Here are seven reasons Riley gives for the low rates of interfaith marriages among Mormons.The first is obvious; a few others make good sense when you stop to think about them; and the last one is surprising but likely all too true.
This statement is going to seem obvious to Latter-day Saints, who are schooled from diaperhood that their families can be together forever—if their parents are married in the temple.
But while Mormonism is hardly unique in its theological belief that families can be eternal, it makes that belief concretely contingent upon a particular wedding ceremony in an LDS temple, to which only orthodox Mormons are admitted.
If you’re interested, you can read this article I wrote about that subject ten years ago.
Not much has changed since then except that my husband is now Episcopalian instead of Methodist, and our daughter—who was given the right to choose for herself when she turned eight, the Mormon age of accountability—has generally followed in his Episcopalian footsteps, with time off the Canterbury Trail now and again to attend YW activities and LDS ward potlucks. And sure, there are compromises, but a healthy marriage is built on mutual compromise.
Looking past the important twenty-something years of dating, Riley explores how interfaith families respond to the later challenges and complexities of raising children when the partners don’t agree on religion. This seems on the surface to be a counterintuitive argument—if Mormons are kind and accepting of interfaith marriages and the people in them, as Riley claims from her interviews and research (and as our family has experienced firsthand, with only a few exceptions in two decades), wouldn’t the opposite be true?
This is difficult in the LDS faith, where so much is expected of ordinary members. Wouldn’t there be more interfaith, part-Mormon marriages? Because of Mormonism’s strong emphasis on missionary work, approximately a third of part-member marriages will become same-faith marriages when the other spouse converts, sometimes many years down the road.
Serious, steady dating and marriage-oriented courtship are expected to be delayed longer, perhaps until after a mission for males and after completing high school for females.
A chaste courtship is expected to lead to a temple marriage, in which a couple make binding commitments to each other for all time and eternity.
It’s not just a matter of which church to attend; what about tithing? Riley says that in Mormonism, there is no stigma attached to being in a part-member marriage. (Incidentally, non-Mormon wives are almost twice as likely to convert to Mormonism as non-Mormon husbands.) These numbers are far higher than postmarital conversions in other religions, particularly in Judaism.
For example, there is no shaming of interfaith children (like one story in the book of an evangelical Sunday School teacher who told one of her students that Mommy was going to hell because she didn’t come to church–! But instead of creating more interfaith marriages, this persistent, long-term welcome mat actually cuts down on such marriages because . There are several stories in the book of non-Jewish spouses who decided to convert but had to repeatedly bang on the door of the synagogue to be accepted, since conversion is not the norm.
For most young people in the United States outside the Church, dating begins at an early age (about age thirteen during the 1980s); it has no set pattern of progression, and is often informal and unsupervised.