Thursday, July 24, 2014

Teaching Kids about Sex: Adam and Eve's Story

I believe the story of Adam and Eve is one of our greatest parenting tools in scripture. It is one of the only instances where we actually see God interacting with his children in what I would consider a direct "parenting" manner. Usually, there are pieces of stories in other scriptures, but we have one continuous story with Adam and Eve. So, as parents, what we can learn from this story about teaching our children about sex?

Genesis 1:28: "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it..."

Fruitful means, "producing a good result; productive; an abundant yield."
Multiply, of course, is to greatly increase in number.
Replenish: "to build up again" AND "to make good"
Subdue: "to bring land under cultivation"

The first commandment God gave Adam and Eve was to bear children, increase their numbers. He gave them this commandment BEFORE they partook of the fruit. Heavenly Father was teaching them about sex being for procreation first. This is the first reason given for sex (note this is just a reason and we are going to determine which reason is more important because they are BOTH important). 

Genesis 2:24: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

Cleave means, "to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly" AND "to separate into distinct parts." Cleave has two meanings that seem almost like antonyms. It's close, yet separate!" A man is to separate from parents and become close with a wife.

"One" flesh: "being in agreement or union" and "constituting a unified entity of two or more components" and "being a single unit."

One flesh is talking about sex in marriage and becoming one physically, but it's also symbolic of becoming one as a unit. We make decisions together, do the dishes together, take care of a household together. Sex can't be separated from a marital unit because then we'd be taking out part of the meaning of "one!"

Heavenly Father is teaching Adam and Eve about the other reason for sex. He talks about "cleaving" and being "one" flesh (Genesis 2:24). This is the relationship part of sex. Sex is put into place for oneness, closeness, and loyalty in marriage. It's to bring a couple closer together.


Genesis Genesis 2:25: "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."

Take note that Adam and Eve were naked, but didn't feel guilty about it. Also note that this scripture takes place BEFORE they partake of the fruit. They were married, yet they were still "innocent." By innocent I mean that they did not have sexual desires yet. They were like little children in the Garden of Eden. They were naked, but only saw bodies as bodies, not something to be desired sexually.
They didn't understand nakedness by their physical desires yet. 

So, Heavenly Father created Adam. Then, he created Eve. After he had created them both, he talked to them about sex, both reasons. He told them to have children. This is the first part of sex we discuss with children, sex in the context of having babies. Adam and Eve were innocent. They could be naked and not have sexual desires yet. This is the time to begin our discussions with our children about sex and the creation of life, when they are young and innocent and have not begun to have sexual desires.

Here is one of the reasons we teach children about sex before they are baptized. They are still "innocent" and don't understand nakedness in an adult way. The adult way of understanding nakedness usually equates nakedness with physical desire. Children see nakedness as, well, nakedness.

FOURTH - After they partook of the fruit.....
Genesis 3:7: "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons."

Fig leaves are a symbol of fertility. Also, an apron is a Symbol meaning fertility, reproduction, priesthood, and work (Alonzo Gaskill, The Last Language of Symbolism).

After Heavenly Father's instruction to Adam and Eve, they partook of the fruit. The fruit gave them "knowledge." This was an increase in understanding about life and mortality. Now, they not only knew the importance of having children and their relationship as husband and wife, they also began to see it as an adult. They now had physical desire and were able to feel self-conscious about their nakedness. They understood their bodies needed to be covered to keep them precious and sacred. Then, also knowing the importance having children, they sewed aprons (symbol for fertility, priesthood, and work) of fig leaves (another symbol of fertility). They could have sewn these before because they knew sex was for having children, but they were innocent to the naked-sex connection. Now that they had more knowledge and understanding about mortality, they were ready to begin their physical relationship that would actually lead to marital happiness and oneness and children.

Adam and Eve were like all of us: they could only handle so much new information at once. Thus, Heavenly Father talked with them multiple times about sex and relationships so they could understand and have time to think about the information in between instruction times. This is our model for how to talk with our kids. There is no "BIG SEX TALK." We make it an attitude and part of our conversations with our children as needed. Also, if you notice in the story of Adam and Eve, Eve partook of the fruit because she saw the wisdom of the choice (Genesis 3:6). She did not partake of the fruit because she was tempted. She saw her two choices, remain in the garden with no opposition or become mortal to experience life and know good from evil (2 Nephi 2:19-23). She made a choice based on knowledge. Heavenly Father had given her the knowledge she needed to make a correct choice. She decided to become "the mother of all living" (Moses 4: 26), which she could not be if she had stayed in the garden.

The story of Adam and Eve has been such a wonderful opportunity to see the evidence in scripture of our Heavenly Father's plan. It reminded me of a quote in "Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple:"

"We live in a world of symbols. No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the might realities for which the symbols stand."

As I've thought about the story of Adam and Eve, I've been amazed at the wonderful insights I've gained. The story has so many beautiful layers! I'm sure I've missed some points and there are many other meanings to this story, but maybe I"ll be more prepared later to see them.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Writing Sex in Your Child's Heart at the Right Time

Sex experts say that children hear about sex by the time they are in third grade, whether you have talked with them or not. Most of the time, they hear about it at school from other children. They can also hear about it from television or other media sources.

Let's consider:
What do you want your child's first exposure to sex to look like?
What do you want them to hear?
What do you want them to feel?
What do you want them to know?

Well, if you don't tell them first, you are leaving it up to someone else to answer those questions. I'll give you an example:

My friend's little first grade daughter, Ann (not her real name) came home from school one day very upset. She had been sent to see the Vice Principal and felt that she was in trouble. She is the kind of child to do everything she's supposed to, ALL the time. She never got in trouble at school. She is polite and kind. After a lot of crying the story finally came out. Another first grade boy was standing at recess with a friend (also a boy). Ann was talking to them. One of the boys said, "I want to have sex with you!" Ann had no idea what that meant, but she figured it was something bad by the way he said it. She didn't know what it was, so she went off to find some other kids because the boys made her feel uncomfortable. Another little girl had heard the exchange and told her teacher. Ann was sent to the vice principal's office with the two boys. The vice principal was trying to find out what had happened. The boys kept denying they said anything. Ann didn't understand what "sex" meant, so she didn't understand what was really happening and why it was so important. She just understood that it was BAD! She thought she had done something wrong. She got sent to the principal's office and that was associated with bad, especially because the boys that made her uncomfortable were there. No one called her mother or father to tell them what was going on. Ann got off the bus from school sobbing. It took a long time for her to calm down and explain to her mother what had happened. As you can imagine, her mother was FURIOUS (wouldn't you be?). The most maddening part was that the school had not called to inform her what was going on so she could help soften the bad feelings Ann was receiving.

Now, think about these questions again.
What do you want your child's first exposure to sex to look like?
What do you want them to hear?
What do you want them to feel?
What do you want them to know?
Most important: What spiritual message are you going to convey that they will not get elsewhere?

If Ann had already known about sex, she could have said, "That's not appropriate. I know what that is." Then, gone and got a teacher's help if she felt it was necessary. If you are consistently praying about when it's appropriate to talk with your child, or staying in tune with your feelings about the right time, you will be able to talk to your kids before they have an experience that will convey a worldly attitude about sex.