Teaching Saintly Sex
Latter-day Saints face the challenge of devising sex ed courses that get specific while upholding chastity and fidelity.
The Church also sponsors "Standards Nights" and other meetings specifically designed to address moral issues. Some leaders give guidelines to keep the youth out of trouble. These tips have included butcher chart-type descriptions of off-limits body parts ("don't touch any area that would be covered by a swimming suit").
In the past, teenagers heard lessons or sermons with theologically suspect object lessons--involving simulated plane crashes, cupcakes with mangled frosting, boards with nail holes in them, roses with missing petals, and wads of chewed gum--meant to be analogies for sexual sin and its consequences. From the winces of my friends as they recall those days, I am glad that things have improved.
"I thought we'd hear the real scoop about sex, but I always felt the leaders danced around the topic with platitudes and dreadful metaphors," recalls a friend from Denver. "I thought the object lessons taught false doctrine, and even as a vapid 16-year-old that disturbed me."
At a Standards Night I attended in a nearby stake, the stake president didn't sugar-coat the details. Kids came out of there knowing (if they didn't already) that it takes less than 3 seconds to get a guy aroused, that you need to watch how you dress and what you say and what you view and what you listen to and how late you're out and how horizontal you get, etc. They got some good specific tips of the "no appendages in any orifices" variety and a plea, if necessary, to travel the long, arduous road of repentance (emphasis on the long and the arduous aspects).
This raised a few questions for me. It seemed that it was left to the girls to do the brunt of the guard dog work. We're talking Gospel standards, not double standards, right? And are they really telling me the Church preaches "no erection before marriage?" What about that beautiful Book of Mormon counsel to "bridle our passions"--not squash, repress or denounce them?
The kids at this Standards Night also heard no distinction between having homosexual inclinations and acting on them. Everything was lumped into the "homosexuality is wrong" category, which drives me crazy. How many kids in that meeting left there feeling labeled and ashamed?
This particular stake president--a wonderful, good-hearted man--takes seriously his task to raise "a voice of warning." I just wish this event had had a better balance of joy, consolation, humor and hope.