170–171: Toward Expanding and Improving LDS Discourse about Sexuality

April 22, 2013
By

Scrabble tilesSo often in Mormon discourse, the term “virtue” is treated almost exclusively as relating to sexual purity, chastity, and virginity, completely missing its much broader and wonderfully expansive meanings. Similarly, most talk about “morality,” “passion,” “modesty,” and “sensuality” are spoken about almost solely in terms of sexuality. We receive, without careful parsing, statements about how molestation and rape victims have been deprived of “that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue” (Moroni 9:9). Messaging and publications for youth still put forth the idea that sexual sins are “next to murder” in seriousness, never mind that this idea is based upon highly questionable scriptural exegesis and a failure to recognize horrendous evils that can’t even come close to approaching soul dangers associated with sexual experimentation and slip up. And rarely do we encounter public teaching that considers all those within the listening audience for whom extreme rhetoric about sexual sin will be harmful and discouraging, and who because of such messaging will more likely be driven away from a sense of their being deserving of God’s love and LDS community fellowship.

Why is it so difficult for us to talk forthrightly and in healthy ways about sexuality, especially in teaching our youth? Why do we imagine willful ignorance about our bodies and sexual response and pleasures as admirable? How can we bring into LDS families and communal teaching the best thinking and practices about teaching healthy sexuality to our youth and young adults, and also aid those who are married and sexually active yet may still hold negative views about themselves as sexual beings? (And none of this research and best thinking requires the encouragement of sex outside of marriage.) Mormonism has great theological teachings about the body and about sex. Why are we failing to communicate the big picture when it comes to the messaging we give? How might we do better?

In this episode, Natasha Helfer Parker, Margaret Blair Young, Micah Nickolaisen, and Lisa Butterworth join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in a frank and forthright discussion of these and other aspects of how to talk in healthier ways about sexuality. We hope you’ll listen and then make comments and join in the discussion below.

_________

Links:

Lisa Butterworth’s Feminist Mormon Housewives post about how Virtue Cannot Be Stolen

Micah Nickolaisen’s A Thoughtful Faith post about Virtue

Natasha Helfer Parker and Jennifer Finlayson-Fife’s Mormon Stories podcast episode on LDS Women’s Sexuality

Michael Ash’s Sunstone article giving an alternative view of The Sin Next to Murder

Healing from Sexual Abuse, by Chieko N. Okazaki (thanks Josh for linking in the comments section below!)

 

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63 Responses to 170–171: Toward Expanding and Improving LDS Discourse about Sexuality

  1. Ruth Watson
    April 23, 2013 at 2:00 am

    Is there a citation for President Kimball saying he was too harsh in Miracle of
    Forgiveness?

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      April 25, 2013 at 1:22 pm

      There may be one in the book Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, by Edard L. Kimball, son of SWK. I don’t have a copy to check.

      One place I do know he speaks of it though, is about 42 minutes into Part 2 of his two-part interview of Ed Kimball by John Dehlin, done for Mormon Stories. Here is a link to the place where you can download or listen:

      http://mormonstories.org/137-138-edward-kimball-son-of-spencer-w-kimball-parts-1-2/

      • Ruth Watson
        April 29, 2013 at 1:17 am

        Thank you!!

  2. Ruth Watson
    April 23, 2013 at 2:50 am

    I’d like to echo what Lisa said regarding 95% of GC audience seeing these statements as positive. 1 in 3 women are sexually abused at one point in their lives, one in six men. add to that converts, those who have commited sexual sins, transgressions, or even just normal exploration, and the percentage of those that can be negatively impacted and shamed by these words is huge! I doubt it is what our leaders intend, yet the ramifications of it not being addressed and corrected directly over the pulpit will likely continue to be devastating to many, many members.

    • darkmatter20
      May 1, 2013 at 7:29 am

      Converts understand clearly that it all starts from zero on baptism…. I doubt any convert has issues with these concepts. utah mormons probably do though since they all seem to hear ‘virgin’ when the word ‘virtue’ is said…. but any virtuous mother ends that myth..

  3. Jeralee
    April 23, 2013 at 9:36 am

    More good Mormon Matters stuff Dan! I wish I had heard this kind of discussion 20 years ago! What a perfect panel for this discussion. Kudos to all. I have heard rumblings about Pres. Kimball having regrets about the harshness of his book, and would love to be pointed in the direction of where this was said. <3

  4. Nathan
    April 23, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Socrates was deemed as an agitant of the state because he espoused a dialectical method for acquiring knowledge. Entertaining critical, antithetical positions, in the hopes of charting a better way forward, admits vulnerability. Though some might associate critical dialogue as fundamentally prideful, it can, alternatively, be an incredibly meek and humble space. I bring this up in the context of the brief conversation about moderation that popped up in this podcast. My understanding of “moderation” as it is used in Mormonism, is that it developed out of the more scripturally anchored word “temperance.” And though the word itself doesn’t date back to the age of early metallurgy, the concept “to temper,” it can be argued, is rooted in the practice of heating and then cooling metal in order to yield a product that is both elastic and hard -a most desirable condition.

    • Nathan
      April 24, 2013 at 9:49 am

      And Dan, I would be very interested in a list that specifies contradictory GA statements on any given issue. Ha, that would be great for sparking real conversation and helping the individual to come to their own thoughtful position.

  5. joshua mangelson
    April 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    I agree with Natasha that teaching anything different than abstinence only is like bargaining a price for your child in that it is non- negotiable. however, I thought of a good example that this doesn’t have to be so. God taught Adam and Eve about the tree if good and evil and gave them a full understanding of what eating the fruit would entail, and then added the caveat that he forbade it. I don’t see the problem of teaching your kids what sex is like, what contraceptives are, and how to do it safely while still making it clear where God’s boundaries are. knowledge is power and most of the time knowledge leads to informed choices. On another note, I was one that went to church paid counseling because I kept having relapses with masturbation back in my single days. To be cynical, the church is fully uninformed on the topic. I don’t see God behind the ecclesiastical abuse. Their approach killed my self confidence which I think aided in the relapses while confirming I was worthless. I have little hope the church will change much by the time my girls are old enough to be taught these things. hope do we teach our kids that church authority doesn’t trump parental advice harking back to Micah saying he ignored his dad about when to have kids?

  6. Annika
    April 23, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    I remember asking my mother what the F word meant and why it was so bad when I was fifteen or sixteen. She just got an angry look on her face and said “It just is bad.” So I looked it up in the dictionary. I decided then that when I have kids, I want to be much more open about sex and let it be something we can discuss openly and without shame. I never had that as a kid, and I know it has hurt me.

  7. Listen
    April 24, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Excellent Dan! Only you could do this topic justice and compile the ideal panel to discuss this important topic. This should be required listening to all YW leadership, such a change it could make in the lives of our daughters. We want our daughters to feel worth and love above all else. The BKP, SWK, Harmon Rector et al have had a deleterious impact on today’s modern leadership’s ability to convert good intentions into good advice. They are crippled by their past.

  8. Marie
    April 24, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Great and important discussion! Thanks to all who participated. I agree with the ideas of celebration and empowerment with regards to sexuality and the law of chastity. I agree with the assertion that fear is the absolutely wrong way to teach this and other topics. As a YW leader, I recently gave “the lesson” on the law of chastity to a group of 14 to 18 year-olds. I opened up with this question: “How many of you think romantic love is a wonderful and good thing?” Out of nine or so young women, one very tentatively raised her hand. I realize that the question surprised the girls and they weren’t sure how to react, but man, it sure says something about our church culture with regards to the ideas of attraction, sexuality, etc.

    With regards to the topic of “the sin next to murder,” I was hoping to hear some comments on the line of reasoning that justifies that statement by saying that it’s tampering with the the life-giving prerogative of God (just as murder does). This has been put forward by Elder Holland in his “Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments” talk. That’s sort of been the avenue I’ve used when this comes up, but while that feels like sound and good doctrine, it also feels like a very narrow application if you’re trying to address the broad spectrum of sexuality that Natasha referred to.

    • Nathan
      April 25, 2013 at 9:04 am

      There is no justification for calling fornication, or even adultery, “the sin next to murder.” Yeah, adultery in particular can damage multiple lives and is thus extremely regrettable, but murder ends a life. In Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood’s character says something to the effect of “killing a man is a hell of a thing, you take everything he’s ever had and everything he’ll ever be.” The only justification for the statement “the sin next to murder” is if one is lead to ponder the huge gap between murder and fornication and, as a result, come to a deeper realization of the gravity of murder, such that you have to travel all the way to sexual sin to find sin #2. But then you’re talking some serious mental gymnastics. I think the statement is simply unjustified and nothing more than a scare tactic.

  9. April 24, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Thank you so much for this podcast. It’s one of the things about Mormon culture that boggles my mind, that we can’t discuss this topic like adults. We’re so afraid of it, like it’s this monster looming above us that we can’t touch, that it stifles our growth as people and as a culture, and as an organization (as fear does in all cases). I was surprised that Elder Bednar’s talk wasn’t mentioned (although you maybe have plans to do something about that on a future podcast), but the fact that he used the term “procreative power” exclusively and not “sex” or even “sexual intimacy” or something kind of confused me. It’s just another example of us not being able to have mature discussions about sex.

    As a man, and as someone without children, I’ve been pretty much in the dark about what is taught in young women classes, but have been pretty appalled by what I’ve heard in this podcast (among other places) about the messages that YW are receiving. Seriously, what I hear is being taught about modesty kind of disgusts me, basically that the young women are in control of what the young men think, and if the young man has dirty thoughts, that’s the young woman’s fault for not being “modest” enough. I realize that wasn’t covered too much in this podcast, but it’s a symptom of the larger problem being discussed. Number one, as I said, it’s just a disgusting thought and objectifies the young women more than any young man or media conglomerate ever could. Number two, people obviously don’t realize that that very argument is the same one used by other cultures to justify extreme clothing that covers the entire body (most recognizable example being the Muslim burqa). This also leads to blaming the victim in cases of rape (“Well, look at her clothes, she was asking for it!”) and other things that make *no sense at all*. And we’re teaching it in our churches. Boggles the mind.

    And as for your “steadying the ark” comment, Dan, I look at it this way: Where were the Jews were commanded not to steady the ark? Why, in the Law of Moses, of course. We all know that with Christ, that law’s been fulfilled, and we live the higher law. So I don’t worry about that rule anymore. :)

  10. Emily
    April 25, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Can you link Cheiko’s talk that you mentioned? Thanks!

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      April 25, 2013 at 12:05 pm

      Thanks for the prompt to revisit this! When I first created the blogpost about this episode, I looked for it and found messages on various sites about the page being removed. I gave up. With your note here, I looked harder and found it within the following blog post (or at least the text of a talk in which Sister Okazaki re-gives the talk a decade after original delivery). Here is that link:

      http://www.the-exponent.com/chieko-okazakis-healing-from-sexual-abuse/

  11. Cristi
    April 25, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    thank you! wish I could play this from the mormon rooftops for all to hear. I hope this gets the attention it so desparately needs.

  12. darkmatter20
    April 26, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    I have so many issues here with the panel.

    Here is Moroni 9:9 cut and paste from lds.org:

    “For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—

    10 And after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, because of the hardness of their hearts”

    Where is the word ‘rape’ above? or where is there any reference to forcible sexual intercourse in Moroni’s words?, or even forcible loosing of a hymen, as fingers would also cause?

    The issue I have with your panel is that it is the panel, not Dalton, the ones who insist in equating virtue to virginity. Dalton makes it clear that its all about a voluntary sexual conduct, so much so that it isn’t worth clarifying that it isn’t all about biological virginity but this the panel here who add in that equaling virtue to virginity. This panel interprets her thoughts to say that laminites were robbed of the virtue as if this they were only just raped. But virtue off course covers so much more…sexualized behaviour not ending in rape are also a ways steal someone’s virtue but these girls were ‘robbed’, had something ‘stolen’ and therefore could not be sinners, since they are robbed maybe under force of a knife or arrow (no guns back then).

    Now President Daltons words , from lds.org:

    “In the decadent society of Mormon’s time, he lamented that the women were robbed of that which was most dear and precious above all—their virtue and chastity.7″

    Where is rape mentioned here? Nowhere! you , or utah mormons, add in ‘ rape’ somewhere in the background to blame the victim some more….

    Maybe if one reads the text without adding the word ‘rape’ but Dalton’s words of “no pornography, no abuse, pattern of high moral standards’ where is the word ‘rape’ fit in?

    But also another issue with the panel is that you imply that us mormons teach that having your chastity or virtue stolen makes the victim bad or puts her/him in a difficult position but what about the other half of the scripture? the half that talks about being murdered and eaten alive. That part seemed to be humour for some in the panel but what if one is killed and eaten? are we less of a person in the spirit world? no , off course not.

    If one is murdered after tortured then eaten, one is no less a victim than if one has their virtue and chastity stolen. Both produce victims. Either both are true or not, ie verse 9 and 10, when people lose something most precious -which one can get back by living a virtuous life- and then when one looses one’s life when murdered -which we can get back thanks to JC- then in both situations we are victims

    But would one freely give aways one’s virtue OR would one give away one’s life cheaply and easily in the backseat of a car?? We wouldn’t be victims in this case

    Then also masturbation as ‘exploring our sexuality’ ? what if its daily , that is, addictive behaviour? …well this is another problem area isn’t it….

    • Ruth Watson
      April 29, 2013 at 1:15 am

      I also eat daily, defecate daily, sleep daily, and breathe hourly. Are these behaviors addictive? Sex is a human NEED. (See Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). I feel that culturally we are too eager to play mental health professional in pointing out addictive behaviors. if masturbation does not interfere with health, intimacy, social activity, education, or work, I highly doubt it would be diagnosed as addictive.

      I am puzzled by your comment, it sounds like you many not have listened to the same one I did! The point was that victims of sexual abuse could easily misinterpret Sister Dalton’s intended message. There was also concern that those who may have sinned would be discouraged and shamed by the message and never seek repentance. I can vouch that the concern was valid and that S. Dalton’s words were hurtful, and discouraging if not outright destructive to a great many members faith–something that I agree was NOT S. Dalton’s intention by any means, but something that she and the general leadership and membership of the church need awareness of. Education regarding this is paramount, as one third of our women and one fifth of our men have been sexually abused. Add to those numbers those who are converts and those who have sexually transgressed. Sadly,S. Dalton’s words are only reaching a small percentage of her intended audience.

      • darkmatter20
        April 29, 2013 at 7:28 am

        Maslow’s doesn’t refer to any addictive behaviours nor does it cover physiological demands. But anyone needing to masturbating daily should think about getting some help; most psychologists would classify that as addictive behaviour.

        I’m puzzled by the panel and you here. How can you think that any victim of sexual abuse will feel wronged or discouraged by Dalton’s words? All sexual assault victims feel that guilt, feel dirty at first, certainly feel wronged for a long time due to the assault itself, until rebuilding commences. If done only with a shrink -me- we get limited results. If rebuilding is done with that power that only Christ has then it becomes more complete. However the victim is that, victim and survivor of an assault who still lives. The girls stolen of their ‘virtue and chastity’ were then murdered too. Victims of four wrongs, stolen chastity, stolen virtue, then tortured and then killed. But the panel agrees that they are victims of the torture and murder but not the first two?

        But Dalton never actually equates virtue to virginity. Only this panel does that. Virtue is something else, and the panel covered that with the scripture references Mike found. Dalton spoke about ‘becoming’ virtuous mostly, about building that strength that only comes from a virtuous life….which can and should be done by all whether we are victims of any type of previous abuse or assault or even if we gave away our chastity freely during some sin. What isn’t true is that virtue lost can’t be regained or chastity lost can be forgiven but not regained. That mistakes ‘innocence lost’ with ‘lost chastity’, however mothers can be virtuous and chaste so clearly this isn’t about innocence, virginity or any of the biological issues.

        • Ruth Watson
          April 30, 2013 at 1:28 am

          I disagree regarding Maslow, and disagree that daily masturbation is necessarily addictive behavior. plenty of psychologists disagree as well.

          How can you think that any victim of sexual abuse will feel wronged or discouraged by Dalton’s words?

          Because they were! Because I was! To infere that my virtue can (and was) taken, tells me that I have committed a grievous sin. It is only through the spirit and much healing that I can discern that was not the intent of the passage or the speaker. All the art shaming of my upbringing comes flooding back, “better dead and clean” “defend your chasity and or virtue to the death” “sin next to murder” and here I am, still alive. And feeling very dirty. Why am I even still trying? That is how Dalton’s words make me feel. That is how Dalton’s words make many feel. HOPELESS!! Yet when I respectfully share those feeling, I’m told that I’m “letting” the Adasary whisper his lies to me. Which makes me feel, hopeless too, since obviously the problem is with me, because my virtue was taken and my feelings, however distorted by trauma, are not as important as sister Dalton’s feelings.

          • darkmatter20
            April 30, 2013 at 7:08 am

            “To infere that my virtue can (and was) taken, tells me that I have committed a grievous sin”

            There is the mistake. When anyone steals from us or robs us of something of value, we are victims NOT sinners. That’s why the following verse in moroni is so important since we all see that a tortured and murdered person is clearly a victim and not a sinner (ie for ‘getting’ themselves murdered). But more importantly, part of the healing process involves us changing from just victims to ‘survivors of crime’….Plus we keep forgetting that virtue (ie a lifestyle) is as replaceable as a life stolen difference being that virtue is restored whilst still alive but a life stolen will be replaced after a resurrection. Innocence stolen isn’t replaceable since we can’t go back to being innocent of these things, after they happened or after seeing people doing this on the web somewhere.

            I too suffered from sexual abuse but from a man (to me a man) which I think can raise more difficulties later on, sexual identity etc….however I never thought that I gave him anything or that I was unclean due to that ‘better dead and clean” message in church. I felt unclean for a while because of what he did which I disliked and saw as filth but that was for a while only. People just don’t understand that the ‘better dead and clean’ refers only to the voluntary giving away of one’s chastity…be it as a single person fornicating or a married person in adultery or either with porn, foul language or other forms of abuse. Chastity is actually for both the married and the unmarried.

            ” It is only through the spirit and much healing that I can discern that was not the intent of the passage or the speaker”

            which is spot on. All messages in church are carried by the spirit from the speaker to the heart. So to understand what they are talking about we need to engage in a spiritual exercise of understanding. And in Dalton’s speech I don’t find any problems. There would have been some problems if she used the term ‘innocence lost’ for example but she didn’t. The panel here though has introduced problems by promoting the myth that rape equals virtue lost or lost chastity, not Dalton…

          • darkmatter20
            April 30, 2013 at 7:31 am

            point of meslow’s is in the growing needs from basic to more refined. whilst you could theoretically start with food and water (which modern psychologist don’t since they are just a given) the point is that it changes to “cuisine” and “intimacy” as you go up the pyramide with morality and creativity at the top of the pyramide. Addictions don’t belong there off course. To put physiological basics in Meslow’s is rather amateurish to me..plus there are many criticism about meslow’s like cultural issues and whether there actually is a hierarchy at all….all of which makes it dubious to use maslow’s in regards to masturbation.

          • Ruth Watson
            May 1, 2013 at 1:42 am

            LOL, you are restating exactly what the panel stated. I really am not understanding your objection. The scripture is important, but completely I applicable to Sister Dalton’s emphasis on chastity, or virginity. Victimization and sin shouldn’t be discussed in the same address.

            While “better dead and clean” refers to sin, sexual acting out is often a symptom of victimization. There are also plenty of other talks that state clearly that virtue cannot be completely regained after victimization, Even with clear sexual sins, what is the incentive to repent after hearing such horrific rhetoric? It is completely untrue. sexual sin can be repented of and forgiven just like any other sin. And if we were better dead than “impure” we wouldn’t be here I. The first place, as God clearly knew we would ALL return unclean.

            Yes, my mistake. My thinking errors. My amateurish logic and education. My responsibility to elavate myself from survivor to victim. My responsibility to read minds and intents through the Spirit. My responsibility to forgive, to keep from having symptoms of abuse. I wish to remain in this loving supportive culture because everything is my fault, my problem and unless I pretend to be perfect I am not welcome. Thanks for the reminder :(

          • Ruth Watson
            May 1, 2013 at 1:55 am

            Ugh…correction, from victim to survivor. I’m disengaging. While I can see why you don’t have a problem with sister Dalton’s talk, you clearly cannot or do not wish to see why I, and the panelists did, and that there might be an element of truth to what is being said and felt.

          • darkmatter20
            May 1, 2013 at 7:25 am

            “you clearly cannot or do not wish to see why I, and the panelists did” have problems with Daltons speech.

            I beg to differ here. The point of the first comment was precisely because of what the panel and now you claim, which I hold is incorrect. In other words I see why you are having issues with Dalton’s talk but you are mistaken…all due to adding mormon cultural beliefs, that virtue = virginity, when Dalton doesn’t actually say that at all but invites all to become virtuous or build a virtuous and chaste life.

          • darkmatter20
            May 1, 2013 at 7:20 am

            We are starting to go round in circles here….let’s be clear though: virtue isn’t virginity; the Panel equated virtue and chastity to virginity not Dalton, and that was my objection…..those girls Moroni referred to were victims of lost virtue ie not necessarily lost virginity! by victims of lost virtue then lost lives, Twice victims; Again never sinners as one is when we voluntarily give up our chastity as a married mother could in adultery ie NOT virginity necessarily….

            Now sexual acting and promiscuity is indeed most often a symptom of victimization, true, I have many patients (in a state prison) who are trapped in this vicious cycle but that is a different issue to what Dalton covered and what the Panel was on about. But even then, when promiscuity is a consequence of victimization, one still needs that Christ given help to ‘go and sin no more”,(which I obviously can’t use with my patients) otherwise that promiscuity will continue one way or another. Those other words of dead and clean refers to those who aren’t victims but who voluntarily become promiscuous however we have covered all of this before.

            In your last paragraph I’d say you are making that mistake again. Thinking that we think that you need to blame yourself for everything No, its always an invitation to a better life, a better way of life and the tools one can use to get there. The responsibility you have is to find those tools and apply them….that’s it.Oh and move from victim to survivor as I have done…without any sins in between!

          • Loz
            May 3, 2013 at 3:08 pm

            No one can steal your virtue or your chastity it is an inward commitment to a righteous principle, I think this was what the panel was saying and I am so grateful for it.
            See yourself as God sees you. you are beautiful and clean. I know it is hard not to be “damaged” by the “image” or illusion of perfection that is shoved down our throats by some members as Mormons.Or the fairy floss statements of those who do not live in reality. I want you to be alive and “whole” and know you are loved.
            The panel talked about finding “a middle way’ and I think you could be the example of this, because if virtue is between the shore and the open sea to find the centre is what we need as members.
            I want to reach out to you over the miles because I have such great love for you and what you are going through.

            Maybe Read Chieko’s talk
            http://www.the-exponent.com/chieko-okazakis-healing-from-sexual-abuse/

            I know Dan posted the link somewhere.

        • Loz
          May 2, 2013 at 2:51 pm

          The girls in the scripture were raped. How can someone else steal your virtue and chastity, isn’t that something you have internalised? It is what you have become, it is part of your nature regardless of physical violations?

          That is the message I want preached, it can’t be stolen.

          • darkmatter20
            May 3, 2013 at 6:41 am

            The scripture doesn’t say they were raped. You are assuming they were. If you understood what chastity and virtue is then you’d realise that it has nothing to do with virginity nor can it be taken in an act of assault or violence.

            plus if the word ‘steal’ is used at all then the person who suffered the ‘steal’ part is a victim…. not a sinner. Now if they are victims of murder why aren’t they also victims of stolen chastity? twice victims not sinners.

  13. April 27, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Excellent podcast! I will have my teenage children listen to it so we can discuss it.

    Responses:

    #1 The Missionary Training center uses the best foreign language training skills and the best teaching skills possible. In fact, the MTC is so good at teaching foreign language that while I was there we had some military people come to see how it was done. So, as a parallel, I hope that the church will use the best skills and knowledge available to help us get informed and teach our children about sexuality, especially if we can use experts like Natasha and others.

    #2 To the “steadying the arc” concern, I would say that the church is a commonwealth, a collection of people all trying their best to hear and follow God. We need all of the voices and concerns and perspectives to add to the commonwealth. And we need to know that, in the process, we will all make mistakes. Could it be that Sister Dalton made some unforeseen errors? Sure. Let her be imperfect and let her be someone trying her best. And let us love her by using all of the kindness and patience that we have to enter into a dialogue with her. If I am wrong, please, with kindness, patience, and love, help me see how I can be more effective. (And if you see the mistakes of others, let this podcast be an example of how to bring them to one’s attention with compassion and love.) And please, please, please don’t leave. We need you. We will be poorer without you.

    #3 I have a particular take on virtue which I’m pretty excited about. I think that those ideas overlap very, very nicely with this podcast. They were published in Dialogue, Spring 2012 (vol 45, #1) in an article called “Home and Adventure: An LDS Contribution to the Virtues and Vices Tradition.” When I teach my children and Institute students about sexuality, I talk about its wonderful power as a coming together of innate drives for home and adventure.

    #4 Zion’s Finest News Source, the Mormon Tabernacle Enquirer, has provided some powerful journalism on this key issue :)

    http://motabenquirer.blogspot.com/2013/04/relief-society-sisters-learning-more.html

    http://motabenquirer.blogspot.com/2012/07/church-denies-rumors-of-new-pageant.html

    http://motabenquirer.blogspot.com/2012/03/ywym-leaders-teach-chastity-comfortable.html

    http://motabenquirer.blogspot.com/2012/03/sex-ed-veto-spells-relief-for-utah.html

    http://motabenquirer.blogspot.com/2012/03/upcoming-home-and-family-enrichment.html

  14. b2181
    April 29, 2013 at 7:08 am

    I appreciate the respectful and sympathetic tone towards our leaders you maintained throughout this podcast. If any change is to occur in the LDS community it will be with gentle persuasion and respectful dialogue from the inside, not insults and accusations from the outside.

    A personal story that further demonstrates the need to change how our community views and discusses virtue and sex… My wife experienced date rape when she was in high school. Obviously this was an incredibly traumatic event. A few years later she was dating a boy at Rick’s college. As their relationship developed she confided in him what had happened to her in high school. A few weeks later he broke off their relationship, referencing his patriarchal blessing which stated he would marry a “pure and virtuous woman of faith.” To him it was obvious that he was NOT meant to marry her since she did not fit that description. To this day my wife still struggles a little with her sense of self worth and general savability.

  15. April 29, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    This was wonderful and very freeing for me
    I will listen to it again very soon
    Thank you
    Ann

  16. david jarvi
    April 29, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    This podcast is about 10 years ahead of it’s time… and yet ~40 years too late.
    It was sooo hopeful, encouraging and healthy. Thank you.

    In so many ways, we are all pioneers forging new ground here on our way to the promised land… Onward! thar’s gold in thar hills!

  17. thinkfirst
    April 30, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    where is the Cheiko Okazaki article you said you would link ??

    • thinkfirst
      April 30, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      oh, I found it. down the list.

  18. Mike C
    April 30, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Dan, thanks again for the awesome podcast. I too am planning to share it with my teenaged kids. I think we can do much better with teaching sexuality; at times I’m appalled at how we handle it in the church and how people are hurt by the teachings. I am encouraged to hear an alternative discourse developing that seems so much healthier and happier and does not seem to necessarily contradict existing doctrines, even if it may contradict some of our current culture and policies.

    We must be on the same wavelength because a few days before your podcast I posted my thoughts on sexuality on Zelophehad’s Daughters. I came at it from the perspective of a teacher of the Strengthening Marriage class and wrote it in part as a response to Elder Bednar’s talk. The ideas borrow heavily from great things I’ve learned from your podcast guests Natasha Helfer Parker and Jennifer Finlayson-Fife.

    http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2013/04/16/what-we-all-secretly-wish-wed-hear-more-about-at-church/

  19. Dan023
    May 1, 2013 at 11:46 am

    This is an amazing podcast. There is such a difference between God’s pure doctrine, and cultural and political interpolations.

  20. Loz
    May 2, 2013 at 3:02 am

    Dallin h Oakes used the word “sex” in a talk. He said”the sin in the garden of Eden was not about sex”

  21. Bill
    May 3, 2013 at 6:52 am

    I have always taught the young men and the chastity lesson is always my favorite. The typical lesson that they have always heard is “Don’t have sex because the prophet says no, you may get a girl pregnant or you may get a dread disease.” Unfortunately, there are some boys who say, “I don’t believe in the prophet and my middle school health class taught me how to avoid the other two, so game on.”

    I always cut four blocks out of 2 x 4 and label them with things that are important for a good marriage. Things like common values and interests, mutual respect, having fun together, non-sexual intimacy, etc. I discuss the importance of each one and stack them on top of each other. On the top I put a triangle, roof shaped piece labeled “sexual intimacy.” If a relationship is built in the wrong order, it is not stable. The only time I push the boundaries even a little bit is when I ask them to think how much time is spent in a marriage having sex vs. doing all of the other things we discussed. Great sex CAN keep a couple together but only for about 6 months. After that, the others things become so much more important. I don’t know how the message has been received over the years but I do know it keeps their attention. Sometimes that is all you can ask!

    • JeremiahA
      May 5, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Thank you for posting this! You have hit on an excellent way to teach what is important in a marriage and what keeps a couple together. Thanks!

  22. Noah
    May 3, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Great podcast. For those who have taken the position that masturbation is not a sin, how do you deal with that with your bishop or your children’s bishop? Do you tell your kids when the bishop asks to say no, to tell the bishop it is none of his own business? Setting up a 14 year old kid for that confrontation seems daunting. Watching them not be able to officiate or receive ordinances is painful.

  23. Jason__F
    May 7, 2013 at 7:26 am

    I just saw this article about a recent speech by Elizabeth Smart, she said what the panelists were saying but having it come from someone who went through what she did gives it a lot of power:

    “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value,”

    http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/05/06/1967591/elizabeth-smart-abstinence-ed/

    • Randy
      May 7, 2013 at 11:37 am

      I hope Elizabeth Smart’s speech helps bring attention back to this podcast; they’re serendipitously well timed. It’s obviously time for the gum metaphor to be retired from our youth classes and seminaries (where I once heard it in a co-ed group, in SLC). Instead, next time it’s my turn to teach FHE, I’m going to ask my 9-year-old daughter if she’d like some gum, then chew it and say this is what some people think you become if you sin or if something bad happens to you and makes you feel ashamed, and then I’ll get out a new stick of gum and say this is what really happens to you: nothing. You’ll always be the same pristine person no matter what you do or what others do to you. This is how God and your mom and I will always see you, and we hope this is how you will always see yourself too. Or something more eloquent than that. Can’t we make something like that the new metaphor?

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      May 8, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      Thanks for link, Jason_F! ES’s comments definitely caught my attention, as well. Perhaps with it and how folks like Kristine Haglund are calling for the church to re-evaluate its messaging (in particular the use of the Moroni 9 scripture), we’ll see some real improvement.

      For those interested, a friend just turned me onto the following wonderful blogpost that uses the ES comments as a jumping off point. Some fascinating thoughts on “purity” that were fresh and thought-provoking to me.

      http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2013/05/elizabeth-smart-and-psychology-of.html

      • Jason__F
        May 8, 2013 at 11:13 pm

        That blog really breaks down the purity & self-worth rationale quite well, thanks for sharing that.

        This discussion of how sexual sin is talked about in the church makes me think of Eugene England’s essay about the purpose of the atonement and what sin and repentance actually mean. Viewed in that light “purity” and “stumbling” or why anyone would choose to be sexually chaste take on a whole new perspective. It changes the discussion from one of rule-keeping to something that you desire to do because of how it affects you and your connection with the Divine, the effect to your being and the way you see yourself.

        http://eugeneengland.org/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/1966_e_002.pdf

        Maybe this line of thinking is too esoteric for youth (though I don’t think we should underestimate their capability for understanding), but it is important that as a church we think seriously about this because it defines the way church members think about this topic and judge others.

  24. Gudri
    May 8, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Absolutely timely. Thank you for this open, honest dialogue. My teenage daughter and I discussed this topic just this afternoon, how LDS culture regarding sexuality frequently negates personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We get completely hung up on maintaining “perfection” to the point that we virtually avoid interaction with the atonement. It’s a farce.

    I’ve been around the block with the “virtue” wagon as both a consensual participant and as a victim of rape/molestation. The influence of membership attitudes toward sexual purity and feminine value is a harsh road to navigate. But I came around the last corner with the wagon still in my possession and power.

    Sexual realism and understanding the reality of our Christianity is the only way women in my position get through these challenges with intact mental health and a health membership as a feminist in the Church. It’s my job to make certain my daughters, and any other young women in my influence never undergo the double sexual victimization of this culture. It’s the job of everyone who, as you said “gets it”, to change that culture for good.

  25. Spencer Stock
    May 9, 2013 at 2:52 am

    One view expressed by many of the great panelists for this topic that I’d like to examine is the way we talk about how afraid we are of what the church will teach our kids. A mind once opened is not easily closed again. I believe if we set up a framework in our minds and the minds of our children then any information regardless of it’s source or content can be viewed in our mind as a perspective. We seem to be very interested in having our children see all different perspectives excepting only the church standard ones we don’t like very much. You might say that you don’t want them to be shown perspectives by those intending to force those perspectives onto them, but when it comes to a perspective that has human conviction it is often an intrinsic part of the viewpoint that this be how it is delivered. Not to suggest that any viewpoint that is intrinsically authoritative has a whole lot of value…I’m just saying that we shouldn’t fear the church’s perspective so much that we say “You should be exposed to all perspectives, except the ones that belong to this organization that I don’t agree with.” The church probably considers it’s viewpoint as THE viewpoint, but so do lots of people/organizations..that’s just how this thing called opinions works. It doesn’t make sense to say, “Let’s remove the shelter the church has put on you so you can see the world the way it really is…well, the world all except for the church you belong to, from which you should be sheltered.”

    I loved the podcast though, this seems like a great series, I don’t agree with all the thoughts given but I always appreciate Dan for being such a good moderator for all this discussion.

    I also +1 what Nathan said and was mentioned by Dan about making a list of seemingly contradictory GA statements. Joseph Smith had the thought “Even with thousands of lines of text on one topic, it is impossible to settle the question of religion with an appeal to the bible” and similarly we can find the simple principles of salvation very clearly laid out for us, but all the points of doctrine might still need further exfoliation.

    Last thought — LOVED the explanations given on “the sin next to murder” … Why didn’t it make sense to me before that the sin next to murder would be aiding in spiritual damnation for others? With this in mind is there a way to rank sins?
    1.Denying the Holy Ghost
    2.Murder
    3.??? (any thoughts?)

  26. Joseph M
    May 9, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    While I haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcts I think the article Teaching Chastity and Virtue in the Oct 2012 Ensign by Matthew O. Richardson, Second Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, indicates that Church leadership is aware of this issue and trying to find ways to properly address it.
    http://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/10/teaching-chastity-and-virtue?lang=eng

  27. Joseph M
    May 10, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I think the Leadership is aware of the issue an is trying to find the best way to address it . Witness the article in the October Ensign.

    http://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/10/teaching-chastity-and-virtue?lang=eng
    Which basicly boils down to “Teach Early . Teach often. Use your words. and Listen to your children.

  28. Jenny
    May 10, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    I loved the comment Micah made at the end about the church being a mirror that reflects the membership and the members then reflect the church. My first thought was that we have a great symbol for this in our temples with the eternal mirrors. Only by standing in the middle between the two mirrors like Dan does with these pod casts, can you see clearly this relationship between the membership and the church. By standing in the middle, you get a broader view of eternity.

  29. Joy
    May 11, 2013 at 6:44 am

    This has been an eye opening podcast, rich with many new insights that are so beneficial to our understanding of these issues. Thank you. I particularly appreciate the new perspective that the scripture in Moroni 9:9 reflects a misconception on the part of Moroni that has been perpetuated into our day, namely that chastity and virtue is something that can be taken and that it is more “precious” than anything else, even life itself. It shocks me how we can swallow these disastrous concepts without questioning them.

    On the flip side, though, I was at first hopeful that there could be a new interpretation of Alma’s teachings to his son Corianton proposed by Michael Ash in his Sunstone article, but after reading it again, I’m unconvinced. First, the phrase “lusts of your eyes” denotes some kind of sexual component to his misdeeds and in verse 11 Alma says, “Suffer not yourself to be led away by any vain or foolish thing; suffer not the devil to lead away your heart again after those wicket harlots.” The word “harlots” would point to Isabel the “harlot” being a madame of a brothel rather than one who was simply leading people away into spiritual misunderstandings. Sigh!

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      May 13, 2013 at 10:44 am

      Certainly there can be a sexual element to Corianto’ns bad behavior that caused Alma to talk about how C’s actions harmed souls, led them astray, gave them excuse to reject God and good things and because of these results he was committing the “next to murder,” but I certainly don’t think it’s sexual sin that he is speaking about. I also think “lusts of your eyes” can mean a lot of things besides sexual lust (lots of lusts of eyes going on at City Creek Mall as people walk through Nordstrom’s and Tiffany Jewlers; lots of lusts of eyes as people envy others’ lives and possessions and apparent power, etc.). In B.H. Roberts’s Corianton, he imagines Isabel as the most beautiful woman in the land who helped him host a party at her uncle’s home, which hosting included her along with other women doing a flirtatious dancing directed at Corianton, with him flattered by her attention. He also has him drunk with wine and passing out sometime during the evening’s reveling. And Roberts also imagines Corianton as the victim of a direct plot, as Isabel, using a different name, seeks him out ahead of the party and strokes his ego about how everyone was so impressed by how forcefully he jad countered the naysayers’ questions and barbs earlier during that day’s mission work. No sense from Roberts’s end, anyway, that Corianton was at a brothel or Isabel as its madame, and I also don’t think the text demands a reading that goes that far.

      The larger issue, for me, though is our taking the chance to consider if sexual sin truly could be “next to murder” in seriousness. You speak about how we can so often swallow disastrous concepts whole without really thinking them through, and this is what Ash (and I in my very weak presentation of his arguments) attempts to counter in this case, and what I think we all need to do. Certainly slavery, human trafficking, abuse of any kind, deliberately seeking to harm another, and many, many more outstrip in seriousness the sins of two fumbling teens in a back seat, of two people who are (or think they are) in love having sex outside of marriage. Adultery certainly belongs in a list of serious sins but my thinking is it would be because of the betrayal more than the sex. Once we begin thinking outside the traditional interpretation of these Alma 39 passages, should we not speak up and do our best end the proliferation of sentiments that put sexual slip-ups above such things as these other soul-destroying sins, to me this would also be sinful.

      • McLain
        June 27, 2013 at 7:23 pm

        My thought is that sins next to murder would be those that reduce another human beings agency such as:rape, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or other forms of abuse, etc.. I would categorize sins as being far more serious then two consenting people having sex outside the bounds of marriage.

  30. Greg Anderson
    May 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    I was uncomfortable with the way you parsed Sister Dalton’s words to find fault in them. Scrutinize anyone’s words this way and you’ll find trouble. You made assumptions about her life experiences and those of people she knows. It’s a common tactic among political foes. Declare what you think your opponent thinks and then criticize them for what YOU said about them, rather than for things they actually said.

    The conversation was much better when you stopped using Sister Dalton as your “whipping boy” and discussed the real issue: The Church teachings on matters of chastity are more in line with scripture than with the current research and practice of psychotherapy.

    (Wow! Who found that surprising?) But the conversation was still clouded by personal anecdotes and too many sweeping generalizations and assumptions about other members and leaders of the church. Is the church perfect on this topic? Of course not. Is it as horribly misguided as you seem to be saying? Will countless youth be permanently damaged by the things they’re told in church? Of course not. Will those who seek therapy still blame others for contributing to their problems? I think so. And will there be great numbers of church members who will never seek nor need therapy to address sexual matters? I think so.

  31. ...
    May 27, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Who says that your view is the healthy view? Why would you have a divorcee on your panel who was not awarded custody of her child? She needs to get her own life and that eye sore of a backyard in order before giving anyone any advice.

  32. Irenaeus
    May 31, 2013 at 1:24 am

    “There are also plenty of other talks that state clearly that virtue cannot be completely regained after victimization.”

    Someone below stated this and, as a well-informed member of the LDS faith, I’m at a loss to think of any talks (I’m assuming she’s talking about someone in a place of authority that I should take seriously) that would suggest there are “plenty of other talks that state clearly that virtue cannot be completely regained after victimization.” Can anyone give me a heads up as to where these talks exist (links, so I can read the context)?

    • Irenaeus
      May 31, 2013 at 2:39 am

      Just to echo some of the other comments I read. I have read the verse in Moroni and NEVER read it as a condemnation of the victims, or that it was culturally consistent with the idea (in Joseph Smith’s & Moroni’s day) that if someone is raped it is the victim’s fault. It seems the mindsets of the panelists are the ones interfering with a correct understanding of the scripture and causing the taking of offense by making someone “an offender for a word.” (Isa 29:21)

      Given the etymology of the word “virtue” and its relation to “strength,” it makes perfect sense that Christ would say “Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.” (Luke 8:46 [43-48]).

      The word was completely appropriate as an expression of a loss of strength that many, including Joseph Smith, expressed as occurring after spiritual experiences. I’d hate to apply the panel’s mindset to this verse of scripture, using the same logic, and find out where that would end up.

      The real mistake is the panelists imposing their cultural mindset on that of the language and intent of the scriptures (which employed King James language and meaning). In that kind of world, I dare not say anything anywhere for fear of someone, somewhere possibly taking offense. It is a ridiculous standard for anyone to meet. There is an obligation on the individual listening to someone else to recognize their own mindsets and sensitivities that might cause them to take offense where none was intended. Suggesting the responsibility is always that of the speaker puts the listener in the position of always being victimized. The psychology of looking for offense where none is intended and how we might overcome that as individuals (even if something is worded inelegantly) would make us masters of our own destinies and would have been a much more useful topic under this situation, it seems to me.

  33. Shmitty
    November 29, 2013 at 1:57 am

    Don’t single adults those same needs as married people? Why isn’t the situation of the single adult ever addressed in this topic?