As part of my outreach in my current Church calling of Missionary, I often engage in dialogue with nonmember friends and associates. One woman asked me, “What does it take to become a Mormon?” I explained the high standards, and she said, “That may be the highest barrier to entry into any organization. I’m amazed that you ever baptize anyone.” Along the same lines, one man said, “Sounds like a church that you would have to be born into.” I was making progress with one 16-year old boy until he heard the words “no sex before marriage.”
Of course, we also prohibit the viewing of pornography, masturbation, profanity, immodesty and vulgarity. One mother even said that imposing such “unrealistic expectations” on today’s teenagers amounts to “child abuse”.
Why are high moral standards now seen as restrictive and even punitive? Why are so many good people repulsed by the modesty-chastity-fidelity requisite? What is wrong about expecting youth to maintain their virginity until marriage and expecting married adults to be true and faithful to their spouse? After all, it was not so long ago that these moral standards were expected of people worldwide!
One explanation might be the redefinition of freedom as free from restraint or free to do as we choose or free to listen to what our body wants.
One comedian played on this line: “I know I’m fat,” he said, “but I’m trying to lose weight. My doctor told me a good diet tip: ‘just listen to your body’, so I did—and then I ate a dozen donuts. It’s what my body told me to do.”
It’s a common malady. In fact, I know of people who can listen to wise counsel from their doctor, priest, coach, bishop or parent and then commit a dozen do-nots within one day. They seem to be addicted, though they won’t admit they are addicts, at least until it costs them their health, wealth, wife, or good life.
Abstinence (from any sinful behavior) is not abduction of will, or abdication of want, but proof of wisdom, real education, and disciple discipline.
Beauty abides in bright eyes of the chaste, not in big ears of haste and waste.
Chastity is not a chastisement but rather the sanction of sanctity—a conscious choice for the clean-tasty and against the filthy-nasty.
These ABC’s are like seeds scattered among the primary lessons for Mormon children and young adults, and they yield wholesome fruit.
So-called “free agency” does not grant total autonomy or immunity from accountability to God’s laws and gospel standards: we’ll be judged by the laws we receive and the covenants we make. Besides, I submit, lowering high standards or creating double standards rarely helps people: high standards lift people, motivating them to prepare and perform and compete at the highest level. High standards do not represent punitive barriers to keep people out of some elite, exclusive club; rather, they supply positive motivation to purify the soul and enjoy God’s greatest gifts in an inclusive global Church.
As President Henry B. Eyring has said: “The Lord sets his standards high so he can bless those who meet them with the Holy Ghost and with eternal life, his greatest gifts. To lift people to the faithfulness and purity they need to enjoy all the blessings of the Lord, we need to hold up the Lord’s standards clearly and without apology. The more the world drifts away from them, and even mocks them, the bolder we must be in upholding the Lord’s standards.”
I have a strong sense of God’s immense love for those who subscribe to standards of modesty, chastity, fidelity and all forms of virtue. Indeed, these standards, along with all His commandments, are sure signs of His love and His desire for us to succeed, not signals of some perverse design to set us up to fail.
So, we can see chastity-fidelity as the big one-two knock-out punch in two ways: it may KO those who might otherwise covenant with Christ and join His Church, or KO the evil designs of Satan to steal us and seal us his. To be certain, chastity-fidelity is now a watershed—a continental divide between east and west, a test between saints and sinners, a moat between sheep and goats.