Sheri Dew

PROVO — Hit television shows such as "Desperate Housewives" and "Sex and the City" glorify immoral women — and that's a recipe for disaster for families and society, Deseret Book president and chief executive officer Sheri Dew said Tuesday at Brigham Young University.

"We talk often about how women have unusual power to build families," said Dew, the keynote speaker at BYU's Family Expo. "What we don't often talk about is that women have unusual power to destroy families."

The former member of the Relief Society general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titled her presentation "Making a Case for Virtue," and said that families, marriages and children are being hurt by a lack of traditional morals on television, the prevalence of divorce and the rise of pornography.

"A common thread runs through all of these problems, and it is that their root is some kind of immorality," Dew said. "Some choose it. Some are affected by it even though they have no choice."

And too many women, she said, are are choosing it by being promiscuous. "I think the reason we are having such a moral decay is because more and more women have abandoned living the law of chastity," she said.

"Desperate Housewives" and "Sex and the City," Dew said, are examples of a "phenomenal deterioration of television" since she graduated from high school in 1971. Racy shows on television today are, she said, "a total desecration of how God sees his daughters."

Dew restated — with admitted trepidation — comments she made last year that drew criticism.

The first was a reference to a statement made in 1941 by journalist Dorothy Thomas, who said each person in the world would be forced to choose sides for or against Adolf Hitler. Dew paraphrased Thomas to apply a principle to immorality.

"Before this era is over, every living human being will have chosen," Dew said. "Every living human being will have lined up in support of the family as God has defined it or against it. Every living human being will either have opposed the onslaught against the family or supported it. For if we make no choice, that in itself is a choice. If we do not act in behalf of the family, that itself is an act in opposition of the family."

Gay-rights groups alleged that Dew compared gay marriage to Hitler, but she emphasized Tuesday that her point had nothing to do with Hitler.

"I wasn't comparing anybody to Hitler," she said. "Hitler is irrelevant to the point I was trying to make."

The principle she wants to stress is that too many people stand by and do or say nothing when they see things they don't like or with which they don't agree.

"We do that in particular with issues of immorality," she said. "And I'm talking about heterosexual chastity."

She did talk about gay marriage and expressed remorse that some people told her they were hurt by her comments a year ago. Dew has taken a stand against gay marriage, but that does not mean she will judge friends or others who are gay.

"I have friends living an openly gay lifestyle with kids. In every instance, they are caring parents who love their kids and their kids love them. They know I feel it's not my prerogative to judge them. It's their right to choose. . . . Those that deal with same-sex attraction have my respect."

Dew, 51, expressed sadness that she has never married, but she said she has remained chaste, a decision that has prevented pain she has seen in others.

Sex, she said, is "a sacramental kind of experience between a man and a woman to bring them closer together and closer to the Lord."

Dew said it is a lie to portray the law of chastity as a law of denial.

"It hasn't always been easy being chaste," she said. "But I think it has always been easier than the alternative. I have had my share of lonely days and lonely nights. But I have never spent one second contemplating an abortion. I have never spent one second feeling I was violated. I have never spent one second feeling abandoned or abused by a man who had abandoned or abused me.

"Can't we teach the law of chastity is a law of liberation instead of a law of denial?"

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