This week, the AMG inbox was abuzz with messages from readers with love and marriage on the brain. The first is a young man we’ll call Mormon Skater, a cousin, perhaps to the Mormon hipster made famous of late in a rather silly article from The New York Times.
Here’s what’s on his mind:
Utah is supposed to be the proverbial land of plenty for any returned missionary seeking a wife with whom to spend time and all eternity, and trust me when I say that upon returning from my mission (in Kobe, Japan) I fully expected the skies to open, inundating me with potential brides to be. All I’ve found in the three years since my homecoming, however, are wards full of girls that I’m mostly not interested in and who I feel are generally disinterested in me.
Upon returning to the land of the living I quickly grew out my hair, sprouted a beard, and slipped back into my collection of punk rock t-shirts, skater shoes, and slightly sagging pants. That pure sheen that accompanied me from the plane back to America quickly faded, and now most who look at me might doubt I’m even Mormon let alone one with a strong testimony who relatively recently served an honorable mission. This persona has served to attract a fair number of girls from outside the church, but my desire to marry in the temple and raise an LDS family has largely kept me from being overly attracted to or interested in starting a serious relationship with any of them.
Maybe it’s naive of me to think that there might be a female counterpart to myself among the strict Mormon ladies of northern Utah… might I be better served by getting a hair cut and a shave, and becoming more like the clean cut guys who I constantly see gracing the insides of the conference issues of the Ensign? Or perhaps I should get off of my high horse and give some of the not member girls who actually seem to like me a chance.
Oh, Mormon Skater. It may be your location, for in the Mormon Singles Wards of Southern California, a simple Dead Kennedys t-shirt would do little to deter women from a temple-worthy (and employed) young single LDS man. Au contraire, mon frère. But I suspect—and forgive me if I seem ungentle—that the problem may not be with the girls, or your garb, but you. I notice that you “fully expected the skies to open, inundating [you] with potential brides” upon your return from your mission; at the same time, you admit that you’re “mostly not interested” in the girls in your wards. Listen, brother: love and marriage never just fall into our laps. They take work. They take introspection, humility, and reflection. They also take sincere curiosity and interest in others. So ask yourself, is there anyone you have found interesting over the last three years? Have you really tried to get to know the women you’ve met? And are you sure you’re not just screening out potential mates because they don’t meet the profile of a hipster bride? If the answer to these questions is no, let me recommend that you do a bit of soul-searching as to what you’re really looking for and whether you might be purposefully avoiding or delaying getting serious about marriage. (Sometimes, we have good reasons for doing so.) But if after sincere reflection you believe that the problem is truly that no one appreciates your skater style, let me know, and I’ll take dating referrals for you. Right here at Askmormongirl.com.
Now, onto our next young single Mormon seeking love and marriage, a young woman we’ll call SR.
Despite being born and raised in the Church, I struggle to see myself married to a Mormon, in a temple marriage. I have always been most comfortable in a relationship with someone who is not a member of the LDS faith, but who is open to my many questions, struggles, doubts and beliefs and is confident and comfortable allowing me to navigate my own spiritual journey, which is ultimately based on LDS-belief, albeit a very non-orthodox rendering of them. My parents can’t let go of the “must marry in the Mormon Temple” idea, and often times fail to even acknowledge the existence of my relationships. I would like to ultimately believe that if that person I am choosing to be in a relationship with is someone who is worth my time and effort, then once the parents (and extended family) get to know them they’d recognize he’s not all that bad despite having a different stamp on his baptismal certificate. About to potentially embark on a new relationship (again, with a non-LDS individual), I’m excited at the relationship aspect, but apprehensive knowing everything I must hear my parents say once again. Sometimes it would just be nice to have family support. What advice do you have for finding strength to move forward with what works for you personally, but what your family is so against? What things are crucial to making interfaith relationships work?
Mormon doctrine teaches that a temple marriage is essential to entering the highest levels of heaven, and I can’t tell you not to aim for that. But I can tell you that my own path led another way. I too am an unorthodox Mormon. I too sensed that my own spiritual journey would make for a difficult marriage, a burden, even, to an orthodox Mormon man. And I did marry outside the faith, to a Jewish man who has been a superb partner and father and a true ally in matters spiritual. And, yes, my marriage broke my parents’ hearts, and it has taken years for everyone to get comfortable with the situation, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable still.
Over the years, I have seen some Mormon parents idolize their children’s temple marriages, as if getting the kids to the altar was a personal achievement. I have also seen orthodox Mormon parents continue heavy involvement in the lives and even the marriages of their adult children. And I remember this bit of ancient wisdom: “Therefore shall a man leave mother and father and cleave unto his wife” (Genesis 2: 24). At some point, we must leave home. And this I have come to understand as one of the reasons the Jewish wedding ceremony involves the breaking of a glass: sometimes getting married breaks your parents’ hearts. That’s just the way it is.
This is your life, and you must live it with as much dignity, honor, and joy as possible. You deserve to find someone to share your life with, and you deserve to feel God’s love regardless of whom you marry. (Don’t forget, after all, that God also has massive love for the one you marry—whatever his religion, if any.)
What makes a successful interfaith marriage? That much, I’m still learning, every day, as marriage is always work. But if you find yourself attracted to a non-LDS man, I would encourage you to look for the same character traits you would expect of Mormon–honesty, fidelity, reliability, kindness, intelligence, work ethic, and humor. (Humor, especially—a good laugh can save the day.) What clinched it for me with my husband-to-be was the fact that he signed up for every picket shift when our teaching assistant union went on strike, and also volunteered to ferry water from picket station to picket station. “This,” I thought to myself, watching him cheerfully unload water from his truck under a blazing sun, “is a man who would help bring a wagon train across the plains.” We all deserve someone to cross the plains with. Take heart. And have the courage to keep loving your family no matter how they respond to you.
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