Most youth today might look at my generation—the same group their grandparents are in—and wonder, “What could they possibly know about the dating process that goes on in my generation?”
It’s true that our generations are separated by a number of years. But some things, however different the environment that surrounds them, are almost always the same. One of those things is the fact that boys are interested in meeting girls and girls are interested in meeting boys. Whatever you call the process you go through to find someone you’d like to spend your lifetime and all eternity with, the purpose and final outcome is much the same today as it was when I was in my teenage years. It will probably be much the same for your grandchildren.
President Harold B. Lee said, “The purpose of dating which leads to courtship and ultimately to marriage is a social process by which young people ultimately find their mates in marriage. It is a truism that we find our husband or wife among that company we frequent the most” (Ye Are the Light of the World, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974, p. 72).
As you go out on dates, you may think you are simply out to have a good time and to share the company of someone you like, doing some things you both like to do. That is not wrong or inappropriate in any way. But you should also remember that in your own way, you are searching for the one you will eventually marry, the one with whom you will spend your lifetime and all eternity. It seems to me that this dating, courtship, and marriage process is like baking bread: it needs careful measuring, sifting, and mixing. Then it needs time to rise. Then, finally, it’s ready for the oven.
In today’s world with its fast pace, we sometimes want to rush things. As we date and as we choose the parents of our children, we need to be very cautious and be certain that we are using the proper ingredients. Because of this need, the prophets have reminded us that we should wait until at least age 16 to start dating, and we need to be careful whom and how we date. We find in Ecclesiastes 3:1, [Eccl. 3:1] “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
My own dating experiences came at a time when nobody had much money and what little we did have usually couldn’t be spent on things our parents considered “frivolous.” A lot of what our group did in those days you would call “hanging out” today. Just the same as it is for you today, in our schools and our neighborhoods there were good influences and bad influences. We knew, of course, which ones our parents and leaders wanted us to choose, but just like you, we were free to choose who our friends were and what kinds of activities we wanted to have in our lives. This freedom to choose, as President Harold B. Lee has reminded us, also dictates to some extent who we will marry and how we will spend our lives.
What you do on dates today is probably a lot different than what I did, but while the content of your dates today can differ from mine, the spirit, the quality, and the fun should be just the same as it was for me and my friends.
I have always had a great love for music, as most of you do today. Yes, our music was different, but it was just as enjoyable to us as yours is to you today. I played the piano in a small dance band. We played for dances around town and quite often my date would accompany me as my friends and I played. She would sit at the side of the piano and listen to the music and smile at me as I played and tried to earn a few dollars to help with high school and college. We’d have good visits at intermission, and I’d take her home after such a date where often the only pleasure she’d had was sitting, listening to dance music, and tapping her foot to the beat of the drum.
When I was 17 I was the ward organist, and many times I would take my date to the church so that I could practice the organ, and she would sit and listen. This may well have been because I didn’t have any money, much more than because of her deep love for music, but we started a relationship in doing that and we found that we both liked music. I played the hymns and they brought a lovely spirit to our times together in a chapel as hymns were played with intermittent talk, perhaps followed by a five-cent ice cream cone when I took her home. Now, any one of you reading this might think these were strange kinds of dates, but the important thing in any generation is to find uplifting things you can enjoy together and do them! There’s nothing more boring—and potentially dangerous—than a date that starts out, “Well, what do you want to do?” Be creative, be enthusiastic, and prepare by thinking about the kinds of things that will help you get to know each other better. Decide well in advance where you are going, what you will do, and what time you will be home.
Young men and women should continually prepare for conversation—an important part of any date. Each young man or woman reading this might well ask, “What subjects am I prepared to talk about?” Talking and listening attentively add depth to dating.
Are you interesting? Are you aware of what is going on in the world? Can you discuss several subjects intelligently? Are you a good listener? Do you talk too much? Not enough?
It seems to me that quality young people are searching for other young people of high caliber who dress and act modestly, understand conversation, have high standards of behavior, and are refined yet “down to earth.”
On many occasions our children have had dinners on a tennis court. It was interesting to watch them plan who would attend, where the food would come from, and what type of date would want to spread a checkered cloth on a piece of cement and have a picnic on a tennis court. On another occasion this same group had dinner inside a playhouse and acted like they were on the roof garden of an elegant hotel. It was interesting to watch them plan and grow and develop as they made assignments and had a truly wonderful time without it costing very much.
Dates can be fun and wholesome without spending a lot of money. Young men and young women alike should be cautious about overspending and taxing resources unnecessarily on frills that are not necessary to have a good time.
Young men should treat their dates with respect and honor in every sense and on every occasion. Good manners and actions appropriate to age and culture are just as important today as they were ten, twenty, thirty, or fifty years ago. Young women, too, should behave accordingly and be concerned about manner of dress, speech, and actions while on a date.
How pleasant it was to have a young man take one of my daughters on a date and tell me as they left where they were going and what time I could expect them home. This type of young man is going to impress many fathers and mothers and, of course, will impress the daughters, who are most important.
My wife and I recently attended a high school reunion. How grateful I was for the dates I had in high school! Meeting these good friends many years later, I was very grateful I had no sad memories of dates that were not what they should have been.
Always conduct each date so that you can meet the person many years later and have no regrets about what took place. Don’t ever trade a lifetime of happy gospel living for a brief moment of promiscuous pleasure.
Dating can be a wonderful stage of life with many rewards. Plan well, enjoy your date, and use the time to meet and make many wonderful friends. Let those friendships lead you to a lifetime of happiness that can and will be yours as you work toward the blessings of the temple and as you seek to find the one who can join you for a temple marriage and an eternal family unit based on living the gospel of Jesus Christ.