Why is it so hard for LDS to find marriage partners?

Somebody apparently added me to a Facebook group called “LDS Doctrines, Questions, and Insights.” This is not a Bloggernacle type of group, but a very mainstream one (it has 14,000 members). I haven’t paid much attention to it, but I noticed a long thread discussing this question: “Why we the single members of the Church find it difficult to get a partner to marry?”

There were almost 200 responses, many of which fell into the following categories:

  • Women encouraged to reject men who haven’t served missions.
  • Too many don’t even try to date.
  • Issues of attraction.
  • Issues of standards.
  • Some enjoy the freedom of being single.
  • Too focused on finding “the one.”
  • Seeking perfection (even when you’re not perfect yourself).
  • No sex before marriage an impediment.
  • Many too picky.

There is certainly truth there, and I encourage you to add your own perspectives to the question.

But before we drill down into these kinds of issues too far, I think it might be helpful first to consider the bigger picture: this is largely a problem of demographics.

We like to crow that we’re a church of 15 million (or maybe even more these days). But that’s just a paper number, and includes many people who would be surprised our system considers them members of our church. The number of self-identifying, practicing Mormons is a fraction of that figure. We’re a worldwide church, but our numbers are relatively small.

And we have a culture that favors early marriage. So when the music stops, if you haven’t sat down already there just might not be a seat left for you.

My dad used to say something like “We have some of the finest universities in the world right here in Illinois. I’m sending you to BYU to get married.” I used to hate it when he said that, although in my case it actually worked–I did get married at BYU (to a convert to the Church–from Illinois).

The Church is pretty well represented in the intermountain west. But what if you don’t live there? With so many marrying early and off the market and membership so sparse in other areas, the demographics almost by definition are going to be very challenging.

Not only are the pure numbers an impediment, but we have a serious case of gender imbalance that makes this a particularly difficult feat for LDS women to achieve. It’s not unusual for singles wards, even in Utah, to have double the number of women as men. This is largely from men being more likely to drop out as they transition to adulthood, and women being (generally) more devout. So a dreary situation is made much worse by a severe gender imbalance in our singles population.

I think understanding these basic demographic facts is essential to appreciating the challenge involved in seeking a marriage within the faith.

So what can one do to goose up the odds a bit? I have a few ideas (see below), but solicit yours (in the comments) as well:

  • You’re going to have to overcome the geographic dispersion somehow. The Church does what it can to help by sponsoring singles wards and activities, but that may not be enough. For singles in the Midwest, it’s not unusual to travel two or even three states away to attend singles conferences. That’s simply the price some are willing to pay to meet other available singles.
  • Another way to conquer the geography is to use online dating websites. I assume that can be a soul-crushing experience, but plenty of people have actually found spouses that way.
  • You also need to leverage your contacts.  You live in one spot, but you have LDS friends all over the place; perhaps someone might be able to point you in the right direction.

What other thoughts do you have for how to overcome the very challenging demographic obstacles to dating and marrying within the faith?

ADDENDUM:

My apologies for framing the end of the post as (simplistic) marriage advice that those in the trenches surely do not need. After reading 200 comments from frustrated Mormon singles I thought some perspective on the demographic factors in play might provide a bigger picture. I was thinking specifically of this Time article comparing the demographic trends in Mormonism and the Orthodox Jewish community, both socially conservative religious groups that find themselves with substantially more unmarried women than men. In my head I was thinking that everyone was already familiar with it, but I can see now that that was a mistake and I should have affirmatively cited it to explain the angle I was trying to come from. The “advice” at the end was focused exclusively on the demographics, not the skewed female to male ratio (I don’t know what we can do about that; ideas welcome!) but the long distances between singles due to our small numbers in relation to the populations in which we find ourselves. But as I reread it now I can see it comes across as just utterly lame dating advice. Mea culpa.

Comments

  1. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    BYU vacuums up a very large portion of the marriage-interested LDS population every year–disproportionately so outside of the West, since the professional class from which BYU draws represents a much larger portion of active church members in places like Chicago and Atlanta than it does in, say, Las Vegas–and spits out relatively few singles 4-6 years later. That’s a serious problem if you don’t want to go to BYU, or if you go to BYU and don’t want to get married before the age of 24. (Which is pretty reasonable, when you think about it.)

  2. Dog Spirit says:

    Having thought about this quite a lot over the course of 12 years in singles wards, I’ve basically come to the conclusion that people are quirky, and it’s just plum hard to find a lid for your weird, dented pot. The demographics are definitely a problem, no doubt about that, but I bristle a little when people try to categorize the reasons people are single and reduce their complexity to a issue that’s a lot easier to judge from the outside. What looks like “too picky” from the outside might be deep incompatibility and unhappiness from the inside. What looks like not even trying to date may be anxiety or woundedness or sheer exhaustion. It might look like you’re holding out for “the one,” but you’re over forty and you spend sleepless nights agonizing about whether you’d be happier alone for the rest of your life or to marry the person you’re dating but who you don’t actually have anything in common with. People are complicated, and I think it’s a miracle anyone manages to get married at all.

    As for the demographics, no amount of midsingles conferences, LDS dating websites, or networking can fix the gender imbalance. I honestly think the best thing is to not stigmatize interfaith marriage quite so much.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Hep, good point about the BYU effect. I never thought that much about it before, but I think you’re right.

    Dog, I like your point about interfaith marriage. I simply wasn’t open to that as a young man, but I would be if I were in that position today.

  4. I’ve seen this as a joke before, but it’s really true: If you want to get married to another member, you have to find someone who is the same “level” of Mormon as you. Are you a Mormon who doesn’t play with face cards, or a Mormon who drinks coffee, or somewhere in between? Add that to all the other problems listed, and it can be a nightmare to date. That being said, I was one of those “get married before 21” Mormons, so I don’t know how much room I have to talk.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Sam I got married two weeks before my 22nd birthday, which seemed normal at the time but seems kind of crazy now.

  6. Is it lunchtime yet? says:

    I tend to think that an underrated reason is that we are just way too hard on each other. Maybe that is “too much focus on finding the one”. There are probably a lot of people who could marry someone among those they previously dated and be very happy but one or the other was just too demanding on little, insignificant things.

    I have friends who couldn’t handle someone’s teeth or the way they loaded dishes or the way they kept their car looking. I once closed the door on a possible relationship because my date didn’t eat what they ordered for dinner.

  7. According to a New York Times article last year (yes we made the New York Times with this issue), there are 150 single LDS women for every 100 single LDS men. With odds like that do we really need to come up with another reason LDS women aren’t married?

  8. The demographics problem is intractable with long distance relationships and online lds dating alone (I have friends pursuing both to no effect.) I see accomplished lds women my age (mid 20s) snatching up men who, to be frank, are mediocre in every way but have a temple recommend. I wish the church would relax on cross religion marriage to let more women find marital happiness “in this life.” Yes, that has it’s own challenges, but it’s not always a bad idea and the idea that we can only marry lds seems clannish at best and cultish at worst (when I was in seminary we even had to memorize the “neither shalt thou make marriages with them (non members or non Israelites)” verse in deteronomy 7! (By the way this comment is not coming from a place of personal bitterness; I got married at age 21 in the temple despite my weird personality and my husband is the absolute best for me)

  9. I went to a single adult conference in Germany in 1980. Neal maxwell spoke and said to look outside just dating members – that we should also look at dating and converting nonmembers, which is what I eventually did. I was surprised that even back then a general authority would counsel dating non members

  10. Dog Spirit – cannot agree more about the interfaith marriage. I’m a single, well-educated woman in my 30s and consider myself actively engaged in my faith and in my church. I’m also not particularly interested in being a plural wife in the hereafter. I’ve had a terrible time finding a match in the areas that are important to me. Internet dating has been a dumpster fire and I have had poor experiences with singles conferences and such, so I’ve mostly walked away from those.

    At this point, I see essentially no marriage options for me in my faith, and I see two choices: (1) accept singleness for this life and hold out for the vague (too vague, IMHO) promise of some sort of arrangement in the afterlife, or (2) find a supportive marriage partner outside of my faith and hope we can create a life that includes my faith while accepting the eternal consequences. The former means I’m denied so many life experiences for an ill-defined assure that it will all “work out.” According to what I’ve been told, the latter means I potentially have a more fulfilling life experience but at the potential cost of my long-term salvation. Both choices feel untenable to me, which is part of the reason so many of my peers walk away and find another choice that likely doesn’t involve the church.

    My demographic – single women (especially) and men and in our 30s and beyond – is growing. We are an oft-ignored and largely untapped resource in the church, but we frequently find that the church can’t figure out what to do with us. Unless the church can provide a different narrative around inter-faith marriage and/or find a place for us in the church, both formally and culturally, we will continue to shed numbers and feel like outsiders in our church home.

  11. Autumn Meadow says:

    I spent almost 2 decades in the singles scene, and I agree that the demographics are a big problem for Mormons. One thing that I observed really surprised me, though. I lived for several years in a medium-sized city outside the Mormon corridor where there were only 50-70 single Mormons under the age of 35 at any given time. But the marriage rates were very high compared to other places I lived (like Utah). I had three roommates during that five year period, and all three of them found and married their husbands within months of moving to the city. To me it seemed like if there was someone you were compatible with, it was very easy to find them there. And there was no room to be picky about silly stuff, which often happens in places where there are hundreds or thousands of people to choose from.

  12. Add age to the marriage mix and it gets grimmer. I live in a 55+ community with lots and lots and LOTS of widows. Widowers or divorced men of a similar age, lifestyle and interest set are meager. I didn’t attend singles functions or dances regularly as a youth (I’m 58 now and widowed, married a non-member) and it was largely due to that last point on your first bullet list. Too picky. The men available were too picky. Or they were single because they SHOULD be single. The Lord knows our hearts and our agendas and some are simply not meant to find their eternal companion in this world. In my opinion anyway. I am not a beautiful woman by worldly standards and the insistence on pleasing outward appearance (by both genders) is a huge stumbling block from my experience. It’s a difficult lesson to learn to look inwardly at the soul and remember that outward appearance fades and ages; the soul grows more beautiful every day if we live a good spiritual life. So dudes? STOP BEING SO PICKY.

  13. It’s an interesting issue – and complex. According to statistics compiled by the Pew Research Center in 2014, U.S. Mormons are far more likely to be married than members of most other religious groups, with 66% of adult Mormons married versus 52% of U.S. Christians overall, 48% of U.S. adults overall, and 37% of religiously-unaffiliated U.S. adults.

    I would venture to guess that, although there are some marriage-pairing challenges that are unique to Mormons or that play out in uniquely-Mormon ways, including those identified in this post and in comments above, Mormons are also faced with some version of the same barriers to marriage as the rest of the population, which might be partially outweighed by our emphasis on marriage as a religion and culture.

    I also agree with those who observed above that we are too hard on each other, and that at least some of that may go with the territory of trying to find a good match in terms of religious compatibility within Mormonism – finding a mate who is compatible with the particular type of Mormon we each happen to be, etc.

  14. I’m sort of curious who this piece is for? I don’t know any single people who aren’t aware of online dating, networking, or going to conferences, those are sort of basic human interactions at this point. Is a guy who got married at BYU and has been out of the scene (long enough to have never used the apps so…quite awhile) really a great source of advice?

  15. Not care what The Church thinks about your marital status?

    As a divorced individual I received marginally better treatment in singles situations because it proved that I was at least “marriable”. For the sake of the women who never marry or don’t want to my firm advice is to stop caring about it.

    The Church being involved in your bid to find someone will lead to heartache. No good can come of it. You don’t need lectures about wearing makeup; you are a perfectly divine being by yourself.

  16. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Autumn Meadow,

    To that end, the little student ward (mostly undergrads) at the major urban university I attended for grad school produced a seemingly ludicrous number of marriages. A lot of folks suspected that the bishopric arranged certain callings to pair up couples who they thought would make good spouses.

    I wonder if the fact that the student branch at the unholy hybrid of a Big 10 school and an Ivy that I attended for undergrad was mostly married grad students inhibited marriages. I remember a young woman, a fellow undergrad who’d grown up in various places around East Asia as a corporate brat, who was genuinely horrified by all of the 23-year-old, never-left-the-West wives of MBA students who were pregnant with their second or even third kids.

  17. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Dog Spirit:

    Removing the stigma from marrying outside the faith would require reversing quite literally decades of doctrinal emphasis on temple marriage, the promotion of which starts with Sunbeams. You can’t proclaim something to be the gold standard without everything else being silver (or worse) by definition.

    Not to mention that in some wards I’ve been in, the extra attention shown to “part-member families” (a #Problematic term in and of itself) can border on harassment by overzealous missionaries and ward mission leaders who’ve been told that the nonmember spouses of active members are “golden.”

  18. anonymous (not so) sweet spirit says:

    I think Dog Spirit’s point about each person having their individual reasons for being single is important – it’s *complicated*. I hate it when it’s distilled into “didn’t date enough at BYU” or “no good matches in my singles ward,” because for me it’s so much more than that. I didn’t want to get married in college, so I didn’t, but post-college the options have been few and far between, and there are so many compounding factors. In particular, I think it’s difficult if you’re seen as outside the mainstream – getting the wrong graduate degree, focusing on the wrong career, being too feministy, not being classically Mormon beautiful, not having the right clothes or family, etc. I don’t think it’s fair to distill not liking the one or two guys that have been interested in dating me into “you’re too picky” – maybe I am, but why is it that Mormon women don’t *get* to be picky? I feel like I shouldn’t have to settle on the things that are important to me, even if someone else thinks those things are stupid.

    Sam’s comment on the levels of Mormon-ness is a huge factor for me. If I don’t want to get married in the temple due to feminist objections…then I basically can’t marry a Mormon man *at all*. So what’s an otherwise good Mormon girl to do then? How do you find a similarly situated Mormon man? Is there a dating app for committed-ish Mormons?

    I don’t have any solutions. I wish that there was less up or out in the Church. I wish that singles wards weren’t a thing – I want to go to a regular ward and serve and help, not just go to a meat market every week…but if I go to the regular ward, I’m basically closing the door on what little chance I ever had to get married at all.So much of the change that needs to happen is cultural, but it’s even doctrinal, to some extent. For women especially, the emphasis on being able to have children *cannot* be understated as a reason women get passed over – 35 year old men don’t marry 40 year old women, they marry 30 year old women who can still give them 4 kids. It’s asking a lot to get someone you just met 6 months ago to commit to an *eternal* marriage, and I wonder if working towards temple sealing shouldn’t be something that couples do together through life, rather than just starting off. Who knows. I’m interested to see what everyone else has to say.

  19. Dog Spirit says:

    Hepta, believe me, I know how hard it would be to dial back to the laser focus on temple marriage as the sole path to happiness. I don’t think it would be easy to accomplish, but I think it’s the right thing to do.

  20. amberhaslam says:

    I think one of the major problems is that when we discuss the fact that LDS singles aren’t getting married or are getting married later in life, it is looked at as a disease to be cured. And this concern typically comes from the married population of the church. There seems to be a lot of “diagnosing” of the problems from the outside looking in. Given, some of that diagnosing is probably correct. Many of the issues you listed from the facebook group are struggles I’ve had as a YSA both at BYU and in other locations (hopefully singles were a part of this facebook conversation). But it would be nice to maybe include the single population in the discussion about their singleness. I think it might open up some of the issues that can’t really be diagnosed from the outside.

  21. Kevin, you married before you were 22 and met your wife at BYU. Why do you think you are qualified to dispense any dating advice?

  22. amberhaslam says:

    I also want to add, that singleness isn’t actually a disease and we need to stop treating YSAs like they are projects. I would echo a lot of what the anon commenter said. There are many individual circumstances that make marriage difficult and it can come down to individual preference and life goals. For me, marriage has never been on the forefront as I have focused on other things, primarily education. But my singleness isn’t really something to fix and I don’t need people telling me what I’m “doing wrong” when it comes to dating. For the most part, I already know; I just don’t care to change it quite yet.

  23. Being a mid 30s single gal in the church is difficult. Luckily I live in a ward that values me and puts me to work. With that said, growing up they tell you if you do XYZ you will be blessed and get married. I did everything “right” in the words of others, going to heavy LDS populated schools, served a mission, tried online dating, and now I have to drive 2.5 hours to attend singles events. Single events are in themselves a whole another bag when the age range runs from 30 to dead, and those who are retirement age are hitting on the 30 year old women which causes women your age not to come, and the men don’t bother to show up.
    Some male friends demand “perfection” for their future spouses yet they aren’t willing to work on themselves before hand. Addictions are another downfall for both sexes. It’s difficult to try build connections when the other party is to busy looking at their phone or more interested in playing video games (or watch porn). There is so many different factors that are at play now compared to 10-15 years ago. I just got keep the faith and do my part.

  24. Ryan Hammond says:

    As a natural and even trained sociological thinker, I am prone to entertain these macro discussions. My experience with my single friends in the church though is that they tend to find these discussions irrelevant and hurtful – especially when engaged in by us married people, even if with sincere intent/concern. There is little we can do from a policy perspective or other macro intervention to change circumstances or probabilities, so really it feels like we are just entertaining ourselves with what is for them their intimate, lived experience. Especially, in a a church environment where the institution seems to explicitly say and act (see Pres. Oaks in the recent press conference) as if marriage is a solution to an institutional problem, I think our brothers and sisters need less speculation and kibitzing from us, otherwise we risk becoming part of the cultural problem that treats them implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) as second class citizens in our faith community.

  25. I’ve actually (as the current parent of a daughter at a “west coast Ivy” and a daughter at a church school) felt like the BYU dating scene right now is too picky–with thousands of options, guys who are currently dating what they would term a 9.2 are holding out for a 9.7. By contrast, the California university dating scene is much smaller, with only a few dozen LDS students attending a local singles ward, but there are something like 14 engaged couples in that ward right now.
    As someone said above about finding the matching lid, perhaps at church schools there are too many lids and containers that all could go together, so you feel like you should try more out, but at another school you’ve already self-selected some of those factors (religion and academic compatibility) to give you an idea that these odd lids might fit your odd shape.

  26. I am a 42 year old never married woman with lots of opinions on this topic. There are so many singles in the church and every one of them has a vastly different set of needs and goals. I spent a long time thinking that I wasn’t good enough to deserve marriage, or even a dating relationship. I know I’m not the only person who has felt this way.

    I think the singles programs in the church are a huge part of the problem. Regional and stake leadership never seems to look too far to find singles to staff the singles program, and once they are staffed they tend to be ignored. Close to half the members of the church are in this category, and often they aren’t thought of as a resource. I wish the singles program was included in organized outreach opportunities at the ward and stake level. There is often very little creativity in activities planned by these singles groups…dances, firesides, and summer conferences (with dances and firesides) are pretty much the norm—so if you don’t like these activities or are not free weekend evenings you probably don’t participate in the church programs for singles.

    On a more general level I think there’s a divide in income equality. Often singles are hesitant to date above or below their own level of education or income. I thinks this probably has a significant impact on making matches in the LDS singles scene.

    Almost two years ago I decided to try online dating again, but this time I actually met someone I liked. I’m thrilled that I’m about to be married—but we are doing it our way, I think that’s a huge thing for older singles. I know myself now and I trust myself enough to do what’s important for me.

  27. szgraggen says:

    The comment about part-member families being almost harassed by missionaries is interesting. My husband is a *gasp* atheist and my ward pretty much won’t touch us. (I told them he’s Catholic to avoid the *gasps.* it is technically true.)

    I married at 30 to a non-member because he is the right person for me. I was accused of “settling” and being “desperate” (single and 30 is not cause for desperation outside of UT) because I married him, which I found grossly condescending and very untrue. I went to BYU, I went to a singles ward after that, but I found my person somewhere else. God wants us to be happy and I firmly believe He would rather we married good, caring people than spend a lifetime alone.

  28. It would be interesting to have accurate statistics showing the rate of single adult Mormons over, say, 24 years old who want to be married but are not, compared to those who are single but are not strongly interested in marriage.

  29. LDS Singles need fewer married people (especially those who got married while at BYU and in their early twenties) dispensing advice and talking about us/at us like we’re incompetent or haven’t already tried ALL OF THE THINGS. Online dating? Conferences? Networking? Seriously, get a clue. We don’t need your fixing.

    Dear BCC: Enough with married people writing/talking about singles. We have our own voices–and we are much more than our marital status.

  30. So the longer I sit with this article, the longer I can’t help but feel angry about how this hogwash made it up on this site. Married people giving single people advice is hogwash, these are the most basic, non-interesting “insights” into ways to find a partner, and if we could just eradicate “picky” from the lexicon that would be terrific. No single person needs more married people talking about dating, we hate it. We hate it so much that we start to hate you when you do it. You want to know how to improve LDS dating? SHUT UP ABOUT IT WE ARE ALREADY ALL THINKING ABOUT IT AND TALKING ABOUT IT AND WE DON’T NEED YOUR USELESS HELP BECAUSE LIGHTNING STRUCK AND YOU MANAGED TO GET HITCHED SOMEWHERE IN THE LATE 80’S. You aren’t an expert. You aren’t helpful. And WE are frankly, so done with being the church’s favorite sad stories. Our lives are awesome, they are fulfilling, they are interesting. Leave us alone.

  31. The mid singles I have spoken with, including my daughter, are tired of being the 5th wheel. Never mind just the dating. Stop infantizing them. Stop setting up “FHE” groups for them or hosting events as if they are teens. My daughter has let her heartache go of being the perfect LDS girl. No matter how hard she tried – it didn’t work.

    Her Bishop in a regular family ward has her in the Relief Society Presidency. He counts her as normal. It’s a huge blessing.

  32. 1. There is a demographics problem, with more active member women than men.

    2. The economy has changed a lot in the last 30 years, which has made early marriage less tenable than it once was.

    3. There are approximately 47,000 other reasons why people don’t get married, and none of them is our business. We should concern ourselves more with treating everyone as individuals with unique needs and gifts to contribute to our community.

  33. John Mansfield says:

    If 90% of 27-year-old women are married instead of 50%, then any imbalance finding suitable men to date is magnified five-fold. A lack of suitable prospects is actually a sign that LDS women overwhelmingly do find marriage partners.

  34. The comments here already include many single people who feel seen in being able to talk about their experiences, or at least don’t seem to mind. “Leave us alone, don’t talk about it!” might be the kindest approach for many, but it doesn’t seem to be universal.

  35. My VT is a single professional, and I really appreciated when she explained that the reason she left the singles ward was because in a “regular” ward, we talked about the gospel instead of why they weren’t married yet or how they could get married. She’s an adult and can make adult personal decisions without the help / interference of a ward.

  36. Kevin, my guess is that you’re going to really get it in the comments, and you might have it coming. I don’t think you understand the world of single adults. I’m not even a single adult, but I can see that.

  37. The church needs to start treating singles like adults and it needs to stop giving them advice about lipstick and charm.

    If married people are talking about singles, it should be about how to stop treating them like children in their wards and stakes, and about how to put them to work in meaningful ways.

  38. Menace to society weighing in here. And an aging one at that.

    I appreciate the insight about the demographics. We Mormons spend enough of our time immersed inside our densely Mormon circles that it’s easy to forget that those of us actively associating with our tribe are maybe 1 in 100 in the US. For a lot of Mormons I think that doesn’t matter too much. But if you end up with any other peculiarities that narrow down likely matches via some other cross-cutting concern (since this is BCC, unorthodox views about religious matters come to mind, but outlier temperaments or interests or even *abilities* could as easily play a role) and you end up with a small fragment of a small pool, and I think that’s worth noting.

    The ideas of how to address it are reasonable ones. You might see some annoyance elicited over them because they’re not particularly novel to most adult Mormons who’ve lived singly over a good chunk of the last decade or two. :) But I imagine there might be some BCC readers for whom this is a matter of fresh consideration, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have non-single members of the church thinking about the issues that single people face as long as it comes with an ability to be circumspect about the power or novelty of suggestions.

    I’ve been in some longer relationships that have been rewarding and had the potential to become marriages. I bear real responsibility for some of them not becoming marriages and grief over those failures. But I also recognize that no small degree of the direction things took was simply out of my hands. I imagine that if most married people thought about it, they’d realize that a good chunk of how they came together was also out of their individual hands, something they couldn’t have willed into existence or made a guarantee of via conscientious adherence to any particular program. There’s an extent to which single people are single because they’ve simply never inhabited the space where they had met and formed a relationship with another person who they wanted to marry and wanted to marry them, and married people are married because they were lucky or blessed to find themselves in that circumstances and seize it.

    This is not a doctrine of marriage calvinism or call to fatalist resignation. I think there *are* things I could do to improve my chances of success in marrying, and I should do them. There probably are things we could do change how our programs work (great comment Kim!) and our units function and our conversations about relationships and singleness happen in order to improve everyone’s chances of success. But we’re Mormons, we acknowledge (even if we don’t always explicitly know) that mortality is prone to unfairness, and the rain falls on the evil and good alike. Some people who flip a coin 10 times will get a streak of 10 tails. Some people may never find and keep mates, and some of those who do will end up walking alone at some point anyway.

    And if that’s true, then we’re left with the problem of … not treating singleness just as a problem to solve, but part or all of the journey of our brothers and sisters, even as we hold connection and companionship as an ideal to steer by. Let’s start our discussions there. If we can pull it off, maybe we can make headway with the rest.

  39. Kind of related anecdote: there seems to be a renewed big push from church leadership to get missionaries to get married quickly upon return. My missionary son within 14 months of missionary service, has had TWO serious talks from leaders about how important it is to get married, to not put it off, and to make lists of what he wants in a spouse. This in his interviews with his mission president, and also from visiting area authorities. The first of these forceful discussions was when he was still 18.

    And it is not just my son. I am on the distribution list for group emails from a lot of his high school friends who are also now on missions. Several of them within a few weeks of each other wrote how the visiting authorities were pushing marriage and how weird that was. Maybe there was a ttraining meeting in SLC for the authorities, and then they all went out and dutifully preached “Marriage: do it, and do it soon.”

    My son and his friends all kind of laughed and wrote something like, “Crazy!” Or, “I think it’s too soon for that! Haha.” And it IS too soon. Most of them went on missions at 18, right after high school, because even though 18 is now “an option,” it is becoming a norm. These young men do not even know who they are yet. Many have never kissed a girl or been on a date other than a school dance. So this emphasis really is “Crazy!”

  40. I just got home from a 12-hour day so granted, I’m cranky. I skimmed comments (again, long day) so maybe someone else already said this, but the entire premise of the article presupposes my single status is something to be fixed.

    It’s not. It just is not something to be fixed.

    The longer I’m single, the more I realize how much just absolute dumb luck is involved in getting married. Programs and demographic studies can’t do the work of just dumb luck.

    I’m so tired of married people trying to figure out how to “help” me and my other single friends not be single anymore. How about figure out how to help me not say yes to everything because I don’t have kids, so clearly I have the most free time? How about figure out how to provide a meal or two for me when sick or during a busy time at work? How about figure out how to have a conversation with me at church that doesn’t ask me how my dating life is, but instead ask me just how my life is?

    I’m just so exhausted of the constant battle of God telling me I am fine as a mid-40s single and childless woman, that I still belong in His kingdom as is, while at the same time so many other people claiming rights to His kingdom tell me I don’t REALLY belong there yet because I lack a spouse. I’ve spent a lifetime in the church suffering the lessons and talks about motherhood and families–it’s past time to allow the single members of the church a full narrative that shares the fullness of their lives without seeing them as a problem to be fixed or contained.

  41. Kenzo: Sure, let’s talk about it. But that discussion should not be be led by Kevin who apparently has no clue that 1) he’s not the person who should be leading this discussion, and 2) this post isn’t the opener for it.

  42. “Our lives are awesome, they are fulfilling, they are interesting. Leave us alone.”

    I do think there is a mistaken notion among many who see singlehood in the LDS church as a problem to be solved that all adult LDS singles want to be married instead of single, and that, therefore, the goal of the church and of the culture should be to somehow achieve a 100% married rate among active LDS Mormons.

    As I noted above, the marriage rate among adult U.S. Mormons is already way higher than that of other religious (and non-religious) groups. LDS doctrinal teachings emphasize so strongly the critical role of temple marriage in God’s plan that I think we inevitably are drawn to that mistaken notion.

    So here’s a compound question for the single adult LDS folks here in the comments (if you’re inclined to discuss – feel free not to): What percentage of adult, un-married, church-active U.S. Mormons wants to get married, versus those who either don’t or are indifferent? And what effect, if any, does that ratio have on the marriage prospects of those who do see marriage as a goal?

    (Personally, when I was a post-college single adult Mormon, I found the notion that the other single Mormons I knew were often approaching marriage as a goal rather daunting and off-putting, and found the efforts of married Mormons to “solve” the single “problem” even more off-putting.)

  43. As a 47-year-old never married woman, I’m a little taken aback by the hostility in some of the comments. I think it’s great that Kevin is initiating a conversation; after all, it’s not as though his post was directed only to other married people. How can we learn from each other if we only talk to those who are in the same situation?

    One suggestion I have is for married people to carefully consider lining up the single people they know who might reasonably be considered a possible match. I know some singles won’t like this idea (we’re all different, after all), but networking can be a great way to get to know people who might not otherwise cross our paths. I think a lot of married folks never do this because, as evidenced in some of the comments here, some of us single folk can be a little prickly. However, some of that prickliness may be due to past experiences–such as people attempting line-ups simply because two people are single and breathing, and then getting offended when the offer isn’t eagerly accepted. This has to be approached sensitively.

    Another suggestion: Can we please do a better job of acknowledging that a single life can be full and meaningful and happy? It may not be “ideal,” but most people’s lives aren’t ideal in some way. Lots of marriages aren’t satisfying. Sometimes parenthood isn’t satisfying, for all kinds of reasons. Marriage and parenthood is not the only path to happiness.

    Personally, I have dabbled in dating outside the faith. But the likelihood of finding someone who isn’t LDS but feels just fine about saving sex for marriage AND who is compatible in all the important areas is next to zero.

  44. I just love it when a man, who has been married since the ripe, old age of 22 tells me what I’ve been doing wrong. Fav thing ever.

  45. I’d like to have a discussion for parents on how to do a better job of raising kids to find life happiness and a purpose that doesn’t depend on marriage. As a mother of a handful daughters, the statistics say not all my girls will marry. How does that change how I talk to them about their futures? How should that change the rhetoric they receive at church on Sunday? How I do I help them love the uncertainty of an open-ended series of life paths rather than the one-true path of marriage and children?

  46. I spent most of my mission serving in large singles wards full of highly educated professionals. There were so many amazing women in those wards. I remember thinking, “man if these women can’t get married, what chance do I have when I get back home?” I got home and got married within a year. What did I do that those women didn’t? Nothing. It was sheer dumb luck. I was picky. I didn’t try very hard to date. I am not what any regular traditional RM is looking for. It was luck, plain and simple. It bothers me that we talk about marriage like we have so much control over it. Ya if someone doesn’t want to get married they have that control (ignoring the crazy societal, familial, and religious pressure), but if you want to get married and actually be happy in that marriage it’s like 15% under your control. I’d rather we focus on helping singles live fulfilling lives than give them dating advice.

  47. Lehcarjt, perhaps you could begin by not calling it the “one-true path of marriage and children?”

  48. If you’re sensing resentment on the part of single respondents to this post, you’re right.

    Why are we resentful? Because this post smacks of the attitude that we have seen and felt so many times from married members of the Church : “YOU ARE SINGLE AND THEREFORE BROKEN LET ME FIX YOU”.

    Single members of the Church are professionals, educators, artists, scientists, and more who, like you, strive to build the kingdom of God and do so without the support of a spouse. We long to be recognized and loved but when we come to church it is so subtly pointed out that we are less than because we are not married. Not only that are we looked down on but we are also blamed for it when we are labeled as too picky!

    This culture of looking at singles as inferior citizens of the kingdom is what this post should have discussed, not whether we should try online dating (Pro tip: we’ve already tried it! Many of us are interested in finding a partner and just haven’t. That doesn’t mean that we deserve to be treated, as we so often are, as juvenile, lesser, or uninformed. )

    Kevin, I can tell that you are very well-meaning but please don’t be surprised if your intended audience does not react well to being patronized. Next time do your homework by taking to some actual singles instead of reading what married people have to say on a Facebook group.

  49. I fear the Church has promised too much and delivered too little to our youth – and perhaps to all members. Don’t think so? Listen in April to how many times wonderful promises are made (and the word “joy” is used) if one simply does x, y, z (with x, y, z increasing exponentially by the time we get to the final session). The youth have done x, y z ad infinitum and either they are dealing with the loneliness of being single into their 30’s, or they got married young and are dealing with being overwhelmed and exhausted from trying to earn a living, raise a family, and remain active in Church. Neither path seems to deliver on the promise of “joy the surpasses all understanding.” I think such is possibly, but perhaps not to be realized until the next life. For youth, that is an eternity away, and in a culture that has shifted wholesale to immediate gratification, this is a decidedly unsatisfactory situation leading to disappointment and disillusion . No wonder our youth are leaving the Church in droves.

  50. Kevin Barney says:

    The people commenting on the FB group were mostly single, not married, but I take your point. I have been duly chastened (see the addendum I added to the post). It was not my intent to engage in marriedsplaining, but I see now that is how it came across. I apologize to all those I offended with my careless framing of the post.

  51. Deborah Christensen says:

    Can we get a post on BCC about what is wrong with married people? All of us singles could give input about what we think is wrong with you. We could talk about how you can find joy in the journey of marriage because we all know you’re depressed! We could discuss how everything will work out in the end…if you only have faith.

  52. Your addendum still misses the mark, Kevin.

  53. Kevin Barney says:

    I tried to explain what I was thinking, but it doesn’t even matter anymore, I’ll just issue my apology. I’m sorry.

  54. Single never married late 30s woman here. A few things off the top of my head. 1) HUGE amens to the people pointing out how little control anyone actually has over getting married. There is luck. There is the other people’s agency. There are big sociological trends. The *most valuable blessing* I have received from being single is being forced to relearn the doctrine of agency. Control is mostly an illusion and a dangerous one at that. 2) Married people, especially those who married young, have a hard time understanding the sheer exhaustion that comes from dating for years and then decades. Remember, we have literally worked our hearts out at this for our entire adult lives and failed over and over again in the most painful ways possible. Don’t tell us dating is fun. It occasionally is. Mostly it is incredibly painful and frustrating. 3) Regarding the questions in the comments about what proportion of singles actually want to get married. This is a complex issue. I wanted to get married, and made many of my life decisions to that end for a long time. And then it kept not happening. At some point I figured out how to have joy in my life anyway. So now if you ask me if I want to get married, I say “yes, but I am happy and complete with my life as it is.” I am no longer willing to go to awkward dances and FHE activities. I found online dating to be creepy bordering on dangerous. I do accept set-ups from people I trust. I participate in singles activities that I would enjoy anyway. Does this mean I’m not trying hard enough or don’t want to get married? I don’t know how to answer that. I need to do regular grownup things like my job and mowing my lawn and invest in relationships with friends and family. I need to stay sane. Remember point #2 above. Basically, stop judging whether or not I deserve to be single. 4) My ward has been wonderful. They value me and my contributions. I feel genuinely loved and accepted. Broader church rhetoric is so incredibly hurtful and insensitive and tone deaf so frequently that I have to suit up into armor before every General or Stake Conference and then turn to friends for healing afterwards. I have *never* heard a general authority address this issue in a way that feels like they actually get it. For better or worse, I have learned to pay more much attention to God’s direct instruction for me and deeply discount institutional counsel. 5) Someday the church will see single adults as the asset and example of faith that they are. I have *never* heard a general authority address this issue in a way that feels like they actually get it. 5) I cant wait for the day the Church finally figures out that we are assets not liabilities. Magical, amazing things will happen.

  55. There’s a chapter in Date-O-nomics about this. Great read. I highly recommend it.

  56. Kevin Barney says:

    Yes, jader3rd, the chapter you speak of is the very thing that inspired this post. I muffed it in the execution, but I still recommend that chapter; very insightful.

  57. Why do married people so often feel like they can give advice to singles? It drives me crazy. Especially if you were married young. But even if you were married at an older age, you say you’ll never forget what it’s like. But you do. I promise. You have no idea.

  58. I left the church in my mid-30s in part because it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to see a place for myself as a single woman. In my mind, inasmuch as there’s a “singles problem” in the church, it’s that. I did my best, as JP points out, to be an asset–served a mission, held dozens of callings over decades of activity. It was painful to me that one aspect of my (overall quite happy) life in so many ways seemed to overshadow all the other things my coreligionists might have chosen to notice about me. It’s refreshing now that quite literally no one in my life cares at all about my marital status–my coworkers see my competence, my friends my caring. I believe the “fix” to the “problem” is to teach that there are many ways to live a beautiful life, and that we each have the privilege and obligation of figuring out how to make a contribution to the world, regardless of our circumstances.

  59. The more I think about this the more I think the starting premise of the post is just wrong. The answer to the question “Why is it so hard for LDS to find marriage partners?” is that it’s not hard for LDS to find marriage partners – they marry at a far higher rate than non-LDS do.

  60. A Fellow Traveler on the Path says:

    Lehcarjt: If you want your daughters to grow up believing they can have full and happy lives being single, I agree, you definitely need to stop referring to “the one true path…” While I was growing up, my mother made it clear that although she hoped we would all get married and have kids, it was just as important (or more so) to be self-sufficient and be able to support ourselves in a meaningful career and have a self outside of our husband and kids. We were encouraged to work hard at school and to go to university and earn our degrees. She did this my whole life by always taking classes, taking me with her when finding a sitter was problematic.

    While she encouraged us to look our best, she never pushed make-up or specific kinds of dressing (beyond it having to be modest, but she never hit us with “modest is hottest”). She encouraged us to have hobbies and interests outside the church in addition to our church callings and to be active in a lot of extracurriculars at school.

    Most of all, she never pushed us about dating, much less marriage and kids. Not while we were growing up, not when we got old enough to date, and certainly not when we became marriageable age. Certainly she taught us about the need for boundaries when dating and enforcing standards, and encouraged us to talk about the guys we went out with, and listened to what we said without judgement. Even when I was in my 20s and 30s and still single (with no signs of wanting to settle down) I never heard a word about “When are you going to get married?” or “When am I going to get grandkids?”

    In other words, in answer to your question about raising your daughters to find meaning and satisfaction in life outside of marriage and kids: it’s the same way you raise your sons to find meaning and satisfaction in their lives. It begins by YOUR accepting and internalizing that a woman CAN have a meaningful life outside of your “one true path.”

    By the way, yes, I did finally get married. Engaged at 36 and finally relented and married my sweetheart when I was 41. (When I brought my sweetheart to a family reunion, one of my cousins blurted out, “We thought you didn’t like boys!” Gotta love people with no filters between their brains and their mouths.) We both know we are better spouses because we were in several long term relationships prior to getting together again (We met and dated a little in college, then went our separate ways. We ran into each other 6-7 years later and started seeing one another.) and because we were single as long as we were.

    Sure I could have married any of my old boyfriends, but at best it would have been “unhappily ever after,” and only with a tremendous amount of work everyday. I still love my “Favorite Ex-Boyfriends” to death and we are all best friends, but I believe they are much happier with the wonderful women they ended up with. I think the Mormon “marry early after dating 6 months (if you’re lucky)” is insanity and a recipe for “unhappily ever after.” Your marriage may not last forever but it will certainly feel like it’s been an eternity. After hearing in church how much work being married was, I still cannot believe how easy and fun it is when you’re with the right guy. That doesn’t mean we always agree on everything or that there’s nothing we have to negotiate to find a solution or that we haven’t face hard circumstances. With the right person (my sweetheart), it means none of that feels like work.

  61. Kevin, I was going to bring up that Dateonomics chapter too. I think it’s a fascinating read — you correctly state that the problem is demographics, but what really interested me about it is that a lot of the “culture” problems that are usually trotted out as explanations (men are too picky or not committed enough; no sex before marriage a problem) are actually explained by the demographics, in that these are features of any community in which there is a strong women > men imbalance. I do agree that I was a little taken aback by the advice at the end (before the addendum), which seems to be a way that individuals can maybe hack the demographics but doesn’t seem to solve the problem for more than perhaps a very few.

    Myself, I went into hard science/tech fields and dated nonmembers (and married one). I was in the opposite situation Dateonomics describes. It’s maybe partially luck I was able to find a guy who is so great, but it’s not just luck, it was that the demographics were very very much in my favor, so I could afford to be picky *and* to wait to pick a permanent spouse until I’d actually matured a bit. If I’d restricted myself to LDS demographics, especially after college (and let’s face it, at my maturity level I had no business being in a serious relationship until after college), there is a much, much smaller chance I’d be married now.

  62. A Fellow Traveler on the Path says:

    Oh, I forgot to add, being single isn’t a disease to be cured or a problem to be fixed.

    JP: Dating _should_ be fun. If the only reason you’re dating is to get married, then it becomes work; a heartbreaking, backbreaking chore that will break you under its wheel. Your current attitude of “I wouldn’t mind getting married, but am complete and fulfilled as I am” is how every girl/woman should approach dating and marriage. Hopefully it put some of the fun back in your dating because now dating can be about having fun with someone else–end unto itself.

    Laura: This is among the reasons I left the church. I got tired of hearing how I had no worth (didn’t know what love truly was, didn’t understand sacrifice, couldn’t be a good Mormon, knew nothing about making hard choices, perseverance, so forth and endless so on….) if I didn’t have a husband and kids. My momma raised me better than that.

    The non-member guys I dated were head and shoulders better people than the Mormon boys my age. At least with the non-members I could count on them taking “No” for an answer, if they even raised the question. And after taking to my Mom about her high school dating experiences (when I was well into my 30s), it was exactly the same in the the 1950s.

  63. Errr… Just to clarify, when I previously wrote ‘the one-true path of marriage and children’ I was being sarcastic. That doesn’t seem to have come off correctly, and thus I may have approached my honest question in an unintentionally stupid way.

    As an educated, feminist adult woman with a career I’m quite proud of (yes, I recognize a need to write all that because now I’m feeling somewhat defensive…), I am raising my girls (and boys) to to live passionately in pursuit of their careers and hobbies and social lives and spirituality. But… Everything in the LDS context (which bleeds over into our homes and families) tends to put careers and hobbies and social lives and spirituality as related to / growing from marriage and children. Especially for woman – who are often to told that their greatest worth/work will be in raising righteous children.

    Just last week Pres. Nelson (I believe it was him anyway. Could have been Oaks or Eyring.) said that the way to keep young adults in the church was to focus on getting them married (my words, of course. If I get any of this wrong, feel free to correct me as I’m not going to go look it up). He praised his daughter’s for the great job they did in producing/raising four separate bishops for the church without mentioning a single other positive attribute of their lives. These are the messages my kids are inundated with at church. It kind of freaks me out how young we start telling our kids about marriage.

    Knowing that marriage isn’t a guarantee for a large section of our girls, how do we reteach those lessons so that girls (and boys too) can see a broader pathway where happiness and fulfillment can include marriage, but don’t have to do so? (or so that messages include marriage outside the church?) How as a parent do I teach these lessons at home when the messages at church are so “one true path…?”

  64. Aussie Mormon says:

    As a single non-rm recently aged out of YSA male, if you think it’s hard dating in the US, try it somewhere where the wards/stakes are spread out and small enough that you can friendzoned* without even attempting a more-than-friends relationship.

    Although all my female YSA friends (multiple stakes across the country) don’t care that I’m not an RM, and I’ve never heard them say their husband must be an RM (they’re all in the “I want a worthy priesthood holder” mindset), I have had someone stop talking to me mid-conversation when I told them I hadn’t served a mission**.
    SA female friends of a similar age total may be 3 across the entire country, and mid-singles is spread out over regional areas, so it’s pretty much either hope that a single female randomly turns up to my ward with whom I discover a mutual attraction, or travel***.

    So what do I do? At the moment I just keep on with life, and hope that I eventually find the one.

    *By friend zoned I don’t mean the standard, I’m only being friendly with them because I want a romantic relationship, and they want to just be friends. I’m talking about it in the sense of, we’ve always been friends, we always will be friends, but attempting to see if more-than-friends will work is unlikely to happen because you’re like a brother to me.

    **I’m glad that the church has recently started pushing the point that just because a guy isn’t an RM doesn’t mean he’s unworthy.

    ***In Australia this isn’t a trivial exercise, especially when you have commitments (work, uni, etc).

  65. I blame media. And I don’t just mean “the media”, but really the massive overabundance of all kinds of media we have to fill our time (tv, smart phones, games, netflix, social media, it goes on and on). It’s both the quality of that media content that creates issue and the sheer amount of time spent on it crowding other things out.

    The reality is we are all of the world as much as we are in the world, rather than the cliche of simply being in the world but -not- of the world. I realize the phrase isn’t taken kindly in these parts by some, but it’s shorthand.

    Culture plays a huge role in how the vast majority of us view marriage, families, children, etc. If the church culture was the dominant culture, for us, we’d have the same rates of marriage as society did many years ago.

    If you watch what’s on TV, movies, netflix, various media uses etc. is more than conference, mormon channel, byu tv, etc. you’re likely adopting a hegemonic culture mindset that is either apathetical about family priorities, or sometimes antithetical. This doesn’t mean that getting married these days means you’re not the kind of person who watches netflix, etc. But those culture influences are more hegemonic that we realize and operate on us all.

    This isn’t to say generations gone by were angels and only read their scriptures, but that the culture reinforcement of the day wasn’t so different than the culture today. In someways, the modern culture of tolerance, non-violence, etc. has yielded great fruit. So I’m not saying it’s all doom and gloom.

    But the sexual/family influences we get from the dominant culture are very often not supportive of families. So to the point of this topic, I’d argue that if you want to have more people marrying you need to have them tuning out of the dominant culture at an earlier age. Focus on the next generation so to speak. It doesn’t mean we write off the current one, but we should surely correct the problem where we see it.

  66. And to inevitable push back against marriage, family, children, that these posts always create, those who push back have valid points on case by case basis, but they should also appreciate the fact that the best thing, on average, society has going for it is stable families with a mom, dad, and children. It’s not single parents doing a great job. It’s not single people pursuing their dreams. If we have a society that consists, of a majority of that traditional nuclear families with mother, father, children, all of society down to future generations are better off.

    This does not mean we ignore those at either end of the bell curve, so to speak. As a society, we are learning lessons over the generations that aren’t yet fully learned, and we will only (hopefully) recognize some of the mistakes we’ve made in the last 50 years. What worries me is rather than recognize some of the issues of the sexual revolution that has happened in society – broken families, shattered lives, crime, insistence on government solving problems that it’s not well suited to solve, etc. we are doubling down on some of the same answers because we get so politically polarized over these issues.

    The fact is, there were many bad things in the past. But the family unit was not part of it. The pendulum needs to swing the other way to return to family unit and family focus, now that so much of society recognizes the pervasive sexism and racism frequent to the past.

  67. If we have a society that consists, of a majority of that traditional nuclear families with mother, father, children, all of society down to future generations are better off.

    I would go farther. My sense of the lay of the land is that the advantages of multi-generational families, or at least multiple generations living under a single roof, are being rediscovered in some parts of the world.

  68. Kevin Barney says:

    cahn, your first paragraph perfectly captures my intent with this post. And I got so focused on trying to hack one particular demographic issue (distance), that I didn’t realize (until everyone pointed it out to me) that my demographic hacks were nothing but cliched and lame dating advice. Sorry I messed that up.

  69. Brazil girl says:

    I’m sorry so many here took offense at Kevin’s marriedsplaining. I didn’t read it that way but maybe that’s because I’m a happily married woman. I got married four months before my 31st birthday after having attended BYU as an undergrad, grad student, a mission in between, and nearly six years in the DC singles scene as a young professional. The leadership in the Colonial and Langley Wards did, of course, emphasize marriage but I never felt pressured or less-than. I took it more as grandfatherly advice from Bishops Syme, Payne, and Bywater. I never felt that it was too much. Maybe that’s because my dad and mom (who by the way got married at 22 and 23, respectively, after meeting at a SLC singles dance) never equated my worth to my marriage status. They raised their seven kids to be independent and self-sufficient.

    Sure, marriage is hard work. Being a mom is hard work. I hope my children want to get married and that they find someone who loves them as much as my husband loves me. But more than anything, I hope they find peace with just knowing that they are of worth simply by virtue of being a child of God. I want them to be contributing members of society and listen to their hearts and the Spirit and do whatever it is that they feel led to do that nobody else can do.

  70. What if there was a way to seal children to parents who haven’t been sealed to each other (i.e., one of the parents isn’t a member)? The promises made to children in the sealing are not contingent on anybody’s righteousness or church member-ness. Maybe this could open a path of “acceptable” interfaith marriages, where parents could be sealed to their children regardless of both being members.

  71. This is at pretty strong odds with what D. Park is saying and may be so limited by my perspective that it’s not of interest for general discussion.

    The church is anvil-handed about the way they treat marriage. It’s frankly absurd to consider the manner in which it’s discussed, these glowing, uncomplicated terms: a “crowning glory”, some mystically beautiful, life-perfecting event. Marital issues, if they are referenced at all, are told with a gentle smile as mere mild disagreements, or with gravity when they end in divorce. That pattern may differ in some ward communities, but I cannot think of an exception given in a General Conference address. In my experience, the greatest nod to marriage as a challenge comes with statements like “Choose your love, love your choice” (there, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?) or “Marriage requires sincere effort”.

    I spent my entire life watching actual marriages function (parents, siblings, and relevant friends are all still married, if you were curious), feeling like this was someone trying to sell me a bill of goods in hopes that the Church as a whole would get some lifelong member babies out of me.

    The worst offenders, in my opinion: hearing men go on for ages about the beauty of marriage and parenthood and telling stories in which men receive revelation that pressures their wives into having more babies (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/children?lang=eng). If they had said the words “Marriage is an excellent way to make sexism an eternal presence in your life,” I could not have been more turned off.

    Married people, singles are watching you. Maybe a distaste for marriage is rare (among the people I’ve talked to, it appears to be), but we should consider that we are almost flagrantly dishonest about the brutal realities of marriage and children. The refusal to be honest about negatives does not go unnoticed, and it might not be wholly unrelated to this demographic winter we’re confronting.

  72. Dog Spirit says:

    Kevin, I’m legitimately interested in the demographic angle. I’ve read the NY Times piece that focuses on the gender imbalance (solution: stop being such jerks about interfaith marriage), but I’m not familiar with the Dateonomics bit referenced in the comments. You’re probably feeling wary about tackling the issue again, but if there are additional insights to be teased out beyond online dating, letting your acquaintances set you up, and putting all the singles in one place together (which are not stupid ideas, but everyone has already tried them and they only work if you’re lucky), I for one would be interested.

    Cahn’s comment re: how the reductive ways we talk about dating are a function of demographic imbalance was pretty intriguing.

  73. Dog Spirit and Kevin, I too would be much more interested in talking about the demographics angle rather than the dating angle. (Dog Spirit, I highly recommend checking out the book Dateonomics — it’s sort of “pop science” but it really does make a strong case to me, especially when I pair it with my lived experience, that a lot of things about dating culture(s) can be reduced down to the demographics.) It seems to me that one interesting question here is, what if the church embraced the ideas that the demographics very much can’t lead to intra-faith marriage for all, indeed lead to a very skewed ratio, and additionally may very well lead to many things about LDS singles culture that are not desirable? (The first two are of course trivially true, I think we all agree on those, but I don’t think that the Church has really thought through it.) What would that look like? Would we see a lot more in the way of exhortation to date-nonLDS-and-convert? Would we see a de-emphasis on Everyone Having To Get Married In This Life and a greater emphasis on leading fulfilling lives as singles?

  74. Word of the day: overwrought.

  75. I have no idea what to say or how to help, or even if I care to help. But if someone could marry my active LDS younger brother (late 30s) who lives with my parents, I would appreciate it!

  76. I got married when I was 23 at BYU. It was dumb. Later I got unmarried.

  77. Aussie Mormon says:

    Maybe Steve&co can start BCCDating.com :P

  78. Long time reader, first time commenter but I want to say 2 things. First in my millennial life I have noticed that more of my married friends have left the church than single. I feel like it is in part that we are led to believe that marriage and children will solve all our problems and fulfill us completely and feel robbed when it does not. My husband and I got married at 24 and were blown away by the difficulties of marriage and then blown away again by the difficulties of having children. Conference talks saying that couples “never exchanged a harsh word” made us feel like failures. The second thing is I recently found the book The Meaning of Marriage by Christian pastor Timothy Keller and it says everything I think we should be teaching about marriage and being single in the church but don’t. Life changing book for my husband and I and I highly recommended it to my single sister.

  79. The answer is really quite simple: Mormons are “dry” AKA boring. They’ve lost the zeal for Life due to an over-focus on “winning” the Afterlife, violating the doctrine of not saying “peace when there is no peace”. To Mormons, life has become a duty to fulfill obligations to “bring up” the “muggles” through sharing doctrine, but they really just wanna move on to the next Level. Thus, they’ve forgotten love and charity, disgracefully falling for the works of Satan. Alas, how will they recover from this Death of Old Age?