Morality and Modesty

“Morality and Modesty,” Eternal Marriage Student Manual (2003), 219–36

“Morality and Modesty,” Eternal Marriage Student Manual, 219–36

Morality and Modesty

Selected Teachings

President Spencer W. Kimball

“Immorality does not begin in adultery or perversion. It begins with little indiscretions like sex thoughts, sex discussions, passionate kissing, petting and such, growing with every exercise. The small indiscretion seems powerless compared to the sturdy body, the strong mind, the sweet spirit of youth who give way to the first temptation. But soon the strong has become weak, the master the slave, spiritual growth curtailed. But if the first unrighteous act is never given root, the tree will grow to beautiful maturity and the youthful life will grow toward God, our Father. …

“The early apostles and prophets mention numerous sins that were reprehensible to them. Many of them were sexual sins—adultery, being without natural affection, lustfulness, infidelity, incontinence, filthy communications, impurity, inordinate affection, fornication. They included all sexual relations outside marriage—petting, sex perversion, masturbation, and preoccupation with sex in one’s thoughts and talking. Included are every hidden and secret sin and all unholy and impure thoughts and practices. …

“Conscience tells the individual when he is entering forbidden worlds, and it continues to prick until silenced by the will or by sin’s repetition.

“Can anyone truthfully say he did not know such things were wrong? These unholy practices, whatever may be their unmentionable names with all their approaches and numerous manifestations, are condemned by the Lord and his church. Some may be more heinous than others, but all are sin, in spite of statements to the contrary of those who falsely pretend to know. The Lord’s prophets declare they are not right.

“The world may have its norm; the Church has a different one. … The world may countenance premarital sex experiences, but the Lord and his church condemn in no uncertain terms any and every sex relationship outside of marriage. …

“Since courtship is prelude to marriage and encourages close associations, many have convinced themselves that intimacies are legitimate—a part of the courting process. Many have cast off bridle and harness and have relaxed the restraints. Instead of remaining in the field of simple expressions of affection, some have turned themselves loose to fondling, often called ‘necking,’ with its intimate contacts and its passionate kissing. Necking is the younger member of this unholy family. Its bigger sister is called ‘petting.’ When the intimacies have reached this stage, they are surely the sins condemned by the Savior. …

“Who would say that he or she who pets has not become lustful, has not become passionate? Is it not this most abominable practice that God rebuked in his modern reiteration of the Ten Commandments: ‘Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it’ (D&C 59:6).

“What, may I ask you, is like unto adultery if it is not petting? Did not the Lord recognize that this heinous sin is but the devil’s softening process for the final acts of adultery or fornication? Can a person in the light of the Lord’s scriptures pursue the path of petting with clear conscience? Can anyone convince himself that this is not deep sin?

“We must repeat what we have said many times: Fornication with all its big and little brothers and sisters was evil and wholly condemned by the Lord in Adam’s day, in Moses’ day, in Paul’s day, and in our own day. The Church has no tolerance for any kind of perversions. The Lord has indicated his lack of tolerance, stating:

“‘For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance’ (D&C 1:31).

“When the scriptures are so plain, how can anyone justify immoralities and call them love? Is black white? Is evil good? Is purity filthiness?

“That the Church’s stand on morality may be understood, we declare firmly and unalterably, it is not an outworn garment, faded, old-fashioned, and threadbare. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and his covenants and doctrines are immutable; and when the sun grows cold and the stars no longer shine, the law of chastity will still be basic in God’s world and in the Lord’s church. Old values are upheld by the Church not because they are old, but rather because through the ages they have proved right. It will always be the rule” (“President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, 95–96).

President Ezra Taft Benson

“Watchmen—what of the night? We must respond by saying that all is not well in Zion. As Moroni counseled, we must cleanse the inner vessel (see Alma 60:23), beginning first with ourselves, then with our families, and finally with the Church. …

“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. (See Journal of Discourses, 8:55.)

“President Joseph F. Smith said that sexual impurity would be one of the three dangers that would threaten the Church within—and so it does. (See Gospel Doctrine, pp. 312–13.) It permeates our society” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 3, 6; or Ensign, May 1986, 4).

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“We live in a world that is filled with filth and sleaze, a world that reeks of evil. It is all around us. It is on the television screen. It is at the movies. It is in the popular literature. It is on the Internet. You can’t afford to watch it, my dear friends. You cannot afford to let that filthy poison touch you. Stay away from it. Avoid it. You can’t rent videos and watch them as they portray degrading things. You young men who hold the priesthood of God cannot mix this filth with the holy priesthood. …

“And while I speak of such matters I want to give emphasis again to the matter of pornography. It has become a $10 billion industry in the United States, where a few men grow rich at the expense of thousands upon thousands who are their victims. Stay away from it. It is exciting, but it will destroy you. It will warp your senses. It will build within you an appetite that you will do anything to appease. And don’t try to create associations through the Internet and chat rooms. They can lead you down into the very abyss of sorrow and bitterness. …

“You young men who plan to go on missions must recognize that sexual sin may keep you from that opportunity. You may think that you can hide it. Long experience has shown that you cannot. To serve an effective mission you must have the Spirit of the Lord, and truth withheld does not mix with that Spirit. Sooner or later you will feel compelled to confess your earlier transgressions. Well did Sir Galahad say, ‘My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure’ (Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Sir Galahad [1842], st. 1).

“My dear young friends, in matters of sex you know what is right. You know when you are walking on dangerous ground, when it is so easy to stumble and slide into the pit of transgression. I plead with you to be careful, to stand safely back from the cliff of sin over which it is so easy to fall. Keep yourselves clean from the dark and disappointing evil of sexual transgression. Walk in the sunlight of that peace which comes from obedience to the commandments of the Lord.

“Now, if there be any who have stepped over the line, who may already have transgressed, is there any hope for you? Of course there is. Where there is true repentance, there will be forgiveness. That process begins with prayer. The Lord has said, ‘He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more’ (D&C 58:42). Share your burden with your parents if you can. And by all means, confess to your bishop, who stands ready to help you” (“A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth,” Ensign, Jan. 2001, 7–8).

“If they want to get involved in pornography, they can do so very easily. They can pick up the phone and dial a number with which they are familiar. They can sit at a computer and revel in cyberspace filth.

“I fear this may be going on in some of your homes. It is vicious. It is lewd and filthy. It is enticing and habit forming. It will take a young man or woman down to destruction as surely as anything in this world. It is foul sleaze that makes its exploiters wealthy, its victims impoverished.

“I regret to say that many fathers themselves like to hear the siren song of those who peddle filth. Some of them also work the Internet for that which is lewd and lascivious. If there be any man within the sound of my voice who is involved in this or who is moving in this direction, I plead with you to get it out of your life. Get away from it. Stay away from it. Otherwise it will become an obsession. It will destroy your home life. It will destroy your marriage. It will take the good and beautiful out of your family relationships and replace these with ugliness and suspicion.

“To you young men, and to the young women who are your associates, I plead with you not to befoul your minds with this ugly and vicious stuff. It is designed to titillate you, to absorb you into its net. It will take the beautiful out of your life. It will lead you into the dark and ugly” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2000, 68–69; or Ensign, Nov. 2000, 51).

Consequences of Obedience or Disobedience

Jacob 2:28–29, 33

The Nephites were warned that if they did not live the law of chastity, they would not prosper in the land. Violation of the law of chastity brings “a sore curse, even unto destruction.”

Helaman 13:38

Those who seek happiness in the lusts of the flesh will not find it because doing iniquity is contrary to the nature of happiness. Compare with Alma 41:10, “Wickedness never was happiness.”

3 Nephi 6:16–18

The Nephites became so morally corrupted that they were “carried about by the temptations of the devil whithersoever he desired to carry them, and to do whatsoever iniquity he desired they should.”

Doctrine and Covenants 121:45

Virtue, when combined with charity and faith, gives you confidence in your relationship with God and allows the doctrines of the priesthood to “distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.”

Elder Neal A. Maxwell

“Those who mock the traditional moral values should heed this lesson of history from the Durants:

“‘A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; and if he is unchecked by custom, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life before he matures sufficiently to understand that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume both the individual and the group’ (Will and Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968], pp. 35–36).

“Lasciviousness wrongly celebrates the capacity to feel, so that people lose their capacity to feel! Three different prophets in three different dispensations bemoaned those who became ‘past feeling’ (see 1 Nephi 17:45; Ephesians 4:19; Moroni 9:20). … Gross sin not only dulls the feelings, it also impairs the intellect” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 95; or Ensign, May 1993, 77).


1 Timothy 4:12

“Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“I am not disposed to discuss in this forum the merits or otherwise of sex education in the public schools. But in passing, I am inclined to agree with one who was recently quoted in the newspaper USA Today: ‘More sex education in public schools will not reverse the damaging legacy of the sexual revolution unless the clear message is premarital chastity and marital monogamy.’ … (Tottie Ellis, “Teaching about Sex Endangers Children,” 16 Mar. 1987, p. 12A)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 58; or Ensign, May 1987, 47).

President N. Eldon Tanner

“Modesty in dress is a quality of mind and heart, born of respect for oneself, one’s fellowmen, and the Creator of us all. Modesty reflects an attitude of humility, decency, and propriety. Consistent with these principles and guided by the Holy Spirit, let parents, teachers, and youth discuss the particulars of dress, grooming, and personal appearance, and with free agency accept responsibility and choose the right” (“Friend to Friend,” Friend, June 1971, 3).

Elder L. Tom Perry

“President [Spencer W.] Kimball delivered a great talk many years ago at Brigham Young University entitled ‘A Style of Our Own.’ He encouraged us not to be among those who would follow worldly, immodest styles, but to have the courage to dress in a way which will send a message that our standards are different. Our dress will reflect the way we intend to live, founded on principles of the gospel of our Lord and Savior. It is impossible to expect a child who has been taught to love to dress in the immodest style trends of the day, to then change overnight to an entirely different wardrobe when they enter a Church university or a missionary training center, or when they are married in the temple, or even when they dress for the Sabbath day. Modest, proper styles must be taught almost from birth” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 88; or Ensign, Nov. 1988, 75).

Elder James E. Faust

“In forsaking the great principle of modesty, society has paid a price in the violation of a greater but related principle—that of chastity. The purveyors of the concept of irresponsible sexual relations that degrade and brutalize the participants have grossly masqueraded and completely missed the purpose of these divine gifts” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1981, 8; or Ensign, May 1981, 9).

Modesty in Thought

Mosiah 4:29–30

“I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.

“But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.”

Doctrine and Covenants 121:45

“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.”

Modesty in Language

Proverbs 15:26

“The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord: but the words of the pure are pleasant words.”

Matthew 12:36

“I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”

Modesty in Dress

President Spencer W. Kimball

“Style is blamed for those extremes, but we wonder again if there might not be some satisfactions, sexual and otherwise, in what seems a wanton disregard of modest decency. Are the very scant bathing suits worn for style or to shock or stir or tempt? Can there be in all these expressions total innocence and total modesty? …

“We cannot overemphasize immodesty as one of the pitfalls to be avoided if we would shun temptation and keep ourselves clean” (Miracle of Forgiveness, 227).

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“Now comes the craze of tattooing one’s body. I cannot understand why any young man—or young woman, for that matter—would wish to undergo the painful process of disfiguring the skin with various multicolored representations of people, animals, and various symbols. With tattoos, the process is permanent, unless there is another painful and costly undertaking to remove it. Fathers, caution your sons against having their bodies tattooed. They may resist your talk now, but the time will come when they will thank you. A tattoo is graffiti on the temple of the body.

“Likewise the piercing of the body for multiple rings in the ears, in the nose, even in the tongue. Can they possibly think that is beautiful? It is a passing fancy, but its effects can be permanent. Some have gone to such extremes that the ring had to be removed by surgery. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have declared that we discourage tattoos and also ‘the piercing of the body for other than medical purposes.’ We do not, however, take any position ‘on the minimal piercing of the ears by women for one pair of earrings’—one pair” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2000, 70–71; or Ensign, Nov. 2000, 52).

Elder James E. Faust

“I was struck by the lack of self-esteem revealed in the manner by which so many people now clothe themselves in public. To attract attention or in the name of comfort and informality, many have sunk not only to immodesty but to slovenliness. Against their own self-interest, they present themselves to others in the worst possible way” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1981, 8; or Ensign, May 1981, 9).

Modest Behavior

2 Nephi 15:20

“Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Articles of Faith 1:13

“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

President Ezra Taft Benson

“Modesty in dress and language and deportment is a true mark of refinement and a hallmark of a virtuous Latter-day Saint woman. Shun the low and the vulgar and the suggestive” (“To the Young Women of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 83).