This post is to my dear young friends that I have been so privileged to teach. And though my primary audience is my students at BYU-Idaho, I hope some of these thoughts might be helpful to others. For those who do not share my faith, some background on why families are important, guidelines for dating, and commitments to the laws of chastity and fidelity will help you understand this piece.
Because our world has become so sexually charged, and because personal devices have made social situations awkward, and because getting married is so important in our culture (that it causes extreme anxiety in some of my students), I want to speak in favor of the old-fashioned date.
By this, I mean an inexpensive social outing in which you get to know a member of the opposite sex for a period of a few hours and one in which there is no expectation of physical intimacy nor is there expectation of life-long commitment. The point of the old-fashioned date is to get acquainted with others so that you can know for certain which personality traits work with yours and which don’t.
Another part of the date is the expectation that it is paired off (see note # 1). It should be just your date and you. Don’t invite a bunch of your closest friends along while you text them a play-by-play, or update all of your social media sites. There will be plenty of time for updates afterwards. Be present. Enjoy the moment. Give your date the gift of your company for a few hours. Practicing this rule will bless your life for years to come!
If you date a variety of individuals (without the expectation of physical intimacy) you will be able to see the characters of the people you date. You will see which personalities you get along with and the attributes that you don’t care for. If you only date people that you are physically attracted to, and push physical intimacy too quickly, that dependence on physical gratification might mask some character flaws that would not work well with your personality. And as wonderful as sexual intimacy is in marriage, it is only a small part of marriage, and life (contrary to what the world’s fascination with sexuality teaches). It is important that the foundation of friendship, spirituality, humor, service, hard work, etc, etc. is a major part of your choice to ultimately marry.
To my dear young brothers, yes, the expectation of dating is on your shoulders, by culture and by revelation. I once had a young seminary student who said, “Why would I want to waste money on someone elses’ wife?” My answer to him, and to you is that you may not get a wife unless you have practiced the simple social skill of dating!
Please understand, young men, that by dating, you are practicing caring for a woman. You are showing that you are able to provide and protect her for the time that you are in her company. You are responsible for her safety and well-being: spiritually, mentally, socially and emotionally. The more you practice, the more you will be able to care for your future wife and children.
I also encourage you to look at dating as a service that you are performing for these young women. You’re giving them the chance to practice their social skills and responsibilities in turn. You are allowing these young women to feel that they are acceptable enough for someone to want to be with them (please see # 2) and, by practicing, you are also serving your future wives and daughters. Not all dating will lead to marriage. But healthy and wholesome dating will lead to treasured memories and friendships and the ability to have normal and natural platonic (i.e. love or friendship that is intimate and affectionate but not sexual) social connections that will serve you well into the future. You must learn to have these platonic relationships so that you can work with, and live in communities with, and serve in wards with members of the opposite sex now and in the future.
To my dear young sisters, please allow these young men to serve you. Saying yes to a date or to a dance that lasts for three or four minutes doesn’t mean an eternal commitment! I just talked to a young man the other day (an amazing, brilliant, spiritual brother) who confided in me that the last three or four times he has asked a woman out, she has said “no”. I was totally flabbergasted, completely gobsmaked!!!! (A British phrase meaning – surprised and utterly astonished.)
Yes, sisters, we live in a bright age in which we are able to do many wonderful and amazing things for which I am truly thankful. However, just because we can open a door for ourselves doesn’t mean that we should. If you are training men not to serve you, then in the future, you will do everything yourself (which, though you have the ability, can be quite difficult when you juggle in babies, work, school and all the other wonderful demands that the world tells you that you can do perfectly. Just a note. As amazing and brilliant as women are, the reality is that it is quite impossible to do it all perfectly! )
When you allow others to serve you, you are also serving them. Remember that the Savior, the greatest of all, served others, and it was for those others to allow Him serve them (see John 13). So, serve the future girls they date and their future wives by allowing them to practice social skills on you. And serve your future husbands by learning how to communicate, serve, and socialize with men. Of course, follow promptings if your gut tells you that something is wrong! However, if you must say no, please make it the exception rather than the rule. As I stated before, one or two dates doesn’t mean an intense or eternal commitment.
For those sisters who are not being dated. You are wonderful and brilliant! Please continue to make time in your schedule for social activities to continue to practice making and developing friendships. Also, if the men aren’t asking you out, it’s okay to take the initiative and invite them to be with you on occasion. Here’s an idea, something that my friends and I did in our ward at BYU to invite the men out and to encourage reciprocal (i.e.- done in return) dates, we created, “The Date of The Month”. Each month we would plan out a fun group dating activity, for example, in December, we went to the Christmas Choir Concert on campus and then we went back to our apartment and had a gingerbread house making contest in which each couple would work together to decorate a pre-made graham cracker house. Monthly, we would create a series of activities that would allow us to work with and talk with the person that we invited, but the dates were also simple, and comfortable because they included other couples.
To both my dear sisters and brothers who are so focused on your studies or your career that you don’t make time to practice these important skills (dating, socializing, serving, and caring for others) then you may not have the skills necessary to be able to have the blessing of family. Please consecrate (i.e. to set something aside for a sacred purpose) time in your busy schedules to date and socialize. Serve your future families now by making the effort to practice. Please learn the skill of making time for your family right now.
I know that it can be scary to put yourselves out there. But remember that creating families is a faith-based work! Ask the Lord to help you in your dating. If you sacrifice time and means for this important work, He can help and bless you. Ask the Lord to inspire you with ideas about whom to ask and what to do. Pray for the Holy Spirit to be part of your dates. Be brave like a student of mine who just asked a girl on a casual date. I loved that he invited her out and communicated that phrase (a casual date) to help take the pressure off. I know you can do this! Father in Heaven didn’t send you down on earth at this important time to fail in the sacred work of building families. Start today. Ask someone that you feel comfortable with on an old-fashioned date and begin now to practice and to serve!
- About being paired off – remember that I am talking to single adults, not teenagers. Teenagers, please see the guidelines in For the Strength of Youth on Dating.
- In this statement, I mean this – women are very hard on themselves and a date goes a long way to help with that! Often, when I was single, I would pray in loneliness and Father would raise up a kind young man who (I believe) would feel prompted to take me out. I have such genuine gratitude for the men that dated me, and for such happy memories of our times together on dates (fun and spiritual conversations, laughter, and good activities) before I met and married my husband.