Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Religious Foundation of Chastity

I have two sons and four daughters. I have come to the conclusion that the only way to teach chastity that will form a foundation that will last is to highlight the principle that the central goal of mortality is to become complete and whole (perfectly united with another person - physically and emotionally), and that such a goal is only possible as a unified couple. Part of that principle is that, at the most fundamental level, sex is meant to accomplish two objectives: 1) be an integral part of truly becoming one (which is the ultimate objective of marriage) and 2) be the process of replicating yourself.

I teach my children there are very effective ways to circumvent #2, but there is no way to accomplish #1 without sex - and that “full, undivided” unity (physical and emotional) cannot be accomplished if you are sharing yourself with more than one person outside of a committed relationship.

I think, in our modern world, we simply have to remove children from the equation when we discuss chastity. If sex is only (or even primarily) about kids, and not fundamentally about the joining of our entire souls (body and spirit), then we have turned a religious principle into a scientific issue - and we lose in this day and age of readily available birth control.

13 comments:

Patty said...

What a difference it would make if all parents understood and taught this!

Shawn said...

Your theory is all very nice and good. However, you need to think through this very carefully. What if one of your sons or daughters comes to you in late adolescence and tells you they are gay or lesbian? Based upon what you have taught them, there is no reason for them to not seek to become one with a person they fall in love with. You will not be able to then go back to the "marriage is for the bearing and raising of children" argument. If the purpose of marriage is fall in love and become one then homosexual relationships are perfectly acceptable (unless you believe that sexual orientation is a myth and that being gay or lesbian is simply a choice).

I just want to make sure you are not painting yourself into corner.

KrizteeTrain said...

What an interesting (and true) perspective on Marriage. I hear what Shawn is saying, but I believe the point of the post is 100% valid; to add caveats (same sex marriage, marrying outside the church, etc.) would have distracted from the concept that was trying to be conveyed.

Thanks for the reminder on how to make my marriage celestial!

Papa D said...

Shawn, I will support my children in whatever they choose - and I recognize fully the inherent tension in what I written and the Church's stance on homosexual activity. My sons are nearly adults and most definitely are straight, but if one of my daughters is lesbian, I will support whatever decision she makes relative to her sexual choices.

I understand and appreciate those who say that the Church's stance is the same for all regardless of sexual orientation, but I also understand and appreciate the very real difference for those who can cling to hope in becoming one in the eternities in a way that resonates with their mortal yearnings and those who have no such hope. I understand and appreciate why many gay members can't stay active in the Church, and I trust with my limited view that God understands and appreciated it, as well.

I believe "pure" Mormonism embraces an expansive grace that is much more powerful than even many members realize - much less Protestants who mistakenly think we don't believe in grace. It's one of the great ironies of mortality that our theology allows for salvation and exaltation for those rejected by most of the rest of Christianity, and I would cling to it passionately if one of my children was homosexual.

Shawn said...

Thanks Papa D.

That was one of the most eloquent posts on the subject that I have ever read.

Joe said...

I think this is why it is so crucial to teach our children about this in our own homes and not rely on the school system to educate them. We as LDS understand how sacred an act this is between a husband and wife becoming unified, where as others don't understand or choose not to believe that. I'm am so grateful my dad taught me this principle even though he isn't a member.

Mama D said...

For the sake of balanced discussion, perhaps I should state that Mama is not quite as understanding as Papa. I firmly believe in and strive to live the principle of "love the sinner but not the sin," but I still struggle to accept homosexuality as "okay" in any way. I am not a homophobe nor turned off by those who choose alternate lifestyles, but I cannot accept it.

I know those who have, or have threatened, to disown kids who make choices contrary to their parents' values (marrying outside the temple, homosexuality, joining the Church, etc). No matter what our children choose to do in their lives, I know that I would set aside my personal feelings and continue to love my children - even if that included homosexuality.

In regard to the post, I am grateful to be married to an amazing man who has always treated me as an equal - and we have taught our children well, though not perfectly. Ray is very good at teaching topics that some parents find difficult! (The topic of this post is one such example.)

mfranti said...

I think, in our modern world, we simply have to remove children from the equation when we discuss chastity.

ray, i'm dense.

what exactly are you saying here?

Papa D said...

mfranti, we live in a time that allows our children to have sex without much fear of getting pregnant, as long as they understand birth control. If we focus exclusively (or even primarily) on the Law of Chastity being about procreation (having kids), we lose right from the start. (much like how the debate over homosexuality was lost the instant the religionists made it a scientific issue by calling it "unnatural")

I'm saying that we can't make chastity about avoiding the risk of having children - that it's just not a big enough risk anymore for anyone who is reasonably savvy to keep them from having sex. It has to be about personal purity and virtue and an underlying understanding of the "higher meaning" of sex - and they aren't going to get that if we don't teach them about it.

I'm also saying that we need to teach them about it - not in an OT, hellfire and damnation, sex is bad, punishing kind of way, but rather in an Eternal Progression, unity of souls, sex is wonderful, rewarding kind of way. Yes, at the most fundamental, biological, physical level, it's all about making babies; however, at the most fundamental, religious, soulful level, it's all about becoming truly one with someone else. I'm saying there is a BIG difference between the two, and if we don't teach that difference, we might as well be raising nothing more than smart mammals.

(OK. I admit; that's not all in the post, but that's the feeling behind it. *grin*)

mfranti said...

ray, thanks for the clarification.

i mostly agree with you comments.

with petunia, i've taken most of the religion out of it and focused on virtue (don't know how i feel about this word) and trust and companionship and self worth because sex is wonderful when it's shared with your life partner/spouse.

i figure, she understands what is expected of her from her religion...it's been drilled into her head at almost every lesson.

the reason for this approach?

what if she decides that the lds church isn't for her at 17? 25? than virtue for the sake of being obedient to her religion or god has no value anymore.(not that i express that to her--she understands that i *hope, wish, expect* that she will make wise choices and wait until marriage) but if she chooses a different path, i want to prepare her for a fulfilling life as well.

so i've made it very clear to her that sex without trust and love and self worth and the rest, is lacking so much of what she "thinks" she's looking for (at that age)that the trust(this includes body trust too 'cause if one is feeling funny about the body and it's functions, sex wont be nearly as fun) only comes after time and commitments made to each other. this is usually attained after marriage.

will it work? i don't know.(is anything 100% effective?)

but i didn't know anything before i started having sex at 16. nobody talked to me about relationship and certainly nobody gave a crap about my self image so it was no surprise that I found myself pg and abused by the time i was 19.

surely, what i am offering to her has to be better than that? honesty and trust between us has to be a good start.

mfranti said...

...and i just want to make it clear that i am no way critiquing your methods.

i admire what you are doing (sure,i'm a little bit jealous that your life _seems_so much calmer than mine)

i just think, given my past and the baggage i've given to petunia on her journey here, it's best that we take a more secular? route.

i suppose if you knew the whole story all of this would make more sense.

Papa D said...

Absolutely, mfranti. I know too many women who have had similar experiences to yours, and what you are teaching her is essentially the same thing I'm describing minus the explicit religious component. That's cool, since I believe the basic and fundamental principle can be adapted to individual circumstances and still retain much of its power.

Fwiw, there is a new member of our ward who is 24 years old and has four children. She said shortly before she was baptized:

"I love my children, and I wouldn't give them up for anything now, but I WISH so much that someone would have taught me these things as a child or a young teenager. My life would have been so different now. I can't change my past life, BUT I CAN TEACH MY KIDS A NEW LIFESTYLE."

I really love that, since she understood and admitted freely the paradox of truly loving her kids but wishing her life had been different. Her solution is perfect, imo - and, no matter the "religious" outcome, I hope she succeeds in teaching them a new lifestyle centered on exactly the thinks you mention.

Ryan said...

This post resonates strongly with a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland. I believe the title is, "On Souls, Symbols and Sacraments" but could be slightly off.

It put forward the same idea though -- that the marriage relationship is an extremely sacred way of joining two souls. So much so that he went so far as to call it a sacrament.