What is petting?
November 1985

“What is petting?” New Era, Nov. 1985, 16–17

“What is petting? Should it be confessed to the bishop?”

Answer/Brother Lindsay R. Curtis

Petting is fondling a member of the opposite sex in areas that are private, personal, and sacred. I like the way one young mother put it when teaching her young children to protect their bodies against molestation. “Do not let anyone touch any part of your body covered by your bathing suit. These parts are sacred.”

Because of modern movies and television we must add “prolonged kisses that involve the tongue and excite the passions” as an off limits form of fondling. Even a simple kiss should be reserved for special occasions and for special people we care about.

In The Miracle of Forgiveness, by Elder Spencer W. Kimball, we read: “Too often, young people dismiss their petting with a shrug of their shoulders as a little indiscretion, while admitting that fornication is a base transgression. Too many of them are shocked, or feign to be, when told that what they have done in the name of petting was in reality fornication. The dividing line is a thin, blurry one. …

“All those who have slipped into the disgraceful and most reprehensible habit of transgressing through petting should immediately change their lives, their habits, and their thought patterns, repent sorely in ‘sackcloth and ashes,’ and by confession get so far as possible a clearance from the Lord and the leaders of his Church so that a measure of peace may accompany them through their lives” (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, pp. 66, 67).

There you have it. Petting should be confessed to the bishop. It is important to realize that our bishop is not there to probe, to confront, to condemn, or to embarrass. Yes, he is a “judge in Israel” (D&C 107:72) and must serve in this capacity. But he is also our friend and confidant when we need to unburden our soul. He is there to help us repent and turn our lives in the right direction once more. He is there to help us find comfort and reassurance as we pursue a repentant course.

Someone has said that conscience is that still, small voice deep inside us where the acoustics are so bad. In his wisdom the Lord has left most decisions up to the individual. It is our task to answer responsibly to this guardian of our souls called conscience. Only with complete repentance can its voice of accusation be stilled.

Recently I visited a factory in Mexico in which extremely intricate power units are manufactured for sophisticated medical electronic equipment. Upon the reliability of these units many lives will depend. They must be flawless and fail-safe under all circumstances. So meticulously are they built that the manufacturer guarantees their performance for five years.

“How do you obtain such a high quality of workmanship?” I asked of the man in charge.

“By constant training, advice, and supervision, as well as many checkpoints along the way,” he said. “It is called ‘super quality control.’”

Isn’t this the super quality control that the Lord provides for our own performance here on earth? The high standards are revealed through his prophets, and his wise, kindly, understanding, inspired bishops are there to help us control the quality of our performance.

It is not only a necessity but a privilege to go to our bishop so that a welcome spirit may come into our mind as it did with Enos, reassuring us that, “thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed” and we can have our guilt “swept away” (Enos 1:5–6).

  • M.D. Former Bishop and Mission President