Chastity is sexual purity. Those who are chaste are morally clean in their thoughts, words, and actions. Chastity means not having any sexual relations before marriage. It also means complete fidelity to husband or wife during marriage.
Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love within marriage.
In the world today, Satan has led many people to believe that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is acceptable. But in God's sight, it is a serious sin. It is an abuse of the power He has given us to create life. The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder and denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:3-5).
Sometimes people try to convince themselves that sexual relations outside of marriage are acceptable if the participants love one another. This is not true. Breaking the law of chastity and encouraging someone else to do so is not an expression of love. People who love each other will never endanger one another's happiness and safety in exchange for temporary personal pleasure.
When people care for one another enough to keep the law of chastity, their love, trust, and commitment increase, resulting in greater happiness and unity. In contrast, relationships built on sexual immorality sour quickly. Those who engage in sexual immorality often feel fear, guilt, and shame. Bitterness, jealousy, and hatred soon replace any positive feelings that once existed in their relationship.
Our Heavenly Father has given us the law of chastity for our protection. Obedience to this law is essential to personal peace and strength of character and to happiness in the home. Those who keep themselves sexually pure will avoid the spiritual and emotional damage that always comes from sharing physical intimacies with someone outside of marriage. Those who keep themselves sexually pure will be sensitive to the Holy Ghost's guidance, strength, comfort, and protection and will fulfill an important requirement for receiving a temple recommend and participating in temple ordinances.
The Lord and His prophets condemn sexual immorality. The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder and denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:3-5). All sexual relations outside of marriage violate the law of chastity and are physically and spiritually dangerous for those who engage in them.
The Ten Commandments include the command that we not commit adultery, which is sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband (see Exodus 20:14). The Apostle Paul said that it is “the will of God” that we “abstain from fornication,” which is sexual intercourse between an unmarried person and anyone else (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Latter-day prophets repeatedly speak out against these sins and against the evil practice of sexual abuse.
Like other violations of the law of chastity, homosexual activity is a serious sin. It is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality (see Romans 1:24-32). It distorts loving relationships and prevents people from receiving the blessings that can be found in family life and the saving ordinances of the gospel.
Merely refraining from sexual intercourse outside of marriage is not sufficient in the Lord's standard of personal purity. The Lord requires a high moral standard of His disciples, including complete fidelity to one's spouse in thought and conduct. In the Sermon on the Mount, He said: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). In the latter days He has said, “Thou shalt not . . . commit adultery, . . . nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). And He has reemphasized the principle He taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “He that looketh on a woman to lust after her, or if any shall commit adultery in their hearts, they shall not have the Spirit, but shall deny the faith and shall fear” (D&C 63:16). These warnings apply to all people, whether they are married or single.
Church members who have committed sexual sin should speak with their bishop or branch president, who can help them through the process of repentance (see the gospel topic “Repentance”).
Those who find themselves struggling with sexual temptations, including feelings of same-gender attraction, should not give in to those temptations. People can choose to avoid such behavior and receive the Lord's help as they pray for strength and work to overcome the problem.
Keeping the Law of Chastity
No matter how strong temptations seem, the Lord will help us withstand them if we choose to follow Him. The Apostle Paul declared, “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 10:13). The following counsel can help us overcome the frequent and blatant temptations in the world today:
Decide now to be chaste. We need to make this decision only once. We can make the decision now, before the temptation comes, and let our decision be so firm and with such deep commitment that it can never be shaken. We can determine now that we will never do anything outside of marriage to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. We can determine now that we will be completely true to our spouse.
Control our thoughts. No one commits sexual sin in an instant. Immoral acts always begin with impure thoughts. If we allow our thoughts to linger on obscene or immoral things, we have already taken the first step toward immorality. We must flee immediately from situations that may lead to sin and pray for constant strength to resist temptation and control our thoughts. We can make this a part of our daily prayers.
Stay away from pornography. We must not view, read, or listen to anything that depicts or describes the human body or sexual conduct in a way that can arouse sexual feelings. Pornographic materials are addictive and destructive. They can rob us of our self-respect and of a sense of the beauties of life. They can tear us down and lead to evil thoughts and abusive conduct.
If we are single and dating, always treat our date with respect. Those who are dating must never treat their date as an object to be used for lustful desires. They should carefully plan positive and constructive activities so that they are not left alone without anything to do. They should stay in areas of safety where they can easily control themselves. They should not participate in conversations or activities that arouse sexual feelings, such as passionate kissing, lying with or on top of another person, or touching the private, sacred parts of another person's body, with or without clothing.
If we are married, be faithful to our spouse in our thoughts, words, and actions. The Lord has said: “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else. And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out” (D&C 42:22-23). We should never flirt in any way. As much as possible, we should avoid being alone with anyone of the opposite sex and ask ourselves if our spouse would be pleased if he or she knew of our words or actions. We should remember the Apostle Paul's counsel to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). When we stay away from such circumstances, temptation gets no chance to develop.
Forgiveness for the Repentant
The best course is complete moral cleanliness. It is wrong to commit sexual sins with the thought that we will simply repent later. This attitude is a sin itself, showing irreverence for the Lord and the covenants we make with Him. However, those who have committed sexual sins can be forgiven by the Lord if they repent.
Repentance is difficult, but it is possible (see Isaiah 1:18). The despair of sin can be replaced with the sweet peace of forgiveness. To learn what is required to repent, see the gospel topic “Repentance.”
See also Marriage; Pornography; Repentance
—See True to the Faith (2004), 29-33
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Additional Study Materials
Guide to the Scriptures
Gospel Principles, Lesson 39
New Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, Lesson 33
Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, Lesson 34
Encyclopedia of Mormonism
The Latter-day Saint Woman, Part A, Lesson 9
A collection of conversations with leaders and members.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Aaronic Priesthood 1, Lesson 41
Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2, Lesson 25
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, Chapter 18