The Young Women’s program, for Mormon teenagers, recently added a new value to the list of values the girls strive to integrate into their lives. This is the value of virtue. Today, virtue is in great danger, as teenagers are often taught, even by those in authority, that it isn’t realistic, practical, or valuable. Because they won’t learn about it in school or in the media, the church has stepped up its efforts to encourage its youth .
“Virtue is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards. It encompasses chastity and moral purity. Virtue includes modesty-in thought, language, dress, and demeanor. Virtue provides an anchor on the path leading to our Heavenly Father’s presence. The paths of virtue lead to happiness in this life and in the life to come. The paths of virtue lead to strong families. The paths of virtue contain the foundation stones for the blessings of eternity. They lead to the temple. No wonder Joseph Smith said, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (Articles of Faith 1:13).
Elaine S. Dalton, “Cherish Virtue,” New Era, Mar 2009, 16-17
Within the church, virtue is not mocked or seen as outdated or unrealistic. Sister Dalton points out there are millions of young men and women around the world leading lives of virtue of their own choosing. Despite the pressures of the world, and the “assurances” of some irresponsible adults, these teenagers know it is entirely possible to live a life of moral purity if you are careful in your choices and if you plan for the standards you want to live.
LDS teenagers are taught to guard against anything that might cause them to risk their virtue. They are taught to carefully consider the videos and music they spend time with, to avoid locations that invite temptation, and to choose friends who respect their values. They learn not to date too soon, and then to avoid dating situations that can cause them to falter.
Teenagers are helped by a booklet given to them when they turn twelve, called “For the Strength of Youth.” In this booklet, they are given guidelines for living a virtuous life. A card with the highlights is placed in their wallets for instant reference when needed.
Following are some of the advice the youth are given in this book:
- 1. Do not date until you are at least 16 years old. Dating before then can lead to immorality, limit the number of other young people you meet, and deprive you of experiences that will help you choose an eternal partner.
- 2. Have the courage to walk out of a movie or video party, turn off a computer or television, change a radio station, or put down a magazine if what is being presented does not meet Heavenly Father’s standards. Do these things even if others do not.
- 3. Never lower your dress standards for any occasion. Doing so sends the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval and that modesty is important only when it is convenient.
Some advice is general in nature, other advice is very specific. Taken as a whole, it gives a teenager a clear understanding of what God expects of them and of how to guard their virtue. The rules apply to both boys and girls. The Lord does not have different standards of virtuous behavior for one gender over the other. Both boys are girls are given full responsibility for their own virtue, while at the same time, they’re taught to help others maintain their virtue as well.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at the virtue and how the girls will be learning to implement it into their lives through the Personal Progress program.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.