“Is it all right for a Latter-day Saint girl to hitchhike?” New Era, July 1975, 46–47
Answer/Sister Marilyn Arnold
If you had lived under the Law of Moses you would have found that indeed there were laws and commandments that covered areas even as specific as this. But as his people have grown more spiritually mature, the Lord has often simply taught them general principles and expected them to make their own decisions according to the light he has given them. As he said, “… it is not meet that I should command in all things.” This is just one of many, many areas for which there is no specific revelation handed down as Church doctrine. Nevertheless, the Lord has not left us without guidance in such matters. He has given us Church leaders to advise us; he has given us parents with more wisdom than we have; and perhaps most important, he has given us the Holy Ghost. You should ask yourself if prior to your recent hitchhiking trip you consulted these sources. You should also ask yourself, seriously, if hitchhiking was absolutely the only way for you to get to school. Did you really exhaust all the other possibilities? What did others in your situation do, who, like you, had counted on bus transportation?
There can really be no hard and fast rule against asking rides from strangers. Sometimes we have car trouble or find ourselves in other difficult situations that require us to solicit help from others. And there are many good people in the world who are willing to help us when trouble arises. But to me, seeking help under dire circumstances is quite different from purposely starting a journey as a hitchhiking venture, taking up a station on a public highway, thumb extended.
You already know all the sensible reasons for not hitchhiking, especially if you are a girl. In many states hitchhiking is against the law. Certainly the newspapers have convinced us, with grim tales of hitchhikers who became assault or murder victims, that hitchhiking is not safe. And there are reasons that go even beyond these very practical considerations. To hitchhike is to ask for trouble, to invite it. It is to willfully remove ourselves from the care of those who love us and place ourselves completely under the power of those who have no reason to be interested in our welfare. Could you with a clear conscience pray for the Lord’s protection on such a venture? It would be like praying to him to keep you warm and then going out in subzero weather in only a bathing suit. It would be like trying to address God and Satan at the same time. As Paul said, “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.” (1 Cor. 10:21.)
There is another reason why I think a Latter-day Saint girl should not hitchhike. It makes her look cheap. It tells the world that she really has no moral standards that she cares much about. It suggests that she holds herself cheaply. People, rightly or wrongly, pass judgment on the girl at the side of the road. They assume all kinds of things about her; men expect her to be an “easy mark.” This may not be true, but you place yourself at the mercy of such an attitude when you hitchhike.
Even in an emergency it pays to be careful. One time several of my friends and I decided to take a short vacation in the Tetons. We had not realized that with several people and all their luggage in the car, we would not get the gas mileage we had expected. Consequently, we ran out of gasoline in a mountainous area some distance from any town. Our only hope of getting gas before nightfall was to get help from a passing motorist. So we set about to flag down a car. Two men finally stopped for us, local boys who seemed harmless enough. Nevertheless, several of us went along to find a service station, because we felt there was safety in numbers. Well, the men were harmless enough, but the bottle of liquor they brought out soon after we were on our way was not. They drank during the whole 20 miles or so that we traveled to find gasoline, and by the time we arrived, they were quite drunk. We could have been in a terrible accident. Going back we waited and watched at the station until a family came by that was known to the station proprietor, and he asked them if they would give us a ride back to our car. Those few extra precautions made our return trip much more pleasant.
If a girl must, under extreme circumstances, ask for a ride from people she does not know, then she should at least take these precautions: (1) Never go alone—and take more than two if possible. (2) Accept rides only with families or women—not with men unaccompanied by women or children. (3) Avoid traveling with strangers after dark.