Making every effort to be obedient, Nathan* and Mark consistently dated in groups. Nathan always asked out Jennie and Mark brought along his girlfriend, Sue. The two couples shared a vehicle and while sitting in the movies, holding hands with their respective dates, they each shared a kiss. When they weren’t on a group date, Nathan and Jennie constantly texted one another. Mark and Sue walked the halls of the high school, holding hands. When Prom came the two couples shared a limousine, and shared a restaurant, but didn’t share a dance with anyone other than their date.

The parents of these active Latter-day Saints imagined they were following the counsel of the prophets. After all, their children had waited until they were sixteen to date, and now they had turned sixteen they were going on group dates. But clearly there is something wrong with this picture.

The purpose of a group date is not to provide same-age chaperones for already established couples. Teenagers make lousy chaperones. Generations ago, before bucket seats were invented, couples routinely made-out in their shared vehicle, one couple choosing the front seat, and the other the back seat. Clearly, teenagers will not protect one another from immorality. If anything, they will enable it.

We must be very careful that we don’t justify negligent parenting by claiming, “I always made my kids go on group dates,” or wink at coupled-up adolescents with the rationalization, “At least they are dating in groups.”

Group dates can be a deceptive mask for true obedience. Like the youth who has 100% seminary attendance, but is breaking the law of chastity, or the Word of Wisdom, outward behavior is pointless unless it coincides with inward desire. Group dates have purpose only when youth truly desire to avoid pairing off while still in high school.

The Real Purpose

The true purpose of a group date is to help couples avoid pairing off. Ideally group dating allows two young people to go “on a date” for an evening, and be paired off for an evening, but not for a lifetime, not for Sophomore year, or Fall semester or even for the month of September.

On a group date, a young man learns to be a gentleman, mind his manners, and to converse with members of the opposite gender. For example, when he hangs out with boys all the time, he might get really good at basketball, but might not get good at conversation. Likewise, girls who always talk about relationships may miss out on the camaraderie that that boys learn while playing team sports. Boys and girls can learn a great deal about relationships from one another, and they don’t have to be in an exclusive relationship to learn these lessons.

Learning about one another during adolescence will help young people make better choices about whom they will want to pair off with once they return from their missions. Young adults won’t waste time exclusively dating someone with whom they are entirely incompatible, as happens regularly to high school students who pair off.

Young men are frequently terrified of dating because they think they will be pressured into becoming exclusive or pairing off. You can’t blame them one bit for refusing to go on dates when this fear lurks. Young men won’t have a reason to fear dating if they can be assured they are obligating themselves just for an evening and not a moment longer. (The expense of dating can also scare a lot of young men away. See the Meridian article, “Pre-mission Dating: Who Foots the Bill?” for solutions to this dilemma.

Simple Sure-Fire Solution

Young men would be wise to decide FIRST, “What do I want to do?” and SECOND, “Who would enjoy doing this too?” For example, here in the South, a lot of young men like “monster trucks,” not the toy variety–real life, gigantic drive-over-the-top-of-your-Camry vehicles. I saw a client recently who wanted desperately to attend a monster truck rally. He just needed a date.

Whether a young man feels obligated to attend his friend’s graduation ceremony and needs a date to that event, or he really wants to see a certain concert that is coming to town, he might just as well invite a girl as another guy. He will do so when he isn’t afraid she’ll make something out of nothing. He’ll ask her out when she knows it’s a friendship date, and is totally comfortable with the fact that she may not get asked out the next time he needs a date.

The Meridian article, “Casual Dating is Alive and Well” shares the experiences of a college freshman who went on a whole lot of dates just by being the person who was available when one of the guys she knew needed a date to an event.

Young men who focus on an event instead of a person will enjoy dating, rather than fear dating. If they have a variety of interests, they will find it easier to date a variety of girls. The date can be deemed successful when they both enjoyed the activity, without worrying about how much they enjoyed one another. Evaluating one another is not the point. His date is not on trial to see how much he likes her and if he’ll ask her out again. In high school the point of dating is to enjoy a variety of people, and enjoy a variety of activities, not to pick favorites.

In college, or after a mission, the point of dating is to do the opposite, to settle down with one person, become exclusive, make commitments. And that will occur with greater success when youth don’t pair off in high school.

*The names in this article are fictitious and are not intended to depict an actual person or persons.


JeaNette Goates Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Jacksonville, Florida and the author of Unsteady Dating: Resisting the Rush to Romance, available at and at