Anyone that visits Utah for the first time might notice our “family-friendly” atmosphere. It’s something we, as Utahns, pride ourselves in.
Last week, I returned to Salt Lake City after a trip to San Diego. My seatmate, from Boston, accompanied me to baggage claim and remarked with surprise, “Wow! There are just so many kids here!”
It is true. Utah is known for having gobs of kids everywhere you look. As a mother to three children, it’s something I value about our state. I can go just about anywhere and know that I am welcome to bring my kids in tow.
However, there’s a shadow side to our family-friendly obsession, and one that many don’t talk about. While it is true there are many young, happy families in Utah, some of Utah’s many young parents started out their families as children themselves.
A large part of Utah’s culture is focused on marriage and family, which means there is a push to incentivize people to marry at a young age and start families.
Some of this pressure comes from ideas and instructions by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Utah’s dominant religion. It’s not hard to find these instructions everywhere you look. Utah’s booming wedding industry points to the influence of these teachings. And with marriage in Mormon culture, comes child-rearing.
For example, former LDS church president Spencer Kimball said,
“After marriage young wives should be occupied in bearing and rearing children. I know of no scriptures or authorities which authorize young wives to delay their families or to go to work to put their husbands through college. Young married couples can make their way and reach their educational heights, if they are determined.”
These aren’t just antiquated ideas from several generations ago. Just last May, an article that appeared on LDS.org, Mormons were encouraged not to put off marriage. In the article titled, Delaying Marriage: The Trends and the Consequences, BYU professor, Jason Caroll, reminds readers that,
“Thankfully, the vast majority of active single adults in the Church are not following these social trends. In fact, the commitment to chastity and true marriage preparation among devout single members of the Church stands in stark contrast to the patterns we see in the broader culture. Also, it is important to point out that intentionally delaying marriage is a very different pattern from experiencing marriage at a later age than one would prefer. Studies show that many single adults, both in the broader culture and within the Church, still greatly value marriage and that the timing of marriage in their lives has not been a matter of choice.”
Mormons are reminded that putting off marriage is “short-changing themselves” and that delayed marriage is a sign of delayed maturity.
It’s no surprise that many of who grew up in this dominant culture, marry young. I was married two days after my 20th birthday.
It was too young, but no one could deter me from the decision. I knew what was expected of me by both God and our culture and I had spent most of my youth hearing quotes and talks by church leaders encouraging me to “not delay marriage.”
We waited three years to start our family, which we felt was a small rebellion. Many of my friends started their families almost immediately after their wedding and often asked when we would begin having children. I was 23-years-old when my first son was born. I don’t regret having my children, but I do sometimes regret, for their sake and mine, that I wasn’t a little older and more settled.
Aside from the anecdotes, there is statistical data that supports young marriages in Utah. In November 2015, the LDS church-owned newspaper, The Deseret News, proudly published this headline, “Census: Utah has youngest newlyweds, high rate of moms and dads living together.” The article cited census data and focused on a correlation drawn between young marriages and lesser rates of single parents. Paradoxically, the article ends with data that shows that divorce rates decrease as marriage age increases.
Still, the trend in Utah points to a culture where early marriage is rewarded. The history of young and underage marriage is parallel to the modern history of Utah’s organization. As this month’s Utah Bee’s series by Connell O’Donovan highlights, young and underage marriages are not new.
Which may explain why Utah is third in the United States for child marriages.
The Seattle Times reports,
“In Utah, 253 people under age 18, most of them girls, got married in 2010, the most recent year Utah Health Department figures are available.
Under current Utah law, people as young as 15 can marry with permission from their parents and the court, while 16- and 17-year-olds can marry with parental permission.”
This startling trend is being combated by activists like Unchained at Last and legislators hoping to change the laws. In addition, groups such as Hope After Polygamy seek to raise awareness of experiences of individuals involved in child marriages.
Unfortunately, good data is hard to find. Utah is home to hundreds of diverse Mormon sects, including Mormon fundamentalist groups and polygamous groups. Some, though not all, display lackadaisical attitudes surrounding marriage age. Others, like the radical fundamentalist expression “Knights of the Crystal Blade,” made headlines earlier this year with their insistence that child marriage is a commandment. While this is an extreme example, underage marriages in Utah are far more common than the data shows. Mormon doctrine allows for marriage “sealings,” which are separate from legal marriages. While larger Mormon groups, like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no longer promote underage marriages or sealings, other Mormon groups still do.
Child and underage marriages are not a thing of Utah’s frontier past.
This is a piece in a series of articles that will discuss child brides in historic and modern times in Utah. The articles will be published over the next five weeks. Read the first two pieces here and here.
Mormon answers only!!!!!!
Emphasis on family. Sorry but not all Mormons marry young. I know lots who aren't.
Because we can? My husband and I were both 19. We got married young I think. But, we were also breaking the law of chastity, so that kind of sped things up. We were able to be sealed in the temple 5 years later. The sad thing is, MOST people I know who were sexually active before they were married are either divorced now or never got married. Many even had children and got married because of that... We are one of the exceptions. I look back and think on us, that we got married because we were having sex. Sometimes I would think that we loved eachother because we got married, and not we loved eachother so we got married. But, we have a wonderful relationship, have been married for 12 years and have two beautiful daughters. So in some cases things work out. But sadly in most, the feelings from the sexual activity before marriage fizzle away and two people are left together who cannot make a marriage work because they didn't start it out the right way.
There are many mormons who don't marry young. It's like the same "myth" that we all have a dozen kids.
At first I was going to answer by asking "don't most people get married at a young age?", but then I realized that more and more in our society, young couples are forgoing marriage and just move in together and have children. Mormons don't believe in sex outside of marriage and are very big on the family unit, it's an eternal principle to Mormons, so they get married and make binding covenants to each other when they fall in love and want to live with that person.
So young Mormon couples marry each other and other young couples within the same age group move in together.
They don't get married any younger than anyone else. In fact, most Mormons I know got married a few years later than their peers.
What makes you think Mormons marry at a young age?
The average age for women in THE Church Of JESUS CHRIST Of Latter Day Saints getting married in the United States is 23. For Latter Day Saint men, the average age in the United States to get married is 26.That is hardly a young age to get married.The average number of children per LDS couple in the United States is 3 children. Before 1960 the average Non-Mormon couple had five children per couple in the United States.http://vimeo.com/14099986http://vimeo.com/27218305http://vimeo.com/5928206http://Mormon.org Chat.
What do you consider young? Most lds women marry at around 23 and men at 26.
LDS members are encouraged to find someone they love and get married so that they can begin living a purposeful life.
There is an emphasis on raising a family and being responsible in life.
Most girls are in their mid 20's, I don't know that that's really so young. My wife was 23, not old but that's certainly not young.
I'm not sure why, a friend of mine got married at the Vancouver British Columbia Temple last Thursda. She is 19 and we have been out of high school for a year......I think that was a little early....
We are very family oriented. Personally, I think when you take premarital sex out of the dating picture it doesnt take that long to find someone you want to marry. Sex complicates and confuses relationships. Keeps people who are a bad match together way longer than it should take to figure out its bad match. When you are dating with more pure intentions its easy to see red flags from people you know you wont be happy with long-term, and easier to see traits that WILL make a difference long term.
Either way, works out well for us.
Because one of their core beliefs is that the highest heaven you can reach is one where a man and his spouse/spouses rule their own universe. Unfortunately unless a woman is married to one of these men she can not reach that standing.
Therefore Mormons believe that they are saving woman by marrying and many as possible as soon as possible
They're encouraged to start "being fruitful and multiplying" as soon as possible. Also, the younger they get married, the less likely it is they'll have sex *without* being married. Peace.
(ex-mormon, who greatly disappointed my family and the church by not getting married as soon as I got home from my mission)