One of the significant memes from this past General Conference was a concern that so many of our people are not getting married. As usual, men just aren’t getting with the program and need to shape up and hop to it.
Mormon marriage after the BYU years is going to be a difficult proposition no matter how we slice it. In most areas of the Church the demographics make it challenging. But I would like to make a proposal that I believe has the potential to help matters along somewhat.
An allusion was made in conference to our culture expecting the man to initiate dates, and that was respected and taken at face value. But as much as we love and respect our general leaders, this is the kind of point where they should not be considered the final authority. The last time most of them actually went on a date with a woman not their wives was in the first half of the 20th century. And yes, that was a pretty hard wired cultural expectation at the time.
But we’re now well into the 21st century. And there is no reason that the stereotype of the prim woman sitting patiently by the phone hoping for it to ring has to play out in our dating culture today.
So what I want to suggest is that there ought to be complete reciprocity between men and women in initiating dates, as well as in proposing marriage. Either may take the initiative; it shouldn’t matter in the least either way.
Men intiating dates and proposing marriage is pure culture. Neither of these is a priesthood ordinance. And the culture has moved on since the time our GAs were young. Even if the ambient culture isn’t quite all the way there yet, whatever happened to our countercultural sensibilities of creating a “style of our own?”
I haven’t followed the Mormon Bachelor closely, but I know a Mormon bachelorette just got married as a result of that process. And I saw an interview with one of the contestants asking him what he had learned, and his response was that he had learned that dating is a numbers game, and to succeed at it you need to go on a lot of dates. Of course they aren’t all going to work out, but the more dates you go on, the better your chances for success.
Asking someone out on a date is hard. You’re putting yourself in a vulnerable position. You’re acknowledging you find someone interesting and attractive, and facing the very real prospect that that person will reject you. But if we change things up so that anyone can initiate a date, that will increase the numbers of date requests, which will increase the numbers of dates, which will increase the numbers of eventual relationships stemming from said dates.
Yes, the demographics are hard, but they’re not impossible. I sometimes attend single adult conferences to teach workshops. I was at one maybe six months ago, where there were about 70 mid-singles in attendance. Sure, there were more women than men, but not by a huge margin. And there were men there that seemed decent looking and otherwise normal. But I had the strong impression that there is no dating whatsoever going on in that group of geographically available Mormons, even though there were plenty of normal, attractive people there. Maybe they’re all shell shocked or something. But encouraging women to initiate dates, assuring them that it is by no means unladylike or improper to do so, would help to stir the pot at the very least.
I know some families where the women took the initiative and asked the men out who eventually became their husbands, where it almost certainly would not have happened otherwise. And these are great families. So it can be done, and it can work. We’ve just got to get beyond this silly cultural reluctance we have.
Therefore, in the interests of the Church as expressed by our General Authorities at the April 2011 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I make the following proposal:
RESOLVED, that from this date henceforth brothers and sisters in the Church shall have complete reciprocity in the privilege of initiating both dates and marriage, and there shall be no social stigma whatsoever attached to any relationship that should result therefrom.