It seems as though we have our first hot topic of 2012 – the issue of whether to date people who are not members of the Church. So many members have written in with their personal experiences that we have all the responses we need, so don’t send any more letters on the subject! Just read the ones here and nod in agreement or shake your head if you don’t.
Here’s what our readers have to say:
I have a wonderful success story for you.
One of our sons had a great early morning seminary teacher. She said she grew up in an area where there were very few LDS boys to date (much like the area we lived in at the time). Her father told her that he wanted her to be able to date, even if it meant nonmembers. He told her to choose carefully who she spent time with, just as she would with a member. He said she should accept an invitation for a first date and then invite the person to a church dance or activity for the second date (if she wanted to). If they wanted no part of church “stuff,” then she needed to move on.
Our son took this advice to heart. He dated a lot of different girls and then met Diane (not her real name). He took her to a stake dance on their second date and on the way home she told him that she had really enjoyed it because she knew Mormons said they didn’t smoke or drink. She was surprised and pleased that they really did not.
Our son baptized her later that year. She waited for him while he was on his mission, and they were married in the temple shortly after he returned. They have been married for 25 years.
Like most things, this won’t work for everyone, but I think it is a good place to start. I will always be grateful for a seminary teacher’s father and the young woman who took his advice, proved it good, and passed it on.
Carol in Arizona
What a great suggestion, Carol! I’m glad your son had the courage to try it, and I’m glad it worked so well for him. This wise counsel from a seminary teacher has already affected your family, and it can help many other families now that you’ve shared it with us.
When I was single and going to the Langley Singles Ward here in Northern Virginia, there were so many more sisters than brothers in the ward that our bishop at the time asked one of the visiting general authorities what he should tell all the sisters who inquired about dating nonmembers. The general authority told the bishop that if the sister could find a “good” man (and he stressed the word “good”), she should date him and work on converting him. I had dated and dated within the Church and there was no one that I connected to.
Well, I took his advice and found someone who was just a “dry” Mormon (in my opinion). He didn’t drink, didn’t smoke and seemed to believe most of what I believe. We dated, married and several years later, he was baptized. A year later, we were sealed in the temple.
Unfortunately, after about eight years, he decided not to continue going to church. I know this also happens with men who have grown up in the church, gone on missions and married in the temple. I am leaving it up to Heavenly Father to work with my husband. He’s still that “good” man and I love him dearly. He supports me in whatever I want to do with regards to the Church and even goes with me to all the social functions. He truly enjoys the people but just isn’t interested in going to church.
I pray every night for him to return to church. I know that things will work out in the Lord’s time and I have faith that whatever happens is for my good. I just have the knowledge that God is in charge and things will work out.
It’s smart of you not to press the issue, Barbara. It’s awfully hard to wait for the Lord’s time, but ultimately that’s when things work out.
That’s definitely a tricky question. I have four adult children, raised in the Church and strong in the gospel, and never imagined them dating outside of the Church.
My oldest daughter asked a work friend to partner her to her school formal (prom). They ended up dating for about a year before she broke it off, knowing that’s not what she wanted. She eventually married in the temple and has three children born under the covenant. She says she learnt from her nonmember versus member dating experiences what it was she really wanted in a husband.
Another daughter met a wonderful young man at university. They were friends, then good friends for over a year before they actually began dating. He joined the Church a year and a half ago, and their temple wedding is planned for next year.
A third daughter is about to leave on a mission and has never entertained the idea of dating a non-member. Our son dated very little (if at all!) before his mission, then only dated members. His eternal companion had only been a member a year when they married – they actually had to fit their wedding date to her baptismal anniversary, in order for her to attend the temple.
Is this a cut-and-dried question? No way! This is a matter between the person and The Lord – it’s not really anyone else’s business, and pointing the finger and judging is inappropriate, as you don’t know the full story.
Believe me though, as a parent you worry and pray that things will turn out for the best (but don’t you do that when they date members too?),
Having said all that, I still believe it’s safer to date within the Church, despite the happy endings to the above stories!
I’m so glad you pointed out that there’s not one right answer for everyone, Jill. We’re all individuals, and what works in one situation may not work in another. Thanks, too, for sharing your success stories.
I feel that it is absolutely okay to date nonmembers, especially in high school. I grew up in Nevada, and there were quite a few LDS youth in my area. Unfortunately, many LDS boys my age were not living gospel standards, while many non-LDS boys were. As a result, I went on dates with some members and some nonmembers, and had wonderful experiences with all of them.
In high school dating, my father taught me that the most important thing was to get to know a wide variety of people and learn what qualities I like in others. When marriage is not imminent, a rule that “only LDS people are worthy to date” breeds exclusion and may overlook the potential date’s quality of character. For example, I knew a sweet Christian boy who wanted to be a minister someday and an LDS boy who did drugs and purportedly tried to reach up girls’ shirts. Can you guess which one I dated? If LDS status was a deeply important issue to my parents, I may have missed the mark.
That being said, once high school is over and one starts thinking of marriage, the bar can and should be raised. Young men and women aren’t simply getting to know a wide variety of people anymore; they are looking more exclusively for one. Ideally, they will have the desire to marry in the temple, which implies marrying a member. However, I know of many instances in which a righteous member dated a nonmember who ended up converting before or after marriage. I also know situations where the member still hopes and yearns for a temple sealing with a nonmember spouse. The answer here is so completely individual.
The important thing is to stay close to the spirit and be open to promptings to go on a date with a nonmember if it feels right. They may not convert, and it may not lead to marriage, but friendship and seeds can both be planted. The pathway to conversion and to the temple looks different for everyone. God moves in a mysterious way.
You are “absolutely” right, Absolutely. Thanks for pointing out, too, that alleged Latter-day Saints can sometimes be the wolves in sheep’s clothing, and that nonmembers can have the same values as Mormon kids do.
I home teach a sister who was originally sealed to a man who went south on her after six kids. She then dated and married a nice man who was not a member. We have almost got him baptized a few times, but no success yet. She had two children with him who are not sealed. None of her children are very active in the Church.
One of the counselors in my stake presidency has a friend that dated a nonmember but refused to be engaged if he were not a member and she refused to be married unless it was in the temple. He took the missionary lessons and joined and a year later took her to the temple. He is now an Area Authority Seventy. All of their children are married and sealed in the temple.
I know others who have been prompted to initially marry out of the temple and their spouse later joined. However, most of those I know who have done that, their spouses have not yet joined or taken them to temple.
I met a man years ago that told me his courtship story. He received a sports scholarship to a southern Utah college. He came to school knowing nothing about the Church. In his first semester he noticed a gorgeous young lady and told his colleges that he wanted to date her. In a few words they told him “fat chance” as she only dated Mormons and was choosy even then. He was so smitten by her that he investigated the Church on his own and joined. Afterwards he asked her out and, to make a long story short, they were married on the temple and reared a very successful family.
We ask those not married to set dating standards for themselves so that increasing emotional attachments that are apart of the dating process, including the increasing desire for full and complete intimacy drives them to marry someone less that they deserve and need. Most of the time strict dating standards are very productive for our young adults. However, there is enough evidence that shows that the Lord directs some of our young adults into directions outside of the common standards as he has other plans for their lives.
However, when a young man that is not a member or one that is not living the standards of the Church, says that the girls in our church are snobbish because they won’t date him, I say that is just a cop-out, especially if he uses it as an excuse for using drugs. Dating should never be used as a religious rehab tool or a friendshipping method.
If he wants to date good member girls, then he needs to meet their standards. If he is unwilling to do that, then he doesn’t need to complain about no dates with them.
Rescue and friendshipping in our church is the responsibility of the same sex youth and their leaders. They are the ones to reach out with open arms. There were a lot of member girls when I was young that didn’t want to date me, and I was a good member young man with all the religious qualifications. I just had to accept the fact that I was not meeting their expectations, whatever they were, and it did not scar me for life. I eventually found a good women to marry in the temple whom I am very happy with.
Thanks for all those great stories, Eric. Also, I appreciate your pointing out that nobody has the right to blame their destructive behavior on others. It’s hard for young people to be shunned by their peers. I know that because my own husband befriended nonmembers because the kids in his ward would have nothing to do with him. But when you start lowering your standards, that’s ultimately your own choice – and it is indeed a cop-out to blame others.
My take on the issue of dating non-LDS people is that groups of young, active LDS youth can fellowship a non-LDS person, as a group, but only as a group. Girls can fellowship girls, perhaps guys can invite a non-LDS boy into their “hang out” sessions, but dating non-LDS in a courtship sense is teetering on a dangerous cliff off which a good many young LDS people have been swept.
As a people we love fellowshipping. We know the truth of the gospel, and want to share it. We know we should bring people unto Christ. During the particularly emotionally-charged time of courtship and dating, however, it’s a terribly dangerous thing to engage in fellowshipping that so easily slides into courtship/marriage/or moral problems.
In mortality, it will forever be easier to sink to a lower level than rise to a higher one.
My husband and I have been married 36 years, and have had two of our five children marry outside the gospel, In both cases the relationships began as “fellowshipping.” It has not worked out well.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Vickie. Even though some people may be inspired to date nonmembers in a fellowshipping sense, this is not something that comes without consequences. Sometimes, as your family members learned, the consequences do not have happy endings.
I live in a place where Latter-day Saints are few in number. Active women outnumber active men. Why some women are deluged with proposals, and others have never even been kissed by the time they reach 40 still remains a mystery to me.
Most young women (even if they are pretty and clever and good) will hardly ever date if they stick with members – and we all hope they do, as if they date outside the church there is a certainty that their date will expect them to break the law of chastity with them after a few evenings out.
If you can marry in the Church, or remain celibate, then great. Pres Spencer W. Kimball said it was best to marry a nonmember as long as he was a good God-fearing person. But obviously younger women should only date members; dating non-members should only be done by those who have had no success finding a spouse inside the Church.
I suppose guys that have joined or become active later in life and have not gone on missions suffer some exclusion from picky girls.
I dated 50% members 50% nonmembers, and ended up becoming engaged to a nonmember. Luckily for me he joined the Church of his own volition a few days before we wed. This was good for missionary work, but it has caused some challenges. But it has meant that I have stayed in the fold of the Church rather than leaving like many others in my position have.
We all have to deal with what life brings us, which is dependent on the choices we make.
I especially loved your last sentence, Vim! Well done!
I think it is absolutely wise counsel to date those who are church members and who are worthy. Having been married to a nonmember I know first-hand how difficult it is to make a marriage work the more differences there are in your values.
But high-schoolers are specifically counseled that their interactions with the opposite sex are not to find a marriage partner but to learn what they want in a future husband and learn about themselves in wholesome activities, mostly in groups. So in our family we’d be talking about why they are associating with people of the opposite sex as teenagers and how that is so very different from what the world is doing and how if they are doing that there is much they can learn from people who are different from themselves, as well as those they think value the same things, so long as the underlying value and respect and self-discipline exist.
The real danger is that worldly teen relationships can so easily become faux courtship, and it is hard to give up those you originally sin with even when you know you should.
And sometimes the only person in a community who shares high standards is not the LDS peer.
That is why “For the Strength of Youth” speaks about going on dates with those who share your values.
I absolutely stand on the idea that when you start acting in ways that belong to marriage, and when you have reached the age and maturity where you can see yourself getting married immediately to the people you are seeing, you need to be restricting your selection process to those who share your love of the Savior, who practice the gospel much the same way you do, and who are worthy to take you to the temple. But until then, being with a variety of good people will broaden horizons.
You make good points, RNP. Thanks for bringing up the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet, too.
People, did you know there’s a new edition of the “For the Strength of Youth” booklet, hot off the presses? If you want to read the updated guide, click here .
Lucky for me my husband dated outside the Church, because I was not a member or even likely to become one when we met. He had been a good member his whole life and never even considered dating outside his faith until he met me and felt prompted that I was “the one.” After meeting me he got the blessing of his bishop to date me and his father was also behind us. The other three parents objected.
He baptized me before we married because I insisted that if I would not join, we would break up as I did not want a divided marriage. We have been very happily married for 23 years now, and I still think he is the best man ever. When I met being a church member was his only flaw; he was otherwise the perfect man. All the members I had met prior had been pretty awful people. I decided not to let prior experience prejudice me and did my own study. The upside to that is that I became a spiritual rather than social convert.
We have told our children that the default is to just date inside the Church, but that we should follow the spirit at all times. One of my three kids was told in a patriarchal blessing to marry someone magnifying his calling, among other things. She knows she must only date seriously inside the Church, but the others have no such advice. We really need to realize that what would be disastrous for one may be wonderful for another.
We need to always be mindful of individual revelation as well as really good advice from our leaders.
Happily Ever After
What a terrific letter, Happily! Loved what you said about the default being to date inside the Church, but that you should follow the spirit at all times. That’s something we should all remember – not just when we’re dating, but in all areas of life.
I worry about this a lot. I grew up in an area with very few members, and out of those few there were not many I would want to date. In some cases they were not worthy. Also, I had been in their Primary, seminary and youth classes for so many years that they felt more like brothers than romantic interests. My daughter is growing up in a similar situation, and I worry about her future dating prospects. Besides her brother and younger sister she is the only member at her school. I teach the ward seminary, and we have an enrollment of four kids. She is excited about going into Young Women this year, but by the end of the year there will only be five Young Women in our ward.
I have heard all the stories of dating nonmembers and them joining the Church. My dad wasn’t a member when he married my mum (a member), and he joined a few years later. But I have found it seldom happens. Instead they fall in love get married hoping the nonmember spouse will change. This seldom happens, and they always have a wedge in their marriage and in their future raising of children with very different standards. Or they get sick of trying to change the person and fall away from the Church as it is easier. Or they find it too hard to keep the commandments when someone you love pressures you to break them and leave the Church because of guilt.
But this is not the main reason I wish I hadn’t and why I hope my daughter doesn’t date nonmembers. The main reason is I worry about the boys I hurt. They fell in love with me just as I did with them. When I realised how serious we were and that they had no plans on changing religion (and I would only accept a temple marriage), I broke both their hearts and mine. I feel guilty about that. I hurt them, not because there was anything wrong with them, but because I had gone into a relationship thinking I could change someone.
Going into a relationship wanting to change someone is wrong. Once I realised how much I hurt them (and me), I stopped dating non-members. I eventually recrossed the path of one of the boys from my youth (luckily we had only briefly been in youth together so he was not too much like a brother). We had both since served missions and grown a lot, and we were able to get married in the temple.
I hope my daughter will not date outside the Church (and I realise that she has little prospects here), but we can drive her four hours to a stake dance, and YW/YM and YSA (eventually) conferences and send her on holidays to places where we have friends where there are a lot of church members so she can socialise with and date members. We have prayed about moving to a place with more members but have been strongly guided to settle here.
I hope you aren’t carrying around too much guilt over breaking boys’ hearts, Elissa. You never know what good influence you may have had on some of them. Who knows? Perhaps one may have eventually joined the Church (or become a better person outside the Church) because of your example.
I dated only members before I was married (I got married in the temple). Eight years later I was divorced and in my early 30s. Dating was very different this time and lots of times it was depressing. After reading the book, How to Get a Date Worth Keeping, I decided I would be open to dating anyone who treated me well and who I liked. It was interesting. The men I dated who were LDS weren’t always the most honest about their intentions. If I called them on something they were more likely to deny it. But non-LDS men were more straightforward and they seemed to respect it if a woman said no.
After four years of dating one man on/off, a lot of prayer and thought (including reading what leaders said about the topic) I decided to marry him. He was baptized but never converted. Now I get the other perspective and it’s a lot like the young men mentioned in the article.
My husband was not LDS so LDS women wouldn’t date him. Non-LDS women found him too conservative. He was stuck in the middle. People are always trying to convert him but when his family moved to Utah they were outsiders (I have told him that I, too, felt like an outsider when I moved here and I’m LDS). His parents were very turned off and still cling to their Catholic friends as a refuge.
It’s really tough to be new to a place and most of the people are only nice to you until they hear you’re not LDS. Or, they are only nice to you if they feel like you will convert. If you don’t respond they ignore you or get frustrated. I keep trying to help my home teachers see that they are coming for me and my son, not for my husband. When I invite the missionaries over it’s so my son sees their example.
My husband tells me in private if they start to proselyte he will get angry and let them have it. He’s not usually like that but he’s been tricked into things so many times that he’s suspicious. People invited him to dinner often, not telling him that missionaries would be there too. People can’t understand why such a good man could not accept the gospel.
I’ve promised him I’d never pressure him to become a member. He knows that’s what I want and feels bad that he cannot give it to me. I’m very happy with him how he is and don’t know God’s plan for him but am glad I had the courage to act on what I feel is right for me. Many times members don’t understand and probably some think I sold out, but then again, they don’t have to answer to God for my life, only their own.
Sorry this is so long, you touched a nerve!
I’m glad you wrote, Janet. As long as church members look at nonmembers solely as potential converts and not as people, they’re not going to convert anyone – and they’re not going to help anyone either. I know a lot of people disagree with me, but I don’t think the Church is for everyone. It’s just too big a commitment for some very good people to handle. I say, love em anyway (whether or not you date them). We shouldn’t just be kind and loving to members of our own religion.
I joined the Church in the 60’s in Oklahoma. I had just graduated from high school. I stayed there to attend nursing school while others in the ward went to BYU. I don’t remember anyone of my age who stayed behind for me to date.
I met my husband who was in training at the hospital, and we began dating. When it appeared to us both that this could be a serious relationship he asked me what difference my church was going to make. When I explained that it would make a big difference and about temple marriage, he began to investigate.
I feel very blessed to have met a man who had a heart willing to listen and really learn what the LDS faith was all about. He joined and we were married. Forty-four years and six children later, I would choose the same man. I do understand the danger of losing your heart to a nonmember and maybe losing your potential for an eternal marriage. But what about all the good people out there who would make wonderful, faithful members and eternal companions? There is definitely no one answer.
You make an excellent point, Experienced. There are a lot of wonderful people out there, both inside and outside the Church. If you believe after studying it out and praying that one would make a good husband or wife for you, I see no reason in closing a door that God may have opened for you.
Because an active LDS boy took a chance on dating a nonmember, I have been a member of the Church since my junior year of high school (1972). I attended BYU, where I met and married my husband (not my high-school date), was married in the temple, and have six delightful and active children and one grandchild.
Over the years my circle of friends has included members and nonmembers, and I have encouraged my children to do the same. I would say the line needs to be drawn between friends/group dates and single dates/romance, but that would have eliminated my opportunity to find the gospel.
Perhaps what is needed is more emphasis on the importance of eternal covenants and temple ordinances, rather than the Law of Moses “thou shalt not…”
Excellent letter, Carol. I like your emphasis on the spirit of the law rather than the Law of Moses. Thanks for writing.
I grew up in Arizona and attended college at BYU, so I can see how LDS populations are sometimes seen as cliqueish. However, we had a number of non-LDS kids who hung out at the seminary building during lunch, after school and attended social activities.
I now live in Ohio, which is a whole other situation. A dozen or so years ago, our ward seminary class had six on the roll and was lucky if three showed up. Now, there are more than a dozen, which makes it a lot more enjoyable. Even with the larger population of LDS kids, I notice few of them date each other very much. Maybe it’s because the population is still so small it feels like dating a sibling. They do go on lots of group activities together, and frequently invite nonmembers friends from school. One young woman became acquainted with the older brother of her nonmember BFF from high school, he ended up getting baptized, and they are planning a temple wedding in June.
I was a little concerned when one of my sons started dating a nonmember he met at high school. I needn’t have worried; she was a very nice girl, but ended up breaking off the relationship after a few months “because she couldn’t be herself around him.” Apparently, knowing his high standards made her feel pressure to live up to them, and she was not entirely comfortable with that.
On the other hand, awhile back, another of my sons was not able to find buddies at church to hang with and so found other friends at school. As they got older, some of these “friends” led him astray and he is now totally inactive. Some of the kids who were in our ward during his late-Primary, early Scouting years were from the “mountain west” and they, along with their parents who were in youth leadership positions, tended to exude an air of “super righteousness” that made some of the rest of us mere mortals feel like we didn’t quite make the cut, at least in their eyes. Actually, now that I think about it, we had some born-and-bred-in-the-east families that were a little like that, as well.
I sometimes wonder if things might have turned out differently, had the mix of people and personalities been a little different. Those people likely have no idea the effect their attitudes and actions may have had, nor, I imagine, did the ones who interacted with the juvenile in your original question. But I can’t help but believe that they will brought to a remembrance of their actions (or inactions) at some point. Hopefully, this can be a lesson to all of us.
Ellen in Ohio
Thanks for the reminder, Ellen, that our kindness (or lack of) can have a profound effect on the people around us. Unfortunately, not all Latter-day Saints are Christians.
Perhaps the question isn’t whether or not to date non-members, but when. I would encourage your readers to watch an excellent Families Under Fire talk called “No More Double Messages“. In it JeaNette Smith gives great perspective on stages of dating relationships. She shows how each stage fits into our children’s lives and how the language of dating has changed. Each stage also includes its own distinct physical interactions which we may be not realize we are pushing our children into too soon, but that is another topic for another time.
If you have noticed, “hanging out” today is equivalent to what “going with” or “dating” used to mean at one time. The term “dating” today can cover a broad range of activities/relationships from “liking” to “courtship.”
“Going steady” does equal courtship. Kids, high school or pre-mission, would be encouraged to hang out or go on official “dates” but not be “exclusively” paired off with one special person. After a mission or during college, they need to get serious about looking but they may not have had enough experience to know what they want in a spouse, so they would still consider themselves unready for courtship
even if paired off more often.
Ask yourself, “If the right person came along right now would you marry him?” If the answer is “yes,” then that is not the right time to be dating nonmembers. When you are still in the hanging out version of
the “dating” stage, where you wouldn’t think of marrying the people you are with, then what is the issue? You should include non-members. It is not the right time or place or circumstance for marriage; you are simply socializing and exploring what types of people would like to pair off with in the future on real dates (the important, more formal kind kids are often uncomfortable with these days).
Finding out that you may be attracted to a nonmember at that stage may clue you in to the fact that you really should not date a nonmember when you are ready to date for courtship purposes if your goal is the
temple. It is never fair or just to marry someone thinking you hope they change. We all do it to one degree or another on the little things, but this is big. Marrying someone, realizing you have to
compromise the core beliefs of either person, is rather selfish for both partners.
<p style="line-height: 10.
5pt;”>Thanks for pointing out, KJCO, that you should never marry somebody with the intent of changing him or her. People are essentially going to remain the people they already are, and it’s both unrealistic and unfair for people to go into a marriage relationship with the belief that they’ll love the other party once the spouse has changed into a “better” person.
Okay, people, that’s it for this week. I’ll see you next week with the rest of the letters for this topic (which I already have, so please don’t send any more!).
Until next time — Kathy
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