Date night

In the LDS church, for Sunday services we take communion (we call it “the sacrament”), then we intersperse sermons with hymns. The sermons come from the congregation. The bishop picks new speakers each week. In most congregations, when some new family moves in, the bishop customarily has the couple speak. The wife speaks first and does the social thing: she introduces the family.


Today the wife told a typical story about how they met. He was her hometeacher at BYU, they dated a few weeks, got engaged, and were married a few months later.

Quicker marriages is a good idea of course. For the right sort of people, almost everything that makes marriage a problem is evident right off or takes years to discover and work through. Delay is pointless.


But the hometeaching too deserves a mention. The BYU girl marrying her hometeacher is a cliche.

Hometeaching is the Mormon program where every individual in a ward (congregation) has one of the men assigned to visit them in their home once a month, inquire after their welfare, teach a short homilectic message, and provide support and priesthood blessings (ritual blessings) as needed. Part of the magic of hometeaching at BYU may just be that it forces people together in a setting that is not overtly about courtship. Being put together is no big thing in a regular ward, but in a singles student ward, it could be consequential. Part of the magic may simply be that many Mormon men are halfhearted about their hometeaching responsibilities, so a hometeacher at BYU who shows up every month is signaling responsibility and, inadvertently perhaps, interest.


But more importantly, hometeaching is sexual. By which I do not mean “lustful.” I mean what is now expressed by the ninny word “gendered.” Hometeaching showcases the sexes. Teaching has overtones of authority, which is masculine. The fact that the hometeacher represents the ward to the girl enhances the sense of authority. Perhaps more to the point, only men can be hometeachers and give priesthood blessings. Hometeaching is an inherently sexed activity.

Meanwhile, the woman is in the place where she lives, her home, in the domestic sphere, where her home management is on display, so she too is sexed. Hometeaching at BYU puts single men and women together in an intimate setting (the woman’s home), where the man’s manliness and to a lesser degree the woman’s womanliness are being expressed. It’s no wonder that marriages happen.

* * *

I was a nerdy outcast in high school.


I had one girlfriend who was not, looking back, a catch of the highest quality. (Mostly because of her background, nothing to do with her. I could elaborate, but in a belated concession to gentlemanliness, won’t. And as a balm to conscience I will add that while I knew her she was always good and kind.) My social prospects, especially with the opposite sex, were not dazzling.


Then I went to college at BYU. My social prospects took a dazzling jump.


I was around men of my sort, it turned out, so my status among my peers rose. That helped with the women too. I was also around women of my sort, who were, a great many of them, lovely. BYU had a great many opportunities for socialization and dating and encouraged it, and the socialization was often sexed, so a sudden jump in my social success was only natural. But there were also specific factors that are worth mentioning.

First, BYU congregations of these young, college-age singles are mostly staffed the same way a regular congregation is. The actual bishopric will be of respected, solid married men from the surrounding community. But the rest of the church positions are drawn from the students. Since most church positions are sexed, it creates a wholesome atmosphere of emphasizing sex without emphasizing lust.

Second, hometeaching. I and my roommate hometaught two lovely and winsome girls (one of them, I have never met a lovelier) in an apartment of six women. Neither of us ended up dating either of the two. But when we interacted with them, there was a kind of automatic, perhaps unconscious, interest in their part that greatly boosted my social confidence. And one of the other six in the apartment fell in crush with me and pursued me pretty intently for most of the rest of that year, which also boosted my confidence. I do not think it was a coincidence that she was from the apartment where I home taught.

To do her justice, my pursuer was also good and kind and quite pretty in her own right, but from whatever freak of nature, my reaction was to set up a club with my closest friends called G.R.O.S.S.  Get Rid of Slimy Girls for those who are not Calvin and Hobbes cognoscenti. We assigned ranks (I, as founder, was Dictator for Life, naturally), and we then gave demerits and even demotions to anyone who was too obviously interested in a girl or, heaven forbid, dating.  It was a hoot.

It was a secret club, of course.  But one of the fellas let the word out.  We were ticked (he was demoted all the way to Tiger 6th Class, if memory serves), but it turned out that he was as wise as serpents.  Before, I had seen that little automatic charge of interest in the girls I home taught and their roommates.  Now I saw it from all the girls in our congregation.  They were irritated but also intrigued.  The leaker in particular parlayed his club membership into a storm of dating.  The girls he courted were, again, irritated but intrigued by his insistence that the whole thing had to be done secretly so that the club would  not find out.

I believe that a bit of  mild misogyny is adaptive, at least initially.  I can speculate why.  But whether the speculations are true or not, the fact remains.

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