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RS/MP Lesson 39: “The Law of Chastity” (Gospel Principles Manual)

Posted by kirkcaudle on August 6, 2011

The complete lesson can be found here. It is interesting to note that this lesson is much different from its counterpart in the old manual. The current manual extends this lesson by a couple of pages and adds extensive quotations regarding homosexuality and pornography. The old manual touches on neither of these topics. Therefore, the manual speaks to the issues that we are currently dealing in the 21st century Church.

A Note to Parents

There is quite a long introduction given for this lesson. Of course, how one might teach the Law of Chastity to a child is much different from how one might teach the PH/RS.  I will quote a few lines from the section that I find most helpful for parents.

“Taking to children frankly but reverently and using the correct names for the parts and functions of their bodies will help them grow up without unnecessary embarrassment about their bodies.”

“It is not wise or necessary, however, to tell children everything at once.”

“By the time children reach maturity, parents should have frankly discussed procreation with them.”

 Of course, I have known people who have both followed, and not followed, this council. When dealing with parents, telling them how, when, and how much to talk with their children about sex can be a very touchy subject. I would recommend caution and tact if you chose to go this route while preparing your lesson.  

The Power of Procreation

Question from the manual, “Why should parents teach their children about procreation and charity? How can they appropriately do this?” The following scriptures are giving to help answer this question:

Gen. 1:22, God said to all creation, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.”

Gen1:28, God said to man “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish [Heb. Fill] the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

How do these verses help us to understand the answer to the above question? Do you know of a more helpful verse?

The Law of Chastity

Question from the manual, “What is the law of chastity?” Let me add the following supplemental questions. Where is the “law of chastity” in the scriptures? Is the law of chastity an unchanging law or does it evolve with the times? Is the law of chastity a law in the same way that the law of tithing and the law of consecration are laws?   

The manual gives scriptural evidence of the law of chastity by quoting Ex. 20:14, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The manual then goes on to say that “the law of chastity encompasses more than sexual intercourse.” How can we know what the “more” is to which the manual refers?

Satan Wants Us to Break the Law of Chastity

“Satan attacks the standards of modesty. He wants us to believe that because the human body is beautiful, it is something to flaunt and expose. Our Heavenly Father wants us to keep our bodies covered so that we do not encourage improper thoughts in the minds of others.”

The best article that I have ever read on the subject of Young Women and the standards of modesty is by Kathryn Soper and can be found here.

Breaking the Law of Chastity is Extremely Serious

The manual cites Alma 39:5, “Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; year, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?” The manual then goes on to say that “Unchastity is next to murder in seriousness.”

Now, I know this is the doctrine. However, is this the way that we actually view unchastity in our everyday live? For example, if I know a young man who struggles with pornography and I know a young man who just shot and killed his mother, are these two things really even comparable? I know this is an extreme example, but what do we mean when we say that breaking the law of chastity is close to murder? Does this mean breaking any part of the law of chastity or perhaps only a certain part of the law?

Those Who Keep the Law of Chastity Are Greatly Blessed

The manual provides the question, “What blessings do we receive as we keep the law of chastity?”

The “additional scriptures” section provides the following scripture to help answer this question.

Rev. 14:4-5, “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.”

How do these two verses help us answer the above question?

Additional Scriptures

• Matthew 19:5–9; Genesis 2:24 (marriage relationship is sacred)

• Titus 2:4–12 (instructions for chastity)

• 1 Corinthians 7:2–5; Ephesians 5:28 (loyalty to spouse)

• Revelation 14:4–5 (blessings for obedience to the law of chastity)

• Proverbs 31:10 (virtue praised)

• Alma 39:9 (do not go after the lusts of your eyes)

• D&C 121:45 (let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly)

• Alma 42:16 (repentance does not come without punishment)

• Alma 42:30 (do not excuse yourself for sinning)

• D&C 58:42–43 (the repentant confess and forsake their sins)

7 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 39: “The Law of Chastity” (Gospel Principles Manual)”

  1. Karl D. said

    Thanks Kirk for the notes.

    The manual’s use of Revelation 14:4-5 to illustrate the “blessings for obedience to the law of chastity” strikes me as interesting. I suppose in some sense I agree that it does provide an answer but it doesn’t strike me as a particularly contextual use of the scripture. I guess I am more inclined to see these verses as part of the metaphorical imagery of a holy army. In particular, the holy army is being described as in a state of ritual purity and hence is abstaining from sexual intercourse as consistent with Old Testament practice. I would tend to see scriptures like Deut 23:9-10 and 2 Sam 11:11 in the backdrop.

    Certainly, these verse are about purity. I would suggest pure from the sin of idolatry. Certainly, being chaste is part of purity so the scripture does work in a general sense, but not, in my view, particularly well in the specific sense.

  2. Robert C. said

    I like the issues that Karl’s comment brings to the table. That is, the fertility cults which were associated with the Old Testament condemnation of idolatry give a nice covenantal context by which to understand the Law of Chastity which I think is helpful for understanding. That is, I think what is most wrong about sexual immorality is not its inherent wrongness, but the importance that chastity plays in our covenants that we make with God.

    I’m not explaining very well, but I found this interesting article discussing similar themes….

  3. BrianJ said

    Robert: “…what is most wrong about sexual immorality is not its inherent wrongness, but the importance that chastity plays in our covenants that we make with God.”

    In my mind, that view robs chastity of its greatest importance; namely, how immorality affects others. To put that differently: Why should God care whether I have sex with ten people or only one?

  4. Robert C. said

    Good point, Brian. Some more muddle thoughts:

    My thinking here is related to my interest in how money and sex occur together, in culture, in scripture (e.g., Jacob 2), and in our temple covenants (chastity and consecration are the two “higher law” covenants).

    I’m not sure how God would, say, compare being promiscuous multiple times with the same prostitute vs. one time with multiple prostitutes. Now, if we consider the chances of those prostitutes being able to change their lives, repent, and perhaps receive their own temple blessings, than I can begin to think about how to at least discuss this question. But it’s very hard for me to think about the problem without the end(telos) of covenant marriage in mind (I say telos b/c I’ve been reading virtue ethics, esp. according to Aladair MacIntyre recently, and he has a rich conception that differs from how we normally think about “ends”…).

    What I’m trying to articulate is how I think chastity makes the most sense only when understood in terms of the larger framework of the new and everlasting covenant, and I think this is the same imagery that is being used in the Old Testament, in Revelation, and even in the temple. That is, chastity is a particular form of infidelity(/disrespect) with respect to our relation with God (and others, but first and foremost to God…).

    So, I’m not saying that the effects on others are not important, only that they are less important than their effect with respect to our relation with God.

    I think….

  5. BrianJ said

    Robert: I am still not comfortable with that view. Something you wrote stands out as the reason I am hesitant:

    “chastity makes the most sense only when understood in terms of the larger framework of the new and everlasting covenant”

    What if we instead try to make sense of chastity in the larger framework of Zion? Is that not also a very high—if not the highest—ideal for which we strive? Then we think of chastity/immorality in terms of the effects on our neighbor.

    In fact, we could change the question entirely. Instead of trying to “make sense of the law of chastity” we could instead start with a blank slate, free from any laws, and simply investigate how to go about establishing Zion, identifying the hurdles in the way. If we discover that immorality presents an obstacle to Zion, then we will devise laws to minimize or eliminate that barrier. Voila! we have the Law of Chastity. At least that’s one way of approaching my way of thinking.

    This of course is in contrast to what you write later on:

    “…with respect to our relation with God (and others, but first and foremost to God…). … not saying that the effects on others are not important, only that they are less important than their effect with respect to our relation with God”

    Even without considering what I say above, I also want to discuss the question I asked previously in context of your two statements that I just quoted: “Why should God care whether I have sex with ten people or only one?” I’m not asking in terms of prostitutes. I also don’t live in any temple cult era, so any explanation that is going to keep the Law of Chastity alive today cannot rely on making sense of what it meant to ancient Israel (though, no doubt, I find such analysis very interesting!). Take my question the way most people would take it: in the context of having sex with one’s girlfriend (and10 girlfriends throughout life). How is that kind of relationship detrimental to a relationship with God? The only answer I can come up with is solely based in malum prohibitum (whereas the prohibition against ancient fertility cults is more obviously a direct offense against God).

    Side note: Perhaps I’ve uncovered (what for me is) a previously unappreciated tension: the new and everlasting covenant vs. Zion. Maybe.

  6. BrianJ said

    Okay, just to make something a little more clear.

    This is along the line of malum in se versus malum prohibitum.

    Suppose that immorality doesn’t affect God in any way whatsoever; it only harms others. That alone is justification for God to prohibit it.

  7. Robert C. said

    Brian, these are great thoughts and questions, thanks for writing them. I don’t have any good answers, just a few thoughts for now in response.

    My own thinking is that there is not any fundamental or even significant tension between Zion and our covenants (incl. the New and Everlasting Covenant). It’s very hard for me to think about where one starts and another begins: covenants are the basis of a Zion community, and Zion cannot exist without some conception of covenants.

    Rather, implicit in my previous comments is the tension between Zion and the world. The prostitute I was simply a (rather lame) representation of the world, apart from Zion in an important and strong sense.

    Now, I think all of your questions still apply to the way I’m terming and conceptualizing the tension, though perhaps with an importantly different inflection. I am actually doing a fair bit of of study (and writing, hopefully) on this very question (largely based on Alasdair MacIntyre’s philosophy, currently), though more in terms of liberal/secular society and its relation to how we understand Zion (and the institutional Church, and perhaps during the reign of the judges in Nephite society), and how this compares and contrasts with the Zion-world distinction that existed in pre-liberal society (like in Ancient Israel, and during monarchical periods in the Book of Mormon). Anyway, lots to think about….

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