This discussion might have been part of any young adult fireside in the past few years. It took place, though, all the way back in 1914.
For Time and Eternity
(Young Woman’s Journal, June 1914)
It would be impossible for any people to hold marriage more sacredly than do the Latter-day Saints, for their understanding of the highest marriage ceremony which binds for time and eternity and their perception of the glory of posterity gives to it a sacredness which can not be attached thereto unless people do understand these fundamental things in relation to it. Every member of the Church should bear in mind, however, that with this great light has come great responsibility.
Statistics show that a great many are rejecting the blessing offered by the Father and are being united for this life only.
During the past year there were fifteen marriages to the thousand of church membership; of this number seven had only civil ceremonies while eight were solemnized in temples; 427 married those not in the church, and of this number 398 were women. Such figures are startling. It is deplorable that so many women fail to weigh more carefully the tremendous importance of complying with the command of God given through his prophets.
Based no doubt on the huge proportion of those mixed marriages being formed by Latter-day Saint women with non-member husbands, the editorial lays much of the blame at the feet of the women: Women who marry non-members with the thought that they will convert their husbands are naive; “not one in ten is converted.” Latter-day Saint young people should form intimate alliances only with other members, and “every girl should be taught that ‘false mating is the heaviest curse society brings on human beings.’” Some are not worthy to enter temples, and others assume they can always be sealed at some later, more convenient time.
Can our girls be satisfied with anything less than this holy order of marriage? Can they afford to do without the blessings which the Father promises to those who live according to His precepts? Can they be happy without the divine favor of God?
Not so fast …
All well and good as far as the importance of eternal marriage is concerned, but within a few weeks Feramorz Young Fox (1881-1957), one of the fine intellects of his generation who had just earned a master’s degree in economics from UC-Berkeley and who would later earn a Ph.D. in economic history from Northwestern University, took a more considered look at those marriage statistics and offered an alternate theory … one that we hear again in today’s concerns for the marriage choices of young Latter-day Saints:
Comments on June Editorial
(Young Woman’s Journal, August 1914)
The editorial “For Time and Eternity” in the June issue of the Young Woman’s Journal, compels one to wonder how far the opinion suggested by the figures quoted, that women are more careless than men in making matrimonial alliances, is justified by the facts. How is the disproportionate number of reported outside marriages entered into by Mormon women – 398 as against 29 by Mormon men – to be accounted for?
Of course the statistics are not absolutely reliable: they are compiled from reports gathered from the various wards and branches of the Church, and their correctness depends upon the care with which bishops, mission presidents, and clerks have kept their records. Allowing very generously for errors, the figures would still indicate that many more women than men married non-members in 1913.
Unfortunately, there are no comparable statistics for preceding years, but if there were and if they pointed in the same direction, the whole responsibility could hardly be laid upon the young women.
Supposing it to be true that many more women than men marry outside of the Church, the explanation must be sought in one or more of the following conditions:
First, there may be fewer single men than single women in the Church, thus necessitating that some of the women choose between marrying non-Mormons and remaining single.
Second, the supply of male members may be adequate, but the women deliberately ignore principle, and marry without regard to religious affiliations.
Third, the supply of Mormon men may be adequate, but may contain a great many who are deficient in attractive qualities, and who “lose out” in competition with non-Mormon suitors, the women really preferring Church members, other things being equal.
Fourth, a large number of Mormon men may deliberately remain single, compelling the women to do likewise, or accept husbands from among non-members.
Investigation seems entirely to eliminate the first of these suppositions, that there is a scarcity of single men in the Church. [Follows a long discussion of census figures and Church statistics.] Making the proper computation, we conclude there are from 104 to 115 single males over 21 years of age in the Church to every 100 single females over 21.
The explanation of our problem, then, lies in the second, third and fourth causes. Doubtless each of these causes accounts for some of the marriages with non-Mormons, but to what extent it would be difficult to determine without a very careful investigation among the women who have married outside.
In any event a very considerable degree of responsibility for the marriage of Mormon women outside the Church attaches to the Mormon men, who, without good cause, defer marriage. That Mormon women are generally very desirable wives is well recognized outside, as well as within the Church, and hence they are much sought after by non-Mormon suitors. Since a very unfortunate custom compels women, if they are to marry at all, to select from among the suitors that offer themselves, the chances in any given case, are favorable to a match with an outsider whenever a desirable Mormon fails to present himself, or enters upon courtship in a desultory, half-hearted manner.
It appears, therefore, that if we are to reduce the number of marriages between Mormon women and non-Mormon men, we must attack the problem on both sides, and while counseling the women against marrying outside the Church, we must use every means to overcome the tendency among Mormon men to delay marriage.
How 2009 is that?