Come on, Elder Kimball, I thought. You can’t really expect me to believe there were millions of perverts running around, even in the 70s. You are telling me a stretcher.

I was reading what President Kimball said at the first session of the April 1971 conference and I just wasn’t buying it.

But he was right and I was wrong.

As I read on, I saw that he didn’t just mean pedophiles and folks with outlier sexual quirks. He wasn’t even referring to Les Gibituqs, as would have fit with the blunt way they talked back then. He meant cads, sluts, fornicators, being too sex-minded in general, embracing birth control as an entitlement because sex was seen as a right and a demand . . . . He meant most of us in America 2015.

We have come a long way since 1971. We take for granted what we ought not and treat as normal what is abnormal.

But while the tone is different–we haven’t used the noun pervert since the early 80’s–the content is much the same. We probably put too much importance on shifts in tone. They aren’t really changes after all. Sinners needed love and compassion and patient redemption in the 70 s and sin is still evil and sinners still wicked today. It’s the measure of the times that changes, not the message.

However, sex wasn’t the point of the talk. The point is something I have recently learned. (Whenever I discover some gospel insight, I discover the prophets have been there all along. My virgin wilderness, my Newfoundland, always already has a little cabin that Joseph and Brigham built, with Ezra or Spencer on Gordon or Tommy out on the porch swapping tales). What I’ve realized is that the concept of peer pressure is just one room in the great and spacious building. It is the form of social danger we are most familiar with, and because we are familiar with that one, we think we are proof against them all. But peer pressure is only one form of social danger. That dark tower has many other gargoyles. Status and social information are as hungry as lust, as intense as fear, as subtle as lies. And that, not sex, is the subject of Elder Kimball’s talk. He warns us about the voices we hear. Sex didn’t begin in 1963. Nothing about human desire and the demands of the body changed in the sexual revolution. What changed were the voices of society.

“May the voices of the the Lord’s servants prevail.”


Other pieces on the Saturday morning session of the April 1971 Conference


Our Individual Battles to Overcome Our Worlds

Beginnings and Endings

LDS Conference April 1971- Hippies, Drugs, and Failure in the Home

Custodian and Dispenser of Saving Truth

Voices of the Past, of the Present, of the Future

April 1971: Nothing New Here – Just Same Ol’ Mormonism


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