The Greatest Crime: Being Single in a Mormon World by Barbara Simpson
I am Mormon, and there is one thing everyone should know about Mormons: They believe strongly in the family. From the time you are born, you are taught about how important families are. You go to church with your family, you support your family through every activity they have, and you spend every Monday night with your family.
Even in church this is reinforce through lessons on how families can be together forever. Teenagers are taught to prepare themselves for the time when they, too will begin a family. Marriage is this heavenly acquisition that will complete an individual. Without a man and women being joined together through marriage, you are nothing.
And now you need to know something about me. I am 29 and single. In the rest of the world, this is not a big deal, but to a Mormon society, I might as well be the town drunk. Through out the years, my friends and I have received a lot of advice. Now looking back on my life had I heeded the advice, I may not be in the dire situation that I am in. If you find yourself in this unfortunate state, here is a timeline of what to expect.
Since birth, Mormons have been primed to believe that they will find the one and only between the ages of 18-21. You have two camps. The first believe that the sooner you get married the better. This group feels that school is just a means of finding a husband. They know that once their knight in shining armor has returned from his mission, they will date for a couple of weeks and know that true love has come. He will propose within a month and you will abandon your education. For, why would you need to spend the time and money on something that will get in the way of having children?
The second camp believes you should hold out as long as you can. It is much better to marry when you are older, such as 20 or 21. This way you can complete your schooling. School is important to these people because they are more practical. They still plan on staying home with the kids, but at least they will have an education in case "something happens" (but of course it won’t because they will be protected by their marriage sanctioned by God and their decision to be practical in waiting to be married until they were older).
Some in the LDS world are not married by 21. Slowly, a darkness fills these people. Doubt and despair emerge into their lives. They secretly think, “Whatever happens, please don’t let me graduate with out a husband. My dreams of carrying a baby across the stage in a cute cap and gown are gone. What will I do if the man that was promised to me in the pre-existence isn’t there to celebrate my victory with me? And worse yet, what will I do after graduation?”
At this point you only have three choices. The first is a mission. In our church, they allow women to go on missions at the age of 21. They can’t go at 19 like the men, because, well no one really knows why. My personal opinion is that it’s too risky. My friends and I have been told that if you don’t get married by 25, you have to be the second hand wife. That gives a girl only 7 years to find a husband. From 18-21 is the prime time, and the overtime is 22-24. If we send a woman on a mission from 19-21 we have just knocked out two years of the prime time, which leaves her with one year to find a spouse. With the overtime she is left with five years, and let's be honest, some girls are really in need of the full seven. The other problem with this is some girls get it in their minds that they "want to go on a mission." One Bishop pointed out to my friend that she was confusing her feelings of wanting to go on a mission with wanting to be married. This is a common mistake with women. They easily get their feelings all mixed up and don’t really know what they want for themselves. Those at 18 are so naive and they may actually lose of year of potential wedlock because they are "waiting to go on a mission." If a girl has to wait the extra 2 years, there is a high probability that her prince charming will come in and sweep her off her feet before she has a chance to go on the mission.
At 21 you, can choose to go on a mission, but there are some risks involved. There are two types of men out there. Those that want to marry a returned missionary and those who will not marry a returned missionary. One of my guys friends told me that one way to ensure I would never get married was if I went on a mission or I went to graduate school. Seeing as I was only 20, I did not think to inquire more about this issue, but luckily, I have another friend who was enlightened by another male. He said that he wants to make sure he is the senior companion in the marriage. It make sense. The man needs to be more intellectually capable because he will be providing for the family. It also poses a threat to his manliness to have a woman who knows as much as he does.
There are some men who will only marry a returned missionary. These men see a bigger picture. One boy commented that he needed to stop dating intellectually hollow individuals because he was going to be a doctor. He knew that majority of his time would be spent away from the home because of his career choice. As a result, his wife would be the person raising his 8 future missionary boys. Without his constant presence, he would need a woman who could fill his shoes intellectually. This can only be accomplished by a woman who has faithfully served a mission. Her training in that year and a half will be vital in preparing his army of Helaman.
If a girl at this point chooses not to go on a mission, she can either go to graduate school or enter the work force. Either choice is risky. While going to grad school seems like a safe choice because you are just extending your education to give you more time to find a husband, it can also be a detriment. As I said earlier, I was told by a boy that one of ways to ensure you would never get married was to go to grad school. To get a higher degree, means that you have to think more intellectually. Women begin to get ideas of independence. They form opinions, which can complicate a marriage. If a woman thinks too freely, the marriage ends up being a compromise of two people. It becomes a sticky mess of working together, arguments, and a disruption of a happy home life. It's much better for a woman to be submissive. Allowing a woman to go to grad school opens up Pandora's box. In addition to this extra stress on a marriage, my wise friend who also let me know that it is a waste of money. My graduate school cost me almost 10 grand. It was so stupid of me to waste that money when I will only be staying home with children after I get married. For that price I could have paid for one of my sons to go on a mission.
If you are wise and don't go to graduate school, you can enter the work force. This is a mystical place for the woman. You are required to think, contribute, and develop as a person. You begin to work harder than you ever have before. You have to find a clear balance of not being bitter because you aren't married and have to work, and not liking your work too much. Liking to work shows that you if you do get married, you might create the greatest sin of all that that is to be a working mother (not out of necessity, but because you want to).
One of my friends was told at the age of 24 she should get use to the idea of being single her entire life. Another friend was told (referring to those who were 27 or older and still single), "I don't even know why those people even bother going to church. Haven't they realized that it's not going to work out for them?" This is a controversial topic because many people believe we should not give up on getting married. In fact, many of us have been reprimanded for being so selfish as to be single. However, there are still bishops, parents, grandmothers, and married friends who still plead for our desperate attempts to find love.
At weddings, relatives give the reassuring comment of "you'll probably be the next one." And even though you've heard it 23 times, it reassures you that you may be the next one to marry. And don't forget the aunt who makes sure you can participate in the bouquet toss. Maybe that 6th bouquet you catch will be the one that actually works.
Though the older single person may say he or she doesn't want to be set up on blind dates, they are just being modest. There is nothing better than going date with a person you don't know. They are attractive in God's eyes, and their quirky personality makes them extra unique. Besides, people who are older and single haven't figured it out, and they are going to need a little extra guidance if anything is going to work. The only precursor for setting these people up is that they are older and single. Because of course, if you are both older and single, it must be a match made in heaven.
Probably one of the best things that a bishop to help the lost souls is to set up a dating panel. A panel of 5-8 men sits in the front of Relief Society and the women get to ask them questions. All frustrations of both sexes are exposed, addressed, and then the women know what they need to change about themselves so they are asked on a date. One of the most beneficial comments was from a panel member who shared with us a list about what he and his roommates would like to see in their future wives. I found out from this that I needed to learn to bike, run, hike, camp, kayak, get a dog, play the piano, sing, be pretty but not high maintenance, be smart but not too smart, dress sexy but not immodest, etc. Finally, I was given a list that was concrete enough to help me with dating. In addition to the list of everything that was wrong with us as women, we also were reassured that the men were dating a on a regular basis. Now it was clear, since the men were dating on a regular basis (at least once a week) if we weren't being asked out, it was because we weren't doing something right on the future wives list. In the end, I knew exactly how to start dating more, and I felt spiritually uplifted during church that day because I was on my way to find my future husband.
At this point the older single person no longer will be set up on blind dates. Though family and friends still pray for the day when we will be delivered from this evil hold, they somewhat lose faith as well. What will you do at this point? You will see in church that every day there are more and more girls, and less and less boys. Eventually, your ward will turn into a woman ward where the bishopric has to pass the sacrament because there are not enough boys
At this point in life there is one thing left to do. One thing that makes the hearts of grown men shutter. One thing that goes against all that is good and virtuous. One thing that even the prophets have warned against. The thing that must be done in secrecy in the quietness of the night, never to be exposed to mankind. Yes, it is ONLINE DATING. Before you embark on this journey, let me warn you of the dangers. First of all, President Oaks condemned this practice by saying that you shouldn't shop for a spouse through the Internet. Some may choose to ignore this warning. They claim, “Hey we’re not dating online, we only met online.” One word of warning, if you do choose to go down this path, keep it a secret. Any questioning of religious authority places you in the untouchable category.
Ages 31 to Eternity
I'm not to this stage, but I am close. I don't know a lot about it, but I have some friends who have crossed over to the other side. At this point, not only have friends and family members given up on you. The one thing that had your back has also given up on you. Yes, the church has deemed you a failure. No longer will you be able to attend those ward prayers. No longer is there a Family Home Evening group. No longer will you be allowed to go to church and hit on whatever guy you want to. You will walk soberly back into a chapel of crying children and rebellious teenagers. The parents hold their children close as you walk into their beloved church. "See children, if you are too selfish, that can happen to you."
Consequences of Being Single
I hope no one has to endure what I've endured. Because of my spare time I've been forced into developing talents like piano playing, photography, rock climbing, framing, and running. I've had to go to plays on Broadway, light prayer candles in Cathedrals in England, listen to chanting in the Notre Dame Cathedral, bargain with merchants in Mexico and Guatemala, kayak to secluded beaches in New Zealand, stand alone on the beaches of Mexico, wander the markets in Germany, and contemplate the meaning of life in Westminster Abby. I've had to buy my own home and not have someone else tell me how to decorate it. And I've had to develop my career to the point were I've had to present at several conferences. Yes, I've been forced to endure all these things because I was single.
Why I wrote this piece?
After one particular stupid piece of advice my friend got, she came home and said, “I’m going to write a book about being single.” The rest of us in the room thought this was a great idea and brainstormed for hours about what could go into the book. I told her that she really did need to write, but she never did. When I found out about this assignment, I knew this was the topic I wanted to write about. Every thing in this piece is true. Nothing has been made up. I think if people only knew how they sounded before they made a stupid comment, they’d be a little more compassionate next time.