I was recently involved on a panel discussion over at Mormon Matters regarding “virtue.” Here is the description from Dan Wotherspoon:
So often in Mormon discourse, the term “virtue” is treated almost exclusively as relating to sexual purity, chastity, and virginity, completely missing its much broader and wonderfully expansive meanings. Similarly, most talk about “morality,” “passion,” “modesty,” and “sensuality” are spoken about almost solely in terms of sexuality. We receive, without careful parsing, statements about how molestation and rape victims have been deprived of “that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue” (Moroni 9:9). Messaging and publications for youth still put forth the idea that sexual sins are “next to murder” in seriousness, never mind that this idea is based upon highly questionable scriptural exegesis and a failure to recognize horrendous evils that can’t even come close to approaching soul dangers associated with sexual experimentation and slip up. And rarely do we encounter public teaching that considers all those within the listening audience for whom extreme rhetoric about sexual sin will be harmful and discouraging, and who because of such messaging will more likely be driven away from a sense of their being deserving of God’s love and LDS community fellowship.
Why is it so difficult for us to talk forthrightly and in healthy ways about sexuality, especially in teaching our youth? Why do we imagine willful ignorance about our bodies and sexual response and pleasures as admirable? How can we bring into LDS families and communal teaching the best thinking and practices about teaching healthy sexuality to our youth and young adults, and also aid those who are married and sexually active yet may still hold negative views about themselves as sexual beings? (And none of this research and best thinking requires the encouragement of sex outside of marriage.) Mormonism has great theological teachings about the body and about sex. Why are we failing to communicate the big picture when it comes to the messaging we give? How might we do better?
In this episode, Natasha Helfer Parker, Margaret Blair Young, Micah Nickolaisen, and Lisa Butterworth join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in a frank and forthright discussion of these and other aspects of how to talk in healthier ways about sexuality.