Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 17: Keeping the Law of Chastity

by | Mar. 08, 2015

Too often in the Church the unspoken assumption that follows the mention of the law of Chastity is that it applies only to youth and women. We need to remind ourselves that chastity is a universal requirement of the Lord that applies to all ages, old people included, and to men as much as women.

Chastity is more than behavior

We think of chastity in terms of what not to do or what to do. This is correct, but chastity is also an attitude and a way of thinking. If I want to keep myself unspotted or unpolluted from the ways of the world, allowing someone to take me into a bar or to unsavory places will taint my mind with impure thoughts. Once I am exposed to such things I automatically become susceptible to thinking about them. If Satan can get me to think about impure things I am already half way to becoming comfortable with them, which is only one step away from accepting and embracing them. Deliberately exposing ourselves to sin, in any form, is a slippery slope.

Greatest blessing, greatest curse

The Lord’s commandment to multiply and replenish the earth is satisfied through our God-given desires to be with the opposite gender. The generation of families and the populating of the earth is one of the main purposes of sex. It also acts to bond the couple to each other, producing a depth of fidelity that should unite the couple throughout their married life.

The Lord delights in the proper use of this gift, which is called chastity. In Jacob 2:28 he says He delights in the chastity of his children. President Benson says this:

The Lord is not just pleased when we are chaste; He delights in chastity. Mormon taught the same thing to his son Moroni when he wrote that chastity and virtue are “most dear and precious above all things.” (Moroni 9:9)

Just as proper sexual behavior in marriage is a great blessing to our lives, so using this gift outside of marriage becomes a curse to us. Is that really any different from any other commandment? When we are obedient to any commandment it blesses our lives. When we reject and violate a commandment, the same principle that would have brought joy into our lives now acts to bring sorrow into our lives. Violating any commandment automatically brings sorrow; it is the nature of all laws.

Plague of this generation

“The plaguing sin of this generation is sexual immorality.” This is difficult. Sexual immorality is so common, and so pervasive in our global society, we tend to minimize its severity on the sin scale. The third most serious sin we can commit, next to denying the Holy Ghost, and murder, is sexual sin. That is called fornication for the unmarried and adultery for the married. 

This, the Prophet Joseph said, would be the source of more temptations, more buffetings, and more difficulties for the Elders of Israel than any other.

Again, President Benson says:

No sin is causing the loss of the Spirit of the Lord among our people more today than sexual promiscuity. It is causing our people to stumble, damning their growth, darkening their spiritual powers, and making them subject to other sins.

The public has come to expect sexual encounters in almost all forms of entertainment. We may not be willing to participate in illicit behavior, but how many of us are willing to pay to watch someone else do it for us on the silver screen, in our reading material, in our television shows, or on stage? Where do we draw our personal lines in the sand, so to speak, and declare that we will go no further and watch it no more?

Immorality … always brings with it attendant remorse. A person cannot indulge in promiscuous relations without suffering ill effects from it. He cannot do wrong and feel right—it is impossible. Anytime one breaks a law of God, he pays a penalty in heartache, in sadness, in remorse, in lack of self-respect, and he removes himself from contact with the Spirit of God.

Prepare to resist temptation

“Most people fall into sexual sin in a misguided attempt to fulfill basic human needs.” They are not perverts and deviants; they are friends and neighbors, even relatives who have needs, but mistakenly think that pursuing sexual sin will fill those needs. Instead, they damage their souls and bring heartache into their lives.

The first line of defense is to control our thoughts. “The first seeds of immorality are always sown in the mind.” It is not a sin for a bad thought to cross our minds or a bad image to flash into our minds. What makes it a sin is when we dwell on that thought or image, nursing it, growing our desire and appetite for it and others like it. That is when it becomes a sin. We need to replace such thoughts with more worthy things. Yes, this means we have to be mindful of what we think throughout the day.

A righteous life is made no differently than a wicked life. The deciding factor is the type of thoughts we keep playing over and over again in our heads. If we think of good things, we cannot do evil. If all we think of is evil, it never occurs to us to do good. The pattern works the same way in both directions. It may be difficult to control thoughts when you first begin to monitor them, but it becomes easier and easier with practice. Eventually, banishing unworthy thoughts becomes an almost automatic response.

Prayer is important. “It should be part of our daily prayers to ask the Lord for constant strength to resist temptation, especially temptations that involve the law of chastity.” The first step is to pray for strength to resist temptations. The second step is to avoid places or situations that will cause those temptations. If an alcoholic is trying to quite drinking, the worst place to go is a bar. It makes sense that if we know we have a weakness in an area that we take steps to avoid being tempted. It makes resisting and change so much easier.

Replace evil with good

You can overcome many evil inclinations through good physical exertion and healthful activities. A healthy soul, free of the body-and-spirit-dulling influences of alcohol and tobacco, is in better condition to overthrow the devil.

The practice of replacing evil activities and thoughts with good ones is a chore at first, then only a minor inconvenience, and finally an automatic response. But we have to start somewhere. Being chaste or morally pure is a refining process. The more chaste we become, the more modestly we dress, and the more modestly we behave.

The point in all of this is that chastity is a godly character trait. We build it by controlling our thoughts, and being mindful of the sanctity of our own body and the sanctity of everyone else’s body. We want to become like God, and to do so we have to learn to think and act like him. Having a body is a tremendous privilege and advantage. If we want to maintain both, we have to be worthy of God’s blessings and approval. Those who will continue on to become pure as Christ is pure will, of necessity, learn how to think virtuous thoughts and behave modestly.

Kelly likes to keep the gospel simple. For more of his articles and lesson helps go to his website, http://mormonbasics.com.

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