Q&A: Questions and Answers


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

Some people say I’m dating before 16. My friend and I don’t date yet. We just hang out after school until my mom comes home from work. We are together a lot, but we don’t date. Isn’t this okay?

New Era

  • Don’t play with definitions. Some LDS teens think it’s okay to pair off with one person before they are 16 because they call it hanging out instead of dating.

  • You don’t need a set of rules to dictate every aspect of your life if you understand the principles that should govern your actions.

  • If you pair off with one person, the temptations you will feel are the same whether or not you call it dating.

  • You should plan what you are going to do before you get together.

You know the rules for dating: wait until you’re 16, don’t pair off, and date people who respect your standards. But what are the rules for hanging out?

Many LDS teens are moving away from the traditional date and instead they are just hanging out—getting together informally and doing whatever—usually watching TV or a movie or talking.

The words we use to describe associating with people of the opposite sex may change, and the trends in socializing may change, but principles and guidelines for our behavior stay the same.

Don’t play with definitions. Some LDS teens think it’s okay to pair off exclusively with one person before they are 16 because they call it hanging out instead of dating. It’s still spending time alone with one person. If you pair off, the attractions and emotions you will feel toward that person are the same whether you call it dating, going out, going steady, or hanging out.

When Church leaders talk about relationships between girls and boys, they talk about principles and guidelines that apply no matter what words we use to define those relationships. You don’t need a set of rules to dictate every aspect of your life if you understand the principles that should govern your actions.

Church leaders have given us wise counsel to help us deal with these attractions and emotions in For the Strength of Youth. Let’s look at some of the counsel they have given for dating, and see how it applies to hanging out.

“Do not date until you are at least 16 years old. Dating before then 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.” The same can be said for hanging out with one person a lot.

“Avoid going on frequent dates with the same person.” A major reason for that advice is to avoid spending too much time with one person, which is exactly what hanging out often leads to.

“Plan dating activities that are positive and inexpensive and that will help you get to know each other. Do things that will help you and your companions maintain self-respect and remain close to the Spirit of the Lord” (For the Strength of Youth, 24, 25). This brings up one of the biggest problems with hanging out—there is no plan.

Planning what you are going to do should take place before you get together. When you are just hanging out you don’t know what you will be doing, where you will be going, or when you will be done.

What matters most is that you internalize principles to guide your actions. If you want more advice from LDS teens about hanging out, read “Just Hanging Out” in the August 2001 New Era. Remember, you can always find past articles at www.lds.org.

Elder David B. Haight

“Refrain from early dating or going steady. Avoid at all cost the familiarity trap. Instead of spending time in a lovers’ lane, why not develop your minds and your personalities?” (Ensign, Nov. 1977, 58). —Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve

Readers

Having a friend of the opposite sex is a good thing. However, you need to make sure you don’t end up becoming too close. A good suggestion is to invite at least one more friend or sibling to hang out with you while you are together.

Andrew Olsen, 14 Kaysville, Utah

Satan tempts us in many ways. Never allow yourself to be put into a situation with your friend that would compromise your standards. The prophet has counseled us to abstain from dating until the age of 16, and it is important to realize the favorable consequences that come from following that guidance.

Carolyn Strege, 16 Grand Rapids, Minnesota

If you feel guilty when your friends say you are dating before you are 16, then what you are doing isn’t right. There are probably cases when it is okay to be with a guy or girl after school for a while, but for the most part it should probably be avoided.

Crystal Raben, 17 American Falls, Idaho

Although you are just friends and mean no harm by hanging out together, it would probably be best to have at least one or two more people with you just to be safe.

Larry B. Beltran, 18 Ocampo, Philippines

You shouldn’t hang out with your friend alone. Satan has the power to turn the best boy and the best girl to do wrong. If you don’t think your judgment is correct, pray and ask Heavenly Father. He will answer you.

Mary Hill, 15 Chadron, Nebraska

[photo] Photography by Robert Casey. Posed by models