Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Helping Young Men Becomes Proactive Leaders: The Importance of Actually Dating

I once gave a presentation on leadership to a group of educators where I stressed the need to help engineering students have more practical experiences that will help them be more effective leaders in their careers. I emphasized the basic principle required for proactive leadership: identifying where you want to be and then actively taking steps to get there from where you are now. So simple, but many organizations and individuals fail to do this with serious intent. In discussing leadership experiences for young people, I was mostly thinking of experiences like collaborative technical projects. But there's another collaborative project that might also be an important but often neglected part of their education: dating, as in formally asking someone out and going on a real date, even one that is planned.

Not long after my presentation, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with a General Authority of the Church. In our conversation, he mentioned that when President Monson was asked what problems in the Church most keep him up at night,the answer was surprising: "Girls without dates." The General Authority went on to tell me that the Church is very concerned about young men who seem to be passive about life and do not make progress toward marriage, leaving many women even at places like BYU feeling frustrated and neglected. Many young men seem to think that "hanging out" with their friends is sufficient and do not take the steps required for courtship.

That's when it occurred to me that the failure of many young men to date reflects the problem of leadership skills. The passive approach to life, the one that is content with television and video games, is one that allows people to stay in thir current state without actively seeking progress. The proactive approach is focused on goals and deliberate steps toward desired ends. If one is an active Latter-day Saint, chances are that individual recognizes marriage as a desired end. But that is a goal that requires activity now, even the painful growth activity of asking someone out and planning a date. What better way to develop proactive leadership skills, and perhaps solve some major social problems as well?

Young men, there are too many girls without dates. Become a proactive leader now and change that. There's no future in video games. There's not a lot of future in whatever you're doing just hanging out with buds. But there is a future in dating, courtship, and marriage. My opinion, of course.

We need leaders in this world. Now get out there and start generating some proactive leadership experiences.

24 comments:

Dallas, Dad, Big D & I said...

Excellent! I haven't thought about it in that light and am very appreciative for getting me thinking about it that way. Passive and casual flowing with life rather than purposeful movement toward goals in dating will likely have effects in other parts of a young man's life. Dating may be training for career and church and family life. Hmm, thought provoking. Thanks!

Carl Youngblood said...

I have been personally frustrated with what I think is the too-frequent blaming of men for this issue. Society has really moved on. Men and women are equally empowered in today's dating environment, and women aren't simply sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. As a young returned missionary at BYU, I was frustrated at leaders' constant harping on the men, when I was pursuing marriage very aggressively and didn't see this being the issue at all. I feel like the leadership is still stuck in a prior era on this issue.

Anonymous said...

I'm 57 years old. In the late 60s and early 70s when I was a teenager it was common to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, someone you saw on the weekends, someone you sat with at church. It was common to see teenagers split into couples, it was expected. And when people returned from their missions it was easy to dive right back into the same patterns that were established before their missions.

It was also common to go steady, which meant having an exclusive relationship with someone. But church leaders were very concerned about teenagers getting too serious before mission age so they started stressing the dangers of going steady and encouraging group activities instead of exclusive pairing off.

I think they were fabulously successful. LDS teenagers don't pair off anymore. I can't remember a single teen romance in any ward I've been in for the last 2 decades. And when they return from their missions they again fall back into familiar patterns that were established before their missions, hanging out, group dating, etc.

So they got what they wanted plus they got the unintended consequences they didn't plan on. It's a little disingenuous for church leaders to now chastise our youth, and our young men in particular, for doing exactly what they have spent the last 30 years teaching them to do.

Carey said...

Men and women are equal in terms of their humanity, but they are not the same. Men and women have different emotional and psychological profiles that are complementary to each other. One of the attributes of all men is the desire to feel needed. When good men feel needed, they rise to the need and fulfill their responsibilities. When men feel unneeded, replaceable, or expendable, they often tend to slouch into a stuper.

In fact, this is why only men have the priesthood in the church. It has nothing to do with the superiority of men or the inferiority of women. If women had the priesthood, it would not have the refining effect that it has on men. Very quickly, the Young Women would become more responsible for preparing the sacrament and many husbands would defer to their wives for the giving of blessings because most men feel like their wives are more spiritual.

Carl says that society has moved on, and maybe he's right, but that's part of the problem. When women can ask a man on a date, fewer men feel obligated to initiate dating. When women begin to provide for themselves (which is not wrong in and of itself) men feel less obligation to provide for his wife.

By divine design, men are appointed to provide for their families, but our society is diluting this obligation. Since men are supposed to support his wife and family, it is important that the decision to marry and support a family be his. He needs to feel responsible for his choice. When a woman pursues a man or even proposes to a man, he is likely to feel less responsible for the maintenance of the marriage.

Now, women may be able to do more to make themselves approachable. But another problem come up when women are willing to compromise their chastity for companionship. It reduces the motivation for marriage and commitment for men, and makes it hard for chaste women to compete.

I don't really want to start a polygamy discussion here. But this very problem exposes the need for polygamy as part of the gospel. Because God intends for all his children to be part of an eternal family and fulfill the measure of their creation. And while polygamy is not romantic, it does provide for good women to all the blessings of the gospel.

SilverRain said...

Wow, Carey . . . just . . . wow.

You just encapsulated a whole lot of attitude that makes me want to never see another man again. I hope you're dead wrong.

Carl—I think that men are blamed for a reason. Just a look at activity level in singles wards between the genders is eye-opening. If you're lucky, we're talking two-to-one. Most of the time it's more like five- or ten-to-one. Just because YOU aren't part of the problem, doesn't mean there isn't one.

Although I think that the expectations of men and women in marriage are misplaced. Men seem to think they should get Madonna in bed and Martha Stewart in the kitchen, and women seem to think that their men should be Don Juan AND Donald Trump rolled into one.

I don't think that both happen very often.

Mormon Man said...

I'm hoping the leadership in the Church will start to research and try to understand this problem instead of just bemoaning the fact that men don't want to get married.

Men of generation X and Y were not raised to be leaders. We were raised to be equal partners. The problem is that women want leaders and boys become men by learning how to lead. Our politically correct world doesn't want to acknowledge that simple aspect of gender difference.

What incentive do most young guys have to get married? Even in the Church? When they're single they're capable, functioning, self-sufficient adults. After they get married, the become hen-pecked husbands who hang their heads and obey their wives without question. If you want anecdotal evidence, just pay attention to any couple under 30 in the Church, is the man really a righteous leader and head of his household? I doubt it.

It doesn't help that we were brought up by baby-boomer dads who felt the need to apologize for being masculine. When you tell boys that women are more righteous, more spiritual and more capable of communicating with God, it doesn't just build women up, it tears the boys down. How often do you hear an old man joking with a younger one about how he married up and he doesn't know where he'd be spiritually without his wife. It may be a cute compliment from the old man, but a boy who's been raised on that kind fo attitude will take it to heart and thinks he's spiritually inferior simply for being male.

And as far as there being a lower activity rate of young men in the Church, what's masculine about the Church anymore? What's the appeal to men. We go every week to get told we're not as good as the women and we need to step it up and be more feminine. We focus too much on the qualities of Christ that are in line with the feminine while completely ignoring the masculinity of a God who cast the money changers out of the temple. If the Church wants more men to stay in the fold, it needs to emphasize the masculine virtues of Christ and the Gospel along with the feminine.

Paul 2 said...

The obvious solution is to allow missionaries to single date but not to group date on their mission. It would be a very popular program. That way the marriage-oriented behavior can be trained in while the missionaries don't have any other hanging out options. You could raise the ratio of Sister Missionaries to ensure that local teenagers aren't disproportionately snapped up. You could also tie the right to date while on a mission to the baptism stats, which would make them work harder. As long as no one breaks the law of chastity, there would be no harm in it. There have been incentive programs before. It would take some adjustment to the new secondary purpose of missions, but the young people would like it.

Zen said...

Yes, guys are getting tired of being disproportionately rebuked... of course that only makes sense if we actually are the leaders.

But while dating is relatively straightforward in a college ward, the solutions for singles outside of that are bad enough that I will walk into a dance and think, 'This is bad enough to make a person apostatize.' I want to know where these hordes of women desperate to marry are.

@SilverRain - I keep hearing those stats tossed around, but I have yet to see these 9:1 ratios.

Cindy said...

Perhaps it is the emphasis on marriage itself that causes some of these issues. "He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:" If we encourage our sons and daughters to strengthen their relationships with God, they can become one with Christ as individuals and then be joined together with others in Him as Paul describes in Ephesians,

"For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church."

Anonymous said...

Some of the posts are excellent starts. Unfortunately Mormanity Is being overly simplistic. Planning a date does not develop nor show leadership skills. Also girls need to make themselves available. Girls-don't accrue $40,000 in school loans and expect your date to pay them off so you can be a housewife.

On a very sensitive issue, is the drive there to progressed like it should be. Perhaps a biologist could tell us if men have as much physical urge to mate as they have had in years past.

Anonymous said...

Sorry,
My spell check put the wrong word in my sentence.

Is the drive to procreate as strong as it used to be?

RJR said...

I don't think the church needs to research these issues, if a PROPHET tells us our YSA men need to be more proactive in dating then I imagine they do.

With regards to the era of discouraging anything other than group dating that is still here, but for a different group, its in strength of youth for youth, and is probably to protect youth from issues that will prevent our young men serving missions.

As for the suggestion that missionaries should date ????????? As a full time missionary I saw enough elders get sent home with the current guidelines, Satan would have a field day. Not to mention a mission period is time to dedicate yourself entirely to the work not your social life.

Blaming men? As an institute teacher my experience is that in general it is the guys who are happy to hang out and spend money on video games, cars and other "toys" There IS a culture of no rush lets just chill, which is a reflection of the world. Yes young women are equals but I know plenty who see even RM's to be on a maturity level equal to a priest.

Perhaps my view is different being in the UK but surely if the Prophet speaks and we listen we will be blessed wherever we are ? The alternative is to question the prophets wisdom which the Book of Mormon suggests is never a good idea.

Zen said...

For mercy sakes, are we selectively listening to the words of prophets in a zeal to feel good? I am talking to you, RJR.

I distinctly remember both genders being rebuked, but from they way people talk, only men have any responsibility.

In zeal and ignorance, those who have been out of the market for a long time seem to think nothing has changed and the whole problem is laziness. I wish it were that simple!

@Anon - that is exactly right about the student loans. Lol.

Anonymous said...

By the way Mormanity, video games may be the problem of 2010, but when I went to college it was sheepshead and poker. Hours and hours. Long card games helped us learn to count quickly and pass math classes. It also helped us learn the evils of alcohol. If we drank too much could not count and we lost money.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Naturally, young women can benefit from similar advice. I love to see young people taking initiative and planning dates and other events. Church leaders, though, have seen something that I think makes them more concerned about some (not all!) young men coasting along. Some of the well-intended efforts by various local leaders to address the apparent problems, though, may backfire or may make diligent and faithful young men even more frustrated, confused, or discouraged. It's a complex issue, one that may be difficult to address with collective firesides and sermons.

No, don't have any easy answers. But yes, I do believe that there is a need throughout society for young men and women to be more proactive in taking on activities and pursuing goals, and courtship definitely counts, IMHO. Give it a try if you aren't already.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Sheepshead? You must be from Wisconsin.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'll say it: porn.

Modern women are complicated and if the natural incentives are subverted, satan can get men to walk a simpler path.

Anonymous said...

And while I"m saying it I'll connect back to Mormanity's point, I'd say that porn and the loss of the spirit also affects leadership. Virtue opens the gate to confidence in the meaning of D&C 121

RJR said...

Zen, no "zeal" to feel good on my part and I don't consider myself ignorant or selective, but thanks anyway!
The comments I refer to were made in the the priesthood session of April 2011 conference and were directed at males, similar things may have been said at other times to other groups.

"Now, I have thought a lot lately about you young men who are of an age to marry but who have not yet felt to do so. I see lovely young ladies who desire to be married and to raise families, and yet their opportunities are limited because so many young men are postponing marriage." ....

....."Perhaps you are having a little too much fun being single, taking extravagant vacations, buying expensive cars and toys, and just generally enjoying the carefree life with your friends. I’ve encountered groups of you running around together, and I admit that I’ve wondered why you aren’t out with the young ladies.

Brethren, there is a point at which it’s time to think seriously about marriage and to seek a companion with whom you want to spend eternity. If you choose wisely and if you are committed to the success of your marriage, there is nothing in this life which will bring you greater happiness."

My comments were not out of any desire to make myself "feel good" I just think if President Monson felt it important enough to bring up then it must have some relevance.

quoted from lds.org

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am from Wisconsin.

The human body is changing in many ways. There is more asthma than before. We are taller and stronger. (and heavier but that is a different post). Is it possible that some young men are with less testotrone than they used to be?

On the continuum of heterosexual, asexual, and homosexual urges could it be possible the urge is less?

Zen said...

RJR - That is of necessity selective - your comments were general when the counsel was to a certain group. What about when it was to a mixed group?

"I am sure that some anxiously seeking young men would want me to add that there are some young women whose desires for a worthy marriage and children rank far below their desires for a career or other mortal distinctions. Both men and women need righteous desires that will lead them to eternal life."
Elder Oaks at the same conference (I might have said Packer earlier)

Now, I don't think you meant badly, but you just don't have recent experience with the dating market. When we only listen to half the counsel, it is going to throw things out of balance.

mkprr said...

For those bothered by the clear message to single marriage aged men I’m wondering if you caught Holland’s talk at the end of the Sunday session.

“please be reassured that when we speak on difficult subjects, we understand not everyone is… shirking marriage...” (and he lists a number of other problems that were addressed during conference) “…but we are under a solemn charge to issue warning calls to those who are… So if you are trying to do the best you can…then give yourself high marks and, when we come to that subject, listen for another which addresses a topic where you may be lacking.“

catholic defender said...

Hi All,

Maybe I have a different take on this, not being LDS, but my thought is that maybe it isn't such a good idea to push 18 to 25 year olds into marrying. Think about the maturity of these guys, and most guys in general at this age. I myself would have made a terrible husband when I was in my early 20's. I had no life experience to draw upon and would not have been a prize catch for any woman. Most guys in their late teens and early 20's are not mature enough to make a relationship work. Dating, while it is important, is not the same as being married, or being in a steady relationship. To make those things work, you have to be mature enough to compromise and work together with someone, and they have to be equally mature to make the same type of compromise. Otherwise, it won't work.

Additionally, who here likes being told what to do by anyone, let alone some old guy on the other side of the country or world, depending on where you're at. People generally respond to pressure by avoiding it, rebelling against it, or ignoring it altogether. Mormon kids are just like anyone else in that respect. Having some guy who is several generations removed from the youth of today, tell them what to do, just isn't going to work. Prophet or not, the youth will seek to exercise some control on their lives. Dating happens to be an area of their lives that youth can control. I think a better approach would be to relax the pressure, and just let nature take its course.

God gave us all the instinctual desire to be with other people. He gave us the instinctual desire to procreate. If you just let those natural desires run their course, with appropriate guidance on maintaining chastity along the way, these guys will start dating on thier own, in their own time. And the relationships will be more likely to last.

Sincerely

Catholic Defender

Anonymous said...

RE: Porn

I think the anonymous poster above sadly hit this one on the head. The anticipation and drive to that "intimate threshold" is really no longer there for lots of these young men (maybe the majority?).

The pursuit of a wife is no longer the fulfillment of that apetite.

These really are the last days, folks.