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Mormon Leaders Say Heterosexual Marriage Should Be 'Exalted' For Eternity

The LDS community has one of the highest marriage and fertility rates of any religious group in the country

Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints underscored the importance of heterosexual marriage during their 193rd Semiannual General Conference.

At the two-day gathering in Salt Lake City, the leaders discussed the application of their theology to the modern world. 

Dallin H. Oaks, the second highest-ranking member after President Russell M. Nelson, stressed that the traditional, heterosexual definition of marriage is core to the fundamental tenant of the faith while addressing the conference on Sept. 30.

“God’s plan, founded on eternal truth, requires that exaltation can be attained only through faithfulness to the covenant of an eternal marriage between a man and a woman in the Holy Temple,” he said. “That is why we teach that gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal and eternal identity and purpose.”

Oaks referred to a 1995 proclamation on the family that defined the requirements that prepare Mormons to “live with God the Father and his son Jesus Christ.”

“In contrast, we affirm that the family proclamation, founded on irrevocable doctrine, defines the mortal family relationship where the most important part of our eternal development can occur,” he said.

D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said that the “eternal union of a man and woman in marriage” is the “highest and holiest” manifestation of the church. He said marriage links “humankind through all their generations” during his address on Sept. 30.

Mormons have one of the highest rates of marriage among all religious and non-religious groups in the United States. Typically, members of the church get married earlier and have more children than average Americans.

According to a report from Brigham Young University’s Religious Studies Center:

Figures from 1995 show that the median age for first marriage among returned-missionary men is about 23, while non-returned-missionary men marry around age 22. The median age of first marriage for returned-missionary women is 24, and non-returned-missionary women are much younger, marrying between 21 and 22. Thus, on average, LDS men in 1995 married about 4.5 years younger than their male peers nationally, and LDS women married 1.5 years younger than their national peers.

LDS data since 1995 is unavailable. However, we do have information on men and women nationally. For example, the median age at marriage for men has not increased since 1995, but the age for women has increased almost a full year. So if a similar pattern is being followed by for Latter-day Saints, we would assume that the age at first marriage for LDS women has increased, while age for LDS men has remained the same since 1995.

We found a relatively high fertility rate among the LDS men and women, which confirms the long-held notion that Latter-day Saint families are generally larger than those across the nation. Non-returned-missionary women have the highest number of children, with an average of 3.92 per household, followed by returned-missionary women at 3.83. Returned-missionary men had an average of 3.75 children per household, with non-returned-missionary men the lowest among the LDS groups at 3.31. 

In 2022, the average American woman got married for the first time at age 30 and the average man got married at the age of 32. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the median age at which a woman gave birth increased from 27 in 1990 to 30 in 2019.

The U.S. fertility rate was 1.666 in 2021 — a 1% increase from the all-time low of 1.64 in 2020. 

The LDS Church has consistently prohibited same-sex marriage and has barred its officials from officiating wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples. In 2015, the church released its “Handbook of Instructions” which “not only describes Mormons in same-sex couples as apostates of the faith, but also establishes disciplinary actions that Mormon leaders can take against same-sex couples, including excommunication,” according to the Human Rights Campaign. While the church teaches that being homosexual is not a sin, it condemns engaging in sexual relationships with someone of the same gender.  

There are an estimated 16 million members of the LDS church in the world.

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