Chewed Gum and Charity

Recently Elizabeth Smart noted that one thing that kept her from escaping her tormenters was a comment taught her by a teacher.  The teacher noted that women were like a piece of gum. When they lost their virginity, they ended up like a piece of chewed gum that no one would ever want.  Having been violated, she felt no one would want her, and so did not cry out when she heard rescuers near by.

I am very glad she made such a statement, to help young women realize they are not pieces of gum, who are only useful if they stay in their wrapper, never to be used; and then once used, only good to be tossed out.  Instead, they are like a gold coin. No matter how scratched or dirty it may become, it is still worth its weight in gold.

That said, some bloggers and Facebook posters have tried using her statements to attack the scriptures (notably Moroni 9) and some General Authorities, including President Elaine Dalton for statements regarding the importance of virtue and chastity.

I would like to comment on these.  First off, it is sad that some would take a quality and qualified statement by Elizabeth Smart, and twist her meaning to fit their own agendas (not all bloggers have done this, but several have).

Second, we all need to stop a moment, put the politics behind us, and consider something of equal importance in all of this: the concept of charity.  I would hope no one would take my words out of context.  I frequently see certain people raging against the machine, whether scripture or church leaders, simply because of a statement that goes against their own grain.

I would suggest we grant that ancient writer, or the modern speaker, a little bit of charity.  Are we understanding them in the way they want to be understood?  Are we seeking to understand and not misunderstand? Are we uncharitably seeking a political advantage by creating a crisis, where none need be?  Are we seeking to find a reason to leave the Church, being offended by an ill-chosen word?

I can understand people struggling with Moroni 9:9’s view of chastity. However, have we thought charitably about a few things? First, Mormon lived in a different world than us.  Second, did Mormon originally use the word “chastity”, or was it a word ill-chosen by the near illiterate Joseph Smith (in whose time, the Victorian era, chastity and virtue were very important)?  Is there a more profitable way for us to read it?  I recall Moroni fearing in Ether 12 that Gentiles would mock the words of the Book of Mormon.  The Lord stated that those with charity would embrace them and use them properly.  Mormon and Moroni risked their lives and toiled for decades to provide us with the Book of Mormon.  Such was their charity for us.  Should we not provide them with equal consideration?

The same goes with our modern leaders today. I do not think for a moment that Elaine Dalton considers any young woman to be a chewed up piece of gum, regardless of what some posters have intimated.  Can we not show charity to the church leaders, even as we seek forgiveness and charity from God?

Perhaps the day will come when we will stand at the judgment bar with Moroni (Moro 10), and the Lord will ask us what we’ve done with the Book of Mormon and the living oracles.  Will we be found with charity in that day?  Or will our politicking and digging a pit for others destroy us?

64 thoughts on “Chewed Gum and Charity

  1. Great post Rame. I read on The Times and Seasons blog today — an excellent post about separating chastity from virginity. Chastity is a state of mind, being and how you choose to carry yourself and what activities you choose to engage in. It made me think of the 13th Article of Faith and seeking after the good, standing in holy places and elevating ourselves.

  2. How do you suggest we charitably look at Pres Dalton’s words? I quote, “Second, be not moved in your desire and commitment to remain virtuous and sexually pure. Cherish virtue. Your personal purity is one of your greatest sources of power. . . .”

    What is this statement communicating to young women? That their virginity is a precious commodity and one of their “greatest sources of power.”

    I don’t buy it.

  3. I think people who want to understand this subject should take a few minutes and watch what Elizabeth Smart said in context, putting aside their political agendas. It seems obvious to me that 1)she is supporting the Church 2)the “teacher” was probably not a Church-related teacher 3)there are legitimate things that people should consider regarding how chastity and purity are taught to young men and women.

    Watch the video, then comment:

    http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/raw-news/stories/elizabeth-smart-speaks-at-johns-hopkins-human-trafficking-forum-486.shtml#.UY1TEpVf5m3

  4. It is a very simply “problem” to solve from the Church’s stand point. Simply issue a statement that clarifies that the only thing which counts as “virtue” in this context is that a women OR a man has not *willing* engaged in sexual intercourse outside of a Church recognized marriage. Further, they need to stress (again as they have often in the past) that rape has no spiritual effect on the victim’s purity, virtue, worth, worthiness, or anything else.

    Then the Church leaders could re-emphasize that the Atonement is all powerful and all encompassing, and that if a person repents the past sins are gone for the Lord will “remember them no more”. Meaning that all of us can regain a state of purity before God regardless of our past if we sincerely repent.

    The problem with the Moroni verse at issue (as it is translated) is that it does teach false doctrine. It directly contradicts the Church’s current General Handbook of Instruction’s counsel regarding a rape victim’s status before God. Now one could say that maybe it was translated incorrectly (as you suggest in your post), or that Moroni simply misunderstood this concept, or something else. BUT what we do know is that our living Prophets and Apostles have officially changed the doctrine and have repeatedly said rape victims are not at fault, and that they have committed no sin. As a Church we just need to make sure that all the messages taught by any Church Leader (from SLC or local) are consistent with the current revealed doctrine.

  5. Moroni 9:9 is just a tough scripture to get around. Mormon said so little on the subject, that context frankly doesn’t give us a clear picture of how he definited chastity and virtue in ancient Nephite. The only way to make Moroni 9:9 palatable with current teachings is to define chastity and virtue according to very modern, non-normative terms. That’s good if we’re “likening”, but it isn’t helpful if we’re interested in original intent, so to speak. I guess the other way to make Moroni 9:9 platable is by assuming that Mormon is refering to some other act in the verse than rape. But not only has rape been the understood message in the verse for decades (at least), but any alternative I’ve heard requires a stretch of the imagination.

    I don’t think there are “charitable readings” of Sister Dalton or Moroni 9:9 that make them fit in with more healthy understandings of women’s worth and sexuality. But I think we can apply “charitable acceptance” that these alternative opinions have and do exist, and hope that through education and awareness we can move past them. And I think we can.

  6. @EdmundsTucker:

    Since the word “virginity” appears nowhere in the quote from Sister Dalton that you offer us, your take on it seems like a forced reading.

    The quote, as you’ve given it, is entirely consistent with the doctrine that forcible rape does not alter the victim’s virtue or sexual purity.

  7. I much rather prefer the gold analogy, with it’s natural emphasis on the atonement. And chewing gum (or cupcakes or hersheys kisses) are just too pop-culture to fit into eternal teaching anyway. Similarly, I cringe at the apt GPS analogies.

    But it’s not about my quirks…I wonder where this scriptural idea come from, to compare sons and daughters of God to discarded chewing gum?

    Would we ever find the Lord comparing us to something unfortunate?
    -Sheep
    -Goats
    -Chickens
    -Dogs
    -Salt

    From the NT
    Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

    From the BoM
    Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.

    From the D&C
    They are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men; They are called to be the savor of men; therefore, if that salt of the earth lose its savor, behold, it is thenceforth good for nothing only to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.

    There are few analogies so pervasive and expressly given by the Savior himself. Ironically, if you want to read it uncharitably you’d be in danger of accusing the Savior of denying his own atonement – “of no worth” or “good for nothing only to be cast out”.

    But I think we have to figure who does the casting out, and who does the trampling? It’s us. The Savior can return the salt to its former pure state, and likewise return the gum to its wrapper (see here’s why these modern analogies are just hard to take seriously).

    So the correct observation I suppose with these analogies is to see exactly the divine potential within the impure salt and chewed gum, while feeling tragic loss at the instance of corruption.

    The Savior made that much clear, when in the D&C directly after giving the salt analogy and referring to transgressors said, “He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that abaseth himself shall be exalted.”

    The chewed gum or contaminated salt’s destiny is exaltation if we feel shame and repent of our sins.

    Obviously, no one has sinned if they are raped but those individuals are probably in most dire need of the atonement for other reasons.

  8. I find exasperating how much plausible deniability there is in every apologist’s defense. Of course she didn’t say virginity, but what else is implied by Pres Dalton’s talk? Of course she could have meant just being “pure”, but she spent the prior paragraph discussing don’t do anything to make a young man unworthy for a mission, so her inference is sexual, i.e losing your virginity. Plausibly she could be referring to something different, but how else would you read this?

    “Young women, make sure your relationships with others are such that 40 years from now, you will not be embarrassed. No amount of peer pressure, no acceptance, no popularity is worth a compromise. Your influence on the young men will help them remain worthy of their priesthood power, of temple covenants, and of serving a mission. And who knows? Forty years from now, you may even have one of them walk up to you, there in your high school auditorium, and thank you for helping him remain worthy to fulfill his priesthood duty to serve an honorable mission….”

    Plausibly she meant one thing, but I would be the VAST majority of YW listening interpreted it the way I do.

  9. As far as how we should read Mormon 9:9, the best word for me would be “innocence” instead of “virtue” It’s horrific when a sexual predator robs a child of their innocence. That is a genie that can’t be put back in the bottle. The child however is still pure, and virtuous, and chaste. “Innocence” is always how I’ve read that verse.

  10. EdmundsTucker,

    It might help me if you could quote the whole passage, instead of bits and pieces. Perhaps the whole adds up to what you’re saying; the bits and pieces don’t.

  11. I don’t see the problem with Moroni 9:9. “[D]epriving them of … chastity and virtue” is idiomatic. It is a delicate way of speaking of what until recently used to be an unspeakable subject. In polite society, we know exactly what Moroni meant, and we don’t expect him to jump through semantic hoops to avoid all possible misinterpretations. That he included even this description of the wickedness that was prevalent in his day is enough. We should not expect technical and clinical descriptions of wickedness in the scriptures.

    The Law of Moses also does not blame rape victims, but does impose an obligation to cry out if possible. I think we can safely assume that Moroni was familiar with Mosaic Law.

    Teaching the importance of commandment-keeping along with the principles of the Atonement, repentance and forgiveness can be walking a fine line with children and teens. At first glance, many who are just learning such things can easily fall into the “sin now/repent later” trap. Isn’t it better and easier to resist temptation and keep the commandments than to intentionally transgress and repent? If not, then there would be no advantage to keeping the commandments from the get go.

    Before the bar was raised for missionaries, there used to be many incidences of false tradition in the church in which future missionaries thought it was okay to have sex before age 18, just confess to the bishop, stay clean for a year, and off you go. Elder Ballard admitted this was a problem in the October 2002 General Conference when he specifically said “No more ‘repent-and-go’ missionaries.” (Though we still argue the details of what can be repented of and still go on a mission, waiting periods after transgression, sincerity of repentance, etc.)

    One principle that I was taught, and I think it’s been repeated at General Conference too, is that while repentance can bring a forgiveness that leads to avoiding the eternal punishment associated with the transgression, forgiveness does not necessarily restore the _blessings_ that would have come from having obeyed that commandment in the first place.

    In other words, if you obey laws and commandments, you not only avoid the punishments associated with transgression, but you reap the blessings that are irrevocably decreed to accompany that law. However…. if you intentionally sin (I’ll leave the “accidental” or “didn’t know better” sins for another discussion) and then repent, the Lord’s forgiveness means you won’t suffer the eternal consequences of sin, but forgiveness doesn’t (automatically) restore the *blessings* that would have otherwise been granted for continual obedience.

    And because some people tend to read others uncharitably, forgive me for belaboring the point: I’m not saying rape victims lose any blessings.

  12. Edmunds Tucker,

    I believe a quick reading of Moroni 9:9 leads all of to agree that it is a bad translation at best.
    That said, it is talking about women who are raped, something that Elaine Dalton was not referencing. She was speaking to young women (and I would add young and old men) on personal sexual choices. In rape, the woman does not have a choice. However, we live in a very sexualized world, where young women choose daily to engaging in sexting, girl on girl kissing (to entice guys), and give in to sexual pressures. Their virtue, or chastity IS a very important thing to protect, when it comes to choice.
    We are speaking about eternal consequences affected by choice. Sexual sin of any kind and from either gender, is a serious sin that can thrust a person into hell. Only true repentance and receiving the gift of the atonement can give any person an escape from such a hell. Alma 36 gives us a great example of what that hell is all about: sensing the presence of God and being spiritually filthy.
    This is not an issue of a woman being raped, like Elizabeth Smart. She was virtuous through her entire ordeal. But there are thousands of young women and men in the Church who choose the path of sin – giving up their birth right for a mess of pottage.
    I fear in creating such a huge crisis of terms, and taking Sister Smart’s words and putting them in a context she never intended, we do harm to her and the young people of the Church. While a bad reading of Moro 9:9 can be detrimental in one direction, going to the other extreme can be just as destructive. There is a place to discuss chastity and virtue. We do not need to discuss chewed gum, but we do need to discuss consequences of choices, repentance, and returning back to a virtuous life.
    I fear that the knee-jerk reaction taken by some will give us just as bad of a consequence as chewed gum analogies.
    When we verbally assault the Church leaders, taking things out of context, then we set up young people to drift. If they cannot overall trust Elaine Dalton and other leaders, then they will have no one to trust. All that will be left them is to live like the world lives, in a telestial and unhappy and non-virtuous state. If they can’t trust Pres Dalton on teaching commandments, then why should they trust her when she testifies of Christ and the atonement?

    Once again, a little charity goes a long way. I fear those who make such attacks, even though many are my friends. I hope that in the future, others will be as charitable to Gerald Smith, Jana Reiss, Joanna Brooks, Geoff Biddulph and other writers, as we all should be to Mormon and Elaine Dalton. After all, I know I’ve written and said things I’ve later regretted. I would hope Jana, Joanna, Geoff and others will recognize the same humanity in themselves that requires charity for all of us.

  13. I don’t understand the implicit assumption that teaching kids to be chaste somehow warps their minds and does psychological harm. I think people have been swallowing modern sociology textbooks wholesale and thinking about it rather uncritically.

    It’s the same species of histrionics that people show when they oppose abstinence education.

  14. Michael Towns,

    This isn’t the implicit assertion. The implicit assertion is that a woman’s worth depends on her being a virgin. If a man can take away her virginity, the classic thinking goes, then she’s no better than a chewed up piece of gum, something nobody would possibly want.

    Note that we (meaning the church, but also the traditional culture that inspired this kind of thinking) never uses this analogy for men. Young men are taught to be chaste, but the focus rests, and always has rested, disproportionately on women. And our culture is far more forgiving of a young man who has repented from unchastity than a young woman. Have you ever refered to a young man as damaged goods? I haven’t. But I have heard it said of women, even if they repent.

    That’s the real root of the problem, and lessons like the chewed gum analogy reinforce these horrible messages, even if they are intended otherwise (and Elizabeth Smat has rather nobly pointed this out). Also, the First Presidency came out with a statement years and years ago telling teachers to stop using these kinds of analogies. But they pop up every once in a while.

  15. DavidF,

    I wasn’t referring to object lessons or analogies. I was referring to the teaching of chastity. It’s not the same thing, as you so deftly pointed out.

  16. In other words, silly analogies or shallow object lessons aside, there are folks that clearly want chastity as a virtue to be tossed out the window. Naturally, I object because chastity is a fundamental teaching of the gospel.

    Honestly, from my perspective as someone who grew up in the Church well outside of the Utah corridor or the intermountain West, I just never saw these kinds of object lessons. Rather, we were simply taught to “be chaste”. We were taught to reserve sexual intimacy for marriage.

    This isn’t a radical teaching. And I was taught the same thing the Young Women were taught. I know, because I went out on dates with the Young Women, and some of them didn’t want to kiss me as much as I wanted to kiss them. I found out that they wanted to stay chaste. Go figure.

  17. A critical issue that we cannot ignore is the fact that a startling percentage of our young women (and men) have been sexually abused. We cannot underestimate the damage we do to their already wounded psyches when we infer or teach that they are less than whole because they have been abused.

    Moroni 9: 9, statements made by Church leaders including President Kimbal and Sister Dalton clearly lack compassion or awareness of the pain that sexual abuse survivors suffer. Surely, the Lord does not judge them or feel that they lack virtue or chastity because they have been abused. Whenever we include statements in lesson manuals, in Scripture, or over the pulpit that suggest that those have have been raped are less than whole, we become, like the Pharisees, who were so eager to cast stones at the adulterous woman, failing to recognize that they were not without sin.

  18. That’s it! The Wise have spoken! Moroni 9:9 is not worthy of being scripture. We shall strike it from the sacred record! Henceforth shall it be blotted out! Never again shall it deceive us! So let it be written, so let it be done!

    [Hey, while we're at it, why don't we get rid of some other less worthy verses too? Personally, I take umbrage at the ones that constantly tell me to humble myself and be as a little child, or submit to God's authority. I mean, really.]

  19. Michael Towns,

    I think you’re missing the point. No one is calling on us to carelessly throw out annoying scriptures. But Moroni 9:9 is a really difficult scripture. It was used in the past to (and even in some current manuals) to advocate a position that the Church no longer holds. The problem is that a normative reading of that passage works well with the old way of reading it, but changing it match the way we emphasize chastity lessons now requires some significant reinterpretation based on fairly modern alternative definitions for virtue and chastity. In other words, it doesn’t fit well with what we teach. This gives us three sensible options:

    1. Conclude that Mormon was a fallible person, and that’s okay. Here’s just one example of it.
    2. Like Moroni 9:9 according to modern understandings of virtue and chastity, and make sure that people don’t accidently read the old, harmful definitions that we used to (and still sometimes do).
    3. Say that Mormon had a portion of light, but you know, line upon line, precept upon precept. Modern revelation replaces older revelation.

    Note how none of these options requires that we quite childishly accept all of the scriptures the way we look at them now, or carelessly dismiss them and give up on our religion. Let’s be prudent with our reactions. This is an incredible sensitve topic for many, many fellow saints.

  20. DavidF,

    You totally missed MY point. And you assume that I don’t understand where you and yours are coming from.

  21. Okay Michael Towns, you’re going to have to help me out. In your first post you reacted to an implicit assumption that no one on this thread implied, so I thought you must have missed something. I was thrown off, but I see what you were getting at now.

    But if I missed your point in the last post, then I have honestly no idea what you are trying to get at. You seem pretty bothered by people wanting to dismiss Moroni 9:9, and framed it in a kind of sarcastic slippery slope argument. What were you intending to say?

  22. David F, I will give it a shot. I am not speaking for Michael Towns, but I think we mostly agree on this issue. You cannot read words without context and a comparison to what those words meant in the timeframe they were written. I will use one small example. The 2nd Amendment says a “well-regulated” militia. Today, regulation means “controlled” or “contained” by some larger entity (ie, government). In 1789, it meant “well-trained,” which has a completely different meaning when we begin to try to understand the 2nd Amendment.

    The same thing applies to Joseph Smith using 19th century words when translating an ancient document. Think of the Romantic movement, which was at its height then. So, try to read this as if you were picking up Mary Shelley:

    “And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of our people in Moriantum. For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—”

    This does NOT mean that women who were raped are somehow unvirtuous. It does NOT mean that the women are pieces of chewing gum to be spit out. It is simply an exaggerated and romantic way of saying, “these Nephites were really bad guys. They were so bad that they raped these poor women, which is a horrible, violent thing to do. They forced themselves upon these woman and stole their innocence.”

    Sometimes we just need to be a bit more charitable when reading the scriptures and when interpreting the words of prophets, apostles or Church leaders. The same thing applies when Church leaders discuss chastity, purity, virginity and virtue. We don’t need to act like Pharisees and analyze the hidden dog whistle meaning behind every word. Church leaders are simply trying to emphasize the importance of chastity at a time when *the entire world is telling young people that it is OK to hook up and lose your virginity to some random person*. When the fight is against the entire world, it seems to me we should give some of our Church leaders a break and not assume bad motives and ignorance are behind every statement. We should support the broader message, which is that chastity is a good thing.

    Now having said that, the whole Elizabeth Smart incident has brought out an important point, which is that there is a history in the Church of teaching about chastity in unfortunate ways. But even here we should recognize that things are getting better rather than dismissing the whole effort of teaching about chastity, which is what a lot of people are saying about the Elizabeth Smart situation.

  23. Geoff B.,

    That interpretation works, but it’s not a very convincing one. The problem is that you are claiming that the scripture is using an idiomatic euphemism. There are three problems with this approah:

    1. It assumes an idiomatic role for two virtues—chastity and virtue—in a text surrounded by very literal usages of a host of other virtues, such as faith, hope, and charity. So if what you say is true, then there is an awkward breach in form in an otherwise plain-to-read text. That’s not very persuasive. That raises a red flag.
    2. Placed in context, this kind of idiom doesn’t really fit outside of modern, conservative culture. Sure, the victorians would have blushed at sensual terms like rape, but they would have also blushed at the fairly graphic cannibalism Mormon also describes. Only in modern times have we become desenitized to gore but still prudish about sexual references. So if this is an idiomatic expression, why didn’t Mormon use another one for the cannibalism? That’s probably even a bigger red flag.
    3. As a standard rule, it’s always safer to not assume an idiomatic expression unless a literal reading doesn’t make sense. Here, a literal reading makes sense. The only good justification to ignore the literal reading in favor of an idiomatic one is an apologetic concern, trying to harmonize a difficult passage with modern sensibilities. In other words, it’s a possible interpretation, but it’s not a compelling interpretation. So I doubt you’ll find many supporters outside of those predisposed to an apologetic reinterpretation.

  24. David F, I just re-read all of Moroni 9 and it seems to me to support my position, especially as you read the entire chapter in context. To me, Joseph Smith’s translation is simply an exaggerated discourse on the horrors of the Nephites. But I have found that two people can read the same scripture or listen to the same talk and come to completely different conclusions, and it is a bit of a waste of time for me to argue about such things when people tend to have such fixed ideas in their minds. Life is about what you choose to concentrate on. Based on your comments here, you have decided to concentrate on the errors and problems of the modern-day prophets and their interpretation of certain scriptures in a way with which you disagree. I prefer to concentrate on the big picture and the larger messages we are meant to get from modern-day prophets and apostles. I try to take in their messages and adjust my life to their messages. If you take the totality of what the prophets have said about this issue, we arrive at very clear and positive messages for women. I would say that concentrating on areas of disagreement is not likely to profit you in the long run.

  25. Geoff B.,

    Okay. To each their own. Just as an afterthought, I wouldn’t say that I choose to concentrate on areas of disagreement with the prophets. I think that’s a side effect of what I’m doing, but it slightly misses my intention. I think I have the most sensible reading of the text. If some prophets interpret it differently, that’s fine. I’m perfectly at ease with prophetic fallibility, which is what I see is going on here. But that’s another very big topic for another time, so I’ll leave it at that. The point is, I’m not so much concentrating on disagreement so much as I don’t see a good way to reach agreement that doesn’t involve jumping through some fairly awkward hoops. But I guess I’ll let that point rest too.

  26. Geoff perfectly described what I didn’t get around to expressing. And I think his take on it is the proper reading. Context matters for sure.

  27. DavidF what are you talking about. The Lord applies this very same reasoning to men. Just try not to get offended about it as there is always another side to the coin (see my earlier post). But if you are a covenant breaker you are good for nothing and to be cast out and trodden under to foot of men.

    Why focus on sexual Immorality? Lied once? Good for nothing. Didn’t go home teaching last month? Cast out.

    People who get upset about this scripture in Moroni spend more time drinking from the contaminated waters of Babylon the than the gospel. If we immerse ourselves in the scriptures and the words of the prophets we would understand the intent of the language and not expect each word to perfectly with clarity fill in all possible understandings.

    Certainly we can always word things more carefully. But we’ll never satisfy those who are unsatisfied by this.

  28. chris,

    I’m not sure I follow your post. But I’m certainly not a covenant breaker. I could produce a dozen quotes from prophets telling us that they are fallible men (Elder Holland himself implied this quite strongly last General Conference). I take this to mean that even they can misunderstand a scripture. I take it to mean that Mormon, while an inspired prophet, was also subject to cultural biases. Mormon even notes in the Book of Mormon about his fear of being mocked for not being a good communicator. So he’s not perfect. I’m comfortable with that.

    I sustain these men. Not because they are 100% trustworthy, but because this is God’s church and God tells me to. I listen to their counsel because they are wise men who have interacted with the Spirit far longer than I have, but I respect their humanity, which means I verify their statements with my best judgment. Sometimes I am wrong, and then I repent. But in this instance I think my interpretation is right. I even reread the verse in context just to make sure I wasn’t missing something, and I only found more reasons why the idiomatic interpretation that others here prefer is problematic. That’s fine. The point is, I just hope, like everyone else here, that Moroni 9:9 doesn’t get used to tie women’s value to their virginity (as the chewed gum analogy suggests). And I guess if some people prefer an interpretation that I don’t think works, as long as it works for them, then I guess the disagreement doesn’t really matter that much in the end. So don’t worry about me, Chris. I keep far from the cliff edge, just in a different way than some others do.

  29. David F, you are a good guy. Thanks for your reasonable comments. I would agree with you on the larger point that teaching young women that they have lost their virtue if they are raped is highly problematic and certainly wrong. I have two daughters — I would never want them to feel that way. I teach Sunday school, and we often discuss things like this. I would guess that 95 percent of Mormons in my ward read it the way I did, i.e., as a stylized, romantic expression. The vast majority of Mormons just don’t sit around worrying that Mormon truly thought women who were raped lost their virtue. I guess I would ask that we concentrate on real issues (and there are plenty) rather than focus on the negative.

  30. I have to disagree with a number of commenters’ assertions that the general culture within the Church does not place implicit value on virginity (pre-marriage) and fidelity (post-marriage)– the twin pillars of sexuality that have been euphemistically referred to in this discussion by the terms “virtue” and “chastity”. Recently, and outside the Utah corridor, I heard a stake president at a youth standards night make an explicit statement to the effect that unless an individual arrived at the marriage alter a physical virgin then the covenant retained less meaning and that the “unchaste” individual essentially robbed his/her respective partner of important blessings. He went on to make the explicit statement (three times duing his sermon) that repentance could not completely ameliorate the sin associated with engaging in sexual intercourse before marriage. I happen to have an audio recording of the entire program. I approached the stake presidency after the program and asked for clarification to which all three stood by the SP’s remarks. I then burned a copy and sent it along with a note to the area president asking him if he agreed with the SP’s remarks. The response I received was that the SP was inspired and that those were the words our stake youth needed to hear. I then burned a copy and sent it SLC along with a note. The response I received from SLC was basically “we stand by our man.”

    So what did I expect to achieve through my efforts? Frankly, I think the SP owed the youth and parents of the stake a mea culpa and a clarification/correction. I do it all the time with my wife and kids and at work. When I screw up I own it and I make every effort to correct the situation. Why should I expect less from my leaders?

    So based on the results of my efforts I think it actually reasonable to believe that the official policy of the Church is that Moroni 9 should be read literally.

  31. Geoff, I believe this controversy is based on a wilfull misunderstanding of the scriptures, promulgated by those with less than worthy motives. They would have us call good evil, and evil good. The scriptures are intended as instruction for all. They are not subject to political correctness or coercive media campaigns.

    Elder Bednar reiterated the values and commandments associated with chastity and virtue in his recent conference address. We have no need to be constantly revising the message of the scriptures or the servants of God in order to accomodate popular views. The Lord’s commandment is absolute and immutable. Chastity and virtue are commanded for all of God’s children, whether or not they believe them or try to practice them.

    It is nothing short of revisionism to assume that Moroni is attempting to place blame or guilt on the heads of rape victims. His condemnation of those who commit such horrifying crimes against the innocent is unmistakably clear.

    The problem with the liberal-minded spin that so many media sources are making about Elizabeth Smart’s comments is that she never expressed most of the ideas they have presumed to put in her mouth. She was speaking as an innocent victim about how certain falsely interpreted ideas promoted her feeling of hopelessness. But she said she realized that these feelings were inappropriate in her circumstances, and that her loved ones and family would still love her just as much, notwithstanding her being raped and victimized. At least that is the message I heard when I actually listened to her speech. It is rather difficult to find among all the twisted news media coverage, or among supposedly Church-oriented blog postings.

  32. Amen Jim.

    Paul M, wow, you seem to have a lot of time on your hands. Do you think you are smarter and more inspired than this stake president?

  33. Pingback: Sunday in Outer Blogness: a woman’s worth edition!!! » Main Street Plaza

  34. “2)the “teacher” was probably not a Church-related teacher “-Geoff

    I’m not sure how you can claim this when both my wife and daughter have been taught variations of this lesson by their church leaders. And if Facebook can be used as any type of measurement, pretty much every woman I know that is LDS was taught something similar at one time or another. A blogger on this very site used the licked ice cream analogy when talking about chastity in a post last year. You really think the person that told her this had no relation to the church?

  35. I apologize, Nicholeen didn’t use the ice cream example in her post, she actually used the same chewing gum example that Elizabeth Smart was given. She also said she got the idea to use it in a lesson from a church book. Instead of trying to say that the church didn’t have anything to do with it, perhaps we should admit the way we teach chastity and virtue, especially to young women, is a real problem in the church?

  36. “And if Facebook can be used as any type of measurement, pretty much every woman I know that is LDS was taught something similar at one time or another. ”

    *None* of my female LDS friends that I have canvassed who grew up in Florida was ever taught these object lessons.

    My LDS wife, who grew up in Michigan, was never taught them as well.

    As I have said before, I think this is Utah/West thing. Yet another reason for the cultural center of gravity to shift away from Utah, in my humble opinion.

  37. “perhaps we should admit the way we teach chastity and virtue, especially to young women, is a real problem in the church?”

    Because it isn’t. It apparently is limited to Utah and the West region. Fix it there, and stop blaming “the church”, which apparently is more enlightened in Florida and Michigan.

  38. Jjohnsen, get off your high horse, cowboy. Everybody on this thread has agreed that there are problems with the way we teach about chastity. The problem is that people like you and Paul M the stalker don’t understand the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. I’ve read your comments now for more than seven years. Has the Church ever done anything right…in your not so humble opinion?

  39. Wait, I’m not sure that Paul M did anything wrong. If he is summarizing the stake presdent’s comments right, the stake president is basically stating the message that the chewing gum analogy is meant to convey, i.e. that even after you repent, you have lost some intrinsic worth for having broken the law of chastity. I think that’s pretty clearly false doctine, because it suggests that the atonement isn’t powerful enough to heal a person completely from a past mistake. We can’t teach these kinds of lessons, nor should they be dismissed considering the amount of harm they do.

    What if a Sunday school teacher taught this? Wouldn’t it be right to say something to the bishop (especially if the bishop wasn’t present)? Does it make it any different that the person was a stake president? Recording it was a good judgment since it keeps the facts straight. So long as it isn’t used to damage the Church, I think that what Paul M did was a fairly tasteful way of handling a pretty bad remark from a local leader.

  40. “As I have said before, I think this is Utah/West thing. Yet another reason for the cultural center of gravity to shift away from Utah, in my humble opinion.

    From your mouth to God’s ears. Though when I talk about people on Facebook they are all over the United States, not just Utah.

    Geoff. What does you trying to pretend she didn’t hear it from the church have to do with the Church doing things right (which of course I believe it does).? Your own fellow bloggers on this site are using this as an example and you refuse to admit it’s a church problem? Your constructive criticism is to pretend she heard if from someone outside the church? Your way to fix things seems to be burying your head in the sand.

  41. David F, based on many years of seeing such claims on the internet, I simply don’t believe accounts like Paul M’s. Either it is completely invented or exaggerated or he has some problem with the speaker. Nobody with a normal life takes such steps. People say stupid things in church all of the time. There is such a thing as just letting it go.

  42. I’m not sure that Jjohnsen is capable of listing three things that he believes the Church has done right. In any case, I would point out that Elizabeth Smart said “teacher,” not a Church teacher. It is possible that it was a Church teacher, of course, but this is not what she said. Go listen to her talk.

    I would remind commenters that this is a blog dedicated to building up the Church. There are literally thousands of blogs you can go comment on and express your righteous outrage. Go for it. On this site, I will encourage people to make constructive comments that build up the Church.

  43. (Edited)
    1. A humanitarian effort second to none.
    2. A missionary program that somehow manages to take a group of teenage men and women that in many other settings would be partying every weekend at college, and teaches them the value of service and honor, while somehow using these imperfect tools to find Christ.
    3. June 8, 1978

  44. “and you refuse to admit it’s a church problem?”

    It’s not a ‘church’ problem. The way that you’re framing it is the real problem, in my opinion.

    ******

    In recent months, the Mormon blogosphere has gone from one petty issue to another, whether pants on Sunday to this silly discussion on chewing gum. On issue after issue, I find myself increasingly turned off by folks who seem to think that they know how to run things better than the folks running the Church. I seem them making mountains out of molehills, misinterpreting official Church statements to match their own biased political conceits, willfully misrepresenting official Church positions, etc., etc.

    It makes outsiders think that our Church culture is at the level of a high school glee club. Trust me, I know, because I have non-LDS Facebook friends that have emailed me wanting to know about the “pants” thing.

    Instead of have worthwhile discussions about the things in life that really matter, the weightier matters of the law like grace, mercy, spiritual growth, etc., we Mormons sit around online and talk about chewing gum. It’s truly ridiculous.

    I want to drink from the pure deep spring of the eternal gospel, not sip from stagnant puddles of absolute poppycockery. Mormon navel-gazing gets really old, really fast. Why can’t we talk about Christ, about Atonement, about eternal lives, about truth itself? Why do we sit around and talk about window dressing instead of going into the restaurant and indulging in the buffet?

    Stop the insanity.

  45. Jjohnsen, good list. Now, here’s a suggestion: next time you comment at M* don’t just come around to complain about the Church. Next time, find something to praise about the Church. If you want to simply complain, please take it to another blog.

    Michael Towns, I mostly agree. Look, there is a positive way of dealing with this issue. Once again I want to emphasize that I personally feel that we need to be better at teaching about chastity. I actually think (based on my experience with the Young Men) that we teach the Young Men pretty well. But there is evidence we need to make some changes in how we teach the Young Women. But I believe most of the criticism is simply over-the-top and I also agree that many Mormons will never be happy no matter what changes are made.

  46. I’m all for giving our leaders the benefit of the doubt. They do what they do with good intentions and to edify us all. They are good, upstanding people, as we all strive to be.

    I was never personally taught these object lessons in YW – none of them. Obviously that puts me in a minority. However, the quote from Pres. Kimball was read to me many times in YW that as a young woman, that rather than succumbing to rape, I should allow myself to be killed. I don’t have to think Pres. Kimball was a bad person to see that teaching as wrong. Does being charitable toward our beloved church leaders have to entail perpetuating wrong teachings? Why can’t we simply do better? We can definitely do better than telling teenage girls that they are better off dead than as survivors of rape.

  47. “I have to disagree with a number of commenters’ assertions that the general culture within the Church does not place implicit value on virginity (pre-marriage) and fidelity (post-marriage).”

    And I think the Church should. Why not value abstinence before marriage and fidelity afterwards? Seriously… why not? We believe in the Atonement, and we believe that those who are unchaste can repent and be made whole. Thus, those who have lost their virginity through willful, sexual transgression can, indeed, become chaste and pure through the Atonement of Christ. But why should that negate our obligation to foster and build societal norms that encourage chastity (which is, indeed, sexual abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage)? Why is it wrong to have these norms and to uphold them as ideals?

  48. I think the problem is that whenever there are norms of this sort, we inevitably measure ourselves against them. That’s what norms are for. So when we sometimes violate the norms, we feel guilt and shame for having done so. We feel less worthy, less good, less wholesome when we violate norms of chastity and engage in willful sexual transgression. As well we should, for we have done wrong. Guilt and shame are wonderfully appropriate when we have sinned.

    The Atonement cleanses our sin, and so when we have sincerely repented, we can and should let go of our shame and guilt. Sometimes that will take a while — but when it comes to sexual transgression, it should take a while. But eventually we can move forward and let that guilt and shame go, and see ourselves once again as whole and pure before God.

    Sometimes, we don’t fully believe in or rely on the Atonement, so we never let the guilt and the shame go. We cling to it, and hold on to it, and make an immutable personal identity out of our sin. That is wrong, for it denies Christ and His power to save and cleanse.

    The problem is that many are blaming the norms of chastity for our unwillingness to believe in Christ. They are wanting us to dismantle the norms, teachings, and principles that originally incite in us guilt and shame for having sinned, so that those who refuse to relinquish their feelings of guilt after they have repented can feel better about themselves. But if we do that, then there would be no guilt and shame to begin with, and no need for Christ either. “And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness” (2 Nephi 2).

    The solution is for the sinned to rely on Christ and in so doing learn to relinquish their guilt through repentance and the Atonement, not to dismantle the initial laws and norms that made us feel crappy to begin with. Because we ought to feel crappy when we sin. We ought to feel less worthy. It is this that drives us to our knees and forces us to rely on Christ. “Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.”

    The norms of Chastity and the norms against sexual transgression are an invaluable tool on the path towards a broken heart and a contrite spirit for those who have sinned against them.

  49. Everyone,
    My feelings on this are: the Church and its members are NOT perfect. We have continuing revelation to steer the Church towards perfection. It is true enough to exalt us at any given point. The Church and its members are the vehicle God uses to help us arrive at perfection through the atonement of Christ.
    We need to remember that the prophets and Sunday School teachers and CES manual creators are all human. None of them are trained on theology, because Mormonism doesn’t have a specific theology. Change comes via revelation, but is often a slow process. Why? Because it is done carefully and prayerfully. The leaders are careful not to step on the toes of previous prophets, who may have stated things that are now considered wrong.

    That said, it is a refining process for us all. The membership should be checking and discussing the lessons in the manuals our youth learn from. If there are serious problems, such as chewing gum analogies, sometimes those thiings just are not fully thought out by the leadership. Elaine Dalton is a righteous woman. She is NOT a theologian, so would not be trained in considering every little concept that may come out of a verse. She is just as likely to be using scripture as she was taught in her youth.

    We can make our understanding of scripture better. But we need to do it in a Christ-like manner. We can give support, love and kindness in requesting changes to things being taught. We do not need to harangue one another. Remember, contention is of the devil, and is the direct opposite of the doctrine of Christ (3 Ne 11). We hurt the Church when we put ourselves above the Church leaders.

    The point of my OP was to have us think about charity towards others: towards Elizabeth Smart, towards Elaine Dalton, towards Pres Kimball, towards the living GAs, towards Joanna Brooks and Jaana Reiss, towards me and everyone else who speak on this subject.

    Whether we use Mormon 9:9 ever again has little to do with our exaltation. Learning to have charity in light of others’ weaknesses has EVERYTHING to do with our exaltation. When will conservatives, liberals, believers, non-believers, doubters, and all others learn charity?

  50. LDS Philosopher, I think you are attributing wrong ideas to others. No one in the discussion is saying that guilt and sin are what they are. They ARE saying that telling a young woman that if she is raped, she is suddenly worthless, is a wrong teaching, and needs to be corrected.

    You seem to be going off the misconception that the teachings of the Church are perfect. They are not. The core doctrines ARE perfect, inasmuch as we do not tinker with them, or speculate so much on them that we take them to a different level.

    Chastity IS a very important thing to the Lord. However, a woman cannot lose her chastity by being raped. Chastity does not equal virginity.If people force alcohol down your throat, does that mean you’ve violated the Word of Wisdom? It is the same concept.

    Our Church does not have a theology that is set in stone. We cannot be like the Catholics or Baptists, with a long standing set of creeds that define what we believe in. Our Church has very few core doctrines, and beyond that, there is just a lot of teachings that are derivatives from those core teachings. We often find those teachings to be incorrect or incomplete, and so we change them as the Lord reveals new information.

    I do not have to be President Monson, receiving revelation for the entire Church, to understand that the chewed gum analogy does not fit with the Church’s current teachings (nor with the doctrines, for that matter). For those who try to use King Benjamin’s sermon to show we are lower than dirt, yes we are; but that still is not chewed gum. For while we are lower than the dirt, we are also the children of God. It is an interesting dichotomy that we could spend weeks in discussing on a philosophical and doctrinal level.

    The fact that you have certain scriptures you focus upon and point out, does not mean there are not a long string of other scriptures others could point out that show a different view of things. Your viewpoint is noted, but as with all of the rest of us, you still see through a glass darkly. There is much nuance in scripture, which has caused prophets and apostles to speculate on many things over the last 183+ years.. All of it needs to be pondered, but with charity for the ancient prophets (who lived under a different world view than us), and today’s prophets (who give us a modern understanding of ancient things). Such needs to be done with charity for all – which is not an easy thing to do.

  51. “You seem to be going off the misconception that the teachings of the Church are perfect.”

    Wha?? (1) I never said such a thing, and (2) I know of no official Chuch source that teaches that raped women have sinned against God. So I don’t know why the Church’s teachings are on trial here, nor do I see where I have claimed infallibility.

    “Chastity IS a very important thing to the Lord. However, a woman cannot lose her chastity by being raped. Chastity does not equal virginity.”

    Preaching to the choir. Note my comment dealt only with willful sexual transgression.

    “I do not have to be President Monson, receiving revelation for the entire Church, to understand that the chewed gum analogy does not fit with the Church’s current teachings (nor with the doctrines, for that matter).”

    And I know of know time in which it was taught or used by official church sources. So while the teachings of the Church are sometimes imperfect, I don’t see how we can indict the Church on this matter.

    Conclusion

    I’m rather baffled as to why you are arguing with me — I can’t see a single thing in my comments that any Latter-day Saint would disagree with, since it’s all pretty basic Mormonism 101. Moral law makes it possible to sin, sin leads to guilt, guilt leads us to Christ, Christ leads us to redemption.

    My main point is that, as I’ve seen this conversation play out on the bloggernacle as a whole (to which larger conversation this post seems to be a response), it seems to be a subset of a larger rebellion against the idea that people should feel guilt for transgression. We all agree women shouldn’t feel guilt if they are raped.

    However, I think that the feelings of worthlessness women frequently feel after sexual transgression are probably due to to the fact that they were treated like meat by their aggressor, and likely not due to any Church teaching about chastity. Women who have been taught no moral norms regarding chastity probably still experiences feelings of worthlessness after rape. It’s a traumatic experience, after all. (I really don’t really see why the Church or any of its teachings are on trial here. Is a single — misread and interpretively skewed — quote from President Kimball and a single — again misread and interpretively skewed — verse in the Book of Mormon really responsible for feelings of worthlessness after rape? Really? As if trauma the trauma of being forcibly used for the pleasure of another isn’t enough?) I think we can and should (and do) reach out to victims of rape and affirm their inherent worth and remind them of their sinlessness on the matter.

    But people in online circles are using this to further their agenda, which is a dismantling of all moral norms whatsoever — I’ve heard many people take this to the next step and say that we shouldn’t teach abstinence before marriage at all, since those who morally transgress (willfully) never again feel up-to-snuff or whole again. And my point is that this is due to an unwillingness to trust in Christ’s atonement, not our teaching of moral law.

  52. It is worth pointing out that the For Strength of Youth manual and the official church manual both point out that people who have been raped have not sinned and have not lost their virtue.

  53. Right, Geoff. And EVERYONE knows this. And virtually EVERYONE agrees that this is good. Who do you think is arguing otherwise?

  54. I was taught variations on the chewed gum lesson on the East Coast, Mid-West and on the West Coast. It’s not just a Utah thing. I’ve had the poop in the cake, smooshed cupcake, licked cupcake and chewed gum object lessons by different teachers. Men don’t understand the SHAME involved with crossing the lines when dating. Do men have these hang-ups? Even as a 31 year old virgin I still have issues thanks to these lessons.

  55. Singleinthecity,

    “I’ve had the poop in the cake, smooshed cupcake, licked cupcake and chewed gum object lessons by different teachers. Men don’t understand the SHAME involved with crossing the lines when dating.”

    I’m having a hard time understanding the logic with this. You’re saying that you feel shame, not because you crossed the line while dating, but because well-intentioned people used imperfect object lessons in teaching chastity?

  56. Michael,
    I feel shame for crossing the line because of these lessons. I’m the licked cupcake and/or the chewed gum. Playing with these emotions is a sin next to murder, right? It’s hard to feel like a good person when you’re the chewed gum side-by-side with murderers. It’s messed up. The more I grow up, the more I realize that I’m a good person and consensual “crossing the line” with my boyfriends is SO minor compared to the evil in this world. It’s been a lot of years of guilt and shame that I’m slowly shaking off.
    -SITC

  57. “The more I grow up, the more I realize that I’m a good person and consensual “crossing the line” with my boyfriends is SO minor compared to the evil in this world.”

    And this illustrates my point: rape (and the needless feelings of guilt victims sadly feel) aside, some people are using this as a launching point for a different agenda — the desire to mitigate the shame and guilt individuals feel when they engage in willful sexual indiscretion.

    Sexual transgression is a serious sin, and we ought to feel guilt and shame when we engage in it. Now, if we repent and turn to Christ, we don’t need to carry it with us indefinitely. But it should be there.

  58. (That’s not saying these object lessons are good — they should be done away with. But not because we shouldn’t feel shame and guilt for sin, but because they don’t adequately capture the power of the Atonement.)

  59. We are all responsible for our own lives, and each of us has sinned in his or her own way. None of us is pure. But sexual activity before marriage is a sin, and prophets have made this clear. LDSP is right to point out that this whole incident is being used by some people to justify sin, which ain’t gonna work when you stand before the judgement bar of God. Again, this does not mean that the way we teach chastity is perfect.

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