Fidelity in Marriage

Eternal Marriage Student Manual, (2003), 111–14


Marriage itself must be regarded as a sacred covenant before God.

—Elder Ezra Taft Benson

Selected Teachings

Doctrine of Fidelity

Exodus 20:14

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

Alma 39:5

“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?”

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“Now I move to another corrosive element that afflicts all too many marriages. It is interesting to me that two of the Ten Commandments deal with this: ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ and ‘Thou shalt not covet’ (Exodus 20:14, 17). Ted Koppel, moderator of ABC’s ‘Nightline’ program, is reported as saying the following to a group of students at Duke University concerning slogans that were proposed to reduce drugs and immorality:

“‘We have actually convinced ourselves that slogans will save us. … But the answer is NO! Not because it isn’t cool or smart or because you might end up in jail or dying in an AIDS ward, but NO because it is wrong, because we have spent 5,000 years as a race of rational human beings, trying to drag ourselves out of the primeval slime by searching for truth and moral absolutes. In its purest form, truth is not a polite tap on the shoulder. It is a howling reproach. What Moses brought down from Mount Sinai were not The Ten Suggestions’ (address given at Duke University, 10 May 1987).

“Think about that for a moment. What Moses brought down were Ten Commandments, written by the finger of Jehovah on tablets of stone for the salvation and safety, for the security and happiness of the children of Israel and for all of the generations which were to come after them.

“Altogether too many men, leaving their wives at home in the morning and going to work, where they find attractively dressed and attractively made-up young women, regard themselves as young and handsome and as an irresistible catch. They complain that their wives do not look the same as they did twenty years ago when they married them. To which I say, ‘Who would, after living with you for twenty years?’

“The tragedy is that some men are ensnared by their own foolishness and their own weakness. They throw to the wind the most sacred and solemn of covenants, entered into in the house of the Lord and sealed under the authority of the holy priesthood. They set aside their wives who have been faithful, who have loved and cared for them, who have struggled with them in times of poverty only to be discarded in times of affluence. They have left their children fatherless. They have avoided with every kind of artifice the payment of court-mandated alimony and child support. …

“The complaint of a husband, after eighteen years of marriage and five children, that he no longer loves his wife is, in my judgment, a feeble excuse for the violation of covenants made before God and also the evasion of the responsibilities that are the very strength of the society of which we are a part” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 71–72; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 51).

First Presidency—Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark Jr., David O. McKay

“The doctrine of this Church is that sexual sin—the illicit sexual relations of men and women—stands, in its enormity, next to murder.

“The Lord has drawn no essential distinctions between fornication, adultery, and harlotry or prostitution. …

“You husbands and wives who have taken on solemn obligations of chastity in the holy temples of the Lord and who violate those sacred vows by illicit sexual relations with others, you not only commit the vile and loathsome sin of adultery, but you break the oath you yourselves made with the Lord Himself before you went to the altar for your sealing. You become subject to the penalties which the Lord has prescribed for those who breach their covenants with Him” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1942, 11).

Elder Ezra Taft Benson

“Marriage itself must be regarded as a sacred covenant before God. A married couple have an obligation not only to each other, but to God. He has promised blessings to those who honor that covenant.

“Fidelity to one’s marriage vows is absolutely essential for love, trust, and peace. Adultery is unequivocally condemned by the Lord” (“Salvation—A Family Affair,” Ensign, July 1992, 2; or Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 85; Ensign, Nov. 1982, 59).

Elder Robert D. Hales

“Rationalization that God should change His commandments to accommodate our transgressions leads to spiritual darkness, which only the light of the gospel can remove. To the woman taken in adultery, Christ did not soften the commandment to not commit adultery. Rather, He counseled her to ‘sin no more’ (John 8:11). He promises all of us forgiveness through repentance. It is we who must change, not the commandments” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 52; or Ensign, May 1996, 37).

Costs of Infidelity

Proverbs 5:3–4

“For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil:

“But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a twoedged sword.”

Malachi 3:5

“And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers.”

Galatians 6:7–8

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

“For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

Doctrine and Covenants 42:23–24

“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.

“Thou shalt not commit adultery; and he that committeth adultery, and repenteth not, shall be cast out.”

President Howard W. Hunter

“Be faithful in your marriage covenants in thought, word, and deed. Pornography, flirtations, and unwholesome fantasies erode one’s character and strike at the foundation of a happy marriage. Unity and trust within a marriage are thereby destroyed. One who does not control his thoughts and thus commits adultery in his heart, if he does not repent, shall not have the Spirit but shall deny the faith and shall fear (see D&C 42:23; 63:16)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 67; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 50).

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.

“Selfishness so often is the basis of money problems, which are a very serious and real factor affecting the stability of family life. Selfishness is at the root of adultery, the breaking of solemn and sacred covenants to satisfy selfish lust. Selfishness is the antithesis of love. It is a cankering expression of greed. It destroys self-discipline. It obliterates loyalty. It tears up sacred covenants. It afflicts both men and women.

“Too many who come to marriage have been coddled and spoiled and somehow led to feel that everything must be precisely right at all times, that life is a series of entertainments, that appetites are to be satisfied without regard to principle. How tragic the consequences of such hollow and unreasonable thinking!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 96; or Ensign, May 1991, 73).

A happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.

Elder Gordon B. Hinckley

“Was there ever adultery without dishonesty? In the vernacular, the evil is described as ‘cheating.’ And cheating it is, for it robs virtue, it robs loyalty, it robs sacred promises, it robs self-respect, it robs truth. It involves deception. It is personal dishonesty of the worst kind, for it becomes a betrayal of the most sacred of human relationships, and a denial of covenants and promises entered into before God and man. It is the sordid violation of a trust. It is a selfish casting aside of the law of God, and like other forms of dishonesty its fruits are sorrow, bitterness, heartbroken companions, and betrayed children” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 92; or Ensign, May 1976, 61).

President Thomas S. Monson

“Because sexual intimacy is so sacred, the Lord requires self-control and purity before marriage, as well as full fidelity after marriage. … Tears inevitably follow transgression. Men, take care not to make women weep, for God counts their tears” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1990, 61; or Ensign, Nov. 1990, 47).

Elder Richard G. Scott

“Adultery, fornication, committing homosexual acts, and other deviations approaching these in gravity are not acceptable alternate lifestyles. They are serious sins. Committing physical and sexual abuse are major sins. Such grave sins require deep repentance to be forgiven. President Kimball taught: ‘To every forgiveness there is a condition. The plaster must be as wide as the sore. The fasting, the prayers, the humility must be equal to or greater than the sin.’ [The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), p. 353] ‘It is unthinkable that God absolves serious sins upon a few requests. He is likely to wait until there has been long, sustained repentance.’ [The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, … p. 85]” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 103; or Ensign, May 1995, 77).

Precautions That Help Prevent Infidelity

1 Corinthians 7:2–3

“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

“Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.”

President David O. McKay

“The sexual impurity of the world today is the result of the loss of true manhood through indulgence. Unchaste thoughts have bred unchaste words, and unchaste words, unchaste acts. In the teachings of the Church, next to the crime of murder comes that of adultery, and sexual unchastity. If the members of the Church will remain true to their belief in chastity, and will develop true manhood through practicing self-control in other ways, they will stand as beacon lights whose rays will penetrate a sin-stained world” (“Christ, the Light of Humanity,” Improvement Era, June 1968, 5).

President Spencer W. Kimball

“It is not enough to refrain from adultery. We need to make the marriage relationship sacred, to sacrifice and work to maintain the warmth and respect which we enjoyed during courtship. God intended marriage to be eternal, sealed by the power of the priesthood, to last beyond the grave. Daily acts of courtesy and kindness, conscientiously and lovingly carried out, are part of what the Lord expects” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 7; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 6).

President Ezra Taft Benson

Control your thoughts. No one steps into immorality in an instant. The first seeds of immorality are always sown in the mind. When we allow our thoughts to linger on lewd or immoral things, the first step on the road to immorality has been taken. I especially warn you against the evils of pornography. … The Savior taught that even when a man looks upon a woman to lust after her, or in other words, when he lets his thoughts begin to get out of control, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart (see Matthew 5:28, D&C 63:16). …

“… If you are married, avoid flirtations of any kind. …

“… If you are married, avoid being alone with members of the opposite sex whenever possible. Many of the tragedies of immorality begin when a man and woman are alone in the office or at church or driving in a car. At first there may be no intent or even thought of sin. But the circumstances provide a fertile seedbed for temptation. … It is so much easier to avoid such circumstances from the start so that temptation gets no chance for nourishment” (“Law of Chastity,” 51–52).

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“Stand above the sleaze and the filth and the temptation which is all about you.

“You women who are single, and some of you who are married, who are out in the workplace, may I give you a word of caution. You work alongside men. More and more, there are invitations to go to lunch, ostensibly to talk about business. You travel together. You stay in the same hotel. You work together.

“Perhaps you cannot avoid some of this, but you can avoid getting into compromising situations. Do your job, but keep your distance. Don’t become a factor in the breakup of another woman’s home. You are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You know what is expected of you. Stay away from that which is tempting. Avoid evil—its very appearance” (“Walking in the Light of the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 99).