Lesson 9: Chastity and Modesty

The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part A, (2000), 60–65


The purpose of this lesson is to help us live the law of chastity and teach our children to do likewise.

The Law of Chastity

Within our bodies, God has provided a sacred power. It is the power to create other bodies so that life may continue upon the earth. To help us preserve the sanctity of this power and use it wisely, God has given us the law of chastity.

  • Have the assigned sister read Gospel Principles chapter 39, subsection “What Is the Law of Chastity?” What is the law of chastity?

To be chaste also means avoiding all impure thoughts and actions that cause us to desire wrong (see Matthew 5:27–28). We must not allow the standards of an immoral world to influence us.

The Importance of the Law of Chastity

Living the law of chastity is important because it is a commandment of God. The scriptures tell us that chastity is “most dear and precious above all things” (Moroni 9:9). The Lord said: “For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me” (Jacob 2:28).

Living the law of chastity will bring us great blessings from the Lord. It will help us have self-respect and free us from a guilty conscience. It will help us avoid sexually transmitted diseases and the related suffering. In addition, living the law of chastity will help us be worthy both of others’ trust and of guidance from the Holy Ghost. Most important, we must be chaste to enter the temple and be married for time and eternity. Chastity will help us enjoy a happy family life on this earth. It will help us be worthy to continue our family life eternally.

  • Ask a sister who brought her infant to class to express the joy she and her husband feel about being a family.

Breaking the law of chastity is a serious sin. It can bring us sorrow and destroy our self-respect. It can burden us with guilt. Unchastity can cause distrust of family members and eventually disrupt the family. Unchastity makes a person unworthy of the guidance of the Holy Ghost. It can bring children into the world outside of a family unit. Church members who break the law of chastity break sacred covenants with God. Misusing the sacred power of creation in any way may cause us to lose the privilege of eternal progress.

Outside of marriage, sexual relations are serious sins that stain the lives of those involved. Such stains can be removed only through repentance (see lesson 2 in this manual, “Repentance”). Sometimes we make mistakes before we understand the Lord’s commandments about chastity. If so, it is very important to talk to our branch president, bishop, or mission president about them. He will advise us and help us complete our repentance. The Lord is anxious to forgive us when we repent of our sins. He tells us, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).

How to Teach Chastity to Children

  • Display a poster of the following list or refer to the information on the chalkboard:

    1. 1.

      Help children understand the nature and sacredness of body functions.

    2. 2.

      Give children love.

    3. 3.

      Encourage proper dating standards.

    4. 4.

      Encourage modest dress.

    5. 5.

      Set the proper parental example.

Help Children Understand the Nature and Sacredness of Body Functions

Children are naturally curious about their bodies. At the right moments parents can explain simply the appropriate ways of caring for our bodies. Parents should also help their children understand that our bodies are too personal and sacred to be handled inappropriately by ourselves or by others.

  • Ask class members to think of situations in which parents might teach a child to respect his or her body.

Children’s attitudes will reflect the attitudes of their parents. If parents laugh at improper suggestions, view questionable movies or television programs, or permit suggestive books or magazines in their home, children will learn wrong attitudes. Parents should speak reverently but frankly and without embarrassment about the body. By showing genuine affection toward each other, parents will also teach that procreation is sacred. We should also help children understand gender roles. This will help a child have a good feeling about being a girl or boy. Parents who feel good about their roles as men and women pass this feeling along to their children.

  • How can our attitudes as parents teach more than words alone?

Children must clearly understand how babies begin and how they come into this life. Children must also be taught that the Lord has commanded that sexual relations be reserved for marriage. Boys, girls, men, and women must not break this sacred commandment.

Give Children Love

  • Display visual 9-a, “A mother’s love is a blessing to her family.”

When children are young, parents can teach proper ways to express affection. It is important to fill children’s needs for affection so they do not seek to fill them later in an improper way. When parents are frank and loving, they build their children’s confidence in them. Then if children have questions or problems in their personal lives, they will feel comfortable consulting their parents.

Encourage Proper Dating Standards

President Spencer W. Kimball said that “any dating or pairing off in social contacts should be postponed until at least the age of 16 or older” (“The Marriage Decision,” Ensign, Feb. 1975, 4). Young people are encouraged to have only casual and friendly relationships until after boys have fulfilled missions.

When people begin dating more seriously, we can encourage them to develop positive characteristics and then look for those same characteristics in potential companions. Elder Richard G. Scott offered this counsel: “As you seek an eternal companion, look for someone who is developing the essential attributes that bring happiness: a deep love of the Lord and of His commandments, a determination to live them, one that is kindly understanding, forgiving of others, and willing to give of self, with the desire to have a family crowned with beautiful children and a commitment to teach them the principles of truth in the home” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1999, 31; or Ensign, May 1999, 26).

Elder Scott also emphasized the importance of chastity in courtship: “To commit in courtship intimate acts intended to unfold only within the bonds of marriage is transgression. Such activity offends the Holy Ghost, lays the foundation for heartache and disappointment, and could mask traits or characteristics that could prove conflictive or incompatible within the covenant of marriage. Seeds of distrust that mature into divorce and loss of temple blessings are often sown through violation of the laws of personal purity. Don’t make that mistake” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1999, 32).

  • What are proper dating standards for Latter-day Saints? In what ways can parents teach their children the importance of maintaining high standards during courtship?

Encourage Modest Dress

Since the time of Adam and Eve, the Lord has asked His children to cover their bodies. Until Eve was tempted by Satan in the Garden of Eden, she and Adam did not know they were naked. After eating of the forbidden fruit, they became aware of their nakedness. They tried to cover their most sacred parts with aprons of fig leaves. However, the Lord’s standards for modesty are greater, and He gave them coats of skins to cover themselves—even though at that time they were alone in the world. (See Moses 4:13, 27.)

The Lord’s standards of modesty are not those of the world. From the Prophet Joseph Smith through our recent prophets, our leaders have asked us to create our own styles and fashions (see Spencer W. Kimball, “A Style of Our Own,” BYU Devotional Assembly, 13 Feb. 1951). President Brigham Young described the kind of fashion that is a model for us. He said: “Suppose that a female angel were to come into your house and you had the privilege of seeing her, how would she be dressed? … She would be neat and nice, her countenance full of glory, brilliant, bright, and perfectly beautiful, and in every act her gracefulness would charm the heart of every beholder. There is nothing needless about her. None of my sisters believe that these useless, foolish fashions are followed in heaven. Well, then, pattern [your lives] after good and heavenly things, …” (in Deseret News [Weekly], 30 Apr. 1873, 196).

We can measure our standards of modesty by asking ourselves: How would I feel about my clothing if I knew the prophet were to visit in my home? Is my clothing a good example of what a Latter-day Saint girl or woman should wear? We should practice modesty within our own homes. Even small children should be modestly dressed and taught about modesty.

We are responsible for the effect our dress standards have on others. Anything that causes improper thoughts or sets a bad example before others is not modest. It is especially important that we teach young girls not to wear clothes that would encourage young men to have improper thoughts.

  • What styles are common today that we ought to avoid?

Modesty can help us keep our chastity. We need to choose styles that are pleasing both to us and the Lord.

Set the Proper Parental Example

In keeping the law of chastity and being modest, parents must set the proper example.

  • Review the five suggestions on the chalkboard or poster for teaching children to be chaste. In what other ways can we help ourselves and our children keep the law of chastity and dress modestly?

Conclusion

President Spencer W. Kimball, speaking to Latter-day Saint girls in Mexico City, said: “You are daughters of God. … You are made in the image of our heavenly mother. … Your body is sacred to you and precious” (in Conference Report, Mexico City and Central America Area Conference 1973, 108).

Our bodies are the temples where our spirits dwell. “No unclean thing can dwell with God” (1 Nephi 10:21; see also 1 Corinthians 3:16–17). Keeping our bodies pure and clean is an important part of being worthy to return to live with our Heavenly Father.

Challenge

Check your wardrobe to be sure all your clothes are modest. Place a chair in front of a mirror at home. Have each family member sit in the chair and decide how to be modest in dress or posture. If applicable, discuss with your husband the importance of teaching chastity and modesty to your children—both boys and girls.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Study Gospel Principles chapter 39, “The Law of Chastity.”

  2. 2.

    Review lesson 2 in this manual, “Repentance.”

  3. 3.

    Prepare the poster suggested in the lesson or write the information on the chalkboard.

  4. 4.

    Assign a sister to read in class Gospel Principles chapter 39, subsection “What Is the Law of Chastity?” page 249.

  5. 5.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.