Dating For Eternity
12:30 pm, January 7th | by Sarah Devlin
Sitting down to watch The Mormon Bachelor was an odd experience. Though I happily sacrifice two hours of my life every week for each single episode of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and Bachelor Pad, The Mormon Bachelor had difficulty holding my attention at first. Within a few episodes, though, I began to recognize a familiar pattern. Just as I became annoyed with most of the lead bachelors and bachelorettes in their respective seasons, I became very irritated with Chris.
Chris narrated parts of each episode and wrote about his experience on each date for the show’s website. On his first date with a pretty blonde, Tiffany Migdat, she took him to an outdoor concert and then out for ice cream, after which he wondered if she was too “high maintenance” for him. He wrote about going on a date to the Santa Monica pier with a girl named Danielle, who spotted a snake in the grass and grew frightened:
Danielle was terrified…she clasped onto my arm like her life depended on it which I didn’t mind at all — it felt very natural to be appropriately affectionate with Danielle. She was so scared that she could barely even talk and I thought it was so cute! I like it when girls squeal and get uncomfortable after a date.
Chris’s code of conduct for his dates was strict — he liked physical touch within reason, athletic activity, and competitions he could win. When he went out with Kat Ramos, who was both older at age 32 and more forthright than many of the other contestants, he found her charming at the beginning of their date on a basketball court, then vexing.
I was trying to be a gentleman and let the lady win but then Kat kinda hit a cold streak. So knowing that if she was going to stay cold then we could have all been witnesses to the longest game of HORSE ever played I decided to not miss and win the match so that we could move on to the next part of our enjoyable date. A girl has never beat me in the end of any game – I’m just really good at sports, what can I say?
It’s enough to make you drawl “Suuuuuuuuure” aloud at the screen alone in your apartment.
Though everyone on the show was a practicing Mormon, Chris seemed more conservative about physical touch than others. On his first date with Courtney, a producer asked him if he considered kissing her when they said good night.
“No kiss, that’s not my style,” he repeated a few times, sounding like the act would be a last resort. “I wouldn’t mind kissing her in the future. If it comes to that.”
For her part, Courtney believes strongly in “dating with a purpose,” especially at her age (24, which she says can feel very old “in Mormon years”).
“When I compare myself to my friends I feel behind,” she said over the phone. “As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that just going on dates to go on dates isn’t necessarily the best thing for me to do…if [it won't work long-term] there’s no point even trying to date.”
She also had the unique experience of dating outside the church, she told me.
I’ve learned a lot from them and I feel like they’ve learned a lot from me, [but] the focus of our religion and our church is so oriented in our families…[dating non-members] became a deterrent because what I wanted in the future wasn’t necessarily what they wanted. [When you date] someone that’s in your same religion, you know what to expect and what their goals are, and you’re going to the same place. You’re in the same lane.
Though the Mormon faith stresses strong connections with family, and that was reflected in the attitudes of every Mormon Bachelor contestant, the emphasis on marriage as the end goal could be off-putting. One female contestant in her twenties, who had never been married, spoke almost wistfully of friends her age who were on their second or third marriages. An uncharitable view of the Mormon attitude toward marriage might be “Marry early and often.” A kinder perspective might be that the clergy is perhaps aware that the pressure to avoid sexual activity, date furiously for a few years and marry early in life necessitates the option of church-sanctioned divorce.
In former Mormon President Gordon Hinckley’s view (emphasis mine),
There is now and again a legitimate cause for divorce. I am not one to say that it is never justified. But I say without hesitation that this plague among us, which seems to be growing everywhere, is not of God, but rather is the work of the adversary of righteousness and peace and truth.
Indeed, though couples may need to divorce, the forces that drive them apart are “ungodly.” Nonetheless, there is an official avenue for Mormon divorce:
If a divorcing couple wishes to become unsealed, they must receive a cancellation of sealing, which requires approval from high-ranking church officials. A Mormon woman must receive a cancellation of sealing prior to remarrying if she wishes her next marriage to be sealed in the temple. However, because men are permitted to be sealed to more than one woman, they do not have to cancel a previous sealing in order to remarry in the temple.
Compare that to, say, Catholicism, which calls remarriage a state of “permanent adultery.” One wonders if such a contingency plan within the Mormon church is necessary in order to pave the way, psychologically, for young people to pledge to be together for both their entire earthly and eternal lives.
A further advantage that The Mormon Bachelor held over its network TV counterparts was that Chris and his dates actually talked about jobs, religion and family — conversations that are usually shunted to the side on The Bachelor/ette in favor of pontificating about how “amazing” the “journey” has been, or making out, or both. Courtney said of her second date with Chris that they filmed an activity during the day and then had a more private date in the evening off-camera. “That’s when things kind of progressed more,” she admitted.
Although their first date was ostensibly the first meeting, Courtney had of course talked to Chris before, when he interviewed her as part of the selection process for Kent. She acknowledged that she thought he might be attracted to her even then. “He would Skype chat with me after our interview, trying to flirt,” she wrote on her personal blog. “I thought it was pretty funny.”Just as the structure of The Bachelor ensures that the show must end with a love triangle, however, there were two final rivals for Chris’s affection on his season. The Mormon Bachelor has three levels of competition, so to speak: first dates with all twelve contestants, second dates with contestants the Bachelor feels he has a connection with, and third dates with finalists before crowning a winner. Sharla Klimt also had a successful first date with Chris and was brought back for a second.
If I had to guess after watching their second date, I’d say that Chris might be a closeted Bachelor fan. His evening with Sharla could have easily taken place on the TV show, with perhaps the minor difference that they ate dinner in Sharla’s apartment rather than on the rooftop of an office building in Los Angeles after rappelling down the north face.
She wrote of their date on The Mormon Bachelor‘s website:
He surprised me with a romantic dinner for two and made delicious salmon that was honestly the best salmon I’ve ever had. Not to mention its super sexy to see a guy cooking in the kitchen. He then gave me flowers and one of my favorite movies. After dinner, Jason [a guitarist Chris hired] was there to serenade us [and] we did a little slow dancing… Chris is quite the romancer.
The Mormon Bachelor was very coy about physical contact between the contestants, unlike The Bachelor cameras, which have no qualms about documenting kisses between Bachelor/ettes and suitors in all of their darting-tongued glory. It was clear to me that Sharla and Courtney were Chris’s two favorite girls. But as is true in most love triangles, the longer it takes the person who’s in charge to make up his or her mind, the less sympathetic they become.
Sharla seemed very fond of Chris; Courtney never seemed wildly enthusiastic. She told me that after their initial Skype interview she thought he was a bit of a jerk. “He made me stay up and wait for him [to do the interview],” she said, “So I thought he was a little arrogant, I guess.” It also seemed that she unwittingly benefited from a strategy that has worked for many contestants on The Bachelor before: in order to win a competition built on the premise of twenty-odd women vying for one man’s attention, a surefire way to set oneself apart is to appear less interested, forcing him to surrender the power he has as The Bachelor and become the pursuer rather than the pursued.
This strategy worked (I believe unconsciously) for Emily Maynard on Brad’s season, for Jef Holm (perhaps consciously) on Emily’s season, and for the villainous Courtney Robertson (deliberately) on Ben Flajnik’s season. And it worked again on The Mormon Bachelor.
Although Courtney was also quick to call Chris a “great guy,” it seemed clear watching the season that Sharla was the more devoted of the two. The next time we saw Sharla, however, she wasn’t going on her third date with Chris — she was sitting down for a producer intervention.