I love the youth programs offered in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They can greatly supplement parents’ efforts to raise their children with high moral values, good social skills, a wide variety of experiences, and healthy friendships with others. In both the youth programs as well as the parallel Sunday training, there is plenty of emphasis on preparing for marriage. And in this training, leaders have occasionally told the young women that the best way to find the right guy is to focus on being the best person possible, the kind of girl that will attract the kind of noble guy a good LDS girl would want to marry, and then the rest will come naturally. Maybe that works in some ideal communities where nearly all the men are above-average returned missionaries striving to live the Gospel, but I thank that’s limited to just a few towns in Wyoming that no longer appear to be on the map.
“Focus on being the kind of girl who will attract the right kind of guy.” It sounds like good advice, but when I step back and look at the guys that some great LDS young women marry, I think it’s time for a reality check. A spiritual, talented, sweet, pure, intelligent, confident LDS young woman will often be attractive to a much broader spectrum of men than just the off-the-chart sliver of totally righteous returned missionary hunks out there. Latter-day Saint women manage to attract men of very diverse backgrounds and very diverse moral standards. And in many cases, I’m sad to say, it’s the men who seem to be getting the better deal. Full disclosure: that was certainly the case for me. The absolutely amazing LDS girl I married could have done much better – if only her Young Women’s leaders had encouraged her to be a lot pickier.
I suggest that the trick is not to be attractive to an ideal Mr. Right, but to be less attractive to the swarms of Mr. Wrongs that will buzz around a young female. And part of this process must include more training on how to distinguish between the two. I’d like to see girls taught to use their heads more in discerning if the candidate male is reliable, dependable, hard-working, self-sacrificing, kind, thoughtful, willing to take orders (sorry guys, I had to say that – but notice the loophole: being “willing” and actually carrying out the order aren’t necessarily the same thing), etc. No, I’m not letting my wife read this, either, but if I had a daughter, I’d train her to have a list like this. If the guy you’re dating only thinks about himself, gets angry easily, can’t handle changes in plans, doesn’t care about your schedule and needs, treats you like a toy for his fun, bosses you around, is suspicious and paranoid, doesn’t trust you, can’t hold a job, isn’t almost as smart as you, doesn’t do what he says he will, and doesn’t share the values that matter to you, then marriage could be (on the average – with some happy exceptions) a long, painful headache. The reality of painful marriages needs to be discussed with young women, with tips on how to avoid starting off on a completely wrong foot by making a clearly unwise choice at the very beginning. Picky, picky, picky – I’d like to see more of our young women acquire that attitude.
Ditto for the young men, but it seems like the risks and problems are greater among the young women of the Church.
I hope this isn’t too offensive or controversial. It’s just my reflection on trends I’ve seen in the past decade.
I know some, perhaps many of our Young Women’s leaders and priesthood leaders do work with the young women to encourage them to be picky. But I’ve seen too many cases of a girl “marrying down” when she could easily have “married equal,” and in these cases, I’ve sometimes had the impression that the girl just wasn’t ready for the “surprise” of being found attractive and desirable by the stream of good looking guys who came along.