Friday, May 1, 2009

"It is better to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent."

Or so the saying goes. Not sure who said that, my mind wants me to think it was President Benson, but I'm not about to go digging in my monstrous file full of that sort of thing to try and find it.

Recently, a friend posted something about her feelings on sex education on her blog. She referred to another blog post about object lessons in Young Women's to try and teach the law of chastity. I went ahead and clicked on her link and read the post and the subsequent comments on it.

There was one thing that really bothered me. Some of the people commenting talked about how the object lessons never really included the doctrine of repentance. The visuals they gave were very strong on how sin can cause you to become unworthy, but there was nothing taught, or no object lessons given, to be more accurate, on repentance. The thing that really bothered me is that some of these women seemed to blame the well-intentioned Young Women's leaders for their problems.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but ideally, we teach youth not to sin, to stay away from sin, and to not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, right? Because the goal is to not sin in the first place. As the title says, it is better to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent.

I have been in many Relief Society lessons where sisters start inputting that the Young Women's program is so faulty as to lead to failed marriages and other problems they have as adults. Why don't they just come right out and blame the Church for teaching false doctrines or for not telling them the whole story? Like they say that in Young Women's, they only teach about getting to marriage, but say nothing of life after that temple sealing, and how hard it can be. Why should they? By the time the young women most likely are married, they are not in Young Women's anymore, and they need to learn about marriage from other sources. I learned a lot about marriage and all the good and bad from my LDS Marriage and Families class at BYU. True, it was before I got married, before marriage was even on my radar, but taking a class like that was quite valuable. Hand in hand with the many, many lessons on chastity (is it any wonder that they've now added "virtue" as a value?), that class and my experience in Young Women's served to only strengthen my testimony of the law of chastity.

Having also served in Young Women's, it makes me sad when women seem to blame some of their life's trials on a former young women's leader who only had the best intentions at heart. She wanted to teach the law of chastity, and in the law of chastity, there is no sex before or outside of marriage, period. It is the doctrine of repentance that allows for mistakes to be made and rectified, which probably wasn't part of the lesson.

I just really don't like it when the Young Women's program is denigrated by people who made bad life choices. It really bothers me because the program is not bad.  If the teachings are followed, life will be easier for the girl following those teachings. 


Devin & Ruthann said...

I totally agree. People need to take responsibility for their own choices and quit blaming others.

swedemom said...

Jenna, I don't think the post's intention was to blame the YW program for personal problems. But I do feel that many individuals in the church clearly do not understand the law of chastity nor its relation to the atonement. Many, many, many people in the church grew up thinking that sex was evil and dirty, only to be thrown to the wolves so to speak when it came time for marriage. Making the sacred intimaciesof marriage difficult, painful and embarrassing. Others, because of some of those object lessons, thought there was no hope for them if they crossed the line or messed up. And so they just gave in and pursued a life of sin without the the hope of the atonement. Still others, who were sexually abused (and I know several of these women) felt that they were damaged goods and these lessons only reinforced these negative and destructive images.
The object lessons weren't necessarily in the manual. I don't think the leaders demonstrated ill-intent in their lessons. In fact, I think they desperately wanted to teach the girls in their classes to wait until marriage. I doubt they thought about some of the unintended consequences of the object lessons.
I have read a number of LDS group blogs. Segullah is the only one that consistently maintains a faithful tone that is respectful of the church. Times and Seasons, By Common Consent and Feminist Mormon Housewives are scathing in their criticsms of the church, doctrine, and church culture. I've stopped reading those blogs because I find it incredibly disturbing. Because I read Segullah on a daily basis, I've become familar with many of the frequent commentators. Most of the women are very willing to take responsibility for their own actions, love the gospel and are genuinely looking for ways to apply the truths of the gospel to their complex lives.

I didn't see the topic or the comments as abdicating personal responsibility for one's choices. However, if one has been taught incorrect doctrine, it can be very difficult to make correct choices based on incorrect knowledge. And if you've been taught incorrectly, how do you know instinctively the right thing to do?

I'm sorry that felt so differently after reading the post than I did. I refered you to the post because I thought it was a perfect example of the poor ways that the law of chastity is or isn't taught. I think we can do better in the church. I want us to do better. I learned a lot from it, particularly about the ways I want to continue to teach the law of chastity to my children, and if I ever the calling, to Young Women.

swedemom said...

You've been great about allowing different opinions on your blog. I think it is great, and I appreciate it very much.

I do have a problem when lessons about chastity aren't taught closely with repentance and the atonement. That doesn't mean it has to be taught on the same Sunday. But if you are going to use an object lesson which shows a person is forever tainted if they don't follow the law of chastity, then they better teach about repentance and the atonement in that very lesson.

Such lessons don't allow for the very real fact that people can and do make bad choices. We shouldn't encourage youth to make bad choices, but how do we give them any hope of the gospel if we don't share the wonder of the atonement?
It's a hard balance to negotiate. On one hand you don't want to encourage youth to experiment with the promise of an easy way out through the atonement, but on the other hand, you don't want to not teach such an essential doctrine as the atonement.

I would like it we went away from object lessons about chastity altogether. I like the idea of teaching the law of chastity in the context of the Plan of Salvation. When you understand that, you understand, in context, the whole meaning of the law of chastity, the way it protects individuals, children and families.

royalbird said...

"It's a hard balance to negotiate. On one hand you don't want to encourage youth to experiment with the promise of an easy way out through the atonement, but on the other hand, you don't want to not teach such an essential doctrine as the atonement."

I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. It is difficult to teach the youth to avoid sin BUT also include that if they do make bad choices (and we all do), we have repentance and the Atonement without seeming like we're encouraging them to experiment. And I wasn't meaning to imply that the Segullah blog was negative in any way, it just seemed that discussion turned into one blaming the YW program, or more importantly, its leaders, for not understanding some of the Church's doctrines.

I truly don't remember any specific object lessons in YW. Nor do I remember what my level of understanding of certain points of doctrines were when I was that young. I do remember stopping attending YW when I turned 18, even though I still had my senior year of high school to finish, just because I didn't have to anymore and I was sick of it. I went to RS instead, but my mom was RS president and she did some things to help a few of us transition into RS smoothly--there were about 3 or 4 of us who started attending RS during our senior year of high school. So I know that, as well-meaning as YW leaders can be, they don't always reach every girl.

Anyway, I think it mostly reminded me of certain sisters in RS lessons I've sat in who say things like, "if I had learned more about how marriage REALLY was in YW, I wouldn't have gone through this horrible divorce," or "I would have had more realistic expectations of marriage." I guess that's true to a point, as far as not having realistic expectations of marriage, but I don't know if I'd known how hard marriage could be, if I would have even wanted to get married in the first place. Same with kids. It's a lot harder than anybody ever lets on, but even if they do, you still get caught up in the fairy tale and won't believe them if they tell you anyway.

Thanks for your comments, ladies!

swedemom said...

You know, I think people do warn us that life is hard. But we often choose not to listen. How can marriage be hard? I love my fiancee so much and we are going to be so happy. And meanwhile the mother is in the background, saying, enjoy your happiness, hold onto it because you are going to need it in the storms of life. And they just blithely ignore the advice. I know I did. I had heard so many times that children were hard that it really threw me off having kids. I did not want to be a mother. It took a lot of years and a lot of love from Brent to convince me to try motherhood. I'm sure glad I did.


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