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How targeting LDS males for declining marriage rates misses the mark

Published April 23, 2011 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

One 19th century relationship expert wrote that "any single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Another said something similar: "Any unmarried man over the age of 27 is a menace to society."

Now despite the lack of proof that Brigham Young ever said anything about "menaces" (according to the Deseret News), this sentiment is nonetheless taken as sacred by many in the LDS community, and visited upon single males with both pride and prejudice.



This is particularly true in recent times. As reported in The Salt Lake Tribune's recent article, Brigham Young University's David Dollahite gives several reasons for the plague of LDS men who are "delaying" marriage, such as "finances," "finickiness," "fun," "fear," and some other words beginning with "f."

While I wouldn't presume to argue with the wisdom inherent to alliteration, both the details and the very nature of this discourse merit additional insight.

Mormonism is the only culture on Earth where men want to be married more than women do. While many "gentile" women have to beg and plead for their long-time boyfriends to finally commit, Mormon women often have to tell their boyfriends that a proposal after three weeks is perhaps pushing things.

(Hint about why Mormon men are in a hurry, Mr. Dollahite: It's another "f" word.)

Now an LDS man may recognize that it is valuable for him to prepare himself for husbandry and fatherhood, if only because he has learned the lessons of his religion: "Prepare," in one form or another, appears almost 200 times in the Book of Mormon, whereas the words "marry" and "marriage" only four times.

But the biggest problem with the "You men need to grow up and get married!" argument is it excludes 50 percent of the equation. Courtship is not as simplistic as it was in the 19th century, or even 19 years ago.

Women of today are just as susceptible as men are to distractions of "fun," "fear," "finickiness" and so forth, and possibly more so. (There's another "f" to sum this up — it rhymes with "eminism.")

Many LDS women reject the advances of active LDS men, either tacitly or explicitly — in favor of a church mission, graduate school, career, travel, "time to find myself" or an imaginary future suitor who's taller, better-looking and richer.

One might call this the "Sex and the [Salt Lake] City" effect. An example of it, albeit undoubtedly an extreme one, was recently published in The New York Times.

Most single LDS males are probably not willing to complain about (or even acknowledge) this publicly, certainly not in an on-the-record interview, because being perceived as a whiner or a failure is considered unmanly.

So they do the only thing they can do: suffer in quiet desperation, and possibly seek refuge elsewhere. For many, that means leaving the Mormon Church, which compounds the imbalanced gender ratios among LDS singles and leads to even harsher vitriol against those men who stay.

The Tribune article shows an example of this vitriol, quoting a single LDS woman who says, "Lack of initiative in dating will almost surely translate into lack of initiative in marriage."

So by that logic, won't a woman who shows no initiative in dating also almost surely translate into a wife lacking initiative?

Perhaps, but if a woman refuses to put forth effort to attract male suitors, she probably won't attract male suitors.

But the idea of showing initiative to attract a man is unfortunately foreign to many LDS women, because so much pressure is put on girls not to attract a man for fear of arousing his primal desires.

So some try nagging. A woman who says, "You guys just need to grow up and date me!" may think men will see that kind of tough-talk an advertisement, but most will see it as a warning. Nagging is not as charming as, say, charm.

Most single LDS males probably agree with the advice that men should be chasing. But they're also probably waiting for girls to be advised to stop running.

Jared Whitley, originally from Salt Lake City, lives in a heavily LDS area of the Virginia part of the Washington, D.C., Beltway and works in political communications. He is the D.C. correspondent for UtahPolicy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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