This is how you do it

If you want to reach an audience of church members on a sensitive topic, watch and learn from Earthly Parents. And It Was Very Good: A Latter-day Saint’s Guide to Lovemaking shows you how not to lose your audience in the first ten pages.

Turn with me to page one:

Our Family’s Sexual Articles of Faith

In six words, the title chosen for the introduction tells me two important things: The discussion of sex that follows is going to be grounded in a set of values, and the authors aren’t demanding acknowledgment by anyone else. This won’t be a list of hints and tips for their own sake, and the authors aren’t claiming to speak for anyone but their own family. What they write is offered as a gift that we can consider and accept if we choose.

Before declaring their values, the authors explain the problem they want to address:

Some couples feel they must choose between sexuality and spirituality. This is tragic. It’s not what God intends for you. … Other couples find married sex to be joyful.

See how it’s done? Frankly acknowledge the problem, but then show that other outcomes are possible without generalizing or accusing. Rather than trying to diagnose the problem and assign blame, it gives couples agency to choose happiness for themselves.

Then Earthly Parents present the seven articles of faith, discussing each one in turn or supporting them with quotations from church leaders or publications.

1. We believe sexuality is a good gift from our heavenly parents.
2. We believe married sex is for joy and bonding in addition to creating new mortal bodies for spirit children to inhabit.
3. We believe God has ordained sex for the married couple. Nobody else should be involved.
4. We believe sex is not a right to be demanded but a gift to be offered and received voluntarily.
5. We believe husbands and wives are individually responsible for expressing their own sexual desires and for caring for each other’s sexual needs.
6. We believe viewing pornography is forbidden.
7. We believe sex that unites a married couple in Christ is good and sex that divides a married couple is bad.

I also notice what’s not here. No complaints about the church or its teachings. No equivocating about what’s appropriate for sophisticated, cosmopolitan adult professionals vis-à-vis teenagers. No pathologizing of ‘chastity discourse’ or calls to change the church’s teachings about sexual morality. No attempt to sell me on ‘healthy, empowering erotica.’ No encouragement for experimentation before or outside of marriage.

I’ve made it to page 9, and I’m thinking that Earthly Parents’ Articles of Faith are values I can support. I won’t throw the book across the room. I might keep reading it. I might just recommend the book to the people it hopes to reach.

This is how you do it.

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Next time: some words from an Earthly Parent.

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