Law of chastity

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The law of chastity is a moral code defined by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). According to the church, chastity means that "sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife."[1] Therefore, abstinence from sexual relations before marriage, and complete fidelity to one's spouse during marriage, are required,[2] as part of the law of chastity, the church teaches its members not only to abstain from adultery and fornication, but also to refrain from masturbation and to avoid sexually inappropriate thoughts. The law of chastity is taught to church members of all ages, and is especially emphasized to adolescents.

General standards[edit]

Within the LDS Church, chastity means more than abstinence from sex, it means to be morally clean in "thoughts, words, and actions." It also means sexual relations are only permitted between a husband and wife. The church teaches its members that "no one, male or female, is to have sexual relations before marriage, after marriage, sexual relations are permitted only with our spouse."[2]

Mormons believe that sexuality between man and woman lawfully married is divinely appointed and has two purposes: to "multiply, and replenish the Earth" (Genesis 1:28) as commanded by God to Adam and Eve, and to strengthen the bond between man and woman that they might "become one flesh" (Mark 10:8). A church handbook for leaders states that married couples should be made aware "that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a way of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife."[3]

The church has made its views clear in many publications and in recent news releases that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God".[4] While opposing homosexual behavior, the church advises its leaders and members to reach out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender.[5]

Sexual relations are deemed proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, are sinful and undermine the divinely created institution of the family, the church accordingly affirms defining marriage as the legal and lawful union between a man and a woman.[6]

Youth teaching[edit]

An LDS Church publication targeted at youth states: "Before 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 do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.”[7] Youth are taught in church classes that sexual relations are sacred, and they should avoid "fondling of bodies, one's own or that of others".[8] Masturbation is "not condoned but is not considered homosexual".[9]


The LDS Church places great emphasis on the law of chastity. Commitment to live the law of chastity is required for baptism,[10] and adherence is required to receive a temple recommend.[11]

The Book of Mormon teaches that sexual sins are "most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost" (Alma 39:5). Church leaders have similarly emphasized its importance.

Apostle Spencer W. Kimball, in his book Miracle of Forgiveness, quoted Heber J. Grant as saying, "[t]here is no true Latter-day Saint who would not rather bury a son or daughter than to have him or her lose his or her chastity—realizing that chastity is of more value than anything else in all the world."[citation needed]

LDS Church president Ezra Taft Benson wrote:

Violation of the law of chastity may result in church discipline, including disfellowshipment or excommunication.

In endowment ceremony[edit]

The law of chastity is one of the covenants members of the LDS Church promise by oath to keep during the endowment ceremony of the temple.[13][14]

Includes broader transgressions[edit]

Activities considered a violation of the law of chastity include both adultery and fornication as well as broader behavior. While serving as church president, Kimball taught that the law of chastity encompasses "all sexual relations outside marriage—petting, sex perversion, masturbation, and preoccupation with sex in one's thoughts and talking. Included are every hidden and secret sin and all unholy and impure thoughts and practices."[15]

Victims of rape, incest, or sexual abuse are not guilty of sin and are not considered to have broken the law of chastity.[16] However, they often feel that they have lost their virtue, which intensifies the feelings of shame and guilt experienced by many victims of rape; in the Book of Mormon, it states, "For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue".[17] In a general conference address, Richard G. Scott explained, "The victim must do all in his or her power to stop the abuse. Most often, the victim is innocent because of being disabled by fear or the power or authority of the offender, at some point in time, however, the Lord may prompt a victim to recognize a degree of responsibility for abuse. Your priesthood leader will help assess your responsibility so that, if needed, it can be addressed."[18]

In addition, members are taught to dress modestly, to control their thoughts, and to avoid pornography.[2][16] Dressing immodestly is not a violation of the law of chastity, but "modesty promotes chastity".[16] Members who are married are instructed to "be faithful to your spouse in thought, word, and action. Stay away from situations where temptation may develop."[16]

According to the church, even though the violation of the law of chastity is considered a serious sin, one who has violated the law of chastity can repent and receive forgiveness from God.[2][16][15]


The Church allows members to identify as gay and participate in temple ordinances, but bans any same-sex sexual activity.[19]

The church has stated its view that a person having same-gender attraction is not sinful and no one should be blamed for it,[20] and that LGBT members can have a good standing in the church.[21] LGBT members of the church are expected to obey the same laws as heterosexual members, including controlling thoughts and not arousing sexual feelings outside of marriage. However, the church actively opposes the extension of the traditional definition of marriage to also include same-sex couples;[22] in 2007, the church produced "God Loveth His Children", a pamphlet whose stated purpose is to help LGBT members, which was followed by a website "Mormons and Gays" dedicated to the topic of homosexuality in December 2012. In October 2016, the church updated the website, including changing the name to "Mormon and Gay."[23]

D. Michael Quinn has stated that Kimball, the church's 12th president, did not believe that an individual could be homosexual, asserting that only a person's actions were homosexual.[24] George L. Mitton and Rhett S. James believe this a distortion of LDS history.[25]

In 1987, Gordon B. Hinckley wrote that "Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices."[26]


On various occasions church leaders have taught that members should not masturbate as part of obedience to the law of chastity.[27][28][29][30] The 1990 edition of the church's youth guidelines pamphlet states that the "Lord specifically forbids ... masturbation"[31] with the later two editions alluding to it with statements forbidding anything that "arouses" any sexual feelings or emotions in one's "own body".[32][33] Apostle Spencer W. Kimball, who later served as church president, warned of the "possible damages" and "dangers"[34] of this "common indescretion"[35] on various occasions calling it a "reprehensible sin"[36][37] that grows "with every exercise".[38][39] Tad R. Callister stated in a 2013 speech at BYU-Idaho that God "condemns self-abuse"[40] (a euphemism for masturbation).[41]

A 1970 missionary guide included a section written by apostle Mark E. Petersen called "Steps to Overcome Masturbation".[42] The guide, reprinted in a 1973 church packet,[43] recommended exercise, keeping a Book of Mormon held in hand at night, limiting time in the bathroom, and praying for help to overcome masturbation,[44][45] since 1985 the church has provided a manual for parents to use in discussing sexuality with their children. The manual includes statements that "prophets have condemned [masturbation] as a sin" and "perversion of the body's passions" that causes one to "become carnal".[46]

One of the lengthiest public discussions of masturbation by an apostle was Boyd K. Packer's October 1976 general conference address "To Young Men Only" in which he uses a "little factory" euphemism to discuss male reproductive organs and warns young men not to tamper with the factory lest it speed up and become a guilt- and depression-inducing habit that is not easy to resist. He gives vigorous exercise as a method to help control thoughts and break the habit of masturbation since it is a "transgression" that is "not pleasing to the Lord",[30][47] the talk was printed as a pamphlet and widely distributed by the church from 1980 to 2016.[48]


As part of teaching the law of chastity, LDS Church leaders have repeatedly condemned the use of sexually arousing literature[49] and visual material for decades.[50][51]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Same-Sex Marriage",, accessed June 17, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "Chapter 39: The Law of Chastity", Gospel Principles, LDS Church, 2009, p. 247, retrieved 2013-09-30 
  3. ^ "21.4.4: Birth Control", Handbook 2: Administering the Church, LDS Church, 2010 
  4. ^ First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles (September 23, 1995), The Family: A Proclamation to the World, LDS Church, retrieved 2013-12-11 . See also: The Family: A Proclamation to the World
  5. ^ "21.4.6: Homosexual Behavior and Same-Gender Attraction", Handbook 2: Administering the Church, LDS Church, 2010 
  6. ^ "21.4.10: Same-Gender Marriages", Handbook 2: Administering the Church, LDS Church, 2010 
  7. ^ "Sexual Purity", For the Strength of Youth, LDS Church, 2011 
  8. ^ "Lesson 41: Sexual Purity", Aaronic Priesthood Manual 1, LDS Church, 2002, p. 147, retrieved 2010-11-24 
  9. ^ Brown, Victor L., Jr. (1992), "Homosexuality", in Ludlow, Daniel H, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing, p. 655-656, ISBN 0-02-879602-0, OCLC 24502140 
  10. ^ "Chapter 12: How Do I Prepare People for Baptism and Confirmation?", Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2004) pp. 203–12.
  11. ^ "Being Worthy to Enter the Temple", Liahona, August 2010 .
  12. ^ Benson, Ezra Taft (January 1988), "The Law of Chastity", New Era: 4 
  13. ^ Christensen, Bryce J. (1992), "Chastity, Law of", in Ludlow, Daniel H, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing, pp. 265–266, ISBN 0-02-879602-0, OCLC 24502140 
  14. ^ Talmage, James E. (1912), The House of the Lord, Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, p. 100 
  15. ^ a b Kimball, Spencer W. (November 1980), "President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality", Ensign 
  16. ^ a b c d e "Sexual Purity Blesses Our Lives", Liahona, July 2010 
  17. ^ Moroni 9:9
  18. ^ Scott, Richard (May 1992). "Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse". Ensign. 
  19. ^ "Same-Sex Attraction". LDS Church. Retrieved 3 June 2017. Identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual or experiencing same-sex attraction is not a sin and does not prohibit one from ... attending the temple. ... Sexual relations between ... people of the same sex, violate one of our Father in Heaven’s most important laws.... 
  20. ^ God Loveth His Children, LDS Church, 2007, retrieved 2013-09-30 
  21. ^ Lattin, Don (13 April 1997). "Musings of the Main Mormon". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-11-24. 
  22. ^ McKinley, Jesse; Johnson, Kirk (14 November 2008). "Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-24. 
  23. ^ "Church Updates Official ‘Mormon and Gay’ Website: provides ministerial materials for members", Newsroom, LDS Church, 2016-10-25 
  24. ^ Quinn, D. Michael. Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth Century Americans: A Mormon Example. University of Illinois Press. p. [page needed]. ISBN 0-252-06958-7. 
  25. ^ Mitton, George L.; James, Rhett S. (1998). "A Response to D. Michael Quinn's Homosexual Distortion of Latter-day Saint History". FARMS Review. Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute. 10 (1): 141–263. Retrieved 2010-11-24. 
  26. ^ Hinckley, Gordon B. (May 1987). "Reverence and Morality". Ensign. LDS Church: 45–47. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  27. ^ Malan, Mark Kim; Bullough, Vern (December 2005). "Historical development of new masturbation attitudes in Mormon culture: Silence, secular conformity, counterrevolution, and emerging reform". Sexuality and Culture. 9: 110. doi:10.1007/s12119-005-1003-z. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  28. ^ Malan, Mark Kim; Bullough, Vern (December 2005). "Historical development of new masturbation attitudes in Mormon culture: Silence, secular conformity, counterrevolution, and emerging reform". Sexuality and Culture. 9: 80–127. doi:10.1007/s12119-005-1003-z. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  29. ^ Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems: Suggestions for Ecclesiastical Leaders, Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 1992 . Reprint without permission at
  30. ^ a b Packer, Boyd (1976), To Young Men Only (PDF), LDS Church 
  31. ^ For the Strength of Youth (7 ed.). Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1990. 
  32. ^ For the Strength of Youth (8 ed.). Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. p. 26. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  33. ^ For the Strength of Youth (PDF) (9 ed.). Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fall 2011. p. 36. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  34. ^ Kimball, Spencer (1982), The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Deseret Book Company, p. 269, ISBN 978-1-57008-938-1 
  35. ^ Kimball, Spencer (January 5, 1965), "Love vs. Lust", BYU Speeches of the Year, pp. 22–24 .Transcript reprint with permission at
  36. ^ Kimball, Spencer (1980), President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality 
  37. ^ Kimball, Spencer (1972), Faith Precedes the Miracle: Based on Discourses of Spencer W. Kimball, Deseret Book Company, p. 174, ISBN 978-0-87747-490-6 
  38. ^ Kimball, Spencer (April 1967). "The Mistletoe". LDS Church. LDS General Conference. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  39. ^ Kimball, Spencer (1972), Faith Precedes the Miracle: Based on Discourses of Spencer W. Kimball, Deseret Book Company, p. 230, ISBN 978-0-87747-490-6 
  40. ^ Callister, Tad. "The Lord's Standard". LDS Church. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  41. ^ Stolberg, Michael (April 2000). "An Unmanly Vice: Self-Pollution, Anxiety, and the Body in the Eighteenth Century". Social History of Medicine. 13 (1): 8. doi:10.1093/shm/13.1.1. 
  42. ^ Brenner-Idan, Athalya (1 Nov 2003). Are We Amused?: Humour About Women In the Biblical World. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 111. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  43. ^ Brown Jr., Victor L.; Bergin, Allen E. (1973). Homosexuality: Welfare Services Packet 1. LDS Church. pp. 16–17. 
  44. ^ Tannenbaum, Rob (May 1995). "Keep Your Hands to Yourself". Details: 71. Retrieved 1 February 2017. 
  45. ^ Malan, Mark Kim; Bullough, Vern (December 2005). "Historical development of new masturbation attitudes in Mormon culture: Silence, secular conformity, counterrevolution, and emerging reform". Sexuality and Culture. 9: 126. doi:10.1007/s12119-005-1003-z. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  46. ^ "A Parent's Guide Chapter 5: Teaching Adolescents: from Twelve to Eighteen Years". LDS Church. Retrieved 9 February 2017. 
  47. ^ Samantha Allen, "Tim Ferriss Is Bro Culture's Anti-Masturbation Crusader", The Daily Beast, August 1, 2014.
  48. ^ Peggy Fletcher Stack, "LDS Church 'retires' Mormon apostle's 'little factory' pamphlet", The Salt Lake Tribune, November 14, 2016.
  49. ^ Reeves, Linda. "Worthy of Our Promised Blessings". LDS Church. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  50. ^ Young, S. Dilworth (October 1958). Teach Your Children. Salt Lake City: LDS Conference Report. pp. 72–73. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  51. ^ Benson, Ezra (October 1959). "Call to Repentance". LDS Church. Conference Report. Retrieved 3 February 2017.