Stake visitors amble through the hallways during Sunday School time of ward conference in an urban Chicago ward. Suddenly, bellowing from the young women‚Äôs classroom, comes the teacher‚Äôs mighty voice: ‚ÄúChastity means NO SEX, NO SEX, NO SEX!‚ÄĚ
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 ‚Äúvirtue‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúexaltation.‚ÄĚ Straight talk was the only way to get the point across clearly. Of course there‚Äôs more depth and power to the principle of chastity than ‚Äúno sex,‚ÄĚ but at a certain level, basics are required.
Imagine the poor missionaries doing pre-baptism interviews with sisters who have no idea what the ‚Äúlaw of chastity‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúturned on‚ÄĚ (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‚Äôs given the kids some kind of parameters (a.k.a. ‚Äústandards‚ÄĚ) even if I don‚Äôt agree with where he‚Äôs drawn all his boundaries. I don‚Äôt 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‚Äôt see how this squares with ‚Äúbridling one‚Äôs passions.‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôre really buying into the ‚Äúdon‚Äôt kiss until over the altar‚ÄĚ policy.) ‚ÄúI wish somebody would spell things out specifically,‚ÄĚ one robust 21-year-old complained. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs all so euphemistic.‚ÄĚ If he read that ‚Äúnecking‚ÄĚ was considered beyond the limits by some revered leaders, would he wish he hadn‚Äôt asked?
Is this one area where ‚Äúteaching them correct principles and let them govern themselves‚ÄĚ needs more clarification? Or are we just all hopelessly uptight?