The main goals of this lesson are to give Young Women and Young Men:
a way to value sexuality
a sense of the power that sexuality can have in relationships
a way to relate to and direct their sexual power/sexuality in adolescence
an understanding of how to navigate pressures with peers and romantic partners while maintaining one's sexual standards and boundaries
The following outline could be expanded to two lessons, each section being a lesson. If having two lessons is more than what would be appropriate or allowed, it would be valuable to have a lesson or a mutual night activity expanding on Section II, focusing on how to say no and disappoint people, which is crucial to maintaining self-respect in general and living the law of chastity more specifically.
It is expected that the teacher will add in her own personal experiences, or invite others to do so, where appropriate.
The law of chastity is a commandment that protects us and allows us to create the most good with our God-given sexuality. Today we are going to talk about the gift of our bodies, our sexuality, and how we can relate to these gifts in ways that facilitate our confidence and happiness.
I. Beauty of the body, sexuality, and the law of chastity
Our faith teaches that the body is central to our eternal development. We come to earth to get a body, which is crucial to becoming exalted and more like our Heavenly Parents.
We have been taught ...to look upon these bodies of ours as gifts from God. We Latter-day Saints do not regard the body as something to be condemned, something to be abhorred. We regard [the body] as the sign of our royal birthright. We recognize...that those who kept not their first estate... were denied that inestimable blessing...We believe that these bodies…may be made, in very truth, the temple of the Holy Ghost. (Elder James E. Talmage, General Conference, October 1913, p. 117)
Many religions talk about the body as an impediment to our spirituality. In fact, many believe that our God-given sexuality is what brings us down or degrades our connection with God. They view the body and sexuality as Satan’s playground, a path through which to corrupt one’s soul. Theologically, our church does not consider sexuality to be a negative aspect of this life. However, what we do with our sexuality is important. It can be used for good or evil.
Sex is for procreation and expression of love. It is the destiny of men and women to join together to make eternal family units. In the context of lawful marriage, the intimacy of sexual relations is right and divinely approved. There is nothing unholy or degrading about sexuality in itself, for by that means men and women join in a process of creation and in an expression of love. (President Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 311).
Sexual capacity is with us from birth. It is a fundamental part of being human. It is fundamental to the bodies our Parents in Heaven gave us. We were designed to be sexual beings.
Sexuality is a powerful force that can be used for ill–to harm or take advantage of others--or can be a deep source of good. Our sexuality, when used to love and be loved, can be a source of joy and connection with a beloved spouse.
When sexuality is used to indulge our desires or take advantage of another, it can be very damaging to their soul. Sexual abuse and any kind of sexual coercion, even in romantic relationships, has a highly negative impact on the victims.
On the other hand, when sexuality is used in positive ways, it can have a very positive impact. It is a pathway to some of the most powerful experiences in life when used as a deep expression of love and commitment.
Our sexual desires can be are very powerful. Our sexuality provides a powerful way to be in a relationship. It has the power to bring life into this world. It has the power to bring individuals closer together. Because it is so powerful, God has put some guideposts around how to safeguard it. The law of chastity is meant to help us sort out the experience of being human so that we don’t undermine our happiness or someone else’s. The parameters help us to stay physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.
Question: What is the law of chastity?
Answer: We are not to have sexual relations (sexual intercourse) outside of marriage. Deep levels of physical intimacy and pleasure are reserved for the commitment of marriage.
Before marriage, we learn about expressing love and affection through our bodies. For example, we express love and care by hugging parents and friends. If you desire to express love and affection through your physicality, it is important that the level of intimacy not surpass the level of commitment in your relationship. There will be some level of physical intimacy when you are dating. It is very important that you not betray your personal commitments and beliefs even if it seemingly pleases a boyfriend or your own fleeting feelings of desire in the moment. Being true to your highest values and desires is always critical for being at peace with yourself.
Question: How is the law of chastity a kind principle?
Possible Answers: It protects us from disease, being taken advantage of, unwanted pregnancies, and becoming too sexually casual with others.
Because intercourse is such a powerful way of connecting with another person, it should be reserved for the person we fully commit ourselves to. Sexuality is a powerful currency and using it prematurely or out of peer pressure will work against us. Reserving the fullest expressions of sexual desire for marriage preserves the specialness of sex through our choices. There are physical, emotional, and spiritual harms that can come from not living the law of chastity.
Physical risks: Sexuality can present health risks, like being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. Also, it could lead to pregnancy that would impact the life of the unborn child.
Emotional risks: When the level of intimacy in a relationship exceeds the level of commitment to that person, one may be left feeling exposed, "used", or unable or unwilling to support the level of intimacy offered.
Spiritual risks: Acting counter to one’s standards of right and wrong, betraying the sacredness of one’s own desires and development impacts one’s personal integrity. Self-disappointment and loss of one’s inner anchor can make it harder to trust oneself and feel at peace with God and oneself.
The law of chastity offers us a way to mature relationally and emotionally with a loved one before we engage our sexuality, which can be very bonding. If our sexual desires and behaviors outpace our emotional relationships, it can be confusing as to what is driving the sense of connection in our relationships. The law of chastity comes from God's wisdom to help our relationships mature on pace. Careful behavior facilitates the emergence of wisdom and good judgment.
II. Choosing how to relate to our sexuality and learning how to say no.
Feelings of arousal and desire are normal and natural capacities of the body. These feelings are part of becoming a fully developed individual and having a healthy married relationship. Sexual feelings don’t mean that Satan has your heart, it means you are an emerging sexual being. The feelings themselves are not a problem. In fact, if those feelings of arousal were never to develop, it could be problematic.
How we handle our sexual feelings has significant implications on our sexual development and maturity.
Heavenly Father has given us the law of chastity and asked us to follow it. You, as individuals with personal agency, get to decide how you want to live it. To determine what the law of chastity means to you, it can be very helpful to spend some time defining and deciding what kind of future you want in regard to relationships.
If you want to be in an intimate loving, monogamous relationship in the future, what do you do with your sexual feelings now? How comfortable will you be with having those feelings? What are the options for relating to your sexual desires before marriage?
Discuss the various ways we can relate to our sexuality:
There is a continuum of options for how you can relate to your sexual feelings.
React to sexual arousal, thoughts, and feelings with fear, anxiety, disgust, and the belief that they are inappropriate. With this perspective, you repress them, try to avoid them, feel ashamed to have them and unworthy of the spirit. These attitudes and beliefs hinder your capability to interact with a spouse someday and function as a healthy sexual individual.
Act on feelings and desires with whomever you are attracted to because the feelings are real and you think they should be fully expressed now because there isn’t a good reason to wait. Casual sexual exposure and behavior trivialize sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy, then, is not something special or something unique for someone you deeply care about. This potentially diminishes its positive power and increases its negative power on your soul.
Identify sexual arousal and feelings, recognize them as normal and positive, act on them in a limited way with the person you are dating, and look forward to fully expressing them in a loving relationship in the future when married. Acknowledging them, even being grateful for them, but not indulging them will allow you to have a healthy sexual relationship with a spouse down the road.
Ask the young women to think about the following: How are you going to engage with your sexuality prior to marriage? Are you going to treat it with fear, disgust, anxiety, and consider it dirty? Experiment with it, indulge it, and fully engage with sexual desires and curiosities? Acknowledge your sexuality, see it as healthy, be comfortable with it, and express it within appropriate boundaries but not fully explore it?
Ask the girls to think about the following questions:
What kind of relationship do you want to have in the future?
Do you want to be married? What type of person do you hope to marry? What kind of spouse do you hope to be?
What do you want to create with your sexuality? What does the law of chastity mean to you? How do you want to relate to it?
Provide a worksheet with the questions below for the girls to complete. Tell them they will not have to share their answers.
What kind of romantic relationship and marriage do you hope for someday?
What kind of sexual relationship do you hope to have someday?
How do you want to relate to your sexuality now in order to reach that goal?
Is the law of chastity a valuable standard for you? Why or why not? What is the wisdom in it for you?
What kinds of barriers or challenges might you face in reaching your long-term goal?
What might help you to remain true to your goals for your future?
Tell the girls that if they have answered these questions from their most honest selves, that it is very important to respect and strive for these ideals. Being true to their highest desires will help them build self-confidence and a rich, meaningful life. Sometimes it is difficult to stick to what you desire long-term because short-term wants often contradict our long-term goals. But our higher desires and commitments remain important to our happiness.
How do you say no?
Practicing saying no and disappointing people is extremely important for being happy and it is also important to keeping the law of chastity. Agency is a key component of this life. We get to decide who we will be and what we are going to cultivate through our choices. Taking what you desire seriously is the deepest expression of the gospel. It is also an expression of self-respect. It is important to decide how to be a good steward of your sexuality.
Roleplay a scenario of a challenge or barriers the girls might face as they work to stay true to their beliefs and long-term goals. You can use the scenarios below or think of other dilemmas or pressuring situations. Depending on the Young Women present, a leader could either play the guy or the girl.
Scenario 1: You like a guy and he wants you to do something sexually with him that makes you uncomfortable. When you say no, he calls you a prude, saying it’s not a big deal. You’re not sure he likes you as much as you like him, but you imagine this might make him like you more if you go along. How are you going to respond?
After the role-play, discuss. Why might the guy be rolling his eyes? What is his motivation for pressuring the girl? Discuss that he is only trying to get gratification for what he wants. He isn’t thinking about what the girl wants. He is being self-centered.
Scenario 2: You are at a birthday party and your friends play a game of truth or dare. You like a guy who is a Latter-day Saint and want him to not think you are a prude but also not too “loose” either. You get confused about how you should act or respond to the questions because you are pretty focused on being what he’ll think is okay. What is the right thing to do in this situation? Why might it be difficult to defend or be true to who you are and what you feel good about instead of being what others think is okay or cool?
Why being true to yourself matters:
You undermine yourself if you trade in your values to please others. Staying true to your honest self will give you the most confidence and facilitate your happiness in romantic and other important relationships. When you are true to yourself, you’ll know if the relationship can make room for who you really are. A relationship must make room for your best self if you are going to be happy in it. In life, we generally get the amount of respect from others that we have for ourselves.
It takes a lot of courage to disappoint someone you want approval from. But it takes that kind of courage to become someone you honestly respect and create the kind of relationship you desire.
Self-respect is core to your ability to desire in marriage (especially for women). Sexuality for women is very central to their strength and self-acceptance. Women have as much sexual capacity as men although women tend to be choosey about sharing their sexuality (since women are biologically more vulnerable than men). Respecting and valuing this part of yourself is critical to your strength and happiness.
Getting back on track:
When it comes to physical intimacy, it can be hard to hold to your standards because kissing and physical affection are enjoyable and can cause your desires to increase. It is important to know ahead of time what your standards are because it can be difficult to keep them in the moment if you haven’t already decided what you will and will not do.
What do you do if you want to keep the law of chastity but you have already done more or gone farther than you wish you had?
Discuss with the girls that they can repent of their mistakes, learn from the process and reassert their commitments.
Emphasize that our value is not tied to how well we keep the commandments. Sometimes we hear messages that sexual missteps undermine our value in God’s eyes. This is simply not true. Individual worth isn’t based on righteousness. There is always the opportunity to improve and refine our moral compass. This is a process that is a part of life and God’s plan. God wants us to grow, thrive, and be true to our best selves.
Alma counseled his son Shiblon to “bridle all [of his] passions, that [he] may be filled with love” (Alma 38:12). Bridling does not mean to suffocate or snuff out. Bridling means to direct our passions towards our highest goals, towards aims that make our lives richer and more joyful. Our sexuality can be a great source of joy if we accept this gift and choose wisely with it. In learning to love and be loved through our sexuality, we can experience a profoundly intimate relationship with a loving spouse.