I know it has been a couple of weeks, but I only just now read the talk given by President Elaine Dalton of the General Young Women’s Presidency in their annual meeting. The talk boils down to an admonition to be chaste and virtuous, both of which are good things. So, I am not here today to tell you the message of the talk is bad; I am here today to tell you that the way in which that message is conveyed is bad, distorting the message itself.
It is because she uses the term “Guardian” and the verb guard throughout the talk to describe what young women (and, I assume, young men (and, I assume, older folk)) should do with their virtue. To guard is to prevent theft or escape. That’s pretty much it. So, our young folk are being told, via this metaphor, that they have a finite amount of virtue and that they can only lose it. That doesn’t strike me as helpful.
If we really mean something aside from sexual virginity by “virtue,” as has been asserted on occasion (see the comments here, for instance), then it should be a positive virtue. It should be something that we can accumulate over the course of our life. Over time, we become kind, selfless, humble, faithful, etc. President Dalton refers to the two white dresses worn by a young woman, one in her infancy, the other on her wedding day. This makes it appear that you are given all the virtue you get when you are born; the remainder of your life is a war of attrition that results in either the loss of that God-given virtue or its maintenance (against all odds).
President Dalton argues, again and again, that Young Women must guard their virtue. She never argues that they must increase in virtue. Guardianship is, essentially, static. Consider the guardians of the youth who planned the ill-fated trek up from Draper to Salt Lake, mentioned in the talk. While they mapped out the route and provided water, they also refrained from intervening in the lives of their girls. Therefore, some of the girls appear to have been unprepared. As they developed blisters bad enough to prevent walking, these guardians seem (in the story) to have stood by and watched. I doubt that is what happened exactly (I’m sure President Dalton altered the story slightly to make her point). But it does demonstrate how the stories and words President Dalton uses prevent her essential message from coming through.
I think that it is good to be chaste and to be virtuous. I think it provides confidence, clarity, and peace. President Dalton refers to these effects elsewhere in her talk. But rather than giving young women something to do (aside from hikes), she instead gives them one thing to not do. It just doesn’t seem very productive.