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Dating and Marriage: Let's Talk!

Aloha mai kakou! Thank you all for being here!

About a month ago, Monica and I were able to attend general conference. While I was there, I was fortunate to meet many of your parents. They were so proud to tell me about you and your experiences at BYU–Hawaii. I took pictures with many of them and in several cases I knew you by name and could share some updates with them on how you are doing.

As I reflect on those conversations, and the last four years, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I’m able to serve as your president. Monica and I love you. We are so proud of you. We are proud of who you are, who you represent, and who you are striving to become. 

In January, we had the unique opportunity of hosting our version of the Church Educational System Date Night. We had over 1,200 participants, and everyone enjoyed the chance to learn more about dating, get to know each other, and take part in fun activities planned for the occasion. It was clear from your participation and enthusiasm that each of you is committed to making the effort to find an eternal companion and start a family and we are grateful you have that righteous desire. This activity wasn’t just a good idea--It was organized in support of President and Sister Oaks’s address to young adults in the summer of 2023. [1]

Much of what President and Sister Oaks shared was based on “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Let’s start today with two simple statements from the family proclamation:

First, “[t]he family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.”

And second, “[t]he first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” [2]

The principles taught in the family proclamation are not new. Prophets of the Restoration have been talking about the importance of marriage and family for many decades. In 1953, more than 70 years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson warned, “No nation ever rises above its homes. This Church will never rise above its homes … The good home is the rock foundation, the cornerstone of civilization. It must be preserved. It must be strengthened.” [3]

Today’s prophet President Russell M. Nelson teaches that, “Marriage is the foundry for social order, the fountain of virtue, and the foundation for eternal exaltation. Marriage has been divinely designated as an eternal and everlasting covenant. [4]

The family proclamation also includes a prophetic call to action, “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” [5]

Today, the world is experiencing the impact of not heeding prophetic direction. With declining marriage rates leading to fewer births, many East Asian and European countries are experiencing serious population decline. A declining workforce leads to decreased economic productivity. Simultaneously, the increasing proportion of elderly citizens jeopardizes the stability of pension and social insurance programs. With smaller household sizes, the capacity to support the elderly declines. Moreover, the elderly encounter rising healthcare demands and expenses. Collectively, these changes indicate that population decline in these countries will cause increasingly significant economic and societal problems. [6]

The case for marriage and family isn’t just economic. According to data from the General Social Survey, when it comes to predicting overall happiness, no other factor including college education, higher income, or a good job increases your odds of being "very happy" with your life than a good marriage. Based on these data, on average, marriage will make someone 1.5 times happier! Not a bad deal! [7]

This is great news, but it gets even better! Our temple covenants guide each of us toward eternally happy marriages. There is no measure of the multiples of joy that Monica, and our children, bring into my life!

Monica and I have hosted lunches with several of you to listen to your thoughts and feelings on dating and temple marriage. We’ve learned about your worries and concerns; we have also confirmed that you have a strong desire to be sealed in the house of the Lord and experience the blessings of a happy marriage and family.

We also learned that you want us to provide you with a set of principles and expectations around dating here at BYU–Hawaii. We have worked and prayed to prepare that and share it with you today. In addition to this devotional, we encourage you to study and ponder the scriptures, the teachings of the modern prophets, and other official Church instruction on this topic. We have compiled a list of helpful resources which can be found at, please take a look! [8]

Married students, don’t tune out! These lessons apply as you continue to date and deepen your relationship with your spouse.

President and Sister Oaks addressed some of these topics when they spoke to young adults at a worldwide devotional in May 2023. Their message is powerful, and we invite you to listen to it again soon. Let’s review some statements from their message that focus on dating and marriage. First, President Oaks taught that “[m]arriage is central to the purpose of mortal life and what follows. ... Just remember, a loving Heavenly Father has a plan for His young adults and part of that plan is marriage and children.”

Sister Oaks added, “In truth, marriage is a gift. Not only does marriage give us the opportunity for children, but it gives us the opportunity and incentive to begin a journey of growing with one another. We learn to sacrifice and serve as we can in few other ways.”

Now you might be wondering


Sister Oaks continued with some very important direction:
“If you find yourself marking time waiting for a marriage prospect, stop waiting and start preparing. Prepare yourself for life—by education, experience, and planning. Don’t wait for happiness to be thrust upon you. Seek out opportunities for service and learning. And most important, trust in the Lord, ‘calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come.’ And I promise as you do, happiness will come to you.” [9]

The foundational principle of dating and covenant marriage is personal preparation. As you consider your personal preparation, please remember how very loved you are as a child of God. President Nelson asked you to have this “eternal truth imprinted upon your heart.” Do not dwell on your imperfections. When you elevate the way you honor your covenants and follow Jesus Christ, your physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual wellness will be elevated too.

President Nelson has shared with us this blessing and promise, “… I bless you to have the desire and strength to keep your covenants. As you do, I promise that you will experience spiritual growth, freedom from fear, and a confidence that you can scarcely imagine now. You will have the strength to have a positive influence far beyond your natural capacity. And I promise that your future will be more exhilarating than anything you can presently believe.” [10]

Imagine freedom from fear of dating, freedom from fear of commitment, freedom from fear of failure, and freedom from all other kinds of fear. Doesn’t that sound fantastic? Combine that with confidence and strength, and a future that is more than you can presently believe. Wow. This is a powerful promise from our beloved prophet. With that kind of personal preparation you are ready to go on a date!


This was the most discussed questions in our focus groups. President Oaks provided some excellent instruction on this, let’s watch together.

A date includes the three p’s: (1) planned ahead, (2) paid for, and (3) paired off. … We endorse that prophetic direction!

President Oaks said, “men have the initiative.” That is great counsel and I expect you men to step up. Sometimes men need a little help exercising that initiative, a reason to feel confident and ask you out. Sisters, I want to remind you that it is 100% ok for you to show interest in a man that is interesting to you!

Additional topics in our meetings with you were, “what does a date mean?” and “what does a date NOT mean?”

Going on one date with someone doesn’t mean you are getting married. It also doesn’t mean you can’t go out with someone else. It simply means you both agree to spend some time together and get to know each other as friends. Seeing two people on a date is not worthy of campus or ward gossip. Dating is fun, don’t ruin it for each other by making too much out of a single date.

You can learn something from, and even enjoy going on a date with someone who you don’t envision as your eternal partner. That being said, it is very reasonable to go on one date with someone and know very clearly that, “one date was more than enough.”

Aaron Curtis, dean of the Faculty of Math & Computing here at BYU–Hawaii taught us in a devotional last year that, “As you're trying to make friends…please recognize that many people you introduce yourself to will not be very interested in developing a long-term relationship. This is okay. Most people you meet as a missionary are not currently interested in learning about the Church. Most people you date are not going to marry you…And that's okay. [11]

Here at BYU–Hawaii, you have some great options for dates that include President Oaks’s “three p’s” and won’t break your budget. You could:

  • Grab a lei needle, some string, and string a lei with flowers that you collect on campus 
  • Attend the PCC villages 
  • Go to The Hub and enjoy golf, bowling, billiards, and table tennis 
  • And if you are really struggling for ideas, you could do a beach walk and cleanup. Ladies love a man who takes care of the environment. Add a trip to Angel’s afterwards and you have put together quite the date!  

President Oaks shared the three p’s. A good date also needs to include the three c’s: communication, communication, and communication!

To facilitate this a date should include the three p’s and the three c’s and:

  • Follow a plan that is shared with the other person ahead of time  
  • Be in a safe environment and public area 
  • Include a wholesome activity that allows for comfortable conversation 
  • Have a clear, predetermined endpoint

Conversation on a date is extremely important. Make it a point to think ahead about things you can talk about on a first date. Let’s help each other out with this right now. Please work with your neighbor and discuss two statements or questions that would be great for conversation on a first date.

Thanks for helping each other with this. One more reminder, conversation means you are both talking AND listening. You can’t get to know someone by talking about yourself.

Well said, Monica. Now,


Many years ago, I went on a double date. My friend Beth was on a date with a young man named Shawn (these are not their real names!). As we approached Beth’s house, she said, “Keoni, just slow down, I’ll jump out. You don’t need to stop.”

It took me a moment to process what she was saying, I didn’t know Beth was the adventurous type that liked jumping out of moving cars! After a puzzled moment, I brought the car to a complete stop in front of her house.

As I came to stop, Beth opened her door, said a quick goodbye, and bolted into her house.

Shawn sat in the car, perplexed, wondering out loud, “What just happened!?!?”

Obviously, Beth was feeling anxious about the end of the date and Shawn and Beth had not communicated to determine a mutually understood way for the date to end.

The end of any date, good or bad, can create anxiety as the goodbye may include the expectation of some kind of physical interaction. Any physical expression of affection or romantic interest, such as holding hands, an embrace, or a kiss should be preceded by clear communication and affirmative consent.

Affirmative consent must be informed, voluntary, and active, meaning that, through the demonstration of clear words or actions, a person has indicated permission to engage in mutually agreed-upon physical interaction.

The absence of a “no” does not mean “yes” and consent on one occasion does not mean consent can be assumed from that time forth.

Shawn and Beth would have benefitted greatly from more communication and a better understanding of how to seek and give consent. Imagine this scenario unfolding a bit differently.

Shawn could have noticed Beth was looking uncomfortable. For goodness sake, she was ready to jump out of a moving car to avoid the end of this date!

Shawn should have realized she had some concern about how the date would end and initiated a conversation to understand how she was feeling. Sensing that, he could have said, “Beth, would it be ok if I walked you to the door and kissed you goodnight?”

Beth might have replied, “You can walk me to the door, but let’s leave it at that. I don’t want more than that.”

And Shawn could have replied saying, “I understand, I am happy to just walk you to the door.”

That might sound difficult, but I promise this conversation is far less awkward than what I observed!

In this scenario, Shawn is demonstrating respect for Beth by seeking to understand both her body language and verbal communications. He then ensures proper boundaries for his behavior. After communicating his interest, he honors her choice not to reciprocate.

Perhaps some of you empathize with Beth. To that point, I want to be clear, you do not owe anyone any amount of physical affection for taking you out on a date.

Seeking affirmative consent is a natural outcome of good communication and Christ-like treatment of others. Affirmative consent protects each of us from a variety of harmful outcomes.


Let’s say you have been on some dates. You have found someone with whom there is a mutual interest in a second date or more. Going on more than one date with someone doesn’t necessarily mean you are in an exclusive relationship. You could still be going on dates with other people. That means your second date and beyond come with an elevated need for communication as you discuss the trajectory of this relationship with the person you are dating. As you continue going on dates, you start to get to know each other on a different level, things beyond the answers to those basic questions of the first date.

Here’s what Elder Robert D. Hales said about dating: “The track that leads to marriage passes through the terrain called dating! Dating is the opportunity for lengthy conversations. When you date, learn everything you can about each other. Get to know each other’s families when possible. Are your goals compatible? Do you share the same feelings about the commandments, the Savior, the priesthood, the temple, parenting, callings in the Church, and serving others? Have you observed one another under stress, responding to success and failure, resisting anger, and dealing with setbacks? Does the person you are dating tear others down or build them up? Is his or her attitude and language and conduct what you would like to live with every day?” [12]

OK, so we are dating and communicating.


Monica and I had been dating for a few months when Monica called me, and with a voice that held deep concern, said, “We need to talk.” I thought things were going great in our relationship but clearly, I had missed something. I drove over to her house and picked her up. She was obviously concerned. We drove to the Provo Utah Temple grounds and sat on the grass. My only thought was that she was breaking up with me and I was distraught.

After several minutes of uncomfortable silence, I finally expressed that I was concerned about where our relationship was heading. Keoni was leaving for a Ph.D. program in about six months, and we hadn’t talked about our plans for the future at all, not to mention whether our plans included each other! It took all my courage, and not a small amount of frustration to motivate me to ask, “do you see yourself marrying me?”

I was shocked and relieved. I responded, “of course, that is why we are still dating, right?” The actual conversation included just one simple question and one simple answer. We had been dating for months and had communicated well about many things, but not this one!

After several dates, you may start to wonder if you are in a relationship. Do not make assumptions about the status or trajectory of your relationship. There is only one way to know this. YOU HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT!

If you have mutually consented to an exclusive relationship, that means you have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Accepting or asking others on a date when you are in an exclusive relationship is not appropriate. If you desire to do that you need to let your significant other know that the relationship isn’t working for you and that you want to date other people.

This requires a “break-up.” Break-ups should not be dreaded; they are a healthy step forward when a relationship isn’t progressing. If you are feeling you don’t want a second date, or that you want to end a relationship, then communicate that! Be kind and candid. Don’t make the other person try to figure out your feelings. Don’t ghost people. If someone breaks up with you react appropriately. Thank them for their honesty and clear communication. Accept their decision. Express your feelings kindly and candidly. Then, move on, learn from the experience, care for yourself, and continue your personal preparation.

When you are in a relationship you need to continue to deepen your mutual understanding of each other. The level of your communication needs to be elevated accordingly. Expanding on the counsel from Elder Hales that I shared earlier, you could talk about where they want to settle down and live, how many children they want to have and when they want to start having them, what their approach is to disciplining children, and how they feel a husband and wife should work together to lead a family. Check for more topics that should be discussed at this stage of dating. [13]

As you are dating, I urge you to remember the importance of the law of chastity. President Nelson said, “Few things will complicate your life more quickly than violating this divine law. For those who have made covenants with God, immorality is one of the quickest ways to lose your testimony.” [14]

In contrast, following the law of chastity will enhance your capacity to communicate with each other and grow together spiritually.

The next stage of dating is referred to as being “engaged.” This requires a formal proposal of marriage, and often requires meeting and seeking the support of your future spouse’s parents. It may also require fulfilling other cultural norms that are important to your future spouse. This is a time when you will begin planning your life together. You are still in the stage of discernment and you could end the engagement if you feel that is the right thing to do.

As you prepare for marriage, remember this counsel from Elder Hales, “[N]one of us marry perfection; we marry potential. The right marriage is not only about what I want; it’s also about what she—who’s going to be my companion—wants and needs me to be.” [15]

When you are engaged, you need to be very careful and thoughtful to ensure that the physical aspect of your relationship is well within the bounds of the law of chastity and does not supersede your communication and spiritual growth together.


When you are married, you must continue with your personal preparation and good communication. You should also continue dating your spouse. Then heed the advice of President Nelson, "Harmony in marriage comes only when one esteems the welfare of his or her spouse among the highest of priorities. When that really happens, a celestial marriage becomes a reality, bringing great joy in this life and in the life to come" [16] Perhaps at this point you are thinking, “this is great advice for someone else, but dating and marriage are too much for me right now.” Perhaps your current desires are not fully aligned with the marriage covenant. Whatever your situation, the Lord loves you, and His eternal plan for you includes all the blessings of eternal life. Let’s watch Sister Oaks beautiful words that are directed to each of us who might feel this way.

As Sister Oaks made clear, there is no specific timeline for marriage and family. Your focus needs to be on your personal efforts to make and honor your covenants, to develop a deeper relationship with your Heavenly Father, and to develop and improve your talents and capacity. Remember that President Nelson has taught us that “the Lord loves effort.” [17]

Whatever that effort looks like for you today, listen to the Spirit and seek personal revelation. Show the Lord that you care and that you are trying.

I love you. I know that your Heavenly Father loves you too. Trust Him.

I know it can be challenging to keep making that effort. I remember talking to recently married friends before I met Monica. They all seemed to have a story that ended with them “just knowing” that they had found their eternal companion. It always sounded sensational, like something that would never happen to me. I dated people and never felt that “just know” feeling. And then I met Monica, and it didn't take long before I “just knew.” I felt calm, happy, safe, and loved with Monica, and knew I wanted that forever. It seems like crazy talk, until it happens to you! So ganbatte ne! Hang in there!

In closing, I testify to you that your Heavenly Father loves you. Jesus Christ loves you and He died so you can live, He suffered to bring you mercy and eternal happiness. I testify that the prophet Joseph Smith was given the keys and authority to administer sacred ordinances and that those keys and authority have been preserved and reside with today’s prophet, President Russell M. Nelson.

I testify that you have access to prophetic guidance and can make and honor covenants with God. I testify to you that sealing in the temple is a joyful ordinance. My love for Monica has grown every day that we have been together, and our covenant relationship has brought us great joy. I know that eternal happiness is prepared for each of us, in the Lord’s time.

Please take courage in these facts, and our Heavenly Father’s beautiful plan. Go forth with faith and confidence. Seek to make and honor eternal covenants, including being sealed to your eternal companion in the House of the Lord. My dear students, I am humbled and grateful to serve you. I love you. I pray for your continued success and joy through each challenge and success you have in your lives.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Dallin H. Oaks and Kristen M. Oaks, “Stand for Truth” [worldwide devotional for young adults, May 21, 2023],
[2] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,”
[3] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson (manual)
[4] Russell M. Nelson, “Nurturing Marriage,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2006, 36.
[5] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,”
[6] Population Implosion? Low Fertility and Policy Responses in the European Union [2005]
[7] The General Social Survey
[9] Dallin H. Oaks and Kristen M. Oaks, “Stand for Truth” [worldwide devotional for young adults, May 21, 2023],
[10] Russell M. Nelson, “Choices for Eternity” [worldwide devotional for young adults, May 15, 2022],
[11] Aaron Curtis, “Bring Them Hither” [Brigham Young University–Hawaii devotional, Jan. 17, 2023],
[12] Robert D. Hales, “Meeting the Challenges of Today’s World,” Ensign or Liahona, Oct. 2015, 45.
[14] Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial!,” Liahona, Oct. 2023, 1.
[15] Robert D. Hales, “Meeting the Challenges of Today’s World,” Ensign or Liahona, Oct. 2015, 45.
[16] Russell M. Nelson, “Celestial Marriage,” Ensign or Liahona, Oct. 2008, 94.
[17] Joy D. Jones, “An Especially Noble Calling,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2020, 16.