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Saturday, April 09, 2005 

The Law of Chastity: Only One Part of the Big Picture

Somewhere along the way, whether it was a formal decision or not, my dad took on the responsibility of giving “the talk” to his two sons and my mom would take care of “the talk” for the 5 girls.

My mom’s version of “the talk” was instigated the very moment any one of us asked ANYTHING about sex or where babies came from. She brought out “the book” complete with medical illustrations and alien cross sections of anatomical parts and pieces. It was presented to us in varying degrees of detail according to the audience. But we generally got it. Male parts do this, and when acting in accordance with female parts which do this… yada yada yada… Not so tough to give “the talk”, no so tough to understand… Seeing as how my mother was “with child” every couple of years, the question was frequently asked, and the medical book hardly had a moment to collect dust.

My dad’s version of the talk (so I’m told), began and ended with the humorous telling of the time HIS father gave the talk to my dad’s older brother. Grandpa’s talk went like this:

“Son….*pregnant pause*…corn has a tassel…..”

Dad would chuckle with my brothers about how silly that was for a man who grew up on a farm seeing nature in all its glory to begin a talk on the birds and the bees with the fertilization of corn. If my dad was lucky, the conversation would mosey elsewhere (anywhere), and then he would probably end with something like “well, if you have any questions or want to talk about it…just let me know.”

Most people just do the best they can.

What is the law of Chastity and how are we supposed to learn about it?

The Law of Chastity is thus:

Law of Moses: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Pretty broad….

New Law (given by Jesus himself) “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” He ups the anty, makes us a little more responsible for our passive actions…

Modern Revelation: “We are to have sexual relations only with our spouse to whom we are legally married. No one, male or female, is to have sexual relations before marriage. After marriage, sexual relations are permitted only with our spouse.” So much more specific…unless you are Bill Clinton.

The Church is very clear that it is the responsibility of parents to teach their children about the law of chastity (and what constitutes sexual relations), about modesty, and about procreation. The Church is also very clear that timing of this information is important. Some details and concepts are difficult for young children to understand, but sex should be explained reverently and correctly, when the child is curious or mature enough, so that they begin to understand, appreciate, and respect their own bodies while garnering a proper respect and appreciation for others.

While modesty by principle and example are key in teaching the Law of Chastity, it is important to also instill the attitude that our bodies are glorious gifts, remarkable structures of beauty, function, intelligence (for the most part), and endurance, and given to us in this life that we might feel and learn to distinguish between right AND wrong, joy AND sadness, pleasure AND pain. While modesty is an integral part of chastity, it is not proper to teach a child to be unnecessarily embarrassed by their bodies and their natural functions. (Gospel Principles, Chapter 3: The Law of Chistity, pp 247-253.)

Within the ward units, leaders are asked to teach about the law of chastity as a principle of the Gospel, but, out of respect to individual families, the details and the nitty gritty, the mechanics, if you will, are left to the parents, as is proper.

Personally, I think that sometimes the ward units focus a little too much on the tenants of Chastity and not so much on the why’s and how’s, putting undo blame on the young women for “causing” men to have unclean thoughts, or making guilt the motivating factor in keeping this commandment. It REALLY is not the Bishop’s or the YW/YM President’s responsibility to teach the youth about the glories and downfalls of obeying or disobeying this SERIOUS law. This is a family issue. (Let me just say, though, that I am all for sex-ed in school. I just mean that we should not expect other sources to teach our children about the importance of Chastity as it relates to the Gospel, even Church leaders. I personally feel that for it to have great impact upon the youth it must come from parents, or if that is not possible, another trusted and loving adult.)

Parents have the commandment, not a suggestion, to teach their children about faith, repentance, baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. They are also responsible for teaching them about the commandments and God’s plan of happiness, and I would be so bold as to add, HOW the keep the commandments as well. (Doc & Cov 68:25, 28).

Parents occasionally fail at teaching the law of chastity in a thorough manner. Parenting requires more boldness than most of us naturally possess. We should all be gentle in judging the thoroughness of our own sexual education. Let’s all keep in mind that the possibility of facing a child you love, one on one, and opening this Pandora’s box is not something most of us look forward to. We might fear the repercussions of that newly given information (having it shared with the neighbor’s kids), or of revealing a side of the world that we desire to protect our children from as long as possible. But is does the child NO GOOD to learn it from an untrustworthy source. This allows all sorts of evil and incorrect ideas to inhabit the place of truth. (I’m talking actual functionality here people not just morality…the 14 year old girl in labor in the bed next to my mom in the maternity ward finally asked the nurse when her belly button was going to open up and would it hurt…)

As for me, I am a “natural man” just as Alma described it: “…carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature…” (Alma 42:10) I would also add stupid; I am as stupid as they come. And yet I have faith that “There hath no temptation taken you but such is as is common to man (it’s natural!): but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (Corinthians 10:13). Any doubtful situations I may have found myself in were the results of my impropriety and not because I was ill informed. I take full responsibility…

I have also come to realize what it means to deny myself my natural desires. By studying Hinduism, I came to a new-found respect of “denying myself of all ungodliness” to achieve spiritual enlightenment. I understood that this concept can certainly be taken to extremes, but that as an LDS American, in Utah, in 2005, I am VERY UNWILLING, naturally, to give up ANYTHING. But as I make an effort to “lose myself”, or to lose my own natural desires in an effort to achieve a higher spiritual level, it is truly AMAZING what is possible. What if we never resisted a single bodily urge? What would we be like mentally, physically, spiritually?

It is very difficult to discuss the Law of Chastity without the desire to disclose past transgressions; to let your audience understand that “you’ve been there”, that you have some authority because you know what you’re talking about. But I won’t use that tactic here.

It matters less that I have transgressed than that I have a testimony of obedience and repentance.

I want my closing remarks to focus on the fact that the Lord has given us a law. With obedience to that law we are promised blessings. With disobedience to that law, there are consequences; heavenly as well as earthly.

Is abstinence the point? Is sex bad? Is being physically attracted to or sharing contact with another human being wrong? Is it evil to feel desire? I personally think that a “yes” answer to any of these questions requires a deeper look into the beauties of the Gospel.

But is there not also nobility in self control; in discipline? Is there not also beauty in sacrifice; in purity? Is there not power in believing in something greater than corruptible flesh; in transcendence? Is there not just cause for devotion and loyalty?

I don’t know how else to end this except by saying that this topic is a tough one. I can FULLY see why a lot of people get uptight at religious people for being uptight about it, and why uptight people get uptight about people NOT being uptight about it. One cannot be happy being chaste without having a testimony of other principles of the Gospel as well. This is not a lone commandment; it is inextricably tied to other principles of happiness. It wouldn’t be wise to judge a religion by this principle alone; it would be missing the whole grand, beautiful panorama….

As a parent, your point of the parents teaching HOW to keep the commandements really hit home with me. Am I teaching my daughters HOW to make important decisions? Am I teaching them HOW to know what to do?

I would also agree with you on the "not being ready for my child to know about this" and how I'm going to handle that. I have a close friend who is gay. I've been struggling with how I'm going to answer Paige's questions because she WILL be asking those quiestion! I'm just not ready for any of those questions yet. But I need to be. I want her to be informed by ME...not some potty-mouthed kid at school.

Great post, Carrie Ann! This kind of comprehensive look at chastity and how it is (or should be) taught as a part of the gospel might have been beneficial to be posted earlier in the week, as a good foundation for discussion. Just a thought...

It is too bad you always post on Saturdays when the fewest number of people are near their computers and commenting. You usually give a solid, mormon doctrine-based look at the topic. And seeing as this sight is all about "Various Stages of Mormondom", maybe the week's topics should sometimes begin with an overview such as this.

But, I'll always be a fan...even on Saturdays. :)

My daughter first asked where babies came from when she was 2 years old and I was pregnant with her brother. She first wanted to know how the baby was going to come out of my tummy. I informed her about a body part she never knew she had. I could see "the wheels turning" and it made sense to her (she's always been so smart :) She thought about it a minute, and then said, "But, how did the baby get IN your tummy?" (TOO smart!) I am proud of the explanation I gave her. I gave her the facts without the "passion" part of the sex explanation. After all, she was only 2 and wouldn't "get" it. Besides, I'm sure we'll have more talks in the not-too-distant future.

I meant "site", not "sight". oops.

I am a little confused about the "corn has a tassel" Did I, and am I missiing somethign very important in the whole sex thing. I serached for corn has a tassel on the internet but got nothing!!

Carrie--what a great post! I know, I say that every week and it might have something to do with the fact that we are so closely related--but I really marvel at your insight and judgement and your ability to express it. I have to say I was a bit worried about what you might say on this one....Glad I didn't come out looking too terribly deficient.
Cameron, I'm just sorry that Poppa O. isn't still around to explain the purpose of a tassle on the corn. It has become such a family witticism that all anyone has to do is begin a phrase with, "Son, corn has a tassle...." and we all start laughing uncontrollably. I think you might need to go to an agricultural website for the answer...I know it has something to do with pollination. As for the mechanics, let me find my old book and let's see if I can over-explain it all....

I feel like Kaimi's characterization of the VSoM cycle was too dismissive of Carrie's posts--especially after I read her smart and insightful treatment of the chastity issue.

Still interesting on Saturday! I think that would be quite hard to pull off, but Carrie Ann seems to do it effortlessly week after week.

I agree. Let's tar and feather Kaimi.

Just kidding... (even though he did accuse me insighting insanity).

I think that Carrie Ann always has a well-rounded take on what the topic is and, even in the difficult "last" position, manages to bring fresh light and discuss new aspects.

Never was this more true than with this topic. Carrie Ann thoroughly covered the topic from the perspective of a good and level-headed adherant of the LDS faith.

Maybe we should redistribute "our days" at VSoM to reflect a more balanced view.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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