Multiple references to older, unmarried women finding happiness during the women’s session of the September 2015 General Conference invoked deeper messages for several women.
“I felt like they addressed the topic of older women who were not married a lot during the General Women’s Meeting,” said BYU international relations student Annie Barton. “I think it’s because there is a lot of social pressure in the church to get married. A lot of women feel inadequate because they are not married, and the church leaders wanted to impress that this kind of circumstance does not make anyone less worthy.”
President Boyd K. Packer said in the Eternal Marriage Student Manual that “the ultimate purpose of all we teach is to unite parents and children in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are happy at home, sealed in an eternal marriage.”
However, an increasingly lower number of active LDS women may have the chance to fulfill that purpose.
Utah’s ratio of men to women across all age groups was the fifth-highest in the nation for the in the 2010 U.S. Census, according to a Times Magazine article. But the ratio between devout LDS men to women in Utah is increasingly lopsided.
The gender gap in Utah’s Mormon population has widened since 1990, when the female-to-male gender ratio was 52-to-48. In 2008, the gender ratio changed to 60-to-40, according to a Trinity College’s American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) as cited in the Time Magazine article.
For Mormons in Utah, that’s the equivalent of three LDS women for every two LDS men.
Jon Birger, author of “Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game” gave one possible explanation for the deficit of Mormon men in an interview with The Universe.
“For Mormons, ARIS concluded that young men are leaving the LDS Church at a higher rate than young women, because the growing importance of the mission in Mormon life,” Birger said in an online message. “Fifty years ago, a man could forgo a mission and still be active in the church and in church leadership. According to ARIS, today’s young men who forgo missions wind up feeling alienated from the church because of their non-RM status; a significant number of them drop out of the church as a result.
“But across all faiths, women are less likely than men to leave organized religion. This, however, does create a problem when you are searching for someone who shares your same beliefs. It probably is why devout women are tending to marry older nowadays or not at all.”
“Singledom” is not a relationship status growing solely among the Mormon faith. About half, or about 100 million, of American adults are single, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
Among those, 61 percent have never married. For the first time in history, married couples make up less than half of all American households.
But some say the key to being happy is to stop worrying.
“As someone who did not get married until she was 34, I do not think there is any reason to rush into marriage,” said BYU alumna Karin Bailey. “As a young single adult, I worried too much about getting married when I had so many opportunities that are not a possibility when you have a family.”
LDS-based Meridian Magazine conducted a survey of LDS singles to understand the challenges of getting married. The national survey, conducted in 2013, asked the 675 participants to answer: “What do you perceive to be the biggest challenge for LDS singles keeping them from marriage?” Some of the written-in responses included the following:
Lack of men! Who is there to marry?!
Not having quality men to marry.
The men have a ton of choices, which leads to indecision, and the women are just not all statistically going to find a mate within the church.
High expectations, lots of pressure to get it right.
Most are looking for 10’s when they themselves are 5’s, not willing to commit when something better may come along.
Men come home form their missions at (now) 20… Meanwhile, women older than 20 and single are perceived as left overs, by 25, old, by 30 spinsters… As a result, the women become more and more accomplished and therefore more and more intimidating and ultimately not the sweet, young thing the 20-year-old had in mind as the “perfect” LDS girl.
Many of the other responses echoed the same ideas. The article on ldsmag.com, “Survey about LDS singles reveals surprising results,” has a full list of the responses.
As far as the LDS Church’s response to young adults and marriage, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve said in his most recent General Conference address, “Your responsibility now is to be worthy of the person you want to marry. If you want to marry a wholesome, attractive, honest, happy, hardworking, spiritual person, be that kind of person. If you are that person and you are not married, be patient. Wait upon the Lord.”