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”and “our thoughts will also condemn us.” 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.”
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. 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. This commandment that is still in force,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. 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.
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.
 Matthew 5:28
 Alma 12:14
 Genesis 1:28
 Why Marriage and Family Matter – Everywhere in the World, by L. Tom Perry, April 2015 General Conference