I was having a delightful conversation with a Canadian the other day, when we mutually came to an obvious conclusion. The widespread obsession among teenage girls over the obscenely successful Twilight series is most likely a contributing factor in the Young Women presidency's addition of "virtue" to the list young women values listed in the theme. We remembered there being a logical chronology to the two events, and so investigated further. We found that the pinnacle of the first wave of obsession, the first movie release, was in November of 2008. The addition of virtue followed in December of the same year, thus solidifying our belief that the two are related.
So, let's see what our church leaders have said about virtue, and how Bella is not following their counsel:
What is Virtue?
Virtue “is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards” (Preach My Gospel). Elaine S. Dalton, the Young Women general president, expanded the definition saying, "It encompasses chastity and moral purity. Virtue includes modesty—in thought, language, dress, and demeanor"(Cherish Virtue, March Ensign 2009).
Bella isn't LDS, but Bella's author is. Because we assume that Ms. Meyer, practicing the Latter-Day Saint religion, would wish to create something "virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy"(Article of Faith 1:13), we then also assume that her book Twilight would indeed be virtuous, ergo the main characters, Edward and Bella, would exemplify virtue in their lives. It had been argued that Bella and Edward indeed ARE virtuous, due to the fact that they did not have sex until they were married. However, that is an antiquated definition of "virtue."
The Young Women Presidency has emphasized that virtue is more than simply being sexually pure, but it is taking the path that leads to chastity, also. Sister Dalton explained, "Sometimes we think we can live on the edge and still maintain our virtue. But that is a risky place to be"(Cherish Virtue, March Ensign 2009). She is not the first to warn us. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue” (History of the Church, 5:134–35).
We cannot call ourselves virtuous if we are not even on the path that leads to it. I propose that Bella and Edward, spending all night in Bella's bed together, being alone together for long time periods, and otherwise disregarding their potential to develop a round relationship with each other in favor of focusing on the physical aspects of dating, are not on the path to virtue.
But It's Just a Book!
The church published in 2001 a pamphlet designed specifically for the youth, keeping in mind the common challenges they face, including choices in media:
"Whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Therefore, choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices. It will allow you to enjoy yourself without losing the Spirit of the Lord"(For the Strength of Youth, 17).
I do not believe that children reading about the kinesthetic responses Bella experiences while making out with Edward will not "help (them) to have good thoughts and make righteous choices," but rather encourage them to seek out similar experiences themselves.
Youth are prone to obsession. With obsession come emulation. I feel comfortable describing the general reaction of the young women of the church to the twilight series as obsessive.
ob⋅ses⋅sion[uhb-sesh-uhn] Show IPA
|1.||the domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.|
|2.||the idea, image, desire, feeling, etc., itself.|
|3.||the state of being obsessed.|
|4.||the act of obsessing.|
Edward dominates many young women's thoughts: he is a persistent image, a persistent desire. Edward and Bella do not live virtuous lives, and because of this obsession, the youth may be compelled to emulate their lifestyle, by living "on the edge," instead of in "the path of virtue." This is concerning. The Young Women Presidency is so concerned, in fact, that they have added virtue to the Young Women's theme!