“I’m scared,” she admitted, her eyes cast down on the table. “I want to obey the law, but then nonmembers won’t date me, and they make up the majority of men here in the Czech Republic. And even if I do, the fact that I haven’t in the past will make the members less likely to date me. How am I ever going to get married?”
This should not be the mind-set of a 21-year-old woman that’s going to be baptized in less than a week.
And yet it’s a legitimate concern. Just two days ago, ABC News published a story about a Mormon couple that was soon-to-be wed. When the woman told her fiance that she wasn’t a virgin (a bit late in the game, I admit), he called the wedding off.
Few have said it better than my friend did (by coincidence) just yesterday:
“For all you LDS MEN…ALL MEN in GENERAL!!! There is a great double standard going around. If you are not gonna marry someone because they are not a virgin, I have a few questions for you. First, are you a virgin? Second, what’s so great about blood? Do you believe in the blood of Jesus Christ and the Power of the Atonement?” he asked via Facebook. “If they are worthy, than they are PURE. VIRGINITY is a state of mind! The person you LOVE today, is that way because of the past. Enjoy the present and look forward to a wonderful eternity! Get over the past, GET OVER YOURSELF & MOVE ON! BE GRATEFUL YOU FOUND LOVE. Seriously.”
Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a principle known as the law of chastity. We believe it is a commandment given by God to abstain from any sexual relations outside of a legal marriage between a man and a woman — everything from masturbation to sexual fantasies, intercourse to feeling each other up on the couch. The law is meant to protect those who abide by it from emotional and physical harm while bringing them closer to their Heavenly Father. The principle — as all of God’s commandments — is perfect. Its execution by us fallible humans? Not so perfect.
Which brings us back to our worried investigator.
What I said to her I will say to you: We read that sexual sin is “most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost,” but that doesn’t make it unforgivable (Alma 39:5). The Atonement exists for a reason. No one but Christ could live a perfect life, which is why he made an eternal sacrifice. Because of him, we are able to repent for our mistakes and never have to answer for them again. Ever. Not to God, not to a bishop, not to a boyfriend. No one.
Baptism is the ultimate form of repentance. When we are baptized, we are washed clean and, therefore, receive a total remission of our sins (Mark 1:4, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16). It is unfair to judge someone who has broken the law of chastity but undergone a full and sincere repentance — especially if that repentance involved baptism.
As my friend states earlier, virginity is a mindset. There is a stigma among Christians against people, particularly women, who have had sexual intercourse. But should this stigma exist?
By placing so much emphasis on virginity, we are doing ourselves a disservice. Firstly, we are making it impossible for those who have had intercourse and repented of it — thus receiving forgiveness from God Himself — to move on. Secondly, we are letting intercourse overshadow other sexual sins. Yes, intercourse is the ultimate sexual act, but oral sex is arguably more intimate. Who stands blameless in the sight of God: The woman who lost her virginity and repented of it? Or the woman who gave a BJ to every player on her basketball team and never asked for God’s forgiveness? If both are members of the Church with equal knowledge, I think the answer is clear.
In case you’re still scratching your head, let us look at how Christ treated those who had committed sexual sins. In John 8, when a woman is about to be persecuted for committing adultery, Christ doesn’t even look at the scribes and Pharisees when he says, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). In so doing, Christ reminds us that all sins require his Atonement to be forgiven. Therefore, no one has the right to judge another, regardless of the severity of the sin. To judge someone who has lost their virginity and repented of it is the same as judging someone who has told a white lie and repented of it. (Note: That does not mean we do not have the right to avoid people who we feel will negatively affect us or continue to sin.)
Also in John, Christ teaches a woman of Samaria, also known as the woman at the well, who has also committed adultery. While Jesus does encourage her to repent, he takes the time to teach her the gospel. He finds her worthy of salvation. Those who are members of the Church know that one of the commandments is to be sealed eternally to a righteous member of the opposite sex. If he did not believe that she could be worthy enough to enter into the temple and make the sacred covenant of marriage, why would Jesus invite her to join the Church? He would not.
Note that both of the examples I used are of women that have committed adultery — the gravest of sexual sins. If they can be forgiven of God, anyone who has sexually transgressed can be forgiven of God.
To all of you Latter-day Saints with a past, do not fear. The Lord is looking out for you and, as long as you continue to walk his straight and narrow path, He will bless you. And those of you who have not transgressed in the law of chastity, remember the counsel of our Savior: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:1–5).
Don’t stop here
There are plenty of other sources that address the issue. I will add them as I find them. Feel free to share others with us in the comments.
4/4/2013: “Sexual assault survivors open up about experiences” from The Daily Herald
5/7/2013: “Elizabeth Smart and the Psychology of the Christian Purity Culture” from Experimental Theology
5/7/2013: Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Morality by Richard Beck