Speaking Up for Morality


How could I share my beliefs when the TV talk show was designed to generate contention?

I was excited when our medical office received a telephone call from a Spanish-speaking, Los Angeles–based TV station. As a doctor familiar with an innovative surgical procedure, I was grateful for the opportunity to explain it on television.

Upon meeting with the program’s young assistant director, I was ushered into a large conference room where I met the other people who would appear with me on the “panel.” It was then I discovered that what I thought would be an informative medical symposium was actually a talk show titled “I’m a Virgin … and So What!”

The TV producers wanted me to elaborate on a gynecological procedure for women who have had difficult pregnancies and deliveries. The TV producers were mistakenly under the impression that this was some kind of miracle surgery that could restore a woman’s “chastity.”

I sat in shocked silence as we received instructions from the assistant director, two other men from the station, and the host of the show. Repeatedly we were encouraged to yell at each other and give the public a “good show.” They also told us the order in which we would be introduced on the program. First would be Stephanie, a 23-year-old virgin who was waiting to meet the right man before surrendering her virginity but who was not necessarily waiting for marriage. Next would be Teresa, a mother of two in her 40s, who championed the need for her daughter to remain chaste until marriage but who believed her son had”certain needs” so the need for chastity did not apply to him or any other man. Following Teresa would be Dolores, a 26-year-old who had lived with two men already and believed the concept of chastity was outmoded, unhealthy, and hypocritical. Finally, I would join the panel. Despite my objections, the show’s producers wanted me to explain the details of a “miraculous surgery that could restore a woman to her virginal state.”

Early that morning I had gone to the Lord in prayer, asking for guidance to help me with my TV appearance. I had felt the witness of the Spirit telling me I should appear on the program. Now I couldn’t understand how things could have turned so wrong.

How could this have happened, Heavenly Father? I asked silently in prayer. I can’t take part in this vulgar program. This is the adversary’s work. I can’t stay.

With the excuse of needing to move my car, I walked out of the TV station feeling sorry for these misguided people who had no idea of what the law of chastity truly was.

As I walked to my car, I felt a strong impression to stay. I can’t, I thought, repulsed by the idea of participating in such vulgarity. I closed my eyes and poured out my heart to the Lord for guidance, not quite understanding why I had been sent here in the first place. As I prayed in the refuge of my car, I thought of Abinadi testifying before King Noah, and the words of a scripture came to my mind: “But, there was one among them whose name was Alma, … and he was a young man, and he believed the words which Abinadi had spoken” (Mosiah 17:2). The reason I was here was precisely because I was different from these other people. I had a greater knowledge and understanding of divine principles and, like Abinadi, a responsibility to testify of them.

Not knowing how I was going to accomplish this—after the instructions we had received earlier to bicker, scream, and fight over the issue—but trusting the Lord would help me if only I had faith, I went back into the television station.

Upon my return, I was told the taping of the show would be delayed due to some kind of technical difficulties. “We’ll be back to get you as soon as we can,” they told the six of us, who were left alone in the room. There I sat with the other three women appearing on the program and two young men affiliated with the station.

I didn’t know what to do, so I sat in silence as the other guests talked to each other. Then, with a prayer in my heart, I steered the conversation back to the topic of the show. I let the others speak for a while and watched as they followed the producer’s instructions and acted as if already on camera. The women insulted one another, and the young men cheered or jeered according to their personal stands on the issue. After a lengthy and heated exchange the fight went out of them; they became bored and tired of defending their particular points of view.

This was my opportunity and I began to speak. I explained why chastity is so important and spoke of a loving Heavenly Father who desires his children to be happy. I told them how this happiness is only possible by obeying the Lord’s commandments and explained that the law of chastity applies to both men and women. I spoke of my love for the Savior. I also told them that as a single woman, I kept the law of chastity. I spoke softly. I spoke lovingly but with a power and strength that touched the hearts of these people.

I could see the effect my words were having through their eyes and in the way their faces softened and their bodies relaxed. They began to smile at one another. They began to ask questions and actually listen to the answers. We sat in the conference room for over two hours, and for much of that time I testified of eternal truths.

When we were finally called to the studio for taping, the entire mood of the group had changed. “I don’t believe chastity is unhealthy anymore,” Dolores said. Then she added with a smile, “I think it’s rather neat.”

Stephanie went on camera first, proclaiming she was proud to be a virgin and would remain one until she married. As we were called to face the cameras, the assistant director tried to exhort everyone back to their earlier positions on the issue, but the antagonism was gone. We had become friends.

The group spoke warmly and smiled as the cameras taped. Between takes, no one paid attention to the host, who pleaded for the feistiness to return. Gone was the fire of anger and belligerence that the guests had earlier displayed. The two young men who had been in the conference room with us and now were part of the studio audience came over to me each time we broke for a commercial to apologize; they were worried that when the cameras were rolling they might have seemed “anti-chastity.”

Before the taping was over I had the opportunity to bear my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I prepared to leave, one of the two young men approached me. “Doctor,” he said as he stretched out his hand, “thank you for coming today. You have taught a lot of people about right and wrong.” Then he added shyly, “I’ve been meaning to ask you … what church do you belong to?” I told him I was a Latter-day Saint, and he immediately smiled. “My mother has been meeting with the elders for two weeks now,” he said. “They gave me a Book of Mormon the other day.”

“Have you read it?” I asked. When he shook his head no, I bore him my testimony of the Book of Mormon and challenged him to read it. He promised he would, and then we parted.

I did not expect the program to air since it had turned from a lurid talk show into a discussion of religious values, but it did—several times. In fact, it has turned into one of the most popular reruns for the TV channel.

I expect to learn one day if the young man who approached me that night may have been like the one who “believed the words which Abinadi had spoken.” In the meantime I am humbled by the fact that the Lord found me worthy to receive his inspiration and to make me his instrument for righteous teaching that day. I will never again doubt that one person, with the Lord, can make a difference.

[photo] Photo by Steve Bunderson; posed by models

Patricia H. Arnazzi serves as the Relief Society president in the Torrance Third (Spanish)Branch, Torrance California Stake.