Zelophehad’s Daughters

Solving the Mormon Man Shortage

Posted by Ziff

There has been an interesting discussion at Feminist Mormon Housewives in response to a guest poster’s request for advice on how she, as a single Mormon woman, should deal with her strong sex drive. Tangentially, I was interested by a comment made by David on that thread:

Let me just state the obvious that no one seems to want to say:

There are more decent, inteligent, active, spiritual single women in the church than there are men.

I dont know how it all balances out in the end, but right now, thats just the way it is

I’m sure this issue has been discussed before (for example, I think it came up in these threads at FMH). There are clearly more committed, active women in the Church than there are committed, active men. Given that marriage is emphasized so much, my question is what the Church should do about the imbalance and all the single women it leaves frustrated.

I’ve thought of a few possible solutions, and I would be interested in hearing yours.

1. Ask single women to just stay single and have faith that everything will work out in the eternities. This is the current solution.

2. We could bring back polygamy (well, polygyny, anyway). Economists sometimes argue that polygyny should be good for women. The theory is that it gives women more options because they can marry any man, whether he’s single or already married. Women’s increased options would force single men to work harder to attract them. But the most important reason why polygyny might be thought of as a solution is that it allows for everyone to be married in a group that contains more women than men.

3. We could set the Church up to give men more incentive to attend than women. For example, we might prohibit women from having any kind of ecclesiastical authority, allow only men to perform sacred rituals, read from scriptures written by men about men’s experiences, and ask women to covenant to hearken to their husbands while asking men to make no similar covenant. Such a male-dominated church might attract more men than women.

4. Okay, we already do #3, and the Church still has more women than men. The strategy does seem to work to some degree, though, as the Church has a lower woman to man ratio than you would expect just generalizing from women’s generally greater religiosity. So maybe #3 just needs to be taken a little farther. Perhaps if we explicitly embraced the doctrine of women’s submissiveness, openly preached that all women are evil because Eve ate the fruit, barred women from speaking in church, and so forth, men would find the Church attractive enough relative to women to push the sex ratio closer to 1:1.

5. Deemphasize marriage. This seems unlikely to happen, although we could always shift emphasis from present marriage to marriage in the eternities.

6. Encourage single women to enter committed lesbian relationships. This would go well with #5 but seems even less likely.

7. Encourage single women to date and marry non-members. While marrying non-members isn’t exactly encouraged, it doesn’t seem to be spoken against as strongly as it used to be.

Yes, many of these suggestions are more than a little tongue-in-cheek. But I do think this is a real problem, and wonder if there might be some better solution than asking single women to hang on for an opportunity that might never come.

Of the solutions I’ve listed, I think that #4 would be the easiest to implement. After all, I’m sure there are stacks of scriptures and prophetic comments one could find to support any sexist practice the Church might want to try. It would just be a matter of emphasizing some scriptures and doctrines and ignoring others.

But #4 isn’t my favorite. I would actually lean toward #7. I suspect that many Mormon women would be happier married to a good non-Mormon man than they are single and giving up hope on ever being married. But that’s just me. I’m neither a woman nor single. What do you think?

48 Responses to “Solving the Mormon Man Shortage”

  1. 1.

    I think that to solve this, you have to know why the disparity exists.

    I suspect (but can’t prove) that single men over a certain age are more likely to leave the church because they are seen as ‘sinning.’ If this is the case, maybe we need to talk to and about older single men in a different way.

    If the problem is that more women than men convert, then maybe we need to think of ways to convert more men.

    What else could cause the disparity? I don’t know.

  2. 2.

    I’m a convert, and single, and I totally hope and plan to marry a non-member one day. Perhaps he will join up too, eventually, or maybe not. It would be completely up to him, of course.

    I guess as a convert, I don’t see any problem with marrying a non-member. I was once one, and all of my close friends are. As for the endowment, so long as we’re legally married, we will be able to have our sealing done by proxy after we’re dead. I’m guessing once we’re dead, the obvious truth of the gospel will be more compelling to him, and he’ll quite likely accept it, if he hasn’t already beforehand. If not, then I hope and expect there will be some other provision made. Otherwise, it’s just how things go. I feel deeply that marrying a nonmember, provided it’s the right person, is a much happier and higher path than staying single.

    I would not marry someone who didn’t have a similar feeling about life, joy, and eternity to mine, I don’t suppose. But oftentimes what is exactly the same in feeling and spirit is simply described using very different words by people of different religions. We are saying the same thing, just using different thoughts and words to express it. None of us have it exactly right, I don’t suppose, because we all have such a very long way to go before we’re advanced enough to understand very well. We’re like little kids learning Calculus. There’s surely no sense in us arguing about who understands Calculus better when we can barely even add yet.

  3. 3.

    Or maybe instead of #3 or #4, the church should provide more incentives to women. “Ladies’ Night” seems to attract more men than women.

  4. 4.

    I’d take option number two before I took any version of three or four. I’d say number six is right out and, being married to a non-member myself, am not sure I’d recomend option number 7. He’s wonderful, caring and devoted to his religion but when I think about the things our kids will miss out on — on the things I missed out on as a child in a part-member family — such as a father’s blessings, it makes me sad.

  5. 5.

    I think I agree with Julie in her opinion that we might do well to talk about single adult men with a different tone and message. I know that in my single adult days there was a one to one ratio of men to women *on the rolls* but when it came to attendance the ratio plummetted down to one man for every three or four women. Of the guys that did come, every one of them (that I knew) complained of the extreme pressure from the leaders to be getting married.

    If that fails we could try taking after this church. (*shudder*)

  6. 6.

    Starfoxy, that was an interesting article. Obviously, that guy is way extreme, but I sensed a grain of truth in his message, even as it applies to LDS: I imagine that the average woman, for example, is much more comfortable with a person getting weepy during testimony meeting than a man is. Visiting teaching probably seems more ‘natural’ for most women than HT does for most men. etc.

  7. 7.

    It seems to me that #4 would do more to detract single women from coming than it would attract single men (although perhaps that would have the desired affect).
    Personally, I have a sister and cousin who are in this place right now. (I, on the other hand, was married at the ripe, old age of 20). It’s difficult to see them struggle with how they fit in the church. I’ve been reading some of the general authorities talks about the balance between men and women in the church. They talk a lot about priesthood and motherhood. But, I thought that fatherhood, not the priesthood, was the complement to motherhood. (Am I crazy?) Anyway, a righteous man can hold the priesthood with or without a wife or children, while a woman cannot enjoy motherhood by virtue of her righteousness alone. She requires a partner for that blessing.
    It would seem from the outside that the roles would be reversed, that there would be more men than women. Interesting that we find it the opposite. Like Julie I wonder what the causes are.

  8. 8.

    The answer to the shortage of active males is easy: More sister missionaries.

  9. 9.

    DKL,

    I was a little confused by your comment at first. I thought you meant that more sister missionaries was the answer to why there were not as many active men in the church. Then I realized you were proposing a solution to the problem, rather than addressing the cause. The comment makes a lot more sense that way.

  10. 10.

    I like the points you make, Julie and Starfoxy. It does seem useful to first ask why there are more active Mormon women than active Mormon men. Certainly the tendency for women to participate more in religion than men seems to extend far beyond Mormonism.

    (Tangentially, does anyone know if it extends beyond Christianity? Are Muslim women more religious than Muslim men, for example?)

    The article you linked to, Starfoxy, makes some good points about why men might dislike church. It reminds me of Robert Kirby’s take on the issue:

    I say women trick men into starting religions. They have to because, biologically speaking, church is about male-oriented as Tupperware and menopause. Church is women’s way of controlling men by convincing them that they’re needed in some role or another when we’d really rather be off getting bloody and filthy. You can’t tell me that guys would intentionally set the Sabbath up on the same day as the deer hunt or the monster truck races. No way. It’s women.

    (This is from p. 70 of Sunday of the Living Dead.)

    Explanations like these are appealing because they explain the broader phenomenon of women attending church more by looking at general characteristics of worship services. But I wonder if it wouldn’t be even more useful to look for explanations of women’s greater religious participation by considering it as a special case of even larger trends.

    First, women are more not just more publicly religious than men are; they are also more privately spiritual. Women pray more, read scriptures more, and report more belief in God. So a good explanation would account for both women’s greater public religiosity and their greater private spirituality. For example, economist Bryan Caplan argues that women are more religious than men because “men are more inclined to want some hard proof that religious claims are true, while women are more willing to take religious teachings on faith because they sound nice.”

    The second larger trend is that of community involvement. Women not only attend church more than men do, they may also volunteer more and may be more involved in charitable organizations and clubs (although men may be more politically involved). An explanation for women’s greater church involvement might also do well to account for women’s generally greater community involvement.

  11. 11.

    Like Starfoxy and Julie, I wonder if there are things we could do to make the environment more welcoming to single men. I find it challenging to be a single woman in this church, but at least from what I’ve seen, I think it would be even more difficult to be a single man. Single women are sometimes portrayed as objects of pity (which is not pleasant, certainly), but single men often seem to be viewed with outright suspicion. I’ve even heard people claim that if men don’t get married in this life, they’ve lost their only chance to do so (while if women don’t get married, they’re reassured that no blessing will be denied them). I can’t imagine that the message, “you’re a sinner for not being married yet” is attracting single men to church.

    I’d also be curious to see data on the proportions of active men and women by age–what percentage of active LDS 10-year-olds are male, versus 20-year-olds, versus 30-year-olds, etc. Is there a particular point at which the men are disappearing?

  12. 12.

    You’re joking about #4 bringing more men in, right? Do you really think that preaching that women are inherently lower (more than we do, I mean), would bring more men in? Do you think that men like that kind of crap? Thinking that they’re better than ALL women, inherently? Wow, you’d be attracting some serious loosers, and maybe there’d be more men, and maybe even more marrages, but also more abuse and sadness and heartache.

    Most men I know would be offended by that type of rhetoric, not attracted by it. All women are evil and can’t speak in church? Hmmmmm, sounds like you’d catch a winner there!

  13. 13.

    Chris, my reading of #4 was that it was tongue-in-cheek. But I actually think this raises an interesting question. Our current rhetoric sometimes suggests that women are more spiritual, etc. Is this attracting women, or is it offending them? And how does it affect men?

  14. 14.

    I want to register my enthusiastic approval of Ziff’s reference to Sunday of the Living Dead. That is a true book. I think it was somewhere in that same volume where Kirby claims that the elders quorums of the church are the Lord’s pack mules. I mean, where else are you expected to spend two Saturdays a month serving as a beast of burden, moving somebody else’s wheat and pianos up and down flights of stairs?

  15. 15.

    Don’t worry, Chris, as Ziff’s only older sister I think I can safely say that he was born with his tongue lodged firmly in his cheek. When we were kids every year Lynnette and I herded all siblings together to make us all practice acting out the nativity scene for our parents on Christmas Eve. I was overbearing, obnoxious, oppressively earnest about the whole thing. Not surprisingly, Ziff and Kiskilili could not be serious to save their lives, to my everlasting exasperation. Every year Ziff wanted to be the donkey. One year we finally let him.

    Things got much better when Lynnette, who’s far more diplomatic than I, took over. Now we’ve decided to all be pagans and lie around and read the Wayside School books aloud to each other on Christmas Eve. Evidently appreciation for this kind of humor is a genetic defect; it drives my husband batty, and he has to go into a separate room and lie down while reading is underway.

    Amen to enthusiastic endorsements of Sunday of the Living Dead. I remember when the opening essay “Five Kinds of Mormons” appeared in the Utah County Journal to rave reviews, the end of Kirby’s relationship with the Utah County Journal, which paved the way–I think–for his relationship with the Salt Lake Tribune, still ongoing.

  16. 16.

    To vaguely relate Eve’s tangent back to the topic of this thread, I think that our family exemplified a Mormon Man Shortage–which is why poor Ziff had to be Joseph in the nativity scene every year. Until we finally let him be the donkey, and had one of the girls play Joseph (possibly thereby setting the stage for future questioning of traditional gender roles. ;))

  17. 17.

    A college roomate shared the “Five Kinds of Mormons” during my freshman year, and I still refer to people as “Nazi Mormons.” Does anyone know how to get ahold of it now?

  18. 18.

    Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair has this to say about why women aren’t as funny as men, which perhaps explains why women are more religious:

    Humor, if we are to be serious about it, arises from the ineluctable fact that we are all born into a losing struggle. Those who risk agony and death to bring children into this fiasco simply can’t afford to be too frivolous. (And there just aren’t that many episiotomy jokes, even in the male repertoire.) I am certain that this is also partly why, in all cultures, it is females who are the rank-and-file mainstay of religion, which in turn is the official enemy of all humor.

    Here’s the full article. Funny!

  19. 19.

    Thanks, Eve and Lynnette, for clarifying suggestion #4. Yes, Chris, I did not mean it seriously. I certainly don’t want the Church to try to balance its sex ratio by becoming more sexist. I was just brainstorming possible ideas for how to solve the man shortage.

    That being said, I do think that this approach might push the sex ratio closer to 1:1, although I agree with you, Jessawhy, that it might work by pushing more women out of the Church than men rather than by attracting more men than women.

    I’m intrigued by your suggestion, Beijing, of trying to attract even more women as a route to attracting more men. I wonder, though, if it isn’t backward. Isn’t ladies’ night typically used in settings (such as bars) where there are typically more men than women, in an attempt to balance out the sex ratio, and as a side benefit, increase the total number of customers? Applying the analogy to the Church, this would suggest that it should focus on attracting more men (the less numerous group) as a means to attracting more women (the more numerous group) and increasing total membership. But I may be misunderstanding how ladies’ night works.

    (Tangentially, I wonder if it isn’t the case that more men than women do come to a ladies’ night, but that the sex ratio moves closer to 1:1 than it usually is. For example, you might typically have 1.5 men for every woman, but on ladies’ night it’s only 1.2 to 1. So the event would be deemed a success even though it didn’t actually get the sex ratio down to 1:1. This is kind of like the argument I made in an earlier post that even though the Church attracts more women than men, its woman to man ratio is lower than the ratio is for churches in general, suggesting that the Church is more appealing to men than women, given their overall difference in religiosity.)

  20. 20.

    Jessawhy,
    It looks like someone has posted the entire “Five Kinds of Mormons” article on a blog here.

    Like Mark IV and Eve, I recommend the entire book, which it looks like you can buy used fairly cheaply through Amazon.com. Robert Kirby is wonderfully funny.

  21. 21.

    Proud Daughter of Eve,
    Thanks for your comment. You’ve addressed the major question I was wondering about with #7, which is whether it is better to marry a non-member or be single. I have no idea how to answer this question other than to ask people who are themselves married to non-members or single which they would prefer.

    Or jumping off from your earlier post, Lynnette, in which you talked about sometimes feeling more comfortable discussing religion with non-Mormons than with Mormons, are there Mormons who would be happier married to a non-Mormon than to a Mormon? I doubt there would be terribly many Church members for which this would be the preferred alternative, but there might be some.

    Of course given that more women than men participate in most religions, I guess there probably aren’t a whole lot of unmarried men hanging around in other churches either.

  22. 22.

    Varda, sorry I wasn’t clear enough to be understood up front. You did surmise my intent correctly: I offered it (tongue-in-cheek) as a solution.

  23. 23.

    I have a serious question: If we really believe that life is eternal, from pre-existence through celestial kingdom (and clearly this is why we do proxy work for the dead), why would there be any hesitation to marry a nice, good-hearted, non-mormon guy? (Which is what I did, just to reveal my bias here, lol.) You get a really great companion for your mortal life, and every opportunity still to convert him, baptize, and be sealed to/exalted with him in the next life. No?

    And ultimately, this will increase the number of righteous dudes in the CK, so it’s a win-win, right?

    I’m only half-joking, btw. I think marriage and companionship are not to be missed – and why spend your life alone? It’s amazing how many great non-mormon guys there are out there. I’m just sayin.

  24. 24.

    President Kimball, the last prophet to emphatically and definitively speak about the doctrines surrounding celestial marriage, said that those who chose to marry outside the temple were not eligible for later proxy work.

  25. 25.

    President Kimball, the last prophet to emphatically and definitively speak about the doctrines surrounding celestial marriage, said that those who chose to marry outside the temple were not eligible for later proxy work.

    This simply isn’t true any more. We have a sister in our ward, a temple worker for many years, who had married a non-member. He never did join, although he served as a scoutmaster, acted in road shows, sent his sons on missions and was very supportive of his wife’s callings in the ward and stake.

    He died some years ago an the couple was sealed two years after his death, and all the children sealed to them.

    Like lots of places in the church, our area began as “petticoat branches,” and the children of those part-member families have grown up to serve as missionaries, bishops, stake presidents, etc.

  26. 26.

    What isn’t true anymore? That President Kimball said what he said?

    If it’s the doctrine that has changed (along with all the implications of the hereafter), then the practices–such as sealing women to all husbands after death–should be clearly spelled out to the membership. The fact that within the last twenty-five years women can now attend the temple even though they have non-member husbands, and can be sealed to all the husbands after death means what, exactly? We STILL don’t know, and most active, faithful LDS women (see Sheri Dew, for example) wouldn’t consider marrying outside of the Church because of this.

  27. 27.

    Good question, RE. That’s why I suggested #7 as my preferred alternative. Clearly you’re not alone, as evidenced by Tatiana and Proud Daughter of Eve’s comments.

    Bitty scram and Martine, I’m not sure what to make of the fact that current Church leaders have not spoken against marrying outside the Church like President Kimball did. I like Kaimi’s suggestion in a T&S post that doctrines can die by being deemphasized. Perhaps current leaders want to take a softer stance toward marrying outside the Church, so rather than explicitly repudiating President Kimball’s statements, they simply ignore them and make their own statements.

    I agree, though, Martine, that it would be more helpful if we got more definitive statements as to whether what President Kimball said is still considered binding.

  28. 28.

    Regarding how there comes to be a Mormon man shortage, Julie, Starfoxy, and Lynnette raise the issue of pressure on men to hurry up and get married that might push them out of the Church. In my own limited experience, this pressure certainly is applied too heavily. I got married at 23, and even by that point, I felt condemned at every turn for being so slow. I particularly hated hearing about how I needed to get married right now because I have always been shy and was never any good at dating.

    But that being said, I don’t find the pressure on Mormon men to marry to be a very compelling explanation for the Mormon man shortage. The shortage of men extends to lots of other religions, and I doubt that there is similar pressure in all of them. (Or maybe there is to some degree or another; I don’t know.) I think a better explanation would account for the more general trend by referring to some characteristic shared by lots of churches.

  29. 29.

    For example, economist Bryan Caplan argues that women are more religious than men because “men are more inclined to want some hard proof that religious claims are true, while women are more willing to take religious teachings on faith because they sound nice.”

    This idea has a huge ick factor for me. The idea that men are rational and women are not is offensive and demeaning. To be frank, it makes me really angry.

    I think one factor that contributes to more women being in churches is that women as a group tend to be more communal. Religion as a whole requires community participation, which women are more likely to engage.

  30. 30.

    What isn’t true anymore? That President Kimball said what he said?

    I’m not denying he said what he said. However, since it was a paraphrase and we don’t know in what context the statement was made, we don’t know exactly what he said nor how binding it was.

    But clearly that is not the current policy.

    If it’s the doctrine that has changed (along with all the implications of the hereafter), then the practices–such as sealing women to all husbands after death–should be clearly spelled out to the membership.

    I think it pretty much is. Both the Temple Ready software and the General Handbook of Instruction have detailed guidelines.

    The fact that within the last twenty-five years women can now attend the temple even though they have non-member husbands, and can be sealed to all the husbands after death means what, exactly?

    It means that people married to non-members can now attend the temple and can be sealed to them after death. I have to de-genderize it, because we have some returned-missionary men in our ward who married non-members. Yeah, that sure doesn’t help much with the problem, does it?

    We STILL don’t know, and most active, faithful LDS women (see Sheri Dew, for example) wouldn’t consider marrying outside of the Church because of this.

    I guess I don’t understand the mystery. We know that they can be sealed to their spouses, but of course the Lord will be the ultimate judge of their worthiness, just like those of us who join the church in this lifetime.

    We also know that statistically speaking, they run a huge risk of not being able to raise the children in the church, having disagreements over religious commitments, etc. There may have been so many positive stories from my area because it is so common for women to be married to non-members and thus they have built-in support. Other places perhaps not so much.

    I think young women should be encouraged to marry in the temple, as life is so much easier when you have every possible advantage. And I can understand someone making that personal commitment, and if they feel that is best, I respect their decision.

    But I wouldn’t think it the end of the world if one of my daughters chose to marry outside the church, either. I trust she would only do that after much prayer, and ony she is entitled to revelation as to what she should do.

  31. 31.

    “men are more inclined to want some hard proof that religious claims are true, while women are more willing to take religious teachings on faith because they sound nice.”

    This idea has a huge ick factor for me.

    Oh, I agree completely, AmyB. Sorry. I should have been clearer; I was just citing Caplan’s comment as an example of an argument that attempts to explain differences between men and women in both private and public expressions of religiosity. I don’t much like his explanation, though. It seems to rely a bit much on the standard “men are rational and women are unstable” stereotype.

  32. 32.

    President Kimball didn t just say this once, paranthetically. He said it several times. Also, the procedure for multiple posthumous sealings might be spelled out, but not the doctrinal implications. Can we really expect that a 5 time widow who chose to marry elsewhere is now mercifully sealed because everyone is dead? Of what value is repentance if all it takes is time and death? Why bother do anything right?

  33. 33.

    On the other hand, bitty scram, if we *do* believe that people can repent, then why couldn’t someone “repent” from getting married outside of the temple by getting sealed later? I mean, it seems you are implying that getting married outside of the temple is a sin, right? Or at least, that it’s not doing things “right.” But our church preaches that people can repent for their sins (save murder and denying the Holy Ghost).

    If marrying outside of the temple meant that someone had committed such an egregious sin that he or she forever forfeited the blessings of a temple marriage (which is the only way to attain the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom), don’t you think that we’d hear about that more from the prophets than…say, keeping the word of wisdom? I mean, at least if you mess up and drink some beer, you can repent.
    But if what you are implying is correct, there is *no way* for someone to repent (or make right) the fact that he or she married outside the temple. I just think God has to be more merciful than that. Especially given that the church does allowed for people not married in the temple to be sealed after death.

  34. 34.

    Also, the procedure for multiple posthumous sealings might be spelled out, but not the doctrinal implications.

    I am not sure we know the “doctrinal implications” of a lot of what happens. For example, following World War II a lot of women who had lost their husband’s in the war were married in the temple to other men, but could only be sealed for time since they were sealed to someone else. But the second husband fathered their children and was their life partner.

    Not to mention that Elder Oaks and Elder Nelson and Elder Perry have all been sealed to multiple women. I think Elder Perry has been married to his second wife longer than his first wife. Do we truly understand the doctrinal implications of that?

    I just trust to the Lord to work all this stuff out.

    Can we really expect that a 5 time widow who chose to marry elsewhere is now mercifully sealed because everyone is dead?

    I don’t know what right we have to judge other people, so why would we “expect” anything?

    Of what value is repentance if all it takes is time and death?

    We need to repent of sins, but I am not sure that marrying a non-member quite makes it into the category of “sin.”

    Our stake patriarch was one of those non-member spouses who was married by a member. She said she felt strongly that it was the right thing to do. Apparently she was right, since he joined the church within a few years of their marriage and has served faithfully in the church in various capacities.

    Why bother do anything right?

    Because when we choose the right, we are blessed. I don’t think anyone who marries a non-member would argue that it isn’t more difficult.

    Brent Barlow, who teaches marriage and family relations at BYU, did his doctoral dissertation in a place where I used to live. He found that in that area, two-thirds of Mormons married outside the church and a third of the spouses later converted. He was pretty matter-of-fact in his discussion, and did not imply that they were “wrong” or “bad” to make that choice, so I am sure that has influenced my thinking in this area.

  35. 35.

    But that being said, I don’t find the pressure on Mormon men to marry to be a very compelling explanation for the Mormon man shortage. The shortage of men extends to lots of other religions, and I doubt that there is similar pressure in all of them. (Or maybe there is to some degree or another; I don’t know.) I think a better explanation would account for the more general trend by referring to some characteristic shared by lots of churches.

    So you’re thinking that the shortage of single men, then, is more likely due to the fact that they’re male than that they’re single? (Or have I just garbled what you’re saying? ;) )

    I’m curious about the current state of things in which women are more likely to exhibit both public and private religious behavior; I’d be interested to know to what extent that’s been true historically.

  36. 36.

    So you’re thinking that the shortage of single men, then, is more likely due to the fact that they’re male than that they’re single? (Or have I just garbled what you’re saying? ;) )

    I guess what I’m saying is that I think the man shortage seems to occur because it’s a church setting rather than because it’s specifically a Mormon setting.

    I’m curious about the current state of things in which women are more likely to exhibit both public and private religious behavior; I’d be interested to know to what extent that’s been true historically.

    That’s a great question. RoastedTomatoes suggested on another thread that the trend of women being more religious now “closely track[s] what the historical literature has been claiming about American religion during the period since at least the Second Great Awakening.” So he may be the best one to ask. RT, are you around to satisfy our curiosity?

  37. 37.

    That makes sense, Ziff. I think I’ve been contemplating the question, where are the LDS single men? So I’ve been wondering if there are reasons why single men in particular aren’t very active. But it sounds like you’re getting at the broader question of why men are less likely to be at church in the first place, leading to this imbalance. Which, as you point out, is far from being a uniquely Mormon phenomenon–so I can see why you’d be hesitant to ascribe too much to factors specific to the LDS church.

    Since I read the initial post, I’ve been trying to decide which solution I would vote for. I think #7 is probably the best of the lot, though not without its shortcomings. I wonder also, with regards to #1, what could be done to make church more single-friendly; it would be nice, I think, in addition to the “it will all work out in the eternities” line, to feel like there was a bit of support in this life, too.

  38. 38.

    I think Mormon single males are definitely more at-risk than single males of any other denomination when it comes to their leaving the church or religion altogether–or at least becoming disillusioned with their faith. Here’s why:

    1. Unlike many, if not all, other religions, the LDS believe that one cannot get to (the highest level of/the best) heaven without being married. Talk about your immense pressure!

    Single LDS men–especially those who have never married by the age of 30 or even earlier, face heavy community pressure to date, marry, or even declare they are looking to do so. Otherwise, members often assume they are guilty of fornication, gay, unrighteous, bad examples to youth and children, etc. I have attended singles’ wards where bishops and stake presidents insist that “dating is a priesthood responsibility.” This is an inordinate amount of pressure to place on someone who may not want to marry–for whatever reason. In the Church there is practically no good reason to remain unmarried if one is straight, and if one is gay, marriage (to the same or the opposite sex) or partnerships are frowned upon.

    2. “Good” LDS unmarried men and women must suppress or divert their sexual impulses rather than engaging in single- (masturbatory) or partnered sexual activity. This is simply impossible for most people after a certain age, and many just give up and marry unwisely, engage in unmarried sex, or become bitter or disillusioned. I have known MANY LDS single men who stop going to church because despite the insistence of eighty year old men who have been having married sex for sixty years, things won’t “get better” if they (the single men) just go to the temple, read scriptures, pray,read their patriarchal blessings nightly or whatever get-married-quick scheme is proposed. The frustration simply gets to them and they decide to leave.

    Most other churches (all?) recognize that humans are human, not gods-in-training or gods-in-embryo. They won’t call a young man into their offices and ask about his personal habits, dating experiences, or sex life, unless that person wants to and feels a need to confess. In other churches, service opportunities aren’t tied to how “clean” a person is vis a vis sexual experiences. It’s ironic that in the LDS church, a 20 year old who marries for lust after knowing someone three weeks is considered “worthy” while a 40 year old (former) virgin who finally gives in and has sex must confess (whether or not he really is remorseful–and not many are at that point) and repent for doing what comes naturally.

    3. There is not much for a single person–especially a single man–to do in the church. A single man (particularly a never-married one) is rarely given “high” leadership positions or temple assignments–again, to send a (right or wrong) message that unless he is “fixed” by being married, he is neither worthy nor able to serve. In “regular” wards, even the primary callings are often delegated to “husband and wife teams” rather than single men, and singles wards are often thought of disparagingly as “training wards”–even when the bishop and the members are roughly the same age (as was the case in a ward I belonged to on the East Coast where ward members were often in their 30s and 40s and bishoprics were newly married peers).

  39. 39.

    This all reminded me of a seinfeld episode, so I searched around for the wording. (I just copied the text from another blog)

    Jerry asks Elaine what percentage of the population is datable
    she says 30%
    he says, “No way, it’s like 4-6 percent!”
    and she says, “Then how are all these people getting together?”
    and he says, “Alcohol.”

    Two new ideas for the list
    1) Make alchohol ok in the singles wards.
    2) Maybe mormon men are more willing to go outside the church to find the 4-6% than mormon women are. I guess this fits in with option 7.

    As for women being more spiritual than men: I think it’s pure bogus. Propogating the idea only hurts both sexes.

  40. 40.

    As for women being more spiritual than men: I think it’s pure bogus. Propogating the idea only hurts both sexes.

    I don’t know. I agree with you that the benevolent sexist approach of claiming that women are just inherently sweeties who never even have an evil thought isn’t helpful. But that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that if you ask people if they believe in God or how often they pray or read their scriptures, women report more belief, more prayer, and more reading. If you ask how often they attend church, women attend more. I guess you can think about spirituality in a different way, but using simple straightforward questions like these, you find that women consistently score as more spiritual than men.

  41. 41.

    Ziff,

    You are right to call me on the statement. I’ve heard the same surveys about the envolvement of women in religion etc. I guess the point I am trying to make is rhetorical. In an analagous way, I strongly assert that men are not inherently better at science/engineering than women even though men test better at math and get more phd’s. My point in making these statements involves two issues:

    1) The differences in religiosity/science performance are poorly resolved. In other words, the distribution of men’s spirituality overlaps so much with that of women’s, that the differences have only a very small effect and are not useful to compare individuals. (Imagine two overlapping gaussian distributions, where the peaks are separated by some small fraction of their width.)

    2) I’m trying in my own small way to reduce ‘stereotype threat’. This assumes that some of the factors that make women more ‘spiritual’ are environmental rather then genetic. Having not read much literature on the subject, I suppose both of these statements are somewhat speculative. However, I stand by my assertion that to reinforce the stereotype is bad for both sexes.

  42. 42.

    aws,

    I think I understand your concern. You don’t want a between group difference that is (a) poorly measured, (b) small in comparison to within group variation, and (c) of uncertain origin, to be seen as large and predestined. Is that right?

    I also agree with you that when the distributions overlap as much as those of women’s and men’s spirituality do, the group averages aren’t that useful in describing individuals.

    But in this specific instance, accounting for why there are more active Mormon women then active Mormon men, I think an appeal to women’s greater reported spirituality (on average, anyway) is helpful. This is because even though the women’s and men’s spirituality distributions are very much overlapping, they’re not identical, so if you count all the people who fall above any given spirituality threshold that defines church activity (conflating spirituality and religiosity for a moment) you will have more women than you do men, and hence, a man shortage once they start pairing up.

  43. 43.

    As for the endowment, so long as we’re legally married, we will be able to have our sealing done by proxy after we’re dead. I’m guessing once we’re dead, the obvious truth of the gospel will be more compelling to him, and he’ll quite likely accept it, if he hasn’t already beforehand.

    Tatiana, just remember that even after we die there is still a partial veil over us. We take our same attitudes with us into the next life and while some things become clear, the great mysteries and all our pre-mortal memories do not automatically return.

    My sister married a non-member and they are a good match. But she worries about whether her family will become an “eternal family”. She also wishes she could share deeply personal and sacred experiences with her husband. She trusts God, stays active, and enjoys her marriage and family, but it is a concern.

    Please understand I’m not against marrying non-members in all circumstances. I do believe that there are times when God brings people together and approves of marriage between a member and non-member. But I do believe it should be a matter of much consideration and prayer. Well, that’s actually true of all marriage isn’t it? Whether member or non-member we need consideration and prayer.

  44. 44.

    I have attended singles’ wards where bishops and stake presidents insist that “dating is a priesthood responsibility.” This is an inordinate amount of pressure to place on someone who may not want to marry–for whatever reason.

    My brother, at 28, heard his bishop say the exact same thing. And do you know what he did? He decided it was time to take it seriously and ask out a girl a week. After about 8 months of doing this he met his wife. They’ve been happily married for 9 years and have 3 children.

    I use his example not to say that every man should do this exact thing or that he would get the same result. I merely point out that blessings can result from taking on the challenge of our leaders. Even if you don’t find your eternal mate, other blessings can happen, not just for you but for others. The women in the ward were impressed with my brother. Single women are generally frustrated that worthy, great LDS men don’t ask anyone out. They appreciated my brothers example even if he didn’t ask them all out or though they weren’t right for each other. And for those whom he went out with, they were happy for a date with a gentleman! It was a positive, hopeful and encouraging experience for all.

    One man in my singles ward was about 40 when he finally found his wife. It wasn’t for lack of trying to find someone. Sometimes men must wait on God’s timetable just like the women. What he said though once was that he never gave up, and that is key.

    I have a great deal of compassion for the single men in the church. I was single for many years (I was 32 when I got married, my husband was 38) and got to know many great single men. Some of them had/have given up, some have self-worth issues (“what can I offer?”), and some just haven’t found the right person yet. I do understand that they are under great pressure since it is a priesthood responsibility. Women are also under a great deal of pressure to be wives and mothers (divine role). And both men and women struggle with remaining pure while trying to keep their sex drive under control.

    But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to live the gospel despite these challenges! If you give up, become inactive, start having sex, commit other sins and become bitter you aren’t going to make your life better….if you have a testimony, want to be worthy and want to marry a worthy person, then you have to remain worthy! It IS possible. And if you slip up then repentance is always possible. Just remember, God knows you and your challenges. He also has a great deal of compassion and love for you and can see the bigger picture. It’s important to keep Him in your life.

  45. 45.

    I merely point out that blessings can result from taking on the challenge of our leaders.

    Thanks for sharing your and your brother’s experience, Sarah. From my perspective, this is an overly optimistic view, though. Sure, good things may result from pushing oneself to date more. But if it doesn’t work out, frustration can be the result. And given the imbalance of the sexes in the Church, it’s pretty much guaranteed to result in frustration for a fair-sized segment of people, mostly women.

    if you have a testimony, want to be worthy and want to marry a worthy person, then you have to remain worthy!

    Again, the numbers suggest that while you’re technically correct–it is possible–it’s also true that its not likely. I think we should consider this reality more carefully rather than proceed with the belief that if we do all we can, things are sure to work out. The sad fact is that they often don’t. Particularly after reading Seraphine’s recent series on being a 30-something single in the Church, I’ve become more convinced that my #7 in the post–encourage women to date and marry outside the Church–is probably the best solution for many women. Certainly it appears to have many advantages over asking them to wait for a Mormon man who is most likely to never show up.

  46. 46.

    Tatiana, just remember that even after we die there is still a partial veil over us. We take our same attitudes with us into the next life and while some things become clear, the great mysteries and all our pre-mortal memories do not automatically return.

    Sarah, I don’t think there’s anything in the LDS canon that establishes the existence of a “partial veil” after death. Certainly there are good reasons, both scriptural and theological, to believe that death doesn’t utterly transform us, and perhaps there’s a case to be made for your concept of a “partial veil,” but I also think it’s worth noting that it’s hardly established LDS doctrine.

  47. 47.

    Fun how this discussion has arisen like the phoenix.

    I like the idea of single guys endeavoring to date once a week. Not because it’s a “priesthood responsibility,” which strikes me as a bit of silly manipulation, but because simply putting yourself out there is a good thing to do. And you’re more likely to find someone if you’re actually, you know, dating, than sitting home playing World of Warcraft every weekend.

  48. 48.

    Suggesting a time frame to dates not the issue. I know it’s been four years, but did no one read my entire post or understand the context?

    Older single men and women in the Chirch are not recalcitrant children who need bribes and reminders to date. It’s demeaning and insulting to tie a romantic activity to spiritual fitness or ecclesiastical worthiness. Sometimes it feels like singles wards leadership are just trying to weed out and shame men who are shy, asexual, homosexual, socially awkward, or just plain uninterested in marriage.

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