I wanted to begin this article, “It’s that time of year, when teenage girls across America pin their favorite gowns, experiment with gorgeous hair styles, the latest in make up application, and plan the perfect mani-pedi.” But the truth of the matter is, dreams of primping are not restricted to prom season. Teenage girls pay attention to their dress year-round, and they start pondering prom attire months before the actual event.

Along with the delight of primping and preening come many pitfalls. As fun as it is to glam-up, these pitfalls may tempt adults to cancel prom event all together. When the students at one high school began renting yachts for their prom evening, a principle in New York put his foot down, and crushed the high school prom in its entirety.

Rather than eliminate prom all together, Latter-day Saints in various locations have decided to create their own version of the Senior Prom, or High School Prom, an event celebrating the graduating seniors and attended by students in each class. The intent of a Mo-Prom or a “Mormon Prom” is to keep all the good things about prom and eliminate the pitfalls.

Ridiculous Expense

Probably one of the most universally acknowledged pitfalls of prom is the expense. For girls and boys alike, the evening can cost a semester’s allowance. Depending on how elaborate the youth become, and renting a yacht indicates there is no limit to their indulgence, prom costs can be prohibitive.

At the very least, youth will buy/rent a dress/tuxedo, and shoes to match. They will pay for a corsage or boutonniere. Girls may spend a fortune at the hair salon, adding everything from highlights to extensions to their hair. Many will include a manicure and pedicure, or even a variety of waxings. Boys burdened with asking the girl on a date may feel obligated to pay for her dinner which, depending on the restaurant, can cost more than a family’s monthly grocery allowance, even without alcohol. Unscrupulous schools will demand exorbitant entrance fees to the prom itself, depending on the venue and the band, etc.

Prom epitomizes the bane of high school–feeling inadequate among your peers, and feeling constant pressure to keep up. High school itself is a constant struggle to avoid comparing yourself to the others students: who is the best dressed, the best athlete, the strongest, the prettiest, the smartest, the most popular, the coolest. Constant comparison, and constant feelings of inadequacy are the scourge of high school to begin with. Participating in prom can exacerbate “keeping up” insecurities already plaguing a high school student.

Furthermore, such financial extravagance teaches youth terrible lessons about managing their money. The youth who are willing to spend excessive amounts of money on one night of pleasure, with the motive being largely to “keep up with the jocks” are the same ones who could one day be unable to pay their mortgage because their cable bill is so high.

Clearly Mormon Prom addresses this travesty and attempts to eliminate it. An appropriate Mormon Prom will be held at a church building, and there will be no admittance fee. Wise parents will borrow, or sew appropriate clothing. My oldest son attended his one and only prom in a tuxedo belonging to his date’s father. The couple thought it was hysterical to see a 17-year-old bursting the seams of an adult’s suit.

Latter-day Saints tend to band together when it comes to sharing their talents. Someone in the ward inevitably knows how to construct a corsage. Someone else will likely host a dinner. At my daughter’s first prom eighteen teenagers lined a banquet table placed on our back patio and her dad waited tables dressed in his own tuxedo. Again, half the fun for the youth was watching a member of the stake presidency struggle to avoid flooding the goblets of water.

Dress and Appearance

The inappropriate dresses worn at secular proms may have been the catalyst to launch some parents into planning and executing a Mormon Prom. School proms are typically a fashion show for sexy, revealing attire. Dresses that are cut too low, dress backs that do not exist at all make one wonder at the clever designers charging for an entire dress when they only sold a half one.

More dangerous still, is the fact that our daughters are at that brief age where their bodies clearly look stunning in such clothing. The problem is just that: the girls do stun these boys, they stun them into a stupor of thought, prompting them to think and do things they would not ordinarily think and do if viewing the same girls in a Sunday School dress.

In an attempt to eliminate evils worldly proms promote, Latter-day Saints will want to take caution that they do not forget the full purpose of Mormon Prom. Mo Prom is not just an attempt to save money and teach wise financial management. It ought to be an opportunity to teach our youth to dress modestly and to witness beauty and elegance in covered cleavage and covered shoulders. If we walk into a transformed LDS gymnasium and see the same dresses we would see in the Marriott ballroom, we have gone to a lot of work for absolutely nothing. A Mormon prom truly ought to look different from the world’s prom. Music we hear and the dance moves we witness need not resemble those of the world any more than the clothing. Suggestive dancing has no place at a Mormon Prom.

Moral Behavior

The most tragic prom tradition of all prom traditions is that high school students often use prom as an excuse to behave in immoral ways. This is the night, this is the event, this is the circumstance in which they ignore their values, and they indulge in sexual activity that is unarguably prohibited before marriage. The tradition of staying out all night or renting hotel rooms enables this reckless and regrettable behavior.

Mormon proms can eliminate any semblance of immorality when they do one thing: they must NOT encourage coupling. LDS youth who attend Mormon Prom need to remember that they are “on a date,” they are not “dating.” Although they will spend the evening together, that does not mean they will spend a lifetime together (or even the rest of the summer). LDS youth not in a position to marry (which is all pre-missionaries) should not pair off, or enter into exclusive relationships.

Just because a couple poses for a picture together at Mormon Prom does not mean they will be posing together for wedding pictures.

  Prom is an opportunity for boys to act like gentlemen, for girls to act like ladies, to engage in “pleasurable conversation” to mingle with all kinds of youth, dancing with all kinds of people, not just their date for the evening. Youth who attend Mormon Prom will get everything they need out of prom, without the burden of what they don’t need, when we truly set ourselves apart from the world. Prom will then be a night to remember with memories they will be proud to share.

JeaNette Goates Smith is the author of Unsteady Dating: Resisting the Rush to Romance available at www.unsteadydating.com