The design of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to invite people to repentance. Shame is already so devastating and prevalent in the world of sexual sin that we don't need to pile anymore on. Shame is a powerful tool used by Satan to keep people from repenting. Lessons on the Law of Chastity should focus on hope and change through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Examples of shaming include focusing on how bad sexual sin is instead of teaching how to repent from it. Emphasizing the negative impacts of sexual sin creates an environment of shame. Teaching someone why they should do something with threats of consequences isn't a great teaching method. You can certainly mention the negative effects of sin, but the focus should always be on repentance and the Atonement. Hopeful lessons point others to Jesus Christ. Shaming lessons focused on threats and negativity point people the opposite way.
2. Don't Make Assumptions
Assuming that no one in the room has a problem is a problem in and of itself. Guess what? The Law of Chastity applies to everyone equally to men and women, young and old. Everyone has room for improvement, and a significant majority percentage of church members have active struggle with pornography, masturbation, body shame, sexual temptations, lusting, inappropriate thoughts, adultery, and a whole host of other issues that fall under the category of the Law of Chastity.
Often people avoid talking about difficult subjects by talking about teaching it to their children rather than talking about how to apply it for themselves. If we are not keeping the Law of Chastity ourselves how can we ever hope to deal with the extremely difficult challenges they face? You have to stop assuming that no one is struggling because statistics, Bishops, and Stake Presidents can all tell you that the problem is at plague-like levels. Repentance is for everyone in the room!
3. Stop Making Lists
I'm making a list right now so I see the irony here. Making lists of dos and don'ts, blessings and curses is ridiculous. Yes, we need to explain what is appropriate and inappropriate, but if it becomes the focus of the lesson then we have a problem. You can have sex with your one and only and live a chaste and virtuous life and still end up on the "curse" list with an STD due to a struggling spouse. The lists hurt people. They see themselves on the wrong side and are filled with shame. Is that how you want people to feel during your lesson? We have all made mistakes. Bringing it up over and over isn't how God works. Repent and He will remember the sin no more. Lists make us look at ourselves in terms of black and white, good and bad. The Law of Chastity is black and white, yes, but we as human beings are mold-able, changeable, and are working towards bettering ourselves. We have to stop defining ourselves by lists and rather let us define ourselves by who we seek to become. The purpose of the Law of Chastity is to bring us joy.
4. Stop Avoiding the Word Sex
It's cute that you know a dozen words to describe sex that you think are more appropriate for church like "intimacy" and "relations." Call it exactly what it is and stop dancing around the issue. It is called sex and it is wonderful and beautiful. Learn the difference between sex and intimacy. It's not the same thing! We need to call things exactly what they are. Sex is sex. I give you permission to use the word masturbation too. If you have to stand in front of the mirror and say the words out loud a hundred times before you teach the lesson, then do it! Sex, masturbation, pornography, penis, vagina, breasts, naked, fallopian tube....okay, so maybe you won't use the last few in a lesson on the Law of Chastity, but let's get real here. Be brave. Use the big girl words.
5. Stop Using Chastity as a Word for Sex
Sex should not be used synonymously with the word chastity. The Law of Chastity involves a whole lot more than just sex. You can live a chaste life and have sex every day. You can have sex every day and never experience intimacy. You can never have sex with someone in your life and still be breaking the Law of Chastity. If we keep mixing up the word chastity and sex then we are sending a horrible message. You need to keep the Law of Chastity which means don't have sex so then what happens when you do have sex? Guilt? Shame? Ahhhhh! The Law of Chastity is so much more than just not having sex. It is about learning to master the natural urges of our bodies. It is about keeping sacred covenants with another person. It is about the sacredness of the sexual experience. Sex is something that is good, pure, and holy. The Law of Chastity helps us find something special in the sexual experience and empowers us as creators and partners in an eternal journey. The Law of Chastity brings us joy.
Hopefully at some point lessons on the Law of Chastity will be as open and freely discussed as any other lesson. I'm tired of women skipping church or leaving the room when there is a lesson on chastity because they fear what hurtful things people will say. Women should not feel pain in Relief Society. They should feel relief! We are a sisterhood, and a powerful one at that. We should stand united on the Law of Chastity, helping those that stand in need of help, comforting those that stand in need of comfort, and inviting all to experience the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Just imagine what a powerful force we could be!
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