Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Men and Marriage

During the priesthood session of General Conference, President Monson addressed the men of the LDS Church and spoke to them of marriage. Here are just a few excerpts, to give you a taste of what he said:
Now, I have thought a lot lately about you young men who are of an age to marry but who have not yet felt to do so. I see lovely young ladies who desire to be married and to raise families, and yet their opportunities are limited because so many young men are postponing marriage.

Said President Harold B. Lee, “We are not doing our duty as holders of the priesthood when we go beyond the marriageable age and withhold ourselves from an honorable marriage to these lovely women."

President Gordon B. Hinckley said this: “My heart reaches out to … our single sisters, who long for marriage and cannot seem to find it. … I have far less sympathy for the young men, who under the customs of our society, have the prerogative to take the initiative in these matters but in so many cases fail to do so.”

Brethren, there is a point at which it’s time to think seriously about marriage and to seek a companion with whom you want to spend eternity. If you choose wisely and if you are committed to the success of your marriage, there is nothing in this life which will bring you greater happiness.
President Monson was not the only prophet to bring up marriage. Elder Scott mentioned it as well, and there was one more, but I can't remember who. Suffice it to say, marriage was a hot topic of this Spring's General Conference.*

But why, you ask, am I bringing this up?

There are two reasons. One of them has to do with the responses I've heard from guys my age. The Salt Lake Tribune recently solicited feedback from young men on the talk,** and most of the statements were just excuses as to why it's hard to date now, and the reasons why men are delaying marriage. I've heard them all before -- men want to be financially secure, they want to make sure they pick the right girl, they're scared of making a mistake, etc. Something I hear a lot goes a bit like this, "I've tried dating, but I always get rejected. I've been hurt before." This is what I want to say in return, "Yeah, yeah, yeah -- so has everyone else. Everyone has failed relationships until they don't. You are going to feel heartbreak until you don't!"

The second reason I'm bringing this up is a little more in-your-face. So be prepared.

An older woman in my congregation in Austin recently said to the single women, "The prophet was talking to the men at conference, but it goes for you women, too!"

And here's the thing: It doesn't! It doesn't go for women, too. That talk from President Monson was specifically for single men to hear. He was not addressing single women. If women in general had a role in the problem of delayed marriage, the prophet would've addressed the women. He would've given a similar talk during the General Relief Society Meeting. But he didn't!

I have so many girlfriends who wrack their brains about what they are doing that's keeping them from getting married. They wonder what's wrong with them and what they should be doing differently. They think that perhaps there's something else for them to learn before they get married. It's absolutely ridiculous! And though they mean well, some friends and family members don't help at all. They will often say things like, "You should act like this, or you should wear that." They go on and on about how men are stupid, and women need to practically bend over backward and be the aggressor to get men to see what they need to do. Essentially, they are making excuses for men and telling women to do all the work.

Yes, some women need to improve. Yes, some men are doing what they're supposed to, and I'm sure they didn't even need to hear President Monson's admonition to get married. But in general, men are the ones who are delaying marriage, and women are doing just fine. They don't need to analyze and re-analyze what they're doing wrong because they're not doing anything wrong! It's men who need to be responsible and quit being afraid of making a mistake or getting rejected. Men need to stop hanging out and looking for a perfect girl.

For me, what it comes down to is how well I know myself. I constantly gauge whether I am doing all I can to be a person someone would want to marry. Sometimes I need to improve, but I can honestly say that most of the time, I am just waiting. Waiting for a guy to grow up and follow the prophet.

* For the full talk by President Monson, see Priesthood Power. For videos and transcripts of the entire 2011 General Conference, see April 2011 Sessions.
** For the full article, see Why young LDS men are pushing back marriage.


Thing I'm thankful for: examples of responsible men

15 Comments:

Blogger Jeff said...

I respectfully disagree with your post. The logic is a bit sketchy--if a prophet hasn't spoken to your group about a topic directly you're free and clear. Presumably men were doing fine until this conference then (no Brigham quotes please) and there suddenly was a problem? There are some other prophets who have talked about it but none as extensively to President Monson. I'm sure you can find quotes that would tell women that they should learn to bake too (I have actually read a church pamphlet to this effect from the 50s or 60s). Also, re: Pres. Hinckley's quote, there is a bigger question about whether the gospel adheres to social norms about dating but I'll avoid that discussion for the time being (although it is a favorite of mine).

My experience with men and marriage is that most of them want to get married but finding a suitable girl is intimidating, challenging, scary, etc. In Mormondom, I would say I've encountered equal numbers of men and women who just don't want to get married for various reasons. The reasons differ across genders but include wanting to get an education first, wanting to pursue a career, wanting to solidify their own identiy, and so on. That said, I think the majority of both genders would like to be married but are trying to find the right person or are scared by trying.

Now, I'm not saying women need to change to become more marriageable or bend over backwards etc etc. I think men and women who want to be married should work to improve themselves in meaningful ways (education, service, career, etc) and be aware of chances to date someone compatible and cultivate those chances.

Anyway--I love your blog Sara. This isn't supposed to be mean-spirited. I just think men in the church get thrown under the bus as a whole when there are many complex social phenomenon that are contributing to later marriage age.

7:27 AM  
Blogger For the Love of French said...

http://lds.org/ensign/2006/06/dating-versus-hanging-out?lang=eng&query=single+women+marriage

my favorite part would be...
If you feel you are a special case, so that the strong counsel I have given doesn’t apply to you, please don’t write me a letter. Why would I make this request? I have learned that the kind of direct counsel I have given results in a large number of letters from members who feel they are an exception, and they want me to confirm that the things I have said just don’t apply to them in their special circumstance.


I will add that in marriage you should share jointly all that comes with it, if that is desired then the effort put into finding that companion should be shared as well. I remember hearing lots of counsel when I was younger on things I could do. It is not only an issue with the men.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Carrie said...

hear hear sara snow! excellent points! and i love the talk rebekah quoted. especially where it says...

"Up to this point I have concentrated primarily on the responsibilities of single men. Now I have a few words for single women. If you are just marking time waiting for a marriage prospect, stop waiting. You may never have the opportunity for a suitable marriage in this life, so stop waiting and start moving. Prepare yourself for life—even a single life—by education, experience, and planning. Don’t wait for happiness to be thrust upon you. Seek it out in service and learning. Make a life for yourself. And trust in the Lord. Follow King Benjamin’s advice to call “on the name of the Lord daily, and [stand] steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come” (Mosiah 4:11)."

i feel like you do that PERFECTLY. you make yourself available, attractive, educated, entertaining, and everything else that is good and loveable. i could join you with the critique of male dating habits but i've got other stuff i need to tend to. ;-)

and jeff, of course sara snow isn't saying that every women is perfect just because pres monson didn't speak to them on the subject, but really, as a whole, we all know more responsibility lies with the men than the women.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

ps- call me ignorant but i've never really understood about how waiting to be educated or financially secure before marriage even helps. unless you're single and living with your parents, which isn't really something the church advocates either.

i mean, seriously. get married, move in together, save on rent/groceries/health insurance and everything else that's cheaper when you're married and support each other through your poorness and schooling! it just makes sense to me but maybe that's just because it's how i did it.

ps- chris graduates in one month and then no more school ever! (well hopefully...)

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Tim said...

Wow. Way to take a position and defend it. I agree with you. The 3rd talk from conference was Oaks'. It was on desire, which is what I think all this boils down to. One poignant paragraph:

I am sure that some anxiously seeking young men would want me to add that there are some young women whose desires for a worthy marriage and children rank far below their desires for a career or other mortal distinctions. Both men and women need righteous desires that will lead them to eternal life.

Of course you can't say that because one is not married one does not have/has not had this desire. But this thought begs all to ask the question about our respective righteous desires: How hungry am I?

It is desire that causes relationships to form and endure.

Thanks for blogging about this.

1:29 PM  
Blogger cardlady said...

I do understand you opinion and fully agree. Keep doing what you are doing, I know too, that you didn't mean all young single men. Some of them feel like they dont want to make the mistakes their parents, (our generation and younger) with divorce. Divorce is on the rise and may be leveling out a bit, but you do know who is behind the failure of the families. Satan is behind all of this. So keep steadfastly to the truth and everything will work out in the end. Wish it were like it was when I was dating for you Sara. Times are changing. Love love you. MOMMY

1:31 PM  
Blogger Lexia said...

Sara, the man-eater! Ha! Ha! Just kidding. I started writing a comment, but it got too long so I made it a post on my blog.

The World As I See It: Me and Marriage

1:32 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Carrie--

I don't know that the responsibility lies more with the men than the women. This is a social norm of western cultures and I try very hard to separate cultural norms and gospel truths. Other cultures have other norms which do not place such strong emphasis on male lead but rather on family (betrothal for instance).

2:38 PM  
Anonymous brother said...

just A bunch of thoughts......You have to apply the sugar cube theory to the relationship, give a horse sugar cubes and it will be your best friend. A horse knows it needs to drink the water but you can't force it. So what I am saying is...guys know what they need to do and it is good to encourage them positively rather than beat them over the head especially beat them over the head with scripture. What we are talking about is the ability to influence and win one over is the responsiblity of the guy. I believe that women have much more ability to persuade and that you can make a move while making a guy think he is doing it. There is no disputing what the prophet is saying and that you are right, the situation is that fellas are not doing their part. It still does not change the fact that there is a problem. The problem is generational so it will not resolve itself as quickly as you need it to, so be positive and entice the guy to marry you. One thing you can do is sharpen your skills in finding those that are mature and ready and those that are boys. Be upfront about it and move on quickly. I know I am spitting out a lot of tough love here that you don't agree with and that my words don't have much value. I am, however, thankful for a wife who knocked me over the head and was not going to wait around all day for me to find myself. So go knock someone over the head and drag him back to the cave because apparently they are not doing it.

12:28 AM  
Blogger Saule Cogneur said...

My favorite line in the talk: "I’ve encountered groups of you running around together, and I admit that I’ve wondered why you aren’t out with the young ladies." HA HA HA. If President Monson were to go talk to those men, he wouldn't have to do much more than look at their hair and clothes to find the answer to his question.

I think a friend put it best when she said, "I think getting married for the sake of marriage does the institution a disservice. I think that if you emphasize the marriage over the person you're with, you miss out on many of the things that can make marriage great."

I would say that is my own lot. Most of that Monson talk had nothing to do with me. My kind aren't married because we haven't found what we're looking for or who we have found simply don't reciprocate. I think that is the case for more men than that survey shows.

Maybe some men were afraid to admit the truth - they want movie star hotness, or maybe I truly am in the minority.

I didn't hear any discussion of unreasonable expectations. A single, "oh yeah. not such thing as a soul mate blah blah blah" sentence hardly does the issue justice.

I argue that my expectations are reasonable, but I suppose the 2 looking for a 10 does too. If a general authority can explain to my why I'm focused on the wrong things, I'll happily take heed. Until then, I'm afraid nothing changes for me.

8:34 AM  
Anonymous Jen said...

Sara,

I agree with you on some of your comments, but I sort of disagree with you on other comments. (how's that for being noncommittal?!...I'm just trying to be accurate.)

1. I think it's unfair to generalize. Not all single men are nuisances to society (The wife of one of my previous Bishops used to say that any single male in the Church over 30 was a nuisance to society....). There are some men who really are in a great position to get married, but cannot commit to *just* one girl. But then there's the other extreme: men who are in a very poorly developed stage (emotionally, financially, spiritually, etc) who really are NOT ready to get married. Lots of people fall in between. It's hard not to generalize, but we can't just categorically blame the men.

2. I think whatever the Prophet says can be applied to everyone in some (maybe modified) way. I know you know that, so I'm not going to preach.

3. I think there are SO MANY more qualified, beautiful, accomplished, kind, amazing women in the Church than men of equal awesomeness. Really, quality aside, I bet there are more active women in the Church than there are men. Currently, as you know, marriage in the Church is generally done in a 1:1 ratio. What this unfortunately means is that some of these amazing women are single. And some will have low self-esteem because they just can't seem to get married. (sometimes, low self-esteem generates bitterness toward other women. Being catty is an unattractive no-no in general.) To add injury to insult, some (not all) men in the Church get inflated egos b/c all these fantastic women are chasing after THEM....which then makes it so much fun for them to be single. The downward spiral continues.

4. Did you know that there are some men in the Church who are very good people....but have a flaw? Some think that no one is good enough for them. They have good reasons to want a "Good Woman." But when that makes someone feel like no one can possibly fill his ideal spouse's shoes, that's destructive to the marriage. Even in his condescension to marry a mortal, how happy would they be knowing that she can never meet his expectations? (this can also apply to women seem to never be satisfied...but that's not the point for today.)

Anyway, I said I agreed with you in some sense. I agree that lots of women are doing what they should. We are getting an education, working toward becoming better people, etc. We are following the commandments to the best of our abilities. Men and women both should strive to be complete in themselves and not wait around to become "whole" upon marriage. Two people shouldn't "complete" one another; they should instead complement each other. Each should bring something to the table and enrich (not complete) the other's life. You, like many women, are becoming more and more amazing day by day. It's going to take an amazing guy to recognize your strength and beauty (physical, emotional, and spiritual). For everyone who falls short....I pity the fool!

If I offended you or anyone, I'm sorry. I like your blog, Sara!

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Blake said...

I'd be careful blaming men for any lack of marriage in the world. Cat ladies have been doing that for years.

3:25 PM  
Blogger byubrandy said...

You complete me, Sara :) And I agree with you 150%...can I get an AMEN?!!

9:55 AM  
Blogger Gyges Lyceum said...

HA! As a Latter Day Saint elder, let me tell you this: YOU ARE A JUDGEMENTAL, ARROGANT MISANDRIST AND I WOULDN'T WALK WITHIN 10 FEET OF YOU EVEN IF YOU WERE THE LAST WOMAN ALIVE!!!

11:49 PM  
Blogger Braedon Davies said...

In one of my singles wards, girls constantly complained, "No one asks me out." When a guy did ask out one of these sisters, they would make up an excuse or say that they were busy.

What's sad is that some women legitimately don't get asked out but they get lumped in with this crowd. After a few negative experiences, a lot single men just give up on dating. When men are painted as "the problem," can you really blame them?

I was in a marriage-prep lesson in my Stake Institute. The teacher read off all of these quotes about how men have commitment issues. After expressing my frustrations about dating, he remarked, "Well, some girls just aren't interested in dating."

If a woman "doesn't want to date right now," it's a personal choice. If a man has the same feelings, he's "not fulfilling his duties." There is a HUGE double standard in the LDS dating culture.

10:55 PM  

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