With analogies ranging from nailed boards, man-handled white roses, dirty pennies, chewed gum, and licked cupcakes, the ways we should NOT be teaching the next generation about chastity is vast and varied. A reader remarked to me that he is well aware of the many ways to not teach chastity. He wanted to know how DO we teach chastity to our kids, especially when the future looks like it will be fraught with even more evil than our present does. My answer to that question is based on something I am calling the Law of Virtue.
The Law of Chastity is a serious law from our Heavenly Father that governs the use of our given procreation powers. Those powers are only to be used within the bounds of a legal marriage, and between a husband and a wife. Breaking this law can land a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in serious trouble, regardless of age or status.
The question then becomes this: how do we teach the law of chastity in such a way that will help members obey it, understand it’s importance, and not feel worthless if they ever break it? I believe the answer lies in teaching the spirit of the law, rather than the letter of it. As the doctrine of Christ has progressed through time, the laws we have have begun to be more spiritual in nature. The transition from Mosaic Law to the Law given by Christ being the largest single shift. In this day, we should refrain from only teaching the letter of chastity; rather we should teach the spirit of chastity, which has its basis in virtue.
The Law of Chastity requires sexual purity for men and women. Sexual purity is often interpreted to mean abstaining from sexual intercourse outside of marriage. Sadly, for many the law seems to be applied too narrowly. Does sexual purity mean abstaining from actions that don’t actually require the physical contact of others? Does sexting, or talking dirty over text or on Tinder break the Law of Chastity? Many would say it doesn’t, and it would therefore not be enough to keep someone outside of the temple. I had a bishop once who gave wonderful advice and counsel. He said that sexting, dirty conversations, regardless of any physical contact between the two parties, would constitute breaking the law. When we engage in these activities, we are entering into a relationship of sorts with that individual. Our actions are therefore breaking the spirit of that law.
Virtue, on the other hand, encompasses all standards of morality including dress, speech, and conduct. We should be teaching the next generation a higher law of virtue. We must teach our posterity and the church at large that being above reproach and virtuous will keep us chase and clean. The Law of Virtue would contain both the spirit and letter of chastity’s law, among our many other moral standards. Above all, and like everything within the church, we must teach children that their worth in the eyes of God is immutable. They are not a licked cupcake, or a piece of chewed gum. The doctrine of the atonement MUST be at the very center of our lessons regarding virtue and chastity. Too many youths leave the church feeling they have gone too far, or drifted out of reach. No child of God is outside of the reach of His love, or Christ’s atonement.
Teach them virtue. Teach them about their eternal worth. And teach them that the atonement is always there for them no matter what.