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Friday, June 24, 2011

Guest Post: The Rush

Matt Lipps is probably young enough to be your child. He is a student at Brigham Young University majoring in Astro-Physics and is a native of Sacramento, California. Matt enjoys surfing up and down California’s northern coast, chilling with friends, and starting really lame two-man bands/street gangs. Matt will be leaving on August 24th to serve in the Brazil Santa Maria Mission.

image via Jack and Jill Mormon

Preface: I am 19 years old, and a student at BYU. I have never had a girlfriend. My experience with dating is very sparse, and for the handful of dates I’ve ever chugged my way through, I have relied almost exclusively upon my bros to hook me up with girls. I also have not yet served a mission (But I will this August! Bring it on, Brazil!). Finally, the idea of getting married scares the tar out of me. Please keep in mind that as you read, everything is given from the perspective of an awkward twerp who could probably benefit from a good scolding of his thoughts and opinions.

I have a request for the readers of this blog: I would like to see a brief sampling of the ages and circumstances (i.e., how long you courted, whether you were fiscally prepared and so on) of each individual’s marriage, so I can contrast it to the stereotype I have of marriage and then use it to put my own impending marriage in perspective. Please don’t hesitate to offer advice or criticism either, as those will likely help me more than other information.

I’ve reached the point in my young mormon life where marriage is but a mission away. Following my honorable return from my honorable mission, I will become the half-menace, half-goofball that they call ‘the RM’. As a righteous young mormon man, it will then be my responsibility to get married as fast as I possibly can or else – egads!—set at naught the council of the prophets. I’ll wait, eh, six months?, before I finally date that special someone, likely an 18 year old freshman from Idaho, for three weeks (I go to BYU; it happens here) and realize that she must be the one. And then after a brief but intense period of dating, I’ll propose and we’ll be married by the end of the semester.

Will that really be me in two years? Or better yet, should that be me in two years?

I recognize that the overwhelming majority of LDS couples did not experience this kind of courtship with their current spouse. But from the lens of a freshman, pre-mission BYU student, I see a megatrend among young single Mormons: get married quickly and waste no time in getting that family up and running.

This seems very irresponsible to me. As much as our church encourages families, we encourage personal responsibility more, and to rush so quickly and recklessly into a marriage that neither spouse can support (financially or emotionally) puts couples in conflicts that, according to my observation, can push a marriage to breaking point. So I must ask myself: In an extremely short period of time, can I be prepared to offer all that is needed of me to maintain and nurture a happy marriage?

Alert to my fears, President Monson in this past General Conference told bachelors, “I realize there are many reasons why you may be hesitating to take that step of getting married. If you are concerned about providing financially for a wife and family, may I assure you that there is no shame in a couple having to scrimp and save. It is generally during these challenging times that you will grow closer together as you sacrifice and to make difficult decisions.” This was a comfort to me because it gave me the impression that if I so much as have a job and will work on improving, I’ll be a-ok with money. I’ve always been told that if I can afford to feed myself and my wife and if we’re willing to live modestly, we’ll be fine, and I saw this echoed in our Prophet’s remarks. However, when some young couples are strapped for cash, I imagine it is easy for them to make the wrong decisions and fail to sacrifice, as prompted to by our President. Money really is culpable for the collapse of so many marriages, especially when debt is involved. I’ll just have to make sure I don’t put myself in a position where I must borrow money to get by. Also, it couldn’t hurt to pay tithing too. Get those blessings while they’re hot.

President Monson then moved on to the more pressing question of choosing/being the right person. “Perhaps you are afraid of making the wrong choice. To this I say that you need to exercise faith. Find someone with whom you can be compatible. Realize that you will not be able to anticipate every challenge which may arise, but be assured that almost anything can be worked out if you are resourceful and if you are committed to making your marriage work.” I find this to be perfect advice, especially when you realize that finding someone “with whom you can be compatible” presupposes that you will need to work at compatibility with your partner until you get it right, which stresses that delaying is less important than just getting after it and working things out. But still, it gives no timeline or specificity, and only emphasizes the need of our own personal commitment – a commitment that wavers slightly in 18/21 year old kids. The specificity, then, is left up to us. Hooray for personal choice.

I have been told by my parents (actually, “told” is an understatement – they beat it into me with clubs) that when the time is right, I will know. The only problem is that everyone around me expects the time to be sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, I still consider myself a kid, and I don’t feel prepared in the least bit for marriage. Even after my mission, a hallmark of adulthood in Mormon culture, I am still unable to see myself being ready, especially after two years of completely avoiding girls. I just want to know if I should feel justified in postponing marriage to make sure I’m the right person, or guilty for rationalizing an extended bachelorhood. If marriage is as sweet of a gig as I’m told, I want to make sure I get it right.

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