardis #9 reflected my thoughts. Shame didn’t really enter the picture for me, but I thought she sounded like a teenager trying to prove something.

    I suppose those who marry virgins and are soon widowed are somehow not adult because they aren’t having sex? Or is the fact that they HAD sex, at least once, what makes them adults?

    I was struck by the kind of “poor me” feeling while completely underplaying the fact that she didn’t want kids. As if that might not have played a TINY part in why MORMON men hadn’t rushed her to the altar. No, no, it was the chauvinistic men, who wanted a subservient, helpless girl that were the real problem.

    Stina #56:

    t’s got to be hard to feel like a well-rounded, full person when you’re perpetually trying to tamp that part of your personality down

    Can’t this same argument be used against self-restraint in any form? The gospel is full of rules that, for most of us, require “tamping down parts of our personality.” So? Isn’t that the point?

  68. MikeInWeHo says:

    Re: 63
    Yeah, that’s a good way to keep people like her in the Church.

  69. let me offer a justification for not wanting children that isn’t based in selfishness: she may be a bearer of a rare genetic condition that means children born by her may have a painful and brief life. We don’t have to read her as a selfish unmother.

  70. I found this article compelling in several places, but the whole bit about not being able to snag a husband because she had a job, quelle horreur, smacked of trying too hard to prove that the church infantilizes even married women, so the only way for her to be a grown-up was to leave.

    I’m not interested in judging her choice to become sexually active outside of marriage. I know so many women in and out of the church who want to be married and have families and feel this emptiness in their lives, and as they get older they lose hope of ever finding that happiness. There are a lot of reasons why people who want to be married don’t get married. A lot of it has to do with luck. This is obvious if you just take a look around you and see all the people who are married.

    It’s pretty normal to want to get married and have a family at some point. (Not everyone wants to do it at 18 or 25, but most want to do it eventually.) And it isn’t that one can’t mature without marriage, but actively avoiding marriage altogether, fearing the commitment and responsibility, is often a sign of immaturity (unless you are entering a religious order that requires you to take a vow of celibacy). It’s not wrong to emphasize the value of marriage, but most people who want to be married already understand the value of marriage. It would be nice if we rearranged our rhetoric to simultaneously emphasize the importance of following Christ and developing a mature spirituality regardless of our family situation.

  71. I’m with Ardis’ #9.

    It’s really tough to expect blessings from God and then feel you’re not getting them, especially if you view your faith primarily as a path to happiness in this life. It seems so logical to us: if it’s not working, do something else. But “doing something else” can essentially be choosing to curse God and die.

    To me, this is simply another example of suffering that neither faithfulness nor faithlessness will fix. Nor will “placing blame” or “expressing frustration” be all that palliative. That’s why I do place a lot of hope in the next life, even if others think it’s silly.

  72. Re Brokeback Mountain: They were shepherds, not cowboys.

  73. I find this post interesting because I am struggling with giving up the idea of finding a worthy LDS male. Strangely, however, I am leaning towards lifelong future loneliness rather than finding intimacy with someone of another system of beliefs.

    I suppose that for me, what I believe is so much a part of who I am, any attempt at intimacy with someone who does not share my beliefs would only be an illusion.

    Rather, I find my faith waning that there is any male within a reasonable age range who shares my beliefs, ostensibly LDS or not.

  74. I sometimes wonder about all the complaints about single adult LDS men. I’ve got two friends for instance, around 30, that are single, employed (one earning six figures), college educated, that don’t live in their mothers’ basements, and I think rather highly of them. I can’t speak to how they treat their dates, and they might be a little quirky, but not all single adult mormon men are the gollum-like creatures that so many caricatures make them out to be. I know a couple single adult LDS women, they have their quirks too. As do a number of happily married people I know.

  75. One observation. In our culture we feel free to generally characterize single men 30 plus in all types of ways. Lazy, porn addicted, no account etc.

    In contrast we all jump to the defense against any type of criticism of single women.

    Then we wonder why the older singles branches are majority female. Hmm… I wonder why?

  76. I will also say that I was far more lonely and just as “outside of the gospel” when I was married as I am now, a divorced (only just) 32-year-old.

    And in my newly-hatched explorations of the 30+ LDS single’s life in a place with plenty of them, I find three sweeping issues. First, many of the women are mercenary, hard-bitten and bitter. Second, many of the men are either superficial or terminally wonky. Third, both sides have too great of a tendency to check people off according to a list, me included.

    That being said, if there are sane LDS single men in their early thirties around, where can they be found? (That is a genuine question.)

  77. James Olsen says:

    I’m a bit surprised at the focus on shame (or the alternate proposals of either pity or support) in both the post and in the majority of responses. Doesn’t the article and her experience – whatever her intentions (explicit or implicit) in writing the piece – call for at least an initial surge of compassion and a desire to acknowledge her suffering? We so quickly fall into:

    1. Analytical mode (which I think is the point of the post – obviously not a point I’m against, though I find it tasteless to merely analyze when someone is publicly crying out they’ve experienced a deep and genuine suffering).
    2. Polemic mode – does her article support or detract from my world experience or the values I hold dear?

    I can’t help but think that failing to grant her the dignity of taking her words seriously and responding as a loving brother and sister (i.e., as human), at least initially, before digging in with our analytical/critical/banner waving tools, is what is shameful.

  78. That being said, if there are sane LDS single men in their early thirties around, where can they be found? (That is a genuine question.)

    I’ve got one in Orem and one in South Jordan. (and a cousin in Provo, but he might not pass the “sane” requirement, as much as I love him). The South Jordan is in a relationship that is becoming serious . . .

    Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

  79. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    (75) I’ve got a brother, but my posts here may cause you to question whether my judgment of him as “sane” is sound judgment.

  80. James,
    I assure you that my intent was, at least in part, to invite compassion. I’m sorry you found it lacking in what I wrote.

  81. *LOL* Thanks, everyone!

    So how does one go about meeting these rare specimens? Singles dances are the Mormon equivalent of bar-hopping *yuck!* and other activities are essentially 7pm and after on weekdays. Kind of filters out anyone with small children (=me).

    Of course, maybe that’s on purpose.

  82. John Mansfield says:

    I wonder if the intense focus in the Church on family at the expense of other relations could in coming decades take a turn reminiscent of a conversation I had with a man from Iran. I mentioned his wife across the room, and with a dreamy look he said, “We’re cousins. We’ve known each other since we were children.” Remember, Johnny Lingo had always loved Mahanna, even since they were children.

  83. James, I started out by taking her seriously and responding with compassion — after all, she and I share life circumstances and many of the same longings, and I think I can understand her better than many. But her piece was very long, and detailed, and expressive, and well before I got to the end I had discovered that she had first rejected me (without knowing I exist, of course) by rejecting and misrepresenting and holding up to public scorn some concepts that define me — a definition that came only *after* having thought about the things she has thought about and experiencing some of the things she has experienced. It turns out that we *don’t* have much in common, or at least our commonalities dissolved very early.

    How long does your compassion require me to sustain that initial surge of compassion before I am allowed to examine why I made a radically different decision and why I find her solution lacking?

  84. MikeInWeHo says:

    Why can’t both your solutions be correct, Ardis?

  85. Latter-day Guy says:

    Umm… can we have Ardis and Mike together on a podcast? Pleeeease! It would be teh awesome!

  86. SilverRain,

    They’re out there. One good friend in Utah Valley, a couple of other friends in places like Southern California. These are never-been-married types. Two of them were EQ Presidents in their singles wards (one of them more than once). Good guys. Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t on your side. From what I can tell, there are far more active LDS women who are in their early 30’s and single than men.

    I’m a big fan of midsingles groups. If you fit the demographic, check it out. http://midsingles.wordpress.com/. It looks like they often make an effort to include singles with children, etc. Hopefully, as midsingle groups increase, fewer midsingles will feel the need to leave the church.

    Also, for those of you who had the privilege of attending the Stanford Singles Ward (one of the greatest wards on the planet), they split into two wards maybe six years ago. One is for those in their early twenties, one for those in their later twenties and early thirties (I think the cut off is 35 or so). Very smart move.

  87. Because I don’t live in a Zen world, Mike. The choices are mutually exclusive.

  88. Thanks, Tim. You’ll notice that there are no midsingles groups in Salt Lake City. This seems strange, until you are a midsingle in Salt Lake City who tries to begin a midsingles program. Then you find the painful truth (at least I did.)

  89. 88 – whats the painful truth?

  90. I’m also curious what the painful truth is.

    There aren’t enough midsingles groups out there, period. But I hold in myself the hope that if more people know about them, more people will feel motivated to push for them in their areas.

  91. Well, for me, it was having my faith in Jesus Christ questioned because I tried to go through proper channels to get something established for midsingles in my area. Singles 31+ would even be better than the nothing that is now.

    And it’s not for lack of enough people to participate. Not in SLC. I was given the impression that the 700+ member “branches” on the east side of Salt Lake oppose the establishment of anything on the west side, and creating a “magnet ward” would require too many resources. (Even though the point of magnet wards is that there are no more resources necessary.)

  92. Eric Russell says:

    James,

    Why don’t you go over to the DAMU and invite each of them to do a guest post on Times and Seasons about why they left the church. There will be no shortage of opportunities to show compassion for their sufferings.

  93. Single Older Sister says:

    I read Sister Hardy’s article a few weeks ago and have been ruminating on it since. I understand where she is coming from completely, although I never went down the path she did.

    I am 52 years old. As soon as I hit 27 I knew I would never marry – that’s just how it was in my age bracket at that time in the area I lived (I think the goalposts have changed somewhat since then). Oh, I kept trying, but it never happened. I can remember being upset and depressed for 10 years and went inactive for about 2 years when I hit 30.

    To be frank, it’s the loneliness that is a killer. I still cry sometimes out of sheer loneliness. And I hate it when married people say, “Be of service” or “spend time with family”. I do both of those things, and much more, to fill my time and my soul. However, there is something about the intimacy of marriage – if it is a good marriage – that a person like me is never going to fill by doing a service project.

    Then there is the anger – at God, at the men who rejected me, at the church, at myself even (mostly myself, I will admit) for the lack of intimacy and children of my own. And anger at the people (both in and out of the church) who judged me for being single. I still have to fight that anger sometimes.

    It has been a long and hard road.

    But it has become easier as I have gotten older. Mostly now I jokingly laugh and say how glad I am I didn’t have children of my own. And I will call out people at church – or anywhere – who make comments about “singles”. I’ve gotten bolder as I’ve gotten older!

    Plus I think the church has changed somewhat, and I’m hoping it will change even more when it comes to singles, although I must say that I fully support and agree with the Law of Chastity. That is not – in my opinion – a law given by man, but a law given by God.

    I must say I agree with some of the comments about people who got married young. If you got married before 25, you really have no right to condemn or make remarks anyone older who is having a struggle with being single.

    While I don’t agree with Sister Hardy’s eventual decision, I can understand why she went that route. I continue to walk in those shoes, and let me tell you, at times I want to take them off and burn them. My trust in my Heavenly Father is all that keeps me from starting the fire.

  94. #76 –
    f there are sane LDS single men in their early thirties around, where can they be found?

    Well, I may be divorced, but I consider myself sane. I found that singles activities in the church weren’t worth much. I just got engaged, though, and it was to a 30+ career woman that is also LDS. However, I met her on e-harmony.

    I don’t have much respect for the LDS “midsingles” programs, actually. But I found there were lot of competent and awesome people online.

    I think there’s some truth to the stereotype of the over 30 LDS single man, but the women are hardly blameless or quirk free either. We’re all imperfect people, just trying to do our best, and stereotyping of the sort that goes on here really smacks of too much pride.

  95. He was 47 I was 38… We have kids and we held the commandments! Waiting after amen was really worth it! Sure I thought it will never happen, but it did! Dont loose your faith! I had to go look from an other country though. But it sure was worth it!

  96. Mommie Dearest says:

    I’ve not been able to access this article, the link to which has been posted in half a dozen places in the bloggernacle, because I refuse to sign up for an account/cookie with the NYTimes. But the discussion is familiar ground. Don’t we hash this out in some way or another about every 6 months?

    Single Older Sister, you are amazing in your generous compassion toward the NYT writer. She needs compassion, as we all do.

  97. MD (96) the link didn’t work for me either. If you are interested in reading it, just go to nytimes.com and search for Single, Female, Mormon, Alone. It should come up as one of the first results. It was dated 1/9/2011 on the web archive.

    It should be free, and viewable, without signing up for anything.

  98. 96 , bugmenot.com

  99. Sorry about that, the link should work now.

  100. MichaelJay says:

    I’m a regular at BBC and though I rarely comment I always enjoy the open unfiltered look at Mormon life. I’m a married man in my 40s and I really feel for this person. I often feel like the proverbial square-peg in Mormon culture and for her it must really have been awful. I wish her well and I hope she finds some level of peace that she obviously wants and needs.
    In the past year my wife had a medical issue that essentially has put an end to having sex. I am married to a warm, passionate woman and this part of life & marriage was the one thing that no matter how crappy things got I had something to look forward to. Now it’s gone. Do I get to set new rules and find new sexual partners because she is now unable to have sex with me? Am I allowed a concubine? I worry I’m now sounding self-righteous but I can’t help wonder if in the end she will find what she hopes for. As the brother and brother in law of several unmarried sisters who ache every day for marriage and companionship I have seen the tears and understand what led her to make such a decision. No answers here – but I do understand.

  101. #94—I’m glad you’ve had success with online dating. I tried it for a month or two, and after being contacted by men who were not at all what I was looking for (for various reasons, most of which were casual sex, casual religion, or age-related issues) I realized that I couldn’t justify forking out so much money per month for no returns when I have children.

    The real problem for me, which I’m hoping is not the problem, but probably is, is that 1) I’m not slender enough to attract the type of men I like (who are also not slender, I might add) and 2) I have children. It is also likely that I’m too picky. But I’ve examined my list of desired traits, most of which I compromised on with my ex, and none of them are ones I can compromise on without making marriage not worth it for me. As much as I want a good marriage, I’m not willing to sacrifice my faith or sense of self-worth for it.

    And please realize that the stereotyping is generally born out of frustration with real-life experience. It is easy to discount that frustration when your solution has been found.

  102. Man, there are a lot of single ladies on here.

    FYI, I’m 27, single, male, good job, not a jerkface.

    How, pray-tell have I gone uncaught?

  103. #101 – Well, if you were using the LDS dating sites, I found those to be not too good as well. I don’t know. I’m not advertising for e-harmony, but you can set your preferences for LDS only there.

    FWIW, my fiancee (who is also not slender – though I’m the one with the kids – however, I also dated several women with kids) says that e-harmony was much better – apparently a lot of men troll the LDS dating sites hoping disease free one night stands. E-harmony is set up very differently from any of the other dating sites I used.

    But, perhaps it also depends on the person and the situation. I hope that over time, you’ll eventually find someone or something. Sometimes it just takes time. One thing my divorce taught me was to be more patient and less judgmental.

  104. “Whom should this article shame?”

    Say what? The NYT author is clearly not trying to make anyone feel ashamed, or trying to “shock” Mormons. It’s not a repudiation of Mormonism- it’s expressing the dissatisfaction she personally felt, and how this led to her falling away.

    “I think that the Mormon reaction to this article hinges on how we interpret her circumstances. If she is getting married, I think that we don’t care about the visit (even if she isn’t getting married in the temple). If she is not planning on getting married, I think that Mormons read this article as a deliberate rejection of the church and its teachings.”
    My Mormon reaction doesn’t hinge on this point at all. It’s extremely clear that she has rejected Mormonism in either case. The point is that she is having sex on her own terms, whether married or Mormon is irrelevant.

    I think this blog post would have been a lot more effective if John C. was more open about his condemnation of the NYT article, instead of just hinting about the embarrassment this causes the Mo church, and trying to appear open-minded. I also suggest that he differentiate between shame and guilt, because while guilt is necessary in our lives, shame is never healthy.

  105. Back Row Elder says:

    (104) Jane – You say, “The point is that she is having sex on her own terms.” You also say, ” it’s expressing the dissatisfaction she personally felt.” You suggest, then, that there is an absolute virtue in acting based on how one feels (avoid conflict feelings, gravitate to behavior that makes you feel “good”).

    So, for example, if I’m committed to a woman and have kids, and one day I honestly and sincerely feel I would be more fulfilled by experiencing other women, should I? If so, should my wife feel guilt or shame if she is not complicit or understanding?

  106. Say what? The NYT author is clearly not trying to make anyone feel ashamed

    I read the article differently.

    I think this blog post would have been a lot more effective if John C. was more open about his condemnation of the NYT article, instead of just hinting about the embarrassment this causes the Mo church

    I read the post differently.

  107. jane,
    While I do believe that this is an exit story, I would be happy to be wrong. I also don’t assign any moral value to exiting. So, I’m really not condemning her.

    I also doubt that this piece is embarrassing to the church. So, I think you misread my intent.

  108. re: 105
    Why do I get the weird feeling that some computer science student at BYU has finally beaten the Turing Test??

  109. Latter-day Guy says:

    So, for example, if I’m committed to a woman and have kids, and one day I honestly and sincerely feel I would be more fulfilled by experiencing other women, should I? If so, should my wife feel guilt or shame if she is not complicit or understanding?

    Back Row Elder, your analogy only works if you posit that the relationship of a church member to the Church is like the relationship of a married person to their spouse. It isn’t. That isn’t to say that you’ve got to agree with Sis./Ms. Hardy’s decision, but we should acknowledge that there is a different dynamic at play.

  110. Exactly LDG. I’m not comfortable with that analogy either, but I also recognize that different people struggle with different things at different times. Hardy’s struggle with the LOC at this time in her life should and probably will influence how she will deal with those close to her who have similar struggles in the future. Those who condemn her choice would be wise to keep a weather eye on the horizon. There be squalls a-comin’.

  111. Back Row Elder says:

    (109) Understood. The analogy deals with her relationship with God, not the church. It’s God that enjoins fornication etc., not a church. There is a difference. But I think the relationship is an even more compelling point if you look at spouse and that relationship. Can you elaborate on the differences you mention and how they are material to the analogy?

    If the analogy doesn’t work, then address the general principle at issue that makes the article appealing (and probably print-worthy in the NYT): Is behaving based on how one feels and in compromise to other existing moral commitments (whether to God, spouse, self, friend, business partner, whatever) a virtue that should be socially praised as self-liberating? To me, her essay suggests, in tone and word, that how she feels is more virtuous than her prior commitment to God.

  112. #103, Twiceupon a time, are you by chance Canadian? As am I and am in the same boat kind as you, would love to talk

  113. Single Mormon Man (from #7) says:

    #33
    “Focus on developing, maintaining, and growing a living testimony that is based on experiencing the gospel and no matter what life circumstances you find your self in (gay, straight, divorced, widowed, childless, tragedy, single, married) and you can have strength to not only endure, but do so with peace of mind and a clear conscience without offense toward man or God.”

    I’m with you in theory. But despite my best efforts, “experiencing the gospel” has not been as comforting or strengthening as it used to be–sometimes it seems like experiencing the gospel is having the opposite effect. Forgive me if this is a lack of faith, but at some point the theory needs to be confirmed by my personal experience, or I’m going to stop believing the theory. Apparently I’m not the only one.

  114. ByTheRules says:

    If the NYT author can’t handle life without sex not being married, she for SURE couldn’t handle life without sex while being married! (Disease etc)

    Oh great the benevolance of an omnipotent being to withold marriage from such.

    The possiblility of destroying lives of husband, children, and relatives is too great.

  115. I feel like I should have something to add here being that I married within the last year at age 34 to a 41 year old LDS man. I’ll just say that yes, being older and single in the church can be, but isn’t always incredibly lonely. I’ve had both good and bad experiences. While single I did on occasion hold leadership positions and encountered some individuals who saw me as a person and not my marital status. Though, more often than not I felt like a bit of an outsider. I don’t think any church members purposefully excluded me or treated me like a child. I just think people are so wrapped in their marriages and families that they’re not even quite sure how to approach someone who doesn’t come with those trappings.

    I also empathize with the choices Ms. Hardy made. We live in a sex saturated society and you can’t help but feel that by choosing to live the law of chastity you are missing out on one of life’s essential experiences. And let’s face it celibacy is hard and gets harder the longer you have to endure. I simply don’t believe that someone who married in their early 20s can appreciate that struggle.

  116. BTR, I don’t see how that follows logically at all. Married people who can’t have sex for medical reasons can still often have many forms of intimacy that don’t involve sex, while single people generally can’t. Being a single adult Mormon is much more lonely and difficult than being married to someone with a medical problem that prevents sex, in my opnion.

  117. Oh great the assininity of an omnivorous dumbass to think they know God’s will with respect to someone they’ve never met!

  118. How obsessed everyone is with this woman’s plaintive (if long-winded) prose rendition of “Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May”. This latter-day Deborah Kerr speaks the truth: “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories… we’ve already missed the spring! ” Cold indeed.

    When I was still chaste in college, I could never get a follow-up date after not “spending the night”. I thought it was about sex denied, but I was wrong: I stank of desperation and other men smelled it. Deep down I was obsessed about what sex could do for me and not what I could bring to sex.

    With the self confidence gained (and desperation lost) from finally “seeing what all the fuss is about”, I did not become a reefer-madness sex-crazed park troll. I did discover that my feelings (and sexual fantasies) were valid, healthy, and self-affirming, and would still be even if they remained unfulfilled, but only because I had fulfilled them and wanted more.

    I do not wonder about extramarital sex because I had premarital sex and know I am missing nothing except loneliness. I am glad to have discovered early on that, having tasted sin a few times, it turns out I do not care for the taste. I am grateful that my husband likewise got his baggage out of the way so we could skip the part about destroying each other with false grievances, hurt feelings, bruised egos, and get right to the part about loving each other for who we really are, not what the other wants us to be. What a waste to fetishize something of such little value as extramarital sex just because it is out of reach. Have done with it already!

  119. ByTheRules says:

    MCQ. Point taken.

    Then again, the “not now, I have a headache” is proverbial. There is discreet mismatching of libido.
    Which is more frustrating: not to have sex when:
    1. It is illegal and available; or
    2. It is legal, and unavailable for (apparently) superfluous reasons?

    As has been stated repeatedly above, a very intimate relationship may be maintained outside of marriage without sex. I fail to appreciate substantial non-physical intimacy that occurs due to a legal ordinance.

    Marriage follows (non-physical) intimacy-you don’t marry anyone with whom you don not have an intimate relationship. Although intimacy grows during a (good) marriage, that is more of a factor of relationship building that is available to all rather than just married individuals.

  120. ByTheRules says:

    And yes, I do eat meat AND plants!

  121. As it turns out, I happen to agree with Ms. Ardis E. Parshall: “There is a vast gulf between living the law of chastity and merely living without sex.”

    http://www.keepapitchinin.org/2011/01/13/cutting-stones-or-building-a-cathedral-a-minor-rant/

    Her insight cuts both ways in this discussion.

  122. ByTheRules says:

    Marriage is NOT for everyone. While it may not be “good” for man and woman to be alone, it is not bad, or evil. The Lords plan does indeed plan for, and accommodate those who are single and not married. These individuals have glory specifically reserved for them in the Celestial kingdom. They were known and planned for prior to the foundations of this world.

    What is wrong with being a Prince or Princess instead of a King or Queen? Nothing is wrong with it. It is not a sin, but more akin to foregone opportunity. There are those in life who are quite satisfied with B’s instead of A’s and I don’t begrudge them their choices.

    The thrust of the Church is towards the higher goals. Should it be this way? In reflecting upon that, yes. A church should set it’s goals high, and help as much as possible. Shoot for the moon, hit the sky is better than shoot for the sky and hit the mud.

    What about those who are not satisfied with a “B” grade, and instead want an “A”, and have done all that they can do? Therein lies the conundrum. I have faith that a loving and just God will make them quite happy in his own time.

    In the meantime, I just think that we as church members should be as accommodating towards unmarried people as God is. Our Ward plans should be as inclusive towards unmarried people as God’s plan is.

    Now, back to sleep in this part of the world.

  123. beedle and Single Older Sister, your comments here are much-needed. I especially like, “If you got married before 25, you really have no right to condemn or make remarks anyone older who is having a struggle with being single,” from Single Older Sister. I got married after 25 (but before 30), and have many single LDS friends in their 30’s, and I frankly have no clue how difficult it is to be that age and still single. To be old enough to be forced out of the YSA ward. Those who stay active show tremendous strength.

    I think it’s enlightening that both sisters who remained never-married well into their 30’s both have empathy towards the writer who left the church. They (and not the majority of the posters here) actually know what it’s like to be single in a family-focused church.

    And being single isn’t just about sex, despite what ByTheRules might believe. It’s also about not being alone. It’s about having a built-in support group, who can lift you up when you’re down (and who you lift up when they’re down). It’s about other types of intimacy. Sex is just one aspect.

  124. Latter-day Guy says:

    Understood. The analogy deals with her relationship with God, not the church. It’s God that enjoins fornication etc., not a church. There is a difference. But I think the relationship is an even more compelling point if you look at spouse and that relationship. Can you elaborate on the differences you mention and how they are material to the analogy?

    Reading the article as an exit story, there is no need to suppose that, for Hardy, leaving the Church and leaving God are the same thing at all. Perhaps she feels that the requirements of the Church are not perfectly aligned with the requirements of God. However, all this is speculation and can only remain so, barring further information from Hardy.

    If the analogy doesn’t work, then address the general principle at issue that makes the article appealing (and probably print-worthy in the NYT): Is behaving based on how one feels and in compromise to other existing moral commitments (whether to God, spouse, self, friend, business partner, whatever) a virtue that should be socially praised as self-liberating? To me, her essay suggests, in tone and word, that how she feels is more virtuous than her prior commitment to God.

    In LDS missionary efforts, we ask people to act according to their feelings all the time–even if that is in conflict with previous commitments. For instance, a Catholic priest or someone who has made solemn (read: life-long) monastic vows would be violating such promises by becoming LDS. We would ask them to do so based on what we feel is a discrepancy between the requirements of their former faith and the requirements of God. Perhaps the situation is the same for Hardy, but–again–one can only speculate.

  125. Eric Russell says:

    “Those who stay active show tremendous strength.”

    Why? Does the first vision suddenly become a fraud when you get a certain age and aren’t married? Do single adults posses a reduced capacity for testimony? The implicit suggestion that they might is not a demonstration of either sympathy or compassion, which everyone flatters themselves to hold. It’s actually patronizing. There’s been more infantilizing of single adults in this thread than I’ve seen in the church in my entire life.

  126. Eric,

    The fact that they continue holding on, day after day, even when they become marginalized and must struggle on alone (more so because chances are that they are the only active 30-something in their ward or branch) is where their strength shows through. If I remember the stats correctly, most of those who are active at the time of aging out of a YSA ward (when they turn 31) have gone less active within 4 years. I think that’s more a statement of how difficult it is to be in your 30’s and single in the church than a statement about how strong these single people are. Having close family members who support church activity makes remaining active a lot easier.

    Their testimonies and faith are just as strong (perhaps stronger). Their support systems, however, are usually far, far weaker. The fact that so many of them become less active speaks negatively of the rest of us, who should do more to help them feel more welcome.

  127. 102—Have you been the one fishing? ;)

  128. I can totally see why 30 plus singles leave the Church in high numbers. I think it is easier to stay active to live in areas with lots of members, Utah, Alberta, Arizona etc. but not everyone can financially live there (apparently not everyone who even lives in some of these places can afford it!) or wants to. It isn’t that you don’t have a testimony but in the YSA it is so social driven and relationships with others more so then a relationship with God and now that you are kicked out into a family ward you start to question things and maybe peel back some of your involvement with the Church because nothing has worked so far to land a marriage- If you do move to an area with a high concentration of members then you could be in areas with 3 or 4 to one odds of girls to guys, single girl in Vomit Beach Virginia and now because of so many other singles flooding the market still single in PigPlug, Pennsylvania-but now you have more members. I say that as a struggling to be active single member who apparently has nothing to offer someone of the opposite sex-I have known more inactive LDS then active, discouraging really

  129. Argh. I am irritated with people who are irritated with this article? Seriously? What is the point of pointing out that visiting a sex shop was not necessary? DUH. Did she try to assert that it was? No. I can’t imagine people who have trouble feeling compassion for this woman. I can’t fathom what it’s like to be so self-righteous. Oh, wait. Yes, I used to be that way. I had little experience, few friends, and hated myself. That sucked.

    I knew a woman who would have written this exact same article, only she was a lesbian. I even wondered if she had written it under a pen name until the writer made clear she was straight. Geez, and people wonder why I’m so afraid that I’ll be single the rest of my life, even though I’m still not quite yet divorced.

    “To me, the essay suggests that she has arrived at a place, after some transition, where the overriding virtue is fulfillment of the sexual experience.” REALLY? That’s what you got from it? Then, you need to reread and think about it some more. The sexual experience represents a multitude of things which she feels she is missing, not the least of which is a well-rounded, soul-sharing relationship. If you think sex is just physical, or as Ardis suggested, only TRUE intimacy if you’re actually married, then I pity your sex partner.

    The question posed about whether it will then be okay for Ms. Hardy’s future husband to one day say he needs to be with another woman is full of some kind of logical fallacy, I am sure but too pressed for time to look it up. Do you think it’s as simple as comparing sin to sin? I guess you do. But again, she’s seeking something for which the sex is only a tool, and it’s something the gospel says she SHOULD seek, want, need. It’s normal. All she wants is what she came to earth for.

    brittk, #51, the difference is that YOU ALSO WANT TO HAVE CHILDREN. This woman doesn’t want to be single. So, God is asking something of you that is also rewarding and comes with all kinds of daily fuzzy blessings (assuming you don’t dislike your children), in an environment that supports that kind of decision, whereas God is supposedly asking something of Ms. Hardy that is isolating, and contrary to what the gospel teaches (the being alone part, not the chastity part). Still think your situations are at all comparable?

    Thomas, #50, I believe I’ve said this before in regards to one of your comments: I heart you. Brilliant.

    B.Russ, #52, and to anyone who made the point that Hardy is silly, immature, etc, you have perspective because you’ve had sex. Of course she thinks she’s missing out on something in her relationships. Of course she thinks that sex adds a special depth of intimacy. SHE HASN’T HAD IT BEFORE. If she is childlike in her thinking it is because she is childlike in her experience.

    I need to stop reading these comments. I really expected a different kind of feedback. I am shocked at the patronising comments; the effort to dismiss someone’s feelings when she didn’t use them as an excuse to say why the church is wrong and she is right, only tried to share her feelings and experience as best she can in a short article so that we could have the benefit of having the kind of compassion that Christ has to understand WHY people do what they do. I’m shocked that anyone would think it necessary to point out what the gospel teaches, as if John, or other commenters, or Hardy herself does not know this already.

    If this was an article about someone’s feelings about food, about trying to eat with moderation and live in a society where it’s shameful to be obese, describing how difficult it is, would people respond with comments like, “Ya, well, we’re supposed to be healthy and it’s pretty absurd for this woman to think that food will give her love and comfort. I mean, I love food too, but I manage to be a size six. You just have to live the gospel and that’s all there is to it. Think of how it’s affecting her relationship with her husband and kids, being such a big tubby. Those are eternal relationships and she’s harming them by being so fat, putting her own wants before her family’s and God’s.”

    Everyone has their thing. Lucky you if your thing is something more socially acceptable like being fat. Yes, the Law of Chastity is all kinds of more important than the Word of Wisdom, but it’s arguably harder to keep when you’re 35, attractive, intelligent, clearly very datable, and single. I think that if you know exactly what it’s like to be this way (and note the “very datable” part, because it’s not the same thing when you’re unattractive or a social reject) then you can spout off stupid judgmental comments all you want, bringing up the First Vision, and I would not really blame you. But until you know exactly how difficult something is, you should stop yourself from belittling someone’s generously shared feelings, because you just end up looking like an idiot.

    Leaving before I lose all my faith in Mormon humanity, and not opting to have WordPress notify me of responses. Reading only half of these comments has left me with a dirty feeling, and feeling completely broken-hearted for those who don’t fit the mold, who fail to keep their covenants (like we all do, somewhere along the line), or for non-Members. I’m horrified.

    John, maybe part of the problem is how you set up the post, asking who should feel shame? It may have put people on the defensive, like either Hardy has to be wrong or the church has to be wrong. Her article has nothing whatsoever to do with shame, for me. It’s about pain, isolation, faith, hope, and blundering out a life journey.

  130. “Her article has nothing whatsoever to do with shame, for me. It’s about pain, isolation, faith, hope, and blundering out a life journey.”

    pardon me if I identify with this even when I like my children. I get it. I get it plain and clear. I think it’s critical that we try to understand each other on this level precisely because our situations and circumstances are so very different. We can look for all the ways that our daily lives are different and let it divide us, or we can look for the deeper struggles and emotions we feel and let it unite us.

    I’m not attempting to say I know what it feels like to be 30+ and single. But I do know what loneliness feels like, pain, struggles with faith, and blundering… I understand what it feels like to be somewhere you never thought you’d be.

    pardon if I attempt to understand and find commonality. I feel it even if it’s not wanted.

  131. Eric Russell says:

    Tim,
    I’d have to see those numbers and the methodology used to collect them. It would be pretty difficult to control accurately for those kind of statistics.

  132. Wishing there were a like button for Natasha’s rant!

  133. or as Ardis suggested

    Memo to Natasha: Don’t put words in my mouth. Also, consider a basic reading course.

  134. Latter-day Guy says:

    Memo to Ardis:

    “Leaving before I lose all my faith in Mormon humanity, and not opting to have WordPress notify me of responses.” ;-)

  135. ” who fail to keep their covenants (like we all do, somewhere along the line)”

    There’s a qualitative difference between failing to keep one’s covenant and consciously deciding to violate it, no? One is imperfect loyalty, the other simple backsliding.

  136. [retracted by author]

  137. I’d like to retract my last comment. [done]

  138. Eric,
    I read the stat here:

    http://midsingles.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/midsingles-program-outline/#comments

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t cite to any original source, so I have no idea if those exact numbers are accurate or not. I do know, just from looking around at those I know and my own ward and stake, that the numbers seem right. My ward has dozens of people that fit that demographic, and yet not one of them is active. Many of them were no doubt less active before they turned 31, but I’m guessing some of them (like some of my friends) aged out of the YSA ward and then stopped going to church altogether.

  139. Latter-day Guy says:

    136, Well, I know I couldn’t, but I assume most people have more self control than I do (largely because if most people don’t, the world is a much more frightening place than I have ever supposed).

  140. What LDG said. Only, you know, about me.

  141. Be afraid, you two, be very afraid.

  142. I’m one of those who “gave up” after 40. I completely emphasize with Nicole Hardy. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of either comfort or answers for never-marrieds or gays in LDS theology.

    Like Nicole (TMI, I know) I decided to go on birth control so I could take control of my own body and choices. I decided that if I wanted to make the choice to spend the night with someone, I was exercising my agency to do so. I decided that comparatively it was a worse risk for a 20 year old to marry an RM after knowing him a week (I knew several of those types at BYU).

    How many who marry early also “experimented” in high school? On a young Mormon mom discussion board I read recently, the 65% non-virgin-when-married rate surprised me. I, on the other hand, had kept myself in Saran Wrap until perimenopause. For what? So I could be an example? No thanks; I’m no martyr. And don’t people believe in repentance anymore? Or is that just for young adults? Who’s to say that I or Nicole or a partnered gay man will not repent in this life or the next? Why can’t we all make our mistakes without judgement?

    Finally, isn’t even masturbation against the Law of Chastity? If so, let s/he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  143. Eric Russell says:

    Folks,

    The article I read was not about giving in to temptation in a moment of weakness, it was not about attending church less frequently because of lack of member support, and it was not about reluctantly marrying outside the faith because one believes that prospects within the church are dim – all of which are indeed understandable. Instead, this article was dripping with contempt towards the church in every paragraph. The contempt was subtle and understated, but it was there relentlessly. This is an article about an abrasive, willful apostasy.

    It’s evident that many people didn’t read that into the article, and that’s fine; everyone’s interpretation is their own. But it took me a bit before I realized that others were reading it differently. Rather than making self-righteous judgments about others’ comments, it’s probably best that we agree on what we’re disagreeing about, because I don’t sense that anyone even knows what that is right now.

  144. Back Row Elder says:

    (124) LDG. Can we start out by agreeing that God says don’t fornicate (sex outside of marriage)? I have not focused on a church. I’m not focused on *exit* from a particular church. I’m focused breaches of commitments. She previously committed to not fornicate b/c God said so. Now she is saying I’m going to fornicate, God. She is essentially rejecting God’s injunction on fornication–unless I missed the Nicole Hardy exception in the scriptures.

    That is different from the monastic conversion you present, because after the nun or priest converts, he/she is not rejecting his/her relationship with God by breaching a commandment. IN other words, after conversion, the nun/priest can still say “I am square with God’s scriptural commandments,” whereas Hardy cannot. And unlike fornication, the oath of chastidy does not appear in any cannon as a commandment. It is unique to a particular religion, not God. There is a difference.

  145. B.Russ, #52, and to anyone who made the point that Hardy is silly, immature, etc, you have perspective because you’ve had sex. Of course she thinks she’s missing out on something in her relationships. Of course she thinks that sex adds a special depth of intimacy. SHE HASN’T HAD IT BEFORE. If she is childlike in her thinking it is because she is childlike in her experience.

    I’d prefer it if you didn’t lump me into a group with “anyone who made the point that Hardy is silly, immature”, since I don’t think I did, in any way. I refer back to the very first thing I wrote: “I don’t judge sister Hardy for her decision to choose non-celibacy (whether that be in marriage or not) I have too many shortcomings to possibly make a judgment on someone going through something that is in no way a challenge for me”. I meant it.

    That being said, if you grant that I do have perspective, and do know that intimacy and sex are two different things, wouldn’t it be wrong for me to not point that out to someone who is naive in that area? Wouldn’t the charitable thing be to point out to someone who might be making a life-changing mistake the fallacy of their conclusions? (hopefully in a non-judgmental and understanding way, which was my intent from the beginning)

    I think there is place in the world for sister Hardy’s commentary (though I don’t think that NYT is the preferrable venue to air out dirty laundry). Shouldn’t there also be place in the same world for my commentary? That there is another side to the story?

  146. I think it’s really interesting to see the different interpretations of this article.

    It didn’t even cross my mind that she might be engaged (and getting contraceptives for that reason), and — though it seemed clear she was giving up on the “law of chastity” — it didn’t look to me like she was necessarily leaving the church (at least not permanently).

    The thing is that there really are a lot more single women in that age range looking for a Mormon man than there are potential partners for them (unless you want to join a polygamist group). It is not unreasonable to say “I would rather be married to a non-member than remain single for the rest of my life.”

    People here have suggested that there’s something wrong with a potential mate if he can’t handle waiting until marriage for sex. But the problem isn’t necessarily that the guy can’t handle waiting. It’s rather that — in modern urban culture — insisting on waiting until marriage (and not just waiting until the relationship is serious) is sufficiently strange that a lot of perfectly nice, normal, ordinary guys would see it as a red flag that there’s something wrong with her. It’s a cultural difference. Outside of Mormon culture, it’s not normal to have a sex-free courtship (and get married less than six months after meeting one another). So she’s conforming to non-Mormon norms to avoid opting herself out of a relationship that might be the right one.

  147. People here have suggested that there’s something wrong with a potential mate if he can’t handle waiting until marriage for sex. But the problem isn’t necessarily that the guy can’t handle waiting. It’s rather that — in modern urban culture — insisting on waiting until marriage (and not just waiting until the relationship is serious) is sufficiently strange that a lot of perfectly nice, normal, ordinary guys would see it as a red flag that there’s something wrong with her.

    I don’t completely disagree with you, and its a valid point.

    I do think that there tends to be this assumption that everyone in Urban America is doing it, and those that aren’t are strange.

    I went to college in LA and lived there over the course of seven years. I knew non-mormons, many in fact (not by any means the majority, but many), that were chaste. We’re strange, but we’re not anomolistic. We do ourselves injustice by assuming that everyone else is so un-chaste in the world. (Hell, we’re downright carnal compared to most Muslims I knew)
    I think in reflection of your ” a lot of perfectly nice, normal, ordinary guys would see it as a red flag that there’s something wrong with her” would be that a lot of perfectly nice, normal, ordinary guys would see it as totally normal and something that they’ve encountered before.

  148. Natasha, thank you! (129) If anyone skipped it please go back and read it.

    What is this church all about? I thought it was about growing into your own spirituality and there is no one way to do that. We all have our own weaknesses and through those weaknesses we are made strong. What is right for one person in one circumstance is not right for another person in another circumstance. Extra-marital sex can be dangerous and abused especially for kids that have little or no life experience. It is a very different circumstance for a person in their thirties that is looking for a ‘real’ relationship. In my experience, extra-marital sex (I was divorced at the time) was a very healing experience. I had been emotionally abused and had very little confidence in myself in a lot of ways including sexually. I had a sexual relationship with a woman I loved very much and she helped me heal in ways I never could have by staying celibate. This healing process continued with another woman I eventually married. I was not ready for a healthy relationship until I had these very healing experiences. Is this right for everybody? No. How should I know?! This was a very serious decision I made. It’s unfortunate that because of my decision I am JUDGED by a lot of people in my family and ward who will never understand my circumstances. God does understand and I feel very good in the eyes of God.

    Nephi killed Laban and he was told to by God. We all do things we may feel godly sorrow for but I don’t believe shame or guilt have any place in the gospel of Jesus Christ! Guilt is not what the adulteress about to get stoned felt. Guilt does not make anyone be a better person and I think it’s time for the attitude of church members to change from one of judgement and shaming to an attitude of love and acceptance to everyone. Even the 30 something that is having sex or the guy that goes to the bar on weekends or even the couple with medical marijuana cards. We all have problems, unfortunately some are not accepted as okay while others are seen as perfectly normal.

  149. 148 – Just so I know I’m reading you right, like Nephi, God told you to lay with two women extra-maritally?

    For it is better that two women be bedded, than a whole phallus dwindle in unuse.

  150. Like B.Russ I don’t completely disagree with you, chanson, but I also think you don’t really understand “single women in that age range looking for a Mormon man” — as evidenced by your quip assuming that a polygamous group could be considered Mormon by the women who are looking for a Mormon man.

    For a woman who is really looking for a Mormon man to form a Mormon family, there is no such thing as “a relationship that might be the right one” if a potential mate were unable or unwilling to understand and live by such a fundamental aspect of Mormon life as chastity. (A relationship with a non-Mormon might theoretically be the right one for a faithful Mormon woman if he could and would support ideals that are as important to faithful Mormon women as that covenant is.) By choosing to actively seek or even passively accept a man outside that description, the writer really is taking herself outside — telling an exit story.

  151. B.Russ – Make fun of me and my circumstances all you want but yes that was the right thing for me to do.

    Why does this have to be an exit story? Why can’t we be tolerant and welcoming enough to ‘sup with the publicans’? I know I’m not perfect but I am more perfect in some areas than others but that does not give me a right to judge anyone.

  152. I do think that there tends to be this assumption that everyone in Urban America is doing it, and those that aren’t are strange.

    Right, even if the assumption isn’t necessarily valid.

    One thing I noticed about the piece was this: She wasn’t saying “Oh, I’m so horny, I can’t handle going another second without sex.” She did (essentially) say that — with the men she was attracted to and interested in a relationship with — it was too great a cultural barrier. They simply couldn’t relate to each other in a romantic relationship because they’re practically speaking a different language. So she decided that she needed to take down that wall.

    Obviously some will object to her calculation, and say she should accept her lot as a single rather than going with a “sin now, repent later” strategy (or possibly a “sin now period” strategy). But, as many have pointed out, single Mormon women her age have a very difficult situation, so it’s hard to pass too much judgement if they opt for drastic measures…

  153. Holy cow, Jenkins.

    If you feel outside the pale of “this church,” the thing that puts you there is not that others have problems that are just as serious as yours. It’s that you seek to justify, even glorify as healing, your problematic action when that action is condemned by every possible gospel measure. It’s one thing to say “I have a problem — I sin — I recognize it as a problem that I need to cure — I ask for your forbearance as I struggle with this problem” and quite another to say “My problem isn’t really a problem — it’s healthy and healing, in fact I recommend it to you, too — and don’t judge me, you hypocrite, because you’re probably doing something just as bad that you hide from the world.”

    But I suspect you understand that already.

  154. p.s. to Ardis: I was kidding about the polygamy thing.

  155. Another question I had from the article and comments is this:

    Why do we assume that every person born in the Church has promised to be celibate until marriage? When is that promise ever made? As a prepubescent eight year old baptized by tradition?

  156. 151 – Jenkins, and I stress that I don’t want any confusion on this point: I am in no way making fun of a) your circumstances b) your actions.

    I am making fun of you equating having sex to Nephi’s slaying of Laban. C’mon now, you have to agree that is a horrible comparison on at least two levels.

  157. Back Row Elder says:

    Jenkins. I’m sincerely happy that fornication was healing for you. Seriously and honestly, I am. Pain and struggle suck, and they are part of being on earth. So I’m glad when anyone manages to mitigate their particular pains and triumphs. But let’s be clear about one thing: there is not a “healing sex” or other type of exception to the injunction on fornication. Not for you, not for Ms. Hardy. Not for any of us. It is sin. Living in a Nephi/Laban-esque interpretation of life is dangerous. You can justify just about any behavior as *OK* through such examples. And we’re not Nephis. We’re not Abrahams, Daniels, Hoseas, or Samuels.

    I agree that shame has no place in the gospel. And that is why I take issue with the praiseworthiness of the virtue Ms. Hardy’s piece represents: self-emancipation by abandonment of shameful religions and an oppressive God.

  158. For a woman who is really looking for a Mormon man to form a Mormon family, there is no such thing as “a relationship that might be the right one” if a potential mate were unable or unwilling to understand and live by such a fundamental aspect of Mormon life as chastity. (A relationship with a non-Mormon might theoretically be the right one for a faithful Mormon woman if he could and would support ideals that are as important to faithful Mormon women as that covenant is.)

    My point is this: A lot of the people in her dating pool were born after the sexual revolution and have hardly been exposed to people taking the law of chastity seriously. There could easily exist a guy who could learn to respect the law of chastity (and other Mormon beliefs) once he spends enough time with Mormons. But it’s possible that such a guy might be confused or nervous enough about dating a 35-yr-old virgin that he would never get to that point in the relationship where he starts to understand her beliefs.

  159. 155 – we can reasonably infer from her claim that she remained celibate for 35 years, that she had promised to remain celibate. If not explicitly, at least implicitly. Otherwise, under what reasoning has she remained celibate?
    If I bring you milk every week for 35 years, and every week for 35 years you pay me a dollar, we can reasonably infer an implied agreement that I sell you milk for a dollar on a weekly basis.

  160. #143 Eric,

    I guess it is in eye of the beholder as to whether her article was dripping with contempt or not. I was looking for contempt when I read it, but I did not view it that way at all. I viewed it as someone who was very frustrated with her experiences and how she fits in, and was expressing herself as she best could I suppose. But I did not see contempt. Perhaps I would describe it as a lack of knowing how she fits in the church when her desires (for intimate companionship and also to not have children) don’t mesh at all with what she perceives as expectations of her in a church she still believes in–in spite of her frustration over the conflict. She has to paint a picture of the conflict, and that is what I think you view as contempt. She is a poet for heaven sakes.

  161. Actually, Jenkins’ claim to have been healed through actions that are clearly considered sin brings up interesting questions. I think Jenkins’ appeal to the Nephi/Laban story isn’t completely out-of-line either, if he’s trying to argue that “sin” is based on circumstances and not absolutes. The big difference there is that Nephi was claiming God told him to kill Laban (though he doesn’t say exactly that). Is Jenkins’ claiming God said “go ahead, fornicate, it’s okay”? If so, there is a parallel — ie., for this case, God changed the rule.

    I didn’t get the impression Jenkins was saying God told him to do it, though. Just that he did it and it worked out for him, even though you wouldn’t expect it based on the commandments.

    Personally, I believe there are actually exceptions to the rules. I’ve never had one myself, but I can accept that others have. I can actually believe that God leads people out of the church on occasion for their own good and healing (MikeInWeHo’s personal story might even fit this).

    However, I think we need to be very careful when we start to think God’s made an exception for us, and even more careful when we start to suggest to others that God has made the same exception for them. That’s something you really don’t want to be wrong about.

  162. Promise, or habit? Or fear of judgement? Or peer pressure? Do we really examine the reason we follow certain traditions?

  163. Eric Russell says:

    Sonny, I’m not interested in going through a textual analysis to explain why I intrepreted the article the way I do, but trust me when I say that I do not read contempt into all descriptions of conflict with the church, even ones that are painful.

  164. Fine Janessa, I’ll appeal to the article in question.

    Because only after the trial of my faith would I be blessed with an eternal marriage, which, I prayed, would also blow my mind in the bedroom.

    That really looks like an implied covenant to me. (if I remain chaste, you’ll bless me with a husband (that’ll blow my socks off))

  165. As far as the peer pressure and the fear of judging, my reading of the article leads me to believe that these were the reasons for her giving up her celibacy, far moreso than her reasons for remaining celibate for so long.

  166. 127, I’ve tried it both ways.

    Right now, I’m the fisherman. I go on a date a week, usually.

  167. Janessa, every time a Mormon partakes of the Sacrament he or she witnesses before God “… that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he has given them …” The law of chastity is one of those commandments that has been explicitly taught at least since the giving of the Ten Commandments. The law of chastity is certainly prominently taught, so yeah, after someone becomes aware of and understands that law, it’s part of the way he or she covenants to live every time the Sacrament is taken.

    There is no way anyone with any significant gospel exposure can seriously consider that facet of life as merely a habit or a fear of judgment or peer pressure.

  168. “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill'; at another time He said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted – by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.” (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. Dean C. Jessee p. 507-509)

    I may not be a Nephi or an Abraham but I believe, and it is one of the fundamental teachings of this church, that I can receive direction for my very own life from God. Is this not what we are all here to learn? If we all blindly follow commandments without searching what is true for each of us what will we learn? My decisions hurt no one. I came away from it a better human being. So what? I don’t feel that I sinned. So what kind of response do I get? For me, giving up a part of what I had been taught was probably the most valuable thing God could take from me. I didn’t do it lightly and I’m not looking for justification. I would, however like to open peoples eyes to the idea that there may be an alternate response to someone deciding to go against church teachings. One involving love and fellowship rather than making that person feel shame and guilt. Last time I checked SHAME and GUILT were not the fruits of the spirit.

  169. Wait a minute says:

    Eric,
    “but trust me when I say that I do not read contempt into all descriptions of conflict with the church, even ones that are painful.”

    I’m sure you don’t, and yes, let’s pass on a textual analysis. I didn’t want to go there. My point is simply you interpreted contempt while in my mind there are equally viable alternate feelings other than contempt behind her words.
    When some people are hurt, confused, frustrated, or otherwise feeling like they are at the end of some rope they can express themselves in ways many may view as contempt, but perhaps mistakenly so.

  170. Last time I checked SHAME and GUILT were not the fruits of the spirit.

    Dude. When we start seeing last-line stingers going all-caps and whatnot, it’s time for gst to show up, don’t you think?

  171. Thanks to everyone for your comments. I’m closing the thread now.

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