Romance and Mission Prep

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My missionary
Deeply imbedded in my brain, there is bundle of synapses that has spent the past  39 years preserving and nurturing every note and lyric to Saturday’s Warrior – the LDS cultural touchstone. This is not by choice, it has evolved to be a genetic anomaly. An anomaly which I’m sure I share with many of you.

Elder Kestler and his girlfriend Julie taught me that girls wait for their missionaries, until the time comes that they meet someone better and/or nearer. The spurned Elder then receives a “Dear John Letter” which devastates the missionary, with a catchy, country twang.

He’s just a friend like those she counts in dozens…

When my fellow missionaries and I entered the MTC, we were given a copy of a discourse from Spencer W. Kimball entitled “Lock Your Heart.” (Link here) It was an important talk that warned us against getting caught up romantically in the field, and staying focused on the Lord’s work.

One of the key lines in the talk also referenced girlfriends back home. Here is one of the key paragraphs:

“If missionaries will, when they leave the Mission Home – the day they are set apart – if they will just lock their hearts! If they’ve got a girl in there that’s all right, lock her in! But if you haven’t got one in, then lock it against all other girls of every description! And the same applies for young women, too. I am talking mainly to you Elders. You lock your heart and leave the key at home. And you never open it here!”

That was the counsel that we received: If you had a girlfriend back home, that was fine – lock her in. But I didn’t leave a girlfriend at home waiting for me. I would have liked to, but it didn’t work out that way. Some of my friends did – and they suffered for it – either from separation anxiety, loneliness, or the dreaded “Dear John Letter.” For the record, none of my friends went on to marry the girlfriend they left behind as they boarded the plane to serve.

Times have changed. The specific counsel that the prophets have shared in the past few years is a different message:

Teenagers should not be involved in romantic relationships or steady dating until it is time to move towards marriage.

Really!  I promise. I’m not making any of this up!  Here’s some quotes – all published in the New Era magazine, or from General Conference, within the past 3 years:

President Gordon B. Hinckley: “When you are young, do not get involved in steady dating. When you reach an age where you think of marriage, then is the time to become so involved. But you boys who are in high school don’t need this, and neither do the girls.”  (Link)

President Boyd K. Packer: “Avoid steady dating. Steady dating is courtship, and surely the beginning of courtship ought to be delayed until you have emerged from your teens.” (Link)

Elder Larry R. Lawrence: “Parents can prevent a lot of heartache by teaching their children to postpone romantic relationships until the time comes when they are ready for marriage. Prematurely pairing off with a boyfriend or girlfriend is dangerous. Becoming a “couple” creates emotional intimacy, which too often leads to physical intimacy. Satan knows this sequence and uses it to his advantage. He will do whatever he can to keep young men from serving missions and to prevent temple marriages.” (Link)

The New Era: “Before his mission, a young man should not be looking for a serious relationship. It may distract him from the call to full-time service he will receive from a prophet of God. It just doesn’t make sense to add the complication of a steady girlfriend when a young man is trying to prepare for a mission, and especially when he’s on his mission. It might create temptations and even expectations regarding the relationship. It’s not fair to him or the young woman. Neither of them needs that sort of distraction or pressure.” (Link)

So here is the million dollar question:  Why are so many of our youth totally ignoring this prophetic counsel as they prepare to serve the Lord as full-time missionaries?

I do not know the answer. I have been perplexed for years.

I have also observed that pre-mission romances are on the upswing in my area, and the new service age reduction has seemed to have thrown kerosene on it. So many really good kids I know have boyfriends and girlfriends. Kids that I know are trying to lead righteous lives.

How has this counsel fallen into a black hole? Do we all pretend it isn’t out there – or do we disagree with it, so we don’t teach it to our youth?

It is even in the For the Strength of Youth booklet – and everybody knows about that.

“When you begin dating, go with one or more additional couples. Avoid going on frequent dates with the same person. Developing serious relationships too early in life can limit the number of other people you meet and can perhaps lead to immorality.” (link)

As I mentioned – some of the kids ignoring this counsel are great kids, from strong families. Does everyone think that they are the “exception” to the rule? That their kids are strong enough?

I know some of you are saying “get off your soapbox, it is not that big of a deal.” Here are a few thoughts that perhaps might help you understand why I see it as a big deal.

• Imagine this testimony: “Brother and Sister Brown, I would like to testify to you that there are living prophets on the earth today, and we are blessed to receive the Lord’s counsel from them. And I try to follow most of it – except some of the counsel that I don’t really like – especially the whole girlfriend thing.”

• Or, as Elder Nelson called it “The cafeteria approach to obedience.” (link)

• Can I quote myself? “Isn’t it ironic that when a young man leaves a girlfriend behind to serve a mission, he spends two years testifying about the very prophets and apostles that he chose to ignore while preparing to serve?” (link)

• Yes, there are stories about pre-mission romances that actually succeed, and they are held up as positive examples.  Some of my closest friends who have been successfully married for 20+ years are the product of teenage romance. Everyone knows someone who can be held up as a success story – which can be interpreted advocacy for teen romance.

But things ARE different now.  “For the Strength of Youth” came out in 2001. The talks and articles I quoted were published in 2010. The counsel is not the same for today’s youth was it was for my generation. Today’s youth are asked to live to a different standard, so comparisons to couples that got together from the 70s, 80s, and even 90s are irrelevant.

Touting success stories from a bygone era is a disservice to our youth of today, and undercut the words of the current prophets. This is about this generation’s obedience – not ours.

We hear about success stories in this generation as well, but the frequency of those successes is misleading. Sure, the happy couple were High School sweethearts, and it makes for a sweet story, but nobody holds up the stories of the youth that were denied the privilege of serving because of immorality.  Nobody tells the story of the young couple whose lives were drastically altered because of a teenage pregnancy. Nobody talks much about the youth that choose not to serve missions because they couldn’t bear to be apart. Or the missionary who was merely mediocre because his/her heart was not focused on the work, but on his/her romance.

Success through disobedience does not negate the reality, or the validity of the counsel.

• One of my best friends growing up could not serve because of a teenage romance. He never recovered spiritually. Many bishops know similar stories. What makes it even more sad is that these tragedies can now be avoided though obedience to prophetic counsel. Specifically this counsel.

• Do we think our kids are bulletproof? Do we wink and give our blessing to the teenage romance because “they are such good kids,” or because “they are so darned cute!” The statistics the Church has provided show that by 11th grade, HALF of all LDS kids in a steady relationship have violated the law of chastity. HALF. (link)

That represents a 50/50 chance that the child we love so much will fall into serious sin. They will have to approach the Lord, and a bishop, with the pain of a broken heart. This is not just a small matter – this is the Law of Chastity. The Spirit will not abide in them until they have gone through the difficult process of repentance. It is heart-wrenching, and not always successful – and can send a young man or woman’s life into an entirely different trajectory. I have witnessed great joy in successful repentance, and great pain when the repentance does not happen…

The Atonement is always there, and very real, but sometimes a repentant heart, and the requisite remorse, are not.

• We know the work is hastening.  What better way for Satan to impede that work than to destroy a missionary before he/she even gets into the mission field? Or, if he can’t do that, distract them from focusing on their calling.

• Elder Mcallister of the Quorum of the Seventy said:
“When you entered the mission field, you burned the bridges behind you, you burned the ships in the harbor. There is no retreat to your former life. You cannot have one foot at home, and one foot in the mission field.”

My experience in the mission field is limited to my two years, but I noticed that missionaries who were worried about girlfriends – and why they didn’t get a letter this week, or if they were getting a “Dear John,” or how lonesome they were – were not as focused on the work as they could have been. The Lord expects our whole hearts. Yet I’ve known of missionaries who have spent their actual mission time planning their engagements and weddings – while they are still serving…

• Do you want your boyfriend/girlfriend to have a better experience on his/her mission? Dump them well before they get to the MTC.

• Mission Prep?  It seems to me that the most important relationship a preparing missionary can be focusing on is his/her relationship with one person – the Savior. That is the relationship that will matter most. Running in second place would be the relationship with his/her parents and siblings. A teen romance with an “iffy” future? Shouldn’t even be on the radar.

Those relationships with the Savior and family are the eternal relationships that need to be nurtured before entering the service of the Lord.

• We all know from experience that a romantic relationship has the ability to take over our every waking thought and emotion – especially when we are young, and it is new, exciting experience. And with technology, the budding romance can take over our lives 24/7, leaving precious little time for real mission prep.

I have five kids, (3 down, 2 to go) and we have had these conversations around our kitchen table until my kids are ready to scream. (love you, kids) Personally, I would rather my kids not establish their romantic relationships on a foundation of disregard for prophetic counsel.

Before you write me off as a heartless curmudgeon, rest assured, I was a teenager once. I know what it’s like to fall in love. But to everything there is a time and a season – and this ain’t the season for romance. – it is the season for obedience.

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110 COMMENTS

  1. I hardly leave comments because it’s usually gonna be a ‘yup’, ‘I concur’, ‘hear, hear!’ or ‘well said!’

    This time I’ll just say, “right on, bro!”

  2. I have read your blog for a while now, and I just have to tell you that I really, really appreciate what you do here, and the way you do it. Keep up the good work. I have three small girls (oldest is 5). I was lucky in that I didn’t have much interest in boys or romance until I was older, I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 22. I hope that if my girls aren’t like me, I can at least teach them to obey the prophets, even if we talk about it until they scream. 🙂 Thank you!

  3. Our kids just got out of school this week and I have already heard more than I like “Well, but SHE did it.” Personal obedience isn’t based on what somebody else thinks or does. It’s not contingent on what another culture or time got/gets/or did not get to do. We hear the authorities of the Lord today give us counsel today and we should be obedient. When did it ever hurt us to be obedient? If you don’t jump on your bed, you will never fall off, hit the dresser, and give yourself a black eye. If you clean your room, your Mom will let you help make cookies and you will get to lick the bowl.

  4. I was so bummed when I found out my youngest brother was not going to go in a mission. He was in a steady relationship with a girl (I think his first relationship ever with a girl) and I believe he was afraid of losing her while on his mission. One of my other brothers gave him a blessing that he would know what the Lord wanted him to do. My youngest brother told me the answer he received was that the Lord was ok with him not going on a mission. How do you argue with that? With an answer that a person receives for themself? Especially when it’s in direct conflict of a commandment.

    • If our “answer” conflicts with established revelation, then we can be pretty darn sure we are listening to the wrong voice. (And this usually happens when we aren’t familiar with the voice of the Spirit, or we have chased him away)

      Personally, I don’t ask the Lord for ways to not be obedient – I ask Him to help me have the strength to be obedient.

  5. I just read this to my 15 (almost 16) year old daughter, and she said, “Because we know better. We are smarter than all of you!” Of course, she was joking, but I think that she actually hit it on the mark. We think it won’t happen to us or we know better. And, of course, we don’t. I met my husband in between when he returned home from his mission and when I left for mine. I know from experience how distracting a relationship can be on a mission (and we were both older than the usual missionary age and a little more mature). I am grateful that the Lord blessed me that he was still unattached when I got home, but I can attest that it made it a lot more difficult! Great post!

  6. I just read this to my 15 (almost 16) year old daughter, and she said, “Because we know better. We are smarter than all of you!” Of course, she was joking, but I think that she actually hit it on the mark. We think it won’t happen to us or we know better. And, of course, we don’t. I met my husband in between when he returned home from his mission and when I left for mine. I know from experience how distracting a relationship can be on a mission (and we were both older than the usual missionary age and a little more mature). I am grateful that the Lord blessed me that he was still unattached when I got home, but I can attest that it made it a lot more difficult! Great post!

  7. I remember when I was 15, my dad sat my younger sister and me down with a piece of paper he printed off the computer. It was our dating contract. One of his rules was that we weren’t allowed to have a boyfriend until we graduated high school. There were times growing up that I hated it. I was jealous when I saw my friends with their boyfriends and wanted to have that same connection but looking back now, I am so grateful I stuck with it! It taught me to say no to temptation, even when I really wanted to give in. When I hear parents say that they don’t want to have those rules because they are afraid of how their children will respond. It’s true, they may complain and whine about it but once they are in that temple, knowing some of their friends didn’t make it there because they didn’t have rules like that, they will be so grateful for it!

  8. I had a girlfriend that waited for me and we are still happily married. Every teacher I had at the MTC told me only 2% of girls wait. I guess I was a lucky one. That being said, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a distraction for me. Even though I can’t imagine my life without her waiting, my sons will be taught very sternly to avoid a steady girlfriend before their missions. I know from experience that even if they wait, a girlfriend is a huge distraction.

  9. Amen! This is such an important thing for our children and youth to know about. There’s a great book related to the whole dating/chastity topic and this article in the New Era gives an overview: http://www.lds.org/new-era/2010/04/unsteady-dating?lang=eng . It’s called Unsteady: What Every Parent Absolutely Must Know About Teenage Romance by JeaNette G. Smith. She has many references to the words of the prophets and apostles. It’s one I enjoyed reading.

  10. Love this. In our family, our oldest is turning 17. She has yet to “date”, because she isn’t willing to risk her emotions in the chaos she sees her friends indulging (good kids, but OH, the drama!). She knows her Dad didn’t date until he was 20; her Mom didn’t date until 19. She has cousins (non-LDS) who chose to delay dating until college (later college) so they could focus academically without emotional distraction. It works. It saves a great deal of heartache and unnecessary drama. It allows young men and women to be FRIENDS, to support one another as sisters and brothers in Christ. It’s a very, very good thing.

    All of these people are reasonably attractive, social, and fun; all of them have gone and do go to fun parties, dances, outings, and events… we’ve all just made the choice to wait for courtship until we’re in marriage territory.

    I think it’s fantastic that teens are being counseled (if they’ll listen) to wait until their true launch point for romantic dating. If parents and leaders will be supportive, there’s no curtailing of pleasant social learning. It kind of frosts my cookies when I hear leaders cooing and speculating “Ooooh, does he LIKE her?” when my 14yo son happens to have a female friend, or “Oooooh, does she Loooooove him?” when my nearly-17yo daughter has a dear friend who is a boy. Yes, he likes her… she’s a good FRIEND. Yes, she loves him… he’s a good FRIEND. We should like and love our friends. But they are not romantic. They’re too young. They’re willing to reserve their hearts for mature relationships, not teenage serial monogamy and chaos.

  11. Amen, brother! We moved recently from the west to the east coast, where my beautiful oldest daughter (age 16) went from being among many LDS girls with the same standards to NO LDS girls (well, just a few, all younger.) I was shocked at the attitude of the adults in the ward who immediately started pairing her off with one or the other of the few young men near her age. It went against everything we had taught her about how to approach relationships during high school. One young man who was preparing to go on his mission (read: graduated already from high school and old enough to know better) asked her out several times. She was a little swept off her feet by the attention. It was really hard to tread the line of “information, not control” with her, and there were many nights of heartfelt prayer over the situation. Eventually she realized that SHE did not want to be restricted by having a “boyfriend” from being friends with other boys, running around with her friends whenever she wanted to, and enjoying her last year of high school without the drama a relationship brings and broke things off with him. We were lucky, but not all families are. And you can bet my other children will know the present counsel about relationships so well they can quote it back to me word for word. It is harder here, I think, when there are so few people with your same standards, the older generations hope that they will get together just to keep strong in the gospel. But the counsel is the same no matter where you live, whether in Utah, Arizona, or Uganda.

  12. Even though I’ve been married for a decade, I fall into the generation for whom this counsel began in earnest (I graduated from HS in 2002). I understand the challenges: I grew up in a rural area where it was slim pickins’, even slimmer when it came to LDS youth or youth that lived anything that even slightly resembled our standards, and there was a mind set that if you asked someone out on -a- date, then the two of you were -dating-, exclusively, until you broke up. So I just didn’t really date. There are worse things (though you’d be hard pressed to convince many teenagers of that). I’m pretty sure that in my entire time in high school, I went on two dates. I was not a loser or a loner–I was very well-liked, had lots of friends and an active social life. Teenagers need to be taught to serve others and develop their personal interests and talents. There’s plenty of time for everything else.

    I had no intention of getting married or even seriously dating when I took off for college, but I listened to the Spirit, and there I was in the sealing room, less than a month after my 19th birthday, kneeling across the altar from a handsome, 26-year-old RM. Teenagers need the same instruction/reminder that we all need: if you trust the Lord, and his timing, and do (or not do) as He instructs, the righteous blessings you most need and desire will come.

  13. Thank you for sharing this. I want to scream at every teenager I know that having a boy/girlfriend before missions is NOT worth it! I know from experience. It brought a lot of emotional and spiritual pain, and I missed out on a lot of wonderful opportunities (both during high school and while he was on his mission). And he was not a dedicated missionary because he was so focused on me.

    I realized the error of my ways about 6 months before he came home. I started openly dating other boys and had a boyfriend (now my husband) by the time the missionary returned. Breaking up with the missionary after he got home (yep, I waited till he was home to “Dear John” him) was really hard too. 🙁

    Seriously kids, don’t do it! I PROMISE that you will be much happier if you wait until after your missions to get into serious relationships.

  14. Thank you. Oh how I wish I had had your blog singing backup when I was trying to instill correct principles with my brood. Complicated by their hating me for divorcing their father. And his frequently voiced rationalization that it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission. I’m just thankful that two of the five stopped their skidding downward and turned their lives around. Gives me some hope that the others will someday follow suit.

  15. I want every single youth in my reach to read this.

    Well done. You must have been writing this after a skittle surge, because this.is.stellar

  16. “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” is a very thoughtful book about not dating except in groups until you’re available for marriage. It’s written by a young Christian man. I gave it to a girl that was intensely pursuing my son.

  17. I never wanted to be “that” girl at home waiting for a missionary, distracting him with scented letters (not that I would EVER do that), hand-drawn hearts in varying hues of colored gel pens….etc. I made that very clear to all the guys I dated who were preparing for missions, and two of them I had to be a little more than clear with to get the message across. I’m glad I didn’t wait. I found my EC while the second one was gone and am eternally grateful. Funny how life works that way.

    I totally agree with your assessment of people picking and choosing what words of the prophets they want to follow. I see and hear about it ALL the time. I honestly can’t believe that people approach the gospel that way.

  18. I have never commented even though I have read, observed and appreciated on numerous occasions. I want to preface my comments with agreement and substantiation of our prophets, their counsel and an ever changing world. I prepared for my mission seriously, did not date one-on-one even though many of my friends were. However, in the summer before my mission (I was 19) I met a girl on a group blind date, she became a dear and close friend very quickly and our relationship progressed contrary to either of our plans. I served, enjoyed and worked hard for every second of it. All the while this girl went to collage, dated, had fun and wrote me every week for two years. When I came home from my mission in Sept. we went on 2 dates got engaged and married in the temple. We have been married for 6 years and have two little boys. Like I said in the beginning, I am in full agreement and support the counsel of our church leaders 100%. That being said our relationship was a bit different and our day-before-the-mtc-break was well thought out. I also had friends on the mission with girlfriends who one by one broke up with them. I don’t have any regrets about my mission prep, nor my time in the mission field and felt like having that image of the woman I wanted to marry in my head helped a great deal. When I felt tempted to break a mission rule or to head back to the house a little early I thought of her and how I wanted to serve so that I would be worthy of her (maybe not the perfect driving force, but for a 19 year old kid it was effective). It turned out to be a great strength for me.

  19. I dated a great guy starting my Senior year; after about 4 months, while saying my prayers, I got a very strong impression that I needed to break up, and date a lot of people. I did. For 4 whole days. I can’t remember exactly why I got back together with him, but I can tell you that that decision changed my life. We were good kids and dated for 2.5 years, never got into trouble, and both served missions – until I got married I never saw a reason why I shouldn’t have dated the way I did. But today, I wish I’d followed that prompting, for reasons I won’t go into here. My husband (who also had a girlfriend pre-mission) and I will be teaching our kids to not steady date until after missions. For me, the biggest reason I steady dated was because my relationship with my parents was awful – I was told frequently that I was a nuisance, and other not so loving things. I searched out acceptance and love by getting a boyfriend. As my husband I have talked about this, and his reasons for dating so much, we really believe that if our kids feel loved, and special, and included in our family always, (and we teach them the words of the living prophets) they will make better choices about dating prematurely. I think so many kids choose relationships early on because they are searching for love and acceptance. Obviously, good kids with good families choose to steady date as well, (and I’ve heard so many LDS parents say how cute their HS dating kids are!) but I know so many who come from broken homes, or homes where the parents are too interested in their own lives to be part of their kids lives. And like Grandma Honey, I especially like how the counsel is different for this generation compared to generations passed. Excellant post – one that will be printed and framed! 😀

  20. You hit the nail on the head when you talked about citing examples of couples that got married in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. The world was much different, society was different, there were boundaries in relationships that don’t even exist anymore. I listen to some young couples talk to each other when they are fighting and I am appalled. It’s not the same. So trying to use that argument just doesn’t fly. I think it is tough to hear, but absolutely needs to be said. Over and over and over and over again. I cringe when I hear my young mother friends talk about how cute it is that their son/daughter has a “crush”. Dude. Don’t talk about it in front of them. Ignore the whole issue. The more you talk about how cute it is, the more you are sending a message that it’s okay. And in elementary school, it’s not okay. Gah! I hope the parents of the youth in my ward read it. I hope myyouth read it. Thankfully, we don’t have too much of a problem in our ward, but there is def the potential for it.
    I’m gonna fall back on the lack of self esteem in girls and the desire to seek affirmation and validation from the opposite sex. In turn, the boys aren’t going to turn anything down and thus Satan has his way. In the grand scheme of things, society has been falling right into his “destroy the family” trap for several decades now.
    Marriage becomes worthless. Divorce easy and encouraged. Fathers not in the home. Girls and boys end up with “issues” and seek approval from outside sources. As well as family connections, love and self acceptance. Since both sexes are affected, he gets us double whammy.
    And now I have rambled….I apologize. I blame the fact that I haven’t had a treat today.

    • I think it’s perfectly okay to have a crush, even at a young age. And I’ve made a point to let my children know that they can come to me to talk about what they like about their crushes of the week at any time. We always end the conversations with a mutual understanding that they are forming an idea of what they want to look for in an eternal companion WHEN THEY’RE READY for such a step. If we ignore the whole issue, our children won’t be comfortable talking about the big things with us when it’s vitally important that they do so. I tell my children that it’s good and right and natural to notice those qualities that they like in others. And they’re good at reminding me that these crushes aren’t anything serious… because all of my children (as a result of these heartfelt conversations) have already decided that when they reach dating age, they don’t want to be limited to a serious relationship with any one boy or girl. “Because the prophet says we shouldn’t.”

      Ignoring the crushes and attractions isn’t the answer. Encouraging children to see them in the proper perspective is essential.

  21. Fantastic post! My mom was pushing this apparently before the prophets were. hahaha And I technically married my ‘high school sweetheart’. We dated near the end of our senior year (I was dating other people as well, but he was favorite) and the summer following, but my mom encouraged me to ‘break up’ with him (we weren’t actually exclusive – at least I wasn’t) so that I wouldn’t be a distraction to him on his mission. After we both arrived at BYU for our freshman year, I did. It was hard, but I know that ultimately it was better for both of us. I dated other people and gained a greater appreciation for who he was. He insists that I wouldn’t have been a distraction to him, though – and I know him well enough that I think he’s probably right, but he is definitely in the minority. And I’m not sorry I did it. We still ended up together, and I was a much wiser woman when he came home after having dated several boys and realizing that none of them were as good for me and to me as he was.

  22. Amen.
    I have children who claim to have a “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” and neither one are 16 yet. I have raised my children in the Gospel and I have taught them the importance of being obedient to the counsel of the prophets. I have been worried and concerned for them. Their father left 5 years ago (left the church and left our family) I know this may be their way of trying to fill a void. It is so difficult. It is heartbreaking for me. They will ask me, “Don’t you trust me?” and I will say, “I don’t trust Satan.” I continue to pray and pray to know how to help them realize the importance of heeding this counsel.

  23. My son and nine of his friends are serving missions right now. They are a tight group and they all “hung out” during high school and avoided single dating or having girlfriends. He said they knew they were all going to serve missions and didn’t want the complication or distraction of leaving a girlfriend behind. He also said dating just ruins great friendships and that until they were getting ready to marry they will continue to hang out. They listened to the council and followed it and there are now nine missionaries out in the field focused on serving The Lord with no distractions. Having good friends supporting each other in doing what is right is sooooooo important. All nine of these missionaries make me proud.

  24. Good post! Romantic relationships can be a minefield, and the younger you are the less prepared you are to deal with it. Since most teenagers have the emotional life of a roller coaster as it is, you could save yourself a lot of heartache and drama by just staying friends untill ready for marriage. When older and more secure in yourself, your faith and your choices, you are also somewhat less in danger of getting into trouble even when you do have a steady relationship.

  25. Thank you!!! As a seventeen year old girl who has been taught these teachings yet still given the opportunity to make my own decisions, I completely and utterly agree. And it completely blows me away when I tell people (especially members) that my first boyfriend will be a returned missionary and they scoff or think that I’m just joking. One thing I will say is that, honestly, I think that the phrases “steady dating” and “casual dating” seem to confuse some people, especially outside of Utah and Idaho, where casual dating is a culture. Also, some members don’t necessarily read the New Era or even the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet so don’t even know the counsel. Also, leaders need to drill it in our heads a lot more, I think. Before I was 16, I thought that “no dating until you’re 16” just meant waiting to have a boyfriend. And the only real reason I know otherwise is because I, myself, decided to look up everything about dating before I turned 16. I honestly cannot remember a time that a youn women leader has said anything about dating (partially due to the fact that I’m the only one in my ward that can date…) or even my bishop. So while I’m not excusing anyone’s behavior, I’m merely stating some of the reasons why teenagers choose to “go steady” with someone before they should

    • As a young adult (out of high school) you will meet lots of really fabulous, strong, faithful converts; don’t discount them because they don’t happen to be a returned missionary. I was raised by the most righteous, straight and narrow, kind, worthy priesthood holding dad ever…he’s a convert and not a returned missionary. My mom was not sold short because of it. Missions are good, I’m married to an RM, but don’t make it the make or break feature of a man. I always bristled when my friends would bash on non-returned missionary men, which my dad was lumped in with. They assumed my dad was raised in the church and had gone on a mission. Instead he’s lived his post baptism life in a very missionary oriented way. Stick to your guns while in high school!

    • “Casual dating” isn’t even a concept anymore, to the kids if someone asks you on a date, then you are seeing them until you’re not, but you aren’t accepting an invitation for anything from anyone else until you make a declaration that you won’t see ‘Boy A’ again. What we think of as dating is a foreign concept to many–the kids at school can just ‘hang out’ and get into big trouble without anything we would identify as a date. So we have to create a dynamic of group activities–the kids can find that it’s fun to be able to take the pressure off. And the counsel has changed because the pairing off has become too intense and too-soon intimate in a world where no one expects chastity–to them it’s not, “is it moral” it’s, “are they mature enough yet to handle it.” Our society believes that the action is inevitable, they only hope to postpone until it’s meaningful, not even recognizing how much meaning is possible in the choices the gospel and Church hold out for them.

      As to the boundaries, I tell then that there is great sweetness in restraint. They all long for something deep and lasting, and that’s what the Lord is offering. Nothing less will truly satisfy a child of God.

  26. Perhaps it’s a regional thing you see. Among the LDS kids here, we don’t see the trend toward coupling up.

    I remember when my daughers were in their HS years here, it seemed NONE of the youth “dated” — it was all group stuff all the time.

    It’s interesting to me that we have concerns on both end of this spectrum — dating too early, and not dating enough later on — and the pain those behaviors can cause.

    I remember as a bishop years ago a young woman asked why she couldn’t date before 16 and my answer was because God loved her. We discussed that she knew no one who was a couple before age 16 who didn’t break up and cause somebody pain. And the counsel to wait could help mitigate some of that pain.

    In the end, the natural man (and the natural teen-ager) is a selfish beast.

    • Hi Paul,

      I was brought here because of a concern I have with my own daughter coupling up with a young man from our ward. Not that it’s anything serious at this point (they are young) but there is a “like” there and both sets of parents are scrambling a little bit to make sure it stays in bounds. I am only telling you this because we are in your ward – all the parties involved. 🙂 You know all of us, pretty well actually.

      By trend I am not sure if you mean that the trend to couple isn’t increasing or just that there aren’t kids coupling up in our area any more than there are always been. As long as I’ve been in this ward, I’ve known of at least one couple at any given time, and usually more. There are at least a few within our ward that I can think of right now and several more in our stake. It is something that as a mom, a friend of some of the involved parties, and a YW leader, I have been concerned about.

      However, I am much more concerned about the dating outside of the church that I see. Not that it has to be an either/or – it certainly doesn’t. But if kids are going to “like” each other I’d much rather have it stay within the ward than for them to date non-members. Quite a few of our kids are dating non-members, or even worse just “hooking up”. Sadly, I’ve heard stories of kids in our ward (and I’m sure you did as bishop as well) getting into some serious moral trouble and they aren’t even really “dating” – they are just “hanging out” with people.

      I think the answer is to encourage the dating guidelines that the church has set, and yet I don’t know how to get it to sink in with our kids any more than anyone else does. I don’t think they see it as disobedience to like someone (and to be honest I’m not sure I see that as disobedient either).

      Anyway, I just thought I’d say hi. 🙂 I have always considered you to be someone who is very wise.

    • I don’t think anyone sees it as disobedience to “like” someone. It is what we DO with those feelings that enters the obedience arena. Do we act on them? Do we date exclusively? Do we spend solo time with each other?

      I know two wonderful kids who have liked each other for years, but have purposely kept the relationship on a “friends” basis to be obedient – even though everyone knows they would be an adorable couple. I believe they will be blessed for their obedience.

    • I guess this is where it gets fuzzy for me. When you “like” someone you naturally want to spend time with them, more than you might want to spend with others. You might gravitate to them more at church dances, sit by them in Sunday School, hang out at mutual, and when it’s time to date, this person will probably be the first person you ask out (in a group setting, of course 😉 )

      If you “like” each other, it kind of implies that you are more than friends. I mean, we all have “friends” but if you like someone that is a special kind of friend, set apart from the others, right? Otherwise they would JUST be a friend, just like every other friend you have in the ward.

      Even if you keep it completely in bounds (no dating until 16, group dating, etc.) based on what I am reading in this post and in many of the comments, a strong friendship between a young man and a young woman before missions is inappropriate if that means they like each other to the exclusion of others. Or am I reading you wrong?

      Here is the deal in my situation. My daughter is 14. She has liked another 14-year-old in the ward for about 6 months. They are both very shy and the relationship so far has been hanging out at lunch at school and texting each other. Then last week they went on pioneer trek and at the dance spent the entire night together (others around, of course, but they were partnered the whole night). When I told my daughter I would have preferred that she danced with other boys too, she told me this is who she is most comfortable with and has the most fun with. She said that in the future she will encourage him to dance with other girls and she’ll try to dance with other guys.

      So, is dancing with the same guy the whole night inappropriate? According to what I’ve read here I would say yes, and as a mom I would definitely prefer that she didn’t do that – but I don’t think either of them have been “disobedient” and if their behavior was labeled that way or as not following the prophet, they would probably be horrified.

      And yet, one of her good friends (LDS) has never technically been on a date or even hung out at a dance with the same boy – and yet she has had a “boyfriend” at school who she holds hands with, hugs, and kisses.

      Fuzzy.

    • If there was a switch on a teenager’s forehead that we could flip that would prevent them from “falling in love” until they are older, we wouldn’t even need to talk about this stuff.

      My best friend in HS was a girl. We decided to keep it that way and not get romantically involved – so I know it can be done. I have watched my kids do it as well. I have also seen my boys infuriate some girls because they wouldn’t take it to the “boyfriend/girlfriend” level – to the point of losing them as friends.

      I haven’t read anywhere that a strong pre-mission friendship is inappropriate. It is when it moves to exclusivity and romance that it crosses over. And I would agree that when you “like” someone, you “naturally” want to spend all your time with them. But aren’t there a lot of “natural” things we are asked to refrain from at specific times of our lives?

      (I don’t see how anyone could define dancing together at a church function, in a crowd, as “inappropriate.” But that’s just me.)

    • It sounds like we are on the same page mostly. I do think male/female friendships are possible, even close friendships (I have had many of them), although here again it can get fuzzy when one person starts feeling a little more strongly or differently about it, or if they classify it jointly as just a friendship but then act differently in private. And I think as parents we need to acknowledge that we don’t always know what is happening in private.

      “aren’t there a lot of “natural” things we are asked to refrain from at specific times of our lives?” – of course, but that’s not really the point. I am not really talking about “natural” THINGS as much as “natural” FEELINGS drawing you to a person. Whether you keep those feelings in appropriate bounds or not, you have to acknowledge that they are there, right? That you would rather be with Joe than Harry? That kind of thing.

      “I don’t see how anyone could define dancing together at a church function, in a crowd, as “inappropriate.”- Just to be clear, it wasn’t about dancing together. It was about dancing ONLY together. I personally wouldn’t call it inappropriate, but I did have several of the youth mention it to me afterwards, and one mom even texted me that her son wanted to ask my daughter to dance but so-and-so was “hogging” her. (Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to be wanted like that again hehe?)

      I think youth dances are actually a really great example of where a completely innocuous thing like dancing at a chaperoned event can be very appropriate and also very inappropriate (I could give some examples from my own youth where it was inappropriate but to save myself the humiliation I will not). I only know that as a former stake YW leader, our goal with dances was for the kids to have fun and make friends with a multitude of youth in an uplifting environment with positive music. It was not one of the goals to provide an avenue for two 14-year-olds to spend the entire night together. 🙂 Again, I don’t find what my daughter to be inappropriate. I totally get it. She is shy. This boy is shy. They have learned around each other not to be shy and to have fun, and they are comfortable with each other. I hope she will develop friendships just like this one with other boys in our ward and stake too because I do find it to be appropriate. But based on what I’m reading here I’m assuming there are many who would not consider it to be so.

    • Oh,wow…now this should be quite interesting for you to get a 3rd perspective from someone else in your ward, Paul and Angie!

      My younger sister posted this article on FB and I wanted to shout it from the rooftops in our ward when I read it!! This topic really hits a nerve for me after now having had four teens go through high school and all the problems I have observed for the youth who did NOT follow this counsel. There have been many, many times I have wished the message of this article could be presented somehow more strongly and hopefully penetrate into our youth’s heads (and their parents)!! I was planning to pass this article on to your husband, Angie, as well as our YW pres. and YM pres. because I have felt so frustrated at how many teens and their parents don’t get the huge importance of this message and the sad consequences which too often follow for those who don’t believe it’s important. Now that I know you’ve read it, I’ll presume you’ve discussed it with your husband. 🙂

      On more occasions than I can recall, my children and I have had discussions about how completely strange it is when we’ve seen teens who’ve acted super excited because they were about to turn 16 and could now finally date. All the examples I can think of were female and all of them had already had boyfriends (almost always a non-member) with whom my children knew they had already had physical relationships (holding hands, kissing, etc.). In other words, my children and I were completely baffled as to why they would be excited to now “date” when they had already gone far beyond what the “Strength of Youth” booklet would ever want them to act like on a date at their young ages (not to mention the fact that they had already “paired off” with someone). It was like they were somehow completely not getting all those lessons they had at church on this topic! A message which my children somehow DID get, even though they faced some very tempting and challenging situations and were often pressured by other church members NOT to live by such a high standard. They all felt extremely frustrated watching this pattern over and over again (mostly with LDS teenage girls, but I can think of at least one example of a teenage boy).

      I had written more about some situations (without naming names) but deleted it as I felt it might be too risky to post. I will just say this….I have many, many more thoughts on this topic.

      Thanks for the fabulously written article middle-agedmormonman! It was great getting together with you here, Paul and Angie. 🙂 See you at church on Sunday!

    • Hi Sheri! 🙂 Little ward pow-wow here!

      Yes, I did show and discuss with my husband. He has had this topic on his mind a lot anyway between our situation and preparing for his 5th Sunday lesson this Sunday (wait and see haha!)

      Probably some of your examples are the same examples I’m thinking of. 🙂 We have many examples in our ward of kids who are dating appropriately (your son being one – yay!) and others who are completely inappropriate (in the ways you talked about) and then we have the LDS “couples”, who I think are good kids who are really trying to be a support to each other. It’s those cases that are hard because when they see someone they connect with, who shares their religion and their values (and not many around here do), who they have a good time with, etc., I can see how easy it is “attach” yourself to that person – and yet, they really shouldn’t. I guess the answer is just to acknowledge the “like” and then put it on the back burner until missions are done and then let out a huge, “whew, NOW we can date!”. I don’t know the answers.

      I will say I am SO GLAD that in our case all of the parents and I think the kids are on the same page. When this young man’s parents talked to him and reminded him of the “rules” he told them “duh”. I guess that’s good?

      I was going to mention a point that MMM had made in his original post asking if we aren’t talking to our kids enough about it. I think at least in our ward we are. Having spent most of my time here in YW I know it’s been covered many times. It’s not that the youth don’t know the expectation, just that they either choose to blatantly disregard it (sometimes, sadly, with parental okay) or they find themselves pushing the line, usually inadvertently (I’m thinking the frog in the boiling water analogy here). There are others for whom it has sunk in and I think those kids are probably just sick of hearing about it ad nauseum.

    • Well, now that you all alerted me…my two cents:

      By “trend” I mean I think not all the kids are doing this in our area; some are, for sure, and many are not.

      Feelings? They will come and go, and as a parent we need to carefully seek inspiration to know when to intervene and when to let things run their own course. One of the toughest things in the world is to maintain a friendship after “like” turns to “not like.”

      I think it’s great, Angie, that you and your daughter are talking about it! Having that ongoing dialog is much more important than what you daughter says at this moment. The fact that she knows she can talk to you will mean a great deal to her (and you) in the years to come. She may not always choose what you want, but if she will talk to you, that is terrific.

      I’m not a big fan of using other kids as examples (good or bad) when we teach our kids; I believe that approach teaches our kids to judge one another, and we have enough trouble with that in the Mormon culture. But we certainly can teach principles, and teach them consistently. And we can approach our kids with those principles in mind.

      I also find that telling stories from our own life (like a broken heart from a too-soon “like”) can help open a door for a conversation.

      Good luck, Angie. You’re entering the rapids. It will be exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

  27. in the MTC, one of our langage teachers asked our class if any “had a girlfriend waiting.” Several hands went up (not mine). He then said he had a sure-fire way we could tell if the girl would wait.

    He said “when your plane takes off from SLC airport, look to the temple. If you see Moroni waving at you, your girl will wait. But… if Moroni is just standing there holding a trumpet, you should forget it right then and focus on the work.”

  28. Great article, as usual. I do have one minor quibble — you used the phrase “Success through disobedience.” I think it might be better to say “Success despite disobedience.”

    In general, it seems to me that most kids in our area are doing a rather good job at following the counsel — lots of group dating, not too much paring off. Not all of them — and I know of a few who have paid heavy prices in missed missions, or the even-more-damaging early return. It’s especially tragic because it’s a problem so easily avoided.

  29. My kids are young, like barely starting elementary school and I am already preaching to them that it is not appropriate to date exclusively until they are ready to be married. When I served in the young women’s program I also repeated those same words many times. Some girls didn’t agree and rolled their eyes, but they are the ones struggling. Now it is my husbands turn to serve the youth. He was just at scout camp where a volunteer leader for our stake was there drinking coffee, making the comment that he can’t give up everything…he’s got to have some vice. This really bothered my husband because this man, who is a leader for our youth, was setting the example of ‘pick and choose what standards you are going to follow’. We have a great responsibility to set the best possible example for our youth in all that we do, not just here and there. And hopefully when they are of age they will make the choice to follow our prophet and not what ‘the world’ will have them do.

  30. I absolutely, 100% agree with this post. I shudder at the thought of my tender hearted boys and carefree girls being destroyed by the nasty teenage world waiting to eat them alive.

    I’m still in the Primary stage with my kids, but dang it, they’re growing up very fast! It’s killing me!! So, I have some very real questions for the upcoming years.

    1) How does a teenager go on dates with lots of different people without being labeled a “player”? Players are not good… NO parent wants their kid to be, or labeled as, a “player”. This is a very real problem in areas outside of Utah with smaller LDS populations.

    2) Where/how do they learn interpersonal skills with the opposite sex in group settings when they never have an opportunity to carry a conversation for an extended time?

    3) We repeatedly and constantly teach them to go on group activities and don’t date and take lots of people out and whatever you do DO NOT pair off; then we get get frustrated at the Institutes full of young single adults that only go on group activities and don’t date and refuse to pair off in favor of hanging out.

    I really, for real, want help on this one. I want my babies to be obedient and worthy, but eventually I want some grandbaby revenge. If all they ever know is group, hang out, behavior how and where do they learn to work at and develop meaningful relationships? I most definitely don’t want my 16 year old doing this but how and when do they learn these skills? I’ve watched the hang out trend developing for several years now. It’s a bit disconcerting to see 23/23 year old young men that don’t know how to formally plan a date, ask a girl to accompany him, and then execute said date. Rather they “hang out” with a bunch of girls and end up spinning their wheels for YEARS. It’s created a dating culture of laziness. Guess what? If “hanging out” is your courtship, your marriage is going to be mediocre at best. If he never learned to court you before marriage, what’s he going to do after? “Hang out”? Scary. Sometimes (usually right after a baby) you feel so undesirable…a little genuine care and concern from husband works miracles, but if he’s never learned what his wife’s definition of care and concern looks like because they hung out…

    I really don’t know how to merge such contadictory counsel so that my kids grow up obedient *and* able to properly COURT a spouse rather than swing by and pick her up at the local hang out apartment.

    A good friend (opposite sex) from high school put it best. “We’re told no sex, NO sex, NO SEX! Then we get married and !BAM! it’s have sex, have sex…and make babies too.” He got married before me and I kinda chuckled…till I got married and saw how true it was. There’s gotta be somewhere for learning and transition (NOT by having sex, but pairing off into meaningful relationships) to adulthood. If not during the later teen (18/19) years, *WHEN* and *WHERE* is that allowed without being disobedient? It’s not happening in post mission 20 somethings…

    I’m not being a confrontational brat, I really want to know when and how our kids can obediently learn to be adults. Genuinely wanting to know, but up to my eyeballs in diapers, laundry and developmental delays (that might kill me before we conquer them) and don’t have the hours to sit at a computer researching recent articles and talks.

    • Mind if I put my two cents in MMM?

      1. Being labeled a player constitutes more than just dating multiple people. It’s what GOES ON during those dates that garners the rep. If every date gets a kiss or light make out session, then yes said person becomes a player. Just by dating different people all the time doesn’t get the label. In fact, I offered to PAY for my son’s dates as long as they dated a different girl each time. Did it always work? Nope, but at least they knew our stand on it.
      2. Joint Young Men and Young Women activities are the ideal place to learn those interpersonal skills. How to carry on conversations with the opposite sex without ANY underlying sexual tension. Wise leaders will plan opportunites, including youth conferences where the youth can and DO have to interact verbally and physically with each other. And by physical, you know I don’t mean anything more than games, river rafting, hiking etc.
      3. A young man or young woman can learn from childhood, the importance of dating by observing how much priority his/her parents give it. Let your children see you date, kiss, snuggle and otherwise show meaningful affection. They learn the boundaries, the appropriateness and the importance of it by example.
      4. When a young man returns home from his mission, it’s always a crap shoot as to what approach he will take to dating. I have found that many get conflicting advise from the mission presidents at their exit interviews. I have had some of my sons friends tell them that the MP wanted them married within 4 months, others have been told to date around, get school done and take their time. I suppose it might be individual based on the promptings of a particular mission president. At any rate, the parents become key to a return missionaries success (boys and girls) at preparing for marriage. They can help the young single adult navigate the waters of dating and pairing off. Albeit, ON THE SIDELINES, but yes, they can be key to aiding them down this road.

      Granted, I am not the expert, but hindsight is always a beautiful thing. Being on the otherside of children and now in the adult phase with them, I can look back and see what things worked and what things don’t work.

      Bottom line, I think they learn how to be adults their whole lives. From early on they can learn to have appropriate relationships with members of the opposite sex, so much of it is how WE as parents treat it.

      And now MMM – the post goes back to you

  31. Wow – what a book!

    Quick responses:

    1) I don’t undersand how you can be labeled a player if you follow counsel and don’t pair off with any one person. You can’t be a player if you are in a group. What I have seen is that couples pair off under the guise of the “group date” and become known as a “couple” – that’s when the labeling starts to stick.

    2) Elder Perry said the place for a young man to develop his interpersonal skills is to “get a job that involves interacting with people.” The assumption that you have to single-date to develop social skills implies that the obedient will be shortchanged. I don’t believe that. My kids are evidence.

    3) The post-mission world (and institutes are filled with people unwilling to make the leap to adult courtship – for whatever reason. that is the time for developing romantic relationships, falling in love, etc. Everything discussed on this post above has no bearing on young adult men & women who are post-mission, or young women who are not serving but are post High School.

    I see no contradictory counsel – I see different times and seasons and corresponding behavior. Sadly, many post-mission boys don’t get it – even with the brethren nagging them. They need to GROW UP – but teenage dating isn’t going to help.

    A boy learns how to treat a woman from watching his dad – not dating girls.

    “Hanging Out” is the scourge of a generation.

    • Unfortunately, for many children of divorce this leaves a very strong impact. It is true. Children learn about relationships from watching their parents. It is why there are so many unstable and insecure teenagers and young adults- because there are too many parents giving up on marriage and family…way too many.

    • My children do not have a good example of what a good marriage is in their home but I tell them to observe the parents of their friends or youth leaders that do have good relationships and find the qualities they want in their relationships there in order to that they might have a better marriage.

  32. God bless you! I’ve been thinking this for years and wondering the same thing. You said it so well. Better than I ever could. I need to print this and read it with my kids. Thank you. Spot on. You rock! I agree 100%. Boo to all those parents who encourage and help their kids date and be in exclusive relationships and push it in fact. Gag!

  33. I am going to give you a double AMEN on this on MMM. I don’t know why, other than it’s not important to the parents, so it’s not important to the kids. And parents really do think their kids will not get into trouble, or they are the exception. As a high school teacher, just in regard to homework, classroom behavior and such, parents would be in full denial that their kid had a problem. It just carries over to dating. I think as well, there is pressure to “pair off” and to be with some one, because that somehow gives us higher standing in the strata of life. Perhaps we as youth leaders or bishoprics need to just be more bold and teach these things. As your mother’s day post suggested, teach the truth then minister to the one. We need to not be afraid of “judging” others or being accused of that if we are teaching correct doctrines and principles.

    I remember when I was in high school and seeing the kids with boy/girl friends, and they always seemed to be so happy and so totally cool, so of course I wanted to be like that. I tied my worth to having a boy friend, sadly that way of thinking carried on into my YSA years and it was nothing but a time waster and heartbreaker. I think we need to do better at teaching this as well. You have worth, individual worth, you can be happy and successful and people will like you, even if you are not “with someone”.

    These are good quotes and good reminders though. In my family growing up, it was just understood that you didn’t have a boy/girlfriend, because Dad would embarrass you to high heaven if you did, and that was motivation enough to follow the rules. I don’t want to embarrass my kids, but I do want them to know that they can’t have girlfriends till they are post mission. But I want them to do that, because they want to be obedient, not out of fear.

  34. Wish I had this great conglomeration of quotes when the seminary had the kids participate in a dating week. While it did ask people to date many different people it wsnt a requierment. It also specified they must go with out a group. The kids have a hard enough time with our culture and peer pressure. They don’t need good meaning adults twisting up counsel as well.

  35. Never assume though that just because a teen is ignoring counsel that their parents haven’t tried. We went over this with our kids over and over and over yet still had them choose differently. It’s time we stop looking at the actions of our teenagers and assume that the parenting behind them is flawed. Some of us try really hard to “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves”.

    And another aside – just because someone’s personal revelation goes against a common Church counsel does not mean they are listening to the wrong voices. Sometimes the counsel give to the Church as a whole has individual adaptations and even exceptions. Not to say there aren’t those that are always an exception – if you find yourself more often than not using “exception” then yes you need to be looking at the source of your inspiration. Exceptions should be few and far between.

    • If the parents have been teaching the principles, then this post doesn’t really apply to them.

      I will quickly agree with your statement with a small qualifier. Just because someone’s personal revelation goes against a common Church counsel does not mean they are listening to the wrong voices – but it USUALLY does. Exceptions are rare, and not something we should seek for.

  36. I had two steady girlfriends before my mission. Even though we never broke the Law of Chastity, those steady relationships are some of the biggest regrets of my life. I spent so much money, time, and emotion on someone else’s future wife. Instead of really dating multiple girls, learning what I liked, and focusing on important matter, I wasted so much. Even if sin does not occur, dating before a mission is stupid. I would give anything to take it all back. PS This was after For the Strength of Youth was released.

  37. I graduated from high school in ’04 and knew that I liked a girl. We went on a couple of dates and had a great group of friends that always hung out together. Luckily I had been given good advice in this area though and I kept my distance dating-wise. I knew I really liked her, but I also knew the lord’s counsel on the subject (Elder Lawrence quoted in the article was my stake president and made a good effort to teach the young men these principles).

    So when I left on my mission there were no expectations and I wasn’t even sure she remembered I existed. I can’t imagine how distracted and disappointed I would have been when she got engaged while I was in the mission field. I’d seen it in other missionaries and I am so glad I didn’t have to go through that experience myself.

    Long story shorter, the engagement didn’t work out and some years later we got married. Following the lord’s counsel ended up better than I could have planned it myself.

  38. Thanks for putting this in such great words and saying the same thing my wife and I feel! Our kids are going to be teenagers before we know it and it’s nice to know we aren’t alone in thinking our kids shouldn’t steady date at that age, unlike so many in the church.

    -Tom

  39. You had me at underage dating….when you wrote about it the first time. I think the strongest point is that kids today are being asked to live by certain standards and we should respect and teach them what they are being asked to do.

  40. Well said. Thank you for putting this out there! This is a subject so close to my heart (and unfortunately one that gets tip-toed around way too much!) My husband and I fell into the “underage dating” trap when we were in high school and, to be quite frank, our relationship prevented him from serving a mission. (We got pregnant.)

    Fortunately, we are that rare success story; however, we realize just how exceptional our experience is. We have spent the entirety of our 4 children’s lives driving home the message that steady dating is a preparatory step for marriage and should therefore be avoided until they are of age/maturity to consider marriage. I believe that having open communication about dating/sex/obedience is key to helping our children not fall into that heart-wrenching 50% immorality statistic… And, so far so good: Our oldest son is a few weeks away from embarking on his mission. And, while there are a lot of female friends wishing him well, he has been obedient to staying girlfriend free.

    (BTW, I wrote a fictional account based on my experience titled “Hope’s Journey”. It serves as a great talking point for teens and their parents. http://www.amazon.com/Hopes-Journey-Stephanie-Worlton/dp/1599555069)

  41. I would like to offer a bit of a different perspective. I agree that you make some good points here. I am 20 years old and there were a few people that I steadily dated during high school at different points. I remember one day when I was 17, I had a boyfriend, someone I had been in love with for quite a while, and I was incredibly concerned about the prophetic counsel to not steady date before you’re ready for marriage. I sincerely prayed about it, and I felt the Spirit enter into my heart. I felt peace and these two main thoughts: 1) You are meant to be in each other’s lives at this point for emotional and spiritual reasons and 2) Be careful about the physical aspect.

    Looking back, I can see why it was important for us to be close at that point in my life. We broke up shortly after we started college but remained very good friends. It was him who challenged me to prepare to serve a mission, which led me to truly consider it for the first time in my life. Shortly after that, I received incredibly powerful revelation that I needed to serve a mission. I received this revelation in June before the age for women was lowered to 19. I leave on my mission tomorrow and I’m getting set apart tonight. (Minnesota, here I come!)

    I have one more story. A few months after my mission revelation, I met someone (an RM, by the way). He became my best friend and we dated through two semesters of college. I can honestly say that the relationship was effortless, we fell together without trying, and I know for certain that both of us would have had a very lonely school year if we hadn’t met each other (neither of us are very social, we don’t like hanging out with groups of people all the time). At this time, we were both at a marry-able age, but I still felt that going on a mission is what is right for me at this point in my life. I have prayed about it a lot, and I have received many confirmations over and over that I ought to serve a mission. Whenever I ask about marriage, all I get is the thought, “Ask later.” I know that this man was placed in my life right when we needed each other, we have been tremendous blessings in each other’s lives. However, I trust in the Lord and in the answers that He gives me personally. I do not regret my previous dating experiences, I learned valuable lessons that helped develop me into the person that I am today. I also trust that after I honorably serve my mission, I will marry the person who is right for me at the right time, whether it’s the man I’ve been talking about or someone else.

    • I appreciate you being willing to share your experiences. And I don’t doubt for a minute that when you were 17 you were prompted to be in each others lives.

      But I also don’t believe that to have a strong relationship with a fellow teenager that it has to be romantic, or exclusive. The two main thoughts you received were not mutually exclusive to being obedient – it seems that you might have been able to be in each other’s lives for emotional and spiritual reasons, AND still follow prophetic counsel. It doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario. (My best friend through HS was a girl, so I know it can happen)

      Best of luck on your mission!

  42. CarlyQ – CONGRATS on serving a mission! I am willing to bet that you will find it the best 18 months of and FOR your life.

    I can’t help but agree with MMM on this one though. A close relationship with a member of the opposite sex doesn’t need to equal dating.

    The very fact of HAVING those best friends who are the opposite sex are the ways that the youth can learn how to interact, and develop those interpersonal skills. Parents, and youth leaders can do so much to facilitate these experiences.

    Looking back, my best friends, who were boys, are the ones who helped me form opinions and ideas about what kind of boy I would want to date and eventually marry.

    I think the onus again goes back to the parent(s)- not every one has both parentals in the picture, I didn’t- we must encourage and facilitate friendships among our youth that have nothing to do with dating and are NOT hanging out with eventual pairing off. How we handle friendships, the things we say all send messages to our children as to what is really acceptable and what is discouraged.

    I have to confess, that we spent a chunk of change that we didn’t really have when our boys entered the teen years to make our home the “go to place”. We made sure we had entertainment systems, TV, games and food so that every young person who wanted and desired was comfortable here and that we had plenty to offer them. I am happy to say that we had both boys AND girls here and lucky for me, I still do becuase they like to come back and visit even though my sons are grown.

    As for personal revelation… I struggle with someone who recieves revelation that is in direct contrast to the commandments or doctrine outlined by our leaders. It’s hard to argue another’s personal revelation. Just remember that parents are entitled to revelation for their children. It comes as part of their stewardship. And when we have those times that what seems to be the answer to our prayers or revelation comes that somehow doesn’t match the doctrine, our parents are there to help us sort those feelings out. If not a parent, a trusted leader or priesthood advisor.

    Carly – you are in for an exciting adventure in your life and I know you will offer much to the people in Minnesota. If you’re in the St Paul area, I have friends who will feed you!! 🙂

    And again, MMM – bowing out now. (serio, you should block me. I talk a lot when I feel strongly about stuff)

  43. I’m going to chime in, once more, and share a couple scriptures I studied across, this morning.

    D&C 21: 5-6
    “For his word ye shall recieve, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
    For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.”

    My institute teacher had a saying: “You get out of [the gospel] what you put into it.” In this case, I think it can be applied that the better you follow ALL the teachings of the prophets, the more the above blessing applies. (Even if someone chooses to date early and doesn’t break the law of chastity, they are losing some degree (no matter how small) of promised blessings). Correct me if I’m wrong?

    And the last one: D&C 22:4
    “Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God. Amen.” AND Amen.

    It’s TOTALLY important to look at the negative consequences of negative actions, but I think it’s also important to look at the often imperceptible consequences of negative actions…

    And thanks for clarifying that friendship thing. I woke up wondering about how I would handle that (my kiddos are all four and under, for now — easy peasy… at least in this sense… 🙂 ).

    The comments section is often my favorite part of these posts. I really appreciate everyone else’s perspective!!

  44. (Sorry, I use this account for my son’s mission blog. Isn’t that a cute photo of him?)

    Back in the day (the late 80s), I sent my steady boyfriend on his mission. He gave me a copy of President Kimball’s talk, along with a little key. I sent spiritually uplifting letters every week and wore that little key on a chain around my neck for a year, until *I* received a “Dear Jane”! Go figure–but it makes for a fun story to share (although it was incredibly heartbreaking at the time)! (I’m just glad that I cried harder when my fiance left the state for dental school!)

    I’m grateful for the counsel today for our youth. My own missionary son spent the summer before he left taking out each of his friends who are girls. He didn’t want to become attached to just one of them and he had a great summer doing fun things with each of them.

    We’ve preached the “date around” counsel to all of our kids and only one has ignored us (out of the 3 old enough to date). It makes high school so much more fun to go out with lots of different people. I tell our kids that to find out what you really want in a spouse, you have to date lots of people because you learn something from each one of them.

    –Lisa Groneman

  45. I loved reading this post! I feel like it echo’s and enhances my thoughts on the subject. I recently posted a blog addressing the same problem within the LDS community. I, however, am not a middle age man. If anyone is interested in reading a similar opinion from a different viewpoint check outhttp://awkwardflirtingwithafton.blogspot.com/2013/06/so-im-going-on-mission.html!
    Thanks again for the post!

  46. perfect, perfect soap box. it needs to be said. there are far too many members who don’t read or listen to the words of the prophets (there’s the answer to your question of why so many are not following the counsel). It’s appalling when an LDS teenage girl is asked to go steady with a LDS teenage boy, refuses because she is trying to follow prophetic counsel and then is termed a “hussy” by the boy’s LDS mother. yes, true (personal) story.

  47. I’m going to put my two-cents in. I honestly felt like this was attacking the girls, me included, who try their best to be the biggest supporters of their boyfriends on missions. Yes, a lot of your points are valid and from the Prophets themselves, but you have to realize that some of these missionaries NEED the support from their girlfriends when they don’t get it from anywhere else. I have friends who helped their boyfriends get their lives on track so that they can be that amazing missionary, or to find their testimony, or to realize that a mission is what’s important.
    And as another view, my missionary and I both KNOW we’re supposed to be together. Everything fell into place perfectly with our relationship. We started dating after high school. Although this contradicts the “no pre-mission dating”, it was guided by the Spirit. I was praying for that right guy to come into my life and he did. Now I’m supporting him on his mission. Plus, I’m not sitting around doing nothing while he’s gone. I’m getting my degree and learning how to be the best future wife for him. This is where the Spirit has led us.
    Before you completely attack those that send missionaries off or date before missions, realize that sometimes the Spirit guides them to it.

    • I would hope that the wonderful young women of the church are wise enough to figure out a way to support missionaries AND be obedient to counsel. (Same for the boys and Sister missionaries too.)

      Richard G. Scott “Making the Right Choices”
      “Decide what you will do and will not do. When temptation comes, do not change your standards. Do not abandon them when circumstances seem to justify an exception. That is Satan’s way to hurt you by making it seem that sometimes God’s law does not apply. There are no exceptions.”

    • We all receive our own personal revelation for what we should do in this life. Sometimes that revelation is how we’re supposed to.go about meeting and dating our future companion. I have prayed and received my revelation from Heavenly Father Himself. I think I know the difference between promptings of the Spirit and temptations of the Devil.
      You quoted a lot of Church doctrine, but nowhere does it say “YOU SHOULD NOT DATE BEFORE MISSIONS.” Many prophets and apostles have had their wives faithfully and fully support them on their missions. Are you condemning them? What the prophets have counseled about dating and missions is more of a guideline for safety. We should all receive our own personal revelation about what we should do in our own lives.
      My own Bishop is a fantastic and stalwart man. His wife waited for him and they both fully support me in my decision to help my boyfriend on his mission. It was through revelation that they decided to do this.
      I hope you can try and be understanding about everyone’s situation, especially those that you strongly disagree with.

    • I never said you shouldn’t date before missions – you are misrepresenting what I, and the prophets have said. They say not to STEADY or EXCLUSIVELY date before missions. And not to develop ROMANTIC relationships.

      I also don’t care what the prophets or your bishop did 30, 40 or 50 years ago. It is now irrelevant. As I pointed out in the post, the counsel CHANGED after 2000. Now our youth have the opportunity to follow the counsel of living prophets – or not. It is simply about obedience.

  48. Good article. We just had a talk in stake priesthood meeting where a member of our stake presidency explained that they have been asking the prospective missionaries with girlfriends to follow the guidelines of For the Strength of Youth before beginning their mission papers, ie break up with your girlfriend. Then he said that one of the young men who had just spoken had done just that, and he invited the father of the young lady involved (not a member of our faith) to speak about his experience in the matter. Of course he was sad for his daughter’s heartache, but he was proud of the young man for following his faith. I thought it was really great.

  49. Seriously? Having a girl or guy wait for their boyfriend/girlfriend can be such a humongous support to that brother or sister missionary. In fact they often are the reason the girl or guy chooses to serve a mission. I’m sorry that you all have had children or you yourselves have been “dear johned” but that doesn’t mean you need to rain on everyone else’s parades. Your child is going to do what they want. You creating a hostile environment for their relationship is going to backfire, I promise you. Yes, I will not deny the fact that there are relationships which could hinder a mission. But more often so the ones which last are the ones which strengthen it.
    I live in probably the highest percentage wise Mormon populated city- in the world. I also attended the school with the largest LDS seminary- in the world. And do you know what is worse than having your child have a steady relationship? Them NOT having one. They don’t ever learn how to commit to someone, and something worse. (Sorry for my bluntness) they end up hooking up with a boat load of girls (or guys) because Mom and Dad have a rule of no relationships, multiple dates with the same person, etc. But Mom and Dad are so completely oblivious to the fact of what their children are ACTUALLY doing when they hang out or go on A DATE with a girl or guy. I know of way more people who have had problems with sexual purity that aren’t in a steady relationship than those who are. Do you know why? Because if you’re in a long term relationship with someone you LOVE them, and you realize you want to spend forever with them. And that is worth waiting for, that is something worth being worthy for to have a temple marriage. So don’t automatically assume steady dating is bad.

    One more piece of advice, don’t force your kids to go on missions. The thing which results is kids who really aren’t worthy to go, go anyway because they can’t disappoint their family. I don’t care how good of a kid you “think” they are, just don’t do it. Encourage YES, Force/Push NO.

    I’ll be posting below a talk about Missionaries and Girlfriends

    • Seriously?

      You just typed that long paragraph explaining why it is a GOOD thing to disobey the counsel of the prophets and apostles? I’ll bet President Packer must feel so foolish now that you explained it to us!

  50. This is a talk by Vaughn J. Featherstone from a fireside on Missionaries and Girlfriends.

    “Have you ever heard of mission calls telling all missionaries to get rid of all girlfriends? Do you think that you could be a better missionary if she were there to help you? I think you could. Most of my best missionaries during the three years that I served left a girl behind. You notice that I said “girl” and not “girls.” There isn’t time for more than one.

    Of course the first duty is to the Lord’s work, which you have been called to do; second is to your family, and third is to the girlfriend. This you should always remember.

    I always interviewed all missionaries as they entered the field and one of the questions I asked was, “Do you have a girlfriend at home?” If the answer was yes, I would say, “Can I have her name and address, and would it be all right if I wrote her a letter?” Of course this would scare the poor fellow to death–then I would bring the color back to his face by telling him I only wanted to write her a letter and tell her how lucky she was to have the opportunity to share this mission for the next 24 months with one of the Lord’s chosen servants. If she is faithful, her testimony would become stronger in the gospel because of it… along with a little more advice that I will touch on later.

    Young men, do not ask a returned missionary for advice on this subject. For if he has been jilted (or dumped) should we say he’s giving out poor advice? Pray about this together, and if you feel that you can do a better job, then go ahead. There’s nothing wrong with it. It is better to have support than to go out there wishing that you had it. This is more frustrating than worrying about a “Dear John,” and believe me, there won’t be one of those right in the beginning. The Lord always answers prayers to those who honor Him.

    Have an understanding with your parents so they can encourage her and make your girl happy by showing they have faith in her and love her. Let her parents know your plans, and in most cases they will stand by her when she gets lonely. If you show them respect, as well as the girl, they will be behind you all the way.

    Write her once a week or more. You can almost always write two letters a week on P-Days. There is plenty of time if they’re not books. Tell her about your mission and experiences, let her live your mission with you through your letters, and send her a snapshot once in a while. Yes, you could let her make a scrapbook for you. Mom is not going to have time and both of them would love that.

    Remember that behind every successful man, there is a good woman. So why shouldn’t it be good to leave a girlfriend behind if you feel that she is special? Forget that old story of “24 months is a long time.” I have known girls to wait two or three years. Also forget the story that you will change a lot. You will only if you make yourself scarce in letters, etc. You will only change in the fact that you will be more mature and have a greater testimony and mind.

    Now girls, make sure that you do things that will help you grow along with the missionary. Study the gospel; stay active in the church, pray often–morning, noon, and night. Watch out for those lonely returned jilted missionaries. You’re not in a hurry to get married. At the very most you will be 22 and a half when he gets home, and that’s about the right age to start thinking about marriage.”

    • I don’t even know where to start…

      Boyd K. Packer at General Conference in 2010 > Vaughan Featherstone at a fireside in 1978.

      Who cares what was said in 1978. Today’s counsel is different -that was the point of the whole post.

    • If you’re saying that a fireside talk written in 1978 doesn’t apply to us anymore since it’s 2013, then I guess what Moses, Abraham, Nephi, Moroni, Joseph Smith, and others have said don’t apply either because their writtings and teachings were far before our time.
      No matter when a talk or address was given, it still applies to this day. Just because Vaughn Featherstone wasn’t a prophet doesn’t mean his cousel is wrong.

    • If you are making the case that new counsel doesn’t supersede old counsel, then we should still be practicing animal sacrifice and polygamy.

      We have direct CURRENT counsel that disagrees with Elder Featherstone. THat is one of the beauties of living prophets. Times change, and the counsel can – and does – change. If you have to dig go back 30+years to disagree with something current, you are on shaky footing.

    • This was quoted in a sacrament meeting I was attending and the Stake President, who knows Elder Featherstone said it isn’t a true quote. He said that Elder Featherstone has been trying to get rid of that quote for years.

  51. My own experience I wrote a little over a month ago, particularly paragraph 7 to the end:

    http://karliwithak.blogspot.be/2013/05/waiting-for-missionary-taboo-topic.html

    Essentially, we grew up together, and everyone, including us, felt very strongly that we would end up together. But we took very seriously the counsel to not seriously date each other before his mission and going on group dates with all our friends. We were always just Best friends and tried to avoid the complications of added romance before the mission. We never kissed before he left. I wrote him every week, but I still went on dates with other guys and focused on other things. And now, we’re getting married in the temple in September.

    I’m glad we chose to do things the way we did, putting the Lord first in our lives, and we’ve been blessed because of it. I have girls ask me advice about “waiting” for a missionary before they send their boyfriends off, but they usually don’t like what I have to say because I feel very strongly about backing off and putting limits on the relationship. Just because you may know your eternal companion before the mission and may even have feelings for him/her, does not mean it is impossible to follow the Lord’s counsel.

  52. Elder S and I are both 21 and are both converts and up until recently were the only members in each of our families. Ever since he joined the church at 15 he was constantly asked when he was going on his mission. He was always really negative about it and told us all that a mission was not for him.

    By the time he was 20 it had kind of died down and he proposed to me. We booked the chapel, the temple and the honeymoon and we were in the process of looking for a home when one random day I felt the spirit SO strongly that I couldn’t deny it. I told him that he needed to go on a mission or we couldn’t get married. I felt like the blessings of a mission needed to be an integral part of our home. he in turn answered that he had been feeling promptings and if it weren’t for me he would have ignored them.

    He has been on the field almost a year now and I send him a letter packed with spiritual thoughts, and advice on problems he faces on the field every week and a package filled with things to keep him going every couple of months. I have no doubt that I am a distraction, but I do everything i can to minimise this because I know that sending him a ‘Dear John’ would be much more of a distraction. He is my best friend and I will not abandon him for two years, it’s up to me to make sure our interaction is appropriate and always grounded in the Gospel. I am familiar with the counsel of the prophets, so I conduct myself as more of a friend than a girlfriend I don’t even wear my ring anymore as painful as it is. I have to put the Lord first and I know despite all the judging around me I know I will be blessed for it.

    Anyway, the point is you’re observing these relationships from the outside. I know that I am probably the only member he has writing him regularly about things relating to the Gospel, they are not love letters. Who are we to judge? This is a serious problem amongst the LDS community and it needs to be addressed, people don’t come back to church because they feel members will talk about them, it’s nasty and inappropriate. I will be here waiting when Elder S comes back no matter what anyone thinks, I am at peace because the Lord knows my intentions. Whether or not we end up getting married I will support him.

    I also think you should remember that it’s up to YOU to teach your daughters and sons to behave appropriately before and during missions. Unfortunately Elder S and I never got to have LDS parents so we have been each others only familial support for the last 5 years, and you know what? We’ve done pretty darn well.

    • Yours is a great story, and there is no doubt that some missionaries need the same type of support you are providing.

      The distinction is that there are a lot of people who do not understand that a relationship does not have to be romantic, intimate, or exclusive to still provide that kind of support.

  53. Since comments need to be approved, I’m quite sure this one will not be published. I just wanted to throw my two cents in. I think every person needs to pray, and obey. Every single person, every single missionary, is different. My best friend is currently serving a full-time LDS mission. He is not distracted, he did not get into trouble, and he assured me he would only come home early if he was “in a coffin.” When his Stake President asked him if he had a girlfriend, he responded “yes.” His Stake President than congratulated him, asked if he felt distracted, and then proceeded to say that this could be a huge blessing if he viewed it as that, instead of as a distraction. In the MTC, they asked how many men had girlfriends, and the teacher proceeded to say that his wife waited for him. He told them to understand what could happen, that they could get hurt, but to realize that the Lord would look out for them either way. It’s disappointing to feel judged and bashed by other members of the Church. “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.” I have prayed about the way I am handling this relationship, my parents have, his parents have, and so has he. So please take that into account before you lump all the “missionary girlfriends” into one big pile.

  54. Ooch! First of all, I believe the prophets also have talks about judging one another… Second of all… I’m proof that having a missionary leave behind a girlfriend can work. We are happily married for eternity. And no, we didn’t date in high school. Actually we dated for only 6 months before he left. I really disagree with a lot of what you said. I believe every relationship is different. Waiting for a missionary or not. People focus on the “waiting for a missionary” relationship because its an easy target because you hear the bitter stories of how it didn’t work out. Everyone is always willing to share those stories. I feel like the missionary and girl waiting at home need to go into it with the right intentions. If they both don’t have the same goal at the end of the mission then you are right, they should call it quits and see if they can start things back up when he returns. I don’t know if you served a mission but the more support you had while serving the better experienced you had right? That’s what missionary girlfriends are doing! With that being said… My husband will tell you how thankful he is to have me “supporting” him during those two years. We both grew during his mission. In a way, I felt like I was on his mission too because the experiences he would share with me. His best two years was mine as well. We wrote letters every week. Was it a distraction to my Husband? Absolutely not! Does waiting for a missionary work out for everyone? No. Do you rarely hear about the sucess stories? Probably! You most likely don’t ask or care. And the people that it did work out for are not parading around telling people about our relationship like people that it didn’t work out for. I dont have enough fingers and toes to count on for how many friends I have that waited for a missionary and ended up with an eternal marriage. I am so thankful for those two years and I’m so thankful for all those girls out there who have the ‘right intentions’ and supporting a missionary. A lot of those missionaries need and want to have more support. Everyone’s relationship is different.

    • This was simply a post about obedience to the counsel of the prophets and following the standards in FTSOY. It is obvious you disagree with them, and me.

      I am truly glad your relationship worked out anyway.

  55. Completely agree with the counsel and understand its purpose whole-heartedly, but that being said, as a young adult that still vividly remembers my teenage years, I have still yet to hear a solid suggestion for a young man and woman who sincerely like each other and no one else. It’s easy counsel to follow if you don’t have feelings for anyone! But what if you do? This bothered me as a teen and it bothers me now. I recall a sad romance with a young man years ago (we were pure in every way) and we were prevented from seeing each other by well-meaning parents touting prophetic advise at almost every occasion just because we liked each other. Not to say we needed to be courting seriously at 16, I just wish there was a happy medium. Additionally, I think the more iron-fisted this admonition is enforced from parents and leaders, the more motivation it becomes for young men and women to see each other in secret and to live out a “Romeo and Juliet” scenario. Food for thought.

  56. I remember falling in love. And logic and counsel were suddenly shoved into a tiny box and stored in the back of my brain. I think a young person’s inexperience at having restraint is exactly WHY this type of counsel is important. There is a time and a season…

    I also agree that some kids will resort to Romeo & Juliet behavior – and look how it turned out for them! We need to teach Romeo & Juliet as a cautionary tale. Hopefully we can teach our kids the “whys” and not just the “thou shalts.” (Even though “thou shalt should really be reason enough.) Thanks for your comment.

  57. I first this post expecting it to be a scathing report on missionary girlfriends however I read your post and felt that you’re simply trying to encourage obedience to a standard you feel is ignored. This is very fair of you. However, you seem to want us to disregard any counsel from church leaders that are not the current prophet or in the Quorum of the Twelve. Your logic is flawed to me, because by what you are saying I should ignore the counsel of my Bishop regardless of the situation. You have to understand that the prophets and apostles don’t know us individually, and that is PRECISELY the reason we HAVE Bishops and local leaders, to guide us within the safeholds of the gospel while knowing our personal situations.

    • Sorry if I communicated poorly.

      Living prophets trump dead prophets.
      Current counsel and policy trumps older policy.

      If there is a conflict between fresh and old, go with fresh.

      If your local leaders are providing counsel contrary to the Brethren, ask them about it. Let them explain, and then follow their counsel.

  58. Amen, Amen, and AMEN! I was actually excited to hear the age change for missions because I have had so many friends who after going to that first year in college got involved in things they never would have done in H.S.
    As far as teen romance goes, having been a teenager who dated seriously at a young age, NOTHING good comes from it. I spend my time now trying to tell that to young girls in my ward who look up to me. Their minds are too weak to handle the seriousness that comes with DEEP emotions and physical intimacy, it is a dangerous path, thanks for addressing this!

  59. My husband and I went on a few dates before his mission. His dad was the stake president at the time and had been counseled by a mission president to counsel young men preparing to serve missions to not be alone with a girl. His dad ended up sending my husband’s little sister on dates with us. It was a little awkward but very effective. haha

    Anyway, I’m grateful for my husband who told me upfront that he didn’t want a girlfriend to distract him on his mission and told me not to wait for him. I didn’t. He left, and I had a date the following weekend. 🙂 We both understood that he needed to focus on the work.

  60. For what it’s worth, when the elders in my MTC district were discussing points in that talk by Vaughn J. Featherstone, our teacher had to break it to them that the talk was, as he put it, “apocryphal.” Sorta like that quote supposedly by one of the General Authorities that in heaven those of us who have lived during Gordon B. Hinkley’s time are just oh-so-special that we’ll render speechless any other soul we encounter.
    There’s a reason why that memo came out asking us not to publish personal notes taken from General Authorities’ talks at firesides, stake conferences etc. They get misquoted or their words are taken out of context, and before you know it their name is being used to give weight to an idea they never supported, or no longer support.

  61. I had a friend in high school whose girlfriend waited for him while he was on his mission. She was, at times, his greatest source of support while he was out in the mission field. And so when he got home, of course they got married.

    The only problem was, they had both grown and changed considerably over those two years. And while they truly were meant to be a part of each others’ lives before his mission, they no longer fit together afterward. Their short marriage was a miserable one, because they had married for the worst reason of all. Because everyone expected them to. After all, she had waited for him – hadn’t even dated anyone else during the two years he was gone.

    The worst tragedy? Both of them had confided to close friends, prior to their wedding, that they were no longer in love, the way they once were. Well-meaning friends, remembering how “cute” they were together prior to his mission, advised them to ignore the pre-wedding jitters and make it work. (They tried, and it ended in disaster.)

    If this friend and his girlfriend had found the courage to admit that they could be in each others’ lives without having a romantic relationship, they would have both been much happier! I stand firm in my belief that there’s plenty of time after the mission to form those serious relationships. Those early years are for discovering who you are as an individual and what you’re looking for in an eternal companion. This is best achieved when you follow the prophetic counsel to get to know lots of other young men and women in those early dating years.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)