Either Little Provo or the Red Light District

“So can I ask you a question?” This is a fairly awkward phrase, right?  If the question is truly innocuous, no one will precede it with an implicit warning.  When you hear the question “so can I ask you a question?” you brace yourself, you take a breath, you smile and say “of course.”  If you’re a Mormon and you hear this, you know you have about a 50% chance of someone asking about polygamy, your mission, or your underwear, so you try extra hard to stick on that super pleasant smile that says “you betcha.”

My boss walked into my office a couple of years back and said “so can I ask you a question?”

“You betcha.”

“My wife and I have been noticing something kind of strange at this house in our neighborhood.  There are a lot of young women living there, and they move in and out fairly often.  And pretty often some guys in suits will come over and visit.  And the girls are all really pretty.  And they dressed really skanky at Halloween.  We think it’s a brothel.  But this morning, when I was waiting at the bus stop I saw one of them, and she asked me about the bus schedule, so I started up a conversation and asked where she was from.  She just graduated from BYU.  So, apparently she’s a Mormon.  Do you know what’s going on?  Is this normal?”

“Ah.” I said, realization dawning.  “So, here’s the thing, you live smack dab in the middle of a single mormon mecca, and you don’t know it.  All of that is perfectly normal.  They’re looking for husbands.  Pay them no mind.”  (aka “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.  Move along.”)See, I know about the greater Alexandria and Crystal City area in Northern Virginia.  You can’t spit without hitting a Mormon (but you’re probably far too polite and professional to actually spit on a Mormon–this is good).  All of the outsiders think that the Mormons are moving to DC to take over the FBI, the CIA, and other alphabet agencies.  However, this is not true.  This is a conspiracy theory (yes gentiles have them too).   The alphabet agency co-opting is merely a by-product of the great migration to the Washington, D.C. area.  The Mormons need to mate.  If you’re super smart and somewhat unacceptably liberal, you head to Boston/Cambridge.  If you’re artsy, edgy, or get into Columbia law school you go to NYC.  If you’re just run of the mill smart, and you need an eternal companion (and you’ll commit involuntary manslaughter if you spend one more day in Utah) then you move to DC.  Most Mormons are just run of the mill smart, and they wind up in Crystal City.  They can’t afford housing (did you ever pay more than $250 a month for a contract in Provo??) so they move in together into townhouses.  One moves out, another moves in, and pretty soon you have a Mormon house, and then a Mormon neighborhood (or a “saint-hood” if you will).   Home teachers and singles ward bishops visit, and voila–those nice girls may look like hookers, but actually they are trying to find a hottie husband the old-fashioned way.  (Well, not the really old-fashioned way…more like the nouveau-victorian way…in case the old fashioned way involves evolution, pheromones, and the world’s oldest profession.)

Cut to a few years later, and the Washington Post seems to have picked up on the trend.  Either Mormons have reached a critical mass where they are now being tracked according to some secret government radar (that Mormons have yet to infiltrate), or it was a slow news day in D.C.

So did you ever migrate to one of the three east coast gathering spots?  Did you live in a big Mormon house?  Did you have the decency to dress modestly on Halloween?  Did you find your eternal companion?  Do you work for a secret government agency?  (No wait, don’t answer that last one.)  What advice do you have for single Mormons flocking to Little Provo?  More Halloween parties?


  1. Eric Russell says:

    Karen, the article was spurred by the opening of the new Crystal City building, which is being billed as the first chapel in the church to house solely (non-student) singles wards.

  2. Karen H. says:

    Eric, yes I caught that. But opening a new Mormon chapel isn’t exactly newsworthy under normal circumstances. (Even an all singles chapel. When I lived in Boston, our ward building was all singles). That article was purely for anthropological study…

  3. No, I personally have not. BUT, I did live in a ward that had the equivalent with newly married couples near THE – must emphasize the THE – Ohio State University once. It was not university sponsored married housing (this can create a similar phenomenon with young marrieds at many top notch professional grad schools), but you would never have guessed it with the comings and goings of all the young married Mormon couples at this complex. Further, it was the only place near in that neighborhood that would practically have a traffic jam at 8:45am on Sunday morning.

    Here is my question given my urban Mormon demographics post on Our Mother’s Keeper today. Where do these people live once they marry? And have kids? Is there a Mormon family equivalent in DC?

  4. They will also stop by Southern California …

  5. West Coast here (and west of the Rockies all my life, Cthulhu willing!). Seattle is so spread out, there’s no real Mormon mecca, but southeast Bellevue feels like Draper sometimes (with more water, Asians, and Sephoras). I did see a Mormon clan (nerdy, unattractive husband, surprisingly attractive wife, two kids, one in a BYU shirt) at a park recently, so they’re about. Ken Jennings, too. (Whom I’ve met!) Seattle has both the ueber-liberal, possibly pot-smoking Mormons, and the I-married-a-Microsoftees.

  6. Back in spring of ’92, I leased a six-bedroom house for a year 40 miles northwest of Santa Fe at 7300 feet elevation in the lovely company town of Los Alamos. My partner in the endevour, Kevin, found a carved sign at a swap meet that that read “Outlaw Shop,” and he hung it by the front door. The leader of Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, which we both worked for, lived next door, however, and we weren’t a particularly wild bunch anyhow. Kevin’s father gave him a copy of Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire, which we took turns reading. Kevin and I sublet rooms to four Mormons, besides myself, and two Gentiles, besides Kevin, not all at the same time. Clark Goble of Mormon Metaphysics and Amano Chocolate fame was one of them, and his business partner came from that town. Kevin stayed on a year after I left, and the house turned all Gentile.

    In Mormonish spouse-seeking action, we never locked the doors for the first couple months until the day some Mormon girls seeking the attention of some of my roommates planted little chocolate bars all over the place, and then locked the doors behind them as they left. I was first to arrive home, without a key. We had a dozen and a half single Mormons over for breakfast before work one morning, and my future wife was among the guests. My first winter in Los Alamos starting on MLK day of 1990, as the only single in the ward under 30, gave few hints of the Mormon single sociality to come.

  7. I can only say__I have got to get out more….

  8. “And they dressed really skanky at Halloween.”

    That’s a bit of a disappointment. Should I be surprised?

  9. There is one Mormon mecca in Seattle- UW family housing. But you already have to be married to live there, so it doesn’t really count for this post.

  10. StillConfused says:

    My daughter and her husband are moving back to DC (from Utah) in a week. They are very excited.

    When my daughter first started college, she “hid” her church records so they wouldn’t be sent to a single’s ward. She was afraid that she would be forced into marriage. Since she started college at 16 and graduated at 19, she had reason to be nervous!

  11. I lived in Cambridge (Karen knows this because she is super smart and unacceptably liberal). There were two, and then three, singles wards with boundaries and age requirements designed to keep unshaven grad students away from the young, nubile undergrad girls. Why they would want to keep nerdy, socially awkward, slightly slovenly, quiet, lonely guys who are deeply into fantasy role play away from the hot young things was a mystery to all of us. In one of the many instances when I was asked not to hang around the foyer because I was “creeping people out” my bishop explained that some women thought the way I would sidle up behind them and stare at them until they turned around was “pervy”. Mormons are very judgemental.

  12. I was raised in SoCal and then moved to Seattle for school. I agree with the comments above regarding the Seattle Mormon scene. Most of them are in Dental school and live in family housing. The singles ward had activities that didn’t even hide it’s get married asap agenda. There was the Dating Olympics, Sweet Meet and not to mention awesome Barnyard YSA dances . Now I’m back in SoCal and the singles scene is just really sad. How sad you may ask? Let’s just say the only way we were able to get a marriage in the ward was when the EQ presidency was “inspired” to assign certain guys with girls they thought were cute for HT. Only time some of them ever did HT. C’est la vie.

  13. I live in Brooklyn, with family in NYC, Boston (used to) and DC. Our area of Brooklyn is known to be a mecca for young families, and our ward reflects that. Average demographic- early 30’s, 2-3 kids, 2nd or 3rd job. The Bishopric, most of the high council, and one member of the Stake Presidency (until recent move-out) are all under 35.

  14. Misav,
    What years (approximately) were you in the singles ward in Seattle? And how did less active members or non-student members fare in the ward? Were they included or ignored?

  15. I nearly worked for one of the alphabet organizations. That was because my squeaky clean Mormon-living meant I could pass high-level background tests without blinking an eye and didn’t feel pinched by any of their “restrictive” lifestyle suggestions (e.g. “don’t get drunk in public.”). In the end I moved to Texas instead ’cause the cost of living here is dirt cheap.

    In Provo-Provo, I lived on a street where a group of girls had a _literal_ red light on their porch. If memory serves correctly, one of those gals served in one of the Relief Society presidencies (yup, one ward, two RS). I always wondered about that but didn’t think I’d get a straight answer even if I asked.

  16. my favorite kind of bloggernacle post: quirks of mormons living somewhere else. thanks.

  17. Zefram,

    I lived in Seattle from 2001-2006. Graduated and headed back home as a part of TFA. I was definitely borderline active and less-active throughout my 5 years at UW. What I loved about the University wards there was no matter my membership status they were always welcoming to folks such as myself. They would offer to give me rides to firesides and activities, invite me to activities, visit me when I hadn’t been to church in a while. The Bishopric there was the best I’ve had by far since I’ve been a single ward member. There I often was VT and HT and now that I reflect back on the experience I’m bummed because I should’ve taken advantage of what I had then.

    There was one thing about the culture there that was totally different from the Mormon culture of where I currently live. You could say there was definitely a lack of diversity in the wards and that partly contributed to my lackadaisical attitude towards church….but really that’s for another post. About non-student members…I’m not the person to ask about how it was attending those wards if you weren’t a student. Matter of fact, I don’t think I could distinguish btw who was a student or non-student so I guess I kinda answered your question there.

  18. My BYU off campus student ward had a RS president whose apartment light was turned red on the weekends. Since it was the south western most apartment in the ward, it was just Las Vegas to some of us.

  19. we had a red light outside of our 4-girl apartment in provo because we thought it was hilarious, considering all of the urban legends. that’s one of the pure joys of mormonism–it takes so little to feel naughty

  20. Jessica says:

    Dangit, I should’ve ditched Berkeley and gone straight to D.C.

  21. I lived in a Boston YSA ward for two years (06-08). The one particularly remarkable encounter I had was talking with an old BYU undergrad friend (guy), who was going to dental school and so was in the “graduate student and young professionals” ward, not the undergrad “hot young things” ward (re: 11). He told me that he was only going to go to the undergraduate ward because all the women in the graduate ward were “old” and “not able to be molded into what he wanted them to be.” I KID YOU NOT. TO MY FACE!

    It traumatized me…since I was in the graduate student ward at the decrepit age of 22 and apparently my PhD program status made me instantly undesirable since I…had…a personality and a life plan…or something…?

  22. Natalie B. says:

    Where did the billing start that this is the first chapel to house only singles? My husband also attended a chapel that was singles-only. Did they mean to say that it was the first specifically designed with only singles in mind?

  23. Kristine says:

    Apame–that is horrifying. I hope you slapped him.

  24. Eric Russell says:

    Natalie, I’m curious myself who the source is, because it’s been repeated in multiple places. I’ve heard other iterations where it was qualified that these were older, or non-student, wards. And they may also mean full capacity building use – as in three wards. Does anyone know of another building that houses three non-university singles wards? I did think it odd that there would be no such buildings in the greater Salt Lake area. But I think you might be right about the intention being to express that it’s simply designed for singles. The building isn’t equipped to support a family ward with youth/primary, so that may be it.

  25. Thanks for your reply, Misav. You said you saw a definite lack of diversity in the UW singles wards. What kind of diversity do you mean — ethnic, economic, political, doctrinal, or something else? If it was ethnic, I’d guess that’s because Washington is much less ethnically diverse than SoCal.

    The reason I ask is because the UW singles are the only singles wards in the city of Seattle. My ward wants to send the records of less-active members in their 20’s to those wards. And I’m wondering how those people, many of whom are probably not students, will be received by the people already in those wards.

  26. I meant, the UW singles wards are the only singles wards in the city of Seattle …

  27. Apame as a current (married) Cambridge MA resident, i certainly hope that guy found his gender views to be liability in trying to rum up dates/interest no matter which of our SA wards he went trolling about it. I hope you didn’t slap him but let the other ladies know what type of attitudes they would have to deal with dear “mold me big boy, mold me” DDS I naively remain flabbergasted when I hear there are Mormon guys out there that not only hold such attitudes but feel comfortable saying them out loud. How would anybody willing to say that get a date?

  28. Katie P. says:

    I live in Alexandria, and I go to that church building. I didn’t move here for husband-hunting purposes, but I wouldn’t mind at all were that to happen.

    I’m a little about the repeated assertion that the girls looked like hookers. As in, East End hookers looking for a dime for the flophouse, or high-priced call girls style? I see the LDS women get dressed up, but the clothes are generally appropriate and much more modest than is normal on the streets in the summer. What was the hooker factor?

  29. I’ve been living in Boston for two years and have been in one of the two “graduate student” wards (LP1&LP2) – which really isn’t a graduate student ward at all. It’s for men ages 25 and up (if you’re a 23 year old grad student and you’re a guy, you’re still in the university ward) and all women who have graduated from college/want to be in that ward (I had a roommate who didn’t graduate from college and had been in the LP wards for several years, moving out when she got married at 25). People are certainly not very liberal as far as I can tell, although I think the “family wards” are a little different. Yes, I do live in an apartment of 4 Mormon girls, but of the 4 of us last year only one was officially on the meat market. There are so few men in the ward (I seriously think there are only 20 active guys in my ward…with probably 50-60 active women) that it’s not so much of a dating hot spot as one might think. However, if you’re a 25 year old man, I would say Boston looks pretty good. Small enough so you can easily worm your way into the social group of that girl of your dreams, but large enough so there are more than 5 ladies to choose from. As far as dating goes, you’re either on the market or off. As a women, if you don’t get into the dating scene within 6 months of moving in, it’s probably not going to happen in Boston for ya without a lot of effort. (I choose to put 0 effort in).

    Also, sorry to whoever said it, but the guys in the “Charles River Ward” (aka “31 and up ward” aka “Old people ward”) are creepy. Not all of them, but some of them…yeah. There’s a good reason that the young 19 year olds of the University Ward are shielded from them. No one wants their freshman in college dating someone who is old enough to be her father. I don’t even want to be around some of those guys, and I’m not anywhere close to 18. I have run into men with similar ideas to that that Apame expressed (it was probably the same guy, he’s been around for forever), but most of the guys in the LP wards seem to be pretty normal (well, as normal as MIT PhD students can possibly be…). So I take that back. They’re not normal at all :)

    I’m currently in DC and waiting to see if it lives up to the crazy hype. I’m not really sure I like the idea of a 300 person singles ward. I haven’t noticed a ton of Mormons in Arlington, but then I’m not very good with picking out Mormons, and I don’t spend much time in Arlington anyway.

  30. Kristine says:

    “although I think the “family wards” are a little different”

    Nope. Boston as the mecca of liberal Mormons is mostly mythological.

  31. courtney says:

    I live in the same stake “Little Provo” in Crystal City (but I’m not single). And it’s not just the alphabet agency folk– so many lobbyists and lawyers! I have several friends in the ward though, and it sounds like a constant party. From what I’ve noticed from friends and such, the Halloween Hooker thing is not nearly as bad as I noticed in Provo, actually.
    Interestingly, they just reorganized the stake adding three new family wards because the three singles wards in the stake were creating so many marriages, the family wards couldn’t keep up with the growth. (The Crystal City family ward had over 800 members.) So it seems Little Provo is doing a very fine job at marrying off its singles.

  32. Eric Russell says:

    That’s correct, courtney. Constant party!

  33. Zefram. I know that process very well. Our stake did that to our singles ward and we became the “dumping grounds” for a lack of a better word, for all inactive YSA. Personally, I thought that when family wards did this they were neglecting their responsibility to tend to the members in their congregation. Our ward (the ysa ward) was given the task of finding over 350+ inactive members in our area. It was not fair to the members in our ward (the 20 active members in our ward) and who knows how those inactive ysa members felt about having complete strangers show up at their doors. Before anyone’s records are moved I think that the ward where these inactive ysa members belong should be visited and given the opportunity to choose if they want to move to the ysa ward. Also the bishopric of the ward you are moving records to should be given a heads up regarding the movement of records. It has been almost 3 years since our ward became the place where family member wards in our stake moved records of inactive ysa’s members and we still haven’t been able to get a solid idea of what our membership numbers are. As a result, our HT and VT records are never accurately portrayed because we have almost 500 members in our records but only 80 come to church on a weekly basis. Just to prevent this scenario from happening again…I hope that you are able to find a resolution that would help the inactive ysa members in your area.

  34. Could it be that most any large university will have a trove of LDS young marrieds with more children than brains? At Florida State in the early 90s there were 6+ of those same young families in our apartment complex. I used to complain that you had to go down the street if you needed a cig. I have really fond memories of it. Now we live in North Carolina near Durham. When we moved here we wanted to move closer to those young families, but, alas, the commute was prohibitive. When I would see the young grad. school dads at the Father-sons/daughters campouts, I would think about that time, smile, and thank heaven I was not there. Complain all you want about teenagers, but they are potty-trained (mostly) and I don’t have that nasty, HAZ-MAT disaster that is a high chair.

  35. Adam Anderson says:

    Don’t forget about Cambridge 1st Ward (where the liberal 2% dwell)!

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