From a scientific perspective, the human brain doesn’t even fully develop until people reach their 30’s and even late 40’s. The prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain right behind the forehead, is an area that goes through the longest phases of development. This area of the brain is vital for functions such as planning and decision-making, and is a key area for social awareness and behavior, interacting with others, as well as for the development of several personality traits. Research shows that there is a strong link between the prefrontal cortex and a person’s personality. If one’s personality and maturity is not even completely developed until their 30’s or 40’s, how can one expect to be mature enough to be marrying the right person in their late teens or early 20’s? I’m not saying you should necessarily wait until your 30’s or 40’s to get married, but you should at least allow your brain to mature more, prior to marrying. My parents were married when my mother was almost 19, and my father almost 20, and they continue to be happily married with 4 kids. My parents, however, are the exception, and this is not the case for most couples marrying in their teens and early twenties. The greatest indicator for probability of divorce is the wife’s age. Within 20 years, 67% of marriages in which the bride is 18 years old or younger end in divorce. There is not an exact age in which you should get married, but too many LDS couples are rushing to get married at very young ages, when they aren’t mature enough to be married.
Going along with being mature enough to be marrying, former President of the LDS church, Gordon B. Hinckley, states in an a First Presidency message that “There is need for another education, without which the substance of secular learning may lead only to destruction. I refer to the education of the heart, of the conscience, of the character, of the spirit—these indefinable aspects of our personalities which determine so certainly what we are and what we do in our relationships one with another.” LDS members need to spend more time not only maturing, but educating their hearts, conscience, character, and spirit; all of which are key factors that affect marital relationships.
A couple of months of dating are not enough time to fully get to know someone, especially considering this person is someone you’ll be committing to spend the rest of your life with. Sure, many people say that they “know” they’re meant to be with someone early into relationships, and a large part of me really does believe in soul mates, but how sure can you really be that soon into a relationship? I believe this is one of the reasons that the church divorce rate of 25% is nearly as high as the national divorce rate of 34%. There also is not a timeline or a certain amount of time to date before you get married, but many consider the average age that Latter Day Saint members are getting married, way too young. Jeffry Larson, professor of marriage and family therapy at BYU, says that “usually by mid-20s college is finished, there is less financial stress, there has been plenty of time to date and most are emotionally and cognitively mature.” He continues, “those who marry when they are 19 or 20 are generally less self aware and don't have much relationship experience.”
Pleasing parents and society is another pushing factor as to why Mormons get married so quickly. We are told in Genesis to multiply and replenish the Earth, and modern-day Prophets and apostles are heavily pushing marriage, especially towards young men. Apostle Richard G. Scott spoke in General Conference, saying, “If you are a young man of appropriate age and are not married, don’t waste time in idle pursuits…Get on with life and focus on getting married. Don’t just coast through this period of life.” This is clearly divinely inspired, and I do not wish to contradict Richard G. Scott, but it’s easy to see how many young men hear this and assume they need to hurry and find a wife, so they won’t be wasting time in “idle pursuits”. I have nothing against marriage itself, and plan on being married in the near future (not too near though!), and recognize that marriage is a core LDS teaching, but I feel that the constant pressure on young men to find a wife, and settle down may push some to move too fast, and make irrational decisions regarding companionship.
Mormons should not rush so much into getting married, and need to spend more time dating, and getting to know their future spouses. It is vital to give yourself time in college and elsewhere, to fully mature: emotionally and physically, build character, and become more self-aware prior to settling down and committing to eternal life with your companion.
The gorgeous San Diego Temple, where I intend to be married eventually :)