Virtue, Part One & a Half: I’m busy today and don’t have a lot of time


1. I’ve read Sister Dalton’s talk, “A Return to Virtue.” Here ’tis, for anyone else who hasn’t read it. You should. It’s good.

2. I know the definition of virtue. It has several meanings, including–but not limited to!–chastity.

2a. I realize that “virtue” as a synonym for “chastity” has been around for a long time and that the LDS church didn’t just make it up.

2b. Obviously, “virtue” does not only mean “chastity,” or Jesus sensing the virtue had gone out of him when the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of his garment would be, in a word, creepy.

3. I know that young men are also told to be chaste. At least that’s what I hear. Technically, I’m not invited to their secret priesthood meetings.

4. The above was a joke. I know the priesthood meetings aren’t really secret, and I’d be perfectly welcome at them if I were a man.

5. I like chastity. Chastity = Good. (Also, = Virtue!) I’m completely, totally, fully in favor of teaching it to young women, as the General YW Presidency has recently (with the addition of the value “Virtue”) encouraged us. I’m totally against de-emphasizing it. That would be crazy!

6. I assume that when the Church goes to the trouble of altering a program–requiring all kinds of inconvenient changes to manuals, signs, rules & regulations, and general mode of doing things–there must be a compelling reason. If the compelling reason isn’t immediately apparent to me, I start searching for that compelling reason.

6a. I don’t search for that compelling reason within the confines of my own brain (or, for that matter, within the confines of any other part of my anatomy you might have suspected my last post was pulled out of). I study the material the church has offered.

6b. Have you read the press release that I went to all the trouble of linking to?

7. The explicitly-stated motivation behind adding “Virtue” to the list of YW values was to help young women to become temple-worthy.

7a. The explicit delineation of what “Virtue” was meant to entail included “chastity” and the undefined-and-therefore-open-to-interpretation “high moral standards.”

7a1. “High moral standards” would seem, to my mind, to include “chastity.” Why specifically mention chastity and only specifically chastity–i.e., make no specific mention of any other specific “virtue”–if chastity were not a particular and primary concern?

7a2. Aside from garden-variety inactivity, what do you think is most likely to prevent a young woman with a testimony from being “temple-worthy”? Smoking? Illegally downloading music from the internet? Publishing a controversial article in Dialogue? Embezzlement of tithing funds? ….?

7b. If chastity is important enough to be the ONLY specific “virtue” (small “v”) mentioned in the explanation of what “Virtue” (big “v”) is all about, can we not assume that a desire to re-emphasize chastity is a major component behind making this particular change in the YW program?

7b1. Is it so hard to believe that in this day and age the church might need to re-emphasize chastity?

7b2. Given the specific need to re-emphasize chastity, why can’t we just go ahead and say “chastity”?

8. I’m not finished yet!


No, for real, I’m not finished. I’m supposed to be making a salad for a funeral today (that sounds weird, but I think you know what I mean), but here I am on the interwebs instead–why? Because I care.

I’ve been giving this a great deal of thought, ever since the Virtue was first announced, but particularly the last few hours since I’ve been awake. I’m coming at this from a practical standpoint. I have strong feelings about using words appropriately. But frankly, I’m just curious how a young woman striving to earn her YW Recognition Award is supposed to differentiate Virtue from any of the other seven values. I’ve been in Young Women as a young woman, and I’ve served in Young Women as a leader, and I realize that “value experiences” often overlap. But why add a whole new value requiring additional value experiences unless there’s something peculiar and/or unique to this new value? If Virtue is just a big smorgasboard of goodness and not specifically chastity-oriented, how does a value experience for Virtue differ from a value experience for, say, Integrity? Or Good Works? Or Choice and Accountability? I assume that the church didn’t make these changes because they thought the young women were slackers and needed more busy work to earn their medallions. There’s got to be a purpose. So help me understand.

Here is the Personal Progress manual. I don’t know how to link to a particular page in a PDF file or if it’s even possible, and I don’t care because I should really be making a salad right now. The updated version including Virtue isn’t online yet, unfortunately, but Integrity starts on page 54.

I will have the moral courage
to make my actions consistent
with my knowledge of right and wrong.

Read the required and suggested value experiences. Which of them, if any, is inappropriate for Virtue, if we are to use Virtue’s broadest definition? I’m very curious to see what they come up with in the new guidebook for Virtue, but as I said, that information is as yet unavailable. (At least it’s unavailable to those of us with inferior Googling skillz.) I welcome, with open arms, any clarifying information that anyone else may have.


  1. you’re a genius RJ.

    Really I think we should name the value ‘Say No to Sex!’

    Concise, straightforward and the girl knows exactly what to say when sex is offered to her.

  2. However, we do want our young ladies to be polite so maybe ‘No, thank you, to sex!’

    Can I hear it for a ‘No Thank you’?

  3. No. Thank you.

  4. You know, if we’re going to have a chastity-ish value, I’m not necessarily opposed. I think this Virtue (big V) business is inelegant, mainly because of its vagueness. (Which I’m sure was intended for the sake of flexibility, but I still can’t make sense of why it exists if its going to be THAT flexible.) And maybe we don’t want it to be as indelicate as “Chastity.” Perhaps we could say “Modesty.” Because Modesty has many meanings, too, including sexual modesty. It would also bring dress standards readily to mind, which would REALLY prepare girls for entering the temple.

  5. Good point. I too am interested how the virtue projects will differ from projects for the other values. Perhaps projects to encourage department stores to carry more modest clothing?

  6. Modesty is better than virtue, but still problematic. Modesty should technically imply much more than sexual purity/non-risque dress norms, but such notions have so thoroughly colonized the word “modesty” in Mormon consciousness that this might be the least bad variant. Certainly better than letting anxiety about female sexuality assert an associative monopoly over “virtue.”

  7. I just love your writing. I wish we were neighbors.

    And that’s all I have to say until I can read all your links.

  8. Because “chastity” connotes ONLY abstinence from sex, while “virtue” encompasses “purity in thought and deed”?

    Look, I will say this one more time and then shut up. (Yeah, I know, Steve.)

    What other word should be used to describe being “virtuous” in the full sense – and NOT just avoiding sex? “Chastity” is way too narrow, imo. “Purity” is almost as focused on sex in most people’s minds as “chastity”. What’s the alternative if the Church wants to use a word to describe the whole process of becoming free from the sins of the world – whether or not the largest focus is on sexual issues?

    When I re-read Sister Dalton’s talk, I took away the message that we need to talk more openly and acceptingly of virtue and the virtuous – that we need to move away from the modern message that anything and everything is ok as long as it isn’t actual sexual intercourse – that we need to be clean and pure and unsullied by all forms of vice and degradation – that we need to be strong and true and dedicated and consecrated – that we need to be “virtuous” in it full meaning.

    Perhaps we should wait to critique the value until we actually see how it is constructed and what the “experiences” will be. Right now we are doing little more than target shooting at targets of our own making.

  9. What other word should be used to describe being “virtuous” in the full sense – and NOT just avoiding sex?

    These are all “coulds,” not “shoulds”: Goodness; Charity; Compassion; Earnestness; Benevolence; Care; Honor; or Devotion. I didn’t even use the thesaurus function.

  10. Ray, I never thought that they were using “Virtue” in the sense of only abstaining from sexual intercourse. I think I said in the OP that I assumed they were referring to overall cleanliness/purity/whatever in thought and deed, with a particular goal of sexual purity. In fact, having been through the YW program myself, I seem to recall that chastity was always defined more broadly than not having intercourse. It was a long time ago, of course, The Miracle of Forgiveness still looming large in our consciousness, and at least one of my leaders said that a woman ought to fight to the death before she’d allow herself to be raped–so, you know, different time, different place…but still, I grew up believing that living the law of chastity meant more than just not having sex. Perhaps I was the only one.

    But it doesn’t matter now, because the question of what Virtue means has been settled. I was mistaken, and I publicly apologize for misinterpreting the YW Presidency’s intentions. Apparently they really did think the young women weren’t doing enough work to earn their medallions.

  11. Rameumptom says:

    The nice thing about using the word, “virtue” is it is expandable. Right now, they can use it to push chastity. Later, as other virtues are threatened, they can emphasize those.

    My b-i-l, as a bishop, sighed to me once how it was very difficult to teach the youth that oral sex IS sex!

    And how long ago did the temple change wording to “sexual relations”?

    And if the time ever comes that the Latin form is used, they can always discuss the manly attributes women should have….

  12. I think this is just an example of how you can say anything in a certain tone of voice and make it sound like it’s referring to sex. (SEX!! I said that word!! oh noes!!!) For example, “I’m going to change your oil,” or “Do you need me to refill your glass?” or “You shook me all night long.”

    The vocabulary for coy reference to sex at church is ever-expanding, like a giant lived metaphor for the vastness of the universe. Let’s just marvel at the beauty of that metaphor and not complain. ;-)

  13. All I keep thinking about on this topic, is that when any program or whatever gets changes like this in the Army(Yes I know there is a big difference between the Church and the Army/military), the joke/comment is “I guess some Colonel just got his star”. Meaning someone saw a program with established format and guidlines. Then forced some small new aspect into the program and re-introduced it with a new name, (and acronym, gotta have the acronym in the Army.) And used that “new” program as a key point on his evaluations in order to help propel him/her to the higher rank.

    For example: I’ve been in the service for 15 years, there is one subject in my job speciality that has changed names and supposed meanings eight times in that period, each time getting a new acronym to remember, but still basically meaning military actions other than full force on force war.

    My point is new leaders were called to the YW program, and they quickly make their “Mark” on the program by gafting on a New Value and non-compliant representitive color.

    A value that in my opinion really sums up the combined original values. In fact I feel that Value and Virtue should be interchangeable words in regards to the YW medallion program.

  14. I’ve never tied the changes to the new YW presidency. I’ve always tied it to the new prophet. If it was the YW presidency, everything would have been ready to roll. Supplements to the YW manual, meaningful value experiences, the whole shebang. (Hmm. Are there sexual connotations to “shebang”?) Since none of those things happened – just a talk by a member of the presidency – I’m assuming that TSM deciding that the young women need a new value focussed on maintaining their virginity. And that it would be called virtue. And so, the YW presidency did what they could in the time they had available and they’re still catching up to the announcement with real programs. C’mon, y’all have been listening to TSM speak for over 25 years at least. Doesn’t the word “Virtue” have his fingerprints all over it? I can hear it now. “VIR-tuuuue.”

    Total speculation. No evidence.

    One more thing: I’m wondering what a “chastity” value experience would look like.

    1. Sit wearing a dress for an hour and fifteen minutes while holding a dime between your knees. Do not drop the dime.
    2. Using a department store manniquin, demonstrate kneeing an aggressive boy in the groin.

  15. StillConfused says:

    It sounds like what they really need to call it is Virginity. Seems easier and more straightforward.

  16. #14–Are there sexual connotations to “shebang”?

    I don’t know about that, but there are musical connotations. :-)

  17. Ann, I disagree that President Monson is behind it. I think this is the YW presidency being proactive – okay, with his daughter in the presidency, I know – which is why Sister Dalton unveiled this in October Conference instead of waiting until April General YW meeting, and why the virtue value sort of showed up between conferences without hardly any fanfare at all. My total speculation, no evidence either.

  18. Maybe it showed up between conferences with no fanfare because everybody knew it was lame :)

  19. Ann, I love your ideas for value experiences!

  20. I am not a regular poster, but here goes…

    Let’s not be fooled at all. Within the church and especially in the YW program, virtue or chastity, or whatever code word is used for no sex before marriage, is not another important value for LDS young women.

    It is the ONLY value. I don’t think there is a close second.


  21. Frist of all, why all the speculation? That is a problem within itself! Second, the Prophet IS behind it. As with all programs in the Church, in all the various organizations, YW, YM, Relief Society, Primary, etc., the organization leaders present their ideas to the Prophet for approval. Why not have a prayerful heart and instead of all this speculation, ask the Lord to help you understand what is being taught here. Then when General Conference comes, all of you will have your questions and speculations answered!