Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals understand the difference between dating and hanging out. There is a time for both practices, but they should not be misunderstood. Hanging out in groups is good and brings safety during the teenage years, but hanging out as young adults prevents individuals from moving into marriage. These ideas are supported by both religious leaders and social scientists.
Individuals younger than sixteen years old should not date at all because they are not mature enough to make such decisions wisely. Once a teenager becomes sixteen, they are encouraged to date on a group basis. Steady dating that leads to marriage is encouraged for young adults.
President Boyd K. Packer counseled, “Stay in group activities; don’t pair off. Avoid steady dating. Steady dating is courtship, and surely the beginning courtship ought to be delayed until you have emerged from your teens” (“You’re in the Driver’s Seat,” New Era, June 2004, 8.)
President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “Dating and especially steady dating in the early teens is most hazardous. It distorts the whole picture of life. It deprives the youth of worthwhile and rich experiences; it limits friendships; it reduces the acquaintance which can be so valuable in selecting a partner for time and eternity” (“President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality,” Ensign, November 1980, 96).
It is a fact that early dating usually leads to early marriage. Studies show that the probability of divorce is double for couples who marry with at least one of them being a teenager as for those who marry with both partners in their early twenties. The teenage years are a time to develop talents and skills. It is a time to get to know oneself and to be socially active with many people. Marriage is an important institution that should be considered seriously, and the teenage years are not the time to marry.
Studies show that the age of marriage is increasing because young adults are increasingly reluctant to accept the responsibilities of adulthood, responsibilities that include marriage and family. Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke to the young adults of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2005 and told them to stop hanging out in groups and to start dating.
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…. A `date’ must pass the test of three p’s: (1) planned ahead, (2) paid for, and (3) paired off.
Young women, resist too much hanging out, and encourage dates that are simple, inexpensive, and frequent….
According to Elder Oaks, once young men have completed their mission, they should stop acting like teenagers and start looking for an eternal companion. Marriage is not something that should be rushed into, but it is something that is important in many ways. Studies show that married people have better health and are more financially stable. These are two very important reasons to pursue marriage. However, there are even more important reasons for it. The institution of marriage brings stability to families, communities, and nations. The most important reason to marry is that marriage is essential to Heavenly Father’s plan for our happiness.
Scott Stanley, a research professor of marital and family studies from the University of Denver, recently spoke at Brigham Young University. He concluded his remarks with this counsel for those students still in the dating phase of their lives. (1) “Take it slow” and keep your eyes wide open. (2) Look for valid signals “when people simply reveal who they really are and what they want.” (3) “Pay attention to red flags. A person’s little behaviors can reveal a lot about them.” (4) “Look for someone who shares our beliefs and values.” (5) Make choices that “move relationships forward rather than simply sliding into new situations that will increase the relationship constraints.” (6) “Do premarital training. It’s something everyone can benefit from [and] it’s better to do it early.”
The teenage years is a time for hanging out with groups of friends to develop social skills and get to know lots of people. Dating means to pair off as couples and leads to courtship and marriage. The probability of success in marriage increases when the groom and the bride are both in their twenties. Successful marriages strengthen families, communities, and nations.