The time has come for parents to rise up and teach their children the dangers and consequences of pre-marital sex with a boldness that matches our time.  We can no longer beat around the bush or hope that someone else is doing the job.  We can no longer assume that our middle school and junior high kids are too young to know the hard facts.  They aren’t.  In fact, some parents may be stunned to find out how many of them could enlighten their parents on what’s happening. This article is a wake-up call for these parents and a reminder to others. 

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

When 15 million young people are infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) every year; when 50% of sexually-active teens are already infected with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – an STD that is the cause of 99% of cervical cancer, causing as many deaths among women as AIDS; when middle school kids are literally passing out condoms on playgrounds without knowing that they provide no risk reduction for HPV and only 50% protection for other STDs (Medical Institute for Sexual Health report); when HIV/AIDS is killing sexually active people by untold numbers, then we can no longer stand by and blindly hope that our kids are behaving morally.  Their lives are at stake, physically and spiritually.

Speaking at an Educational Policy conference in St. Louis last year Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician in Traverse City, Michigan, said that “doctors have to update their assumptions these days.  When a pre-teen or teen comes in with a sore throat you can’t just think mono and strep; with the dramatic increase in oral sex, you have to also think herpes and gonorrhea.”  As repulsive as it is we need to be aware that  recent reports indicate that oral sex is far too common among junior and senior high school students. 

Teen Pregnancy

To add to the problem, teen pregnancy has taken on social acceptance among youth.  They fail to see the tragedy of bringing a baby into the world without a married father and mother to raise the child. A recent study by the National Survey of Family Growth (NFSG) showed that 53.4% of girls and 44.7% of boys believe it’s okay for an unmarried female to have a child.  Levels of approval showed little difference by race/ethnicity. 

Kids don’t know that “unwed mothers are disadvantaged economically. They are far more likely to live below the poverty line than married women. Over one-third of female-headed families with children live in poverty compared to only 6 percent of married couples with children. However, marriage for unwed mothers may not help them economically if partners lack education and other important qualities.  Unwed mothers have significant disadvantages when trying to attract suitable mates. As a result, single mothers are less likely than childless women to be well matched demographically with their husbands or partners.”  (See https://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/marrpros.htm)

The Internet

As wonderful as the Internet is, it opens the door to even more temptations that our children face today. They must be clearly educated about the dangers it presents. These warnings must include the insidiousness of pornography and the dangers of chat rooms, which are discussed later in this article.

All of these issues dealing with sexual behavior are serious business and our children deserve to know the truth.  Conversations between parents and children regarding sexual intimacy are not a one-time duty; they are an ongoing responsibility.  As you may have noticed, Satan never stops enticing and trying to convince them that being sexually active is popular and acceptable, and he’s at work day and night.  We must be as diligent if we intend to counteract his efforts.

What Parents Can Do

So how do we do it?  Here are a few ideas to consider.

Sit down with your kids ages 12 and older, along with pizza or ice cream, and ask them what kids at school are saying about sex. Ask them what they think about what is being said.  Listen to them without showing shock so they’ll continue to talk. Open up a dialogue where you can begin to give them the facts.  At an appropriate point you could say, “We have a few concerns about some things that are happening and we want to share a few facts with you so you’ll be in the know.”  If they say they already know the facts, proceed by saying “Good.  Then this will be a great discussion.” Proceed with some of the above information or information you have researched that would be helpful to them.  Don’t hit them with too much information at once.  Short sessions will stick with them longer, particularly if you listen to their input.

One Girl’s Wise Answer

Sometimes teens need help knowing how to respond to their peers.  The following experience of a BYU senior may be helpful.  When we wrote our book On Guard: Seven Safeguards to Protect Your Sexual Purity, we received a call from this young woman.  She was working for the BYU newspaper as a reporter and wanted to interview us about our book for an article. 

At the interview she said, “I’m fascinated with your book.  This is the way I live my life.”  Then she went on to tell us her experience.  She said when she was in high school in Tennessee other kids would ask her a question that they were asking others as well, “Are you a virgin?”  She said, “I would always answer yes, then they would say mockingly Why?’ And I would respond with Because it’s the right thing to do.'”

She said that they would laugh at her reason and say she was way behind the times and was missing out on a lot of fun.  That’s when she realized she needed a different answer to why, and she came up with the perfect one. 

The next time someone asked if she was a virgin and why, she said, “I’m a virgin because I never have to worry.  I never have to worry that the day after a date I will wake up pregnant.  I never have to worry that I will have a baby out of wedlock and burden my parents with raising the child because I’m too young and don’t have time.  I never have to worry that I will wake up after a date and find that I have a sexually transmitted disease.  I never have to worry that one day when I find the man I want to marry and he pops the question, that I won’t have to say, I love you, too, but I have something I have to tell you.  I have a sexually transmitted disease that could cause our children to be born blind, or deaf, or mentally impaired, or born dead, or because of it I’m infertile and can never have children.

‘  That’s why I’m a virgin, because I never have to worry.” 

She said the response of the kids was different after this explanation.  They would say, “Oh, I never thought about that before.”  She said she would tell them that it’s serious business and they better start thinking about it immediately.

Emotional Effect

Here’s something else kids and parents need to know.  According to Dr. Janice Crouse of the Beverly LeHaye Institute, “Sexually active teens are more likely to be depressed (more than a quarter of the girls report depression and boys are twice as likely to be depressed as those who are abstinent).  Sexually active teens are more likely to attempt suicide (girls are three times more likely and boys are eight times more likely).  The bottom line is that more than two-thirds of teens who are sexually active admit that they wish they could go back to innocence again and desperately wish they had waited. Sadly, there are far too many teens with broken hearts and incurable diseases because adults are unwilling to state categorically that sex is meant exclusively for marriage.”

Pornography Warning

As mentioned earlier in this article, we must be concerned with the Internet and its effect on our children’s morality.  President Hinckley has made clear statements regarding the devastating effects of pornography.  He said, “Pornography, with its sleazy filth, sweeps over the earth like a horrible engulfing tide.  It is poison. Do not watch it or read it.  It will destroy you if you do.” (Ensign, November 1997)

Kids may think a little looking won’t hurt them, and may have tried it and decided it didn’t hurt anything.  It reminds us of an experience of our friend who moved to a new area surrounded by trees and undergrowth.  She was pointing out the different plants to her children, specifically showing them a poison ivy plant.  “Don’t ever touch this plant or it will cause itchy bumps to break out on your skin that will hurt like crazy.”  Her curious seven-year-old son listened, but then returned to the poison ivy and touched it.  He looked at his finger and saw no bumps, so he took a handful and rubbed it on his arm, and still saw no bumps.

He ran over to his mother and said, “You’re wrong, Mom.  I touched that poison ivy and rubbed it on my arm, and look – no bumps.” His mother ran him inside the house and scrubbed his hands and arms, but of course, the damage had been done.  Soon itchy sore bumps broke out all over him.  A painful lesson was learned: pain from disobedience may not be felt right away, but it will always be felt at some point.

When the prophet says “It will destroy you,” he knows what he’s talking about and we better listen. The price will be paid for such disobedience.  That’s a powerful lesson for our children to learn.

Online Chat Rooms

Besides pornography the Internet poses an additional problem, chat rooms.  Recently, on national TV, warnings about chat rooms have increased, with a specific warning that parents should not let their children go to the website MySpace.  Connecticut’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, said, “…clearly this Web site is a predator’s dream and a parent’s worst nightmare.” 

Children go on this and similar sites and give information about themselves, thinking they are making new friends their own age.  The truth is, in far too many cases, they are chatting with evil adult men who are pretending to be teenagers while plotting to win their favor and meet them for the specific purpose of raping them.  These chat rooms are time-bombs ready to explode all over our kids. 

February 3, 2006, the program “Dateline NBC” aired a show about online predators.  They showed a group that posed as young 12- and 13-year-old children (two girls and one boy) on the MySpace website.  In three days there were 52 men that made contact with them through messages, and within a short time the messages were overtly sexual and they made appointments to meet the kids for sex.  Of the fifty-two men that made the appointments, fifty-one showed up expecting sex and were arrested.

Daniel Weiss, senior analyst for media and sexuality at Focus on the Family Action, said “Parents have to come to grips with Internet danger. [They] need to understand that anytime they let their kid go online alone, it’s as if they allowed a stranger into their child’s bedroom and the stranger closed the door.”

Which brings us to the wise counsel of Elder M. Russell Ballard: “We need to have TVs and computers in a much-used common room in the home, not in a bedroom or a private place.” (General Conference October 2003, Let Our Voices Be Heard)

Quote the Prophets

Most importantly, keep teaching your children the words of the prophets regarding sexual purity. A good place to start is to quote from The Family: A Proclamation to the World: “The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” 

Search the recent conference talks of our General Authorities regarding morality and talk about them with your children.  Have an older child report on a certain talk as part of a family home evening.  For example Elder Richard G. Scott was asked this question by youth: “They always tell us we shouldn’t become sexually involved, but they never tell us the limits. What are they?”

His answer: “Any sexual intimacy outside of the bonds of marriage – I mean any intentional contact with the sacred, private parts of another’s body, with or without clothing – is a sin and is forbidden by God. It is also a transgression to intentionally stimulate these emotions within your own body.” (General Conference Oct. 1994)

As you and they watch TV and listen to music use these as opportunities to discuss and apply the principles our leaders have taught.  Let them express whether or not what they are viewing or listening to is in harmony with the words of the prophets. 

Sexual Intimacy is Beautiful and Sacred

Finally, help your children understand that sex is not dirty, it’s sacred and beautiful when used the way the Lord intended.  From the booklet For the Strength of Youth in the section titled Sexual Purity (pg. 26) it clarifies this point in the following statement: “Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred.  It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between a husband and wife.”  Then it states that vitally important commandment: “God has commanded that sexual intimacy be reserved for marriage.”

Listen to the Holy Ghost

Encourage your children to prayerfully seek guidance in knowing what is right and what is wrong regarding these issues.

  Remind them that they are smarter than Satan because they have the Holy Ghost to guide them.  All they need to do is listen and follow the promptings and they will be protected. 

As we pray for our children and grandchildren we can ask for the same thing we are encouraging them to ask for – the guidance of the Holy Ghost.  He will help us know how to help them if we ask. We have only touched on a few items that need to be discussed.  Through the help of the Spirit you will know what to teach your own children.

We as Latter-day Saints have been blessed to parent some of the choicest spirits ever born. With our help they will enjoy a bright future with their own spouses and children.  This gives us every reason to rejoice. 

[Gary and Joy Lundberg are the authors of the pocket-size book for youth, On Guard: Seven Safeguards to Protect Your Sexual Purity, ward and stake discounts available at www.lundbergcompany.com. They are also the authors of the book on improving communication with family members titled I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better.]