I was recently invited to join the group “Do You Have Your Eternal Buddy? We Do! We need you addresses” on facebook. The group picture was a close-up of the beautiful engagement ring and the youngsters looked rosy and happy and full of delight. I really couldn’t bring myself to click the “join” button. I’m just NOT that sentimental about engaged couples anymore. It seems to me, somehow along the way, that my generation missed the marriage boat in pursuit of other things or lack of options. Or maybe, as Stephen Colbert writes so eloquently, I went shoe shopping when I was supposed to go to the gym and thus I missed meeting my soul mate. I’m kind of ok with that, but many of my single and active LDS friends are not. They want to be married. In a culture where a righteous Celestial marriage is the highest accomplishment, you sort of grow up wanting that. I spent a good deal of my twenties wanting it myself, though luckily I’ve been able to step out of the culture and realize it might actually not be for me.
Holidays and farewells bring lots of friends together. Recently, I was speaking with several of my active LDS friends, all intelligent and capable women in their 30s, about marriage. This isn’t that unusual. But as the discussion was heading down the routes and lanes it ALWAYS heads down with them (because, if you want a temple marriage, there’s really only one road to get it) I realized how easy and naturally the placating of desires came to them. “But, it’s ok if it doesn’t happen, because in the next life, I’ll marry Captain Moroni.” or “Well, if it doesn’t happen now, I’ll get my reward in heaven if I can just stay faithful!” All of them, without a doubt, believe firmly that if they sacrifice their desires for marriage and children in this life and hold firm for that perfect celestial marriage, but it doesn’t happen– then the promise is assured that it will happen in the next. And as I sat there and watched the conversations unfold, I thought….this sounds a lot like what suicide bombers believe. Do this and this and you’ll get this reward in heaven. When you learn that most are promised 72 virgins in heaven, it all sounds so incredulous. How could a person REALLY believe that 72 virgins await them? It’s insane right?! Unless they were brainwashed into believing it so they could be controlled by their religious institution to a certain point. But the LDS church wouldn’t do that, right? That’s only eastern religions that do that, isn’t it?
In some recent thoughts and studies about Islam, I googled “What are muslim martyrs promised after death” and came up with a wide variety of information. One article stood out which introduced me to a new word: “Houri”. Apparently, the houri are described as “(splendid) companions of equal age (well-matched)”, “lovely eyed”, of “modest gaze”, “voluptuous”, “pure beings” , “restraining their glances (chaste)”, “like pearls”, “virgins” as well as other descriptions. And the Houri are promised to the righteous, including martyrs, in the afterlife. In an article over at The Guardian it quotes the an interview with a Hamas activist Muhammad Abu Wardeh, who recruited terrorists for suicide bombings in Israel. Abu Wardeh was quoted as saying: “I described to him how God would compensate the martyr for sacrificing his life for his land. If you become a martyr, God will give you 70 virgins, 70 wives and everlasting happiness.” Obviously, this post isn’t meant to draw deep comparisons (I’d have to be much more clear and informed than I am now). And I know the comparison I made is a shocking one without a lot of hold or strength…but it did worry me that my thoughts could even go there. It will upset many of you and it has upset me as well.
In one of the many talks given to single people in the church, the repeatedly vague promise was voiced again, “Some of my closest and most admired friends have never married in this life. One of my mother’s dear friends, who served as her counselor in the stake Relief Society presidency, was a retired lieutenant colonel from the United States Army. She was a beautiful, cultured, intelligent woman whose encouragement was of great value to me and many others. She died with faith and poise, having earned a great reward. I know she yet will have an experience equivalent to that enjoyed by women in choice mortal families. No joy, priesthood ordinance, or family experience will be denied her.”
Why does the Islamic claim seem ridiculous to you, but the LDS one does not?
This got me thinking about ALL of the amazing, intelligent, beautiful, sexy, nurturing women I know who don’t even date. They don’t date because, as I hear it, there aren’t as many righteous men their ages as there are women. Most righteous men, to fall into the “righteous” category that is, did their duty and got married in their twenties like they were supposed to. So many of them long to be wives and mothers, others long for it because it’s what they’ve been taught to long for, many ask questions like “what is wrong with me?”, “it must be my fault somehow?”, “it’s a trial I have to deal with” and on and on and on until I want to scream at all the wasted energy that must have some better solution than what’s currently presented.
What do you think? Would the church fall apart if these women married outside of their faith? Would the marriages survive? Should we teach people to date a person for who they are instead of what they believe? Is there a solution to this major issue regarding single women of the LDS faith?
While this doctrine is definitely vague, is it dangerous? Is it preventing people for experiencing life on earth because they are waiting for a better version in heaven? Discuss.