Elizabeth Smart speaks at human trafficking forum, emphasizes teaching children that they matter

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    May 13, 2013 2:32 p.m.

    LDS Liberal: "Absolute" may not be the best term to use in terms of expressing what the church and God are "not". A number of the brethren have warned us about accepting moral relativism and situational ethics. Those ideologies are probably irrelevant to the current discussion. But an understanding that God is perfect and we may become perfect is germane, even essential, to our salvation.
    An understanding that we live in an imperfect mortal world to learn from experience, and that God helps us gain it line upon line, should help to clarify the issue. Also, that mortal men and women make mistakes when teaching or offering counsel--as in the gum analogy so disturbing to Elizabeth.
    As we learn from out experience and move more to a Terrestrial and then a Celestial state, we will definitely experience positive change and growth. If that's what you mean by God and the Church not being absolute, I can appreciate where you're coming from. But hopefully, we won't confuse what's normally thought of as being "relative" (the antonym of "absolute") with a lack of perfection in God, or the church's desire to work towards it.

  • saflak salt lake, UT
    May 12, 2013 8:11 a.m.

    As a member of Elizabeth's church and her parent's age, I remember being taught the same things. There was huge emphasis on the Book of Mormon statement that sexual sin is second only to murder in seriousness. Stories of excommunication and disfellowship abounded about youth who had broken the law of chastity, all leading to fear and horror. So, in a 14 year old's mind, there may not have been a lot of difference between consensual sinning and forcible rape. The youth should be taught that they should obey commandments around sexual purity out of love for God and not driven by fear of being chewing gum or some kind of punishment.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    May 10, 2013 2:15 p.m.

    Orem, UT

    You COMPLETELY missed the point.

    1. We need to do a better job teaching our children the differences.
    That was Ms. Smart's entire point in this discussion.

    2. I dodn't say anything contray to my Temple convenants. I hold them most sacred.

    3, The Church is not absolute. God is not Absolute. That runs dimetrically opposed to the entire Atonement.
    Besides - anyone who's ever seen Star Wars knows that, only the Sith deal in abolutes. The same goes in the gospel.

  • xert Santa Monica, CA
    May 10, 2013 12:36 a.m.

    I would like to thank the posters on this thread for catching the fact that the author of this piece truly misrepresented Ms. Smarts message regarding Abstinence Education. And, indeed--to the editors of the Des News for allowing these posts to stand and reflect that the author did not do a very good job of representing what Ms. Smart said. The author of this piece truly owes a brave and wise young woman an apology, but again--it would have been easy for the Des News to hide the many responses that pointed out less than accurate journalism.

  • Anonyme Orem, UT
    May 9, 2013 5:51 p.m.

    LDS Liberal, what part of "Victims of rape . . . are innocent" are you and your friends having trouble understanding? Merriam-Webster gives "pure" and "virtuous" as synonyms for "innocent." To paraphrase your words, you are either innocent or you're not, and the Church says that rape victims are innocent. So rape victims are as pure and virtuous as they were before they were assaulted. Maybe your friends would be less confused if they searched doctrine instead of talking with you. Or, you could go to the lds.org search feature and type in "rape victim" and see if there's any equivocation on the subject. (While you're there, you could look up this quote from President Hinckley: "We are under obligation, binding and serious, to not use temple language or speak of temple matters outside" ["Keeping the Temple Holy," Ensign, May 1990].)

    As for teaching absolutes, that's what churches do. There is no exception to the law of chastity, but I think every grownup knows the difference between sexual relations and sexual assault. The Church's For the Strength of Youth pamphlet is there to help kids understand the difference too.

  • Just Truth Saratoga Springs, UT
    May 9, 2013 1:13 p.m.

    Esquire, she did not speak out against abstinence only education taught correctly. Elizabeth still believe in not having sex outside of marriage if you have a choice in the matter. Duh!

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    May 9, 2013 10:08 a.m.

    Orem, UT
    The LDS Church's For the Strength of Youth pamphlet says this: "Victims of rape, incest, or other sexual abuse are not guilty of sin. If you have been a victim of any of these crimes, know that you are innocent and that God loves you."


    But Chastity as explained in the Temple is "...each of you...have no sexual relations... with anyone except...to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded."

    By not having any distiction or exception to these rules or being taught them at all,
    it DOES give a very serious mixed message.

    I have talk with many LDS women at length about this matter.
    It is confusing for adults, let alone young women or children.

    This all-or-nothing-ism
    You are either Pure and Virtuous, or you are NOT --
    IS the problem.

    We need to do a better job of teaching our young people that only the Sith believe in Absolutes.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    May 9, 2013 9:59 a.m.

    I would just like to point out,
    That many Republicans would force a young RAPE victim like Ms. Smart to carry any pregancy full term, with NO choice.

    Talk about adding insult to injury.
    Tell me that doesn't send a mixed message to these victims.

  • Anonyme Orem, UT
    May 7, 2013 2:15 p.m.

    The LDS Church's For the Strength of Youth pamphlet says this: "Victims of rape, incest, or other sexual abuse are not guilty of sin. If you have been a victim of any of these crimes, know that you are innocent and that God loves you."

  • Lowell Steele Farmington, UT
    May 7, 2013 1:32 p.m.

    @Esquire--you're being a bit disingenuous. Did you think we wouldn't listen to Ms. Smart's original speech? She did not speak out against abstinence-only education. She explained how a rape victim feels about themselves after being violated, which is pretty much universal, whether you believe in abstinence or not. She did not fault her parents, but did chastise one of her teachers who taught that someone who had sex before marriage was like a "chewed piece of gum", which would then be worthless and discarded, unwanted by anyone else.

    That concept is a very damaging lie, but it is not an inherent aspect of abstinence education. When abstinence is taught correctly, it enhances and builds one's self worth, not diminishes it. The principle of repentance should be a companion teaching when taught in the home and at church. Anyone who believes or teaches the "chewed gum", or "pull a nail from a board, but the hole remains" concepts would somehow limit Christ's power to cleanse or eagerness to forgive. No individual who is raped, or who succumbs to sexual temptation, for that matter, need ever feel they can't be cleansed and completely forgiven!

  • Rapunzelthebrave The Great State of, TX
    May 7, 2013 12:19 p.m.

    The reality is that loss of virginity (by force of rape or by choice) is NOT an indication that an individual's worth has decreased. Elizabeth and any other girl who has had a lesson likening the loss of virginity to chewed gum, licked cupcakes, or nailed boards is taught that their virginity IS their worth until they are married - when being a wife and/or mother is their worth.

    What needs to stop immediately in our culture is the idea that a girl's or woman's worth is tied to her virginity, marital status, or motherhood.

    And, we also need to acknowledge that a rapist CANNOT remove your chastity nor your virtue. Your virtue is NOT your virginity. There are a lot of highly virtuous, unmarried people who are not virgins. And, chastity can only be removed by choice. A girl or woman who has been raped is NOT unchaste.

  • John C. C. Payson, UT
    May 7, 2013 11:17 a.m.

    I was once taught that committing sin was like driving a nail into a board. Repentance was likened to pulling out the nail, but, they warned, the hole would remain. I know now that Christ's atonement can heal everything, including the left-over hole. I don't blame those teachers, they were well-meaning. I think they just didn't want us to commit sin deliberately in the belief it would be easy to repent afterward.

    The key here is intent. Those who hurt others deliberately will have a harder time changing their nature, but they can. Innocent victims bear no blame but need help to heal--especially young children who are more likely to blame themselves when something bad happens. Christ's atonement offers a way out to both.

    In all cases we should be very cautious in judging the intent of others.

  • washcomom Beaverton, OR
    May 7, 2013 11:11 a.m.

    In the light of the 3 women rescued in Cleveland, as well as JayCee Duggard who was rescued a few years ago, and others who have been raped or molested - those that have had the most precious thing stolen from them are still virtuous, because it was robbed from them. They didn't freely give it. They are not a piece of old chewing gum, but are someone who is very worthwhile to love.

  • Man_of_letters Salt Lake County, UT
    May 7, 2013 10:40 a.m.

    "Are you saying that if she was okay with having sex outside of marriage she would have been able to handle the situation better or differently?"

    No. We're saying that the methods used to illustrate the point about chastity are inordinately severe, and teach women that they are literally worthless and deserve nothing more than to be tossed into a garbage can, and that they fail to account for issues of sexual assault, child abuse, and simple mistakes.

  • Joan Watson TWIN FALLS, ID
    May 7, 2013 10:40 a.m.

    Agreed, byufanutahemployee
    One cant imagine the feelings of one who is raped at a very young age - or any other age for that matter. The only fact one can cling to is that they themselves are decent in the face of indecency

  • Latuva Spanish Fork , UT
    May 7, 2013 10:28 a.m.

    "Human Trafficking" is a polite term governments and groups frequently use and which media outlets tend to follow. Doing so misses the nature and root issue. There are many forms, true, but the term ought to be corrected to read "Slavery" instead.

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    May 7, 2013 10:27 a.m.

    Perhaps when we're teach sex ed, a distinction needs to be made between loss of virginity by rape and loss of virginity by choice. The two are not related because one involves choice and the other does not. It's like being injured in a car accident because the other driver was DUI vs. being injured in a car accident because you were DUI.

  • Happy Valley Heretic Orem, UT
    May 7, 2013 10:25 a.m.

    @ patjan... So Nuns at catholic schools who teach abstinence, don't really believe in it, or aren't actual virgins, if any of their students don't practice what they are taught?

    Talk about a blame game of nonsense, Kids are animals who can "absorb the teacher's true attitudes." and then in defiance have sex?

    Using this logic and the fact that religions are the 1st to push abstinence only teaching, I guess religious folks don't believe what they're teaching cause kids are still having sex.

  • Spikey Layton, UT
    May 7, 2013 10:23 a.m.

    There is nothing wrong with teaching abstinence---what is wrong was that along with teaching her about abstinence, E. Smart's teacher didn't discriminate between a rapist and a potential life partner.

    I grew up with the OPPOSITE teaching---abstinence is stupid, it's not 'realistic,' it's not normal, etc. This came from my parents: My mother has been married 4 times, and my father, who has been married 3 times. They taught me be word and example that abstinence DOES help a family and a marriage. But I was never taught that I was a dirty chewed up piece of gum, either.

    There has to be a balance, and more than anything, to teach children that they have infinite value, something that was also engrained in Elizabeth's mind as a young girl.

  • byufanutahemployee LAYTON, UT
    May 7, 2013 10:15 a.m.

    Although I am surprised that DN left out her mentions of feeling worthless because of what she was taught about chastity, saying that her experience is an indictment of teaching abstinence CHEAPENS THE HORRIBLE CRIME OF RAPE! Are you saying that if she was okay with having sex outside of marriage she would have been able to handle the situation better or differently? Would it have made the rape less traumatic and somehow okay in her mind?

    The point of her comments, in my reading, is that we must emphasize that self worth is not tied to anything that someone can take from you (freedom, virginity), but is an inherent part of each human being. She has often said that her religion, family and what she had been taught helped her survive. In addition, several studies have shown that teenage girls that choose to wait have higher self-esteem, so lets not try to boil her remarks down to a petty fight over when sex is appropriate.

  • Man_of_letters Salt Lake County, UT
    May 7, 2013 10:05 a.m.

    SLC_gal, while rape prevention might be a meaningful topic to be taught at schools, it wouldn't have prevented much in this case. When a man breaks into your window at night and forcefully removes you at knife point, your choices are very limited. Yes, we can and should teach people how to avoid dangerous situations and how toe scape, but it is something that sadly cannot really be escaped a lot of the time - and it isn't because the women (or men) aren't educated enough to know how to escape, it's just that the attacker(s) are quicker, more powerful, more dangerous, more methodical, etc.

    However, teaching young people that their self worth is not decreased because of any act committed against them is something that we can do which can have a meaningful impact on the unfortunate victims.

  • patjan Flower Mound, TX
    May 7, 2013 9:34 a.m.

    There was a study done by BYU years ago that showed that only those teachers who truly believed in abstinence themselves were able to teach abstinence effectively. I can guarantee you that many teachers do not believe that abstinence is realistic, mostly because they didn't do it themselves. Therefore, when they have to teach it in the schools, the students absorb the teacher's true attitudes. A teacher can't help but teach who he/she really is.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    May 7, 2013 9:08 a.m.

    Everybody who is commenting on this topic ought to take 5 mins and use the link in the article to listen to Elizabeth Smart's speech.

    Assuming DN has a high standard of accurate reporting, they did leave out a major point in Elizabeth's speech--one that every school and church teacher ought to hear: education needs to start early and personal value extends beyond mere chastity.

    There is such a double standard in society whereby male promiscuity is acceptable but promiscuous women are trash, and that women need laws, enacted by men, to control their healthcare decisions.

  • JWB Kaysville, UT
    May 7, 2013 8:56 a.m.

    Thanks to Elizabeth Smart and her family for helping people avoid potential problems with their children. We don't want to be so fearful but yet want to know the caution signs and warnings out there we can learn from.

    What a remarkable person to be able to do this with those healing scars she lived with. What a blessing through this tragedy in her life experience.

    May God bless you forever.

  • SLC gal Salt Lake City, UT
    May 7, 2013 8:51 a.m.

    Cinci man - she got married last year. I can see her keeping her maiden name, at least in the public eye, to avoid confusion.

    A lot of media outlets have used this to state why abstinance only education is bad. To me this is not an "abstinance only" issue. This is an issue of failing to empower our young women with the appropriate education. A discussion of birth control in her 8th grade health class would not have prevented what happened to her, but a class on rape prevention, and how to identify it may have been far more valuable.

  • AllBlack San Diego, CA
    May 7, 2013 8:31 a.m.

    Dear DesNews,

    This article ends up being somewhat misleading because, as others here have already said, you have left out a big chunk of yesterday's message, that is the part that covered abstinence only education and the chewing gum analogy.

    Smart was actually complaining about those old chewing gum lessons which are very common in our small community and teaches that someone who has had sex is like a used chewing gum that no one else will want to touch. That analogy is simply wrong and we shouldn't use it and it negatively affected Ms Smart during her kidnapping and probably negatively affects others today who face these issues in silence and pain.

  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    May 7, 2013 8:12 a.m.

    Like several other commentators, I was surprised to see no mention of Elizabeth's sense of lost worth due to her understanding of virginal virtue, and how once she was no longer a virgin her sense of worth was forever lost.

    I'm not sure of all the reasons but it seems clear that this reporter could not have omitted such a central point of Elizabeth's speech accidentally or through sheer neglect.

    I hope there will be improvements in the editorial review process that will ensure that such omissions (or deletions) of parts of stories that are as relevant as this will no longer be permitted (or encouraged).

  • Nanook of the North Phoenix, AZ
    May 7, 2013 7:49 a.m.

    Esquire got it right. The single most important part of her message, as reported by other outlets, was that she'd gotten the despicable "chewing gum" object lesson from a teacher at some point, and after she was kidnapped and raped she thought "Oh no, I've lost my 'virtue', now no one will ever love me again!" Who told which editor that this bit should be left out of this story in this newspaper?

  • no fit in SG St.George, Utah
    May 7, 2013 7:47 a.m.

    If one has incessantly been drummed into them that chastity is the one and only way for a young lady to be able to function in her family's religion, it is no wonder that one would feel as Elizabeth Smart describes.
    Ms. Smart is a brave woman to come forth and tell it like it is.
    Perhaps this responsible revelation that others have been unwilling to publicly discuss, will awaken more thoughtful conversation in religious and social circles.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    May 7, 2013 7:34 a.m.

    Frankly, I am surprised that this article misrepresents part of her message. In her comments, she spoke out against abstinence-only education. She said she was taught through abstinence-only education that a person whose virginity was lost before marriage was considered worthless. She talke "about a school teacher who urged students against premarital sex and compared women who had sex before their wedding nights to chewing gum. She said:

    “I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”

    This DesNews article completely surpressed and distorted this important perspective. I deem this a manipulation of the news.

  • Cinci Man FT MITCHELL, KY
    May 7, 2013 7:24 a.m.

    This is just a question. Didn't Elizabeth Smart get married? Did she decide not to adjust her name in some way? I didn't see in the article a married name. Thanks, if anyone knows.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    May 7, 2013 1:55 a.m.

    I don't understand why being raped would make a person feel worthless. It seems illogical from my perspective. But I believe her that she felt that way. I wonder if she has been able to shake those feelings. Perhaps she never will completely.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    May 6, 2013 11:50 p.m.

    So basically, teaching kids that losing their virginity makes them like a chewed piece of gum is potentially harmful.