What Really Happened at That ‘Mormon Millionaire’ Dating Event?

In May, a handful of billboards went up around Salt Lake City, announcing that an “LDS millionaire” was hosting an “exclusive VIP event” that would result, he hoped, in him meeting his wife. It would be like a sober version of “The Bachelor,” minus the camera crew and meddling producers.

About 2,500 women applied through a form online, including Kady Nettik, a student at Idaho State University who read about the ads on Facebook. “I’m dating around, and the dating apps aren’t helping,” Ms. Nettik said. “All my friends are married or have kids, unless they’re studying to be doctors.”

The pressure to find a husband or wife for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be intense, Ms. Nettik, 24, said. The importance of marriage is emphasized from an early age, and single members of the church have traditionally attended separate congregations called “singles wards,” which are divided by age groups. Many wed by their mid-20s.

Part of the challenge is finding people who are like-minded, or at least open-minded. Ms. Nettik is willing to date outside of the church (and considers her involvement to be on the less active side), but she encounters a lot of men who have a strong reaction when she brings up her faith. “I just want someone who doesn’t hate it,” Ms. Nettik said.

These reasons and others led Erin Schurtz, who works at a matchmaking company for members of the church, to organize this live dating event for one of her clients. It was not her first foray into dating games: In 2010, she created a YouTube series called “The Mormon Bachelorette” with a close friend, to help the friend find a husband. The series continued after her friend got married and ran for five seasons.

“If you move away from the mecca — Salt Lake City and Provo — it makes it difficult to find someone because there are less people who are L.D.S.,” Ms. Schurtz said. But dating in Utah raises an opposite issue: “It becomes the problem of the grass is always greener; it becomes too much.”

Though “too much” might seem like an enviable problem, it can complicate decision-making for people who are looking to find a partner not just for life, but for ever. “We believe it’s for eternity, not just for this life,” Ms. Schurtz said. “It can cause a lot of anxiety for a lot of people. There’s a lot of early-on decision making. People will think, ‘Is this the one?’ on the second or third date.”

O.K., back to the show. Ms. Nettik found out that she was one of the 20 finalists for the “LDS Millionaire Matchmaking” event on a Monday in early June, at midnight. “I was told needed to make my meal choices and get a cocktail dress,” she said. She also signed a nondisclosure agreement, the terms of which included protecting the bachelor’s identity. (In sharing details from the event, she said, she adhered to those terms.)

At the dinner, Ms. Nettik bonded with the other attendees, many of whom she said were around her age — quite a bit younger than the bachelor, who the matchmaking company said is between 35 and 45 years old. During the event, he hid behind a white sheet while people who knew him described his accomplishments. After the sheet came down, Ms. Nettik said, the bachelor presented a PowerPoint outlining his reasons for being there. (She would not share details.)

Each of the women received a Kate Spade necklace with a heart-shaped pendant and had five minutes of face time with the bachelor. “It was very fast and it felt very pressured,” Ms. Nettik said. “They had a timer. By the time it got to me, it felt routine.” She said the bachelor asked her about what she likes to do, whether she has a big family, and “something about animals.”

In the end, Ms. Nettik did not want to go on a follow-up date, saying that though she found the bachelor “nice and funny,” she did not feel a spark and thought the age difference would be a problem. “It felt like we were all a little bit younger than him,” Ms. Nettik said. “Some of the references he made were going over our heads. It did feel like talking to an uncle.”

Several other women were interested in follow-up dates, Ms. Schurtz said, and her client has met one-on-one with them in the days since, even as their event has picked up curious attention in the media.

“After we finished, he thanked us all for coming,” Ms. Nettik said. And, perhaps as a nod to the reality program that inspired the event, “he gave a rose and a hug to each girl on the way out.”

Valeriya Safronova is a reporter for the Style section. She is based in New York. @vsaffron

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