(NEW YORK) — The Mormon Bachelor is unlike the show that inspired it. In a way, it’s ABC’s The Bachelor minus the sex and scandal.
The Mormon Bachelor — seen on the web — features speed dating with distinctly Mormon values. The dates have less drama, the conversations more wholesome, but the stakes are just as high. Contestants on the show, now wrapping up its fourth season, are hoping to find a marriage partner.
The star of the show is Chris Barbour, a 26-year-old virgin.
“Mormons don’t engage in sexual activities before marriage,” he said. “You have the physical kisses and what not but past that, not too much.”
The rules of the Church of Latter-Day Saints go way beyond simply refraining from pre-marital sex. The couple also can’t smoke or drink alcohol.
“We definitely do have our standards and our guidelines that we go by, that we try to live by, as much as we possibly can,” Barbour said.
It’s a far cry from the sort of rule-bending on the ABC version. This summer on The Bachelor Pad, a bunch of contestants ended up naked in the pool in the season premiere. That’s not likely to happen on the Mormon Bachelor.
“I don’t even like to kiss on the first date,” Barbour said.
The show’s creators, Aubrey Laidlaw and Erin Elton, came up with the idea for the reality series after graduating from Brigham Young University and moving to Southern California. They were frustrated with a dating scene so different from what they had known at BYU, where many of their classmates joked they went for an “MRS degree.”
“Our dating practices are so different than the dating practices of mainstream,” Elton said. “Holding hands and kissing, which is not very passionate is pretty much all you can do before you’re married.”
Laidlaw actually auditioned for ABC’s The Bachelor, but didn’t make it, which is probably just as well, she said.
“I don’t know why I was thinking I would do something like that because in reality, I really wanted to marry an LDS guy,” Laidlaw said. “But I was so in love with the show. So we came up with the Mormon Bachelorette, and I was cast as the first bachelorette.”
The first season of the web series was a huge success for Laidlaw. Her handsome prince rode up on his Harley Davidson. Six months later they wed in a temple ceremony and now have a baby girl.
They do get some pressure from viewers to sex up their online series for the sake of ratings.
“We get emails constantly about doing a fantasy suite,” Elton said. “Sorry, you’re out of luck. Hand-holding and kissing is probably all you’re going to see.”
When reviewing contestants’ audition tapes for the current season, one thing the producers are not casting for is drama. Elton said she is truly trying to find Barbour a wife he can love for all of eternity.
“He likes girls that are really fun loving, not too serious, good, strong LDS Mormon girls, so active in church, good families,” she said.
In the Mormon Church, Laidlaw said couples are not just looking for marriage but for “eternal marriage and an eternal family” and there is no “’til death do us part.”
“That means to be married in the house of the Lord, one of the temples, for time and all eternity,” she said.
Another reason for making the show, producers said, was to help clear up public misconceptions about Mormons, although Laidlaw admitted that “the majority of our viewers are LDS.”
Popular TV shows such as Big Love or Sister Wives — that focus on LDS splinter groups — have highlighted the fact that Mormonism once allowed polygamy, a practice the church has not condoned for more than a century.
The show’s creators said they are often asked why the Mormon Bachelor even needs to make a choice among the prospective brides. But the fact is, he only wants one wife.
“We don’t practice polygamy,” Barbour said. “That’s not us.”
Barbour has yet to find his eternal partner — at least until the season finale. But the show’s executive producer said she finally has. Erin Elton, 32, plans to get married in the Mormon Temple this weekend.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Mike Moran, EastIdahoNews.com
Kayla Nelson, Idaho State University Marketing and Communication