On Exclusively Marrying Missionaries

Though it’s not any kind of official rule, there is a popular strain of thought among many Latter-day Saints that girls should only marry a returned missionary.  I’ve seen this written as a laudable “goal” in some publications, and have heard it taught to young women in church many times, as well as hearing it as an earnest objective from many young women themselves.

Now, at first, this is a good goal that makes sense.  After all, if we want to help the happiness and stability of our children’s marriages–and the homes in which their children will be raised–nothing could make more sense than encouraging girls to seek out the worthiest, most reliably active young men to marry.  Certainly, we’ve all seen the heartache and damage caused when women “unequally yoke” themselves to men whose choices might make them regret their own choices, and which hamper the faithfulness of both wife and children. 

However, as with the assumption that some have that being sealed in the temple is a guarantee of salvation or exaltation, this goal is ultimately wrong, as it focuses faith on titles, stations, and past actions, rather than on the Savior and the doctrines of the gospel themselves.  Yes, a returned missionary is surely more likely to be a faithful, stable mate (at least in terms of church activity) than a man who isn’t, but making that a standard is dangerous in that it trains young women to look for outward, past symbols of faithfulness (or just activity, which is not necessarily the same as faithfulness), instead of a deep, personal, ongoing devotion to discipleship. 

In short, telling young women to only consider returned missionaries for marriage is Pharisaic, and denies the reality of the Atonement.  Of course, not being an RM myself, I’m surely biased here, but that only means that my point should be taken with a grain of salt, not discarded.

3 comments on “On Exclusively Marrying Missionaries

  1. Yes! How can I put this without coming across as self-righteous? I knew a few elders in my mission I can only classify as “turds”. And I’ve since seen other, seemingly stalwart elders in my mission (zone leaders, assistants to the president, blah blah blah) fall away from the Church.

    Don’t be blinded by the RM title. Don’t get hung up on the fact someone didn’t serve a mission. Don’t assume a temple marriage is a guarantee of salvation. I’m a sealed-in-the-temple-got-divorced-but-now-I’m-remarried latter-day saint. Marriage can be a crap shoot.

  2. making that a standard is dangerous in that it trains young women to look for outward, past symbols of faithfulness (or just activity, which is not necessarily the same as faithfulness).

    Amen, brother! Why don’t we say the same thing about some outward weaknesses, too? What if someone smokes? (“How can s/he come to church smelling of cigarettes!?”). Oh, yes, the white shirt. I keep telling people, that the white shirt does not make me righteous!

    I mean, yes, we told our girls that if a young man has served a mission, he is more likely to be faithful, but don’t be blinded by an outward sign; you have to know the man, and see his life and family, and how he relates to you and your family and how he actually makes you feel. We are both RM’s and have seen some hair-raising missionaries on their way home…

    Why don’t we say the same about young women, who’ve served? It’s no guarantee, any more than being sealed in the temple. Although, yes, for me, when the everyday routine in marriage really hit, I had to sit there, looking at the sealing certificate and tell myself, “this has gotta be worth working for!” That got me on my knees to seek the humility that I needed to go the second mile, and another, if needed — and it certainly worked the same the other way, but for us, we never had real “doubts” in the way that we have been “active” all the time (more or less, if you look at me, although I did go to church and always had my tithing settlement discussion etc.) able to discuss the principles and action of the gospel between ourselves and with our children, even when we have had personality conflicts.

    I’d say that we’ve been overwhelmingly blessed in that. We must have done something right, because there were times when my wife experienced very strong pressure to dump me and “get on with her life.”

    And I’d say that as important as that “getting on with your life” is in our lives when we hit a brick wall in something, people are too easily saying that and taking it as a viable solution to life’s problems. We gotta have some tenacity to survive and keep our families intact in this world.

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