Latter-day Saint Video Vault celebrates decades of uplifting, funny, weird, and sometimes cringe-worthy Mormon-related videos, most of which are now found on YouTube. Join Jared Jones every other Friday as he breaks down one of these classics.

Last summer I spent three columns doing posts on relationships and marriage to coincide with the normally busy summer wedding season. There is no shortage of videos on the topic to enable a repeat, but I think one is enough this year.

Let’s dive in to Are You the One?: Choosing a Mate from 1968. Like many of these 60’s era wedding and relationship films, Are You the One? contains a disclaimer:

The following film was produced by Brigham Young University during the 1960s for general distribution to both Church and non-Church groups. Although the general principles are valid, the presentation does not represent all Church areas of emphasis.

The film begins with a couple—Doug and Marilyn—walking through the woods. We hear two women singing “Are you the one for me? / I wish, I wish I knew. / I need your love to be my light my whole life through. / I wish I knew.” Putting aside the fact that we need to find our own light to live our whole life through the song definitely sets the tone for the film.

Doug and Marilyn sneak a moment in the woods and kiss. They decide they had better get back to the others and arrive to see Michael and Shirley—the parents of the family Doug boards with—kissing on a picnic blanket while their children play. Doug comments that even though Michael and Shirley have been married 12 years it’s still like their honeymoon. Marilyn wants that for her marriage. Doug breaks up the couples’ tete a tete by asking for their “necking license.” Michael says he and Shirley view it as their duty to show the joy of married life. They pass around the roasting sticks and wackiness ensues with an over-toasted marshmallow.

Back at an apartment Marilyn and Doug end up talking about parents and picnics. Doug mentions Marilyn’s parents probably never took her on picnics because it was a more traditional activity and her parents weren’t that traditional. It was offered as an observation and a comment, but Marilyn takes offense and then accuses Doug’s parents being as conservative as Queen Victoria. Marilyn accuses Doug of attacking her parents. Doug says he would rather be attacking their daughter and they begin to kiss. Classy.

The next morning at breakfast we see Marilyn with her roommate Esther. Esther talks about her marriage class and how she is doing an autopsy on her divorce. She wants to know what went wrong on both sides. As she talks about it we transition from home, to bus, to their work at a dress shop. Esther mentions her and her ex, Bill, were just a bad match. There was physical attraction at first but it wasn’t much more than that. “Yes he turned me on, but let me tell you. Once the marriage knot is tied making love is not your only occupation.”

Esther continues. She felt like a “pork chop at a synagogue” when she met his parents. She didn’t like his friends. He didn’t like her friends. They were in love and they had sex but even that became unsatisfying as nothing else was holding them together. Marilyn comments she and Doug haven’t even met each other’s folks and changes the subject by focusing on a new dress she wants to wear to the evening dance.

At the dance we see a group singing the title song. “Are you the ooooooonnne for me….I wish, I wish I knew…” Doug seems to be enjoying the music, but Marilyn looks more thoughtful. They go to sit down and enjoy some cake and punch and Doug comments on the new dress and says it will take a rich man to keep Marilyn in the way she is accustomed. Marilyn says she wanted it so she bought it. Doug suggests a budget. Marilyn says no. Then they begin to argue about the fat content of the frosting. Marilyn is convinced it’s real butter. Doug is sure it’s margarine as business is all about cutting corners for the most profit. Marilyn disagrees. Marilyn is disappointed and wonders what it will be like to have a cynic for a husband. Doug counters that it is no more challenging than being married to a naïve Pollyanna. Doug changes the subject. Shirley has asked him to watch the kids so she can attend a meeting. He suggests Marilyn accompany them to the zoo.

The trip to the zoo seems to go swimmingly. They look at animals and play while underscored with a circus-like arrangement of “London Bridge is Falling Down.” A metaphor for their stellar relationship? We shall see. As the trip ends, the children are excited at the sight of the hot dog vendor. Doug says no as they already had popcorn. Marilyn wonders what the big deal is. It’s just a hot dog. Doug tries to explain. Shirley asked Doug to limit their treats to popcorn. He also was aware of their dinner time in half an hour. It evolves into a discussion on limits, raising children, spoiling children and parenting. He doesn’t want to be a mean parent but there needs to be limits. Marilyn takes the limits comment personally—perhaps remembering the earlier budget discussion—and fails to see the connection between long-term behavior and a hot dog at the zoo.

Doug returns to Michael and Shirley’s. The kids are excited to talk about how much fun they had—and to mention Doug and Marilyn’s fight. The kids go and wash for dinner and Doug asks his friends if they had any big disagreements before marriage. Michael said they agreed on most things. Shirley recounts one argument on whether or not she should dye her hair. Michael councils that a couple should agree on major things and then approach a give-and-take attitude on the smaller things. The film cuts to Esther and Marilyn having the same sort of debrief. Marilyn wonders about their differences about raising children and their outlook on life in general. Esther invites Marilyn to come to her marriage prep class. Marilyn isn’t sure she wants to bother with that boring “academic stuff,” but Esther reminds her an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

At the marriage class the instructor encourages the students to share differences they have seen in various relationships. We learned of one mother’s chronic club participation and her husband’s lack of desire for civic involvement. Another woman spoke of a fiancé who fully expected her to stay at home to be a wife and mother who waited on him when she wanted to have a career. Students bring up various topics that should be discussed before marriage including religion, life outlook, and how to spend money and leisure time. They also discuss that just because a person isn’t right for you that doesn’t mean he or she isn’t right for someone. Marilyn takes notes and commits to try some of these ideas like involving each other in favorite activities.

Later we see Doug at Marilyn’s modern dance class to observe one of Marilyn’s “compositional studies.” He is not engaged with this attempt to explore each other’s interests. Marilyn tries to explain why she loves modern dance but Doug just settles on “interesting.” Although watching women walk around in black leotards doesn’t’ hurt. Oh, Doug. You romantic. He didn’t say he hated it, although that is what Marilyn perceives. Later it’s Doug’s turn. He takes them fishing. She doesn’t enjoy it and says she hopes to teach dance one day, but Doug is confused. “Don’t you want to be married?” Marilyn reveals to him that women have been emancipated and can be married and work. He thinks people can do either or but not do both well. He moves in for a kiss and she rebuffs him. It seems physical attraction is where their relationship starts and finishes—that’s fine with Doug for now. Their disagreement continues and ends with Marilyn pushing Doug into the river.

Back at Esther and Marilyn’s apartment they talk as Esther exercises. Marilyn just feels they are so different. They even get angry differently. Esther pauses her work out for a cookie and suggests it’s better to know now.

“But I love him,” Marilyn says.

“Yes you melt when you are near him, but what about when you are both 70?”

Marilyn contests they both can change. Esther is not so sure. She couldn’t get her ex-husband to change as much as his table manners. Some things can be changed if everything else in the relationship is right, Esther says. Breaking up is hard but it would be better now than later. Marilyn needs to marry Doug for who he is now because change is not guaranteed.

Later we see Doug and Marilyn leaving a restaurant (The BYU Skyroom—I swear I remember those vintage room screens). Doug suggests they stop seeing each other and Marilyn agrees it’s for the best. They want each other to be happy and are not sure that will happen if they continue down this relationship road. They agree to remain friends, and Doug says he will check back in on her. Who knows what could happen in a year? They hear the title song swell and they head back in for a final dance.

Are You the One manages to be both progressive and backwards. I was surprised to hear divorce mentioned factually and not critically. Equally surprising was a discussion of marital sexuality and its role as part of a healthy marriage. The mentions of women wanting careers outside the home in addition to motherhood also are consistent with the era and are a bit surprising to see in a church adjacent film.  It does make me wonder if these progressive stances are elements not in keeping with areas of “church emphasis” for the time. Perhaps the educational consultants who worked on the film wanted to make it more relevant to a broader group so it could be sold for curriculum or other purposes.

The film is a bit backwards in its treatment of women. Marilyn always portrayed as shrill and overreacting. She is impulsive and bad with money. I’m surprised bad driving isn’t thrown in to round out the stereotype. Doug is always sensible and calm. Esther seems more like a caricature of a friend than a real friend. Her advice is sound, but her desire to take the marriage class for self-improvement is marred a bit by the film’s decision to have her always sit next to the most attractive person in the class (Esther’s words).

In the end, Are You the One? offers strong marriage advice in a dated package. Have wide ranging discussions on many topics before marriage. Get to know that person in a variety of situations and social activities. Meet their extended family members. This is advice is probably readily available in a more palatable way with any number of reputable marriage books. If you would like to see these themes rehashed in different ways, be sure to read my other columns on church marriage films of the same era: Never a Bride, Love is for the Byrds, or For Time or Eternity.

Thoughts, Musings & Trivia

  • The song “Are You the One?” was written by Dick Davis and was performed by the Terry Sisters with the Three D’s.
  • The Three D’s were made up of Dick Davis, Denis Sorenson, and Duane Hiatt. They were signed to Capitol Records, released several albums, and toured around the US, Canada and Asia.
  • Less can be found about The Terry Sisters. Although they sang as “sisters” they were in fact cousins and released a few singles in the 60s.