'Dating is fun!'
It's easy. Send a link to the story you were just reading to a friend. Just fill out the form on this page and we'll send it along.
When the revised For the Strength of Youth booklet was released in January of this year, the first thing many young women did when they received their copies was turn to the section on "Dating" to see if anything had changed! Young women know that the world has changed drastically, but the Church's standards have not changed. What they discovered when they opened their book is that the standard for the age of formal dating is still 16. Yes, after the age of 16, youth are encouraged to date! Unfortunately, many young women tell me that when they turn 16, the boys do not ask them on dates. The boys prefer to "hang out." What to do?
I suggested to a group of young single adults at BYU-Idaho that perhaps a change of structure would help. A structure is something established to produce a specific result. For example, a potato peeler is perfectly designed to get results — to remove the peel from any potato. Today's social structure of hanging out is not designed to produce meaningful and potentially lasting relationships. To the young single adult students at BYU-Idaho, I proposed something revolutionary. I proposed that the young women stop hanging out and being so available. I proposed that they be scarce and classy. Because I am the mother of five sons, I was able to warn them that the boys won't notice for a while; they'll keep hanging out, then all of a sudden, they'll say, "Hey, where are the girls?" Then they will huddle and brainstorm about whom to text to come and join them. I suggested that when the women receive the text, that they (in a classy and kind way) remain scarce and not be so anxious to join them. Wait until an offer for an official date is proffered. I don't know how this has turned out but perhaps a structure change is a start! (See "Dare Great Things," BYU- Idaho Devotional, Oct. 11, 2011, and "Dare Great Things," Church News, Oct. 15, 2011).
According to Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve, "Hanging out consists of numbers of young men and young women joining together in some group activity. It is very different from dating. . . . Dating is pairing off to experience the kind of one-on-one association and temporary commitment that can lead to marriage in some rare and treasured cases" ("Dating versus Hanging Out," Ensign, June 2006).
Dating at the age of 16 is not right for all young women; many will prefer to wait and that is perfectly fine. In the meantime, parents and leaders can help young women understand the purpose and joy of dating. President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve has said that "true doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior" ("Do Not Fear," Ensign, May 2004). Perhaps you as the parents and leaders can help young women clearly understand the definition and the importance of dating as you teach from the pages in For the Strength of Youth in family home evening, classes, talks, youth conference workshops and camp.
Dating is a planned social activity usually initiated by the boys. There are exceptions for some activities and occasions and girls sometimes ask boys to attend events or activities with them as well. Dating is designed to help youth get to know each other, to learn social skills, to develop friendships and to have wholesome fun. Dating allows both young women and young men to determine the qualities they are looking for in a future spouse. Dating can be a wonderful learning experience for both young women and young men.
President Thomas S. Monson taught: "You have an important responsibility in choosing not only whom you will date but also whom you will marry . . . . I would admonish you to maintain an eternal perspective. Make certain that the marriage in your future is a temple marriage. There is no scene so sweet, no time so sacred as that very special day of your marriage. Then and there you glimpse celestial joy. Be alert; do not permit temptation to rob you of this blessing" ("Whom Shall I Marry?" New Era, October 2004, p. 4).
The doctrines regarding dating are encompassed in the plan of salvation. Marriage between a man and a woman is part of the plan. Dating is specifically designed to allow a young man and a young woman to pair off in a social setting in order to get to know each other and see if they would like to pursue a long-term relationship. Dating is discouraged before the age of 16 because a prophet of God asked that youth not date until after that age. It is prophetic counsel which, if observed, will yield blessings — plain and simple. Recent studies have verified that early dating before the age of 16 can lead to moral indiscretions.
Mutual activities are specifically to foster wholesome relationships between young men and young women prior to the dating age of 16. At Mutual activities, young women and young men learn how to interact in appropriate ways, how to communicate, how to dance and how to treat others with respect.
So why is it that many young women and young men are not dating at age 16 or 18 and beyond? Besides teaching the doctrine, perhaps we as parents can encourage this more. Perhaps we can make our homes places where couples can gather to have wholesome fun and get to know each other better.
In the meantime, we can also teach dating skills to our young women. We can help them prepare. We can teach them how to develop themselves so that they will possess the qualities that will make them interesting and fun company. Some of these qualities include:
Smile and be happy!
Be spiritually fit. Draw near to the Spirit so He can be your constant companion.
Be physically fit. Take care of your body; be active and practice healthful habits.
Be interested in people and improve your social skills. Talk to others and ask questions that will help them feel good about themselves and help you get to know them.
Set limits and live all the standards in For the Strength of Youth.
Help others become their best selves and have high expectations.
And remember you are a daughter of our Heavenly Father and He loves you!
No wonder "Dating" is the first standard many young women turn to in For the Strength of Youth. Dating is fun! It is an opportunity to expand friendships. Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve said of friendships: "Friends are people who make it easier to live the gospel of Jesus Christ" ("This Is the Way; and There Is None Other Way," in Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, 1981–82 , p. 67). We hope young women will encourage the young men to date and to be the kind of influence and friend that will help them remain worthy of the blessings of the temple, serve missions, marry at the right time and in the right place, and look forward to fatherhood. It is our hope as a Young Women general presidency that young women will invite their friends to participate in Mutual, learn social skills and get to know each other so that they will be prepared and ready to date at the appropriate time. This will be different for each young woman and we, their parents and leaders, can help them develop the talents and skills that will lead to their success and happiness.
A word of thank you is in order to parents and Young Women leaders for all you continue to do to bless the young women. It is our hope as the Young Women general presidency that you will use the new, revised For the Strength of Youth in every setting in which you interact with young women; at home, at Church, at Mutual, and this summer at camp and youth conferences. The standards contained therein not only govern behavior and worthiness but also genuine happiness, freedom and real FUN!