Each year thousands of Latter-day Saint males return to their homes after serving a two year religious mission. According to Latter-day Saint doctrine and cultural beliefs, these young men are expected to resume a normal life including dating and involvement in romantic relationships. Research and Latter-day Saint doctrine related to the dating behavior of returned missionaries (RMs) is reviewed. Most previous research has emphasized the quantitative analysis of single aspects of RMs dating behavior such as dating frequency and social status. In an attempt to add to this field of research, this qualitative analysis explored the attitudes and experiences of a group of recently returned male missionaries as they described their own process of returning to dating and seeking romantic relationships.
The returned missionaries in the sample reported having four main desires or objectives related to their courtship. These were the desire to: 1) feel personally prepared for marriage, 2) avoid rejection and disappointing relationships, 3) be involved in romantic relationships/marriage, and 4) obey gospel doctrine regarding the appropriate timing of marriage. Because these desires were sometimes in opposition with each other, participants were compelled to continually prioritize their desires according to which they felt were the most important at the time. Participants incorporated various dating strategies in an effort to find a dating style which would allow them to manage their desires in a way that those desires which were most important to them were fulfilled most and those which were least important were fulfilled less.
Conditions including family of origin, past dating experience, missions, interpretation of LDS marriage doctrine were found to influence the development of desires of participants. Similarly, the context of the RMs current feelings, beliefs, and attitudes regarding dating and marriage impacted what desires they had, which desires they prioritized the most, and finally which dating approach they used to manage their desires.
Based on the current analysis, a model illustrating the process RMs experience as they become involved in dating is proposed and discussed. This model depicts the relationships between the conditions which influence the RMs courtship desires, the dating behavior they use to manage their desires, and the outcomes of their behavior.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
McLaughlin, Nancy C., "Dating Behavior of Latter-Day Saint Male Returned Missionaries: A Process of Managing Desires" (2000). Theses and Dissertations. 4932.
Mormons, Psychology, Young men