A Young Women’s teacher once took a piece of gum out of its wrapper and placed it in her mouth. After chewing for a bit, she took the gum out and showed it to her class. She asked if any one wanted to try the gum. She assured the class that the gum was still good, but there were still no takers. After feigning surprise, the teacher shared a lesson with her class. “You wouldn’t want to chew this gum after I’ve used it, right? The same goes for the woman who doesn’t guard her virtue.”
While this story is not specifically attributed to any one teacher, it’s an analogy that many young women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grow up learning. An analogy that equates the worth of a girl to how chaste and virtuous she is. Even though we know the “worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10), why do we continue to discount the worth of God’s children based on the perceived lack of “virtue” they posses?
WHAT IS VIRTUE?
Virtue “is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards” (Preach My Gospel (2004), 118.) With that basic working definition we know that we are living virtuous lives when we are obeying and following the high moral standards we find in scriptures, and in the words of living prophets. We also know that if we “let virtue garnish [our] thoughts unceasingly” (D&C 121:45), our confidence to again be in God’s presence will grow stronger.
I have heard at times the sad story of members in the church who have survived some form of sexual assault, only to later die spiritually from the notion that they had lost their virtue. “Sexual purity is youth’s most precious possession” (Monson). This idea has taken root in the minds of some saints to mean that any sexual activity, whether consensual or not, is the worst of sins and is only comparable to that of murder. Somehow a lack of virtue means a lack of worth. I wish to testify with all the boldness of language that those individuals who have been assaulted in a sexual nature are not only free from fault, but maintain their God given virtue. You are not worthless.
Our culture seems to bind the labels “virgin” and “virtuous” very tightly together. As if one somehow equated to the other. If we take a hard look at our definition of those words, we will see how unrelated they can really be.
Is there anything about a Non-Committal Make Out that screams virtuous? Is there anything about the man or woman who dresses to seduce that is lovely or of good report? Is there anything about the “technical virgin”, who never allows anything to be taken past 2nd base, that is praiseworthy? If not, then why does our culture not only seek after, but justify these things? No, lying on top of each other and making out is not sex. Grinding is also not sex. But has the son or daughter of God committing these acts lost any of their virtue? Absolutely yes.
The virtue of a child of God is directly related to their actions and the influence of Christ’s atonement they allow in their lives. A daughter of God who has broken the law of chastity and seeks repentance is far more virtuous than the son who, while a virgin, uses Tinder to meet up with girls he can feel up. It is not our past actions, sexual exploits, mistakes, abuses, or assaults that define us. Rather, it is our embracement of Christ and His atonement that will save us, rebuild us, renew us, and replace any virtue we have lost along the way.