Teen Sex: What’s a Parent to Do?
by Darla Isackson
Statistics in regard to teen promiscuity are alarming. But statistics do not begin to tell the real story–the heartache and anxiety parents are experiencing, and the eternally important blessings many teens are robbing themselves of. For centuries society supported parents in teaching the moral law, but that has all changed. I doubt there is a parent in the world who isn’t worried their teenagers will adopt the lax moral standards now accepted as “normal” in our society. All the fences of social support for chastity have been torn down. When was the last time you saw a movie where the hero and heroine waited until after marriage to jump into bed with each other? Even Superman bedded Lois in a movie aimed at pre-adolescents!
What chance do immature teens have to sort all this out? How can they gain the strength to take a stand against the prevailing social norms? How can they learn to recognize the steps that lead to immoral behavior when these steps are so accepted as “the thing to do” by their peers and society in general? Even many LDS teens seem to have no clue they are treading dangerous ground when they walk into boys’ bedrooms, lie down by each other to watch TV, give back rubs touching each other freely, or wear immodest fashions because “everyone is wearing them.”
LDS parents are clearly swimming upstream, bucking the immorality now blatantly touted in every form of media. Pornography is the number one use of the Internet, and I doubt there is one computer literate person who has not had a pornographic message, picture, or invitation thrown on the screen totally unasked for. Yet most of us have spent a good part of our parenting career feeling helpless and clueless in this area of teaching moral behavior. When my sister and I interviewed a hundred families for our book To Parents with Love we asked each one for suggestions on how to effectively teach the law of chastity. Only ONE out a hundred had anything to offer on the subject! Each year the need has become more urgent, but many of us have felt increasingly frustrated.
The need to admit our powerlessness and turn to the Lord in mighty prayer in behalf of our children is obvious. One couple, Joy and Gary Lundberg, did that, and came up with a book idea that may prove to be a glimmer of hope in a sea of darkness. Gary is a well-known LDS counselor, Joy a writer and speaker. They are frequently invited to speak to youth groups in the Church. They found that the youth want specifics–how to set boundaries, what to do when in various situations. They began to give specifics in their talks, and the fact that youth want to do what’s right and really want to know HOW was overwhelmingly confirmed when they spoke to 700 teens in Idaho. In the middle of their talk as they gave specific ways to set boundaries and demonstrated exactly what to do, the teens jumped up and gave Joy and Gary a standing ovation. Many came up later to say, “Thank you so much. I just didn’t know what to do. Now I know. Thank you for being specific.” Lundbergs became more and more convinced that these specifics needed to be available in book form, and have recently released On Guard! Seven Safeguards to Protect Your Sexual Purity.
I edited the book and found it packed with straight-forward and sometimes eye-opening advice for teens and young adults. We want to give our children as many ways as possible to guard themselves from the sorrow of sexual sin, and this book offers the most readable and relevant helps I’ve seen. I recently interviewed the authors, Joy and Gary Lundberg, and asked them to explain their reasons for zeroing in on these seven points. With their permission, I’m going to share their Seven Safeguards and tell you why they felt each point was crucial.
Safeguard # 1 Understand Why Sexual Purity is So Important
This chapter begins with the scripture: “Whoso committeth adultery . . . lacketh understanding.” The Lundbergs believe that if anyone truly understands why Heavenly Father has given this commandment and why it is smart, not stupid to keep it, they will be filled with motivation to stay morally clean. They talk about the reality of peer pressure to join in self-destructive behavior and how to handle it. Lundbergs thought it was vital in this chapter to teach the seriousness of sexually transmitted diseases. Young people are taught in some health classes that these diseases are easily curable with antibiotics and that there are no side effects. What they don’t teach is that some diseases have no symptoms until the damage is already done–and the victims can be left with life-long problems as serious as infertility and HIV. This chapter also covers the damaging effects of pre-marital sex on marriage.
Safeguard # 2 Choose Well the Ones You Date
Because we marry those we date, this subject is vital. Lundbergs draw from experiences from other kids, giving real-life scenarios that will cause young people to evaluate and think through the actual qualifications that make a potential date a good or a bad choice. They also give specific ideas for how to turn a date down without being rude.
Safeguard # 3 Be in Control of Your Body
Lundbergs felt this Safeguard one of the most important because boundaries in this area are so essential to maintaining sexual purity. They discuss what those boundaries should be–what you allow and don’t allow, what you do and don’t do. For example, they explain what to do if a boy puts his hand on your knee, what kind of kiss is appropriate and what kind is not, and why.
Safeguard #4 Fill Your Mind with Good Things
The metaphor of the banquet in this chapter blew me away. The authors described elegant buffet tables overflowing with exquisite food artistically presented with the finest crystal, china, candelabras, and flower arrangements. But as you move closer, licking your lips in anticipation, you are stunned to see, intermingled with the good food, rotten meat and other food items covered with mold and crawling with maggots. Will you stay and try to pick out the items of food you like, hoping they won’t be contaminated? They liken this banquet to movies, TV programs, books, etc. that have “only a few bad scenes,” But you can’t throw up a bad scene. Satan is a dirty fighter and they describe some of his weapons and suggest we can only win with vigilance and foreknowledge. They suggest that all forms of entertainment and the media can be used by Satan for his purposes, and that pornography in books, magazines, and the Internet has become a powerful weapon in Satan’s arsenal. They tell what to do about Internet pornography–how to avoid it, how to get out if you have something come up inadvertently (turning off the computer is sometimes the only way.) They tell how to overcome the use of pornography if it has already gained a hold on you.
Safeguard #5 Watch What You Wear
Lundbergs chose this safeguard because it has been their experience that girls don’t “get it”–they simply don’t have a clue what immodest styles do to young men. The loveliest girls are exposing their bodies without the slightest idea what they are doing. So they give them not just clues, but absolute guidelines–boys too! They give a specific “modesty test” and tell of ways other teens are setting their own standards–requesting more modest prom apparel from stores, etc. They suggest that teens shop with parental supervision. Parents need to set the right example, and have the courage to speak up, make clear how they feel with kind, firm words such as “Honey, you are too beautiful to wear something like that. You may not leave the house until you change.” They suggest we do not need to be mean, to yell, or quote scriptures or prophets in a manipulatory way. Just firmly, kindly let them know you love them enough to help them set boundaries. Powerful quotes from General Authorities support Lundbergs’ position.
Safeguard #6 Get the Angels on Your Side
This is my favorite chapter, reminding us of all the great promises we’ve been given of loving support and help from the spirit world. They give testimonies of family connections through the veil, of angelic rescues, and scriptural examples of angels being “round about to bear us up.” We can use our agency by praying, reading our scriptures, and listening to the whisperings of the Spirit to maximize this help and protection.
Safeguard # 7 Take a Look into the Future
Teens are too often stuck into just today, rarely visualizing themselves in the future or thinking how their choices now will affect them later. Lundbergs encourage them to think where they want to be, who they want to be, what they want to be doing three years from now, five years from now. Satan wants to convince youth they have no future, but the Lord promises great blessings to the faithful, in spite of the conditions in the world. They document the importance and blessings of repentance, using your patriarchal blessing, and making decisions today that will have eternal significance. They remind us of the promises of the Lord and the Brethren, ending with the scripture, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)
Using This Important Resource
So how can parents use this book? A California mother, Joni Hilton, recently got back to the Lundbergs with an idea. She said, “We have teenagers and young adults at home and, after reading On Guard! ourselves, my husband and I told them we were going to read a chapter for each Family Home Evening for the next seven weeks. From the moment we began reading, they were riveted. They didn’t wiggle, yawn, or say, ‘When is this going to be over?’ They were with us every step of the way. Now we know that our kids know the facts and what to do to live morally clean.”
If we simply give On Guard to our teenagers as a present, will they read it? Rachel Rowbury, who is seventeen, did read it, and she said, “I absolutely love this book! I couldn’t stop reading it. It’s amazing and powerful! The safeguards are simple yet can have such an incredible influence on my life now and eternally.” However, I don’t think my sons read many of the books I gave them. Youth may be more likely to read things that come from “hip” young youth leaders or even as an assignment from the bishopric than from “old-fashioned” mom and dad–so we might tell the youth leaders and bishoprics in our wards about this resource.
Each set of parents must decide for themselves the best way to reinforce the gospel teachings of sexual purity. The challenge has never been greater, but neither have the resources the Lord keeps providing to help us meet the challenge! Also, we always need to remember that scriptural promises, such as “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all they ways.” (Psalm 91:11) apply to parents as well as to children. The Lord will bless us and give us angelic help in this charge to help our children accept and live God’s moral law–and to know where to turn for a remission of their sins when they stumble. Christ, as always, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Editors’ Note: We will be serializing On Guard during the next few weeks on Meridian. In hoping to help with the enormous challenge our youth face, the Lundbergs have made their book very affordable at $6.95. You will probably want to buy a copy for yourself or maybe several copies for the youth you serve or teach. For information on purchasing this book click here.
2002 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.