Brief essays on the Mormon Experience
All too often, talks on this issue (and, really, all talks directed at kids) focus on *what* the right thing to do is--e.g. don't have premarital sex, don't smoke, go to church, don't cheat on tests. That's all well and good, but in my experience, both as a former teenager and as a babysitter and hopeful someday mom, is that kids rarely (if ever) do the wrong thing, because they're confused about the *right* thing. Oh, they know--but what they don't know is how to put it into action.Peer pressure is a huge issue. I was joking with a friend of mine the other day about prom; looking back on it, even a few short years later, it just seems so ridiculous that we cared so much. But, at the time, prom was everything. A lot of adults (even those of us who haven't reached 30 and, therefore, should theoretically be more in touch) discount the stuff that matters to kids as basically ridiculous. It seems ludicrous that a kid would do something he or she knows is wrong, just to fit in--but obviously, it happens.It's important to take the pressures kids face seriously. They do. Telling a kid "life doesn't end if you don't have a boyfriend/girlfriend", well, that's true, but it'll fall on deaf ears. Right now, in their lives, that statement is simply wrong.It's hard to imagine life beyond high school. It's hard to imagine that life really does go on--and that there's more to it than, right now, you can picture. Adulthood seems glamorous and wonderful, and adults themselves seem like absolute idiots. Half the time, I think kids keep their problems to themselves--often with disastrous consequences--out of fear of judgment.So I think a good focus for a talk would be peer pressure--and, most importantly, how to avoid it. I remember going to a talk, years ago, where the speaker said, "you don't have to drink beer, but you don't have to advertise that you're not drinking, either; walk around with a plastic cup of water, or pop, and nobody will know the difference". That was useful advice. Kids want to live according to their values, but not necessarily be singled out as doing such. The most important thing is usually to fit in, and peer pressure really becomes an issue when differences are obvious.Another thing not enough talks address, I don't think, is *why* to say no. One thing I've experienced, in working with the YW set, is a complete lack of understanding of how boys think about sex. Safe sex isn't the issue; everybody knows how to put a condom on a banana. But what they don't know, often, is how to react to a boy saying "if you loved me, you'd have sex with me", or "if you don't have sex with me, I'll break up with you". Nobody has ever told them, if he really liked you, he wouldn't want you to do anything that made you uncomfortable. A lot of times, kids feel like they don't have any choices--but they do.
Thanks for those thoughts -- very real.I remember when I was bishop a number of years ago, we were talking in one of our meetings with the youth about what topics to consider for firesides in the next few months. One of the young women said, "Please, no more talks about staying morally clean! We know you want us to do that!" I think our kids don't make mistakes out of ignorance, but they make mistakes because that's how life works. We all make mistakes. Of course, we still warn, but you're absolutely right: we need to teach the whole story.
How about Elder Faust's conference talk (not sure of the date)? He told (possibly apocraphally) about a concert where a little boy escaped his mother and to her horror she saw him at the piano just as Paderewski came on stage. The little boy, who had just started piano lessons, started playing "Twinkle Little Star". Rather than brushing him away to start his own performance, Paderewski leaned over him and whispered "go on and then play it again". The master first started an accompaniment with his left hand, then added a counter obligato with his right. His arms surrounding the child, they finished, to the applause of the crowd.Christ is like that. First we take our halting steps alone, then He comes and accompanys us in the most effective way to make us good. But we have to sometimes play it again and again until we have a beautiful performance.Love your blog...
Thanks for the idea -- I love that story that Elder Faust told.I posted over the weekend a shortened version of what I ended up talking about. CJ, your input prompted me to conclude with the clear message that the Savior has already atoned for whatever mistakes we'll make, and that the Savior loves us, and nothing the youth will do can change that. Their choices may take them farther from or closer to the Savior, but His arms are outstretched still.
Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.