Thursday Morning Quickie #3

[Note: The following text was taken verbatim from the “M Men-Gleaner Manual, Love, Marriage, and You” used in 1956-1957. Previous entries in this series can be found here.]

Lesson 8

Age for Marriage

A few years ago in a southern city in the United States a young man, age twenty-one, was hired to be a “baby sitter” for a family which lived in the neighborhood. The “baby” in this particular situation happened to be a charming young girl, age thirteen. The fellow took his school books along to study. He enjoyed being paid for taking care of this young girl and the parents hired him on several occasions. It so happened that the fellow and the girl became enamoured of each other and decided to get married. They were afraid to tell her parents so they ran away and were married secretly. How long did the marriage last? Only a few weeks, as the girl finally told her parents and pleaded with them to have the marriage annulled, which they did.

Quickie Questions

1. What were some of the reasons why this marriage had very little chance of success?
2. What do you think is the best age for marriage?


Thursday Morning Quickie #3


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    What a horrible framing for a serious question!

  2. MikeInWeHo says:

    Were there no statuatory rape laws in the south back then?

  3. Stephanie says:

    Oh my gosh. Thank goodness we have evolved since then (I hope). (And I am still having a hard time with that title – particularly on this post)

  4. oudenos says:

    This vignette would be better situated in France during a particularly sultry summer or in Indochina–these locations, from my understanding of French film, are brimming with such ill-fated and illicit affairs.

    What does this throw-away line have to do with anything? “The fellow took his school books along to study.” Is it supposed to heighten the sexual tension of the situation as one imagines him feigning study as he peers over the top of the books and eyes the girl?

    Oh, and whoever wrote this lesson is definitely pervy.

  5. 1. This marriage had very little chance of success because one party in particular was much too young & the couple ran way and married secretly. It always helps a marriage when the extended families are on board.

    2. Sometime after 20 for both parties.

  6. Cynthia L. says:

    “…a charming young girl…”

    If only she hadn’t been charming!

  7. Who is coming up with these scenarios? Who hires a 21 year old male to babysit a 13 year old girl?

  8. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Thanks for those thoughts, PaulW.

  9. How the heck did they get married when she was only 13? Did they lie about her age, or were there no consent laws back in the day? A quick Google search would indicate that parental consent has been around for a very long time, so they must have lied. Either about their ages or about getting married in the first place.

    I have no set age on the appropriate time to get married. I know folks who married at 18 and are happily married many decades later. I know folks who married at 40 and were divorced before a year was up. And all sorts in between.

  10. I get the feeling that this lesson wasn’t directed so much toward the general, thinking, population of saints, but probably moreso toward those for whom warning labels are directed –
    Do not insert hands or feet into lawn mower while blades are turning.

  11. “A few years ago in a southern city in the United States”

    Of course, it *had* to be the South!

  12. My grandmother eloped and was married at the age 16. And they stayed together as long as they were alive. Then again that was back in the 40s, a good 10 or 15 years before this little example. I guess in those days when people got married they made a real commitment to eachother. Not like the young couples in the mid 50s who would just get their marriage annulled at the first sign of trouble.

    So why didn’t this marriage work out? Because they didn’t put in the effort to make it work out.

    Marriage is hard work. There’s high points and low points in every marriage. Sometimes things are difficult when your wife is gone all day at junior high and you are working all night just to make ends meet. But if you really love each other and you keep the right perspective, you persevere and you make it work together.

  13. Was he Jerry Lee Lewis, by any chance?

  14. Did he have the same first name as his last name by any chance?

  15. John Mansfield says:

    Sounds like a role that Natalie Wood would have done a good job with.

  16. John Mansfield says:

    And maybe Montgomery Clift as her co-star.

  17. The Other Bro Jones says:

    Any 13 yr old that needs a babysitter is still a baby.

  18. Mark B. says:

    What American spells “enamoured” with a “u”? Obviously this whole story is some sort of Communist plot.

  19. Mark B. says:

    Wasn’t it Sue Lyon?

  20. Here I thought I was going to be clever and #14 already stole my Lolita reference

  21. quickie indeed.

    for your questions.

    1. This marriage had little chance of success because the boy could not provide for his young wife. Reality eventually had to sink in. Their passion was lust and not love. Their rush to action perverted the beautiful growth of love that they could have had. They had no anchor of familial support as they ran away.

    2. I think our nation (and most nations) have wise policies regarding age of marriage. Anyone after 18 is mature enough to handle marriage, as a generality. Obviously there are 60 year olds who are not mature enough to deal properly with marriage. But from 18 on, that’s the proper age for marriage.

  22. oudenos says:

    To suggest that that this lesson was inspired by a reading of Nabokov’s Lolita is tantalizing since Nabokov’s book was published in 1955 and this little ditty ran the following year. Source criticism!!!

  23. 14
    Close, His name was, in fact, Bobby Roberts. Her maiden name for the record was Billie Jo Williams.

  24. Oh. my. disturbing.

  25. Lulubelle says:

    1. What were some of the reasons why this marriage had very little chance of success? 1) Because she was too young to be mature enough to make a commitment like marriage and truly understand its ramifications. 2) Lust only lasts so long and, at that age, one cannot experience mature love because a 13 year old can only be ‘so’ mature. 3) I’m guessing here, but probably they didn’t have the financialy ability to sustain a life together. (I know, I know, you don’t have to be ‘wealthy’ to get married.)
    4) Married in short fashion (i.e. done on a whim)
    5) Maybe married to have ‘legal’ sex.

    2. What do you think is the best age for marriage? Well, this is subjective and greatly depends on a variety of factors. But I’ll throw an age out there (and ‘age’ alone is not the only factor of a lasting and HAPPY marriage): 30 for either gender.

  26. Once there was a middle-aged man who liked to marry many women. He saw a young 14 year old girl named Sarah Ann Whitney, whom he had known since she was a baby, and decided he would marry her also. He had her father perform a secret marriage ceremony.

    What are some of the reasons this marriage had very little chance of success?

  27. Whenever I want to complain about our current church manuals, I’ll think back to this example, and thank correlation for the wonderful work they’ve done. Seriously. This is so creepy.

    I won’t even try to answer question number 2, but number 1 begs for this one: This marriage failed because the parents of a 13 year old girl who actually would hire a 21 year old boy to babysit her probably were disappointed when their daughter asked for the annulment after the “secret” marriage. Or so it would seem.

  28. I think that in this case, “baby sitter” was code for “King of Rock and Roll” and “studying” was code for “dancing involving hip gyration.” Most 13 year old girls or 31 year old women or whatever couldn’t have resisted Elvis either.

  29. I think the marriage failed because he was simply to young (21!) to be getting married. No matter how hot the girl was.

  30. Mark B. (18) Have I not slipped enough non-American English spellings into my comments for you to take notice? Or have I not succeeded in pointing out that I was born and raised in Illinois? There are a few Americans who reject Webster’s spellings as a form of rebellion against the Crown.

  31. Hm. The sense of panic feels overwrought to me. Some of my high school classmates (yes, in the rural south) got married at thirteen, fourteen, thereabouts. This was the late 1970s crossing into the ’80s. Finishing high school just wasn’t quite the expectation then for girls. (Then again, in our school, girls had to take home ec, and boys had to take shop, and never the twain shall meet, and our textbooks dated from the 1960s… then again, this is the school district that gave us Mozert v. Board of Education.)

    I think we seriously underestimate the effect of unfamiliar cultures on individual motivation. When something happens that goes against what we culturally hold true, we react with shock, but it might not be quite so shocking to those who are within the culture.

    Oh, and if this is a reference to Elvis and Priscilla, it’s amazingly prophetic, because, as I recall, the didn’t meet until a couple years later.

  32. If I had read this lesson when I was 13 it would have immediately started me dreaming of eloping with an older man. I don’t think that is the effect it was meant to have.

  33. Kristine says:

    What kind of 13-year-old girl needs a babysitter?? I was babysitting my siblings long before that.

  34. 33 Yes, but did you marry any of them? Apparently the type of girl who runs off and marries her babysitter is the kind of 13 year old girl that needs a babysitter. I call it the Babysitter Paradox.

  35. HAHA! The Babysitter Paradox is brilliant!

  36. Mark Brown says:

    In the interest of keeping it real, we should take note of the fact that Joseph Smith Jr. and Emma Hale eloped without her parents knowledge or consent.

    I see that larry in # 26 has already brought up the other part.

  37. Yes, Mark, but Joseph never brought his homework to study when he was helping Mr. Hale, so…not really an apples-to-apples comparison now, is it?

  38. Another interesting part of the babysitter paradox is that if you are 13 and your babysitter is 21, you cannot time travel back to when the babysitter is 13 in order to kill him to stop him from marrying you. Because if you were to kill him, then you would have had no reason to time travel in the first place.

  39. John Mansfield says:

    It’s kind of interesting that at the time of marriage Emma Hale was 22 years, 6 months and one week old, while Joseph Smith was 21 years and three weeks old. Thus we learn the true reason that we send out 19-year-old male missionaries for 24 months and 21-year-old females for 18 months.

  40. 38 No, it would create two parallel universes, one in which you had killed the babysitter, and one in which you hadn’t. You have miscategorized the Babysitter Paradox, and confused it with Schroedinger’s Babysitter. The babysitter is both dead AND alive.

  41. 40. I love it!

  42. Steve Evans says:

    Babysitter Paradox FTW.

  43. The Sitter Syndrome? Where young girls express adulation and have positive feelings towards their babysitters that can appear irrational due to the danger of impending elopement.

  44. Steve G. says:

    The real reason the marriage failed, is because the husband had to find a babysitter for his wife when he went to work. The wife then fell in love with the new babysitter who also apparently brought study materials. The annulment was necessary, so the child bride could be married to the 2nd babysitter.

  45. You have miscategorized the Babysitter Paradox, and confused it with Schroedinger’s Babysitter

    C’mon. Leave Ricky out of this, okay?

  46. re #7 same could go for: Who hires a 21 year old female to babysit a 13 year old boy? Lets do be fair. A 13 year old should be old enough to be home by themselves and if not then at least get someone of the same gender to watch them.

  47. Disturbing. Way disturbing.

    1) Marriage didn’t work out because of lack of support and maturity.

    2) There is no set age — but the right age is when the support and maturity is there. Many an individual (esp. outside the church, or in other situations where people don’t grow up stressing marriage) is not ready to settle down until the late 20s or 30s. Others, are ready at 18.

  48. buraianto says:

    Steve G #44 has it.

  49. Steve G, FTW.

  50. I love how the lesson to be learned from this little anecdote is “Age for Marriage.” Not “Common-Sense Parenting” or “Study Harder” or “Vet Your Sitter.”

    But what does the inclusion of schoolbooks add to the narrative? This story has some hidden mysteries that need to be teased out.

  51. namakemono says:

    re #46 “A 13 year old should be old enough to be home by themselves” – yes, except in some countries (eg New Zealand) it is illegal to do so – in NZ, you may not leave someone under the age of 14 at home on their own!

  52. This is the funniest thread evar! Someone nominate it for a niblet! =)

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