Why do Mormons have high rates of family formation and monogamous, life-long marriage? Dennis Mangan quotes the theory of “structural alpha”:
“What this means is that society is run in such a way that almost every man has a level of alpha – that is, high status which women find attractive. This high status is maintained and enforced through monogamy, low divorce rates, and, above all I would say, limited female participation in the workforce. When these conditions apply, men have structural alpha and different qualities sort out men and women in the sexual marketplace. No doubt higher status Mormon men still obtain more beautiful and feminine wives than lower status Mormon men, yet within the Mormon church, it seems likely that nearly every man has enough alpha to get and keep a wife. …
A sense of community may be important here. The tighter knit the community, the less likely is not only anyone to leave it, but the more likely they are to adhere to its social norms, which include bigger families and sexual chastity.”
Now, where have we seen this before? “The religious community must maintain a strong community life apart from the mainstream society… Marriages must be seen as the bringing together of two families.” The point being, Patriarchy is not a system that has each man standing on his own. Like the fasces, the bundle where the sticks (yes, a symbol for Fascism; you can see two examples here) are individually weak but collectively strong, men and Patriarchs work best when in a community that supports these values.
Writing what could be a great post on its own, Brendan comments:
“Mormons are an interesting bunch in many ways. I have studied, lived and worked with Mormons for years – not in Mormon communities, but in non-Mormon ones that had a few Mormons present. These are precisely the conditions in which one could expect the Mormons to “break rank” and go “coffee”, so to speak, but almost none do.
Based on what I have observed, I think the reason for this lies in your final point – tight-knit community. The LDS church is a very, very tight-knit community that, and this is the key part, enforces its norms very emphatically. That is, you’re a part of this big family – both relatives and non-relatives – and it encompasses most aspects of your “private” life. This family has rules and norms that you must follow if you want to remain a part of it. If you break the rules, you’re out of the family, generally speaking. You can come back later if you repent and live by the rules, but – unlike the rest of Christianity — you can’t generally find another LDS community to fall in with who will accept your rule-breaking ways. If you don’t follow the rules, you’re out.
Now that sounds very negative, but I don’t think most Mormons experience it as such, simply because the “family” supports them so much in almost every aspect of their private lives. The LDS community is like a total support network, and these people are actively engaged in it with their “free” time during the week. People reinforce and support each other much moreso than in any other typical Christian church today in the US at least. It’s a very different thing – it’s like a huge extended family support network that has many personal advantages – not just material ones, mind you, but social/emotional/spiritual support. Most (not all, of course) Mormons rely on this a lot, and very much like it. And they know that in order to stay, they need to follow the rules, and so they do – not out of fear, really, in most cases, but out of desire to remain in the support network because it is so helpful in various ways in their lives. In part, this is also because the success of others in the network is reinforcing — that is, LDS people see other LDS people leading successful and happy family lives, and this reinforces their own desire and ability to see the same degree of success. It’s almost the prototypical example of the virtuous cycle at work here.
For those Mormons who do want to break the ranks, they are basically jettisoned from the family, and it can be a very, very harsh experience indeed. There are stories online about Mormons who have gone through that, and they seem quite harrowing, because pretty much one’s entire social support network is switched completely off, and has to be rebuilt from scratch. It’s a daunting prospect, even for the most independent and engaged, and not too many go down that path.
Unfortunately, I have also concluded in my observations as an outsider looking in that these aspects are virtually impossible to recreate outside the LDS church. In Christianity in general it is far too easy to just switch churches if you get kicked out of one, and Christians in general are in no way nearly as ensconced in a social support network that approaches what the LDS does – even in the most engaged and networked evangelical communities. The Mormons succeed precisely because they are set apart, and there aren’t really alternatives to them if you are a Mormon that replace what you get in the LDS community.”
Amish, Trad Catholics, Mormons, Orthodox Jews: all set themselves apart by creating a tightly-knit community, and all enforce membership in those communities with the severest non-legal sanction they can offer. The Amish shun, the Mormons maintain tight control so that no Mormon can gain re-entry to another Mormon Church. Note that any man in these communities still faces divorce theft in a larger society, but to gain the monetary riches, a woman has to abandon the support infrastructure that gives her nonmonetary status. It has worked so far.