The Latter-Day Saints have unique dating patterns from most people in the USA. LDS dating culture is still under the influence of local characteristics, however, certain ‘standards’ are universally held among the faithful. LDS dating is viewed as a short step away from marriage. Many people nowadays simply date for many years without assuming a serious marriage commitment. Members of the LDS are encouraged to treat dating as ‘shopping’ for a spouse and are also encouraged to look for dating partners among other faithful members of the church.
Most teenagers in the world have begun some kind of dating practice by age 13 or even earlier. Many parents are willing to trust young adolescents to pair off, which naturally leads to greater intimacy among teens. Young people raised in LDS culture are encouraged to hold off on dating until age 16, and even then are encouraged to maintain the relationship in ‘group’ dates, avoiding exclusive or steady relationships until the young man returns from serving a full-time mission. The young women are encouraged to hold off on exclusive dating relationships at least until after they graduate from high school.
Regardless of what stage of LDS dating takes place, the members are taught to keep the relationship free from physical intimacy until after marriage. Members are taught to remain virgins until they get married, and sexual purity is a requirement to be married in LDS temples where the couple will make binding marital covenants not only mortality on earth but also after death and into eternity. Chastity is considered spiritually essential so young couples are urged to postpone all physical relations until they are legally married.
The LDS church is publicly in favor of the institution of marriage, and has gone as far as to encourage its members to fight for it politically to maintain traditional marriage as currently constituted. Members believe that marriage is required to reach the highest levels of celestial glory after death. They also believe that their families will remain intact beyond death and continue throughout all eternity. LDS church members take dating relationships very seriously and do not usually maintain dating relationships for very long before deciding about marriage.
A big difference between LDS young people and most people nowadays is that they are taught that the sin of adultery extends far beyond marital betrayals. The ‘law of chastity’ also extends to fornication, which is physical intercourse prior to marriage, and also a serious sin. Dating activities which tend to lead to such fornication, such as passionate necking and ‘petting’, are also sinful.
LDS dating strives to maintain the focus on ‘having fun’ without physical relations during social activities. Church leaders have stated that courtship is important serves to allow people to meet and interact with members of the opposite sex with the purpose of finding a suitable partner with whom to share this life and the life after death. The search for an ‘eternal companion’ is the driving force behind LDS dating, one which can lead to powerful emotions deeply rooted in religious beliefs.
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