Friday, August 20, 2010

Lesson 2 - 33 The Sacred Power of Procreation

Please, I beg of you all. Before teaching this lesson, go to your nearest mirror and practice saying "sex" out loud. When you've got that down, say "oral sex" "masturbation" and any other word that might arise to get these girls to understand what you're talking about. The stakes are way too high for politeness, and if you can't even bring yourself to say the words, they're not going to find you very credible.

There was one memorable occasion I was teaching a chastity lesson and I talked about masturbation. One of the girls asked me what that meant. Nervous titters went up through the room but in what I consider one of my finest teaching moments, I didn't even blink but just said, "Oh sure, it's when you sexually stimulate yourself. You've probably heard to it referred to as 'jacking off'." Then I kept right on moving with the lesson. The jaws of the leaders on the back row hit the ground, but the girl who asked the question totally knew what I was talking about, and all the other girls stopped laughing and started paying strict attention. Since I was unafraid, they were unafraid, and I had many girls from that group come talk to me about sex since they knew I could handle it.

In those discussions about sex, the first question girls ask is, "How far can I go without it being too far?" My answer to that is usually, "If you have to ask, that's probably too far." and then discuss intent, and how a relationship with God should be our first priority and we should always be mindful of how our actions affect that. This is also a good time to discuss self-respect and whether they are engaging in a physical relationship (at any stage) because it's what *they* want or if it's because they want someone to like them.

Then I actually answer their question.

I draw a continuum on the chalkboard with "No Physical Contact" on one side and "Sex" on the other. We talk about their social development, learning what they like and don't like, what they're attracted to and not, learning about relationships and boundaries and how all of that is important work.

Then I write "Marriage" bisecting the continuum, and put oral sex and "touching" (which we carefully define as touching breasts or genitals - because nobody from *my* generation knew what necking or petting meant and they certainly don't now) on the "sex" side of the continuum. I tell them that if they cross that "Marriage" line before they are actually married, then they should clear it up with their bishop. We discuss how it's up to them to decide where on the continuum between "No Personal Contact" and "Marriage" their personal boundaries are, but that they need to decide before they are with a boy they really like in an environment where they could go further than they should, because nobody is thinking rationally then.

Then we talk about masturbation which I do not put on the continuum at all. I tell them that they should avoid it because bringing those feelings up in ourselves will make it harder to stick to our boundaries when we're swept up in a moment. I tell them that on the big scale of sins it's maybe a 2, and it's not something they should feel shame over, but it is something best saved for when they and their partner can explore their sexual relationship together.

This is one of those issues that kind of make me crazy. When we talk about chastity, we tend to use WAY too much fear and shame. Please, please, please, don't use any object lessons that objectify the girl. She is not a cupcake or a rose or a piece of gum.

One object lesson I liked was one I heard from a friend. She arranged to teach a chastity lesson on a fast Sunday, and brought in a delicious baked good. She told the girls that what was on her tray was her favorite thing and brought a lot of enjoyment to her life. But since it was fast Sunday, she didn't want to taint her enjoyment of the treats by feeling guilty about eating them when she knew she shouldn't, so she put them away and promised to bring some back when it was an appropriate time to eat them. This could be fantastic for Beehives. There's no fear of catastrophe, there's no public shame or messages on how dirty sex is, it's a sex-positive chastity message for goodness sake. I didn't know if we'd ever find one.

Also, I beg of you, throw in a big fat disclaimer for victims of abuse. Statistics say that 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. The odds are that at least one of your girls already has been, and it can be shocking who it turns out to be. Emphasize that they do not need to repent for violence inflicted upon them. Make sure they understand, thoroughly, that rape has nothing to do with chastity.

In our sex obsessed culture, these girls hear all about every little detail of sex, and often. We cannot change that by ignoring it, so I think we need to be every bit as frank with them in our teaching the gospel, as our larger culture is with them in convincing them it's no big deal. Plus, this is an intensely valuable time to build trust with your girls. If they can talk with you about sex, they can talk with you about anything.

The entire website of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy is stuffed with really good, productive, information, but this pdf has some really wonderful advice for religious leaders.

If you have older girls, the chances are pretty good that someone in your group has already gone further than they should. Let that knowledge give you gentleness. Leave room for the Atonement, and testify of its power.

Remember that they are going to carry what you teach into adulthood and marriage, so be mindful of their future as well as their present. Unfortunately a temple sealing does not come with one of those Men In Black style mind wipes and there are legions of us grown married women who do not enjoy sex because we can't get past those feelings of shame that kept us away from it when we were single. Sex is a really big deal, but it's not dirty. The sin in premarital sex is not engaging in sex, but engaging in a covenant we have not made.

This one's important, but we can do it. God bless us in our efforts.


  1. We moved this lesson a little earlier in our ward. One thing in my lesson that seemed to go over really well was comparing sex to the temple. No one thinks going to the temple is bad. In fact, the temple is a great place to be and something that we all look forward to. But it would be bad to go there before the correct time. It's special. It's the same with sex. Sex is something ordained by Heavenly Father (not a tool of Satan's!) as a part of our ability to start someone's life on earth and build the relationship of a man and a woman that will continue for eternity. But, we have to do it at the correct time, just like the temple.

  2. please, please, please can you come and teach this lesson in our ward??! I`ll bet just about anything that none of the words you suggested leaders practise will even be mentioned!

  3. I forwarded your blog to my counselors! We are a small ward, so we take turns teaching all the girls together. Lucky girls: both of my counselors are faithful, humble, strong women.

    Thanks a bunch. I only just started posting, but have been reading for a long time!

  4. I'm teaching this (and 32, The Importance of Life) to the Beehives tomorrow, and I love your baked-goods-that-don't-objectify-girls object lesson! I also plan on spending most of the time on the very first section of lesson 32, talking about the beauty of nature and how Heavenly Father wants us to have joy from beautiful things, especially in nature.

  5. Your thoughts are spot on. Thank you for that. My sister wrote and shared the thought that our young women need to hear that they are "agentic" - agents for their own bodies and their own happiness. They are not objects of desire. They are beings of desire, with their own right to joy in sex with a committed eternal companion. They need to make decisions that will preserve self for herself, so that she is strong and can have dominion over her many dimensions. Agency -in the sense of ACTING rather than being acted upon. "Self-eficacy, to be
    fancier. This turns out to be more fundamental than self-esteem. And it can inform self-esteem. Just some thoughts to whare.

  6. Our YW counselor who taught this today nailed it. The lesson was open, positive, sensitive to the needs of our girls...did I say positive? I'm not surprised (my counselors are amazing women) but am impressed with how she made beautiful a lesson that could've been really squirmy.

  7. Wonderful post. Thanks. This is one I will be highlighting in the future.

  8. My 12 year old just had a lesson on abortion last sunday. So we talked about it after. Can I expect the chastitly one next?

  9. Thanks. I especially love your object lesson. Too bad it isn't fast Sunday--I might have to think about that.

    Our ward is small, but for this lesson we have decided to split the girls between the daters and the non-daters, but the bluntness is good. I learned that teaching science summer school to some very mature-bodied 8th graders from an inner city school area. They are going to get their answers from somewhere. It better be somebody who knows the truth and loves them dearly.

    I wish the boys would get this lesson, too. Or at least get it in this blunt manner.

    Yes, anonymous, this lesson is right after the "sanctity of life" lesson that was heavy on abortion.

    When my spouse and I were dating, Elder Holland gave a wonderful talk on WHY we wait in October 1998. It might be a good supplement, or at least a preparation aide.

  10. A former bishop used to refer to the "strike zone". In baseball, the area from the shoulders to the knees constitutes a strike. So, for your body, this is the area to keep others out of. Makes sense to me and is a great catch phrase that will stick with the girls.

    Loved the frankness of your post. I struggle knowing what's too much past the lesson manual and what's not. Thank you!

  11. I love all your thoughts and wish I'd had a lesson like this as a Young Woman. I would, however, differ with your approach to masturbation as a "minor" sin. Masturbation, just like pornography, releases powerful and addictive chemicals into the brain. Though perhaps harmless at first, it quickly intensifies into a sexual addiction. I speak from experience, because I was so addicted as a teenager. How I wish someone had told me that sexual addictions affect women AND men, that help is available, and repentance possible. Instead, I felt crippling shame and hopelessness for many, many years. Please, talk to your young women about sexual addictions because they affect BOTH genders, and are a widespread disease in our sexualized society. I highly recommend "He Restoreth My Soul" by Donald Hilton, a book about pornography and sexual addictions from a scientific and Latter-day Saint perspective. His section on women and sexual addiction specifically addresses masturbation, and made me weep, wishing I had read this twenty years before as a struggling young girl.

    Thanks for your faithful work!

  12. H,

    The issue with the whole "strike zone" thing is that it's totally fine for a guy to put his arm around a young woman's waist, or place his hand on her back, or his head on her shoulder. And those all fall in the strike zone area.

  13. The most important thing to communicate is that premarital sex DOESN'T ruin you. All these object lessons tend to focus on the object becoming dirty and less desirable. Even in the case of the $20 bills, given the choice between a crisp new bill and a crumbled dirty one, most people will choose the new one. (Would anyone choose the dirty one?)

    I was raped about a year ago. I was dating a guy at the time and we had talked about marriage. After the rape, he dumped me. Said he couldn't handle dating me anymore. Yep, guess how that made me feel. I really think a lot of his hangup was that he'd been taught in the church to marry a girl who had never had any type of sexual experience. He no longer saw me as a virgin.

    My own parents taught me this idea as well. They emphasized the importance of marrying a man who had "never violated his covenants, had always been righteous and good." When I was dating my now-husband they expressed concern that I shouldn't marry him because they suspected he had been abused. Yeah. So have I. Big freakin deal. I realized in my teens that my parents were wrong and my church leaders were wrong. It doesn't matter whether or not someone is a virgin. It doesn't matter if they've always been righteous and good and kept their covenants. What matters is whether they are good now, and if they are prepared to be loyal and keep their covenants.

  14. Thank you for this post. I am teaching this lesson on Sunday and have been mulling this over in my mind for weeks. I haven't found anything in the manual or anywhere else that feels right. I'm glad it's easy for me to be blunt and talk about sex with the girls. I know I have always called them "bathing suit" parts like others have said the strike zone. Bathing suit parts I like better because it's a little more clear, fun to say, and all encompassing. I don't think it's right for a boy to touch a girl's stomach and therefore a modest bathing suit would cover that both literally and figuratively.

    If someone could give me a rough outline as to how they would handle the lesson. Not anything in-depth, but just an example of their beginning, middles, and end. I have kind of what I want to say, I'm just having a hard time arranging it in the order that feels right. I'm definitely going to do the baked goods thing and the continuum. Love them both!

    As a side note, I too struggled with the law of chastity as a youth. I needed a lesson that was more matter of fact and full of reality, honesty, and hope. I wish someone told me that the feelings and desires I had were normal, and all the rest of this post spoke about. The post on what not to teach was amazing. Every bullet point I struggle(d) with as myself. Especially with the gum and dollar bill lessons. You can't ever be unchewed gum once you've been chewed. Don't they see what that really tells us?

    Sorry for the novella of a post.


    This was a great, current article on virtue from Sister Dalton. I love at the beginning when she states that because of Christ it is possible to "return to virtue" if one has not been virtuos.

    I began my lesson right after the YW theme and asked the girls what that new value, "virtue" meant. I gave a dictionary definition and talked about what moral standards we have in the church that would be important to keep our virtue. That, combined with the quote from the article above lead into the lesson itself.

    Chelle- For me, the most important thing was to know the lesson forward and backward and let the discussion take precident. I knew which quotes I liked, which other articles I wanted to use, which words to avoid and what to use. Let the spirit guide from there!

  16. So this is where I thank you profusely for this blog and all the advice on it - the first of many times, I'm sure. I just got called to be Beehive advisor, my first time in Young Women since I was a kid. And my second lesson is the one on chastity! Gulp. You have saved my bacon, big time. I love the ideas on here, especially the object lesson. I didn't think it was possible to have a good object lesson about chastity, but that one is great. I'm using it, but since I don't feel like baking today I'm bringing fancy Swiss chocolate bars. :) I also decided to combine lessons 32 and 33, since I found 32 so problematic - this way I can just use the parts that I think will resonate with the girls about the important of life, and then segue right into the nitty gritty about the law of chastity.

  17. I know I'm late to the game on this lesson, but I'm teaching it tomorrow and sifting through an immense amount of material that I've researched. I came across a great article by Bruce C. and Marie K. Hafen that uses a story that is very similar to the baked good object lesson that Reese suggested (and it quotes Cookie Monster from Sesame Street--even better!). It's titled "Bridle all your Passions" and was published in the February 1994 Ensign, in case anyone else is interested.

    BTW--Many thanks for the blog . . . I refer to it often (even though I've never commented before).


If you wish to comment anonymously, please comment with a made-up name.