In an article I read today online from LDS Living I was reminded of a “Mormon” stigma from my youth and single days. Marrying an RM (returned missionary) is the only way to ensure your eternal salvation. It may not have been these exact words but that was the implication every time someone talked about what to look for in my future spouse and later on the first thing I was reminded about when dating someone.

I am NOT one to judge or discriminate against someone for their past, we all have skeletons in our closets. As a YSA (term used widely in the Church for Young Single Adult, someone single and between the ages of 18-30) I dated members, non-members, inactive members, RMs and non-RMs. Every single last one of them had a secret or a past. For the non-RMs it was usually always the fact they hadn’t served a mission for one reason or another. Some “RMs” had only served part of their full-time mission calling (a two year full time calling for men). Other RMs who had fully served a mission were no longer living righteously.

Why then is there such pressure on men to be an RM and women to marry an RM? Is a returned missionary more likely to be living righteously when compared to his equal non-returned missionary? Possibly, but there is no guarantee. Let me tell you a few stories of some men I knew growing up and one I know very well.

One of my closest male friends in my early 20s (never actually dated him) decided he was going to serve a mission. He had gotten his life in order, was worthy and ready. He received his calling and went for training and subsequently to the field to serve his mission. A few months after being gone, he returned home, having not completed his full mission. He came home due to physical/medical reasons and did not return back to the field. Fast forward a few years he is now happily married to his eternal companion. He continues to strive living his life in a manner to be found worthy at all times.

Friend #2 incredibly smart, very talented in multiple aspects; spiritually, mentally, musically. He participated in many church functions and did his best to magnify his callings. Yet time after time, women would dump him for not being an RM. He was not able to serve, nothing spiritual or unworthy, he had limitations and was not able to serve in that capacity. How sad that such a talented and worthy young man was rejected time and time again for simply not being an RM, regardless of the reasons.

Man #3, this one I dated. I had known him years prior, my family knew his family, we had lost touch over the years and when our paths crossed again we started spending more and more time together. We even took a road trip to Utah once. He was an RM and had served his full term in the field where he was called, returned with honor, every thing I was ever taught to look for in a future mate. Well come to find out he had a different secret. It was okay because he was not acting on it. He struggled to avoid temptation and did not give into sin. Then suddenly one day something changed, or I just didn’t know about it all along. He renounced his membership in the church and completely gave in to his temptation and is now living a different life, one not in accordance with Gods laws and commandments.

Man #4, this one is my favorite, but I might be a little bias. This man did not grow up in the church, he is a convert at the age of 30, past the maximum age allowable for serving as a full time missionary (until you’re older and retired but that’s a different story). He is fervent in growing closer to Heavenly Father and living a righteous life. He continues daily to search for the right way to live. This man is my husband. We met later in life and I could not be luckier. He loves my Dawn like his own, he cherishes our entire family and my entire family has at one point or another told me how lucky I am to have found him and what a great blessing he is in my life. None of these things happen because he is an RM, he’s not. They happen because he is a good man and lives his life today and for the future, not for the past.

Should church members strive to be able to serve a mission? Yes of course. Should this be the major defining factor of the worthiness of any member, male or female? Absolutely not. Imagine if men held women to the same standard of being an RM, it would be a very lonely world for many people. Serving a mission at the age of 18-27 does not make a person worthy or righteous for their entire lives. It should also NOT be the one biggest accomplishment or service one provides. Do not rest on your laurels, continue to search out new ways to serve others and by doing so, serve God.

Women, if you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I implore you to stop rejecting a man simply because he did not serve a full time mission. Get to know the man he is now and see the man he can become. You may find yourself surprised that your “standards” are not standards at all.