Q&A: Questions and Answers


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

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

New Era

We probably received more letters in response to this question than any other printed in Q&A. It seems the problem of pairing up before age 16 is widespread.

It’s good to have friends at any age, but the person who sent us this question was talking about pairing up at school and at other activities with someone considered a girlfriend or boyfriend, even when those involved are not old enough to date. What’s involved is finding reasons to be alone with a person of the opposite sex before dating age.

Overwhelmingly, the letters written by our readers said, “Yes, there is something wrong with pairing up with a girlfriend or boyfriend before age 16.” They nearly all pointed out that modern-day prophets have said we should not date until age 16, and that even then, it’s the beginning of dating and group dates are best.

Here is one letter that points out many of the problems with starting to think seriously about one person too soon:

“When I was 14, I decided that pairing up with one ‘special’ boyfriend wasn’t ‘dating,’ so it was okay. It began as a way to be more popular, but soon I was lying to my parents so I could spend time alone with him. Over the ten months we were together, my testimony was slowly weakened, and eventually I had problems with the law of chastity. Since then I’ve talked with my bishop and repented, but it was a long, difficult, and painful process. I hurt myself, my parents, and the Lord. It opened the door to many other temptations bit by bit and made the important things in life seem foolish, and the wrong things appear right. My parents and bishop showed me nothing but love as they tried to help me return to the Lord’s favor. How much I wish I’d had the strength when I was 14 to stand alone and be different!”

As you approach the dating age, sometimes the appeal of having one person to pay attention to and feel affection for becomes very tempting. But these relationships rarely turn into the kind that lead to marriage. And that’s the highest purpose of dating, to find an eternal marriage partner. Even after age 16, keep things light. Plan group dates or participate in sports activities together. Don’t rush things.

While you are young, enjoy being young. It’s a time to make friends. And part of being a good friend is to think of what is best for other people. This is the age when you should enjoy a wide range of interests—sports, studying, music, getting to know a lot of different people. If you pair up, it cuts you off from getting to know other people worth knowing.

Some young people under 16 try to explain that they aren’t really dating. They try to make it seem all right by saying they are just being good friends. But by pairing up as boyfriend and girlfriend, they are imitating a dating relationship. And it can be harmful. Talk to your parents. They can help guide you.

Very simply, you should not be pairing up as girlfriend and boyfriend until you are of the age to be dating as preparation for a temple marriage. In For the Strength of Youth it says, “Begin to prepare now for a temple marriage. Proper dating is a part of that preparation.

“In cultures where dating is appropriate, do not date until you are sixteen years old.”

Readers

Yes, it is wrong because you get too caught up in just that person. You only do things with that person and lose friends. And it may get you into trouble someday.

Christa Rice, 13 Salem, Utah

When I was 14, I got the idea that I was the “special exception” to the commandment of not dating until you’re 16. It doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s still dating. I lost the trust of my parents and the confidence of my friends. Most importantly, I lost the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Luckily, I got back on track. This could be one of the most eternally costly choices you ever make.

Name Withheld

A lot changes between 14 and 16. If you follow the prophet by waiting until 16 to date and you keep it friendly, I promise you’ll enjoy dating and being young much more than your friends ever will. Also, it will save you from a lot of pain and trouble.

Wendy Hansen, 16 Riverdale, Utah

Enjoy being just friends. Sometimes when you have one special girlfriend or boyfriend, you limit yourself to fewer friends and opportunities.

September Odum, 13 Murfreesboro, Tennessee

I live a happier life because of the decision that I made not to date until I was 16. So in answer to your question, no it’s not okay. That rule was set up for our own protection.

Tiana Blackburn, 15 Lihue, Hawaii

I think that having an exclusive boyfriend or girlfriend before you are 16 is dangerous. You can be led into too many temptations that will cause you to lower your standards.

Mitch Cook, 14 San Diego, California

When you’re 14, you shouldn’t be stuck with one guy or girl. Have fun, make a lot of friends, and bring more people into the gospel.

Sarah Meyers, 15 Ozark, Alabama

[photo] Photography by Craig Dimond

[photo] Our modern-day prophets have given words of counsel for teens in their dating years. President Spencer W. Kimball offered this advice, “Any dating or pairing off in social contacts should be postponed until at least the age of 16 or older, and even then there should be much judgment used” (Ensign, Feb. 1975, p. 4).