Part of the work Elizabeth Smart has been doing since she returned home from her abduction is to spread the message that we need to teach our children about sex differently. We need to step away from the teaching that sex is bad and dirty, and that you're worthless if you're not a virgin on your wedding night. She has encouraged parents to teach children that they are of infinite worth and that they are loved, regardless of their circumstances. After she was raped, she wondered if anyone could ever love her again, and she doesn't want anyone to have to experience those feelings of self-loathing.
I appreciate her message a lot.
But now I'm concerned.
With Josh Duggar's past being brought to light and his molestation of several young girls, including his sisters, the media is having a field day, saying that teaching purity is obviously the wrong way to go. Heck, the Duggars preach purity, and their son is a molester. Therefore, preaching purity isn't the answer.
Other media outlets have suggested that parents shouldn't try to force their children to accept their own religious beliefs about sex. One comment I read tonight that really got my goat says that parents need to understand the difference between what is really important and what is just a religious belief.
You know me - I like to rant when things get my goat. Here we go.
Okay, yes, the Duggars preach purity, and their son molested. This doesn't mean the Duggars aren't speaking the truth - this means that their son chose his own way. Good grief - should we always test the truth of a principle by seeing how well the child of the preacher is living it? That's no barometer at all. We have free will, and we can't force our children to accept our beliefs. That's a choice they make for themselves. They taught it, he chose something different. That doesn't make it false.* Look at Alma the Younger - he did everything he could to contradict what his father was teaching. That was his choice - it didn't make the teaching incorrect.
I also don't think Elizabeth Smart meant for her message to be taken as, we shouldn't preach purity at all. She's asking us to teach about worth and value and unconditional love. She never once said that purity shouldn't be taught, and yet, she's being quoted in all these articles that are calling for more sexual freedom for our children, that they no longer be constrained by religious boundaries. I can't pretend to speak for her, but I think that's a misuse of her message.
As far as deciding the difference between what's really important and what's just a religious belief ...
It won't come as a shock to any of you here that I'm a religious person. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ with all my heart, and I strive to develop a closer relationship with my Father and with my Savior every day. I'm certainly not perfect - the mistakes I make are quite baffling - but I'm trying. This is important to me - it's very important. Each person's perception of importance is different, and it's up to them. You can't tell me religion isn't important just because it's not important to you, just the same as I can't belittle something you care deeply about just because I don't understand it.
I am religious. That's the path I've chosen. And because that path brings me happiness, I teach my children those principles. They know, however, that they have free agency, and they can and will choose their own directions. I've told them that I know what makes me happy, and they'll need to decide what makes them happy. This is not something I'm forcing on them - this is something I've given them the opportunity to learn.
And do I preach purity? You bet your darned knitted booties I do. There's a confidence that comes from choosing virtue. There's a peace, a security, a focus, a goal. I would like my children to have those blessings, and so I've taught them that course of action.
But that's not all.
I've taught them about the amazing thing our Savior did for us when He atoned - He made it possible for us to look at our lives, evaluate our choices, and to determine if we're happy with them. If we've done something we wish we hadn't, He gives us every tool we need to set it right. He is the only true do-over. And if something happens they regret, He can and will erase the sting because He loves us with a pure love.
We live in an age where sex is becoming more and more open every day. In this age, parents are losing their voices in how they raise their children. In this age, religion is being seen as a side note, a garnish on the plate instead of the main course. We can't wonder at how our society seems to be degenerating. The proof is right there.
So, to sum up my feelings ...
Yes, purity should be taught. It should be taught at every opportunity. But it should go hand in hand with lessons of worth, value, the preciousness of a soul, and the power of the Atonement not only to cleanse us of things we wish we could change, but to cleanse the pain of things that happened against our will.
And I will continue to teach my children all my religious beliefs, every single one of them, with full knowledge that they may choose differently someday. That's part of the plan - Christ valiantly defended our right to choose, just as you have the right to agree with or disagree with this blog post as you feel you should.
*I'm not going to get into a long discussion about whether or not counseling was received (I haven't seen a conclusive statement about that - just conjecture) or if the family handled it like they should have. I don't have enough information to make a comment about it. I only bring it up to drive home the point that Josh had his free agency, and his decision to molest does not make teaching the principle of purity wrong.