What are the Church’s Standards Regarding Dating?

“What are the church’s standards regarding dating?”

This 24 page teaching package has 10 awesome learning activities to help the youth really understand this important standard!

There are some great discussion activities as well as things to help them dig into the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and test themselves on what they know by heart!  You can find this package HERE.  It is also available in our August combo package HERE.

Included are some really great and effective scripture study activities like this one where they dig into Article of Faith #13 and answer the question, “what are the church’s standards regarding dating?” There is also a wallet reminder card they can stick in their wallets and remember to act in these honorable ways while on a date or out with their friends.

There is also a letter with four questions you can have mom and dad fill out for each girl.  They will LOVE and treasure this letter.

Included is a page of awesome quotes that are really relevant to the youth.  There is also a print with 40 cheap and fun group dates.  That is a great handout!

You can find this package HERE.  It is also available in our August combo package HERE.

Here are some thoughts on this subject by Shannon:

Most youth love to talk about dating. If you say, “We are having a lesson on dating this Sunday”, record numbers will show up. It is what they think about and what to know more about! The funny thing about this, is that in my experience, many youth don’t date much anymore. I taught at three different high school seminaries in Salt Lake and I noticed that different schools had different dating cultures; but by in large “dates” were for school dances, and not regular weekend activities.   Otherwise, they “hung out” and “hooked up”.

HOWEVER – the youth definitely desired to date. Whenever we talked about it, their eyes lit up and I had their total attention and I consistently felt a great need to bring this back into the lives of our youth.  In this article are some questions that can help spur conversation about the standards in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, which I believe will help encourage proper dating.   The statements in this pamphlet are so inspired. But first, let’s talk about what a STANDARD is.

Formerly, a STANDARD was a military object (like a flag or an ensign) carried atop a pole. They were used as a rallying point in battle. “Here, we will fight!” they would say.  How applicable that symbol is for all of the standards in For the Strength of Youth. These are the points that the youth must battle – so they raise their standards, like Captain Moroni did. If a youth chooses not to raise that standard, they run the risk of defeat.

Dating is one of the standards that the youth must raise. So, how well do they know, and follow, these standards? The question isn’t whether they are forming relationships, they are.  The question is what are their standards around doing so?  It is worth a good discussion with them, and here are some questions that can help.

I would ask the youth these questions and see how they would answer these on their own, and then I would be prepared with counsel, quotes and scriptures to teach them further.

What is a date?

“A date is a planned activity that allows a young man and a young woman to get to know each other better.”  (For the Strength of Youth, Dating)

The growing culture in many high schools is now a “hook up” culture, and no longer a “dating” one. It is about “who is with who”, and not about “who I should take on a date this weekend”. Setting aside the dangers of hooking up, what about those social skills gained as youth date a variety of people? When I would talk to my students about this, the response is NOT that they didn’t want to date – it was that the expectation was:  that if they asked someone out that must mean that they wanted to “be” with them – so the pressure was too heavy. So they resort to “hanging out”, it is easier and has less pressure.

One of the dangers of this attitude is that many young men and women take this into their college years. Note what Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:

“Knowledgeable observers report that dating has nearly disappeared from college campuses and among young adults generally. It has been replaced by something called “hanging out.” You young people apparently know what this is, but I will describe it for the benefit of those of us who are middle-aged or older and otherwise uninformed. Hanging out consists of numbers of young men and young women joining together in some group activity. It is very different from dating….

“Young women, resist too much hanging out, and encourage dates that are simple, inexpensive, and frequent. Don’t make it easy for young men to hang out in a setting where you women provide the food. Don’t subsidize freeloaders. 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. “ (Ensign, June 2006)

I remember when Elder Oaks gave this talk, I was single at the time and was very aware of that attitude.  Although this talk was geared towards young adults – I can’t help but wonder how the expectations and attitudes about dating in high school would naturally impact the behaviors in their young adult years. Hence, the next question:

What is the purpose of a date?

“In cultures where dating is acceptable, it can help you learn and practice social skills, develop friendships, have wholesome fun, and eventually find an eternal companion.” (For the Strength of Youth, Dating)

I remember when I first started dating – and all of the awkwardness therein. My girlfriends and I would always talk about waiting for the guy to get the car door, or to hug or not to hug when he walked you to the door at the end of the night. We would giggle and laugh through this wonderful phase of our lives. And date-by-date we would gain more confidence and the social skills to take us into our college years, where dating had a different goal. But we were practicing with each other – and it was so fun!

Imagine the possible consequences of youth in their teenage years put off gaining these social skills until they reach college. How could that impact their ability to find an eternal companion? How might that impact their confidence in doing so? It may be interesting to have this conversation with the youth about how their dating behaviors now (and not just chastity) can help them prepare for their future families.

This can be a pretty sensitive topic with certain youth who would love to date, but seem to never be asked. Blessed be the young men who understand that dating isn’t just about taking out the girls they have a crush on. Just like the young men who are aware at the dance and make sure that every girl gets to dance – how wonderful if they made sure that each girl also gets to go on dates and gain these same experiences.

President Boyd K. Packer said: “When you are old enough, you ought to start dating. It is good for young men and young women to learn to know and to appreciate one another. It is good for you to go to games and dances and picnics, to do all of the young things. We encourage our young people to date. We encourage you to set high standards of dating.” (You’re in the Driver’s Seat, New Era, June 2004, 8)

When should you begin dating?

“You should not date until you are at least 16 years old.”  (For the Strength of Youth, Dating)

Great object lesson about why youth should wait until they are 16 to date!

I used to pull out my driver’s license and ask the youth why they think we have to wait until we are 16 to drive. “How many of you wish you could drive before you are (were) 16?” I would ask (and many hands would go up). “Well,” I would ask, “why do you think this is so?  What are some of the dangers and pressures on the road?” And then we would talk about the emotional maturity that is necessary to even begin to handle a vehicle, laws and other cars – and the consequences that could be (to yourself and others) if you are not ready.

Driving and dating have a lot in common. There are a lot of pressures involved – and those that love the youth recognize that they can begin to handle them at 16, but there are still a lot of standards involved to help them be able to be strong through them – just like there are laws accompanied with driving.

If you ask the youth what it means to wait until they are 16 to date, most of them interpret that to mean the kind of date when a guy goes to a girl’s house, picks her up for a planned activity, and then brings her home by a certain time. “What about having a boyfriend when you are 13?” I would ask. “That isn’t dating” they would say. “What is different about it?” I would ask. “We just meet up with a group of friends – we don’t go on formal dates.” “Are you doing dating things that might require the emotional maturity this standard gives you an age for?” … that would really get them thinking… and rolling their eyes at me – which I love because it means they needed to hear it.

I love this standard because it is something that the youth can do with exactness. And as with all of the standards: they will never regret living them!

One common excuse is that some feel that they are more mature than others, so they can begin earlier than 16. This is what President Boyd K. Packer said about this: “When are you old enough? Maturity may vary from individual to individual, but we are convinced that dating should not even begin until you are 16. And then, ideal dating is on a group basis. Stay in group activities, don’t pair off. Avoid steady dating. Steady dating is courtship, and surely the beginning of courtship ought to be delayed until you have emerged from your teens.” (You’re in the Driver’s Seat, New Era, June 2004, 8)

Why should youth avoid going on frequent dates with the same person?

“Avoid going on frequent dates with the same person. Developing serious relationships too early in life can limit the number of other people you meet and can perhaps lead to immorality.”  (For the Strength of Youth, Dating)

There will be many youth who live and love this standard, and many who ignore it. There can be a certain status in high school if you hook up with someone and it makes them feel “desired”. The alternate view is that if you don’t have a significant other, you must not be desirable.

Blessed be the youth who helps change this dangerous belief and helps others recognize and feel value as they live the standards.  May we never fall for the world’s view of worth as we are clinging to God’s commandments and promised blessings.  I don’t think you will EVER find someone who lived this standard  and looks back and wished that they hadn’t.

I used to tell my students, “Your job is to help each other develop into fantastic, wholesome, strong individuals – you probably don’t know the person you are going to marry, but even if you do – it isn’t time to be serious. Your job is to stand back and let each other grow and become the kind of people you want to marry.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley said this: “The Lord has made us attractive one to another for a great purpose. But this very attraction becomes as a powder keg unless it is kept under control. It is beautiful when handled in the right way. It is deadly if it gets out of hand.

“It is for this reason that the Church counsels against early dating. This rule is not designed to hurt you in any way. It is designed to help you, and it will do so if you will observe it…

“It is better, my friends, to date a variety of companions until you are ready to marry. Have a wonderful time, but stay away from familiarity. Keep your hands to yourself. It may not be easy, but it is possible.” (New Era, January 2001, 13)

What kind of people should you choose to date?

“Choose to date only those who have high moral standards and in whose company you can maintain your standards.”  (For the Strength of Youth, Dating)

Great analogue about kids listening to their parents advice about dating!

This is an excellent standard to use when the youth are choosing who they should and should not go on a date with.  And they should absolutely use their parent’s wisdom to make these choices.

This is perhaps one of the most powerful quotes I have seen on this:

“Now, I speak very plainly to you, my young friends. If you are old enough to date, you are old enough to know that your parents have not only the right but the sacred obligation… to concern themselves with your dating habits.

“If you are mature enough to date, you are mature enough to accept without childish, juvenile argument their authority as parents to set rules of conduct for you “No sensible father would loan your new convertible to anybody, to go anyplace, to do anything, to come back anytime. If you are old enough to date, you are old enough to see the very foolishness of parents who would loan their children on any such arrangement. Don’t ask your parents to permit you – you, their most precious possession – to go out dating on such flimsy agreements.” (President Boyd K. Packer, Memorable Stories and Parables by Boyd K. Packer, p.55)

On a date, what responsibility do a young man and woman have towards each other?

“Remember that a young man and a young woman on a date are responsible to protect each other’s honor and virtue.”  (For the Strength of Youth, Dating)

I taught seminary with a teacher who once expressed his gratitude towards the young men and women who his wife went to high school with. He was grateful that they treated his wife with respect, that the boys took her on dates and showed her what a gentlemen was, that they respected her worth and her virtue – so that when it was time for them to meet and marry, she was ready, prepared, and looking for that.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if that is how youth approached dating in their teenage years?

It would be interesting to have a conversation with the youth about how this attitude would impact their dating experiences.

What kind of dating activities should be planned?

“Plan dating activities that are safe, positive, and inexpensive and that will help you get to know each other.”  (For the Strength of Youth, Dating)

When I have surveyed young women, they always prefer exactly the kind of date expressed in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. They like them to be safe, casual yet planned, and not expensive – and many of the boys were often surprised by this.  They thought the girls wanted grand productions all of the time, when actually the opposite was so.

It would be fun to compile a list of fun date ideas for the youth to look through and keep on hand.  Check out this post for 40 fun date ideas that fit the “safe”, “positive”, and “inexpensive” category.

What should be your standard for what types of places to go on dates?

“Go only to places where you can maintain your standards and remain close to the Spirit.”  (For the Strength of Youth, Dating)

This standard should never be compromised. There is no better way to ruin a date than to take a virtuous young woman somewhere where she feels uncomfortable. This standard should be held up to every place, type of entertainment, and what time she should be taken home.

Generally, who should take the initiative in asking for, and planning, dates?

“Young men generally take the initiative in asking for and planning dates.” (For the Strength of Youth, Dating)

Great thoughts about dating and guys being gentlemen!

I became very aware that among many youth this is viewed as an old-fashioned idea. Those same youth also felt that expecting a guy to get the door, or pay, during their date was some kind of sign of weakness in the young woman. “I can get my own door”, she would say.

I don’t think a young woman’s ability to get the door is ever in question. This is about a young man showing respect and honor to a young woman. This is not about a young lady being “less able” to the point that a boy has to get a door for her, actually the opposite is the case! A young man is choosing to completely honor her! This should never become old fashioned!

I have a daughter that will one day be 16, and you can count on the fact that I will be watching to see if that young man will treat her as we expect. And, even worse, my husband will be watching – and I wouldn’t put it past him to walk out and get her out of the car if she isn’t treated just right! Because this isn’t about a door – it is about how she is treated – especially when we can’t see her in our driveway anymore!

I can’t express how many times young men have said that it is awkward because they get the vibe that the girl doesn’t want them to get the door or do these gentlemanly things – so they just stand back and feel badly because they aren’t being gentlemen. “Do it anyway!” I would say!  I think what we often have, is a bunch of youth who aren’t sure what to expect, so it becomes awkward. So if the boys just take control and be a gentlemen 100% of the time, the girls will be relieved! “Even if you are picking them up for mutual”, I would say, “Go up to the door and get them and open the car door for them.”

My little brother used to get the car door for me – his sister 6 years older than him! This should be the standard. We just treat each other well.

And if you want to see how I personally felt about this whole topic in my dating life, check out this story about how I met my husband. (part 1, and part 2)

By the way, it isn’t a bad idea to have practice scenarios with the youth. How can you signal to the young woman that you are about to get the door for her? What if there are double doors walking into a building? Etc. They will thank you for the know-how!

How should one ask, accept, or decline a date?

Always be kind and respectful when you ask for a date or when you accept or decline one.” (For the Strength of Youth, Dating)

This is another topic that the youth would likely appreciate direction on. What should they say when accepting a date? Or how can they decline without making them feel badly? Or how can they decline even though they wished they could go?  It would be great to have some conversations about this so they feel prepared for these moments.

It is also appropriate to talk about the relationship of charity and dating. And that includes how we may decline a date with someone we don’t want to go out with, but still care about how they feel and how they talk about that person with their friends.

How should you act while on a date?

“While on a date, be courteous as you listen to others and express your own feelings.”  (For the Strength of Youth, Dating)

Dates are a fantastic time to develop important social skills like listening to others and finding good conversation topics. If a youth is able to go on a date where the plans all go wrong, but they are able to listen and talk to each other – it could be a great success! Likewise, if they come home feeling like there were too many awkward silent moments, they may hesitate to date again in the near future. Whatever may happen, it’s always good to ask yourself during the date, “what are the church’s standards regarding dating?”

It wouldn’t be a bad idea for parents to sit down and brainstorm with their children things that they could talk about, as well as how to listen and engage the other person, right before the date. Your child may roll their eyes, but they will likely use a lot of what you talked about!


  1. Thank you so much for this post. I am new to Young Womens and taught the MiaMaids and Laurels yesterday on the Church’s standards for dating. We had a great discussion thanks to the points you brought up. I think they really liked going through Dating in For the Strength of Youth, it showed them that the prophets and The Lord want to protect them and help them be happy!
    I’m especially glad that you pointed out parental involvement as one MiaMaid was saying her parents drove her nuts with their concern. We read the quote by Pres. Packer about the car, and then I took it a step further comparing it to my 1 year-old. I told the girls I wouldn’t hand her over to anyone, even just to hold her, I said to the girls that they are still just as precious to their parents as my baby girl is to me and their parents are just looking out for them because they love them. It was a great moment the Spirit was strong and I think it clicked with the Young Women.
    I know I will use these quotes again in the near future. Thank you for sharing your experiences from teaching the youth and your testimony on your blog.
    Heidi – Idaho Falls, ID

  2. I love that I found this post. We are currently putting together a dating conference for our youth to address these exact issues. Great insights, thanks for sharing

  3. Shannon,

    Thank you for your thoughts and insights into the wonderful world of dating. We are holding a Bishop’s Youth Discussion this Sunday night and your question and answers will help me tremendously.

    Thank you!

  4. It’s good to see some guidance being given for youth – but where is the bible in this? I mean, there are a host of scriptures that could be used in here instead of just referencing For Strength of Youth.

    Here are some I have found useful when teaching about dating/courtship (of which there is a difference 😀 )

    – Genesis 2:18-24 (Not good for man to be alone)
    – 1 Corinthians 15:33 (Bad company corrupts good morals)
    – 1 Corinthians 10:31 (do all things for the glory of God)
    – Ephesians 2 (honour your mother and father)
    – 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (hard teaching on lust)
    – Galations 5:14 (love your neighbour as yourself)

    These and a handful of other scriptures help (for me at least) to form guidelines around dating. My general statement to youth is that regardless of age, if youth aren’t ready to have godly self control with the opposite sex then they probably shouldn’t be dating. For my young men, I generally suggest that if they aren’t ready to lead the young woman and daughter of God that they should first look after their relationship with God and grow in maturity there, then approach dating.

  5. I am not a “replier” but I have been praying a lot about this topic for my kids and my YW and this was just what I have been praying for. I have been reading and trying to put it all together in a cohesive way and this is perfect. I appreciate the responses as well. Especially the one with the Bible teachings. Thank you for being led and being a doer. You are answering prayers.

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