The Real Reason the LDS Marriage Rate Is Going Down (Obviously)

It would be impossible not to notice how much LDS Church leadership has stepped up the message that young people should be getting married*.  Apparently, the rates of temple marriage and marriage in general have dropped off quite a bit for the 18-30 year-old young single adult set.  As marriage is a bedrock of LDS belief and lifestyle—highly correlated with church activity and with a host of positive social and financial gains—reemphasizing marriage as a goal makes sense for the Church. 

Some articles on the new trend (such as here and here) suggest that the marriage rate is falling because of a shift in priorities to focus on education, travel, and economic worries. 

But there must be a much larger underlying problem here which is undeniably obvious, but which it would be harder for us to admit and discuss publicly.  Traditionally, young people, especially religious young people, have sought out marriage early in life because that was the way to get to have sex.  In a society that values chastity, marriage was the only acceptable avenue to satisfy that most pressing of biological urges. 

The math here isn’t complicated.  If far fewer young single adults are even bothering to pursue long-term marriage relationships, it’s not because this generation suddenly stopped caring about sex.  Clearly, the millennials’ easy hook-up / ubiquitous porn culture has deeply penetrated the Church.  The lack-of-marriage problem among young Mormons isn’t just a lack-of-marriage problem; it’s a lack-of-chastity problem, on a huge scale.  Of course this doesn’t apply to every individual, but trying to explain the trend without accounting for the sex factor is naive.  


*Consider, for example, these three quotes from the most recent General Conference:

“Those who are single should desire a temple marriage and exert priority efforts to obtain it. Youth and young singles should resist the politically correct but eternally false concept that discredits the importance of marrying and having children.”  –Dallin H. Oaks, “Desire

“Now, I have thought a lot lately about you young men who are of an age to marry but who have not yet felt to do so. I see lovely young ladies who desire to be married and to raise families, and yet their opportunities are limited because so many young men are postponing marriage….

“Perhaps you are having a little too much fun being single, taking extravagant vacations, buying expensive cars and toys, and just generally enjoying the carefree life with your friends. I’ve encountered groups of you running around together, and I admit that I’ve wondered why you aren’t out with the young ladies.

“Brethren, there is a point at which it’s time to think seriously about marriage and to seek a companion with whom you want to spend eternity.”—President Thomas S. Monson, “Priesthood Power

“If you are a young man of appropriate age and are not married, don’t waste time in idle pursuits. Get on with life and focus on getting married. Don’t just coast through this period of life.”—Richard G. Scott, “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage

6 comments on “The Real Reason the LDS Marriage Rate Is Going Down (Obviously)

  1. Amen to this post. Embarrassingly enough, I completely agree. Here is something else to consider, which is an opinion of my father who served in a YSA branch presidency and who currently works with the youth in his ward. He believes that women and men are conditioned differently starting in primary. Girls are taught from a very young age to expect a temple marriage and are taught to prepare for this covenant at church. Often, mutual activities focus around this theme even on an underlying level. Getting married is not stressed to boys like it is to girls. I see boys doing boyscout activities (which is important) or playing sports for week day activities. Now, it’s important for men to have fun, but a lot are being providers of themselves and their hobbies.

    To go along with what you said, men also have false expectations of what real women should physically look like because of our porn infested society. What was terrible 50 years ago, is plastered all over our supermarket stands and is accepted as normal, creating false expectations in both sexes.

    Although I like all of the bells and whistles of technology, I fear the communication skills of our youth are plummeting drastically because of these gadgets. Soon, guys will no longer even know how to ask a girl on a date face to face. These communication problems will further delay the opportunity or pursuit of marriage.

    Just my thoughts.

  2. Amen, Lisa.

    I found it terrifyingly difficult to ask a girl out on a date as a teenager (not a member of the church). From my interactions with the young men and young women of my own congregation, I see that some “get it” and are sincerely trying to live the gospel by integrating the “For the Strength of Youth” principles into their lives. However, I see some in and out of the church for whom the porn culture has put them on a path to pain and loneliness.

    I never thought I would know young men who could be less equipped to successfully ask a girl out on a date than I was, but there they are… …and that is with the church leaders virtually laying out a red carpet pattern for them to follow for easy and inexpensive dating habits – AND encouraging the girls to be kind and supportive of the young men’s efforts when they make them.

  3. Huston, please clarify here. You’re only trying to add another possible reason, and not trying to denigrate the others as impossible, correct?

    If so, I can agree with you about the naivity.
    If not, you should be careful where you tread. Insisting that the only reason YSA’s aren’t getting married is because their getting the milk without buying the cow is not only insensitive, without merit, judgemental, and unhelpful, it’s downright insulting.

    Some people I know are depressed and just can’t seem to “want” to get married. Incidentally, there is a link between reduced libido and many depression medications. Also, apparently 1% of the population (male & female) has reduced libido, inherently without any mental or physical conditions.

    Other’s are still waiting for the right time and the lessons they need to learn before fulfilling someone else’s reason to start calling them a human being. Sorry buddy, but people are people while single or married, and this dehumanizing has got to stop.

    The vast majority of people I left in the singles ward last year wonderful people who try to lead wonderfully fulfilling lives. I’m tired of anyone who denigrates them.

  4. Lisa and DC, thanks for the ideas. You bring up some good points.

    Psych, dehumanizing? Denigrates? “Someone else’s reason to start calling them a human being?” Have you had some bad experiences? If so, I’m sorry.

    I explicitly said that this clearly doesn’t apply to everyone, and surely nothing I’ve said is a rationale for looking at any single person and assuming they’re doing something wrong.

    It’s been a while since I’ve been in a singles ward, but from my time there, and in positions since then in a stake with a singles ward, I think we agree that the primary purpose of a singles ward is to facilitate marriages, and that there are increasingly many people who aren’t even trying. Yes, many are trying and are frustrated (we’ve all been there), and others have good reasons of their own.

    But the fact remains that local and general leaders are always concerned about all those who don’t try to find someone, and don’t even care to try. Maybe they’re tired and need a break, but my point is simple: if the number of 26-year-old virgins is skyrocketing, we have to acknowledge that a lot of that increase isn’t really virginal. Human nature is too strong, and the culture is too pervasive.

    The most reasonable hypothesis suggested by the facts is a systemic immorality problem. And you know who else I bet is worried about this? The many active single people who are trying to do things right, and are finding the spiritual quality of their congregations compromised.

    Love is called for here, and so is honesty.

  5. As someone still in the YSA wards, I can attest to all that has been said above. Another point too is that some LDS parents are encouraging their kids not to date or marry until after they received their education. I had one guy even go ” I know that this is against what the prophets have said, but my mother told me not to date anybody until I graduate, so I cant date you.”

    In additional to that, the older you get the harder it becomes, I feel that I have a black mark on my head, because at the age of 27 I have graduated college, served a mission, traveled the world, have a great job and even bought a house. One of my guy friends told me that I “intimidate” the guys because I have accomplished so much. Growing up I was taught that if I want a spouse with certain qualities, then I must cultivate those qualities as well. I can go on, but I am glad that the brethern are trying to address the problem, it would be nice for them to more frank about the real underlying issues that we face today as YSA.

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