Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Help Wanted: Dear Abby for Mormons and Those Dating Mormons

One of my many problems is life is that my LDS FAQ page on Love, Dating, and Marriage comes in at #1 on Google for search times like "Mormon dating," "Mormon marriage," and "Mormon love" (sorry - it's only #2 for "Mormon sex"). And that means that whenever somebody gets a crush on a Mormon, falls in love with a Mormon, or considers marrying a Mormon, they are likely to find my site - and, sadly, likely to send me an email asking for advice. Apart from being a highly questionable source of advice on anything (see, dear critics, I've been listening!), I'm also out of time.

I really try to answer email, but it has become a flood. And the ones seeking advice on dating, marriage, love, and sex often are lengthy and very personal. There is the obligatory paragraph about how they met the person, then one on why the person is so wonderful (you Mormon singles really rock, let me tell you that!), another couple about what they have heard about Mormons, a few more about the concerns that have been raised by their parents or friends, some more on their own religious background, maybe a little on the weather and the presidential primaries and their struggles they are having with a diet or a difficult teacher (sometimes this optional section is skipped, thankfully), and then a series of questions seeking advice on three or four issues. These are important requests for help by real people at real turning points in their lives sometimes, and I would like to be able to help more but just can't do that consistently.

So do we have a reliable "Dear Abby" service from a trusted source for people interested in relationships with Latter-day Saints? Anyone who would like to volunteer to handle some of these emails? When I can't handle them, I'd like to just send them to someone who could do a good job, preferably someone with experience advising young people in the Church and beyond. They really do matter, but I can't handle them all. Partly because it takes so long just to read them - they really are quite lengthy. But always interesting and almost always sincere.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

The first thing that comes to mind is to send them to an LDS forum or discussion board.

tatabug said...

Askgramps.org is a good place to ask questions and get some good gospel based answers. He fields ALL kinds of questions, some of which I wouldn't even waste my time with. Some of the questions he answers have absolutely nothing to do with the gospel. I once asked a question and got an answer within a week. I wasn't sure if I would get an answer at all and I certainly didn't expect one to come so quickly.

Ryan said...

I think a forum/board would only work if the postings were completely anonymized to protect the questioners, and if there were some some way of ensuring answers only come from official "Dear Jeff" staff.

However, a forum would have the distinct benefit of letting people piece together some good advice on their own by mixing and matching responses to similar situations.

Hannah G said...

I would love to do this. I love reading advice columns and I think I could do a fairly good job at it myself. If you really need someone to answer letters, I would do it.

JennVan said...

I'd love to volunteer to answer questions. I am LDS and run a marriage group as well as am trained in a number of pre-marital and relationship enhancement curricula (besides my academic training). I've been able to help a lot of people and think it would be a unique opportunity to help in a new way.

wtkeeney said...

I'd be happy to help answer these emails for you. That's part of what I was doing with the Circle of Sisters column at Mormon Momma. (You once recommended our column about dating someone addicted to porn.)
I'm still writing over there, but when the site changed from an internet magazine kind of format to a blog format, we seemed to lose the Circle of Sisters "ask a question" part of the site.

Mormanity said...

Thank you, volunteers! Please send me email at jeff at jefflindsay dot com with "Dear Abby" in the title and we can go from there. Many thanks!!

Jay McCarthy said...

Post them on a blog in anonymous form and let the internet answer for you in the comments.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff et al,

Just wanted to throw a few thoughts your direction regarding this subject. As a Catholic married to a Mormon, I probably have a unique perspective on this particular issue having lived through the experience of well meaning people on both sides trying to give advice.

In my experience, while my wife and I were dating, I had my Catholic family adding their two cents about Mormons and how they weren't Christian and how the relationship couldn't work and various other, really unhelpful insights. From my wife's side, I had all her well meaning, good intentioned LDS friends giving advice ranging from pushing me to convert to breaking off the relationship because it couldn't work and she'd never reach the celestial kingdom if she married me.

Added to all those well meaning friends and family were the doctrines of our respective church's, which are similar but not identical, regarding interfaith marriages. In both instances, LDS and Catholic, the doctrines counseled against this particular interfaith relationship. From the Catholics of course the counsel against was because Mormons are a cult and not Christian. From the Mormons, the counsel against was because as a Catholic we didn't have the priesthood and without that, we couldn't be sealed for time and all eternity and therefore the relationship couldn't work.

Ultimately my wife and I married, and we make the relationship work. The counsel from our friends and family, and the respective church leaders was quite frankly counter productive, and unhelpful. I think that's part of the point I'm making.

What I would suggest in terms of providing advice, or insights on this subject to mormons becoming involved with non-mormons on a romantic level are as follows:

1. To each person, not respective of whether LDS or non-LDS, both really need to examine their faith and what it is they truly believe. This requires a great deal of prayer and reflection that can not come from the advice of others. What this also means is really examining your belief system and asking yourself and most importantly asking God can you accept your partner if they do not believe what you do?

2. To each person trying this type of relationship, be accepting of your respective partner's faith an beliefs. Ifyou are not, the relationship will fail. For LDS, this really means don't push for the conversion of your non-mormon partner. For the non-LDS partner, be supportive of your partner's faith, even though you do not believe as they do. If you truly love this person, you don't have to believe everything they believe, but you do have to support them in what they believe, otherwise, it will fail.

3. To each person, the best counsel we as outside persons is to remind them to pray and trust God to work out the details. God is kind, and compasionate, and has a plan worked out for us all. We need to trust him on the details.

4. To those of us looking in on this relationship, not respecting whether you're LDS or non-LDS, its important to respect the decision of those two people involved in the relationship. Its thier relationship with God and themselves, not ours. Part of being a good Christian means accepting people for who they are. That is what Christ did, and it is what he would have us do.

I see that a few people have volunteered to to take on this Dear Abby type project. I hope you will consider some of what I said as being helpful, regardless of which side of the LDS question you're on.

In concluding I will add that this is a difficult relationship to make work, but it can work and it does work. To make this interfaith relationship work takes patience, understanding, compassion, and maturity on the part of all involved.

Sincerely

Catholic Defender

Soren said...

The 100 Hour Board over at BYU fields a significant number of relationship-advice questions. The majority of them come from BYU students, but they always welcome outsiders' questions.

Bookslinger said...

Jeff, my advice is to not foward the emails on to someone else, and to not post them anonymously anywhere.

To do either of those would violate the implicit privacy of email. The person may be revealing things that they want only _you_ (Jeff) to know.

To refer someone to another advice-giver or to another forum, merely give the advice-asker the email address or the URL of the third party or third-party web site, and after letting them know you just don't have time to answer all the many nice/sincere/earnest email questions, suggest to the advice-seeker that they take their question to that third party, AND mention that your referral is not to be taken as an endorsement of that 3rd party, and to take all advice/communications found on the Internet with a big grain of salt.

Of course, MY above advice should be taken with a grain of salt, and no warranties nor guarantees of fitness for any purposes are expressed nor implied. But I will defend to the death, _your_ right to hear _my_ opinion. :-) (Oh, and that last part about defending to the death doesn't come with any warranties or guarantees of fitness for any particular purpose either. It depends on how I'm feeling that day, and due to things that may, or may not, be within my control, including, but not limited to, anything. And by following, or even reading my adivce, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless myself, any corporations that I may have an interest in, and my heirs (and hairs and hares) and assigns.)

Latter-Day James said...

I appreciate your comments CD. It is nice for others to know that couples that are Christian and love each other and Christ can make it. There is no reason why a Mormon and Catholic, Catholic and a Lutheran, etc can't love each other and get along when they share basic beliefs. I believe that people think that people of a different faith can't be happy or their differences may cause undue stress. I think this may be true to a point. But will it cause divorce, maybe in some cases. But I believe that divorce would come from other avenues before that.

Bookslinger said...

LD James,
The GA's remind us that they teach to the rule, not the exception. The exceptions are left to the individuals.

That said, I agree with the rule. Marry within your faith. I think that's best for all faiths.

My parents had a mixed-faith marriage, and it did not work out for them. They did not divorce, but it caused much unhappiness and contention, and that was passed on to the next generation. They were not happy, and not fulfilled.

Based on my parents' example, I cannot recommend mixed faith marriages. From my point of view, it looks like at least one, usually both, parties have to give up their faith, or major portions of it.

Sure, both spouses could allow and support the other's participation in their respective church. But without the active participation of one's spouse, then it usually isn't full participation.

I'd rather participate in the true church as an unmarried person than to participate as a married person without my spouse. After going through the temple, I knew I could not get married to someone who didn't understand it.

Personally, I cannot envision sharing my life with someone who doesn't share my testimony of the meaning/purpose of life. Though I can acknowledge that many others see things differently.

To me, marrying outside of my faith would be sacrificing something that I consider _essential_ to marriage itself.

Eric said...

Those were excellent comments from Catholic Defender. An "interfaith" marriage can work, but it's difficult. I was fortunate to be in such a marriage for about 15 years (and then I had my conversion experience, not because I had to, but because I wanted to, and not because of pressure).

It's easy to be judgmental about such a situation, but if we had followed well-meaning advice to not get married, it would have been a huge mistake. In such a situation, you need to both follow the Spirit and know what you're getting into.

All that said, I think a Mormon "Dear Abby" is a good idea. Some of the secular advice out there is very good, but there's also quite a bit that doesn't appreciate the LDS or traditional Christian view on chastity.

Mormanity said...

Bookslinger, yes, protecting privacy was my intent. I do respect the privacy of people who send me email and would not forward such an email to another party, but there are times when I would like to tell the inquirer whom they could contact for a more meaningful answer.

On the other hand, I have no qualms about quoting from unsolicited email if it is kept anonymous. Questions that are asked, arguments for or against the Church, etc., may show up here or on my Website in anonymous form, which I believe to be fair and appropriate. But things that are truly personal won't show up here without permission. When I felt there was a meaningful insight from an unsolicited personal email, I have typically obtained permission from the correspondent even to share excerpts anonymously.

But nasty-grams are fair game, though I still protect the privacy of the sender.

Mormanity said...

Catholic Defender, I also appreciate the comments you have made here. Some very important points for us to consider! Thank you.

Roxy said...

I have been a memeber of the LDS church for almost 3 years now and I've only dated once so far. I find it hard to meet other members that aren't married in my city. The nearest singles ward is in Manhattan and I'd prefer to take the bus to the nearest branch for many reasons besides the fact that its closer to where I live.

I started chatting online just recently and ended up getting really close to this guy. He's not a member and he knows that I am, but it doesn't seem to matter to him that much. And that makes me really sad because all I've been thinking about for years is how much I want to get married and sealed in the temple and how lovely it would be to start a family of my own. And then I meet this great guy who I really like very much and all of a sudden I start to panic. I hear the warning bells ringing like crazy.

I remember the last person I dated asked me if I would ever marry outside of my faith and I said no. I always wondered why he asked me that because we were getting close to saying our "I do's" in a few months, so I didn't quite understand why he was asking me this now. Kind of creepy.

Sorry, I get distracted easily so back to the guy. We're planning on meeting each other someday, but I'm still thinking about it because I really just want to do everything I can to please God. I want to be able to meet Him one day and be happy. I guess I'm hoping I'd meet a young single member pretty soon to help me out here. I know I'm still young, but I just don't want to miss an oppurtunity. Not anymore. I'll give it until I turn 21 or so and then I'll start freaking out. Hmmm...well thats not too far away so I better get ready!

Mormanity said...

Roxy, thanks for sharing. I'm intrigued with how many people have found meaningful relationships online - but also with how many have been sorely disappointed. Not sure what the percentages are, but do be careful.

I can understand some of the frustration in finding members to meet. I would suggest, though, that you don't need to start freaking out at age 21. That's still so very young. There's plenty of time to freak out later.

In fact, why freak out at all? Trust in the Lord, make wise personal decisions, pursue challenging goals, have a great life, and things will work out.

Roxy said...

Jeff, that was beautiful. Haven't had advice like that in a while.

Yeah I don't know why I'm worrying about it too much. I guess I've seen how things can get messy pretty fast and I don't want that to happen to me.

And I guess I am still pretty young and I should enjoy my youth while it lasts. If it's gonna happen, it'll happen. If not, well as long as our Father in Heaven is happy with me, then so will I be. Thanks again for your kind words Jeff.

-Roxanna Zavala

P.S.- You don't happen to know a single member in Jersey do you? Just kidding!

Anonymous said...

Dear Bookslinger,

With all due respect to your experience, the well intentioned, mostly unhelpful advice and insights I was pointing to, were those from the GA's and the Pope. In all honesty, we as catholics took the approach to marry within the faith for many more years that the LDS church has even been in existence. The end result of that type of live to the rule, not the exception, has been years of prejudice and misunderstanding of other christian faiths. Ultimately what that leads to is distrust, and sadness, and hypocracy, and is counterproductive to christianity.

"Marry within your faith. I think that's best for all faiths." The problem with this suggestion is that what you're suggesting, in following the letter of the rule is akin to type of prejudice that occurred in the deep south and many other areas of the country during the sixties when there were actual laws on the books criminalizing interracial marriages. Its a dangerous road to journey down, and it really is an individual decision to be made by the two people involved, not some church leader on the other side of the country or the world depending upon your respective faith.

I do agree with you that an interfaith marriage is not for everyone, and is not something one should consider lightly. Its a great deal of work, and calls for maturity on the part of the two people involved. It also takes focusing on the things that the couple has incommon, not focusing on the division.

In concluding I would add that God works in very mysterious ways, he may join two very unlikely people together for purposes unknown to any of us. Because of that, one should always pray about the relationship and the what it is that God is truly calling us to do.

Sincerely

Catholic Defender

Anonymous said...

Hi:

The comments on this subject remind me of what Paul said:

1 Cor. 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

You do need to be careful, though, when choosing a mate who is not of your faith. Be certain that he or she lives Christian principles and doesn't just give lip service to them.

Anonymous said...

If you have any e-mails from young teens and teens I would be happy to help, after all I am one. I would love to help out some of these people

Anonymous said...

I have been married to a non-member for almost 17 years. I grew up in Utah and dated and was even engaged to a returned missionary. I have many friends who are married to non-members. We have talked many times about our choices to marry people of other faiths and the results of those choices. We have all married wonderful loving men who are terrific fathers and husbands. The question that I have been asked, from my mom and others is, would I change anything if I could go back? The answer to that is never. The next question is would my life have been easier had I married in my faith, absolutely. We all agree on that. But we wouldn't change a thing about our lives. We all make choices when we marry a spouse. What I looked for was not what someone else would look for. But I do talk about the choices that I made with my daughter who will begin dating soon and talk to her about the difficulties of marrying someone who doesn't believe all that you believe. Communication and dealing in reality is a great thing.

Anonymous said...

I married a non-member when I was young thinking that love conquered all obstacles...but we ended up divorcing. I'm sorry, but I just don't think it can be done. You can't truly support your spouse in their belief unless you share the same beliefs yourself. Can you take her to the temple? Nope. I'm sure it breaks her heart, too. My friend is also married to an inactive member and they didn't get sealed, and she says she is happy, she says she wouldnt change a thing...but as her best friends we see how much she has changed for the worse...how she has died a little bit each year and just isnt the same happy person we knew. That happened to me, too. I never wouldve left my DH (he ended up leaving me) and if I asked I too wouldve said "I wouldnt go back and change a thing". But after we divorced I saw how truly unhappy I was and now that I am remarried to a worthy priesthood holder, sealed in the Temple, I am SO SO SO much happier. It sounds awful, but having been there, I *know* for a turth that once you have expirienced this, you don't truly understand what you are missing out on. Not to mention how much it affects your children to live in a two faith home...how confusing and hard that eventually they will be required to "choose" mom over dad. :/

Anonymous said...

Dear Abby

I am a single mother of two and I was baptised in October 2007 and I so much want to date someone from the same church I think it is much more safer and you are more happier then.You save yourself the job of explaining to the next person about your beliefs, so it would make me happy to date someone from the same background.

Teboho Clinton
Gauteng Province
South Africa

Bags said...

Ha ha ha! That's awesome. You've turned into a relationship bishop! You should just send them here.