Many of you have probably seen this video, “Worth Waiting For,” which has been making its rounds on the interwebs. If you don’t feel like watching it, I’ll summarize it for you. An adult gives a child a chocolate chip and tells the child they can eat it whenever they want, but if they don’t eat it, then after five minutes they can have what’s inside this attractively wrapped gift box. The kids wait and wait and sigh and wait and it’s so hard, but after five minutes they get to unwrap the gift, and inside is this delicious cupcake. Whoa–that’s way better than a measly chocolate chip. Aren’t they so glad they waited? Of course they are. Then the video tells us that Heavenly Father wants you to wait until you’re married…”to use your procreative powers.” (It’s okay to giggle at that. We’re not at church. Also, it sounds pretty silly.) If you wait, He will bless you “with something so much greater than a cupcake.” Oh heck, just watch the video. The kids are really cute.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Rebecca J is notoriously picky about her analogies–” (it’s true, I am–don’t get me started on Stephen Robinson’s parable of the bicycle) “–and I bet the only reason she’s showing us this video is so she can pick it apart and criticize it. She’s gonna be all like, ‘Wow, how could they take those precious children and sexualize their innocent behavior to make a creepy point about chastity?’ or ‘Wow, in this video the sin is represented by chocolate and the blessing is represented by a cupcake with vanilla frosting–you don’t suppose that could be racial at all???’”
Well, that just goes to show how little you know me. I don’t think this video is terrible. A terrible video would have been one that showed a kid eating the chocolate chip and the adult saying, “Oh, too bad, you can’t have what’s in the box. But here is a licked cupcake for you, since apparently you like that sort of thing.” Or they could say, “Well, you made a mistake, but don’t worry, you can still have this cupcake provided you get your stomach pumped first.” That would have been just awful. But no, the video’s fine. It just reminds me of something.
I’m thinking of all the talks and lessons on chastity that I’ve sat through that I can remember. (It wouldn’t do much good to think of the ones I can’t remember.) They all said that sex was a wonderful thing that you can enjoy after you’re married. You could, of course, choose to have sex before you were married, but that would lead to misery and heartache, and you would have to go through a painful repentance process before you could be married in the temple. (And we all know what happens to couples who don’t get married in the temple: they get tragically killed in car wrecks on the way to the reception, and death parts them for eternity. Just kidding. Oh, wait, I’m not. But I digress.) I’m just going to share some particular gems from my youth:
* “Waiting until you’re married to have sex is like waiting for cookies to bake in the oven. You can smell the cookies baking, and they smell so good, but if you try to eat them while they’re still in the oven, you’ll get burned.” (What would have made this lesson much worse: “Also, if the cookie dough is still raw, you could get salmonella. Also, it’s true the cookies taste best when they’re fresh out of the oven; eventually they will get stale and yucky, but that’s to be expected. Um, what were we talking about again?”)
* “The scriptures say to bridle all your passions, that you may be filled with love. Right now you don’t want to bridle your passions; you want to ride bareback at a hundred miles per hour. (Get it??? ‘Cause bridles…horses…bare…okay.) But it’s not safe to ride a wild horse. You have to tame it first. Then you can ride bareback all you want. At a hundred miles an hour.” (What would have made this lesson much worse: “The church counsels against riding horses with saddles.”)
* “My dear young sisters, don’t throw away an eternity of happiness for five, ten…fifteen minutes of pleasure!” (What would have made this lesson much worse: Nothing.)
Those are some specific anecdotes I can recall. My general recollection is a consistent promise that if you kept the law of chastity, you would be rewarded with a fabulous eternal marriage, including sex. (Yay, sex!) NOT that anyone gets married just to have sex, but of course if you get married, you will have sex. See, you don’t have to wait forever. It just seems like it. (And boy howdy, when you finally get to do it, it’s going to be so awesome. Much better than a stupid chocolate chip. Not that there’s anything wrong with chocolate chips–oh, never mind.) I don’t know that the cupcake in this video is supposed to represent a wonderful, eternal marriage (or, for that matter, great sex). It’s just a tangible object any dummy can understand is good and it symbolizes whatever awesome thing God has in store for us when we keep His commandments.
I think it’s important, when we’re teaching these commandments, to give a variety of examples of blessings we could get for keeping the commandments. If you pay your tithing, God may very well bless you with a tangible, financial blessing. My family has certainly had its share of financial blessings, and while I can’t prove scientifically that it’s all due to paying tithing faithfully, I’m not about to stop paying my tithing just for the sake of science. However, I know lots of other people who faithfully pay their tithing and don’t get blessed in quite the same way. They don’t end up on the street, which is a blessing in and of itself, but I suspect that the bulk of their blessings for paying tithing comes in a less tangible form than rent money or a better-paying job. Likewise, you may keep the law of chastity and end up with a rather different cupcake than you were expecting.
God commands us to be chaste, and when we obey God’s commandments, we are blessed. I think it’s the law or something. (There’s a scripture…not involving bridles or horses…) We just don’t always get blessed the way we’d like to (or think we ought to…or have been promised by well-meaning people who were just going by their understanding of statistical probabilities). We don’t necessarily get married. We don’t necessarily have fabulous marriages. We get what we get, because that’s how life is, but the purpose of our life here is to become more like God, so that we can live with God in the hereafter.
Everything that God commands us to do is toward that end–bringing us closer to Him. You may experience some other benefits, too. Of course there are several reasons to reserve sexual intercourse for marriage, including some practical ones. It’s a super way to minimize your chances of…regrets, let’s say. I won’t argue with that. YMMV–or should I say YCMOMNHS (Your Cupcake May Or May Not Have Sprinkles)? But the law of chastity is more than just saving yourself for marriage. You still have to keep it after you’re married, for one thing. For another thing, it’s never too late to start keeping it. Because “purity” (a loaded word, but let’s just go with it) is not something we accomplish on our own. Only God can make us pure. It’s no easier or harder for Him depending on how many commandments you’ve kept at which times in your life. It may be easier or harder for us, but not for Him. God desires to bless us as soon as we say “yes” to Him; the blessing we are guaranteed to receive is our relationship with Him.
There are two true principles in this video: 1) the ability to delay gratification is a crucial element of successful living, and 2) God wants us to be chaste. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the first has nothing to do with the second–that would be silly–but the first is primarily about willpower, while the second is primarily about faith. Sometimes that distinction gets lost in the mash-up, and I wish it didn’t.