Friday, June 26, 2009

He Said: A Menace To Society

In the LDS church which places a great deal of focus on getting married and having a family there are many single adults who never marry. Why they do not marry can be varied from they never had the opportunity to just being too picky.

One of my own daughters has been grappling with this phenomenon since she got home from her mission. She is a very attractive but very college-focused business student who is hardly a wallflower. She speaks her mind very openly and freely. She has gone on very few dates in her four years at BYU despite the fact she is a gorgeous girl with a superior mind and intellect. She is also beginning to get frustrated with her lack of dating and puts a great deal of pressure on herself due to her perceived lack of success to find an eternal mate. Her sister who is a year older came home from a mission and was engaged in less than five months and married at six months.

I personally did not marry until I was 28 years old so I understand the frustration of not getting married. When I came home from a mission at 22 I was eager to get married. I dated a considerable amount of young women at BYU. I dated a freshman girl who I was very serious with my entire first year. She had a missionary. Unfortunately for me she dumped me six weeks before he returned home and married him within two months of coming home. After that I didn't have any real opportunities until the age of 27.

My mission president encouraged us to get married within a few years after our missions. He told us that Brigham Young said that anyone over 24 was a menace to society. The blog Faith Promoting Rumors refutes this Mormon chestnut saying the closest anyone can come to a general authority statement is by George Q. Cannon. "a church apostle, [who] said in 1878: “I am firmly of the opinion that a large number of unmarried men, over the age of 24 years, is a dangerous element in any community.…”

The general LDS population does place credence in this statement I heard this told to me on numerous occasions. Until I was twenty-four I didn't feel a great deal of pressure to get married but after that age my roommates and friends began to pressure me. I was made to feel that I had some kind of deficit or flaw because I wasn't getting engaged. The more they pressured me the greater I began to get anxious. I made a lot of mistakes in my dating as a result of that constant nagging until about a year before I got married. First I dated the wrong demographic. I tended to date freshmen or sophomore women because they were young and pert and very attractive. I actually was too old for most of them and quite frankly most of what they wanted was flashiness which I did not have. They tended to like much better looking guys not guys with a hooked nose and a brash personality like mine.

I actually went out with many girls that were beauty pageant winners. It was like a game or competition between my roommates and me. This also caused me problems because many of them were pursued by guys that seemed on the surface to have more resources and there was no consistency in their availability. I didn't have a car until I was a senior when I was 25 years old so it was awkward in the winter to ask them to walk in the bitter cold to the Wilk. I remember I dated a young woman who graduated in accounting one summer. I had a 1959 Ford Fairlane with a 393 police interceptor engine that had a leak in the radiator and the seats had hard springs that poked you in the behind. The only attraction to the car was a drove and could squeal rubber which attracted more adventurous women but not an MBA type. She of course preferred a British fellow who was blond haired and blue eyed and drove an MG from our ward and dumped me. The only good thing was that many of these women intimated guys at BYU but the upper crusty. To my advantage many times I could call them 30 minutes before a BYU Cougars game and invite them out and they would go because many other guys made a bad assumption they already must have a date.

I was never very handsome nor sophisticated although I did have a very good self-image. In addition there were a few girls that were interested in me but I followed the unwritten rule of not poaching on women that my friends were interested in. The funny thing with these women was that I usually had a very good relationship because I wasn't trying that hard to impress them. However the guilt kept me from moving toward intimacy with them.

When I was twenty-seven I was working on a graduate degree and had a very unusual dream where I saw seven children with dark hair and features who I knew would be my children. That dream shook me up. I told a friend about the dream. My friend told me after sharing the dream that he tells his children that since I was single that Uncle F (me) would could come over and rock in a rocking chair and tell them stories since I was never going to have children of my own. I determined after the dream and the conversation to do something different in my dating life.

On further analysis I determined that from that point forward I would date women closer to my own age who were returned missionaries. I dated three women within a year all who were very determined in their approaches to life. The first woman was desperate to get married since she was about 24. She had appeared on my doorstep one night with another RM friend and had baked me a Zucchini bread in a can. I decided I would still proceed slowly in dating her. Some guy in our ward sensed her desire and invited her after a first date to go home with him for the weekend. Needless to say she came back engaged. I scratched my head because she came over to explain how she was now engaged. Not being one to hold back another I just smiled. I wasn't too broken hearted having suffered rejection for five years what was one more. I dated my wife and another woman simultaneously as we all chummed around together. I liked my wife's spunk and actually had a mini-vision to marry her despite the fact I knew the other woman wanted to marry me.

Since I grappled with the possibility of being a menace to society I have heard all of the arguments. It really is taught in the LDS church that if a male has the opportunity to get married and doesn't take it he will be a ministering angel in the celestial kingdom of Heaven.
For some reason LDS leaders are kinder to women since they suggest a woman doesn't do the asking.

In 2003 President Gordon B. Hinckley said to the unmarried sisters:

Some of you, unfortunately, will never marry in this life. That turns out to be the case sometimes. If that happens, do not spend your life grieving over it. The world still needs your talents. It needs your contribution. The Church needs your faith. It needs your strong, helping hand. Life is never a failure until we call it such. There are so many who need your helping hands, your loving smile, your tender thoughtfulness. I see so many capable, attractive, wonderful women whom romance has passed by. I do not understand it, but I know that in the plan of the Almighty, the eternal plan which we call God’s plan of happiness, there will be opportunity and reward for all who seek them.
I don't really understand the difference since it wasn't through not trying that no one married me until I was 28. I had a little green book that my wife looked through and counted every woman I dated from 22 to 28 at BYU. It totalled 113. Out of that number I feel there were five that I would have married had they really been interested in me. It is a miracle that I married my wife and a great miracle that I have been married 26 years later. If my wife had not married me would I have been confined to being a ministering angel in the life to come?

Recently I had a conversation with my wife about her possibly remarrying should I die since I have a few serious health problems. I suggested that there were many men out there who had not married or stayed married and she find one that had some money. I have had employees who have gotten divorced and met men on the Internet in chat rooms. One of them told me many men are high level professionals like accountants, book publishers, or techie types who work 70 or 80 hours a week and don't have time to socialize so I thought they would consider a woman even with four children at home. She referred to them as losers and said she didn't want to marry someone who had problems. Are men who can't marry or stay married really losers and menaces to society? Or is it just no one has given them a chance? There would be less menaces if people would give each other a chance and the Mormon culture put less pressure on the subject.


  1. I think you make some good points. I'm 27 and I'm single. I have a lot of guy friends who are in their early 30's and single. The way I'm treated and the way they are treated is quite different. People assume that there is something wrong with them, and that's why they're single. They tend to be met with mild loathing. On the other hand, people tend to pity me. Honestly, I'm not sure which is worse.

    They're great guys- smart, spiritual, funny, successful. They just haven't found the right woman yet. Personally, I believe that God is no respecter of persons, and that a man who doesn't marry in this life will be treated the same as a woman who doesn't marry in this life. I think it's counterproductive and against scriptural commands to judge someone's eternal fate in this matter.

  2. Keri,

    Maybe they are gay and are living the law of celibacy like many of us are.

  3. I love this essay. Great autobiography.

  4. With respect to the Internet, you have to careful. Apparently, there is a standard con targeting Mormon widows, consuming their inheritance and moving on to the next widow.

    On a different note, has anybody ever figured out why there is such a big surplus of active Mormon women. And what is so bad about marrying a gentile?

    There are so many awful Mormon husbands, you are not taking a much more serious risk trying your luck with a non-member.

  5. Like Hellmut, I really enjoyed your post, Dr. B. It was terrific.

    You dated 113 different women? Holy smack! That's got to be some sort of record or something.

    I personally don't believe in the old cultural assumption that the burden rests solely upon men. In my view men and women bear equal responsibility, and either has the option to ask for the hand of the other.

  6. Dr. B. was a dating machine. To this day when we visit the wards of the Church, we almost always encounter someone he dated at BYU!

  7. Keri, maybe those married people know your guy friends better than you do, and know what's "wrong" with them, in terms of character flaws/whatever.

    On the other hand, sometimes the married people don't realize the flaws in some of the single woman which the single guys do see. Sometimes sisters act very differently at singles activities (especially towards single guys) than they do when married people were around. So the single guys see a side of those sisters that aren't visible to others in the ward.

    Conversely, many of us single guys are not on our best behavior when there are no "prospects" around, and we let our flaws show.

    Since no one is perfect, one goal is to find someone who is compatible with or tolerant of our imperfections.

  8. I hear you all too well. I am nearing 30 years old and I am still single as well. For me I don't think it is lack of trying, though I suppose I could try harder, but more a lack of intelligent interest. Most of the women I ask out immediately tell me that they are 'not interested in me 'that' way'. This is especially irritating when what I asked is, "hey, some of the other guys and girls are going out to , want to come?" I can only assume after so many dateless years of this that something about me turns women away, which is a real shame. I am a smart, gentle, and funloving guy, and no one in my family has yet figured out why I am consistantly rejected by women. Even my friends who have watched me in social situations can't figure it out. I can only pray that I will not end up a 'ministering angel' simply because for all my efforts no woman was ever interested enough to even grant me a chance.