I am not sure, but I can see some contributing factors:. The cultural tides in our world run strongly against commitments in family relationships. For example, divorce has been made legally easy, and childbearing has become unpopular. That plan relies on covenants or commitments kept. Whatever draws us away from commitments weakens our capacity to participate in the plan. Dating involves commitments, if only for a few hours. Hanging out requires no commitments, at least not for the men if the women provide the food and shelter.
I saw this trend beginning among our younger children. For whatever reason, high school boys felt they had to do something elaborate or bizarre to ask for a date, especially for an event like a prom, and girls felt they had to do likewise to accept. In addition, a date had to be something of an expensive production. I remember seeing one couple having a dinner catered by friends on the median strip between lanes of traffic just south of the BYU football stadium. All of this made dating more difficult.
And the more elaborate and expensive the date, the fewer the dates. As dates become fewer and more elaborate, this seems to create an expectation that a date implies seriousness or continuing commitment. That expectation discourages dating even more.
Gone is the clumsy and inexpensive phone call your parents and grandparents and I used to make. How about a movie? The old-fashioned date was a wonderful way to get acquainted with a member of the opposite sex.
It encouraged conversation. It allowed you to see how you treat others and how you are treated in a one-on-one situation. It gave opportunities to learn how to initiate and sustain a mature relationship. None of that happens in hanging out. There is another possible contributing factor to the demise of dating and the prominence of the culture of hanging out. For many years the Church has counseled young people not to date before age Perhaps some young adults, especially men, have carried that wise counsel to excess and determined not to date before 26 or maybe even 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. 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. I heard it from my year-old granddaughter. Young women, resist too much hanging out, and encourage dates that are simple, inexpensive, and frequent.
An occasional group activity is OK, but when you see men who make hanging out their primary interaction with the opposite sex, I think you should lock the pantry and bolt the front door. And, young women, please make it easier for these shy males to ask for a simple, inexpensive date. Part of making it easier is to avoid implying that a date is something very serious. 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.
Finally, 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. My single young friends, we counsel you to channel your associations with the opposite sex into dating patterns that have the potential to mature into marriage, not hanging-out patterns that only have the prospect to mature into team sports like touch football.
Marriage is not a group activity—at least, not until the children come along in goodly numbers. Up to this point I have concentrated primarily on the responsibilities of single men. Now I have a few words for single women. If you are just marking time waiting for a marriage prospect, stop waiting. You may never have the opportunity for a suitable marriage in this life, so stop waiting and start moving.
Prepare yourself for life—even a single life—by education, experience, and planning. Seek it out in service and learning. Make a life for yourself. And trust in the Lord. Now, single sisters, I have an expert witness to invite to the stand at this time.
It is my wife, Kristen, who, as an adult, was single for about 35 years before we married. I am asking her to come up and tell us what is in her heart. Before I start, I feel to tell you how much you are loved by your Heavenly Father. We saw the Christus and the video Special Witnesses of Christ, and they went into my heart. This is your time. Make it count by dedicating your time to your Heavenly Father. I love what President Boyd K. Packer says about the Atonement. The Atonement is not something that happens at the end of our lives.
It is something that happens every day of our lives. And so I say to our single sisters, make it count. It can be very painful to be single for such a long time, especially in a church of families. I know how it feels. On my 50th birthday my brother-in-law was reading the newspaper. I would also say to you, be balanced.
The two great commandments illustrate this reality; they command us to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves see Luke The Savior taught us to prioritize our relationships with God and with each other above all else. Put yourself in places where you can develop relationships with the kind of people you want to date. Though you might find a gem anywhere, you will more likely find one if you go where gems are often found.
If you would like to date kind and service-oriented people, go where kind and service-oriented people go. If you would like to date people who have a strong relationship with God, go where people are striving to develop a strong relationship with God. This is not rocket science.
You will meet the kind of people you would like to date by going to places and doing the kinds of things that those people do. As you live life relationally and seek opportunities, you will make many friends and acquaintances. You will likely find that you would like to get to know some of these friends better. Purposefully seek to deepen these relationships.
Find opportunities to discuss topics beyond daily activities. Show those you care about that you enjoy spending time with them. Build them up and help them feel better about themselves. You may even feel inspired to invite someone to an activity that will allow the two of you to get to know each other in a deeper, more personal way. Before you know it, you might find yourself dating.
Once you begin dating, you must see the experience for what it is and recognize what it is not. Unhealthy and inaccurate expectations cause much of the frustration associated with dating. As Elder Dallin H. To ask someone out or to accept a date means to agree to spend a couple of hours getting to know someone and to treat him or her with kindness and respect. A date is not a commitment to be together exclusively from that point forward; it is not a commitment to become engaged or to get married; it is not a commitment to raise a future family together.
If people eliminated false expectations and focused on showing kindness and getting to know one another, dating could become much more enjoyable. An understanding of expectations will not magically occur—you must communicate. Different expectations almost always guarantee heartache.
If one of you thinks the two of you are hanging out while the other thinks you are on a date, or if one of you commits to a couple of hours together while the other assumes you have begun preparation for your engagement, there is a good chance neither of you will be happy by the end of the evening. Both of you must decide what your time together means. Kind, open communication in the beginning pays rich dividends in the end. By following these basic principles and practices, you might find that the dating world is not nearly as frightening as it may have seemed before.
As you patiently seek to realize in your life the ideals of marriage and family, you will draw nearer to Heavenly Father and our Savior and significantly increase your chances of developing a meaningful relationship. The joyous rewards of dating are more than worth the effort, and even though the ideal of marriage may not be realized, the happiness and fulfillment from living according to these principles will enrich the lives of those who follow them.
April Do the Instructions Make Sense? Ruth Silver.
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