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Patriarchy and the Mormons

17 Dec

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.

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10 Comments

Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

10 responses to “Patriarchy and the Mormons

  1. a tiny little mouse

    December 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I often think that even with current laws, there would be much less divorce if the extended family strongly disapproved of it. It tends still to be like this among the upper classes, they have overall less divorce and bastardry is practically non-existent.

     
  2. Will S.

    December 18, 2012 at 11:10 am

    “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.”

    The Dutch Reformed in North America also do this, as do Greek Orthodox, and others; I think the ethnic minorities which are also religious minorities have an advantage, in that their ethno-cultural differences help safeguard to some extent against incursions by the world not only in the cultural realm, but also as regards morality and religiosity. To an extent, I emphasize, only, because absent completely cutting oneself off and doing as the Amish, there will be some effects due to interaction with the wider society – that’s inevitable. But the ethnic churches do better, generally, IMO, as do the aforementioned minorities, in creating those same tightly-knit communities.

     
  3. electricangel

    December 18, 2012 at 11:38 am

    @Will,

    What the Dutch Reformed divorce rate? Do you know? I get the sense that the Greek Orthodox also have a low rate, just because they need to circle the wagons to defend against the combined Papist-Prot alliance… I knew a woman who was Russian Orthodox, married to a VERY low status man: she made the money, and had a high position, but you could tell she was never going to leave him. There’s definitely “structural alpha” there.

    @Maus,

    What I would prefer to see is that the parents own a business and employ the children. Assume 55 and 25. Now, the children make essentially NO money at the business as it is owned by the parents, but the parents give money to the children to help them support themselves and the grandchildren. So the man in this case essentially has NO cash or prizes to award, and the parents make that clear to the potential divorce thief: leave him, and he has no job, no status, no money, and neither do you.

    This cycle could perpetuate itself over generations, so long as there were family businesses.

     
  4. Will S.

    December 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    @ EA: Honestly, I have no idea re: exact stats; what I can say is though it isn’t altogether absent, it’s exceedingly low, thankfully.

     
  5. electricangel

    December 24, 2012 at 11:24 am

    @will,

    What do you think about the idea of family businesses?

    Good on the DR Church.

     
  6. Will S.

    December 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Family businesses are quite common in Dutch North American circles; many Dutch-background folks go into building-related trades, and either own businesses in such or work for others, whether family or friends, in such businesses. From construction businesses of various kinds, to electrical, to plumbing, to landscaping, they cover home building trades, and employ each other. Win-win; many of those kinds of businesses tend to be generally in demand, even in harder economic times.

     
  7. Dropit

    December 25, 2012 at 3:14 am

    I’m LDS and wanted to comment here: I find the descriptions in this post generally accurate, but want to stress that even in the LDS church we aren’t immune to feminism and its effects on society. Our average age of marriage has jumped, though it’s still significantly lower than the rest of the U.S. Several leaders in the Church have of late given addresses pointing to a crisis in Mormon masculinity (see D. Todd Christofferson’s recent talk this October). And there is the anecdotal evidence that I’m commenting here at all: guys don’t exactly discover the manosphere accidentally.

    Perhaps the Amish, Orthodox Jews, and Eastern Orthodox Church are faring better.

     
  8. Will S.

    February 1, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    @ Dropit: Indeed, we in the manosphere know about the old Mormon Man blog (which I think is defunct now), and Good Strong Men, and other Mormons in the manosphere whose personal testimony is similar to yours.

     

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