"For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light..."

Dating and Marrying Non-Members

This page contains comments from:

W. John Walsh
For the Strength of Youth
President Gordon B. Hinckley
President Ezra Taft Benson
President Spencer W. Kimball
President Hugh B. Brown
President Brigham Young
President George Q. Cannon

by W. John Walsh

Since a major component of the gospel is the concept of eternal marriage, Latter-day Saints are encouraged to only date and marry faithful members of the Church. This is because only faithful members of the Church can enter a holy temple and be married for time and all eternity. In other words, Latter-day Saints believe that when two people enter into temple marriage (i.e., eternal marriage) and are faithful to their covenants, then they will rise in the resurrection as a married couple and live together forever in the married state. Members are encouraged to stay away from any path which might take them away from this great blessing.

The Church recognizes the legal validity of non-temple marriages. However, while temple marriages extend beyond death [if both parties are faithful], non-temple marriages are only "until death do you part." In addition, temple marriages have special priesthood blessings placed upon them which are not available outside the temple. If both spouses will live their lives in accordance with the Lord's will, then these priesthood blessings will enhance their marriage in ways not otherwise possible. (See Teachings About the Family home page)

Members who ignore the counsel of Church leaders on this issue are not punished or ostracized by the Church or its membership. They are encouraged to bring their nonmember spouses to Church events, meetings, and worship services. However, many Latter-day Saints find it difficult to remain in full activity after marrying nonmembers. Their nonmember spouse often resents them attending Church meetings, paying tithing, accepting callings, and keeping Church Standards (e.g., Sabbath worship)

Finally, it should be mentioned that some Latter-day Saints date nonmembers with no intent of forming a serious lasting relationship.  Unfortunately, despite their intentions, they sometimes fall in love with nonmembers and find themselves emotionally chained and unable to end the relationship.  After all, we usually fall in love with those we date.  Speaking of which, nonmembers also fall in love with those whom they date.  I believe it is a cruel thing to expose a nonmember to that risk.  I have received dozens of letters from heartbroken nonmembers who can't understand why the person they love ended their relationship.  If the Latter-day Saint had not violated the commandments of God by dating the nonmember, then the nonmember would not have been emotionally crushed.  I believe God will hold those Latter-day Saints responsible for such cruelty.

For the Strength of Youth

Because dating is a preparation for marriage, date only those who have high standards, who respect your standards, and in whose company you can maintain the standards of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (See For the Strength of Youth)

by President Gordon B. Hinckley

Your chances for a happy and lasting marriage will be far greater if you will date those who are active and faithful in the Church. Such dating is most likely to lead to marriage in the House of the Lord. ("Four B’s for Boys", Ensign, November 1981, pp. 41)

by President Ezra Taft Benson

Our Heavenly Father wants you [young women] to date young men who are faithful members of the Church, who will be worthy to take you to the temple and be married the Lord's way. There will be a new spirit in Zion when the young women will say to their boyfriends, "If you cannot get a temple recommend, then I am not about to tie my life to you, even for mortality!" And the young returned missionary will say to his girlfriend, "I am sorry, but as much as I love you, I will not marry out of the holy temple." ("To the Young Women of the Church," Ensign 16 [November 1986]: 84.)

Our Heavenly Father wants you [young men] to date young women who are faithful members of the Church, who encourage you to serve a full-time mission and to magnify your priesthood. (President Ezra Taft Benson, "To the Youth of the Noble Birthright", Ensign, May 1986, p. 45.)

by President Spencer W. Kimball

Clearly, right marriage begins with right dating. A person generally marries someone from among those with whom he associates, with whom he goes to school, with whom he goes to church, with whom he socializes. Therefore, this warning comes with great emphasis. Do not take the chance of dating nonmembers, or members who are untrained and faithless. A girl may say, "Oh, I do not intend to marry this person. It is just a 'fun' date." But one cannot afford to take a chance on falling in love with someone who may never accept the gospel. True, a small percentage have finally been baptized after marrying Church members. Some good women and some good men have joined the Church after the mixed marriage and have remained devout and active. We are proud of them and grateful for them. They are our blessed minority. Others who did not join the Church were still kind and considerate and cooperative and permitted the member spouse to worship and serve according to the Church patterns. But the majority did not join the Church and, as indicated earlier, friction, frustration and divorce marked a great many of their marriages.

In isolated instances a lovely young woman might be so far removed geographically from other Church members that she would either have to marry out of the Church or stay unmarried. Some might feel justified in such circumstances in making an exception to the rule and marrying a nonmember but, justification or not, it is important to recognize that the hazards in such a marriage would remain. To minimize the dangers the girl should by all means make sure that she marries a man who is honorable and good, so that even if he cannot at present be brought to accept the gospel there is a fair chance of his being converted later. (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p.242)

We love those few [non-members] who join the Church after marriage [to a member]. We praise them and honor them, but the odds are against us. ...Only about one out of seven nonmember spouses [is] converted and baptized into the Church. This grieves us very much. The total program of the Lord for the family cannot be enjoyed fully if the people are unequally yoked in marriage. (President Spencer W. Kimball, "Marriage and Divorce", Brigham Young University Devotional, September 7, 1976, pp. 9-10.)

by President Hugh B. Brown

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. 2 Cor. 6:14

Some of our young people, and others, have wondered if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is peculiar or unique in its insistence that its members should marry within the Church. It may be interesting to some to know that leaders of other churches have, down through the ages, counseled their members to marry within their own faith.

Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish leaders in all nations agree that inter-faith marriages frequently end in separation or divorce. Several national studies have been made on this important question, and they show that the chances of divorce and separation are two and one-half times greater in inter-faith marriages than where the partners are of the same faith. These studies further show that even where such marriages do not break up in divorce or separation, the difference in religious opinions and convictions is at the root of much unhappiness.

If either one or both parties to such marriages are sincere in their religious convictions, there is sure to come a time, especially after children come into the home, when one or the other must yield, unless both are willing to give up religious practices altogether. If they choose the latter alter, native, it means their children will be brought up without any kind of church attachment.

Reliable statistics show that where both parents were Catholic, ninety-two percent of their sons remain Catholic. Where both parents were Protestant, sixty-eight percent of their sons were practicing Protestants, but where one parent was Catholic and the other Protestant, only thirty, four percent of the children were practicing members of either faith. There are so many adjustments to be made in the average marriage, that it is unwise to start out with fundamental differences; and differences in religion are fundamental.

Young people, during their courtship, may feel that their emotional harmony will make their differing faiths unimportant, but this does not prove to be true in actual experience. It is not difficult to maintain friendships across the barriers of religion, but successful marriage calls for mental, emotional, and spiritual unity, without which complete and satisfactory union between husband and wife is unattainable. Where spiritual unity pervades all phases of married life, other differences become insignificant. But antagonistic church allegiance is like a flaw in a building which extends from the foundation to the roof.

Divisive disputes caused by religious differences, generally result in conflicts in a wider area than that of specific religious belief and observance. Even if for the sake of harmony, the parties agree to become inactive in any church, still the carry-over of their early religious training, the cultural patterns and personal values, will aggravate and complicate the problems of day-to-day living.

In Orthodox Judaism there is detailed regulation in daily living. Catholicism requires submission to the authority of the church, while Protestantism generally stresses individual freedom. Most young people raised in any one of these religious groups are deeply affected by their early training, and if they marry into different faiths and undertake to raise a family, their fundamental problems are vastly increased.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there are many additional, fundamental reasons for marrying with, in the Church. Its members believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored, that they have a divine commission to live its principles and teach its doctrines and way of life, therefore, they cannot compromise without being untrue to themselves and to their children. Adherence to its principles and doctrines is incumbent by divine revelation upon all its members, and they who accept such revelation are anxious that their children shall be taught its principles and live according to its standards. Some of the teachings of the Church are, by other people, looked upon as unusual and extreme. A young man or woman may, for a time, tolerate in his mate practices and indulgences which are forbidden, but the Latter-day Saint boy or girl who marries out of the Church must expect the question to arise and become more vital as children come into the home. No true Latter-day Saint would wish to have his children leave the Church, sacrifice its blessings or be raised in another faith. By the same token, the other spouse generally would not wish to have the children raised in our Church, and here they join issue; here there is a conflict of loyalties and a parting of the ways. Again we say, religion, if sincere, is fundamental, and wisdom would suggest in the interest of peace and happiness that not only Latter-day Saints, but men and women of other faiths, should marry members of their own church.

There is, of course, the additional incentive for LDS members to marry within the Church, and that is that only worthy members of the Church may be married in the temple. Temple marriage is for time and eternity, and children born to parents who were married in the temple belong to the parents forever. Let young men and women consider before they marry out of the Church whether they will be willing to lose their children, either here or hereafter or both, rather than overcome and reject a juvenile infatuation. They who marry out of the Church and therefore out of the temple should consider the permanence of the separation agreed to m the civil marriage ceremony, which concludes with the saddening phrase, "Until death do you part." There are, in all communities, eligible young men and women within the Church, and caution should suggest to all that they consider well the probable, and in some respects inevitable, consequences of marrying out of the Church.

Each one should try to imagine himself adjusting to the problem of seeing his or her child reared in another faith, or see the child form friendships or accept values and standards which are contrary to his own early training and deep convictions. There can be no warm family fellowship enjoyed when the parents, and later the children, differ on such essential matters. Furthermore, children raised under such conditions will themselves be inclined to minimize or disregard the importance of religion when in turn they may be seeking companions.

Thoughtful young people should, before they start dating, avoid the danger of entanglements and date only those who are of their own faith. All experienced counselors know that religious differences are among the root causes of incompatibility and unhappiness.

Some young people marry non-members in the hope that they may be converted and join the Church after marriage. It is much wiser to settle that question before marriage, and if neither one nor the other wishes to join the Church to which his fiancee belongs, a broken engagement is much better than broken hearts and a broken home after the marriage ceremony. Young men and women, thinking of marriage, look forward hopefully to building peaceful, love-filled homes and raising happy, united families. If they talk to any wise marriage counselor, or the leaders of their own church or the minister of their proposed companion, they will almost invariably be advised to choose life partners whose faith and spiritual background is the same as their own.

There are enough built in hazards in this venture with, out deliberately starting out with a fundamental difference. The late President Joseph F. Smith, one of the wisest and most revered of fathers, said in a general conference of the Church:

. . . Some people feel that it does not make very much difference whether a girl marries a man in the Church, full of the faith of the gospel, or an unbeliever. Some of our young people have married outside the Church, but very few of those who have done it have failed to come to grief. I would like to see Latter-day Saint women marry Latter, day Saint men, and Latter-day Saint men marry Latter-day Saint women; and let Methodists marry Methodists, Catholics marry Catholics, and Presbyterians marry Presbyterians, and so on to the limit. Let them keep within the pale of their own faith and church, and marry and intermarry there, and let the Latter-day Saints do the same thing in their Church; . . . --Oct. C. R. 1909, pp. 5, 6

We receive many letters from people who face divorce and its attendant evils as a direct consequence of their having disregarded the above counsel. The following is typical:

Dear Elder:

As I listened to your address today, I wished, so deep in my heart, that I had listened to similar advice ten years ago. At the age of 22 I married a non-Mormon. I had dated good Mormon boys, but, although I had respect for them, they had failed to "sweep me off my feet." . . .

The time has come when my duty is first to my children. We can no longer spend our Sundays hunting or visiting. My children need to go to church. My husband is willing that I should take them, but I must go alone. We are separated in the one thing that could bring us the most joy. (Worshipping as a family.)

I can see my marriage slowly slipping away from me. Our central interests are different. He likes dogs and sports, mine must be church and children. I must take the children slowly to me and away from him. We have no common ground on which to meet in time of trial and need. Couples who cannot pray together, can seldom talk to each other. The loneliness I feel these days is almost more than I can bear. The worst part of the whole situation is the conflicts with yourself, knowing that your duty is to the children and the Church, and yet wanting the companionship of your husband. I sincerely hope you will continue to impress these important facts on our youth. I don't believe this subject can be stressed too much to our young boys and girls. May God be with me, that I may find a solution to my problem. I sincerely hope He can help me do the best with the mistake I have made.

There are, of course, many good, sincere, devoted people in other churches. Our objection to marrying them stems, not from any "Holier-than-thou" feeling, but from a desire that both parties avoid the unhappiness which experience shows is almost inevitable. We would advise any Catholic, Protestant, or Jew not to marry a Latter-day Saint and for the same reasons. Marriage is, to Latter-day Saints, not only the most serious and important of life's adventures, but it is, when properly solemnized, the gateway into the kingdom of heaven. Furthermore, it is prerequisite to admittance to the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. Be satisfied with nothing less than CELESTIAL MARRIAGE.

You and Your Marriage, p. 40-46
Copyright by Bookcraft

by President Brigham Young

Be careful, O ye mothers in Israel, and do not teach your daughters in future, as many of them have been taught, to marry out of Israel. Woe to you who do it; you will lose your crowns as sure as God lives. 12:97.

What was the cause of the first, or one of the first, curses that came upon Israel? I will tell you. One of the first transgressions of the family called Israel, was their going to other families or other nations to select partners. This was one of the great mistakes made by the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for they would go and marry with other families, although the Lord had forbidden them to do so, and had given them a very strict and stringent law on the subject. He commanded them not to marry among the Gentiles, but they did and would do it. Inasmuch as they would not do what he required of them, then he gave them what I call a portion of the law of carnal commandments. This law told them what they might and whom they might not marry. It was referred to by the Savior and his Apostles and it was a grievous yoke to place on the necks of any people; but as the children of this family would run after Babylon, and after the pride and the vanity and evils of the world, and seek to introduce them into Israel, the Lord saw fit to place this burden upon them. 16:111.

How is it with you, sisters? Do you distinguish between a man of God and a man of the world? It is one of the strangest things that happens in my existence, to think that any man or woman can love a being that will not receive the truth of heaven. The love this Gospel produces is far above the love of women; it is the love of God—the love of eternity—of eternal lives. 8:199-200.

Discourses of Brigham Young, p.197

by President George Q. Cannon

When Latter-day Saints marry those who are not of their faith, I look upon it as a great misfortune to those who do so. If those barriers were to be broken down which ought to exist between us and the world I should view it as a great calamity. One of the strictest commands that the Lord gave to Israel in olden times was that they should not marry with the nations surrounding them; and this law is equally binding on us, and we should do everything in our power to maintain it inviolate. (Journal of Discourses, Vol.22, p.285 - p.286)

(See Daily Living home page; Dating and Courtship home page; Teachings About Marriage home page)


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