Mormonism as 1950s America

TracingWoodgrains - [original thread]

I have to admit I have very little familiarity with the Mormons, but from what I've seen, they are disproportionately involved in agriculture, which is one of those places where traditional households have an advantage -- but which can only occupy a rather limited section of the workforce these days. Mormons exist in all sorts of white-collar jobs as well, but I'd be rather surprised if they are able to preserve their traditional gender roles there. Insisting on being the breadwinner isn't a winning proposition in the dating market if your career is unpredictable until you're 35. (Though, admittedly, homeschooling probably reduces the necessary income needed for a family, and I would be surprised if the LDS don't have their own health-insurance infrastructure that leverages the lack of addiction-related problems into lower rates. But neither of these upsides requires traditional gender roles.)

Mormon gender roles aren't as uniformly conservative as they may seem:

58% of Mormons say a marriage where the husband provides and the wife stays at home is preferable to one in which both spouses have jobs.

Any Mormons around to step in?

Any Mormons around to step in?

You know it! Well, ex-/cultural Mormon, at any rate, from a decidedly white-collar suburban upbringing. Traditional gender roles are alive and well in Mormon culture, though things are changing a little bit. As an example, take a look at average pay by gender 10 years after graduation from BYU: $29,000 for women, $84,000 for men. Anecdotally, this is largely by choice: people go there, get married, and then men take the ‘breadwinner’ role and women raise their families.

I can give you examples from my own neighborhood and childhood. My mum was a stay-at-home mother my whole childhood with my dad in a white-collar job, where he worked his way through school and then carried on supporting us. Grandparents, basically the same. Aunts and uncles, I mean, my aunts tend to do creative work on the side, and one has stepped into the primary working parent role for a few reasons, but overall they all took massive steps back in their careers to care for kids.

My neighborhood was an absolute model of what you all would call the 1950s. Lots of working fathers in stable white-collar jobs, stay-at-home mothers sometimes teaching, running local preschools, or participating in MLMs and the like. A bunch of happy families with 3-8 kids and very traditional gender roles. I knew all my neighbors growing up, at least until the ward boundary hit (local congregation). Everyone beyond that was mysterious, as were the three or four households that didn’t go to church. But of the 300-400 people in my ward, it was all very traditional.

I was also never super plugged into local gossip, so more could have been going on than I noticed, but it always seemed perfectly idyllic to me. My parents never really fought, and most of the neighbors seemed stable and happy. More spousal deaths that I know of (2) than divorces (1 that I recall, but there must have been more).

As for the dating market, dating as a Mormon guy is super easy, relatively speaking. More women than men are active in church, and everyone’s looking to marry. Guys can just go to church in the young single adult wards, meet someone cute, start dating, get married. There’s no cultural expectation of being established in your career before marrying. People marry young—my parents married around 20. You hear crazy stories of people dating only a few weeks before getting engaged. Six months is a long period of just dating in Mormon terms. Again, all this is slowing and changing in response to outside culture, but it’s still present. Off the top of my head I know of five or six couples who got engaged within a couple of months, all happy and doing well.

Oh, and it’s very normal for, say, a woman to go to a church university intending largely to meet a guy there, get married, and become a homemaker. Becoming a bit less so, but still pretty typical last I saw. Don’t believe me? “Family life” is the 8th most popular major at BYU.

Anyway, I obviously lived a pretty sheltered childhood. Not everyone’s experience is like mine. But I never got the sense that my experience was particularly uncommon among Mormons, and I travelled around quite a range of areas and socioeconomic backgrounds on my mission and other trips. Mormonism is the same everywhere.

To tell you the truth, coming from that background, the whole world has always seemed insane to me. Broken homes, addictions, crime... like, even something as mild as swearing just wasn’t a part of my real-world sphere. It was all just stuff people talked about happening somewhere else, not, you know, anything that was actually real. Things just sort of worked.

Life continues to roll forward, and the other shoe has dropped a few times since in the lives of those I care about, but until I was about 18 my real-life world was one where everyone lived in our traditional Mormon values bubble and everything pretty much just made sense.