Maggie Gallagher

Mitt Romney is riding high this week after his victory in "the first primary," which consists of raising cold, hard cash to compete: more than $20 million in the first quarter, $5 million more than his closest contender, Rudy "Lay off my wife!" Giuliani. John McCain came in a lackluster third with $12.5 million.

Romney's campaign benefited from two distinct donor networks, according to media accounts: Wall Street and Mormons. GOP front-runner Rudy, struggling with one of those weird media freak shows erupting around his wife, Judith (her alleged participation in future Cabinet meetings and former puppy killings), must be a little envious on both counts.

Why is it that all the Dem candidates are still married to their first spouse, while among the current crop of leading GOP contenders, the only guy with just one wife is the Mormon?

Truth is, I don't think this is just an accident. There's something about Mormons the rest of us ought to pay attention to: Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do much better than almost any other faith group at sustaining a marriage culture -- and they do this while participating fully and successfully in modern life. Utah is above the national average in both household income and the proportion of adults who are college graduates.

While reading about Romney's cash victory, I was already deep into the hot-off-the-Oxford-Press book, "Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers", by University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus. This book tells you more about the sex lives of Mormon (and other) teens than you ever wanted to know. For example, 77 percent of Mormon teens age 13 to 17 support saving sex for marriage, compared to 74 percent of evangelicals, 52 percent of mainline Protestants, 51 percent of Catholics and 27 percent of Jewish teens. It's not that LDS teens are unusually prudish, either. Mormon teens were more likely than any other religious group (except Jews) to agree that "sex would give you much pleasure". They are also far more likely than any other religious group to say it would make them feel guilty (77 percent, compared to 66 percent of evangelicals, 52 percent of mainliners, 47 percent of Catholics and 45 percent of Jewish teens.) The vast majority of all teens report their mothers would be upset if they had sex, but even here, Mormon moms stand out: 96 percent of LDS teens say having sex would upset their mother, compared to 89 percent of evangelicals, 83 percent of mainliners, 81 percent of Catholics and 79 percent of Jewish teens.


Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.