Why does the Church teach that we shouldn’t date until we are 16?
The Lord’s prophets have given specific counsel to help young men and young women keep their associations with each other worthy and uplifting. In cultures where dating is acceptable, that counsel includes not dating before the age of 16.
Waiting until at least 16 to date may seem hard—especially if you desire to date and if you feel pressure from others to do so. But Heavenly Father has given us this guideline through His prophets to help us live worthily so we might return to Him. And the blessings that come from following this counsel are great.
Church leaders have taught that dating before age 16 “can lead to immorality, limit the number of other young people you meet, and deprive you of experiences that will help you choose an eternal partner” (For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God , 24).
In your early teens you are beginning a process of emotional, social, mental, and physical development that will continue for years. One important reason for not dating until age 16 is that early dating can complicate your life and interfere with your spiritual growth. For example, it is not unusual to develop strong romantic feelings during your early teens, along with strong desires toward the opposite sex. This may happen at a time when you are developing the emotional and mental maturity to handle those feelings. Studies have shown that there is a much greater chance of inappropriate physical relationships when dating starts too early.
Early dating can lead to exclusive relationships at the very time when you should be expanding your friendships and associating with a variety of people. If you get to know many young men and young women, you will develop social skills that will help your future dating be more enjoyable.
Even after you are 16, it is best to date in groups and avoid pairing off with just one partner. And since dating eventually leads to marriage, be sure to date the kind of people you would consider marrying.
Some young people find that they don’t have the desire or the opportunity to date until long after they turn 16. Many happy, normal young people seldom date until later, even marriage age.
If you have the faith to follow the guidelines of our Church leaders, your dating years will be less stressful, more fun, and happier (see Alma 41:10). You will receive the blessings that come from obedience. And you will be better prepared for temple marriage.
“The Lord has made us attractive one to another for a great purpose. But this very attraction becomes as a powder keg unless it is kept under control. It is beautiful when handled in the right way. It is deadly if it gets out of hand.
“It is for this reason that the Church counsels against early dating. This rule is not designed to hurt you in any way. It is designed to help you, and it will do so if you will observe it.
“Steady dating at an early age leads so often to tragedy. Studies have shown that the longer a boy and girl date one another, the more likely they are to get into trouble.
“It is better, my friends, to date a variety of companions until you are ready to marry. Have a wonderful time, but stay away from familiarity. Keep your hands to yourself. It may not be easy, but it is possible.”—President Gordon B. Hinckley (“A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth,” Liahona, April 2001, 38–39)
There is a good reason for the Church’s teaching that we not date until we are 16. God is concerned about us, and His prophets are concerned about us also. When we date before we are 16, we may be popular, but mainly to the world. Someone who doesn’t date before the right age shows maturity, a desire to improve, and faithfulness to the Lord.
Nadia Antuanette Reátegue Rivera, 13, Las Viñas Branch, Lima Perú La Molina Stake
I believe that dating at a young age wouldn’t have helped me create a good atmosphere to invite the Spirit. I agree with President Hinckley that we should be wise in dating, because this will be the best preparation for choosing an eternal companion.
Amery C. Silvino, 16, Santo Cristo Ward, Gapan Philippines Stake
This standard is intended to help us prepare for marriage. When we date one person steadily at an early age, it can turn to tragedy. At age 16, young people are somewhat more responsible and more able to control themselves.
Elder Daniel Banza, 21, Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa Mission
Physical attraction between a man and a woman is natural. But sometimes these feelings lead to unacceptable behavior, which some people falsely say is a way of showing love. The Church encourages us not to date before age 16 because we are not yet mature enough to control these feelings and may fall into danger.
Lupeolo Tupou, 18, Nuku‘alofa Eighth Ward, Nuku‘alofa Tonga North Stake
At a young age a person is not yet capable of realizing the full consequences of his or her actions. Young people may often do things because of curiosity or pressure. The Church helps us avoid many dreadful mistakes by giving us wise counsel and recommendations.
Natalya Fyodorovna Frolova, 21, Saratovsky Tsentralny Branch, Saratov Russia District
I think you should have a close relationship with someone only if you would seriously consider marrying him or her. And you should consider marrying someone only after you know who you are and what you really want for eternity. It is best to develop yourself first, without a partner.
Mirjam Liebich, 23, Lauenburg Branch, Hamburg Germany Stake
The world sees dating in a very wrong way. Lucifer has completely counterfeited dating values. I waited until age 16 to begin dating. It was rewarding to know I was acting in the Lord’s way. It brought me a feeling of inner peace that was worth any sacrifice.
Elisa Correa, 19, Humaitá Ward, Porto Alegre Brazil Moinhos de Vento Stake
Dating prepares us for marriage, and the Church teaches that at age 16 we are usually mature enough to understand what dating is about. We will be more likely to date those who have high standards and who respect our standards.
Elder Emmanual N. A. Solomon, 22, Nigeria Port Harcourt Mission
The Lord knows we should devote our teenage years to learning the gospel, building good friendships, and preparing for missions and marriage. He loves us and wishes us to be ready for these important experiences.
Maurício Imbroise, 18, Benedito Bentes Ward, Maceió Brazil Stake
We need to remember that Satan is lying in wait for us. But our goal is to go to the temple with pure hearts that are full of gratitude to our Heavenly Father. God loves us and wants us to have complete happiness. No matter how old we are, we need to use wisdom and pray constantly so that we will triumph over the adversary.
R. Trinidad Guerrero Soliz, 20, Pueblo Yaqui Branch, Ciudad Obregón México Yaqui Stake