Both Shauna and Amy surprised me at my high school reunion.
Shauna, pregnant and hastily married in 9th grade, had graduated
with our class— with the help of a very supportive mother who baby sat for
Shauna, not only during school, but also for her piano lessons and practice.
Most of us expected that Shauna would be not only the first girl in our class
married, but also the first divorced. Statistics for teen marriages are not
Fifty years later, I
found Shauna happily married to the same husband who had become a very
successful building contractor. After raising three kids, Shauna enrolled in
the university and completed all the classes for an art major. Her living room
boasts a valuable art display collected from their travels abroad—particularly
in Africa. Shauna, who has served on the Utah Symphony board as well as those
of other arts organizations, has led the most interesting life of any woman
from my high school class.
In high school, Amy would have been my guess for achieving a
life like Shauna’s. The Molly-est of my Mormon friends, Amy graduated from
college while waiting for her missionary, Scott. A temple marriage followed his
mission release. Amy taught school while Scott got his B.A. and Ph.D. Scott
excelled in his profession and they raised three children. After 40 years of
marriage, Scott divorced Amy to marry his longtime girl friend.
According to all the lessons and talks to Young Women I’ve
heard, God got it wrong. Shauna, who transgressed at age 15, is the one who
should have been divorced by a philandering husband. Amy, who did everything
right, should have been blessed with a faithful husband and bountiful life.
Apparently God doesn’t read the lesson manuals.
A relative raised in the Spencer W. Kimball era told me that,
as a member of his ward bishopric, he gave the YM/YW a talk on the evils of
sexual transgression. A young woman in the group asked the question that always
comes up: “What about girls who are raped?” My relative took his answer from The Miracle of Forgiveness: When
virtue is lost, it is gone—no matter how it happens.
I couldn’t believe Pres. Kimball had made such a harsh
statement, so I looked it up. And yes, he did. His exact words were: “Once given or taken or stolen it [chastity]
can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest. . . .” Of
course, Pres. Kimball was a product of his time and I believe no current Mormon
General Authority would make that kind of statement. Still, a lot of members
carry the Kimball message stamped on their hearts and have used it to make
girls and women who have been victims or who have transgressed Church morality
laws feel they are lesser persons.
Virtue is not defined purely by sexual abstinence. Included
on any list of virtues are such traits as: integrity, humility, generosity,
compassion, and courage. A person doesn’t lose all virtue by giving into
youthful passion or persuasion—and certainly not by being the victim of sexual
assault. I applaud Elizabeth Smart for having the courage to face the publicity
engendered by testifying against her rapist in court. With virtues intact, she
set an example for other women victims. Certainly her courage has been
strengthened by speaking up to ensure that justice was done.
I hope Elizabeth Smart’s story will be incorporated into
future lessons for YW. Sexual activity does not ruin a girl’s life.
Stigmatizing and guilting girls does.