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Is dating really the only way?
By Orson Scott Card June 10, 2010

There are plenty of reasons why young men in a stake might not be asking out the young women.

Please notice that I'm not capitalizing those terms; by "young" I mean "younger than me and not yet married."

Familiarity Breeds Contempt? In some wards, the boys and girls have been together since spitwads were being thrown during Primary. It would be like dating your sister.

Or so I've heard, but I don't think I believe it. Because I know an awful lot of married people who met at church. Including my wife and me.

I think the secret is for a guy to find a girl who is enough years behind him that she was never in the same class, so they will have no memories of seeing each other at their silliest.

Dating Is Gossip Fodder. We live in a malicious era, when asking someone out is only half a step from proposing marriage, and the gossips have a young couple permanently attached from the first date.

It's ridiculous when a single date means that to date someone else you have to "break up" with the first person.

Wise leaders will get this issue roped and tied in three seconds, by getting the young people together and saying, "In the outside world, 'dating' can mean you're doing everything short of moving in together, but inside the Church, a date means nothing more than this: You agreed to go somewhere together, and then you did as you agreed."

Dating Wrecks Friendships. When I was a teenager, I never asked one girl out on a date. Here's why: Most of my best friends were girls. I knew perfectly well how they talked about the guys they were dating. I also knew which kinds of guys they had crushes on. I wasn't on anybody's list.

So by not asking them out, I didn't endanger our friendship and I didn't risk humiliation. It was lots of fun walking home from school with a bunch of girls sharing lively conversation -- with nothing at risk.

Dating, on the other hand, is just about the worst way to find out whether the other person will make a good spouse.

And finding a spouse is what dating is about, from the first date on -- if you're doing it right.

(When you're doing it wrong, the guy is working on how many sexual liberties he can take before he gets slapped down. When you're really dating the wrong way, that's what the girl is thinking, too.)

Biology has us searching for a mate. Our faith and our culture teach us to channel that desire into a search for an eternal partner.

Why Dating Doesn't Work. How much are you going to learn about each other when (1) you are trying to use your "grown-up manners" (and this applies to thirty-year-olds as much as teenagers); (2) your mother told you not to talk about yourself, but only to ask them questions to get them talking about themselves (this leaves you with neither person willing to talk about anything); (3) you are doing something completely useless that does not give you anything natural to talk about.

What can you talk about? The food? The movie? The dance? How far does that get you, especially if you don't care much about food, movies, or dances?

The problem with dating is that we make the foolish mistake of thinking that entertainment is the only possible activity for a date.

Work Together. Let me tell you about a couple that I know. I'll call them "Rodney" and "Kitten," because I'm cruel. Rodney was painfully shy and hated all forms of dating. Kitten came from a family in which not a relative was still in their first marriage; she wasn't sure she even wanted to get married.

The leaders of the Young Single Adult program, being matchmakers by calling and inclination, decided that Rodney and Kitten were perfect for each other -- and that neither one was likely to realize it without help.

So they called them to put on an activity together. The task was complicated; Both Rodney's skills and Kitten's organizing ability were needed.

The result was that Rodney and Kitten didn't date at all. They worked together.

They're married now, with four wonderful children. (They are also extremely grateful that they are not actually named Rodney and Kitten).

Kitten was able to finish college. Nobody is pushing Rodney to get the degree he never wanted.

Rodney earns a modest income and Kitten stays home. They are both frugal by nature, and they do most household jobs themselves. So on that modest income they have a perfect credit rating and a solid savings account.

They are fantastically patient and understanding parents. Kitten is a conversationalist and Rodney enjoys letting her lead out on social occasions. Neither one particularly likes movies or restaurants, so they rarely eat out or even watch much television.

They knew these things about each other before they got married -- because they had worked together. Standard dating, on the other hand, would have had them sharing activities that neither one enjoyed!

Next week: The kind of date that actually helps you find a spouse.

Copyright © 2010 by Orson Scott Card

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