The Unauthorized Investigator's Guide to
The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints

Lesson 4

Live the Law of Chastity

The Missionaries Will Teach...

God loves Chastity and he hates sexual sin.  Chastity means you rigorously abstain from sexual relations before marriage and you are completely faithful to your spouse after marriage.  If you live the law of chastity, you'll enjoy the strength that comes through self-control.  You'll have confidence and trust in your relationships with your family.  You'll enjoy the influence of the Holy Spirit in your life to a greater extent.  But if you break the law of chastity, you'll be subject to a heavy burden of shame and guilt.

In order to be chaste, you must discipline your thoughts and actions.  You must keep your thoughts clean, and be modest in your dress, speech, and actions.  You must avoid pornography in all forms.  You should treat your body and your ability to procreate as sacred.  Baptismal candidates must commit to live the law of chastity by not having any sexual relations outside of a legal marriage between a man and a woman.  They are not to participate in abortions or homosexual or lesbian relations.  People who have committed sexual sin can repent and be forgiven.

Some Additional Thoughts...

Boy, do I have a lot to say about this.

The Three Most Abominable Sins

In Mormonism, there is a ranking of the sins that are most abominable in the sight of God.  The single most abominable sin is to deny the Holy Ghost "if ye deny the Holy Ghost when it once has had place in you, and ye know that ye deny it, behold, this is a sin which is unpardonable." (Alma 39:6).

The second most abominable sin is murder.  "Whosoever murdereth against the light and knowledge of God, it is not easy for him to obtain forgiveness." (Alma 39:6).

The third most abominable sin is sexual transgression.  In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma had a son Corianton who was a missionary.  Corianton was seduced by a harlot and "went after her."  Alma scolded him by saying, "Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?"  Modern prophets of the Mormon church have repeatedly and authoritatively declared that this interpretation of the scripture is correct.  For example, the church publishes a small booklet entitled, For the Strength of Youth.  This book is endorsed by the First Presidency and given to teenagers as the authoritative guide for their moral standards. "In God’s sight, sexual sins are extremely serious because they defile the power God has given us to create life. The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder or denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:5). (For the Strength of Youth, Sexual Purity, 26).

In a message to the priesthood holders of the church--men and boys 12 and over, the Prophet Ezra Taft Benson explained:

A priesthood holder is virtuous. Virtuous behavior implies that he has pure thoughts and clean actions. He will not lust in his heart, for to do so is to “deny the faith” and to lose the Spirit (D&C 42:23)—and there is nothing more important in this work than the Spirit. You’ve heard me say that many times. He will not commit adultery “nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). This means fornication, homosexual behavior, self-abuse, child molestation, or any other sexual perversion. (Ezra Taft Benson, “Godly Characteristics of the Master,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 45)

Yes, according to the late prophet of the Mormon Church, premarital sex, homosexual behavior, and masturbation belong on the same short list of appalling sins as child molestation.

There are many aspects of Mormonism that I believe are healthy.  There are many aspects that are quirky.  And there are some that are unhealthy.  The manipulation and psychologically inflicted guilt surrounding their teachings on human sexuality fall squarely into the third category.

Dwelling Upon Crimes to Harrow Up the Soul

On the one hand, Mormonism teaches that feelings of guilt are the natural result of sin--guilt is God's way of directly communicating with you that you did something abominable.  If somebody feels guilty they need to repent, not investigate whether or not they should feel guilty.

But when somebody does something that they consider horrendous and doesn't feel guilt, they chastise them for not feeling guilty and lay into them on how sexual impulses outside of marriage are caused by the devil and that succumbing to them is a sin that is almost as deplorable as murder. This is precisely what was happening in the Book of Mormon story that defines the ranking of the 3 most abominable sins.  It seems that Corianton didn't feel nearly as guilty about going after a harlot as Alma thought he should feel.  Thus the question, "Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?"  He goes on to explain why he is dwelling on the supposed gravity of this behavior.  "I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good."  He is trying to manipulate him, make him feel guilty, and "harrow up" his soul.

The following story was related by the late prophet Ezra Taft Benson:

But it is not pleasing to the Lord prior to a mission, or at any time, to sow one’s wild oats, to engage in sexual transgression of any nature, and then to expect that planned confession and quick repentance will satisfy the Lord.

President Kimball was emphatic on this point. In his marvelous book The Miracle of Forgiveness, he stated: “That man who resists temptation and lives without sin is far better off than the man who has fallen, no matter how repentant the latter may be. … How much better it is never to have committed sin!” (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, p. 357.)

One of our fine stake presidents shared with us the following experience: “I remember a girl that I had gone to high school with. She was from a good LDS family, but when she was a junior in high school, she began to compromise her standards and principles.

“I remember how stunned I was one afternoon as a group of us were in the back of the bus riding home from school. We were talking about the consequences of sin or transgression, and she flatly announced that she wasn’t worried about committing any sin because her bishop had told her she could easily repent and could be quickly forgiven.

“Well, I was shocked with this flippant attitude that didn’t reflect any understanding of repentance and no appreciation of the miracle of forgiveness. I was also sure that she had grossly misunderstood the instruction and counsel of her bishop.”

Adultery, or anything like unto it, is abominable in the sight of the Lord. President Kimball also wisely observed: “Among the most common sexual sins our young people commit are necking and petting. Not only do these improper relations often lead to fornication, pregnancy, and abortions—all ugly sins—but in and of themselves they are pernicious evils, and it is often difficult for youth to distinguish where one ends and another begins. … “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 [a form of] fornication.” (Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 65–66.) (Ezra Taft Benson, “To the ‘Youth of the Noble Birthright,’ ” Ensign, May 1986, 43 (emphasis added))

I was the target of messages such as these throughout my youth.  My soul was truly harrowed up with feelings of immense guilt.  And this began before I had even reached puberty, much less committed any of the grave sins they were reproaching.  The best example of this is the book that the prophet Ezra Taft Benson endorses in the above quote, The Miracle of Forgiveness, by the prophet Spencer W. Kimball.  I implore you to read that book before you get baptized; the psychological manipulation so evident in that book is what the church will subject you and your children to after you are a member. 


What attitude should society have about homosexuals?  What attitude should homosexuals have about themselves?  What would you like your children to be taught about homosexuality?

Mormonism teaches the following about homosexuality.  The prophet Spencer W. Kimball said,

The unholy transgression of homosexuality is either rapidly growing or tolerance is giving it wider publicity. If one has such desires and tendencies, he overcomes them the same as if he had the urge toward petting or fornication or adultery. The Lord condemns and forbids this practice with a vigor equal to his condemnation of adultery and other such sex acts. And the Church will excommunicate as readily any unrepentant addict.

Again, contrary to the belief and statement of many people, this sin, like fornication, is overcomable and forgivable, but again, only upon a deep and abiding repentance, which means total abandonment and complete transformation of thought and act. The fact that some governments and some churches and numerous corrupted individuals have tried to reduce such behavior from criminal offense to personal privilege does not change the nature nor the seriousness of the practice. Good men, wise men, God-fearing men everywhere still denounce the practice as being unworthy of sons of God; and Christ’s church denounces it and condemns it so long as men have bodies which can be defiled...

This heinous homosexual sin is of the ages. Many cities and civilizations have gone out of existence because of it. It was present in Israel’s wandering days, tolerated by the Greeks, and found in the baths of corrupt Rome....

“God made me that way,” some say, as they rationalize and excuse themselves for their perversions. “I can’t help it,” they add. This is blasphemy. Is man not made in the image of God, and does he think God to be “that way”? Man is responsible for his own sins. It is possible that he may rationalize and excuse himself until the groove is so deep he cannot get out without great difficulty, but this he can do. Temptations come to all people. The difference between the reprobate and the worthy person is generally that one yielded and the other resisted. It is true that one’s background may make the decision and accomplishment easier or more difficult, but if one is mentally alert, he can still control his future. That is the gospel message—personal responsibility.

And now, my dear young people, I have spoken frankly and boldly against the sins of the day. Even though I dislike such a subject, I believe it necessary to warn the youth against the onslaught of the arch tempter who, with his army of emissaries and all the tools at his command, would destroy all the youth of Zion, largely through deception, misrepresentation, and lies. (Spencer W. Kimball, “President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality,” New Era, Nov. 1980, 39)

It is appalling that such unenlightened, mean-spirited, and hurtful falsehoods are taught to youth, many of whom are in fact innately homosexual. 

Pine Boxes

In order to emphasize how much they hate sexual sins, Mormons will sometimes talk in terms of what is better than sex outside of marriage.  One of the favorite illustrations is the pine box.  Quoting apostle Bruce R. McConkie:

"Better dead clean, than alive unclean. Many is the faithful Latter-day Saint parent who has sent a son or daughter on a mission or otherwise out into the world with the direction, 'I would rather have you come back home in a pine box with your virtue than return alive without it' " (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, Second Edition, Page 124.)

Do you agree with Elder McConkie, "Better dead clean than alive unclean?"  Is this a message you want your kids hearing at church?

Offsite Links About Chastity, Mormonism, and Sexuality

Shadow Influences of Plural Marriage on Sexuality Within The Contemporary Mormon Experience by William M. Gardiner LCSW.  "Carl Jung once said: 'I would rather be whole than good'. Perhaps this is not at all different from Jesus' invitation to be perfect, or complete. I present in the following ideas the thesis that within the collective shadow of Mormonism lies a tremendous reservoir of shame surrounding sexuality. I believe this institutional shame is in part a product of the church's inability to honestly face its own history of sexual eccentricity that was a consequent and perhaps integral component of plural marriage."

Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons.  "Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons serves the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender LDS and their supportive family and friends through social and educational activities."

Rethinking Mormon Sexuality.  A collection of short essays including Great Moments in Mormon Sexual History, Is Homosexuality or Monogamy Ruining America? , The Terrible Sin of Petting, and Mormon Sex Test.

To Be Gay--And Mormon, by Mark Miller, Newsweek, May 8, 2000.  As a pious churchgoer, Stuart Matis prayed and worked to change his sexual orientation. He died trying (I link to this story not to exploit this tragedy, but rather to promote the message that Matis was trying to make).

We See What We Believe: The Heterosexualization of Gay Men and Lesbians in the LDS Church, by Jeffery R. Jensen, M.D. "Rather than asking its mental health professionals to review the literature and tell them if homosexual orientation can be changed through psychotherapy, “the church” told LDS Social Services what the conclusions of their 'research' will be and left it up to the professionals to find a way to include the church’s position in a psychological theory and treatment approach."

A Self-Inflicted Purging by Vaughn J. Featherstone.  A conference address to young men bearing solemn witness that if they have a problem with fornication, petting, pornography, masturbation, or "a homosexual problem", then the time will come when their sins will be publicly broadcast to the entire world, ". It may be as though it had been shouted from the tops of houses. People cannot hide sin. You cannot mock God and hold the Lord’s holy priesthood and pretend to propose that you are his servant."

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