Latter-day Virgin

Earlier this month I had a birthday.  My in-laws gave me a lovely card, which included a gift certificate to Barnes & Noble.  With the closing of Borders it had been quite a while since I had had occasion to find myself in a bookstore, so I went to the local B&N with the gift card burning a hole in my pocket.  The first thing I decided to pick up was Arabic for Dummies and an Arabic dictionary.  I kind of enjoy going through the basics of a language, even if my knowledge of that language remains superficial.  I’ve done it with German, and Russian, and most recently French, and at some point I’d like to take a run at Arabic, as daunting as that alphabet looks to be.

Near the foreign language shelves is the new biography section, and there I see a display featuring a book by Nicole Hardy, Confessions of a Latter-day Virgin.  I immediately knew this was some woman’s Mormon memoir, and it rang a faint bell with me.  Only later did I make the connection that Nicole Hardy had been the author of that New York Times “Modern Love” piece, “Single, Female, Mormon, Alone,” about her visit to Planned Parenthood, which resulted in a lengthy thread of commentary over at Times and Seasons.  The book is kind of an elaborated version of that article, and indeed it ends with the joyous news that the article has been accepted for publication (plus a sort of epilogue chapter).

I just this moment finished reading it.  I quite enjoyed it.  SPOILER ALERTS: Yes, she does eventually lose that darned virginity, at age 36.  And yes, she does leave the Church.  I realize many Mormon readers will be disappointed with that kind of a story arc, but it didn’t bother me.  I’m a realist about this sort of thing, and it’s just not natural  to remain a virgin your entire life.  I wouldn’t blame any 36-year old for whom marriage is not a realistic option for making that choice.  Were I in that particular boat, I suspect I would make the same choice.

The book follows the arc of her personal development and decisions: she gives up teaching for waitressing, since she can make the same money for fewer hours and none of the headaches, she pursues graduate work in writing, she spends time working a low-level job in an island paradise so she can pursue her passion for diving.

The main series of story arcs revolves around the different men she tries to have relationships with, and the elephant in the room her commitment to her virginity is.  First we meet a long-distance LDS guy, who really wants to make it work with Nicole, but it’s just not there.  She tries hard, including stints on ldssingles.com, to find LDS guys to date, since the no-sex thing is such a stumbling block with non-LDS guys, but it just doesn’t work, and so she ends up dating a series of non-Mormon men.

One is a big, goofy bear of a man, who sounded to me like a lot of fun.  He was Catholic and therefore understanding and patient about the whole virginity thing.  Eventually she lets him go, allowing him to have the impression that his unwillingness to convert is the deal breaker, whereas in fact she realizes she simply doesn’t love him.  She dates a handful of men meaningfully; at the end of the book, she is still dating a non-LDS, divorced pilot, although she doesn’t expect the relationship to last.

One thought I had was she was very naive about men, and very lucky that the men she went out with were willing to abide by her stop signs.  She invites an old dancing partner to come diving with her in the islands, and plans on them (chastely) sharing the same bed. for two weeks  Hint: don’t try this at home, kids.  It worked out ok in her case because the guy respected her boundaries, but eventually he began to resent it and this sort of thing simply torpedoed the friendship.  Another time she let a man she barely knew go much further than she should have if her plan was to pull out a stop sign.  Again, when she finally said they could go no further, the man wordlessly left.  Please tell your daughters that putting such faith in such respect for boundaries with men you barely know is not a good idea, even if it worked out ok in Nicole’s case.

I asked Santa Claus last Christmas for the then recent John Turner biography of Brigham Young.  For some reason, Old Saint Nick didn’t come through with that title, so I still don’t own it and have not yet read it. (I know, there goes my Mormon studies geek cred…)  One critique I saw in multiple reviews of the book is that Turner paints such an unremittingly negative view of Young that it’s hard to see why anyone would ever follow him in the first place.  There was a gap there that a reader could not fill in from a reading of the book alone.

I suspect some readers of Nicole’s book may have a somewhat similar reaction to her angst over wanting to remain in the Church and keep its standards.  The reader may well be thinking, “Why?”  While Nicole lays the angst out there, you never really get a sense of what it was she found valuable and fulfilling in the first place about her Mormonism.  Now I personally didn’t feel that lack, because as a committed and faithful Mormon, I naturally filled in that lacuna on my own.  I knew what she meant, what went unexpressed.  I’m just guessing that for many readers who are less familiar with Mormonism, her reticence to (finally) abandon it will be puzzling.

In any event, I enjoyed the book.  Her story is a Mormon cliche, engagingly told.  I wish we had a better answer for how to better integrate singles into the Church, how to treat them as fully adult rather than as overgrown children, how to respect them, how to make use of their talents in our wards, how to integrate them more fully in our social beehives.  I wish there was some answer for those singles who age out of the young singles wards, who want nothing more than to find a faithful, LDS mate to marry in the temple, but for whom it’s just not happening for any of a myriad of reasons.  I wish  I knew what the answers were, what policy steps the Church could take to stem the tide of our losing so many of our singles.  Maybe there are no good answers.  But if I were a Church policy maker, I would find this book to be a window into what it’s like to be in that position as an aging Mormon single in such a family-oriented faith.

Comments

  1. I’m planing on going to a reading for her Sundsy night. Any questions you would want to ask her?

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    I would be interested in an update. Is she still seeing the pilot guy? Are her parents still succeeding in the process of coming to terms with her leaving the church? In the wake of this initial success, what further writing projects does she have in the hopper?

  3. After recent temple recommend interview, I posed and asked the Bishop to just wait a moment. I held up my right hand and said “this is a gay man” and then held up my left -hand and said “this is a grown man who’s never had sex”. I then asked “which is the real freak of nature”, the waived the hand that represented the virgin and exclaimed “Hello!”. We both laughed.

    But on the inside, I wasn’t laughing.

  4. I’m pretty sure if you write in a book that you don’t think a relationship is going to last, it probably doesn’t.

    The way singles are treated in The Church is really horrible. I can’t blame her for going. I hope there are good things in her future; we all deserve to be loved.

  5. I’m a single female in the Church, a convert, in fact, and I admit, at times, I feel like I’ve got three obstacles as far as my interactions with young Mormon men go: 1) I’m a female, 2) I’m not skinny, but I’m by no means overweight; I’m rather shapely and 3) I’m African American in a predominately caucasian area practicing this faith. Dating within the faith carries an odd awkwardness that is really difficult to understand. Yes, we have standards, and it’s admirable and wonderful to be surrounded by people who are like minded, but there’s a stagnation that’s happening. It’s really difficult to have a successful, real relationship with LDS men. The reasons range from fear of commitment to the ridiculously, and, frankly, juvenile and superficial.

    I’ll admit, I’ve toyed with the idea of just going to a different church just to interact with singles who are more…willing, I suppose. But I find that this is happening in churches across all faiths. When I was going to a non-denominational church, I ran into the same issues. Dating was very difficult, and the men either wouldn’t ask a woman out, or the dating would last a very short period of time. There’s a sort of hit-or-miss thing happening, and I just don’t understand it at all.

    Within Mormon doctrine, we believe and know family is everything, and as a single in the Church, we’re constantly reassured by our Prophet that desiring an eternal companion, a temple marriage is a righteous, noble desire, that that’s why we have the knowledge we have about the Gospel and eternal families. But how do we reconcile that desire with our frustration over not having the experience of dating and having real conversations about our potential eternal families with potential mates?

    I feel like there needs to be some sort of forum for singles with our leaders to have this conversation. We need to communicate our fears, desires, and frustrations so that we can somehow find a way to help each other and finally be recognized as adults with real passions, intelligence, and desires. We need to ask the question of “Why?” to ourselves. Eternal marriage is a commandment, it is doctrine, so, it’s hurtful, to a degree, to realize that we are not following that commandment.

    My mom always tells me that the moment I stop thinking about it, God will place someone in my life, and that I’ll just…know. I totally believe that, but then, you have that niggling concern about will that person be of my faith? Will I have a temple marriage? Of course I exercise full faith and confidence in Heavenly Father, but again, it’s the flesh. It’s the desire for wanting exactly what we’re told to want and honestly believe we should have, and being specific in our prayers to Heavenly Father.

    I’ve surrendered my heart to Heavenly Father, and I’ve learned to trust him more and more over the last few years, so…who knows?

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Domi, thank you for sharing this perspective from within the trenches. Blessings to you!

  7. Sorry, I was really flummoxed about the Brigham Young biography paragraph. Reading it in the middle of this serious review of a single church member’s plight just somehow reinforced in my mind how un-connected the problems of singles in the church appear to mainstream members. Interesting, but now back to me and my quest for assimilation into everything LDS. [I am now happily married to an active member but I've had a few stints as a single in the church].

  8. I love how the commenter above thinks older singles who are faithful and celibate are a freak of nature. Thanks. That’s just how I want to feel viewed when I go to church.

    And I agree with Jeny–I thought you were going off on a whole new review right in the middle of the review. I’m so tired of being seen as an interesting academic project to married members who think a little more academically. It’s like we’re seen as a fascinating phenomenon, not people.

    I read the Modern Love piece, and it’s been good to see discussion of this book in a few places, though it’s disappointing that the only ones who get the book deals are the ones who leave. Where are the narratives of the real struggle among those who actually stay? Certainly not in the Ensign, where every singles article is punctuated by a happy ending of “and then I got married!!1!” and few actually address the feelings of alienation in the church for attitudes exactly like this: single adults over 30 are aliens. (But they don’t have it nearly so bad as gay people, so at the same time, they’re not worth befriending and advocating for.)

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    By referencing the Turner bio of BY I was trying to illustrate by comparative analogy what I thought might be a perceived lack in the Hardy book. The point I was trying to make is expressed well (and more directly) in the New York Time review of Hardy:

    “When Hardy writes of what brings her joy outside church — salsa dancing, scuba diving, travel to Cuba — her words take on an inviting poetic radiance. But the Mormon Church also brought her joy, she says after leaving her faith, and what’s missing here is a record of the ways in which “it made my life feel purposeful, and centered and right.” She doesn’t really make clear why the church inspires her to sacrifice the many opportunities for sexual pleasure that come her way, whether she’s waitressing in her hometown, Seattle, or living for a spell in the Cayman Islands. We know she fears the loss of her family’s love if she turns her back on this spiritual home, but its comforts never take substantial shape on the page.”

    Since a couple of you had the same reaction to the way I tried to frame it, I see my point came across as overly academic; sorry for that. I hope the above quote from a more talented reviewer expresses my observation more cogently.

  10. I was married a 26 and divorced at 29. I have been celibate ever since and I’m now 71. Is it hard? Yes–the sex was the only good thing about my marriage, and I still miss it. And I have had numerous opportunities to have sex outside of marriage, even with so-called “good” LDS men. But keeping one’s standards IS possible. And, enjoyable as it is, sex is certainly not something to leave the church for.

  11. Meldrum the Less says:

    Excellent comments Bro. Barney. I wish I knew the answer to the questions in the final paragraph and I feel like I should.

    Stacer, I agree that single people often feel alienated in the LDS church. I feel alienated too but for a different reason. I think it might not be that you are single or gay or crazy (like me). It might be that we have a general attitude of not accepting and loving people enough as they are.

    I went to college at USU at a time when everyone dated multiple people a lot and easily. Getting married seemed more like a matter of timing. When you wanted to get married (usually close to graduation or the 6-month-off-your-mission deadline) you asked one of the several girls you were dating and if she declined you asked someone else. Finding a wife was far easier than finding investigators and less trouble than buying a car. My mother said a girl should not agree to marry until she had received at least 7 serious proposals (if she met a guy worth breaking this rule for then she would know he was the one). I got engaged twice and had several excellent opportunities but I was one of the few who somehow failed to “graduate with marital honors.” My baby-face cute brother had a black book with ~600 names of girls he dated; he started at age 12 and married at age 31 (likely still a virgin), perhaps one of the more extreme examples. This was the world now faded but considered ideal upon which many of our judgments and expectations are based.

    Then I went to grad school at the U of U and the social scene was horribly different and difficult. Few dated and even fewer married. Probably similar to what many face today. A motivated guy could get further in his quest for a serious girlfriend over one weekend back at USU than in an entire year in Salt Lake. I never did comprehend why even though I had my feet in both worlds. This was the world of the future and that future is now.

    At age 24 I first met the girl I would marry (three years later). She was only 17 years old, a freshman from back east and way socially above me. At first I never dreamed she might take me seriously but we did share this mutual sense of mischief and light-heartedness. She was also sassy and scary smart; those not being desirable traits for most guys. We sat by each other in Sunday school and argued with each other. I knew we were basically incompatible with each other (who isn’t?) and at one point I gave her a list of 5 deal breakers she had for most Mormon guys. She scoffed at all of them. (After decades of marriage we still struggle with 2- 3 of them.) We eventually agreed to disagree. In fact later we made an even more ridiculous rule that still works most of the time; I’m always right and she can go and do as she d***d well pleases.

    In jest I told her that the reason guys didn’t date in our ward was that they weren’t getting enough “action.” As one of the top ward hotties, she had tremendous influence over the social atmosphere in our student ward. It seemed that 5% of the girls received 95% of the offers to go on dates and she was one of the 5%. I challenged her to date and passionately kiss at least 50% of the guys in the ward and teach them how to do it right, see if that didn’t light a few fires under some of them.

    She accepted the challenge with eagerness and reported back to me many of her adventures. One February Sunday a guy got up to speak in Sacrament meeting and sadly complained that Valentine’s Day had passed and he had not been kissed even once. I nudged my far distant future wife and gave her the look. She pranced up to the podium and grabbed him and kissed him on the lips in front of the congregation. He didn’t have much to say after that and we got out early. I think a bit more passion in dating might be desirable, within the bounds the Lord (not the over-conformity zealots) has set, of course.

    We knew each other for a year and then dated 2 more years before getting married. Our bishop considered us a nuisance (especially the underground newspaper wherein we wrote parodies about dating) and was not amused at our commitment to “eternal engagement.” Most of her roommates found decent guys and got married during that time when few others did. I don’t know how much influence we had on them but we sure had a lot of fun. We did it our way. Oh, to be young and single and carefree again.

  12. ” I’m a realist about this sort of thing, and it’s just not natural to remain a virgin your entire life. I wouldn’t blame any 36-year old for whom marriage is not a realistic option for making that choice. Were I in that particular boat, I suspect I would make the same choice.”

    I don’t think that keeping covenants is “natural.” Neither is a willingness to be circumcised, to sacrifice your son, serve two years of your young adulthood, or a myriad of other things that have been placed on the altar out of obedience and love. But I suppose that justifying the breaking of covenants is a completely “natural” thing to do.

  13. “It’s real easy to wait on dinner when you’ve already had a snack.”-Hank Hill indicating to Peggy that it was easy for her to wait for marriage for them to have sex because she had already had sex with someone else.

    We (meaning the human race–certainly not all of us) are sexual beings. Going your entire life without ever knowing the loving touch of another human being is nowhere in the same stratosphere as serving a two year mission. I am a single currently myself, but I am divorced so of course I have already had sex. For those who have never been married and wait faithfully and patiently I honor them because it *is* a major struggle. Not one I could say for certainty I would be able to do.

    Women have an added layer of issue to worry about–namely children. Like Larry King has proven, (among many others in Hollywood) men can go on to procreate well into their lives. Women have a very finite amount of time to get pregnant and safely carry children to term. It adds extra desperation to what can already be a very desperate situation in The Church. I wish more people would think about how frustrating this can be especially for older singles.

    Too many people seem to think man+woman=marriage, the end. Any two righteous people can be happy together in matrimony, etc.. and a ton of other things that are unrealistic. I have no plans of leaving, but sometimes it is the better part of valor.

  14. Is that “loving touch” really loving if it violates a covenant made to God? If it demeans a relationship one has with Deity?

    If this life is just a temporary testing for greater things in the next stage of existence, it seems that many here are suggesting that momentary pleasure trumps eternity.

  15. As a single, heterosexual, never married man it is difficult to remain a virgin, but it’s not like I’ve got lots of women interested in me. We can never really know what is in someone’s heart, so I shouldn’t presume to know what it’s like for women. As for me, it is difficult but I’ve got my faith. I see it as an Abrahamic Test. I’m not saying what it is for others, but for me it is a sacrifice. I keep my covenants, serve in the temple and in my stake.

  16. I left a lengthy abusive temple marriage and later married a NOMO. I tried the LDS dating scene and was NOT impressed. As soon as I told LDS men I had nine kids, they couldn’t run away fast enough. It was almost comical if it wasn’t so sad. My new DH is 100 times then man my X was. X is still an active, temple-holding member. I did not intend to marry a NOMO but when I met my sweetheart, fasted and prayed I knew. BTW – he has the same standards as I do – no sex, no drinking, etc. Quite rare in this world – he is a true gentleman. And he doesn’t have the hangups, biases, misconceptions and LDS men usually have. BEST decision I ever made. PS – I later cancelled my sealing to X after he married in the temple. I do not worry about not being sealed to an LDS man. Mother and Father will not punish DH for the loving way he treats me by telling him, “Sorry, you never joined the Mormon Church.” I’ve had to look at many things in a different way. And no, I don’t suffer by not having the p-hood in my home. My prayers are heard and answered and we pray together. I would rather live with a respectful NOMO than with a domineering abusive “righteous” Mormon man. Think/Look outside the Mormon box for a spouse…..

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    I knew a woman who was long divorced from her husband (she had nine kids). She had a meeting with the bishop and told him it had been X years since she had had sex (I don’t recall the number, something like 10 or 15 or 20). He paused and then said, “Is that a problem?” She was incredulous that he wouldn’t even recognize the physical challenge she was going through, especially since she knew that that night he would climb into bed with his own wife.

    So perhaps one place to start is with a little empathy. Sure, you may not be able to resolve such a problem, but you can at least acknowledge that the problem exists.

  18. There are many, many people who have shared “loving touches” prior to marriage – and this wasn’t about temporary passion, but, rather, an expression of deep, abiding love. Many of those people then go on to marry one another. It is a fallacy to believe that strict virginity prior to marriage is the only way to the deepest type of love. There are far too many examples of this NOT being the case.

  19. Sherry, your experience is similar to my sister’s experience (but, minus the nine children). She married a Mormon RM in the temple who turned out to be quite abusive. After the divorce she found a wonderful, sweet, and intelligent NOMO man whom she married. They have a beautiful marriage years later. What has struck me as terribly naive and ignorant are the few comments regarding their relationship that have judged it as “not as loving” or the love as “not as deep” as a temple marriage. Absolutely not true. It is a healthy, wonderful relationship which is a shining example to others – including those in the LDS church.

  20. I think that a one-night stand to lose one’s virginity and violate gospel covenants is infinitely different than a loving marriage to a person of a different faith.

  21. Kevin, my own reaction to this review focused on the fact that I have four daughters – and that your caution about how freakishly lucky / blessed / protected she was is spot-on. I wonder if she realizes it, not having read the book – and I cringe at the possibility that she doesn’t or didn’t undertstand the danger she courted and, perhaps, hasn’t contemplated the possibility of special protection. I know multiple women who would have given anything to have had such experiences, and I am sure there are millions I don’t know who would feel the same way.

    I am not a believer in scaring children into obedience – not at all, but there are some scary things that need to be identified. In some cases, naivete might be a virtue in some people’s eyes, but it isn’t in mine.

  22. Stacer, you make some really good points. I actually DID read a book recently by an LDS single woman who has remained totally active in the church. It’s called Diary of a Single Mormon Female, and the author is Aleesa Sutton. I loved it because she IS brutally honest about the challenges that come with being single in the LDS church and how much it has tested her faith (to the point of threatening to ‘punch God’s lights out!..ha ha!), but through it all she realizes that she can never give up her faith or her relationship with God. It really is hilarious (like laugh out loud alone in my room) and so endearing, but also sad at times…and very moving. I found it very enlightening, something EVERYONE should read, not just LDS singles. I feel like it’s the only thing I have read that is able to strike that balance…she is honest, but not bitter and she’s educated…but doesn’t get that attitude that’s like ‘I’m too smart for the church now.’
    I know you can get it on Amazon-
    http://www.amazon.com/Single-Mormon-Female-Aleesa-Sutton/dp/0991700317/ref=la_B00ACAT3H4_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1367082029&sr=1-1

    She also has a website-
    http://www.aleesasutton.com

  23. Thanks for the recommendation. This is the kind of thing I’ve been looking for. I’ll take a look.

  24. After many years of being single, I got lucky in my last year in the single ward and began dating the man I married at age 32. I have deep, deep sympathies with the plight of singles in the church. Over the past several years, I have watched dear friends maintain their temple covenants and create lives that our beautiful and full, but without the relationship they most desire. I don’t want to criticize their lives as less than because they lack marriage, but I know it is painful for them. On the other hand, I have also watched friends and acquaintances struggle mightily to find their place in the church, or leave to pursue relationships outside of their church, making the choice to sacrifice their faith community for the relationship they desire. (Obviously it doesn’t not always have to be one or the other.)

    This is not just an issue related to marriage and virginity and relationships, it is also about community. Let’s be honest; the church infantilizes single people. In our church, single people – particularly those who are never married or who are divorced – are second class citizens. Often, they are either ignored or even shunned, or else they are a special population with special needs. I had wonderful experiences in my singles wards, and despite being in the “family wards” for going on three years now, I haven’t found the same level of comfort or ease or spirituality in either family ward I have attended. But I think the singles wards need to go. Student wards should exist for undergraduate students only, and then singles should be absorbed into family wards and given equal opportunities to serve with all their gifts, just as we hope all other church members will.

    We are all part of the “body of Christ” but in our church we frequently carve out “special groups” that are treated not as being part of the body, but as a burden that a body must carry. We must learn to relate to each other as brothers and sisters in the Gospel, as equal children of God instead of as married or single, parent or not parent, empty nester, etc. We seem to be a church that is stuck in silos where we all try to stick to the people who are most like us instead of learning to love the diverse individuals that comprise the body.

  25. JLS – glad to know there are others who marry NOMOs and have loving marriages. In my ward alone I know of three other women who divorced “good” Mormon men them married NOMOs and are very happy, but less active as am I. I suspect there are many LDS women who have married NOMO’s after a wretched temple marriage. Alas, I am shunned in my ward because DH does not want to join the church and X is also in my ward, with his new temple-married wife. I feel that in Mormondom it’s easy to think in binary terms. If my X married in the temple and I did not, then X is white/good and I am black/bad. Therefore, all manner of assumptions are made about me and DH. More complicated than I’m writing, but you get the gist of it. The most important part however, is to listen to the spirit. I was shocked when I realized I was falling in love with DH and the spirit bore witness he was who I should marry. Best decision I ever made…

  26. Maintaining celibacy in a church founded by men who, in terms of sex, denied themselves absolutely nothing, would seem to be a special LDS conundrum. Ironically, modern Latter-day celibacy is seen as a solution a variety of Latter-day problems, homosexuality chief among them, but I’ve yet to run across evidence that, for most people, such a stance does not lead to anything but life-long misery. Not everybody is able to sublimate frustrated sexuality into the religious impulse. Generally it is sublimated into something else, including hypochondriasis, neurosis and anomie. Life gets worse, not better.

  27. Broad brushes are easy to use, p, but they never are precise.

  28. As if universal celibacy, enforced by ecclesiastical sanction, is not of itself a big broad brush -

  29. Yes, p, it is – and I didn’t say it isn’t.

  30. Here’s the problem, Ray: AD 2013 features, among many other signs & wonders, this thing called the Internet. What it is hands-down best at is highlighting heretofore unknown or little-known contradictions within systems. A member encouraged to trade his/her sexuality for a lifetime of sacred loneliness is only a mouse click or two away from some astonishing historical information. This is the elephant in the room with any LDS discussion of long-term “voluntary” celibacy. And my bet is, it’s why a lot of members leave.

  31. We aren’t arguing about that, p. I haven’t said anyting at all about that in my comments. Try arguing with someone who disagrees with you about that.

  32. Nice write up, Kevin. I met her at a book festival in Atlanta. She’s very engaging, sincere, thoughtful, and insightful in person. I’m about half way through her book, and it’s every bit as good as I would expect.

  33. John Turner says:

    Turner’s bio of BY — not just for Mormon studies geeks, not even unremittingly negative. I fail to see how Santa Claus could have ignored your eminently reasonable request..

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    I know, John, right? I was fully expecting your book under the tree, and was rather bummed when after everything was opened it wasn’t there. I never asked Santa why that request was ignored; perhaps I had been a bad boy in 2012. Here’s hoping for better results in 2013!

  35. If I had an extra copy, I’d send it to you myself.

    It’s interesting to me that Mormonism retains so much public significance that the NYT reviews a book like the one referenced here.

  36. It’s not the mormonism, it’s the sex.

  37. Caffeine Drinker says:

    Women want money, men want beauty.

  38. Great write-up Kevin. I don’t pretend to have answers for how the church can retain more single members, but one of the problems I see is their equating the decision to lose one’s virginity with a decision to leave the church (not having read the book, I don’t know if that was the author’s mindset but I’ve certainly seen it in others). Just to be clear, I think that mindset is totally justified given the way the church teaches such things. But I look at some of my Catholic friends, who are very imperfect by their own church’s standards yet still remain faithful, and I think we might be teaching it wrong.

  39. Kevin Barney says:

    Good point, RobL. I’ve observed the same phenomenon.

  40. I’d like to point out that it’s not just singles that are having a hard time but converts, as well. I became inactive about 3 years ago because I was a convert and didn’t feel like I fit in. I converted at 21, was eager to learn about the gospel, drew lots of friends to me, and had quite an active social life. However, I noticed that I was a “friend” and was not being asked out by anyone and all my friends were!
    Coming into the Church on a university campus meant that there were 3 singles wards and tons of activities constantly going on for members. I was baptized and then everyone seemed to forget about me. I had a few good friends, but they were all dating. I even asked one of my friends why it was so difficult to date and she said that most guys come off their missions like they’re still in high school. They have never kissed anyone, let alone dated and that was probably the reason. Awkwardness was a classic sign a guy was an RM.
    But I was not the only convert who left the Church. Is there some sort of stigma about finding converts really great, but really not wanting to associate with them? I dated one guy who was my best friend. We dated for a few months and everything was wonderful. I even invited him to Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family. A month or two later, he broke up with me. He said he wasn’t ready for a relationship (he was 23), and that he didn’t think my past and family were something he saw in his future. What is that? Because I didn’t have a Mormon family and had done some things in my past he didn’t think I was wife material? I’ve heard this from two other converts I was best friends with. Perhaps it’s just a cultural thing where I live in Arizona. But I just found it really strange that if you weren’t bred Mormon you weren’t good enough.
    I’m not saying this is how all Mormons are, just my personal experience. And even though I left the Church, I found my way back 3 years later, and I’m married to a non-member. I’m very glad I kind of skipped over all the Mormon dating. It’s so strange and can be unfortunately very demeaning.

  41. Years ago, Wired Magazine had a short article on a “scientific” way of finding a mate. I’ve often wondered if this methodology shouldn’t be explained in the YSA Wards in the Church:

    Find a Soul Mate
    http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/11/ff_betterliving/2/

    There’s a probabilistic approach to finding the love of your life, and it even has a name: satisficing, a combination of satisfy and suffice. OK, technically, satisficing refers to getting a good enough outcome when you’re lacking complete information about your options. But isn’t dating like that? According to Peter Todd, professor of informatics and cognitive science at Indiana University, the question always comes down to this: “Do you keep searching and hope something better will come along, or do you stop searching when you find something that looks pretty good?”

    In the face of this conundrum, the best strategy for picking a mate is to date enough people to establish some baseline standards, then settle down with the next person you meet who exceeds the bar. According to Todd, you should have a baseline after dating roughly 12 people. He’s dubbed this theory the Twelve-Bonk Rule, and it can also be applied to picking the right employee or choosing a home. So, if you’ve dated fewer than 12 people, you should feel free to keep looking. If you’ve had 30 relationships, odds are you’re being too picky. Quit obsessing over your new paramour’s dorky laugh.—Judy Dutton

  42. It’s not just that way for converts, but for pretty much anyone who has a non-perfect-Mormon-family or a past. I grew up inactive because my parents are divorce. Between that and some other family problems, pretty much no Mormon guy in Utah found me acceptable. So… yes, it is Mormon culture, in the Intermountain West at least.

  43. That last comment was a reply to Britt, but apparently the comments here aren’t threaded. Sorry!

    And I find the Wired link to be oversimplifying it at the very least. It assumes that there are people to date in the first place (and no, it’s not out of pickiness, unless wanting someone who doesn’t smoke is picky, and if it is, well, I’m very happy to be a picky, breathing asthmatic).

  44. Well, let me tell how I feel about it. I´m a brazilian woman, with 30 yo and mormon. Plus, I´m a negro too… a stereotype! It is SO HARD to be a mormon woman single with 30…. I felt so depressed in the Church, I felt like I was a kind of paria. People treat you like if you weren´t worth of anything. Out of Church I work, study, I´m a good friend, listener, a good daughter, sister, friend. I´m fun and so much more things but in the Church I´m just the poor girl who don´t get a man to marry and live eternally happy… I´m really tired of all these. My friends are having babies, families, love and every sunday I just feel worst and worst and worst with those ridiculous interviews where all the guilty of being single is on me… “if you were quite more this or that” and all that blah blah blah… My RS says se prays every night that I may find a husband… or maybe God sent one from anywhere… All that fairytale of getting married in Temple, being happily ever after are just destroyed when you look at yourself and see a sad, alone, bored woman trying to be active. And I don´t know if I want to stay in the Church ´cause I know things will be worst with the years. I´m a good person, married or not. But in Church, I´m just a citizen of a diferent class tha the married, the parents… just tired.

  45. I’m a 40 year old single member of the church, who has maintained her virginity. I attend a loving, supporting, and inclusive family ward. I have never been treated like a child. I happily serve in the primary presidency. My best friend, also a never married woman, is the Relief Society President. I don’t attend singles activities because its honestly the singles with the chips on their shoulders and the baggage they carry around that make those events such a turn off.

    I just want to say that I knew Nicole once upon a time when she was “active.” She wasn’t nice. She obviously had one foot in the church and one foot out. If she portrays herself as a strong, striving member of the church who just couldn’t hold on any longer, she’s lying. She always played with fire and she was always too good to be friends with a “Molly” like me. Enduring to the end is in large part about who you surround yourself with. I am floored that so many here seem to feel that sex is the be all, end all experience of this life.

    Finally I’m so sad, offended, disgusted and blown away by your “I’m a realist” comment. I’m glad that you married and saved yourself the inevitable fall from grace that would’ve occurred to you. The fight against the natural/carnal man is better left to those of us who feel they can fight the fight. Good things it’s not actually THAT HARD when your priorities and
    commitments are in order!

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