The Birds and the BeesJanuary 29, 2008
Would you be surprised to learn, with my large family of children ages 23, 22, 20, 18, 16, 14, 13, and 9, that I have *never* given the “sex talk?” It’s true. And I’ve come to feel that if you’ve had to give “the talk” to your children, you’ve waited too long. Sexuality is part of the human condition, and I feel it should be a natural part of growing up. DH and I don’t parade around the house naked, yet we don’t dress behind locked doors, either. I think it’s very common for children to see the bodies of their parents and siblings as they grow up in the home. Calling body parts by their correct names–as well as by slang names–happens in our home from Day 1. I hope that all of this has given my children a healthy attitude toward the human body.
I’ve discovered that sex can be discussed as it comes up. This may be controversial to some of you, but I believe that if a young child is watching a TV show and a sexual reference is made, I can ask, “Do you know what that means?” Then I briefly and tastefully explain. (Of course, you may run into trouble at times, such as when your 2nd grader is the one to tell everyone on the school bus what a blow job is. Eeek.) That’s when I learned to teach them there are things we only talk about with our family, and the difference between “sacred” and “secret!”
I remember how uncomfortable it was when my parents sat me down for “the talk.” I haven’t had any of this with the approach I’ve taken with my children. They seem to feel quite at home asking me any questions whatever. It also helps to have age-appropriate books around the house that don’t shy away from talking directly about sex. Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret has probably done more for teaching young girls about the anxieties they encounter in regards to menstruation than any other source. That’s because it addresses the subject in a straight-forward manner and doesn’t moralize.
I also feel my approach of speaking about sex candidly and early in the home is more conducive to promoting the attitudes I would like to teach them about this important subject. In 1988 (a few days before my third child was born), Jeffrey R. Holland gave the talk Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments in the Marriott Center at BYU. I felt that the tone he achieved was lovely and well-suited to teaching children and youth about sex, love, and chastity. Said [then] President Holland:
First, we simply must understand the revealed, restored Latter-day Saint doctrine of the soul, and the high and inextricable part the body plays in that doctrine. One of the “plain and precious” truths restored to this dispensation is that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C88:15; emphasis added) and that when the spirit and body are separated, men and women “cannot receive a fulness of joy” (D&C93:34). . . human intimacy, that sacred, physical union ordained of God for a married couple, deals with a symbol that demands special sanctity. Such an act of love between a man and a woman is–or certainly was ordained to be–a symbol of total union: union of their hearts, their hopes, their lives, their love, their family, their future, their everything. It is a symbol that we try to suggest in the temple with a word like seal. The Prophet Joseph Smith once said we perhaps ought to render such a sacred bond as “welding”–that those united in matrimony and eternal families are “welded” together, inseparable if you will, to withstand the temptations of the adversary and the afflictions of mortality.
This approach obviates shame and promotes the beauty and pleasure of human sexuality while giving clear and concise reasons for remaining chaste outside of marriage. I’ve read the talk many times, and tried to carry over its beautiful message into the nitty-gritty details.
Imagine that, if you will. Veritable teenagers–and all of us for many decades thereafter–carrying daily, hourly, minute-to-minute, virtually every waking and sleeping moment of our lives, the power and the chemistry and the eternally transmitted seeds of life to grant someone else her second estate, someone else his next level of development in the divine plan of salvation. I submit to you that no power, priesthood or otherwise, is given by God so universally to so many with virtually no control over its use except self-control. And I submit to you that you will never be more like God at any other time in this life than when you are expressing that particular power.