Teaching Chastity to the Relief Society

Lesson I will be giving in Relief Society on September 22, 2013.

Based on the talk given by Elder David A. Bednar: We Believe in Being Chaste from the April 2013 General Conference

My Favorite Quotes from the Lesson:

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and … has a divine nature and destiny.  The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

Our physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth, and an intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal existence.  Thus, our relationships with other people… are amplified through our physical bodies.

The unique combination of spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional capacities of both males and females was needed to enact the plan of happiness.

The power to create mortal life is the most exalted power God has given his children. Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Intimate relations are one of the ultimate expressions of our divine nature and potential and a way of strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife.

As sons and daughters of God, we have inherited divine capacities from Him.

A physical body is central to the Father’s plan of happiness and our spiritual development.

Questions to Ask Ourselves:

Do I think of my sexuality as a divine capacity from God?

How do cultural myths and stereotypes re sexual roles between men and women limit my sexual beliefs & thought?

What, if anything, gets in the way of sexual acceptance, expression and pleasure in my life?  How could I go about resolving some of these issues?

What is my relationship with my physical body like?  How often do I take the time to think about my being created in the image of my Heavenly Mother?

What is the difference btw “bridling passions” and stopping them all together?

Am I using anything in this lesson against myself inappropriately?  Am I walking away from this lesson feeling better about myself, healthily challenged and rejuvenated for the week to come?

Direction I will take the Lesson:

Church chastity lessons focus mainly on the following principle: “Marriage between a man and a woman is the authorized channel through which premortal spirits enter mortality. Complete sexual abstinence before marriage and total fidelity within marriage protect the sanctity of this sacred channel.”  Since I believe we are all familiar with the basic tenets of the law of chastity, I’d like to delve a little further as far as what the concepts of chastity, intimacy and having a physical body imply for our lives as sisters in the church.

I will communicate the following disclosures/boundaries for the remainder of the lesson:

  • Sexuality is a difficult topic to discuss in a group setting with a limit of about 30 minutes because there are so many personal stories, experiences, beliefs and practices which make us each individually sexual.
  • When I speak to women: many think they are too sexual, or not sexual enough, or lacking in some other capacity when it comes to their sexuality – whatever is shared today is not meant to make anyone feel they are different, weird or wrong in how they are or where you may find yourself sexually.  Many complicated factors go into our own personal sexual identity.
  • I am aware that sexual trauma, betrayal, or regret may complicate your feelings about what is shared today.  Please give yourself space to disagree with me or others who may comment as well as the space to say “this lesson was just not applicable to my situation.”
  • I understand this is a difficult topic for our single sisters – because the only context where sexuality is broached in our religious setting is within marriage.  And yet, your single vs marital status makes you no more or less a sexual being.  So I acknowledge that our conversation is lacking in your cases.
  • For the remainder of the lesson I will ask that the following not be mentioned: Satan, lust, pornography, “the natural man,” the immodest stance of the world we find ourselves in today or any other negative aspect which could be attributed to sexuality.  It’s not that these are not worthwhile things to discuss at one point or another – but I find them to be discussed in an out-of-balance way when sexuality is brought up at church.  I would much prefer to focus the next few minutes on what we are commanded TO do; not what we are commanded NOT to do.

The following themes will be the main focus of the lesson (albeit we will probably not get through them all):

  • What are the pro-sex doctrinal teachings which we as Latter-day Saint women have available to us through the gospel of Jesus Christ?
  • How does the belief that our bodies are a gift and meant to enrich our relationships inform our sense of personal sexuality?
  • How does the scripture “women are that they might have joy” fit into the realm of sexual pleasure?
  • How does the belief that we are created in the image of heavenly parents – for us women, a heavenly mother – help us connect with our body, body image and sexual organs?  Our husband’s sexual organs?
  • What are some cultural myths which might be getting in the way of our sexual identity, pleasure and ability to claim our sexuality?  For example: men want sex more than women; all men care about is sex; sex is a wifely duty; etc.
  • Sometimes the words chastity (purity) and passion seem contradictory.  In fact in many definitions of the word chastity  - celibacy is mentioned.  But can we really be chaste (in the LDS view) without passion?  What righteous role does passion play in the sexual cohesion of husband and wife?
  • Are we aware that in the bishop’s handbook; decisions regarding sexual practice are left up to the husband and wife in question – making clear of course, that there should be no coercion or abuse taking place?  Therefore, what works for one couple and what they want to incorporate into their sexual repertoire may look very different for another equally worthy couple.
  • How does living the law of chastity correlate to issues of “health?”  Not only physical, but emotional and spiritual health as well?  Do you use it for your benefit – or as a self-punishing tool?  How does the law of chastity inform your thoughts and relationship with loving heavenly parents?
  • We are told through various LDS leaders that the purpose of sexuality is much more than procreation.  How?  And what does this mean for you in your sexual journey?
  • As we become wives and mothers – is there a psychological shift which inhibits our ability to claim our status as lovers?
  • When Bednar indirectly calls sex a “divine capacity,” how does that resonate with you?

 

An article I wrote which applies to this lesson: Sexuality and the Mormon Marriage 

 

 

 

  • Tom Irvine

    Teach from the scriptures! Start with “Song of Solomon!” :)

  • Jan Irvine

    We think this is great! Wish we could be there!

  • MrShorty

    Would have loved to have been a part of this discussion, or even a fly on the wall listening. I realize you are busy, but, if you had a chance, would love to hear how your lesson went, how it was received, etc.

    I think it would be interesting to discuss this lesson in the comments if anyone is interested. My thoughts:

    1) When I read this talk last April/May, I was almost shocked by the “Intimate relations are one of the ultimate expressions of our divine nature…” statement. It seems that the context of the statement could lead one to suggest that he is referring to “sex with the intent of procreation” only, but, still, I was a little shocked that sex between husband and wife would even make the list of “expressions of divine nature.”

    2) What is the difference between “bridling passions” and stopping them all together? This could be a profound question. Semantically, of course, there is a difference, and, when asked, we will usually explain the difference (bridling means to control which is not the same thing as abstinence). However, it seems that every practical use of this phrase in our discourse is directed at something we believe we should 100% abstain from. While semantically we acknowledge the difference, in practice, “bridling passions” effectively means “abstain.”

    3) What are the pro-sex doctrinal teachings of the church? This is an interesting question. A few years ago, while driving to work, I was wrestling with some of this and remember thinking something along these same lines. I tried imagining a chastity lesson where, at the end, the instructor said something like, “now that we’ve discussed some ways that sexuality is misused and abused, does anyone have anything positive to say about sexuality (without going into graphic detail)?” I think there are many, but so much of our discourse is on the mis-uses of sexuality that I fear we don’t give sex-positive messages enough air time.

    4) I have also noticed an apparent dichotomy between “chastity” and “passion” — almost as if the two concepts cannot exist in the same person. I know you asked not to bring up the “natural man,” but it seems that sex and sexuality are always discussed as part of the “natural man” and never as part of the “spiritual man.” I think you have done a nice job in this lesson outline to try to break down some of these barriers.

  • gcpeterson11

    Natasha, an article was posted today at Meridian Magazine that reinforces negative and hurtful teachings about the law of chastity written by a YSA bishop. Would you mind leaving some comments there to help counter this? Thank you…I appreciate the work you do in providing accurate information for healthy relationships.

    http://ldsmag.com/article/1/13519

    • http://natashaparker.org Natasha Helfer Parker

      Thank you for bringing this to my attention – yes, it was awful. And yes, I will try to find the time to address it. Please hang in there with me – I know I’ve been having a hard time finding the time to write. :(


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