What should we teach youth about sex?

This past month a friend sent me an e-mail regarding sex education. In following a link and clicking on an unfamiliar term, I was immediately taken to a page with graphic illustrations of the sex act that term referred to.

It is at times like this that I wish it were possible to wash out a portion of one’s brain.

The unfortunate thing is that these graphic illustrations are included in “sex education” in some parts of the nation.

As I consider the young people I most care about, I am prompted to ponder what I wish they would learn about sex in a school setting.

1) I would like for them to be taught that they have reproductive “bits,” the age at which it becomes biologically responsible to use those bits, and the age and circumstances when use of those bits become correlated with happiness and joy (e.g., not poor, not diseased, not dead, not abused).

2) I would like for them to be taught what happens when bits are used casually and without protection (poverty, disease, death, abuse).

3) I would like for them to be taught that the reason their “bits” bring great pleasure and urgency is because we evolved to reproduce, even when there wasn’t going to be sex education, literacy, or any social safety “net.”

4) I would like for them to be taught the reasons why society developed marriage as a way to protect the rising generation.

5) I would like for them to be taught that it is possible to thwart nature, so long as the teaching included information about the risks attendant with thwarting nature (e.g., abortion, birth control, fertility treatment).

6) I would like for them to be taught that one’s sense of sexual identity (intensity of desire, category of desired mate) can be influenced by biological factors beyond their control.

7) I would like for them to be taught that sex is profoundly impactful, and casual sex can be disruptive to their sense of self, independent of religious belief. Perhaps in that context, I would like for them to be taught why there are laws that designate sex before the age of [insert local legal age] as rape.

I would not want young people I most care about to learn the following:

1) The fifty ways to use their bits to titillate themselves and others for the pure purpose of titillation. That’s what the Internet and porn magazines are for, should the individual be so inclined. Though I wouldn’t mind the young ones being informed which Internet activities and purchases would be considered criminal.

2) The myriad ways their bits can be used to facilitate sexual satiation in non-traditional unions. Again, that’s what the Internet is for. I wouldn’t be adverse to student groups that help ensure sexuality in non-traditional unions is informed (e.g., protecting youth from predators in the non-traditional union they are considering).

I’m sure my lines in the sand aren’t exactly where everyone else would wish to draw the lines, and I am influenced by my milieu, which includes employment by a federal agency where non-traditional unions are celebrated and protected.

Assuming you would draw the line in the sand differently, what would you change and why?

Emergency (Gospel) First Aid

Roughly 175 years after the terrible accusations of summer 1842, I got an e-mail from a friend. Various family and friends had told my friend all about why Joseph Smith and the Church were wrong. They didn’t know who to ask other than me (which is a sad commentary of some sort).

They trust me to be honest – perhaps a bit too explicit and open mic, in fact. But for this person, they didn’t want to feel like they were being “handled.”

The questions were:

Q: Did Joseph destroy public property?

Q: Did Joseph lie to Emma about Eliza snow? Who caught them in bed? Was it Emma? How old was Eliza when this happened? Why was the revelation received after the incident?

Q: Why didn’t Joseph use the urim and thummim? If those were God’s tools, why didn’t he use them?

Q: To obtain the priesthood, do you have to be a full tithe payer? Are you denied the priesthood if you don’t pay tithes? In particular, did Joseph demand money for ordaining people to the priesthood and did he demand that people pay for the Book of Mormon?

Q: Where in scripture or the Family Proclamation is it stated that those who engage in same sex marriage (or relationships) cannot hope to ever be saved. Why isn’t someone who beats their wife and children, for example, punished the way we punish those who marry someone of the same gender?

My friend, like many of us, no doubt, has someone (or a few) in their extended family who don’t identify as hetero-normal or CIS (i.e., comfortable with the gender one is born with).

My first thought was “you didn’t read my book…!” But when someone is bleeding, you don’t say, “Have you read my thousand page dissertation on transfusion?” You just whip out a bandage or tourniquet and help stop the bleeding. Then you can point them to the academic literature.

So here are a few answers I gave my friend. Posted since I suspect my friend isn’t the only one with these questions. Continue reading

Another Testimony of Joseph Smith

Facebook reminded me today of a post I wrote a few years ago about how I gained my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. From the original post:

“Growing up in the Church I think I look the life and Marytrdom of Joseph Smith for granted. I never really thought about my own testimony of Joseph Smith I just always thought I knew he was a prophet, because everyone around me said he was. Thankfully, that changed. Twenty years ago, on the 150th anniversary of the Martyrdom, there was a fireside broadcast in commemoration of the event from Carthage Jail in Illinois. President Howard W. Hunter and his councilors were going to be there as well. I was a young single adult at the time, attending a student ward. We had the last block of meetings in our building that day, and everyone had planned on staying for this broadcast. I really didn’t think much about it; in fact I didn’t even know that June 27th was the exact day Joseph Smith had been killed. But my friends were going to be there, so I stayed.

I’m so glad I did stay and I thought to pay attention because it was at this fireside that I gained my own testimony of Joseph Smith.

The service started with and opening song and a prayer and there were speakers. I don’t remember what they said at all. But near the end of the program there was a congregational hymn. I can’t even remember what song it was we were to sing, “Praise to the Man,” or “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief?” It didn’t matter. The camera panned to President Hunter, who was in a wheelchair and who looked uncomfortable in the heat of a late June afternoon in Illinois, but he was singing and enduring it well I thought. It was at this time that the Spirit spoke to my heart and my mind. “Joyce, Joseph Smith was the Prophet of the Restoration. And all the power and keys which were given to Joseph, reside with that man there, President Hunter. He is the living prophet – follow the prophet!” From then on, and for the last 20 years, I have had an abiding testimony of Joseph Smith. I know he was a prophet of God.”

You can read the whole post by clicking HERE.

I still testify that Joseph Smith was the prophet of the restoration. That has been made manifest even more this year, as I’ve had the opportunity to teach Church History and the Doctrine & Covenants in our ward’s Gospel Doctrine class. We have living prophets on the earth today, and we will always do well to follow their council and teachings in all things. Helping others follow the prophet is also one of the most important things we can do. If you are struggling with something, look to what the living prophets have said and taught us. They love us, and want us to return to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Their words are the words the Lord and the Savior would speak if they were sitting next to us. Listen and follow!

A Picture of the Sun

This is a guest post by Nick Galieti, a podcaster for LDS Perspectives and Book of Mormon Central. Nick Galieti was recipient of the 2015 John Taylor: Defender of the Faith Award by FairMormon, is author of the books Tree of Sacrament, and The Exaltation Equation, and has directed and produced the documentaries Picturing Joseph, and Murder of the Mormon Prophet.

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Readers, Editors, and Reporters have different expectations of “the news.” Typically, readers claim to want the truth of events; Editors want what sells the news and ensure that what is presented is compelling; and reporters want to influence the world with stories that can impact change. While this characterization may be oversimplified, the various views of the role and function of “news” does depend on the filter by those who consume, promote, or produce it. This can be problematic as the medium that some suppose should be an unbiased or dispassionate reporting of events, is used as leverage to promote narratives, agendas, or simply to sell the news for revenues sake. In this regard, all news is “fake” in that no one can receive absolute objectivity, even if it is presented.

The song, “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” by Chris Cornell played on the radio, and a lyric stood out and gave me pause. The original lyric is “take a picture of the sun and it won’t help you to see the light.” After hearing this lyric my mind connected to a recent news story about a 12-year old Mormon Girl who came out as gay in a Sunday Meeting but was stopped and told to sit down by a local church leader. Much has been written, comments on social media have flared, and every source seems to have the “truth” or is reporting “honestly” or “accurately” while contradicting or giving different information than the next. Continue reading