Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth Smart photo courtesy Shutterstock.com (http://shutr.bz/16hNMrz)

Last week, Elizabeth Smart publicly reflected on her experience of being abducted and repeatedly raped for months at age fourteen:

Smart spoke at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum, saying she was raised in a religious household and recalled a school teacher who spoke once about abstinence and compared sex to chewing gum.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”

I applaud Smart’s courage in speaking out as an advocate for victims, even if that means criticizing the religion of her childhood, the Mormonism she loves. I hope that people will listen. As Joanna Brooks points out today, damaging messages about female sexuality continue to be a problem in Mormon culture despite the fact that the LDS Church officially teaches that victims of rape and sexual abuse are innocent of any sin.

That message of grace and redemption, I fear, may be more than drowned out by other voices in Mormondom. Kristine Haglund at By Common Consent notes that in the Young Women’s Personal Progress program, the very first scripture the girls are asked to memorize for the recently added “Virtue” value is Moroni 9:9, “which describes young women as having lost their virtue by being raped. That scripture reference needs to go, NOW.”

And just last month in General Conference, the outgoing Young Women auxiliary president, Elaine Dalton, gave a talk that many listeners found troubling. She said:

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. . . .

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 worth consists in not tempting young men.
  • That they are morally responsible for not only their own sexual agency and decisionmaking but boys’ as well.
  • That their virginity is a precious commodity and one of their “greatest sources of power.”

I am sure that Sister Dalton would be the first to say that someone like Elizabeth Smart is innocent and not to be blamed for any of the terrible things that happened to her. However, it is not a stretch for a teenage girl to hear phrases like “Keep yourselves pure and worthy, and guard that which is ‘most dear and precious above all’—your virtue and chastity” or “virtue is the golden key to the temple” and assume that if she is not a capital V she is by extension impure, unworthy, and not precious to God.

If virginity is the cornerstone of female power, as Sister Dalton suggests, then its surrender, whether willingly or by force, is the very definition of disempowerment and devaluation. As Elizabeth Smart put it, who wants a chewed-up piece of gum?

Let this be a wake-up call to every YW leader, every bishop, every parent, to watch our words. Words are powerful, and the messages we send to young women about their sexuality can last a lifetime, and possibly beyond. When Christians attach the language of purity to female sexual sin — and as this cogent article points out, only to female sexual sin — the message of Jesus is lost.

It’s no longer “neither do I condemn you.” It’s “you’re used up and no longer have any worth.”

 

The photo of Elizabeth Smart is used with permission of Shutterstock.com.

48 Comments

  1. I agree that this is a problem. I was appalled to hear about Elizabeth’s experience and want to find ways from preventing that feeling in other rape victims. However, I feel that one mistake was made – in Sister Dalton’s remarks, you used her term “virtue” and your term “virginity” interchangeably. I do NOT believe them to be synonymous, and that is perhaps the most important distinction that rape victims need to make. They have NOT lost their virtue.

    • Tasha- I agree with what you’re saying, but that’s the problem I had with the talk and several others as well (and what I think Jana is getting at here)- Sister Dalton didn’t do enough to distinguish those terms in her talk. The scripture she referenced in her talk is about RAPE and virtue, and it needs to be made EXPLICITY clear by those in leadership positions that your virtue is never ever tied to rape or actions that happen against your will. You may know that’s what she meant, and I sure hope it’s what she meant, but it’s not in fact what she said. We need to be more careful in how we phrase things, because this is an area where we can’t afford for our YW and others to incorrectly hear and/or interpret what we mean.

      • “The scripture she referenced in her talk is about RAPE and virtue”

        But actually it isn’t. Moroni 9:9, the scripture in question, doesn’t say anything about rape or sexual assault but about people stealing others virtue and chastity….
        It’s people like you who add in rape between the lines to claim that this stealing of virtue means rape when it doesn’t….

        • Seriously, charlie? Look at the context. It’s talking about the men, who after “depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue” (verse 9), “they did murder them in a most cruel manner, torturing their bodies . . . and after they have done this, they devour their flesh” (verse 10).

          So unless you think the Lamanite women willingly slept with these men, before they were tortured, murdered, and eaten, I’d say it deals with rape.

          And even ignoring the cannibalism and murder (which should not be ignored), isn’t “stealing virtue” indicative of a lack of desire on the part of the woman? This scripture is simply using a euphemism for rape, and it’s now been twisted into some warning against breaking the law of chastity. Considering the context, that’s an extremely disturbing trend.

          • The fact that a woman or man’s virtue can be taken does not mean that the person is bad. It is a tragedy. No matter how innocent a person is he or she cannot gain back a stolen item and are therefor no longer pure. Agency can be used to build or destroy. It seems as though you only want to have it one way. Rape does make a used things of the victim. Luckily the atonement can help heal the scars. The fact that a person is rape means that viture was ripped out of them, the innocence and the purity of emotion and worth. That it can be gained back is never in question in the scriptures. That it was not gained back was the fact because society had become so wicked that there was no redemption taught. Sort of like our society used to be in such matters. Now, rape victims have it taught to them that they can live beyond the loss. It is like dying and being resurrected.

    • Jana Riess

      Tasha, thanks for your comment. I totally agree with you that rape victims have not lost their virtue, and I think that most Latter-day Saints would also agree. However, I don’t believe our language always reflects that important truth.

      I feel that Sister Dalton, and many other Mormons, use the terms “virtue” and “chastity” pretty much interchangeably, and that the word “virtue” has been coopted in LDS culture to refer to sexual chastity almost exclusively. Chastity for an unmarried teen girl in Mormonism means virginity, so when we tell teen girls to be virtuous, we are telling them to be virgins. What if they’re not?

      To be fair to Sister Dalton, her talk includes a strong testimony of Christ’s atonement for any sins, sexual or otherwise. But once the language of eternal purity is engaged for discussing sexual transgression, it’s difficult to disengage that. As you can see from the purity article I linked to above, equating the language of purity to sexuality has far-reaching consequences. Here’s an interesting snippet from the article (http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2013/05/elizabeth-smart-and-psychology-of.html):

      “To illustrate this Rozin will put, say, a cockroach in a glass of juice and swish it around. He then removes the bug and offers the juice for participants to drink. They, of course, refuse. That’s to be expected. But then the interesting part of the experiment begins. Rozin goes on to sterilize the juice in front of the watching participant. He then makes another offer. Participants continue to refuse. This despite knowing, at a rational level, that the juice has been sanitized. So why refuse? Because at the affective level a judgment of contamination continues to dominate. The juice is judged as unclean. Despite all efforts to purify, sanitize, or rehabilitate.”

      • Maureen Pinegar

        Thank you Jana for you candidly honest and much needed article about virtue. As a young Mormon teen I heard all the analogies about chewing gum, the squished piece of beautiful cake, carrying a rock (sins) on your girl’s camp hike, licking the buttered bread and more. To me, Elizabeth Smart exemplifies virtue in every aspect. I admire what she said. Often when these analogies are shared there is little or no mention of repentance. redemption, forgiveness, etc. I believe in the one man who carried that burden willingly for the entire world; not what my MIA teacher taught me about a lousy stick of gum.

  2. I agree that virtue and being a virtuous woman has nothing to do with the vile, reprehensible, evil act of being raped. It is discussed there is a difference; a woman or man’s value isn’t diminished through rape or incest. Know also that the young men in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taught and expected to live the law of Chasity. Worthy priesthood holders are expected to be honorable in all their thoughts and actions. The Bible is very clear on this issue as well as the Book of Mormon. It is too easy to take things out of context when quoting either sacred book. (Luke 16:18 is a harsh example because adultery is punishable by death!) An individual doesn’t have to be a Christian to feel they have been violated or lost “that which is most precious” because of rape. Rape is a delicate issue to discuss and I do not believe any woman or man in the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints has ever intentionally diminished the worth of anyone because of their sexual experiences through choice or rape. I want to add that Sister Dalton is empowering young women when she says to remain sexually pure. Just say no! The pressure to have sex too early is prevalent and is being forced on both sides. My daughter has been mocked by female acquaintances because she doesn’t date and hasn’t even kissed a young man at 15. Sister Dalton should be commended! “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies”. Besides, The Savior and His great Atoning sacrifice gives all young women and men their true worth. He has suffered all that he may succor all. He can cleanse sins of the repentant and He is the healing balm of Gilead to those who suffer at the hands of evil.

  3. Gregory Taggart

    Jana, I’m a big fan of yours, but I must complain that you substituted the word virginity for Dalton’s words “personal purity.” They are not synonymous. In the context of rape, that makes a big difference. In fact, by equating them, you end up falling into the same error you say Sister Dalton committed.

    Given the definition of virginity–never having had sex–it’s hard to argue that someone who has been raped is still a virgin. It is not hard to argue, however, that someone who has been raped retains their “personal purity.” A rapist can’t take that. A rapist can’t take your chastity.**

    That said, let me suggest that a rapist can take away someone’s virtue, at least he (or she) can if we take the word virtue to mean “Acting power; something efficacious [as in] Jesus, knowing that virtue had gone out of him, turned – Mark 3.” This is definition #5 from Webster’s 1828 dictionary http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,virtue This definition make sense in the context of Moroni 9:9 because 1.) virtue as another word for chastity is redundant, 2.) the daughters’ were certainly deprived of their agency, their “acting power,” and 3.) as we learned once again in the last General Conference, “Next to life itself, free agency is God’s greatest gift to mankind” (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/obedience-to-law-is-liberty?lang=eng). That is, agency–acting power–is arguably one of two gifts that Mormon wrote were “most dear and precious.”

    **I think there’s an argument to made regarding the word chastity and Moroni 9:9, again using Webster’s 1828 dictionary. However, it’s a difficult one to make given today’s understanding of the word and it detracts from the very important work of assuring young women and men that their chastity, their purity can’t be taken from them.

  4. Do you think everyone would be ok with Mormon culture object lessons if they simply always went out of there way to explain that there is NO sin or shame in being taken advantage of sexually?

    And if they applied the sexual shaming as much to Men as Women?

    As a man raised in the LDS church, I certainly think Men are shamed just as much sexually as women, its just in a very different way (assuming they will have issues with it, and putting is down in the gutter compared to women on a pedestal).

  5. In the Book of Ruth Ruth is told by Naomi to go to Boaz where he is sleeping. She uncovers his feet, which In read once on hebrew touched his genitals. Premarital sexual activity did not seem to contaminate her and she was an ancestor of Jesus

  6. I think that anyone with half a brain would realize the true meaning of the teachings of chastity.

    Being forcibly raped has nothing to do with the LDS Churches teachings on keeping chaste. No members of the church should be teaching that a person is unworthy because they were raped. Its in church handbooks dealing with this type of problem.

    It seems as though your article is just trying to criticize the “old fashioned” beliefs of no sex before marriage, or losing ones virtue before marriage.

    I know this is a crazy idea in journalism now days. Try doing some research on the subject before you write an article that is misleading and false.

    • I know this is a crazy idea in internet commenting these days, but try having some empathy for other human beings.

      People who have been raped are not idiots. They are victims of extremely traumatizing attacks. And you are completely negating any feelings of pain they might experience when being told that, like the Lamanite women who were raped (before being tortured, murdered and eaten), they have lost their virtue and are therefore worthless.

      And the truth of the matter is, no matter what the official stance of the church, many members still treat sexual assault or rape as a loss of chastity. From bishops asking women what they were wearing when they were assaulted to Young Women being told that they should fight to the death before losing their chastity, this is not a black and white issue. Yes, the church handbooks correctly state that victims are not to blame. But Mormon culture too often sends the opposite message.

    • I was taught the chewed piece of gum object lesson in the YW program. Tell me, how would you interpret that??
      Also, I remember being told a story about a girl who jumped out of a moving car to get away from an abductor. Good on her, I thought, he might have murdered you. But no, the person telling the story interpreted it this way. “She may have died, but keeping her virtue intact was more important than her life.”
      How would you interpret that??
      I was sexually abused as a child. TRUST ME. The shame is so deep that you will very easily interpret this to mean that YOU are the sinner. Especially because of the repeated messages like that that you receive from the abuser, about TEMPTING them. Sound familiar? Only in every YW talk given about not tempting boys.

  7. I think anyone who thinks there is “controversy” over Elaine Dalton’s talk are either subconsciously or intentionally trying to find something by which to be offended. Let me break down your points:
    1. Nowhere in that brief statement or throughout the rest of the talk does Sister Dalton say that women’s worth consists in not tempting young men. OR
    2. that women are morally responsible for the sexual purity and agency of men.
    In her talk, and this excerpt, she speaks of that fact that women’s “influence” will help them be worthy. I think we can agree that as a human species, we are impacted by those around us in both positive and negative ways. Men influence women. Women influence men. We can either act as helpers in keeping the commandments of God, whatever they may be, or we can be helpers for the opposite. In no way does that take away someone’s agency or remove the responsibility from them. Elder Holland has spoken of this and the Church’s position on this VERY EXPLICITLY in his address “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments” if you would like any further clarification. And besides, this talk was addressed to the women in the Church. Men have a whole 2 hours all to themselves where they are equally reminded of their duties and responsibilities, including how they should be treating God’s daughters.
    3. She said “personal purity” is a great source of power, NOT “virginity”. Virginity is a fact. You either are or are not a virgin. That term has tremendous cultural connotations surrounding it, but no, rape victims are not virgins. However, they have NEVER lost their personal purity. Personal purity is not stagnant either, as Sister Dalton clarifies in the part of her talk on the atonement. Personal purity changes according to the choices we make. When we are making the choice of our own free will, personal purity will either increase or decrease. Victims of rape and incest have that free will stripped from them and thus their purity remains completely intact.
    Sister Dalton is talking about choice. She wants girls not to be flippant about choosing to be sexually active as so many are today.
    Lastly, though this is already a long comment but I felt all needed to be said, as a History graduate and a friend of victims of sexual rape, when something like that happens, the victim almost always experiences questions of “was this my fault” or “I could have prevented it”, along with questions regarding their purity. It happens. Our responsibility as friends, leaders, teachers, etc. is to affirm to these victims of their complete innocence in the matter. To dispel these thoughts. Historically speaking, women have been blamed. Horrifically so. That is not unique to members of the Church, who are human and subject to faulty ways of thinking and acting. We are seeing now more and more people speaking out about this and our society has thankfully made leaps and bounds in the right direction. My experience in the Church has thankfully always been one where the victim was never blamed, but for those who experienced otherwise my heart goes out to you. I think you should take a look at your own biases and see if they have not possibly caused you to look for offense where there is none.

    • Lindsey, let’s put away the absurd notion that people are running around choosing to be offended. Sister Dalton’s talk was offensive. It’s not the fault of listeners who point this out. It is the fault of Sister Dalton, who didn’t think through her talk carefully before using such offensive examples and approaches.

      Just to respond to your first two points:

      Nowhere in that brief statement or throughout the rest of the talk does Sister Dalton say that women’s worth consists in not tempting young men.

      Hmm. When she and other YW and General Church leaders remind YW over and over and over that they need to dress modestly to avoid tempting YM, what else is being communicated? Of course she didn’t come out and say this, but this doesn’t mean the message isn’t being sent loud and clear.

      I think we can agree that as a human species, we are impacted by those around us in both positive and negative ways. Men influence women. Women influence men.

      I’m sorry, but where do you get the idea that the Church is sending this message to both YM and YW? YM are pretty much never told to avoid temping YW by their dress or behavior. YW are told this constantly, especially during the Dalton presidency. You’ve carefully avoided addressing this glaring, blatant, obvious difference and instead pretended as though the messages were sent equally to both YW and YM. Is this because you realize that the huge difference in the messages given to YM and YW actually is offensive in that it tells YW that their value lies in not tempting YM? Or are you just not paying attention?

      • Missing the point

        YM are told to be chaste and to keep their virtue and purity. They are told it repeatedly. They are taught to avoid pornography (at least two or three times in every general conference) and are taught not to degrade themselves or their girlfriends through premarital sex or inappropriate contact.
        Ziff, in your comment you are making a leap about modesty. You assume the only purpose of modesty in dress is the effect that it has on men. To me modesty is more about the respect that a young woman or young man has for their own body and their understanding of their status as a son or daughter of God. The fact that young men don’t get lessons about modesty is more a function of how the cultural norms of our society have evolved – in which styles that expose women’s legs, mid-sections, behinds, etc have become popular to the point of universality. The same cannot be said for men. The temple garment covers the same body parts for both sexes, there’s no difference, except that women are permitted to show maybe a little more of the shoulder.
        What’s really driving much of the debate on this is some Mormons and ex-Mormons don’t like the fact that the church still preaches abstaining from sex outside of marriage. Then there are a number who are still on board with the law of chastity, but they got caught up in the rape issue that is put forward as sort of a red herring by hard-core critics of the Church. Faithful brothers and sisters need to be careful who they make common cause with. Those with enough common sense and humility though aren’t fooled, including those on this post that have rightly understood that it isn’t necessary to be a virgin to be sexually pure.

      • Ziff, do you see any inconsistency in you suggesting that YW should not be told their accountable for tempting YM (since it’s on YM and their agency to be tempted) and your comment about how Sister Dalton’s talk was offensive and how it’s not the fault of listeners if they were offended?

        I’m not saying YW are accountable for tempting YM. I think YM should be taught that they are responsible for how they react to temptation. Similarly, I think it is YOUR agency to choose how you react to Sis. Dalton’s talk. So while you may not choose to be offended, you can choose how you react. That was the point of Elder Bednar’s talk.

        And while I agree with the direction of your comment about how YW receive more talks about virtue than YM, your absolutists language (“never told to avoid tempting YW”) discredits you comments a bit.

        I know you feel passionately about this and again, I agree with the general direction of your comments.

  8. You’re a total bigot who took a snippet of what Elizabeth Smart AND sister Dalton said, changed words around, added your own commentary in the mix and made a really innacurate article on the Mormon Church’s stance on chastity. You’re just one of those people who can’t just leave the Church, you have to try and tear it down. Hopefully, readers here will do some actual research… And for the record, the priesthood are ALWAYS getting the respect womanhood-keep-your-hands-off talk.

    • Kathy,
      I try to keep up with Jana as I am able. I disagree with her often, but always find her perspective unique and thoughtful. I disagree with you when you call her a bigot. I think and hope that the gospel of Jesus Christ is big enough for you, me and the Jana. We each need to have patience with each other. Jana has neither left the Church nor is she trying to hear it down. She’s just trying to make things better. We’re all trying to make our way in this world and we all make mistakes, sometimes publicly.

  9. I was raised in the Mormon religion. I do have issues with the adherence to gospel standards by the young men being referred to while teaching the young women. Yes, they should dress modestly and follow the standards set forth regarding morality, but it is not their responsibility to control the thoughts and actions of young men, nor their fault when the young mean break the laws of chastity. However, there seems to be the tendency to use the “V word” as virginity, when the word actually used if virtue. If the true meaning of virtue is taught as what it is, which is behavior showing high moral standards, and not limited to virginity, the confusion would be erased. When someone, male or female, is raped, they are not violating the laws of chastity or going against any values of sexual purity that are taught by the Mormon church.

  10. Being a Mormon, I noticed that Sister Smart was obviously not wearing the garment. I realize that many Mormons have to put aside the garment for sports and the like. But for a portrait? I don’t think so.

    • A little bit of research reveals that the photo at the top is a stock photo which was taken in November 2008, before Elizabeth Smart went on her mission or got married, and probably before she took out her endowments.

    • This doesn’t look like a current picture. Perhaps it was taken when she was younger. Looks like a prom dress (or some other dressy occasion to me) to me….

  11. The LDS church has never taught that the word Virtue is the same as the word Virginity. I clearly knew the difference between these concepts as a Young Woman growing up in the LDS church.

    • So in other words……INSTEAD of focusing on Elisabeth as KNOWLEDGEABLE on the messages the church sends to girls who have been sexually violated…..you FOCUSED on her being NOT CREDIBLE because her dress suggests that she wasn’t mormon anymore.
      Who is CHOOSING to be offended now?
      “So what if she had first hand experience on being a mormon girl who was sexually violated and interpreted it through her church’s teachings…..I’m not listening to her because A) She’s saying something about the church other than ALL IS WELL. B) She’s not a mormon anymore!!!!
      Are you kidding me??

    • Jana Riess

      The service that your linked article provides is in encouraging people to actually watch the original 13-minute video of Smart’s talk, available here: http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/raw-news/stories/elizabeth-smart-speaks-at-johns-hopkins-human-trafficking-forum-486.shtml#.UZJYYYLSGwr

      I hope more people watch the whole thing. It’s powerful. Elizabeth Smart is a courageous spokesperson.

      I agree that some of her comments have been wildly misconstrued (e.g., where did Huff Po get the notion that Smart was railing against abstinence-only education?).

      But there are also aspects of the story that the Deseret News coverage misses, which you can read about here: http://toeveryonethatbelieveth.blogspot.com/2013/05/dont-believe-everything-you-read-in.html?showComment=1368465613240

      The latter article also has links to strong pieces and opinions pieces on this subject, both LDS and non. Cheers.
      Jana

  12. I’m wondering how long it will take some of you followers of Jesus Christ–whether Mormon, Roman Catholic, or evangelical Christian, to realize that this whole sexual purity-before-marriage package is rooted in a very male-dominated HUMAN hang-up regarding a primative idea of ownership and male property rights!

    Want proof of that? Forget Joseph Smith or Brigham Young and even St. Paul–they all had their hangups about women. Consider instead how little Jesus Christ himself actually ever said about sexual purity, in the encounters he had with individuals who had violated that standard: the woman at the well, the one taken in adultery, Mary Magdalene, etc. Christ’s message was always one of acceptance and forgiveness–and like his every other act of forgiveness–even of the repentant thief crucified beside him on the cross, that gift freed up the person from their debilitating guilt, to reach beyond their past to be Whole and joyful servants of God in the present!

    Isn’t THAT what we should be central to our message, regarding the recovery of Elizabeth Smart and all others–for the wrong choices others made that devastated their sense of worth and value, as well as the many choices all of us have made that violated the beauty of who we were created to be? Our forgiveness and restoration is all to the Glory of God. That’s the BIG message I choose, rather than quibbling over whether some man out there in the future will reject Elizabeth Smart because of some primal feeling that his property rights have been violated! That’s pretty clear to me, and I’m just a humble Christian lay person and a guy at that!

  13. I’m blown away by those asking if ES is wearing her garments. Why does it matter? How could that possibly be YOUR business? So, if the picture had been taken last week, and she wasn’t wearing her G’s, would that then mean that what she said has less credibility?

    For God’s sake and the rest of ours, too, mind your own business.

  14. **************************************************************************************************
    1Nephi 11:1
    1 For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord….

    Doctrine and Covenants 58:26
    26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

    Jacob 6:12
    12 O be wise; what can I say more?

    Doctrine and Covenants 93:36
    36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.

    Moroni 10:5
    5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

    **************************************************************************************************

    I was always taught that we need use our own intelligence with the spirit in order to discern how the gospel applies to our individual lives. Anyone who does that (and ever listens in church and General Conference), knows that RAPE is not a choice a woman makes, and therefore, her personal virtue and chastity are never compromised if she is ever in that situation.

    That being said, something that nobody here has taken into account with Elizabeth Smart’s case, is that being raped is a horrible and intrusive act that has traumatic scarring effects on ANY woman, not just your average wholesome virginal variety. It actually surprises me that nobody has bothered pointing this out.

    Elizabeth Smart was an innocent young girl who had a vile, disgusting, filthy, evil, monster forcing himself on her over and over again…. I can’t imagine what that had to have done to her self worth…. and NOT because of the loss of her virginity, but because of the loss of HERSELF (ask any prostitute who has been raped and she will tell you the same thing). She was tortured, humiliated, demeaned, assaulted, degraded, violated, and she had her free agency taken away from her…. of course she lost her sense of self worth, wouldn’t you? Did she lose her self worth because she lost her virginity, or perhaps because she was horribly and traumatically violated over and over again?

    Maybe somehow she equated losing her self worth with losing her virginity because maybe subconsciously, she was trying to make sense of what she was feeling. Maybe the chewing gum object lesson came to her mind because it’s how she felt at the time (used and worthless). That doesn’t mean that warning young people not to break the Law of Chastity is a bad thing. Most young women in the church aren’t going to be raped, but many will put themselves into situations where they can easily and willingly choose to break the Law of Chastity. They need to understand the destruction of the spirit that comes with breaking that law.

    That being said, I do agree that the chewing gum type object lessons need a bit of tweaking. Virginity should never equal self worth. Choosing to break the Law of Chastity will always lead to feelings of worthlessness…. NOT because of the loss of virginity, but because of the conscious choice that was made to break one of God’s laws and drive away his Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, feelings of worthless are sure to follow.

    The chewing gum type object lessons need to focus on the fact that choosing to break the Law of Chastity will make you FEEL worthless (like a chewed up piece of gum), but that you are NOT worthless. Chewed up gum can’t ever be made back into a fresh piece of gum again (you can never get your virginity back, or change the fact that you chose to break the Law of Chastity), but chewed up gum can be recycled and transformed into something different and new again (look up recycled gum, it’s fascinating). Through repentance and the atonement, you can be transformed and be made new again, too. But it is a very long and difficult process that you don’t want to HAVE to go through. THAT is the chewed up gum object lesson that should be taught.

  15. As a male, I have become more sensitized to the difficult issues that face a person, man or woman, when raped. I appreciate these comments. Let us not forget, however, that in this discussion, the teaching of virtue is a very important matter and the voluntarily giving of one’s virtue is a much more common problem than rape. Please continue the dialog, but let’s not set aside the teaching of the standard of virtue. Along with that, it is very important to teach that being raped or sexually abused is not a loss of virtue.

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  17. almost never comment|I hardly write} responses|I don’t write} a great deal of} responses|I don’t comment|I don’t write} a comment}, but looked at some of the|a few of the|a ton of} responses|after reading} some of the|a few of the|a ton of} responses|I read|glanced} through} a few responses|after looking at some of the|a few of the|a bunch of} responses|I looked at some of the|a few of the|a ton of} responses|after looking at through some of the|a few of the|a ton of} responses} here %BLOG_TITLE%. I do have some questions|a couple of questions|2 questions} for you tend not to mind|if it’s allright}. Could it be just me or appear like} a few of these responses appear like they are coming from brain dead people? :-P And, if you are posting on other sites, I’d like to follow|keep up with} anything new you have to post}. Could you make a list of the complete urls of your public sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

  18. Raymond Takashi Swenson

    The chewing gum thing is a folk tradition, that “a school teacher” (not a church teacher) chose to use. It is not a Mormon idea and is not in Mormon scriptures or in lesson manuals issued by the LDS Church. It is a false tradition on a par with the “object lesson” of depciting sin as a nail being punded into a board, so that even pulling the nail out leaves a hole in the board, meaning there is no way to be restored to the innocent condition of the original. That viewpoint is directly contradicted by the atonement of Christ, which offers us redemption from even serious sin (including fornication and adultery). The Book of Mormon repeatedly shows that repentant sinners can become spiritual heroes through the power of faith, repentance, and the atonement of Christ. Not just Alma the Elder, Alma the Younger, Amulek, Zeezrom, and Corianton, but also the sons of King Mosiah and a third of the Lamanite nation who demonstrate the sincerity of their repentance by refusing to take up arms to defend themselves from their former fellow citizens.

    Being a victim of egregious violence by wicked people does not reduce the virtue of the suffering. Joseph Smith was beaten, unjustly imprisoned, maligned and, most viciously, sued and prosecuted mercilessly by people who hated him. Even as a martyr, he did not lose virtue, but preserved it, being true to his faith to the end of his short life.

    There are two different behaviors discussed in this blog. One is cooperating in committing sexual immorality. The other is being an involuntary victim of coercion and violence. It is only the voluntary choice of sin that harms one’s virtue, and even that can be restored through repentance and faith in Christ as our Redeemer.

    Elizabeth Smart affirmed that it was the teachings of her parents and her church that kept her going, that told he that she is a child of God, a person of infinite worth and potential, who is loved by God, who suffers with us in every trial of life, that enabled her to endure.

    Some of the commenters show that their agenda is to destroy the whole concept of sexual morality and standards. But Elizabeth Smart, by moving forward with her life, her education, with service in France as a teacher of the gospel of redemption, and her marriage for eternity to her chosen partner, is demonstrating that a former victim can become a victor, can be all she ever wanted to be.

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