Everything I’ve experienced so far in my 50+ years has created a belief system that drives my behavior every day.
It is my lifelong goal to actively seek out toxic thinking and DESTROY it, STOMP it, WEED it and REPLACE it with healthy, forward thinking, productive, life-giving alternatives and then REINFORCE and NURTURE it with new behavior.
As a teen I made some decisions that created a foundation that has stood the test of time and has proven to be forward thinking, productive and life giving … 32 years later I’m glad I did!
~ Here’s to hoping I passed it along to my children:
Ok are we the girls who still think boys are kind of gross or are we the girls who think boys are the total opposite of gross?
Some of you may have had intimate experiences that leave you feeling like it’s too late for the law of chastity to apply to you anymore… to that I would say that’s total hogwash.
Why do we tell little kids to stay on the side walk or away from the pond or not to touch the hot stove or play near the fire pit?
We repeat ourselves over and over and over again to protect them. We say it so often that little kids could parrot back what the safety rules are and they know we want to protect them and if you ask them WHY…
“So I don’t get hit by a car, or ’cause I don’t know how to swim, or so I don’t get burned”
“So I don’t drown or get hurt or die!”
They know the basic idea but they don’t understand the big, complete picture of stitches, broken bones, brain injury or possibly life altering damage like having your body burn to unrecognizable.
So we tell them these safety statements hoping the message carries all the fear and risk possible. We don’t go into all the risk every time they go outside we just repeat ourselves.
The same thing happens with the law of chastity. We are told to follow and obey and we’re promised it will bless us, without going into all the reasons how or why it’s good for us beyond obedience, and expectation. So we know we’re supposed to follow the law but why does the law exist?
What are all the typical things you are taught?
Is it usually a little awkward?
Do you ever feel like you’re getting mixed messages?
That physical intimacy was bad, yet good somehow? Overall it’s bad… stay away!
Many times we are taught the “stay on the sidewalk, out of the pond, away from the fire pit God will bless you it’s hard but it makes your life better,” version of the law of chastity. ALL TRUE but it’s not the whole picture.
“Our Heavenly Father has given us the law of chastity for our protection. Obedience to this law is essential to personal peace and strength of character and to happiness in the home. As you keep yourself sexually pure, you will avoid the spiritual and emotional damage that always comes from sharing physical intimacies with someone outside of marriage. You will be sensitive to the Holy Ghost’s guidance, strength, comfort and protection.”
I want to help you understand some of the bigger picture reasons why you want to “stay on the sidewalk, out of the pond and away from the fire pit” and why it’s for your protection and essential to personal peace and what sort of emotional damage you are avoiding by living the law of chastity. Heavenly Father loves us and is basically telling us “stay on the sidewalk, out of the pond and away from the fire pit” with the law of chastity, because we don’t always grasp all the scary things that can happen and mess up our happiness.
As a teen what’s our biggest fear? Going to talk to the bishop? Or feeling like we would be damaged if we messed up? —- which by the way IS NOT TRUE!!!
I had a young women’s leader teach me some of this when I was your age and it helped me as I navigated my teen years and early adulting.
Before we get in to reasons for the law of chastity, I want to normalize something very important: HUMAN BIOLOGY
Testosterone is the hormone that has the biggest influence on sexual desire for men and women.
Testosterone starts showing up in the body during teen years…
And guess what … men have much much much more of it than women.
Don’t get me wrong women have it too and it does influence their thoughts and desires also as well :).
But on average, men have sexual thoughts more and sexual desire is a much bigger presence in their daily existence because of their increased testosterone. Not every guy and I’m not saying this is what it means “to be a man” but to normalize what some of you are experiencing or will be experiencing and to help you better understand what’s happening to you and to the young men friends you have.
If you believe God made your body, then believe He had you in mind when He did it – HORMONES AND ALL.
He knows what you’re going through and it’s not a mistake that things are changing inside of you.
It’s not likely you can start off as this innocent baby and 100% turn off the sexual part of yourself for teenage years, and then with that “magical event’ of your temple wedding suddenly feel physically confident and emotional healthy in a sexual relationship.
(baby groot and Guardians)
In church where we are very focused on sexual purity, having sexual thoughts and desires does not mean you’re sinning.
Most adults don’t know how to talk about this potentially awkward topic in a non-shaming way, so you may mostly hear confusing messages or the generic message “follow the law of chastity” aka “stay on the sidewalk, out of the pond and away from the fire pit” or “just don’t think about sex” “stay away” without being told enough that your growth and development is a healthy thing – a great thing. It’s part of God’s plan for bonding you to a person you love and creating a family.
But like most other things you get to learn to control this desire.
When you were little did you ever bite anyone?
Or hit anyone?
Do you do that today?
How did you stop?
You learned as a kid not to bite or hit when you were mad. As you’ve grown older, you’ve also learned to do things that require self discipline… even when you don’t want to – homework, chores… you know it’s good for you or at least the right thing to do cause you don’t want the consequences of not doing it.
It’s the same thing with the law of chastity … following the standards about sexual intimacy is good for you – and the right thing to do – in the long run and now we are gonna gain a better understanding why
We are going to talk about 3 main reasons:
***pass out pineapple to taste***
- Elder Eric B. Shumway: “The law of chastity, I testify, is a law of happiness. It’s a law that protects the sacred powers of procreation and magnifies the lyrical joys of romantic intimacy in a way that God created, ordained, and blessed.”
I remember the 1st time I noticed Terry. I was at West Point with some girlfriends and I was taking a break from dancing up a storm 🙂 and I went back to my table and this handsome young stud was sitting down all laid back and confident and when my eyes met his my heart rate increased, my face flushed and I felt a tickling in my chest. Then I heard his voice… and I was like WOW. I had been dancing with several different young men but once I was introduced to Terry – I forgot about anyone else. I spent the next few hours talking, dancing, and taking an evening stroll with him. When we went walking he sang to me and my heart went pitter patter for sure.
I couldn’t wait to see him again. I lived an hour away but I was drawn to him. I went back to West Point the next day and then we started writing letters and he started calling me and we started seeing each other more and more. My desire to hear his voice and be in his space just kept getting stronger and stronger.
(eyes and fireworks)
This represents the broad spectrum of romantic interactions. Let’s start all the way at the beginning with “eye contact”
It’s so exciting at first!
All the way at the other end of this continuum is “SEX” (fireworks) We will use fireworks to represent 🙂
For now I will say this about the “SEX” end of the spectrum:
“Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love within marriage.”
This far end of the spectrum isn’t bad, it isn’t evil, we aren’t preaching against it. Actually, it’s a fantastic thing that we want to be the guardian of to be enjoyed at the proper time.
When we were younger we thought kissing was disgusting and then we started kissing and realized it definitely was NOT disgusting! In fact, we decided it was pretty fantastic. It is fabulous and it’s worth protecting.
Today we are going to symbolically experience a sweetness continuum to help us experience and understand on a deeper level what we are talking about.
This is going to represent a sweetness continuum you’ve been eating pineapple (put peas and pineapple on spectrum @ 25%)
Even these sugar snap peas are considered sweet, but you don’t really notice it because your mouth is already used to sugar enough you can’t taste it in peas. So today we start with pineapple.
(peas, pineapple, add the grapes)
***hand out grapes***
Grapes are a little sweeter than pineapple. Once you’ve had sweet grapes, how sweet does the pineapple taste? It’s a little more tart, and maybe not as tasty to you.
Moving on in the spectrum makes the earlier stages not so sweet. Your taste buds get used to and desensitized to the sweetness you have regularly. It’s okay, it’s just what happens.
In our physical continuum, let’s see what happens.
Moving on from new exciting eye contact
To talking to that person is moving along the spectrum and is also exciting. Just seeing Terry had me tongue tied and my neck would break out in hives
I remember when Terry sang to me and reached down to hold my hand.. my heart was racing. I went home and wrote about it in my journal. I can remember my physical and emotional feelings til this day.
(peas, pineapple, grapes, add Hershey kisses)
***hand out kisses***
Once you start moving on… it may not be the same to go back.
How will the grapes and how will the pineapple taste after eating Hershey kisses?
Is this idea making sense?
Who is brave enough to re-explain the point I am making with these two continuums?
Elder Shumway in that earlier quote, mentioned that living chastely “magnifies the lyrical joys of romantic intimacy” that’s fancy chatter for when you draw a line of where physical behavior should not go yet, it helps you thoroughly enjoy the innocent sweetness of those early stages. Heavenly Father, by giving us the law of chastity, is giving us a time and a place in our lives to enjoy the sweet, simple pleasures in life. Once you go beyond a safe “affection” zone, biology starts to kick in and you won’t be satisfied – your body wants more and more and more and more and the simple and sweet things don’t seem sweet enough anymore.
I get hugs and my hand held and his loving eye contact and his singing still today and I LOVE IT. Do I feel that same euphoria (feeling or state of intense excitement) every time … I don’t know, but it still makes me smile and I am so thankful for those early memories and they have added to the depth of how I feel today.
Small simple innocent pleasures help you build your fascination with the person you will spend eternity with. After you get married, busy with schooling, work, children, and running a household, plus after you have moved along the physical spectrum it will never be the sweet innocence of today. Living chastely is for our happiness because it helps us enjoy everything that romance has to offer … not just the big stuff.
My husband still to this day makes my heart jump and it if wasn’t for building a strong foundation I don’t think that would be the case.
BUILD A SOLID FOUNDATION
Is choosing who you are going to spend eternity with a gigantic decision? YES!
Creating a great marriage and a great family will be impacting your future children and grandchildren. The goal is to build a lifelong friendship with a person you are also attracted to aka the real “friends with benefits.”
Let’s continue with food analogies
You have been taught that this represents a solid healthy diet and foundation. Can you explain what this means?
(the bottom of the pyramid) the mundane, everyday things that help us learn and grow as individuals and also later as a couple.
We hang out with guys and girls and date to get to know each other:
What qualities we like and to learn what works well with us… someone who is easy going, someone is outgoing, someone who is methodical, someone who is always achieving…
We start laying the foundation for who we think will be a good partner in this awesome life we are going to create.
It takes a lot of interactions in simple – sometimes not exciting things like group activities, working side by side, or being around each other’s families. It’s important to see what someone’s everyday personality is really like.
***set out veggies***
Who wants veggies now that we’ve tasted these sweet treats?
They don’t taste as good, they are boring.
(Peas, pineapple, grapes, Hershey’s kisses, add brownies)
***set out brownies***
Who now seeing the most delicious brownies will be happy eating vegetables? Which one would you prefer?
How would your body feel if you ate cake, cookies, dessert and sweets all the time?
You might feel great for the moment… but not for long.
Your body can’t run on pure sugar.
How will a relationship feel if it’s way too physical? How lasting will it be when the physical isn’t as exciting.
(turn pyramid upside down)
Because even in healthy strong marriages if you haven’t spent the time building the foundation the physical attraction won’t be enough… Terry and I have spent 32 years working on the foundation (our friendship, our communication, our respect, love and service to one another) and that has kept us attracted to each other even as we have aged and don’t have the 20 year old bodies we once had. In fact I’m more attracted to Terry today at his 53 years of age than I even was when I was 21… it’s way better than the initial fantastic euphoria that I was experiencing as we were developing our relationship in the beginning.
“When people care for one another enough to keep the law of chastity their love, trust, and commitment increase, resulting in greater happiness and unity.”
This quote means that following the law of chastity brings us more joy not just because we are loving God more than our own desires, but because God’s law actually pave the way for a couple to know each other, come to trust each other, grow in respect for each other and become unified in important things like the pyramid shows.
(upside down pyramid)
that top part… snuggling kissing, and all the physical are easy because it so delicious. Attraction physically is not the same thing as attraction to the lasting parts of someone’s personality. If you spend too much time in the “sweets” or physical category your foundation is poor.
Do your parents let you eat dessert before dinner? Or have you heard don’t eat that, it will spoil your dinner?
The dessert is the physical relationship. Dinner is the lasting foundation for a relationship. Physical intimacy fills your senses like dessert can fill your stomach. Then you won’t be wanting to do the “work” you really need to build a good relationship like you won’t be hungry for dinner.
The snuggling and connecting physically is the fun “easy” part and if that’s what you indulge in you won’t do the daily work of building a real relationship because your brain and body will only be thinking about the physical stuff.
Keeping physical things in their proper place in your co-ed activities and dating helps you keep focus where it’s healthy – on getting to know the personality and habits of others.
It’s very easy to spend all your time just hanging out WAITING till you can start kissing again … not actually getting to know each other.
BIOLOGICAL BONDING IN THE BRAIN
Do you think this brownie is delicious? How delicious will it be if you steal it and sneak away to hide and eat it? Even if it tastes good in your mouth (even a stolen brownie tastes great for the moment)
How long after will you be remembering it’s deliciousness? Or will the guilt about being secretive and taking what wasn’t yet yours start to overshadow how great it tasted?
Please enjoy the brownie while we talk about this last little section.
Remember Heavenly Father gave us the law of chastity for our protection and for our happiness. Let’s talk about why that’s true at a biological level.
“Remaining sexually pure helps you to be confident and truly happy and improves your ability to make good decisions now and in the future.”
Let’s look at the biology behind why being chaste protects you and helps you be confident, and truly happy. It’s bigger than just obedience.
When you get to this point
(eyes, fireworks) (touching, kissing)
It starts engaging brain chemicals. It starts up a process we are biologically wired for. In pure scienc-eee terms, strong physical drives ensure the survival of our species. We are mammals and we share the same biology that mammals do, ensuring offspring.
These are powerful desires that are great glue for a marriage relationship – we really do need each other physically.
But opening up that biology gets really messy and complicated in other relationships.
There is a bonding chemical called oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) that is released in the brain for attachment and bonding. The highest dose you’ll ever see is when a mother has a new baby and her body floods with oxytocin to help her bond with and become attached to her new child.
But another major place we see and create oxytocin is in a sexual encounter. When a couple is sexual, the brain also releases oxytocin – it “bonds” couples together and creates a lasting tie. You can see that at a brain level, we really start to become “one” with our spouse, which we have all read in the scriptures.
It’s pretty amazing to see at a biological level what Heavenly Father has gifted our bodies with. Many of you are old enough and have seen enough in your short lifetime to understand why it’s worrisome to start introducing chemical bonding hormones in relationships that aren’t forever.
It’s especially problematic when your heart and body start bonding to someone you might not even know very well on a non-physical level, because you’ve spent your time kissing and cuddling and doing all the “easy” stuff, skipping right over the important foundations in our pyramid.
***TIP*** Don’t do in the dark on Friday night things you wouldn’t be comfortable doing at noon on Tuesday afternoon around your family.— use that as your litmus to measure how comfortable your foundation is with someone. Things in the dark or in secret are EASY.
Women’s bodies are typically more tied to their emotions than men’s bodies, especially in teen years. Have any of you been involved in a breakup?
You can see the heart ache and heart break that happen if a girl and a guy are being physical and one is in it for pure pleasure and the other is in it because they are emotionally connected and bonding starts to happen for one but maybe not the other. Can you imagine the heartbreak possible after you’ve been physically vulnerable with someone?
It’s difficult enough to get broken up with, or when they don’t text or message back. The law of chastity saves us much heart ache. Waiting to be our most vulnerable until we are married spares us much risk of emotional damage, in addition to making sure our foundation is based on the right things.
I grew up hearing the phrase: “if the guy can get the milk for free, he doesn’t need to buy the cow” aka… if we girls don’t have any boundaries for what we give away … the guy has no need to “put a ring on it”
There’s somewhere else all this brain chemical stuff is really important to understand. Provocative and arousing images, and reading material appeal to the high level of desire hormones in your body. It’s normal to feel a reaction, a quickening heartbeat, a curiosity about what seems so tantalizing. But when you act on these impulses, you are opening the door to even more impulses coming.
It’s like opening the door of a dam to get a taste of water – not very smart, and quickly becomes a much bigger deal than you anticipated.
The “bonding” stuff in the brain is a big deal. It’s the “glue” that helps cement marriages together, and helps a couple truly NEED each other.
Giving into those impulses in the wrong environment actually increases loneliness and dissatisfaction because the bonding chemicals are going towards something hollow and not eternal – whether it be a photo, a video, a book, a text, a solitary experience.
Over time making a habit of experiencing those bonding chemicals in the wrong place can also mess with the ability to attach to the love of your life.
Heavenly Father gave us these bonding powers to help us join together, and his law of chastity is in place to help us be the guardians of these awesome super powers for the right time and person.
So you have these super powers that you are the guardians of because it will help you be happy, confident, make good decisions, and build a strong relationship later.
If you bite/hit someone today… is it the end of the world?
But should you keep biting someone when you lose your cool or get angry?
What do you do to fix it?
- Make a goal to not do it again
- Plan better next time
I know Heavenly Father loves us immensely and cares more about what we’re trying to become and the goals in our heart and the direction we are heading now, than he cares about our slip-ups. He has the law of chastity in place because he wants us to be happy, not because he wants something to judge us harshly by.
If you feel stuck in a pattern you can’t get out of or if you’re worried about this subject at all, talk to your parents, to a leader, to the bishop, to me… we want to help you be healthy and happy.
There are lots of adults in your life who love you and understand the bigger picture, and want you to have healthy relationships and a bright future.
Hopefully this made sense, when I was a young woman dating I went to one of my advisers and asked why boys had to be jerks… she told me that most of them were not jerks but there is a biological reason why they are so sexually driven and while they get to figure out how to control that — I need to have healthy boundaries and enjoy group dating and avoid too much time by ourselves and that our bodies were created to have these strong desires and it helps an eternal marriage be strong and fabulous but prior to that important time in our life Satan will try to take advantage of that intense chemical reaction to lead you away from that eternal reward.
For those of you who have experienced a lot of things on this physical continuum, that doesn’t mean it’s too late for you to enjoy the sweetness all over again and the happiness that comes from obeying this law. You can decide right now that you would rather have a better chance at a healthy foundation for a long lasting relationship, and that you would like to protect yourself from extra heartache. For any of you that have had sexual things happen beyond your control and choice… I want you to know you are not alone. We have many around us who wear the badge of “survivor.” They will tell you there is a bright beautiful future full of sweetness ahead of you.
It doesn’t matter what’s happened to you or what choices you’ve made, I testify that there is a sweetness and brightness ahead if you want it. You can choose right now to let the law of chastity protect your future. You can become “Guardians of Virtue.”
- The law of chastity is for our happiness … not because it’s a test of obedience … but because it truly protects our emotions, our bodies, and our future relationships
- Keeping physical things contained lets you cherish the small things, and build a relationship foundation on things that really matter and are long lasting
- Biologically speaking; getting physically involved starts to open powerful doors that start bonding, which can get messy and complicated and very vulnerable. Physical bonding is best left to the safety of a forever commitment.
HERE’S IS MY CALL TO ACTION:
You have the agency to make choices for yourself and stick to them even when it’s hard.
If you are committed to a future relationship with a strong foundation, and if you believe that God can keep you happier by staying chaste, then it is a matter of deciding where your boundaries are and how to keep them there.
Just the same way you made a decision and changed behavior not to hit/bite people when you are angry, you have the ability to make smart decisions about what you want to do with your body in your future.
My decision when I was a teenager and young adult was to:
- set boundaries
- play a game
- and test God
I was choosing to trust Heavenly Father and I was going to do my best to keep my emotions in check by keeping my sexual desires in check so that all the wrong guys would come and go and the right guy would come and stay…
32 years later… I am sure glad I did!