For most young people in the United States outside the Church, dating begins at an early age (about age thirteen during the 1980s); it has no set pattern of progression, and is often informal and unsupervised.
These contemporary dating patterns form a social context that influences somewhat the majority of LDS youth.
Two doctrinally based principles guide the dating and courtship of LDS youth: first, because of the religious significance of marriage, virtually everyone who can is expected to marry; second, because of the spiritual and social importance of chastity, sexual relations must wait until after marriage.
Presumably, the value placed on marriage makes LDS youth less likely to postpone marriage for education and career advancement; they are certainly less likely to cohabit instead of marrying, and the customary pattern is to continue courting until the time of marriage (see Single Adults).
LDS prophets have consistently instructed young Mormon men that it is wrong to delay marriage unnecessarily (Benson; Kimball, 1975).
However, although courtship patterns change and vary across cultures, there is quite a conservative pattern for dating and courtship among Latter-day Saints in Western nations.
It is expected that LDS youth will not begin dating until the age of sixteen.
"Young men and women, not yet ready for marriage, should be friends with many others, but they should not engage in courting .
Friendship, not courtship, should be the relationship of teenagers . As plainly stated by prominent leaders of the Church, "It is natural to date. Every right-thinking young person has a native desire to become acquainted with the opposite sex, looking eventually to pairing off in honorable marriage" (Petersen, p. "Dating has become the accepted form of social recreation for the purpose of getting acquainted before young people can safely have a serious interest in each other. Although many boyfriend-girlfriend relationships do not last through the mission separation, the mission experience frequently brings a maturity that better prepares young men and women for eventual marriage. "Marriage and Divorce." In 1976 Speeches of the Year. Despite the postponing effect of missions on dating activities, LDS men tend to marry at an age younger than national averages, while LDS women marry at about the norm. Because of the belief that people should be married and the doctrine that they can maintain marital ties throughout eternity, Latter-day Saints take dating and courtship more seriously than those for whom marriage has less religious significance.