This is going to be a new portion of the website, where I look at some of the questions that have been submitted to the New Era since 1971, and either post witty social commentary, post my opinions on the question/answer, or offer insight into the mind of the 2010 teenager. The plan is to go through each month of the New Era, from 1971 to present, and once or twice-a-week offer my thoughts and experiences. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s (12 issues per year x 39 yrs), and if I’m doing it once a week, we’ll be at 468 weeks (or a year and 3 and a half months).

January 1971’s questions can be found here.

Should I date a boy who is skeptical toward the Church and try to influence him, or should I not date him for fear he will influence me?

Wow…this is a bit of a loaded question. Then again, many of the questions from this time frame were. We’re left with 2 decisions:

1. Date a boy who isn’t a member and hope to influence him for good

2. Not date him for fear he will influence you (FOR EVIL!)

There’s not much wiggle room in this way of thinking. First of all, what does she mean by “dating?” Does she mean “going steady,” or having this person become a boyfriend? Or does she mean going on a date? While I would hope it’s not as dramatic as this girl going on one date and fearing his horrible influence on her, I’m going to tackle this in the context of having a significant other. Paul Dunn (there’s no need to snicker when you hear his name), was the one offering the advice. Let’s get some snippets of what he said:

This question is one of the most frequently asked, and for a good reason. The answer is not a simple yes or no.

How true that is. I’ve been put in this teenager’s situation many times while in HS, and while it wasn’t as dramatic as she makes it out to be, it’s still a question that teens today struggle with. For me personally, I dated half members and half non-members during my high school tenure. There are positives and negatives to both aspects, but it really isn’t a matter of “Date only MORMONS or you will be CORRPUTED!”

During my Church experience I have met many not of our faith from almost every walk of life, who, when matched with some of our youth, soar to a higher spiritual and moral plane. I honor and respect these young people for their beliefs and high standards.

And, I would add, there are many great people out there. I dated a few girls who found it a fun game to mess with the “Mormons.” They were all good friends, but they thought that myself and the other LDS kids in my grade (only 3 others) were very prudish and conservative. On the contrary, there were many who knew our standards and would respect that. Many parents knew who the “Mormon boys” were, and were always happy to see us because they knew their daughters were going to be with people who weren’t going to be drinking and weren’t going to put their daughters in compromising situations.

While our Church teaches the highest moral and spiritual standards concerning dating and marriage, not all Latter-day Saint youth adhere to them. Often I have said that I would rather my daughters date a non-Latter-day Saint boy with Christlike qualities and high moral standards than a Latter-day Saint boy who has neither.

So it’s a balancing act. There’s some great non-LDS kids out there who would fit right in with LDS beliefs. There’s some not-so-good LDS kids who probably need to get with the program. Very democratic and balancing.

Several things should be taken into consideration before we date either members or nonmembers. Ask yourself these questions: “Am I sufficiently strong in my adherence to the principles of the gospel and in my personal testimony to share its message boldly and tactfully with my date? Am I looking ahead to my future in such a way that it will include an eternal partner? Is this choice leading me closer to the goal of eternal marriage and the joy and happiness of dwelling with my Father in heaven? And finally, have I evaluated my feelings honestly with myself, my parents, and the Lord?” Too often we leave out of our decisions the wisdom of wise, experienced parents and the inspiration of the Lord.

This isn’t necessarily bad advice. But sometimes advice like this plays tricks on the minds of teenagers. What is the point of dating when in high school (then again, how are we to know this girl isn’t in college, but let’s take this from the perspective of a high-schooler)? While it’s good to bring up these thoughts of marriage and the end-goal of dating, isn’t the purpose of dating to help teenagers socially interact with their peers? Isn’t it part of normal teenage life to have crushes, experience heartbreak, and all the other things that come along with every other plot to a teen-angst filled 80’s movie by John Hughes? Let’s get off the marriage thing with teenagers!

When dating one of your own faith, you are more apt to share common standards, ideals, and eventually, lives.

I am sure that we all want a warm and loving home with a gracious and wonderful family. I think the real question is “Are we willing to make the proper personal preparation?”

While I don’t exactly agree with the second half of his answer, Paul Dunn gives some good insight into the first part – use personal discretion, and find people with high standards. We as Mormon already isolate ourselves (in a sense) through our church activities and church involvement. High standards, whether by Mormons or Catholics or Protestants or Atheists or Hindus or Muslims are all important before God, and shouldn’t we try to be with those who hold those high standards?

There are many reasons why I ask this, but I imagine mostly because my roommates find the subject, in their words, “charming” and “intriguing.” The question: Do we still believe in the Second Coming?

Ahh, the apocalyptic nature of the LDS people. We love to discuss the Second Coming, and we love to postulate and theorize on what we have. But I never thought to call the Second Coming “charming.”  I’d like to know what this roommate finds so “charming” about the Second Coming, especially after reading Revelations.  The person who is answering this question is Neal A. Maxwell (then Church Commissioner of Education):

The Church is clearly committed to a belief in the second coming of Christ. 

I could see how this could be laughable to us now, but reaffirming to people in the 1970’s. It’s interesting to see the ebb and flow of the feelings of the apocalypse when it comes to Mormons. There have been heightened feelings during the time of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, the end of polygamy, every world war, Vietnam, Korea, the Cold War, 9/11, and now all the upheaval in the world today with extremists terrorists. But then again, we go into lulls where there isn’t a lot of talk about it. So to hear this answer from Brother Maxwell now, in 2010, seems comical, in the 1970’s it might have seemed plausible.

The chiliast, one who believes in a second coming of Christ that will usher in a millennial reign, has special challenges in reading signs. First, he is urged to notice lest he be caught unawares. Second, he must be aware of how many false readings and alarms there have been in bygone days, even by the faithful.

For instance, has any age had more wonders in the sky than ours, with satellites and journeys to the moon? Has any generation seen, as has ours, such ominous vapors of smoke, with its mushroom clouds over the pathetic pyres of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Yet there is more to come.

Our task is to react and to notice without overreacting, to let life go forward without slipping into the heedlessness of those in the days of Noah.

Perhaps, ironically, the recent secular “prophecies” about coming cataclysms may create a fresh interest in the doctrine of the second coming of Christ.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  There’s a reason why Maxwell was my favorite to listen to during conference (and a reason he was always so difficult for me to read).

Part 2 of this week’s questions are coming this Thursday.