An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Mormon girls are raised with the knowledge that their role on earth is to marry a worthy priesthood holder in the temple and provide a happy home for as many children as possible. And I don’t fault that.  Most little girls do grow up hoping to be mothers someday. The problem with Mormon culture is that marriage and motherhood are the only roles toward which girls are directed, and marriage is not a goal over which a person has total control. Nice-looking, intelligent, personable women often fail to attract marriage proposals. And the competition for males in Mormon circles is intense. Mothers-who-know enroll three-year-old daughters in dance because without an early start, adolescent girls don’t make drill team or cheerleader—and the girls who do get the boyfriends.

No alternative to marriage and motherhood is considered for Mormon girls. Girls who haven’t snagged a husband by their mid-20s are counseled to be patient. The possibility that Heavenly Father  might not have a potential mate lined up to take every Mormon girl to the temple is never acknowledged. Girls who fall in love with a non-member face intense family pressure to break it off—no matter what sterling qualities the guy may possess.  After all, didn’t President Joseph F. Smith say he’d rather lay his daughters in their graves as spinsters than to see them marry outside the Church?

Many girls panic in their mid-twenties or even earlier and settle for an eternal companion  less compatible, less intelligent, less capable of earning a living than they’d hoped for. And too few single girls invest in education for what may be a lifelong career. A friend, Passen D’Prime, is typical. A returned missionary in her late 20s, she clung to her BYU ward after graduation, racking up huge credit card debts for clothes, make up, and gym fees. Despite her well-groomed physique, 18 and 19-year-old girls entering the ward each year snatched up the most eligible guys. Preoccupied with dating strategies, Passen missed the opportunity to obtain a doctorate. Still single in her 40s, that doctorate would have opened career opportunities and given her the financial security she lacks.

Well meaning relatives and church leaders often counsel a girl in her late 20s to be less picky, but they never mention alternatives to waiting for that temple-recommend-bearing prince (or frog) to appear. By the time girls reach their 30s, a glimmer of reality pierces the fog of institutionalized thinking. Choosing temple marriage appears to be choosing no marriage—at least no marriage in this life. Faithful single LDS sisters are promised marriage and children in the next life—for what comfort that’s worth.

Marrying outside the church is never suggested to a single LDS woman no matter how slim her chances for temple marriage. Dating non-LDS men is a line most Mormon girls can’t cross—not when they’ve been told their whole lives that marrying anyplace besides the temple courts marital discord in this life and a lesser reward in the next.

I’d like to see Relief Society lessons incorporate Chieko Okasaki’s marriage experience. As a Japanese-American living in Hawaii in the 1940s, Chieko recognized that the limited supply of eligible Mormon men in her area meant she might not marry. She met a non-LDS man with compatible values and the qualities she deemed essential in a husband. Prayer confirmed that God approved her decision. She married—not with the expectation that her husband might someday convert to her church (which he did), but with the knowledge that they would have a good marriage and family life even if he never changed his religion.

 We need to free young LDS women to consider another option: marrying a good man who will be a good husband and father even if he never joins the church.

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Comments on: "Mormon Girls–Only One Right Choice?" (11)

  1. Great points, Course Correction. I think the Chieko Okazaki model would be a wonderful one to promote as a possibility for single Mormon women.

  2. I consider myself diverse, tolerant, open, in most circumstances. In matters such as presented here, I cannot for the life of me, this life or the hereafter, accept a religion with such restriction and limited purview. And to think that LDS is American! Seems un-American as French Fries!

    • To my knowledge the Jewish, Muslim and Roman Catholic faiths also activitely discourage people from marrying outside the faith. I understand the desire of religions to prevent part-member families whose children might not grow up in the faith. Still, I think the inidividual happiness of the members is more important than the well-being of the organization.

  3. I am a recent conver to the LDS church, basically i agree with every thing you have posted 🙂
    Their is such a stigma about dating in the church and how you just HAVE to be married before a certain age. Realistically and i say this honestly.
    The mormon men, well, i don’t know about where your from, but down in Australia, particulary Melbourne, They lack that certain quality.
    On Sundays they are often clean clut, polite and full of wisdom.
    Come Monday they are leering about with their freinds, and attempting to find a “hot” girl.
    I am 22 and honestly, the prussure is on, the young women do come up, men being men often go for the shiny new toys yes, but at the same time, alot of the LDS YSA women, don’t make it any easier on themselves by their own attitudes.
    In short, LDS and dating, well we are blessed to have eternal life. Because that’s how long it’s probably gonna take us to get it right 😛

  4. Nelda Bishop said:

    Amen. I didn’t realize the course was still that narrowly defined, despite all the working women.

  5. I also think a lot of the pressure of marrying or not, in or out of the church is from family. I made sure my children knew they needed to be over 21 to marry. In or out of the church wasn’t as important as the right person. Number one son married out of the church and had a better marriage than most long married couples I know of. Number one daughter married in the church and temple and also has a great marriage. Number two son has been going with the same non LDS woman for over 3 years and is not sure he ever wants to marry. (perhaps I am a bad example!) Number two daughter wasn’t married a year before she wanted out and started the process. She is now with a wonderful guy – not married. Whatever! It is there life and not mine. I love them all and there “mates”

  6. You know I can understand your views, but I think you don’t consider the repercussions of marrying outside the church could have on the family the couple will have. My mother married outside the church and remained an very active member to this day. My dad has many wonderful and compatible qualities to my mom and the LDS faith, but he did not support any of us children participating in the LDS faith. Lets just say growing up was tumultuous when it came to churches and my dad stopped speaking to each of us children who joined the church (I know that is odd, seeing as he and my mom still are happily married). So yes having a happy marriage to the right person is important and age shouldn’t matter so much, but realize encouraging marriage outside the church may not be the best answer for everyone.

    • lharrahill1800–

      Your dad’s opposition to his children joining the church is hard to understand. Apparently, like most of us, he nursed hopes that his chlldren would adopt his own religious beliefs.

      Encouraging marriage outside the church may not be the best answer for everyone anymore than insisting on marriage within the church. We’re all different.

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