Marriage is a fundamental tenet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But church leaders now face a matrimony problem within their flock: Young single Mormons are delaying marriage.
Becky Maher, 29, attends the American River Young Singles Adult Branch in Sacramento. She is active in the congregation and has held leadership positions in the church. But getting married has so far eluded her. "I would like to be married as soon as possible," she said.
Ben Forsyth, 28, is also a member of the singles congregation. Sunday, he led the congregation in the benediction. But he's not ready for marriage. "I don't think I've put it off, I just haven't found the right person," he said. This week he enters graduate school. "Marriage is something I'm aware of, but I'm not ready."
Maher and Forsyth reflect a shift that worries national church leaders. Women want to marry. Men want to wait. And church leaders are concerned because they believe marriage is a prerequisite for life in eternity.
Last weekend, Sacramento King draft pick and former Brigham Young University basketball star Jimmer Fredette announced his engagement via Twitter. At 22, he is following the traditional path for Mormons and is marrying young.
Church leaders want other Mormon men to follow his lead and not that of the nation as a whole. Last week the U.S. Census Bureau released figures indicating marriage is at an all-time low and people are waiting longer to tie the knot.
Mormon church leaders say Mormon men are postponing marriage either for financial, career or educational concerns. And sometimes for other reasons, according to church President Thomas Monson.
"Men are having a little too much fun being single, taking extravagant vacations, buying expensive cars and toys, and just generally enjoying the carefree life with your friends," Monson said in a speech to the Worldwide General Conference of the church in April.
Mormons believe that marriage in the temple is mandatory to reach the celestial, or highest level, of heaven. Only Mormons who marry can reach this level and expect to share eternity with their spouse and children.
Marriage is also important to the church because married men typically hold high leadership positions such as bishop and stake president.
Marriage is more important than education or career, said Thomas Holman, professor of family life at Brigham Young University. "When you scrimp and sacrifice together when you're young, that brings you closer."
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