Dating For Eternity
12:30 pm, January 7th | by Sarah Devlin
“NO OTHER SUCCESS CAN COMPENSATE FOR FAILURE IN THE HOME.”
LDS.org features a page of dating advice from past Mormon Prophets and apostles:
We are convinced that dating should not even begin until you are 16. And then, ideal dating is on a group basis. Stay in group activities; don’t pair off. Avoid steady dating. Steady dating is courtship, and surely the beginning of courtship ought to be delayed until you have emerged from your teens.
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.
The emphasis on group activities and avoidance of steady dating reads like it was ripped directly from the Bachelor playbook, which places a higher premium on themed outings (Muay thai boxing group date, anyone?) and emotionally fraught eliminations than it does on, as the contestants refer to it reverently, with the slightly desperate intonation of heroin junkies, “one-on-one time” with the Bachelor or Bachelorette.
But part of the reason the Mormon church takes dating so seriously, which sets it apart from The Bachelor/ette (whose unions can mostly be counted in months rather than years) and indeed all other Christian religions is that, once members are married, they cannot be parted from one another even in death. Doctrine and Covenants 130: 2 decrees “[the] same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there [in eternity], only it will be coupled with eternal glory.”
Thus, marriage is not just about finding a companion for life — it’s about selecting a partner for eternity and beyond. This attitude is suffused throughout The Mormon Bachelor, beginning with its mission statement to facilitate “a journey to the Mormon heart,” one that will “hopefully end in eternal marriage.” Part of the value of dating a fellow Mormon is that you may be married in the temple in Salt Lake City, which seals you, your spouse and your family together for life. A young woman on The Mormon Bachelor made the stakes explicit when she admitted that she hoped to be married in the temple in part to ensure that she would be able to reunite with her brother in the afterlife, who died when she was young.
The dating guidelines on LDS.org also include this piece of advice:
In a dating and courtship relationship, I would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, who is constantly critical of you, who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor.”
Though it might seem as though the structure of The Bachelor borrows from Mormon dating principles, it’s safe to say they skipped this particular nugget of advice. I found the emphasis on recognizing abusive and inappropriate treatment right away very smart, especially since many raised in the Mormon religion begin dating with marriage in mind at a young age. Unfortunately, knowing that one’s heart ought to be protected is no kind of armor against being hurt.