I just read a very fascinating article by Kathryn Soper, entitled - Why Standards Night Is Substandard: Teaching Sexuality to the Young Women.
She talked about a young girl’s need to feel love, quoting an article by President Benson:
I recognize that most people fall into sexual sin in a misguided attempt to fulfill basic human needs. We all have a need to feel loved and worthwhile. We all seek to have joy and happiness in our lives. Knowing this, Satan often lures people into immorality by playing on their basic needs. He promises pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment (The Message: The Law of Chastity, New Era, January 1988).
She states – To put it simply, thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-old girls don’t have sex because they desperately want sex. They have sex because they desperately want something else. President Benson points out several psychological necessities we mistakenly seek through illicit sex — love, joy, fulfillment… .
Then she names another reason that young girls begin to harness their own sexuality – the thrill of power that she finds when she learns that she is becoming a woman and can capture the attention of men.
To tell you the truth, I knew exactly what she meant as she talked about the first time she wore mascara to a dance when she was a young woman. I remembered the moments in my life when I felt that power.
There was a poignant moment when she discussed a mother, desperately worried about her daughter’s intimate relationship, and she (the author) asked if the daughter [had] power in her life.
Then she said that the mother, looked uneasy, and I didn’t blame her. Power is not a commodity we associate with Mormon girls and women. To our ears the very concept of power sounds worldly and corrupt, unless we’re talking about priesthood power, which we qualify as exclusively masculine. But I wasn’t talking about priesthood power, and I wasn’t talking about the steel-fisted power of a political dictator or corporate mogul, either.
I tried to explain. “What I mean is, does Amy sense that she’s in control of her own life? That she has the right and the ability and the opportunity to get what she wants and what she needs?”
Finally she discussed the problem with that kind of power -
She knows the power of sexual attraction, but she doesn’t need a man’s approving gaze or hungry touch to feel strong… All of humanity suffers every time a woman, young or not, uses her body not to express herself, but to secure a self; not to feel pleasure, but to gratify another’s; not to share love, but to barter for it.
While I agreed with most of her arguments and enjoyed her writing style, I felt frustrated that she didn’t take it a step further and talk about HOW to gain power in other ways, or offer suggestions to young women leaders and mothers about HOW to teach Standard’s Night.
May I submit that women need to find avenues to channel their powers, and places to turn to find confidence and self-esteem. One of those places is in creation.
I read an article several years ago about a young teenage girl who was involved in self-mutilation (cutting). The mother knew that her daughter loved to do art. So she took her to an art store and bought her girl some expensive supplies to “keep her hands busy” when she felt the urge to do damage to herself.
Not only does that give the girl an outlet, it helps build the confidence and self-esteem that the girl needs. Then wise parents and friends will reach out and give her the attention then she is crying out for, but if they don’t she can find it in other ways.
At an early age, I wanted the good opinion of others (I still do at times. I think that is part of the human package) but I learned that the only way to get the attention and love that my soul craved was through the feelings of the Holy Spirit, telling me that I was unique, special, loved and approved of.
How much more satisfying it is when we receive the praise of God, knowing that it is fully justified and that His love and respect for us will persist, when usually the praise of men is fleeting and most disappointing (President N. Eldon Tanner, Ensign, Nov. 1975, p.76).
So there is power to be found in the act of creation, whether it be creating a healthy body, a work of culture, a work of kindness. There is power to be found in developing our unique gifts and talents.
But the power that will be the most satisfying is the power that comes when the Soul (meaning the Spirit and Body together) gain strength. This is what we must teach at Standards Night. There was a reason that the Savior had the ability to perform his mighty miracles.
Remember the story of the woman that had an issue of blood? For twelve years, she looked for a cure but was unable to find it. Then she heard of Jesus and thought within herself – If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
She went through a large group of people and touched the hem of his garment - And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
That story is miraculous, but our discussion is centered around what comes next – And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that avirtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
His power and strength came from his virtue. That power went out of Him, and He felt it leave.
The disciples then said to Him, “what are you talking about, look at all of these people that are surrounding you, they’re all touching you.”
But He knew, that an individual in that crowded mass needed His power, healing and His recognition to make herself whole.
When the author of the above article stated “we’re talking about priesthood power, which we qualify as exclusively masculine” she failed to mention Whose Priesthood power the men of the Church hold. In ancient days, the Priesthood was called - the aHoly Priesthood, after the bOrder of the Son of God (Doc. & Cov. 107:2-4) and regardless of who administers the power, it belongs to the Savior and it is available to all who have the need of it for strength, healing, love, forgiveness, guidance and power.
This is what we should be teaching at Standard’s Night. That the way to feel His power when we need it is to reach out and touch Him, even the hem of His garment if that’s all that you can reach. We should show the girls that the way to reach Him is through preparation, repentance, and by using the WORD of God in our talks and lessons and daily lives.
Then we should teach how to channel our own power as Creative beings and as Spiritual beings.