Mormons and Morality
This is a paper that I published on a religious bulletin board in answer to the question "Why do Mormons believe in such strict rules of chastity." This attempts to show from a Mormon point of view why we feel so strongly about the law of chastity. Changes have been made to fix spelling and grammar etc.
It should be noted that this paper was written a long time ago (back in 1994 before my mission), and that some of my views and manners of expression have changed (I believe for the better) since its publication. However, it is included on my web page because of the importance of the subject, and because it illustrates my thinking at that time.
You may freely distribute this paper, as long as there are no changes made to the text. Copyright 6/27/2004, James Lamond Carroll.
I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is God's church here on the Earth. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, and I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I invite all to give heed to its message.
Since the beginning, when mankind was first placed on the earth, many varying philosophies have appeared concerning human sexuality. Some of the philosophies teach half truths like: "Sex is just a natural biological function, and therefore any sexual desires that you might have should be immediately gratified." Other philosophies teach that sex and marriage "... are but a carnal necessity, inherited by man as an incident of his degraded nature; and that celibacy is a mark of a higher state, more acceptable in the sight of God." These opposite extremes are equally abominable in the sight of the Lord. The law of chastity as practiced by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that sex is to be reserved for a man and a woman in the bonds of marriage, and that within that relationship sex is both beautiful and approved of the Lord.
Often we do not, at the time, understand all the why's behind all of God's commandments. It is only later that the reasons become clear. Take for example God's command to the children of Israel not to eat pork. At the time, there was no obvious reason for this commandment, other than that the fact that it came from God. Their obedience to this law was based on the idea that God loves his children and would not give them a commandment without a very good reason, even if that reason were hidden from them at the time. It was only later, as science began to understand the nature of communicative diseases that the reasons for this commandment became obvious. The diseases associated with undercooked pork were numerous and deadly. God knew that, even though the people at the time did not. The people followed this commandment even though they did not, at the time, understand God's reasons for giving it. From the beginning God has stressed the importance of obedience:
"5 And he gave unto them com-
mandments. that they should wor-
ship the Lord their God, and should
offer the firstlings of their flocks,
for an offering unto the Lord. And
Adam was obedient unto the com-
mandments of the Lord.
6 And after many days an angel of
the Lord appeared unto Adam, say-
ing: Why dost thou offer sacrifices
unto the Lord? And Adam said unto
him: I know not, save the Lord com-
manded me." (Moses 5:5-6)
Adam did not at the time understand the significance of the sacrifice that he was making. But after his obedience was tried and tested the Lord opened his understanding. We read:
"7 And then the angel spake, saying:
This thing is a similitude of the
sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the
Father, which is full of grace and
truth." (Moses 5:7)
It was only after Adam's obedience had been tried, that his understanding was opened. Often we must follow God's commandments without fully understanding why. When Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his only son, he did not know why. Yet he trusted in the Lord, and did as he was commanded. It was only after the trial of his obedience that great blessings were imparted unto him, and his son was spared It was only after the trial of his faith that he learned that his acts were in the similitude of the sacrifice of God's only son that was to come. Obedience brings great rewards. We must trust that God understands more than we do and put our trust in him. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9) If he commands us we obey.
Adultery has been expressly forbidden by God. Adultery was forbidden in the 10 commandments given to Moses. "Thou shalt not commit adultery."(Ex. 20:14) and again "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." (Ex. 20:16) Adultery is having sex either while you are married to another or with someone who is married to another.
Marriage is a promise to only have sex with your husband/wife. Thus Adultery breaks not one but two of the ten commandments, for you also bear false witness when you break the pledge that you made when you were married. "I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in LIES;..." (Jer 23"14). When Joseph was resisting the advances of Potiphar's wife, he said "... how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Gen 39:9) "But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul" (Prov 6:32).
God has also commanded us not to commit fornication (Sex before marriage).
"21 With much fair speech she
caused him to yield; with the flatter-
ing of her lips she forced him.
22 He goeth after her straightway,
as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or
as a fool to the correction of the
23 Till a dart strike through his
liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare,
and knoweth not that it is for his
24 Hearken unto me now there-
fore, O ye children, and attend to the
words of my mouth.
25 Let not thine heart decline to
her ways, go not astray in her
26 For she hath cast down many
wounded: yea, many strong men
have been slain by her.
27 Her house is the way to hell,
going down to the chambers of
death." (Prov. 7:21-27)
"For out of the heart proceed
evil thoughts, murders, adulteries,
FORNICATIONS, thefts, false witness,
These are the things which de-
file a man:....." (Mat 15:19-20)
"3 But fornication, and all un-
cleanness, or covetousness, let it not
be once named among you, as be-
cometh saints;" (Ephesians 5:3)
"3 For this is the will of God, even
your sanctification, that ye should
abstain from fornication:
4 That every one of you should
know how to possess his vessel in
sanctification and honor;"
(1 Thes. 4:3-4)
And many more. It seems that God's commandments on the matter are very clear.
Another sexual practice forbidden by God is that of rape. Not only does rape usually consists of either the sin of fornication or of adultery, but it involves an act of violence. "Him that loveth violence his [God's] soul hateth." (Ps. 11:5) It also involves violently robbing a son or daughter of God of his or her free will. Free will is one of God's greatest gifts to man. The scriptural example is that of Ammon who loved his sister Tamar, and by craft and superior strength he forced her to lie with him. "And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly." (2 Sam 13:12) He ignored her plea, and was killed shortly after he commited this heinous sin.
God has also forbidden the sin of homosexuality (having sex with a member of the same sex). First of all homosexuality always involves either fornication or adultery, which we have already shown were forbidden by God. But this is not all, homosexuality is also expressly forbidden: "Thou shalt not lie down with mankind...it is an abomination." (Lev. 18:22[20:13]) "there shall be no.... Sodomite of the sons of Israel;" (Deut. 23:17) "...men...burned in their lust one toward another;..."(Rom 1:27) "nor abusers of themselves with mankind;"(1 Cor 6:9) "Them that defile themselves with mankind"(1 Tim 1:10) "Sodom and Gomorrah...going after strange flesh;" (Jude 1:7) See Gen 19 for the story of the men of Sodom trying to sexually abuse Lot's male guests. The sin of Sodomy is thus the sin of homosexuality and or rape and sexual abuse. With this definition in mind there are many more scriptures that refer to sodomy, and thus to homosexuality.
Although, why God would command us to do some of the things that he has, may not always be obvious to us, we must accept that his ways are not our ways, and that he has knowledge that we do not. Therefore we trust that He would not give any commandment unto mankind unless He has a very good reason. Our obedience to God's laws is essential to our salvation whether or not we understand all of the "whys". However in the area of sexual immorality, the reasons for the commandments that God has given us, are often more clear than are the reasons for His commandments in other areas. We can try to surmise His reasons for commanding us to follow the laws of chastity.
"...Neither of the sexes is complete in itself as a counterpart
of Deity. We are expressly told that God is the Father of
spirits, and to apprehend the literalness of this solemn truth
(see Num. 16:22; see also Heb 12:9)
we must know that a mother of spirits is an existent per-
sonality. Of the creation of humankind we read: "So
God created man in his own image, in the image of God
created he him; male and female created he them." The
purpose of his dual creation is set forth in the next verse of
the sacred narrative: "And God blessed them, and God said
unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the
earth." Such a commandment would have been meaningless
and void if addressed to either of the sexes alone; and with-
out the power of perpetuating his kind, the glory and
majesty of man would be insignificant; for small indeed are
the attainments of any individual life in mortality.
(James E. Talmage.. "The Articles of Faith")
Thus we see that both celibacy and homosexuality, are not part of God's plan for his children. Those that say that celibacy is somehow a "higher state" than marriage are ignoring a direct commandment from God. Those that say that homosexuality is acceptable to God are ignoring the same commandment from God. Marriage is a part of God's plan for his children and is, in fact, essential for us in our quest to become like God.
alone, and the man will not go there alone, and claim
exaltation. They may attain a degree of salvation alone, but when
they are exalted they will be exalted according to the law of the
celestial kingdom. They cannot be exalted any other way."
(Joseph F. Smith)
If this (marriage) is part of God's plan for us, then what would Satan's plan for us be?
bility, without the commitment of marriage (or any commit-
ment at all). "Do what you want, live it up! It doesn't mat-
ter--just protect yourself and use birth control." (Sounds like
a commercial for 90102, or 91202, or 911, or whatever that
show is. If you don't know what show I'm referring to, that's
good. Maybe it's been cancelled.)
"Is Satan's plan working? Well take a look around, anyone
who is awake can see that traditional homes and families are
under attack, and the attacks will continue. I read the most
chilling quote the other day, and it comes from a leader in a
movement that claims to be trying to help women:
"Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is
clear that the women's movement must concentrate
on attacking marriage. Freedom for women cannot
be without the abolition of marriage."
How do you like that! A direct attack on one of the steps
to heaven! Apparently, Satan will do everything he can to
fuel the war between the sexes."
Just turn on a talk show! Watch the men and the women scream at each other for a while. Hatred, bitterness, and distrust are just some of the weapons that Satan uses to discourage understanding and mutual respect between the sexes.
"How beautiful is the marriage of a young man and a young
woman who begin their lives together kneeling at the altar in
the house of the Lord, pledging their love and loyalty one to
another for time and all eternity. When children come into that
home, they are nurtured and cared for, loved and blessed with
the feeling that their father loves their mother. In that environ-
ment they find peace and strength and serenity. Watching their
father, they develop respect for women. They are taught self-
control and self-discipline, which bring the strength to avoid
later tragedy." (Gordon B. Hinkley)
Fornication leads to the illusion of love. This can lead to either a marriage with someone with whom you are not truly compatible (and eventual divorce) or to unwanted pregnancy. Half the problems our country has can be traced, at least in some part, to sexual immorality. "The plaguing sin of this generation is sexual immorality. This, the Prophet Joseph said, would be the source of "more temptations, more buffetings, and more difficulties for the elders of Israel than any other" (as quoted by President Ezra Taft Benson).
(I couldn't find the exact reference that I was looking for
here... so I am paraphrasing)
"Every person we meet, even the dullest and least talented
of us, has the potential to become either a being of such
light and glory that if we saw them now we would be
inclined to fall down and worship them, or a being of such
loathing and dread, that if we meet them at all it is only in
our worst nightmares. And every interaction we have with
every person leads them toward one consequence or the other."
(C. S. Lewis)
When we treat people as nothing more than objects to be used and then discarded, we show our own selfishness, lack of compassion, and lack of self control.
The following letter from a friend is illustrative:
"I think there is too much emphasis placed on the sex act and
the pleasures it
brings...and not enough on the other things we do 95% of the time. Many people
today have the sex ahead of marriage, they say, to find out if they are
compatible with the other person sexually. I think this can be a cop out for
many, just a way to have fun and feel ok about it. Does premarital sex hurt
people? It does if one values giving only parts of themselves to special people
that they plan to spend a lifetime with." (TAG)
When we talk about morality there is a tendency to dwell on the negative. "If you do this then all this will happen to you..." etc. Sometimes we need to spend some time talking about all the good things that happen when we wait for the right person. There is something serene and beautiful about saving yourself for that right person. There is something very romantic about it. You have a gift to give. Gifts become cheap when they are passed around. But the gift that you save and give to only one person is infinitely more precious. Like a priceless painting. If everyone had one it would be common, cheap, and worthless. But because it is a one of a kind it is priceless.
"Around Christmastime we place all the beautiful gifts
under the tree, and we "postpone" opening them until
Christmas morning. If we wanted to, we could sneak in and
open all our presents before Christmas, but it would ruin the
fun and the anticipation. Experimenting too early with
expressions of affection is like opening all your presents
before Christmas. It's not nearly as nice as waiting for the
appropriate time. You see, you are working on a wonderful
gift. You've been working on it since you were born, and
only you can give it! You don't want to share it until the time
is just right. On some exciting future day, you'll be able to
give this gift to someone else. The gift you've been working
on all your life is: you." (John Bytheway)
"I just know that I myself would never get into premarital
sex. I have too much respect for myself as a person. I
don't care to be treated like an object. I don't wish to be a
toy you throw away when you're tired of it. And I have
too much respect and love for my husband and my kids to
come. I want the best life for my kids and I can't give it to
them alone. I long for a special some one who won't go
away. It's a lonely world out here without those who love
me near me. It's hard to leave all the people I love for so
long. I long for the day when my life will at least be secure
enough that I know that one person will stay by me. I'm
going to play my cards right so that one person really does
stay. My greatest fear is that I will marry a man I truly
love and that he'll change his mind in the long run, dumping
me back into the cold world alone. I can forget all the
practical reasons, I'm saving myself as an emotional
protection." (Angela Phillips)
"I wish I had held off sex. Of course, my situation is
different than many peoples...with things I have been
through in my life. I at least wish I had cut the number of
sex partners down to those that I truly cared about...versus
'anything goes' so to speak. I find that the worse part of
having a lot of sex if that I tend to equate sex with love.
When I want love I go out after sex...but it is just a quick
fix. After sex I still find myself wanting more love...which
tends to mean more sex. I am now staying away from sex
with partners in order to build relationships based on
longer lasting things than sex alone. I feel better inside
with these relationships" (E-Mail friend, for privacy I will
not give his name here)
"Our Heavenly Father has counseled that sexual inti-
macy should be reserved for his children within the
bonds of marriage. The physical relationship
between a husband and a wife can be beautiful and
sacred. It is ordained of God for the procreation of
children and for the expression of love within a mar-
riage: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and
his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they
shall be one flesh: (Genesis 2:24)
Because sexual intimacy is so sacred, the Lord
requires self-control and purity before marriage as
well as full fidelity after marriage. In dating, treat
your date with respect, and expect your date to
show that same respect to you. Never treat your
date as an object to be used for your own lustful
desires or ego. Improper physical contact can cause
a loss of self-control. Always stay in control of your-
self and your physical feelings.
The Lord specifically forbids certain behaviors,
including all sexual relations before marriage, pet-
ting, sex perversion (such as homosexuality, rape,
and incest), masturbation, or preoccupation with sex
in thought, speech, or action.
Homosexuality and lesbian activities are sinful and an
abomination to the Lord (see Romans 1:26-27, 31).
Unnatural affections including those toward persons
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
Victims of rape, incest, or other sexual abuse are
not guilty of sin. If you have been a victim of any of
these terrible crimes, be assured the God still loves
you! Your bishop can also help and guide you
through the mental and emotional healing process if
you seek his advice and counsel.
Scripture reinforces the foregoing teachings and
standards: "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and
ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh
lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the
flesh: and these are contradictory the one to the other:
so that ye cannot do the things that ye would...
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are
these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lascivious-
ness,. idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emula-
tions, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings,
murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of
the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in
time past, that they which do such things shall not
inherit the kingdom of God: (Galatians 5:16-17,
I think that sums it up. For those of you who have already fallen, remember this: "The law of repentance is not the law of the second chance, it is the law of the first chance over again." (Michael McLean) The scriptures are full of stories about people who went on to do great thing who had once been sinners because they had been made new. These are people who have done almost everything wrong that could be done, but who repented and come back to the lord. Paul is one of the best examples. When we repent the pain of our mistakes is taken away and the Lord has promised us the he will remember our sins no more. What joy and what ecstasy, to stand clean again. To be made new. If we but repent and have the courage to really change. People can change. If you are off the path, find your way back now. Don't wait. "I will repent tomorrow" is one of the most dangerous traps of Satan. Part of repentance is truly feeling sorry for what you have done. It's hard to feel sorry for something you did with the intent of repenting later. Don't wait or put off repentance. It may seem hard now, but when it's through the pain is taken away, for your joy will be greater than was your pain. That feeling of knowing that we are again as clean as the day we were born, is one of the greatest feeling that I have ever known, and you can feel it too.