Friday, May 10, 2013


Every generation presents obstacles to parents who attempt to raise their children to be faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to the leaders of the church that provide community support to parents and preach the gospel.  Generally, these obstacles are shared by other Christian denominations and religions.  Secularism is a current challenge.

The Pew Institute reports (“Nones” on the Rise”) that 20% of Americans and 33% of Americans who under thirty have no religious affiliation.  Many of the non-religiously affiliated or nones report some religious or spiritual practice such as a belief in God (68%) or daily prayer (21%).  Most believe that churches benefit society by strengthening communities and aiding the poor.  They are not interested in becoming affiliated, viewing organized religions as too concerned with money, political influence and behavioral rules and they are decidedly more secular than the religiously affiliated. 

In a thought provoking article, Rod Dreher (“Sex After Christianity”) describes a battle between cosmologies, differing theories on the natural order of the universe.  Christian cosmology which holds that God and his commandments, particularly in regards to sex, dictate that people restrict their behavior, not because it is good for them but because it is right and good for society dominated European belief for centuries.  Beginning with the Enlightenment, a new cosmology has made inroads against the old.  The modern views an individual’s desires as central to self-definition.  They are polar opposites.  Whereas the Christian seeks sexual fulfillment by restraint, the modern finds fulfillment in sexual expression. 

At this point, I must offer some defense of the Enlightenment that produced economics as a field of study.  Most Latter-day Saints believe that the Enlightenment was necessary for the Restoration of the Gospel.  During the Enlightenment, Western Europe developed more inclusive political and economic institutions.  These institutions fueled Innovation which in turn produced wealth that freed people from a grinding poverty so they could exercise their moral agency choose to follow God or not.  Innovation in the form of the printing press, low cost transportation and communication were necessary for carrying the Gospel to the world. 

My defense of the Enlightenment does not diminish the challenges of secularism as described by Dreher, and certainly the general leadership of the Church recognizes the challenge.  In the April General Conference, L. Tom Perry warned that

Secularism is becoming the norm, and many of its beliefs and practices are in direct conflict with those that were instituted by the Lord Himself for the benefit of His children (“Obedience to Law Is Liberty”).

He encouraged members to limit sex to traditional marriage. 

Boyd K. Packer taught that

Tolerance is a virtue, but like all virtues, when exaggerated, it transforms itself into a vice. We need to be careful of the “tolerance trap” so that we are not swallowed up in it. The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality does not reduce the serious spiritual consequence that is the result of the violation of God’s law of chastity (“These Things I Know”).

Elaine S. Dalton, speaking to our young women advised

…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. When you came to the earth, you were given the precious gift of a body. Your body is the instrument of your mind and a divine gift with which you exercise your agency. This is a gift that Satan was denied, and thus he directs nearly all of his attacks on your body. He wants you to disdain, misuse, and abuse your body. Immodesty, pornography, immorality, tattoos and piercings, drug abuse, and addictions of all kinds are all efforts to take possession of this precious gift—your body—and to make it difficult for you to exercise your agency. Paul asks, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you (“Be Not Moved!”)?

And finally, David A. Bednar also clearly stated the Church’s position

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a man and a woman in the marriage relationship prescribed in God’s plan. Such relations are not merely a curiosity to be explored, an appetite to be satisfied, or a type of recreation or entertainment to be pursued selfishly. They are not a conquest to be achieved or simply an act to be performed. Rather, they are in mortality one of the ultimate expressions of our divine nature and potential and a way of strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife. We are agents blessed with moral agency and are defined by our divine heritage as children of God—and not by sexual behaviors, contemporary attitudes, or secular philosophies (“We Believe in Being Chaste”).

Certainly our position on the correct use of sex is in line with historical Christian teachings which Dreher would argue are not persuasive to secularists. Are our leaders preaching to a shrinking choir?  Scholars who have studies the success of our missionary program have noted that we are most successful where Christian beliefs are strong.  Will we need to develop new teaching strategies to reach an increasingly secular world?

No comments:

Post a Comment