The law of chastity is very simple to understand: We are to have sexual relations only with our spouse to whom we are legally and lawfully married. No one, male or female, is to have sexual relations before marriage. After marriage, sexual relations are performed only with our spouse.
The law of chastity is not a new law because the Lord told the Israelites, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14). This law has been repeated with the very same words in our day (see Doctrine and Covenants 42:24). The law of chastity means more than sexual intercourse. The First Presidency warned of other sexual sins: "Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person's body, with or without clothing. Do not allow anyone to do that with you. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body" (For the Strength of Youth [pamphlet, 2001], 27).
A person who lives the law of chastity is said to be virtuous, but virtue is actually more than just being chaste. "Virtue is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards. It includes chastity and [moral] purity…. Virtue is a requirement to have the companionship and guidance of the Holy Ghost…. Being virtuous is a requirement to enter the temple. And it is a requirement to be worthy to stand in the Savior's presence" (Elaine S. Dalton, "Guardians of Virtue," Ensign, 121-124).
Homosexual behavior is a serious sin just like other violations of the law of chastity. Latter-day prophets have warned about the dangers of homosexual behavior and about concern for people who may have such inclinations. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "In the first place, we believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. We believe that marriage may be eternal through exercise of the power of the everlasting priesthood in the house of the Lord.
"People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.
"We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families" (Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71).
So why is obedience to the law of chastity so important? When God created the earth, He commanded each living thing to reproduce after its own kind (see Genesis 1:22). It was part of God's plan that all forms of life would continue to exist on the earth through reproduction of their own kind.
After God created all the animals, birds, fish, etc, He created Adam and Eve after His own image. They were His spirit children, and He brought them together in eternal marriage in the Garden of Eden. Then He commanded them to multiply and replenish the earth (see Genesis 1:28). They were to govern their lives by moral laws and not by animal instincts.
God planned for His spirit children to be born into families where they could be cared for and taught properly. As the posterity of Adam and Eve, we too are to provide bodies for God's spirit children. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have stated, "We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed" ("The Family: A Proclamation to the World," Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). God has commanded that sexual relations are to take place in a legal and lawful marriage between a man and a woman. This commandment is the law of chastity.
Satan is cunning and powerful as he does all that he can to destroy the plan of God by enticing us to break the law of chastity. Because Heavenly Father wants us to keep our bodies covered modestly, Satan attacks the standards of modesty. Satan knows that immodest dress encourages improper thoughts and actions. Satan also tempts us through our emotions and chooses a time when we are lonely, confused, or depressed to tempt us to break the law of chastity. If we will rely on Heavenly Father, He will give us the strength to pass through these trials unharmed.
Genesis 39:1-18 tells the story of a righteous young man named Joseph, who was trusted by his master Potiphar. Joseph had command over everything that belonged to Potiphar. When Potiphar's wife lusted after Joseph and tempted him to commit adultery with her, Joseph resisted and fled from her, exclaiming, "There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God" (italics added).
Breaking the law of chastity is very serious. The prophet Alma told his son Corianton that unchastity is next to murder in seriousness when he said, "Know ye not, my son, that these things 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?" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Christ,
Heavenly Father wants all of His children to obey the law of chastity and any members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who break this law or influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Those who break the law of chastity can receive forgiveness and peace, but the way is not easy. President Spencer W. Kimball said, "To every forgiveness there is a condition. … The fasting, the prayers, the humility must be equal to or greater than the sin. There must be a broken heart and a contrite spirit…. There must be tears and genuine change of heart. There must be conviction of the sin, abandonment of the evil, confession of the error to properly constituted authorities of the Lord" (The Miracle of Forgiveness , 353).
Confession is usually the most difficult part of repentance for confession must be not only to the Lord but to those who have been offended. President Kimball warned, "Even though forgiveness is so abundantly promised there is no promise or indication of forgiveness to any soul who does not totally repent …. We can hardly be too forceful in reminding people that they cannot sin and be forgiven and then sin again and again and expect repeated forgiveness" (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 353, 360).
Chastity and virtue are "most dear and precious above all things" (Book of Mormon, Mormon 9:9) and must be guarded both in ourselves and in others. We must prepare ourselves daily for this duty by daily personal prayer, daily scripture study, and by weekly attendance at Church. Sister Dalton suggested that we can make "decisions in advance [to] help you be guardians of virtue … write a list of things you will always do and things you will never do. Then live your list.
"Being a guardian of virtue means you will always be modest not only in your dress but also in your speech, your actions, and your use of social media. Being a guardian of virtue … means that you understand the importance of chastity because you understand that your body is a temple and that the sacred powers of procreation are not to be tampered with [outside of] marriage. You understand that you possess a sacred power that involves the holy responsibility of bringing other spirits to earth to receive a body in which to house their eternal spirit. This power involves another sacred soul. You are a guardian of something `more precious than rubies' [Proverbs 3:15]. Be faithful. Be obedient…."
Living the law of chastity helps us to live without guilt or shame. It also brings blessings into our own life and into the lives of our children and grandchildren, born and unborn. Our children look to our example and follow in our footsteps, and we must make sure we are walking in the ways we should be going.