Sexual purity

(also see “Dating”, “Modesty”, “Pornography and masturbation”, and “Women’s issues”)

 

Pros of Mormonism from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
It is difficult to establish ethics and morals on sex. The believer is often grateful that the church has a clear set of guidelines to keep them out of harm’s way. Sex outside of marriage can lead to real harm, such as infection, emotional trauma, and unintended pregnancies for unprepared mothers and fathers. Mormonism is a blessing to believers because the law of chastity keeps them physically safe and brings spiritual blessings. Obeying this commandment allows the spirit to be with us; the spirit will not dwell in unclean temples. By not abusing the sacred powers of procreation, we increase our happiness in mortality and make possible our progress in eternity.
It is difficult to establish ethics and morals on sex. The nonbeliever acknowledges that sex outside of marriage can lead to real harm, such as infection, emotional trauma, and unintended pregnancies for unprepared mothers and fathers. In light of these dangers, some nonbelievers who leave Mormonism feel unprepared to deal with the dangers of sex, and they sometimes long for the time when their perception of sex and sexual standards were clearly defined by the church.
 
Cons of Mormonism from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
To some believers, it can seem odd that sexual sin is equated next to Murder. This is taught in the Book of Mormon by Alma and in the modern church, such as this first presidency statement: “The doctrine of this Church is that sexual sin—the illicit relations of men and women—stands, in its enormity, next to murder. … you cannot … escape the punishments and judgments which the Lord has declared against this sin. The day of reckoning will come as surely as night follows day.” Although this can seem a bit harsh, many believers take it on faith as true, since the Godly powers of procreation are essential to the Plan of Salvation and should not be tampered with.
 
Many believing Mormon women come to feel that all or a large portion of their value is dependent on their sexual purity. This is frequently emphasized to young women, who are sometimes taught that if they lose their virtue / sexual purity that they become a licked cupcake or chewed gum; in other words, they become worthless. This line of thought is very damaging to women and can lead to low self-esteem and self-worth. This can also increase the trauma of sexually abused women; there are some instances where sexually abused woman feel so worthless that they don’t seek help. While on the one hand the church teaches that we are “defined by our divine heritage as children of God—and not by sexual behaviors”, the opposite is often true in the church. There is often such judgement and stigma behind those who transgress sexually that their sexual behavior becomes their defining character in the church.
 
Because sexual purity is so emphasized in Mormonism, it is often difficult to talk about sexual matters directly. This stigmatizes it and can prevent sex from being intimate and fulfilling for many people, especially women. The shame behind sex, the avoidance of sex, and the fear of sex is likely partially responsible for the dutiful or perfunctory role that sex has for many spouses.
 
To many nonbelievers, it seems unjustifiable that sexual sin is equated next to Murder. This is taught in the Book of Mormon by Alma and in the modern church, such as this first presidency statement: “The doctrine of this Church is that sexual sin—the illicit relations of men and women—stands, in its enormity, next to murder. … you cannot … escape the punishments and judgments which the Lord has declared against this sin. The day of reckoning will come as surely as night follows day.” Murder and safe sex should not be associated with each other. Associating sex with such a heinous crime as murder stimulates unnecessary guilt and shame.
 
Many nonbelievers find it repugnant that the church teaches all or a large portion of a woman’s value is dependent on their sexual purity. This is frequently emphasized to young women, who are sometimes taught that if they lose their virtue / sexual purity that they become a licked cupcake or chewed gum; in other words, they become worthless. This line of thought is very damaging to women and can lead to low self-esteem and self-worth. This can also increase the trauma of sexually abused women; there are some instances where sexually abused woman feel so worthless that they don’t seek help. While on the one hand the church teaches that we are “defined by our divine heritage as children of God—and not by sexual behaviors”, the opposite is often true in the church. There is often such judgement and stigma behind those who transgress sexually that their sexual behavior becomes their defining character in the church.
 
Because sexual purity is so emphasized in Mormonism, it is often difficult to talk about sexual matters directly. This stigmatizes it and can prevent sex from being intimate and fulfilling for many people, especially women. The shame behind sex, the avoidance of sex, and the fear of sex is likely partially responsible for the dutiful or perfunctory role that sex has for many spouses.
 
Some nonbelievers view the church’s impossible standards for sexual purity as immoral. The standard is impossible because, according to Jesus, even sexual thoughts are immoral. It seems likely that most, nearly all, or perhaps even all people have had thoughts about having sexual encounters with someone outside of marriage. These thoughts are sinful, and the church thus intentionally creates an impossible standard that creates guilt and shame. It also seems likely that frequently emphasizing  sexual purity during the formative years of puberty can enhance the preoccupation with the forbidden but unexplored topic of sex. This seems counter-productive to the church’s goal, and in light of the guilt and shame it creates, also seems immoral.
 
It is also possible that standards of sexual purity have a negative effect on dating, as sexually charged daters cannot find release and might have clouded judgement (see “Dating”).

 

Comments relating to your lived experience with Mormonism are welcome. Although it can be difficult to distinguish at times, please focus on how the church helps and harms rather than it being true vs untrue.

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