Love, Dating, Marriage, and Morality:
The Latter-day Saint Way
I've received so many questions about dating and morality that I've created this LDSFAQ page to summarize my answers to some frequently asked questions. Questions like, "Are Mormons allowed to date those of other faiths?" or "What does morality mean for Latter-day Saints?" OK, maybe I'm leaving out some of the spicier ones.... This is part of a suite of "Mormon Answers: Frequently Asked Questions about Latter-day Saint Beliefs." My answers are solely my responsibility and reflect my understanding and biases, though I try to be accurate and to express the views of a faithful Latter-day Saint. For "official" basic information on LDS standards, see the booklet that is given to LDS youth, For the Strength of the Youth or the HTML version.
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Basic information on this topic is provided in the 1994 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, in the article "Dating and Courtship" by Brent C. Miller and H. Wallace Goddard. Several excerpts follow:
Members of the Church are somewhat distinctive in their dating and courtship practices, but they are also influenced by broader cultural patterns. In some cultures, parents still closely supervise courtship and arrange children's marriages, but youth worldwide have increasing choices in dating and mate selection. For most young people in the United States outside the Church, dating begins at an early age (about age thirteen during the 1980s); it has no set pattern of progression, and is often informal and unsupervised. These contemporary dating patterns form a social context that influences somewhat the majority of LDS youth.
However, although courtship patterns change and vary across cultures, there is quite a conservative pattern for dating and courtship among Latter-day Saints in Western nations. It is expected that LDS youth will not begin dating until the age of sixteen. Serious, steady dating and marriage-oriented courtship are expected to be delayed longer, perhaps until after a mission for males and after completing high school for females. A chaste courtship is expected to lead to a temple marriage, in which a couple make binding commitments to each other for all time and eternity.
Two doctrinally based principles guide the dating and courtship of LDS youth: first, because of the religious significance of marriage, virtually everyone who can is expected to marry; second, because of the spiritual and social importance of chastity, sexual relations must wait until after marriage.
Latter-day Saints place an unusually strong emphasis on marriage, believing that marriage is ordained of God (D&C 49:15) and is a prerequisite for obtaining the highest heavenly state after mortality (D&C 131:1-4...). Because of the belief that people should be married and the doctrine that they can maintain marital ties throughout eternity, Latter-day Saints take dating and courtship more seriously than those for whom marriage has less religious significance.
Latter-day Saints believe that premarital chastity is a scriptural commandment reaffirmed by current revelation. From the New Testament: "Flee fornication.... He that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body" (1 Cor. 6:18). From a modern Church leader: "Chastity should be the dominant virtue among young people" (David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, 1953, p. 458). LDS youth are also taught that they should not participate in sexual activities that often precede sexual intercourse [e.g., necking and petting].... Although Latter-day Saints consider sexual relationships outside of marriage to be sinful, sexual relations within marriage are not only right and proper but are considered sacred and beautiful....
Like most of their non-Mormon peers in dating cultures, LDS youth date to have fun as they participate in social activities with other boys and girls. As plainly stated by prominent leaders of the Church, "It is natural to date. Every right-thinking young person has a native desire to become acquainted with the opposite sex, looking eventually to pairing off in honorable marriage" (Petersen, p. 37). "Dating has become the accepted form of social recreation for the purpose of getting acquainted before young people can safely have a serious interest in each other. Because the selection of a mate in life is so extremely important, we should intelligently seek the experiences which will help us to make that great decision" (Howard W. Hunter, Youth of the Noble Birthright, 1960, pp. 101-102). Typical of the advice given to LDS youth is the following counsel about dating:
- Who? Only those whose standards are high, like your own.
- Where? Clean places, decent places, proper places where you can be proud to be.
- Why? Associating with others under wholesome circumstances helps develop friendships and permits you to learn about qualities and characteristics in others, to get to know them, to have fun together, to widen areas of choice, to achieve a wider and wiser vision of what one may seek in an eternal companion.
- When? Not too young, not too often, not on school nights as a rule, not too expensively.
- What? Fun things, wholesome things, good and useful things - things pleasing to you, to parents, to God.
- How? With others, in groups, chaperoned when proper, appropriately dressed, cheerfully, courteously, modestly, wisely, prayerfully. And let parents know where you are, with whom, doing what, and when you will return. Have a happy time! (Marion D. Hanks, "The Six," Improvement Era, Vol. 70, June 1967, pp. 134-35)
I should add that young men are encouraged not to become too serious about any one girl before their mission at age nineteen, though that can be hard to avoid. During the two-year mission, no dating is allowed and the missionaries maintain fairly strict rules regarding the opposite sex (no flirting, keep an arm's length away, stay with your assigned companion, keep thoughts clean, etc.) Once they return, returned missionaries tend to date actively and often marry within a couple of years from their return.
I also think that LDS youth tend to be creative in dating, with a focus on fun and getting to know others. Lots of wholesome activities are sought, some of which may seem corny but cute. This is much better than just going to movies - they don't help you get to know your date very well. And today, not many are clean enough for LDS people to bother with.
Here is an excerpt from a question received in 2004, modified to maintain anonymity:
I am [a] non-mormon. I am currently dating a 16 year old Mormon girl. She is wonderful. We have been dating for awhile now and I am happier then I have ever been in my life. I have several other friends dating mormon girls and everything is fine for them. Well my girlfriends parents decided now that she has to date other guys if she ever wants to see me again. . . . Do you find that normal in your religion or are her parents just insane? . . . Do you think her parents will loosen up or just get stricter. If you could help me out with this I would appreciate it alot.
Thanks for the question. The answer is simple: like all parents of teenagers, the parents of your girlfriend are--you guessed it!--insane. From the perspective of the teenagers, insanity may be the best explanation for the behavior of some LDS parents, but from their perspective they are just trying to guide their daughter safely toward a happy destination in a world that offers many pitfalls for our youth. Since you have taken the initiative to dig into LDS issues and contact me, I bet you are a pretty decent guy trying to do what's right and be respectful of your girlfriend and her faith, which is great.
Given the realities of life, I would suggest being patient right now, for things aren't likely to change right away. She will be 18 sooner than you think, and then what she does is her choice. Meanwhile, don't overlook the telephone. And you should know that if she cares about her religion, she may ultimately want to marry within the faith and raise her children LDS. That's an issue that you may wish to explore. For now, take some steps to help the parents be more comfortable with you, like learning about her religion, spending some time with the girl with her family around, getting to know the parents better, not being too affectionate in front of the parents, being as patient as you can with them, etc.
I exhibited similar insane behavior regarding my first son and his marvelous fiancée. They started dating at age 16, and as insane parents, we imposed a lot of rules, too, some of which were really too strict, in my slightly less insane opinion of today. He is completing a great mission, and they will soon be married in the temple, with what we expect to be a wonderful and happy married life. We didn't need so many rules for them, but I just didn't know it then. Say, is your girlfriend the oldest child (or oldest girl) in the family?
I hope you and your spouse-to-be will find great happiness, also. But for now, whoever you are dating, know that if the parents are faithful LDS people, there is a chance that they will seem genuinely insane at first. For example, I bet that your girlfriend's parents are neurotic, unreasonable, paranoid, overly protective, utterly psychotic, and completely devoted to doing what they think will help their daughter find happiness in a dangerous and destructive world where loving, caring, protective parents are a rare commodity. Some of us parents overreact and get too strict, but be patient with that. They may believe that their sweet 16-year-old girl is far too young to go steady and enter into a serious and possibly permanent relationship. For the well-being of their precious child, they hope that she will choose her companion wisely, and even be so wise as to marry within her faith, allowing her marriage and her family to be blessed with unity in one of the most basic aspects of human life, religious belief.
In LDS theology, sexuality is a divine part of human nature, a sacred gift, which must be used within the limits the Lord has set. Sexual activity is reserved solely for the marriage. Latter-day Saints are taught that our bodies are sacred and should be kept modestly dressed and should not be touched or used in any sexual way outside of marriage. Affection for a non-married couple should be simple, brief, and appropriate, avoiding things that can stimulate passion. Thus, Church leaders teach against lengthy, passionate kissing and other more passionate forms of affection. Thoughts should be kept clean and under control, avoiding lust or things which stimulate lustful desires. Violations of these principles are sinful and require sincere repentance. Fornication and adultery - sex outside of marriage - are considered to be among the gravest sins (especially for those who understand the Lord's will and deliberately violate it), for they toy recklessly with the sacred powers that give life, just as murder toys with the gift of life itself. There are many other forms of immorality, including those that have been publicized by the gross actions of some modern politicians, which are terrible sins of a similar nature.
A wonderful message related to this topic was offered by an Apostle, Elder Richard G. Scott, in the April 2000 General Conference of the Church. His message is "The Sanctity of Womanhood."
To sum up, when you're out with this LDS girl, treat her with respect and courtesy, keep your hands to yourself, get her home early, and don't try anything that you wouldn't do if her father (or Heavenly Father) were watching.
If you have participated in such serious sins, please repent and turn to the Lord. His Atonement makes full forgiveness possible. Stop the sinful behavior, ask God for forgiveness, and have faith in the redeeming blood of Christ that was shed for you. He can make you pure and clean again - and what a marvelous feeling that is!
No, but the Church encourages its members to marry within the Church. This is sound advice in general, for the more a married couple have in common, the more likely their marriage will be successful. When a couple disagrees on basic core values and beliefs, it can lead to additional stress, conflicts, and disappointment. The issue of how kids are raised can be especially problematic. Naturally, the Church hopes they will be raised LDS. We believe that the Lord wants children to be raised with the truth of the Gospel.
Some of the greatest blessings of the Gospel are available to married couples who both live the Gospel and are willing to receive sacred covenants made in temples. Temple marriage, for example, offers the potential to be married throughout eternity and to enjoy the blessings of family life in the presence of God. Thus, we hope that all our young people will choose to be married in the temple to a spouse who is committed to Christ and is willing to live life according to the Gospel.
No. It is fairly common, though not the ideal. I'm sure that it can impair some social relationships with other couples who are both LDS, for the part-member couple will be less likely to attend church and church activities together. But those who look down on non-members or who shun them in any way are living well outside the teachings of the Gospel and of Church leaders. They need to repent and become more Christlike.
It's actually a very important and sacred topic, one that needs to be approached with sensitivity but one that needs to be clearly taught and understood. Sexuality is viewed as a God-given gift, related to our divine nature and to our divinely appointed gender (see the Official LDS Proclamation on the Family and Family Practices). But this gift must only be used in proper ways. An excellent overview of this topic is given by Terrance D. Olson in his article, "Sexuality," in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.3:
In LDS life and thought, sexuality consists of attitudes, feelings, and desires that are God-given and central to God's plan for his children, but they are not the central motivating force in human action. Sexual feelings are to be governed by each individual within boundaries the Lord has set. Sexuality is not characterized as a need, or a deprivation that must be satisfied, but as a desire that should be fulfilled only within marriage, with sensitive attention given to the well-being of one's heterosexual marriage partner. As the offspring of God, humans carry the divine Light of Christ, which is the means whereby the appropriate expression of sexual desires can be measured. Depending on whether men and women are true or false to this light, they will be the masters or the victims of sexual feelings. Such desires are to be fulfilled only within legal heterosexual marriage, wherein sexual involvement is to be an expression of unity, compassion, commitment, and love. Mutuality and equality are to be the hallmark of a married couple's physical intimacy.
The purposes of appropriate sexual relations in marriage include the expression and building of joy, unity, love, and oneness. To be "one flesh" is to experience an emotional and spiritual unity. This oneness is as fundamental a purpose of marital relations as is procreation. President Spencer W. Kimball stated:
The union of the sexes, husband and wife (and only husband and wife), was for the principal purpose of bringing children into the world. Sexual experiences were never intended by the Lord to be a mere plaything or merely to satisfy passions and lusts. We know of no directive from the Lord that proper sexual experience between husbands and wives need be limited totally to the procreation of children, but we find much evidence from Adam until now that no provision was ever made by the Lord for indiscriminate sex [1975, p. 4].
Furthermore, as Paul noted, "Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife" (1 Cor. 7:3-4). Thus, physical intimacy is a blessing to married couples when it is an expression of their mutual benevolence and commitment to each other's well-being, an affirmation of their striving to be emotionally and spiritually one. The key in sexual matters is unselfishness. Self-centered pursuit of physical desire is destructive of the unity and love that characterize healthy marital relations. Such love or charity is long-suffering, kind, not envious, does "not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not [one's] own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil" (1 Cor. 13:4-5), and is compatible with the Light of Christ, which directs all in the ways of righteousness.
Bringing children into a loving home is considered a sacred privilege and responsibility of husbands and wives. Given that context, birth control is a matter left to the prayerful, mutual decisions of a righteous couple, with the counsel that husbands must be considerate of their wives, who experience the greater physical and emotional demands in bearing children. A woman's health and strength are to be preserved in childbearing; thus, wisdom should govern how a husband and wife carry out the responsibility to become parents and to care for their offspring.
Sexual feelings in the mature man or woman are relatively strong and constant, and they are not evil. An early apostle of this dispensation, Parley P. Pratt, noted:
Some persons have supposed that our natural affections were the results of a fallen and corrupt nature, and that they are "carnal, sensual, and devilish," and therefore ought to be resisted, subdued, or overcome as so many evils which prevent our perfection, or progress in the spiritual life.... Our natural affections are planted in us by the Spirit of God, for a wise purpose; and they are the very main-springs of life and happiness-they are the cement of all virtuous and heavenly society-they are the essence of charity, or love.... There is not a more pure and holy principle in existence than the affection which glows in the bosom of a virtuous man for his companion [p. 52].
As with any appetite or passion, physical desire can be distorted, overindulged, or misused. Spencer W. Kimball observed that, as in all other aspects of marriage, there are virtues to be observed in sexual matters: "There are some people who have said that behind the bedroom doors anything goes. That is not true and the Lord would not condone it" (Kimball, 1982, p. 312).
The Church prohibits sexual involvement except between a man and woman who are lawfully married to each other. Latter-day Saints are expected to abstain from sexual intercourse prior to marriage and to honor the marriage covenant by confining sexual relations to the spouse only.
Sexual morality also requires abstention from activities that arouse desires not expressible until marriage. Sexual abstinence prior to marriage is considered not only right and possible but also beneficial. Abstinence is not viewed as repression, nor are there any particular negative consequences to so living.
Parents have the obligation to teach their children both the goodness-the sacredness-of the power to create life (see procreation) and the principles of maturation and sexual development. Church leaders encourage parents to discuss sexuality openly with their children, answering their questions straightforwardly and contrasting the Lord's plan for his children-which includes their eventual ability to produce children themselves-with the ways this power to create life can be profaned or abused. Children are to be prepared while young and, according to appropriate stages of development, are to be taught regarding human reproduction and the emotional and spiritual meanings of the procreative power and sexual desires that will grow within them.... Parents are expected to teach correct principles and to be examples of what they teach, treating each other with compassion and charity and living in a relationship of absolute fidelity.
Fundamental to all parental instruction is a parent-child relationship of love and trust. Youth are vulnerable to sexual enticements both because of the strength of their developing desires and because they are still growing in understanding and responsibility. Full comprehension of the consequences-to themselves and to succeeding generations-of the failure to abstain sexually may not come simultaneously with their sexual interests. Trust and respect for parents can help insulate adolescents from temptation while their capacity to exercise full rights and responsibilities matures.
Parents' responsibility to educate children sensitively and directly should not be delegated to the public schools or other agencies outside the home. When public sex-education programs are offered, LDS parents are counseled to assure that such programs adequately acknowledge the sanctity of marriage and promote family-oriented values and standards....
The standard of sexual morality endorsed by the Church applies equally to men and women. Given that the power to create life is central to God's plan for his children, sexual transgression is most serious.... Those who violate the law of chastity may be subject to Church disciplinary procedures, designed to help them cease their transgressions and restore them to full fellowship. Whether it is adultery, fornication, sexual abuse, incest, rape, perversion, or any other unholy practices, such behavior is to be addressed vigorously by local Church authorities, who seek the repentance of perpetrators and the protection of any victims. Homosexual relationships are prohibited.... In such cases, the Church affirms that such distortions in sexual feelings or behavior can, with the Lord's help, be overcome. A compassionate interest in the well-being of transgressors and the healing of relationships should motivate Church interest and action. Sexual wrongdoing is not to be condoned, ignored, or addressed casually. Transgressors themselves can be forgiven, but only by repenting and coming unto Christ ... and, through his Atonement, turning away from their destructive beliefs and practices.
Victims of rape or incest often experience trauma and feelings of guilt, but they are not responsible for the evil done by others, and they deserve and need to be restored to their sense of innocence through the love and counsel of Church leaders.
Practically speaking, the benefits of living a chaste life prior to marriage and of observing a relationship of fidelity after marriage apply to every dimension of marriage and family relationships. By remaining chaste before marriage and totally faithful to one's spouse in a heterosexual marriage, one can avoid some physically debilitating diseases, extramarital pregnancies, and venereal infections passed on to offspring. The sense of trust, loyalty, love, and commitment essential to the ideal of oneness in marriage and family life is not damaged or strained. Furthermore, one's relationship to and confidence in God are strengthened. By governing the power to create life, one sets the stage for the exercise of these desires, not whimsically, but with a reverence for the sacredness of the divine powers of creation.
- Foster, Lawrence. Religion and Sexuality: Three American Communal Experiments of the Nineteenth Century. New York, 1981.
- Kimball, Spencer W. "The Lord's Plan for Men and Women." Ensign 5 (Oct. 1975):2-5.
- Kimball, Spencer W. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball. Salt Lake City, 1982.
- Pratt, Parley P. Writings of Parley Parker Pratt, ed. Parker P. Robison. Salt Lake City, 1952.
- Rytting, Marvin. "On Sexuality." Dialogue 7 (Winter 1972): 102-104. "Sexuality and Mormon Culture." Dialogue 10 (Autumn 1976):9-93. Entire issue on sexuality.
This is one of the most painful parts of the Gospel for those that are not members. The most wonderful ceremony of all is marriage "for time and eternity" (NOT till death do you part) performed with the sealing power of the Priesthood, the same power that Christ gave to Peter in Matt. 16. Temple marriage can only be performed in the holy Temple of God, and attendance in the Temple for ceremonies requires that one not only be a member of the Church, but that one meet high standards of personal worthiness. When parents aren't members, they won't be able to attend in the temple. Many LDS couples try to deal with the situation by having a separate ring-exchanging ceremony outside the temple or having a public reception, but there is little that can relieve the pain of a parent who does not understand the significance of temple marriage or the reasons why the marriage ceremony can't be observed.
You mean what happens if you marry her in a civil marriage only? Then you can still have a great marriage and wonderful life and family, but it's strictly "till death do you part." After death, there is no authorized, eternal covenant that binds you two together. I much prefer knowing that my family is joined eternally by the power of God's priesthood than to have a relationship that will end in a few years.
I'm glad you found a pretty devout Mormon, as you say. But remember, beauty isn't everything. What are the chances of you marrying? Nearly 100% if you both make that decision - otherwise, much lower.
Of course, successful marriage is difficult - and having different religions makes it even harder. Faithful LDS people usually really want their kids to be LDS also, and want to have a marriage and family that lasts forever, not just until death. That requires temple marriage ultimately.
So sure, you can get married and be happy - but the greatest happiness and success is possible when both husband and wife are able to make sacred and eternal covenants in the Temple of our Heavenly Father. Hope you'll be able to make such covenant with your wife someday.
Many people have quoted the story in Matt. 22 that has language about not marrying in heaven. Marriage is an ordinance bringing change in relationships and is thus an ordinance for this mortal world that must be performed before we enter into the eternal realms in the presence of the Father. We do not marry in heaven - that ordinance must be done beforehand. To have eternal power to seal in heaven what is sealed on earth, the sealing of a man and woman must be performed in the Temple by one who has received the sealing power that Christ gave to Peter. This is what Temple marriage is all about. And it can only be done on earth.
Further insight into this questions comes from Dan Bachman (e-mail, March 1999):
It may interest you to know that the Matt. 22 story of the woman and her seven husbands was one of the very passages which caused Joseph Smith to inquire of the Lord about marriage. The Lord's response to his prayer is known as Doctrine and Covenants 132, and is the main revelation responsible for our belief in eternal marriage. What I'm saying is the very passage you say refutes the idea of eternal marriage is the one which led to its introduction in the LDS Church. How so?
The story told to Jesus by the Sadducees was about a specific woman and her seven husbands. They wanted to know "in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven?" (Matt. 22:28) The Savior's reply is extremely interesting and merits a great deal of thought. He said that they erred in denying the resurrection on the basis of this story for two reasons. First, they did not know the scriptures. Second, they did not know the power of God. That is interesting, because these were supposedly the scripture experts of that day -- yet he said they did not know them.
He went on to say "For in the resurrection THEY neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. Let me make the following points regarding the Savior's reply.
1) The word "they" refers specifically to the 8 people in the story, and not necessarily to all other people. Who were these people? In verse 25, the Sadducees say "there were WITH US seven brethren," suggesting that the seven men in this specific case study were Sadducees also. Sadducees were a rather worldly group that denied the resurrection and generally rejected Christ. They aren't likely to be in the kingdom of heaven, so their marriages on earth are irrelevant. Yet, most Christians believe that this verse means that nobody is married in heaven. That is wrong - and fact made even more clear by the next point below.
2) If you read verse 30 carefully, Jesus clearly speaks of two groups in heaven: a) people who are married in heaven and b) angels.
I believe it is this implication that perhaps led Joseph Smith to inquire of God about the meaning of this passage. Joseph left two records about what he learned by revelation in answer to his question. The first is a summary statement about the story, which comes from the minutes of a meeting where he told a questioner that he learned that a man must marry for eternity or else he would be single in heaven. The more detailed account can be found in D&C 132:4-28. The most pertinent verses are 7, 15-17.
Verse 7 explains that for a marriage to be eternal it must meet four conditions which are: 1) it must be made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. 2) It must be performed by "him who is anointed"--in other words who is properly authorized to perform the eternal marriage. 3) It must be done "both as well for time and for all eternity." And 4) it must be done by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed."
Now verses 15-17 explain that the reason the woman and her seven husband were not married eternally is because they did not meet these four requirements. Verses 16-17 make clear the distinction between being eternally married and being an angel. They read:
16) Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants.... 17) For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever."
If the story in Matt. 22 is understood in a more generic sense, not just applying to the seven Sadducee brothers, it is still technically correct. Temple marriage, like baptism, is an ordinance of change and covenant making that must occur prior to entering into heaven. They are ordinances intended for mortals to prepare them for the endless state of Eternal Life in God's presence by bringing mortals into unchanging, eternal covenants. Christ did not say that the married state does not exist, nor that husbands and wives will not be sealed in the heavens, but he said that marriages aren't performed in heaven. Neither baptism nor marriage is performed in heaven, but must be done on earth. Christ gave Peter power to seal, such that what is sealed ON EARTH might remain sealed in heaven (Matt. 16:19). Temple marriage is also called "sealing" since a husband and wife are sealed together. It is an ordinance that can only be done on earth, like baptism, but if done with proper authority and if the terms of that covenant are fulfilled, then the sealing will be valid in the heavens and the husband and wife will be heirs together of the grace of life (1 Pet. 3:7).
Thus, in a generic sense, Christ explained that after we are resurrected, there would be no confusion about relationships because marriages aren't performed there. Marriage, baptism, and some other covenants are handled on earth, either by the living themselves or by the living vicariously for the deceased, and sources of confusion will need to be ironed out and resolved with God's help before we enter into Eternal Life in His presence.
In Matt. 19:4-6, shortly after Christ gave Peter power to seal in heaven what was sealed on earth, Christ spoke of marriage:
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them in the beginning made them male and female,
And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Adam and Eve, before they fell, were immortal and were joined by God. There is no indication that God said "until death do you part" in joining them. They were married in an immortal state and were intended to remain joined together. "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." In the LDS view, based on direct and clear revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith, we know that marriage is intended to be eternal, that a husband and wife are meant to be sealed together in heaven. Those who have experienced the rich joy of true love between a husband and wife - as I have - should marvel that God would want it any other way. Marriage is one of the greatest and most divine gifts - a gift that is not eradicated in the resurrection. The world has lost this knowledge, but I'm grateful for the Restoration of the fullness of the Gospel and for the restoration of the Temple, where such sacred ordinances are performed.
There are indications of eternal marriage and eternal families in the Bible. One of the earliest comes from Job. At the end, Job is blessed with double of all the things he had lost (Job 42:10,12). We are then given a lost of these things, and indeed we see that he was blessed with double the number of sheep, camels, oxen, and asses. But "he had also seven sons and three daughters" (Job 42:13), the same number be had before his trial (Job 1:2). The implication is that he still had the original children, consistent with the LDS view that families can be eternal.
1 Pet. 3:7 hints at eternal marriage, when Peter speaks of the man and woman being "heirs together" of the grace of life. Another suggestion of eternal marriage comes from the word of Christ about the sealing power he gave to Peter (Matt. 16:19 and Matt. 18:18): whatsoever you bind on earth will be bound (sealed) in heaven. And of marriage, Christ said "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:6). Also, in the Lord (possibly meaning in heaven or in the eternities), the man is not without the woman and vice versa, according to 1 Cor. 11:11.
The Bible is admittedly incomplete in its teachings of eternal marriage, as it is for many doctrines and practices had by early Christians, including baptism for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29), the method of ordaining by the laying on of hands, the role of prophets and others in the church, the switch of the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, and so forth. But that doesn't mean that these concepts were not taught clearly by the Lord. Christ taught his apostles for 40 days after His resurrection, and we hardly have a word recorded of what He taught. John says his record just scratches the surface of all that Christ did and taught (John 21:25). And we have abundant evidence that there were books of scripture treasured by the ancients that are no longer available (see my LDSFAQ page about the Bible). How do you know that eternal marriage was not known and taught? It's existence is not obvious in the current canon of books that were written and preserved, but there are evidences from early Christian sources that eternal marriage was known. See Mormonism and Early Christianity (archived), an excellent site by Barry Bickmore, for more information.
Not all do, but it's definitely best to marry within the Church. It makes life simpler the more you have in common. Further, from a religious perspective, we are commanded to marry within the faith. For example, Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:14 urges believers not to be "unequally yoked" by marrying unbelievers. It really hinders progress. Verse 17 of that chapter says to "come out from among them" and "be ye separate" - warnings against adopting the ways of non-believers. Likewise, Moses warned strictly against marrying outside the faith (Deut. 7:3,4). I can imagine many good reasons for this wise counsel. My recommendation: marry within the faith, and marry in the Temple of God. And to make sure that one marries within the faith, one really should date within the faith, for people tend to marry those they date.
Ending in 1890, there was a nearly 50-year period in which polygamy was sanctioned and encouraged by the Church. It is now strictly forbidden. The practice commenced in the same way it ended: under direction from a prophet of God. I don't know why the Lord commanded it, just as I don't know why there was polygamy among some of the greatest prophets of God in the Bible (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others). It is at odds with my cultural views and I'm grateful that it is no longer in force.
Adultery involves having sex with someone who is not your wife. Brigham Young and other past LDS polygamists were properly married to their wives - just the opposite of having extramarital relations. If having more than one wife is inherently sinful, then we also have to condemn the Bible which teaches that the old polygamist Abraham was a great and righteous prophet. Christ even spoke about God as being the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" - giving tribute to flagrant polygamists. Polygamy is unacceptable unless the Lord authorizes, but it is not inherently sinful. For more information, see these LDSFAQ answers: "Does polygamy make a religion a non-Christian cult?" on my page about Mormons as a "cult" and "Why don't you practice polygamy anymore?" on my page of Slightly Facetious Questions and Answers (secret hint: multiple wives = multiple mothers-in-law).
After the 1890 Manifesto, the government eased up on the persecution of polygamists. It was generally understood that men would not be required to abandon their wives and families (as the government had tried to make happen before). Clemency came in several steps, with a fairly general clemency given to those who had not engaged in new plural marriages since 1890.
Modesty is about respecting our bodies and not causing inappropriate attention to them. It is about not trying to tempt others to think inappropriate thoughts. Modest dress depends on the occasion, to a degree. What is modest at a beach might be immodest in a classroom. As a minimum, modesty entails keeping our bodies properly covered. Modesty is important for both men and women.
Speaking from the male perspective, I really appreciate women who dress modestly. Immodest dress is selfish, calling undue attention to one's body, and it makes life a little harder for the males out there that really want to keep their thoughts clean. (Of course, what guys think is their responsibility, not yours.)
What about the details? Call me old-fashioned, but I recommend knee-length dresses, high necklines, and avoidance of tight-fitting clothes. I also recommend keeping the midriff covered. As for sleeveless dresses, I personally discourage them. Sometimes women don't realize the problems that some types of clothing can cause. I vote against sleeveless dresses and recommend a little thought when selecting attire. If that's offensive, I'm sorry.
As for details that the Church teaches it's members, you may wish to consider the Church's booklet that it gives to young people and their parents, For the Strength of the Youth. The "Dress and Appearance" section states the following:
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? . . . The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Your body is God's sacred creation. Respect it as a gift from God, and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show the Lord that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Prophets of God have always counseled His children to dress modestly. The way you dress is a reflection of what you are on the inside. Your dress and grooming send messages about you to others and influence the way you and others act. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and can exercise a good influence on those around you.
Never lower your dress standards for any occasion. Doing so sends the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval and that modesty is important only when it is convenient.
Immodest clothing includes short shorts and skirts, tight clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and other revealing attire. Young women should wear clothing that covers the shoulder and avoid clothing that is low-cut in the front or the back or revealing in any other manner. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance. All should avoid extremes in clothing, appearance, and hairstyle. Always be neat and clean and avoid being sloppy or inappropriately casual in dress, grooming, and manners. Ask yourself, "Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord's presence?"
Someday you will receive your endowment in the temple. Your dress and behavior should help you prepare for that sacred time.
Do not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings. If girls or women desire to have their ears pierced, they are encouraged to wear only one pair of modest earrings.
Show respect for the Lord and for yourself by dressing appropriately for Church meetings and activities, whether on Sunday or during the week. If you are not sure what is appropriate, ask your parents or leaders for help.
If you're interested, the Church-owned Brigham Young University also has a specific dress code (part of the BYU Honor Code) that you may find of interest, but again, that's for BYU. According to the article "Modesty In Dress" by Michele Thompson-Holbrook in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, ( New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992):
Modest dress serves as a physical and spiritual guard against immoral behavior and its inherent physical, emotional, and spiritual harm. Because modesty in dress cannot be reduced to a matter of particular styles, individuals are encouraged to use discretion to determine appropriate dress in varying situations.
While we do have general standards, we must not get judgmental about those who seem immodestly dressed. They usually don't understand our perspective. When I was in high school, a very nice non-LDS girl I associated with came to school with a deep, plunging neckline that embarrassed a number of us guys. One of my LDS guy friends talked with her privately and talked about guys and hormones and the problems that women can inadvertently cause. She was surprised and started carrying her notebooks in front of her chest, and never wore that dress again. Well, sometimes our youth need a helpful reminder of that sort - but it should be done privately and with sensitivity.
One Church leader, expressing his personal opinions on the matter at a local youth conference in my town, talked about the strike zone in baseball - from knees to shoulders - and said that we shouldn't throw strikes against those we date, explaining that we should not touch others in this strike zone. I found that helpful, though I don't think he really meant that one can't put one's arms around someone's waist or give someone a hug.
We encourage our youth not to get too serious too early (e.g., before the young man goes on a mission) and to avoid inappropriate physical contact before marriage. Anything that stirs passions or sexual thoughts should be avoided. Being all alone late at night is just not a good idea, in my opinion. I recommend getting home early, staying out of parked cars (try the 2.3-second rule, humorously offered by one General Authority: get out of the car within 2.3 seconds after the wheels have stopped moving), going on double dates, avoiding R-rated movies or other material that is suggestive or morally offensive, and so forth. Hand-holding and brief, non-passionate kisses are O.K., but stay out of situations where kissing or necking becomes the major activity. And touching someone else in the "strike zone" - especially in private areas (you know, the places you need to keep covered with a swimming suit at a "decent" pool or beach) - is wrong. Touching that stimulates sexual excitement (often called "petting") is wrong.
Dating is about getting to know other people and eventually about finding someone that you can grow close enough to that successful marriage is a possibility. Developing that kind of relationship requires growth through communication, thoughtfulness, understanding, maturity, sacrifice, and tenderness. Growth in these areas prepares a couple to enter into the covenant of marriage and add the dimension of physical intimacy to what should by then be a deep and growing relationship. Sadly, many couples in this world quickly jump ahead to a sexual relationship without building the foundation that is needed for a successful relationship. They bypass the growth that is needed and base their relationship on shallow physical attraction. It often becomes a house of cards that collapses into divorce or adultery or abuse or sorrow.
The dimension of physical intimacy should only be added to a relationship after the couple has been legally married. Marriage is a covenant that the Lord has given. Sex outside of marriage is morally wrong. Even for purely social reasons, the risk that a woman takes in uniting with a man and possibly bearing children requires some legal recognition and protection, lest women be exploited (this still happens all too often as it is). But the Lord's perspective makes it especially important the sex be only within marriage, as emphasized in the LDS Proclamation on the Family.
For Latter-day Saints, the ultimate goal of dating is to find a spouse that can take you to the Temple to receive the blessings of eternal marriage - marriage that is not just "till death do you part," but one that can last eternally. This sacred blessing requires that the couple be living the Gospel and be worthy to enter into the Temple. Sexual activity prior to marriage makes a couple unworthy to enter the Temple. Repentance of such sins can take quite a while and is not a trivial thing. I urge you to remain morally clean and do things the way the Lord has specified, waiting until marriage to enjoy the blessings of physical intimacy.
Even from a purely secular perspective, sexual intimacy or living together before marriage is still harmful - especially to the woman - as she is being "taken advantage of" without the legal protection of marriage. Sexuality without commitment has proven to be harmful to the parties involved, with millennia of social evidence to confirm that. Marriage as a social institution is their to protect the woman and society from the abundant harms of sexuality without commitment.
Back to the LDS perspective, we are grateful that a loving Heavenly Father has told us how to live to be happy, and sexual morality is at the heart of that. Sounds terribly old-fashioned - of course it is - but that doesn't take away the truth of the matter. Physical intimacy outside of marriage is wrong, unjust, and unkind. It's taking advantage of another person's body for our own benefit, and even if they are willing, there is spiritual, social, and sometimes even physical harm done to both parties. Keep the commandments of God to have a decent life!
The consequences of sin and real, and, with the help of statistical analysis, sometimes even measurable. There is genuine harm done to the participants of sexual immorality, such as a greatly increased tendency toward depression or suicide. These and some other factors are discussed on a page in my "Snippet" section entitled, "A Plea for Morality: Good Reasons to Wait until Marriage."
It's wrong. Stay away from it. It is sexual activity outside of marriage. And quite unlike legitimate sexual activity, it is not a form of expressing love to a spouse or strengthening a relationship with that spouse, but is an activity that is based entirely on self and selfishness. For those that fall into this sin, it can hinder healthy and normal sexual development in marriage, hinder one's self-control and ability to sacrifice for others, and hinder one's spiritual relationship with Heavenly Father.
Many men that become involved with the great evil of pornography also become involved with masturbation, leading to patterns of behavior that are most unhealthy and destructive. The sexual misinformation of pornography can destroy a sexual relationship in marriage, and the additional sin of masturbation and its inward, selfish focus only exacerbates the problem.
Here's a quote from Pres. Spencer W. Kimball in Faith Precedes the Miracle (p. 174):
The early apostles and prophets mention numerous sins that were reprehensible to them. Many of them were sexual sins - adultery, being without natural affection, lustfulness, infidelity, incontinence, filthy communications, impurity, inordinate affection, fornication. They included all sexual relations outside of marriage - petting, sex perversion, masturbation, and preoccupation with sex in one's thoughts and talking. Included are every hidden and secret sin and all unholy and impure thoughts and practices.
For our lives to have the greatest joy possible, we need to be in control of our bodies and yield to the Spirit of God. Conquering all sins of the flesh should be our zealous goal as we strive to follow Christ.
Great advice for youth comes from the popular youth speaker, John Bytheway, in his book What I Wish I'd Known in High School, pp. 56-59, where he writes about the topic "What Do Kisses Mean?":
All of us can communicate loud and clear without using words. In fact, as the old saying goes, "Actions speak louder than words." With that idea in mind, let's ask some questions. If you put your arm around someone on a date, what are you saying (without using words)? How about, "I like you." Fair enough? Okay. What if you hold hands with your date? That's a notch or two higher, isn't it? Maybe that's like saying, "I really like you." What if you kiss your date? What are you saying? What do kisses mean, anyway?
My seminary teacher tried to explain that to a bunch of us sixteen-year-olds one day. He said ... "Guys and girls are different, and sometimes expressions of affection mean different things to different people. Generally speaking, when a girl is being kissed, she may be thinking, 'Oh . . . this means he likes me; he cares for me, oh, how sweet.'" ... "When a boy is kissing a girl, he may be thinking, 'Wow, this feels good. I'd like to do this again very soon.'" You may laugh at first, but think about that for a minute. Can you see the potential for problems?
Different people interpret kisses differently. Can you see how easily a miscommunication or a misunderstanding can happen? We communicate loud and clear with our actions, and if we're not careful, we could be telling lies! Listen to Elder Marvin J. Ashton:
"A lie is any communication given to another with the intent to deceive. . . . A lie can be effectively communicated without words ever being spoken."
You mean, you can be dishonest by kissing someone? Yes. If putting your arm around someone means "I like you," and holding hands means "I really like you," than maybe kisses mean "I love you." What do you think? Some will say, "I don't know about that; I don't think kisses mean I love you." Perfect. That makes the point even better. Maybe kisses mean something different to you than they do to me, or to him, or her. And that's exactly why we have to be careful - because we could be telling lies with our actions. This is a major reason why people get hurt, and why there's heartache. Kisses are wonderful, but they are powerful and should be handled with great care.
I read about a young man who bragged that he had kissed more girls in one day than anyone else in his stake. He felt he had set a "record." To him, kissing was some kind of contest! I wonder how the girls felt about this. At the time they may have thought, "Wow. This boy really cares for me." Did they know he was just going for a record? Did they realize that each girl he kissed was only a notch on the way to his "goal"? Do you think it would have hurt their feelings to know that? President Thomas S. Monson said, "Men, take care not to make women weep, for God counts their tears."
What has happened to kissing? Doesn't it mean anything anymore? Listen to President Spencer W. Kimball:
Kissing has been prostituted and has degenerated to develop and express lust instead of affection, honor, and admiration. To kiss in casual dating is asking for trouble. What do kisses mean when given out like pretzels, and robbed of sacredness?
Finally, the answer from a prophet: Kisses are sacred, and are meant to express affection, honor, and admiration. In contrast, if you give out your kisses like free samples at the grocery store, what are they worth? About the same as free samples at the grocery store!...
One of my friends had an interesting experience at a wedding reception. The bride pulled her aside and said, "Do you know what I regret?"
My friend said, "What?"
"I regret that I have kissed so many guys."
"Yes. I asked my husband, 'How many girls have you kissed?" and he said, 'Um . . . I think three.'"
This bride was embarrassed, because she had given out kisses like pretzels. When you go to your wedding, you don't want regrets to go with you. You just want bridesmaids and flowers and cake and a clean, worthy young man or young woman who stuck to his or her standards, as you did.
In short: Save your kisses; you may need them one day. Look forward to that wedding day, and plan for it. How do you want to feel as you kneel at the altar? How do you want to feel about your past when you're looking into the eyes of your new husband or wife? Well, you can make it happen just the way you want if you plan it now!
Basically, it means keep your hands to yourself.
In describing moral transgressions, the words that adults use sometimes confuse youth. When I was 16, I remember a Church leader talking to a number of the young men and telling us not to neck or pet when we went on dates. I nodded my head, and then went home to look up "petting" in the dictionary. It said something about affectionate fondling. Then I looked up "fondling" and read something about touching. Then I wondered if that included hand holding or putting my arm around a girl. I think I figured out that it must mean touching certain places other than hands or shoulders, but I was confused.
Petting is a formal word that refers to touching of private areas, particularly breasts or genitals (in the latter case, it's often called "heavy petting"). Necking, another word that confuses some youth, refers to heavy kissing, passionate kissing, or "making out." Necking often leads to petting. Here are the words of President Spencer W. Kimball on the topic, taken from The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 280-281:
"Necking" and "petting" are wrong. Instead of remaining in the field of simple expressions of affection, some have turned themselves loose to fondling, often called "necking," with its intimate contacts and its passionate kissing. Necking is the younger member of this unholy family. Its bigger sister is called "petting." When the intimacies have reached this stage, they are surely the sins condemned by the Savior.
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
"But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28.)
Who would say that he or she who pets has not become lustful, has not become passionate?...
Too often, young people dismiss their petting with a shrug of their shoulders as a little indiscretion, while admitting that fornication is a base transgression. Too many of them are shocked, or feign to be, when told that what they have done in the name of petting was in reality fornication. The dividing line is a thin, blurry one.... The devil knows how to destroy our young girls and boys. He may not be able to tempt a person to murder or to commit adultery immediately, but he knows that if he can get a boy and a girl to sit in the car late enough after the dance, or to park long enough in the dark at the end of the lane, the best boy and the best girl will finally succumb and fall. He knows that all have a limit to their resistance....
Almost like twins, "petting"-and especially "heavy petting"-and fornication are alike. Also like twins, the one precedes the other, but most of the same characteristics are there. The same passions are aroused and, with but slight difference, similar body contacts are made. And from it are likely to come the same frustrations, sorrows, anguish, and remorse.
The Church has prepared an important website on this topic: Mormons and Gays at MormonsandGays.org. The Church's position, as highlighted there, is this:
The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God's children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
The Church still teaches the ancient principle that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God" and that those with homosexual inclinations can be full participants in the Church, provided that they do not act on those inclinations in ways that violate LDS standards (no sex outside of marriage). See President Gordon B. Hinckley's talk, "What Are People Asking about Us?" at the October 1998 General Conference.
Our views on the importance of gender and the divinely appointed institution of marriage between a man and a woman are also affirmed in the LDS Proclamation on the Family.
This is a difficult and sensitive topic, but the Church appears to be growing in appreciating the challenges faced by those who are gay or, more broadly, who experience same-sex attraction to different degrees. MormonsandGays.org can help people understand how they can be good members of the Church and move forward in their spiritual journey as gay men and women while still adhering to the standards and teachings of the Church.
Regarding the difficult issue of same-sex marriage, for those who are wondering about possible reasons for the Church's position, I would suggest considering some of the relevant social issues as discussed by a non-LDS advocate of traditional marriage in the article "Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It" by Ryan Anderson (2013). See also "The Consistency of the LDS Church's Position Regarding Legislating Marriage" by J. Max Wilson.
2014 Update: The Church has released instructions to Church leaders regarding the same-sex marriage issue. That document may be helpful in understanding the LDS position and the approach of the Church.
The scriptural principles of sexual morality teach that sexual relations are reserved for marriage. This is a complex and sensitive issue and one can easily disagree with those teachings. However, the LDS position is not based on hate. Being opposed to smoking does not make one hateful toward smokers, though some anti-smoking fanatics can be hateful and angry. Likewise, many ministers can strongly oppose alcoholism or other forms of alcohol use or alcohol abuse, yet can and should feel no hate for alcoholics. They are our brothers and sisters struggling with a heavy burden. Indeed, for a minister to condone alcohol abuse as just another lifestyle would be a grave disservice to his flock and to alcoholics in particular. Compassion is needed, for many alcoholics suffer greatly and feel that they have little choice in the matter. Ultimately, though, all of us can gain self-control over our bodies with the help of God. Fortunately, Christ does more than simply define what is right and wrong. Christ offers the power to change. His love leads to newness of life as we follow Him, empowered by His grace.
As sons and daughters of God, we are happiest and most free when we follow Him, even when great personal sacrifices are required along that truly straight and narrow path.
Those are oriented toward homosexuality face complex challenges that demand sensitivity and kindness. What may seem like an easy answer--"don't have sexual relations outside of legal, traditional marriage"--may be a far more challenging and painful burden than most of us can possibly realize. While we may lack answers, especially easy answers, we can recognize the need to be understanding and compassionate.
Here are some related readings that may help clarify why loving Christians may justly oppose same-sex marriage, for example, without being motivated by bigotry or hate:
Yes. Having same-sex attraction is not a sin. It's a challenge that we can cope with, though it can be difficult and painful. But it is possible to live the Gospel and find great joy in the Gospel regardless of our attractions. The experience of Ty Mansfield, a gay Mormon, may be of value to you in understanding this issue. At the 2014 FairMormon Conference, held Aug. 7-8, 2014 in Provo, Ty Mansfield gave a talk entitled "'Mormons can be gay, they just can't do gay'? Deconstructing Sexuality and Identity from an LDS Perspective." He discusses the complexity of sexual attraction and reminds us to be careful about thinking we know things that still puzzle the experts:
So much of the controversy happens around unexamined premises and conclusions drawn, often simply accepted without any real critical thought at all. Once we can understand how these have harmed our understanding, we can then move to a better place to articulate a reasonable response to those who question or criticize the Church's teachings….
The popular cultural myths that either people are "born gay" or that they chose to be homosexual or that their homosexuality is caused by parental nurturing (or lack thereof) are all reductionistic and cannot explain much, if anything, about the development of sexuality and sexual desire.
It's interesting to me that our popular and media culture seems to be so sure about something that science and the academy are not. The American Psychological Association's official pamphlet addressing sexual orientation concedes this point, noting that ultimately, "There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles."Some researchers have postured that there is no such thing as "homosexuality," but rather "homosexualities"--that there are multiple sub-populations with different etiologies making for qualitatively different experiences of sexuality that all lay within a broad and diverse umbrella we call "homosexuality" or "same-sex attraction."
He also addresses issues of identity and the shackles (my term) that we can impose on ourselves or others with terminology that pigeonholes people into an "identity" based on the attractions they feel.
As noted above, the Church has shown increased awareness of the unique challenges and pain that may be experienced by those with same-sex attraction, and is reaching out to help. However, ultimately they key to success in one's faith will depend on turning to God and the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to give us strength to cope with our challenges and to choose Christ above all. It's the combination of God's love and our willingness to choose Him that can propel us past all the burdens and challenges in our way. Never an easy journey, but truly worth it.
Background: Below are excerpts from e-mail to me by an offended former boyfriend of an LDS girl. Before he broke up with this girl, he had already sent me antagonistic e-mail condemning Mormons as an evil cult and indicating that he was going to gradually introduce his views to his girlfriend to wake her up. You know, sort of the wolf in sheep's clothing approach (my spin on the matter). Summarizing his multiple messages to me, his two-month relationship with his new girlfriend quickly went sour because she would not accept his arguments that LDS religion is evil. He tried to help her by attacking her faith with standard anti-Mormon arguments, and guess what? She wasn't impressed. She wouldn't leave the Church, and he wouldn't leave his anti-Mormon mindset. So, surprise! She dropped him. Based on the nasty tone of messages I got from him, I can understand that she didn't want to put up with this guy - but he ascribes her reaction to Satan and the evil influence of the Church. Here are selected excerpts:
I fell deeply in love with [a Mormon woman]. I even went with her to her LDS ward one Sunday not long ago because I felt a responsibility to show her I was open minded....
Jeff, the Mormon people are good people. They may have the best values, morals and outlook on physical living of any people I know. Even the pastor at my church said so... If everyone lived as Mormons physically do the world would indeed be a better place. But from the SECOND I entered that LDS church I was consumed with a horrible sense of evil.... [If I recall correctly, he later explained that this sense of evil was based on prior conclusions about our doctrines and because a Mormon in one of the meetings spoke of the Book of Mormon as the "most correct book on earth," which he considered blasphemy.]
The Mormons won the battle. Joseph Smith and all his followers have raised their flag of victory over me. You see, although [my girlfriend] and I spent two of the most beautiful, precious months of our young lives together, once she saw that I was rock solid in my faith and that I would not convert she suddenly lost interest in our relationship. It was at that point just last week that I knew it was time for me to witness to her concerning the truth that is our mighty and loving God.
Her response has led me to believe that I have seen Satan in his highest and most terrible form. She left an angry message on my answering machine, telling me not to contact her again and to leave my vehicle unlocked so that she could return every single thing I had given to her.... She interpreted my sharing the true gospel of Christ as sheer and utter hate for her and her church. And now I've lost her.
As I said before, I obviously didn't know what I was dealing with. What kind of church would evoke such hatred from such a gentle human being?...
I would have given her the love and respect that such a beautiful, special woman warrants. And i never got the chance because of the cruel, blasphemous lie that is Mormonism.
Please - it's unfair to blame the Church for the very human reactions that occur when an emotional relationship breaks up. Maybe this is the first time you've been jilted by someone, but those are pretty normal female reactions to some males, anyway, when things go awry. Especially when those males insult that which is sacred to them. And based on the anti-Mormon insults I've read from you before you broke up, it's very easy to understand why she would be upset with whatever you told her.
And look, it's hard for those in any religion to change or abandon it when they are deeply committed to it. Haven't you ever noticed the conflicts that arise when faithful Catholics date faithful evangelical Protestants, or Jews date Protestants? When the relationship doesn't work out, do we accuse the religion and call it anti-Christian because we didn't get our way? Come on - be respectful of other people's beliefs. Your few words to me show strong bigotry and antagonism - of course a faithful person of another religion is going to have a problem with that.
Before you set foot in the Church, you had preconceptions of major evil - preconceptions based on fear and ignorance - and these preconceptions clearly flavored your emotional response. What was there that was evil? Didn't the Savior say by their fruits you shall know them? And you've already pointed out how exceptional those fruits are. Is the devil promoting high values, Christian service, love, strong families, and so forth, to trick people? When we go to the one Church with the most consistently praiseworthy fruits, do we suddenly find that Christ's test no longer applied? Ignore the fruits of the tree with the best fruits, for that's really Satan's horribly evil sham? It's Satan getting all those people to pray and serve and have happy families and stay away from drugs and immorality? Didn't Christ already point out that good works are not Satan's, that a house divide against itself cannot stand?
As for the question, "what kind of church would evoke such hatred from such a gentle human being," I, too, would like to know. Where did you get all that hostility toward Latter-day Saints?
Finally, if being dropped after a two-month relationship leads you "to believe that I have seen Satan in his highest and most terrible form," you might want to follow the evening news. Satan's up to a lot more these days than wounding male pride!
Here's an example of a common question for people of other faiths dating Mormons:
I've been dating a guy who is Mormon for around 3 months now. He's the greatest person I've ever met and I can see myself spending the rest of my life with him. The only problem is that I was raised in another church. The other day he asked me to go to church with him. I feel really uncomfortable with the idea of going anywhere other than the church I have always attended. I know this sounds stupid, but I'm afraid that I may be looked down on by the members of the church. Do I have any reason to feel this anxiety, or am I just overreacting?
There is no reason for others to look down on you, but depending on what church you go to, members there may have been exposed to anti-Mormon junk from their clergy. Members and pastors of some churches might inundate you with ugly anti-Mormon literature ("How to Minister to them Horrid, Hideous Mormons in Love" or "How to Mock the Faith of Mormons in Love" or "How to Interrupt Mormon Services with Hateful Protests in Love"). I hope it doesn't happen - but still be prepared to get hit with some pretty twisted literature by people who think they are serving God by tearing down His Church. If you want to be prepared for the types of things that will be thrown at you - if this problem arises - read my LDS pages beginning at http://www.JeffLindsay.com/LDS_Intro.shtml.
Here is the specific question I received:
I'm 14 years old and my boyfriend is 13, and Mormons are supposed to wait until they are 16 to date. That is not true because if you love someone then you can be with them no matter what age you are.... You are too strict to be a Christian church.
I hope you won't condemn things that are wise and inspired by God because you find them strict. The 16-year thing is not a strict rule enforced by the Church - it's a very wise recommendation for youth that parents have every right to require for their kids, if they wish. Decades of experience and multiple studies show that the earlier kids start dating and pairing up, the more problems they have in terms of morality and other things. A certain maturity is needed to be safe and wise in romantic relationships - and the suggestion to wait until age 16 is an inspired and very wise one indeed. The girls I know who started dating boys at ages 12 and 13 and 14 typically ended up with a lot of grief and many regrets. They tend to lose their chastity quickly and often end up stuck in relationships with guys that older, wiser girls would quickly identify as losers. I'm not saying your boyfriend is less than ideal - but it takes maturity to know what to look for and to stay in control of dating situations. My advice: wait until you are 16, in spite of the temptation. And then don't pair up and think you've found your spouse right away. Get to know lots of people and date a variety of guys to help you learn, discern, and grow. Marrying the wrong person - often a byproduct of pairing up too early - can be one of the most painful and long-lasting mistakes a person can make. No one needs that!
As for your assertion that we aren't Christian because of our alleged strictness, being strict about some things is exactly what we find in the New Testament and Old Testament. It was only later when the Apostasy came that men developed new doctrines that allowed people to sin and feel like it didn't matter. But the Catholics do better than that - and they have a lot of strict concepts of their own. For most of the world, the Catholic position on abortion and sex before marriage is considered way too strict, but they are definitely a Christian church - and I am grateful for their bold stance on important moral issues.
Respected Church leaders have long warned members to be careful about what kind of movies they go to. R-rated movies have been specifically mentioned as being inappropriate. That R-rating, imperfect as it is, is a strong warning that the movie will contain offensive and even degrading material that should be avoided by those wishing to follow the Savior. Many bishops and other leaders warn our young people against R-rated movies. In fact, PG-13 movies typically contain unwholesome material that should be avoided, in my personal opinion. And just because a movie is PG does not mean it will be wholesome. A movie can tech degrading, offensive, immoral concepts without necessarily showing nudity or blood squirting all over the screen.
Question for you: How much raw sewage will you accept in your soup before it becomes unwholesome? Suppose all of the soup is marvelous except for one tiny tablespoon of raw sewage mixed in somewhere. Still going to eat it? One 60-second sex scene in two-hours of a "great" movie makes it contaminated from my perspective, if my goal is to be morally pure and have clean, wholesome thoughts that strengthen my closeness to my Savior and my ability to have the spirit of God in my life.
Your Latter-day Saints probably care about what kind of thoughts they have and what kind of images they have locked in their brain. It looks like they are wisely choosing to reject evil, even if it causes social stress or social rejection by not going along with the crowd. Bravo!
Good question. Glad you're reading and thinking about things! Eternal marriage revealed in Doctrine and Covenants 132 does not require polygamy (in fact, the previous, temporary practice of polygamy is no longer permitted by the Lord and, in fact, will result in excommunication - for more information see the polygamy section of my page on charges about cultism). Doctrine and Covenants 132 does teach that a man and a woman can be sealed together eternally in an everlasting marriage covenant. It is the crowning blessing of the fullness of the Gospel, and the fullness of the Gospel is collectively called "the new and everlasting covenant," though I realize one might think that term only applies to marriage. The fullness of the Gospel, including some of its major covenants, is new because it replaced the old covenant, the Law of Moses. It is everlasting because the blessings it brings are eternal: the marriage between a man and woman, properly performed in the temple and with the covenant between them and God properly kept, will be an everlasting union.
Those who reject the blessings of the Gospel and specifically the blessing of eternal marriage will not have the eternal blessings that come from those covenants. They will not have eternal increase - meaning an eternal family with posterity. Some of those who reject eternal marriage may still be in the presence of God and enjoy heaven, but the greatest blessings of heaven will not be theirs. They will remain single and limited. Another word for limited is "damned" - meaning their progress is stopped. It does not necessarily mean hell fire. That's how I understand this issue.
Here is a sanitized excerpt from the actual e-mail:
I really want to be baptized. My parents are strongly against it and I'm only 17. My boyfriend of one and a half years is leaving on a mission.... We're planning on marriage a year or so after he returns and I'm going to "wait for him". I was just wondering if you had any advice or helpful insights.
Thanks for the note! Be patient and do all you can to be the best daughter you can be, loving and respecting your parents. I would also suggest that it's great to be in love but not wise to drop your social life while your friend is on his mission. It's OK to think that you will probably get married, but it's best to keep your eyes open and meet and get to know others, including dating, during the next two years. Making a marital commitment at age 17 is pretty risky, and if it means not dating others (others with high LDS standards, that is) and going into cold storage for two years, you'll be hurting yourself and limiting your personal growth - something that I think is needed for a successful marriage. My wife and I were in love when I went on my mission, but we avoided making such commitments and avoided going steady. I'm glad she continued to date when I was away (though I had to remind myself then that it really was the right thing to do). She even got proposed to a few times while I was gone. But getting to know other guys better helped her know for sure what she was looking for. I think it may have helped her be a better, more committed, more mature wife than she would have been.
During the next two years, live close to the Spirit and stay worthy of a temple marriage, whether it will be with your current friend or someone else the Lord will send your way. Patience and wisdom!
Here is a touching message I received from a 14-year-old girl who was in love with an LDS boy, changed to be anonymous:
I am a 14 year old [non-LDS] girl. I have been dating a Mormon boy for the past year now. He just got back from church and then when he got back he broke up with me. I guess he was not even supposed to date until he was 16 years old. I have been crying for days. I am not going to lie to you, we were pretty serious, we kissed alot, held hands, hugged each other, and even said "I Love You" very often. But now i am just so torn inside. I would do anything to get him back. I am even considering becoming Mormon myself. Would that make the relationship last? I don't know a lot about your religion but I am very open minded about it, even after all the hateful and cruel things i have heard, i just look at [him] and i see what a wonderful person he is and i reconsider believing all that people say about the LDS. Please help me. Give me all the insight that you can. I love [him] and i just can't let him go.
Being in love at age 14 is a very tough burden. It can be overwhelming and shadow everything one does. This will be hard to understand, but what I'm about to say is true: the older you are, the easier it will be to deal with these situations. In fact, it's sometimes quite risky to date at age 14 and go through the intense emotions of becoming emotionally and physically involved with someone before the maturity level is there to handle those emotions more wisely.
First loves almost never work out. The wise thing to do at a young age is to have more casual social relationships with a variety of people and not get into a serious, steady relationship until you're old enough to be seriously able to contemplate marriage.
The LDS boy you found sounds pretty nice. But it's unfortunate that he got so intensely involved with a fourteen-year-old girl. It wasn't fair to you or him, especially if he wants to go on a mission later in life or to really follow the guidelines that the Gospel teaches him. He may be the right one for you, but it's too early to make that decision!
Becoming Mormon would almost certainly NOT make the relationship last, because such relationships at such a young age almost never last - or if they do last, they often result in tragedy (a pregnant teenager, early marriage and early divorce, poverty, missed educational opportunities, etc.).
If, when you are completely away from your former boyfriend and have him completely out of your mind, you still feel a sincere and genuine interest in the LDS religion, then you could talk to your parents and see if they would allow you to learn more from missionaries or by attending church. But respect your parents. Sometimes young people know they want to join the Church but the parents are against it, so they must wait until they are at least 18 years old to take that action on their own. Patience is a real virtue in such cases. And whether we agree with parents or not, love them, respect them, honor them, and be the best daughter you can be - whether you eventually become LDS or not.
Heavens no! I've seen some cases of abuse and divorce, and have seen a great deal of support given to the victim. Actually, both parties need help and support in such cases, even when there is serious sin involved, and I think many Church members try pretty hard to be good Christians in such cases. Divorce is a terribly divisive and painful thing, and it is natural that friends of the former couple might get caught up in blaming and gossiping, but this is improper.
If a spouse abuses someone and it is known, the abuser should be and often will be disciplined by the Church, if it is serious enough to justify action. The Church takes abuse of any kind very seriously and trains its bishops in dealing with it appropriately. I have personal knowledge of cases of Church discipline (excommunication or disfellowshipment, for example) when a spouse (usually but not always a man) was abusive.
Though divorce is a sad thing, it is sometimes a necessary thing for the well-being of a spouse. Sadly, I have been frustrated at what some women will put up with. But when there is a divorce, there is no ostracism by the Church, though fellow members may have their own responses that can vary in sensitivity, humans being what they are (though most people try to be kind and helpful). If someone committed serious sin that was related to the divorce, that should be dealt with by the Church and can result in loss of membership or membership privileges, though anyone is welcome to attend Church meetings and everyone should be treated with kindness by Church members and leaders.
We encourage people to repent and work out there problems when possible, and hope that every marriage will be successful and eternal. That's an ideal, of course, and the reality is often otherwise.
By the way, the best place to get married, in terms of providing a high likelihood of a successful and happy marriage, is in the Temple. Temple marriages do much better than average. The personal preparation in terms of worthiness, the serious covenants that are made, and the eternal perspective the Temple offers, all combine to make marriages much more likely to succeed, in my opinion. The key for women, though, is to first pick someone who is NICE and DEPENDABLE. Just getting married in the temple doesn't change an irresponsible, unkind man into a gallant gentleman. (Sure, the same advice applies to men - but it just seems to this biased writer that men needs this advice less, perhaps because it's easier to find nice, dependable women.)
Here is one example of many messages of this type, edited to preserve anonymity, followed by my reply:
I am dating the love of my life who happens to be a Mormon (I am not). . . . I know that she and her family would like for me to convert so that we could get married in the temple. My girlfriend says she'll have me either way but I know how important the temple is to her. . . . But the problem is that I have a past I deeply regret. . . . My girlfriend has led a very good life following [LDS] doctrine. I have led a sinful life. I haven't told her about my past because I'm afraid she'd disown me.
Latter-day Saints are taught to forgive, and we recognize that where we are heading is much more important that where we have been. I think you should be honest with her. If she turns away because of your past, don't blame her, and respect her right to choose someone with a clean and wholesome background. But there is a reasonable chance that if she really cares for you, she will overlook that. Honesty now will be the best thing, in my opinion, provided you are ready to humbly live with what may be yet another very real consequence of sin: missing future opportunities. Be patient and accepting of whatever her response is, and pray for guidance and help before you talk with her.
There is nothing that you could have done that is completely unforgivable. Some things may require facing legal painful consequences to be right before God - murder, sexual abuse, major crimes, and others may require long repentance, but it sounds like you are well on your way. The love of Christ and His grace are remarkable and can transform the most vile of us into pure sons of God, if we will let Him. I suggest going over the story of Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon to better understand this (reading passages from Mosiah and especially Alma 36). Have her teach you about this great man from ancient times. And never lose the hope that Christ offers us, even if we have momentary setbacks like rejection by one we love.
Life is sacred. We are commanded not to "kill, nor do anything like unto it" (Doctrine and Covenants 59:6). To kill an unborn child for the convenience of the parents is a sin that will bring great regret. To those who are unable to raise a child properly, adoption is a wonderful alternative that should be considered.
President Hinckley reviewed the Church's basic position on abortion in his talk, "What Are People Asking about Us?" at the October 1998 General Conference, when he referred to the common question, "What is your position on abortion?":
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there were more than 1,200,000 abortions performed in 1995 in the United States alone. What has happened to our regard for human life? How can women, and men, deny the great and precious gift of life, which is divine in its origin and nature?Anyone considering an abortion needs to understand the deception that is being spread by those who profit lucratively from this terrible industry (not to mention the lies that come from that demonic but crafty being who hates life and God and you). Apart from the spiritual harm that comes from so terrible a sin, there are also very real physical risks as well. For example, every woman has the right to know that abortion greatly increases the risk of breast cancer (see the documentation at AbortionBreastCancer.com and AbortionFacts.com and AbortionCancer.com).
How wonderful a thing is a child. How beautiful is a newborn babe. There is no greater miracle than the creation of human life.
Abortion is an ugly thing, a debasing thing, a thing which inevitably brings remorse and sorrow and regret.
While we denounce it, we make allowance in such circumstances as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have serious defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.
But such instances are rare, and there is only a negligible probability of their occurring. In these circumstances those who face the question are asked to consult with their local ecclesiastical leaders and to pray in great earnestness, receiving a confirmation through prayer before proceeding.
There is a far better way.
If there is no prospect of marriage to the man involved, leaving the mother alone, there remains the very welcome option of placing the child for adoption by parents who will love it and care for it. There are many such couples in good homes who long for a child and cannot have one.
Those worried about the financial and medical aspects of child birth should know about the excellent benefits and care that can be provided through agencies and individuals wishing to adopt. Adoption truly is a wonderful alternative to the violence of abortion.
For those who wish to be married and want the blessings of family life, it can be tough to be surrounded by lots of families and to see all the emphasis that the Church puts on families and temple marriage. Single members need to understand that they are just as valuable as any other son or daughter of God, and that the full blessings of the Gospel are meant for them as well as anyone else. Those who desire the blessings of eternal marriage but have not found the right person or cannot marry for whatever reason will find that God is just, merciful, and loving. My understand is that God will provide the blessings of eternity for those who are now single. Perhaps it means being sealed to someone after this life is over, or perhaps it means being patient for unexpected blessings in this life. But I believe that God will provide a way and that we must trust in Him always.
Married members and Church leaders need to be sensitive to the needs of single adults in the Church. The Church has done a lot to provide programs and train leaders to help single adults. For example, the Church Website, LDS.org, has information for priesthood leaders on single adults. There are also many articles and other resources of relevance there.
ItsAboutLove.org - an LDS resource for crisis pregnancies. Pregnant? Get the kind of help that can heal and bless.
A Plea for Morality: Good Reasons to Wait until Marriage - part of my Snippets section
Ye Are the Temple of God - a talk by Elder Boyd K. Packer on the topic of morality and respect for our bodies, given at the October 2000 LDS General Conference. See also Diane Spangler's article, "The Body, a Sacred Gift" and David Bednar's talk, "Ye Are the Temple of God."
Dating and Courtship: LDS.org - resources on dating from LDS.org.
SHIELDS is an LDS site dealing with historical and intellectual issues, including good answers to some common anti-Mormon questions.
Orson Scott Card on "The Hypocrites of Homosexuality" - an essay explaining why the Church should be able to take a stand on moral issues including sexuality outside of marriage.