There are few challenges in this world that are more difficult than staying morally clean; this is especially true for teens and young adults. Sexual intimacy is a gift from God, a gift that can bring fulfillment and pleasure if used properly. Heavenly Father expects us to use this gift within the guidelines He gives us: this intimacy should take place only within marriage. Satan tries to convince us that this gift can be used freely whenever and with anyone we choose, but those who follow Satan's temptations end up feeling regret, pain, and sorrow. Those who stand firm against Satan and keep the Lord's standards of moral cleanliness find happiness and peace of mind.
Moral cleanliness - also known as chastity and virtue - is a precious gift. President Spencer W. Kimball described it as "being most dear and precious above all things" (Conference Report, Sydney Australia Area Conference 1976, p. 54).
Chastity is the Lord's standard of moral (sexual) cleanliness. Heavenly Father has commanded that we abstain from any kind of sexual intimacy before marriage and be completely faithful to our spouse after marriage. He has also commanded us to avoid immoral forms of entertainment and to keep our thoughts clean and pure.
The scriptures contain many examples of people who understood the importance of chastity. One good example was Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers and became the servant of Potiphar, a prosperous Egyptian. (See Genesis 37; 39.)
"And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
"But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth [knoweth] not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand.
"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?
"And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her. (See Genesis 39:7-10.)
Joseph knew the Lord's stand of chastity and recognized that Potiphar's wife was trying to persuade him to violate that standard. The wife of Potiphar was very insistent in her demands, and one day she almost succeeded in catching him.
"And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.
"And she caught him by his garment, saying Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. (See Genesis 39:11-12.)
When Potiphar's wife lied about the incident and said Joseph had made improper advances to her, Joseph was thrown into prison. (See Genesis 39:13-20.) Joseph must have known that he was risking much when he said no. After all, he was a foreigner in
who held a high position in
Potiphar's household. Why was he willing
to risk so much in order to stay chaste?
It is obvious that Joseph was more anxious about obeying God than he was
in keeping his job! Egypt
Satan is very subtle, and he designs traps with delicious "bait" to lure us into improper behavior. He does not immediately try to tempt us to commit serious sins, but he starts by tempting us into seemingly innocent thoughts and activities that can easily lead to more serious sins.
"And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God - he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God. …
"For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.
"And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well -- and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
"And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none -- and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. (See Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 28:8, 20-22.)
Some of Satan's bait comes through the media. This is why leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has warned the rising generation with counsel such as the following.
"Whatever you read, listen to, or watch makes an impression on you. Public entertainment and the media can provide you with much positive experience. They can uplift and inspire you, teach you good and moral principles, and bring you closer to the beauty this world offers. But they can also make what is wrong and evil look normal, exciting, and acceptable" (For the Strength of Youth, p. 11)
Many popular movies, television programs, books, magazines, and music reflect the world's standards, which are very different from the Lord's standards. Not only do worldly standards promote the use of alcohol, tobacco, and violence, they incorrectly suggest that sexual intimacy should be available to anyone at any time. Media that promote worldly standards usually fail to show the physical and spiritual harm that comes from breaking God's commandments.
President Gordon B. Hinckley stated: "There are storms blowing around you. There is the clever exploitation of sex and violence to be seen on television and through videotapes, [pornographic] magazines, long distance telephone services, and even the Internet.
"My plea to you … is to distance yourselves from these things. You can [change the channel] on the TV set. You can shun like a plague the renting or acquisition of videotapes designed to titillate and lead you into regrettable paths…. You don't have to read sleazy literature of any kind. It will not help you. It will only injure you" ("True to the Faith," Ensign, June 1996, 4).
Have you ever said or heard someone else say, "This movie is OK because it only has one bad scene" or "I like the music but I never listen to the words." I have. The problem with these justifications for watching or listening to immoral things is because even a small amount of evil can affect us negatively by making us temporally unable to feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Accepting a small amount of evil will also make us more susceptible to greater evil. If we watch movies with "just one" bad scene, we will become less concerned about movies with several bad scenes and will accept more immorality and evil into our lives. When we listen to music, even if we do not consciously notice the lyrics, our subconscious mind may be listening to them and recording them in our memory.
In order to make sure that the movies, television shows, music, books, magazines, and other media that influence us are reflective of the Lord's standards and not the world's standards, we must have a standard to judge them. We find such a standard in the Book of Mormon where
from his father, Mormon. Moroni
"For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
"But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him." (See
We learn from these verses how to evaluate what is good and what is evil. Anything that invites us to do good and to persuade us to believe in Christ is good. Anything that persuades us to do evil and to not believe in Christ is evil.
Our thirteenth Article of Faith explains that "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul -- We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things" (Pearl of Great Price, Article Faith 1:13).
We should do more than just avoid evil; in fact, we are instructed to "forsake all evil" but at the same time to "cleave unto all good." (See Doctrine and Covenants 98:11.) When the thirteenth Article of Faith says that we should "seek after" good things, it means that we should make an effort to find them, study them, and discover their beauty. We should shun media that do not meet the Lord's standards, but we should also seek out media that support the Lord's standards.
Satan also uses fashion to lure us into immorality; he does this by encouraging us to wear immodest clothing. Our spiritual leaders have given this wise counsel to guide us.
"Servants of God have always counseled his children to dress modestly to show respect for him and for themselves. Because the way you dress sends messages about yourself to others and often influences the way you and others act, you should dress in such a way as to bring out the best in yourself and those around you." (See For the Strength of Youth, p. 8.)
This counsel reflects a simple principle: how we dress affects the way we behave. Wise parents and leaders use this principle to encourage good behavior.
The story is told of a coach of a professional sports team who was very disturbed by the actions and language of members of his team when they were traveling by chartered airplane to their various destinations. The players harassed the flight attendants, threw food, and yelled the length of the airplane to one another. The airlines had a difficult time getting flight attendants willing to work when this team was flying.
After much thought, the coach came up with a solution. From that point on, the team members were required to wear a suit, tie, and dress shoes when traveling, instead of the casual attire they had been allowed to wear previously. Their behavior improved greatly. It seemed that when they were dressed like gentlemen, they behaved like gentlemen. Flight attendants even began requesting to work on flights chartered by this team.
The behavior of the team members improved because they raised their standard of dressing. The simple fact is that most of us behave better when we are wearing our Sunday best than when we are wearing our grubby clothing. The same is true with how modest our clothing is. Immodest clothing - clothing that is too short or too tight or that draws inappropriate attention to our bodies - leads us to think and act immodestly as well. The clothing we wear affects other people around us. Immodest clothing may encourage others to pay too much attention to our bodies. It may also lead them to believe untrue things about our standards and our behavior.
The styles that are most fashionable are not usually modest. Some of the styles can be modified to make them modest - such as lengthening a skirt or wearing a jacket over a skimpy top. Other times the styles cannot be made modest and must be abandoned. We want to dress in such a way that we bring out the best in ourselves and in the people around us.
Satan appeals to natural desires to lure us into immorality. The physical attraction between males and females is natural and normal. Heavenly Father gave those feelings to us with the understanding that we are to keep them under control until the appropriate time and circumstances. Church leaders counsel our youth to delay dating until at least age sixteen and then to date in groups; they counsel us to remember that some physical expressions of affection may be appropriate in dating situations but should not be indulged in casually or with just anyone.
Other expressions of affection are only appropriate with our spouse after marriage. These expressions include sexual intercourse and any actions that lead to it, such as intense kissing, touching any part of another person's body under their clothing, or touching another person's "private parts" on top of or underneath their clothing. A good rule of thumb is that any thoughts or actions that increase your interest in or desire for another person's body are inappropriate and sinful outside of the marriage relationship.
In today's world, we are often led to believe that important expressions of affection should always be physical, but there are many ways we can express affection or appreciation without violating the Lord's standards. Remember that the use of pornography often leads to immorality. If you have already participated in inappropriate behavior, you should talk with your bishop. He can give you counsel about how to repent.
Keeping the Lord's standards of moral cleanliness will not necessarily make us popular, but it will lead us toward eternal happiness, which is much more valuable than the approval of the world.
Our bodies are temples, and the Lord has commanded us to keep these temples clean (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; D&C 133:5); this includes being clean in body, mind, and spirit. I know that it is important to stay morally clean in order to be truly happy. I encourage you to keep the Lord's standards and be morally clean and pure. You will never be sorry for staying morally clean.