Last week, Bristol Palin spoke publicly about the experience of becoming pregnant outside of marriage at a young age. Among other things, she said that motherhood is difficult, and that she is very thankful for a supportive family. She also said that abstinence from sex is an unrealistic universal standard.
There has been a lot of ink spilled since the interview, and I am mildly surprised by many of the comments. Many people say that they had also failed to abstain from sex until they were married, but that they also sincerely regret that failure.
There are now reports that abstinence only programs are almost completely ineffective. Palin herself had subscribed to the virginity pledge, and many of the people I’ve heard on the radio also said that they had participated in formal programs designed to delay sex until marriage.
I started wondering what makes the church’s teachings on chastity effective. While there are many LDS people who find the law of chastity to be a real challenge, Mormons as a subset of the population are almost unique in the number of people who succeed in remaining chaste until marriage.
I think that our practice of delaying dating until at least age 16 has a lot to do with it. I also think that the way we do youth interviews and temple recommend interviews is useful. And our culture tells us that relationships are meant to last, so that also might help to avoid the cul-de-sac of shallow, hormone-based relationships.
Part of effective living is learning how to live without regrets. I’m grateful that the church is not only true in a metaphysical sense, but also in the sense that it is often so pragmatically useful.
P.S. Before you comment, please note that this is a conversation about what enables LDS people to live the law of chastity. It is not a place to offer your opinion about anyone else named Palin, her fitness as a mother or candidate, or the names of her children. If you feel an urgent need to do any of those things, please visit one of the millions of other blogs where such a comment would be welcome.