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Rolling Stone Article Re: Armpit Crabs at BYU


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From the Deseret News (Hanna Seariac) :

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Perspective: No, Rolling Stone, Latter-day Saint college students aren’t sexual deviants
Searching for hypocrisy among religious people has become a sport among some American writers. Here’s what they get wrong
By Hanna Seariac | Nov 3, 2022, 10:56am MDT

In the novel “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship,” the great German intellectual Johann Goethe chronicles the protagonist’s descent into a German culture riddled with hypocrisy. Throughout the novel, Meister grapples with both the ubiquity of societal hypocrisy and the ease with which humans point out hypocrisy in others but rarely in themselves.

Everyone loves to hate a hypocrite, just not the one in the mirror.

Perhaps that’s why searching for hypocrisy in the sex lives of religious people has become something of a sport among a subset of American writers.

This thought has come to me many times over the years.  However, I can't entirely object to people pointing out "hypocrisy" when exhibits by religious people.  We need to hold each other to account.  How and where and when and who does this is, of course, an important consideration.

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Rolling Stone magazine, for example, ran an article last week indulging in the bizarre and wholly unsubstantiated rumor, first circulated on TikTok, that Brigham Young University students — you know, the ones famous for their chocolate milk consumption and their stone-cold sober reputation — had an outbreak of a sexually transmitted disease from engaging in, wait for it, sexual contact involving armpits.

Because, you know, religious hypocrites always resort to the strangest, most contorted ways of committing sin in order to ensure they casuistically avoid breaking “rules.” Even though the Rolling Stone author wasn’t able to corroborate any of the rumors (isn’t that the job of a reporter?), amazingly the piece was still given the green light and published anyway.

Earlier this year, other publications from Yahoo! to the New York Post similarly ran articles claiming Latter-day Saint college students weren’t really following their religion’s admonition to be chaste — abstaining from premarital relations and practicing fidelity within traditional marriage — because they were engaging in other sexual workarounds not fit for description in print.

Again, none of these rumors have been substantiated by credible sources.

I came across a few articles and social media posts about this story, but I had ignored it because I did not want to "pass it on."  But now that it's print in the Deseret News...

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These pieces likely say more about those who publish them than about Latter-day Saint college students. Making fun of religious people, Latter-day Saints or otherwise, is a personal choice. And, to quote Goethe, “Nothing shows a man’s character more than what he laughs at.” Latter-day Saints aren’t the only ones to have jeers thrown at them; Anabaptists and Orthodox Jews, among others, have long been subjected to these kinds of tropes.

So why do tropes like these fester?

A few reasons:

First and foremost, hypocrisy is just a really grating thing for many people.

Second, I think antipathy goes a long way in explaining the perpetuation and repetition of these tropes.

Third, schadenfreude, or whatever it is that impels us to gossip and backbite, to rubberneck and gawk at others' missteps.

Here is where Hanna really gets going:

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By accusing religious practitioners of sexual behavior out of step with their stated values, accusers imply that religious people don’t or can’t follow their own principles, subtly suggesting the principles are impractical or otherwise flawed.

It turns out, however, the principles actually work. 

Highly religious individuals are by and large much more likely than the general population to refrain from sexual contact before marriage. A study conducted in 2022 found that religions with teachings regarding sexual morality consistently correlated with lower rates of premarital sex.

Analyzing the 2021 General Social Survey, Lyman Stone showed that adults under age 35 who attended church more than monthly reported significantly lower levels of nonmarital sex than the general population. University of Oklahoma professor Samuel Perry’s research has also found that highly religious men are more likely to have an aversion to pornography.

Now, specifically regarding Latter-day Saints, some have pointed to one 2009 study that said Utah had the highest number of pornography subscriptions per capita, but this study seems to be an outlier. A 2015 review that included the 2009 study and more recent analyses found that Utah, which has one of the youngest populations in the nation, typically ranks considerably lower: even 50th in the U.S. 

View_of_A_review_of_pornography_use_rese
Table 1 (ranking pornography use in different states) from a 2015 review published by Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace. Michael Gmeiner, Joseph Price and Michael Worley

Good stuff, this.

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Of course, not all Latter-day Saints follow their faith’s sexual ethic. But Dean Busby, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University, said Latter-day Saints are likely to remain chaste because of the church’s marital teachings. “The basic difference is Latter-day Saints have a type of marriage that is only accessible by highly religious couples. This type of marriage requires a couple to elevate themselves both spiritually and sexually. That’s part of the high demand. You have to raise your spiritual life to a specific level.”

Busby and his colleague at BYU, David Dollahite, cited research that shows how Latter-day Saint youths have some of the lowest rates of premarital sex compared both to nonreligious youths and youths of different religious affiliations. They described how the Latter-day Saint emphasis on family formation leads to young people waiting for marriage and to higher rates of marriage with relatively lower rates of divorce.

There are no doubt many religious hypocrites, but on average the principles do seem to impact behavioral outcomes.

Go Hanna!

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Church members view intimacy as sacred; most active members view refraining from premarital sex as beneficial. The assumption that religious people secretly dislike their religious teachings and do not want to practice them is a tired one.

The Rolling Stone article quotes a therapist who says everyone experiences sexual desire and that it would make sense for religious people who may feel guilt around sex to find loopholes to fulfill their sexual desires without breaking the “rules.”

It’s a significant misunderstanding of religious people to suppose that one would not experience guilt by engaging in a strange sexual “loophole.” While it’s important not to feel stuck in shame around sex or sexual desire, there are also rational reasons why someone might choose to refrain from premarital sex.

For starters, for many people, there are negative emotional and psychological consequences from engaging in hook-up culture, according to The American Psychological Association. Daniel Frost, BYU assistant professor of family life, said, “It seems like some people want to say that sex isn’t a big deal, but our conversations around sexual identity and other matters suggest that sex is extremely important.”

Again, good stuff.

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While it’s easy to “dunk on” how “straight-laced” religious populations are, it might be more worthwhile to try to understand why I and other people may come to the conclusion that there’s value in waiting for marriage. As a young woman in 21st-century America, I have found it not only empowering, but also vital to wait for marriage — no matter how dunkable my decision is to Rolling Stone or others.

For me, our countercultural position on refraining from premarital sex is actually quite humanizing. Frost put it this way: “Some are saying that religious people should just relax about sex, but other thinkers like Louise Perry and Christine Emba show that sex is inherently meaningful.”

Yep.  The popular approach to sex being both meaningless (such as when someone wants to excuse/justify/rationalize one-night stands, "hook-ups," "sex work," etc.) and meaningful (sexual abuse is particularly and uniquely awful, etc.) is pretty weird.

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The reality is that religious people who believe sex is inherently important see it as meaningful and valuable, therefore not something to be taken lightly. And data show the sex lives of the highly religious are far more fulfilling. This is particularly true for women. According to one study described in a New York Post article, highly religious couples “are three times more likely than less-religious peers to report a sexually satisfying relationship.”

Even failing sometimes to live up to that standard doesn’t make religious people legalistic hypocrites when it comes to sexual morality; it makes them imperfect people trying to live up to their principles. Which is true of just about every human being. Even those who write for Rolling Stone.

Great response.  Great reasoning and evidentiary support.  Well done, Hanna and DN!

Thoughts?

Thanks,

-Smac

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I can't speak to the occurrence of "armpit sex," but when I was at BYU, I knew quite a few people who believed that genital contact that didn't involve contact with the other person's genitals wasn't actually sex. Thus, oral sex, manual sex, and **** sex were not against the law of chastity, at least according to them. My daughter has told me that she ran into similar ideas at BYU-Idaho not long ago. I'm not even sure it's the hypocrisy that they are pointing out, just the desperate measures people take to rationalize their own desires and behaviors. The notion of "armpit sex" is both supremely funny and incredibly sad. 

I waited until marriage, and to be honest, I have mixed feelings about it. I knew next to nothing about sex before I got married, and my wife's only experience was childhood sexual abuse. Coming into a marriage with such vastly different experiences caused a lot of misunderstanding that we had to work through. I certainly don't regret marrying my wife, but I wish we had at least had some context to talk about sex before we got married. 

Edited by jkwilliams
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1 hour ago, jkwilliams said:

I can't speak to the occurrence of "armpit sex," but when I was at BYU, I knew quite a few people who believed that genital contact that didn't involve contact with the other person's genitals wasn't actually sex. Thus, oral sex, manual sex, and **** sex were not against the law of chastity, at least according to them. My daughter has told me that she ran into similar ideas at BYU-Idaho not long ago. I'm not even sure it's the hypocrisy that they are pointing out, just the desperate measures people take to rationalize their own desires and behaviors. The notion of "armpit sex" is both supremely funny and incredibly sad. 

I guess it comes down to prevalence.  Having attended BYU twice (undergrad and law degree), I never once encountered anyone talking about this sort of thing.  

I am also reminded of this anecdote from my mission (written in a discussion about "Under the Banner of Heaven") :

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As a missionary in Taiwan I witnessed something of a scandal involving a missionary companionship (elders) who, while serving in a remote little town by themselves apparently went off and did a bit of "riotous living."  They were sent home.  The branch in that city was, as I recall, decimated.  The missionary work in that city came to a complete halt for quite a while (there may have been a sort of "Corianton Effect").  The members elsewhere on the island spoke about it for months afterwards.  There were snickers, jokes, and so on.  It was embarassing.  It hindered the work for a while.

I remember at the time feeling frustrated that the misconduct of these two missionaries overshadowed all the good and hard work most of the other 150+ or so missionaries were doing.  We were viewed with some ridicule and scorn because of the misconduct, even though we had not shared in it.  The reputation of missionaries generally, and even the Church, took a substantial hit, even though the misconduct in question was a gross violation of the mission rules and the doctrines of the Church.

If the Church and our mission had taught its missionaries and members to engage in licentious conduct, then I could see some real justification for criticism and condemnation.  But that's not the case.  Instead, the Church was criticised and condemned for misconduct that violates the teachings and practices of the Church.  That makes no kind of sense.

I will concede that sexual misconduct is more prevalent at BYU than I surmised (since I didn't witness or hear about any), but I'm fairly skeptical about the implication that the sorts of rationalization you are referencing are reflective of the Latter-day Saints at BYU overall.

1 hour ago, jkwilliams said:

I waited until marriage, and to be honest, I have mixed feelings about it. I knew next to nothing about sex before I got married, and my wife's only experience was childhood sexual abuse. Coming into a marriage with such vastly different experiences caused a lot of misunderstanding that we had to work through. I certainly don't regret marrying my wife, but I wish we had at least had some context to talk about sex before we got married. 

Overcoming inexperience through extramarital sex would seem to create as many problems as, if not more than, the problems that come with inexperience.

Trauma associated with past abuse would need to be addressed and accounted for.

Broadly speaking, it seems like a married couple who believe sex to be sacred and important, and also fun, could - through communication and patience and consideration and self-restraint - overcome that inexperience and have a good time while doing it.  If so, then they will have overcome without incurring the risks and ramifications associated with extramarital sex.

Thanks,

-Smac

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2 hours ago, smac97 said:

I guess it comes down to prevalence.  Having attended BYU twice (undergrad and law degree), I never once encountered anyone talking about this sort of thing.  

I am also reminded of this anecdote from my mission (written in a discussion about "Under the Banner of Heaven") :

I will concede that sexual misconduct is more prevalent at BYU than I surmised (since I didn't witness or hear about any), but I'm fairly skeptical about the implication that the sorts of rationalization you are referencing are reflective of the Latter-day Saints at BYU overall.

Overcoming inexperience through extramarital sex would seem to create as many problems as, if not more than, the problems that come with inexperience.

Trauma associated with past abuse would need to be addressed and accounted for.

Broadly speaking, it seems like a married couple who believe sex to be sacred and important, and also fun, could - through communication and patience and consideration and self-restraint - overcome that inexperience and have a good time while doing it.  If so, then they will have overcome without incurring the risks and ramifications associated with extramarital sex.

Thanks,

-Smac

I’m certainly not saying these behaviors reflect the overall student body at BYU, but they do happen. 

I suppose I don’t see a huge downside to figuring out what you like sexually before you make a lifetime commitment. For example, it’s probably better to know that one partner doesn’t believe sex is or should be fun before you get married. 

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I had a classmates at BYU in the 90s who confided in me about her apartment.  The 6 girls living off campus talked about their experiences. 

1 was having sex with her boyfriend daily.   They planned to stop long enough to be temple worthy and get married in the temple.

The other 5 had not sex, but all had engaged in oral sex and/or other non PiV activities.

I never saw anything like that in any apartment I lived in during my time, so that seemed very aberrational.  Most just jumped on the quick marriage train, and trying to avoid having sex right before marriage. 

As to trauma, the church should encourage anyone who has suffered child sexual abuse to go into extensive counseling.  It leaves wounds and scars.  Those that don't get the necessary help and think they are OK will most likely have difficulties at some point later on, even if no problems initially.

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I just want to know how such an absurd proposition went down.

"Wait, wait, wait...you want to do what with my armpit?"

To have someone whacko enough who would even dare to make such a proposition meet someone whacko enough to consent to such a proposition...I guess they are made for each other.   

Or did it just evolve naturally (or unnaturally, rather) during one messed up make-out session?

So many questions the doctor must have had!   

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4 minutes ago, pogi said:

I just want to know how such an absurd proposition went down.

"Wait, wait, wait...you want to do what with my armpit?"

To have someone whacko enough who would even dare to make such a proposition meet someone whacko enough to consent to such a proposition...I guess they are made for each other.   

Or did it just evolve naturally (or unnaturally, rather) during one messed up make-out session?

So many questions the doctor must have had!   

I agree it's wacko but in context with religious teachings things like this happen. 

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43 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

I agree it's wacko but in context with religious teachings things like this happen. 

Crazy things happen indeed.  I have to say, I think I’ll vote for this rare version of whacko vs. the alternative loose religious/sexual morals which Maury created an entire show around  - “who’s the daddy?” 
Terribly tragic!  It is sad that there is enough material out there to keep a show running for so long.


Give me that sweet religion every time over that.   If we are really going to compare which extreme is worse and more prevalent…I think there is no question as to which breeds worse outcomes.

 

Edited by pogi
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5 minutes ago, BlueDreams said:

I have a quick minute. I don’t have time to dive in the actual article(s)…though I’ve read some of it. I’ve worked as a sex therapist to some degree for 8 years. Including supervising therapists who also tend to share their odder cases For 2-3 years. All of my practicing has happened near or on byu campus and with a majority LDS population. This includes detailed sexual histories regularly given. Not once in all that time have I met someone who noted some form of armpit action. To say I doubt this would be an understatement. If it did occur it is extremely rare. The most common stories around premarital sexual relationships that didn’t include intercourse pre-marriage are: some making out with maybe an errant orgasm from clothed stimulation or excitement, little to no engagement beyond some kissing, more sexual play that included some nudity or genital touching via hands, or oral sex (in this order in terms of how often I hear it).  And with varying degrees of guilt or lack thereof depending on how they viewed what it meant to follow the LOC and whether they should. (Should add a*al sex is pretty uncommon with the LDS population I work with in general, let alone pre-marriage) 

 

Slight pet peeve alert: sexual experience is not equivalent to sexual knowledge or communication around sexual expectations. Both can and should happen pre-marriage, no matter one’s premarital sexual history. And pre-marital sex is certainly not sexual healing from abuse. Neither of the problems you mentioned are solved by simply being sexually active. Yours, maybe indirectly since people may be more open to learning or seeking sexual info more if they’re sexually active (though it’s by no means guaranteed that it’s accurate or useful in specific contexts). Your wife’s, almost certainly not. It may have made it more clear there was a problem. It may not have. I’ve known more than one person with a sexual abuse/abuse history who the true depth of their problems didn’t become clear until post marriage. Since sex for abused people can sometimes be transactional, some assume they must put out to keep a partner. Their “drive” in a sense is really relational anxiety fueled by poor concepts of men and safety. This dissipates over time as it becomes more clear the person won’t leave them or the strain of having transactional sex finally catches up. 
Personally, I waited for certain sexual acts till marriage. I had an abnormally well developed understanding of sex, considering I was literally talking about it varying contexts for at least a couple years pre-marriage. I had a solid idea of what I liked and didn’t like outside a couple of acts, and I’d communicated clearly with my partner to make sure we were on the same page. Sex didn’t change much and I have not a single regret or concern about it. Honestly in someways I feel relieved. 


with luv, 

BD

 

Like I said, I can’t speak to armpit sex, but I stand by what I and my daughter heard at church-owned schools. 

I appreciate your perspective on premarital sex. I was so naive and lacking in knowledge, and I certainly wasn’t equipped to deal with someone who had been abused. I remember going to a BYU fireside about engagement and marriage where we were told not to talk about our potential sex life before marriage, so we didn’t. My wife bought a book by Tim LaHaye (the Left Behind guy), which we both read individually. It was not really helpful.

I was pretty clueless. 

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29 minutes ago, pogi said:

Crazy things happen indeed.  I have to say, I think I’ll vote for this rare version of whacko vs. the alternative loose religious/sexual morals which Maury created an entire show around  - “who’s the daddy?” 
Terribly tragic!  It is sad that there is enough material out there to keep a show running for so long.


Give me that sweet religion every time over that.   If we are really going to compare which extreme is worse and more prevalent…I think there is no question as to which breeds worse outcomes.

 

Oh yeah, that show was the worst, him and Jerry Springer!

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32 minutes ago, pogi said:

Crazy things happen indeed.  I have to say, I think I’ll vote for this rare version of whacko vs. the alternative loose religious/sexual morals which Maury created an entire show around  - “who’s the daddy?” 
Terribly tragic!  It is sad that there is enough material out there to keep a show running for so long.


Give me that sweet religion every time over that.   If we are really going to compare which extreme is worse and more prevalent…I think there is no question as to which breeds worse outcomes.

 

I don’t think those are necessarily the only two options. 

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I came across as video about "soaking" at BYU and wondered if I wanted to know what that was. No, I did not want to know. 

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1 hour ago, MorningStar said:

I came across as video about "soaking" at BYU and wondered if I wanted to know what that was. No, I did not want to know. 

That's another one of those things that I only ever see in news articles (that always seem to be based on ex-member tiktoks), as well as the alternate version where they get a room mate to bounce on the mattress at the same time.

Now the travel to las vegas, get married, have sex, get divorced thing, I've also heard about from members in Australia. It's much easier to believe people do that than armpit sex and soaking.

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8 hours ago, MustardSeed said:

Touching armpit to armpit is sex? Or is it genitalia to armpit? 
 

maybe I should just read the dumb article. 
 

Honestly nothing shocks me.  Hormones restricted creates some freaky stuff. 

Well think about it. What would work for the man the best, lol. 

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5 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

Well think about it. What would work for the man the best, lol. 

Oh lol - my autistic literal brain strikes again.  How desperate one must be and shrouded in justification thinking to land on this and think it fits in the definition of the law of chastity. Just do the dang thing. 💥😆

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14 hours ago, jkwilliams said:

Like I said, I can’t speak to armpit sex, but I stand by what I and my daughter heard at church-owned schools. 


 

i largely didn’t disagree with you. People do get there freak on at church schools. There’s a large part of the population that doesn’t, but plenty do to some degree. Full blown intercourse though is rarer I’d say. 

There’s only 2 parts that I would diverge. **** as a whole is rare in LDS populations. It’s more common (though still a minority) among the general US population thanks in part to porn informing sexual norms. But it’s a rare topic brought up in my office and more often brought up because one partner wants to try it and the other really doesn’t. Only a couple LDS folks that I’ve met wants it, does it, and enjoys it (all were married).


The other is in the assumed hypocrisy. That’s usually not what i see. To me hypocrisy includes concrete knowledge/belief that one shouldn’t do something, playing lip service to not doing that in public, and then doing it anyways. The problem is in the first 2 areas. If someone thinks the acts you mentioned aren’t full sex then to their context they may genuinely believe they are following the LOC. which also makes sense since there isn’t a universal definition as to what constitutes sex or even virginity.  It may be in error to some degree but it wouldn’t be hypocrisy without knowledge/belief in these being against the LOC. 

14 hours ago, jkwilliams said:

I appreciate your perspective on premarital sex. I was so naive and lacking in knowledge, and I certainly wasn’t equipped to deal with someone who had been abused. I remember going to a BYU fireside about engagement and marriage where we were told not to talk about our potential sex life before marriage, so we didn’t. My wife bought a book by Tim LaHaye (the Left Behind guy), which we both read individually. It was not really helpful.

I was pretty clueless. 

I believe you’re talking about “the act of marriage.” I remember reading it eons ago…at least what was likely an updated version. Didn’t realize who the author was. I remember thinking it was fairly decent. But to be fair this was pre masters in my early-mid 20’s. The landscape has changed a lot since you were married. At this point there’s several pretty good books on sex and concerns that may come up from LDS authors. I think all the ones I like were also written by therapists. Though there may be caution around talking culturally, most I’ve known were encouraged or did talk about it to some degree. It may not have been directly helpful since in some regards their discussions were hypothetical. But it wasn’t seen as taboo to do so and still is better than no engagement. I’m also encouraged by the women who have been sexually abused recognizing surprisingly early that there’s a problem with them and getting help early. Sometimes starting therapy pre-marriage realizing they need to get this fixed now that they’re in a serious relationship. 
And to be fair to you, very few are equipped to handle the concerns that come up from abuse in a partner. That’s a hard go and I can’t imagine handling it well without professional guidance of some sort. 
 

with luv, 

BD 

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26 minutes ago, BlueDreams said:

they may genuinely believe they are following the LOC.

I’m seriously so hard pressed to believe this.  I mean unless the Clinton fiasco genuinely made a bigger impact than I thought- in that anything “but” is no problemo. 
I mean I was once young and felt the urge to merge and I convinced myself that I could get away with stuff but I knew for sure it wasn’t anything I was going to advertise, Because I knew it was wrong. But I sure had a lot of cognitive dissonance With the level of justification going on.

Get this, at BYU my bishop literally told us he would NOT grant temple recommends to anyone who kissed open mouthed.  He defined that as heavy petting, grounds even for expulsion.  So what did I do with that? I said to myself, here’s a guy in a wheelchair and clearly can’t have sex himself and is bitter. (Major false assumption to support my cause)  He has not earned my trust and I will tell him that I am worthy to attend the temple even though I probably don’t think I am. But he is an unworthy judge so I will just lie.
time came to interview, I lied, he pressed, I lied more. For 20 years I carried a tremendous burden of appropriate guilt. I never did the deed, and I never smurfed or twitted  or thrumped, but I sure as anything french kissed.  And a little bit of other otherwise harmless but outside the rule book stuff.  I did pretty good for a gal dating a non member for over a year.  
 

thank goodness at the 20 year mark I had a trustworthy bishop who set my mind straight and at ease. Go to the temple and never think about this again, he said. 
 

BYU is one horny place I’ll tell you what. 

Edited by MustardSeed
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6 hours ago, MustardSeed said:

BYU is one horny place I’ll tell you what. 

It's a weird place too. 

I've attended student wards in a couple different states and was pretty well in the know, and if the kind of stuff that BYU is always getting called out for happened in any of those single wards it was a one-off situation that the couple took to their graves.

What is it about BYU??  Sheer numbers and a case of the odds being stacked against it?

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