The Prophet Joseph Smith warned that: "Immorality [will] be the source of more temptations, more buffetings, and more difficulties for the [Latter-day saints] than any other." (See Journal of Discourses 8:55)
President Ezra Taft Benson said: "The plaguing sin of this generation is sexual immorality. . .The Book of Mormon places unchastity next to murder [in seriousness]." (Ensign, May 1986, p. 4)
President Spencer W. Kimball warned: "We need to constantly guard against immorality, pornography, and sexual permissiveness that would destroy the purity of family members, young and old. . .Perhaps I sound like an alarmist. If so, it is because I am alarmed. . .and so are my Brethren in the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles and others of the General Authorities." (Ensign, May 1979, p. 5)
"Many rationalize that this attraction of two unmarried people is love, and they seek thereby to justify their intimate relations. This is one of the most false of all of Satan's lies. It is lust, not love, which brings men and women to fornication and adultery. No person would injure one he truly loves, and sexual sin can only result in injury." (MF, p. 65)
NOT TEMPTED BEYOND OUR ABILITY?
Paul taught: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)
A few years ago, a student came into my office to ask some questions about the relationship she was in. The main question she wanted to ask was "How can I be sure that he is the right one?" She referred to a quote I had used that day in class from Elder Richard G. Scott. Elder Scott said: "Not all our prayers will be answered as we wish. It is not always easy to know the will of the Lord, yet there are some things we can be certain of. He will never ask us to do anything that is not completely in harmony with His teachings. We cannot count on help if we are immoral or otherwise deliberately disobedient unless we sincerely repent. One who prays to know if another is to be the eternal companion while violating in any degree the law of chastity has little hope of receiving confirmation without sincere repentance." (Ensign, Nov. 1991, p. 85)
She told me they had been dating for several months and had, on numerous occasions, stayed out past curfew to park and neck. "But, we've never violated the law of chastity in any way." We've both decided that we won't let things go any further. I suggested to her that it would be very difficult to not go further if they continued to stay out past curfew and park and neck. She said, "Oh, I don't worry about that. The scriptures teach that God won't allow us to be tempted beyond our ability. I know God will watch out for me. If I get in a situation that is too tempting for me, he will somehow rescue me. So I don't worry about staying out late or parking or necking. God will help me handle that."
Her comments raised two questions in my mind. FIRST, HAD THEY ALREADY VIOLATED THE LAW OF CHASTITY BY NECKING? AND, SECOND, WAS HER UNDERSTANDING OF PAUL'S TEACHINGS CORRECT?
WAS HER UNDERSTANDING OF PAUL'S TEACHINGS CORRECT? Consider the following scriptures and what they suggest we must do to avoid being overpowered by temptation. READ 1 NEPHI 15:23-25. (Hearken to the word of God and keep his commandments always in all things) In "For the Strength of Youth," the First Presidency counseled: "Plan positive and constructive activities when you are together. . .Be careful to go to places where there is a good environment, where you won't be faced with temptation."HAD THIS COUPLE BEEN IN HARMONY WITH THIS COUNSEL? WERE THEY THEN IN DANGER OF BEING TEMPTED BEYOND THEIR STRENGTH? When we are obedient to God's word, as found in the scriptures and the teachings of living prophets, we are entitled to the Lord's protection and the Lord's power.
READ MOSIAH 4:30. (Watch our thoughts, our words and our deeds). If we do not control our thoughts, our words, and our deeds, we are likely to be tempted beyond our strength. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE CHANCES ARE THAT A COUPLE WHO IS PARKING AND NECKING HAS INAPPROPRIATE THOUGHTS?
READ ALMA 13:28. (Humble ourselves and pray continually). If we proudly believe that we are so strong that we could never fall or if we fail to pray continually, we are likely to be tempted beyond our strength.
So, this young lady's interpretation of Paul's teachings were not correct. If we are unwise, and put ourselves in dangerous situations we can and probably will be tempted beyond our strength and will violate the law of chastity. Now Paul says that, with the temptation, an escape will always be provided so that we can overcome the temptation. Generally, the escape comes in avoiding dangerous situations altogether. If we knowingly or purposely go where we shouldn't go and do what we shouldn't do, then we may have already bypassed the escape route. Then we are on our own.
THE LORD'S STANDARD OF MORALITY
As to the second question, I asked her "Are you sure that necking is not a violation of the law of chastity as revealed through living prophets?" She said, "Well, I don't think so, is it?" As part of the temple recommend interview, we are asked, "Do you live the law of chastity?" WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT QUESTION MEANS?
Years ago, while completing my Ph.D. at Brigham Young University, I had opportunity to visit with two of the B.Y.U. Stake Presidents who lived in the ward I was in at the time. I asked them what some of their greatest challenges were with B.Y.U. students. Both of them said that one of their greatest concerns was that many of the students seemed to have an incorrect understanding of what it means to be morally clean, to live the law of chastity. Many seemed to think that, as long as they had not had intercourse, they were morally clean.
PUT UP THE OVERHEAD "THE LORD'S LAW OF CHASTITY." ASK STUDENTS TO IDENTIFY WHICH ACTIONS ARE O.K. AND WHICH ARE VIOLATIONS OF THE LAW OF CHASTITY? Prophets have given specific guidance on many of these issues. Let's look at each one.
HOLDING HANDS. No problem, here. I know of no statements by the brethren that holding hands is a violation of the law of chastity.
WATCHING MOVIES THAT CONTAIN NUDITY OR SEX. In the pamphlet, "For the Strength of Youth," the First Presidency has stated: "Don't attend or participate in any form of entertainment, including concerts, movies, and videocassettes, that is vulgar, immoral, inappropriate, suggestive, or pornographic in any way. Movie ratings do not always accurately reflect offensive content. Don't be afraid to walk out of a movie [or] turn off a television set. . .if what's being presented does not meet your Heavenly Father's standards. . .In short, if you have any question about whether a particular movie, book, or other form of entertainment is appropriate, don't see it, don't read it, don't participate." ("Media: Movies, Television, Radio, Videocassettes, Books, and Magazines," from For the Strength of Youth)
Elder H. Burke Peterson said: "Now, brethren of the priesthood, there should not be any X-or R-rated movies that we participate in viewing or talking about. There must be no pornographic magazines, pictures, or stories, no re-telling of filthy jokes or crude experiences. Once in a while we should stop and ask ourselves, ‘In whose army are we fighting? Whose battle lines are we defending.' (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 38)
President Ezra Taft Benson said:"[Do not watch] movies, television programs, and video recordings that are suggestive and lewd. [Do not look at] magazines and books that are obscene and pornographic. We counsel you . . . not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don't see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. (Ensign, May 1986, p. 45)
I have heard people justify watching an R-rated movie by claiming that some PG movies are worse. That may well be true. I have seen some PG movies that were very offensive. But my answer is what does that have to do with anything? WHO DETERMINES THE MOVIE RATINGS IN THE FIRST PLACE?WHOSE RATING STANDARDS HAS THE FIRST PRESIDENCY ADVISED THAT WE USE? (Heavenly Father's! Not those who are not even of our faith who determine movie ratings. We should take our cues from God, not man)
I have heard others justify watching an R-rated movie by saying, "Well, it's only rated R because of language or violence. I hear language that bad at school every day. And all you have to do is pick up a newspaper or watch the news and you see violence just as bad. Besides, language and violence don't really bother me." My answer is, "Well, if those things no longer bother you, that ought to bother you!" It suggests that you have become desensitized and perhaps dulled your conscience. That happened to Laman and Lemuel, in the Book of Mormon. They had embraced sin so often that they reached a point where they were "past feeling." (1 Nephi 17:45) Moroni counseled us to "lay hold upon every good thing" and suggested that good things are those that "inviteth [us] to do good, and persuade [us] to believe in Christ." (Moroni 7:16, 19) That is a good definition of what Heavenly Father's standard would be for movies.
One of the questions we are asked in a temple recommend interview has to do with whether or not we sustain the leaders of the Church. CAN WE HONESTLY SAY "YES" TO THAT QUESTION WHEN WE VIOLATE THEIR COUNSEL ON SUCH THINGS AS R-RATED MOVIES? Watching R-rated or other inappropriate movies is a violation of the law of chastity.
PORNOGRAPHY. Many people want to argue over the definition of what pornography is. Again, Moroni's definition is helpful. If it doesn't invite you to do good and persuade you to believe in Christ, leave it alone. The First Presidency advised: "Do not read books or magazines or look at pictures that are pornographic or that present immorality as acceptable. Pornography is especially dangerous and addictive. Curious exploration of pornography can become a controlling habit leading to coarser material and to sexual transgression. If you continue to view pornography, your spirit will become desensitized, and your conscience will erode. Much harm comes from reading or viewing pornography. It causes thoughts within you that weaken your self discipline." ("Media: Movies, Television, Radio, Videocassettes, Books, and Magazines," from For the Strength of Youth)
In this statement, the First Presidency identified three consequences of pornography. First, it desensitizes our spirits. Second, it erodes our conscience. And, third, it weakens our self-discipline. The problem with pornography is that it presents immodesty and immorality as normal and acceptable. Pornography can become every bit as much an addiction as alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. And, like those substances, those who are addicted to pornography tend to seek out coarser and coarser material to satisfy their addiction. But, addictions are never really satisfied. Pornography can destroy a marriage as quickly as almost anything I know of.
IMMORAL THOUGHTS OR SPEECH. Elder Dallin Oaks said: "The First Presidency has declared that ‘there is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or any homosexual behavior. Although immoral thoughts are less serious than immoral behavior, such thoughts also need to be resisted and repented of. . .Immoral thoughts can bring about behavior that is sinful." ("Same-Gender Attraction")
Now, Elder Oaks makes the distinction between the seriousness of immoral thoughts and feelings and immoral behavior. Clearly, immoral behavior is more serious. BUT, IF IMMORAL THOUGHTS NEED TO BE REPENTED OF, THEN WOULD THEY BE VIOLATIONS OF THE LAW OF CHASTITY? There are so many influences in our society that can bring improper thoughts into our minds. I don't believe God holds us accountable for the unsolicited immoral thoughts that occasionally knock on the door of our minds, as long as we don't invite them in and serve them pie-a-la-mode! But, I do believe he holds us accountable for the immoral thoughts that come into our minds because we are in a place we shouldn't be, doing things we shouldn't be doing. The First Presidency also taught that immoral thoughts can be eliminated "through faith in God, sincere repentance, and persistent effort. The help of others may be needed." (Statement of First Presidency, 14 Nov. 1991)
IMMODESTY. The First Presidency has stated: "Servants of God have always counseled his children to dress modestly to show respect for Him and for themselves. Because the way you dress sends messages about yourself to others and often influences the way you and others act, you should dress in such a way as to bring out the best in yourself and those around you. However, if you wear an immodest bathing suit because it's ‘the style,' it sends a message that you are using your body to get attention and approval, and that modesty is not important. Immodest clothing includes short shorts, tight pants, and other revealing attire. Young women should refrain from wearing off-the-shoulder, low cut, or revealing clothes." ("Dress and Appearance," from For the Strength of Youth)
MASTURBATION. President Kimball said: "Masturbation, a rather common indiscretion, is not approved of the Lord not of his church, regardless of what may have been said by others whose ‘norms' are lower. Latter-day Saints are urged to avoid this practice. Anyone fettered by this weakness should abandon the habit before he goes on a mission or receives the holy priesthood or goes in the temple for his blessings." (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 97)
KISSING. President Kimball said: "Kissing has been prostituted. . .to express lust instead of affection, honor, and admiration. To kiss in casual dating is asking for trouble. . . What is miscalled the ‘soul kiss' [or french kissing] is an abomination and stirs passion to the eventual loss of virtue. . .If [french kissing] with its passion were eliminated from dating there would be an immediate upswing in chastity and honor, with fewer forced marriages, and fewer unhappy people. . ." (TSWK, p. 281)
President Kimball suggests that kissing in casual dating is asking for trouble. WHAT DO YOU THINK HE MEANS BY "CASUAL DATING"? WOULD IT BE A VIOLATION OF THE LAW OF CHASTITY TO KISS SOMEONE WITH WHOM YOU ARE STEADY DATING OR ENGAGED? (Probably not, if it conveys affection, honor and admiration and not lust)
NECKING AND PETTING. The First Presidency has advised: "The Lord specifically forbids certain behaviors, including all sexual relations before marriage, petting, sex perversion (such as homosexuality, rape and incest), masturbation, or preoccupation with sex in thought, speech, or action." ("Sexual Purity," from For the Strength of Youth)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: "Virtue may be lost by degrees; and chastity may be destroyed a step at a time. Immodesty, necking, and petting, themselves a form of sex immorality, frequently lead to much grosser offenses. . .all these things, as well as many others, are condemned by divine edict and are among Lucifer's chief means of leading souls to hell." (Mormon Doctrine, p. 708)
President Kimball said: "Among the most common sexual sins our young people commit are necking and petting. . .They awaken lust and stir evil thoughts and sex desires. 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 [pretend] 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. . . .The devil knows how to destroy our [youth]. He may not be able to tempt a person to. . .to commit [fornication] immediately, but he knows that if he can get a boy and a girl to sit in the car late enough. . . or to park long enough. . .[even] the best [young man] and the best [young woman] will finally succumb and fall. He knows that all have a limit to their resistance. . ." (TSWK, pp. 280-81)
HOMOSEXUALITY AND LESBIANISM. President Kimball said: "Because of the seriousness of this sin it carries a heavy penalty for the unrepentant. The offender may realize that disfellowshipment or excommunication is the penalty for heavy petting, adultery, fornication and comparable sins if there is not adequate repentance, yet he often supposes that because his acts have not been committed with the opposite sex he is not in sin. Let it therefore be clearly stated that the seriousness of the sin of homosexuality is equal to or greater than that of fornication or adultery; and that the Lord's Church will as readily take action to disfellowship or excommunicate the unrepentant practicing homosexual as it will the unrepentant fornicator or adulterer." (MF, pp. 81-82)
The First Presidency stated: "Homosexual and lesbian activities are sinful and an abomination to the Lord. Unnatural affections including those toward person of the same gender are counter to God's eternal plan for his children. You are responsible to make right choices. Whether directed toward those of the same or opposite gender, lustful feelings and desires may lead to more serious sins. All Latter-day Saints must learn to control and discipline themselves." ("Sexual Purity," from For the Strength of Youth)
In the talk we read for today, "Same-Sex Gender Attraction," Elder Oaks offered some very helpful insights on this subject. First, we are not justified in engaging in "gay-bashing" or in any kind of verbal or physical attack on those who are believed to be involved in homosexual or lesbian behavior.
Second, we should extend compassion to those who suffer from AIDS. They are to be encouraged to participate in the activities of the Church.
Third, Elder Oaks suggested that, besides coming to this earth with different physical characteristics, we also came to earth with different susceptibilities to physical and emotional pressures, actions, and addictions. For some it is the Word of Wisdom. For others it may be gambling, or contentiousness, or rebellion, or any number of other things. And, for some, it may be a susceptibility to same-gender attraction.
Fourth, Elder Oaks said: "We did not choose these personal susceptibilities. . .but we do choose and will be held accountable for the attitudes, priorities, behavior, and ‘lifestyle' we engraft upon them."
Fifth, Elder Oaks refuted the belief advocated by some scientists that homosexuality and lesbianism are entirely determined by biology or genetics, that they were "born that way," and hence can do nothing about it. He pointed out that scientific evidence does not support such a belief. Genetics may play a role, but so does environment and individual choice.
ORAL SEX AND FORNICATION. While I was a graduate student at Brigham Young University, and I understand this continues to be true today, there were some students who had adopted the slogan, "Stay moral, go oral." That is false. Church leaders have placed oral sex in the same category as fornication. Both carry the same penalties. One who commits fornication or oral sex prior to serving a mission, must wait at least one year from the time of the last incident, before he or she can even be considered for a mission. For one who is guilty of fornication after a mission or after having gone through the temple, it would be standard procedure to hold a disciplinary counsel and to try the person for his/her membership in the Church. The result might be probation, disfellowshipment, or excommunication, depending on the circumstances.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said: "Setting aside sins against the Holy Ghost for a moment as a special category unto themselves, it is LDS doctrine that sexual transgression is second only to murder in the Lord's list of life's most serious sins. . .It is my understanding that we park and pet and sleep over and sleep with at the peril of our very lives. Our penalty may not come on the precise day of our transgression, but it comes surely and certainly enough, and were it not for a merciful God and the treasured privilege of personal repentance, far too many would even now be feeling that hellish pain. . ." ("Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments") Sadly, it is often true that those who are immoral before marriage are often the ones who are unfaithful to their spouses after marriage.
Before next time, students should have read the following from the student manual:
1. "The Law of Chastity," by President Ezra Taft Benson, pp.156-159.
2. "Put on the Whole Armor of God," by President Harold B. Lee, pp.161-164.
THE LORD'S LAW OF CHASTITY
ACTION O.K.? VIOLATION?
Watching movies that
contain nudity or sex
THE CHALLENGE TO LIVE THE LAW OF CHASTITY
"Immorality [will] be the source of more temptations, more buffetings, and more difficulties for the [Latter-day saints] than any other." (Joseph Smith, JD 8:55)
"The plaguing sin of this generation is sexual immorality. . .The Book of Mormon places unchastity next to murder [in seriousness]." (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1986, p. 4)
"We need to constantly guard against immorality, pornography, and sexual permissiveness that would destroy the purity of family members, young and old. . .Perhaps I sound like an alarmist. If so, it is because I am alarmed. I am greatly concerned, and so are my Brethren in the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles and others of the General Authorities." (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, May 1979, p. 5)
"Many rationalize that this attraction of two unmarried people is love, and they seek thereby to justify their intimate relations. This is one of the most false of all of Satan's lies. It is lust, not love, which brings men and women to fornication and adultery. No person would injure one he truly loves, and sexual sin can only result in injury." (Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 65)
"The gift of mortal life and the capacity to kindle other lives is a supernal blessing. Its worth is incalculable! The rapid, sweeping deterioration of values is characterized by a preoccupation--even an obsession--with the procreative act. Abstinence before marriage and fidelity within it are openly scoffed at--marriage and parenthood ridiculed as burdensome, unnecessary. Modesty, a virtue of a refined individual or society, is all but gone." (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 1992, p. 66)