07 September 2006

Standard Issue

There's a problem with dating in the church.

I'm aware this is the understatement of the century. What I mean to say is, there's a particular problem with dating in the church that's been on my mind lately. It's basically the problem of where we draw the line within the church. Let me explain: I can't remember where I read this lately--I think it might have been by Orson Scott Card--but outside observers have remarked that Mormonism is a faith with few strongly held universal beliefs.

I know, at first this can be rather shocking to us, but at some levels it is certainly true. Yes, the LDS Church has pretty clear conceptions on the most important points of our doctrine--the plan of salvation, the atonement, priesthood authority, necessary ordinances, etc.--but when you get away from the main doctrines necessary to salvation, there's a lot more wiggle room. Political beliefs, Sunday observance, media standards, and more are all left up to the choice of the individual, and you get faithful Latter-day Saints at all parts of the spectrum (well, almost all anyway).

And for the most part, we manage to tolerate each other within the church. Granted, we all believe that there is one true standard, but usually we're humble enough to realize that we have little way of knowing whether that standard is closer to ours or the next person's. We're content to let each person within the church follow the guidance of the Spirit towards the truth, even though the path may look extremely different for different people.

This is all fine and dandy most of the time. But then we reach a problem. It's called marriage. Alright, I couldn't resist that one. I promise I'm not usually this pessimistic. Anyway, the problem in marriage is that it's not a commandment you keep by yourself. It requires the agreement of two faithful church members on one set of standards in which to raise their children. Given the number of possible variations of beliefs within the church, I think it's highly unlikely that any person could manage to find someone who they are attracted to who has precisely the same set of standards.

Now, it's much easier to tolerate differences in standards when you aren't close to people. What do you care what the person across the row from you in sacrament meeting believes? Unfortunately, in dating, you become a lot closer to a person (again with the understatement) and standard differences begin to become a problem. The more liberal person begins to feel looked down on by the conservative one; the conservative one acts more self-righteous than they intend to; and things just go downhill from there.

I've heard some pretty terrible break up stories come from this problem--horrible DTR lines like "I can't feel the Spirit in your apartment," girls breaking up with guys they really like because they felt looked down on. Well, let me be frank (as opposed to Bob): the specific problem I've noticed is guys (, at BYU, among the people I hang out with,) being a lot more conservative than girls. Maybe this has something to do with the mission thing. Maybe it's just that men tend to be more gung-ho and focused on a single goal than women.

I don't know what it is, but it is really annoying me lately, and frankly I don't know what to do about it. Lately, it's seemed like if I meet a guy who has my standards, we really have nothing in common, but if I meet a guy who seems perfect for me, he's way more conservative than I am. I don't know that I want to hold out waiting for both to show up in one person, but how am I supposed to choose which is more important? Do I change my standards because of someone else? Even if it's revising them "upward," it still doesn't feel like the right thing to do. Married people/relationship gurus out there, any suggestions on dealing with this?

Of course, this is all sadly hypothetical. Well, mostly.

On a less serious note . . .
Apt 15 Quote of the Day: "Grammar is lazy."

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