You’re in the Driver’s Seat
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“You’re in the Driver’s Seat,” New Era, June 2004, 5

The Message:

You’re in the Driver’s Seat

From an April 1965 general conference address.

President Boyd K. Packer

Several years ago I visited a large automobile dealership and looked at many new automobiles. One in particular caught my eye—a convertible sports model with all of the fancy equipment you could imagine. It had push-button everything and more horsepower than a division of cavalry. How I would have enjoyed a car like that when I was in high school! It occurred to me that you of high school age may be interested in owning such a car.

Lending Your Treasure

Will you imagine something with me? Imagine that I have decided to present to a typical teenager a car such as this, and you are the one who has been chosen. On the evening of the presentation, I see that you are not quite financially able to run such a car, so I generously include free gas, oil, maintenance, tires, anything your car will use. I’ll give you all of this, and the bills will come to me.

How you will enjoy that car! Think of driving it to school tomorrow. Think of all the new friends you will suddenly acquire.

Your parents may be hesitant to let you use this car freely, so I will visit with them. I am sure they will be reluctant, but because of my position as one of the leaders of the Church, they will consent.

Let us imagine, then, that you have your car, everything to run it, and freedom to use it.

Suppose that one evening you are invited to attend a Church social. “There are just enough of you to ride in my station wagon,” your teacher says. “You may leave your car home.” When they come to take you to the party, you suddenly remember your new convertible, with the top down, parked at the curb. You run back in the house and give the car keys to your father, asking that he put it in the garage, for it looks as if it may rain. Your father, of course, obediently agrees.

Later you come home and notice your car is not at the curb. “Dear old Dad,” you muse, “always willing to help out.” But as the station wagon pulls into the driveway and the lights flash into the garage, you see it stands empty.

You rush into the house, find Father, and ask where your car is.

“Oh, I loaned it to someone,” he responds.

Then imagine a conversation such as this.

“Well, who was it?” you ask.

“Oh, that boy who comes by here regularly,” Dad says.

“What boy?”

“Oh, that … well, I have seen him pass here several times on his bicycle.”

“What is his name?”

“Well, I’m afraid I didn’t find out.”

“Where did he take the car?”

“That really wasn’t made clear.”

“When will he bring it back?”

“Well, there really wasn’t any agreement on that.”

Then suppose that your father should say to you, with some impatience, “Now you calm down. He rushed in here. He needed a car. You weren’t using it. He seemed to be in a frantic hurry over something, and he looked like an honest boy, so I gave him the keys. Now relax. Go to bed. Calm down.”

I suppose under the circumstances you would look at your father with a puzzled expression and wonder if some important connection had slipped loose in his thinking mechanism.

It would take a foolish father to lend such an expensive piece of equipment on an arrangement such as that—particularly a car that belonged to you.

Parents Lend Their Treasures

I am sure that you have anticipated the moral of this little illustration, you of high school age. It is in these years that dating begins—this custom of two sets of parents lending their teenagers to one another for the necessary and the important purpose of their finding their way into maturity and eventually into marriage. Perhaps for the first time you notice and begin to resent the interest of your parents in and their supervision of your activities.

Dating leads to marriage. Marriage is a sacred religious covenant and in its most exalted expression may be an eternal covenant. Whatever preparation relates to marriage, whether it be personal or social, concerns us as members of the Church.

If you are old enough to date, you are old enough to know that your parents have not only the right but the sacred obligation, and they are under counsel from the leaders of the Church, to concern themselves with your dating habits.

If you are mature enough to date, you are mature enough to accept without childish, juvenile argument their authority as parents to set rules of conduct for you.

No sensible father would lend your new convertible to anybody, to go anywhere, to do anything, to come back anytime. If you are old enough to date, you are old enough to see the foolishness of parents who would lend their children on such an arrangement. Don’t ask your parents to permit you—their most precious possession—to go out on such flimsy agreements.

Actually, the loan of the car would not be so serious as you suppose; for should it be completely destroyed, it could be replaced. There are some problems and some hazards with dating for which there is no such fortunate solution.

Some Dating Guidelines

When you are old enough, you ought to start dating. It is good for young men and young women to learn to know and to appreciate one another. It is good for you to go to games and dances and picnics, to do all of the young things. We encourage our young people to date. We encourage you to set high standards of dating.

When are you old enough? Maturity may vary from individual to individual, but we are convinced that dating should not even begin until you are 16. And then, ideal dating is on a group basis. Stay in group activities; don’t pair off. Avoid steady dating. Steady dating is courtship, and surely the beginning of courtship ought to be delayed until you have emerged from your teens.

Dating should not be premature or without supervision. You should appreciate your parents if they see to that.

Young people sometimes get the mistaken notion that spirituality and the religious attitude interfere with youthful growth. They assume that the requirements of the Church are interferences and aggravations that thwart the full expression of young manhood and young womanhood.

How foolish is the youth who feels that the Church is a fence around love to keep him out. Oh, youth, if you could know! The requirements of the Church are the highway to love and to happiness, with guardrails securely in place, with guideposts plainly marked, and with help along the way.

How unfortunate to resent counsel and restraint. How fortunate are you who follow the standards of the Church, even if just from sheer obedience or habit. You will find a rapture and a joy fulfilled.

Parents Love You

Be patient with your parents. They love you so deeply. They are emotionally involved with you, and they may become too vigorous as they set their guidelines for you to follow. But be patient. Remember, they are involved in a big do-it-yourself child-raising project, and this is their first time through. They have never raised a child just like you before.

Give them the right to misunderstand and to make a mistake or two. They have accorded you that right. Recognize their authority. Be grateful for their discipline. Such discipline may set you on the path to greatness.

Be open with your parents. Communicate with them. Discuss with them your problems. Have prayer with them before a date.

Heed the counsels from your bishop, from your priesthood and auxiliary teachers, from your seminary teacher.

Young people, “Honour thy father and thy mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: “That thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Ex. 20:12).

I bear witness that God lives. You are old enough now to be told that we, your parents, are children also, seeking to follow the authority and to relate to the discipline of Him. We love you, our youth. But more than this, we respect you.

Illustrated by Gregg Thorkelson