Alas, one wanders through the BYU campus and simply cannot escape its pervading influence: romance. One visiting professor from the University of Minnesota‘s renowned family science program, I’m told, called the BYU campus “sexually charged.” For our talk of spiritual compatibility, at the end of the day, are we just as superficial as the next Joe or Jane? Is the primary difference that active know how to keep their urges in check? What is the relationship between romance and spirituality, between noticing a pretty figure and “recognizing” (perhaps even in a sort-of-way…heaven forgive me for ever enjoying that PR-nightmare of Mormon cinema) a “sweet spirit.”
While I do not propose to delve into that can of worms about the difference between men and women concerning , I do notice that the men in the Latter Day Saint community are no less concerned with physical attractiveness than most men…they just might describe their attractiveness in a more tamed way. From my experience, Mormons are not immune to the hormones that make the world go around. Yet the instructions we receive related to dating are remarkably (and rightfully, in my view) asexual. The cute aphorism in marriage is always to “marry your best friend.” Yet we all know that many of us had that super-tight friend of the opposite gender that we wouldn’t be caught dead marrying. We just didn’t like them “in that way.”
In my interactions with my fellows, when girls are beautiful, the first personality characteristic they are assumed to have is not spirituality. Rather, they are assumed to be “fun,” “bubbly.” And there are just as many complaints at BYU about guys going after the thin, could-find-shade-under-barbed-wire, girls as anywhere else. How often do we ask the rhetorical question of the beautiful single adults: “How is it that you are not married?” Not so with our resident “sweet spirits.” Do we tend to mentally consign them to a life of lonely competence…perhaps working as a librarian somewhere? So I wonder: Have we set up a dichotomy between “spiritual” people and “beautiful” people?
And how vulnerable are we Latter-day Saints to the impact of the media? Sure, we might dismiss them as morally bankrupt and call admiring them our “guilty pleasures,” but let’s be honest: if the most morally questionable Hollywood star were to miraculously have an Alma experience and become the best Mormon YSA in her respective ward, you can bet that s/he would bump even the most solid guy/girl down the list for dates.
For men, (and I risk being seriously contradicted here), I am going to suggest that few men (LDS or otherwise) would call Cameron Diaz, the Brittany Spears of yesteryear, or most supermodels anything less than very attractive (provided some of them lose the heroin eyes and their horrifically layered makeup). but how much would even LDS men be willing to sacrifice by way of personality if the girls they were dating looked like them?
And for women, how many women would pick a younger version of Mitt Romney was not going to be ridiculously wealthy)? Or having a worthy priesthood holder who looked like Michael Phelps? If media is the source and marriage is eternal, then we must sadly conclude that much of our eternal life/marriage depends on that evil empire that we denounce week after week. Should LDS men who are attracted to a slim waistline feel particularly guilty for being part of the informal institution that creates anorexia?over the guys they are currently dating (imagine for a moment that
Or should we turn to theology for an explanation? Since Latter-day Saints view the body in definitely more positive terms than traditional Christian orthodoxy does, do we tend to place a greater emphasis on physical attractiveness? Does this explain Utah’s excellent ranking in national obesity rankings? (it ranks 45th?).
Finally, if I am correct, I wonder whether deconstructing such media images is worthwhile for the Latter-day Saint…can/should the LDS man/woman “deprogram” their preferences? I leave our friendly readers to decide.