Teaching Chastity and Virtue Part 1: How to Approach the Subject

Every parent and teacher needs to read this.  Very insightful!

Teaching Chastity and Virtue Part 1

How to Approach the Subject

Most teachers feel anxious when teaching this subject, but gear up – because the youth are learning plenty from the songs, TV shows, jokes, movies, conversations, etc. etc. etc… that they are surrounded with! So not only must we teach them, but we must teach them well. We must pray about it, study about it, and intricately work on our own abilities so that when we teach, we teach with power.

We cannot leave this lesson to once a year, because the world isn’t. We can’t leave it to a single Family Home Evening, because the world isn’t. And we can’t leave it to one type of teaching method – because the world isn’t!

When teaching this sensitive topic in a classroom we will have all sorts of situations and experiences sitting in each chair. And we MUST seek for the Spirit so that EACH ONE leaves feeling hope and excitement. This is what is so difficult.

The purpose of this article is to help us step back, take a look, and have compassion for each of the youth – and be sure to teach, and love, each one.

What not to do:

There will be youth sitting in your class that have had various experiences with the law of chastity. For those who may have had a little (or a lot) too much: do not make them feel damaged.

Often, as teachers, we teach to the ideal situation. To the young man or young women who has never participated, or seen, or viewed, or talked about anything sexual in any way. How nice that would be, but is likely not so, and we must then watch our tone and fill them with instruction and hope.

One object lesson that is sometimes done is to take a fresh piece of gum and a chewed up (used) piece of gum and then present the question “which one do you want to be?”.

I plead with you not to do this. I understand that the message is to keep yourself pure and clean, but what about the boy or girl who needs to, or has, or is in the process of repenting for a sexual transgression? What about the one who has been sexually abused? What message will they receive? I can only imagine if that was my daughter in that class, and for some reason or another she identified herself with the chewed up gum – that would break my heart. What path could that set her on? What friends might she choose, what boys to date?

And that is never how the Savior would have us see ourselves.

We all know Elizabeth Smart’s story, and in her book “My Story” she says (after receiving this object lesson): “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody rechews a piece of gum. You throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it so to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value… Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”

How very, very sad. And how amazing she is to share that with the world, for she is certainly not the first to feel that way. As teachers and parents we are to embrace these youth and help them feel their immense amount of worth regardless of anything that has happened, or is happening.

Teach what Virtue is

At a family dinner I asked my nieces, who are all in the young women program, what they thought virtue was. “Being morally clean”, said one. “Being pure”, said another. “Being Chastuous” (she was trying to say chaste), said the last.

Virtue and chastity go hand in hand, but VIRTUE is a value that is much more encompassing.

This is the dictionary definition of Virtue: A particular moral excellence; a quality or power of a thing; manly strength or courage

This is what it says on LDS.ORG: “Virtue ‘is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards.’ It encompasses chastity and moral purity.”

Virtue comes from the latin word “VIRTUS” meaning “strength”. This word originated in the Roman Empire and originally represented a brave warrior and over time came to represent a good man, or someone who did the right thing. Virtue is often associated with chastity because that was the highest regarded virtue.

So virtue isn’t just about what you have or have not done. It is who you are, what you think about, what you will laugh at and what you stand up for. Virtue is not a chronological record of our lives.

If someone is virtuous they live by a high set of moral values now. They don’t even have to be perfect at it, but because they live by those values, they will strive for them and repent and realign themselves often. And because of that, they are exceptionally strong (virtus), hence For the Strength of Youth.

Therefore: young men and young women who have had sexual experiences can absolutely be virtuous. They can stand with great courage and love and represent virtue in every part of their being. They can completely understand the importance of maintaining high moral values, especially chastity. The same goes for those who have been sexually abused. They can (and should) wave the flag of virtue just as high as any of their peers. Isn’t that beautiful?

And there are some who are waiting for someone to tell them that. Hope is a powerful thing.

AND this should also be how we view virtuous people. Not who has, or hasn’t (fill in the blank), but who lives a highly moral life now and fights for it every day.

Teach HOW to be Virtuous

Since chastity is such a highly regarded value, it is often associated with “virtue” as it is not just “a” virtue, but “the” virtue. In the world we live in often those who are chaste are referred to as inexperienced, old fashioned or naïve, when actually the opposite is true. Those who can own the title “virtus” are incredibly “with it” and must be totally aware so that they can remain pure. They don’t live day to day – the can’t. They live with a strict set of limits and clearly defined “I will” and “I will not”, and they have the courage to live by them.

They also trust those who counsel them and give them wise guidelines. They do not think that “I am strong enough” or “I will just figure it out”. They know that they have not yet gained enough experience to set their own limitations, so when those they trust give them standards, they are grateful, and they never try to justify small things.

How do I guard my virtue?  This LDS printable teaching package has 6 great learning activities, 2 Personal Progress experiences for Virtue, and  a great handout!  #ldsvirtue

You can find this study and teaching package HERE.

This package includes a pamphlet, 6 learning activities that help you learn and apply the lesson, printable posters, printable locker prints, printable stickers, and Personal Progress Virtue Experiences 2 and 4.

The stickers can be printed and stuck onto cell phones, stereos, computers, etc. as daily reminders to protect themselves by what they see, listen to, and engage in.

How do I guard my virtue?  This LDS printable teaching package has 6 great learning activities, 2 Personal Progress experiences for Virtue, and  a great handout!  #ldsvirtue

You can find this package and see more pictures HERE.


  1. Shannon – thank you for this! You have put feelings I have had in my heart but didn’t know how to express. I have young women (who I am about to teach this Sunday) that I love so much but I didn’t know how to teach this subject because I didn’t want them to feel bad. This is just what they need to hear. Thank you!

  2. I have a dear friend who openly admits that the reason she went inactive for so long was because she felt “damaged” like you said. I can only imagine what it would have done for her if she would have received this message in her youth.

    I totally agree that we usually teach to the “ideal” kind of ignoring the other situations, and in this case that could cause so much hurt in these dear youth’s hearts. They are so young and tender – I love this message!!

  3. I REALLY want my daughters to read this! They will be able to be messengers of hope to their friends! Thank you!


  4. I also received that object lesson and you totally described what happened to me (even though I repented quickly and really felt awful for what I had done). It took a long time for me to forgive myself for being “damaged” and “used”. I can see now that my teacher just had good intentions but didn’t understand the message she was sending to me (and others) in that class. I went home and went to bed that day and when my mom found out why I was so down she had wished that I hadn’t gone to church that day because my mom had gone through the journey with me.

    I am now the relief society president in my ward and have come a long way since then thanks to incredibly loving parents who made me feel like I had worth despite my stupid, inexperienced, teenage girl decisions. I thought I could handle a boyfriend. And like you said, because of what I went through, I love the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet even more. I totally hold it up, wave it, and encourage the youth to live by it – it is there for their benefit.

    When they added “virtue” as a value I thought to myself “I’m glad I didn’t have to say that every week when I was a girl”, but now I can see that I WAS virtuous, and AM virtuous. I don’t think my experiences as a girl made me wiser, or better, (if I could redo it, I WOULD) but I DO have a passion for the standards that I don’t always see others have. When I was young women’s president I made the girls memorize the pamphlet.

    Thank you for this article.

  5. I have a young woman in my ward that was sexually abused and I was so nervous about how I was going to teach this lesson. Thank you. I know that she needs this message.

  6. Great insight, thank you so much for your hard work and dedication to the gospel and its teachings. You are appreciated more than you know.

  7. Thank you for writing this article. I am in young women’s and I agree I want to teach these things frequently. I would like to learn more about how to restore virtue once it’s lost, referring to boys and girls who choose to have sexual relations and then want to repent. How do you get back to the level of virtue that you have referenced in your article?

  8. I love the way you put into words the real importance of what and how we should be teaching our youth about this critical, sensitive subject. I’ve heard the gum or partially eaten apple analogy several times in my years as a YW leader and it has always bothered me but I didn’t dare speak up because I didn’t want to ruin someone’s lesson. Before we teach and speak to the “best scenario” we need to be so sensitive to how what we say can be interpreted. Most often we are not aware of difficult situations experienced by those in our classroom.

    Thank you for your time and effort in putting together this information. I’m a first time visitor to your blog but am now following! Hugs to you! Thank you!

  9. I’d really like the subject of friendships addressed.
    1. How to choose a good friend,
    2. choosing friends your parents may not agree with,
    3. peer pressure and friendships
    4. controlling friendships,
    5. Why do friends disappear when you get a boyfriend?
    6. friendships with people older or younger than yourself
    7. Should long distance friendships be maintained?
    8. Friends who are only Sunday Mormons
    9. Friends who are nice to your face but ignore you in public
    10. How to maintain a great friendship

    Thank you

  10. Thanks for this insightful way of teaching. And I will never use an analogy with chewed up gum. I would never want my daughter (or any other child) to ever feel like they have no worth. When my daughter is old enough, I do want to teach her the law of chastity so that she really understands the importance of it.

  11. I am a young woman and I am a good girl. I live in a town where I am one of a very few mormons. The feelings are so strong and the consequences so delayed that it took failure to lead me to know what I was comfortable with. In church making me feel like I made a mistake gave me anxiety and I felt that the consequences of one decision would ruin me. I was like a piece of toast that had all the jelly licked off! Who would want a totally licked piece of toast?!(my teachers object lesson). I often think of the mormon message about the father and the son who had the spiritual prompting to go down the wrong road in order to know that they were on the right one. I thought that if I went too far I could never recover, and the Lord never wants you to feel that way. It took experiences for me to know how not to abuse myself because my spirit is fragile and my body is sacred, but the hardest part was to stop abusing myself spiritually for being immoral. The Lord loves us not for our choices but us. I really beat myself up and I made it so incredibly hard and I felt like I could not turn to the Lord for help because I didn’t listen to him in the first place. Just keep things light and know that the closer you are to God the louder his voice will be in your head, and the less reverb of emotions you will feel. So stay close to God, that is the way to virtue.

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