Teaching about Chastity to the Youth

This is an email I wrote in reply to the Young Women’s presidency in my ward wanting some feedback as to good quotes/resources for teaching about chastity – which is the theme this month.  So this is the quick email I responded with: sorry it’s written in a somewhat discombobulated way:
I know which scripture should NOT be read is the one in Moroni 9:9.  That is a rape/pillaging scripture and should not be used to teach about normal sexual development/exploration.
My main concerns with these lessons taught at church is:
- too much value is placed on whether or not a person has remained chaste: implying for those who have explored more than we are comfortable with, that they are of lesser worth as individuals – whether or not we intend it, this is how they end up feeling
- too much pressure is put on girls to be the gatekeepers of sexual thought and action (i.e. be modest so you won’t provoke a young man with impure thoughts).  Another person’s thoughts are not my daughter’s responsibility.  How she dresses needs to be about her comfort, her style, her relationship with self, etc.
- too much emphasis is put on modesty being sexual.  There are plenty of ways people are not modest when it comes to materialism, egotism, etc.
- too much emphasis is placed on staying pure.  Well, life isn’t pure.  It’s messy.  We are here to learn and make mistakes.  How we approach our mistakes can make all the difference between unnecessary shaming and moving forward in healthy, productive ways.  I think this is what the atonement is all about and why it has been made available to us.    ”Nobody is getting out of this life with a white dress on.  If it is white, then it’s only because it has been bleached by the atonement.”  That’s a quote by me. :)
What I hope is taught correctly:
- we are all sexual beings and this is a normal and god-given part of ourselves
- sexual thoughts, feelings and desires are good and normal and will come very much in handy in their future
- sexuality, like most things in life, comes with responsibility
- responsibility to take care of yourself and others – “reproduce responsibly”
- ramifications for sexual mistakes are spiritual, emotional and possibly physical
- sexual abuse and coercion are not your fault – even if you feel like you participated.  These do not require repentance, but for your own self-care need to be talked about with a trusted adult.
- sexuality is exciting and something to look forward to
- taking care of yourself sexually is for your benefit
- whether or not you make mistakes sexually has nothing to do with how much your Heavenly Parents love you or support you
- it is normal to be curious
- it is normal to feel weird if you don’t think others think or do the same things you do; and since we don’t talk about sex, it’s hard to know what others are really thinking or doing; you’re not “weird” – you’re just you and everyone has a slightly different sexual journey
- the reason we teach about sex at church is because we love you and want to steer you in healthy directions.  Plus, Heavenly Father has spoken about sexual topics because He too wants us to use this most precious of gifts in healthy ways that will uplift us.  He also wants to help pick us up if we’ve fallen and need help getting back up.
- if sexual orientation comes up there is the church resource of mormonandgays.org and the following official stance is important for them to know:
“The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”  We do not see sexual orientation as a “choice.”  Many in the church are unaware of this stance.
“You are daughters of God… You are made in the image of our heavenly mother… Your body is sacred to you and precious.”
Spencer W. Kimball
“the greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus the Christ.”
James E Talmage
As far as quotes on repentance:
“Too many of us are saying to ourselves, “When I’ve done it, when I’ve perfected myself, when I’ve made myself completely righteous, then I’ll be worthy of the Atonement.  Then Christ can do his work and exalt me.”  But this will never happen, for it puts the cart before the horse. It’s like saying, “When my tumor is gone, then I’ll call the doctor.  I’ll be ready for him then.”  This is not how things are designed to work either in medicine or in the gospel.  ”They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” (Matt. 9:12)”
Stephen Robinson from Believing Christ
“We must be patient with ourselves as we overcome weaknesses, and we must remember to rejoice over all that is good in us.”  Patricia T Holland, Young Women Presidency, Ensign Oct. 1987
“Belief that the Atonement restores to us all we lose to sin and missteps along life’s path creates a hope greater than any temporal pleasure or momentary mortal thrill.”
Virginia Jensen, Relief Society Presidency, Ensign Nov 2000
“The Samaritan woman looked into the face of Christ, listened to his voice, and recognized Him at a time when most others rejected all He taught.  We know Him too, or we can, if we allow His healing power, his nourishing strength, His peace and joy, to flow through us like “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Kathleen H Hughes, Relief Society Presidency, Ensign May 2003
“Perfect people don’t need a Savior.  He came to save his people in their imperfections.  He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes.  He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked.  He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.”
Chieko N Okazaki, Relief Society Presidency in “Lighten Up.” 1993
“And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”  (Matthew 28:20)
This is a great little book which has quotes either about women or by women in the church:
 I believe the YW really appreciate hearing from female voices.
These are a few podcasts on sexuality which might be helpful as you are having to address this issue this month.
Also, as I’ve stated before, I want to make clear that I do not want my daughter to be taught about masturbation and I also want you to know that she supports gay marriage rights (as do I) – and I do not want her to be made to feel uncomfortable because of this.
Thank you for reaching out to me and for being so careful to include the parents’ opinions on such sensitive subjects we all have high concern for.
At the end of the day I want my daughter to be able to rely on the gospel of Jesus Christ to buoy her up in life even in her darkest hours and regardless of what paths she may choose.  I know this is something we as parents/leaders all want and I thank you for all of your efforts to be a positive influence in her life.

  • Sam David Zaragoza

    If I may, I think this is good. I personally would ask them to include some teaching on the difference between what is a sacred expression of sex, and what is a profane expression. There’s only one place where sexuality is sacred, and that’s within the bounds of marriage, as God defines it. Anything else is a profane expression of what should be sacred and holy.

    Ezekiel 22:26
    Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.

  • Jules

    Ugh. I’ve never enjoyed these lessons, and I still don’t. It’s not just the youth being taught chastity this month. It was in sacrament meeting today and it’s the Relief Society lesson next week. I’m glad they are asking for parent input in your ward. I love your quote about getting out of life in a white dress! So true.

  • kiwi57

    Just so you know: the Gospel is not a buffet. You are free to teach your daughter false notions such as “gay marriage,” but you need not expect the Church to refrain from teaching correct principles just to spare your feelings.

  • Zim365

    Brilliant. Very clear, very hopeful.