Wednesday, April 20, 2011

We teach our kids abstinence, not birth control

[ Update: After discussion, it seems Papa D and I have come to the conclusion that we've had a big misunderstanding here. Please read his comment below (click here) before proceeding. I extend my sincere apologies to Papa D for anything I may have done that contributed to this misunderstanding.]

On his blog, "Things of My Soul," Papa D claims "We Can't Teach 'Abstinence Only'." In his article he talks a lot about his personal sex ed philosophy and some of his ideas are spot on. But the word "we" in the title of his post concerns me. Some of the advise he gives to his children goes beyond and (some may think) against what Mormons are taught in Church. Now don't get me wrong, what works for Papa D is fine for Papa D and it's also none of my business. I just want to emphasize that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does NOT "encourage ... birth control" for those having pre-marital sex.

The Church teaches abstinence:

Latter-day Prophets speaking in unison: "A work on chastity can be given in one sentence, two words: Be chaste! That tells everything." (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., as quoted by Harold B. Lee, as quoted by Ezra Taft Benson.)

President Harold B. Lee: "It has been well said that one does not teach honesty by telling a man how to burglarize a save, nor do we teach chastity by telling a youth all about sexual activities." (Ensign, July 1972, p. 32.)

Handbook 2: Administering the Church: "'The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. … God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force' (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”). By divine design, both a man and a woman are essential for bringing children into mortality and providing the best setting for the rearing and nurturing of children.

"Complete sexual abstinence before marriage and total fidelity within marriage protect the sanctity of this sacred responsibility. Parents and priesthood and auxiliary leaders should do all they can to reinforce this teaching." (Section 1.3.2; emphasis added.)

Gordon B. Hinckley: "The Lord and His prophets have repeatedly taught the great importance of being morally clean. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: 'We believe in chastity before marriage and total fidelity after marriage. That sums it up." (As quoted in "Lesson 2, Temple Preparation Seminar Teacher’s Manual; emphasis added.)

The First Presidency: “The Lord’s law of moral conduct is abstinence outside of lawful marriage and fidelity within marriage. Sexual relations are proper only between husband and wife appropriately expressed within the bonds of marriage. Any other sexual contact, including fornication, adultery, and homosexual and lesbian behavior, is sinful.” (As quoted in "Lesson 43, D&C Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual.)

Boyd K. Packer: "We do not set the standards, but we are commanded to teach them and maintain them. The standard remains abstinence before marriage and total fidelity in marriage." (Ensign, Nov. 2003, 26.)

Richard G. Scott: “Any sexual intimacy outside of the bonds of marriage—I mean any intentional contact with the sacred, private parts of another’s body, with or without clothing—is a sin and is forbidden by God. It is also a transgression to intentionally stimulate these emotions within your own body.” (As quoted in "Lesson 43, D&C Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual.)

Jeffrey R. Holland: "As modern winds of immorality swirl around you, I am concerned for you who may be confused about principles of personal purity, about obligations of total chastity before marriage and complete fidelity after it." (January 2011, LDS.org article.)


Blogger Tim said...

What he actually states in his post:

"We teach mission and temple marriage and eternal marriage and on and on and on that ground the PURPOSE for pre-marital abstinence in something other than 'mere' abstinence. We give it an eternal purpose that is absent in other theologies."

In other words, we shouldn't teach abstinence only--we should teach it in context. I think that was what he meant by "we."

Also, there comes a time when our kids (hopefully) will not practice abstinence. At some point, if you want grandchildren, your children will have to learn about sex. And if you don't want them to have too many kids to handle, your children need to know about birth control (at least if they and their spouse are moderately fertile).

4/21/2011 03:59:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Tim:  Yes, some of his ideas are spot on. But he also "would encourage them to use birth control if they decided they were going to have pre-marital sex." That might work for Papa D but it's not "what works for Mormons."

4/21/2011 04:43:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

I really don't think he's saying that's what all Mormons should do. I think you're misreading him.

I'm curious, though--hypothetically, if your children or grandchildren were going to have pre-marital sex, would you want them to use birth control? Why or why not?

4/21/2011 06:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Niklas said...

So are you saying that if a mormon decides to sin and has pre-marital sex, he/she should not use birth control?

4/21/2011 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger Howard said...

So you consider teaching birth control false doctrine?

4/21/2011 06:42:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Tim, Niklas:  Teaching birth control (safe sex) to Latter-day Saint youth promotes the falsehood that there is such a thing as "safe sin." The gospel teaches blessings for obedience and penalties for sin. There is no safe alternative to chastity. The only safe sex is within the marriage covenant. There is no such thing as "safe sin."

4/21/2011 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Howard:  Where and when has the Church published an apostolic statement endorsing the idea that birth control should be advocated to unmarried youth?

4/21/2011 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger SilverRain said...

I think the problem with what you intimate all the quotes are saying (not what they are actually saying) is that it ignores the fact that kids ARE going to learn about sex. Period.

The question is whether or not they learn it from you or their friends. Simply saying "don't have sex before marriage" doesn't cut it.

4/21/2011 07:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Niklas said...

There is no safe sin, but there are sins that might give you STD / make you pregnant, and there are sins that don't. So if you decide to sin, you can choose how to sin.

4/21/2011 07:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Last Lemming said...

I notice that Spencer W. Kimball does not appear on your list of authorities preaching abstinence only. Perhaps it is because he didn't preach that. In the Miracle of Forgiveness (somewhere around page 76, I think) he denounces necking and petting because they lead to "fornication, pregnancy, and abortion, all ugly sins."

Fornication and abortion are clear enough, but pregnancy? An ugly sin? I thought sin had to be willful and one who has committed fornication cannot choose whether or not a pregnancy will result (in contrast to one who has become pregnant choosing whether or not to have an abortion).

But President Kimball said it was an ugly sin, so whether or not fornicators have complete control over the outcome, it seems clear that they should do whatever it takes to avoid that second ugly sin (as I'm sure you would agree they should avoid the third). Birth control seems the obvious solution.

4/21/2011 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

SilverRain:  My wife and I used the following guidelines, among other teachings of the Church, as we taught morality and chastity to our children:

-------------- quote --------------
"I am convinced that two of the major mistakes are to teach too much about the subject and to teach it at the wrong time. I am firmly convinced of the following principles.

"The notion that our young people need to be taught in great detail all of the facts relating to the physical processes involved in reproduction at an early age is nonsense. The overteaching of it is not a protection. Such things as they should know about the subject should be taught in a framework of reverence and modesty....

"The responsibility and the right to teach these sacred processes rest[s] with the parents in the home....

"I would urge that you approach the teaching of this subject with reverence, with humility, and with modesty and moderation." (Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, 1979, 256-258.)
-------------- end quote --------------

4/21/2011 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Last Lemming:  President Kimball said, "The law of chastity requires total abstinence before marriage and full fidelity afterward. It is the same for both men and women. It is the cornerstone of trust so necessary to the precious happiness of the marriage relationship and family solidarity." And he never endorsed the idea that birth control should be advocated to unmarried youth.

4/21/2011 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Howard:  I appreciate your mention of the Ensign article "Napa Valley Sisters and Sex Education." A more recent article will also be of interest, "What About Abstinence?"

Both of these articles show how informed Latter-day Saints can influence public schools for good. Notice that the first one mentions "President Kimball’s counsel that members of the Church make positive contributions in their community and civic affairs" but that neither article instructs Mormons to encourage their children to use birth control if they decide to have pre-marital sex.

4/21/2011 10:49:00 AM  
Anonymous kurt R. said...

i think many mormons (and other christians) confuse "teaching how birth control works" with "teaching that pre-marital sex is acceptable." this is not the case at all. I was raised with a knowledge of gods plan, and a firm testimony of the commandments. i was also raised with a healthy knowledge of how my body works. this knowledge was not a temptation in any way - in fact, knowing exactly how things worked turned all the "exciting dirty playground talk" into "boring kid talk." you can't keep your children from sin by trying to keep them in ignorance. in a proper setting, teaching birth control is nothing more than teaching a child all of their options, and the likelihood of unfortunate consequences arising from such decisions. teaching which option is BEST is a different matter entirely, and parents need to deal with BOTH. too often, we say "i expect you to do what i think is best, so there is no need for you to know any other option." instead of teaching correct principles, and letting people govern themselves. they will make decisions without you. make sure they know why the best option really is the best, and that requires knowing what the other options are.

4/21/2011 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Rich Alger said...

I understand where Papa D is coming from as well as R. Gary.

My wife and I have regular talks with our children when they get to an age to talk about sexual things. To me this is the most important thing. That there is a relationship of trust between us. That there is regular and thorough discussion about what is happening with them.

Hopefully they feel comfortable to ask questions. As we create these opportunities to know where they are at, we will be inspired to talk about whatever needs to be talked about.

I am not sure how I would approach talking about birth control outside of marriage. I have never thought to do so. Perhaps that will come up someday. I will have to defer to my study and inspiration at that time as well as my wife's.

4/21/2011 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Papa D said...

1) Thanks, Tim, for pointing out that the "we" is about teaching the REASON for abstinence, not just the technical prohibition. The first part is stated as the way I talk with my own kids; the last paragraph ONLY is about how the Church teaches about sex. I absolutely love how the Church, speaking collectively and not individually, teaches about sex, even if I really loathe the way some members teach their kids about sex and the way some leaders have talked about it.

2) NOWEHERE in my post do I even imply that I don't teach my kids abstinence - or that I teach them how to use birth control. That simply isn't there. I say that I do teach them abstinence multiple times, in fact. It's crystal clear in the post itself.

3) I said IF, and I repeat IF, my children decide that they are going to engage in pre-marital sex, THEN I will encourage them to use birth control. To argue otherwise, to me, is like encouraging someone who is going to assault someone to go ahead and kill the person instead of just beating them up - since the assault is a crime anyway. I don't think anyone in their right mind would make that argument.

4) Nowhere in the post did I say that I would tell my children, "Great! I'm so glad you are choosing to have pre-marital sex! I support you in that decision! Make sure it's as good as it can be! Tell me about it when you're done!" I said they would know of my disappointment in their decision - that they know I would not approve.

Other than about five or six other mischaracterizations of the actual post, that's all.

4/21/2011 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Papa D said...

Oh, and I agree totally with the quote from Elder Packer. Great quote - and it supports my post. Thanks for posting it here.

4/21/2011 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...


kurt R.:  The blog article we're talking about doesn't just "teach" how birth control works, it "encourages" young adults to use birth control if they decide to have pre-marital sex.

Now, regarding the rest of your comment, let me share some remarks that were made by an apostle in general conference the year I got married.

-------------- quote --------------
"Have you ever asked yourselves why this sudden urge to teach sex in a public way? Is someone afraid that the rising generation will not know how to reproduce itself?...

"How is it that we ourselves were brought into existence? Our parents received none of this kind of teaching when they went to school.

"Think of the hundreds of generations that have preceded us on the earth. Is it by some great miracle that they ever saw the light of day, since many of their parents never went to any kind of school, public or otherwise, and certainly had none of the instruction now being proposed?...

"When schools are prevented from teaching anything of a spiritual nature, they are thereby disqualified from teaching sex at all, for in its very nature, sex is spiritual and inseparably connected with the creative work of God.

"We are not animals, to dwell only in a physical world. We are the offspring of God, learning in this life to become like him...

"Sex education belongs in the home, where parents can teach chastity in a spiritual environment as they reveal the facts of life to their children. There, in all plainness, the youngsters can be taught that procreation is part of the creative work of God and that, therefore, the act of replenishing the earth must be kept on the high plane of personal purity that God provides, free from all forms of perversion." (Mark E. Petersen, Era, June 1969, 78.)
-------------- end quote --------------

The above counsel has not been superseded. As parents, we followed this pattern in teaching our children, even keeping them out of sex-ed classes at school, and our three dozen grandchildren attest to the fact that our kids grew up to be normal human beings.


Rich Alger:  I appreciate your non-combative comment.

4/21/2011 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Papa D:  It's always good to hear from you. It seems there are a small number of things on which we don't completely agree, but as usual, you've explained your point of view and I've explained mine.

It would have helped me if you had made it a little more clear on your blog that the idea to encourage your son to use birth control if he decides to have pre-marital sex is yours and didn't originate from any ranking Church leader in any official LDS media.

4/21/2011 01:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It would have helped me if you had made it a little more clear on your blog that the idea to encourage your son to use birth control if he decides to have pre-marital sex is yours and didn't originate from any ranking Church leader in any official LDS media."

Sorry. I honestly thought that was obvious and a given.

4/21/2011 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Curtis:  I'm a computer programmer producing financial software used in credit unions. I'm the author and co-publisher of an eleven hundred page scripture reference book that was approved by the First Presidency and Twelve to be in meetinghouse libraries. I was also asked by the Church to write a feature article for the Ensign magazine. I'm not college educated, but consider myself to be at least moderately literate and I honestly think it was NOT obvious or a given.

4/21/2011 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger Rich Alger said...

R. Gary, What scripture reference book did you author?

4/21/2011 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Rich:  this one.

4/21/2011 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger SilverRain said...

Just so you know, the comment I left before that you didn't post was intended in no way to be combative, but informative.

4/21/2011 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger Rich Alger said...

Listing your life's achievements does not benefit your statement that Papa D's post was not clear. It comes off as self puffing.

4/21/2011 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I also thought it was pretty obvious.

4/21/2011 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

All: Thanks for the comments. I hope it's apparent by now that this blog tolerates comments like "self puffing" better than sarcasm and mockery. Even less tasteful are comments that use sarcasm and mockery against the apostles and prophets. Regarding the idea that children can be promiscuous without consequences, I don't believe I've ever heard that taught. Regarding teaching about birth control versus advocating it, please see Harold B. Lee's comment quoted in my original post.

4/21/2011 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger Rich Alger said...

President Harold B. Lee: "It has been well said that one does not teach honesty by telling a man how to burglarize a save, nor do we teach chastity by telling a youth all about sexual activities." (Ensign, July 1972, p. 32.)

R. Gary, do you think that teaching about birth control is the same as advocating it?

4/21/2011 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Rich: According to President Lee, telling youth about sexual activities has the effect of advocating sexual acctivity. I believe President Lee would agree also that telling youth about birth control has the effect of advocating birth control. But stop. Papa D didn't just tell his son about birth control. He encouraged its use in case of pre-marital sex. Is that "the same as advocating it?"

Boyd K. Packer explained that teaching about procreation in too much detail may lead youth to experiment with sin:

-------------- quote --------------
“Picture a father and mother leaving home for a period of time. Just as they go out the door they say to their little children who are to be left untended during their absence, ‘Now children, be good. Whatever you do while we are gone, do not take the footstool into the pantry, and do not climb to the fourth shelf and move the cracker box and reach back and get the sack of beans and take a bean and put it up your nose, will you?’

“Some of us are just that foolish." (Book of Mormon Student Manual, Religion 121-122, 2009, 236.)
-------------- end quote --------------

Please remember this: If teaching birth control works for Papa D, that's fine with me — as long as his words "we" and "Mormons" are clearly not referring to me or my Church. Papa D presides in his family just as the apostles and prophets preside in the Church and just as I preside in my own family. I respect that.

4/21/2011 06:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Mommie Dearest said...

I see a solution in teaching abstinence first and foremost, and in addition, teaching about birth control, anticipating the future in which a married couple will need such knowledge. Birth control and abstinence are not, and should not be polar opposites. It's good for young people to be prepared with as much knowledge as they are capable of learning during the early years of their fertility, and when they are carefully nurtured, they can be trusted to know that they aren't expected to field test it until later.

The rhetorical divisions over this have always mystified me.

4/21/2011 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger Rich Alger said...

I agree with Mommie Dearest

4/21/2011 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

kurt R.: It just isn't as complicated as your most recent (unpublished) comment makes it appear. Let me give you a numbered list of the points made in my post:

1.  The Church has asked parents to teach their children abstinence before marriage and fidelity after. I've provided statements from Church leaders to support this.

2.  Teaching or encouraging contraceptive techniques goes beyond what the Church has asked. Indeed, I've shown that the Church teaches it is a major mistake to teach too much too soon.

3.  These are personal choices every parent must make and their decision is nobody else's business.

There are no apostolic statements in official Church media that contradict points one and two, and nobody seems to be questioning number three.

4/21/2011 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger Papa D said...

"the Church teaches it is a major mistake to teach too much too soon."

I agree with this completely.

I also agree with the second Elder Packer quote. That approach absolutely is silly, and it's not consistent at all with my post or my approach with my children.

I probably should make it crystal clear that I never said anywhere that I go into great detail with my kids about birth control and the mechanics of its use - and I don't anticipate ever having a detailed discussion about birth control with any of my kids when they are too young for that kind of discussion.

Finally, I re-read my post to see what might have caused some of the misunderstanding, and I think I might have realized one area:

I probably should point out that the conversation I had with my oldest son prior to his leaving on his mission had NOTHING to do with sex and birth control. I said that conversation was "indicative" of "how" I would approach a discussion about birth control IF one of my kids came to me and told me they were going to engage in pre-marital sex.

Let me repeat that:

The conversation wasn't about sex and birth control; it was an example of HOW I would handle such a conversation IF one of my children initiated such a discussion. I would discourage them to the best of my ability to pursue that decision, but, IF they were determined to do so anyway THEN I would urge them to limit the impact of that choice to cause as little damage as possible as a result of that choice.

4/22/2011 12:34:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Papa D: After reading your comment above, I have come to the conclusion that you and I have had a big misunderstanding here. I extend my sincere apologies to you for anything I may have done that contributed to this misunderstanding. (I've also updated my original post.)

Your blogging friend and brother,

4/22/2011 03:43:00 AM  
Blogger Rich Alger said...

I love it when misunderstandings turn out this way. Apologies were spoken by both. Lessons were learned about writing with clarity and with reading what was written.

I definitely misread what Papa D wrote. "and it is indicative of how" is very clear looking back at it. He did not expressly say that his short answer is what he said to his son. My mind did make that conclusion though.

With that last comment of Papa D, I can say that I completely agree with his line of thought. I always want to teach the standard. There is a possibility if you bring up the topic of birth control with a teenager they would receive the sub-text of "I think you are going to have sex so if you do please use birth control".

Perhaps having that discussion with a returned missionary son or daughter, or perhaps a daughter that is closer to marriage. Maybe even an older teenager. As long as you approach it from the perspective of what mom and dad did. So they have a chance to begin to study and pray about it years before they make that decision as to if and how to use birth control in marriage.

Now thinking about it, it may not be a bad discussion to have earlier than later. If our children are to make a decision as to what size and kind of family to have, it may be useful to let them think and study and pray about that before they have a chance to fall in love. I have always believed that you should go into marriage with your eyes wide open and then keep them half shut after you are married.

If any of my children want to have a large family, maybe that is something they should be thinking about when considering a possible spouse. I don't think that is a given (perhaps it never was) within the LDS community.

4/22/2011 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger Papa D said...

Thanks, R.Gary. I also have updated my post with a note about the nature of the conversation with my son and a thank you for pointing out that it wasn't as clear as it should have been.

4/22/2011 10:25:00 AM  

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