One of the things that might change when you join the church is how you date. Ask your leaders for a copy of “For the Strength of Youth,” a pamphlet that teaches LDS youth standards that will keep them safe as they work toward adulthood.
LDS teens are asked to avoid dating until they are sixteen years old. This might seem quite old to you, but it is a guideline for your own protection. There are strict limits to the type of relationship allowed prior to marriage, and the sooner you start to date, the faster you find yourself moving through the allowable limits. Starting to date at an older age, and then following the church’s instructions to date a variety of boys or girls rather than pairing off in the teenaged years, allows you to meet more people. As you get to know the opposite gender as friends, rather than as romantic interests, you will better understand them. You’ll be able to make objective decisions about the type of person you want to marry in the future. Double-dating or informal group dating helps to avoid temptations and to keep the relationship from becoming too serious.
It is wise to date only people who share your religion, and who are faithful members. While you may feel you are too young to worry about marriage, you don’t marry people you don’t date. You never know when you’ll unexpectedly find yourself attracted to someone who had previously just been a friend. Dating someone who cannot enter the temple when the time comes is very risky. Eternity is a very long time, and when you love someone enough to marry him or her, you will find your heart aching if you know that person might not be with you then.
Know the moral standards of the church and live them. In fact, raise the bar and live them higher than you need to. Don’t push the boundaries. Save your kisses for only the most special people you date. Don’t allow yourself to spend time alone or in situations that might encourage immorality, such as parties where kissing is the main form of entertainment.
Attend church with the teens you find yourself interested in, and participate together in church activities. Have these people into your home and go to theirs. Trust your parents’ instincts. While they might seem too old to understand, they have seen many situations that have played out in the long run. Over the years, they’ve learned that what seemed to be great in a date didn’t always turn out to be great in a relationship. Listen to what they have to say.
There is nothing in life’s rule book that says you have to date at all as a teenager. Many teens are happier hanging out in groups and having lots of friends. There are many years ahead for dating and relationships, but the teen years are wonderful for simple, uncomplicated friendships.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.