Taking seriously the law of chastity

This is a guest post by Michael Davidson

I recently exchanged some correspondence with a good man regarding the law of chastity, and felt like some of what I said may be of interest more generally.  The context of the discussion was related to whether or not same gender dating was harmless exploration and discovery or a violation of the law of chastity.  We disagreed on this. I argued that we need to be concerned with the letter and the spirit of the law, and that the spirit of the law was much stricter that who put whose hands where.

First, it is not only what we do physically that can constitute sin.  The law of chastity can be violated without ever touching another person. We are taught that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart”[1]and “our thoughts will also condemn us.”[2]  The guidelines released recently regarding missionary worthiness included teachings that “to be chaste, you must be morally clean in your thoughts, words, and actions,” importantly not just your actions.  Homosexual activity is also called out as a serious sin, because, at least in part, “it distorts loving relationships and prevents people from receiving the blessings that can be found in family life and the saving ordinances of the gospel.”[3]

Second, “dating” is not a term that is equivalent to “going out socially.” Dating, as it is understood colloquially, is always a precursor to more.  This is why we teach the youth to put it off until they are older.  This is why we teach the youth to go on group dates, and to not date the same person exclusively before they are ready and prepared to make eternal commitments.[4]  The purpose for dating, in the structure of the gospel, is to prepare for the highest ordinances of the temple, and commitments made between God, one man, and one woman, and to create family units in which a man and a woman can keep the very first commandment given to Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the earth.[5]  This commandment that is still in force,[6]and represents something that is impossible in a homosexual union.

The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet takes it as a given that a date is between a young man and a young woman, and states that explicitly.[7]  Dating someone of the same sex is a counterfeit that we have been warned about by the prophets and apostles, and most directly by Elder Perry a few years back.[8]

It bears asking, within the structure of the gospel, what exactly does a young woman or a young man productively discover and explore while pursuing a dating relationship with a young man or a young woman of the same sex?  How does spending time, thought and emotional energy on something such as that prepare a young man or a young woman to be sealed in the temple? How does such an exercise prepare a young man or a young woman for a life lived in accordance with the laws and expectations set forth in the structure of the gospel?  How does such an exercise prepare one to serve a mission, where they will be expected to teach the law of chastity as defined? 

Third, this is where we need to start considering the spirit of the law of chastity.  The law of chastity, like all gospel commandments is aspirational while also being prohibitive.  The aspirational part is the most important.  It teaches us to be pure in preparation for marriage as it is defined by God.  There are things we are told will defile us in action and thought, but avoiding those things is only meant to add strength and glory to fulfilling the goal of an eternal family.  One cannot take his or her sights off of that goal and remain on the covenant path.  Merely keeping one’s hands to oneself until a proper marriage, along with fidelity therein, fulfills the letter of the law. Worthily and chastely entering into a marriage sealed under proper authority, where covenants are kept and cherished, fulfills the spirit of the law.  Anything short of that violates it.

In any dating relationship, there is an aspect of flirting with the future.  When a young man takes a young woman on a date, done properly, they are flirting with a future marriage and all that entails.  The maxim that “we marry who we date” is apropos. Ideally, they are imagining what a future would involve, and they are flirting with an outcome that could result in exaltation for them both and their children.  What is a young man dating another young man flirting with?  What does that future hold in the structure of the gospel?

Yes, there is no sin in being attracted to somebody, but there is sin in mentally flirting with sin. There is sin in imagining and pining over sin.  There is sin in pursuing a relationship, even if no touching is involved, that “prevents people from receiving the blessings that can be found in family life and the saving ordinances of the gospel.”  It is a mistake to wink at homosexual dating as being harmless so long as they keep their hands to themselves.  To come to that conclusion one must look only to (a part) of the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of the law.  Pursing a homosexual relationship is inconsistent with the aspiration of the law of chastity, it is inconsistent with the spirit of the law. To say homosexual dating is innocent, even when keeping their hands to themselves, is to deny God’s word and His purpose for us.  It is a mockery.

My good friend has not replied to this, but I hope it has given him, and now you, some food for thought.

[1]  Matthew 5:28

[2]  Alma 12:14

[3]  Standard Interview Questions for Prospective Missionaries

[4]  For the Strength of Youth

[5]  Genesis 1:28

[6]  The Family: A Proclamation to the World

[7]  For the Strength of Youth

[8]  Why Marriage and Family Matter – Everywhere in the World, by L. Tom Perry, April 2015 General Conference

Guest post: the Church’s announcement on same-sex marriage policy

Michael Davidson is a repentant attorney, father and husband. This post is cross posted to his personal blog “Exploring Redemption.”

It seems that the excitement of General Conference started a bit early this year.  The Deseret News and the Church Newsroomhad articles this morning talking about changes to policies related to discipline of people engaged in same sex marriages and the legal children of such individuals.  Despite a lack of specifics regarding what the new guidance in the Handbook entail, the usual suspects are declaring victory. Some are claiming that this vindicates the role of activism in the Church towards changing Church teachings; others are claiming that this is being forced by a drop in tithing revenue; while others are claiming that this is an effective repudiation of revelation as a guiding force in the Church.  All of this is nonsense.

Let’s put some of the discussion in context.  In the summer of 2015, there was a young lesbian couple who were attending a ward in the Seattle Washington North Stake.  They got engaged and announced their intention to be married publicly.  According to their blog entries about this matter, this resulted in a series of conversations with their bishop and their stake president in which they were told in no uncertain terms that they would face church discipline if they went ahead with their plans to marry.  These blog posts created a great stir in some quarters, and I suspect that the bishop and stake president involved received communications of varying degrees of politeness in response.  

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Lies Don’t Feel Loving: A Response to LoveLoud

This is a guest post by Jacob Hess, PhD, author of A Third Space: Proposing Another Way Forward in the LGBT/Religious Conservative Impasse. Jacob is also on the board of the National Coalition of Dialogue & Deliberation.  He blogs at Unthinkable.cc

Standing in the middle of 30,000 people, it’s hard – even impossible – to imagine that something could be wrong with what’s happening.  It’s even more difficult to imagine that such passionate work may, in lasting ways, make things worse for the very teens we’re all worried about.   

But, for reasons outlined below, that’s exactly what I believe is happening with Dan Reynolds’s Love Loud festival  – an initiative so the rage that Utah businesses and political leaders, Mormon celebrities, and increasing numbers of millennials have come to rally behind it, with messages like this:

“Love is love. Stop hate. Spread kindness and acceptance. Prevent suicide. Start saving lives” 

How could anyone possibly be concerned with such a cause?  What kind of a heart of darkness is required to question a call to love more loudly?

Our non-conversation.  The terms of our prevailing “conversation” about love, sexuality, faith, suicide and identity these days don’t leave much space for disagreement:

  • “Are you going to be a loving person?”  
  • “Are you compassionate, inclusive, and accepting?”
  • “Do you care about civil rights and equal justice?”
  • “Are you willing to discriminate and hold onto bigotry?”
  • “Do you really care about gay kids taking their lives?”

Yes…or no?  

I’ve begun calling this conversational frame what it most fundamentally is:  dishonest. Continue reading

Guest post: A Bishop’s interview that hurts the children

This is a guest post by Michael Davidson

[We are in the hallway of a chapel, just outside of the bishop’s office. The bishop approaches with his keys in his hand to open the door, but is stopped by Bro. and Sis. Jones before entering.]

Bro Jones: Bishop! So glad we found you. Can we have a quick word with you?

Bishop: Sure, I have a couple of minutes before my next appointment, come right in.

[All three enter the bishop’s office and take their seats.]

Sis. Jones: Bishop, you know that we love and appreciate everything you do for the members of the ward, and in particular, our youth.

Bishop: Thank you for saying so, Sis. Jones.

Bro. Jones: Absolutely, but we are concerned about a couple of things.

Bishop: Oh, what’s that?

Bro. Jones: Well, we are a bit uneasy about certain Church policies regarding interviews with our kids. This is what we want to talk to you about.

Bishop: [with a look of concern] What seems to be the problem?

Sis. Jones: With all due respect, we don’t believe that you have the proper training or experience to discuss matters of “worthiness” [Sis Jones does air quotes] with our children, and we wanted to talk to you about that as Robert, Jr. is turning 12 this week.

Bro. Jones: As a result, we just wanted to tell you that we will not be allowing you, or anyone else in the ward or the stake, to meet with Robert one on one. If you have to meet with him, one of us has to be present and we will not tolerate you asking any inappropriate questions related to his “worthiness.” [Bro Jones does air quotes.]

Bishop: As you say, Robert Jr. is turning 12 and I was planning on visiting with him about being ordained a deacon this afternoon, as well as to get a recommend to go to the temple. You would be welcome to attend if Robert Jr. wishes to have you here.
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Guest post: what is Sam Young’s true cause?

By: the Pseudonymous George Rasmussen

A Houston businessman named Sam Young is currently staging a hunger strike on the sidewalks of Salt Lake City. Young describes himself as an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I will leave it to you, gentle reader, to determine for yourself what the evidence shows.

Young is hoping to exert sufficient pressure on the Church to force the adoption of his demands. Please note that the Church put out a statement on Sunday that says Church leaders have met with Sam and that the Church will not be caving.

What are his demands? It is difficult to be sure because they have changed so much over the years, but we have some indication from a petition from October 2017:

“We call on the LDS Church to immediately cease the practice of subjecting children to questions about masturbation, orgasm, ejaculation, sexual positions or anything else of a sexual nature. This applies to all children up to and including age 17. There should be no one-on-one interviews with children. A parent or other trusted adult of the child’s choosing is to be present. We call on the LDS Church to publicly disavow this practice. We call on the LDS Church to ensure that all congregational leaders, as well the general membership, are informed that this practice is prohibited.”

(Readers, please note that Church policy clearly states that bishopric members may ask about chastity during temple recommend interviews. Children from the ages of 12 to 17 are asked if they follow the law of chastity, just as adults are asked. Claims that bishoprics are asking detailed sexual questions of members are wildly exaggerated, but all bishoprics have been informed of this issue. Bishopric members always have another adult nearby when doing temple recommends. It is clear that Sam Young has grabbed on to a cause that will bring him attention, but as this post will show, we have reason to doubt his sincerity on this and other issues because of his constant complaints about many Church practices.)

This petition is the first exposure most people had to Sam Young, but it wasn’t the start of his activism against LDS doctrines, teachings and practices. Young describes on his website how he lost his testimony in 2014. “Over the past couple of years, unexpected philosophical developments have shaken my life. They have been quite disconcerting.” He tells a tail of being set adrift and of being lonely and scared. He recollects that his family and friends couldn’t understand what he was going through.
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