Spiritual Messages and Teachings for LDS Youth and Youth Leaders


By Ardeth G. Kapp, Former Young Women general president

In the booklet, “For the Strength of Youth,” the First Presidency has provided statements to help young people govern themselves and make choices that will “provide countless blessings . . . including the gift of eternal life” (For the Strength of Youth, p.6). The first statement on standards concerns dating.

As a youth in the Church, your immediate concern may be over a date for an event this very week, and yet decisions concerning dating have something to do with generations long before our time and also future generations for years to come. It is a big decision! To date or not to date, who, when and where.

Let me explain. Our Father in heaven sent one of His strongest spirits to earth. His name was Abraham, and you and I are descendants of his. Through Abraham, the Lord was able to establish a covenant people. He promised, or covenanted, with Abraham that all his descendants who accept the gospel and keep His commandments would inherit the blessings of eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God. Those who are not descendants of Abraham are adopted in the House of Israel when they join the Church and become heirs of the covenant of Abraham, through the ordinances of the gospel.

When we fully understand the meaning of being of the House of Israel, a covenant people, we can better understand how choices about dating become a matter of eternal consequence: our decision regarding eternal marriage (temple marriage) is the link that unites generations past and future and opens the door to eternal life and all the blessings our Father in Heaven has promised those who love Him and keep His commandments.

Each one of us has a divine mission and an eternal destiny. But to qualify, we, like Abraham, must be tried and tested. We must be given our choice, our agency, and be proven in all things.

Decisions are best made when the possible consequences of that decision are considered. In dating it requires giving serious thought to your desires, goals and dreams for the future. Will your partner in marriage be from the House of Israel or adopted in the House of Israel through membership in the Church? Will your marriage be sealed in the temple for eternity?

You are probably shaking your head and wondering if all this must be rehearsed and reviewed before you con sider accepting a date. Let me assure you this is not the case. Once you make a commitment to a temple marriage, you will “date only those who have high standards . . . and in whose company you can maintain the standards of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (FSY, p. 7.)

Every choice is a narrowing and we become the sum total of all the decisions we have made in the past. It is when you think about the future that the determination to make wise choices in the present is best achieved. You may choose to give up what you want now for what is of greatest importance to you in the future.

In the booklet, For the Strength of Youth, a message from the First Presidency provides valuable counsel regarding dating. Youth are counseled, “Begin to prepare now for a temple marriage. Proper dating is a part of that preparation.” The counsel is also given, “Do not date until you are sixteen years old . . . [andT when you begin dating, go in groups or on double dates.” (FSY, p. 7.)

If you are almost 16 and are invited to a special dance, and all of your friends, both members and non-members, are accepting dates, it is a real test. To go or not to go is the question. If you go, then what? If you don’t go, what? If you choose not to go, you’ll miss the dance, and you may suffer a hurting inside at a time when friends, popularity, and acceptance are so crucial to your sense of well being. But it is a moment provided for enormous discovery about yourself, your love for the Lord, your obedience and the use of your agency at a time when it really matters.

Self-confidence, self-esteem and increased faith are the rewards for obedience to the commandments. It may be easy to argue and say, “Well, if I’m almost 16, what difference does it make?” The matter at this point may not have as much to do with dating or the dance as it does with obedience. And obedience at one time can become a source of strength for more challenging decisions later on. The self-discipline required to be obedient when you have your agency to choose, when mastered in your youth, will assure promised blessings all of your life.

Parents who clearly and consistently hold to the principles and standards taught by our Church leaders while providing understanding, love and support to their children will have a tremendous influence as youth learn to govern themselves based on correct principles.

A custom in some areas is that of going steady. This implies a level of commitment to each other, an expectation of loyalty to one person at the exclusion of others. This arrangement is detrimental at an early age because it limits friendships, and of even greater concern is the increased seriousness of the relationship. It increases the risk of developing intimacy, which threatens the loyalty to eternal covenants, to keeping the commandments, and imposes temptations, which Satan uses to get people under his influence and rob them of the blessings that come through obedience.

And now about the date for this week. If it is an invitation from someone who does not share your standards or comes before you are 16 or to a location that does not provide a good environment, what will your answer be? This will be a test, and it often comes from your closest friends, whose approval you yearn for. It may sound like this: “How come you are not going? Everyone else is. It’s not that bad. We’re not going to do anything wrong. Do you think you’re better than we are? What’s the big deal? Our parents are letting us go. We’ll help you talk to your parents.”

To the question from friends, “Why do you do what you do?”, in your heart you will simply answer, “Because I am looking to the future and decisions today affect tomorrow and eternity.”

Avoid becoming too anxious about dating. A survey shows that over half of the young women who graduate from high school have never had a date. You may be one of these. But the number of dates need not determine your happiness. There are many wonderful things you can be doing rather than just waiting for a date. Just learning to enjoy people and develop friends can be exciting if you’ll let it. A young man or young woman who has many friends seems to be the one who attracts even more, and as you enlarge your circle of friends, others will be drawn in. While you may not be dating, you will be sharing experiences, building memories and having fun.

If you become uneasy about your social life and impatient about this matter, remember to talk with your Father in Heaven. As you pray, express the yearnings of your heart and seek direction. “Seek diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly.” (D&C 90:24.)

The position of the Church as taken by the Prophet Joseph Smith has been to teach correct principles and to let the members govern themselves. The guidance of parents and Church leaders is an important factor in how young persons handle the dating issue. If parents and children openly communicate with one another and seek the Lord in prayer, they can be guided to make correct choices that will help prepare them for temple marriage and all the blessings of eternal life.

Next, standards of dress and appearance.

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