The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the “Mormon Church,” advocates abstinence and virtue as basic principles of a moral life. To comprehend why Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) willingly save sexual relations for marriage, one must understand eternal truths.
Why Choose Abstinence and Virtue?
One of life’s great questions is, “Where did we come from”? Mormons believe that mankind existed before this lifetime in the presence of God as His children. “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and … has a divine nature and destiny” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).
Instead of physical bodies, each soul lived as a spirit. God the Eternal Father prepared this earth for His children to receive a body, experience mortality, and hopefully choose to return to live with Him again. He chose His Son Jesus Christ to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world, for He knew mankind would sin and need a way to repent and return to Him. Part of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation and happiness includes life after death. A soul determines its eternal destination based on life choices, which includes correctly accepting Jesus Christ’s Grace and Atonement.
Knowing that decisions in this life affect eternal outcomes strengthens a Latter-day Saint’s resolve to be obedient to all of God’s commandments.
The Importance of a Physical Body
Obtaining a physical body is a critical step in God’s plan of happiness for His children.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17).
“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God… The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body, and herein is his punishment. He is pleased when he can obtain the tabernacle of man. 1
Elder David A. Bednar, a modern Apostle and leader of The Church of Jesus Christ explained:
Our physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth, and an intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal existence. Thus, our relationships with other people, our capacity to recognize and act in accordance with truth, and our ability to obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are amplified through our physical bodies. In the school of mortality, we experience tenderness, love, kindness, happiness, sorrow, disappointment, pain, and even the challenges of physical limitations in ways that prepare us for eternity. 2
Creating life is one profound and sacred use of a physical body. Another Apostle of Jesus Christ, Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught:
The power to create mortal life is the most exalted power God has given his children. Its use was mandated in the first commandment, but another important commandment was given to forbid its misuse. The emphasis we place on the law of chastity is explained by our understanding of the purpose of our procreative powers in the accomplishment of God’s plan. Outside the bonds of marriage, all uses of the procreative power are to one degree or another a sinful degrading and perversion of the most divine attribute of men and women. 3
A bold advocate for virtue, Sister Elaine S. Dalton counseled a world-wide gathering of young women (ages 12-18) to:
Be not moved in your desire and commitment to remain virtuous and sexually pure. Cherish virtue. Your personal purity is one of your greatest sources of power. When you came to the earth, you were given the precious gift of a body. Your body is the instrument of your mind and a divine gift with which you exercise your agency. This is a gift that Satan was denied, and thus he directs nearly all of his attacks on your body. He wants you to disdain, misuse, and abuse your body. Immodesty, pornography, immorality, tattoos and piercings, drug abuse, and addictions of all kinds are all efforts to take possession of this precious gift—your body—and to make it difficult for you to exercise your agency. 4
Choosing Abstinence and Virtue
Abstinence and virtue before marriage is a choice. While many cultural trends promote experimentation with multiple sexual relationships before marriage, choosing chastity leads to self-awareness, confidence, and emotional health. But, basically, the decision to be chaste ultimately boils down to overcoming the whims of the flesh to obey God’s will.
Elder David A. Bednar’s counsel continued:
The precise nature of the test of mortality, then, can be summarized in the following question: Will I respond to the inclinations of the natural man, or will I yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and put off the natural man and become a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord? (See Mosiah 3:19.) That is the test. Every appetite, desire, propensity, and impulse of the natural man may be overcome by and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We are here on the earth to develop godlike qualities and to bridle all of the passions of the flesh. 5
A Personal Application
From my childhood, my parents taught me to value my body as a special gift from God and explained His commandments regarding chastity. As with every principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, my parents encouraged me to study the principle and gain a conviction for myself that it was true and from God. While studying the Bible on the subject, the story of Joseph who was sold into Egypt became especially important. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph was purchased in Egypt by a captain named Potiphar and eventually became trusted to run Potiphar’s household. Potiphar’s wife nagged Joseph daily to lie with her. One day, no other person was in the house “and she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out” (Genesis 39:12.) Joseph’s courageous virtue did not have a happy ending in the short term. Potiphar’s wife had him arrested and thrown into prison. His courage to choose chastity gave me courage to choose chastity throughout my own life.
Choosing abstinence and virtue before marriage gave me self-awareness and self-confidence that some of my high school associates lacked. Instead of worrying about STDs and teenage pregnancy, I prepared for college and all the opportunities life had to offer. My need to belong or fit in was filled by a sense of purpose and God’s love for me. I felt confident in approaching God with needs and concerns, knowing that I was keeping His commandments and could rely on His guidance and inspiration in my life. I felt peace and happiness. Fidelity in marriage continues to bring those same blessings! My husband and I trust each other implicitly which strengthens our relationship. Our love grows more meaningful as we share our deepest selves with each other. We are able to grow and expand as a couple because we aren’t worried about petty relationship disturbances or devastating heartaches. Chastity enables a freedom I could not comprehend when I decided as a youth to obey God’s commandment.
Many people in the world have not been taught the values of abstinence and virtue. They may be feeling the effects of a life devoid of virtue’s peace. The Savior promises, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Choosing to change one’s life, repent, and live a life of virtue may be extremely difficult, but it is possible through the Grace of Jesus Christ and is eternally worth it!
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.