Numbers don't tell the whole story
A Time magazine article has been circulating. To explain the modern dating crisis, Jon Birger wrote a book and then an article for Time magazine to promote that book. The lengthy article like his book concludes on observations of two religious communities: Latter-day Saints and Jews.
His main conclusion? Many ladies are single simply because the numbers are stacked against them. According to Birger, demographics is the real problem.
Some LDS singles will instantly believe Birger. “Yeah,” they’ll say, “it’s not my fault. There just aren’t enough guys to go around.”
I have a different perspective, mostly because what Birger describes doesn’t match my experience of being single for the past 20 years. Birger has laced his argument with faulty assumptions and erroneous logic.
Your probability of success can increase
Let's start here:
At first glance, the state of Utah—60 percent Mormon and home of the LDS church—looks like the wrong place to study what I like to call the man deficit. Like several other western states, Utah actually has more men than women. Utah’s ratio of men to women across all age groups is the fifth highest in the nation. But lurking beneath the Census data is a demographic anomaly that makes Utah a textbook example of how shifting gender ratios alter behavior. The LDS church actually has one of the most lopsided gender ratios of any religion in the United States.
Seriously? That assumes the ladies will always say yes. I haven’t been single for 20 years because they always said yes.
The sex ratio is especially lopsided among Mormon singles. Many individual LDS churches—known as “wards”—are organized by marital status, with families attending different Sunday services from single people. Parley’s Seventh, one of Salt Lake City’s singles wards, had 429 women on its rolls in 2013 versus only 264 men, according to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper.
Again, not entirely true. At 37, you probably won’t have six biological kids, but you could still have some. The rest could come by adoption or marrying someone who already has them.
Successful people accept the world as they find it, not as they wish it would be. Accept the demographics, yes, but then find a way to the other side of your obstacle.
We need to reformat ourselves with new thinking and then reboot! Don’t just lay down and stop looking for the way forward in your eternal journey. True Latter-day Saints keep on trying.
So if your numbers are stacked against you, change your thinking and broaden your approach:
You make the difference
Birger doesn’t recognize any interplay between possibility and probability. To him, single LDS men are single because they have too many choices. If you’re a single LDS woman, well, you’re just screwed — and not in the good way. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
Single BYU men are keenly aware of the lopsided numbers, said Wheelwright, who is a leader of Ordain Women, a feminist organization seeking the appointment of women to the LDS priesthood. “In the dating market, the men have all the power,” Wheelwright said. “Men have all these options, and the women spend hours getting ready for dates because their eternal salvation and exultation depends on marrying a righteous, priesthood-holding man.”
Seriously? You’re going to Ordain Women to make your point? Yeah, they’re, like, totally mainstream LDS .... NOT!
The numbers don’t make the difference. The difference you choose to make in the lives of others does. Making that difference consistently makes you a more attractive prospect. Period.
Faulty assumptions feed false conclusions
Birger saves his wildest and most entertaining assertion for last.
Psychologists Marcia Guttentag and Paul Secord argued in Too Many Women?— the pioneering book on lopsided gender ratios—that women are more likely to be treated as sex objects whenever men are scarce. That is precisely what Mormon women now experience.
Birger erroneously assumes that Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake are no different than Latter-day Saints everywhere. As an outsider, all he sees is conformity. So it’s easy for him to think we’re all the same.
But we’re not. There’s a very different culture in Utah, and Salt Lake City especially, that makes living there very different from living anywhere else in the country.
The vast majority of the single LDS women I’ve known all over the country don’t do plastic surgery. Birger generalized his observation to “prove” his conclusions. But faulty assumptions never produce sound conclusions.
We tell our story
If you want to believe Birger that your single status is not your fault, go ahead. See how well that works out for you. Believing you’re the powerless victim of demographic statistics serves more to keep you single than to get you married.
You can have a worthy temple marriage, but you need to face your truth. Demographics describes only the playing field, not how you play the game!
You can choose to change yourself to influence others to decide in your favor. And you can choose to find new opportunities for your blessings, opportunities God anxiously wants to give you because He loves you immensely.
Numbers don’t tell the whole story. We tell the whole story by our choices. I choose to believe God when He promises. I choose to look for opportunities to come into my life. And I choose to open myself to new and unexpected ways those opportunities will appear.
Living this way doesn’t bring me instantly the blessings I’ve yearned after these past 20 years. But living this way is certainly much more enjoyable than the alternative. And that’s the most meaningful statistic of all.
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Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show and podcast to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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