Morality – Just Don’t Tell!?

June 12, 2013

This is the 2nd post from Howard, a frequent commenter here at W&T.

I’m fascinated with human nature and human behavior!  Twice during my career I’ve gone undercover, once to determine how employees were being injured in a particularly dangerous factory and another time to improve production.  For several months I lived in a way similar to the homeless to observe life on the street.  For the last few years my informal laboratory has been online dating, including dating LDS divorcees and widows ranging from inactive to active members with temple recommends.

A couple of years ago while living in Salt Lake City as an experiment I put up a dating profile that subtlety without lying suggested that I live a monied lifestyle and I’m looking for a woman who can fit into it.  I wanted to test the folklore money digger cliche.  Well the the SLC women actually did very well showing little interest.  It did draw one divorced women who was clearly looking for someone to financially take care of her and a few worldly ladies who appeared to be familiar with that approach as a professional career path.  So I shut it down earlier than expected.  But lately I’m finding an interesting trend among Mormon women even those who present themselves as active members.

donttellOn non-member sites I came across three women who identified their religion as LDS but appeared to have typical non-member dating morals.  One was still fairly active but had been through the regrettable experience of having a Bishop expose some of her many children to lewd behavior and then was not believed or supported by the church when she reported it!  This strongly impacted her faith in the church but she is still attending.  One who is somewhat active, still has family in the church but finds that the Law of Chastity hampers her relationships.  One had been inactive for a year or two.  The commonality was an attitude of “don’t tell” meaning live you life according to the morals you choose and simply don’t tell the church authorities!  Don’t tell resonated with me because I’ve read of this attitude on various LDS blogs but usually associated with lessor sins.

I’m a reasonably good looking guy, (a little better than average I guess) so I put up a simple profile and photos on an LDS dating site.  The first thing I noticed was I’m drawing far better looking LDS women than I typically draw from non-member sites suggesting to me that dating choices must be pretty bleak for LDS women!  This profile stated that I occasionally enjoy a beer or glass of wine and I like to make love without involving the church.  At first I was mostly ignored except for a few looky loos who made repeating visits to my profile and sending an occasional flirt, but as time went on I began to receive a slow but steady stream of emails from very nice looking normally appearing LDS women who described themselves as active members many with temple recommends or who claim to be temple worthy.  A few kind ladies pointed me back to the church’s teachings but most of them wanted to explore dating me!  So now I know of probably a dozen active Mormon women who don’t tell, for example; one a wine drinking temple goer who says she would probably make love without being married if she fell in love with someone.  One who loves genealogy, is still married and living with her husband but in separate bedrooms which she calls a separation.  She plans to divorce because he turned away from her years ago after disfiguring breast cancer surgery and has no interest even after the cosmetic work.  I found a widow who loved to get a baby sitter and take a short road trips with her husband just outside her stake boundary so they could combine a bottle of wine with making love and she wants to do this again, marriage is optional.  There’s a temple going widow who’s already made love to one man since her husband passed and is considering doing it again.

The life details and circumstances of these women vary greatly but the common attitude is “don’t tell”.  Now this is not meant to be a scientific study or a random sample of Mormon women because I indicated a preference for drinking and making love without involving the church and respondents strongly self-selected to that bias.  I did it because I was specifically looking for “don’t tell” and I easily found it!

What is you experience or opinion is there a growing trend to live by your own morals and simply not tell the church authorities?

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24 Responses to Morality – Just Don’t Tell!?

  1. Choo on June 12, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    This disappoints and saddens me. I don’t get their thinking.

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  2. Angie on June 12, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    I agree with Choo. Also, it’s so weird that adults feel like they have to sneak around to participate in perfectly legal behaviors. Isn’t that kind of juvenile?

    In my opinion – live your life! Do it or don’t do it! Sin or don’t sin! But the sneaking, deception, and lying us just such a waste of energy. Be a man/woman about it, and take the consequences of your decisions, instead of acting like a manipulative little kid.

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  3. whizzbang on June 12, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    I beat myself up over confessing stuff to various Bishops with a variety of “punishments” while growing up. Now, I only tell what will effect my staning in the Church otherwise it’s none of their business. I see Bishops as managers not any kind of spiritual leaders of any kind-I have had Bishops who were SUPER spiritual that I was friends with prior and could talk to them about anything and their advice was what they would have told me prior to their calling as a Bishop-I know because I asked!

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  4. Howard on June 12, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    …it’s so weird that adults feel like they have to sneak around to participate in perfectly legal behaviors. This is the reaction of some of my non-member friends.

    …it’s none of their business. Yes, this is a very common attitude. They seemed to feel tied to their religion for a variety of reasons including belief but they find the church to be way too intrusive so they are passively refusing to cooperate in the game!

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  5. Stan on June 12, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    Good thing that putting up a false profile with the intent of luring women of loose morals to expose their sexual desires and limitations as an intellectual exercise isn’t immoral.

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  6. Howard on June 12, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    Yes it is a good thing Stan because it allows an anonymous sampling of attitudes.

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  7. sylvia on June 12, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    Um, I think that you would be surprised that this is far more common than people think. Additionally, I think in Utah is it way more common than outside Utah.

    As a personal matter, I don’t talk to the bishop about anything I do or dont do. He has far bigger issues to deal with in the ward.

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  8. KLC on June 12, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    I find Howard much more palatable if I read his thoughts in the voice of Sheldon Cooper. I mean how can you read “I’m a reasonably good looking guy, (a little better than average I guess) so I put up a simple profile and photos on an LDS dating site.” in Sheldon’s voice and not end up grinning?

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  9. Howard on June 12, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    Bazinga!

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  10. Hawkgrrrl on June 13, 2013 at 7:56 AM

    I’m going to put this experiment in my bucket of ways that as the church continues to grow and become more distant from its founding event, we seem to follow the same patterns of all religions. I would be interested to know how many of these women were converts vs BIC. I suspect those who were born in the church would be more prone to these attitudes.

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  11. Howard on June 13, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    …as the church continues to grow and become more distant from its founding event… I think this is a good point. I don’t know how you mean it exactly, but when parental discipline or the fear of it is combined with strong attempts to limit one’s growth choices and experimentation it makes children of adults and people tend to go underground with their behavior some by putting on airs, others by being passive-aggressive which is a much healthier choice because they retain more of their authenticity. There is far too much focus on bright line behavioral limits to be healthy. If you can repent from it, it can’t be the end of the world to experiment with it.

    I don’t know how many were BIC vs converts, it’s a good question, I wish I had asked.

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  12. IDIAT on June 13, 2013 at 6:36 PM

    Hmmm. I wonder how productive it is to experiment with adultery. Or unprotected fornication. Or a couple of six packs and a fast car. Or some crack cocaine. Planned prodigality never was happiness.

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  13. Howard on June 13, 2013 at 7:23 PM

    Of course you’re right IDIAT if you chose to read my loosely worded sentence that way. If it resulted in your death it would be the end of the world for YOU, wouldn’t it?

    But with the exception of one women who is toying with the idea of adultery at the end of a very broken sexless marriage that she intends to end in divorce anyway, the experimentation we are discussing here is clearly adult fornication by mostly inexperienced single women who are highly curious and/or strongly miss sex in their single lives. Unprotected fornication, a couple of six packs and a fast car or crack cocaine of course exaggerates this idea beyond anything being considered here.

    But it does bring the differences between fornication and adultery to light. Adultery carries implications that will likely negatively affect a spouse where fornication clearly does not. Christ’s response to adultery was: go and sin no more. So how would he likely deal with fornication? The idea that fornication is somehow next to murder as a sin has been taken our of context and greatly exaggerated.

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  14. KT on June 14, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    I don’t get it. It seems that it should be simple: either you believe in the church and should then abide the teachings, or you don’t believe and you do what you want. I don’t get this and I do agree that it’s wierd that adults have to sneak around.

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  15. Hedgehog on June 14, 2013 at 3:10 AM

    The only way I can get it to work is to suppose that there must be a high level of perceived pressure to conform in Salt Lake.
    Howard, was this experiment conducted purely for your own interest, or did you go on to publish your results (other than here:-))? I kind of don’t like it. Is any less entrapment?

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  16. Howard on June 14, 2013 at 8:15 AM

    KT’s comment is one of the reasons I published this. Chapel conversations are narrowly controlled so most members are pretty ignorant of and isolated from knowledge of others personal attitudes. So when I saw this issue playing out I thought it would be interesting to discuss. I enjoy psychology and I know human development doesn’t stop at some fixed age for those who choose to allow themselves to keep growing. When an innocent young LDS woman married in the temple wakes up from the blur of raising her children if she’s introspective she may well have the same nagging questions about career and curiosity about other men and sex other than she’s known that non-member women tend to have! If she finds herself divorced or a widow during this period internet dating provides an opportunity to fairly safely explore some of this and that seem to be what’s going on. So it’s not quite as simple as KT suggests there is quite a bit of fence sitting in between believing and abiding vs doing what you want. Actually those are three separate things not two; 1) believing 2) abiding 3) doing what you want and contrary to popular LDS belief people seem to mix and match between them. To many people the “church” (gospel?) isn’t either true or false it can be any shade of gray in between. Add to this 4) culturally belonging and 5) family ties as a reason to participate at some level without following all the rules and you find quite a variety of member attitudes.

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  17. Howard on June 14, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    Hedgehog,
    Well most of this experiment was about southern CA dating not SLC dating. I did it out of my own curiosity and interest in psychology. I didn’t publish it anywhere else. Is any less entrapment? Well sure, entrapment is luring someone to commit a crime, no crimes were committed. If you haven’t internet dated you may tend to compare this to old school methods of dating where you know your date much better and tend to date only them, they are really quite different experiences. It’s a process that begins with screen name anonymity like blogging and a profile of photos and personal information they choose to make public, it makes a very large number of people available to you. It’s common to meet for two or three dates with someone before you even learn their last name. So the early part of the process is very anonymous and you have many more first dates than second dates and many more second dates than third dates. Non-members generally have an expectation of having sex somewhere in the 3 to 5 date range. So almost no one seriously expects to have an opportunity to sin before that, almost every one knows the chances of getting to 3 to 5 dates is fairly slim due to incompatibilities so these were just getting to know you discussions.

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  18. Hedgehog on June 14, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    You are right that I know zilch about internet dating. and it sounds more anonymous than I had anticipated. I wasn’t supposing sin as an act had occurred. Simply pondering on the extent to which rhetoric talks about the thought as the deed, almost…

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  19. Howard on June 14, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    In addition, the people I described are mostly composits to protect their idenity. If they were to read this, and one has, they would not precisly recognize themselves only approximately.

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  20. NorCalDad on June 14, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    There is so much here to comment on that drew me out of my “long time reader, first time commenter” status.

    1 – Many of the comments are a shining example of why many (not all, but a LOT) non-members regard Mormons as anything from weird, a cult, out of touch, all the way to hypocritical.

    Background – born and raised on the East Coast. Lived all over for work, settled in Northern California. Only member in my high school, went to a large university in the South with 25,000 plus students and 100 active members. All of my friends have always been non-members. They accept me for who I am, and have given me a view into what people think of us.

    2 – Whizzbang nails it, as kids (teens and young single adults) many people run to the Bishop and confess that their hand slipped during a dance and touched a girls rear end, and now they are certain that they are damned (that was the extreme example to set the bar). In the middle ground, so many people that I have met over the years have suffered through punitive actions meted out by an overzealous leader that they later found out was completely out of line with the standard.

    Note – I’m not interested in getting into the discussion over the local leader feeling that it was appropriate, or him receiving revelation in that instant that the person needed x or Y church discipline. These are very clear examples of where a leader went astray and later, clarification and reconciliation occurred (and in many cases apologies and in some cases action against the leaders happened).

    As adults, many people come to the point where they set their own lines and determine where they feel they are ok with God and when they need Priesthood intercession.

    3 – rarely is the situation black and white. There is another post here on W/T that talks specifically about how grey (or really off-white) most of life is. Rather than rehash it, the point is that life can be a struggle, more so when divorced (speaking from experience of one who is) and confronted with the realities of life, the gospel (which is not the same as the church – we are all clear on that, I hope) and the day to day interactions of our families, children, friends, and others, including potential partners (up to and including eternal).

    4 – Internet Dating and Dating in General – Howard is 100% correct on his metrics, and the technology has opened up many windows for people that would never ever been possible before. Some real life examples:

    I have met widows who, pre-Internet, would never have found someone 500 miles away that they could meet, talk to daily (text, email, video chat), and form a relationship (up to and including marriage, unfortunately, not a temple sealing since they were already sealed to their now dead husband – and they discussions over being married to someone for the next 20 years but not being able to be with them eternally are heart wrenching).

    On the other hand, many of my guy friends have used Internet dating to meet and marry (sealed in the temple, because we can as guys – not a discussion I wish to have) in a relatively short period of time (under two years since separation for many).
    I have seen both ends and totally understand why women in the middle of the spectrum are confused, hurt, defiant, tired, and countless other feelings that could lead them to the path they chose.

    As I understand it, our eternal salvation is not based on that choice they make right then, but rather the accumulation of our progress over our lives. What leapt out at me is something that seems common (at least outside the Zion curtain) of two scenarios (which I have seen over and over):

    A – a man and woman have sex outside of marriage. They go confess, are disciplined and are told to go separate ways, which they do. Sometimes they repeat the pattern, sometimes not.

    B – a man and woman have sex outside of marriage, move in together, go inactive and a few years later get married. They decide to come back to church. No discipline.

    No statement from me on these two examples, just something I have mulled over for years.

    Finally, I appreciate this and other sites that allow us to read (and sometimes discuss) what is never allowed / tolerated / scheduled for in church.

    My intent is not to flame anyone, my apologies if you felt I did. I’m human and have my own issues to bear. Thanks everyone.

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  21. Howard on June 14, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Thank you for commenting NorCalDad!

    You brought up something uniquely LDS but not at all attractive that I found out there as well; discussions over being married to someone for the next 20 years but not being able to be with them eternally are heart wrenching… because we can as guys…I have seen both ends and totally understand why women in the middle of the spectrum are confused, hurt, defiant, tired, and countless other feelings that could lead them to the path they chose. I heard from women about men who actually write in their profile something like; if you have been sealed don’t bother contacting me because I can have several eternal wives.

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  22. Glenn Thigpen on June 14, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    When you go fishing, the bait you use will pretty much determine the type of fish you attract. I don’t know why anyone would be surprised to find out that there are people nomonally LDS who would be attracted to such bait. I also, myself, would prefer not to appeal to the less honorable desires that might be harbored in an unknown heart. I do not understand the motivation for doing so.

    Glenn

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  23. Mike on June 18, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    Late reply but..

    BYU Honor Code might be part of the picture. I’m not suggesting it is the only source but the social atmosphere at BYU has an enormous impact on the culture in the rest of the church. I never went to BYU and I could be off base but my observation is that the consequences of Honor Code violations, getting kicked out for minor infactions, teaches the coeds to just not tell. They can’t- the consequences are too high.The practice is engrained at an early critical age when first away from parental influence and generalizes whenever demand for overconformity raises its sweet face.

    Example: (long)

    I had a second cousin Jon who got himself and his older brother kicked out of BYU while his brother was a student body officer. During a summer water skiing party Jon yanked the swimming trunks off his straight-arrow older brother as he climbed back into the boat as a joke. Female BYU witnesses didn’t think it was funny and reported them. Another untrue story about little sister skinny-dipping their coed pool party at their Califonia house reached the long ears of the BYU officials at the same time.

    Jon’s parents told the disgraced boys they could either live at home under strict supervision while the parents paid tuition at the community college or they were out on their own, no more financial help.The older brother stayed home but Jon wanted out. At a family reunion my dad worked out a deal with his folks for Jon to live with me in Salt Lake, attend the U of U and be under my “strict” supervision.

    Needless to say Jon was not too happy upon first meeting me as his father helped him move into my apartment while lecturing him the whole time. Jon came out of his self-imposed exile after a few hours sulking in our shared bedroom and I sternly told him to sit down, we needed to have a discussion about- The House Rules.

    Rule #1. No livestock in the living room. If you’re into that sort of thing keep it in the barn, on the lawn, somewhere else. Not that I care, but livestock shits and you never can get the stink out of the carpet. Jon’s eyes grow larger.

    Rule #2. Don’t drink my beer or eat my food and I won’t drink your beer or eat your food. Jon’s mouth drops and he yanks open the frig. I had a can of beer in there. Mostly for use in pranks on obnoxious home teachers or self-righteous girls, I never drank any but he doesn’t know that.

    Rule #3. Don’t wake me up and I won’t wake you up. Now this one has wide application. For instance in my experience if you are getting fresh with a rather hefty girl on the couch, you might want to move to the floor because when she bounces down on the floor it might wake me up. And don’t do it with her sitting on the stove, you might accidently bump one of the knobs and set her pants on fire. She will scream and wake me up. Stay off the frig with girls, too much of a risk of a fall and that will wake me up. Also, if you take a shower with a girl, don’t use too much soap because it gets slippery and she will fall and that will wake me up. And of course I don’t care if you have a girl in our bedroom for any reason, dressed or undressed, as long as you keep it quiet and don’t wake me up. Got it, Jon?

    At this pont Jon is grinning widely. He sheepishly asks about a curfew that his father emphasized he must have. I think for a moment and say, your curfew is 3 weeks. If you go camping in the mountains and don’t return for 3 weeks I will start to get worried. Now, do you have any suggestions for any more house rules?

    Jon enjoyed his freedom for a spell but soon he got serious about school work. He stayed up pretty late with various girls in the front room once in awhile but nothing serious enough to keep me awake. We played a few pranks and got along great. After a couple of years he married a really nice intelligent woman and eventually earned a degree in engineering.

    Jon’s parents credit me with straightening him out. I gave Jon freedom. When Jon didn’t have a million smothering rules, he sniffed the winds of possibility and chose the path of honor and integrity.

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  24. h_nu on June 20, 2013 at 6:11 PM

    Is anyone surprised that Howard found lying to Lord’s representatives a valid option? I’m not.

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