I remember when my friend told me about the horrible lesson a well-meaning leader taught her when she was young. It’s one that I’m sure many of us received or were taught some version of at one point or another.
The lesson was on chastity – remaining sexually pure until marriage. Before starting, the teacher offered the class a piece of gum. There was only one piece of gum, and many people in the class wanted it. The teacher picked one person to give the piece of gum to, then continued to teach using scriptures and quotes about the law of chastity.
Partway through the lesson, the teacher asked the person with the gum to spit it out onto a napkin in her hand. She then asked if anybody wanted the gum now that it had been chewed up. Of course, nobody did. Somebody had already chewed it up. That’s gross, right?
The teacher then relates the piece of gum to somebody who breaks the law of chastity or has some kind of sexual experience before marriage. Where once they were clean and many people wanted them, they were now disgusting trash, unwanted by anyone.
As a teenager at the time, I didn’t think much of it. It made sense enough, I guessed. I viewed sins as blots on our “records” and recognized that some things were irreversible. But as I got older, I realized that the bubblegum lesson put sex in a frame of shame and didn’t accurately teach how the Atonement of Christ works at all.
A Lesson On Worth
Luckily, my mom was one of my Young Women’s leaders at one point, and she gave a chastity lesson that changed my perspective forever.
Like the bubble gum lesson, my mom offered the class a dollar bill. I can’t remember if it was $1, $10, or $20, but regardless, we all wanted it. She then tore a small tear in the corner of the dollar bill and asked if we still wanted it. We all said yes. Then she took the dollar bill and crumpled it up, and asked if we still wanted it. We all said yes. Then she threw the dollar bill on the ground, stomped on it, and asked if we still wanted it. We all said yes.
She asked us why we still wanted this money, even after it had been through so much. Someone raised their hand and replied, “Because no matter what happens to it, it’s still worth the same amount.”
She told us that just like that dollar bill, we all have worth – infinite worth – much greater than a dollar bill. She said that some things may happen to us throughout our life. Some of those things may be our own choices – sins we commit or mistakes we make. Some of those things may be because of the choices and actions of others. But regardless of what happens or what we go through, we will never, ever lose our worth.
Jesus will always want us.
Let me reiterate: No matter what you’ve been through, you have not lost your worth. You are wanted.
You are loved and are worthy of love.
I’m not sure I recognized just how empowering that message was as a teenager. But looking back, I realize the empowerment that came from that lesson.
As we all do, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, some more consequential than others. But because of the lesson my mother taught me in Young Womens and at home throughout my life, I knew that my mistakes did not define me.
You vs. The Dollar
There are some definite differences between you and the dollar, though. I mean, other than the fact that one is a piece of paper and one is a wonderful, amazing human being. 🙂
First of all, sex, in and of itself, is not bad. It is normal, natural, and beautiful. Having sex does not make you bad or disgusting. Sex creates life and creates closeness and intimacy between a husband and wife.
If you look in Gospel Topics under ‘Chastity,’ it teaches, “Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love within marriage. In the world today, Satan has led many people to believe that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is acceptable. But in God’s sight, it is a serious sin. It is an abuse of the power He has given us to create life. The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder and denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:3–5). Sometimes people try to convince themselves that sexual relations outside of marriage are acceptable if the participants love one another. This is not true.”
Second, gum has one purpose and one purpose alone. Gum is meant to be chewed and then thrown away. Your purpose in life is not to have sex. Your purpose is to have a mortal experience where you can learn and become more like your Father in Heaven. Sex is a very small part of the many things that you will do, see, and become in this lifetime. If you have some kind of sexual experience before marriage, your purpose in life is not wasted.
The blessings of honoring the law of Chastity are guaranteed. When you repent with true intent, the blessings are restored to you. To learn of some of the blessings for staying sexually pure, see Alma 38:12, Matt. 5:8, D&C 121:45-46,Mosiah 2:41, Alma 41:10.
Third, when Jesus died for our sins, he didn’t die so that we would be permanently marred by our sins. The scriptures teach that “though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18). That doesn’t sound like a chewed-up piece of gum to me. That sounds like pure redemption. Where a dollar bill might have to be taped together, ironed out, or otherwise be permanently altered, we do not have to continuously bear the marks of our sins. We will always have the memory and lessons of our mistakes, but once we repent, we are made whole again, as if we had never sinned.
President Russell M. Nelson expounded, “Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.”
You Are Worthy Of Love
When it comes down to it, the most important thing to remember is that God’s love never changes. It doesn’t matter where you go, what you do, or what you experience. God loves you. Every part of you. No matter what.
Jesus died for all of us – for YOU. We all need him. If you turn to Him with a repentant heart, He will cover your sin, and it will be “white as snow,” as pure as if it had never been there in the first place.
“If you need to repent from sexual sin, I invite you to begin by praying to Heavenly Father and working with your bishop or branch president. Approach repentance with a positive attitude. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the greatest gift that has ever been given. With Him, you can put your sins behind you and become once again as “white as snow.” With Him, you can become better than you once were. With Him, you can move forward with hope and confidence for a great life that lies ahead of you.” – Bishop Richard Ostler
Although God and Jesus’s love for us will never change, you may come across people throughout your dating experience who don’t feel the same. They may view sex through the eyes of the bubble gum lesson and only want someone who has never had any kind of sexual experience before. That is okay for them to want that, and it possibly highlights a lack of understanding of the atonement of Jesus Christ or a need to study what the scriptures say about judgment. (We all have something to work on. If you’re struggling with ‘Judgement,’ maybe try starting your spiritual exploration in John 8.) There are many who will recognize your worth separate from your past. Focus your time on them. You deserve someone who sees you. All of you. And loves you. All of you.
If I you take anything from this article, I hope it’s these three things:
- “Remember the worth of [your soul] is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10.) Nothing you do or don’t do, changes your worth! Heavenly Father loves you immeasurably and unconditionally!
- In 2 Nephi 2:25, we are taught that we “are, that [we] might have joy.” Heavenly Father wants us to be happy and has provided guidelines to achieve the fullest and most fulfilling form of joy.
- “Go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11) It’s a tall order, but you can do it! Take the first steps. Pray for strength against temptation and to feel His forgiveness. If needed, schedule that appointment with your bishop. He isn’t there to judge but is a resource to help you unlock the blessings of heaven.
Kaleigh is a Marketing Coordinator for Mutual. She has worked with couples, relationships, dating, and love in a creative role for over a decade. She's a hopeless romantic who loves that her career allows her to help people find their soulmates. She downloaded Mutual when it first launched in 2016, coincidentally the same year she met her husband! They now live happily ever after in the Midwest with their two kids and dog.