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The sin next to murder

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I'll just start this off with an assertion, and then I'll attempt to explain what I mean.

I think that we place way too much emphasis on sexual sin and make it seem like a much worse transgression than it actually is.

In Alma 39:5 we read that "these things [sexual sins] are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost".

This I don't deny. In terms of individual sins, chastity violations are indeed among the worst. I'll quote Spencer W. Kimball from The Miracle of Forgiveness.

"All those who have slipped into the disgraceful and most reprehensible habit of transgressing through petting should immediately change their lives, their habits, and their thought patters, repent sorely in "sackcloth and ashes", and by confession get so far as possible a clearance from the Lord and the leaders of his Church so that a measure of peace may accompany them through their lives." - p. 67

Before I move along any further, I don't want to rip on this book, as I think it is terrific. I don't want to downplay the seriousness of the sin, but I do want to explain why I think that we don't do the job that we should.

I think the worst of our teachings on this matter concerns the level to which repentance is possible. I know of none within the Church that teach that you cannot repent for these sins. At least, none that teach this explicitly. I think when we talk about lost purity, lost virtue, lost chastity, and lost dreams, we inadvertently communicate the idea that sexual sin is, if not unrepentable, certainly unforgettable. In The Miracle of Forgiveness, Kimball explicitly discusses a couple that he spoke with that actually thought that because of their sexual transgression, they would be excluded from the celestial kingdom forever, no matter what. To his credit, the couple left his office with a much happier notion of truth. But the language used above is very similar to what we hear too frequently: "as far as possible" and "a measure".

People will say and teach things such as "you can never get your virginity back". That's true. But it's a lie. The value of virginity is not in being a virgin (or nobody would be able to have sex), but in being chaste (keeping the law of chastity). Repentance and the Atonement would offer no solace if remaining free from sin were not a major step toward being rid of the guilt and hardships that sin brings.

Another area where I think we mess up is in the realm of the seriousness of the sin itself as compared to other things. I mention earlier that, on an individual basis, sexual sin is worse than nearly anything you can do. But is having sex with a consenting, nonmarried adult (presuming that you are one yourself) worse than hating someone for a long period of time? Is it worse than not helping those that need you for no reason other than selfishness? Is it worse than placing the things of the world above the things of God as a lifelong habit? None of these, as an individual thought, feeling, or action stack up to sexual sin. But as a pattern, I think they're much worse.

Consider this: what do you think of when you think of a "good person"? Do you think of sexual purity? Or do you think of a person that cares about others and honestly tries to make others happy? Sexual purity is the mark of a "good girl" or a "good boy". Sexual purity is one of the marks of a "good person", and not the most important one, in my book.

I believe that the feelings that are engendered by teachings such as these are feelings of hopelessness, not efficacy. I know someone that has had some issues with chastity and has seen those issues lead to other things, such as drinking (occasionally), nonclinical craziness (sometimes), and a feeling that she can't ever be good enough, no matter how hard she tries (always). I can't help but think that the teaching that chastity is the be-all, end-all of righteousness doesn't help her to change. I also don't think that it helps those of us that are keeping that law to change other things. If the sins that are most stressed in church are the Word of Wisdom, chastity, and, say, failure to tithe, I'm the greatest guy ever! But what about charity? What about other things that might inpinge upon my righteousness?

Whether sexual sin is representative of who we are depends on who we are. It's a mistake and a blip if we're good people that work hard for our brothers and sisters. It's a pattern if we only care about ourselves.

The most important thing to realize is that the Atonement's power is not incomplete, given our willing participation in it. Certain sins may be serious, but setting up one standard as the gold standard leads to, in my view, almost as many broken hearts as the sin itself. A blog here on Blogger (which I will not link to based on my suspicion that the fellow in question might not want me to) discusses his struggles with pornography and masturbation in some detail (he's never explicit about the latter, but it's quite clear). He's obviously sincere, at least from what's written on the blog. He's obviously broken up about what's going on. The problem is that he's too broken up. His sorrow is not godly sorrow, but a paralytic sorrow that can't ever let him go unless he lets himself go. And that's for a marginal sexual sin, something that might be serious, but isn't even close to that which is described in the scriptures. Nobody but him is hurt by this, and he's just shattered over it, and has been for better than a year's worth of blogging. I know that much of this is self-imposed, but I wish we could do a little better as a Church and as individuals to help with this sort of thing. As an individual, I don't know what to do. I don't really do anything to help the girl that I mentioned above, mostly for fear that she'll attach herself to me and partially because I'm too hedonistic to do anything for anyone else unless I have to. But I do know that if I ever teach a lesson on chastity, it'll be a lot different than the usual fare.

1871 Responses to “The sin next to murder”

  1. Anonymous Susan M 

    Interesting thoughts. I've always figured it's considered the worst sin next to murder because it's a sin against the family. And what's the most important thing in eternity? Your family.

    That guy you mention who struggles with pornography is hurting other people, if you consider that he's supporting the pornography industry. That's probably not what he's beating himself up over, but he is basically paying money for other people to commit sin.

  2. Anonymous Steve (FSF) 

    The “sin next to murder” stuff is obvious hyperbole, particularly if the sinner is taking responsible precautions that weren’t available in BofM times. If it is the sin next to murder, it’s a quantum leap separation. As a former post mission serial fornicator, I know first hand that when one repents (In my case via marriage), grace comes very quickly. Somehow, I doubt that’s the case with cold blooded murder. My son, leaving for his mission in about a month, quoted me that sin next to murder thing, and was surprised when I said, “oh, are they still spouting that hyperbole to the poor youth”.

    I think we make the mistake in the LDS church of going over board on the sex thing as our backlash against polygamy. In other words, so that members wouldn’t get the idea that “ok, legal polygamy is out, but that means adultery is now just underground polygamy and ok”. We also take a biblical standard that came from a time of pre-pubescent arranged marriages where people were already married before their libidos kicked in and we apply it to today when most people marry out of love in their twenties. Now that’s just dumb.

    On my mission, I witnessed a missionary throw a hedge hog out the window of our 8th floor apartment. That was far worse a sin than the missionary who would seek out at night to sleep with a girl who lived down the hall or the guy who would openly discuss his self pleasuring. At least I understood the latter elders’ needs/sins. I was a young DL (out less than a year) and never ratted out any one of them, but the hedge hog killer later knifed me in the back by telling the Pres I often came home to the apartment late (we were teaching, and in the Summer in that country, people often ate dinner at 10 p.m.). I got transferred ASAP to a horrible, mountainous, cold, boring two missionary town for 7 months that had only one inactive apostate member. Towards the end of my mission, when I was a ZL, I got my tit the ringer twice from not ratting out wayward missionaries that later got caught. I came close to getting sent home a few times, but I was also a good missionary by the stats and that saved my bacon

    The point of all this is I just wish the LDS culture at large wasn’t so judgmental about this stuff that is much a part of life as working, eating and sleeping.

  3. Blogger Arwyn 

    You have a point, D-train, that we ought to emphasize developing charity and being good and not hating people a little more than we do. But I don't think it needs to necessarily come at the expense of deemphasizing the sexual sins.

    My understanding is that the moral basis we develop by obeying commandments such as "thou shalt not commit adultury (and/or fornication)" is necessary to our developing true charity.

    Sure, there's an opportunity to repent. And as someone who has never "serially fornicated", I don't know how long or how deep that goes. But I think the self-control that we learn as we keep the law of chastity and live within those moral bounds directly aids our attempts to become better, more charitable people.

    Now, it's true that some people who have casual sex are good people; and it's true that some people who are completely chaste are downright cruel. I'm not making across-the-board statements necessarily -- repentance and judgement are different for different individuals. You have people like the guy D-train mentions, who need a lot of time to work through that. And then you have people like Steve (FSF) who seems to have come through it quickly.

    And Steve, though I disagree with a large part of what you say -- I think, no matter what you understand or don't, the missionary skipping downstairs to sleep with the girl was having as big problems as the boy murdering that hedgehog -- you're right on that LDS culture perhaps shouldn't be so judgemental.

    Because judgement, ultimately, is God's job -- culture could lighten up. But if God wants to judge adultury and fornication harshly (which he's done in more cultures than just LDS culture), that's his business -- and I'm happy to do what he says.

  4. Blogger lchan 

    D-Train - Great post. I agree with what you're saying, but I think it's hard to find the right balance. You want to discourage people from making mistakes, but once someone has made a mistake, they shouldn't feel like there's no going back now.

    I don't know how you do that. I guess by stressing why these things are wrong, but at the same time stressing repentance. Guilt can be healthy and lead to change, but it can also be overwhelming to the point that it hinders any chance of progress.

  5. Blogger D-Train 

    I'll just try and respond to everyone's thoughts, along with trying to stress the biggest point that was being made.

    I think the idea isn't to say "chastity isn't a big deal" so much as to say that lots of things are big deals, nobody's perfect, and judgment of sexual sin that makes it seem like repentance is impossible can only harm everyone involved. People that experience a chastity problem need more than anyone to feel like they're wanted, loved, and above all, a good, worthwhile person. Stressing other things as part of being "worthy" is a big step toward that in my mind.

    Susan - You're right that sexual sin within the family is really horrible. Outside the family, though, I'm having a hard time with the argument. I hate the "you're cheating on your future spouse" argument because it's infinitely regressive to a point that isn't constructive. That relationship hasn't yet been formed and cannot be harmed. Maybe you have to tell the person about your transgression, but I don't think it's harmful to that relationship in that there's nothing yet to harm. Besides, it's another one of those "repentance for sexual sin can't be complete" voices all too often.

    Supporting porn is definitely wrong and should be seen as an issue. But it isn't wrong the way sex with someone else is wrong, especially when you're viewing it in a relatively anonymous forum.

    Steve - With you to a point. I do think that chastity is really serious. I also think, like you, that sex is treated the same way in a different context in a way that isn't healthy. Nevertheless, the fact that it's hard to wait doesn't mean it's not worth it. I do have to agree with Arwyn that sleeping with a woman while on your mission is a huge problem, not least of which is the image that it creates. Your point about grace coming quickly is exactly what I mean, though. In order to get grace, you do have to repent. Steve, you did that. I think lots of people aren't able to do so because we're too hard on the idea of the "sexual sinner".

    Arwyn - I don't think we need to say "sex isn't serious". We just need to be perfectly clear that it isn't murder or close. Repentance is readily available to the willing heart. People that have committed sexual sins need to know that there's a lot of good in them. The only way to instill that good is to stress other things as part of the worthiness scale upon which chastity is placed. You can't tell someone that just had sex that they're good because they're chaste, because they're not. You can't tell them that they could be good when they live the law of chastity, because that's debilitating. They need to know that they're good children of God right now that have tremendous potential and for whom change will be possible, if not easy, because of the character that they've developed in other things.

    Arwyn, I think you have a better idea than me about how important sexual sin actually is, as I think I'm probably too likely to dismiss it. The thing I'll bet we can both agree on is that scarlet can become white as snow through the Atonement. Not off-white, not eggshell. White. This is, in the end, the only teaching that matters with regard to chastity. Repent and be saved, not "feel horrible because your best efforts will get you so far as possible to a measure of peace, but it's never complete because once a fornicator, always a fornicator."

    Ichan - The debilitating guilt is the thing that worries me most. Godly sorrow is great, but it can't be the only part of repentance. Sorrow must be accompanied by the hope of a better life.

  6. Blogger Arwyn 


    We can definitely agree that the Atonement makes you white as snow again -- pure white -- and that repentance is the key to that. No debate there.

    Where I think the problem lies is striking a balance between emphasizing the seriousness of the sin to prevent the sin and not piling extra guilt on the sinner who is already striving to repent.

    Because once the repentence process is done, once it's been achieved and the Atonement applied, then we can congratulate the person for being chaste since that sin has been erased.

    At the same time, I'm not sure that Alma would classify sexual sins as such bad things if they weren't pretty bad. Can you repent of them? Yes. Can you repent of shedding innocent blood? I imagine you can -- especially if you do so before coming to a knowledge of the truth.

    I dunno. I've always figured there's a good reason why it's classed so highly -- maybe one of which we're not aware -- that impedes spiritual progress. And while you can come clean through the Atonement, just like other sins, it's better not to do it in the first place.

    The question you really raise is one of guilt and the individual. I don't think we'll find the answer to it in saying that sexual sins aren't detrimental to worthiness (or that, because lots of other things are too, they're not so big a deal). I think we'll find it, as you mention, in not being judgemental of those individuals.

  7. Anonymous Jonathan Stone 

    From my understanding, it isn't "sexual sin" (covering everything from pornography to adultery) that is next to murder; it is adultery that is next to murder. And not adultery of any random person, but adultery of one who has made covenants, i.e., a violation of the sealing covenants.

    In this sense, I do not believe it to be "hyperbole" when a prophet of God says in the scriptures that adultery is next to murder. I believe it to be revelation. I think sexual sins reduce in gravity from that level to such a point where you can't rank them. But they are serious, especially to those who have covenanted in the temple.

    Yet I agree that in leaders' desire to impress on youth (and adults) the importance of chastity, that the infinite power of the Atonement is minimized. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow". Isaiah didn't say anything about the "holes still being there" when the nails are pulled out (one lousy object lesson in chastity that I have heard).

    Yet our culture has become so sexualized, and the importance of chastity so minimized, that I am saddened when I see it happening in the church too. I think we do not yet understand all the reasons why chastity is so important to the Lord, but I think many who take sexual sin lightly, and act as if repentance from it is easy and quick, will be saddened by their own flippancy when the veil is lifted.

  8. Anonymous Steve (FSF) 

    First, let's give all the praise to Jesus for his gift of grace to us sinners.

    Jonathan, I’m somewhat perplex by your position. You say there is a gradation of sexual sins, which I agree with (Adultery, Fornication, premarital sex short of intercourse, etc.), but then you imply that grace somehow can’t possibly come quickly to the repentant sinner. I testify to you that when Jesus lifts that burden of judgment from you, you know it and you know it immediately. It is his unselfish gift that cannot be earned and for which no one is deserving. It is amazing grace! Any preaching to the contrary comes straight from the Devil.

    Some clarifications on my positions are in order. Part of my rant against the "sin next to murder" hyperbole is w/o the gift of repentance and grace, any sin brings us damnation, which in a way is what many have stated here. The atonement is like a gift sitting on a table; the sinner must accept the gift. And one definitely needs hope (faith in Jesus) to take the first step in repentance. Hopelessness comes from the Devil; that is his message against the Savoir. That is why Satan is the anti-Christ. He is the opposite of hope.

    On the wayward missionaries during my first DL assignment, w/o doubt, the hedge hog killing was the worst sin I ever saw a missionary commit. It sickens me to this day. He was also one of the most self righteous missionaries and prided himself on keeping all the rules to the letter. While I believe I have forgiven the hedge hog killer for knifing me in the back and getting me sent to the worst town in the mission for seven months (someone had to serve there), his cruelty to that animal was the most horrible thing I ever witnessed a missionary do. I did sympathize with the fornicating missionary and the missionary in that apartment who would openly discuss pleasuring himself. The fornicator was pretty discrete about his weakness and we could often get the latter guy to shut up. I knew they shouldn’t have been out in the mission field, but stayed presumably due to family pressures/expectations.

    But here it is a generation after I served. I am now a middle aged father of five. My oldest daughter has been on her own for a few years now. I have a son going on a mission soon. And to this day, a few times a year, I wake up at night thinking about that hedge hog and often end up vomiting. Don’t tell me the fornicator was just as bad; he had a weakness which we can all understand is built into us for the continuation of our species. The fornicating missionary is likely married now and I hope has receive grace as I have. The hedge hog killer’s act was one of pure evil that still haunts my dreams.

    While I take full responsibility for my post mission fall into serial fornication, in some ways events on and ill feelings from my mission set me up for it. I was a very diligent missionary and largely ignored the rules that thwarted the work. In short, I worked hard and played hard. I remember at least three times coming close to getting sent home. Once early in my mission for writing a colorful letter (harmless in my mind) that ended up in the wrong hands, and at least twice later in my mission for not ratting out wayward missionaries. For reasons I don’t fully understand, I was called from being a junior comp to a four team (three elder pairs, one sister pair) DL while still struggling with the language. I didn’t even know all the discussions well. While I did have a knack for almost effortlessly following the spirit to find, teach and baptize that seemed to perplex many, including myself, I thought at the time the Pres was off his rocker. Late in my mission as a ZL, I was expected to be the Pres’ eyes and ears, blah, blah, blah. I never asked to be in the leadership. I made it clear I couldn’t rat out fellow missionaries who had come to trust me because of my unorthodox style and requested reassignment. I was threatened with being an obedient Nazi or going home dishonorably. But in the end, I couldn’t be a rat and called the bluff. Confrontations between me and the Pres continued for a time. He finally gave up and said he wouldn’t send me home or reassign me as a regular senior comp, because my stats were so good it would send the wrong signal to the rest of the mission. Instead he ignored me, not released, ignored. In the end, I was a Senior ZL in title and the Pres wouldn’t take or return my calls regarding routine mission business. He began directing my comp only. I was a figurehead de facto junior ZL just riding out the remaining time on my mission, which would have been far better spent as Joe missionary proselyting 100%. In hindsight I should have just quit and gone home. At least then my dignity would have been intact. But I came home feeling used and abused and sorry for myself. I didn’t go back to the temple after my mission. I tried activity in a BYU student ward, but it wasn’t too long before I was inactive (less active in today’s jargon). I hung out with the cool cliques at BYU and stopped wearing my garments. When a BYU freshman I was dating repeatedly begged for sex, I was already a broken man and threw in the towel to find relief through physical pleasure. I have to be honest; fornication got me out of a funk. I learned to love myself again and my studies became easier. I went through many sexual relationships after that, some romantic, some casual, some awful and I respected most of those woman as they respected me as basically a good and decent person of worth who had weaknesses and faults. In short, I was happier in my underground fallen sinful state than in the visible judgmental LDS culture that broke me. But G-d had a plan that was to bring me back to his grace and church. At another university’s grad program, I had my last affair with an active LDS woman who has now been my wife of almost 24 years. Today we have a wonderful family and enjoy the gospel in its fullness.

  9. Anonymous another 

    If it prevents you from gaining your Salvation, does it matter what the sin is next to? If my sin is next to jaywalking, am I okay?

  10. Anonymous Brett 

    Like Arwyn said, living the law of chastity does help us develop our charity. As it says in Alam 38:12 "..see that you bridle all your passions, that you may be filled with love.." Like how it says bridle here. It doesn't say stiffle them until they don't exist. Being a horny teenanger is OK, just learn to control those feelings so that you can be a more loving person.
    I also think the reason members in the church equate those who break the law of chasity as bad people becuase we often equate chaste living to being moral. But being moral is more than being a chaste person. Being moral means being honest, loving, just, kind, brave, the list goes on and on. So do I think someone who doesn't live the law of chasity is moral? Yeah. But they can be even more moral by keeping the law of chastity.

  11. Blogger katie 

    I know that Elder Holland’s talk is dragged out a lot in discussions about chastity-but this is only because it is so good. It is one of the those clichés that has earned the right to be one. As I remember in the talk Elder Holland talks about how the reason that breaking the law of chastity and murder are so serious is that they both deal with life. Chastity the creating of life-murder the taking of it.

    Really, I think this is the best explanation. The power of procreation is the power of godliness. That is what God does, He creates. And what is God after all? He is love. They to go hand in hand. Heavenly Father creates because He loves and loves what He creates. The abuse of chastity is the abuse of godliness, the abuse of your eternal potential. We are sexual beings. Sexuality is our essence. God is a sexual being. Therefore when we break the law of chastity it is an especial affront to Him, for we are mocking His essence. It is like burning the American flag in front of your WWII veteran grandpa.

    I like what Brett said about the reason we keep commandments like this one. It is not to be prudes, but simply to have a greater dose of the Spirit, which in turn should give us more charity, which leads to more service. Everything is the church is designed to get us to love more-especially the commandments. I agree that being a good person is more than keeping the law of chastity and that morality is made of many things. The problem is that if we are breaking the law of chastity, we do not have the Sprit, we then do not have much charity, we are not serving to the utmost capacity, and God is saddened. You can certainly be a good person and still be a chastity breaker-but you are going to have much less of the Spirit. Period. The times where I am not keeping the commandments and have less Spirit, are the times I like people the least. Service goes out the window.

    But I will agree with D-Train that we need to stop making people feel like second class Saints because they have made a mistake. We are all sinners before a holy God. I have been a member for several years now, but I still hate the Mormon concept of ranking sins according to seriousness. All sins from swearing to chastity are disgusting in the eyes of a holy God. I hate that people feel secure that they aren’t committing big sins, just little ones. False security. Even the concept of a temple recommend that declares you are “worthy” is a bit irksome to me. Worthy? No one is ever worthy (“there is none that do good, no not one“). We need to help people who have struggles with chastity to repent and move on. I have known too many people who’s past transgressions continue to haunt them far past their time of repentance. They can be made whole again and this refrain should be more oft repeated than it is.

  12. Anonymous Derek 

    I must admit I have been influenced less by the fire and brimstone "Miracle of Forgiveness" and more by the, IMO, nuanced and more thoughtful "Of Souls, Symobls and Sacraments" by Elder Holland. I would recommend it as a considered and inspiring foundation for chastitiy.

    In it, Elder Holland compares that the sin of adultery/fornication and murder in that it affects how life is either created or destroyed. God cares deeply about both circumstances. Obviously he doesn't want us killing each other and taking away life. But nearly as important is the power to create life. Even if a sexual act does not produce life, it is of utmost importance to God how and when it happens. He has set clear and defined boundaries for how and when. If we are using this power in anyway other than with our spouses for the creation of life or the unifying of our relationship then it is to our detriment and consequences follow.

    Certainly there are institutional consequences set up by inspired prophets and spiritual consequences as well. In my mind, it is a clear natural consequence that the Spirit will never be present when we are subjecting ourselves to lustful thoughts and actions. And because sexual behaviors can be among the most addictive behaviors as well this can lead to a long-term separation from the Spirit. The alienation from God and the Spirit through such behavior can either lead us to repent or, unfortunately, lead us to despair and continue sinning. I do not doubt the power of the atonement to heal the rift such selfish and degrading behavior can cause. I believe we cannot emphasize the power of Christ enough. But at the same time it is not right to downplay such serious behavior.

    Sexual desires are far more than just an animalistic natural impulse that leads to the continuation of the species. It is the Godly power to clothe a spirit in a mortal body, to act as a creator with God. This awesome power comes with God-directed responsibilities and tests. If we prove we are unworthy of such Godly power in this life, then the Lord has told us he will not permit us to have such power after this life.

    We all share such strong impulses and urges. Sure, we can understand when people act on these impulses, but it doesn’t change the fact that one of the crucial aspects of mortality to learn to submit our natural impulses to more divine impulses and influences.

    So off-the-cuff, here is how I see the gradation of sin (leaving out denying the Holy Ghost).
    1. A selfish misuse of the power to take life (with an acceptable use being times of war, self-defense, when God commands, etc.)
    2. A selfish misuse of the power to create life (which is the most serious when covenants have been made to use this power properly)
    3. A selfish misuse of the power to make life joyful and relieve suffering (which would include any times we are not charitable, we hold a grudge, etc.).

    Of course, this list is not perfect. Learning to love like God loves is wrapped up in all of this. Thus, the higher law in the sermon on the mount; not only should we not kill, but we should never be angry or hate. Not only should we not commit adultery, we shouldn’t even think lustful, selfish thoughts. We should love and pray for and lift up everyone. And thus, says Alma, we must bridle our passions and lusts or we cannot be filled with love.

  13. Blogger annegb 

    I totally agaree with your first assertion. I've always quietly disagreed with the "sin next to murder" idea.

    I had to learn my own lessons about chastity, and I learned that, like everything else, we grow, we repent, it's a mistake to quantify or qualify sin.

    Living here in southern Utah, we get very excited (you guys might think that's a bad word, but really, I think it's excitement, we enjoy the diversion and the gossip) when somebody gets excommunicated or disfellowshipped for having an affair. Or we speculate when kids don't get married in the temple.

    But I personally believe there are worse sins, well, adultery aside, because that's a total bad thing in my book, but I worry about how we treat the young kids. They worry so much about life anyway, I wish we could communicate to them a love for chastity and the very real truth that the urges are normal. And if you give into them, you are not doomed.

    I've taught my daughter that hurting other people, being unkind or hypocritical is way worse than liking it when your boyfriend grabs your boob. Not that you should encourage him, but give yourself a break. It's human.

    I have really appreciated this thread and the honesty here. Jonathan, I especially appreciate your honesty. Would it be possible for you to e-mail me, I could use some counsel here.

    You guys have good minds.

  14. Blogger annegb 

    oh, I forgot the e-mail. It's
    gardnera@netutah.com. I promise I won't be a pain.

  15. Blogger D-Train 

    These are all terrific thoughts. I just want to bring up a couple of things that I found especially interesting.

    I think that Elder Holland's treatment of chastity does explain why sexual sin is so serious. I agree with all of that language and with Elder Holland.

    What I don't think we're getting, however, is the perception that's involved. Accepting Elder Holland's view of what sexual sin is and why it is so serious involves accepting lots of other things and consciously considering those things. I'm not sure that your average chastity violator is doing that. "I didn't know" may not be a defense in court, but it is significant in terms of evaluating accountability.

    What most chastity violators (in my view) are doing is not showing disrespect for the creation of life, but getting the physical pleasure of the act without the commitment. Indeed, I know of few sexual affairs that start with the intent to have a child. This is not disrespect of the creation of life, but a failure to live up to the obligations of using the process. This is still quite serious, but I don't think it's quite what many have suggested.

    And, let us consider for a moment who the chastity violators are. They're not (for the most part; there are always exceptions) Elder's Quorum presidents, Relief Society presidents, and bishops. Generally, they're people that are struggling with the gospel, going through a specific tough time (as Steve above was), or people that aren't that active. Does this count for nothing? I think we've made the mistake of assuming the sin is of a different character than it is. For example, if I start guzzling tea and drinking socially, that's a big deal. I'm an active Latter-Day Saint with a temple recommend, and I put that recommend aside for a glass of Tropical Delight. I've noted before that I think the WoW is seen as the highest commandment in the gospel, but I also think that it's a pretty big deal for me to transgress that commandment. For a pimp with Mafia ties that decides to take the discussions, those sins aren't as serious. Why? To put it bluntly, he's got other fish to fry and he doesn't know what I know. Fix the chest wound, then worry about the hangnail.

    I don't think sexual sin is a hangnail for anybody. But some sexual sins are much worse than others. And I do think that most sexual sin happens in a situation that makes that temptation especially attractive and hope especially ludicrous. Is this an excuse? No. Is it evidence that something more than the desire to "have a good time" influenced them? Clearly. It would be silly to lump all chastity violators together under this penumbra of horrible when they're really just individual people having a rough time. They need our love a LOT more than they need our condemnation.

    I'll sum up a few things that I think might have been unclear in my original post.

    1) SEXUAL SIN IS A BIG DEAL. But nothing is a bigger deal than the Atonement, save it be the unpardonable sins. We're in universal agreement that sexual sin is not. Therefore,

    2) ANY TEACHING THAT IMPLIES THAT THE ATONEMENT CANNOT FIX SEXUAL SIN IN ITS ENTIRETY, GIVEN REPENTANCE, IS FALSE AND ABOMINABLE. If the Atonement can fix sexual sin and is needed elsewhere in our lives, then we must

    3) CONSIDER OTHER ISSUES OF WORTHINESS TO BE IMPORTANT AS WELL. If you're chaste, you're not a good person. If you're not chaste, you're not a bad person. There's a lot more that goes into the pot. And besides, even if the teaching that unchastity makes a person bad is true, it isn't especially helpful to the sinner, who is the one that the Lord came to help anyway (hint: all of us). You might as well tell people "well, there are lots of people that aren't going to the celestial kingdom. The odds are good that if you don't have it together now, you'll never get it. Pack a swimsuit: it's gonna be hot."

    Obvious hyperbole. But the point is that when we hammer chastity, chastity, chastity, and make thoughtless remarks about "the holes still being there", that's exactly what we say. Stress being chaste. It's really important. Just don't forget the rope and the helping hands for the people that didn't make it the first time.

  16. Blogger annegb 

    You know, D-Train, I think it's unfortunate that the Ensign wouldn't print anything like your last post. It's right on. I know they have to speak in generalities, but how many people, like us, just can't make sense of this and other delicate issues? And then wonder if they are bad or not worthy to be in the church and despair. How sad, huh?

  17. Anonymous Derek 

    Thanks for the nice follow-up D-Train. I have appreciated everyone's comments.

    Some questions--Do you think the Church's confession/institutional disciple program is too hard on the law of chastity transgressor? Do you think that probation, disfellowshipping, and excommunication highlight the seriousness of the sin or merely add public scorn and embarrassment to the sinner? Why are sexual sins singled out among the other serious sins people have brought up here (unforgiving attitudes, cruelty to others and animals, lack of charity, gossip, etc.) for institutional discipline?

    I have known cruel, unforgiving, judgmental people who proudly take the sacrament every week and other loving, caring people who are denied that because of a chastity slip-up. Why the incongruity do you think?

  18. Blogger Mike 

    Why the incongruity?
    Well, some of it comes from the explanation in Holland’s Souls, Symbols and Sacraments- but I think there is more than that.
    I think there are a whole lot of reasons- but I think the most simple may be having a measurable standard.
    It is very hard to define the line where we become uncharitable- and especially the line where it is an active sin of commission rather than a sin of omission. What is discussion in concern over a friend, and what is gossip?
    Sexual sin, violent acts, crimes against the state or individuals such as theft, and some other sins all entail a specific action that was or was not taken.

    Do x, get y result.

    Further, they are actions which you can be caught doing. Refusing to help, having bad thoughts, begrudging others- all of these are things that could be as bad or worse than other more visible sins- but it is hard to say "aha- there, that action is wrong and requires fixing."

    But really, I think part of it has to due with many of those who have been involved in sexual sin being repentant and having seen their priesthood leaders to discuss a repentance process. They do not take the sacrament in part because they realize its significance and have acted to change. With people who are judgmental, who are greedy, cruel, unforgiving, etc. they likely don't know that they are- and often aren't repentant for being that way.
    We repent for actions not attitudes. Our attitudes do take time to change- but a lot of that change happens before coming forward and repenting. So a lot of the cruel, etc people IF they realize that they are that way are often much less that way by the time they would go and talk to the bishop about it.
    If someone is engaged in an activity that is a sin based on a mindset that is a sin, on a misunderstanding of doctrine, etc that person does not take the sacrament through a repentance process in order to make sure they have overcome that attitude or grown enough to not take that action.

    So- some one that is cruel to the point of doing awful things- abusing others, stealing, being dishonest would likely wish to repent of those specific things. They may go to the bishop and receive disciplinary action if their active sins (beyond their attitudes) were severe.
    But in many ways it would be less needed- part of why sexual sin has a repentance process different than say stealing something is it isn't really possible to put things back the way they were. The church teaches that repentances requires that we make recompense as much as we can. Since you can give back something you stole but can't really undue sexual sin there is more that must be paid by the atonement.

  19. Blogger annegb 

    Derek, I loved your last sentence of your last post. I feel the same way, and that can relate to word of wisdom problems as well.

    I believe that obeying the letter of the law is one of the keys to a happy life, don't get me wrong, but the hypocrisy of those who totally ignore the Golden Rule bothers me.

    Of course, here I am sitting as their judge and jury. I should let this go and work on my own beam.

  20. Blogger Oscar 

    Hi, these are great comments, thanks. Thanks especially to Steve FSF for sharing his experience.

    In my opinion, any emphasis on how a person is irredeemably damaged once the person has sex, allows the person to feel why not keep having sex, if I'm already damned to hell?

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