On the other hand, bodies are the cause of much temptation. Young Men, aged 12 to 17, are told not to touch themselves or to look at the sweet-spirited sisters of the ward (and I mean the girls of the same age group). The Young Women are taught not to wear revealing clothes and are forced to wear jeans or sweats on the hottest day of the year, rather than tempt a boy with her sexy ankles.
The Young Men and Women of each ward are given lectures every Sunday, are encouraged to read pamphlets and books about how sex is bad, and even watch films put out by the church with catchy but simplistic messages like “fire can warm, fire can burn.”
Yup, it sure can.
What is that? Does anyone else remember that video? It talked about what true love is and had some nice messages, but I don’t think it’s possible for the church to put out a more cheesy video. Independent films like Saturday’s Warrior don’t count; the church didn’t make that one (and the doctrine is all speculative).
Don’t get me wrong. I think morality and abstaining before marriage are wonderful things. A purely forged marriage can bring greater closeness and trust to a young couple. However, there must be a reality check.
Many young Mormons, after a lifetime of being told that sex is bad, get married and suddenly, sex is good, even encouraged. Gotta start procreating, after all! But how is this fair? Is it really giving the right message?
I know the intention is to tell the youth of the church that sex outside of marriage is wrong, but the message gets lost amidst the scare tactics:
You might get sexually transmitted diseases.
You are sinning against God.
You (or the young girl you sleep with) might get pregnant.
All these things are potentially true. But the Lord helps those who do make a mistake to repent. I have known many young men and women who have grown up in a morally ambiguous society, made a mistake or two, and yet, somehow, turned out just fine? Does that mean the scare tactics were wrong? Well, no. But the gospel of Jesus Christ is about repentance, not about punishment. Sure, there will be a punishment, for those who do not repent, but that is not the emphasis. In fact, I would say that the leaders that try to scare the youth of the church are misplacing their emphasis, in the attempt to keep their kids on the straight and narrow.
I am not recommending that leaders encourage their youth to experiment and sin so they can experience the repentance process. But they need to know that the option is there, so that when they make mistakes, they will know what to do. I didn’t say “if” they make mistakes, but “when.” Everyone makes mistakes, no matter how hard they try. I make mistakes constantly. Some are more serious than others, but all need repenting of for me to progress in this life and the next.
When teaching about sexual relations, parents, leaders and teachers should teach a balanced view. They need to be taught that bodies are sacred. They need to be taught that sex is meant to be between a married man and women. They even need to be taught the consequences of not following God’s laws. All of these elements are important. Those who instead limit their message to “sex is bad,” only help generate the next generation of neurotic members of the church. It is no wonder to me that the church has a huge number of closet perverts. I’ve read of statistics that the
A balanced message about sex might help youth to develop a healthy attitude about sexy, instead of an intense curiosity. By always restricting discussions about sex, youth begin to experiment, on themselves, on others. Sometimes of the same gender, sometimes of the other gender. The very thing leaders are fighting against is happening, in part because of their teachings.
Adolescents are known for rebelling; it just happens. Every one of them does it. Rebelling is part of the process of becoming an independent adult. In simplistic terms, the more restrictive and punitive the moral system, the stronger the rebellion. A hypothetical illustration of my point: if a young man is told that sex is bad and is never allowed to even talk about it in an open manner with his parents, he will get more and more curious, wanting to know what they are hiding. As soon as he decides to establish his independence, he will seek out that forbidden knowledge. He may use the internet, movies, books, magazines, girls, boys, whatever, but he will learn about it. Many sad mistakes may be made. He may get a disease, he may get a girl pregnant, he may get addicted to pornography, who knows? But if that same young man were allowed to ask questions, and saw that sex in the Lord’s preferred environment (i.e. marriage) is a healthy and pleasant thing, he may just start to think differently. His friends will still have their own message to give him, but he might think for himself.
There are no guarantees, though. All a parent or leader can do is the best he or she can, and seek the spirit to guide. However, arming one’s self with a little knowledge can’t hurt. Having a game plan that won’t make them more interested in sex may also be wise.
Without actually demonstrating sex within marriage (which would be gross and wrong), how do parents show that sex within marriage can be a healthy thing? By demonstrating their affection for one another. Perhaps by talking about it in healthy ways, rather than trying to pathologize any interest in sex. By showing healthy affection to each of the children. By teaching in a consistent way what the gospel says about sex, the good and the bad. By answering questions. By normalizing this topic, not trivializing it.
This is very difficult to do, and I hope my wife and I are successful when our children reach that curious age. Only with guidance from the spirit will we be successful.