Now, before I start, I should make a few things clear: I have a testimony of the Law of Chastity as taught by the Mormon church. It's a really good and important principle that is in place to save God's children from a lot of pain. I also believe in dressing modestly, not only as a result of sacred promises I made to God that require me to cover a proportion of my body, but also for my own personal reasons (that have not a lot to do with men). Aside from the modesty bit, a fair amount of what Elder Callister said is just fine, but I would like to talk about three things that I would have changed.
- The Title. According to the Google dictionary, morality means "principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior." This is a lot more than just sexual purity, but somehow the two have become synonymous in Mormon culture.** You can be the most celibate, non-dirty-thought having person in the world, but if you're cheating on your taxes, screwing over people who trust you, and overall being a jerk, you're not living a morally-clean lifestyle. The address should have just been called "The Lord's Standard of Sexual Purity."
- The Lack of Victim Acknowledgement. Elder Callister spent a lot of time talking about sexual sin, but in that time, he failed to acknowledge that victims of rape and sexual assault/abuse/harassment are NOT guilty of sin. This is, thankfully, stated in the church's For the Strength of Youth manual, but it should have been reiterated in his address, especially since it was given on a college campus, where such things are more common.
- The Approach to Repentance. I was very glad there was a section about repentance and about the Atonement because those are some of the happiest things about the Gospel. However, I hated the line "it is always better to remain clean than to sin and repent thereafter." I get what Elder Callister is trying to say: you shouldn't take a "sin now, repent later" approach to life, but it's not a stretch to interpret this as "people who never sinned are better than people who have sinned and repented." This mindset could be really damaging to the self-esteem of the priesthood holder who is recovering from a porn addiction or the female convert who wasn't a virgin when she joined the church or anyone else who has screwed up in any way but was really glad that the Atonement was there when they needed it. In short, this whole part could have been worded very differently.
Again, I love the Gospel, even though being a Mormon is weird and culturally uncomfortable a lot of the time (especially when White men over fifty try to talk to young people about sex). One great thing about articles like this that profoundly illustrate the weirdness is that it gets people talking and allows the "different" voices to be heard, and this is what brings about change.
*In other words, I won't talk about modesty or rape culture or the definition of "self abuse." Although I will say that I'm annoyed when people praise modesty for "leaving more to the imagination" (this was in the devotional address, but it got left out of the Ensign article, thankfully). Doesn't that just mean that guys will be imagining my naked body no matter what I wear, in which case I should just be naked all the time so at least they'll be imagining it accurately?
**Maybe because lots of Mormons are afraid of the word "sex."