Sunday, February 7, 2010

A worrisome ratio

Going through some old papers and such, i came across some things from my exile in Utah. We lived in a tiny little town near the south end of the Wasatch Front, and there was one particular difference between my ward there and the wards i’ve been in in the eastern US that fascinated (and, arguably, continues to fascinate) me. (I’m also curious whether this ward is representative of the Wasatch Front, or even Utah County—i have no way of knowing.)

When we arrived in our ward in that town, there were seventeen full-time missionaries out from the ward (that was their peak, but it stayed around a dozen during the years we were there). Two of them were an older couple, so that means there were fifteen young-person full-time missionaries from the ward—a number any bishop could consider a success. However, only one of the fifteen was female. I can’t imagine one of my bishops from the eastern states being happy if, for every fourteen male full-time missionaries his ward sent out, there was only one female full-time missionary—it’d be obvious proof that the young women’s program in the ward was having some serious problems.

Interestingly, though, my ward and stake leaders when i lived there talked quite a bit—more than i’ve heard in other wards and stakes i’ve lived in, before or since—about how great it is for young women to serve as full-time missionaries. My conclusion from this is that it wasn’t institutional (in the sense of coming from the church) pressures that kept the relative number of female full-time missionaries low, but rather that it was social pressures.

For the record, as the parents of girls, that frightened Jeanne and me, and it’s one of the main reasons we moved away from there.


Heather the Mama Duk said...

Boys are pretty much told they need to go on missions. Girls are told to go if they want to. Many choose not to. They get married instead. I think in UT, if a girl wants to get married in the temple, and I'd guess that if she's the type who would go on a mission she would, they have a much higher chance at a younger age than on the east coast just because there are a lot more Mormons to pick from. I know several girls here who went on missions because they didn't find someone to marry before age 21.

David B said...

Well, precisely. There’s also a cultural weirdness (widespread at least in Utah County, i can’t say for the jello belt generally) that if a woman gets old enough to serve a mission without getting married, well, there’s something wrong, and people will whisper.

As parents of daughters, and ourselves not raised with such leanings at all, we opted to run away.