Dating, “Hooking Up,” and BYU


A view of the campus of Brigham Young University-Idaho, one of BYU’s three main campuses


Years ago, when I first joined the faculty at Brigham Young University in Provo, I had a conversation with a non-Mormon professor of German, based at a college in the American Northeast, who was teaching on campus as a visiting professor.  He was so happy, he said, to be teaching students who weren’t hung over and basically unconscious during Monday morning classes.  I found his comment amusing.  I had never thought of such a thing.


Another view on the BYU-Idaho campus in Rexburg


I’m grateful, too.  At least, I am when I think about such things.  But sometimes I need to be reminded.  Here’s one reminder:


According to many commentators and social scientists, the idea of “dating” is virtually dead on many college and university campuses.  “Courting,” to use a rather archaic-sounding word, has been replaced by “hooking up.”


Now, I’m aware of current strong trends, even among Latter-day Saint young people, to put off the commitments of  marriage.  And, as a former young-single-adult-ward bishop (not at BYU), I wish more dating were going on among Mormon youth, not just “hanging out.”  Moreover, as a past bishopric member and high councilman and a current professor at BYU, and from my experience long before that as a former student, I realize that the situation at BYU is, and always has been, imperfect.  A few BYU students flout the University’s Honor Code and the Church’s moral standards.  Many more have good intentions, but “slip up.”


But, overwhelmingly, students at BYU are trying to live up to their beliefs, and, on the whole, they do very well at it.  It’s a remarkable place.  So much so that it’s routinely derided, in our weirdly hypersexualized culture, as puritanical, “uptight,” “repressed,” lost in the fifties, Ozzie and Harriet, and every other kind of pop-Freudian Bad Thing.


I’m deeply grateful for the standards taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and upheld by Brigham Young University.  This article is quite foreign to me as a person who has now spent more than half of his life connected with BYU as either a student or a member of its faculty, and a substantial portion of that time involved in BYU-affiliated wards and stakes.  I’m happy that it’s so.  May it long remain so.


Posted from Waikoloa, Hawai’i


The Rexburg Idaho Temple
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(directly adjacent to the BYU-Idaho campus)



  • Brock Lesnar

    Dan, fun article.

    There is some truth to this joke:
    Q: what happens when someone brings beer to a co-ed party at BYU?
    A: everyone hurries, puts their clothes back on, and leaves.

    Yes, I remember my dating days at BYU with mixed emotions. My nights were filled with awkward gropings, fumblings, heartache, confusion and what I thought was love.

    It was also the end of adolescence and the beginning of a lifetime of compromises, disenchantments and real things, aka “marriage” (just kidding honey, you know I love you).

    I was able to smuggle out a video of a co-ed party I attended when I was a junior at BYU. Enjoy:

    • kiwi57

      Brock Lesnar: “There is some truth to this joke:
      Q: what happens when someone brings beer to a co-ed party at BYU?
      A: everyone hurries, puts their clothes back on, and leaves.”

      I doubt that very much.

      And since it isn’t especially funny, I don’t think it even qualifies as a “joke.”

      Maybe you need to mature a little bit.

      • rockyrd

        Trying to figure out if, back in the day, I’d have rather been at a party with you or Brock!

      • joseph peterson

        sister Kiwi37, your sense of humor is so cute.

        • kiwi57

          I wonder if you call me “sister” because you think it’s insulting?

          If so, you must have a low opinion of women…

          • joseph peterson

            you wonder and yet you are so far from the truth. It is my response to you so carefully calling me “mister” which, in the spirit of our previous conversation, when you basically asserted that liberals may be tolerated within the church, but not set the agenda, I thought I might remind you of our heavenly nature as spiritual siblings, by using the moniker you mistake as an insult. Kiwi37, I don’t have a low opinion of women. Just of you, from what I can surmise on these comment boards, which I concede is terribly limitd, and you’re probably quite lovely in real life.

          • DanielPeterson

            I’ve met him. He is.

          • joseph peterson

            oh wait, is kiwi37 a man? Why did I think kiwi37 was a sister/female/woman? Probably cause the author of the kiwi mormon blog on patheos is a woman. Haha. my mistake. sorry kiwi37.

  • RaymondSwenson

    At most colleges, consumption of alcohol is a major part of partying, and the dumbing down of personal judgment. Being “stone cold sober” makes for better personal judgement about personal relationships and intimacy. A large number of campus sexual assault cases depend on the competing recollections of men and women who were both mentally impaired by alcohol and other drugs.
    It has been my perception that BYU specifically talors its admission policies so that there is not an overbalance of women over men in its student body, avoiding the negative consequences that overbalance would have for dating opportunities and making marriages.

  • stacylwhitman

    College students are not “youth.” They’re adults, and I really wish our culture would stop infantilizing single people just because we’re single. I’ve been called a “youth” before by a member of the singles’ ward bishopric, too–and he was YOUNGER than me. But because he was married and I wasn’t, he was magically somehow more mature than me.

    We really need to get over the idea that single adults are actively “delaying” marriage, as well. It’s a crap idea that makes it easy to blame singles rather than seeing the actual pressures we’re under–financially, many of us will never be able to afford a home or have the ability to raise children because the job market is so terrible.

    Very, very few active, faithful LDS singles are actively delaying marriage. There are social forces at work that make it hard to find the right person, definitely–none of which you covered in your post. Instead, you blame hanging out (which is actually a good trend for many introverts, to be able to get to know people as friends before deciding if we like someone) and the singles themselves. I’m really, really tired of posts like this about singles that really don’t try to actually understand singles at all.

    • Brock Lesnar

      Great post, Stacy!

      Believe me, I’ve been there, and it sucks. In a few years you will look back on all of this and chuckle.

      • stacylwhitman

        Unless you got married after the age of 40, no, you haven’t been there. And no, I really don’t think I’ll look back and “chuckle” at how singles are marginalized in the church, thanks.

        • Brock Lesnar


          I didn’t need to make light of your situation. I’m all too aware that the Church is not the most welcoming place for older singles. There is room for a lot of improvement.

          Hang in there.

    • somersault


      I feel the need to reply to some assumptions in your comment, that I also made when back at that age:

      1. College students can indeed be considered youth. It has become abundantly clear in our current society that ‘adult’ has less to do with age and more about responsibility. The physical and social sciences back this up with evidence that the human mind doesn’t even fully mature until roughly the mid/late-twenties – with the mental maturity/ability to judge cause-and-effect as one of the last things to be acquired. (Car insurance companies had it right all along, dropping premiums at age 26…)

      2. There is the idea that singles are delaying marriage, and it is true (I was one of them). The idea of ‘actively’ doing it, though, was not alluded to in Dan’s post, nor do I believe that. We grow up with a lot of cultural pressures that we don’t even realize are present.

      3. To give an alternate perspective from a male’s point-of-view – I believe you, as a woman, that you don’t actively delay marriage. In fact, my experience is that few women did/do. Now men on the other hand, is a totally different story, and I agree fully with Dan that they need to date more. I was an introverted boy that really enjoyed “hanging-out”. But I guarantee you that I would have spent several more years doing that if one woman hadn’t taken an aggressive move towards me. I was perfectly fine with being in an all-female dinner group and playing video games with the girls for several semesters. There really was a gender difference on this issue that I saw when I was a student. Although I wonder if there is less of a difference now?

      I doubt Dan’s post was intended as a personal assault towards you. You obviously don’t fit what he was saying; but that doesn’t mean that what he says doesn’t happen, and happen commonly.

      • stacylwhitman

        I didn’t say it was a personal assault toward me. I’m saying that we have a culture of infantalizing singles in this church–my midsingles ward in Orem a few years ago had a goal to “teach young people responsibility” when the average age was 35 and the average accomplishment a master’s degree. So no, I don’t agree with pretty much most of what you just said.

        • Minjae_Lee

          Bitter much?

          • stacylwhitman

            Ho ho ho! So clever! Did you think of that one yourself?

            It’s easy to dismiss what I have to say, because then you don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to think about how singles (particularly over a certain age) are dismissed and isolated. She’s bitter, therefore it’s her own fault, he says, and he doesn’t have to think of me or anyone like me as a fellow sister in the gospel.

            That’s on you, buddy, not me.

          • DanielPeterson

            Stacy, please calm down. It certainly wasn’t my intent to “marginalize” or “stigmatize” anybody, and I’m very sensitive to the challenges faced by single Mormons above a certain age.

          • stacylwhitman

            Calm down? Thanks. I’m fine. Perfectly calm.

          • Minjae_Lee

            Not at all, I know the problem intimately and personally. You assume that you are the only one that suffers. But your bitterness does you no good and endears no one to your cause.

          • stacylwhitman

            Not bitter, thanks.

          • Minjae_Lee

            Your claim to not be bitter doesn’t show in your postings here.

          • stacylwhitman

            You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

          • Minjae_Lee

            That may be true, English is not my native tongue, but I think I have it right. Maybe we could get people to vote on it. All those who think that Stacy’s posts exhibit “bitterness” please raise your hands.

          • DanielPeterson

            I can, to some extent, understand the bitterness. But it’s definitely there.

    • DanielPeterson

      No need to become defensive, Stacy.

      Still, while I recognize that every case is different, I stand by the general thrust of my brief comments above.

      Incidentally, on the matter of every case being different: Some college students are adults. Some are definitely “youth.” And many are somewhere in between.

      • stacylwhitman

        Not bitter, not defensive. Just stating facts and tired of people like you who think you know so much.

        • DanielPeterson

          Defensive and, now, ignorantly judgmental.

          I didn’t attack you. I don’t know you.

          You don’t know me. Why are you attacking me?

      • RoseE Hadden

        Nice gaslighting. Beautifully and subtly done.

        To clarify my tone: I am being sarcastic there. Because gaslighting is a nasty, mean thing to do to a person. If you’d like to have a conversation about the needs and behaviors of single members in our church, as I truly believe that you do, then please LISTEN to single members. Listen to our anger and our frustration and our sadness. Help us find solutions. Don’t just tell us to ‘calm down’ and refrain from becoming ‘defensive.’

        Please, please don’t gaslight. Please just listen. We are hurting, and we need support, not instructions on what we should be feeling and how we should be expressing it.

        • DanielPeterson

          And you know that I don’t listen, and that I don’t want to help . . . how, exactly?

          • RoseE Hadden

            The phrases “Please calm down” and “No need to become defensive” indicate that you are instructing Stacy in how she should feel instead of listening to, and trying to understand, how she does feel. I can’t speak for her, but I know that I, a single past the standard marrying age, DO feel angry and defensive about that fact sometimes. It’s depressing and shameful and humiliating, and the religious community I turn to for support and comfort is instead turning into part of the problem. I hear SO much advice, from peers, family members, and church leaders, about what I should do to get married. How I should dress. What I should study. Where I should spend my time.

            I get no advice on the things that are really bothering me, like how I make big life decisions without a spouse to counsel with, or how I contribute to and feel valued in my faith without children, or how I learn about service and patience and love without the family that is supposed to teach me all those things, or what I have to look forward to in the eternities if I don’t have a priesthood-holding spouse to get me into the celestial kingdom, or how I deal with being a sexual being in a state of perpetual celibacy.

            I don’t get counsel on any of these things. I get counsel on how to get married, which feels sometimes like it’s just an effort to shut me up. My community just wants to find someone to “thoroughly woo her, wed her, and bed her, and rid the house of her.” I feel like a problem, not a person.

            So yes, I’m defensive. And no, I’m not very calm. And I’m reaching out into the world begging married LDS people, who have all the status and security I don’t, to somehow help. Or to at least just listen, and mourn with me, and validate my anger and my sadness and let me know that it’s okay to feel those things. I could manage just fine without the love of a husband if I at least had the love of my community.

          • DanielPeterson

            REH: “The phrases “Please calm down” and “No need to become defensive” indicate that you are instructing Stacy in how she should feel instead of listening to, and trying to understand, how she does feel.”

            That’s one reasonably plausible way of misreading what I wrote and misconstruing my intentions.

            And the more eager you are to take offense, the more plausible you’ll find it.

            I’m sorry about how you feel, and, to the extent possible, I think I understand fairly well why you feel that way.

            If you actually knew me, I hope and think that you would find me quite supportive.

            I’m not judging you. I don’t deserve your anger or condemnation.

  • rockyrd

    If you haven’t I suggest you read “My Name Used to be Muhammed.” Amazing church book that is different from anything i’ve read from an LDS publishing house. Very touching and significant. I wish I was in Maui!!!

    • DanielPeterson

      I read it in manuscript form for Deseret Book. I agree that it’s quite unlike other Mormon publishing, and fascinating.

  • joseph peterson

    Don’t forget the weird morality police, those bitter old maids (probably only 27) who roam the apartments of the ward at midnight and force people to turn off their movies because Honor Code. It’s like Iran there.