Dating a Nonmember

Ok, Sisters and brothers, I’m in a quandary and I need the advice of the communal hive mind of the interwebs. I have two children—let’s call them Betsy and Tom—who are dating nonmembers. Betsy is 18 and a Senior in High School. Tom is 16 and is a Junior.  Where we live in Texas, pickings for Mormons are slim. There are maybe a dozen kids their age who are LDS.

Betsy and Tom were both hesitant to initially tell us that they liked someone, knowing that we would definitely prefer them to date a member of the Church. Several years ago we established a rule that the children were only allowed to go on two dates with someone before their friend had to have a discussion with the missionaries. Not only for the sake of missionary work, but also so that the non-member kids would have an idea of what my children believe. So far the boyfriend and girlfriend have complied.

Here’s where things get tricky: the girlfriend and boyfriend’s parents are less than happy about the whole Mormon issue. Betsy’s boyfriend goes to church with us about half the time and has shown an interest in being baptized. He’s even applied to BYU (whether for the church or Betsy, I don’t know). His mother is the youth pastor at their church and is slightly horrified at the idea of her son converting.

Tom’s girlfriend is less enthused with the church. She’ll come every once in a while (her best friend is also LDS although in another ward) but doesn’t want any more discussions and absolutely refuses to go against the wishes of her parents who are Evangelicals and not too fond of our church.

My husband would be perfectly happy to forbid our children from seeing their boyfriend and girlfriend ever again. He was always completely obedient to his parents and thinks that our children should be too. I was a sneaky little troublemaker and I’m pretty positive that forbidding our children to date non-members would just lead to lying and sneaking around.

My husband’s point in not wanting our children to date exclusively is a valid one. The prophets have all advised against it. But when you like someobody a lot, you like somebody a lot and I don’t exactly want to have a Romeo and Juliet situation on our hands. Plus there’s the absurd idea that somehow being Mormon means that you’re super righteous. I can regale you with endless tales of RM’s I went out with who were slime balls. Then there is the whole issue of kids nowadays just hanging out. Which is what they do most of the time. My husband wants everyone to go on official dates, with fun activities planned. I think this would be a lovely idea but that isn’t practical all of the time. I remember just hanging out with boys I liked and I hardly think it’s the end of the world.

So here I am with a husband who is one step away from giving Tom’s girlfriend a scarlet letter A just because she doesn’t dress as modestly as a nice LDS girl would (theoretically. Sometimes it’s hard to find an LDS girl not wearing short shorts here in Texas.) But I generally like the boyfriend and girlfriend and think they are good people who are both spiritually-minded and not bad influences. I feel like it’s not a humongous deal, but my husband is convinced somebody is going to end up pregnant when all is said and done.

Am I supposed to go hard core and tell everyone that there will be no more hanging out? That they are only allowed to see each other if they are with a large group of people who are, say, going bowling? Not sitting around watching a movie? Is there no one-on-one dating allowed (I feel weird telling this to Betsy who is legally an adult but is super obedient and would probably comply.) The Church is largely mum on the issue. They say things like, “ask your parents or church leaders”. Or else they say things like, “maybe dating isn’t shouldn’t be part of your life right now.” Seriously? Too late for that!

If you were in my situation, what would you do?

About Hildie

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves. After years of "Mommy this", "Mommy that" Hildie is delighted to finally be waking her brain up for some other use.

56 thoughts on “Dating a Nonmember

  1. HI, my opinion is to always obey scriptures and prophets no matter what, the bonderies are there for our protection ! if we do what out finite minds thinks is ok, it will always end up in a mess. doing it Gods way and being obedience always brings us Blessings

  2. From my own experience dating a non-member (my husband) I would say to discourage your kids from forming a serious relationship with a non-member right now. My husband was every parent’s dream and had all the qualities the young men in my ward should have but didn’t. He joined the church 11 years after we met, 5 years after we were married. We have always been happy together and drama free, but we also both agree, and tell our own children, that even if the member/non-member issue is the only issue, it’s a big one. When you can’t share the most important thing in your life with the most important person in your life, that’s hard. If I could go back, I’d have stuck with him, but I would have waited for him first.

    Since that time, I have seen many youth date non-members, as we live nowhere near Utah. Some have kept those relationships casual, one saw several of her boyfriends baptized, though ended up marrying someone completely different. Most, however, were discouraged from their own tender and still forming testimonies. They pulled away from the Church, the gospel, their family and their friends. Let’s face it, when you’re young, those romantic relationships are all-encompassing and the influence of the one they are romantically interested in is stronger than any other influence, including family. If a boyfriend/girlfriend is hearing plenty of negativity about the church from his/her parents, you better believe it’s going to trickle down to your child and I have seen it happen many times that the member’s testimony falters because they want to maintain the relationship with the non-member who will continue to criticize his/her faith in an effort to get the obstacle out of the way.

    To give them your blessing because you’re sure they’ll just do it anyway may not be the best answer. Substitute any number of behaviors or activities into that equation and you’ll see what I mean. The Lord has given us the standards he’s given us for a reason. However, I also think forbidding the kids from seeing their boyfriend/girlfriend is also the wrong approach. As you pointed out, your daughter is effectively an adult. It’s time she make her own decisions.

    Perhaps the best way would be to prayerfully discuss the situation with your children. To point out your concerns and why you have them. To acknowledge the good things that come from their association with these friends, but also carefully consider the possible downsides, the things that could influence your kids to expect less of themselves and give up too soon the strong spiritual foundation that they are just getting started building. A foundation they will most definitely need as life goes on. Point out to them that it’s not about passing judgement on the people they associate with, but rather making sure that they live up to goal of who they want to be themselves. An important point might be that it’s not a great idea to get too serious with anyone, member or not, while in high school. Encourage them to pray sincerely for an answer and to then act on the answer they receive. This is how we are supposed to make all of our decisions and maybe it’s time they learn to rely on that.

    There are lots of non-members and, by and large, they are really good people. We shouldn’t avoid them, but we should remember that we have our own weaknesses and that when we are young, one of them might be that we aren’t quite strong enough to be strong for two.

    However you handle it, I wish you and your kids the best in figuring it all out. Being a good parent really is the hardest job there is.

  3. I started dating my husband as a nonmember right before turning seventeen and as he was preparing for a mission. I didn’t know he was mormon at first and as we dated I became more curious and started asking more and more questions. Sometimes I asked respectfully, sometimes we got in heated debates. All in all I respected his beliefs and supported him fully on going on a mission. I started seriously investigating the church once he left and I felt like there wasn’t so much external pressure to get baptized for my boyfriend. It worked out for us and we have been married for four years now. We have discussed how we will handle this issue when our kids are older and I think the important thing is that they should date someone with similar standards who is respectful and supportive of our children’s beliefs. If that is not the case and a significant other seems to be holding our children back I agree that banning the relationship is never a good idea. Expressing sincere concern and explaining what the ramifications could be (i.e. have them think in an eternal perspective). I am incredibly grateful that my husband’s family didn’t discourage him from dating nonmembers (there were no members in his high school besides himself and his sister). Also, he has told me multiple times that dating me was the best mission prep he had. While dating me and answering my hard-hitting questions was what helped him to develop his own testimony as he had to search out the answers himself. Perhaps instead of meeting with the missionaries, your children could present the lessons and in turn discover what they truly believe.

  4. I think this is a situation that calls for a lot of prayer. Forbidding a teen to do something sometimes makes that more desirable and ends up creating a situation that you were trying to avoid. This could end up in your children pushing back against you and the Church. So I would pray for guidance.

  5. It never really occurred to me that I should encourage my children to only date members when they’re old enough to date (the oldest is about 18 months away). We’ve rarely lived in places where there are many LDS, and there are plenty of good kids wherever we’ve lived that I’d be happy to see my children dating.

    My two main goals when my children are dating as teenagers will be to discourage serious relationships and to encourage respectful and kind friendships and/or relationships. I don’t expect to worry about whether their dates are Mormons if they are respectful of our standards.

  6. I dated a non-member in high school, kept my standards, went to BYU, and was married in the Temple to a member that later left the Church.

    There are no guarantees. I don’t know that I’d just tell them to go have fun and not think about tomorrow, but I bet they already have thought about tomorrow. Remember what you’ve been teaching your kids all these years, what they are still learning, and the whole of their influences. Then make the decision. But in my (admittedly limited) experience with teenagers, just telling them to stop dating these kids, especially after dating them for a while, is a recipe for disaster.

  7. I would have never even thought to make it a rule that they had to take the missionary discussions. There are lots of other ways to introduce them to the church/beliefs without the missionaries. Discussions are not a bad idea, just a little intense for only two date.

    As far as dating non members go, I get the concern and its valid. I would just encourage (our make a rule if your more comfortable with mandates) that they can’t date exclusively with anyone until they are in college. Its in line with church standards, but doesn’t limit them to only dating the few mormon kids in the area.

    other than that, just pray about it. the lord will tell you what to do. I would just be cautious about making demands for the same reasons you listed- rebellion is far more likely.

  8. I triple like what JM (#2) said. With our kids, I tell them over and over to hold off on getting a boyfriend or girlfriend in high school, to play the field, that they will have more fun, etc. And that applies to member and nonmember alike. I know my teenagers have “liked” nonmembers. And despite our request that they not go on dates with nonmembers, they have occasionally done that. I am not a fan of forbidding a teen, the potential to backfire is huge. But at the same time I talk and talk and talk and give my input, encouraging them to pray and make good decisions. And I explain WHY–that we want them to marry in the temple and only baptized members of the Church can do that. Now, I know that people DO join the church and that church members DO betray covenants, but it is more likely to end well if they start well–looking for and dating someone who is already on the path. Bottom line, you want them to have strong testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ and you want their decisions to be made and based out of that, so I would encourage them in their spiritual growth any way I could.

  9. Who ends up with their high school boyfriend/girlfriend? Unless you’ve raised your kids to think that their high school love is going to be their eternal companion you shouldn’t worry so much about it.
    Talk to them about developing relationship skills. This is about practicing and developing skills and gaining experience so that they can meet someone and not be stupid and know a good thing when they have it.
    I wouldn’t forbid dating. Just stress the rules about no sexual activity. As long as your child isn’t being stupid and can live the law of chastity no one will end up pregnant.
    I find it crazy to tell them not to date someone just because they aren’t Mormon. But I would also find it crazy to raise a kid who wouldn’t leave behind a girlfriend to go on a mission, or not leave home to go to college because of a boyfriend.
    I expect my children to make wise decisions for themselves even when they like someone and even if they fall in love. Do they manage to do their homework and complete all their responsibilities? Compliment them on that. Tell them you are glad that they are acheiving the right balance. Talk about different stages of relationships. When they are 14 they should learn how to talk to the oppposite sex and be friends. When they are 16 it is ok to date and learn to talk to each other with the added pressure about kissing and sex, but that it needs to stay in perspective. It isn’t a good relationship if they can’t handle all their responsibilities or if theere is presure about sex or love. Talk about reasons why people break up. Sometimes one person doesn’t like the other person as much. Sometimes one person feels more stressed in the relationship than out. Sometimes one person isn’t ready to take care of the other person’s emotional needs. Sometimes one person expects way too much from the other person that isn’t appropriate for their age. SOmtimes one person gets mean or immature when they are upset and they have some growing up to do. Sometimes people just have a bad dynamic and the relationship isn’t something worth staying in and that is ok. Sometimes its about sex. Things like this. Ask them to contribute their knowledge about relationships and try not to shoot down everything they say that is naive and stupid. Just help them view relationships from an objective viewpoint.

  10. If I had not been allowed to date any one who was not a member, I would never have gone on a date – there literally were no LDS boys in my school. We live in Georgia now and my children were allowed to date non-members. I don’t remember us ever putting restrictions on them. They knew our standards and they had developed testimonies of the gospel and we trusted them. We were very involved in their lives, and always met the people they were dating, but it has been my experience that when you put up a barrier, you are actually issuing a challenge that they will feel tempted to cross.

    It is natural to worry about the decisions our children make, but if they have not learned to make responsible choices by the time they are in their later teens, it is probably too late. It sounds like your kids are doing fine. Stay close, talk often, remind them lovingly of the standards they have been taught, and then enjoy them.

  11. One of my closest friend’s daughters dated a wonderful non-member man. He joined the church, went on a mission, and is now teaching Seminary.

  12. The biggest thing I learned from my own experience in this situation (also in Texas) is the truth of the expression, “You marry who you date.” What started as just a few fun dates with a non-member boy led to him becoming a serious boyfriend through my senior year of high school and three years of college. I was just a proposal away from marrying him–I’m sure I would have said yes if he had asked; we had already talked about it seriously.

    My parents never objected while I was in high school because he was a good guy with good standards, and by the time it became really serious, I was at college and they didn’t feel like they could/should. It wasn’t until a girl I was visiting teaching had the courage to speak boldly to me about temple marriage and the risk I was taking that I stopped myself.
    I prayerfully decided to trust in the Lord’s promises that if would wait for a marriage in the temple, He would help me find someone I loved just as much as my current boyfriend, but who could also go with me to the temple.

    Breaking up was the hardest decision I had ever made to that point, and it took five more years to meet my husband, but once I did, comparing the two relationships was like comparing light and dark. I found myself shocked at how much different and richer our relationship was because we shared our most fundamental beliefs, and I am so, so thankful today for that sister who had the courage to speak out boldly and challenge me.

    I don’t know what specific advice to give; I know every situation is different. I can only say again, from my own experience, “You marry who you date,” and what might not seem like a big deal now could have eternal consequences.

  13. I am a product of dating an LDS girl. However, I’ve had mixed experiences with my own children. One daughter dated a non-member boy for a year and she still managed to go to BYU. Once they separated, their relationship fizzled and she went on to marry in the temple. But she’ll be the first to admit she wishes she had not have steady dated. Have a son who steady dated a non-member girl, and as the usual story goes, they went further than they should have, but not quite as far as they could have. He’s working his way through the repentance process in order to serve a mission, and his relationship with the girl is strained. The problem I see is not so much the occasional date with the non-member but the probable likelihood that it will turn into a steady dating relationship and, usually, we marry who we date. I have five kids of my own plus I’ve worked with the youth for almost 30 years. I know very few teens who have “steady” relationships who did not end up having chastity problems. Unfortunately we can’t put our teens in a cage or force them to do anything. The FSOY guidelines really are there for a reason, but you can’t convince a teenager that he/she is not the exception to the rules.

  14. I agree wholeheartedly with M2theh (#4)–go straight to the Lord and ask for guidance with these children whom he loves even more (somehow) than you.

    My earthly perspective: I married a nonmember and had a daughter. We divorced. Daughter is now 17 and dating. I am still single.

    I have always let my daughter choose who to date, although we have explicitly talked about rules and standards.

    She knows I don’t date nonmembers, and we talk about why. When she was younger and then when she was first dating, she thought I was crazy and unreasonable in my own choice and told me (kindly) so in our discussions. There were just not member options nearby for me.

    Her dad was/is a good man, and we did not divorce because he was a nonmember. My daughter knows that I made a conscious choice to date nonmembers when I was younger and dating her dad–because I knew, as fact, that many nonmembers had better characters than many members. I told her, though, that you do fall in love with someone you date–you won’t fall in love with someone you don’t date. I fell in love with her dad. She will fall in love with someone she dates.

    While there significant reasons that had nothing to do with religion for our divorce, I told her and tell her that we did not have that to unify us and help pull us together to overcome the other problems. We were separate in that area of our lives. It was a critical area, an area that could have helped us through the other problems, that could have strengthened us in our marriage, that could have blessed us.

    Because of that experience, I do not date nonmembers. The demise of my marriage and divorce was too painful to risk repeating (not that member marriage would guarantee better outcomes–I know from my own parents). But, I would not force my personal rule on her. She has her agency. At some point, they have to start practicing using it.

    She dated several wonderful nonmembers. On her own, she is currently dating a wonderful member.

    This had nothing to do with me, not my rules, not my will overpowering hers. I count it as a blessing.

    Each child is unique. Each situation is unique. I am sure you are already praying earnestly about what to do. Maybe your husband will join you? Maybe you can fast together as parents? I am not saying you are right and he is wrong or vice versa. I am saying I am hoping you get the guidance and sweet inspiration you are seeking.

  15. My mother was baptized because she dated a member of the church. While I was growing up I dated several non-members. My personal rule was that for every two activities we did we would do one that was church related, ie: church dance, church sports, fireside, etc. I had several boyfriends get baptized not because I pushed the church on them but because they became socially involved and became friends with many members. I often think how different my life would have been if the parents of the boy who dated my mom would have not allowed him to date non-members.

  16. I live in an area where my own sons will have few opportunities to date members. I wouldn’t forbid my child from dating because I know from personal experience how forbidding a relationship can backfire.

    Our youth standards are there for a reason though. I think of more concern is steady dating either a member or non-member. A serious relationship is probably best not to pursue in any form in high school.

    I would pray about it and then counsel with your child. Share your very real concerns and ask them to prayerful about their choices and actions. Then go from there.

  17. I’m not a parent so I can’t speak from that perspective, but I did date a nonmember for over a year in high school. After we broke up he remained one of my best friends all through college and grad school. I went to his wedding this summer to a wonderful girl and they have one of the best relationships I’ve seen from all my friends who’ve gotten married, both in and out of the Church. Of all the guys I’ve dated, I still count him as the best one.

    I appreciate the fact that my parents trusted me to make smart decisions. Even though my friend never expressed any interest in the Church we talked about it, and still do on a regular basis. I think the quality of person matters most, and if the boyfriend and girlfriend in question are good, kind, honest people then it sounds like your kids are making good choices, especially since you also personally know the people they’re dating. They aren’t hiding them from you or sneaking around. Felicity is right, membership in the Church doesn’t guarantee anything at all (I just found out my very serious BYU boyfriend no longer attends), and at least in my own experience I learned a lot from my high school boyfriend, including how to talk about my religion and have positive conversations with someone who has differing viewpoints about things.

    I am always wary about writing people off just because they might not be a member of our Church. Ultimately though, they’re your kids. You get to decide what you’re comfortable with in your own family.

  18. I am a convert and was the lonely memeber in so many aspects of my life. I also loved a young man (non memeber) and knew he loved me.
    The Lord told me he was going to propose and I was to say “no thank you.” I didn’t believe the proposal would happen, but it did just hours later. Being obedient was the hardest thing I had done in life up to that point. I went into the attick and cried my heart out telling the Lord he knew nothing of love, expecting to die for speaking to Him like that. it hurt so much I almost wished I would die.
    I still love the man, as a brother, and so does my husband. We can do that because our relationship was totally innocent, like siblings. (The Lord told me later it had never been the marrying kind of love.) I then thought, said, and fully bel;ieved that I would never leave Finland, never marry, never have children, just work 9In an amzing job I had) till I died, but the Lord had different plans. I did marry in the temple, in Utah, had six children tehn adopted two more, and love them, and our 24 grandchildren. It worked out for me…but not for our oldest daughter.
    She dated her boss who was older than her and could manipulate her easily. He is a great mand, a good provider, and a fun Mountain Man, but he is not into the Gospel, the Church, or the commandements, not at all. She challenged me at one point in our converstaions to tell her not to see him again, and I surely was tempted, but the Lord told me not to mess with her agency, so I told her to take it up with the Lord, expecting that she would do as I did and end up extremely happy…as I did. But no, she married him. She loves him, and he loves her, but she goes to church alone with one of their children, the other one is drifting away, not just from the church, but the family too. Our hearts break for both them more often than I care to count. But it is still not a good idea to mess with agency. Just pray and love, love, love and love some more!!!! There are no guarantees in any other relationship except the one you have with the Lord. His love carries you through everything. Obedience to Him brings amazing blessings, but not always what we think we want. All my youthful friends in the church who dated non memebers are gone from the gospel. President Benson told me way back that the happy conversions are extremely rare. We taught our children teh best we knew how, then just loved them. Then they made their choises.
    We pray daily for the youth in the Church in every temple and all over the world, and they need every prayer and all the love we can give them.

  19. Yep, I agree with others that steady dating is the real issue here.

    There are massive potential pitfalls – spiritual, academic, social, and psychological. Not worth the risk at all.

  20. I just have a second, but my husband and I have had these exact same issues and I sometimes had to remind myself that my husband, though maybe needing some softening, is responsible for the ‘protection’ of our family.

  21. I would be welcoming and wary of the exclusivity which is a bigger issue IMO. If your children are dating evangelicals, his/her parents will put a stop to it pretty soon. Your son‘s girlfriend has already made her choice…and she should be applauded for doing exactly what you want your son to do: be obedient to God and parents. Sounds like you have an opportunity to encourage your son to support this girl and put some distance between them.

    Dating at this age should be about fun and practicing manners. It sounds like you feel it is a time to be a precursor to marriage.

  22. You guys are the best! Thank you so much for the stories and advice. It’s a thorny issue and honestly not one I thought I would have to deal with. But I do need to pray more about it because ultimately Heavenly Father is the only one who knows the hearts and intentions of everyone involved.

  23. Two things occurred to me as I was reading this question.

    First, how can you expect to provide good guidelines and support for your children if you and your husband aren’t on the same page? As parents, you need to be united.

    Second, as a parent I would not allow my child to attend another church, listen to membership discussions, etc simply to date someone else. I protect my child’s religious integrity and I have to respect someone else’s choices as a parent to do the same. I wouldn’t make discussions and church attendance deal breakers for dating. Families are central to our beliefs and I would not want my child (or the person they are dating) to feel like they have to make a choice between a date and their family. They should pick family every single time.

    I have found it much more effective to make sure that the dates know what I expect from them and my child before they go out. I would frequently have them in my home being an example.

  24. I am a mother of five, four of whom are ( or have already been) teenagers. I would use the guidelines in For The Strength of Youth as my guide. If your children don’t have a testimony of following the prophet’s counsel (or if you don’t) I would start by seeking that testimony. Steady dating is better left until someone is ready to look for a spouse. If your kids are not at that stage, group dates are better. They can still develop meaningful friendships. I think the danger is in thinking that somehow romantic feelings should always be trusted and pursued. My advice to my girls is that you can fall in love with anyone, no matter how good of a person they are, so be careful who you fall in love with. I was not a member as a teen, and started dating my husband at 16, and got baptized at 18. Do I recommend that to others? Absolutely not. It was very difficult for us to keep the law of chastity. He could have just as easily introduced me to the gospel as a friend. I allowed my oldest daughter to date a boy steadily who was a member, and it was a disaster. She got her heart broken. I don’t think that just because there are slim pickings in Texas means you should lower your standards. Kids don’t need romantic love in their lives. They can thrive off love of family and friends, and the love of God. I wish you success as you continue to strive to do what’s best for your family.

  25. I dated a non-member and he is now my husband.
    I truly wish I had listened to my parents and the prophets. My husband is a great man and a great father. He is called a dry Mormon because he has all the good qualities of what the Lord asks of us. One major thing is we don’t share religious beliefs and our children have been raised in my faith. He has always been very supportive in all my church callings and supports our boys in all they do. It’s just harder when your spouse is not a member.
    Your children will have to make that choice since they have their agency and we can not truly stop them from doing what they want anyway. I wish my parents had not been so hard on me and just lovingly had kept reminding me to stay close to the Lord and had prayed with me. I wish you all the best during this trail. Not easy to be a parent but when we rely on the Lord we need not fear.

  26. The best hope is to teach children correct principals.

    The purpose for double dating is to find out who to single date. Single date to find out who to marry.

    Tell them you already know who they will marry. They will marry the person they date.

  27. I’m a mother of 7 children, some married and some looking. For years I’ve heard the heartbreaking stories of people who were miserable from dating and marrying a nonmember. My mother-in-law is a prime example. She was young (18) with a desire to be a wife and mother. He was from a strong non-member family, attractive, loved kids, and they had those hormones that overrule logical thinking. They had a large family, but because of their differing opinions that turn to resentment, he drank heavily and died at 54 from falling down some stairs on Christmas day. From her youthful, silly decision, her life was sad and embarrassing. She couldn’t even go to the temple back in the days when they wouldn’t allow a woman to go without her husband. I know people are put here to be tested, but the last thing you want to see is your children have a miserable life. Statistically speaking, these marriages don’t work and the positive stories I’ve read above are unusual. How far will you go to protect your children? Would you stand and watch them eat poison, trying to TALK them out of it and hope that things will work out? Marriage is the most important decision a person will make in life and maybe eternity. Teaching our children is a supreme responsibility and we should do all in our power to help them make good decisions. You DO marry whom you date. My mother moved me to another state to get me away from a nonmember boy. What will you do for your children’s happiness? There was an interesting little pamphlet published about 40 years ago called “That Others May Know,” about a woman’s deep sorrow and regret from marrying a non-member.

  28. I attended a small high school, and was the only LDS Girl and My husband was the only LDS Boy, I dated several young men, almost married one that was not in our high school who was LDS. But when my now husband came home after being overseas for a few years, It was not hard to say yes. However, it was wartime, the closest temple was Salt Lake City 500 miles way. Our families were both members of the church. However, we decided to get married before he returned to the base, and we got a marriage license in the county we lived in, which was the law then, and drove 72 miles to be married by a Bishop. That was 69 years ago on Chistmas Eve. We later married in the Temple and had three children sealed to us, later having two under the covenant. Marriage is not an easy thing, it takes a lot of patience and understanding. My advise to any young person is listen to your parents, I know that it can be heartbreaking for them if you become an inactive member, I have two sons that have drifted away from the church. However, I have 2 Daughters that Temple Workers, and one son who has served on a Mission, been in the Bishopric and the Stake Presidency, and has raised his children to love the gospel.two of the three having served missions. Boy life is hard in these Last days, but I am so greatful for the Gospel, and the blessings of a Temple Marriage.

  29. It sounds like your children have been raised in a loving, gospel-centered home. Trust them to take what they have learned and apply it to their lives. Young adult life, right now.

    The most powerful tool they have is their ability to discern for themselves (with help from the holy spirit) what is best to do in a given situation, dating or otherwise. When you show you trust their judgement, you help create individuals who learn to hear their own inner voice, rather than looking outward for approval or for answers.

    Although the “you date who you marry” idea is true, neither you nor your husband know what God’s plan is for your child. That is between the child and God. I remember how challenging this time of life was for me as a parent. I’m grateful I found the courage to release my will for them, and give my mother-heart over to God’s will for them. We may be fabulous parents, but we aren’t God.

    Also, my daughter dated a non-member during highschool. He was and is the salt of the earth, Mormon or not. She made it clear to him that she would only marry in the temple. He converted. This was difficult for him because his inactive or formerly-LDS parents were unsupportive. My daughter and her good man were married in the temple.

    And even if he hadn’t joined the church, I would have supported my daughter in her choice to marry him. It was clear to me that he had a pure heart and that he loved my daughter with Christlike love. (and normal romantic, loving friendship too.) God moves in a mysterious way. I trust Him and I trust my children to be able to live and learn from their choices.

    God bless you and your family. This was a great post, great discussion.

  30. What a great opportunity to teach your kids the great blessings of following the prophet! There is a Laurel in my young women who started casually hanging out with a catholic boy when she was 15. She never misses an activity and contributes wonderful things to our lessons. She is also engaged to be married to him after her graduation next summer. They will be married in his church which means that she has promised that their future children will all be baptized and raised in the Catholic Church.

  31. Hello,
    I stumbled upon this blog through LDS Living. I’m glad I did, because I have had experiences with this and would love to share my them.

    I dated a nonmember in high school. Going into high school I had high standards for myself and thought I would never date a non member (or even steady date anyone), but that’s not what the Lord had in mind for me. My high school boyfriend did take the discussions, and did eventually get baptized, though he’s not active now. His family took the discussions, as well, and his sister also got baptized. Even though our relationship wasn’t ideal in the standards of the church (steady dating, nonmember, etc.) and even though my mom was not thrilled about it, and voiced her opinion regularly, that experience shaped my testimony SO much. I think asking that they take the missionary discussions is the best thing you can do, because I’m sure that has shaped your kid’s testimonies, even if their boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t get baptized or stay active. I would regularly have opportunities to share my testimony with my boyfriend and his family. I new what I believed in, and I wasn’t going to change, which inevitably caused us to end the relationship. But it was probably the biggest experience in my life that has shaped me.
    I feel so strongly tied to that experience, and to those who experienced it with me from all different perspectives. I now understand better how to help new members of the Church, and it was one of my only major experiences with missionary work. It caused me to have a testimony today of missionary work and of many aspects of the Gospel. Now I’m in the YW presidency, and I’m able to share my experiences with those girls often. It applies to them, and I know how they feel in those situations.
    Just urge your kids to uphold their standards. Bear your testimony often, especially of the importance of being married in the temple. But let this experience shape them for the better.

  32. Our daughter was the Laurel president of Young women’s. She graduated from high school and started attending our small college to obtain the necessary general credits to apply to a specialist school in another city. Near the end of her freshman year, she became attracted to a popular non-member. He had had several previous girlfriends. He was a senior. She needed a few more credits so did a second year here in town. He also did a few more credits that year. They started dating and eventually became immoral. She is living with him now. When children become adults, it is very hard to lecture/sway their thinking. I believe it best to advise “no non-member dating”. I believe there is a president of the church’s wife who chose that route and stayed single through her birthing years, only to later marry the president of the church. We will be blessed if we follow our church leaders’ counsel.

  33. Sit down with your kids and have a candid talk about your concerns. A lot of good can come from dating nonmembers, especially in a region that is not predominantly LDS. In addition to missionary opportunities, your family can gain a greater appreciation for and understanding of other faiths. Don’t forbid the relationship unless the boyfriend or girlfriend refuses to respect the standards laid out in For the Strength of Youth.
    We live in an area that is about 10 percent LDS. My youngest daughter dated a nonmember during high school. She specifically did not want to date members of our church because she did not want to become too serious or to be tempted to think of marriage. This young man was an evangelical Christian and had standards that were compatible with ours. They spent a lot of time hanging out, doing homework, playing video games and watching movies. There were many religious discussions, and he came to church with us several times (she also went to activities at his church), but his beliefs didn’t change – and neither did hers. If anything, this experience strengthened her determination to have a temple marriage. Today he is a youth minister, and my daughter is a mother of two who was married in the temple to a wonderful man.
    Some tips for you – which apply whether dating a member or nonmember: 1) really get to know the kids your children choose to date, and their parents. 2) Share your standards and don’t bend them. 3) Be there when the kids are hanging out – it helps them resist temptations. 4) Treat the boyfriend/girlfriend with love and respect.

  34. We have a couple of rules that I fall back on when needed. #1 The non member comes with us, not the other way around, and #2, applies to all dates, can’t go out with the same person 2 times in a row without going with someone else in between. If nothing else, even if it is a “setup” for mom and dad, they spend time with other people and hopefully it slows things down a bit. That said, they better know how to handle and make the right decisions now. My one daughter got involved with a young man at college, in Utah, that was not a member, eventually married him, has 3 children and is totally inactive (and happy with her marriage). We can only teach correct principles, we can’t force them as adults, to make right choices. I pray everyday that my son-in-law will soften toward the church. And maybe then she and he can come back.

  35. My best friend got pregnant in high school when she was dating a really awesome mormon boy. I was an active LDS girl and married an RM in the temple, and guess what? After 5 years of marriage he became an atheist. Just because someone is LDS it doesn’t mean they won’t screw up, and just because someone is not, does not mean they are bad people. My husband becoming atheist was the BEST thing that has ever happened to me. It was definitely hard and our marriage suffered for awhile, but it opened my eyes to the goodness of other people of other faiths or of no faith.

    My advice? Let them date, answer their questions about religion, let your child attend church with their boy/girlfriend, and you should try out their church too! I think it’d be good for you.

  36. This is a lot to think about.

    I don’t have any answers or advice. I can tell you that I married before joining the church, then separated and divorced following being baptized into the church (totally separate from becoming a member, it was an abusive marriage).

    I’m currently engaged to a non-member, but one who fully supports the church and goes to activities as well as special events like the Primary Program and my youngest’s baptism. Honestly, there’s 1 unmarried man in my age group in my ward. And he just had a child out of wedlock, so he’s not a great choice. We live in New England, and our ward boundaries are huge. It’s very, very hard to meet other single members over 40 in my area.

    My oldest is now 6 months from dating. If I restricted her to dating members she wouldn’t date. There are no boys who are members in her high school, nor any boys close to her age in the surrounding towns. There’s all of boy her age in our ward. She goes to stake/multi-stake dances, but then the people live over an hour away.

    I’m praying a lot. I’m sure you are, too. Best wishes as you make decisions with your husband and children.

  37. I dated a non member in high school and he was was one the best influences in my life. But the previous commenters are right– the issue here is about steady dating.

  38. I think serious dating among teenagers should be gently discouraged. You wouldn’t want them making profound decisions, such as where to attend college, based on what their bf/gf is doing.

    That said, I am troubled by your post. What if your child marries a non-member? Will you be completely accepting of that or will you always look at them as a missionary/conversion project? Will you feel like a failure as parents b/c your child didn’t marry in the Temple?

    What if they convert to another faith? That really is the test of whether you believe the 11th Article of Faith and live it, isn’t it?

  39. I agree with the advice about encouraging them to keep it light during the high school/pre-mission years.

    But I think we’re all glad that Sister Bednar and Sister Scott married non-members, since their sons ended up being such great guys:) BYU professor Brent Barlow did his PhD dissertation on the impact of LDS women marrying non-members, and found much of the effect to be positive–the church would not have grown as much if those women had not married someone, and raised a righteous posterity. The first missionary called from that state, and many of the early branch presidencies and later stake and temple presidencies came out of the children of women who married non-members.

    My kids had good experiences with dating non-members, including at least two baptisms that I can remember.

    They also had good experiences meeting others at EFY. If you think you can’t afford it, talk to your bishop. They have a scholarship for part of it, and there might be someone in the ward who will pay the rest or hire your teen in order to earn the rest. We’ve helped other families that way–it isn’t tax deductible but it is important. There have been several marriages in our stake that came out of EFY.

  40. Regardless of all the tidbits of wisdom here, may I point out that you’re fighting the wrong battle? Here is what the Church teaches about dating from the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet: “Choose to date only those who have high moral standards and in whose company you can maintain your standards.” No comment about member or not. The real battle worth fighting is: “When you begin dating, go with one or more additional couples. Avoid going on frequent dates with the same person. Developing serious relationships too early in life can limit the number of other people you meet and can perhaps lead to immorality.” Steady dating in High School has always been against Church counsel and common sense. And the comments about “if you forbid a teenager to do something, they will definitely do it” make me wonder if there are bigger concerns that just dating — a rebellious spirit IS a problem! Independence and rebellion are not the same thing! God forbids many things and out teenagers obey. How many remember the simple obedience when a prophet of God asked the girls to just have one pair of earrings? Give these kids a little more credit!

  41. As a mother of two children who dated non-members as teenagers, I can say it’s always better to date a member hands down, (easier, anyway). I know there are a lot of great kids out there who are not of the LDS faith, but there is so much difference in the way they were raised and those who were raised in the LDS faith. Morals are higher, lifestyles are different, believing in refraining from drinking, smoking, swearing, sex before marriage, dressing immodestly, etc. I have four children, two of which dated members and married in the church, two of which did not. My two oldest served missions, and married in the temple. Both couples are happy, successful, (One is a doctor, the other in school and both very active in the church along with their little families, and my sweet grandchildren are being raised in the church. The other two ended up marrying non-members, did not fulfill missions, and didn’t marry in the temple. Both of those children have struggled with life, jobs, schooling, and have received no support from their spouses in what the believe. Both have been greatly influenced by their non-member spouses and their families. Both eventually became inactive and those sweet little grandchildren of mine are not being raised in the church which tears at my heart, but they are loved and prayed for each and every day. I know you have to have faith that someday things could be different, but you never realize when your children date others who are non-LDS, it seeming so innocent at the time, could eventually take them in another direction. I know my two inactive children no what’s right by how they were raised, so I’m hoping some day they will see the light again and will have all those eternal family blessings for their own little families. I stay close to all my children and grandchildren, each one so special. I love my non-member daughter and son in law and love being with each one of them, but if I could go back in time, I would definitely have discouraged my children more who married outside of the church to find a spouse that shares the same values they do. Remember, those you date, are those you will marry.

  42. My wife liked almost everyone, and fell in love easily, so when she was dating, she made rules for herself. If someone wanted a second date, she and the guy each had to date someone else first. Several of her dates ended up marrying the other girl they dated in between. She also lived where there was a temple, and every date included a walk around the temple. She dated many non-members, since they are Heavenly Fathers children too, and she felt that at least they would learn what she believed. Several of them were baptized and later married in the temple. One of them ended up working for the Church at Church headquarters. Another rule for non-member dates was that every other date, they went to some Single Adult event, or to her parents or grandparents to visit. She didn’t marry until her late 20’s. I was her home evening brother, and we never dated. We were just friends, and I asked her to marry me. We have been married now for 37 years and are both happier than we ever imagined possible. We had 4 children and have 16 grandchildren.

  43. I think there is a huge difference between dating in high school and college and kids and parents should discuss those differences. High school dating should be group dates that don’t lead to serious relationships. High school dating is about learning how to date. Even if your child is dating a member in high school, it isn’t good if it is a serious relationship. College is a different thing altogether where couples should be dating more seriously with the intent of forming relationships and preparing for marriage.

  44. I have recently been rescued from a long, abusive marriage to an RM that lied to me from the start about his worthiness when we dated and then married in the temple. I realize that my personal experience greatly influences my opinion on this topic. I have promised myself that I will not date anyone who is not completely honest with himself and with me (my dishonesty radar is pretty sensitive now), or who doesn’t have a close relationship with God and a strong spirituality. Also at the top of the list are unfailing respect for me and genuine kindness for everyone. Next on the list comes membership in the church and the priesthood. It is important, OF COURSE, but it can’t be the #1 thing for me, and if it is missing, but the other crucial qualities are there, I would still consider dating the person, because I know that LDS people do not have the monopoly on righteousness, worthiness, or spirituality. We might have the fulness of the gospel and a responsibility to share it with the world, but we still have a lot to learn from others of every faith, whether they belong to an established religion or not. I agree with all those who have said that our faith is strengthened when we have to really understand what we believe; when we have to hold it up and examine it and explain it to others who want to understand it. When my kids are old enough to date, I want them to understand these concepts–to stay away from people who are manipulative and abusive, to really know who they are and what they believe, and to seek to establish healthy friendships and relationships wherever they can find them. And I fully trust the Lord–that ultimately, He is in control and loves my children more than I ever could–so I can give up trying to control the outcomes of their lives.

  45. I am married out of the church because I dated a non-member. It is hard to keep your standards when you fall in love. Some can seem to do it but more have great difficulty and end up marrying who they date seriously. I am married to a terrific man with high morals and ethics. He at first, made it difficult for me to want to go to church. I fell away for many years. I finally came back a year or so before I became pregnant with our first child. After having two more children, my husband began attending church every so often to help out with the kids. Over the years, he comes every week and now stays the whole three hour block. He has been our Webelos leader for the last four years in our ward. However, him not being a member still causes issues for our family. The children weren’t baptized or ordained by their dad and he is missing all the wonderful experiences that a member would receive. We live in a place where there are not many members of the church. So I have discussed with the boys that maybe single dating might not be something they want to do but just have lots of friends and not pair off. Thankfully, right now my eldest has no interest in dating but I am sure that will change as he enters high school next year. Of course, we have decided not to allow the boys to single date till after sixteen. If you have conversations with the child many years before dating is desired then maybe the young ones can make a conscious decision before they get into the situation to just spend time in high school group dating and leave single dating for when they want to start the process of finding a mate. Many people who have married outside the church aren’t as lucky as I am to have such a wonderful spouse who is active at church so keep that in mind when dating. It is so true that you marry who you date.

  46. Isn’t the most important thing that your kids spend time with GOOD PEOPLE who will help them to learn and grow? There are many good people outside the LDS church, and that’s lucky, since pickings are slim for your kids within the LDS community in your area. As you noted yourself, not all members are always perfect, either – some can be real slimeballs. I think the best thing you could do would be to let your children spend time with people they have identified as having good morals. Make sure that there are plenty of activities available at your house that don’t involve alcohol, drugs, or empty bedrooms. And set a terrific example yourselves by being warm, loving, kind, generous, and accepting. Invite your kids’ friends to family home evenings, home movie nights, ice cream making , activities, church dances, and if they choose, to church services. That will go a lot farther to creating understanding and positive feelings about your family and the church among the other teens and parents in your area than requiring missionary discussions. That will likely be seen as “cult-like” behavior by non-LDS parents, where providing a warm and welcoming wholesome environment would create a more positive impression of you, your kids, and Mormonism.

  47. What a great discussion. Thank you !

    Suzy in MI, I agree with you. Tiffany, just what we tried to instill in our children. Groups only untill you are an adult, but we were a bit late on this insight. Eventually all our children chose to be with the Lord.

    So, I usually don’t write twice, but I am so moved this. My husband and I didn’t even like each other when we first met. We didn’t date. Love snuck in while serving together. The thing is, we both loved the Lord first, and still do. (But I sure love my husband of 45 years now!)

    Our children saw us sacrifice for temple buildings etc. and they participated in the sacrifising of time and means. Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven. We sure have been blessed beyond anything I could dream up,even when it isn’t visible in the bank accounts. First you trust the Lord, then the road becomes lit with knowledge and love. Its all in the second mile when you allow it to happen.

    No, we do not live in a bubble (Seriously) My family is international, and most of our friends are not memebers. After settling to live in Utah we chose the Lord and served in the temple first once a week then twice weekly trusting our children to help with my Mother, for whom we cared in our home. They did, and they partied every week with her, sometimes more than two dozen young people filling the house (and emptying the fridge.)The Pizza delivery people knew my mother very well. Several of the young friends were not members.

    Our daughter who married outside of the temple never dated the man she married before falling in love with him. They worked togetehr. After they married she discovered she couldn’t keep loving him if she could not feel the Love of the Lord daily, and he supported her in receiving her endowment,even not undestanding what it all meant, and although he doesn’t attend any church at all.

    When she came out he was there with a bunch of roses to tell her thet he too loves her. Men cannot love like the Lord does, and that is a fact. Women can’t either. All our children have learned that on their own. Perhaps they were driven to him for comfort when we were too restrictive. (We told them we would change our mind any time they found proof to a different point of view in the scriptures. They became scriptorians.)

    Yet, somehow they have seen the joy in our lives, and the richness that the gospel gospel (not church porgrams alone)to our lives and chose that for themselves too. No matter whom you marry it takes work, and your relationship with the Lord is still just between you and Him. The closer you are to Him, the happier you are, and the more you can love others, in or out of the church.
    Love doesn’t concuer all things, but it lightens the load, and so does prayer…and humor.

  48. I grew up in Indiana where there weren’t many members either. I was allowed to date non-members as my mother said she would rather have me date a good non-member than a member who wasn’t good. I was not allowed to single date until I was 18. I felt pressure for a single date after 18 and quit dating the guy who I felt comfortable double dating with 100%. He started dating an inactive member of another Stake who happened to be in my sister’s class she taught at church. He helped her become active and learn what she was supposed to be doing as a member of her faith. (He never went to church with me.) Good luck

  49. Joseph Smith Said, “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” (Messages of the First Presidency, comp. James R. Clark, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75, 3:54.

    When I was a teenager my mother told me the same as I have read here, “By those you date, you choose your mate.”

    As a 19 year old girl I dated a man who was not LDS, but that played in my mind. I didn’t get overly serious because I knew what he wanted and what I wanted were not at all aligned.

    Your job is to teach them and encourage them, but in the end to allow them to govern themselves. I will admit I am a bit stunned by the missionary discussion requirement for your family. You get to make your rules, but would you be okay with their parents having similar rules for your kids? I would hope so.

    Anyway, in the end you never really know what will happen.

    My sister was faithful, waited for her missionary, married in the temple, baptized her kids, and then recently both she and her husband decided they wanted to leave the church, she resigned from her presidency calling, and wants nothing to do with religion. You really never know what will happen!

    Just keep loving them and encouraging them no matter what, life is about learning and making mistakes. Parenting is about loving your children and guiding them the best you can and then letting the chips fall where they may.

    Best of luck to you!

  50. You sound like great parents. If you don’t want to be seen as controlling, however, I’d back off on the discussions rule.

    I’d teach them good values and let them go from there in choosing their dates and, eventually, a partner.

    Would you want your son and daughter’s boy/girlfriend’s parents to require your children to take discussions on their faith/religion in order to keep dating them?

  51. I think the issue is steady heavy duty exclusive dating, which, I’m sorry, is equally as dangerous for LDS kids as it is for non-LDS kids (just as any bishop. Seriously.).

    I dated a very nice Mormon boy in highschool, but it was exclusive and very serious and while he was (and is) a good person, I wish we hadn’t spent everysingleminuteofeverysingleday together. And I knew I wasn’t going to marry him–seriously, at 16, I was very far from thinking of marriage. And when he came back off his mission and starting coming around again, trying to start our relationship up again, I knew he wasn’t the one, told him so, and he married somebody else shortly thereafter.

    I also dated seriously a non-member in college, and I did have to take serious stock of what kind of life I wanted. I decided I didn’t want to move forward with somebody who, although a wonderful person, wasn’t prepared to offer me the kind of life I wanted.

    Seriously, give your kids some credit for being able to figure out what they want. Yes, you marry who you date, but you don’t marry EVERY person you date. I think that you should take the relationships seriously and sit down and say something blunt like, “What steps are you taking to make sure you don’t have sex?”

    But, IMO, you should have those kind of conversations with LDS kids, too. Again, ask any bishop if you doubt that LDS teenagers have sex too.

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