Ahh, love. It’s a topic everyone loves to talk about, especially this month, when you see couples everywhere you look, and the streets become a blur of red from vendors selling plastic balloon hearts, flowers, chocolates, etc… to give to your significant other. Then there’s the mormon teens. Not allowed to date until 16.
Trust me, as much as this rule might give the bitter feels during Valentine season, there are some pretty good reasons why mormon teens are encouraged to follow it, and why you should, too.
1. BECAUSE TEENAGE YEARS ARE ALL ABOUT SELF-DISCOVERY
I’ve popularized this phrase myself, but have you ever heard of “dating yourself?” Yep, you heard right. Dates are defined as, “a planned activity that allows a young man and a young woman to get to know each other better.” As soon as I reached that age, my mom taught me that the next few years of my life would be about self-discovery, and there’d be no room to get caught up in the dating game until I turned 16.
Being the good daughter I was, I of course followed my mom’s counsel. However, it is only now that I realize that the most important person you will ever date is yourself. Because, how can you ever know the kind of person who fits in your life if you’ve never really taken time to know yourself?
Spend the years before you turn 16 as a time for self-discovery, to understand who you are as a child of our Heavenly Father, and you will be able to catch a vision for your future. Trust me, investing time in knowing yourself early on in life is something you will never regret doing.
2. BECAUSE YOU ARE STILL VULNERABLE TO HEARTBREAK, PAIN AND TEMPTATION
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “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.”
I think almost all mormon teens, or even their non-member friends have wondered why we must wait to date until such a specific age. Sixteen is not a magical age when you are suddenly prepared to date. This counsel from our modern prophets against dating before you’re 16 is for our emotional, physical and spiritual safety.
The years before this are a very vulnerable time and a period when Satan is constantly trying to find ways to stump your development as a person. The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet says, “Developing serious relationships too early in life can limit the number of other people you meet and can perhaps lead to immorality.”
President Hinckley reasoned, “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.”
3. BECAUSE TEENAGE LIFE IS MEANT TO BE ENJOYED
I am one of the few teens who cringed at the idea of dating someone really seriously at a young age. I thought, “There’s so much to do! So much to discover!” As one of the many thousands of mormon teens in the world, I didn’t want to spend the wonderful years of my young life getting into the messy process of serious relationships. I wanted to spend them as He would want me to spend them.
Alright, you might think, I’m completely against dating. (No, I’m surprisingly not) You might also think, “but dating is fun, too!” Dating is fun. It’s an opportunity for us to develop friendships and connections that will help us eventually choose the people we will spend our eternities with. But now is not the time for that.
Don’t wish this precious time to go by fast! Teenage life is meant to be enjoyed! It is a time when we develop bonds and friendships with other people, a time when we ultimately recognize our worth and identity as Heavenly Father’s children. Develop your strengths and know your weakness. Most importantly, have fun!