Dating Decisions

Long before our children were old enough to face the situation themselves, Sherri and I reviewed the principle to be sure we both understood it the same way, and we committed ourselves to help our children obey it until they had a testimony of it themselves. Our firmness and commitment meant we probably weren't assailed as persistently as we would have been if we had wavered, and it is that firmness that Kathy and Carolyn have specifically thanked us for over and over. "Whew!" they've said. "We really could have gotten into some bad situations if we'd gone out before we did. By the time we turned sixteen we sure had a lot better sense."

Kathy, now married in the temple, cradles her daughters and son and exclaims, "Oh, Mom and Dad, I can see now how much you hoped and prayed for me to do the right thing. It would hurt so much to see little Charity or John Paul get into trouble. I want to keep them safe and pure and good."

Carolyn, preparing for her call to the Canada Winnipeg Mission, emerged from the temple in tears, grateful for her worthiness. Both the older girls' testimonies have deeply influenced their younger sister and brothers. Though they have faced many trials, they have kept both the spirit and the letter of the law, at times risking friendships and popularity.

It was especially hard for Connie at age thirteen. Many a night she came home from school in tears. "Everybody else" was going to a boy-girl party. It was also hard for her at age fifteen; many of her friends were "going steady," and no one had even asked her to! What if no one ever would? "I know what I'd say," she wailed, "but I don't even have the satisfaction of saying it!"

Night after night, Sherri or I sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing her back and letting her talk. We assured her that the reason no one asked her out was because they knew her principles. If she'd be patient, the finest young men in town would be standing in line. This time was hers to learn about dress and grooming, and about real conversations on interesting topics, and to develop her talents so that when the season arrived she would be worthy of the very best!

She followed our advice--running four miles a day, practicing her violin two hours a day and the piano for another hour. She got top grades. And sure enough, since the day she turned sixteen, young men we are proud to associate with have asked to share her company. In spite of the rule about doubling or tripling (we offered to be the second couple if necessary) Connie has missed only one prom. Her date couldn't find another couple to double with, and his parents had the same rule.

We have other rules, tried and tested with Kathy and Carolyn: no steady dating till after missions, a midnight curfew on weekends, places of entertainment that meet family standards. Chastity has not even been a question, and the barriers are formidable to those with unsavory intentions. Many of their friends, both boys and girls, have the same rules, and group gatherings, rather than formal dates, are popular.

When David announced his plans for a coming-out party--dinner and dancing at the Hyatt Regency, with transportation in Mom and Dad's brand-new Oldsmobile--we didn't try to let him down gently. "Whoa," we said. "With whose money?" Then we pointed out what it would mean to a girl he asked out if she knew that he was saving his money for mission and college funds, and if she knew that dating time was at a premium because he was aiming for academic and athletic excellence.

"Don't you think she'll be just a little flattered, David, if you let it be known that you're kind of choosy, and that the girl you marry is going to have the best in life--a man who has served an honorable, productive mission and whose plans for the future include excellent preparation for a worthwhile career?"

Sherri's mother-son talks about why she'd been attracted to me--a quiet farm boy but a hard-working returned missionary bent on a degree--were also impressive, since he has a hard time imagining a woman with either perfections or beauty his mother doesn't have.

Understanding his fear that a sharp girl might not want to go out with him unless he could take her to an exotic, expensive place, we encouraged him to think about the kind of girl he wanted to marry. Would he really be interested in the girl who pouted every time she couldn't have everything she wanted? If he carried out his long-term plans, it might mean years of sacrifice until his education could be obtained. Did he want to be united with his wife in their goals or to be struggling with immature selfishness? Besides, wouldn't he love knowing that a girl liked him for himself--his charming and thoughtful personality, his clean and virtuous habits, his sense of humor, and his creative ability to make an inexpensive date more fun than an elaborate one-- rather than for expensive dates?

We warned all of our teens, particularly our daughters, in hearing distance of our sons, to beware of any guy that came on with a fancy car and expensive dates. Was his father footing the bill? Would his father always be footing the bill? What was he like without any support?

Any girl who would persuade a young man to abandon his goals just so she can have immediate pleasure will reap disappointment, for she is announcing that she will settle for second best. And a young man is obviously not much of a man if he is willing to abandon righteous plans and personal commitments.

When our eldest daughter met Greg and they made the decision to be married in the Mesa Temple, they had a detailed plan for completing both of their college degrees. They worked out a schedule at BYU that would allow them to help each other in case a baby arrived, arranged for medical insurance that would cover pregnancy, bought a used trailer with cash, and arranged a twice-weekly paper route to pay for the trailer space and utilities. Greg's job as night custodian at the Provo Temple brought in enough for groceries. They submitted their completed four-generation family group sheets and pedigree charts, refinished furniture, collected enough items for their living accommodations, bought a two- years' supply of basic food items for four people, and embarked on their life together totally independent.

Charity arrived ten and a half months later and accompanied them to classes. John Paul was born shortly after Greg graduated. They sold the trailer and set the money aside for law school, worked a summer in preparation for more expenses, and replenished their two-years' supply of food.

They found an apartment house close to the University of Utah that they could manage in exchange for rent, and they earned money to cover the utilities by collecting all the rents on time.

When they wanted a date, Greg took his spray can and metal number forms to a residential section of town and hired himself out to paint addresses on curbs. With the proceeds they hired a baby-sitter and went out for dinner and a movie.

Their second daughter, Rachel, came shortly before Greg's graduation from law school. Kathy, who had kept up her education through correspondence courses, needed only ten credit hours to finish her degree. Debt free except for a student loan, Greg was prepared to move into the community to begin his law career. Neither partner had compromised priorities, nor did they forfeit cherished goals and ambitions. Kathy had fulfilled her role as a helpmeet, and he had been the provider: not the Church, not the family, and not welfare.

President Kimball advised, years ago: "One can have all the blessings if he is in control and takes the experiences in proper turn; first some limited social get-acquainted contacts, then his mission, this his courting, then his temple marriage and his schooling and his family, then his life's work. In any other sequence he could run into difficulty." (Ensign, February 1975, p. 4.)

Hard? Yes. Worth it? Oh, yes. And it started with those also-hard and also- worth-it dating decisions.

While Sherri was stake Young Women president, one of her projects was a "Creative Date Book" that proved quite popular with teenagers in our area and set their own creative juices flowing. Here are their dating ideas--all of them tested by the teenagers themselves.

Creative Dates for Social Development

--In the mail, I received a homemade coupon that said, "This coupon entitles you to a luxurious superdate. If you accept this offer, please sign and return this coupon at once to ---" I returned it, and he picked me up and took me to his house. His mother was dressed like a cook and his father like a first-class waiter. After we ate, his father chauffeured us to a special play. It was really fun because I got to know his parents too!

--We had fun eating a picnic lunch at the airport terminal, watching the planes take off and land.

--We took seven other couples and went fishing in my uncle's pond.

--We had dinner where everyone did everything backward.

--To get into the party you had to bring an inexpensive or homemade gift and a potluck dish. After dinner, everyone blew out the candles and ate as the presents were opened.

--We went Christmas caroling on Halloween with five other couples. We finished with a "Halloween Silly Supper." We had to order from the following menu only three things at a time (not knowing what they were):

Ghoulish Goulash. . . (Soup)

Bloody Veins Pilaf. . . (Spaghetti)

Deviled Delight. . . (Deviled eggs or cake)

Spooks Spectacular. . . (Cream Salad)

Skeleton Bones. . . (Fork)

Owl Eyes. . . (Cookies)

Screaming Cats. . . (Spoon)

Witches Brew. . . (Punch)

Flying Bats. . . (Knife)

Leering Masks. . . (Chocolate Cream Pie)

--Get some fluorescent golf balls and play in the dark.

--Have a pancake or waffle dinner at your home.

Suggested toppings are:

Strawberries and whipped cream

Maple syrup with pecans

Creamed gravy with chipped beef

Orange sauce with powdered sugar

(Boil 2 cups orange juice; add 1/2 cup sugar and bring to a boil again. Soften 3 tablespoons cornstarch in 2 tablespoons water; stir into boiling mixture till thickened, using a wire whisk. Add a glob of butter and serve hot over pancakes or waffles. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.)

--We had a pizza party and asked each guest to bring part of the topping. Roll out thawed frozen bread dough, or prepare regular pizza dough. Go creative with toppings and decorations.

--I took my date to her house and her parents helped us build a cookie monster out of homemade cookie dough.

--Make out a crazy questionnaire of things to do. Have your dates fill them out, and then do those things they circle on the questionnaire. (The party that did this played volleyball and horseshoes, and then sang.)

--After a dance, several couples came over and baked huge chocolate-chip cookies (as big as a pie pan). Then they spread ice cream on top of each, piled on the whipped cream, and put a cherry on top, and several couples took bites from every side.

--Each brought his or her own cake, different shapes, any kind. Frosting and decorations were provided. The best-decorated cake got a prize; then cakes were auctioned off at the ward dinner with money going for youth activities. (One sold for $26!)

--We had fun eating a spaghetti dinner with every utensil except a fork.

--We bought ice cream cones and then counted how many licks it took to finish them.

--We reversed roles and the girls drove and paid.

--Checking with parents beforehand, the young men knocked on the door at 5:00 A.M. The parents told their daughter to throw on some old clothes quickly and answer the door. When she did, a blanket was thrown over her head and she was carried out to the car and taken to the desert for a fun early-morning breakfast.

--Our daughter invited a friend and the family for dinner. She sat us down at a picnic table covered with a red-checkered oilcloth. First she brought salad and dumped it in the center. Next came hot spaghetti, which she arranged down each side of the salad and then covered with sauce and Parmesan cheese. She handed us each a fork, a napkin, and a loaf of piping hot garlic bread and set us to eating. It broke the ice and changed an awkward meeting of a special friend into laughter and fun humor!

Creative Dates for Intellectual and Cultural Development

--I hated classical music; at least, I did until my date took me to hear an organ recital. He said he hated it too before we went, but afterward we decided we both like it!

--We went to an art museum and pretended we were critics. People thought we were pretty funny.

--During the summer, most libraries show several top-rate movies free at their theater or at a grade school. Get the schedule by calling the local Parks and Recreation office.

--There are probably many places in your community that offer the use of their craft facilities for a small fee. You can learn ceramics, painting, drawing, pottery, stained glass, fibers, needlepoint, photography, woodworking, drama, and jewelry.

--Try out for your local drama production. There isn't anything more fun than developing a common bond through sharing such a continuing experience.

--Most museums are inexpensive or free. Make it a point to visit every one in your area. Have a treat after each visit.

--He took me to his house and gave me some coveralls, and we worked on his motorcycle. After we got it running, he took me for a ride.

--Most high schools have an orchestra or band and prepare at least three or four concerts a year. Most are free. Also, many communities have their own city orchestras or bands and present three or four concerts a year for modest admission charges.

--Plan ahead a special route on bikes. Eat the first course of dinner at one house, second at the next, ending with dessert and a good video at the last house. (Or reverse it, starting with dessert for fun.)

--Dress up like cowboys and cowgirls. Visit a ghost town and make movies. Finish later with a "showing," complete with popcorn and tickets.

--Choose a special event (birthday or departure) and prepare a scrapbook for that person: poems, essays, collages, pictures, and so on.

--Make a batch of cookies and invite those needing to pass the biology or history test over to study.

--Go to the library. Finish back at the house with submarine sandwiches or chili.

--Get acquainted with various occupations; visit such places as a citrus, dairy, or fruit farm; a glass, steel, or shoe factory; a cannery or a clothing plant; a grocery or banking business.

Creative Dates for Developing Physically

--We had games marathon style. Each couple was a team. We played table tennis, horseshoes, and croquet.

--Fly a kite and finish with a picnic lunch.

--We roller-skated all over town with three other couples, then skated to the ice-cream parlor. Another group roller-skated all over the high-school sidewalks.

--We made patterns in the grass with the mower.

--My date and I went with my parents to the mountains. They sent us on a hike and had dinner ready for us when we got back. It was fun, and I got to know my own parents better.

--My date and I went with four other couples to a nearby hill on bicycles to watch the sunset. As the sun was going down, we talked about the things we were most thankful for. It was special!

--You may have to pay the Forest Service a small fee to get your own Christmas tree, but it's an incredible experience. Just wear warm clothing and waterproof shoes and let others know where you are in case of bad weather or other problems.

--The best date I have been on was a picnic in a cornfield. We ate, and then put on music and danced fifties dances. Afterward we played games we used to play when we were kids (Red Rover; Red-light, Green-light; and so on).

--The members of our priests quorum brought dates to the bishop's barn. We had a dinner and a square dance. It was a blast.

--We like to play football with our dates at the local junior high.

--We picked up our dates on a horse and took them riding around the rim.

--We played tennis about an hour and a half before sundown. The tennis courts were next to the track, so when it became too dark to see, we ran the track for a while. Then we sat on the grass and talked about our lives and our goals.

--We visited a cave.

--My date suggested we spend the evening seeing what we could do on less than ninety-nine cents. We first bought ten pieces of gum. We then bought a thirty- nine-cent package of birdseed and fed some birds in a park. Finally we bought some marshmallows and roasted them at his house.

--I've had the most fun with a great big group tubing, walking, and riding in the mountains looking at nature. Things like that are a lot more fun and uplifting than elaborate, expensive dates.

--Take a sightseeing tour of the city on hikes.

--Go to the park and play on all of the equipment. Finish with a hike to an ice cream parlor.

--Wash cars. Don't wear white T-shirts.

--Take your little brothers and sisters to the zoo.

--Have a Frisbee chase in the park.

--Go to an athletic contest at halftime. You'll get in free!

--Have breakfast and a game of tennis before school.

--Go swimming.

--Play cops and robbers on horseback.

--Climb trees; play pool; have a water balloon fight.

--One is "It" in this game of water polo. "It" closes his eyes, counts to five, and then shouts "Marco." Everyone is then obligated to yell "Polo" while "It" tries to get them. Warnings to keep "It" from hitting the side of the pool are important!

--A large water-ball is thrown to members of team, who try to keep members of opposite team from getting it.

Creative Dates for Spiritual Development

--Read the scriptures on Sunday night. Add popcorn or punch and cookies and take turns reading.

--My three friends and I decided to ask three inactive girls for a date. Two of them are active now!

--We rented a BYU film for seven dollars and invited three couples to watch it with us. After the movie we talked for about three hours about the movie and our goals. Many great movies and filmstrips plus projectors (if a trained person is there to help) can be checked out from the meetinghouse library and shown to a group.

--Go to an older person's home. Work together in the garden, mow the lawn, and clean house.

--We had a surprise dinner for a boy in our ward who is going on a mission. He was the only one who didn't have a date. After the dinner, he told us why he was glad to be going on a mission. It was really uplifting and made me want to marry a returned missionary.

--We went to our ward genealogy room and looked up names and stories. At first I was embarrassed and didn't want to go, but it was really fun to read about some of those pioneer people.

--We walked around the temple grounds, then went to the visitor's center and saw the exhibits and movies. We listened to the guides and then shared our thoughts with each other.

--We went to a Church dance. Afterward we went to my house, fixed a sandwich, and went outside and talked about the beauty of the earth and how God has blessed us. We had a great discussion.

--Attend church or firesides together.

--Practice your seminary scripture chases.

--Play Scrabble, using Church names and places.

--Visit the sick, afflicted, homebound, or hospitalized.

Encourage your teenagers to try some of these dates or, better yet, to come up with some equally creative date ideas that will help them get to know their dates better while becoming better people. Dating, like most of life's activities, can be a powerful way to grow and to have fun at the same time.

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