Everything, even our eternal destiny, begins with a thought. Pure thoughts lead to pure acts, pure acts lead to pure habits, pure habits lead to pure character, and pure character leads to eternal life.1 Thoughts may seem like little things, but in reality they are crucial to our eternal salvation. Lofty thoughts lead us into light and to the Savior. Evil thoughts lead us into darkness, along the path that Satan would have us go.
These truths form the central theme of the Savior’s teachings on chastity and moral cleanliness. He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). The pure in heart are those who love the Lord, who seek to follow Him and keep His commandments, who are striving to live virtuous lives and endure faithfully to the end. The pure in heart are those who control their thoughts to keep themselves free from immoral fantasies and deeds.
Jesus was clearly concerned that His disciples learn to deny themselves of all unholy sexual desires. In His Sermon on the Mount the Lord made His law of morality clear:
“Behold, it is written by them of old time, that 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.
“Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matt. 5:29–31).
Then, to make His point even more forcefully to His disciples, the Savior used a parable concerning the sin of lust: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matt. 5:29).
It is significant that the Lord chose the symbolism of casting out an eye, for it is often through our sense of vision that Satan seeks to take control of our thoughts. Jesus said, “The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single to the glory of God, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matt. 6:22). Immoral images from movies, television, magazines, and the Internet can put thoughts into our minds that compromise our happiness today and, if not repented of, for eternity.
A young man recently visited me asking for advice on finding employment. He had lost his job and was desperately seeking work. When I asked why he had lost his job, he reluctantly told me that at work he had begun viewing pornographic photographs on the Internet. It had seemed like such a harmless thing at the time. Gradually he had become addicted, and it had devastated his life. Tears came to his eyes when he told me that he had lost not only his job but his family, his self-respect, and his standing in the Church—everything that was important to him. My heart went out to him.
I am not a computer expert, but I am familiar with the term GIGO. It means that if I put “Garbage In,” I will get “Garbage Out.” When we take impure thoughts (garbage) into our hearts and minds, unholy actions will be the result.
“For from within, out of the heart of men,” Jesus taught, “proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21–23).
Satan is out to destroy us, and he knows that it can all begin with a simple thought. He will use every method and medium to rob us of that greatest of all gifts—eternal life. It is so very important to keep our minds sweet and pure—to read books that edify, listen to music that uplifts, and treasure up in our minds those things that will lead us to Christ. As the Savior explained, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). By treasuring that which is pure and uplifting, our thoughts and our hearts become pure.
Living the law of chastity also means that we refrain from sexual sin. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, there was no misunderstanding the Lord’s standard regarding moral purity: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14). So serious was the Lord on this matter that adultery was punishable by death under the Mosaic law (see Bible Dictionary, “Adultery,” 604). Jesus reemphasized the divine sanction against adultery when a certain ruler asked what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered, “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother” (Luke 18:20). In this reply the Savior also stressed the seriousness of sexual sin by mentioning adultery first.
Many in society today treat lightly the commandment to be sexually pure. Premarital sex and extramarital relationships are far too commonplace. Promiscuity threatens homes and destroys families. The Master invites us to leave worldliness behind and become His disciples:
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.
“And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments.
“Therefore, forsake the world, and save your souls” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matt. 16:25–26, 29).
The story of the Savior’s brief encounter with a woman taken in adultery gives us valuable insights regarding moral purity (see John 8:1–11).
Early one morning as Jesus came into the temple courtyard, a group of scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman who had been caught in the act of sexual transgression. They asked Jesus if she should be stoned to death for her sin.
Jesus stooped and with His finger wrote something on the ground. When they pressed Him for an answer, He said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). One by one her accusers left, “being convicted by their own conscience” (John 8:9), until Jesus was alone with the woman. Jesus stood, looked around, and turned to the woman. “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
“She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. And the woman glorified God from that hour, and believed on his name” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 8:10–11).
From this story we are reminded:
1. Sexual transgression is sin. Jesus clearly identified that what this woman had done was wrong: “Go, and sin no more.” Sexual contact outside the bonds of marriage is not acceptable, even if “everyone is doing it.” President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: “Happiness lies not in immorality, but rather in abstinence. The voice of the Church to which you belong is a voice pleading for virtue. … It is a voice declaring that sexual transgression is sin. It is contrary to the will of the Lord. … It is contrary to the happiness and well-being of those who indulge in it.
“You should recognize, you must recognize, that both experience and divine wisdom dictate virtue and moral cleanliness as the way that leads to strength of character, peace in the heart, and happiness in life.”2
2. We must have compassion for those who sin. Jesus did not condone the woman’s sin, but neither did He condemn her. He did not judge her to be an evil person, nor did He wish to impose a sentence upon her. He gave us the pattern to follow when He said, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). Christ’s teachings are of love, compassion, and understanding. We must not turn our backs on one who has sinned or point an accusing finger or gossip about another’s transgression. Christ reached out in love to the woman, as we should reach out to others.
3. The repentant sinner believes in Christ and forsakes sin. The Master calls to each of us to “go, and sin no more.” With these simple words, Christ’s benevolence and mercy stand revealed. How grateful we should be for the law of repentance! How grateful we should be for the atoning sacrifice of the Savior, which makes forgiveness of sins possible! In modern scripture the Lord has said, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42). Well might we follow the example of the woman taken in her sins, for she “glorified God from that hour, and believed on his name” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 8:11; emphasis added).
Purity in thought and deed safeguards us against the temptations that would lead us along the path of sexual transgression. The Lord has promised peace, joy, and happiness in this life and in the world to come to those who are pure in heart.
In his letter to Titus, Paul states, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled” (Titus 1:15). If we take control of our thoughts and keep them pure from the corrupting influences around us, the magnificent promise of the Lord is sure: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).