Q&A: Questions and Answers


Responses are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

“I’m 14, and I know we aren’t supposed to date until we’re 16. But a lot of friends my age at school have a girlfriend or boyfriend, even though they don’t really date. Is anything wrong with this?”

New Era

  • Having a boyfriend or girlfriend is dating. Even after you turn 16, don’t pair off until you are ready to prepare for marriage.

  • Dating at an early age will limit the number of friends you have and may lead to more serious problems like immorality.

  • Waiting until you’re 16 to date will strengthen your testimony and your ability to keep other gospel standards.

  • Church standards are there for your happiness and protection.

If you’re not sure whether there’s anything wrong with having a boyfriend or girlfriend at this age, look to the Church’s standards. For the Strength of Youth says: “Do not date until you are at least 16 years old. … When you begin dating, go in groups or on double dates. Avoid going on frequent dates with the same person. … Date only those who have high standards and in whose company you can maintain your standards” (24). These guidelines will help you enjoy dating and protect you.

Some teens pair off but say they’re not dating. Having a boyfriend or girlfriend, however, is dating, and it can create several problems:

  • It can create jealousies with the couple’s friends.

  • It limits the number of people the couple get to know and deprives them of friendships.

  • Pairing off can create strong emotions and attractions. Couples might get into tempting situations that seem too powerful to resist.

President Gordon B. Hinckley gave this counsel on dating: “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” (“A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth,” New Era, Jan. 2001, 13).

The most important reason not to date or pair off before age 16 is to follow the prophet’s guidance. He teaches that the end goal of dating is to prepare for temple marriage. Dating the right way will make it more likely to reach that important goal.

If you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s tempting to think that you’re missing out on something. Maybe you’re thinking, “It would be cool to be able to say I have a boyfriend (or girlfriend).” But is peer pressure a reason to disobey the prophet’s counsel?

This question is not just about dating. It’s also about obedience. One reader wrote in and said there is something wrong with having a boyfriend or girlfriend because “one little exception will lead to another exception.”

Good point. It may seem like a small thing to hang out with a boyfriend or girlfriend, but those who go against this Church standard will have a harder time keeping other standards. But if you wait until you’re 16 to date, that choice will strengthen you to keep other commandments, which will lead to more happiness.

At your age, you can have more fun by having lots of friends. You will get to know more people and can avoid the problems that come with pairing off.

President Boyd K. Packer

Dating should not even begin until you are 16. And then, ideal dating is on a group basis. Stay in group activities; don’t pair off. Avoid steady dating. Steady dating is courtship, and surely the beginning of courtship ought to be delayed until you have emerged from your teens.” —President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “You’re in the Driver’s Seat,” New Era, June 2004, 8.

Readers

Boyfriend and girlfriend, dating, going out, and seeing each other are ultimately the same thing. It’s not something that youth under age 16 are ready to handle. Whether it seems harmless or not, the leaders of the Church have taught against it, and blessings do come through obedience. Krysten Meredith, 15, Deer Springs Ward, Las Vegas Nevada Tule Springs Stake

I dated before I was 16, and I wish I hadn’t for the following reasons: (1) It creates emotional baggage. Even if you do not intend to get serious, if you put yourself in an exclusive relationship, you will become emotionally attached, and it will be hard to let go when you realize that you need to break it off or when things fall apart. (2) We are not always as emotionally or spiritually mature as we would like to be. You need time to think about what you want, where your standards are, and, most important, how you will make sure that they are not broken. (3) The Lord knows what is best for us. He tells us to wait until 16 to date. He knows what He’s doing. Ericka Clayton, 17, Fort Lewis Ward, Lakewood Washington Stake

I agree with what the prophets have said, because if you get too serious with someone of the opposite sex when you are young, it’s more likely that you will make some mistakes. Why not just be friends with members of the opposite sex instead of tying yourself down with just one person? Tyler Vargha, 14, Copper Basin Ward, Prescott Arizona Stake

For the Strength of Youth says that you should avoid pairing off when you start dating, so that goes for before you start dating too. Now is a good time to work on developing friendships with both sexes. And you need to ask yourself if you really want to have a boyfriend or if you just want to be able to say that you have one. Part of following Church standards is not always doing what your friends or everyone else is doing, but doing what is right. Cierra Cook, 16, Petersburg Branch, Juneau Alaska Stake

If you were to date those with high standards at age 14, they wouldn’t be dating at all. Set an example by telling your friends your standards. They’ll look up to you for having high standards. Candice Bachiu, 16, Moose Jaw Ward, Regina Saskatchewan Stake

It’s all right to have friends of the opposite gender, but remember that one of Satan’s tactics is rationalization. There should not be any dating until you’re 16, no matter how you look at it. Ephraim Sng, 16, Southlake Ward, Colleyville Texas Stake

I know from personal experience that having a boyfriend or girlfriend before you’re 16 is stretching the rules, and it’s not worth it. You can’t see far enough ahead to see and understand everything—all the emotions, experiences, and challenges—which that kind of relationship involves. It’s not fun to learn the hard way; it’s so much better to discipline yourself to be obedient. Meghan Reneer, 17, Bon Air Ward, Richmond Virginia Stake

I too had those feelings of wanting to get a girlfriend, but I knew in my heart that it wasn’t right. I turned to the Lord to help me get rid of the desire to have a girlfriend. He answered my prayers, and my life has been blessed immensely. Matthew Anderson, 17, Patton Ward, St. David Arizona Stake

Ask yourself why you want to date now. And ask yourself if your boyfriend or girlfriend has the same standards as you do. While there’s nothing wrong with having friends of the opposite gender, we have guidance from our prophet for a reason. While you wait to begin dating, I suggest you observe qualities in others that you would like to have in a spouse, show your qualities to others, and make friends with as many people as you can. Liz Bielecki, 18, Firle Ward, Adelaide Australia Firle Stake

[photo] Photograph by John Luke