Baby girl, it was really nothing

May 15, 2008    By: Geoff J @ 10:59 pm   Category: Life

My third grade daughter was distraught the other evening. She has/had a crush on a boy and after school that day, fearless girl that she is, she asked him if he wanted to “go with” her. She never did find out his answer, but what made her distraught was that she later asked someone if it was ok for kids like her to “go with” a boy and she was told the answer was no because there was a “Mormon law” that said you shouldn’t date until you are sixteen. That kind of freaked her out. So that night after bedtime she tearfully came to Kristen and me to confess her perceived sin of earlier in the day. I calmed her fears the best I could and explained that basically it was really nothing and that she had not broken a Mormon law. I explained that there is nothing wrong with her having a crush on a boy and there is nothing wrong with her admitting it to him. And there is no law or rule against such crushes.

I then tried to explain the basic idea of Hedges. Hedges are the rules we build up to keep us from crossing lines we really do care about. As Mormons we believe in the law of chastity — as in, no sexual relations outside of the bonds of marriage. So for our youth we build hedges to help them avoid getting to close to the proverbial ledge. We adults have all sorts of other hedges for ourselves as well. I believe there is nothing wrong with building hedges — in fact there is a lot right with building them. But of course it is important to not confuse a hedge with the actual reason for the hedge. I have been told that blurring lines between the law and the hedges was a major problem that the ancient Jews struggled with. It seems to me that Jesus irked the religious folks of his time to no end by treating the law like the law and hedges like hedges (see his attitude about Sabbath observance for instance).

Anyway, I don’t want my baby girl to freak out over the wrong things in life. Inadvertently crossing a hedge is not worth freaking out over and is not a sin. It seems there are enough actually important things to be concerned with in life — why worry too much about the wrong things?

In the end we explained that it is true that we don’t want her to get a boyfriend for several years (like, say, nine). But there is nothing wrong with getting crushes in the meantime. And there is always something right with checking in with us when she isn’t sure. (Well done baby girl!)

Associated Song: The Smiths — William, It Was Really Nothing



  1. I’m impressed. Good job. I tend to get all flustered and NO DATING TILL YOU’RE SIXTEEN about it.

    Comment by Sue — May 16, 2008 @ 2:37 am

  2. Geoff, my oldest little girl is 4 and is marrying half the boys in primary. My paternal instinct kicks in well before any Mormon Hedge ever does. When my Daughter was three, a little boy asked me if he could marry her.

    I asked him if he was going to be able to guarantee financial stability. He said he was going to be a fireman. I said nope.

    Comment by Matt W. — May 16, 2008 @ 6:54 am

  3. Sue — You’re not alone. Kristen told me that was her first reaction too. That is what got me thinking about this Law vs. Hedges thing.

    Matt — Hehe

    Comment by Geoff J — May 16, 2008 @ 8:22 am

  4. I’m impressed too. I went with a feminist discussion about how the no-dating-until-16 rule was to help keep crushes from overtaking your life. It’s sad what the surrounding culture had done to some of my daughters’ friends, encouraging them to obsess over their crushes and center all their talk, dress, hobbies, and habits around boys.

    Comment by Johnna — May 16, 2008 @ 8:39 am

  5. Interesting point Johnna. I agree that these hedges can help out tremendously. As you note, some real messes can arise when there are no hedges. (I had a friend who like to refer to them a “Guard Rails” which seems like a good analogy.)

    Comment by Geoff J — May 16, 2008 @ 8:46 am

  6. One day my 5 year old came home from school and told me a girl (also 5 years old) on his bus wanted to have sex with him.

    The kids I knew in elementary school who would “go with” other kids weren’t all just holding hands. Some were kissing. I knew a 12 year old girl in 6th grade who was supposedly on the pill.

    So we told our kids from a young age no boyfriends/girlfriends, no holding hands, until they were 16 and able to date, and then only in groups.

    Comment by Susan M — May 16, 2008 @ 9:02 am

  7. Wonderful “handle” there, Geoff. It’s always so important to separate the hedge from the law and to realize that it is wrong to conclude that just because the hedge is not the law that there is no wisdom in the hedge.
    My 17 y-o son’s older sisters tell him that girls are evil – until he gets back from his mission. His self-imposed, and completely sardonic hedge is to never attend a stake dance during his high school years.

    Comment by mondo cool — May 16, 2008 @ 9:45 am

  8. Hmmm — sounds more like an excuse to not go to dances to me… Not everyone loves those things (even though I did in the 80s)

    Comment by Geoff J — May 16, 2008 @ 10:26 am

  9. 25 years ago when I was a young member of a young bishopric we had two 15 yr. olds who started dating each other in our ward. They were hand holding, sitting together, putting heads on shoulders, etc. Certainly some hedges were being compromised. The parents were all good with it (“isn’t it cute”). We wondered what we should do about it as a bishopric. One evening we were having a bishopric meeting when a strong knock came on the door. It was an old experienced high priest and he said, “you guys have got a problem and your not doing anything about it!” and proceeded to talk harshly and boldly about our duties as a bishopric to this young couple. When he left we sort of agreed that he was a little over the top and should just chill out a bit, afterall these were really good kids from good families. Two months later there was a baby on the way. I wondered why this old high priest was able to see something so clearly that we were unable to see. Now I am an old experienced high priest and I know exactly what he saw. He saw a pattern that he had seen 100 times before. Certain hedges broken down almost always leads to broken laws. Be careful about minimalizing hedges. I think Susan M. has got this right.

    Comment by Hal — May 16, 2008 @ 11:21 am

  10. Good story Hal. I agree with you. We should not minimize or do away with our important hedges. My point was certainly not to encourage that. Rather, my point is that we should also not confuse hedges with laws because doing that leads to an entirely different set of problems.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 16, 2008 @ 11:35 am

  11. Yes, I get that and agree. I think many members think incidental things are the important things, like scaffolding (H.B. Lee) and hedges can become that way.

    Comment by Hal — May 16, 2008 @ 12:57 pm

  12. Nicely handled Geoff. I had an institute teacher who would point to Gen 3:3 as the very first hedge:

    But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. (Gen 3:3)

    Of course, Gen 2:17 doesn’t mention anything about not touching the fruit. Hey, this sort of ties in with Matt’s new post as well.

    Comment by Jacob J — May 16, 2008 @ 1:03 pm

  13. I can’t document this but I heard there was a hebrew legend that the way satan persuaded Eve to take the fruit was to push her into the tree so that she touched it – when she didn’t die she assumed it was okay to eat it. Interesting illustration of why hedges can become a problem.

    Comment by Hal — May 16, 2008 @ 2:07 pm

  14. That is a great example Hal. Let us know if you come across a citation for that legend.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 18, 2008 @ 7:36 pm

  15. Here you go Geoff:

    The serpent began, “Is it true that God hath said, Ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden?” “We may,” rejoined Eve, “eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden, except that which is in the midst of the garden, and that we may not even touch, lest we be stricken with death.” She spoke thus, because in his zeal to guard her against the transgressing of the Divine command, Adam had forbidden Eve to touch the tree, though God had mentioned only the eating of the fruit. It remains a truth, what the proverb says, “Better a wall ten hands high that stands, than a wall a hundred ells high that cannot stand.” It was Adam’s exaggeration that afforded the serpent the possibility of persuading Eve to taste of the forbidden fruit. The serpent pushed Eve against the tree, and said: “Thou seest that touching the tree has not caused thy death. As little will it hurt thee to eat the fruit of the tree. (Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, emphasis mine)

    Comment by Jacob J — May 18, 2008 @ 10:52 pm

  16. “It was Adam’s exaggeration that afforded the serpent the possibility of persuading Eve to taste of the forbidden fruit.”

    I love it. What a perfect illustration of the point I was hoping to discuss in this post.

    Nice link Jacob. Very interesting stuff there.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 19, 2008 @ 12:38 am

  17. re: 2. Matt W.
    My husband manages the pensions for the firefighters, and they do really well, financially. Retired at 50 with full benefits. But, if it’s the endangering one’s life thing, well I see that.
    Great post. I have a 5 yo and I don’t think he even understands that girls and boys can like each other. (although I teach his primary class and one of the other boys tries to hold a girl’s hand occasionally)
    That’s a great quote about Eve. It really explains the whole scenario more clearly in my mind, and definitely makes the point about exaggerating the importance of hedges.

    Comment by Jessawhy — May 19, 2008 @ 8:12 pm

  18. This was really great. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, insights, and experience. I think I’m going to be talking about “hedges” from now on…

    Comment by Clean Cut — June 17, 2008 @ 2:27 pm

  19. in a weird moment, at youth conference today in a lesson on dating, the teacher made a point to talk about hedges and how dating under 16 is a hedge and not a sin. congrats geoff. one point for you. Now if only she’d left the bananas at home…

    Comment by Matt W. — June 21, 2008 @ 11:20 am

  20. Now if only she’d left the bananas at home…

    This can’t possibly mean what I’m thinking.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 22, 2008 @ 9:33 am

  21. All I can say is apparantly green bananas are bad and it’s better to wait and enjoy a deliscious yummy ripe banana….

    Comment by Matt W. — June 22, 2008 @ 6:10 pm

  22. From all the comments from other people about that youth conference teacher, I heard it was fantastic. And being married to that teacher, I can certify that she is definitely a fantastic person and teacher. Of course, I might be a little biased, but I thought the bananas analogy was a great analogy, as is Geoff’s hedges analogy. The whole point is that sex is great, and the youth should know that, but NOT YET. They need to wait, or the experience will be a whole lot bitter than trying to eat a green banana–which actually happened to our daughter.

    Comment by Clean Cut — September 19, 2008 @ 10:24 am

  23. Clean Cut, that is too funny! For a little perspective on where I am coming from. No offense. Some of my Youth just were a bit taken aback by the phalic symbol.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 19, 2008 @ 10:59 am

  24. It didn’t even occur to me that a banana was a phallic symbol. I checked out that link and I totally agree with it. I think all of those are in very poor taste. I would hope that the idea of “waiting” was what was remembered from her lesson, and that sex is very good, not bad, but all in due time.

    Comment by Clean Cut — September 19, 2008 @ 1:34 pm