The Right Time to Marry?

Earlier this month, I wrote a post about women getting an education, and about how while our leaders encourage getting as much education as possible, we are culturally and ecclesiastically reinforced, as women, to often delay finishing our degrees and begin our child-bearing quite young. I pointed out how Utah has the largest gap in the nation between male and female college graduates, and this data is supported by the US Census, footnoted in the original post.

The comments were lively and interesting, and per normal on a blog discussion there was ample disagreement on some issues. One point, brought up more than a few times, was the idea women were not actually struggling with this anymore- that women were now fully encouraged to get their degrees, and that the church wasn’t pushing them into sacrificing their educations for the sake of marriage and of starting their families young.

I submit to you, from the 2013 March Ensign, The Right Time to Marry.

Comments

  1. This frustrates me more than anything. I know many women who after getting married drop out like this. I also know many couples that both agree to support each other while they are both in school. It’s not an either or thing. We can do it all.

  2. While this is not a groundbreaking insight, I’d like to emphasize the difference between getting married and having kids, as the title of this post seems to blur the two. I see no reason why the decision to get married should have a negative impact on a women’s education. I believe a married women without kids can obtain an education just as easily as a single women. This assumes, of course, that the decision to get married and the decision to have kids are in fact two separate decisions, and that it is acceptable for Mormons to get married without immediately having kids. Is a more relevant question “The Right Time to Have Children”? Or is there something about marriage that I am missing?

  3. One of the things I love* about the Church is how they are so quick to state that they encourage women to get all the education they can, and to pursue their interests and careers–and then they proceed to only highlight instances where the woman gave up her education or her career in order to get married and have kids.

    *by ‘love’ I actually mean, ‘get irritated by’

  4. Mike, as I’ve already alluded to, I don’t know that the Church effectively recognizes a differences. If you sift through the stories that get highlighted as ‘good examples,’ I think you’ll find that they almost always consist of getting married AND having kids.

  5. Mike, we are constantly encouraged to not put off starting our families. A woman who marries and does not have children soon after is under tremendous social and even sometimes ecclesiastical pressure, not to mention people feeling free to ask her personal questions about her plans. Yes, it does happen.

  6. It seems like an unfair reading of the article to imply that the church is pushing women into sacrificing their educations for the sake of marriage. It seemed to me more like the author was encouraging young adults not to focus on education to the exclusion of marriage. I understand that some people will extend that encouragement, particularly in light of the choices the exemplary couple made, to mean that a man’s primary obligation is to get an education and a job, with his duty to provide childcare being ancillary, while a woman’s primary obligation is to get married and stay home with the kids, with her duty to get an education being ancillary. As unfair as that is, I don’t think it’s fair to impute that extension to the author when it simply isn’t there.

  7. I don’t see that Ane “dropped out” but rather that she “will continue her education part-time and online, allowing her to get an education and to stay home to nurture their daughter”.

    As they were married in 2009 I’m curious as to the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say.

  8. Marriage is such a situational thing, and the goals of any given individual are constantly changing. Maybe Ane will actually finish, but I know my mom never did (she just turned 52, don’t tell her I told you that…) while my MIL finished college shortly before turning 50. I’ll finish my bachelor’s in July (married, 26, no kids) and hope to get my master’s sooner than later, but really life is so crazy that I have no idea. Most of the friends I have around my age have already finished undergrad and graduate studies. Maybe I’ll love teaching so much that I won’t want to take the year or so off to get a master’s, but maybe I’ll hate it so much that my career path will veer off into an entirely new branch. Who knows?

    I find it most sad/frustrating that they glorified Ane’s dropping out for the daughter, but a) it was her choice and b) at least they say that she’ll try…

  9. See #3 and #4 above.

  10. Thanks for highlighting this article, Tracy. I read it, and here is my summary:

    1) This highlights a couple who got married and who both continued to pursue education and family. The wife didn’t “drop out”. She changed the nature of her study from full-time, on-ground to part-time, on-line – but the article emphasizes that she isn’t letting go of her education and just hoping to return and finish it sometime in the ambiguous future.

    2) No age was specified and no hint was given as to a proper age to marry. The only advice was to marry when you feel you have found the person to whom you should be married – and to not let go of the desire to gain an education even after marriage. In fact, the article strongly encourages the continued pursuit of education by women who do marry before they earn a degree.

    3) The thesis of the article seems to be summed up in the following quote from it: “Marriage, education, and career can go together.” Thus, the message seems to be that it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.

    I certainly don’t hold up this one example as the perfect, universal solution for everyone, but it’s a HUGE step forward from what was and still is the cultural norm – and I can’t see a strong negative message being sent. If anything, it seems to be encouraging women who marry before completing a degree to do whatever it takes to continue their education – in one way or another.

  11. I also agree that the core issue, for me, is not getting married but rather having children immediately upon marriage. I really don’t care all that much how old my daughters are when they get married, but I do care that they get degrees and not have kids too early.

    The traditional model worked for me and my wife, but that was back in a different time.

  12. From the first few paragraphs of the story, I honestly thought there would be a “happy” ending in which the couple made the rational choice of Ane completing her education as planned. There is no reason that a woman needs to drop out of school because she gets married. We have labored under this forced and false dichotomy for too long. This could portend negative outcomes if viewed in connection with the change in missionary age for women. That is, if this story indicates that the dichotomy between marriage and education for women still exists in the minds of many Mormons and is blessed by the Church (rather than a course that still recommends marriage young if that’s what the couple wants but doesn’t imply that marriage should or in fact does mean that the woman’s education either gets dropped or put on hold indefinitely), then what happens when women who have not substantially completed their education already come home from their missions? They begin their education but then get married and drop out. Could the outcome of the missionary age change actually lead to fewer LDS women finishing their undergraduate degrees?

  13. John F, that’s a very good question, and one that’s been on my mind for a few weeks now. It worries me, if we can’t get over the idea that the woman is the one who predominantly drops out once marriage and family happen. And for LDS couples, with little exception, babies generally follow marriage quickly.

  14. The right time to get married is when you’ve studied it out, prayed, and received the revelation to go forward with it. it. That’s what I got from this article. That’s the answer I would convey to the YW I’m blessed to serve in my ward. And yes, I realize, some might say the answer the article gives is to get married before education, but I don’t think so (and if that’s what the article’s author intended, I don’t care-that’s not what I choose to take from it). The answer to the question isn’t to marry when someone else in a similar situation decided to marry, the answer is study it out and ask the Lord. This couple was open to receive whatever answer the Lord gave them. That’s how we all should be. And we only need to answer to the Lord–He’s the only one we need to worry about impressing. I know that’s easier said than done in the world we all live in (in and out of the Church), but I figure the more I say that to “my” YW, the more it just might sink in.

  15. This article enraged me. There’s been lively discussion in some other forums about this article, debating how Norway is a more secure place for the wife to have chosen this as she will have a lot of benefits that enable her to have child care, continue her education, etc. Or that she *is* planning on continuing her education, which is good and admirable. But I really feel that if this article had been able HOW the couple made this decision work for them (work, child care options, etc.) it would have been less objectionable. The point of this article, in my opinion, was not to showcase HOW a couple made family a priority but specifically to show how good and faithful they – and particularly SHE was for valuing marriage *over* education.

    The quotes that I found highly problematic were first, “I have been well taught in YW, through lessons and PP. My goal has always been to marry in the temple.” Which indicates to me that her YW experience has been heavily slanted towards marriage (shocking, I know…) and not towards education or other good and godly priorities as well. And second, “[she] knew that she would still work towards getting an education, because that was something that the Lord’s prophets also encourage. But for now she knew that marriage would be her first priority,” which rather sets up the idea that marriage/family and education are an either/or scenario. And indicates that for women in particular, the priority should not be for education over marriage (the use of the word “also” rankles me).

    Women should not have to choose between education and marriage. And I really felt that this article was glorifying the woman for making the “correct” choice in her priorities. Since by definition church publications are meant to be inspirational, I would argue that the purpose of this article is potentially inspire women worldwide to make the same choice – even if they do not live in a country with excellent benefits for new parents, even if it is not a wise decision to marry and have children at this particular time, even if they haven’t come up with a plan to move wisely towards all their goals (including marriage, family, education, career, etc.). As such, I think it’s a bad message to broadcast to the women of the church at large.

  16. #14 That might be true, if we ever (ever ever ever) heard stories that go against this narrative. But we don’t. We hear this one- marry young, don’t put off having children. Period. We don’t hear stories from women who chose otherwise but achieved happiness anyway. We just don’t. We don’t hear about successful families who are formed outside of this ideal formula- and they DO exist. This is the only story we hear, the only one we tell, the one we tell our YW. Ad infinitum.

  17. I didn’t like that quote above either, because it makes it seem like YW leaders are telling girls, yeah, forget about college, just get married. So not true (at least where I am). Of course we teach about temple marriage, but always as, when you get married, strive to be worthy to marry in the temple (and that should be true whether you marry a member of the church or not).

  18. Well, we do tell a lot of stories different from this narrative on the local level (very, very often), and some the same. More than one experience is valid.

  19. I wonder if our Church situation is any different from other churches and how they do marriages and careers and whatnot. I think each couple should figure things out for themselves and getting married just because some random General Authority who never has to live with the consequences of your decisions is folly.

  20. >Could the outcome of the missionary age change actually lead to fewer LDS women finishing their undergraduate degrees?

    I predict it will for British LDS at the very least, JF. British LDS women tend to be better educated than men because they go to university at 18 when men do not. If more go on missions, fewer will get degrees.

  21. re # 15, C., that is such a good point about Norway providing a robust social system that is extremely family friendly and allows this type of thing to happen comfortably. This is a characteristic shared by all free market economies of Western Europe. The United States, of course, is a noticeable exception among developed nations in not providing such family friendly legislation supporting women in their choices to have children.

    But this raises a concern for developing countries. Is this message (that marriage or education are an either/or choice rather than “and”) actually going to be good for our brothers and sisters in developing countries where a woman foregoing her education threatens to perpetuate the poverty cycle in that family for at least one more generation, possibly more? The article definitely gives the impression of the Church endorsing this couple’s choice to have Ane drop out (with the caveat that at some point she will continue her education online, definitely presenting her education as secondary). It is the righteous thing to do. And if it is for this couple in Norway, for whom poverty is not in the cards no matter what decisions they make thanks to their country’s social system, then it must be right for a young couple in Guatemala or Ghana too.

    Again, the idea that is has to be either marriage or a woman’s education is simply a false dichotomy. It is a mystery why it would still be portrayed as such.

  22. #21: exactly!

  23. Tracy, so is the only problem with marriage and education the tremendous pressure that comes to have children soon? Put another way, if we successfully eliminated the social (and sometimes ecclesiastical) pressure to have children soon after getting married, the marriage itself would present no obstacle to a woman’s educational goals. Is that fair?

  24. I think that’s probably a fair statement, Mike. I certainly personally don’t see it as a legitimate dichotomy to say either marriage or woman’s education (men’s education is not in question no matter what scenario — that alone should give some small pause for thought in all of our “equality” discussions, shouldn’t it?).

    But we have the additional obstacle of large numbers of Mormons who think birth control is wrong. I am guessing that these Mormons fall disproportionately in less educated areas, including in the developing world.

  25. Only, Mike? No, I didn’t say that, and I’m not comfortable distilling anything here down to a succinct soundbite. It’s a complicated, multi-faceted cultural and religious situation with a lot of variables. There are a ton of problems with the article, not the least of which are outlined in the above comments. Marriage and education are not and should not be mutually exclusive. It’s well established that having children will cause many women to leave their degrees unfinished. That fact creates a host of problems, socially, economically and even spiritually.

  26. “Marriage and education are not and should not be mutually exclusive.”

    The article agrees with that statement. It’s important in cases like this, I believe, to be precise in our analyses of what is said and not make charges about the article that aren’t supported by the article itself.

    “It’s well established that having children will cause many women to leave their degrees unfinished.”

    Agreed – and that is the only issue I have with the article. The issue isn’t the right time to marry (I agree with what the article says about that.); the issue is the right time to have kids (I don’t agree with the message the article sends about that.).

  27. Also of note, as has been pointed out, this example is happening in Norway, where a mother is granted 46 weeks 100% paid leave for childbirth, or 56 weeks at 80% pay, she is guaranteed subsidized higher education, child-care and her risk of poverty is ridiculously lower than her American female counterpart who drops out (or delays) college.

  28. Education really is the principle key to overcoming poverty. In light of that, I would have thought we as a Church body would do everything we can to encourage women to seek and complete their education! The false dichotomy presented in this article seems to undermine that goal and as a result we end not working effectively as we could be to end the cycle of poverty in which so many of our members in the developing world are trapped.

  29. Ray, the article expresses that she did drop out (precipitated by a move) and that she is putting her education on hold for the time being with the plan to eventually complete her education on a part-time basis and online. This fits into the either/or dichotomy that has animated us as a people for many decades, perhaps since the beginning.

  30. I’ll add my voice in support of talking about marriage and childbearing as a closely connected sequence of events. Not only are we encouraged not to delay having children (of course, as we counsel with the Lord), but our culture is not exactly stellar at sex education. I realized that openness about discussing sex and its consequences varies greatly from family to family, but my family and my husband’s faithful LDS families barely mentioned sex as part of marriage, let alone options for family planning. And whose career and education plans are affected more by the birth of a child in our culture — the mother’s or the father’s? For us, it was definitely me.

    The upshot for us was that three months after we were married, I was unexpectedly pregnant. Chalk it up to naivete and hormones and us being crazy fertile. We had both finished our undergrad degrees, and I had just started a job I was excited about to put my DH through his master’s program, and 2 months into my job I had to tell my employer I was pregnant. There was HUGE cultural and family pressure to stay home with my baby when she was born, which I followed, and it put us in a tricky financial situation for several years. DH worked like crazy, I stayed home in a post-partum funk with baby, and it was one of the most difficult periods of my life to date.

    So. Yes, I finished my degree. BUT. Cultural expectations about how much (or little) I should know about sex before I married and what to do with the consequences of sex afterwards had a huge impact on the course of my life now. Could I have been more independent, broken the norms and asked for the time and information I needed? Maybe, but if you think that’s easy, I urge you to think again.

  31. So is one criticism of the article that it presents a false dichotomy between marriage and education? Why does Ane even think that marriage will be incompatible with her educational goals? That is something I don’t get from reading the article, so perhaps I misread the criticism earlier? Is part of the complaint about the article not that marriage actually hurts a woman’s education (outside the kids issue), but that this article shows that young women in the church are somehow taught and expect that marriage isn’t compatible with education goals, and that a choice must be made between the two? Thus, when they get married, they think it is reasonable to sacrifice their educational goals, whereas if they had different expectations they would not see marriage as posing any problem to education.

  32. Shouldn’t the question be what is better for Mormon children – rather than what is better for Mormon adults?

  33. Why does Ane even think that marriage will be incompatible with her educational goals? . . . Is part of the complaint about the article . . . that this article shows that young women in the church are somehow taught and expect that marriage isn’t compatible with education goals, and that a choice must be made between the two?

    I definitely think that this article reveals that problem.

  34. Here is the exact quote from the article that deals with the decision about education:

    “After their marriage, Ane and Benjamin moved to a new town where they both began their university studies. Soon they welcomed their daughter, Olea, and Ane temporarily put her studies on hold. Ane will continue her education part-time and online, allowing her both to get an education and to stay at home to nurture their daughter. Although she knows that such an arrangement will be hard work, Ane will still be able to get the education she desires.

    “Some people may have thought that I had to sacrifice many things to get married and start a family,” she says, “and it could have looked that way. But in reality I have gained everything. I know that when I choose to put the Lord first, everything else will be given me. I am very excited and thankful to get my degree. But most of all I am thankful that we have the opportunity to be an eternal family!”

    From this passage, the following is clear:

    1) They both started their university studies when they moved to the new town. Marriage didn’t derail her education in any way.

    2) Ane “temporarily put her studies on hold” when she was having her baby, but she “is excited and thankful to get (her) degree”.

    Again, there are two separate issues in this article.

    1) There is absolutely nothing in it that says women should drop out of school and not continue to pursue a degree when they get married. In fact, Ane enrolled in a university as a married student.

    2) There is a clear message not to delay having kids – and that part-time, online education is fine for married women.

    As I said, I have no problem with the first issue. My issue is with the second message as a general rule, even as I understand it provides encouragement for women who do want to start a family to continue to pursue a degree in some way.

    As I said, I want my daughters to get a degree before having kids, but if they choose to have kids before that I want them to do what it takes to finish a degree, anyway.

  35. Chris Kimball says:

    I think the article (in the Ensign) connects marriage and children. Consider these phrases: “the gospel’s emphasis on family and marriage”, “education and work . . . does not leave much room for family”, “Some people may have thought that I had to sacrifice many things to get married and start a family”, “I am thankful that we have the opportunity to be an eternal family”. I doubt that any Mormon reader would miss the point that marriage and family are intended to be contemporaneous.

  36. This article–which shares a personal story of how one model worked for one couple–would be defensible if it weren’t the only model ever presented in church curriculum. I agree that it emphasizes that this is a personal decision, that family and education *can* work together, and that it can work out in different ways for different families. The implied nod toward pluralism and heterogeneity is great.

    But there are other stories on this same issue of family and education that also highlight and commend the decision to place the wife’s education at a priority, then there really is no heterogeneity and it is still the same-old message that is both discouraging and destructive.

  37. Chris Kimball says:

    Re my #34, “the ARTICLE’S point that marriage and family are intended to be contemporaneous.”
    I personally disagree.

  38. Well, the Gospel has nothing to with marriage or family. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus overcame sin and death and the way you live the Gospel is by having faith in Christ, repenting, being baptized, following the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. Family, marriage and all that stuff are only appendages to it. I don’t like the idea that I am not living my religion by not being married, as if we push Christ out of the way and the only ticket into heaven is your marriage certificate

  39. Going off of Ray’s discussion has there ever been an article or talk that talked about or lauded waiting to have kids to finish education? Because birth control isn’t covered by church (and thus BYU students) insurance. That in and of itself sends a pretty clear message. Plus the temple sealing is pretty commanding in that vein.

  40. Its good that the church encourages women to get an education, but then what? A woman spends all that money to get her education, but then the expectation is still for her to stay home with her children, at least while they are young or in the home. The idea that a woman who does that could then enter the work force years later based on her education alone is not reality anymore. If you haven’t done anything in your education field for 10+ years, you can’t just get back in. Its also hard to get a higher degree after being out of school for so long with no work experience. This is probably one reason why people delay marriage nowdays, you’ve really got to advance your education and career while you’re young, or its so much harder to do so later. I saw the movie Mona Lisa Smiles recently. It is set in the 1950′s where the women get a great education but then stay home to raise their families. That is the current model for modern LDS women.

  41. #39 – Amen.

  42. Not only is birth control not covered, you cannot get a tubal ligation or vasectomy until you’ve had 5 children, or four miscarriages, or the health of the mother is in proven jeopardy.

  43. I live in Bountiful, Utah in a very old, traditional stake. Yet, what I see is very encouraging. There are several young couples in our ward. Many have married while still working on their undergraduate degrees while attending the U of U, USU. BYU or Weber State. I have not seen one of them immediately start having children. They are all very focused on their education and starting their careers. NOBODY in our ward or stake leadership has given them a difficult time for that decision. In fact, just the opposite, everyone is very encouraging of BOTH the wife and husband completing their education and going forward with their careers.

    At least in my neck of the woods, the old stereo typical situation of the young couple meeting in college, the wife dropping out, and immediately getting pregnant is NOT at all the reality. Both finish their education, both work for awhile before having children, and many times the wife continues her career after children are added to the family. Again, all of this is done with without any judgment on the part of the ward or stake leadership or on the part of the ward members. Also, in this economy nobody judges any one else for wanting to keep a good job and her career options viable.

  44. @#31. I think my reaction was so negative because I *was* taught in YW, and occasionally in RS while at university, that my primary goal was to be a wife and mother and that if education bumped up against those goals, then education needed to be sacrificed because it should not be my primary life goal and motive. Luckily for me I called bullshit. But I think many (not all, and certainly not uniformly) many young women in the church are taught, either explicitly or implicitly that education is a secondary goal to marriage an motherhood, and a disposable one at that if given the choice between the two. I think, I hope things are changing but marriage/family and education quite often are presented to many LDS women as an either/or choice. Which I think is false. Articles like this may not explicitly state this, but I do believe that they are intended to be supplementary to the teaching experiences I’ve had to encourage me as a woman to make marriage and childbearing a priority over all else. Even when it comes at a cost to me. And I find that highly problematic.

  45. Yes, yes, it’s a terrible surprise that a church for whom celestial marriage is the crowning ordinance would teach young men and young women to prepare for it, and to print articles in their church magazine that suggest that when the spirit says to marry that you should marry.

    This article makes clear that Ane did not stop her education as Ray said in #10, 26 and 34. She did adjust her path according to the inspiration (and teaching) she received, no doubt.

  46. There isn’t one right way to go about any of this. The leaders of the church … many of them … have a management mentality wherein they look at general trends, try to see the ends of those trends both in the present and the future, and give general advice accordingly. The problem is that _everyone_ is an individual, everyone an anecdotal bit of data, everyone an exception – if not at this point, at some other. Meanwhile good members of the church follow this general advice around as if it were the thing itself, as if it were the gospel, but can’t tell you the first thing about the nature of God, and can’t distinguish the Holy Spirit from ‘I felt good about it.’

    I wish the church would teach the gospel and let the chips fall where they may. I wish they would stop trying to micro-manage the lives of its members who are, after all, grown up citizens of the countries where they live.

  47. and that is another example of why Thomas is one of my favorite commenters.

  48. Family and education/career ARE either/or in many ways. “You can have it all” is the biggest lie of the work/life balance. There is only so much time and so much energy. But glory is in our struggle with the gray in life, with choosing between two good things. As we learn to be pliant to the Lord’s direction and make our own decisions about which good thing to pursue at different times in our lives, we become strong. We don’t follow the Lord’s will because there is no risk, because we are guaranteed success. We follow His will because we trust that, even should we lose it ALL, it will be to our eternal good. We are able to look beyond our wishes, dreams and desires to the divinity of the Lord’s work, our immortality and eternal life.

    There was a time in my life that I faced losing everything I care about in order to follow the will of the Lord. I almost did. So my only issue with the article is this: “I know that when I choose to put the Lord first, everything else will be given me.”

    That turns the Lord into a vending machine and is not true for everyone. I have reason to know. “Everything” will not necessarily be given. But if we put the Lord first, we can be His instrument in His work, even if we lose everything we have.

  49. Regarding a few comments above, it’s worth noting that the lack of BYU insurance coverage for reproductive health should not be assumed to have religious origins. Every academic health plan I have been on (at three different universities so far) has not covered those services. I know that some others do. But absent direct information, I am not sure that BYU insurance coverage, or lack of coverage, has anything to do with LDS belief, except as perhaps connected to its implementation in state insurance laws.

    On the main topic, I can find no way of reading the article in question as supporting women’s education equally with men’s. Sad.

  50. CJ Douglass says:

    Finishing a degree (even part time or online) after you have children is extremely difficult if you’re the primary care giver. And that fact seems to encourage, not dissuade, people that it must be from God. #selffulfillingprophecy

  51. CJ Douglass says:

    So my only issue with the article is this: “I know that when I choose to put the Lord first, everything else will be given me.”

    Amen SilverRain. That’s one of the biggest piles of BS I hear taught in our Church. Someone forgot to tell John the Baptist and Joseph Smith and Abinadi and Jesus.

  52. One of the girls in my ward (she’s in the 8th grade) was asked if the lowering of the age in which women can serve a mission changes her college and education plans. Her response, “I think I’d rather get married than go to school.” I would call her, as F. Scott Fitzgerald called Daisy “a pretty little fool.” Education/mission/marriage are not either/ors!!

  53. #52 – To be fair, in 8th grade lots of students, regardless of religious affiliation, would rather get married than go to more school – while lots of students, regardless of religious affiliation, are committed to attending college. In fact, in 8th grade, lots of students are having kids without bothering to consider marriage.

    Parental example and attitude are the biggest factor, and that is why I would love messages that marriage and having kids quickly are two very different things.

  54. Chris Kimball says:

    I read the article expecting some kind of “study it out, fast and pray” kind of answer to the “when?” question. However, it seems that the instruction on timing comes down to the institute leader’s words: “when you have the right person and the right place (the temple), it’s the right time!” In other words, the lesson seems to be that we should privilege marriage and family, we should choose person and place, and then time will be “now”.
    Is that really what ‘we’ teach? Why isn’t time also a matter of study and prayer for each individual to work out?

  55. Researcher says:

    The general impression I get from this conversation is that every woman should finish a four-year degree, finish at least one graduate degree, perhaps get married sometime during the course of the graduate degree, then get well established in a career before even considering having children. Perhaps the first thought of children might come at age 29 to 32, at which point a woman will have 2 to 3 children, spaced evenly three years apart, while effortlessly meshing her education and career goals with those of her husband.

    Okay, so that’s more specific than anyone’s been, but am I reading the general tenor of the conversation correctly? Is that the ideal life path of the BCC commenter?

    If that’s what is being assumed by many of these comments, that is so absurd.

    There is no one correct answer for choosing a path through life. To some people, there are greater goods than fame and fortune and even perfect security. Not everyone is cut out for academics and a professional career. Some people will work in the trades. Some will work in the service industries. Some women will (gasp) be stay-at-home mothers.

    Each person will need to figure his or her own life path — education, marriage, and children — through his or her own inspiration, and if active members tend to default through the stated or implied counsel of the Church to getting married and having children earlier, they will also be hearing the Church’s repeated counsel to get as much education as they can, and will be working to juggle all three. If they don’t choose to do it in a way that would please the average BCC commenter, then am I understanding correctly that they should be condemned and ridiculed as unthinking sheep who don’t really understand the process of personal revelation?

  56. Researcher says:

    …That said, I teach the Beehives and never lose an opportunity to encourage them to make long-term goals that include finishing a degree (or degrees) or technical training.

    Statistically, most women will get married and have children, but statistically many women will find themselves at some point in their life being the primary breadwinner in their household. I asked one time when I was teaching all the Young Women if anyone in the room knew a woman who didn’t have to work at some point in her life, and not a single girl or leader could think of an example. That was a pretty good illustration that the girls really need to make plans to get an education so they will be able to do work that they like and that will be financially beneficial to their family or themselves.

    One other point that I’ve discussed repeatedly with the girls is that juggling the three things — education/work, marriage, and children — is something that may be a difficulty throughout their lives, and that they need to seek the inspiration of the Lord as they make those important decisions.

  57. The general impression I get from this conversation is that every woman should finish a four-year degree, finish at least one graduate degree, perhaps get married sometime during the course of the graduate degree, then get well established in a career before even considering having children.

    What’s absurd is if you got that from the comments here. I didn’t get that impression at all from these comments.

  58. Rob Perkins says:

    I agree with those who got “study, fast, ponder, pray” as the proffered council. Yeah, the example was of a man and woman where they married and she had the baby and dropped from full time to part time student, putting education on hold. (Isn’t that what “family leave” law is supposed to facilitate, I ask tangentially?)

    Perhaps I don’t bristle at the Ensign article because for my wife and me, our decision was to marry, while I dropped out and she finished a final year of university studies and her externships. Then we started having kids, with me as primary provider, all these 20 years later still without a completed university degree, which I’m working on in my middle age “part-time, on-line,” as the article put it. The Lord provided throughout, in my view; we’ve never wanted for essentials. And the university experience, even at an on-line remove, is so much richer in middle age than it ever would have been in my youth.

    I also don’t think anyone should discount the benefit of a university degree applied only to a family setting, especially if one considers the lib-arts elements of a university experience to be an end, rather than a means. Which it is. :-)

  59. @55: I don’t think that’s an accurate portrayal of the comments, but it is is interesting that’s what’s coming across to some.

    What I’m getting is, “There are a lot of options to make marriage and family and careers work for individuals and families. However the church consistently advocates and glorifies only one of those options – the prioritizing for women of marriage and motherhood over other considerations. This is not good for the global body of the church. It fails to adequately allow for individual circumstances and revelation, and helps create a cultural environment where people who deviate from this proscribed option may be viewed as less righteous. There are also some real negative long term impacts that stem from the proscribed option (ie, it is preferable for women to choose to be married and have children over an education uniformly) that are often unaddressed.”

  60. Fwiw, what I’m getting are some valid concerns about the article mixed in with a recognition of real cultural pressures extrapolated onto that article in ways that highlight real issues from the article AND mischaracterizations of what the article actually says about some things.

    In other words, I’m getting a complex discussion of a complex issue based on the article itself AND common cultural factors that influence how different people do and will read and interpret the article.

    That sounds like a typical, healthy online discussion, overall.

  61. Researcher says:

    john f (12): “From the first few paragraphs of the story, I honestly thought there would be a “happy” ending in which the couple made the rational choice of Ane completing her education as planned.”

    Why would you assume that their decision is irrational? Why is part-time and distance learning not a rational option? Not everyone is — or wants to be — or can be by circumstance — a traditional student.

    Also, you made the point above that “large numbers of Mormons … think birth control is wrong…” I don’t know where these large numbers of Mormons are hiding, because I sure don’t know any of them.

  62. C, #59 YES.

  63. Just to complicate the discussion a little more, getting a four-year degree and especially graduate school isn’t always helpful, either. Most degrees require maintenance to remain relevant. For every uneducated woman I know failing at the workforce after choosing to stay at home, I know at least one over- or mis-educated woman who is nose-deep in debt and unable to pay it off.

  64. I’m with you Researcher #61. I think I have only encountered one couple in church in my adult life who did not appear practice birth control and just kept on having kids. I also haven’t noticed many young adults in my area getting married lately let alone getting married really young. Perhaps this is what this article is trying to address.
    With adequate preparation and planning starting in high school a woman (or man) can finish a degree quickly and may never need to be faced with the dilemma of choosing between an education and motherhood. Personally I feel that a woman not getting an education before motherhood reflects a lack of planning.

    I’ve seen a lot of women and a number of men spend a lot of money and time getting completely unmarketable degrees. I wouldn’t put off parenthood just for that.

  65. It just seems a bit circular to say that the church is pushing the culture in a certain direction when the source for that pushing is not the express instruction of the church leaders, but the highlighting of certain choices made by the members. Maybe the church is also doing the pushing, but I don’t think it’s in this article.

  66. “Personally I feel that a woman not getting an education before motherhood reflects a lack of planning.”

    I totally agree. Planning. If by that word you mean to include time, resources, finances, class, gender and race inequality, cultural pressure, and a few other things.

  67. What i hear from MDs is that it makes business sense for insurance companies to pay for preventative birth control (for men and women). Coverage for a birth is much greater. Just my .02.

  68. Capozaino:

    “It just seems a bit circular to say that the church is pushing the culture in a certain direction when the source for that pushing is not the express instruction of the church leaders, but the highlighting of certain choices made by the members.”

    How can you say that with a straight face when the article itself refers repeatedly to how the woman in question studied the words of leaders and the PotF in making her decision?

  69. Here’s the thing. My own mother followed that path- dropping out of college after marriage and kids. I have a hard time being critical of others’ decisions to do the same because I was the beneficiary of one such decision, and not only because she quit school to raise her children. 15 years later she went back to college and finally earned her bachelor’s degree. I don’t know that I would have the same dedication to gaining an education (as I have now, multiple times over) if I had not first seen her dedication and example.

    What I *am* uncomfortable with is institutionalizing this pattern in this way. One decision rarely fits every life and every situation.

  70. Because that doesn’t necessarily mean she was pushed. It merely indicates that she considered viewpoints expressed by church leaders when making her decision. Maybe the specific sources she considered did push her to prioritize having kids and becoming their primary caregiver over her own education, maybe not; the article doesn’t say. All I’m saying is that, if you’re looking for a church leader pushing a woman to put her education on the back burner, the cited article isn’t it.

  71. some of us were raised on a diet that birth control, waiting to get married and getting an education first are selfish and deceived and I recall Elder Hartman Rector saying once that when we get to heaven the Lord will ask us, “it says here you have a PH.D. great, where’s your family?” he was supportive of you getting a doctorate but not at the the expense of your family. For me and my house I ignore advice from the Brethren when it comes to lived experiences, I make up my own mind and I live with the consequences

  72. Capozaino: you’d better limber up both your anterior and posterior epistemic muscles before engaging in that kind of strained logical acrobatics. Pulleez.

  73. 49 hbar, you talk about not being provided with benefits for birth control at other universities. Were they in Utah or were they in other states? Twenty some years ago my pharmacist told me in regards to that point, once IHC stopped providing coverage (largest carrier in the state) every other carrier stopped as well. I don’t know if that is true or not but it was a bit of interesting trivia. It wasn’t until my husband’s employer was a company that was based in Norway did we learn about what real insurance should cover. Then it was Microsoft for a few years, and well they might as well be their own marvelous little socialized country, or say that in all sincerity. I have more I’m thinking about all this, we’ll see if I actually write it down.

  74. I married at 19, had a baby by 20, and delayed school for 15 years. The day I registered my last child for kindergarten, (my 5th) I applied for school. I graduate in June with honors. It is possible to finish school with a family, but I drill it into my boys’ heads to never, never have a baby before their wives graduate from college. No one ever told me that having kids right away sets you back financially for at least a decade.. I just did what I thought was expected of me. I wouldn’t take back my choices, but I sure wouldn’t recommend them.

  75. Then there’s this from Elder Oaks at the last general conference:
    “From the perspective of the Plan of Salvation, one of the most serious abuses of children is to deny them birth,” he said. “This is a worldwide trend. The national birthrate in the United States is the lowest in 25 years, and the birthrates in most European and Asian countries have been below replacement levels for many years. This is not just a religious issue. As rising generations diminish in numbers, cultures and even nations are hollowed out and eventually disappear.”

  76. I had a professor of statistics in college (not BYU and not Mormon) who used demographic analyses to show that revolution occurs frequently when the upper-class, educated citizenry ceases to repopulate above replacement levels and decreases in total number beyond a tipping point in relation to the higher survival rate of the lower-class, uneducated citizenry. He made the same observation about the effects of immigration (consisting overwhelmingly of lower-economic class, uneducated laborers) and talked of trends he saw for the future.

    This was back in the late 1980′s. I didn’t believe him at the time, but I have come to understand better his claims after living longer and being a History Teacher myself for a time.

    That doesn’t change my overall view of the article in question in any way, but it does inform my view of statements about not choosing education to the exclusion of family – and not following the non-replacement level reproduction trend so common among the educated in many areas.

  77. Perhaps it would be helpful if there were an established consensus on how poor is too poor to have children.
    (^ this is not ok ^)

  78. #77 – If that was pointed at my comment, it’s irrelevant to what I wrote.

  79. Chris Kimball says:

    “Worldwide trend” of lower birthrates is probably correct, but the reasons are somewhat more complicated than selfish choices or child abuse. I’m quoting here: “as a country’s wealth rises, its health rises; as its health rises, its child mortality drops; and as its child mortality drops, so does its number of children born per woman, which leads to a sustainable overall population size.” See http://youtu.be/OwII-dwh-bk
    I understand (which is a way of saying I do not have a citation) that other studies suggest that the key starting point is better described not as a country’s wealth but as the country’s WOMEN’s education and wealth.

  80. “the key starting point is better described not as a country’s wealth but as the country’s WOMEN’s education and wealth.”

    Yes.

  81. Sharee Hughes says:

    When my oldest niece got married and she got pregnant on the first night (at least it seemed that way–it was actually a couple of months) I said I thought they should have waited a bit to start their family, get to know each other a bit first. My niece’s husband said,”That’s not what the prophet says.” Because my niece turned out to be unable to carry a child full term, the baby was born at 26 weeks, weighed 2′ 2 “:and required constant care. Needless to say, their marriage did not last long, neither did their church -going. She was the only one of my brother’s children who had even planned to go to college.(she was quite bright–she took after me). Decisions on when to start a family need to be made between a couple and he Lord and should take health and financial circumstances into consideration. No two couples are alike. One size does NOT fit all.

  82. Ray, 78 was directed to my own comment. Didn’t mean to bring you into it at all. In fact, I rather appreciated what you had to say!

    Lest we get carried away, I would like to point out (if it has not already) that it is much easier for a younger generation to marry and be given in marriage.

    Huh. maybe we could institute arranged marriages.

  83. “Personally I feel that a woman not getting an education before motherhood reflects a lack of planning.”

    I totally agree. Planning. If by that word you mean to include time, resources, finances, class, gender and race inequality, cultural pressure, and a few other things.

    I’m not sure I quite follow what you are saying. I would expand this thought by saying that, if a high school student is dedicated and takes the right classes in high school, some AP classes and perhaps some classes at a local community college in the summer and if she has good guidance from counselors and family members a degree would be within reach in just a few years at a reasonable cost.

  84. rk–You answered your own question. “if a high school student is dedicated and takes the right classes in high school, some AP classes and perhaps some classes at a local community college in the summer and if she has good guidance from counselors and family members a degree would be within reach in just a few years at a reasonable cost.” That has everything to do with finances, time, class, culture–all things beyond a woman’s control.

  85. I really dislike the old, “this worked for them, so it will work for you” anecdotes about life choices that get thrown at us. Especially when the story is only half told. We don’t know if Ane will feel the same way in 10 years when she has more children, couldn’t balance kids and college and her husband may not be able to provide for the family anymore. The story really tells me nothing other than a few choices made by two people.

    Wouldn’t it be better to just teach people that they are entitled to personal revelation about governing their own lives and the choices made after receiving revelation are valid no matter what anyone, including church leaders have to say about it?

  86. I feel sorry for Ane and Benjamin, to have their personal choice second-guessed by readers like this. These are real people, and I celebrate their decision, which works for them. It doesn’t mean I have to do the same, or that their choice is one-size-fits-all. Hopefully we would all take the same careful consideration (which took them over a year to decide) but beyond that, of course each of us is going to make a choice unique to us.

    I think we need to hear stories like this because for a lot of first-generation members like me, we never considered any option other than lifelong full-time employment. I can understand that it might seem tedious and blah-blah one-more-time to someone raised in Utah. But for me, it has been an eye-opener to meet women who are amazing full-time parents, and in my experience only in the church have such choices are validated.

  87. Are there really active Mormon couples out there who need to be reminded that having kids is important? In my experience, its one of the most fundamental desires for spiritually engaged people. It seems that the only reason to counsel couples to start early(opposed to just reminding people to follow spiritual promptings and prayerful answers), is the danger that a career might put childbearing off indefinitely. And yet, I’ve never met or even heard of anyone who comes to that conclusion because their education came first.

  88. I should say, “never met of even heard of any Mormons….”

  89. For a church that often touts that we believe in personal revelation (get married when you feel it’s right), it seems that a very limited set of narratives are considered acceptable (the right time to get married is right out of high school/off your mission), even more so for women. It’s frustrating.

    It’s not that I have a problem with Ane and Benjamin’s choices at all. I got married two years ago when I was 20 (no kids yet). It’s just that it would be awfully nice to hear about a different, but equally inspired set of choices made by a couple getting married.

  90. Yeah, I agree with John C.,
    What marks us off as Mormons is in no small part a desire to reproduce numerously, unlike secular society. Feminism tends to inhibit that goal, let’s be honest.

  91. Rob Perkins says:

    #89 — I thought I’d offered such a “different, but equally inspired set of choices” when I posted at #58, no?

  92. After reading through the comments, I thought I’d add a current perspective that hasn’t really been shared. I’m married, 20 years old, a woman, and a BYU student. I never planned on getting married in college, and was pretty interested in not getting married til my late twenties.

    Long story short, I met my husband the second week of my freshman year and a couple of years later got married. My husband finished school a little more than a year ago, and I’ll finish up in a few months. For me, getting married probably improved my education by allowing me to witness my husband’s post-grad job hunt and inspiring me to further my future career while still an undergrad.

    It drives me crazy though that so many people see me, a 20-year-old BYU Mrs., and assume that I’m going to either drop out or discard my degree to become a mom. Or if they find out my plans are otherwise, question my faith and testimony.

    I think we really need to stop telling other people how to run each other’s lives. It’s no one’s damn business! I don’t think the church should tell us, and I don’t think we should propagate this practice by promoting or criticizing any particular lifestyle.

    I’d love for us as a church to discard the rigid molds of a “righteous life” and instead focus on living our life more dependent on personal revelation. In doing so, I’d hope that we would also supporting, loving, and encouraging to the variety around us.

  93. 86. “for me, it has been an eye-opener to meet women who are amazing full-time parents, and in my experience only in the church have such choices are validated.”

    Thank you for pointing this out. I think there are a lot of valid points expressed both in the OP and the comments, but I’m a little disturbed by how much flavor of “the leadership is looking too narrowly at this” I’m seeing here. YES, family planning is supposed to be between the couple and the Lord. So are education and employment decisions. But YES, church leaders do need to keep up the drumbeat of “Marriage and children are eternal priorities that should not suffer at the expense of temporal priorities.” I’m certainly not hearing that message anywhere outside the church.

    Some comments have implied that many couples in the church are doing just fine on without that constant drum beat from church leaders. I’m not going to say they’re not making good choices. I will say it’s pretty hard for us to say our personal priorities (and seeking for revelation on marriage and children) would be what they are today if church leaders didn’t keep telling us to make marriage and children a priority.

    We members are a product of a church culture in which marriage and children are conspicuously valued. Please, let’s not forget how increasingly rare and wonderful that is in the world. (I, for one, think Norway is not the best alternate model. That’s a very wealthy country with different dynamics. One of those dynamics is people aren’t having enough kids to maintain population levels. That fact speaks more to me of the overall value of children in a culture than does maternity leave policy.)

    I don’t think anyone on this thread is necessarily wrong for critiquing the way this message is conveyed by church leadership per se, But I hope nobody’s hoping they’ll stop beating the drum so loudly on the eternal priority of marriage and children. I think it’s one of the best things they do, and I believe we collectively and individually would be worse off if they didn’t continually discuss it.

    Again, not saying anyone’s points are invalid. I just think they might resonate with me more if there were a tone of gratitude that these priorities are being discussed by the church at all.

  94. But YES, church leaders do need to keep up the drumbeat of “Marriage and children are eternal priorities that should not suffer at the expense of temporal priorities.”

    Again, I disagree that we need to be told this. How many active Mormon women do you know who *can* have children but choose not to? I’ve never met or heard of that person. They don’t exist in my experience. For active Mormons, education and career does not eliminate the desire to have children. Its not too far from being reminded to have sex.

  95. 86 No need to feel sorry for the two young people in the article, Naismith. They said that they had got past listening to the criticisms of friends and family and listened to the promptings of the Spirit in deciding the right time to marry. If they feel confident about the choice, and their basis for making it, despite the criticisms of people who actually know them, what difference would it make to them if a small clique of Americans (who know nothing of them except what they read in a very short article in a magazine) think that they are in error?

    Actually, the worst line in the article is this: “Although Ane lived in a small town in Norway, she attended a very good high school.” Should we assume that small towns are likely to have poor schools–and do we excuse mediocrity in education because a school is in a small town?

  96. “How many active Mormon women do you know who *can* have children but choose not to?”

    I don’t know any church members who do so. On the other hand, my world is filled with friends and associates who are NOT church members who do exactly that. Hardly anyone I know wants to have more than two children, at any rate. We’re considered very unusual for having four.

    The difference between the members who are prioritizing marriage children and others who are prioritizing them less? The members live in a culture where marriage and children are considered top priority, the others do not.

    You can’t say that active Mormons would still be choosing to prioritize marriage and children even if the church didn’t make that a priority in its teaching and communication. We’ve never tried that hypothetical scenario. And I don’t believe we ever should.

  97. 95, I thought it wasn’t the smallness of the town, but the fact that the town was in Norway.

  98. The amount of kids that people have shouldn’t be used to determine who is putting the Lord first in their lives, Pres. Joseph F. Smith had what 48 kids and Pres. Harold B. Lee only had 2, and who was more righteous?

  99. You can’t say that active Mormons would still be choosing to prioritize marriage and children even if the church didn’t make that a priority in its teaching and communication. We’ve never tried that hypothetical scenario. And I don’t believe we ever should.

    Lorin, these are the reasons I feel confident saying it:

    1. Active Mormons are already living the law of chastity and shun the other dating norms of today (like “living together”) That fact dramatically increases a couples desire to get married asap. In other words, The deck is already stacked heavily in favor of marriage.

    2. For many couples, *preventing* pregnancy is much more of a challenge, considering the cost and inconvenience of contraceptives. As has been pointed out, BYU doesn’t even cover it in their student health insurance. That’s half the work already done!

    3. Mormons are already receiving a heavy dose of marriage and family as the end all be all. They grow up on it. Its in their blood. Why the need for the leadership to micromanage their family planning?

    As to my own experience, most of the married Mormon couples I now know personally were still childless at graduation. Not one of them came to the conclusion that having children was no longer important to them. Evidenced by the fact that they immediately started having them.

  100. So, an article in the Ensign is “micromanag[ing] family planning”?

    When your bishop calls you into his office and interrogates you on your use of artificial contraceptives, the frequency and timing of sexual intercourse, your plans for the number of children, etc., you can start complaining about micromanaging. Until then, I’d suggest that you take a deep breath, relax, and get on with your life.

  101. 99. John BC,

    I think we’re talking past each other. You seem to be saying in a round-about way that the current culture is producing just fine. That does not inevitably lead to the conclusion that we’ll do just fine if the church backs off from the emphasis on marriage and children. I’m not saying the cultural critiques on this thread are off-base. I’m just saying that “emphasizing the priority of marriage and children” is the baby and the “questions of whether this emphasis is always communicated in the most healthy ways” is the bathwater. Go ahead and discuss the bathwater, just please acknowledge the baby.

  102. Mark, I think you’re right. I need to stop giving the Ensign so much weight and seriousness.

  103. Lorin, I’m with ya.

  104. Not wanting to pick a fight, but I have been praised and admired many times by non-members for choosing to be a SAHM. I’ve had many a mother express outright jealousy to me, which I’m mortified by – I know how lucky I am to be able to have made that choice – although there were certainly sacrifices involved. But a part of me is also jealous of the working moms. I’ve been a SAHM for 11 years and I’m not always convinced that I’m the best candidate for that job.

    I dropped out of college after getting my AA and worked to get my husband through college. Luckily, I won the young-marriage lottery and ended up with a husband who is grateful, loyal, and regards me as a true partner. I know things would possibly be very different if I had married a less stellar man.

    I also haven’t seen anyone address the extremely limited options for getting online degrees. They can be very expensive, and from what I’ve seen they only offer a handful of degree options. I’m starting back at community college this fall, with the plan of eventually transferring to the local university (and how lucky i am to have both of those things within easy distance) and am interested in chemistry, sustainable agriculture and civic planning. I can’t get degrees in any of those online.

  105. @100-You should have known my YSA Bishop! His own marriage was a disaster so he threw his energies into what he thought he should have control over, us and now 10 years later…failure written all over the place and it could have been different

  106. Chris Kimball says:

    The problem I have with the Ensign article and some other direction from the Church about family and marriage is not with the general direction but with the emphasis and (over)simplification. With the wrong emphasis and oversimplified we get distortions and sometimes harm rather than help.
    We’re not after more childbirths, but more children reared “in love and righteousness, [with provision] for their physical and spiritual needs, [taught] to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live” (quoted phrases from the Proclamation on the Family).
    Not more weddings but more “successful marriages”.
    Not more baptisms but more saints.

  107. it's a series of tubes says:

    *preventing* pregnancy is much more of a challenge, considering the cost and inconvenience of contraceptives

    If hitting up Walmart for your $4 monthly supply of birth control pills (or a $10 box of condoms) is too expensive or inconvenient, well… hmmm.

  108. “BYU doesn’t even cover it in their student health insurance.”

    Does anyone know of universities or colleges that cover contraception in the student health insurance? That’s a sincere question. I’m too lazy to google it, but none of the ones I’ve attended or where I’ve worked have done that.

  109. “How many active Mormon women do you know who *can* have children but choose not to? I’ve never met or heard of that person. They don’t exist in my experience.”

    Um, I would suggest that we mostly shouldn’t know such things about one another–they are private and we are NEVER, EVER entitled to ask. Not of our own children. Not of our siblings. None of our business. Entirely between them and the Lord.

    If someone shares that information with one, it should be treated as standing on the threshold of their soul, and never passed on.

    But yes, without getting specific, I’f had enough people share such information with me through the years that I would not be disclosing a confidence to say that there are many, many of them out there, for a variety of reasons.

  110. I wonder how much of this is a counter balance to a world that lifetime members have no concept of. Paul, when speaking to the Jews who had no problem doing the works aspect of things, emphasized faith as what was needed to be saved. James, talking to a different group who had no problem with faith but rather with works, emphasized works as what was needed to be saved. The church isn’t Utah anymore. It’s a lot bigger. In Norway I suspect that the cultural norm doesn’t push marriage that much, nor having children. With the majority of members having not grown up in the church and not living in Utah perhaps a counterpoint really is needed.

    For those of you saying shouldn’t everyone just be left to have revelation? Well, I highly doubt that if the church stopped encouraging people to get married and start having families that the majority of members (especially new members) would have much personal revelation about the importance of getting married and starting a family.

    So yeah, in places like Utah and BYU where there is already plenty of teaching and knowledge, maybe all the emphasis on getting married isn’t needed. It takes care of it self there (though many ecclesiastical leaders there would disagree with me that it’s taking care of it self evidenced by all the apparent dead beat guys in their singles ward.) But should we start de-emphasizing the importance of marriage to the new convert in New Guinea who’s cultural upbringing imprinted a negative view of family and marriage on them?

    Despite all the stories cited here about people marrying young and ruining their lives, the general trend even among members is to post pone marriage. Average marriage age is increasing both inside and outside the church. I think that general trend is what the leadership is looking at.

  111. Surprisingly I typed itself as “it self” twice in that comment. Apologies to grammar Nazi’s and those who don’t agree with the viewpoint since it will bother you too.

  112. Ray, Michigan State University includes birth control in their graduate student health insurance. A quick scan leads me to believe the same is true for undergraduates, faculty, and staff. Available for you and your domestic partner.

  113. Thanks, Mark. I’d still like to know if that is an exception or if it is fairly common, but I appreciate the information.

  114. $10 for a month’s supply of condoms? Are you sure that 20 will be enough? Of course, if you want the purchase price covered by health insurance and the payments administered by the medical billing bureaucracy, I’m sure you can drive the price up to $15 each.

  115. I do know of two ladies who choose not to have children…education and career aren’t blips on the radar in that decision. In both cases they had extremely hard, horrible childhoods and don’t feel they have healed enough to parent healthily.

    I’m not really fond of the “if you have the right guy, its’ the right time” thing. I had the guy and it wasn’t the right time.

    I would love for colleges to make motherhood easier. More readily available day care, mother’s lounges or unisex changing stations, flexible schedules and increased online classes. This isn’t just for those who do marry young, this is for single mothers. I’d love for a young pregnant woman to have more choices than-abort, adopt or stop life as I know it because I have NO clue how I could parent.

    I’m very grateful I graduated before marriage. My sister graduated afterwards, and it was no easy task. I’ll always remember her studying chemistry while her darling twins pointed at all of the balls on the page. “ball, ball….”repeat until numb.

    To the subject of timing…I’d love for there to be less cultural pressure. I don’t mind the outcome of the story…I just wish the story would have recognized the pressure from all sides (it was clear that many people said they shouldn’t, but didn’t recognize the pressure TO get married and how they dealt with that and made an independent decision with the Lord)

  116. Ray, University of Maryland does. And contraception is available on campuses the student health centers in California.

    Bryan S.,
    ” Well, I highly doubt that if the church stopped encouraging people to get married and start having families that the majority of members (especially new members) would have much personal revelation about the importance of getting married and starting a family.”

    So what your saying is members don’t receive personal revelation about such things at all? The reason they marry now an have children is not based on personal revelation?

    On another note, it is frustrating when people constantly harp on places like Scandinavian countries for not putting a priority on having children. Mormon American in large live in big middle-class homes with yards in the suburbs. The burbs of that kind don’t even exist in most of the rest of the world. Resource allotment is entirely different. I doubt most Mormon American families would have 6 kids in Norway either- where housing and transportation availability is entirely different.

  117. MMiles
    “So what your saying is members don’t receive personal revelation about such things at all? The reason they marry now an have children is not based on personal revelation?”

    Did anyone receive personal revelation about the Word of Wisdom before Joseph Smith? Maybe. Was it a general trend in the church before that? No.

    If the church suddenly went silent on the importance of marriage and children then I doubt that in the long run marriage and children would continue to be as important. It’s not that they wouldn’t receive personal revelation, it’s that they would consider it something to seek revelation about. Less seeking means less revelation.

  118. Bryan S,
    Me thinks you give your fellow saints too little credit.

  119. MMiles,
    Me thinks differently but this isn’t really a provable thought either way so I guess we find ourselves at an impasse.

  120. Occasionally someone who really advocates a big tent church is passionate enough about it that unwillingly I can catch a glimpse of their vision. But it always comes crashing down when I discover they don’t really mean it. They want the Church to be narrow too, they just want to change the center pole.

  121. 118. The leadership talks a lot about the things that they consider high priority, and they don’t talk a lot about the things that they consider lesser priority. They consider marriage and child-bearing to be central to the Plan of Happiness. They talk about it so much because they want to BE SURE members are making marriage and children a matter of high importance and great reflection and prayer. If they didn’t talk about it all the time, we would be correct to assume that it is of lesser importance.

    How many people have spent a long time pondering and praying about whether it’s okay to drink a Diet Coke? There are probably people who have, but most members I know wouldn’t think to do that because it’s not like the church leaders ever really talk about it and treat it like a high priority. (And please, nobody threadjack this into a caffeine discussion.)

    Church leadership talks about marriage and children all the time because they want us to be thinking about it. If we’re thinking about it, that invites personal revelation. If you have qualitative concerns about the way they discuss it, fine. If you quantitative concerns about how often they discuss it … good luck with that. That won’t change.

  122. MMiles,
    Going back to your side note…
    “On another note, it is frustrating when people constantly harp on places like Scandinavian countries for not putting a priority on having children.”

    I don’t know that I was harping. It’s kind of a fact and reality. And it’s not just Scandinavian countries, birth rates are dropping everywhere in the world. For better or worse, I don’t know.

    Cultural changes could be welcome. But the issue isn’t that we need to change our culture to put less pressure on getting married. The issue is that we need to change the culture so that people are more understanding, thoughtful, and sensitive to other’s situations in life and respect their decisions.

  123. Thomas Parkin says:

    ” They want the Church to be narrow too, they just want to change the center pole.”

    This is right. People want to see themselves, at least portrayed and probably justified, in the stories that are told. People are going to keep doing this. My solution remains to tell those aspects of the story that are universal, and give up telling stories that are not universal. There’s my big tent.

  124. Occasionally I’ve been amused by the special embrace in some corners of Elder Marlin Jensen because around 1996 he presided at my stake’s conference, and among his many pieces of counsel was a reminder that the brethren still want the saints to have large families.

  125. “I come from Generica. After I graduated from high school I met a boy and things got serious. I had a decision to make. I studied the scriptures and sought personal revelation about that decision. My family, friends, and culture influenced my decision in positive and negative ways. Ultimately I came to a decision that was good for me through personal revelations. I am happy with that decision.”

    That would be an interesting ensign article.

  126. John, are you suggesting that “some corners” should not embrace Elder Jensen based on your claim that he promoted large families 16+ years ago at a Stake Conference? That such “corners” can only appreciate church leadership to the extent that leadership repeats or asserts what the corners already believe or value? If so, can you justify your assumption?

  127. (I don’t have a PhD.)

  128. I declare that according to the Holy Order of the DMBA the appropriate number of children in a family is verily 5, even the number 5.

  129. Yeah, something like that. Can I justify the assumption? Interesting question.

    (Just joining in the respect for courses of higher education, at least my own.)

  130. That is to say, something like BHodges’ analysis of my comment.

  131. John (130)–That comes dangerously close to judging your fellow Saints’ righteousness based on their political views, doesn’t it? I wonder how you would know so much about the people who express admiration and affection for Elder Jensen…

  132. Not sure I follow, John, but I’m still interested to see you justify your assumption.

  133. “That would be an interesting ensign article.”

    Especially because, presumably, you’re a boy, Bryan S.

  134. I haven’t seen anyone on this thread, whether they are particularly enamored with Elder Jensen or not, arguing that Mormons shouldn’t be having large families.

  135. Belch.

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