Inter-Religious Dating

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March 30, 2009
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Q1. Is it OK for a Mormon and a Christian to date?
Q2. If a person is an atheist and dating a Mormon, will the Mormon faith accept the individual?

holding_handsInterfaith dating is not prohibited but there is a slight caveat that goes with this. Generally, interfaith relationships are discouraged by many religious groups based on the inherent differences in such fundamental beliefs. That is, on top of personality differences, other differences in cultural and religious upbringing just add potential problems that must be dealt with. Something that is so basic to a person’s being, such as religious belief, can cause great problems down the road.

Dating can also be difficult when the standards between the two parties differ. Young Latter-day Saints are encouraged to date only those with similar standards and goals. That means those who keep the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Chastity, attend church and have a goal to be married in the temple. Since these are generally peculiar to Mormons, it can be hard for two young people to reconcile these differences. Pressure to change from one side to the other often occurs and, if left unchecked, will eventually destroy the relationship. Members of the LDS Church will do what is normal for him or her. No drinking, no smoking, keeping the Sabbath Day Holy, no pre-marital sexual relations, and others. A person who chooses to date someone who does not follow even one of these standards runs the risk of compromising his or her values, possibly creating a division in the relationship where the desires of both sides cannot be met.

While this division may or may not be crucial during dating, any division can be fatal to a relationship after a couple gets married. Since dating is a precursor to marriage, the question of inter-faith dating applies even more strongly to marriage. In my opinion, ideal marriages are built upon common trust and unity and a marriage that isn’t progressing towards those ideals is likely not progressing at all, which is a bad situation. A good, strong marriage is one where a man and a woman agree to put aside differences and work together. Religious differences can be difficult to put aside.

mormon_datingFor the second question, the answer is yes. The “Mormon faith” accepts any individual (see 3 Nephi 18). That being said, don’t be surprised if you are encouraged to attend church and learn more about it. Mormons are Mormons because they enjoy what they believe and derive much happiness from it. And when any individual has something that makes them happy, they want to share it with others. I also encourage you to learn more about our faith if for no other reason than to understand what your significant other believes in.

An article was published in the church magazine, The New Era and answers the question from the point of view of the LDS member who asks if it is ok to date non-members.

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9 Responses to “Inter-Religious Dating”

  1. And what of a white woman and a black man dating and marrying? Does not the LDS refuse to join couples like this in marriage?

  2. Thaddeus

    There has never been a ban on interracial marriages in the Church.

    It has been discouraged, and still is sometimes cautioned against. Not because of skin color, but because of socioeconomic and cultural differences.

    Former president of the Church Spencer W. Kimball taught, “Now, the brethren feel that it is not the wisest thing to cross racial lines in dating and marrying. There is no condemnation. We have had some of our fine young people who have crossed the lines. We hope they will be very happy, but experience of the brethren through a hundred years has proved to us that marriage is a very difficult thing under any circumstances and the difficulty increases in interrace marriages” (see lightplanet).

    There have been successful interracial marriages in the Church, though. Especially in this new era of desegregation and union of cultures, it becomes less and less an issue to worry about.

    Thanks for your question, Papa Frank.

  3. Hi Thaddeus,

    Regarding the issue of socioeconomic and cultural differences being issues in an interracial relationship/marriage, the same can be true of two people of the same race. I am white and of mixed western European descent (mostly Swedish and Irish). I have friends who are also white but of, say, Slovak or Polish descent. The cultural differences among second- or third-generation (etc.) Americans are often not major, but they generally do exist (especially, of course, in terms of religion — while I am an atheist, I was baptized Lutheran, but not all white people are Protestants, of course). So cultural differences are not unique to interracial relationships. In fact, I’d say that a white person from deep-south Alabama and a white person from Minnesota could have more cultural differences than two people of different races who grew up in the same place.

    I bristle at the idea that “socioeconomic” differences would necessarily factor into an interracial relationship. From experience, I cannot help but assume it implies that the white partner would be of a higher socioeconomic standing than the black (or otherwise nonwhite) partner. If I’m mistaken, please do let me know. But as a person who grew up among many poor or just blue-collar folks in a small Midwestern town, I can say confidently that whiteness does not automatically correlate to high (or higher) socioeconomic standing. Similarly, as a WASPy white girl living in Brooklyn, NY, I can tell you that socioeconomic standing becomes a much more nuanced, and often less important, issue when you live in a diverse place. (I mean diverse in every sense, not just racially diverse.)

    Thanks!
    Katie

  4. Katie,

    Thanks for your response. The advice that was given was intended to make marriage easier for both parties. The leaders in the Church are mature and they know that marriage is not a fantasy wonderland, as Hollywood likes to depict. It takes work and sacrifice and an effort to understand where your spouse is coming from. The more varied your backgrounds, the more difficult it will be. The principle behind their counsel is sound.

    I wasn’t able to dig much deeper than what I’ve listed as reasons for this counsel. I can’t read minds or hearts, but along with the obvious cultural differences faced in interraccial marriages, I wonder if President Kimball may have also been concerned about trying to raise a mixed-race family in a largely prejudiced society. It wasn’t long ago that people (even good people) bristled at the thought of a biracial baby.

    I don’t condone such bristling, but the fact remains that it was prevalent. Raising biracial children in such an atmosphere would be inviting unnecessary hardship to these innocent victims of prejudice.

  5. Thanks for the response! I can understand where Pres. Kimball might have been coming from. To be honest, I still find it misguided. Black people face prejudice, but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have children out of fear of subjecting their children to that same prejudice.

    Regardless, I appreciate your answer. For what it’s worth, I was raised by fairly secular/nonreligious parents who have been married for nearly 27 years and believe strongly in commitment, even though they are not god-fearing folks. (I don’t mean to say that you would find such a thing hard to believe, but I don’t want to give the impression that I view marriage in a Hollywood-approved rainbows-and-flowers light, either.)

  6. Rosie

    Thaddeus,

    That piece of advice given by Spencer W Kimball was probably largely given because he was a product of his time and culture.

    As a black woman in the church in the UK my experience of dating LDS men has been terrible. I believe that it is in large part due to advice such as this. On many occassions I have been told that the reason a guy won’t date me is because I am black. I have a masters degree and a well paid job in advertising, so socioeconomic background has nothing to do with this. Can you imagine how much being told that hurts? My being black also gets in the way of me somtimes developing friendships with men in the church, nevermind dating.

    If we continue to encourage segregation which pieces of advice like this, and discourage people of different backgrounds coming together we will never overcome the church’s issues with race. Shouldn’t we encourage people to not judge others just because their skin colour and socioeconomic backgrounds might be different? Isn’t it time to stop assuming that mixed relationships are more difficult? I believe that it is time to stop making such assumptions. All marriages have their difficulties, everyone is unique and different. No where is it written in church doctrine that two people from the same religion, but from different racial/economic backgrounds, cannot love each other and make a relationship work. My family is very mixed and we love each other regardless of skin colour, regardless of socioeconomic background and because we don’t judge each other, we all feel loved and included. I wish that I could say that I feel that same kind of love when I walk thorough the chapel doors each sunday. Sadly I can’t, but my testimony is strong enough to keep me going.

  7. Cristina

    Hello,

    I guess you could say I’m a peaceable agnostic. I believe there is a god, but that is all I’m sure of and I’m okay with that. I am very accepting to other religions (as long as no one is getting hurt) and am very peaceable.
    My best friend and I have liked eachother for a long time now, but he is mormon and I am not. That is the only thing keeping us apart. We have talked about how perfect we would be together but he has grown up learning that he should only date mormons. I think he is afraid to go against his religion.
    But I have read in other places that it is not against the religion to date or even marry outside the faith. I love him with all my heart and only want to be with him. I just can’t see how that could be wrong. I’m a good person. I’m very accepting of his religion and I would be very willing to attend the church and learn more about it. In fact I think all religions are quite fascinating. I follow the a lot of the same principals as him, just because I believe that is what a decent human being should do.
    But what it comes down to, is that I am not mormon, and for that reason he and I have only been friends, although I know he wants something more as well.
    All I want is to be with him. Only he’s unsure if it’s the correct thing to do.
    What should I do?
    I can’t stand the thought of not being with him. I feel like we were meant to be. Please help. I don’t know how I can live without him. Please. I need answers.

  8. Willie

    Cristina,
    This is my own opinion, so hopefully it coincides with others’. As the article above states, “interfaith dating is not prohibited.” What your best friend has got to be thinking about here is the long-term view. Perhaps he has the goal to be married for time and all eternity in the temple. He can only do this if you are able to go along with him to the temple. So he could be thinking, “what would be the point of dating if I can’t be married to her forever as well?”
    It sounds like you are a very level-headed person. I’d invite you to learn about the church with your best friend. You will grow to understand what he views as important and why they are so critical.

  9. Thaddeus

    I agree with Willie. It’s great that you love him and want to be with him, and now it’s time to really understand him. I’m betting that he believes very strongly in the principle of eternal marriage or he would have thrown that personal rule out the window by now. Find out why he wants it — on a deeper level.

    A good place to start is by reading the Book of Mormon. It won’t necessarily answer all of your questions about eternal marriage, but it will give you the background to understand the principle. It will open communication with Father. Do you have a copy?