Mormons have strict rules about chastity, just like many other faiths. They believe that to be able to have children is a sacred gift and that ability should never be abused or misused. In Mormon belief, the only place where the gift can be used properly is inside marriage. Since Church members believe that new spirits come into the world through birth, they also hope that every new spirit is loved and wanted, and can grow up in good homes. Parents are responsible for becoming mature enough to provide this type of home, and for choosing a spouse who will be an important part of their good family. They also believe that, except when the mother’s life is in danger or the pregnancy came from incest or rape, abortion is a serious sin.
Mormons take the Lord’s commandments about sex and marriage seriously. Many Mormon marriages happen inside Mormon temples, which are very sacred buildings. When Mormons marry in a temple, they don’t just get married until “death do you part.” They marry for “time and all eternity.” This means they will still be married even after they die, and their children will still be theirs after death. Mormons teach that marriage and family is forever. It’s easy to see why Mormons consider marriage very important and very sacred. If marriages can be forever and families can be forever, sex outside of these bonds can be very damaging and disruptive. It’s not worth it.
A Mormon who has sex outside of marriage (whether married or not) can lose his or her membership in the Church. Sexual sins like fornication (sex before marriages) and adultery (having an inappropriate relationship with someone when you’re married to someone else) are very serious. Only murder and denying the Holy Ghost are worse. The Mormon law of chastity is really this: Don’t look for sexual experiences outside of marriage and be faithful to your husband or wife.
In the Mormon religion, we’re taught early that our bodies are sacred gifts from God and that we need to treat them with respect. We’re supposed to live healthily and not do anything that would hurt our bodies. But this doesn’t mean that everything that feels good is good. We need to be careful not to let what feels nice physically come before what’s important spiritually. It isn’t that sex is unpleasant, but rather that if we use it inappropriately, the pleasure will be short-lived and the consequences can be huge.
We should avoid anything that could excite powerful emotions related to sex. These emotions need to be kept for marriage. The Strength of Youth pamphlet reminds us to avoid being too physical with our dates. We shouldn’t kiss passionately, lie on top of each other, or touch each other’s private parts. These can break the law of chastity just in themselves and it’s easy to see how they could lead pretty quickly to sex itself. Beyond this, it’s part of Mormons’ beliefs that we shouldn’t be focusing on the body in relationships, but more on being partners and friends. The body shouldn’t ever be the most important thing.
Mormons believe that the devil encourages us to break the law of chastity, and not only because it’s something difficult we’ll have to repent of. Just breaking the law can make us miserable. Look at the media (hard not to come back to that). It’s full of people who are beautiful, right? And many of these beautiful people act like that’s all they are, a gorgeous body and an attractive face, here to exploit and be exploited. Why would anyone want to make themselves just a body? Why should being good-looking be anyone’s first purpose? A life that’s only about your body doesn’t even respect your body. It’s not that Mormons dress modesty because they hate their bodies, but because they love them and respect them. But they also show that they want to be more than bodies on display.
We make ourselves very unhappy when we break the law of chastity and the sin is very serious. However, people do make mistakes. Christ’s Atonement gives us the opportunity to repent, no matter what we’ve done. We can be forgiven and we can heal. We must never sin with the thought that it’s okay, since we can repent anyway, but if we do make a true mistake, we can repent. Part of forgiveness for a Mormon who has broken this law involves talking to his or her bishop, who can then lovingly guide the person through the process of true repentance.
It is really important to know that Mormons believe victims of rape and sexual abuse are not guilty of sin. Sin requires the freedom and ability to make a choice in your behavior. God never holds you accountable for what you were unable to control. Mormon youth are taught that if they are victims in this way, they should talk to their parents and bishop (similar to a pastor) in order to receive help overcoming the results of the abuse and protection from the abuser.