Teaching Saintly Sex

Latter-day Saints face the challenge of devising sex ed courses that get specific while upholding chastity and fidelity.

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If I feel a little sheepish handling the topic with my own kids, I can only imagine how hard it is for the folks planning morality lessons for Church. Involving the youth seems vital to me. It clearly was to my friend, a family therapist, who had a compare-and-contrast experience.

"I was on a panel with four other adults, who answered questions asked ahead of time by the youth," she says. "This seems like a good concept, but we ended up 'preaching at' the kids instead of having a back and forth exchange, which I believe is the way values are internalized.

"In the second experience, I was alone in a room with 20 young women. I asked them the questions that the panel was asked. They heard each other speak in a non-preachy way about why and how they try to adhere to LDS standards. I felt like I was there to encourage the discussion, to add my own insight, and most of all, to express admiration and respect for their efforts to live standards that necessitate different behaviors from peers at a time in their lives when most of them want so much to fit in."

Teaching moral standards stirs up lots of questions. Lessons in a typical ward are geared for the 12- to 18 age range. What happens when our youth are not so youthful? Surely the challenges are not the same for a 30-year-old virgin as they are for a 12-year-old. Apparently the standards don't change, but do the strategies? Do we treat pregnant teenage girls differently than we do their partners who can carry no outward evidence of their act? If people choose to be sexually active outside of marriage, do we still welcome them warmly into our Church community and activities?

However attitudes toward healthy sexuality and moral standards are conveyed, the task for families and the Church is challenging. For all the careful planning, example-setting, sermons, pamphlets and lessons, this is one more area where I offer the best I have--and pray for grace and mercy to repair the flaws in my efforts.

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Linda Hoffman Kimball
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