Lesson 19: Teaching Modesty and Virtue in the Home

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, (2000), 139–45


The purpose of this lesson is to help us know how to teach modesty and virtue in the home.

Introduction

Elder Boyd K. Packer, in speaking about the moral values of modesty and virtue, said: “The responsibility and the right to teach these sacred [things] rest with the parents in the home. I do not believe that it is the responsibility of the public schools, nor is it the responsibility of the organizations of the Church. The contribution of the Church in this respect is to teach parents the standards of morality that the Lord has revealed and to assist them in their responsibility of teaching these sacred subjects to their children” (Teach Ye Diligently [1975], 256).

The prophet Mormon wrote a letter to his son Moroni in which he taught the great value of moral purity. He said that chastity and virtue are more dear and precious than any other thing (see Moroni 9:9). These values are just as important today. Our bodies are sacred; we should always dress modestly and keep ourselves pure and virtuous.

Modesty and Virtue

The Lord places great value on virtue. It is important, therefore, to understand what the Lord means by modesty and virtue. Modesty usually refers to the way we speak and dress. Virtue refers to the way we act. President Spencer W. Kimball said:

“Another of the many things that lead to unchastity is immodesty. Today many young women and young men are smug in their knowledge of the facts of life. They think they know all the answers. They talk about sex as freely as they talk about cars and shows and clothes. And a spirit of immodesty has developed until nothing seems to be sacred.

“One contributing factor to immodesty and a breakdown of moral values is the modern dress. I am sure that the immodest clothes that are worn by some of our young women, and their mothers, contribute directly and indirectly to the immorality of this age. Even fathers sometimes encourage it. I wonder if our young sisters realize the temptation they are flaunting before young men when they leave their bodies partly uncovered. …

“I am positive that the clothes we wear can be a tremendous factor in the gradual breakdown of our love of virtue, our steadfastness in chastity” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 163, 168).

  • How should knowing our bodies are sacred affect the way we dress and act? How should knowing we are children of our Heavenly Father affect the way we dress and act?

Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone told a story about the son of a king who understood who he was and how he should act. King Louis XVI of France had been taken from his throne and put in prison. His young son, the prince, was taken by those who had captured the king. Because the young prince was to be the next king, they wanted to destroy him morally. They knew that if they did, he would never be able to become the king of France.

These people took the prince to a faraway city, where they tempted the boy with every filthy thing they could find. They tried to get him to eat foods which would quickly make him lose control of himself. They used terrible language around him all the time. They tempted him with evil women. They exposed him to dishonor and distrust. He was surrounded constantly by everything that could make a person lose his moral values. For over six months he was given this treatment. But not once did the boy give in to temptation. Finally, after doing everything they could think of, they asked why he did not do these things. He replied, “I cannot do what you ask, for I was born to be a king” (adapted from “The King’s Son,” New Era, Nov. 1975, 35).

We too were born to be kings (see 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6). Our purpose in life, however, is greater than being the king of a nation. We are children of God, and we were born to become like Him. Achieving such a goal is impossible if we are not modest and virtuous.

The Importance of Example

One of our most important responsibilities as members of God’s Church is to set a proper example of modesty and virtue. We should not only keep our minds and bodies clean and pure, but we should also show that we consider our bodies sacred by the way we talk, the humor we enjoy, and the literature we read. This is especially important for parents and older children. When we set a proper example, our children or our brothers and sisters can develop the same values we have and behave as we behave.

  • Have the class members think for a moment about their own attitudes and behaviors and ask themselves the following questions:

“Is there anything in my attitude and behavior that might be harmful to those I try to teach?”

“Is there anything that I do or think about that I would not want my children to do or think about?”

  • Read Jacob 2:35, which contains Jacob’s chastisement of the Nephites for their bad examples. Why is it so important to set the proper example?

Teaching Modesty and Virtue

Teaching modesty and virtue requires the guidance of the Spirit. Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “If there is one essential ingredient for the teaching of moral and spiritual values, … it is to have the Spirit of the Lord with us as we teach” (Teach Ye Diligently [1975], 272).

It is also essential to approach the subject with reverence and humility. Elder Packer’s approach is a good example of one way to teach modesty and virtue in a very reverent way:

“There was provided in our physical bodies, and this is sacred, a power of creation. A light, so to speak, that has the power to kindle other lights. This gift is to be used only within the sacred bonds of marriage. Through the exercise of this power of creation, a mortal body may be conceived, a spirit enter into it, and a new soul born into this life.

“This power is good. It can create and sustain family life, and it is in family life that we find the fountains of happiness. It is given to virtually every individual who is born into mortality. It is a sacred and significant power. …

“You are growing up in a society where before you is the constant invitation to tamper with these sacred powers. … Do not let anyone at all touch or handle your body, not anyone! Those who tell you otherwise proselyte you to share their guilt. We teach you to maintain your innocence. … The only righteous use of this sacred power is within the covenant of marriage. Never misuse these sacred powers” (Teach Ye Diligently [1975], 259, 262).

If we are to be successful in teaching these principles to our families, we must be very careful to protect our homes against uncleanliness. Elder A. Theodore Tuttle taught us that “the father is the protector of the home. He guards it against the intrusion of evil from without. Formerly he protected his home with weapons and shuttered windows. Today the task is more complex. Barred doors and windows protect only against [physical things]. It is not an easy thing to protect one’s family against intrusions of evil into the minds and spirits of family members. These things can and do flow freely into the home. [Satan is very clever.] He need not break down the door” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 86–87; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 67).

  • What are some of the ways that evil can get into our homes today? (Answers could include immoral magazines, radio programs, television shows, books, and the Internet.)

  • What can a father do to protect his family from these kinds of things? (Carefully help family members select reading materials, radio and television programs, and materials on the Internet.)

  • Read and discuss Doctrine and Covenants 93:40–43.

The Lord chastised Frederick G. Williams because he had not fulfilled his responsibility to bring up his children in light and truth.

  • Invite class members to think about how they would feel if the Lord told them they had been unfaithful in teaching their children the importance of modesty and virtue. Invite them also to ponder ways they could improve in teaching their children.

The Right Time to Teach

  • Show visual 19-a, “A father should interview his children regularly.”

    father and son(click to view larger)

    19-a, A father should interview his children regularly.

Family home evenings are excellent times to teach modesty and virtue. Many fathers also find it helpful to have formal interviews with their children. One father, for example, interviews each child once a month on fast Sunday. He asks questions regarding moral cleanliness and listens to any problems they may have. He teaches, bears his testimony, and tells them of his love for them.

  • What effect do you think this kind of interview would have on children?

  • Show visual 19-b, “Teaching opportunities often come at unexpected moments.”

Although it is vital to teach our children during formal situations such as interviews and family home evenings, we need to be sensitive to their needs at all times. We should watch for the times when they will best understand what we want them to know. If we talk with them regularly and show our love for them, our children will often come to us when they need to talk about their feelings and problems.

The Lord has commanded us to take advantage of every opportunity to teach our children (see Deuteronomy 6:5–7). If we watch for opportunities to teach, we can sometimes teach very powerfully in very unexpected situations. We may be able to teach important truths about virtue and modesty, for example, on a picnic, after a sacrament meeting, during a walk, in a car, during vacation, on the way to school, or during a time of great difficulty.

  • Can you think of an experience either with your children or your parents in which real communication and teaching occurred? Where was it? When was it? Was it planned, or did the situation arise unexpectedly?

Conclusion

We have a responsibility to teach modesty and virtue through our words and our example. As we uphold these values, we will be worthy of the companionship of the Spirit, and we will experience the happiness that comes from being morally clean.

Challenges

Plan a family home evening to discuss virtue and modesty.

Set an example of modesty and virtue in your own dress and actions.

Additional Scripture

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Carefully plan how you will present the lesson. If there are young priesthood holders in the priesthood class, do not turn the class into a preaching session addressed to them. You may want to discuss with them ways young people can help their parents talk with them about this sensitive subject. Discuss why chastity and modesty are so important and what the class members can do to set a good example for others.

  2. 2.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.