9.06.2007

Back to our regularly scheduled brain-exploding

So. My Relief Society lesson on Sunday was well-meant but rather silly. The woman who taught it (the Stake President's wife) was not silly but was very sweet, even if she did give me the stink-eye when I made a joke during class. Trust me, my joke was awesome. The lesson was on dating--specifically on why the boys aren't doing more of it (she went and asked them, much in the manner of that girl in elementary school who delivered the notes between would-be lovers with the "check yes or no" boxes on them). We learned that young LDS men don't date because they feel pressure, are afraid of rejection, and that they're looking for a nice girl with a sense of humor. It was a pretty ground-breaking hour.

However, I soon found out that it could have been much, much worse. While chatting with a friend later that day, he told me about the RS lesson the ladies in his ward had that day. (One of the girls told him about it, possibly while fire shot from her ears.)

Now, first, let me give some background. We don't have professional ministers or teachers. It's all done by us civilians. We have lesson manuals and training and resources to help people be better teachers and leaders, but still. We're all muddling through to some extent. And sometimes it can take a while to get the word out about teaching methods and analogies that are not very affective.

The teacher (who will have been a single girl in her 20s, most likely) got up there, unwrapped a piece of gum, started chewing it (some of you may already know where we're headed with this), took it out of her mouth, and asked if anyone wanted it.

Of course, no one did.

And why did they not want it? Because it's been used. it's not good anymore. And when we break the law of chastity, see, we become LIKE USED GUM. There was no mention of the Atonement, no shiny new piece of gum to show what we can be like after repentance, none of that. You're just a dirty, used, whore. A couple of girls tried to bring up the whole Atonement thing but the class just could not move on from the gum analogy.

So, so, so bothersome. First off, no one should ever do an object lesson about sin that does not include the Atonement--you need to be able to put things back the way they were before. That is the entire point of having a Savior. Otherwise you end up with a class full of people feeling like they're damned forever because of a mistake, and that they might as well give up now.

Also that analogy is just offensive. Is that what women are, then? These disposable commodities waiting to be picked up and chewed by men? And is that the main reason we're supposed to keep the law of chastity? To protect the flower that is our virginity because nice boys deserve a virgin?

I thought about this and realized that there are loads and loads of analogies like this that get trotted out in Young Women lessons:

  • There's the one about the nicely wrapped package that you're supposed to give to your husband but that he won't want if you've let other people paw at the wrapping.
  • There's the rose that looks really nasty in the end if you keep giving petals away to people.
  • There's the blooming gaudy flower left to get dusty by the wayside as opposed to the pure daisy in the alpine meadow.
I'm sure there are more out there. Anyone want to contribute?

There are ALL of these things, and guess what? The guys have never heard any of them. I took a poll. When the guys get the chastity lesson, they do not get any of this "you had better guard your carnal treasure or no nice girl will want you." Also? I don't think these analogies are necessarily in the lesson manuals. (Will be checking on this, of course--I'm sure that gum one isn't, though.)

I'm not saying there aren't good reasons to abstain from sex outside of marriage. I think there are lots of good reasons (hi, otherwise I wouldn't even be writing this because Ioan and I would be off with that pot of Nutella right now). I would rather hear real doctrine than Victorian-era analogies that encourage a sexual double standard. But maybe that's just me

46 comments:

Maggie said... [reply]

I so completely agree! I hated sitting through those lessons! Another ugly side effect of that kind of thought is that when girls, who have had those lessons their whole lives, get married they can have a hard time relaxing and enjoying the experience with their husbands. And why is that? Because "good girls" say no. Stupid!

RC Cola! said... [reply]

asdhfsldkjfhjskdhasdjfhlakjdhfjkslahsdfs!!!

I wish I would have been there for the gum lesson. I haven't raised hell in a Relief Society class for quite some time.

RC Cola! said... [reply]

Also -note to Relief Society teachers everywhere:

I'm willing to bet at least -AT LEAST -50% of the women (or perhaps we should just refer to them as nothing more than chewed up gum) in your classes have crossed some major chastity lines.

WARNING: IF YOU WISH TO FIND NUMERABLE WADS OF CHEWED GUM STUCK UNDER THE HANDLE OF YOUR CAR DOOR, PLEASE USE SAID GUM ANALOGY IN YOUR CHASTITY LESSONS.

It's a sensitive topic. Let's not also forget about all those who have been victims of sexual abuse.

No used up, degraded, defecated object lessons. Please.

Nemesis said... [reply]

RC Cola, I wish we'd both been there. It would've been awesome.

Azúcar said... [reply]

Sorry VoR, I'm going to have to save the best stories for my own blog. I have a couple up my sleeve that I've been saving for a rainy, writer's block day.

Maggie brings up a great point about overcoming those lessons once you do get married.

I will say, however, that I would have raised Hell, or Heaven as the case would be, in those classes.

AmandaStretch said... [reply]

My seminary teacher used this same analogy with a Twinky that he mushed up in his hand. There were guys in the class, so at least a few out there have seen these things.

Scully said... [reply]

I teach YW and we have three LoC related lessons in a row. Not a chewed-gum analogy in the lot of them. Also, EW! And the whole point of the LoC is NOT making decisions based on pressure from the opposite sex (good or bad) but rather loving yourself enough to keep yourself pure. Duh.

kristen said... [reply]

Wow. I don't think I've ever had any of those analogies; probably because they all suck. At least my YW did something right (they did a lot of things right, I just get bitter about the lack of education encouragement).

I wish we all could have been there; I think we would have given that teacher a run for her money.

The men do get slammed in Priesthood Session, though, while women tend to get praised in the RS General Mtg.

Kristeee said... [reply]

My personal favorite object lesson is the one where random objects are baked into a glass pan of brownies (representing the misdeeds and sins in our lives). You have someone come and dig them out, which leaves holes and it doesn't look as yummy - but then you "apply the Atonement" and frost the brownies. Doesn't taste quite the same, but good as new nonetheless.

I was in plenty of classes for the chastity talk, but I hadn't heard any of those analogies before - how horrid! No wonder why there are so many newlyweds scared silly about sex! And why people think we're the Amish. :)

jessica said... [reply]

Auuughhh!! Now I've got flames coming out MY ears!

I hated that analogy in YW, and yes, I saw it several times. I guess I'd be considered "used" or "damaged goods" because I'm divorced. (insert eye roll)

This is a very timely post because guess who gets to teach the YW the chastity lesson this week? That would be me. And no, I will not be using any of these object lessons.

My ears are still smoking.

miranda said... [reply]

Apparently this is a Utah thing. Even in Idaho I didn't get this stuff. As Scully pointed out, I was always taught that as a child of God I should be pure because I love myself. I've never been told to "save myself" for someone else. I always figured I was "saving myself" for me.

But it's all in the same vein as "dress modestly so that the boys can keep their thoughts pure" that I've heard since moving here to Utah. Gaack! As if it's a gal's responsibility to keep a guy's thoughts out of the toilet.

esperanza said... [reply]

Yuck! Why does everyone seem to think that if guys are not dating girls its the girls fault! How about boy's issues like pornography, or too picky, or can't keep the law of chastisty themselves, or their gay-ness or something? Why is it OUR fault. STUPID.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

Brilliantly put. I loved your link to that talk. It was given during the conference while I was dating my husband. Lets just say it helped to cool the fire for a few months and put things in perspective without feeling guilty for every lustful thought I'd ever had.

Jessica, My favorite cousin divorced her idiot husband while she was pregnant with their first child. Later, she was one of the best YW leaders I'm sure those girls ever had. NOBODY could teach those girls about the importance of an on-you-own testimony regardless of what life hands you than she could.

Oh, and whats up with guys not dating because they can't find "nice, funny" LDS girls? Nearly every LDS women I know would at least fit those two criteria. If the single men would just admit to looking for somebody with a perfect body then we'd have some statistics to go on.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Thanks for saying it for me, Esperanza. The impression I got from the lesson was that even though it's the guys who are not initiating the dating, it's up to the girls to fix that. By being prettier.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Gentlemen, your comments here are welcome, of course. We know lots of you are quite right-thinking about these sorts of things.

aadrw said... [reply]

This is NOT just a Utah thing. In my YW class (SF Bay Area, circa 1990) we got the rose version of the lesson. A beautiful white rose bud was passed around and when the teacher got it back she ripped the head right off of it and said that's what we were when we disobeyed the LofC. The girl that ran crying from the room? Well she should have known better shouldn't she?? Although, how you're supposed to know better BEFORE you have the lesson makes me wonder. Unbelievably mean-spirited, unhelpful, contrary to our knowledge of the Savior's sacrifice, damaging to a young girl's proper understanding of the purpose of her body - I could go on. Those lessons are a blight.

Miss Hass said... [reply]

I'm so angry I just dropped half my cookie down my shirt. Maybe I should mush it up and mail it to the chewing gum girl.

I can't add any more to what's been said. Just that I agree.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Sad thing is, the chewing-gum girl didn't make up that analogy. I've heard of it before, and I'm sure she had it in a lesson back when SHE was in YW. So she probably figured that was the way to teach it.

The Divine Miss A said... [reply]

The one I had involved a board, a hammer, and nails. You can take out the nails, but the holes are still there. I guess in Missouri we have more of a craft things going on rather than flowers and edibles.

Also, the dating lesson. I wouldn't necessarily blame the teacher, but really guys. Really. I agree with Science Teacher Mommy and a recent article tends to back us up. There are words, but I don't say them. At least where children can possibly look.

Saxon said... [reply]

wonders if this is a good idea to leave a comment

well thats the sort of analogy I'm sure we would never get in a lesson in the UK otherwise a riot would result!

Young men not dating more cause they feel the pressure? Thats highly likely. From our point of view it's like, see all the very smart, funny, church girls that we have here. Your supposed to be good enough to marry one of them. What me, no never I'll never be worthy to marry one of them.

Rejection? Well it only takes one bad girl to ruin it for all of the others. For example in youth the girls came into young mens and announced that they had decided only one of us was worthy enough to think of marrying any of them. The rest of us should get used to being alone. It's very hard to forget something like that and you always have it at the back of your mind. If one group of girls thought I was useless what if the rest of them do?

even though it's the guys who are not initiating the dating, it's up to the girls to fix that. By being prettier. That's rubbish, girls at church always look pretty. I think it can be best summed up by a lad from school who wasn't a church member who saw one of our youth camps once " I've never seen so many hot girls in one place!"

I go for brains over looks. It's n o good if a girl has looks but zero upstairs. It gets hard to hold a conversation. fortunately all church girls have brains and looks.( that's not a attempt at flattery just what I think)

so to sum up I think a lot of guys are scared of rejection, but thats only because you girls are so amazing.

Anonymous said... [reply]

My 20 something son does not date because he is having an affair with his computer. He's into online gaming and anime. My other son lucked out and married a wonderful girl who told me later that she always said she would not marry someone who was into computer/video games. Guess who did not play games while he was courting her. I pray that both of my sons will wake up to the collossal waste of time that is their video game habit.

Anonymous said... [reply]

Ooops! Sorry about misspelling colossal.

Nerd Goddess said... [reply]

I think we should use object lessons like my mom did. We were cleaning garbage off of the roadside for YW, and she found not one, but two forks. And then decided to bring them home. I said GROSS, an told her that that was probably a really bad idea, because who knows where that fork had been? Then on Sunday she gave a talk, and used the forks as an analogy for the atonement. Yes, those forks had been by the road for a really, really long time. Yes they were in the dirt and who knows what other nasties, but then she boiled them in hot water, but them through the dishwasher, and they were able to be used again.

I thought it was good, anyway.

BEFore said... [reply]

There are a lot of reasons guys don't ask girls out.

Ever had someone say something bad about you? Not fun right?

Well, try this one (for 10 or 15 years). You like a girl. You ask the girl out. Girl says "no thanks". Now if you're not interested, that's what you ladies SHOULD say (leading a guy on because you don't like confrontation is much worse), but it still hits the ego.

After a while, it gets to be a bit like going to the dentist. You know it's a good thing, but the prospect of pain makes it something you don't necessarily want to go hunting for. (The fact that we keep trying should be a huge boost to your self-esteems.)

You think it's easy? Ask a guy you actually like out. Just once. (Not saying you should chase him relentlessly -- most guys don't like that either.)

So if you want a guy to ask you out, flirt with him enough that he knows you'll say yes. And not so much that he wonders about your career. After all, wearing a list of guys you know who you are interested in would be much simpler, but just a bit too weird.

Relevant comic

Schmetterling said... [reply]

A note from the flip-side:

Being a guy who was raised in the Church, I have the opposite complaint. While my sisters complain about getting nothing but lecture after lecture about chastity, you wanna know when I got my FIRST lesson on chastity? ON MY MISSION! Serving in Idaho, I went to a Gospel Principles class one Sunday and got the talk--FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME.

Now if THAT doesn't set off fireworks in your brain, then--uh--well, I'm too tired to expatiate on it, so just use your imagination.

[Just so you know, I'm Th'little brother]

suzie2 said... [reply]

Before -Recently I have been putting myself on a line and definitely been trying to technically ask some guys out -the rejection is horrible, terrible, and embarrassing...however, it passes, and you start over again.

It's a vicious cycle, and I commend any guy that has the guts to actually ask me or one of my friends out.

But a lot of us women face rejection of another kind -being ignored. We send out a little flirt here and there, but we never get asked out. Just another way to chip away at the ego.

There's this huge difficulty in deciphering whether or not you're in a particular person's league...it's a tricky thing, since 95% of most people seem to think of themselves as being in a better league than they really are -or that they deserve a step up.

It's a strange class system that is generated by appearances, money, and social status.

For quite some time I really felt that we women had it the worst -I would go years without having a single date, or even a fake kind of hang out date. I was bitter and depressed, and I picked myself apart until there was practically nothing left, because I never felt worthy enough for a good Mormon guy.

Now in my ultimate age and wisdom, I think it's EQUAL. I really do. It's an even score, if you ask me.

The pressures are different, but the suckiness even, imho.

Mary said... [reply]

Nem, I'm sitting here on my bed with the laptop roaring. "dirty, used, whore." I mean, I love you. Never met you. I love you.

This isn't a dating object lesson per se, but my friend told me of a YW lesson where the teacher held up a picture of someone smoking. She asked each girl to come up and stab a thumbtack through the smoking person's picture. (Yeah, my eyebrow went up too, first time I heard this.) Once everyone had done so, she turns the picture around to show another picture on the backside. A picture of Jesus.

The Lesson: when you stab smokers, you stab Jesus. Now go to your rooms and think bad thoughts about yourself.

Natalie said... [reply]

My mother-in-law was in a RS chastity lesson where they used the kleenex analogy. No one else wants you if someone's already used you. She got up, put the fear of God in that teacher, and then went on to testify of the atonement.

And that's why she rocks!

Mary said... [reply]

One other thought: This is yet another example of how under-educated many of us truly are about the purpose and function of the Atonement. Many of us simply do not get it. And because of that, there is many a downfall for otherwise good and wonderful people in our church. Breaks my heart.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Saxon and Before, I'm glad you represented the right-thinking males for us. And I think you're pointing out some really true things. One of the reasons these lessons are starting to feel so silly to me is that yeah, we can talk about this stuff til we're blue in the face, but there probably aren't any easy "wear more makeup" or "just be braver" solutions left.

It seems like what it's coming down to is more about simple timing. And yes, I'm sure it helps when we put ourselves out there and are willing to risk being hurt or ignored (or to risk hurting others, as the case may be). But this gets harder and harder the longer we do it and the more scar tissue that forms.

Nemesis said... [reply]

And yes, I'm agreeing with what people are saying about the Atonement. I think we're getting so caught up in the "Just don't do it" campaign that we're leaving the Savior out of the equation--and he should always be in it. It's like, "Well, just don't mess up and we won't have to worry about that part." I think you do get a lot of people feeling like He's only there for other people, and not for someone as horrible and bad as they themselves are.

BEFore said... [reply]

RE: Suzie2

I didn't want to imply anything other than that guys have more reasons for not asking girls out besides just being too lazy, or too busy, or too uninterested.

From what I've seen (and I have sufficient sisters without even looking at friends), girls are far harsher on themselves than guys are. (Which is not to say that guys have no feelings.)

I've heard some analogies similar to the... interesting ones describe here. I'm happy to report that most of these sound a bit more... extreme than the ones I've heard.

Amen to the smoker lesson. IIRC, the lesson was "inasmuch as ye have done it unto the *least* of these". :)

And honestly, just because one person's mistakes are more visible doesn't make them any worse then someone whose mistakes are internal and hidden. I was raised in a fairly sheltered environment by pretty stinkin conservative parents -- but they were smart enough to (thankfully) teach their children that people who don't believe the same thing are not bad.

Oh... and as for the gum, the evidence would suggest that there is a large population of people who WOULD want the gum. If your only reason for not having sex is so a future partner will find you attractive... you probably aren't going to live up to that person's standards anyway.

---------------

An analogies I remember that isn't quite as bad:
Sex is like an apple. If you eat it before it's ripe, you will probably get a tummy ache.

Of course, that's a John Bytheway, so I refuse to take credit/blame for it.

(He also said getting married is like a piano duet. No matter how good you are or how much you practice, you can't make it happen by yourself. Sometimes you just have to wait for a partner to sit down and play the duet with you.)

coolmom said... [reply]

Your mom agrees with you but is going to wash your mouth out with soap for using the "w" word!

Suzie1 said... [reply]

Simply shakes head in utter disappointment.

chosha said... [reply]

This all reminds me of that book, Charly. I LOVE that scene where he goes to the bishop's house (after reacting badly when she explains that she has a sexual history) and asks how he could have approved her temple recommend and the bishop asks for HIS recommend and rips it up, because he clearly doesn't have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ. Best reality check ever!

And that chewing gum object lesson is not just a Utah thing. I had that lesson in YW in Australia, over 20 years ago. Haven't learned much over the years, have we?

Those lessons set up chastity as an all-or-nothing case. You're either a pristine rose, or you're trash. The problem is that once someone crosses that line, it's just too easy for them to feel like nothing they do matters any more, because they feel like they've already failed and can never get back what they lost. And it's just not true. Which is why I agree so much with what you said, that a lesson about any kind of sin should never be taught without teaching about the Atonement as well. People are not chewing gum, and they're not brownies, and they're not roses. People are not irredeemable, and they should never be made to feel like they are.

Cicada said... [reply]

Wow. This is evidence about why it's also really important to teach your children in your home because even at church, they can get the wrong idea.

Squirrel Boy said... [reply]

I am so, so sorry that girls have to put up with crappy lessons like this. The most we guys ever got was "Stay away from porn" and "If you see a hot girl and your thoughts stray, sing a hymn."

Dating was always a pain for me. As a scrawny, nerdy, kind of awkward guy, it was hard for me to find girls who didn't want to chew their arm off to get away from a date with me. So I only asked girls out when I thought that maybe the date would be an enjoyable experience.

By the way, congratulations to all girls who have learned how to politely say "No thank you" when a guy asks you out and you aren't interested in him. It is SO refreshing and so much better than going on a miserable date or fooling yourself into thinking that a girl really likes you and then facing a REAL rejection later on.

Kelli said... [reply]

"This all reminds me of that book, Charly. I LOVE that scene where he goes to the bishop's house (after reacting badly when she explains that she has a sexual history) and asks how he could have approved her temple recommend and the bishop asks for HIS recommend and rips it up, because he clearly doesn't have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ. Best reality check ever!"
Is this scene in the movie of Charly? I would love to watch it with my husband, because we're in the same situation, only I've been dealing with his "issues with my past" for 6 1/2 years of marriage and 2 kids.

suzie2 said... [reply]

Nooooo!!!! Not Jack Weyland!!!!!

I DESPISE THAT MAN! I don't care if that's a good example -NOOOOO!

Before: Well put. I think I worry too much about this type of blog conversation turning into one of those "who has it worst" kind of scenarios, so I'm much too quick to try to "even the score." Because it's always a waste of time seeing who rates the highest in the Top Ten Charts of Pain. ;)

chosha said... [reply]

kelli: I think the scene is played out with his mother instead, so similar but not exactly the same. I hope your husband finds his testimony of the Atonement before your kids get old enough to make any real mistakes, or he might just do the 'scarring for life' thing. And that's not nice.

Suzie2: wow, that was vehement. What did Weyland ever do to you? :)

blackjazz said... [reply]

I knew a bishop who taught a YSA fireside using an wholly inappropriate analogy. (Sorry if that shakes anybody's testimony!)

He used a jug of clean water and dropped some ink into it. Soon the ink was dispersed through the water, making it "dirty". He then dropped in some bleach. The bleach quickly "cleaned" the water but there was still a residual scum on the surface. What he was saying was that through repentance we can be cleaned, but it still won't be the same as if the sin had not been committed.

What happened to "and I the Lord will remember them no more"?

Sorry, but like the chewing gum it's an example of how to teach false doctrine using a stupid (but highly memorable) analogy.

I think he was trying to overcome the notion that it was OK to sin because afterwards you can just repent and it'll all be fixed. So, I have some sympathy - but it doesn't excuse teaching something that's not true. I think it's far better simply to explain that repentance involves regret - a regret that is strong enough to wish you had not committed the sin.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Thanks, Blackjazz. And I agree with you--I think there is a way to teach real complete repentance without giving people the idea that repentance offers them some sort of "have your cake and eat it too" scenario. Speaking about regret and remorse seems like a pretty straightforward way to do that.

cropstar5 said... [reply]

i want so badly to comment on how inappropriate all these analogies are but i've got to pick my jaw up off of the ground first. WOW!
repentance is just far, far too sacred a topic to reduce to an object lesson! my soul hurts for everyone who has misconceptions about the Atonement because of something they learned in church (of all places!).
great post & great comments

j said... [reply]

Wow, quite the string of comments here.

I have to say that when us brothers get the chastity lessons, analogies generally aren't part of the lesson. Generally we talk about practical do's and don't's and I've had a few bishops who didn't hesitate to spell things out in no uncertain terms.

As for reasons why guys don't date, first, don't assume that guys are going to be honest with the stake president's wife as to why they don't date. I can only speak for myself, but I generally only like to ask people on a date when a) I have had positive interactions with them, b) I don't feel like I would have to shoot myself if I were trapped in a car with them and had to make conversation with them for more than 10 minutes, c) I find them sufficiently attractive, d) I get the impression they'd be interested in going on a date with me.

And as to why the stake president's wife thought she needed to share the reasons the guys gave for not dating more to the sisters...maybe she thought you would be more likely to do something about than the guys. In general, most guys seem to feel like they date enough, so it might be tough to give them tips on how to date more.

And finally, to "anonymous" who is worried about the colossal waste of time that is video games, I think that any hobby can be a waste of time if you aren't careful, but I'm uncertain as to why video games attract such fiery wrath from LDS women. Is it just that they often are played for long hours? or is there an inherent hatred for video games? You don't hear LDS men decrying "talking on the phone" or "scrapbooking" or "reading Jack Weyland novels" as being a colossal waste of time. Your sons may have a problem balancing their time, but there are plenty of ways to waste time just as easily as video games.

Random BYU-ite said... [reply]

Let's take a cue from the Prophet; he probably knows what he's talking about.

A couple days ago (18-SEPT-07), President Hinckley gave a talk at a BYU devotional. He mentioned that he had recently watched as the Key Bank building in downtown SLC was detonated. He likened this to unchastity saying, "That, my friends, is the story of so many lives. We nurture them ever so carefully over a period of years. Then we find ourselves in highly charged circumstances. Mistakes are made. Chastity is compromised. There is an implosion, and a ball of dust is all that is left."

HOWEVER:
After telling a sad story about a young couple that screwed up, he said, "Now, hearkening back to the illustration of the tower that collapsed, I remind you that in its place will be constructed a new and beautiful building. Similarly, those who have transgressed can turn to their Redeemer, our Savior Jesus Christ, and, through the power of His Atonement, be made clean and new again."

TAKE A LESSON, RS/YW INSTRUCTORS!

swim world said... [reply]

Come on...its sad that you all got so bent out of shape over someone else. Deal with your own lives and when someone says something you dont like laugh and move on. Dont stew and get all angry and bitter. Does a bad object lesson really bother you to the point of "raising hell". Evaluate your life if it does.

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