Bekka Joner, previously a nanny in Boston, was having trouble meeting male members her own age in her small LDS branch. At the request of her roommate, she decided to create a profile on a dating website. She was specific in what she wanted: a temple-worthy member, tall, college educated. The search gave her five options. One in particular, Michael Joner, stands out to her. She decided to risk sending him a message.
They are now celebrating their fifth anniversary of marriage.
According to a recent national study, about one in five relationships begins online. More and more Latter-day Saint members have found success with online dating, through numerous sites including LDSSingles.com, Match.com and Plentyoffish.com.
Arielle Schechtman, director of public and community relations at Spark Networks, the company that owns sites such as LDSSingles and ChristianMingle, said members of the LDS Church who believe online dating is unnatural or something to be ashamed about would likely be surprised at the number of people who have met their spouse online.
“It’s an easy and fun way to meet people of the same religious background, with whom you already have an important foundation in common,” Schechtman said. “LDSSingles.com is one place where singles can go and meet other singles without all the pressures of the ward or their families constantly telling them to get married. We want to make sure we have a community where single members of the Church feel safe being themselves and take whatever time they need to get to know one another.”
Bekka Joner said what led her to try online dating was the scarcity of eligible men in the area she was living. Online dating allows one to be more specific in what he or she is looking for and makes it easier to find a person with common interests and qualities, Joner said.
“Make sure you’re honest on your profile and talk for a little while before you meet,” Joner said. “It can be awkward at first, but it’s a great way to weed out those you don’t want before you find the right one.”
There have been past assumptions in the LDS community that online dating was only for older singles or those not surrounded by members. However, there has been a significant increase of young single adults in Provo trying their luck with online dating. Ashlee Norris, a master’s student at BYU, said she tried online dating because she couldn’t find what she was looking for in her various wards she’s been a part of while at BYU.
“The world has changed so much,” said Norris, who has been dating the man she met at Match.com since October. “It makes sense that this is the next step in finding your perfect match. So many people in one area don’t get a chance to meet; you might not be aware of what you’re missing.”
After talking by phone and chatting online, it can sometimes be hard to take the next step and meet someone in person. Tara Lane, a 2009 BYU graduate who has had varied success with different dating sites, said it is important to remember the ways to stay safe when meeting for the first time.
“Be sure to turn off browsing so you don’t come across anyone you wouldn’t want to meet,” Lane said. “Don’t give out private info and always meet in a public place. Tell someone where you’re going.”
The LDS Church has not issued a statement on online dating, but their emphasis on finding a celestial companion is clear.
“All should desire and seriously work to secure a marriage for eternity,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks in an April 2011 General Conference address. “Those who are single should desire a temple marriage and exert priority efforts to obtain it.”
Jeff Anderson, a bishop of a Provo young single adult ward, said he hasn’t heard anything negative about online dating and thinks it is a good way to meet people.
“I don’t know anyone personally that’s done it, but it sounds like a good way to meet someone,” Anderson said. “Anything encouraging social interaction is positive, in my opinion.”