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Mormons and Early Marriage: Why?


darkplumaged

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Reading the MRS degree thread, I was reminded of something I've wondered about many times: are there reasons, other than avoiding premarital sex, that so many mainstream Mormons get married in their late teens or very early 20s?

 

I went to school with a lot of Mormons ("a lot" considering where I live, which is nowhere near Utah or Idaho), and many of them went to BYU and were married by 22 or so. In my area, getting married at or before 22 is extremely unusual.

 

So... is it cultural (i.e., everyone else at BYU is doing it, so it's the right thing to do)? Religious (is there a specific teaching that promotes early marriage)? Mostly about sex?

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Aren't they supposed to be having lots of children so that the spirit babies God is making with his wives in heaven will have earthly bodies? That is what I was told, by a Mormon.

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It's probably a mix of culture and religious. If you want to have a Temple Wedding, you DO NOT have sex before marriage. Your peer group gets married young, so you do to. You wait for your RM to come a courting, and get married a month after meeting him, when you can't control your hormones any longer.

I'm not Mormon, and I grew up just south of Boston MA, yet I got married at 22. I was quite the anomaly. Health insurance played a large part in my young age of getting married.

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From my Mormon co-worker (so take this for what it's worth) she said that since there's such a stigma against pre-marital sex that many couples do get married at a young age and after a short dating/engagement period. (At least engagement for sure.) I believe that BYU and Ricks have dating rules that forbid, prohibit, or make it hard for couples to really have much opportunity to do much other than group dating on campus (could be completely wrong on this but I think I've heard this somewhere - similar to a personal code of conduct).

Additionally, I believe that there's a segregation of duties (not enforced like the fundies, but still there) and an emphasis on male vs female and what each should achieve. I went to a few Wednesday night programs with a few of my LDS friends and while there were some mixed boys/girls get-togethers like basketball or volleyball, whenever it was a girl's only thing we focused on learning to cook, sew, describing the number of kids we wanted, etc. So I would take it that there's also a significance placed on getting married quickly so as to not have pre-marital sex, having kids sooner rather than later, and being stay at home moms.

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I grew up in PA. and am not mormon. I was engaged at 20 and married at 22. Most of my college friends were engaged by senior year, married the summer of 1992(including me) and all are still married. :) For us, it was just right and DH was going to grad.school in Louisiana so we planned to get married before we left.(we dated 4 years and lived together for 2 years before getting married).

My current friends all got married in their mid-late 20's and all are still married as we are now around our early 40's. I have a few ex-fundie friends and they got married at 18 and have the most amount of kids though. :)

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From what I understand, there's a cultural and religious pressure for Mormons to be married in the temple, and premarital sex is such a sin, that it can keep a couple from being married there. Also, as one BYU basketball player found, premarital sex can get one kicked out of the school, as it's against the code that all students agree to follow. Because of this, many Mormons get married after a relatively quick dating and engagement period so they don't commit the heinous sin of premarital sex. Another reason for getting married younger than average is that there's also pressure to have children right away, and women are more fertile in their early 20's than in their 30's. While the church says that birth control is up to the couple and God, they also teach that there are spirit children waiting to be born into Mormon families, so there's pressure to have more than 2 children if possible.

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Aren't they supposed to be having lots of children so that the spirit babies God is making with his wives in heaven will have earthly bodies? That is what I was told, by a Mormon.

Exactly. Visit any ex-Mormon site for confirmation. In the afterlife, women will continue having "spirit children" with their husbands, and the souls of these spirit children need bodies to be born into on Earth.

And then there's the little matter of premarital sex--heck, ANY form of non-marital sex--being darn near as bad as murder.

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So... is it cultural (i.e., everyone else at BYU is doing it, so it's the right thing to do)? Religious (is there a specific teaching that promotes early marriage)? Mostly about sex?

I've always thought it was mostly about sex.

Nell

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My understanding is that forbidden premartial sex thing makes marriage a more urgent goal to achieve. The LDS church channels youthful energy into finding a marriage partner and not just a sex partner.

Also, family is the center of LDS religious life. The church stresses the importance of marriage and family from an early age and the church activities seem geared towards married life and married couples. I have read about the difficulty of church life as a single. The recent gay marriage movement is such a threat to LDS precisely because it breaks apart the concept of a traditional family which is the cornerstone of church life and doctrine. Having many children means people are giving bodies to souls waiting to be born. Gays, since they do not follow such traditions and would disrupt those ideals, are considered a threat to what the church stands for.

Obviously, not all mormons adhere to these beliefs. Children raised within this environment may find it difficult to completely shed those beliefs. I think that helps explain why people are more prone to be conservative in the LDS church. The conservative political doctrine shares many of the same beliefs as the LDS church.

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I was raised Mormon and my parents never really practiced it but, when the missionaries come back from their missions they're basically a bunch of horn dogs and it's taught that Mormon girls marry young so there's your explanation of why Mormon's have big families. I don't know any Mormon girls from the church I went to when I was little that isn't already married.

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Missionaries were advised by the prophet that they should be married no more that 6 months after they return from their mission (I think it was Pres. Hinkley, not the current one, Monson). The guys get back from their missions at 21. I think part of the reason is that returned missionaries are very gung-ho about "the church" when they return, and they want them married and trapped before they can think for themselves again.

SEX is a huge part of this, pre-marital sex is the biggest no-no in the church.

(I am a ex LDS)

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I was raised Mormon and my parents never really practiced it but, when the missionaries come back from their missions they're basically a bunch of horn dogs and it's taught that Mormon girls marry young so there's your explanation of why Mormon's have big families.

I felt bad, but I laughed at this. I've known a lot of Mormons, but there's one that fits this description fully. The fact he wasn't able to date during his mission drove him crazy. So he found other ways to flirt with the local girls without getting into trouble. His family were the odd ones out in LDS culture though. I think his parents weren't married until their late 20s, early 30s. He and his brothers didn't do their mission work until their mid-20s. It must've been their area.

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It's for the sex. The Church discourages masturbation (although that doesn't stop me) so we have no sexual outlet.

The Church is trying to stay out of couple's procreation decisions. I have only one child myself, and every once in a while I get questions from strangers, but it is a choice I have made, so :confusion-shrug:

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I imagine some of this has to do with where live and who you hang out with, but I don't think Mormons get married THAT much younger than the rest of the population. At my first college (the school was officially Lutheran, but the students weren't any more religious than they are at the state university I currently attend) it seemed like every day there was a new senior girl in the dining hall showing off her engagement ring. They tended to get married within a year of graduation, which would make them 23 at the most. I knew several (non-Mormon, not particularly religious) girls who got married between 18 and 21 and one of my best friends got engaged at 18 (although she got un-engaged about a year later). I know this is all anecdotal evidence and the national average age to get married is something like 26, but getting married at 20 or 21 (Mormon or not) doesn't usually merit a response of "OMG, they're so young!!!!!!111!!!!1!" response from anyone I know.

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I've always been under the impression that Mormons are encouraged to marry so young in order to avoid premarital sex.

Getting married at 20 or 21 seems unbelievably young to me, and I know very few people who did so. I got married at 28 (husband was 26), and while my mother was openly relieved to see me get married, most of my friends thought I was a young bride. It's been 21 years and counting now. I can't imagine how my life would have gone had I married just out of school; I wasn't the same person at 28 that I was at 22 or 23.

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I imagine some of this has to do with where live and who you hang out with, but I don't think Mormons get married THAT much younger than the rest of the population. At my first college (the school was officially Lutheran, but the students weren't any more religious than they are at the state university I currently attend) it seemed like every day there was a new senior girl in the dining hall showing off her engagement ring. They tended to get married within a year of graduation, which would make them 23 at the most. I knew several (non-Mormon, not particularly religious) girls who got married between 18 and 21 and one of my best friends got engaged at 18 (although she got un-engaged about a year later). I know this is all anecdotal evidence and the national average age to get married is something like 26, but getting married at 20 or 21 (Mormon or not) doesn't usually merit a response of "OMG, they're so young!!!!!!111!!!!1!" response from anyone I know.

It's very regional. I'm on the East Coast, just outside a major city. None of my friends got married before or immediately after college graduation, although I can think of a few acquaintances who got engaged in college. (They were invariably religious or otherwise conservative.) On the other side of the spectrum, I know more over-35 never-married people than I can count, which is probably unusual in places where people tend to marry earlier.

Thanks for your responses, all. I remember being baffled when I learned of these weddings two or three years after high school graduation. I didn't know a single guy who was interested in getting married, to me or anyone else, and here were my old classmates, no matter how immature they'd seemed just two years ago, pairing up to make spirit babies. :shock:

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It doesn't really seem weird to me either; there's always a new addition to the Ring by Spring crowd. ;) Another one of my sorority sisters got engaged this week, and she's... 21? We have one or two girls get married and move out of the house every semester. This isn't even counting the girls I went to high school with who are married. No big deal. I've always thought the average age of marriage was waaaay inflated by the coasts, though.

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It isn't just the coasts.

http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1380/marria ... e-by-state

Edited to say that while studies do show that the highest median ages at first marriage are on the coasts and the lowest median ages are in states like Arkansas and Oklahoma, even in the latter group, those who are marrying for the first time at 21 or 22 are in the minority. The median age for women at first marriage in the lowest five states (Wyoming, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Utah and Idaho--the last two heavily dominated by Mormons) is still 24 or 25.

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I went to a small, teensy liberal arts college where i was the most religious person on campus until i turned atheist and stopped hating myself, and NO ONE was a ring by spring. Switched to a big school in the city and everyone was getting fucking married all the goddamn time. Freaked me out! I was only 19! Marriage?! But now I live with my partner (and we just turned 21) and we're effectively equivilent to most of the engaged/married couples from my big school. Dunno.

All my mormon friends were married by 23, for what that's worth.

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takers401,

When I read your sentence about the girls' only activities, I read it as "focused on learning to cook, SEX, describing the number of kids we wanted"

Yeah, it's late here.

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I imagine some of this has to do with where live and who you hang out with, but I don't think Mormons get married THAT much younger than the rest of the population. At my first college (the school was officially Lutheran, but the students weren't any more religious than they are at the state university I currently attend) it seemed like every day there was a new senior girl in the dining hall showing off her engagement ring. They tended to get married within a year of graduation, which would make them 23 at the most. I knew several (non-Mormon, not particularly religious) girls who got married between 18 and 21 and one of my best friends got engaged at 18 (although she got un-engaged about a year later). I know this is all anecdotal evidence and the national average age to get married is something like 26, but getting married at 20 or 21 (Mormon or not) doesn't usually merit a response of "OMG, they're so young!!!!!!111!!!!1!" response from anyone I know.

It may be a regional thing. I attended a non-coastal school which had a lot of East and West coast students. I only knew of ONE person who got married while in college or planned to after graduation. None of my friends were even close to getting married at graduation time. In fact, fast forward several years, I still know a lot of single college friends. One of my friend moved to the northeast and got engaged at 26. Instead of getting congratulations, she kept on getting the "OMG! You're so young!!!" reactions. That mentality most definitely exists.

When I started med school in a very conservative part of the country, a lot of students were married. However, we had a very diverse class. It was part small town kids, part big city/surbuban kids. The small town kids tended to marry early (i.e during/after college). Everyone else (2/3rd of the class) had that "OMG! People marry so frickin' early in this stupid state!" reaction. I guess it depends on where and how you grew up.

The thing with the LDS church seems to be that mormons, regardless of geographic location or education, tended to marry earlier than their counterparts. That's probably where the stereotypes comes from.

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The average age of first marriages in the US for men is 28.4 and for women is 26.5. It's 30.6 for men and 28.5 for women up here in the frozen north. No idea what the standard deviations on those numbers are so I can't tell you whether early 20s is truly unusual but I think it'd probably fall under more uncommon than common.

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The thing with the LDS church seems to be that mormons, regardless of geographic location or education, tended to marry earlier than their counterparts. That's probably where the stereotypes comes from.

Yep, that's exactly what I meant.

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Well, I live in Idaho, which is one of those five states with the youngest marriages, so that could be part of it. I also go to school with a lot of people who are taking more than the standard four years to finish college, who often get married before they graduate, so the idea of being married while still in college doesn't seem terribly strange to me, either. Maybe, living in Idaho, we're so used to the Mormons getting married young that it doesn't raise as many eyebrows when somebody else does. I don't know.

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