Q&A: Questions and Answers

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    Answers are for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine

    “Why can’t I date when I am 15? I have nonmember friends who are permitted to date at this same age by their parents.”

    Answer/Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone

    As I have listened to the counsel of the Brethren through the years, there seems to be a general sentiment among them that dating, on a one-boy-with-one-girl basis, should be postponed until the mid to late teens and that going steady should be a part of only marriageable-age dating.

    In the pre-1960s Elder Mark E. Petersen said that early dating often leads to early and unsuccessful marriage. President McKay said, “Going steady too young oftentimes leads to intimacies which are encouraged by dating with one partner only.”

    The pamphlet For the Strength of Youth, which is endorsed by the First Presidency, counsels, “When young people enter senior high school (approximately Laurel-Priest age), they may appropriately date with the consent of their parents, who are the best judges as to whether they are mature and responsible enough for this kind of young adult experience.”

    May I give my personal feelings on this matter. We have six sons, and we decided not to permit them to date on a one-boy-one-girl basis until they are 16.

    I recently talked to a stake Aaronic Priesthood MIA president who remarked that a great deal of mental maturing occurs between 15 1/2 and 16 and that she certainly could see the wisdom of a person waiting until 16 to date. I think President Kimball gives us strong direction in this. In a talk, “Save the Youth of Zion,” delivered in 1965 at June Conference, he said, “Early dating, especially early steady dating, brings numerous problems, much heartache, and numerous disasters. The early date often develops into the steady date, and the steady date frequently brings on early marriage, of which there are hundreds of thousands with 16- and 17-year-old brides. Early marriages often end in disillusionment, frustration, and divorce, with broken homes and scarred lives. Far more high school marriages end in divorce than marriages of more mature young people. Dating, and especially steady dating, in the early teens is most hazardous. It distorts the whole picture of life. It deprives the youth of worthwhile and rich experiences. It limits friendships and reduces acquaintances which can be so valuable in selecting a partner for time and eternity.”

    In my own experience I will recall a mother who visited her bishop. She said, “We have given my daughter permission to date, and she is just 15. She is more mature than other girls her age.” Physically she was more mature than other girls her age, and the mother felt totally justified in letting this young lady date. Of course, the bishop counseled very strongly against it, but to no avail. Within a short time the daughter came in alone to see the bishop, heartbroken and carrying a burden of guilt that a person so young—any person, in fact—should never have to carry.

    How foolish we are to suppose that when the prophets speak—President Kimball, Elder Petersen, President McKay, President Lee, and all of the latter-day prophets have spoken on this subject—how foolish we are to ignore their counsel and advice and to make decisions contrary to theirs. My personal counsel to our youth would be to follow the prophet, obey his counsel, walk in the footsteps he would have you follow, and remain clean and pure. In due time you will have the opportunity to date, and at that time, hopefully, you will be mentally mature and able to handle the new emotions and feelings that swell inside the normal young person’s physical body. The odds for remaining clean and pure and going worthily to the sacred altars in the temple, never having transgressed the moral code, very much favor those who do not date until they are 16.

    Now, my dear young friends, the Lord doesn’t always tell us why. We simply get direction and sometimes have to trust. Often your parents will not be able to tell you why they feel you shouldn’t date until you are 16; the bishop cannot give you all of the reasons. All they know is that they feel at peace in their heart with this decision, and that is probably the greatest answer that can be given. Follow their counsel, obey your parents, and know the decisions you make in this very serious matter will have eternal implications.

    Satan is desirous of destroying every young person in the Church and frustrating God’s work. This will not happen, for our youth have been given a clear signal. We are confident that as you mature and grow in the gospel you will come to anchor your souls to the Savior. You will find strength beyond anything you have ever known. There will never be a temptation come to you that will be too great to bear. There will always be a way to escape. God will watch over you and bless you; trust in him, be prayerful, study the scriptures, attend your meetings regularly, and choose your friends wisely. Make this a matter of great and significant prayer.

    My young friends, all I can say to you is, I feel at peace with this decision in my home. Each family head must make the decision. The Church will not make it. We only offer guidelines.

    God bless you always and keep you clean and pure.

    Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

    “Should I discuss the gospel with a person who is antagonistic toward the Church?”

    Answer/President A. Theodore Tuttle

    Perhaps the question should be restated, or at least understood differently—Should I discuss the gospel with anyone who presently does not understand it? When we view it in that light, the answer is obvious. Of course we should. We should discuss the gospel with all people. The purpose of the gospel is to save and exalt mankind. So it applies to all.

    The question of whether or not the person is antagonistic to the Church really has very little to do with it. The reasons why he is antagonistic may be many-faceted, but they should have no bearing whatsoever on whether we are willing to discuss the message of the restoration with such a person. The Lord addressed this direction to the Church leaders:

    “Therefore, go ye into all the world; and unto whatsoever place ye cannot go ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you unto all the world unto every creature.” (D&C 84:62.)

    Later in the same revelation, the Lord said:

    “Verily, verily, I say unto you, they who believe not on your words, and are not baptized in water in my name, for the remission of their sins, that they may receive the Holy Ghost, shall be damned, and shall not come into my Father’s kingdom where my Father and I am.

    “And this revelation unto you, and commandment, is in force from this very hour upon all the world, and the gospel is unto all who have not received it.

    “But, verily I say unto all those to whom the kingdom has been given—from you it must be preached unto them. … ” (D&C 84:74–76. Italics added.)

    A careful reading of these verses indicates that the message is to go from those who have it—the members of the Church—to those who do not have it—the nonmembers of the Church. What the Lord said in the 18th section likewise applies:

    “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” (D&C 18:15. Italics added.)

    We need to get in our hearts the same zeal that Nephi had when he wrote:

    “For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.” (1 Ne. 6:4.)

    The conversion stories of many fine people who have come into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches us again and again that it takes moral courage to teach the gospel. People who at one time were antagonistic toward the Church have had their hearts softened by the Spirit of the Lord acting upon them and have become diligent, faithful, and loving members of His church and kingdom.

    If we understand clearly that the gospel of Jesus Christ can be taught to our Father’s other children only by those who have it, then we begin to sense our full responsibility to share the gospel with every soul. This knowledge gives us the courage to press forward even in the face of antagonism, with the calm assurance that we are on the Lord’s errand, and he will surely bless us. The Lord expects us to share the gospel, has commanded us to do it, and gives us that sweet joy that comes from obedience to this commandment.

    of the First Council of the Seventy

    “Are Latter-day Saint girls exempt from standards of modesty in dress while they are performing in marching or cheerleading groups?”

    Answer/Sister Marilyn Arnold

    My first reaction to this question is to ask another question: Are we, can we ever be, exempt from Church standards, whether in dress or behavior? Can we expect the Lord to bend his principles or put them aside for certain occasions? I think the answer has to be no to the general question, but there are some aspects of the specific question about marchers and cheerleaders that we need to examine. For example, does adherence to LDS standards mean a girl in a marching group has to wear a knee-length costume? Perhaps the answer to this question can also be suggested by another question: Should an LDS girl wear a knee-length bathing suit when she goes swimming or a turtleneck gown to a dance? Is a ballerina immodest if she performs in standard ballet attire? Modesty in dress is at least partly dependent upon the appropriateness of a particular costume to the occasion or activity for which it is worn. What is appropriate and modest for one activity may not be for another. We have to exercise judgment and make every effort to obey the spirit of the law.

    A shorter-than-knee-length skirt can be appropriate for a marching group or for cheerleaders. But even so, the costume need not be immodest. In fact, a Latter-day Saint girl who is a member of such a group can be a strong voice in the choice of costumes. And she should speak up, insisting that the costume be in good taste, appropriate, and modest. Marchers and cheerleaders are in a very real sense on display. I am sure there is no relationship between the brevity of costume and the excellence of a performance. If her performing group, over her protests, selects an immodest (and hence, inappropriate) costume, a Latter-day Saint girl should most certainly choose in favor of the eternal principle.

    Chairman, Department of American Literature, Brigham Young University