Truths of Moral Purity

“Truths of Moral Purity,” Liahona, Oct. 1999, 31

Truths of Moral Purity

Satan has unleashed a full-scale attack against chastity and fidelity in these last days. But we can resist temptations by aligning ourselves with the Lord’s teachings and gospel truths.

It was the look in his son’s eyes that forced Blaine* to recognize the truth. Suddenly he saw in his child’s hurt and confusion the disaster his adultery had made of his marriage. He felt convicted.

Years earlier, Blaine had begun complaining that his wife spent too much time with the children and Church service. “I felt neglected,” insisted Blaine, who began to view his wife’s love of the children and the gospel as a burden.

Over time, he embraced the views of the world and convinced himself that chastity was not a necessary moral commitment. “An affair is no big deal,” he said to excuse himself. “We all change as we pass through the various stages of life.” Seeking to justify himself, he blamed his wife for his behavior.

But with the disciplinary council behind him and divorce potentially ahead of him, Blaine saw his excuses for what they were—rationalizations and self-deception. He had called good evil and evil good. He was losing his Church membership and perhaps his family. As he looked into his son’s eyes, guilt washed over him, and he saw the anguish he had caused others.

Human sexuality is not just a physical matter. In fact, chastity and fidelity begin in the spirit, not in the body. They are expressions of the condition of our spirit. When our spirit is in tune with gospel truths, we want to live high standards, and our actions reflect that desire. Thus, chastity and fidelity are more than sexual abstinence before marriage and sexual fidelity after marriage. They express the quality of our spiritual life.

Immorality and infidelity are likewise more than merely physical acts. They, too, are expressions of the condition of our spirit. They are the culmination of a path upon which our spirit embarked long before. The body simply responds as a lustful spirit directs. When we reject light and truth, worldly lies seem attractive. We walk in spiritual darkness and may actually believe our lusts are normal, somehow justified, and not to be denied.

Hence, the threat to the chastity of the unmarried or to the fidelity of the married is determined by the condition or quality of our spirits, which is evidence of whether we are, in any given moment, choosing light and life over darkness and death, whether we are honoring the truth within us or rejecting it.

The Truth

The truth is that chastity and fidelity are great blessings. They are essential for our happiness. They are realistic and practical.

Susan, baptized into the Church at age 28, had always lived the law of chastity. “My parents had integrity and expected me to have high moral standards, to be honest and chaste, so I just did it,” says Susan, who was raised in the midwestern United States. “Now I realize I was responding to the light of Christ. I never dated a Latter-day Saint until I met Tom. When I heard the gospel, I was glad I had never given in to sexual temptation. Later, Tom and I were married in the Salt Lake Temple. One year later our baby daughter died at birth. We were devastated but grateful we had been worthy to be sealed in the temple when we were first married. Knowing that our baby was born in the covenant brought us understanding and peace.”

Susan and Tom still live in the Midwest after 24 years of marriage and five children. “Several of our friends and cousins have divorced,” says Tom. “We have had our share of financial and family challenges, yet we both want to be true to our temple covenants, so we just work things out.”

“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” affirms “that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” and “that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife” (Liahona, October 1998, 24).

Such inspired counsel is essential to any individual’s well-being. Marriage involves the giving of our hearts—our broken hearts, our softened hearts—unequivocally to our mates. We are to have our “hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21). For husbands and wives, there can be no fulfillment without such willing and mutual commitment in love.

Yet in our time, the ridicule of chastity and the justification of adultery constitute some of the most frequent and devastating attacks made on the family. The family seems to be under siege as never before, and as families unravel, the fabric of our communities is weakened. Whatever external forces may fray family ties, sexual impurity is even more destructive. It attacks families from within. Lost because of adultery are trust, unity, a spirit of sacrifice, honesty, humility, and the spiritual power that comes from keeping covenants. Lost because of immorality are confidence, emotional strength, worthiness, and peace of mind.

Sexual impurity ruins individual lives, yet the consequences always continue beyond the present moment, beyond the illicit relationship; they affect generations. Mothers sorrow; fathers weep; brothers and sisters are horrified; children are visited with the dire consequences of sins they did not commit. Marriages are shaken or destroyed.

Sexual purity is an essential feature of preserving the family across generations. As we honor our covenants with each other, as fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, we hold sacred the power to create life as a gift from God. Those who have so lived testify to the blessings of such a life. They testify that it is the happiest way, the most fulfilling way, the most productive way, the safest way, the most glorious way, the most honorable way to act in relationship to those we love.

The Counterfeit

The worldly response to the Lord’s call to chastity and fidelity is to offer a counterfeit of the truth. This counterfeit teaches that chastity and fidelity are unnecessary for happiness, that they are unrealistic expectations. This philosophy attempts to justify immoral living, to make it attractive and defensible.

Just as a well-made counterfeit bill is hard to discern, the seductive invitations to sexual impurity are so disguised as to make immorality seem acceptable, valuable, perhaps even inevitable. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Lucifer … will use his logic to confuse and his rationalizations to destroy. He will shade meanings, open doors an inch at a time, and lead from purest white through all the shades of gray to the darkest black” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 152).

It is when we walk within these shades of gray that our thoughts and our actions place us in jeopardy. “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart,” said the Lord (Matt. 5:28). We give life to the danger by what we seek and what we invite to stay in our thoughts.

In this and other ways, seductive invitations to live contrary to God’s commandments are invitations to live against our best interests. Worldliness delivers very little of what it promises. All it offers is a false version of the way things really are. Three specific lies challenge the Lord’s teachings about chastity:

First, individualism—the false idea that personal identity, rights, development, and well-being can exist only in opposition to the claims of family ties and responsibilities. This lie says that our life and sexual feelings are our business only—we know what is best for us, and nobody can tell us what to do.

Second, relativism—the false idea that all moral stands are equally valuable. The lie here is that it is prejudicial to assume one way is better than another. Morals are considered a way of imposing points of view on others—views that are to others’ detriment. The result is that morality becomes relative to one’s personal, possibly unique, understanding.

Third, victimization—the false idea that we are primarily products of our drives, desires, past environments, and imperfections. This lie teaches that we are not free moral agents; we cannot help how we act or how we feel sexually and shouldn’t feel guilty about something that isn’t our fault. According to this view, “losing control” is a normal human response and not something for which we should be held accountable.

These three lies are the counterfeits to equivalent gospel truths:

First, commitment to family and others is the best way to foster personal identity and development. We come to earth to serve others; as a consequence of losing ourselves in serving others, we find ourselves (see Luke 9:23–26; Mosiah 2:17).

Second, by adhering to morality we acknowledge God’s nature and unchanging standards in a world of relativistic values (see Alma 7:20–21).

Third, we have agency. We can act rather than be acted upon by our sexual drives. We can control our desires and be free—or let them control us and become slaves (see 2 Ne. 2:26–27).

In tempting us to reject truth in favor of his lies, Satan uses the tactics he used against Jesus in the wilderness. He suggests that if we are really what we say we are—the children of God—then there is nothing wrong with giving in to appetites or seeking power and worldly glory (see Matt. 4:1–11). He constantly asks us to misuse our sexual desires, which are central to our mission on earth. Where the Lord warns of danger on life’s straight and narrow pathway, Satan’s counterfeit signal is to suggest harmlessness. Where our very mission from the Lord centers on marriage and family, Satan’s counterfeit is to say premarital or extramarital sexual involvement is too attractive to resist and, after all, inconsequential. Satan’s attack begins with us as it did with Jesus—as a temptation to the spirit to tell the body to do unseemly things. Truly, it is a serpent’s beguiling invitation.

Our Agency

When Joseph was sold into Egypt, he soon became the desire of Potiphar’s wife.

“And it came to pass … that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.

“But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, … how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

“And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.

“And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.

“And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out” (Gen. 39:7–12).

Like Joseph, we can choose. Agency resides in the spirit, not in the body. Hence, the body responds to what the spirit tells it to do. We are not the victims of drives and desires that are beyond our control (see 1 Cor. 10:13). We are moral agents, capable of initiating action. Speaking of our agency, the Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves” (D&C 58:28).

In contrast to what Satan would say, sexual purity is practical, essential, and liberating. By shunning indiscriminate and self-centered sexual involvement, we not only avoid the physical consequences—what the world worries most about—we also avoid a long trail of spiritual, emotional, familial, and social consequences. Such consequences often go far beyond what we can anticipate or control.

Physical consequences, for example, are not just the problems of pregnancy out of wedlock. Virtually incurable venereal diseases, some of which result in permanent infertility, are considered epidemic among the immoral. AIDS is a constant threat. Similarly, nonphysical consequences, such as emotional distress, regret, guilt, and heartbreak, cannot be conveniently handled or forgotten. As Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles pointed out, “One cannot degrade marriage without tarnishing other words as well, such words as boy, girl, manhood, womanhood, husband, wife, father, mother, baby, children, family, home” (“Marriage,” Ensign, May 1981, 14).

Yet in spite of the Lord’s teachings, some persons do not choose chastity and fidelity. King David, unlike Joseph, ignored the boundaries the Lord set. Against all that the Lord had given him, he lusted after Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. Following adultery and Bathsheba’s announcement of her pregnancy, David put Uriah in a situation where he would be killed. Then when the prophet Nathan presented the parable of the ewe lambs, David did not see the obvious. Sin had blinded him to the truth (see 2 Sam. 12).

Unfortunately, there are many persons in the world who are like King David, blinded by their own sins, blind to the consequences of their own actions. It is only after they come out of the darkness of their wrongdoing that they see the truth of their circumstances. No person I have ever talked to who has violated the law of chastity acknowledged his or her actions were wrong until he or she was in the midst of repentance. While being immoral or unfaithful, people believed their own excuses and rationalizations, statements like these: I couldn’t help it. We weren’t hurting anybody. We’re only human. These things happen. I just lost control. What else could I do, given how I feel? We’re just young. You don’t know what it’s like. Better find out now if we are compatible. People fall out of love. My spouse is just not the same. People change. I don’t know what came over me. We just slipped once. It’s no big deal. I’ll repent later. We’re different. At least this woke us both up. We are no longer taking each other for granted. It can’t be wrong if it feels so right.

Each of these incredibly false excuses denies that the actions committed were entirely wrong and that the individual is fully responsible. These rationalizations are attempts to deny that wickedness is wickedness. The gospel teaches that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). The world, on the other hand, teaches that happiness is found in wickedness.

But it simply is not so. Those who have chosen to repent of sexual sin bear testimony that their immorality was the most painful, regretful, despairing, false, subversive, destructive circumstance they ever invited into their lives. As long as the misuse of the power to create life is excused or explained away, it is the expression of an unrepentant and self-deceived soul. As the Apostle John stated, “If we say [in our sin] that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8). The Savior Himself taught us how to discern the truth: “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16).

Walk Uprightly

We live in a time when immorality is not only blithely publicized but routinely permitted as if it were of no great consequence. Moral purity is often considered old-fashioned or only for the unsophisticated. We are taught in subtle and not so subtle ways that, while chastity may be admirable in some ways, it is not possible or expected or necessary.

Yet anyone who takes the idea of family seriously, who sees value in high-quality relationships that continue generation to generation, who understands how parents create safe and loving homes understands the insidious threat to individual, familial, and societal well-being that premarital sex and marital infidelity create.

If our hearts and minds are wrong, we cannot live right. Consistent with our covenants as Latter-day Saints, our goal is to align our spirits with the Lord’s Spirit—and give our hearts fully to Him. When we do so, we change the condition of our spirits. Chastity and fidelity follow, attended by a life of immeasurable blessings.

The counsel to be virtuous is the Lord’s way of protecting us from harm and helping us benefit the most from our mortal experience. As we “walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith [we] have covenanted one with another,” then “all things shall work together for [our] good” (D&C 90:24). If we are faithful, we will receive “glory … and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever” (D&C 132:19).

For More Information

Following are some resources available at Church distribution centers on the topic of chastity and fidelity:

A Parent’s Guide (item number 31125).

For the Strength of Youth (item number 34285).

Gospel Principles, chapter 39, “The Law of Chastity” (item number 31110).

Light Dispels Darkness

The false ideas of the world and the truths of the gospel are absolutely incompatible. Too much of this worldly thinking, from its philosophies to its practices, is characterized by calling “evil good, and good evil” (Isa. 5:20). Following are the gospel’s responses to some of these false worldly ideas:

False Worldly Ideas

Truths of the Gospel

1. It’s my life. I can do with it what I want.

1. I am a child of God. I belong to God. In fact, I have been “bought with a price” by His Only Begotten Son (1 Cor. 7:23).

2. To avoid sexually explicit movies, literature, or television is prudish. None of it really affects us. We can be above it.

2. Whether in big doses or small doses, poison is poison. Lustful thoughts lead to sin (see James 1:14–15). In fact, we will be judged not only by our actions but also by our thoughts and words (see Mosiah 4:30; Alma 12:14).

3. We have to be realistic about ourselves; we’re only human.

3. We each have the power to choose the right (see 2 Ne. 2:27; Hel. 14:30). We will not be tempted above what we can bear (see 1 Cor. 10:13; 3 Ne. 18:15).

4. Sexual feelings are normal and need to be expressed without restraint. It is unhealthy to repress or deny those feelings.

4. Sexual feelings are normal and healthy, but they are to be expressed only within the marriage relationship. It is normal and healthy to control them. Jesus taught that if we are to truly find ourselves, we must come to Him, take up our own cross, and follow Him by denying ourselves ungodliness and worldly lusts and by keeping His commandments (see Joseph Smith Translation, Matt. 16:25–26).

5. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our bodies. There is no reason to make an issue out of how we dress.

5. Our bodies are not to be used to tempt or encourage sin in others (see 1 Tim. 2:9–10; 1 Cor. 3:16–17; 1 Cor. 6:19–20).

6. There is nothing wrong with sex before marriage between consenting adults.

6. Premarital sex is forbidden by God and is a fundamental misuse of creative powers (see 1 Cor. 6:13, 18; Jacob 3:12).

7. It is easy to repent.

7. Repentance is an agony unanticipated by those who disobey God. The idea that anyone can trifle with genuine repentance and character change trivializes the Savior and His Atonement (see Alma 39:3–9; D&C 18:11; D&C 19:4, 16–18; D&C 82:7).

8. Just because we’re living together without being married doesn’t mean we’re not committed to each other. Marriage is not necessary. It is just a formality.

8. A commitment that rejects the covenant of marriage is in reality a refusal to commit. In fact, “marriage is ordained of God” (D&C 49:15). It is a covenant not to be mocked, an obligation to God and to all present and future family members (see “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, October 1998, 24).

9. We need to live together to know if we’re sexually compatible.

9. Sexual compatibility is an expression of social-emotional-spiritual compatibility. In fact, if a couple has problems, it is because of the condition of their spirits. Ultimately, the spiritual unity for which all marriages strive comes from making and keeping gospel covenants.

  • Name has been changed.

Photography by Steve Bunderson; posed by models