What Latter-day Saints prioritize in spouses — and 3 other faith-related romance trends

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Michelle Budge

New research on American family life confirms that interfaith relationships are becoming more common

This article was first published in the State of Faith newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Monday night.

Lots of recent research has shown that the country’s relationship with marriage is changing. Americans are getting married later, having fewer kids and generally rethinking what a healthy relationship looks like.

Amid all these shifts, religion’s role in family life is also in flux. Single people are now less likely to prioritize finding a partner of the same faith and families are less likely to build their social lives around a religious community.

“Couples are eschewing religious wedding ceremonies that connect them to existing traditions and communities, preferring instead celebrations that reflect their own personal tastes and preferences. The primacy of individual preferences also manifests itself in family life,” explains the American National Family Life Survey, which was released last week.

Although that survey did not focus on religion, it contained a number of fascinating faith-related gems. Here are a few additional data points that jumped out at me:

People of faith are more supportive of marriage than religious “nones”

More than one-third of religiously unaffiliated adults (36%) believe marriage is an outmoded institution. By comparison, people of faith are much more supportive, researchers noted.

Additionally, Christian singles are more interested in getting marriage in the future than nonreligious singles. “Only half (50%) of religiously unaffiliated singles report being interested in getting married someday, compared to two-thirds (66%) of Christian singles,” the survey reported.

Interfaith marriages are becoming much more common

Over the past 50 years, the likelihood of marrying someone who shares your religious affiliation has dropped substantially.

Today, around 6 in 10 married Americans are in a same-faith marriage. That figure used to hover around 80%, researchers noted.

Latter-day Saints still prioritize same-faith marriage

Even as interfaith marriage has become more common, some religious communities have continued to promote marrying within the faith.

Today, nearly 9 in 10 married members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints report that their spouse is also a Latter-day Saint. The rates of same-faith marriage among Catholics (65%) and Jews (59%) are also high, but Latter-day Saints take the cake.

Interfaith couples are generally less religiously active than others

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Americans who married a member of a different faith group than their own are less religiously active than Americans in same-faith relationships.

“Forty-four percent of Americans with a spouse who shares their religious affiliation attend services at least once a week. In contrast, 16% of Americans in interfaith marriages attend formal worships services weekly or more often,” the survey reported.

Fresh off the press

Term of the week: Cornerstone marriages

Cornerstone marriages are marriages that begin pretty early, when the people involved are between 20 and 24 years old. Researchers gave them that label because they serve as a foundation on which a young couple builds out the rest of their life, including their career path.

Capstone marriages, on the other hand, happen between older people once each partner has navigated educational and professional achievements on their own. These pairings are like the crown on top of an already full life.

I’ve been thinking about both cornerstone and capstone marriages and I read the Deseret News’ great coverage of some new research about marriage timing. I bet religious leaders are among those who are happy to hear that both types of partnerships can thrive in the long term.

What I’m reading...

Tucked within a very long — and very good — essay on friendship that’s in the latest edition of The Atlantic is a beautiful reflection on the seven deadly sins. Writer Jennifer Senior notes that all but one of the sins can be fun for a while. But envy, which often complicates relationships, has no pleasurable side. “Rage can be righteous; lust can be thrilling; greed gets you all the good toys. ... But envy — what are you to do with that? Die of it, as the expression goes. No one ever says they’re dying of pride or sloth,” Senior writes.

You know I can’t resist feel-good stories at the intersection of religion and sports. I was especially delighted by The New York Times’ recent profile of Ryan Turell, the “Jewish hero” and basketball star leading Yeshiva University in New York City to new heights.

Another winner in The New York Times came from Wheaton College professor Esau McCaulley. He wrote about giving up his dream of being a pastor for the good of his family as part of a reflection on how marriage reshapes your plan for your life.

Odds and ends

Here’s a tweet that made me smile: The Rev. James Martin, a famous Jesuit priest, praised actor Andrew Garfield for his recent Oscar nomination. Garfield has a special place in many Catholics’ hearts because he completed St. Ignatius Loyola’s spiritual exercises before filming “Silence,” in which he played a Catholic priest.

After you check out my story on Pew’s analysis of President Joe Biden’s approval ratings, I encourage you to dive into PRRI’s survey on immigration policy. Researchers found that majorities of nearly all major faith groups support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

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