For young (and not-so-young) single members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it can seem like nothing in the world is more challenging than figuring out how to succeed in the fine art of courtship leading to marriage. The authors of the new book "Fearless Dating," published last month by Springville-based Cedar Fort, may not have all of the answers, but they do have a gameplan.
They even have the endorsement of no less an authority on gameplans than former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and two-time NFL MVP Steve Young -- who could probably also be considered something of an expert on being LDS and single. In the foreword to "Fearless Dating," Young writes, "Dating is filled with decisions. And making the best decisions means being your best self and moving forward with faith.
"This book will help you do that. It's a great playbook for true dating success."
Like Young, who was 38 and out of professional football before he married the former Barbara Graham in 2000, the three authors of "Fearless Dating" learned about the dating travails of LDS singles from first-hand experience. Don McCartney, 31, is still in the dating game. Chris Deaver, 32, met and married his wife, Julia -- who became a "Fearless Dating" co-author -- after beginning the book, but prior to its publication.
In addition to drawing on its authors' personal adventures in courtship, however, "Fearless Dating" incorporates counsel from the writings and speeches of LDS Church leaders, as well as material from numerous interviews. One such interview, Chris Deaver said, was given by noted LDS author and scholar Hugh Nibley prior to his death in 2005.
Chris Deaver said that Nibley recounted being hired at BYU by LDS apostle John A. Widtsoe. Widtsoe told Nibley that, before he could begin teaching -- which was only a few months away at the time -- he would need to be married. "He said, 'That's fine, as long as you arrange that the first girl I meet at BYU will be my wife,' " Chris Deaver said.
After arriving at BYU, Nibley went to the housing office to ask about living arrangements and spoke to the secretary, one Phyllis Draper. A few months later, at age 36, he married her.
The only thing we have to fear ...
The kind of deadline pressure confronted by Nibley may be rare, but most young Latter-day Saints feel at least some level of urgency about the prospect of meeting and marrying a spouse. LDS doctrines teach that marriage between a man and a woman is an essential element of salvation, so it's not hard to imagine how repeated dating failure could lead to anxiety.
That's where the authors of "Fearless Dating" think they can help the most -- by taking fear out of the equation. McCartney said that perhaps the most common source of trepidation in dating is concern about the possibility of rejection. "Whether you're a guy or a girl, however old you are, wherever you are in the dating process, I think that's a prevalent fear," McCartney said.
The important thing to remember about rejection, the authors said, is that everyone has to deal with it. Some people have to deal with quite a lot of it. Chris Deaver shared a tidbit about "the 0-for-14 October." "A guy we interviewed had asked a different girl out 14 times in one month," he said, "and got turned down every time."
Instead of becoming focused on disappointments, however, "Fearless Dating" recommends being focused on self-improvement. "There are a lot of things in dating that you can't control," Chris Deaver said. One thing that Latter-day Saint singles can control, he said, is what kind of person they are.
"If you become your best self," he said, "someone will find you. You may not connect with the person you anticipated that you would, but there is someone out there."
Chris's wife, Julia Deaver, said that, for a person who is trying to be true to their beliefs, rejection can even be helpful. Before meeting her future husband, she said, "every date I went on helped to prepare me to eventually succeed."
Julia Deaver, 30, compared dating to dancing. "If you don't go on the dance floor and actually practice, you're never going to be any good at it. If you don't go out there and actually date, how are you going to know what to do when the right person shows up?"
There ought to be a book
In the beginning, McCartney and Chris Deaver started collecting material for "Fearless Dating" because they didn't feel like there was a good how-to book available for a necessary procedure that was puzzling to both of them. Both were in their mid-20s at the time, and they'd devoted considerable time to dating for several years, including thinking outside the box.
At one point, while they were roommates at BYU, McCartney and Chris Deaver went around knocking on doors in female student housing and introducing themselves to any young ladies who answered. "We'd done it on our missions," McCartney said, "so we figured, 'Why not?' "
(Chris Deaver said that they stuck to it for about four months, with the result that each of them got "a handful of dates.")
After deciding to write a book, they interviewed friends and strangers alike, as well as turning to some of the brightest minds they could think of: In addition to speaking with Nibley, they interviewed the late Truman Madsen, another respected and highly influential LDS scholar; and talked to such other notable Latter-day Saints as self-help guru Steven R. Covey and Chieko Okazaki, a former member of the Relief Society General Presidency who was interviewed by a friend of Chris Deaver's, Patrick Tedjamulia.
Not every interview was fruitful. Sometimes, Chris Deaver said, "you ask married people about their marriage, 'How did this happen?' They'd just say, 'It happened.' "
Writing the book, Chris Deaver said, actually helped him deal with the disappointment of unsuccessful dating. "Instead of coming home and being totally frustrated," he said, "I started writing my experiences down."
McCartney said that, when they ran out of friends and acquaintances to interview, the authors fell back on their door-to-door dating approach. "We knocked on doors and interviewed random people," he said.
All three authors think that "Fearless Dating" has good information for both male and female readers. And they hope that it will help people do something that sometimes gets overlooked in dating: Have a good time. "Sometimes the process isn't as enjoyable as it should be because people are looking too far ahead," McCartney said. "Sometimes you're on the first date and you're projecting things all the way to marriage."
"I don't think anybody's the perfect dater," Julia Deaver said, "but there were several times in my dating history when I wish that I had just had fun."
Authors: Chris Deaver, Julia Deaver and Don McCartney
Publisher: Cedar Fort
Date of publication: Dec. 1, 2009
Length: 159 pages
"Fearless Dating" on the Web
Web site: www.fearlessdatingbook.com
Meet the Authors
"Fearless Dating" book signing at BYU Bookstore
When: Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: BYU Bookstore, Wilkinson Student Center, Brigham Young University