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Mormon Singles Chapel

 

LUCKY SEVERSON, correspondent: This is the Mormon Church’s Crystal City Chapel just outside Washington, DC. There are several others in the area, but this one is unique: the 800 members who attend here are all single. Along with worshiping, they’re here for one other very important reason: to find a partner and get married.

This is Bishop Lewis Larsen, who leads a congregation of older singles aged 31 to 55.

BISHOP LEWIS LARSEN: If you were to look across the general spectrum of single adults, the trend in America is not to even marry at all but to cohabitate. That is not a trend in the Mormon Church.

SEVERSON: If there’s any doubt, talk to some of the singles here.

ADAM NILSEN: I know that God wants that for me. I know that man was not meant to be alone, nor was woman, but that we complement one another.

post01-mormonsinglesSEVERSON: Were you ready at 22-23 to get married?

DARLA MARBURGER: I sure think I was. I think I’ve been ready for a long time, but I haven’t been plucked from the vine yet.

BEVERLI JO DEWALT: My grandma offered to find someone to pay someone to date me, because she was fairly convinced I was not able to do that on my own.

PROFESSOR BRAD WILCOX: Mormonism is the marriage religion.

SEVERSON: Sociology professor Brad Wilcox is director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. He says the marriage rate in the US has seen a dramatic decline since the 1970s at a 14-fold increase in couples cohabiting. But among practicing Mormons, marriage is still sacred.

WILCOX: They sacralize marriage, obviously, and they view marriage as an eternal institution that exists beyond this space and time.

SEVERSON: Professor Wilcox is speaking about temple marriages, where members in good standing are sealed together for time and all eternity.

post02-mormonsinglesLARSEN: When you die and your spouse dies, you will be united as a husband and wife. When your children die, they will be united with you as a family and that the family unit continues on, and I know that that’s a concept that is not generally taught in the Christian world, but it’s very sacredly held concept in Mormonism.

SEVERSON: Marriage has always been a sacred principle of the Mormon Church, but it took on an added dimension when church president Thomas Monson, who is considered a modern-day prophet, expressed alarm at the church’s most recent general conference that not enough members are getting married.

PRESIDENT THOMAS MONSON: Now I have thought a lot lately about you young men who are of an age to marry, but you 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.

SEVERSON: One reason church leaders are pushing marriage so urgently is that so many young men in the mid-20s are falling away and becoming inactive, focusing on the kinds of things that occupy other young men—getting an education, a job, and having fun.

It’s important to the church and to its young men that they get married, because only married men can hold high leadership offices, and the church says only Mormons who marry can reach the highest realm in the afterlife.

post08-mormonsinglesSince serving a church mission, many young Mormons in the DC area have spent their time pursuing advanced degrees. Beverli Jo DeWalt has been working on a career at the State Department.

DEWALT: Most of the folks out here are people that have pursued an education, pursued a career and not with the purpose of delaying marriage, but with the idea that we want to have a full life that includes all of those things.

SPENCER WILLIAMS: I’ve been just very busy with business, and it wasn’t until about six months ago when I really decided I do want to get married.

SEVERSON: How about you, Steve, what’s your excuse?

STEVE ARCHIBALD: Well, beyond the obvious or…?

SEVERSON: Steve Archibald is 28, has a master’s in accounting.

ARCHIBALD: There’s definitely a lot of pressure to get married, but at the same time there’s not pressure to rush into any kind of decision. We can all say that we’re looking. We’re doing our best to try and find the potential “10” out there.

SEVERSON: One high church leader suggested that in looking for a mate, young Mormons like Steve should stop reaching for a “10.“

LARSEN: It’s my job as bishop is to bring a little reality on this, that what they thought they were going to marry probably never did exist. You know, people have faults. Some might be a little overweight, some might be losing their hair, and that doesn’t mean that they are not a fantastic person.

post04-mormonsinglesSEVERSON: This is an annual social event in Washington for single Mormons aged 31-55. Washington may not be the hub of the church, but there are between 50,000 and 70,000 members living in the area, the largest concentration East of the Mississippi. For women in their mid-30s who want to start a family, more and more are taking the initiative.

LARSEN: We are a traditional church, and you would say women don’t initiate. But I think that changes when you’re around 30. Yeah, women are much more proactive in my ward.

NILSEN: Having lived in other places I’ve seen other cultures, that women that do take a lot of the initiative.

SEVERSON: So have you had it happen to you?

NILSEN: Have I had women take the initiative with me? Yeah, absolutely.

SEVERSON: Thirty-four-year-old Beverli Jo DeWalt says she is now ready.

DEWALT: I had the opportunity to be married when I was 21—a great guy, a fantastic guy—but I didn’t feel ready, and I think had I gotten married at that point I wouldn’t have been happy.

SEVERSON: Do you think there’s a downside to getting married too young?

post06-mormonsinglesLARSEN: Don’t ask me, because I married in my mid-30s, so I’m kind of like my own congregation.

SEVERSON: Bishop Fonz Allen has a congregation of 21-to-30-year-old singles. He says getting married young and struggling can be a good thing.

BISHOP FONZ ALLEN: Many of us in the earlier years, we got married while we were still going to school, and we had children while we still going to school, and we look back on those times today, now when we’re older, as the best times of our life, when we were struggling. So we don’t encourage people to wait to get married.

WILCOX: Folks who get married in their teens are more likely to get divorced, and that’s true across the board. It’s true for Mormons; it’s true for secular folks. People who get married in their mid-20s are pretty safe when it comes to the risk of divorce.

SEVERSON: Nationally, the divorce rate is down, from 50 to 43 percent. Among Mormons it’s about 20 percent. Church leaders say it’s because of the strong emphasis on family—one night is set aside each week for family home evenings—and also because of the church’s teachings on chastity.

LARSEN: In our faith we don’t allow for premarital sex, and I’m sure that does happen, but it’s a rarity, and we are teaching them to hang onto their values.

post07-mormonsinglesSEVERSON: Twenty-six- year-old Megan Baer recently got engaged. She says she’s glad she waited.

MEGAN BAER: We have sex drives just like everybody else, so of course it’s very hard, but I love what we call the law of chastity, which is no sex before marriage and complete fidelity when you’re in marriage, and I think it’s kept me from a lot of regret and pain.

SEVERSON: Professor Wilcox says 85 percent of Americans have sex before marriage.

WILCOX: Individuals who have more sexual partners prior to marriage are more likely to get divorced compared to those who do not. It’s something about forming a bond with someone that is then broken, and the way in which that may lead to a certain distrust of the opposite sex or a certain kind of loss of faith in relationships or in romance.

SEVERSON: Another reason for the low divorce rate is that Mormons usually try to date someone of their own faith. Some we spoke with said they had dated outside the church, but it hadn’t worked out. Others are like Steve.

ARCHIBALD: I do not date non-Mormons just because we’re pretty lucky in this area. The numbers are in our favor, speaking for us guys. In our congregation alone here today will have 300 individuals, and close to 200 of them will be women.

SEVERSON: After the church service, the search for a lifelong eternal mate continues in earnest. Bishop Larsen predicts that by the end of this year, at least 20 couples in his congregation of 200 will be engaged or married.

For Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, I’m Lucky Severson in Crystal City, Virginia.

  • Marcia Van Camp

    Great piece – very informative! I feel like a lot of pieces on Mormons are very degrading, so this was a nice change!

  • Marc

    A Mormon wife’s salvation depends on her husband.
    “In the divine economy, as in nature, the man ‘is the head of the woman,’ and it is written that ‘he is the savior of the body.’ But ‘the man is not without the woman’ any more than the woman is without the man, in the Lord. Adam was first formed, then Eve. In the resurrection, they stand side by side and hold dominion together. Every man who overcomes all things and is thereby entitled to inherit all things, receives power to bring up his wife to join him in the possession and enjoyment thereof. “In the case of a man marrying a wife in the everlasting covenant who dies while he continues in the flesh and marries another by the same divine law, each wife will come forth in her order and enter with him into his glory.” (“Mormon” Doctrine Plain and Simple, or Leaves from the Tree of Life, by Apostle Charles W. Penrose, 1897, Salt Lake City, UT.)

    “Do the women, when they pray, remember their husbands?… Do you uphold your husband before God as your lord? ‘What!–my husband to be my lord?’ I ask, Can you get into the celestial kingdom without him? Have any of you been there? You will remember that you never got into the celestial kingdom [during the temple ceremony] without the aid of your husband. If you did, it was because your husband was away, and some one had to act proxy for him. No woman will get into the celestial kingdom, except her husband receives her, if she is worthy to have a husband; and if not, somebody will receive her as a servant.” (LDS Apostle Erastus Snow preached the following on Sunday, Oct. 4, 1857, Journal of Discourses, vol.5, p.291)

  • Steven Major

    I hope they do delay marriage and stop producing so many children. They tend to reproduce like rabbits, a danger to an overcrowded planet where many are starving.

  • KCR

    Marc,
    If you would put your comments in the context they were originally made, your comments would make a lot more sense. Obviously you have an ax to grind in regards to LDS doctrine but does taking hundred year old quotes, out of context, really help you to correct what you see as spurious theology?

    Here is something to consider. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was here long before you were born and will be here long after you are dead. The time that you are spending in trying to defame the church and its theology will have no bearing as it continues to roll forth and fill the whole earth, so why waist your time. Instead of ridiculing the things you have read about LDS doctrine why don’t you take the time learn what is really being taught? Obviously there is no need for my to defend the church or its doctrine as its stands on its own and neither you or I will have any impact on it should we decide not to accept it or even try to disprove it. For almost two hundred years there have those who, for various agendas, have attacked the church. Ask yourself, where are they now? Ask yourself, could it be you that is in error and not the fourteen plus million members of this world wide church. Just a thought.

  • C

    I think it would be interesting to interview someone who did get married young and divorced or quit the Church or people who got married in the Temple and then went inactive afterwards and get all their perspectives.

  • Stephen Buck

    What Mac forgets to say is that a Mormon man likewise cannot go the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom without a wife. Both a dependent on each other for true exaltation. Don’t know why he forgot to say that.

  • KCR

    Marc,
    If you would put your comments in the context they were originally made, your comments would make a little more sense. Obviously you have an ax to grind in regards to LDS doctrine but does taking hundred year old quotes, out of context, really help you to correct what you see as spurious LDS theology?

    Here is something to consider. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was here long before you were born and will be here long after you are dead. The time that you are spending in trying to defame the church will have no bearing as it continues to roll forth and fill the whole earth, so why waist your time. Instead of ridiculing the things you have read about LDS doctrine why don’t you take the time learn what is really being taught? There is no need for me to defend the church or its doctrine as its stands on its own and neither you or I will have any impact on it should we decide not to accept it or even try to disprove it. For almost two hundred years there have been those who for various agendas, have attacked the church. Ask yourself, where are they now? Who knows maybe it’s you that is in error and not the fourteen plus million members of this world wide church. Just a thought.

  • Jacob Christensen

    Marc, your statement that “a mormon wife’s salvation depends on her husband” is misleading and misconstrues church doctrine.

    The truth is that our loving Heavenly Father will not withhold any blessing, including eternal life and exaltation, from any person–male or female–who qualifies himself or herself for those blessings by living God’s commandments and repenting of their sins, which repentance is made possible by the atoning sacrifice and grace of Jesus Christ. If a woman’s husband rejects the gospel, then she must do all she can to help him repent and believe in Christ. But, if all efforts to do so fail and at the final judgment day the husband has nevertheless rejected the gospel of Christ, then she will be given by God to another who is worthy, and she will be exalted with him instead in an eternal marriage relationship. (See 1 Corinthians 11:11 (“Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”)).

  • Keenan

    For Marc: I would bet most Christian leaders who wrote at the time of citations, had the same approach to marriage. For a fair comparison, focus on what the LDS leaders are saying currently about marriage.

    For Steven Major: in most western European countries (Japan included) where family sizes are shrinking every successive generation, citizens will have to pay more taxes to support the welfare system and live with less benefits as there aren’t enough citizens to support the socialist state. As for reproducing like rabbits, where do you get your numbers / facts?

    My wife and I have 3 kids–which for us is what we can handle. As they become responsible citizens and producers for our economy, they will support social security system and welfare systems for you and me.

    Your comment about overcrowding was also a big concern in the 60′s and 70′s–wise use of lands and better yields have produced more and more food for people. Unfortunately, there were will always be the poor among us and leaders of countries who would rather line their pockets with money than help their people who are starving.

  • Willie

    LDS detractors…here’s one for you…I interviewed 5 pastors in my community and asked them one simple question…”What do you believe we will do in heaven?” All 5 of them said pretty much the same thing…we have no idea…the Bible is silent…or…the Bible doesn’t say so we don’t know. Since you have no idea what we will do in heaven or what kind of relationships we will have, don’t you consider it a rather obtuse position to take that the LDS church is wrong regarding relationships in heaven? Since you don’t really know what kind of relationships we will have in heaven, you really shouldn’t say the LDS church teaches something wrong about them…you know,since you really have no idea…

  • RLD

    To be honest there are a lot of women in Utah on anti-depressants who feel trapped by the doctrine of “eternal marriage”. That the singles in this piece have chosen to wait till they are more mature and ready is a trend I hope spreads in the church. I’ll admit that my opinion is skewed as I married in my late 30′s, but a number of people I know married young and agree with my opinion.

    I have a sister, a best friend, and a number of relatives that are married to divorced LDS men. They have strong marriages and I feel the men took more care the second time around. I am LDS and am married to a non-member and I wouldn’t give him up for an LDS man – ever. It’s not what religion a person is that makes a good marriage it’s the respect and communication you have. My DH and I were good friends for years before we choose to “date” and marry. I think these people are doing it the right way.

  • Cameron

    Steven: At least Mormons have children within the bonds of marriage and take care of their children. Kuddos to Mormons during this decadent era when most of the children born are to a mothers who are unwed, illegal citizens, on welfare, or all the above. At least Mormons are among the most productive, educated, and outstanding citizens this country is currently producing.

  • Thayne

    RLD,

    I’m glad it worked for you that way, but that doesn’t mean your personal experience or the experiences of those that you associate with represents the majority. I was married young (22) and am very glad I did. It was incredibly difficult raising a family while going through graduate school (in addition to many other trials which everyone has). Marriage is difficult and is not for the uncommitted. But it is the most rewarding too (beyond anything any company or adventure could offer). Maybe what you are getting at is the maturity level of people getting married. Selfishness (immaturity) is the root cause of any disturbance in a marriage or any relationship. Does that mean you shouldn’t get married if you are less mature? No, it just means that you need to learn to focus on others rather than yourself (i.e. beyond the teen years age really has very little to do with maturity, so learn to be more mature). It will help in all aspects of your life, not just marriage, and you will be much happier that way, guaranteed.

    Steven Major,

    Demeaning others has never helped and it really isn’t hurting anyone but yourself. The world is not overcrowded and is especially not overcrowded by the ~15 million that belong to the LDS Church. Starvation in the world isn’t because of too many people either and your insinuation that again ~0.09% of the world population (15M out of 7B) is causing starvation is rather silly. In fact, despite the small population of the LDS church it has a rather large presence in the world in terms of humanitarian work. What you are proposing would actually cause increased suffering.

  • E.W.

    Cameron, stop embarrassing yourself.

  • JDE

    @KCR: “Who knows maybe it’s you that is in error and not the fourteen plus million members of this world wide church. Just a thought.”

    Who knows, perhaps it’s you who are in error, and not approx. 1.5 billion Muslims. Just a thought.

  • Chris

    Leaders of LDS faith have said (Pres. Hunter, Elder Nelson, and others) “if you are worthy —you will never be denied a blessing in the hereafter.” So, yes, a single person can go to the highest heaven. Worthiness is more important than marriage.

  • Rich

    I live in a neighborhood where there are many LDS families. Since they are all human and prone to error, there have been three or four divorces among them in the seven years I’ve lived here. Overall, however, these marriages seem to be strong when both spouses attend church services regularly. Many of them have commented about taking a marriage strengthening course at their church on Sundays. I would say that more than half of these couples grew up Mormon, while slightly less than half include a spouse who was converted as an adult. None of them believe in polygamy, by the way, and say that the mass media often unfairly connect the LDS church to polygamist offshoots even though the LDS church abandoned polygamy more than a century ago.

  • Ann Miller

    I’d like to share some of my experiences with being divorced, a single mother when I became an LDS member, and having two delightful marriages in the Church. First I learned attending singles events where I felt out of place being divorced with a child, that when I looked for others who appeared to be “left out”, and tried to make them feel more included, I enjoyed myself more. I did find my “eternal mate” through singles organizations; a college ward and a social setting. He was older, had never married, and our dating was extremely platonic but fun. This gave us a chance to know each other well and appreciate the qualities in each other without sexual pressure. I had learned the difference between lust and love following the end of my first marriage. I also learned the difference between infatuation and love, experiencing the blessings we LDS recognize as the gift of the Holy Ghost guiding me to see them clearly different. My soul mate died unexpectedly after 4 wonderfully happy years of a cardiac arrest jogging, but our sealing for eternity brought me great comfort. 12 years later, I was introduced to a friend’s brother who was also widowed. This new relationship led to marriage for this life, as we both were happily sealed to our previous spouses. I learned that love is not measured. I do not love my deceased spouse any less being married again. Love expands and is inclusive. I have been twice blessed.

  • Pablo

    I got married a little later in life (for an lds guy), at 29. My marriage is great now, and I have a wonderful family. But I sometimes wonder, what if. What if I had gotten married earlier. How would life be different. Would it be better, or worse? I guess I’ll never know. However, this much I do know. Marriage is so much better than single life! So much happier with a best friend to spend life with. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • Justin

    Great comment Ann. I don’t think anyone can disagree with that.

    Everyone is capable of having a great marriage, not just members of the LDS church. However, I think that understanding that marriage continues beyond death helps add a great deal of perspective.

    I’m sorry, but I had to laugh at the zero population quote. One of the problems that faces us today is that everyone took zero population a bit too far.

  • Sandra Nelsen

    Temple worthy LDS woman here married to a great Lutheran raised guy. In October it will be 35 years. We got married when I was 21 and he was 26. We have nine children, two of whom are adopted. Some are active LDS, some aren’t, but all are successful Christians. Our only son chose to be a Marine over an LDS mission. We supported him in his decision, although not all of our LDS friends did. No regrets here–life is what you make it.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    My wife and I were married at age 22, and today is our 39th anniversary. We have 3 living children and 13 grandchildren. They are not taking food out of anyone’s mouth, but are caring for themselves and working in productive careers.

    The fact is that the birth rate in almost all countries now, even in the less developed world, is falling to an average LESS than replacement. This means that population will stop rising within 2 to 3 decades and then start to fall rapidly, with too few younger people and too many older people who are not able to work and support themselves. It is also causing dramatic shifts in the ehtnicity of populations, where France, for example, and other european nations are turning into Islamic populations. Demography and democracy will turn western Europe into Muslim nations within a century, simply because many Europeans don;t take seriously the need to be married and have children.

    In the US, the number of people who are more religious and more politically conservative is also going to grow, because people who are secular and left-leaning won’t get married until they are older and won’t have more than one or two kids. The trend of secularization and disaffiliation from churches is going to be overwhelmed by the demographic implosion of those who are less religious and less conservative.

    In China and India, people are having only one child, and in many cases aborting girls, so that there are millions more males than females in the rising generation.

    At the end of this century, populations worldwide will be dropping, there will be dangerous millions of men in Asia with no hope of marrying and raising families, Europe will become Turkish and Muslim, and America will become more Christian and conservative. There is going to be a lot of political instability outside the US.

    Mormons who marry younger and raise more children are going to help ensure the stability of the United States, in a world that will be increasingly unstable and dangerous.

  • JDE

    “One reason church leaders are pushing marriage so urgently is that so many young men in the mid-20s are falling away and becoming inactive, focusing on the kinds of things that occupy other young men—getting an education, a job, and having fun.”

    Or perhaps they’re coming to see it for the nonsense it is.

  • Sergio Roa Prado

    No

  • dblock0511

    KCR

    I love it when members like yourself, who say that people who raise questions which often times challenges members say, that the person has an “AXE to grind” The church has not always been truthful on a number of matters, including “the Mountain Meadows Massacre,” In which Harold B Lee’s grandson, incited the Indians to massacre a group of unarmed Christians,” A High ranking member of the church, I forget the man’s name wrote letters( using church stationary) to Mitt’s Father who was then Gov of Michigan and begged him nott vote for the Civil Rights act, because he did not believe that African Americans, particularly African American Males had the right to have the same rights as you and me. . In the leaders own words he wrote,’ We should not give them a hand out, or hand up” They certainly,did not believe that African American Males should have the Priesthood, and the only reason that came to fruition was because of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. You need not bother to respond, because obviously since I’m writing this, I too, must, have an AXE to grind. I was a member for well over twenty years, and I actually y, know some of the people in the article, and I know they are saying what they believe is true for them. But, the fact of matter is many members have no idea what the truth is about “The Church” because they’ve never challenged themselves to find out. But, you know, you don’t need to listen or respect and apostate like me