By Jennifer Garza -- Bee Staff Writer
For spiritually minded singles, a new romance may be just a few clicks away
Published 2:15 am PST Saturday, February 12, 2005
Between the two of them, Chuck and Dawn Livingston can recall every detail.
They laugh and smile and politely interrupt each other when they tell the story
of their online courtship. He remembers the dates. She remembers how she felt.
They talk in the living room of their Roseville apartment. Their wedding photos
are prominently displayed.
Looking back, it was a leap of faith, they say. Six and a half years ago, both
recovering from divorces, they each turned to an online dating service for
members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of a growing
number of faith-based services.
"We connected right away - and we had the same beliefs," says Chuck Livingston.
In Dawn, he met his soulmate. "We were both looking for the same thing."
Namely, marriage. The two have been married six years and have become, among
their friends and acquaintances, the poster couple for faith-based online
Since the Livingstons married, a nephew, a brother-in-law and two friends have
met their spouses on LDS online dating services. (The companies are private and
are not officially connected to the church.)
In recent months, many have turned to online dating services geared
specifically to members of religious groups. There's one for nearly everyone -
Catholics seeking Catholics, Buddhists searching for fellow believers, Orthodox
Jews looking for spouses.
The services that target the single and the faithful are different from
traditional online dating services. Users fill out lengthy questionnaires about
their spirituality - not their appearance. Many, like the Livingstons, are more
mature and have been divorced.
And unlike traditional sites where the goal is to get a date, a lot of those
who use and run faith-based online services say they have more lasting goals.
"We make no bones about it that we want people to find their spouses," says
Marc Goldman, founder of SawYouAtSinai.com, which targets Jewish singles. The
site has matchmakers who study the profiles of the users and match them to
profiles they think are appropriate. About 8,000 people are using the service,
which started in November 2003. More than 20 couples have married.
Marriage is the goal for many Muslim sites. Rahmed Ali of Sacramento has signed
up at several, looking for a wife who shares his beliefs and values. "So far, I
haven't had any luck ... but I like the idea of finding someone this way. You
know where the other person stands."
Not everyone has had good online experiences. Cathy Patrick of Folsom went out
with a man she met on a Catholic site for singles. "He was more religious than
I am. .... I felt uncomfortable with his references to the Virgin Mary during
On some sites, users can specify the degree of faith they are looking for in a
partner. For $29.95 for one month, users of Soulmatch can say, for example,
which faith group - if any - they prefer.
"We don't assume Catholics want to only meet Catholics," says Steve Waldman,
CEO of Beliefnet, the Web site devoted to spiritual issues that owns Soulmatch.
"The degree of spirituality is more important to a lot of people."
Soulmatch was launched last September. So far, it has 100,000 members of all
faiths. Unlike other faith-based dating services, the company's goal is not
necessarily marriage. "We're agnostic on that," Waldman says.
Who is using the service?
Waldman says many of their users are older and nearly half of them are
"It makes sense. ... When you're 19 you may not be thinking about faith and
values so much," he says. "When you're older, you want to cut to the chase and
focus on what's important."
Beliefnet got into the online dating business after company officials noticed
that their singles message boards were their busiest.
The CEO is not surprised. According to Waldman, studies show that 83 percent of
Americans say religion is important to them. Yet, traditional online services
have ignored the faith factor. He calls it their "big blind spot."
"It stands to reason that if people say their faith is important to them, then
it's going to be important to them when they're looking for a partner," says
For many of the sites, safety is also an issue. At LDSpromise. com, a popular
LDS site, members take a compatibility test that takes about 1 1/2 hours to
complete. A user interested in meeting another person must go through several
steps. The site also has several cautionary statements that are clear about
when and how people should meet.
All of this makes it difficult for potential predators, according to the
"LDSpromise.com attempts to solve this basic flaw," says Lynn Scoresby.
Linda Welch-Hicks, 56, who lives in the Sacramento area, has used several LDS
sites. She says she is cautious about whom she writes to. And she is clear
about what she wants - marriage.
"I don't want to be someone's pen pal. I want to get married."
Recently, Hicks met a man from Utah online. They've hit it off. This weekend -
Valentine's weekend - he is flying her to Salt Lake City for a three-day date,
that includes stops at the Temple Square, the college where he works and church
on Sunday morning.
She is not nervous about spending so much time with someone she's never met.
"We get along really well on the phone, and I can tell he's really nice."
The best part, she say, is that because they have the same beliefs, they also
have the same expectations. "It's something we've discussed."
Dawn Livingston decided to discuss her history when she sat down to write her
profile six and half years ago. She wanted to start any potential relationship
on the right foot. So she was upfront.
She was divorced with four kids. She took care of her sick mother who lived
with her, she wrote.
"I had a lot of baggage," says Livingston, who works as an instructional aide
in the San Juan Unified School District. "A lot of men would have looked at
that and run. "
Chuck Livingston liked what he saw. Instead of running, he e-mailed. "I loved
that she didn't try to hide who she was," says Livingston, who runs a wedding
The two wrote hundreds of e-mails over the next three weeks. (He saved all of
Finally, anxious to meet him, Dawn suggested he take her to a movie. They were
engaged a month later. Within six months, they were married.
Now, sitting side by side at home, the two say their prayers have been
"I wouldn't have married again unless I was sure," says Dawn Livingston.
About the writer
The Bee's Jennifer Garza can be reached at (916) 321-1133 or at