Stake visitors amble through the hallways during Sunday School time of ward conference in an urban Chicago ward. Suddenly, bellowing from the young women’s classroom, comes the teacher’s mighty voice: “Chastity means NO SEX, NO SEX, NO SEX!”
Just how do we communicate sexual standards in understandable, meaningful, practical ways?
The teacher in question knew her girls. The majority of her new convert teenagers (at least one already a mother) knew from personal experience what sex was. But chastity? It sounded like just another fancy word like “virtue” or “exaltation.” Straight talk was the only way to get the point across clearly. Of course there’s more depth and power to the principle of chastity than “no sex,” but at a certain level, basics are required.
Imagine the poor missionaries doing pre-baptism interviews with sisters who have no idea what the “law of chastity” means in practical terms. Are these young men, who may not be completely clear on the concept themselves, be glossing over an important topic to avoid everyone’s embarrassment?
Most stakes have some kind of (often dreaded) Standards Nights. In one neighboring stake, the no-nonsense young stake president gets quite explicit. Definite lines are drawn without equivocation, not too unlike butcher charts. The youth of the stake now know how long it takes for a teenage guy to get “turned on” (I believe he said 3 seconds), how girls in provocative clothing put the guys under a lot of stress, how getting horizontal is asking for trouble, how repentance is available but hard, hard, hard.
I appreciate that he’s given the kids some kind of parameters (a.k.a. “standards”) even if I don’t agree with where he’s drawn all his boundaries. I don’t like having our girls made to feel like watch dogs for the guys, for one thing. Keeping things zipped and keeping hands off privates was about as specific as I was advised way back when. I have heard tell of stake presidents who expect their dating teens and young adults not to kiss until over the altar. I don’t see how this squares with “bridling one’s passions.” Sounds more like squelching them to me. My public health nurse friend insists that exchanging saliva is not a good thing at any age. Are we all doomed?
The advice given to 12-year-olds is not necessarily the same counsel appropriate for college students or older singles. (Unless you’re really buying into the “don’t kiss until over the altar” policy.) “I wish somebody would spell things out specifically,” one robust 21-year-old complained. “It’s all so euphemistic.” If he read that “necking” was considered beyond the limits by some revered leaders, would he wish he hadn’t asked?
Is this one area where “teaching them correct principles and let them govern themselves” needs more clarification? Or are we just all hopelessly uptight?