We have strong values and beliefs and seek companions with the same. This drastically narrows the dating options, leaving us to wonder, is their any chance of finding a match?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mormon Dating Graduate Seminar - The Outsiders

Y'all who know me IRL (that's 'In Real Life' for you non-Internet geeks) will not be surprised to see this post. This is a big, fat, issue for our demographic and gender and I would be remiss if I didn't bring it up. Ready? Dating outside the faith. Duhn duhn DUHHHHHHNNNNN!

We here at 'Plight of the Religious Dater' like to be well-rounded in our views and I think we owe it to our plight, as it were, to present this side of the argument. Here's the scenario. You are a little bit older (aka late 20's, even early 30's) and as happens in Mormondom and even the secular world, the ratio of single women to single men increases. It's scary. Really scary. As you tootle along in your life, you meet a really nice guy that happens to be funny, attractive and basically has his act together. The catch? Can you guess?

He's not Mormon. Dangit!

For some religions, this is not a big deal. Interfaith dating happens all the time. But for some, Orthodox Jews, Muslims and even Catholics, it's an issue. And it certainly is for Mormons, too. We teach that in order to reach the highest echelons of heaven, we must be married to another Mormon in the temple. It's taught from a young age and reinforced in the Young Single Adult scene. So for a lot of people, breaking out of this by dating a non-Mormon isn't just that, it's shunning your beliefs, God, and even your family. That's a lot of pressure.

But then, what do you do? This fantastic, non-Mormon fella expresses an interest in dating you. 'Decline' is the advice most would give. Why date someone if you know they won't be able to marry in the temple? Best to only date other Mormons, even though the pickings are painfully slim. And even if you never marry and spend your mortal life single and take on the role of super cool, favorite aunt, you'll know you did the right thing by refusing to marry outside the temple. And don't worry, there's certainly an attractive, righteous man waiting for you after you die. *crickets* I don't say that to be sarcastic or bitter, truly. However, this is the attitude you will encounter for the most part in the church, usually from married people. Better to date, and then marry, in the church or not at all.

But what if there was another course of action? Say you go on a date with this spectacular guy. You have a good time and you go out again. He's fine with your religion but makes it clear that while he respects you, he has no interest in joining. You begin to date, you realize you are very compatible and soon fall in love. Eventually, after a reasonable time of courtship, you decide to marry. Things aren't always perfect; you're both human and occasionally you argue. Sometimes you even aruge about religion, too. But when all is said and done, you love and respect each other. Eventually you have a family and are able to enjoy the fullness of the human experience.

I guess my question is this; do you give up that last scenario for the hope of something that might never happen? For some people, yes, absolutely. For some, no way. Ultimately, what you decide is between you and God.

There's a lot more I could say here, about how this situation is actually easier for women (in my experience) and how some of the attitudes that surround this issue can be quite damaging. I've had personal experience with this (in case that wasn't obvious) and perhaps I'll share some of them another day. So, what do you think about all this?


  1. I've been in 2 fairly serious relationships with non members myself (one lasted a year, and another lasted nearly 3). They were great guys, better in caliber and more mature in many ways than many of the LDS guys that I'd met and dated.

    I held on to them with the delusional hope that they might one day convert, but the end result was them converting me. I still went to church, but there was a huge layer of spirituality that I'd lost in my life because I had to suppress that side of me when we were together.

    And if I didn't try to suppress it, we would disagree on a myriad of things. We agreed on the type of family we would want to have, we agreed about God, and how to be great people. But what we shared wasn't fundamental enough and differences kept coming up.

    The other thing I learned is that ultimately, most men outside the church just don't believe in celibacy before marriage. They can be respectful, and not force you into anything, but they are really just waiting for you to cave in.

    Darn you guys for writing about it first - I was just getting to writing one myself ;)

  2. I needed to add this: My husband and I have been sealed in the temple. And I am grateful to be married to someone who truly believes in eternal progression.

    I might been able to have good marriages to either of the two men during this life, but it certainly would not have lead to us becoming gods and goddesses in the long run.

    My hubby and I are definitely not going to get there for a long, looooong time, but we share that long term goal, and it makes all the difference.

  3. Hey Sheila, reading what you wrote makes me sad. Now, take a Baptist and a Mormon - the best of both kinds - and compare their morals and desires for raising a family. Now you can argue they differ a ton, so let's assume we take two that are fairly comparable. So what is it that divides these two? Keeps them from being together? Some superficial level of doctrines and a determination on who has the truth.

    It's pathetic that such small things can be the breaker of a relationship. Why do all religions have to be divided so much by so little? So my point is, if the differences are going to make the marriage a failure then that makes sense. But if the differences are a worry about one church's doctrine on salvation and eternal progression then I don't see how it's legitimate. If God really is so meticulous about his order that he'll damn (Halt your progression) you for not getting some magical blessing by and old man, then the plan is a little wrecked. Sure, you can hold out, perhaps never get married, miss on the greatest joys of life, be a spinster servicing your local congregation and then die.

    Personally that sounds like a terrible idea and if God is happier with you opting for that over a happiness in a marriage without a magical blessing, then that kind of contradicts God being loving and wanting happiness for us. Besides, if it works well, doesn't your husband get a chance in the afterlife?

  4. What's difficult is the fact that one can't make a fully informed choice. One doesn't know if she is giving up something good in favour of something even better, or whether she's giving up something good in favour of nothing.

    B3 - You're oversimplifying things somewhat by calling these "small things". If I marry someone of another faith, the fact is - even if he's AMAZING and faithful in his own religion - if he is not Mormon, it's because he does not believe Mormonism to be true/right. Which means that the most important person in my life (my husband) would think that when it comes to the most important thing in my life (my religion), I am wrong. That although well-intentioned, I have been duped.

    To me it is not a "small thing" to have my companion humoring (though respecting) my religious convictions. The notion of this breaks my heart and complicates my relationships with non-Mormon men.

    I also resent the suggestion that as a single woman I am unable to enjoy the greatest joys of life. That line of thinking is anti-feminist and antiquated.

    And finally, the logic in your final paragraph is flawed. You suggest that I should pursue the happiness God wishes for me by ignoring the route He has prescribed. If I do indeed believe in God, then I should have a moral obligation to follow the rules He's set for me, which I believe include temple marriage (the "magical blessing" I assume you're alluding to). To demand happiness from God whilst dismissing his commandments as "magical blessings" is revisionist, and seems to demonstrate a degree of entitlement that I don't feel comfortable with.

    The thing is, I WANT to feel the way B3 feels (it would certainly be more socially convenient) but it is simply inconsistent with my convictions.

  5. Just to add to this - I agree with Sheila that this needs to be an individual decision, made between and individual and God. We all know lots of people who married outside of their faith and everything turned out ideally.

    I just wanted to point out that this situation is a lot more complicated that just refraining from doctrinal differences during dinner conversations.

  6. Interesting thoughts, all. Thanks for commenting.

    @Fei - I'm truly glad you've found a companion that's wonderful! However, you're kind of exemplifying what I mention in the post about married people having a different perspective. Like Francine said, it's about not being able to make a fully informed choice. We don't know how things will turn out, and we also have no control over the actions of our partner.

    As was obvious in the post, I have also dated non-Mormons, and while the 'no sex' thing is a definite issue, it's not been my experience that they were waiting for me to 'cave'. But you're right, it's not easy. But it's also not impossible and I can testify that there are good men that can and will wait. Because, like L'Oreal reminds us, 'We're worth it.' ;-)

    Also, re: your statement "certainly would not have lead to us becoming gods and goddesses in the long run", I'd have to disagree. Really? I guess I just don't believe in Heavenly Parents that would only allow a tiny fraction of their children into the highest levels of heaven because they weren't sealed while alive. Does anyone really know how it all turns out for sure?

    At any rate - food for thought!

  7. It's true that "us married people" do have our biases on what works since it seems to work for us. :)

    I wasn't implying that becoming a god and goddess in the future has to do with whether or not that person is sealed in this life. I know Heavenly Father will allow everyone to progress to the extent that they desire for themselves. I just think that it's the eternal *perspective* that makes a difference.You can't become something that you don't desire /don't believe in/don't think is important/ don't look to as the penultimate goal.

    "The fullness of the human experience" involves families, I believe, which is why we're all gunning for this celestial marriage thing, but I don't think it's limited to just this existence.

    It's not that I think marriage to someone outside our faith won't be good, or even better. We all know that it just isn't "best". And that is part of what I understand to be the reason.

    Not everyone within the church patterns their life within that framework either, so I guess ultimately it's a matter of shared common goals, whatever they may be.