Come, Follow Me - June 13, 2021
If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I wanted to give you a heads up on an upcoming Come, Follow Me lesson. I have serious concerns about the content in all the manuals (except Primary), but my biggest concern is the youth manual. The lesson is June 7-13, Doctrine and Covenants 63, talking about pornography.
I believe that the theology and doctrine of The Church are very much in alignment with a healthy sexual relationship between husband and wife. But in the culture of the church and the way that anything sexual is approached is often done with a lot of fear and shame-based tactics. I have seen The Church working to improve these things over the last few years, but I believe that many members of The Church fall back on the ways they were taught about it rather than adopting the new ways that are being taught. Unfortunately, I think that is what has happened with the curriculum for this lesson. It is full of fear and shame-based language. And rather than drawing on newer talks and a less shame-based way of approaching this lesson, it is full of old information.
I know that the Curriculum Department has a huge job and I believe that they are great people doing the absolute best that they can. But things do slip through the cracks. I remember one such lesson last year as well, talking about the curse of “dark skin” that had to be corrected. I believe this lesson is the same. (By the way, letters have been sent to the curriculum department with concerns about this lesson).
I also believe that local leaders and instructors love our children and have very good intentions, but I am worried about how this lesson will be approached, especially as it is currently written. I think sexual discussions that are taught by untrained people to a group of impressionable preteens and teens (even ones that are well-meaning) are not a good idea. I would guess that many youth do not have parents that are giving them better teachings in their home and worry about how these lessons are not only taught, but also perceived.
Pornography is one of the greatest struggles of our time. But I believe that the way that it has been approached in the past, by well-meaning leaders, has actually led to it becoming even worse. Pornography is RARELY an addiction. Most people who look at pornography are GOOD people (and notice how I am not saying boys/men here, because this is just as much a problem for women/girls). But we have been taught that it destroys people and destroys marriage. It definitely can, but it doesn’t have to. We have been taught to fear it, shame it, and shame those who view it. These makes things worse.
Pornography often starts with curiosity. Curiosity about sex and the human body. But what those who look quickly discover is that it FEELS good. So when they are not feeling good, they can turn to it to feel better. And yes, they will feel better in the moment, but then tend to feel even worse afterwards. Pornography is most often a coping mechanism. And we ALL have coping mechanisms. We eat. We drink Diet Coke. We shop. We play video games. Some people drink. Do drugs. Gamble. These are all coping mechanisms. Some tend to be more pernicious and destructive than others. But the underlying reason is the same. We want to feel better. That is why, rather than shaming the individual for looking we need to look at WHY they look and what can they do instead that is more in alignment with their values. We need to help individuals understand their emotions and how to feel them rather than try to avoid them. This is what actually works to help resolve the issue (and is based in science!) Not shame. Not fear.
Please consider talking to your children about this lesson and what they might here at church. Let them know that despite what they are learning, you think differently. I also encourage you to discuss this with the leaders in your ward. I have personally met with my bishop, members of the bishopric, and Young Women’s President in my ward and had a great discussion of a better way to handle this lesson.
An alternate lesson plan, put together by a well-respected LDS therapist, is available. I have combined it with some additional notes that I have added to help you (and other leaders) educate yourself on this topic so that it can be handled better. All resources in the lesson itself are directly from Church materials. Additonal resources I have added are from the Church or from BYU or LDS therapists.
If you would like to this lesson plan, please fill out the form below, and you will be immediately taken to it.