Last year, when my son was attending the Y, I was alerted to the existence of a Facebook group at BYU for kids to anonymously post notes about their crushes. The student submits a comment about their crush to the FB group admins who then re-post it anonymously from the site. Site admins try to identify crushes to help bring people together. The comments run the gamut from cutesy to goofy to stalkeresque.
Here is a sampling (with names replaced by initials to protect the stalked):
- PL, are you the Liahona? Because the workmanship thereof is EXCEEDINGLY fine. 
- To the dude standing shirtless by the window in building 30.. thank you. 
- CW, you are really pulling off that whole ‘hot half-asian’ thang. Please invite me to your next dance party? 
- She’s in my biology class. When we talk about genetics, I can’t help but wonder what dominant or recessive traits our children would display. MW, let’s do the gene pool a favor. 
- All I am saying is if polygamy was still able to be practiced, I’d want both CA and HA to be mine. Those A twins have got it going on. 
- NS is the cat’s meow. And this cat is ready to pounce. 
- I know in Anatomy Open Lab we are supposed to be studying the cadaver’s bodies, but let’s be real, the only body I’m studying is yours JM. 
- SL is a beautiful person, outside and in. 
- MS- from the second I saw your pasty white complexion, I knew that I was going to fall hard. Your psuedo-hipster t-shirts, constantly red eyes, and often shirtless roommates don’t take away from my adoration. Seriously. Those roommates of yours are weird- and I still adore you. 
- Hot Bryce from the Creamery — you are the hottest of all the Bryces. I would date you so hard. 
- KR is the second most attractive man I’ve seen. 
- To the adorable ginger who helped me in the physics TA lab the other day: I hear redheads are going extinct. Let’s do our part to make sure that doesn’t happen. 
- TT, you are the hottest American Heritage TA out there. I never talk in class so you probably think I’m mute. But if you ask me out on a date, I’ll do all the talking (or not talking) you want 🙂 
- SM who TAs Psych 111, kiss me already. I don’t care if you have no sense of smell. 
- Shout out to the hottest blonde I’ve ever seen from building 9. LR. Dang I would wife that girl so fast. 
- AP, Sing me to sleep with mariachi music. You’re so ethnic. That’s what I love about you. 
- To the girl that farted loudly in class today. Don’t worry, you’re still incredibly cute. 
- E who looks like an Asian in my Psych class. I am in love you. Please stop sitting so far away from me so I can actually ask you out. 
- MR – did you clean your arms with Windex? Because I see myself in them. 
- A the beautiful Mexican at Liberty Square. You are perfection. 
- To CH that Asian stud muffin from New Heritage 53rd ward from Pennsylvania! I want to mother your panda babies! I noticed you have a car, would you mind taking me to Squaw Peak sometime? From, Rice Loving Panda Hugging Future Wife 
- To the cute RMs in my ward who are extremely noncommittal…get your acts together and ask me out! 
The site reminded me of some of my own crushes at BYU. There was one guy in one of my writing classes who came in every day wearing an ecru cable-knit fishing sweater. One day there was an empty seat in front of me, and I was excited as his eyes honed in, and he sauntered Abercrombie & Fitch-like toward the open desk. As he strode up the aisle (it all seemed to be happening in slow motion) and sat down in front of me, he deftly pulled the fishing sweater off over his head with one arm, his brown locks tumbling back down onto his forehead. Unfortunately, it was just then that I noticed he had the hygiene habits of a Matthew McConnaughey, and I was downwind; I suspect that he had never once washed that sweater. Crush over. Not all that glitters is gold.
Looking over the BYU Crushes FB site I also noticed that a few of these “ethnic” crushes crossed a line for me in terms of how racist they sounded. Is that just generational? Is it OK to say things like “Rice Loving Panda Hugging” now? (I note that this comment was later taken down on their page, so someone finally objected).
In short, the BYU dating culture is pretty . . . unique.
I was also having a conversation this week at church with a friend who, like me, has teenage children. We were talking about the fact that, unlike what is represented in the For the Strength of Youth, dating is basically dead. The guidelines don’t make any sense in light of the social scene our teenage kids report today. That may be different in Utah, which has its own unique culture that seems to be more impervious to change, but we’re not raising teens in Utah, and things are not like that where we are.
When my oldest was a senior in high school (2 years ago), he did not want to go on a date, go to prom, or have a girlfriend because if you were “dating” someone, it was assumed by everyone, including the one you were dating, that you were sexually active, that it was serious, and that you would probably be living together when you graduated from high school. Most kids shy away from that kind of exclusive commitment, and Mormon kids in particular are worried about the social perception that they are sexually active or that they are willing to be if they go on a date. Whereas going stag to a dance when I was growing up was only OK for a very casual dance, nowadays, Mormon kids in particular feel it’s socially much safer to go to dances without a date. Most kids are just “hanging out,” which is usually done in groups, and almost always without any planned activities. There is no “boys asking girls out” or even much “girls asking boys out.” Relationships sometimes form through “hang out” groups. Within groups, chastity isn’t always the norm either; being “friends with benefits” has taken hold, something that is not really like a rom-com, will they / won’t they, but a low risk way to have sex without dealing with the difficulties and expectations of a relationship. “Dating” and being in any one-on-one exclusive social relationship is equated with breaking the law of chastity. 
The added pressure of social media, sexting, and cyberbullying just adds to the insecurity teens face about relationships. The FSOY pamphlet does recommend dating in groups, but it also creates a bright line of dating (age 16+) and not dating (younger) that isn’t matched by today’s low-risk “hanging out” culture that pervades.
By contrast, when my son entered BYU, one of his many shocks was the dating culture. There was a strong expectation for pairing off and also a lot of people who were seeking after exclusive relationships, something that my son said was completely different from where we had lived.  He said that girls would offer to bake something for a boy they liked, and if the boy agreed, this usually resulted in a relationship. Accepting brownies = exclusive commitment. 
- Now that kids are delaying dating anyway, should we allow kids ages 12+ to attend Youth Conference?
- Should we modify the FSOY to reflect the different social pressures that have emerged and continue to evolve?
- How do we talk about dating culture when Utah differs so substantially from other areas where church members live?
 This is a staple of BYU come ons: a cheesy, cutesy attempt at humor, sometimes pseudo-religious. I didn’t even bother to copy in the “Is your name Virtue? Because you are garnishing my thoughts unceasingly” line. I’m not sure how seriously to take these. They just seem like something the nerdy friendzone guy would say in the teenage rom-com, not the guy you want to like you. Girls are submitting these, too, BTW.
 These types of comments (stalking + lust) are the ones that sound like real college crushes to me.
 Ethnic minorities are in high demand at BYU!
 Several allude to mating with gingers or otherwise making babies with crushes.
 NS is a girl. Yes, apparently there is a guy at BYU who is referring to himself as a cat. Does that strike anyone else as unusual?
 This sounds more sexual than I think the author intended. Also falls into the category of “Things Ted Bundy Might Have Said.”
 The heart wants what the heart wants.
 This is another trend: using chaste Mormon terms like “date,” “marry,” or “wife” as if they were sexually aggressive terms.
 Ouch. Maybe if the first is Ryan Gosling.
 Good luck chasing this girl down.
 The shotgun approach. Just shoot into a crowd and see if you hit anyone.
 At the time I wondered if this was unique to the American school in Singapore, but now that we are back in the US, this is the case in Scottsdale, Arizona also.
 This wasn’t just a Mormon in a non-LDS world phenomenon either. My son’s non-LDS friends were likewise wary of exclusive dating and the sexual expectations that came with it. They went to prom in a group of 20 kids, and my son was the only LDS one who went. These weren’t particularly religious kids either. They came from a variety of religious and most non-religious backgrounds, and they spent a pretty penny on champagne at that dinner (drinking is legal at 18 in Singapore).
 Being vegan gave him an excuse to avoid relationships, and continues to do so. Vegan burn!
**Deja vu! This is a repost of an article I did in November at By Common Consent.
Part of the problem is Elder Oaks and his ongoing crusade against “hanging out”, instead pushing for more traditional 1950s-style dating. When he first came out with that about 9 years ago, my now-wife and I were just becoming acquainted with each other through exactly the type of casual, unstructured social gatherings he was railing against. I couldn’t have imagined trying to develop a relationship with her (or anyone else, for that matter) only through pretentious, artificial interactions that I would invariably be obliged to pay for.
I have so many fond memories of “hanging out” with my core group of a dozen or so LDS college friends (big public university, small LDS population). Our impromptu gatherings often went late into the night, where platonic friendship was shared by all, and on occasion members of the group paired off. Sometimes it worked (several eventual marriages resulted), sometimes not, but we were all friends at the end of the day, and I remain close friends with them years later. Once in a while, non-members would find their way into our group, and at least two of them ended up getting baptized. Most importantly, we created an environment where we were comfortable being ourselves, which was a godsend for a socially awkward young man like I was.
Take note, Elder Oaks: traditional dating, with all of its structure, pretense and forced conversation, doesn’t work for everyone. And Big Church shouldn’t be trying to dictate “acceptable” dating practices based on outdated social conventions. Individual people and circumstances are different, and global cultures are different.
It should be acceptable, however, for local leaders to address dating and relationships with youth, provided it is done with sensitivities to current youth culture (as it may be vastly different from what the leader grew up with), indivudual preferences, regional dating culture, and the role of technology. As soon as a bishop or fireside speaker starts throwing around terms like “necking” and “petting”, the youth will no longer take him seriously.
One daughter attended BYU, had no problem with traditional dating, now married with 3 kids. Another daughter spent 4 years at BYU with nary a date, but a whole lot of “hanging out.” The two YSA wards she has attended since graduation seems to have a “hang out” mentality. The RM’s rarely ask a girl out for a date. From my daughter’s perspective, lots of RM’s are just killing time, want the “perfect” girl, and enjoy hanging out at their parents’ homes and playing video games far too much. My oldest son attended BYU-I, and landed with a couple of older grad students who weren’t married. He saw how they were spinning their wheels and vowed he would not fall into the same pattern. He didn’t date in high school, but within 6 months, he had dated around and eventually found a young lady to marry. I don’t think Elder Oaks cares if YSA’s hang out to some degree. We all know friendships have to develop somehow. It’s that long term, too comfortable and afraid to take the next step hanging out that he’s talking about.
Yes, as a father of two teenage boys in Southern CA I agree, dating is dead.
“within 6 months he…found a young lady to marry.” Such a naive LDS dream.
For the Strength of Youth always had that clause “in cultures where dating is acceptable,” and now America is one of those places where dating of the sort described in FtSoY isn’t the norm either. The New Era addressed this a year ago: link My thoughts on the matter were written at Junior Ganymede, but I’ll share a couple parts here:
Brother Chon, my bishop when I courted and wed Sister Mansfield, had been a missionary in his native Korea, and following his mission, his mission president took Brother and Sister Chon’s non-LDS fathers out to dinner and arranged a marriage. With the approval of the fathers obtained, the mission president brought the couple together to see what they thought of the idea. Sister Chon asked her proposed future husband if he would always pay tithing. He said he would, and she accepted him. It was sweet almost three decades after their introduction to one another to sit in their home and hear her tell her happiness in marrying a Mormon boy.
There is no reason to think 20th Century American dating should continue as the one true way to prepare youth to court a marriage partner, but if it is to disappear, it will need a replacement. Perhaps the calling of mission presidents, or better yet their wives, needs to be formally expanded to include a matchmaker role over those leaving full-time proselytizing. Calling stake betrothal specialists is another possibility.
Sorry, I messed up the New Era link, misplaced the quotes around the URL:
I’ll admit that at first I thought dating couldn’t have changed that much from when I was a teenager. After all, it wasn’t that long ago. And then I did the math. Now I feel old.
I definitely think our ideas and expectations around dating and relationships needs to be updated for the technologically driven world in which we live. I didn’t have any long term relationships before marrying my husband (after a long 2 year courtship) but I’m grateful for the brief, if somewhat ill fated relationships I did have because they were important lessons in figuring out myself. I do worry that without some “practice” relationships under their belts, more bad marriages might be formed from lack of experience.
The human brain is still developing until the mid-20s or early 30s.
Thanks for sharing the BYU crushes excerpts. They are so hilarious and cringe-worthy! And, as is so often the case, your footnote hilarity is unparallelled!
Is there comfort knowing that it is changing everywhere?
Check out OnBeing from last week:
No good input here (a miracle I scored an awesome husband, only time working with YW we were more concerned with teen pregnancies and getting them to graduate from HS). Just wanted to echo Ziff’s cscomment that the footnotes were hilarious. Definitely made my day in addition to making me even more terrified of my kids becoming teens.
From “8 Pointers for Brits Dating in America”:
Prepare to juggle multiple potential partners
Dating is like a hobby here
Don’t assume someone’s into you just because they agree to go on a date
Daytime dates are a thing here
Furthermore, Americans date sober
You might feel like you’re being interviewed
You don’t have to have sex
You will need to discuss—not assume—exclusivity
More details on each of those points at the link. The writer finds dating among adults in America overall more FtSoY-ish then we might have guessed.
Footnote #1 must come from teens who think the Mormonads in the New Era are God’s humor templates.
Perhaps with the hanging out culture for young adults, the concept should be thrown out that once you hang out for more than a month, an official date should happen.
Our Bishop just spoke at the YW Evening for Excellence in our ward and introduced the term ‘courting’ to the youth as a ‘ancient’ word from the old days of one of our 80 year-old audience members. It was a good effort and bringing together the traditions of our elders and introducing them to our youth. Connecting Elders to Youth is a goal of some youth programs around the country. Group dates were emphasized, by the Bishop, for teens, and perhaps a few of them will see an opportunity to go from a mentality of hanging out to a mentality of group dating. Though dating is dead, it is still a worthwhile goal to preach it.
Loved the read…and no doubt all true…the dating scene for my kids in college is pretty crazy, from what they tell me.
It’s easy for my son who is 16 to say he doesn’t date before 16, or while 16, or after 16. He says no one “dates”. So…I guess he’s following FSOY?
Hawk, I owe you a HUGE debt of gratitude…you just confirmed that my decision to continue my education (Mechanical Engineering) at Fresno State rather than transfer to the “Y” post-mission (I had only three semesters left anyway) was a WISE one. Would that my kids felt the same, although by the time the youngest one that graduated there got out, BYU was actually CHEAPER.
Every generation has its own brand of silliness. The current crop of youngsters conduct theirs in cyberspace.
Next I wanna see “Zoobies on Spring Break”…what do they do to left off steam, funnel Root Beer?
I think that many of the local leaders will sometimes (or continuously) go through a time where they are struggling like Mary Ann #11 just hoping that they will graduate high school without getting pregnant (or getting their girlfriend pregnant). We had some great waves of youth go through our ward, and some that were very concerning at the basic level. The leaders were less focused on preaching dating vs. hanging out after the problems went through.
The flip side is that there are several recent RMs who have never dated anyone for very long. I wonder if they will now start getting a little more serious about their relationships or if they may jump right into marriage. Or maybe they will not start any serious relationship for a long time.
Being far from Utah and not near a big state University, the singles ward is not big, but there is still a large enough group to find hang out friend all the way up to many dating prospects. Maybe I should have a poll in the HP group on who the next RM to get married from the ward will be?
I trust that our smart and lively BYU kids are fully aware of how cringe inducing their crushes lobbed into cyberspace appear. I think they are in on the joke. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I think we tend to underplay the impact that economic prospects are having on our youth. The fact is that family supporting jobs are becoming rarer and rarer. Add to that the pressure to start families early and to have a stay at home parent and it can look kind of crushing. Hanging out is by far the logical option if you are staring down years of school and exclusive relationships where you are attracted to the person carry all kinds of spiritual dangers. The world just isn’t like was in the 50s through 70s. Family sustaining jobs and career paths on a single income aren’t plausible, even here in the richest country the world has ever known, just because you are willing to work hard. Getting there requires careful planning, lots of education etc. In some sense, we as Mormons need to lay off preaching/saying that our kids can “have it all”. Most people can’t get married at 22, have 6 kids by your 30s, be financially stable (if not prosperous), have a single income, be EQ president etc. etc. Yet to me that seems to be the ideal we put out there for them. As a guy that can just appear crushing.
Heck, I am kind of one of those people that have it all. 4 kids, a stay at home spouse, strong family relationships, good education, good career, lived in 3 countries etc. I know many families that are kind of like this. I also see how much luck, support from others, and crazy, crazy risk and effort it took for all of us. Let me reemphasize that. I am smart. I work hard. That just isn’t enough. I was 34 and receiving charity gift cards to Target from people in my ward during my PhD program. We still have school debt and have a first kid going into high school for whom I have not a single dime of college savings and don’t ask about my retirement account. We will make it – assuming continued good health, no catastrophes, continued discipline etc. But that is a lot of ifs.My wife is looking to get a real job after 14 years out of the workforce partially so we can catch up and create better financial stability in the long term. I make well into 6 figures and we are your normal Mormon relatively frugal family – never bought a car newer than 10 years old, make our own yogurt, actually grind our own wheat for bread etc (though of course we know some Mormon families that put us to shame). Certainly, there are some Mormon families that were smarter, got luckier, had more support and have it all and good on them. But even for those of us who “made” it….we staggered under the weight more than once. And for every family like us there are those for whom it didn’t go so well. I completely empathize with college kids staring into the face of all this and thinking…maybe I should play it cool a bit. And for people whose economic prospects are much dimmer even more so. I just can’t imagine that all this doesn’t impact our dating age kids behavior, self evaluations, confidence etc. All Mormons can’t be 90th percentile and sadly the ideal we put out there for our youth kind of requires it (and then it is a stretch). If dating means charging down this path head on…dude I would totally just hang.
I have 4 daughters. We live in Australia. The first married an RM, and had 6 children before he finished his PHD.
The second married outside of the church has 3 boys and they are all good people, and probably the closest to us.
The third converted her husband and they and 3 children, are good people and active members.
The fourth daughter has been on a lot of hang outs and a couple of dates. She made a commitment that she would marry in the temple, and hasn’t got close to being asked. At 36 she has a good job, owns 4 houses, but is still hoping for the man who will take her to the temple. There are no prospects in view either past or present. She will not discuss it, and finds it offensive that Elder Bedinar is coming to talk to the single adults about marriage. She isn’t going. Her parents don’t know what to do to help. Are there any places she could visit where the odds would improve. California? UK? She is not an American type beauty, but an attractive person.
The “dating vs hanging out” dichotomy is another manifestation of the generation gap. Millenials are probably going to be more hesistant to dive headfirst into committed relationships/marriage/children because their futures are less certain than that of their parents. They are also more likely to have grown up seeing divorce and failed marriages, much more than their parents did. It’s counterproductive for the older generations to keep blaming the younger for not living up to the older cultural expectations in a different world. And for many it can be absolutely crushing.
Instead of constantly haranguing singles for not “choosing” to be married and having kids, Elder Oaks and other leaders should seek to understand the underlying issues, the social/cultural/economic forces involved, and the circumstances of the individuals.
“Next I wanna see “Zoobies on Spring Break”…what do they do to left off steam, funnel Root Beer?”
#16, easy, BYU just doesn’t do Spring Break.
Also, no one says zoobies, anymore.
Rah really nails it. I hear a lot about single men playing video games, goofing off and generally delaying marriage to enjoy life. No doubt there are men like that. I know a few. But the majority of single men I know seem to be trying hard to prepare for marriage, and are daunted by the prospect of providing for a wife and children in today’s world.
I get the feeling that a lot of youth grow up with the expectation that if you follow the commandments, pay your tithing and graduate from college, you’ll be blessed financially and be able to live at least a comfortable middle class lifestyle. I have a testimony of tithing and the blessings that come from obeying the law, but those blessings don’t necessarily include wealth. The reality is that it has become very difficult to make a comfortable middle class living on a single income. In most families that I know, in and out of the church, both partners work. In the families where the wife is home full time, the husband has a very successful career (usually as a business owner or executive, lawyer, or doctor). And even they struggle from time to time.
All of this cuts close to home for me right now. I went to a top university and worked hard. After college I got a good job with a respectable salary and excellent benefits. But I also elected to pursue a career with less income potential than I otherwise could have had. I didn’t want to be in school for another decade, or have a job that would require constant late nights or frequent travel. I wanted to provide for my family while having time to spend with them, which is what I got.
My children never went hungry. We lived in a comfortable, but modest home in a safe neighborhood in one of the top school districts in the state. We had an emergency fund and a year’s supply of food storage. But once my wife quit her job to be a full time mom and my company instituted a salary freeze due to economic challenges, money became tight. My blessings came in the form of not being laid off in any of the four rounds of layoffs my company went through. We were still able to pay all our bills, buy food and gas, and take care of all the necessities, but the luxuries of life became fewer and further between.
Finally my wife filed for divorce. She listed several reasons for doing so, but it was clear that our financial situation was at the top of the list. I wasn’t able to provide the same standard of living that the business owners, doctors and lawyers in our ward (who were never home and were all a decade or two older than us) provided.
My basic point is that, if we want young people to date and marry and have successful families, perhaps we need to spend less time harping on them about dating and more time setting realistic expectations.
Here is an interesting post where a Mormon family with 1 income and 6 kids details all their finances. You will note that his spending budget is 60k a year which doesn’t include savings or taxes. That means he probably pulls in at least 80k given the amounts he talks about saving. He also lives in a cheap part of the country, has decided not to save any money for his kids college and like many Mormon families do some pretty frugal things like gaming frequent flyer/credit card programs to pay for their travel, extreme couponing etc. They seem very savvy and smart with their money and good on them!
But the point is he has a job somewhere around the 85-90 percentile for an individual. He also has a computer science degree which assuming he has worked in this field and kept his skills up probably give him some pretty good employment stability.
Lots interesting to think about from that post. It highlights how the prospect of cheap, tithing supported tuition can take off a huge psychological and financial burden (for kids that can get in). A very large percentage of tithing goes to the BYUs – like really large. http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/07/22/does-the-church-over-subsidize-byu/ but I think this helps us understand how important the BYUs are to American Mormonism. They hold out the promise and real possibility of the American dream to many LDS families because they can basically ignore college costs for their kids.
Also, love his recognition of the importance of life insurance in his situation.
I’m a convert to the Church. I grew up with two working class parents that propelled us into being middle class. Then I married a teacher and was a stay at home mom. The difference is that my husband’s family knew about investments and he was raised making them. I wasn’t. There is an incredible diffference in our income due to investments apart from his salary. Major banks like Wells Fargo have financial advisors who help people achieve their goals based on their income–one doesn’t have to start out rich to finish rich.
David Bach authored series of books with those titles that I think are common sense and good financial planning for kids to grow up knowing other than just expecting the Lord will bless them with enough or lots if they are righteous enough. No, it really takes planning and investing.
And no, I don’t work for Wells Fargo or any other place!