Monday, November 21, 2011

Counsel on Dating and Courtship

Dating can be complicated. Singles deal with intricacies of getting to know and understand one another, coupled with mix of technological, financial, societal, religious and media influences.
Active LDS singles are encouraged to work toward temple marriage at appropriate time in their lives by adhering to high moral standards. Journey from first date to temple marriage can be challenging and contain blessings, heartbreaks and pitfalls. Thousands of books and articles by LDS and secular authors have extolled wisdom and tips about dating. Advice about how to act, what to say, what to wear and what to do while dating has been covered in detail. Over years, prophets and apostles have also given counsel to LDS singles about dating. This article is culmination of their words. As preface, quote from  May 1989 Ensign article to young men and women by Elder Boyd K. Packer of Quorum of Twelve (who is now president of that quorum) sums up guiding counsel of Church leaders on dating: "You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it."

From data given by Pew Forum in 2008, three highest same-faith unions are Hindus (90 percent), Mormons (83 percent) and Catholics (78 percent). LDS singles often wonder about dating non-members or getting married before young man serves a mission. Here is what Church leaders have said on both topics:

"Temple marriage should wait until after a young man has served an honorable full-time mission for the Lord. And I would admonish you to date only faithful young women who also believe this and give you that encouragement." — President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994), "To the 'Youth of the Noble Birthright," Ensign, May 1986, 44.

"You young people … have an important responsibility in choosing not only whom you will date but also whom you will marry. Your chances for a happy and lasting marriage will be far greater if you will date those who are active and faithful in the Church."— President Gordon B. Hinckley, "Four B's for Boys," Ensign, November 1981, p. 41.

Three online dating sites surveyed more than 20,000 men interested in long-term relationship with  woman. Top quality [man] wanted in woman was kindness. Similar survey done by Men's Health magazine asked 1,000 American women, ages 21 to 54, to name trait [woman] found most attractive in man. Their answer was "faithful to me." What behavior is appropriate for a date? What qualities are important in potential spouse? Here are some quotes from Church leaders:

"In a dating and courtship relationship, I would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, who is constantly critical of you, who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor." — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "How Do I Love Thee?" New Era, October 2003, p. 6.

"A few years ago my wife and I and another General Authority and his wife were on a Church assignment. The other man's wife and I had dated when we were both in high school. I was glad, and I am sure she was glad, that we did not have any bad memories of that date. Both of us could speak of it to our spouses and both of us could speak to a Church audience in the presence of the other without embarrassment."— Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Sin and Suffering," Brigham Young University 1989–90 Speeches (1990, p. 7).

"As you go through your dating and courting relationships, I would hope that you will assess the spiritual inclinations of the individuals you're getting to know better. How is their testimony? How do they treat their parents? How do they treat their brothers and sisters? Do they respect authority? Do they love the Lord, His servants, and the scriptures? What plans do they have for their lives? It isn't enough if they are handsome or beautiful, if they are rich or poor, what kind of car they drive, what kind of clothes they wear, what kind of athletic ability they have, or what kind of intellect they are. You should be seeking to understand the gifts they have that will be eternal in nature." — Elder Robert D. Hales, "Gifts of the Spirit," Ensign, February 2002, p. 19.

"Do you want capability, safety, and security in dating and romance, in married life and eternity? Be a true disciple of Jesus. Be a genuine, committed, word-and-deed Latter-day Saint. Believe that your faith has everything to do with your romance, because it does. You separate dating from discipleship at your peril. Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the only lamp by which you can successfully see the path of love and happiness. How should I love thee? As He does, for that way 'never faileth.' " — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "How Do I Love Thee?" New Era, October 2003, p. 8.

Heidi Banks, well known dating adviser, said, "There is truly only one real danger that we must concern ourselves with and that is closing our hearts to the possibility that love exists." So is dating worth it? What constitutes a date? If someone asks you to lunch, is it a date? What about invitation through Facebook or in text? Can't dating just wait? Elder Dallin H. Oaks is clear in his counsel:

"Men, if you have returned from your mission and you are still following the boy-girl patterns you were counseled to follow when you were 15, it is time for you to grow up. Gather your courage and look for someone to pair off with. Start with a variety of dates with a variety of young women, and when that phase yields a good prospect, proceed to courtship. It's marriage time. That is what the Lord intends for His young adult sons and daughters. Men have the initiative, and you men should get on with it. If you don't know what a date is, perhaps this definition will help. I heard it from my 18-year-old granddaughter. A "date" must pass the test of three p's: (1) planned ahead, (2) paid for, (3) paired off.— Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Dating versus Hanging Out," Ensign, June 2006, p. 13.

"If we are to persuade young men to ask for dates more frequently, we must establish a mutual expectation that to go on a date is not to imply a continuing commitment. … Young women, if you turn down a date, be kind. Otherwise you may crush a nervous and shy questioner and destroy him as a potential dater, and that could hurt some other sister." — Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Dating versus Hanging Out," Ensign, June 2006, p. 14.

Dating can be complicated, but it need not be overwhelming. God's plan for His children is not plan of frustration but plan of happiness.

That plan includes dating and marriage to person that should be blessing in this life and eternity. Following counsel of Church leaders, LDS singles date and marry with knowledge that marriage relationships continue beyond this mortal sphere.

"The greatest single factor affecting what you are going to be tomorrow, your activity, your attitudes, your eventual destiny … is the one decision you make … when you ask that individual to be your companion for life.

"That's the most important decision of your entire life! It isn't where you are going to school, or what lessons you are going to study, or what your major is, or how you are going to make your living. These, though important, are incidental and nothing compared with the important decision that you make when you ask someone to be your companion for eternity"— The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Edward L. Kimball, ed. [1982], p. 301.


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