A Keepa reader who is a Young Woman leader in her ward shared with me this letter she has sent to youth leaders in her ward. She has given permission to share it with you.
Dear youth leaders and teachers,
Here is a thought I would have shared at the last teacher meeting if we’d been in town. I do hope that none of what I say offends anyone since it is a sensitive topic.
As I look over the youth lessons for August and think about the needs of our Young Women, I am sad to think that in a good faith effort to save the young men and women of the church from the consequences of sin, teachers all over the church may be preparing object lessons that deny the power of the atonement and wound some of the most vulnerable members of our congregations.
August’s lesson called “Why is chastity important?” encourages participants to “think of and share other analogies that teach the importance of chastity.” It does not take much imagination to foresee that teachers may be preparing object lessons involving licked cupcakes and chewed gum to teach the principle of chastity or sexual purity.
Young women may be more likely to get these lessons than the young men. I heard them as a youth, and within the past year in our ward, a fifth-Sunday teacher training lesson explained how to use one of these object lessons, resulting in a sister in the ward, a convert, leaving the lesson in visible distress.
Here are why these lessons can be problematic.
1) They teach victims of rape and sexual abuse — male or female — that they are damaged beyond repair. You can see comments about this from kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart.
As you prepare to teach the lessons, do note that the Church is now careful to distinguish between virtue (behavior showing high moral standards) and chastity (sexual purity). As another church member commented, virtue is more broad and encompassing than sexual purity alone. Virtue includes chastity but virtue does not equal chastity, and more importantly virtue does not equal virginity.2 Married men and women can be chaste and virtuous.
2) These object lessons equate women with food, comparing them to something to be consumed. That’s rather creepy.
3) For those that have made mistakes in their lives, either minor or major, and that’s all of us, these object lessons teach us that we are beyond the power of the atonement. See Isaiah 1:18 and many other scriptures for what the Lord has to say about that.
Our young men and women are growing up in a complicated culture and need to be armed with the power of the truth and an understanding of the beautiful and healing message of the gospel, and not be burdened with damaging cultural messages. There are many better ways to teach the proper role of human sexuality and the power of the atonement than through vague euphemism and flawed object lessons.
I do appreciate all the work all of you do on behalf of my children and the other children of the ward…