The prophet Jacob taught, "For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts" (Jacob 2:28).
The word "chastity" is defined as "the state or condition of being chaste." The word "chaste" is defined as "abstaining from unlawful sexual intercourse." In contrast, the word "whoredom" is defined as "the act of committing unlawful sexual intercourse," and someone who commits such an act is known as either a "whore" or a "harlot."
One of the most consistent themes found throughout the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants is that God has always condemned sexual immorality. Yet, on the other hand God has repeatedly commanded us to have children, which can only happen through sexual activity. Therefore, it is clear that God makes a distinction between lawful and unlawful sexual behavior. Those who are engaging in such activity lawfully God considers them to be "chaste" while those who are committing the same act unlawfully are said to be engaging in "whoredoms." Thus, God not only delights in the chastity of women, but of men as well.
Although God commands us to have children, lawful sexual activity involves more than just the begetting of children. There are many women who bare children who are not legally married to a husband but that doesn't mean they are chaste. At the same time, not all sexual activity between a husband and wife results in the begetting of children but that doesn't mean they are behaving in an unchaste manner. Therefore, it is clear that chastity has more to do with the legality of the act as opposed to the results of the act.
It is common to hear teenagers excuse their sexual activity with the comment, "We were just showing our love to one another." And, indeed, in marriage, sex is a way to express love between a husband and wife. But, while God does command us to love all men, there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to show that love. To phrase it more scripturally, we could say there are chaste and unchaste ways of showing love or there are lawful ways to show love and there are unlawful ways.
For example, suppose someone wanted to show their love to someone by giving them an expensive diamond ring. There is certainly nothing unlawful about doing that. But, suppose that person couldn't afford to buy the ring and therefore went out and stole it so they could then give it to the person they love. That would be an unlawful act of love. To say they stole the ring just because they were trying to show their love to someone doesn't make their illegal act lawful.
According to the laws of today's society, sex outside of marriage is perfectly acceptable, however, God has clearly and consistently stated throughout the centuries that the only sexual activity He considers lawful is that between a husband and wife. Anything other than that He considers as being unchaste, or, in scriptural language, committing whoredoms. And whoredoms is something God despises. If we are only interested in what society thinks of us then we can follow their rules, but if we are concerned about what God thinks of us, then we must follow His rules.
One of the other arguments people give for engaging in sex outside of marriage is that if God gave us this desire why would He limit its use to just marriage? Since animals have sex with multiple partners and, biologically speaking, we belong to the animal kingdom, then why is it unlawful for us to do the same? This argument is based on the theory that since the desire for sex is a natural urge then denying this urge is unnatural. But that's like saying just because someone wants something they can't afford that it is a natural urge to want to take it without the owner's permission. Or, because anger is a natural emotion, that justifies becoming enraged and hurting someone. Since that's the way animals behave, then, to be consistent with this argument, we would have to say we have a right to behave that way as well.
But man is more than an animal because our so-called "animal" body is different than all others. While we may have certain things in common with the beasts of the field, we also have a number of unique features that sets us apart from them as well. We have the ability to distinguish between "right" and "wrong." Animals kill each other with no conscience or guilt. If we were truly animals then so would we, but we don't. We have the ability to control our appetites and passions, animals don't. They do whatever they want whenever they want with no conscious thought of modesty or decency. On the other hand, we teach our children from nearly the time they are born how to control themselves according to standards of decorum and decency and that training continues all throughout life.
If we are truly animals, we would engage in sexual behavior anywhere and anytime we had the urge and the opportunity to do it. We would do it in front of our co-workers while at work without giving it a second thought or we'd do it on the street while a crowd of people walked by. That's the way animals do it because they have no sense of propriety. On the other hand, there is something more meaningful and special to the sexual behavior of humans that is not found in the animal world. The fact that we do it in private, away from the stare of others and we do it as an act of love rather than because we are satisfying a biological urge is evidence that we are not fully animals when it comes to our sexual desires.
We have an appreciation for things of beauty and worth. The very reason we use the phrase "cast not your pearls before swine" is because animals have no value system. To them all things are the same. They have no appreciation for the beauty of a sunrise or the importance of life. Man sees flowers as something to use as decoration and adornments while animals see them as nothing more than something soft to trample on or eat. We have a belief in a Being superior to ourselves whom we worship while animals have no concept of the divine. Their life is lived for the moment with no thought of aspiring to a higher, nobler existence while man continually seeks to improve himself.
We can't excuse our sexual behavior on the one hand by claiming we are merely behaving like the animals and then turn around on the other hand and claim that humans aren't suppose to act like animals when they kill, steal, fight, and show a lack of control over their passions. And our sexual appetite is one of the passions we are expected to control
Since God is the one who created us the way we are then it is God who determines what is lawful behavior and what isn't. To the animals God has decreed one set of laws, to plants a different set of laws, and to those who are made in His image, He has given yet another set of laws. And it is God who has said that sexual activity between a husband and wife within their marriage is acceptable and lawful while the same behavior anywhere else is not.
The word "intercourse" means "social interaction" (The American Heritage Dictionary) or "to mingle with or to have an exchange between persons or groups" (Webster's University Dictionary). There are many different ways we can interact socially with one another including verbally, emotionally, and physically, as well as sexually. Physical intercourse can involve touching, holding hands, hugging, patting, and kissing. When these kinds of actions are done without any sexual overtones then God considers them "lawful and legal," but when these same actions are done with the intent of arousing sexual passion then God considers them "lawful and legal" only within the bounds of marriage.
For those who may still question the reason for this it must be kept in mind that God doesn't make laws arbitrarily. There is a reason for everything He does whether we understand or agree with those reasons or not and those reasons are always good, fair, and just.
One of those reasons is because of a concept called fidelity. The word fidelity is defined as "faithfulness to obligations, duties, and observances" (Webster's University Dictionary). When a man and woman marry each other they have made a solemn commitment between themselves. And the reason it is solemn is because they have both taken upon themselves a tremendous responsibility. They must now share the making of income, the paying of bills, the responsibility of making decisions, and the allocation of household duties. While there will be fun times there will also be times of hardships. As part of their marriage commitment they have pledged to help one another through both the good and bad times in life. There will be differences of opinion between them that they will have to negotiate and resolve. Instead of being two separate individuals they must learn how to behave and act as one. And when children come along, their duties, responsibilities, and obligations multiply many times over.
In order for a husband and wife to successfully handle all of these obligations, duties, and observances there must be "fidelity" to one another. Without fidelity the marriage suffers, and, when there are children involved, they suffer even more. While it is true that fidelity can include a lot of different things, it also includes sexual behavior both within as well as outside of the marriage. There have been as many problems created within a marriage because of a lack of proper sexual activity as there has been because of improper activity outside of the marriage. Sexual fidelity may not be the only way to show faithfulness to obligations, duties, and observances within a marriage but it is certainly one of them. And when that fidelity is not there the marriage is in danger of coming apart.
If the marriage doesn't last through "time" it will not survive into "eternity" and that's where the real danger lies. Without the marriage lasting forever neither the husband nor wife can become an exalted being. Chastity both before and after marriage is a vow that indicates that each person is willing to assist their eternal partner in helping build an eternal family together. It is more than just an expression of love through physical contact. It is a commitment to uphold and support one another through the use of tender love in all of its manifestations. It's the assurance to one another that each partner will be faithful in fulfilling all the obligations, duties, and observances their marriage will require in order to endure throughout eternity.
Sex within the marriage reaffirms that commitment while sex before marriage cannot because that commitment has not yet been made, while sex outside of marriage is an indication that a person's fidelity to their partner and their marriage is not what it should be. That is the reason why in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints both husbands and wives make a solemn promise to have no sexual relations except with their legally and lawfully wedded spouse.
However, that promise is not just made between earthly marriage partners.
Jesus began the parable of the ten virgins by saying, "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom" (Matthew 25:1). Throughout the scriptures Jesus Christ is represented as the "bridegroom," which is to say He is the "groom" or husband. If that is so, then who is His bride or wife? The answer is: the members of His Church.
The apostle Paul told the Ephesians, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish…. For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:22-32).
Here Paul makes the comparison between the earthly marriage of a man and woman with a spiritual marriage between Christ and His followers. Just as the husband is the head of the wife and the wife is to be in subjection to her husband, so also Christ is the head of His Church and those who belong to it are to be in subjection to Him. Just as husbands love their wives and give all they have for them, so also Christ loves those in His Church and has given all He has for them.
God told Adam, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen 2:24). Paul echoed this same sentiment when he said "For we are members of his (Christ's) body, of his flesh, and of his bones." In His great intercessionary prayer Jesus prayed for His disciples asking "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:21). Over and over again we see the imagery used of Christ as the husband and we, as members of the Church as His bride, becoming one body.
If that is true, then there must be a marriage ceremony whereby we become symbolically wedded to Christ. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we believe that when we are baptized we promise to take upon ourselves the name of Christ and to keep His commandments. In a marriage ceremony the woman promises to take upon herself the name of her husband and promises to obey him. Since baptism is the ceremony that makes us members of Christ's church wherein we pledge our loyalty to Christ as our head, then baptism symbolizes the wedding ceremony between us and Christ.
If that is the case, then the law of chastity also applies to our relationship with our Master and Lord.
Consider what the Lord said to the Israelites: "And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also" (Jeremiah 3:8).
Here we see the imagery of God being the husband amd the nation of Israel is likened to being His bride. But, in this case, Israel had committed spiritual adultery because they had been chasing after other gods. As a result, God gave them "a bill of divorce." This has reference to the ten tribes that God had taken away into captivity. However, the nation of Judah, Israel's sister, was also dealing treacherously with her husband, God. Instead of fearing for herself after seeing what God did to Israel, Judah "went and played the [role of a] harlot also."
In the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel, the Lord speaks to the nation of Judah as though she were a woman and He, God, was a man. Beginning with verse 8 we read, "Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine. Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head... and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD."
Using word imagery, the Lord says that when He passed by and saw the beauty of Judah, he fell in love with her. And seeing that she was destitute and poor, He took her to Himself, or, in other words, married her, then clothed her with all manner of adornments and made her exceedingly beautiful. But, after having done all of that for her, in verse 15 God then says to Judah, the woman He loves, "But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was…. Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them … Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne unto me, and these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter. … Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger. Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, because thou wast unsatiable; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied. Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith…. How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord GOD, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman… as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband! They give gifts to all whores: but thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hirest them, that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredom."
In speaking about the nation of Judah the Lord repeatedly uses such words as "harlot," "fornication," "whoredoms," "whore," and "adultery" to describe the Jews. It wasn't so much that they were committing physical sex as they were being spiritually unchaste. And the way they were being unfaithful to their God was by chasing after other gods. Instead of giving all of their worship to Him whom they were spiritually wedded, they worshipped the gods of Baal, as well as the Egyptians, Cannanites, and Chaldeans gods.
If the word "intercourse" means "social interaction" then spiritual sexual intercourse involves having an intimate and personal social interaction with God. It is giving our whole heart, mind, and soul to Him and to no one else. It is giving God all of our worship and praise. Spiritual adultery is when we share our love with someone or something else that should be reserved for God alone. It is an act of unfaithfulness to the covenant we made with Him at our wedding ceremony in the waters of baptism.
Just as it takes fidelity to make any marriage remain strong, fidelity is just as important in our marital relationship with Christ. If that relationship is to last through all eternity, it must first be able to last through our time here on earth. There are spiritual duties, obligations, and observances that are required of both Christ and us, His bride. When we fail to show the proper faithfulness in fulfilling our duties because we love our time, work, home, or other things more than we love Christ, our head, then we are being spiritual unchaste because we are having spiritual intercourse with someone other than He to whom we have been legally and lawfully wedded by the power of the priesthood.
While we need to live in the world, we can have intercourse with it without being unfaithful to our Master. We are required to do the best we can at our job, in keeping our homes beautiful and neat, in keeping our bodies fit and healthy, and in caring for the needs of others. These things are lawful for us to do, but when those same tasks are performed with the intention of giving them our love and devotion, then those acts become unlawfully sexual in nature in that we are flirting with the things of the world rather than giving all of our love to God. It is important and lawful for us to have material things such as a home, clothing, transportation, and food, but when they become the object of our affection then we are practicing spiritual adultery.
The heathen are like animals in that they have no real concept of what man may become. To them, all religions are the same and they value one not much differently than another. As such, they have no appreciation for the things of God and often consider them to be foolish and of little worth. However, those who have accepted Christ as their Lord and Master have a reverence for His divine nature and aspire to have a nobler relationship with Him as well as with others. They view Him as their eternal partner and strive to build an eternal home with Him. They are committed to upholding and supporting His church and ideals through the good times as well as through the difficult times.
In order for a marriage to last throughout eternity both husband and wife must not only be wedded to each other but they must also be wedded to Christ as well because without Him there can be no continuation of the marriage. Therefore, when husbands and wives pledge to have no sexual relations except with their legally and lawfully wedded spouse that promise also applies to their relationship with Christ. But even those who don't have an earthly spouse to whom they've been wedded, everyone who has been baptized by someone holding the priesthood of God has also been legally and lawfully wedded to Christ. As such they too are under commandment to obey and keep the physical as well as the spiritual law of chastity.
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