A Chaste and Virtuous Life
President Kim B. Clark and Sue L. Clark
Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional
January 9, 2007
We welcome you to a new semester at BYU–Idaho. To those of you who have just joined the university, we offer a special word of welcome. To all of you, we express our love. It is a joy to serve with you in this great university.
We stand together today because we want to talk to you about things that are very sacred and intimate. We want to share with you our deepest feelings about what it means to live a chaste and virtuous life. We pray that the Holy Ghost will attend us today that we might speak, and you might hear, through the power of the Spirit.
The Lord’s command for us to live a chaste and virtuous life is rooted in the fundamental doctrines of salvation. From the beginning of time Heavenly Father has commanded His children to be chaste, to seek virtue, and to use the sacred powers of procreation only within the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman. In our day the prophets and apostles have issued the proclamation on the family—a great clarion call to know, understand, and live these basic truths. Listen carefully to the words of the proclamation:
We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of 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, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.
In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life.¹
We are children of God. As Paul taught the Romans, we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”² Through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ and through obedience to His commandments, we may inherit eternal life—to know our Heavenly Father, to live with our eternal companion and our eternal family in His presence, to enjoy all that He enjoys.
Each of us, our eternal companions and our eternal families, are at the very center of Heavenly Father’s plan. He loves us and desires to bless us with joy in this life and to prepare us for eternal life in the world to come. That is why He has given us His power to create mortal life and to lay the foundation of an eternal family here on earth. We must learn to use that power righteously in this fallen world.
The testing and probing of mortal life are not easy. The world is full of sickness, pain, and infirmities of all kinds. Satan is loose in the earth doing everything he can to destroy us.
But we are not alone. When Heavenly Father gives us the power to create life, He also gives us a marvelous commandment—the law of chastity—that stands as a great shining light, a beacon of hope and strength, a bright line of guidance and direction. If we learn to live not only the letter but also the spirit of that law, it will be a source of strength and a cherished blessing in our lives.
We would like to talk with you today about four aspects of the law of chastity: (1) What the law is. (2) The law of chastity as protection against the forces of evil. (3) The law of chastity as preparation for marriage and an eternal family. (4) The miracle of forgiveness and the blessings of heaven that come to those who live a chaste and virtuous life.
THE LAW OF CHASTITY
We begin with what the law of chastity is. In every age and time our Heavenly Father has spoken forcefully and clearly about the creation of mortal life in the personal, intimate relationship between husband and wife. So it is in our day.
Here, again, are words from the proclamation:
The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.3
The power to create mortal life is sacred. It is Heavenly Father’s power; and all the emotions, desires, and feelings associated with that sacred power come from Him. Using that power within the bonds of marriage gives expression to the love, joy, and unity of husband and wife and brings children to an eternal family. The word of the Lord is unmistakable: Anyone who uses those sacred powers outside of marriage commits a sin so serious that the prophets have called it “an abomination.” When his son Corianton left the ministry and went after the harlot Isabel, Alma told his son:
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?4
The sin of adultery desecrates God’s own sacred powers. It is a sin against God. Further, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost. Christ came to earth and died and suffered so that we could obtain these bodies now and in eternity. Adultery is a sin against Christ. It is a sin against all that is divine and holy—against sacred covenants, against the Redeemer and Savior, against our Father in Heaven. It is “an abomination in the sight of the Lord.”
“Thou shalt not commit adultery”5 rings out in the Ten Commandments and in the words of prophet after prophet in the scriptures. But the law of chastity extends the mandate for virtue and holiness to our thoughts, emotions, desires, and to behavior that might lead to adultery. Listen to the words of the Savior to the people of Nephi:
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 already in his heart.
Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart;
For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.6
This is the law of chastity. It is a higher law. If you imagine a chain that begins with immoral thoughts and images, continues to intimate behavior that acts on those thoughts, leading ultimately to adultery, the law of chastity applies to all of it. When the Lord says we should “suffer none of these things to enter into [our] heart[s],” he is commanding us to not let immoral images or thoughts of immoral behavior take root in our hearts where they become fantasies, even plans and obsessions full of lust. He further warns us against any intimate relations outside of marriage that stimulate desires and emotions in ourselves or others that could lead to adultery. In the law of chastity the Lord commands us against that whole chain.
Listen carefully to the words of modern prophets about such behavior. First, Elder Richard G. Scott:
Strongly tied to the sacred, private parts of the body are powerful emotions intended to be used within the covenant of marriage between a man and woman in ways that are appropriate and acceptable to them both…. These emotions are not to be stimulated or used for personal gratification outside of the covenant of marriage. Do not touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body to stimulate those emotions. Do not allow anyone to do that with you, with or without clothing. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body. These things are wrong. Do not do them.7
Now listen to the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
Souls. Symbols. Sacraments. Do these words suggest why human intimacy is such a serious matter? Why it is so right and rewarding, so stunningly beautiful when it is within marriage and approved of God…and so blasphemously wrong—like unto murder—when it is outside such a covenant? It is my understanding that we park and pet and sleep over and sleep with at the peril of our very lives….8
Through the law of chastity the Lord calls upon each of us to live lives of virtue and purity—pure in the thoughts and desires of our hearts and pure in our behavior. We pray that you will embrace the law and live it. We bear witness that if you do, the Lord’s richest blessings—blessings of protection and preparation—will be yours.
THE PROTECTION OF THE LAW
The law of chastity is a great protection in a world of increasing wickedness and immorality. Nephi saw our day and warned us of Satan’s many tactics: stirring up some hearts unto anger; pacifying, flattering, and whispering to other hearts until he leads “them away carefully down to hell.”9
Nephi’s prophecy is in fulfillment before our very eyes. On television, in movies, in music, on the Internet, in popular media of all kinds, “conspiring men”10 with evil designs dress up adultery, immorality, wickedness, and pornography as fun, hip, cool, exciting, and attractive. Satan whispers lies all across the land.
Do not let yourself be deceived. Do not let those whispers break down your standards. Do not listen to the voice that says: “That movie is okay; there is only one bad part.” Or, “Intimacy is okay if you are in love.” Or, “You can repent later.” Or, “As long as we do not go over the edge, it is okay.”
With these lies Satan tries to break down your sense of the truth and blind you to the reality of what you hear, see, and do. Satan wants sin and wickedness to get into your heart and into your actions. He knows that sustained exposure to immorality and pornography can lead to addiction, and that is what he wants for you.
Listen to Nephi’s description of Satan’s work in our day to lure you, trap you, and bind you:
And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.11
Like the mists of darkness in Lehi’s dream, we are surrounded by temptation. But the law of chastity, like the iron rod, will lead us safely through if we will hold fast to it and live it.
Brothers and sisters, the law of chastity is the word of God about moral purity. It is powerful to protect. With Mormon we say:
Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—12
If we are to lay hold on the law of chastity and live it, we must do two things: (1) learn to see things as they really are, and (2) act on what we see.
To see things as they really are, we must follow Amulek’s counsel and “be watchful unto prayer continually, that ye may not be led away by the temptations of the devil.”13
The command to watch is powerful. It means to be discerning, aware, and conscious of what is happening. Here are two simple examples: No matter what the rating of a movie might be, if you see before you on the screen immorality made to look attractive and exciting, please see it for what it is—the “snares and wiles of the devil” meant to dull your conscience and stimulate your appetites. If you get an invitation to a costume party where everyone is dressed in Roman togas or other immodest wear, see it for what it is—the temptations of the devil masquerading as fun.
To be watchful means seeing temptation and sin for what they are, not rationalizing, not ignoring, not being lulled into complacency or neglect. It also means being careful and disciplined and thoughtful about what we see, hear, and do.
Watchfulness is also connected to looking and seeing. We all carry around with us a kind of social mirror that expresses the image of what we are and what we want to become. Being watchful unto prayer means looking into the mirror of Christ, not the mirror of the world. Do not look into the mirror of the world for guidance and direction.
Take to heart Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ counsel given to the women of BYU–Idaho from this pulpit in November 2006. This counsel may be applied equally well to the men.
Nor should women emulate the worldly ways of womanhood. Your destiny is to be a wife and a mother in Zion, not a model and a streetwalker in Babylon. You should dress and act accordingly.14
Satan uses the mirror of the world to make bad things appear good and good things appear bad. Look with eyes that see, guided by the Spirit. Look into the mirror of Christ where there is sure guidance and truth.
If we have eyes to see, we must act on what we see. Living the law of chastity requires that we exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Savior has seen it all. The scriptures teach us that He has suffered “temptations of every kind.”15 He has experienced every temptation you will face. But He gave in to none of them. He has power over all of them. He himself has declared that He “knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.”16 This is why Paul could say:
…but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.17
The way to escape from temptation is through faith in the power and strength of Jesus Christ. But we must exercise that faith and act. Faith is a principle of action. Living the law of chastity requires that we act—walk away; say no; turn it off; walk out; put it down; control our thoughts and our behavior; choose righteous friends and companions; fill our lives with good books, inspiring music, and wholesome entertainment. Act to pray, to seek, and to ask. Act to follow this great admonition of Alma:
…humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit…. Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life….18
We know that living the law of chastity is not easy. It has never been easy. When the hormones bubble inside, there is much need for control and discipline.
We also know and bear witness that the Lord Jesus Christ is mighty to save. Trust in Him. We pray you will see the law of chastity as divine protection, acting in faith that He who has all power over all things will always be there to give you strength and support.
THE LAW AS PREPARATION
If you heed Alma’s counsel, the law of chastity will be a marvelous preparation for temple marriage and for building an eternal family. These blessings will come to all of you in the Lord’s own time if you are true and faithful to your covenants.
Listen carefully to the description of the foundation of a successful marriage and family in the proclamation:
The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.19
Living the law of chastity is a powerful preparation for the spiritual foundation so essential to the commitments and covenants of marriage. A wedding is a happy and exciting time.
We remember well the excitement and happiness of being a newly married couple. But we can tell you from our own experience that the joy and happiness we felt on our wedding day pales in comparison to the joy and happiness we feel today—35 years later surrounded by a growing family. What explains the difference in how we feel now? We believe the most important change is the spiritual growth we have experienced together over many years.
The proclamation teaches us that everything that contributes to a successful marriage has spiritual roots. To live the law of chastity before marriage, you must exercise faith, be watchful unto prayer, and seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Living the letter and the spirit of that law is a crucible for the development of character, self-control, discipline, unselfishness, and spirituality. Having lived the law before marriage, you bring a reservoir of spiritual strength to your marriage. Living it after you are married helps you replenish and increase that reservoir and sustain self-mastery and spirituality.
Living the law of chastity is all about self-control. It is all about putting the Lord and your eternal companion first. Living the law of chastity before and after marriage will help you develop a spiritual foundation on which you create bonds of trust, respect, compassion, and love. When you enter the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, the Lord commands:
“Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.”20
To love with all your heart and to cleave unto your spouse and to none else means that the deepest desires, strongest attachments, and most powerful emotions of your hearts must be directed only to your eternal companion. No intimate images or thoughts of someone else should ever be in your heart. You must avoid any behavior that could lead to adultery.
We bear witness that the love you feel at the beginning of your marriage can grow and develop into that deep, abiding love which defines an eternal marriage; but it cannot grow and deepen unless you live the law of chastity in your marriage. Alma taught this principle powerfully. To his son Shiblon he said: “see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love.”21
There are some who will tell you that when you marry you get the green light on intimate behavior with your spouse, but such teaching is another of Satan’s lies. Of course, after you marry, the Lord commands you to consummate your intimate, personal relationship and to cleave unto each other. That physical relationship is sacred and holy. It is part of becoming one, wholly and fully united in heart and soul. It is part of building your eternal family. It is pleasing before the Lord; but—and this is a very important qualifier—it must be established in love and kindness, in patience and unselfishness.
Your intimate relationship is just that—a relationship. It is something you create together. Both husband and wife should experience it as joyous and fulfilling. It must be established, therefore, without exploitation, without abuse of any kind, and without self-indulgence. Satan would have you give way to the natural man in your marriage—the man of passion, of carnal desire, of gratification of every impulse and appetite. But remember, the natural man is an enemy to God. You simply cannot give way to the natural man and ever hope to have a union that is holy, a love that is eternal and pure, or a marriage that is blessed and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. Thus, restraint, control, and bridling your passions are just as important after marriage as before.
Living the law of chastity is a powerful preparation for a rich and fulfilling marriage and for the creation of an eternal family. One of the glorious purposes of the intimate relationship in marriage is to bring little boys and girls into the world. We can testify of the joy and the miracle of the birth of a child. The proclamation on the family makes it very clear, however, that these children of God have a right to a home where father and mother “honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”22
The law of chastity plays a powerful role in creating that kind of home. We bear witness to you that children thrive when their parents are united in love, hope, purpose, and are totally committed to one another and to their children. We have learned over the years that the most important thing we can do for our children is to love and honor each other. The law of chastity is essential to that eternal union between man and woman, that unity of heart and soul that is the foundation of an eternal family. That union must be both physical and deeply spiritual. It must be a union of two souls—physically and spiritually joined together.
Only those who use God’s creative power in the bonds of matrimony, who are sealed to one another and to their children by the Holy Spirit of Promise, and who live chaste and virtuous lives will forge an eternal union and an eternal family. Only those who live the law of chastity learn to use divine power in the only way it can be used eternally. The law of chastity is there to help us become like our Father. It is there to guide us and help us become one with Him. It is there to prepare us with the devotion, unselfishness, love, and spiritual strength that define those who receive a fullness of celestial glory through the merits and mercy of Jesus Christ. In the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Prophet Joseph describes the heirs of eternal life:
Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.23
Note carefully these words: “all things are theirs, whether life or death.” Our Heavenly Father gives to all those who are called up and crowned with exaltation in the celestial kingdom the power to create life in an eternal family eternally.
Our dear brothers and sisters, this is your divine destiny. This is the preparation of the law of chastity. If you honor your covenants and live the law of chastity, you will receive from your Heavenly Father the richest blessings of the kingdom. Your marriage will have a strong, spiritual foundation. You will be filled with love to overflowing because of your discipline and unselfishness. And you will raise up unto the Lord a righteous, eternal family. We bear witness to you that these promises are true.
THE MIRACLE OF FORGIVENESS
The promises that follow obedience to the law of chastity are truly glorious, but what if you make a mistake? What if you break the law of chastity? What then?
Brothers and sisters, if you have broken the law and wounded yourself and others, we want you to know that you can become clean and pure and whole again. We bear witness to you that the Lord Jesus Christ has power to cleanse you from sin, to heal you, and redeem you.
Listen to the Savior’s words to the people of Nephi at the time of the great destruction following His death:
O all ye that are spared…will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?
Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me….
Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin.
Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God.24
The Savior promises healing, redemption, and complete forgiveness to those who come to Him and repent with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
This is our first message to you about repentance: It is possible; and it is very good. We do not, however, want to leave you with the impression that repentance is easy. So, we also have a second message about repentance: It is a long, hard road. How long and how hard depends on what you have done. You probably learned about the steps of repentance in Primary and Sunday School. You must recognize that what you have done is wrong and confess your sins to the Lord and your bishop. Your bishop will guide you in ridding your life of anything that contributed to your downfall. You must keep the commandments. You must change your life. You must try to restore to those you have injured what you have taken from them. However, as Elder Maxwell taught:
Sometimes…restitution is not possible in real terms, such as when one contributed to another’s loss of faith or virtue. Instead, a subsequent example of righteousness provides a compensatory form of restitution.25
Through all of this you will suffer pain and anguish of soul. There is no true repentance without suffering. That suffering will be especially acute if you have broken eternal covenants and wounded a spouse and children. But the Savior has descended below all things and emerged totally victorious over all things. Through His power, His mercy, and His grace, you can be redeemed and healed. Those you have wounded may also feel His healing power. If your heart is right, your pain and sorrow will be tinged with hope. That hope of forgiveness will work in you. As you walk the road of repentance, the Lord will be with you. Through your faith and hope and your steadfastness in Christ, the day will come when the Spirit will witness to your soul that you are clean.
The Atonement is real. Jesus is the Redeemer. He is mighty to save.
Brothers and sisters, it is better to be obedient and never break the law of chastity. But if there is anyone here who needs to confess and repent but has not, we urge you to go and see your bishop now. Do it today. Do not let another day go by in a state of denial. Start on the path of repentance now. The Lord will bless you.
Our wonderful brothers and sisters, we stand before you today united in faith and testimony. We love the gospel. We thank our Heavenly Father every day for the plan of salvation. We testify that Jesus is the Christ. This is His Church, restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. What a wonderful thing it is to have a living
prophet! We have listened today to revelation on the family given to us by living prophets.
We bear witness that the things we have taught today are true. The law of chastity can be for you a bright, shining light in a darkening world, a powerful source of protection and preparation. We pray that you will see it that way and live it that way, that your lives may be chaste and virtuous forever. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 The Family: A Proclamation to the World, Ensign, Nov. 1995, p. 102
2 Romans 8:17
3 The Family: A Proclamation to the World, Ensign, Nov. 1995, p. 102
4 Alma 39:5
5 Exodus 20:14
6 3 Nephi 12:27-30
7 Richard G. Scott, “The Power of Righteousness,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, p. 68.
8 Jeffrey R. Holland, Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments, (Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2001), p. 34
9 2 Nephi 28:20-22
10 D&C 89:4
11 2 Nephi 26:22
12 Helaman 3:29
13 Alma 34:39
14 Dallin H. Oaks, “Be Wise,” Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional, Nov. 7, 2006
15 Alma 7:11
16 D&C 62:1
17 1 Corinthians 10:13
18 Alma 13:28-29
19 The Family: A Proclamation to the World, Ensign, Nov. 1995, p. 102
20 D&C 42:22
21 Alma 38:12
22 The Family: A Proclamation to the World, Ensign, Nov. 1995, p. 102
23 D&C 76:59, 62
24 3 Nephi 9:13-14, 21-22
25 Neal A. Maxwell, “Repentance,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, p. 30