Why Marriage


Is there still a place for marriage in the 21st century or is it an impossible fantasy that is no longer a desirable milestone among generation Z? The facts are that less people are choosing marriage today than were in 2000. The CDC shows that the number of marriages per 1,000 has been steadily decreasing since 2000. It went from 8.2 marriages per 1,000 to 6.5 in 2018. By contrast the current divorce rate is 2.9 per 1,000. I would like to explore some of the reasons for this decline in marriage rates and offer some social science research why marriage is still a valuable milestone in the year 2020.

The first consideration has to do with the average age at first marriage. Why this matters is because it affects the way in which people date if the intended goal does not include marriage. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the average age for a woman to marry in 1960 was 20 and for men it was slightly over 22. In 2019 those numbers climbed to 28 for women and 30 for men. Because people are dating longer and not dating for the purpose of finding a spouse, it has created a number of pitfalls in dating culture according to Jason S Carroll in Successful Marriages and Families Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives. Those pitfalls are pessimism about marriage, focus on personal financial independence, sexual permissiveness, and cohabitation before marriage.


I’m a child of the 80’s and growing up with parents who fought constantly and eventually divorced didn’t paint a very rosy picture of marriage. However, I had a friend who’s parents were happily married and I often went to church with her where I saw lots of happily married couples. Many of my quotes and experiences were shaped by my eventual conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I realized that just because some marriages fail, it doesn’t mean that I mine had to or that if I do end up in a failed marriage that it wasn’t still a worthy goal. A recent study showed that 90 percent of young adults in the US believe that marriage is very important (Bachman, Johnston, & O’Mally, 2009). This is good news despite having grown up with high divorce rates. Carroll attributes the problem to the low expectations they have for marriage and a high emphasis on experiencing single life before they settle down on the path of marriage and what they believe is ultimate divorce. Who would want to be in a hurry to enter something that you believe is sure to end in divorce?

Marriage is something I believe to be ordained of God and central to His plan, and the foundation of family units. In fact, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints felt it so important that there is a proclamation regarding the structure of family. Prophets and Apostles have also added their counsel.

“The family is not an accident of mortality. It existed as an organizational unit in the heavens before the world was formed; historically, it started on earth with Adam and Eve, as recorded in Genesis. Adam and Eve were married and sealed for time and all eternity by the Lord, and as a result their family will exist eternally.”

Robert D Hales

We also believe that the main pillars of our theology are centered in the family.

“The Atonement allows for the family to be sealed together eternally. It allows for families to have eternal growth and perfection. The plan of happiness, also called the plan of salvation, was a plan created for families…When we speak of qualifying for the blessings of eternal life, we mean qualifying for the blessings of eternal families. This was Christ’s doctrine, and it was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.”

Julie B Beck

There is an old saying that maybe you’ve heard. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Don’t gasp at the thought of being bought. It’s a metaphor for commitment. Here’s another one. How you treat a home you own verses one you rent? You are much more likely to take better care of a home you own because it it your financial investment. You’re also not going to invest much time into upkeep and beautifying a rental. You will treat your marital relationship with greater care and put a larger investment into it than you will when you are dating with marital benefits or cohabitating. The rental mindset is evident in the current culture of dating where you go on several dates and are still unclear whether or not you are a couple. It’s often a an anxiety filled waiting game to see who changes their social media status to “in a relationship.” This has lended itself to a culture of casualness and non-committed sexual experiences. One study suggests “several reasons why so many are unwilling to marry early: they can get sex without marriage, they fear that marriage will require too many changes and compromises, they face few social pressures to marry, and they want to enjoy single life as long as they can” (Whitehead & Popenoe, 2002).

What has social science found in regard to cohabitation before marriage? Studies have constantly found that “couples who cohabit before marriage are more likely to divorce than couples who do not (Jose, O’Leary, & Moyer, 2010). There is some better news, as far as marital satisfaction and potential for divorce goes, for some than others depending on when cohabitation occurs, either before engagement or after. Before engagement have 43.1 percent reporting low marital satisfaction, and after engagement is 16.4 percent (Rhoades, Stanley, & Markman, 2009).

Now that we know that cohabitation before marriage does not lead to greater marital satisfaction despite many beliefs to the contrary, what kind of spiritual counsel have we heard and what benefits do you gain by waiting to be intimate until after you are married?

“We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”

The Family: A proclamation to the World

” Personal purity is the key to true love. The more pure your thoughts and feelings, words and actions, the greater your capacity to give and receive true love…Do whatever it takes to keep your thoughts, feelings, words and actions pure. Invite the Spirit to guide you. He will help you. As you work to become pure you will have the Holy Ghost with you more and more and your ability to receive personal revelation will increase. Which means, you’ll have clearer direction for your life. You’ll feel more at peace and more joy, less lonely and more hopeful about your future. You’ll also have increased mental clarity as you study and work. In addition to these works everyday to become just a little more pure, you’ll be increasing your ability to experience true marital intimacy.”

Wendy W. Nelson

I really love how Wendy Nelson ties everything together for us. We all want to have true love. Isn’t that the message of every fairy tale ever written? It’s important to know how true love is found and what it looks like. There is reason to be hopeful that a future marriage will work when it is pursued in the pattern set forth by the Lord. Marriage would not be central to God’s plan if a way were not provided to obey the command. It reminds me of a song we sing in primary. It goes “I know the Lord provides a way he wants me to obey.” I like to say that sentence in reverse because it gives more meaning and impact. I know the Lord wants me to obey, so He always provides a way.


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