Dack Van Orden was born and raised in Idaho Falls, ID. He currently lives in the Houston Texas area where he and his wife are the parents of three daughters and one bonus daughter. He has served in a variety of callings within the Church, most of which have been in various youth callings. His favorite was teaching early morning seminary. He currently serves in the high council as the stake Young Men president.
In the sermon on the mount, the Savior taught,
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
In many instances this may seem like an impossible task, however our loving Heavenly Father did provide us a way of being like him. One of the ways we can be like our Heavenly Father is by creating life.
Procreation then becomes the means by which God moves His great plan of happiness forward. This shared power also comes with a great responsibility. As a result, our Heavenly Father wants us to understand and use that responsibility wisely. He does this by giving us commandments and guidelines that help us to come to understand the power and responsibility of procreation. We call this the law of chastity.
Doctrines, Principles and Applications
In its most basic definition, the law of chastity states that an individual will have no sexual relations with anyone except their spouse who they are legally married to. This is the doctrine of the law, however, from there, we can apply different principles and applications.
According to Elder Bednar, principles are “doctrinally based guidelines for righteous exercise of moral agency”. In other words, principles provide direction. A principle is not a behavior or specific action, rather, principles provide basic guidelines for behavior or action.
While an application is “the actual behavior, step, practice, or procedure by which gospel doctrines and principles are enacted”. In other words, principles teach us the guidelines or provide us with the parameters of what to do or how to act, whereas an application is the personal, self-driven action based on the understood doctrine or principle.
The Impact of Tradition
In the church we have cultures and behaviors that are based on traditions or the way the last bishop or stake president did things. Church and family traditions can be wonderful things. However, we must be careful that we don’t set the expectation of an application or behavior as a perceived doctrine or principle. We can’t be so culturally ingrained in old school expectations that we inadvertently offend those around us. I can create my own personal application or behavior that I want to use to govern my life, but I can’t enforce that application on others, nor should I even hold them to that standard.
For example, I can say that on Sunday, our family wakes up each Sunday morning at 6 a.m., gets dressed in our Sunday clothes, we have a three hour family scripture study, no TV, phones, or electronics. But what I can’t do is impose that family application on your family. This is a personal application that may be great for our family, but it is only for our family.
The true principle is to keep the sabbath day holy. There’s a lot of wiggle room there and what keeping the sabbath day holy looks like for your family, may look different than what it does for my family.
Teaching Chastity at Church
It is with this understanding that we must approach the law of chastity as we teach in the Church and in our homes. The Church has done a wonderful job of putting together instruction manuals and online resources to help assist teachers of all ages with this topic. My suggestion when it comes to teaching a Sunday School class on the law of chastity would simply be stick to the doctrine.
If we’re being honest, this should be the rule of thumb on every gospel topic. Principles and applications should be left to the parent and their family discussions. Too many times I have seen an individual impose their dress standard or dating standards on a youth, only to offend that individual and drive them away from the gospel. While it is true that standards and guidelines have been given through publications such as For the Strength of Youth, it is still up to the individual or family to take the principles provided and develop their own personal application.
Teaching Chastity in the home
In our homes, we have more freedom to create applications and behaviors that ourselves and our children can follow. But because it is such a broad and encompassing topic, teaching the law of chastity to a teenager may look and feel different than teaching a primary aged child. Part of the process of knowing what to teach is understanding the age and maturity level of your child. Additionally, It is critical to council together as husband and wife prior to having a discussion with your child to make sure you are each giving a clear and united message.
Some parents may want to shy away from uncomfortable conversations about chastity or sexuality with a child. However, these types of conversations not only help create morals and standards but can also act as a layer of protection for your child against potential abuse or harm. It is not just a matter of spiritual cleanliness, but one of protection.
Parents also need to understand that the world is teaching and exposing our children to moral perversity at a much earlier age. With the age of the internet and technology, information, pictures and videos are much more accessible and, quite frankly, unavoidable in today’s world.
Many institutions feel the need to push their agenda and views under the false veil of progress and acceptance. Part of our parental responsibility is to teach and model the law of chastity in a way that our children come to understand its power and beauty. As sad as it may be to admit this, these types of conversations need to happen early and often. Having the “big talk” once will not be enough to combat the onslaught of misinformation and images that attack our children on a daily basis.
Where do I even start? I think that is the biggest question that most parents ask. This will come down to your circumstances and how the Spirit directs you. If you have never had this conversation before with your children and they are now heading into their teens, it will look much different than the initial conversation with your primary aged child.
As mentioned previously the Church has done an excellent job of providing information and guidance on this topic. I would suggest also looking to the Strength of Youth as a road map to help kick the conversation off.
Topics in the For Strength of Youth booklet include:
- Dress and Appearance
- Entertainment and Media
- Friends and Family
- Music and Dancing
- Sexual Purity.
In each of these sections, there are elements of the law of chastity. With each section a parent can find principles and applications that can be applied on an individual and family level. Each topic can lead to discussions about why these applications are important and how they both keep us spiritually clean, but again, also act as a protection.
If you are teaching these principles to a younger child, as a parent you can adapt and help them understand on their level how this may apply to them. For example, while the dating topic may not appear to be applicable to an 8 year old, there are still opportunities to teach the doctrines behind the application.
True Doctrine Understood
Too often as parents we tend to focus on the “what” and not the “why”. President Boyd K Packer taught that true doctrine understood changes behavior. Acting in faith implies that we are acting (or our children are acting) in accordance with true doctrine and correct principles. If you have a child that is struggling with a particular behavior, a good practice would be to go back to the principle or doctrine.
The rest of President Packer’s quote, that seldomly is said with the beginning of his quote, advises that,
“Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel.”
Meaning, if all I do as a parent is focus on the negative behaviors, all it will lead to is more negative behavior. Helping a child understand the doctrine, or the “why” will be more effective than only focusing on the “what” or the behavior. Instead of saying, “In this house, we don’t date until we are 16! End of discussion, that’s it!”
Perhaps take a moment and discuss the doctrine behind the application.
With Great Power Comes Great…Desire
In the Spiderman movies and comic books Peter Parker learns that with great power comes great responsibility. When we teach the law of chastity, we may be better served to say with great powers comes great desires. As part of teaching the law of chastity in our homes, it is my feeling that we don’t shy away from the fact that as part of our grand design as children of our Heavenly Father, he designed our bodies in a way that we would have very strong and powerful sexual desires.
The Power of Bridles
Our bodies are designed, purposefully, to respond to sexual stimulation. These powerful desires are a gift of God, not a shame and guilt inducing sin. At a BYU Devotional, Brother Anthony Sweat taught,
“We need eyes to see that the covenant of chastity is about more than sex; it is about learning to develop a character that can be trusted, exercises restraint, respects boundaries, won’t selfishly abuse power, and has the ability to create and maintain a covenant family. Whether we are single, dating, or married—young or old—there is divine power in developing a truly moral character.”
In addition, Alma taught his son,
“See that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love.” Alma 38:12
A bridle is used to control a very powerful and strong animal, but it is not used to kill it. It is very hard to ride a dead horse. Once we learn to harness the emotions and desires that come from this God-given power, we will find that we are truly filled with love and can use those passions for eternal growth and fulfillment.
There is nothing on this earth that is more rewarding and fulfilling than the love that can exist between a husband and wife. One of the best ways we can teach this to our children is by modeling it in our homes. Helping them see that a happy and healthy marriage can be wonderful. Discussing the principles and applications surrounding the aspects of the law of chastity will help both ourselves and our families in gaining a deeper understanding of its power and blessing.
As we better understand and teach the “why” of the law of chastity and the “how”, it will bring joy, growth, and a connection with Heavenly Father as we strive to live in a way that honors and protects this great power of creation.