World Congress of Families IX: Weekly worship, chastity enhance the stability of marriage

Sixteen- and 17-year olds who attend religious services on a weekly basis are 19 percent less likely to have premarital sexual intercourse, according to an adolescent health survey. (

A plenary panel highlighted the impact that worship has on chastity, marriage and society as a whole during the World Congress of Families IX in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

Patrick Fagan of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute spoke of how marriage plays a key part in maintaining society’s health.

“The well-being of the United States is strongly related to marriage, which is a choice about how individuals channel their sexuality,” Fagan said during his presentation (which can be found at “Frequency of religious worship is pivotal in shaping these sexual choices.”

According to Fagan, research shows that both 16- and 17-year olds who attend a religious worship service on a weekly basis are 19 percent less-likely to have had sexual intercourse than those who never attend a worship service.

The commitment to chastity was further shown to provide an impact on the likelihood of strong marriages, as 97 percent of men and 99 percent of women who stayed completely faithful to their spouse within their first five years of marriage remained married.

The stability of marriage among parents impacts their children’s ability to lead a healthy and successful life, he said, describing how worship, chastity and education can be the key to alleviating poverty.

“The power of worship in the school performance of inner city children: for them weekly worship delivers help with education that can take them out of poverty. In my research, there is really nothing else that comes close in delivering this result.”

He said traditional families that worship weekly and maintain marital fidelity show higher rates of scholastic achievement, and consequently, greater educational attainment and financial success as children mature. “It is no surprise that what we are looking at is those that receive mostly As in school,” he said, pointing to a chart showing how these factors drive success. It is the “always intact married family that attends church weekly that produces these students.”

Marriage also increases the productivity and income of men by 27 percent, compared to men who remain single. Among married men, the most productive have three children or more, he said. “They are the ‘heavy lifters’ of the economy,” and have the motivation to work hard in order to provide what their families need.

Fagan said married couples contribute at least 20 percent more to the tax pool than do their male and female single counterparts.

In the past few decades, a significant number of Americans have chosen not to marry, creating a decline in overall tax revenue, Fagan said.  The lack of tax contributions from this situation has resulted in the imposition of “all kinds of new taxes to make up for the lost revenue.”

The drop in marriage rates has significantly impacted the education level of black males in particular, and “undermined the dreams of Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement,” he said. Currently, “only 17 percent of African American teens are living in a married family with both parents present.”

Weekly religious worship also makes a significant difference in the rates of premarital sex among teens, showing significantly fewer teens who live in worshipping, intact families engage in early sexual activity, Fagan said.

Despite widespread societal trends that uphold sexual experimentation, “God and sexual control go together. It’s no surprise that those in intact, married families who worship God weekly are most likely to have had no other sexual partners in their lifetime.   A thriving society needs a culture of happy chastity,” Fagan said.

“If there is no chastity, we will have dysfunctional society. Chastity matters, and powerfully so.”

Fagan said his personal reading of all the data over a lifetime shows that, “In the sexual, as in all things, Christ is the real revolutionary who transformed marriage, family and society. ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be added unto you.'” Such is the case with traditional marriage rooted in fidelity and weekly worship.

“We can see what the retreat from marriage has done, and what it will do,” Fagan said.

Jason Carroll, a professor in the School of Family Life at BYU, addressed the economic consequences of delaying marriage. “Strong families foster the accumulation of human capital,” he said, adding, “Children from intact, married families are more likely to acquire the human capital they need to thrive in today’s marketplace.

While social science research has long shown that the median age for marriage among both men and women has increased in the past few decades, the term “‘delayed marriage’ is a misnomer. Rather than being delayed, it is re-sequenced. When marriage and childbearing don’t go together,” and childbearing happens first, marriage doesn’t always follow.

A societal belief “that age equals maturation” can undermine marriages, when young adults marry and assume things will work out simply because they have reached a certain age. “In adulthood, chronological age is no guarantee of maturation,” Carroll said. The assumption that young adults are ready to marry simply based on age,”misses important factors that make people marriage-ready.”

“After the teen years, the age of marriage is a pretty weak factor in determining marital success. What we need to focus on is maturation and marital readiness.”  Relationship skills, religious devotion, and a deep understanding of responsibilities inherent in successful marriages are important factors young adults need to focus on, he said.

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