Latter-day Saint teachings/Clarifying Latter-day Saint Teachings

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Clarifying Latter-day Saint Teachings


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Question: How do Latter-day Saints understand the concept of love?

Introduction to Question

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been confused about the meaning of love from a Gospel point of view. This article seeks to outline principles of love that will affect the attitudes and behavior of the Saints towards commandments, their views about their identity, and so on.

This reflects the best efforts of the author to define love from the scriptural canon of the Church. Others are free to disagree with this if they have better scriptural exegesis and/or better philosophical considerations. The author has tried to follow the principles and procedures for reading and interpreting scripture outlined in this article.

Response to Question

Definition of Love

The scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contain many mentions of love. In fact, there are over 600 occurrences of the words “charity,” “charitable,” “love,” “loved,” “loves,” “lovest,” “loving,” “loving kindness,” and “loving kindnesses” in the entire canon. Readers are encouraged to either search out these words on the Gospel Library app or purchase concordances for the scriptures and explore each use.[1]

Love is the cardinal virtue one can master as a Latter-day Saint. The prophet Alma compares those that don't possess it to the worthlessness of the dross of metal.[2] The prophet Moroni likewise says we are nothing without charity.[3] The Savior bases his entire ethic on the law of love.[4]

After the author’s own review of the scriptures, the following definition of love can be derived:

Freely, rationally, selflessly, and non-grudgingly acting without the expectation of reciprocity (and even in the absence of reciprocity) so as to recognize and respect the intrinsic, absolute worth of all humans and introduce, reinforce, ensure, and/or restore telic flourishing, survival, comfort, and/or happiness—both temporal and spiritual—to all creatures (including God) so that ultimately all exist in a relationship marked by unity of both heart and mind.

As can be seen immediately, Latter-day Saint scripture makes love a concept pregnant with meaning. As will be demonstrated, that’s the point.

Let’s break down each part.

Freely

A person must act freely when entering a loving relationship. Love can neither be coerced nor determined. This necessitates that there exist some ability in humans for genuinely free action. The locus classicus for the Latter-day Saint belief in free action is found in 2 Nephi 2:27:

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.[5]

Rationally

It requires a rational enough mind to give the moral law content. A person who has significant enough mental impairments cannot construct if/then statements like are required for morality. Some are not capable of thinking something like “if I murder a person, then I’m doing something wrong." Thus, one needs to have a rational enough mind to formulate moral sentences and evaluate their truthfulness.

Those who can’t form moral sentences rationally such as infants and the cognitively impaired are not of any less worth than others. All humans, as will be explained below, are of infinite, intrinsic moral worth.

Selflessly

Love is an act that seeks the good of the Other (the Other being everyone). It is not one that seeks the good of oneself. As The Book of Mormon tells us, “charity...seeketh not her own."[6] The Savior taught us that "[h]e that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."[7] He also taught that we should love our neighbors and God with all we have: heart, might, mind, and strength.[8] However, selflessness counterintuitively doesn’t imply that we are completely bereft of self love and don’t seek to help ourselves at least on occasion. It is important to love ourselves since, if we don’t, we won’t be able to love others. We can’t love others if we’re emaciated from hunger and thus too tired to help others. We can’t help others when facing crippling depression. Sometimes other people can’t be there to love us and help us and we need to provide things for ourselves. Thus, we should love ourselves. King Benjamin taught us that "it is not requisite that a man [or woman] run faster than he [or she] has strength."[9] We should seek to love ourselves not as an end in and of itself, but always as a means to the end of loving others.

Non-Grudgingly

We shouldn’t be hesitant with our love. Love should also not be given out of duty. If given out of duty, then it is not love. Moroni tells us that we shouldn’t give gifts grudgingly.[10] The Lord told the Saints that they should be equal in temporal things, "and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld."[11]

Acting

As the late Baptist minister and professor of New Testament exegesis and theology at Fuller Theological Seminary George Ladd wrote in his seminal work on New Testament theology, on the New Testament's view "[l]ove is a matter of will and action."[12] Love is not merely being. You can say that you love someone until you’re blue in the face but it doesn’t mean anything until you actually do something to show it. The Lord told us that “if ye love me, keep my commandments."[13] The author of 1 John tells us to "not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."[14] To really be loving, you have to do things.

This is a crucial point that many don’t understand. In protest to certain Church standards, people will often say that we should just “focus on the heart” and “not judge others” by certain standards. The point deemphasizes the fact that love is and always will be a principle of action and God reserves the right to judge people by how well they act in accordance with Church standards.

Without the Expectation of Reciprocity

Love should be given without the expectation of reciprocity. To give care to someone's needs with the expectation of reciprocity is to treat someone of merely instrumental and not intrinsic worth. Love is when we care for someone's needs because of their intrinsic worth. An action can be called loving merely by someone not having the expectation that the other will care for their own needs. It does not necessarily need to be the case that there is no chance for reciprocity when trying to act lovingly towards others.

And Even in the Absence of Reciprocity

Love is not something that is given only when the Other cares about us. It is something that we give even when the Other doesn’t care for us in return. It is given even when the Other maligns us, tries our patience, abuses us, and makes us uncomfortable.

The Sermon on the Mount records the Savior’s teachings that support this.

[R]esist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain…Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven…For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?[15]

So as to Recognize and Respect the Intrinsic, Absolute Value of all Humans

Latter-day Saint theology holds that all human beings are of infinite, intrinsic (and not merely instrumental) worth. This because it is believed that they have 1) always existed and 2) with human like intelligence.[16] All humans are believed to be sons or daughters of Heavenly Parents and thus have a potential to become divinized like them and hold dominion over the universe.[17] Thus, along with being of infinite, intrinsic worth, humans are also believed to always of absolute worth. Nothing conditions their worth because they are, inherently, of the highest worth being gods in embryo. Humans are also the only creatures capable of having dominion over the earth and replenishing it.[18] They have the power to access other ecosystems and bring balance to them. A human can enter an ocean and bring balance to the habitat of fishes. A fish can't enter the habitat of a human and bring balance to it. They don't (and indeed can't without some form of miraculous technological intervention perhaps) have that type of intelligence.

Humans should thus never be treated as mere means to an end. They are persons and should never be treated as anything less than a person. Such would dehumanize them. If we love human beings, then we will never treat them as merely a means to an end.

The recognition of a person as having infinite, intrinsic, and absolute value should accompany every act we perform in relation to another. It will be demonstrated by both the attentiveness and tenderness we lend to people’s wants and needs.

And Provide Survival

It’s intuitive that love should have particular effects. The effects are what we use to discern what we value so much about love. Of course, whether or not your act actually produces these effects does not necessarily determine whether or not your act can be considered loving. Most important is that you intend to produce these effects and that you make efforts to produce them. Your intentions are subjective but they are reflected in your objective speech and action and in the effects that those actions produce. There is also a way in which we need to inflict pain in order to bring about a greater good. Getting a shot and the pain of working out are moral goods that involve pain but bring about a greater good. The scriptures themselves teach that God scourges and chastens his children in order to bring about their future, greater happiness.[19] Love can involve the infliction of pain.

Among these effects that we want to provide, making people feel that they have absolute value (as discussed above) is a good effect. Survival is also a good effect. We are commanded to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and administer to the relief of the sick.[20] We are commanded to not kill (in the sense of murdering someone. Not killing in self-defense, for example) nor do anything like unto it in the Doctrine and Covenants.[21]

Telic Flourishing

Telic flourishing is also a good effect. A telos is a particular purpose or design that a thing has. The philosopher Aristotle posited that a thing flourishes when it acts or is used in accordance with its design. A basketball flourishes when it is bounced, passed, and shot through a hoop. Latter-day Saint theology teaches something similar. One thing that Latter-day Saint theology explicitly indicates is part of the human design is that of being united sexually after marriage.[22] A man is designed to be united with a woman and a woman is designed to be with a man. Thus, homosexual behavior (including same-sex marriage), pornography, most cases of masturbation, adultery, and other sexual behavior outside the confines of marriage, since they can and do lead men and women away from fulfilling their telos, are not acceptable under Latter-day Saint moral standards.

Another human telos that Latter-day Saint scripture recognizes is “keep[ing God’s] commandments and glorify[ing] him forever.”[23] All commandments help us to love God and love our neighbor as ourself according to Jesus. Thus, part of the human telos is to love. One reason to adhere to this telos is that others flourish. Doing anything that would prevent others from adhering to this telos would be immoral.

Latter-day Saints who have gone through and done initiatory ordinances in the temple may, from a blessing they receive during those ordinances, know the telos of many parts of the human body.

An understanding of the human telos will not only ground a Latter-day Saint sexual ethic, but it may also ground a Latter-day Saint understanding of health. Latter-day Saint scientists and other medical professionals might look at the way we understand the telos of the human body given what we know from the temple and scriptures and ask "how can I restore this body to its original order?" They can recognize how the body has fallen from its original order—thus becoming disordered—and seek to restore that order to the body. We typically define health in terms of presence of comfort and happiness, absence of pain, parity with like creatures, and longevity. Latter-day Saints and others who believe in the concept of.a telos&mdasj;a certain purpose created in the mind of a Creator and reflected in the design of the created— can understand health in terms of restoring the body to that order.

An understanding of the human telos may also ground gender roles for Latter-day Saints. The Family: A Proclamation to the World states that men's primary role in the family is to preside over, provide for, and protect his family. A woman's primary role is to nurture her children. A Latter-day Saint can have an understanding of self-love that includes making decisions that adhere to one's telos. How can a man better prepare to protect his family? Could that include building his body or purchasing a firearm and understanding its use? How can a woman better prepare to nurture her children? These may be good questions to ask and in a spirit of prayer.

Happiness

Another thing that is likely a part of the human telos for Latter-day Saints is joy.[24] We find our greatest joy in committed, loving relationships. This is part of why the Savior commands that we love. Joy comes as we survive, flourish according to our telos, and have other things helped. For instance, a person with bad eyesight is loved by helping them regain it. True enough that a person with poor eyesight can be happy, but there are times when providing eyesight back can make them more joyful. We all want joy. Love given in this way can bring it. There is also a difference between temporal joy and spiritual joy. Temporal joy is getting a cool treat at the store from your parents. Spiritual joy is more enduring and primarily comes when we are acting in accordance with the thing that will bring us the most lasting joy like cultivating an abiding, intimate relationship with God. Temporal joy isn't necessarily bad, it's just not as valuable as spiritual joy. This may be why we're commanded to be "spiritually minded."[25]

Some may wonder here why we have separated these effects. The reason is that it's the author's belief that a person can have one or two of these things provided to them without the others. One can survive without being comfortable or happy. One can survive and be comfortable without being happy or experiencing telic flourishing.

To All Creatures

These effects should be brought to all creatures and not just humans. All creatures want to survive, to flourish according to their telos, and to be happy. Latter-day Saint scripture tells us that animals have spirits.[26] They also apparently have a telos. Doctrine and Covenants 59:16-19 explains this telos of animals and plants:

16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

However, verse 20 of the same section provides this injunction:

20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.

This same caution against the use of animals in excess is repeated in Doctrine and Covenants 49:21. Another revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants clarifies that the Lord ordained the consumption of animals for times of winter, cold, famine, and excess of hunger.[27]

Including God

Love is not just a virtue that should be shown towards other animals and other humans. It should also be shown towards God. Jesus teaches that the first great commandment is to love God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength by keeping his commandments.[28]

There are commandments in scripture that clearly show God trying to get us to be in a totally unified, loving relationship with him (or, at least, can be interpreted as such). For instance, God commands us that we set aside the entire day of Sunday as a day to rest from labors and pay our devotions to him.[29] We spend most of our weeks not thinking about God. Isn't it intuitive that God would ask for one day for himself? Additionally, God expressly condemns witchcraft, sorceries, soothsayers, and idolatry since these types of people/behaviors can lead us to believe in other powers besides his. Engaging in these things becomes an affront to his omnipotence and total majesty. Idolatry is linked to adultery throughout scripture and God is depicted as the betrayed lover.

Jesus sets up a perfect triangle of love distribution between us, others, and God in Matthew 22:33-40. He commands us to love both God and our neighbor. The purpose of this life is to discern how to create a totally unified, loving relationship between God, us, the rest of the human family, and all of God's creation.

So that Ultimately All Exist in a Relationship Marked by Unity of Both Heart and Mind

Love ultimately brings about unity. This unity should be a unity of both heart and mind. Love is the "bond of perfectness."[30] The Doctrine and Covenants exhorts us to be clothed in the bond of charity and calls it a bond of perfectness and peace.[31]

Unity of heart is being 1) willing to continue providing for the needs of the person you are in a relationship with and 2) having trust that they feel the same for you. What should our universal purpose be as creatures? Love. Particularly, loving in the right way at the right time. By loving in the right way at the right time, we all grow into understanding of the principle of love.

Unity of mind is being agreed in and knowing all things including purpose, morality, science, and so forth. Unity of mind can thus happen now, but it can also grow further into the eternities. Scripture tells us to "be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind."[32]

At the very root of the Latter-day Saint hope for the world is to create a relationship "of one heart and one mind" with everyone dwelling in righteousness and no poor among us.[33] It is by this relationship that Latter-day Saints and indeed the entire human family can take on the very nature of God and become love personified.[34]

If everyone were to face their attention outward and focus on the needs of others, eventually, no one's needs would need to be met. This is why the Savior wants us to lose our lives and begin to love others: so that we can eventually save ours and everyone else's life.[35] If everyone is loving someone, no one will need love. If everyone has love, then we will all experience the greatest amount of joy that is possible to experience. This is the concept of Zion elucidated by Latter-day Saint scripture.

Conclusion

Thus, the Latter-day Saint philosophy of love would be something of a synthesis of the union, robust concern, appraisal, and emotion complex models in the philosophy of love.[36] Love, for Latter-day Saints, is both an attitudinal and active virtue.

Continued reflection may yield additional understanding on this vital theme. Readers are encouraged to seek it.

Appendix: Bible Project Word Studies - Love

The Bible Project has produced two excellent videos exploring the meaning of the word "love" in both the Old and New Testaments exegetically. These videos are on YouTube and are linked here for a scholarly but accessible way of understanding love from a scriptural perspective.


Question: How should we collectively view the concept of judgement?

Introduction to Question

The concept of judgement is misunderstood by most of the world. What can we learn from the scriptures about it?

The concept of judgement is probably one of the most frequently misunderstood facets of Christian ethics and religious life in general in today’s world.

Frequently, the concept is brought up in discussions where one person is attempting to give correction to another in light of Christian/Latter-day Saint moral values. The person who rejects correction will usually cite the scripture where Jesus tells his followers “judge not that ye be not judged.”

This article will correct a few misconceptions surrounding this concept.

Response to Question

Scripture Holistically

It will be best to cite the relevant scriptural data in full so as to get a better understanding of this. In the scriptural canon there are over 1300 combined uses of the words “judge,” “judged,” “judges,” “judgest,” “judgeth,” “judging,” “judgement,” “judgements,” “judgement-hall,” “judgement-seat,” and “judgement- seats.” A sizeable number of these have to do with God as our Eternal Judge, sitting on his judgement-seat, ready to enact judgement against those who have sinned without repentance at the last day.

There are upwards of 15 different Greek and Hebrew words that the canon uses to translate the above 11 words. Readers are encouraged to purchase a concordance for the scriptures or search these terms using the search function in the Gospel Library App and explore each use.[37]

What can we learn from this data? One thing we can learn is that judgement is not an inherently bad thing. Indeed, if it were, God would be sinning and, as a religious truism, God is perfect.

The real problem, then, can’t be judgement itself, but perhaps who is doing the judging. But even this has some problems as will be demonstrated.

Scripture in Context

Let’s take the most important scripture of this debate and reproduce it in full for analysis.

Matthew 7:1-5

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 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?
5 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.

What are some of the lessons that we can draw from these verses? The first thing we might learn is that Jesus’ condemnation of judgement does not have to do with judgement itself. It is the way and time at which judgement is used. Jesus condemns hypocrisy with judgement. After we remove hypocrisy from ourselves, then we will be able to better cast out the mote in our brother’s eye. Indeed, Jesus even commands his followers to judge righteous judgement (John 7:24)! How could we even do missionary work or invite anyone to repent (Doctrine and Covenants 88:81) if we cannot recognize weaknesses or other sins in others and help them address them?

But what are some of the ways in which we judge unrighteously? Jesus has some things to say about this as well. In this scripture, it is heavily implied that we often have a greater weakness than our brother. Indeed, Jesus makes this clear by making a contrast between a mote (like a speck of dust) and a beam (a large piece of wood). So, we should examine ourselves and see if we have that same weakness. If we do, then we will be judged by our brother and, likely, God too. We should repent if we have that weakness. If we have fully repented, then we will have the opportunity to see the mote in our brother’s eye more clearly and be able to help him or her address it. When we do, we should do it in a spirit of meekness, humility, lowliness of heart, and love unfeigned. We should not seek to gain a sense of spiritual superiority by our helping others with their weaknesses. Indeed, we are all ultimately fallen men and women (Mosiah 3:19). This is what really upsets the person receiving correction: not judgement itself, but the way in which others judge. Does a person’s judgement lead them to help the other person receiving correction to only feel shame that produces self-loathing? Or does it inspire the other to see greater blessings in keeping the commandments?

Another way we judge unrighteously is by overlooking important details when judging someone's moral character (John 7:24).

In other articles we will explore the concepts of shame and harm and see how these might round out discussion of this important concept.

One Scripture That May Contradict the Viewpoint of This Article

There is one scripture that may contradict the view of this article.

The Lord told the Saints headquartered in Kirtland to make friends with their non-Latter-day Saint neighbors.

Doctrine and Covenants 82:22-23 states:

22 And now, verily I say unto you, and this is wisdom, make unto yourselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness, and they will not destroy you.
23 Leave judgment alone with me, for it is mine and I will repay. Peace be with you; my blessings continue with you.

Some may use this scripture to say that we shouldn't judge anyone at all. Though this scripture more intuitively refers to merely pettiness in judgement. It cannot be used to invalidate the main point of this article: that unrighteous and righteous judgement both exist.

Conclusion

It is clear that there is something to learn for everyone regarding judgement. If others have better scriptural exegesis or philosophical considerations, they are welcome to send some of those disagreements to FAIR volunteers so that this article might improve if necessary. Continued meditation on this theme will almost certainly bring greater understanding to it.

Moving forward, it will be best to distinguish between unrighteous judgement (such as judgement that is petty, hypocritical, and/or presumptuous) and righteous judgment (such as judgement that helps us know what associations are going to lead us to always keep God's commandments).


Question: How should we collectively view the concept of harm?

Introduction to Question

The concept of harm is often misunderstood from a Gospel perspective. What can we learn about harm from the scriptures?

Response to Question

Harms that Bring about a Greater Good are Often Okay

One of the first things we can learn from the behavior of God and Jesus is that not all harms are bad. Indeed, it seems that if a harm brings about a greater good, then the harm may be justified.

Why would Jesus harshly criticize Peter (Luke 4:8)? Why would he rebuke unclean spirits (Luke 9:42)? Why would we be under the obligation to reprove our fellowmen with sharpness at times (Doctrine and Covenants 121:43)? It seems that not all harm is bad.

Harms that Do Not Bring about a Greater Good are not Okay

Only when harm treats others as if their lives were expendable or when a harm otherwise does not bring about a greater good should a harm be viewed as bad. That is one purpose of the whole moral ecosystem we know as the law of love laid out in scripture: to do away entirely with unnecessary harm and to allow us to know when it is appropriate to enact necessary harm.

Conclusion

It seems, then, that the task of any discussion of harm is to determine whether a particular action done by God or someone else does or does not bring about a greater good.

Continued meditation on this theme may reveal other important insights into this important concept. Readers are encouraged to seek it and send any thoughts to FAIR volunteers at this link so that we might consider it and add it to the article.


Question: How should we view the concept of shame?

Introduction to Question

The topic of shame has been one of the most discussed in recent years. What is the value of shame? What is shame?

These questions are explored in this article.

Response to Question

Distinguishing Shame From Guilt?

The primary concern of many when dealing with shame is that shame is associated in people’s minds with feelings of self-loathing rather than hope and change. Popular psychological researcher Brené Brown speaks about how shame is thinking “I am bad” whereas guilt is more like “I have done something bad.” Brown’s distinction has become quite popular in others’ consciousness and it is indeed useful.

In the author’s view, Brown’s distinction does run at least one risk: that we forget that shame and guilt are qualitatively very similar feelings. When we associate any bad feeling that is similar to shame (guilt, embarrassment, remorse, etc.) with the label of shame—and we view all shame as entirely bad—we can start to reject moral norms that are placed on us by the Gospel and the Lord's servants as merely conduits to self-loathing. It is not that Brown's distinction is wrong or bad; but that it can have adverse, unintended affects on our psyches/spirits and moral thinking if we do not monitor our thoughts and feelings carefully.

Is Shame Useful?

It is important to remember that not all shame is bad. Shame that only produces self-loathing is indeed bad, but shame also has other functions like instilling moral wrongs into people. Whenever we do something we feel is morally wrong, we may feel a degree of shame. That isn’t bad. Even in the scriptures the Lord tells us that there may be a time for others to feel shame. Doctrine and Covenants 42:74-93 lays out procedures for performing Church discipline for when a member offends another member:

88 And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled.
89 And if he or she confess not thou shalt deliver him or her up unto the church, not to the members, but to the elders. And it shall be done in a meeting, and that not before the world.
90 And if thy brother or sister offend many, he or she shall be chastened before many.
91 And if any one offend openly, he or she shall be rebuked openly, that he or she may be ashamed. And if he or she confess not, he or she shall be delivered up unto the law of God (emphasis added).

Thus, there should be a function for shame to some degree. Not self-loathing, but godly sorrow and the change it inspires within us.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article will serve as a point of insight for those seeking to understand this vital concept. Continued reflection is surely to reveal more on this. Readers are encouraged to seek it.


Question: How should we understand the concept of worthiness?

Introduction to Question

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and others have been troubled at times with the concept of “worthiness.” This since the word seems to make reference to someone’s worth.

This may be an important question to answer since the scriptures and other Church practices frequently refer to or make mention of worthiness. How should we understand it?

This article seeks to answer this question.

Response to Question

All Humans are of Infinite, Intrinsic, and Absolute Worth

Latter-day Saint theology holds that all human beings are of infinite, intrinsic (and not merely instrumental) worth. This because it is believed that they have 1) always existed and 2) with human like intelligence.[38] All humans are believed to be sons or daughters of Heavenly Parents and thus have a potential to become divinized like them and hold dominion over the universe.[39] Thus, along with being of infinite, intrinsic worth, humans are also believed to always of absolute worth. Nothing conditions their worth because they are, inherently, of the highest worth being gods in embryo. Humans are also the only creatures capable of having dominion over the earth and replenishing it.[40] They have the power to access other ecosystems and bring balance to them. A human can enter an ocean and bring balance to the habitat of fishes. A fish can't enter the habitat of a human and bring balance to it. They don't (and indeed can't without some form of miraculous technological intervention perhaps) have that type of intelligence.

This worth can never be stripped from anyone regardless of their circumstance. We should always remember this whenever we are thinking about worth.

The Definition of Worthiness

In may be instructive to note how the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defines “worthy” to get a sense of what Joseph Smith and King James Bible translators refer to when speaking about “worthiness.” It states:

1. Deserving; such as merits; having worth or excellence; equivalent; with of, before the thing deserved. She has married a man worthy of her.[41]

One will notice that part of this definition is the word “deserving; such as merits.” This is instructive as will be illustrated now.

Deserving to Enter the Temple

Deservingness to receive some sort of award or privilege is what the Church and its scriptures refer to when speaking about worthiness. There are some things that, no matter the circumstances and because of our intrinsic and absolute worth, we will always be worthy of such as love. There are times, though, where we do forfeit our privileges for something of worldly worth. Some of us, for instance, break the Word of Wisdom even when we have covenanted with God at baptism to keep all of his commandments and to receive all the words and commandments of prophets in all patience and faith.[42] Breaking our promises with God is an unloving thing to do.

The Gospel offers us a beautiful promise though. It teaches that we can repent and be forgiven by God. He stands with outstretched arms waiting for us to do so. He loves you with a perfect love. His nature is love.[43] The Apostle Paul was "persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, [n]or height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."[44]

Conclusion

Confusion on different Gospel principles can arise from time to time. It is the author’s hope that this article will serve productively to give all of us hope and an added measure of unity in mind.


Question: What is the difference between agency and freedom?

Introduction to Question

Many confuse the difference between agency and freedom from a Gospel perspective. For instance, some complain against the Church’s strong discouragement of its members getting tattoos by saying that such “takes away a person’s agency” and that taking away agency was “Satan’s plan."[45] This article seeks to outline the true meaning of agency and freedom.

Response to Question

Definition of Freedom

The Webster’s 1828 Dictionary (contemporary to Joseph Smith) defines freedom as “[a] state of exemption from the power or control of another; liberty; exemption from slavery, servitude or confinement. freedom is personal, civil, political, and religious.”[46]

Definition of Agency

The Webster’s 1828 Dictionary teaches that agency is “The quality of moving or of exerting power; the state of being in action; action; operation; instrumentality; as, the agency of providence in the natural world.”[47]

Explanation

Thus agency is the capacity to make an undetermined decision whether or not a particular freedom is given to you. Freedoms can and are stripped rightfully at times. The freedom to kill an innocent person is not one that is granted by basically anyone. Religious organizations have a right just like anyone else does to take away and give certain freedoms that define the parameters within which one must remain in order to be counted as members/full participants in those organizations.

Conclusion

Hopefully this will serve as a point of clarity for those that are wishing to gain added insight into this vital concept. Additional reflection may yield more insight.


Question: When, if ever, is it okay to disagree with Church leaders?

Introduction to Question

The current First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Russell M. Nelson as President (center), Dallin H. Oaks as First Counselor (left), and Henry B. Eyring as Second Counselor (right).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a large and well-established organization of leadership. This video outlines that leadership in detail:


The President of the Church, considered to be a prophet of God, receives revelation on behalf of the entire Church. Each person receives revelation for his or her own position and correlative sphere of influence in the Church. The more general the leader, the more general their stewardship. An Elder’s Quorum President can receive revelation to direct the Elder’s Quorum, a Bishop might be able to receive revelation to direct the Elder’s Quorum, but the Elder’s Quorum President cannot receive revelation on behalf of the whole ward like the Bishop can.

Occasionally in the Church, it is asked when, if ever, it is okay to disagree with the decisions, teachings, and/or actions of local and/or general Church leaders.

This article will outline those occasions when it may be okay to disagree with leaders of the Church.

Three Important Initial Considerations

Before we get into the occasions when it may be okay to disagree with Church leaders, it is important to keep three things in mind.

The Ideal: Agreeing With, Defending, and Living Out as Much of Leaders’ Words and Actions as Humanly Possible

First, we should lay out what the ideal is for every Latter-day Saint in relation to all leaders (both general and local) of the Church. That is:

We should try and agree with, defend, and live out the words and actions of all leaders of the Church (past and present as well as general and local) as much as humanly possible.

This is what it means to sustain a leader: to uphold their influence in human hearts as much as possible. When we disagree with them or criticize them, they can start to lose their influence either in our own hearts, the hearts of other people that hear our criticism, or both.

Particularly in regards to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, we are told over and over again in the scriptures that they are holy.[48] We should try and treat them and their words as such.

We are also told in scripture to receive all the prophet's words as if from the mouth of God in all patience and faith.[49] Additionally, we are told that if we do lift our heels against them and say they have sinned when they haven't, that we will be cursed.[50] Latter-day Saints who have gone through temples to receive their endowment have covenanted to not speak evil of the Lord's anointed.

This is absolutely not to say that we make an assumption that the leaders of the Church (both general and local) are incapable of error. The scriptures expressly declare that the prophets are capable of error. The first section of the Doctrine and Covenants declares that when leaders make errors, it shall be made known.[51] It also declares that when they sin, they will be chastened so that they will repent.[52] All this means, again, is that we agree with, defend, and live out as much of their words and actions as humanly possible so as to uphold their influence on human hearts and minds.

We're trying to get the whole human family into a relationship of one heart, one mind, with no poor among us, and everyone dwelling in righteousness by living the Savior's law of love.[53] We can't accomplish that task unless the human family trusts God's appointed spokesmen to accurately relay how we can all achieve that type of relationship with one another given the world's circumstances.

Recognizing a Fault or Mistake vs. Criticizing and Backbiting

Prophets and apostles have consistently taught that there is a difference between the type of differences of view that members can have with Church leaders and criticism or backbiting. Elder Dallin H. Oaks noted that there is a difference between the type of criticism that is "the act of passing judgement as to the merits of anything" and "the act of passing severe judgement; censure; faultfinding" which Church members are to refrain from in relation to Church leaders. Elder Oaks notes that the latter is condemned repeatedly in scripture.[54] There is a large difference between recognizing that what some Church leader said is mistaken or wrong and openly criticizing them and faultfinding. When we have disagreements, we can do the former and not the latter.

The strongest word that the scriptures use in relation to addressing the faults of top leaders is admonish which means "[t]o warn or notify of a fault; to reprove with mildness."[55] That word is used twice in scripture in relation to leaders of the Church and only directed to people that have close relationships with the prophet. In the first instance it is with Oliver Cowdery in 1829 before the organization of the Church:

19 Admonish him in his faults, and also receive admonition of him. Be patient; be sober; be temperate; have patience, faith, hope and charity.[56]

In the second instance it is given to Thomas B. Marsh who was the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

12 And pray for thy brethren of the Twelve. Admonish them sharply for my name’s sake, and let them be admonished for all their sins, and be ye faithful before me unto my name.[57]

In this latter scripture, it does say to admonish "sharply." But, again, it's used in relation to someone who is already in high positions in the Church. Also, "sharply," in this context, more than likely means "with plainness, truth, and clarity" rather than "with harsh censure." Such has been argued persuasively by Kent P. Jackson and Robert D. Hunt.[58]

Five procedures to follow if you have differences with Church leadership

Elder Oaks gave five things that members can do when they have differences with Church leadership.

  1. Overlook the difference
  2. Reserve judgment and postpone any action on the difference
  3. Take up our differences privately with the leader involved.
  4. Communicate with the Church officer who has the power to correct or release the person thought to be in error or transgression.
  5. Pray for the resolution of the problem.[59]

These procedures, as Oaks astutely observes, help one to address the point of pain while also keeping in accordance with the principles of moral truth outlined in scripture—thus allowing an individual to keep the Spirit of the Lord with them.

There may be times where we believe that personal revelation has told us something that contradicts the prophet’s revelation. In these cases, review the principles and procedures outlined in this article.

Occasions When One May Disagree With Church Leaders

Now we list the occasions in which one may disagree with Church leaders. These are not automatic exceptions. Disagreement should be handled in a spirit of charity, prayer, and seeking the good of the Kingdom of God.

1. It may be okay to disagree with Church leadership when what they teach is out of harmony with the Standard Works

The first place where it would be okay to disagree with any Church leadership is when they say something that is out of line with the standard works. Joseph Smith left clear revelation that the canonized scriptures should govern the Church.[60] This since they have been revealed by the Lord's duly appointed prophet (the only one authorized to receive revelation on behalf of the entire Church),[61] submitted to and approved by all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve,[62] and submitted to the general body of the Church for ratification.[63] Scripture should be read contextually (that is, in the historical context of the people who would have first heard the revelation) and holistically (seeing everything scripture has to say on the topic at hand) to acquire accurate theological conceptions that members judge every person's doctrine against. This article explains in more detail how to read the scriptures.

Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine. You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards of doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works. Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted.[64]

It's important to remember that just because a doctrine doesn't immediately and explicitly pop up in scripture, doesn't mean that that teaching isn't inspired. For instance, President Russell M. Nelson taught the following at the October 2017 General Conference of the Church:

My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions—every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day, even the gripping plague of pornography and other mind-numbing addictions.[65]

This is a promise connected to a specific action. This promise and action are never explicitly laid out in scripture, but the Lord does bless us as we treat the prophets as holy, are anxiously engaged in a good cause of our own free will without God's revelation (like sustaining the prophet by lovingly accepting his challenges),[66] and receive the words of the prophet as if from the mouth of God in all patience and faith as we are bound to do by the Doctrine and Covenants.[67]

2. It is okay to disagree with Church leadership when they try and claim revelation for something that is outside the bounds of their stewardship

As mentioned before, Church leaders have a specific sphere of influence that they are given with their calling and they are only allowed to receive revelation for that calling.

Elder Oaks taught the following. His words are supported by scripture (cited in the footnotes):

First, we should understand what can be called the principle of “responsibility in revelation.” Our Heavenly Father’s house is a house of order, where his servants are commanded to “act in the office in which [they are] appointed."[68] This principle applies to revelation. Only the President of the Church receives revelation to guide the entire Church. Only the stake president receives revelation for the special guidance of the stake. The person who receives revelation for the ward is the bishop. For a family, it is the priesthood leadership of the family. Leaders receive revelation for their own areas of responsibility. Individuals can receive revelation to guide their own lives. But when one person purports to receive revelation for another person outside his or her own area of responsibility—such as a Church member who claims to have revelation to guide the entire Church or a person who claims to have a revelation to guide another person over whom he or she has no presiding authority according to the order of the Church—you can be sure that such revelations are not from the Lord. “There are counterfeit signals.”[69] Satan is a great deceiver, and he is the source of some of these spurious revelations. Others are imagined. If a revelation is outside the limits of your specific responsibility, you know it is not from the Lord and you are not bound by it.[70]

3. It may be okay to disagree with Church leadership when their decisions don’t come from revelation

Members may disagree with Church leaders' decisions when those decisions do not come from revelation. When a decision, new doctrine, new policy, etc. is claimed to come by revelation, this adds a confirming, divine witness on that action and disagreement with that decision may very likely be disagreement with God. Since revelation almost always comes from God through the Holy Spirit, it follows that when the Holy Spirit does not touch us, that we are usually not receiving revelation.

As the Lord told all prospective missionaries in 1831, we are inspired when the Holy Ghost touches us:

3 And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.


4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.

5 Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants.[71]

Here we echo the above caveat to not immediately reject a teaching, policy, promise, and/or other action that is not explicitly laid out in scripture/not explicitly said to have come by revelation.

Plato and Aristotle in discussion, by Luca della Robbia (1437)

4. It is okay to disagree with Church leadership when their conduct clearly does not fall in line with the moral standards and other statutes laid out in scripture

Another area in which members can disagree with Church leadership is when their conduct does not clearly fall in line with the moral standards and other statutes laid out in scripture. What are the moral standards laid out in scripture? See this article for an informative yet non-exhaustive summary.

As mentioned before, the Doctrine and Covenants expressly states that when Church leaders make errors it will be known. It also states that when they sin, they will be chastened so that they will repent. No one is exempt from the laws of the Church given through prophets by God via revelation. All must be held accountable before the appropriate authorities for their transgressions.[72] The Doctrine and Covenants even provides a procedure for excommunicating the President of the Church.[73]

5. It may be okay to disagree with Church leadership when their words do not accord with science

This last one is perhaps the most fraught with difficulty and complexity. We absolutely do not want to make science our idol. We do not want it to have higher authority than revelation or the prophets. We do not want to reject doctrines of the Church just because the current scientific community accepts something that might be at odds with Church doctrine and other moral standards placed upon us by the Church.

However, we also do not want to be hostile to science either. We want to have science inform our perspectives on things pertaining to the Gospel as much as possible. Take, for instance, the words of the revelation given to Joseph Smith when organizing the School of the Prophets:

77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.


78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—

80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.[74]

It is clear from the revelation that our theology is expressly not hostile to science. We welcome it in order to be better instructed in things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. Thus, we will have to do a continuous dance with our scripture and the academy: seeing how revelation and science converge. For instance, we can see what miracles, characters, and other events in scripture that we must logically see as literal and historical and which we do not. We might be informed about other things about the nature of those miracles, characters, and other events.

As President Brigham Young taught:

“Mormonism,” so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to “Mormonism.” The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fulness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods.[75]

Conclusion

It is the hope of the author that these principles and ideas will serve productively to show that there is room for disagreement in the Church without undermining the (very) essential governmental structure and holy authority of Church leaders.


Question: How does official teaching of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints view those that receive revelation that contradicts that of the Prophet?

Introduction to Question

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in living prophets—men who literally can speak for God in our day.[76] They boldly and proudly proclaim that the heavens are open and that God speaks today on behalf of the entire human family through these prophets. Prophets speak for God by way of revelation. This revelation can sometimes constitute the Church's policy on something, a commandment given by God to the Church, and can sometimes indicate what Latter-day Saints believe to be eternal, unchanging truths.

Members of the Church enjoy the opportunity to hear from the prophet. They are encouraged to seek revelation of their own to know if God calls prophets today and if the current president of the Church is God’s authorized prophet. They are also encouraged to seek revelation as to how best apply the words of the prophets into their daily lives.

Occasionally within the Church, there are claims by those who affirm to be members of the Church (and sometimes by those even outside of official Church membership) that they have received a revelation that contradicts revelation claimed by the prophet on behalf of the whole Church. These claims to revelation are spread publicly and often stir controversy among Latter-day Saints because of the opposition the person enacts against the Church leadership.

These claims are all too familiar for mature Latter-day Saints. Such claims are heard frequently and to hear that revelation contradicts the prophet can cause some dissonance for those that are seeking to understand what Latter-day Saint doctrine can inform these epistemological discussions and provide answers to resolve these seemingly difficult problems.

This article will seek to identify principles and procedures that people can follow if they believe that they have received revelation that contradicts that of the President of the Church, the First Presidency, and/or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. These will be sought for from the official scriptures and teachings of the leaders of the Church.

Five Things to Do in Case of Belief of Contradictory Revelation

1. As a first step, members ought to consider whether they are mistaken or misled.

Many members of the Church who find themselves in this situation ought to consider if they are simply wrong. There are a few ways in which members might be wrong.

President Henry B. Eyring stated the following in the October 2021 General Conference of the Church:

It is hard to keep the Lord’s commandments without faith and trust in Him. As some lose their faith in the Savior, they may even attack His counsel, calling good evil and evil good.[77] To avoid this tragic error, it is crucial that any personal revelation we receive be consonant with the teachings of the Lord and His prophets.[78]

1. Can’t have Spirit if in transgression or if in rebellion of Church leaders. President Dallin H. Oaks taught:

We cannot have the companionship of the Holy Ghost—the medium of individual revelation—if we are in transgression or if we are angry or if we are in rebellion against God’s chosen authorities.[79]

His words are supported by the official scriptures. According to them, the Spirit of God cannot abide in unclean hearts (hearts of people who have willfully sinned and/or rebelled against God) and to receive the First Presidency is to receive God.[80] If Latter-day Saints are in purposeful rebellion towards the leaders of the Church, it is believed that they may be in great danger of being deceived by false Spirits.[81] The scriptures teach clearly that hearkening unto the revelation received by prophets is how members will not be deceived in the last days before Christ's second coming and how they can become like God--thereby achieving salvation and exaltation.[82] Several scriptures address how to discern the difference between true and false Spirits.[83] This may seem surprising to modern Latter-day Saints that evil and/or unclean spirits might have influenced them to believe something false, but the Book of Mormon documents how this very thing happened among the Nephites.[84]

Latter-day Saints would also know that there are people who may intentionally want to be led by false Spirits--people that will spiritual experiences to pass that convince them of their own prophethood, so to speak. There are also those that might claim to have had a spiritual experience telling them that the prophets are wrong (when they haven’t actually had any revelatory experience) simply for the purpose of stirring up contention, mocking the epistemology of the Saints, and/or to simply troll. These are those that might be said to “pervert the Gospel.”[85]

2. Seeking revelation on everything can make us susceptible to self-deception or influence of false spirits. President Oaks had another thing to say on this regarding those that seek revelation on everything:

Closely related to this example is the person who has a strong desire to be led by the Spirit of the Lord but who unwisely extends that desire to the point of wanting to be led in all things. A desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many decisions for our personal choices. Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances in which they pray for guidance and don’t receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances in which the choices are trivial or either choice is acceptable. We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it. If we do not receive guidance, we should act upon our best judgment. Persons who persist in seeking revelatory guidance on subjects on which the Lord has not chosen to direct us may concoct an answer out of their own fantasy or bias, or they may even receive an answer through the medium of false revelation. Revelation from God is a sacred reality, but like other sacred things, it must be cherished and used properly so that a great strength does not become a disabling weakness.[86]

The scriptures confirm his teaching. We are told in Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-28 to not be commanded in all things and are bring about righteousness through our own agency.[87]

3. Over-interpreting a heart flutter. It may be that an emotional reaction to something can be over-interpreted as a spiritual impression. Latter-day Saints should seek more dynamic confirmation if they are unsure they’ve felt the Spirit. Prophets have warned us about mistaking emotion for revelation. President Howard W. Hunter taught:

Let me offer a word of caution. . . . I think if we are not careful . . . , we may begin to try to counterfeit the true influence of the Spirit of the Lord by unworthy and manipulative means. I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself.[88]

4. Can’t receive revelation outside of stewardship. Lastly, members should remember the concept of stewardship. For example, only the President of the Church may receive revelations on behalf of the entire Church.[89] Only those members of the Church that are appointed to a particular office may receive revelation for that office. Again from Elder Oaks:

First, we should understand what can be called the principle of “responsibility in revelation.” Our Heavenly Father’s house is a house of order, where his servants are commanded to “act in the office in which [they are] appointed."[90] This principle applies to revelation. Only the President of the Church receives revelation to guide the entire Church. Only the stake president receives revelation for the special guidance of the stake. The person who receives revelation for the ward is the bishop. For a family, it is the priesthood leadership of the family. Leaders receive revelation for their own areas of responsibility. Individuals can receive revelation to guide their own lives. But when one person purports to receive revelation for another person outside his or her own area of responsibility—such as a Church member who claims to have revelation to guide the entire Church or a person who claims to have a revelation to guide another person over whom he or she has no presiding authority according to the order of the Church—you can be sure that such revelations are not from the Lord. “There are counterfeit signals.”[91] Satan is a great deceiver, and he is the source of some of these spurious revelations. Others are imagined. If a revelation is outside the limits of your specific responsibility, you know it is not from the Lord and you are not bound by it.[92]

The First Presidency wrote in 1917:

When visions, dreams, tongues, prophecy, impressions or any extraordinary gift or inspiration, convey something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of its constituted authorities, Latter-day Saints may know that it is not of God, no matter how plausible it may appear. … In secular as well as spiritual affairs, Saints may receive Divine guidance and revelation affecting themselves, but this does not convey authority to direct others. … The history of the Church records many pretended revelations claimed by imposters or zealots who believed in the manifestations they sought to lead other persons to accept, and in every instance, disappointment, sorrow and disaster have resulted therefrom.[93]


Members may feel some discouragement that it takes such effort to receive and recognize revelation; but this is, in a somewhat ironic way, strictly in line with the Lord's requirement for his people to be "tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that [he has] for them, even the glory of Zion[.]"[94] Learning to receive and recognize revelation would logically not be an exception to such a requirement.

In order to guard themselves against false revelation, members should seek to understand what is already laid out in the revelations contained in scripture. Joseph Smith left clear revelation that the canonized scriptures should govern the Church (D&C 42: 12-13, 56-60; 105:58-59). This since they have been revealed by the Lord's duly appointed prophet: the only person authorized to receive revelation on behalf of the entire Church (D&C 21:4-5; 28:2; 43:2-7), submitted to and approved by all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve (D&C 107:27), and submitted to the general body of the Church for ratification (D&C 26:2; 28:13). Scripture should be read contextually (that is, in the historical context of the people who would have first heard the revelation) and holistically (seeing everything scripture has to say on the topic at hand) to acquire accurate theological conceptions that they judge their spiritual impressions against. This article explains how to do this in more detail.

2. Members should pray to have their heart changed if this is necessary.

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi didn’t understand the meaning of his father Lehi’s vision. He was given the opportunity to either reject his father’s words or accept them. As a result of the confusion Nephi felt, he prayed to God to have his heart softened if necessary. All Latter-day Saints can learn from this example that Nephi set.[95] There may be things with which they do not fully agree with or understand at this moment. We learn from the Book of Mormon that a witness comes after the trial of faith.[96] We also learn that as one continues in light, that light can grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day.[97] Thus if we disagree with something right now, we may at some point grow in understanding of what has been revealed by prophets that we can reject the influence of false ideas and, yes, even false spirits that may have influenced us into believing something that wasn't true. A time of personal disagreement is fine. What isn’t fine for a person committed to the truths of Latter-day Saint theology is to not consider that one may be wrong and/or not approaching God with an honest heart seeking an answer from him when they have these types of questions. He promises that if we ask, we will receive.[98]

3. Members should be patient.

Closely related to this last point, members should be patient. For Latter-day Saints, the answer to prayer as to if something is right may not come until a bit later.

Consider a case from President Brigham Young. Brigham Young talked about the first time Joseph Smith taught something that he didn’t and couldn’t believe. It happened when Joseph taught about three degrees of glory in heaven. Said Brigham:

I was not prepared to say that I believed it [three degrees of glory], and I had to wait. What did I do? I handed this over to the Lord in my feelings, and said I, ‘I will wait until the Spirit of God manifests to me, for or against.’ I did not judge the matter, I did not argue against it, not in the least. I never argued the least against anything Joseph proposed, but if I could not see or understand it, I handed it over to the Lord.[99]

Note that Brigham does not “blindly follow” Joseph. He does not start believing the doctrine simply because Joseph preached it. Brigham insisted that he have his own witness prior to believing.

Yet, Brigham did not go too far the other way either. He did not engage in learned debate, or publish an “alternative” newspaper (today such folks would probably start a blog or post on Facebook) detailing all the reasons why he did not believe what Joseph was teaching. He conformed his outward behavior in accordance with his covenants, but he did not abdicate his inner responsibility for building his testimony by confronting his sincere doubt and uncertainty. He waited for revelation, but he did not let that which he did not know destroy that which he did know.

If he had not taken this approach, he would never have gotten a revelation. There is an old adage in Latter-day Saint culture that says "faith precedes the miracle." Perhaps this can include the faith to simply be patient for revelation that we need.

President Boyd K. Packer cautioned:

There are those within the Church who are disturbed when changes are made with which they disagree or when changes they propose are not made. They point to these as evidence that the leaders are not inspired.

They write and speak to convince others that the doctrines and decisions of the Brethren are not given through inspiration.

Two things characterize them: they are always irritated by the word "obedience," and always they question revelation. It has always been so.[100]

As mentioned previously, in The Book of Mormon it is taught that one receives no witness until after the trial of their faith.[101] Latter-day Saints might consider this in their efforts to be patient in receiving the light and knowledge they need to be in line with the authorities of the Church.

4. If, after all this, we still believe we are being told that the leaders of the Church are wrong, we are still not authorized to publicly preach or urge a different course of action or teaching.

President George Q. Cannon observed:

We could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the Authorities of the Church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing these differences of opinion and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife and to place the acts and counsels of the Authorities of the Church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate, for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term. We further said that while a man might honestly differ in opinion from the Authorities through a want of understanding, he had to be exceedingly careful how he acted in relation to such differences, or the adversary would take advantage of him, and he would soon become imbued with the spirit of apostasy and be found fighting against God and the authority which He had placed here to govern His Church.[102]

Dallin H. Oaks gave five things that members can do when they have differences with Church leadership.

  1. Overlook the difference
  2. Reserve judgment and postpone any action on the difference
  3. Take up our differences privately with the leader involved.
  4. Communicate with the Church officer who has the power to correct or release the person thought to be in error or transgression.
  5. Pray for the resolution of the problem.[103]

These procedures, as Oaks astutely observes, help one to address the point of pain while also keeping in accordance with the principles of moral truth outlined in scripture—thus allowing an individual to keep the Spirit of the Lord with them.

Revealed policy vs. non-revealed policy. It’s important to know that Latter-day Saints can have differing opinions as to the efficacy of policy. Policy is a different matter entirely from revelation that teaches truths about heaven. Latter-day Saint scripture teaches that they are meant to seek all that is "virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy" and use all disciplines to be better instructed in the Kingdom of God.[104] We may find things that may be helpful in supplementing the already good principles being used by the leaders of the Kingdom in building it up. As matters of policy and, more particularly, policy that is not claimed to have come by revelation, Church members may be free to agree and disagree and opine on ways the Church might improve through constructive dialogue. As matters of revelation that teach eternal truths and policy that is claimed to come from revelation, however, it’s difficult to conceive of a member that would go against revelations as claimed and approved by the top counsels of the Church. Such seems to be bad epistemology. It’s to ascribe self-delusion to the top leadership of the Church even when they’ve claimed to receive genuine revelation from God and followed all necessary steps for making something official.

The Doctrine and Covenants is explicit that a person cannot "lift up [their] heel" against the President of the Church and the other leaders and believe that they have sinned when they haven’t.[105] Are we sure that we want to deny that someone has received revelation when 15 people claim to have unitedly received revelation? Denying that they've received revelation speaks to the ability that all humans have in general to receive revelation from God. If humans can be wrong about receiving revelation even when unified in claiming that they have in regards to any particularity, then how much more ability do we, as "regular people," have to receive revelation that doesn't simply confirm our own biases? This claim makes it so that God’s word is not, in Latter-day Saint scriptural vernacular, "sharper than a two edged sword" and makes it so that "the law hath no claim on the creature."[106]

5. Members may be taught things by revelation that may be true, and for their comfort, but it is still not their place to spread them publicly, use them to advocate for change, and so forth.

Another point closely related to this is to know how revelation that gives us a mystery not yet known to the general body of the Church is to be taught. The Book of Mormon teaches that there will be times when people will receive revelations that may provide them instruction about the mysteries of God. Nevertheless, whenever they’re given mysteries, they are, according to Latter-day Saint doctrine, to not preach that as revelation until such knowledge is given to the whole Church through the appointed prophet.[107]

Doctrine and Covenants 28:4-5 tells us that:

4 And if thou art led at any time by the Comforter to speak or teach, or at all times by the way of commandment unto the church, thou mayest do it.
5 But thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom;


All this begs the question of how we'll know it's the Spirit that prompts us to share. We will recognize that the Spirit is the one that prompts us to share when we feel that it doesn't motivate us to share it as factual knowledge. It will also not motivate us to go spread the information and stir up contention and strife among the Saints or stir up malice against the Church.[108] There may be times when the Spirit can prompt us to share our knowledge with someone, but it will likely be on a very individual basis and in private. You will likely not be bothered with the general rule being taught as the position for the entire Church.

Other Latter-day Saint prophets have taught similar things:

  • Brigham Young: “Should you receive a vision of revelation from the Almighty, one that the Lord gave you concerning yourselves, or this people, but which you are not to reveal on account of your not being the proper person, or because it ought not to be known by the people at present, you should shut it up and seal it as close, and lock it as tight as heaven is to you, and make it as secret as the grave. The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets, for He cannot safely reveal Himself to such persons.”[109]
  • Joseph F. Smith: “Not even a revelation from God should be taught to his people until it has first been approved by the presiding authority—the one through whom the Lord makes known His will for the guidance of the saints. . . .The spirit of revelation may rest upon any one, and teach him or her many things for personal comfort and instruction. But these are not doctrines of the Church, and, however true, they must not be inculcated [i.e., taught and distributed/published] until proper permission is given.”[110]
  • Joseph Fielding Smith: “If a man comes among the Latter-day Saints, professing to have received a vision or a revelation or a remarkable dream, and the Lord has given him such, he should keep it to himself. . . . the Lord will give his revelations in the proper way, to the one who is appointed to receive and dispense the word of God to the members of the Church.”[111]

As a matter of caution, it would be wise to again point out that the Book of Mormon records how Satan went about the land, stirring up contention among the Nephites with rumors, gossip, and false teachings. If there is a spirit that tells us that we should publicly disclose our revelation and seek to bring others to our side, this would likely need to be seen as coming from Satan. Members may be taught things for their instruction or their comfort, but they should not disclose those revelations unless the Prophet of the Church reveals the same thing.

Conclusion

It’s not uncommon to hear difficult questions such as this one being leveled against the Church by its more secularist critics as if this were some sort of slam dunk on its epistemology. Although many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may feel confused by these questions and some not as well read in order to provide answers to these questions, the reality is that these epistemological questions have been answered by the official scriptures and teachings of leaders of the Church since the Church's inception. Understanding the previous principles and being able to articulate them to others will provide an excellent “reason for the hope that is within us” and help us to live more as Zion—as “one heart and one mind.”[112]


Question: What is the significance of the temple garment worn by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and what is the appropriate way to wear them?

Garments worn by male members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Introduction to Questions

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints perform several sacred ordinances or ceremonies for individuals that they believe are necessary for individual exaltation. A few of these ceremonies are performed in temples: holy places dedicated to serving God.

As part of ceremonies in the temple known as “initiatories,” individuals put on sacred underclothes to symbolize some of the sacred promises that they make in the temple as well as sacred knowledge conferred to them. These underclothes are commonly referred to as "the temple garment," "temple garments," "the garment," or simply "garments."

Members of the Church who go through these ceremonies and put on these sacred garments are sometimes confused as to two things:

  1. Whether or not they make a covenant to wear the garment
  2. When it might be appropriate to remove or modify the garment

This article seeks to answer these two questions given what we know from the temple and other official Church sources.

Response to Questions

1. Do Latter-day Saints covenant to wear the garment?

According to the official leadership handbook of the Church, “[m]embers who receive the endowment make a covenant to wear the temple garment throughout their lives.” A "covenant" is defined by the Church (and, indeed, by most dictionaries) as “a sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people. God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions.”

In the temple, we are instructed to wear the garment throughout our life, to not defile it, and to remain true to the other covenants we make in the temple. In exchange, the garment will serve as a spiritual shield and protection (and what good does a shield that isn't worn do?).This clearly follows the definition of “covenant” above. It is understandable and forgivable that confusion would arise on the issue since the endowment does not explicitly state that you receive the garment by covenant, but the instruction given plus the blessings promised for complying with that instruction clearly fall in line with the definition of covenant.

To “defile” means to violate the sanctity of something. To not wear garments when you have the reasonable opportunity to wear them (as discussed below) certainly falls in line with this definition.

2. When might it be appropriate to remove or modify the temple garment?

The official leadership handbook section on wearing the garment states that “[t]he garment should not be removed for activities that can reasonably be done while wearing the garment. It should not be modified to accommodate different styles of clothing. The garment is sacred and should be treated with respect. Endowed members should seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to answer personal questions about wearing the garment.”

What are those activities where it might be unreasonable to wear the garment? Examples might include intimate relations between husband and wife, any period of intensive exercise, and any aquatic activity (including showering).

As the quote states, the garment should not be removed nor modified to accommodate different styles of clothing. One of the purposes of the garment is to encourage modesty in how we dress. The garment as currently designed indicates what parts of the body should be clothed in order to meet a more objective/specific standard of modesty in how we dress.

Several concerns have arisen because of various health and practical considerations. The garment, as currently designed, can potentially assuage some of those concerns. If concerns persist, these might be directed to God in prayer, a local bishop, a local stake president, and/or a local temple worker. You might also consider emailing [email protected] This email is directed to those in the Temple Affairs Department of the Church who frequently take user feedback about garments to better meet the needs of the wearer.

Some have been concerned about having to be in extreme heat when wearing the garment. Being in extreme heat may be a time to reasonably remove the garment. However, if one would like to try not to remove the garment, it should be understood that retailers that sell garments carry them in a number of different fabric types to accommodate this. The chart below lists the different fabric types.

Garment Fabric Types Better.png Some women have been concerned about the garment causing yeast infections and/or urinary tract infections. It should be noted that all garment styles for women "have a 100% cotton bottom panel for breathability and hygiene, as recommended by OBGYNs."[113] A few of the fabrics are either 95% or 100% cotton.

Some have been concerned about potential skin allergies that garments might cause. As noted above, there are several different styles of fabric that one can choose from in order to avoid allergies.

Some have been concerned about the itchiness of certain fabrics. The chart above gives ratings for how soft and comfortable each fabric style is. Consumers can pick what works best for their circumstances.

Special styles of garments exist for women who are pregnant and/or nursing and for those that are terminally ill and/or bedridden for an extended period of time.

Some women have concerns about how the garment can hold menstrual pads. The garment is definitely not designed for this and many women resort to either removing their bottoms and putting regular panties on underneath their bottoms or other approaches. Here, women are encouraged to do what works best for them and what seems to feel right spiritually after sincere prayer.

Some complain about uncomfortable waistbands. This might be solved by keeping the garment top tucked into the garment bottom. But this may be an area of improvement for the garment's design.

The basic notion that the author wants to express is that garments should not be removed when we have the reasonable opportunity to wear them and that, generally speaking, we should be seeking for opportunities to wear them rather than not wear them. Why would there be so many fabrics and styles that one can choose from if the Church didn't expect us to wear them as much as possible? Even if this were merely an "instruction," it'd still be an instruction from God. Do we not want to follow God's instructions? Instruction is a firm word by itself. It's certainly stronger than "suggest," "urge," "recommend," etc. Are we showing love to God if we treat our promises to Him lightly? That said, we should be intuitive about our garment wearing and be in the communication with the Spirit to know when it may be necessary to remove them.

Conclusion

Wearing the garment is a sacred privilege. They are expressly not "just like any other underwear." Wearing the garment communicates love for God by keeping our promises to him and love for others by giving them an example to follow that leads them to Jesus Christ.[114] We often want so much to conform our garment-wearing to the world rather than help the world conform to garment-wearing. We shouldn’t be afraid to be different from others. The Lord has told us that, as Christians, we should “[l]et [our] light so shine before men [and women], that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven.”[115] He wants us to be "a peculiar people, zealous of good works."[116] Being different by wearing our garments and treating them with sacredness is an excellent way that we can humbly follow the Lord and, by so doing, be peculiar and interesting to other people. This interest may lead them to explore the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ and be converted to it. Thus, by wearing the garment we can fulfill the Lord’s commandments. As Latter-day Saints, we should be model disciples of Jesus Christ. Wearing the garment is one way that we can do that and it brings tremendous spiritual blessings.


Question: What are appropriate activities for the Sabbath?

Introduction to Question

Like many Christians, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrate the Sabbath on a Sunday. On Sunday, members attend worship services held at local chapels.

Members of the Church have been confused as to what activities might be appropriate on the Sabbath.

This article seeks to present scriptural quotes, commentary from prophets, and some ethical considerations about the issue that may elucidate a definitive answer to the question.

Response to Question

Scriptural Quote

The most relevant scriptural quote to answer this question is given in the 56th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. There, the Lord declares the following in verses 9-19:

9 And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
10 For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;
11 Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
12 But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
13 And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.
14 Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.
15 And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—
16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

This scripture already has given us a pretty definitive declaration. You should:

  1. Go to your local chapel and offer up sacraments, oblations, and vows
  2. Rest from your labors
  3. Pay your devotions to God
  4. Confess your sins before your brethren and God
  5. Prepare food and specifically with singleness of heart
  6. Fast
  7. Pray

We should do these things with:

  1. Thanksgiving
  2. Cheerful and glad hearts
  3. Cheerful countenances
  4. Not with much laughter

The blessings for following these injunctions are the fulness of the earth including all beasts, fowls, herbs, and other foods for clothing, housing, industry, medicine, and general enjoyment.

Commentary from Prophets

The pamphlet For the Strength of Youth, written and approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, includes several restrictions on Sabbath day activities:

Sunday is not a day for shopping, recreation, or athletic events. Do not seek entertainment or make purchases on this day. Let others know what your standards are so they can support you. When seeking a job, share with your potential employer your desire to attend your Sunday meetings and keep the Sabbath day holy. Whenever possible, choose a job that does not require you to work on Sundays.[117]

The Church’s official handbook for leaders lists the following activities as appropriate:

  • Personal worship through prayer and fasting
  • Gospel study and learning
  • Ministering and service to others
  • Family history
  • Joyful family time
  • Other appropriate gatherings.

Ethical Commentary

We spend the majority of our weeks focused on things and people that aren’t God. To an extent that’s good and divine. Often that means we’re busy thinking of ways to keep the second great commandment to love our neighbor as ourself.[118] But is it any wonder that the Creator of the World asks us to set aside one day for Him and to do nothing else besides pay our devotions to Him and rest from labor after we have spent all week not talking to him? Not thinking about him? We often think that God is entirely self-sufficient and doesn’t need our devotion or love. That may come because of our seeing Him as all-powerful. While He is all-powerful, He is an all-powerful human. Like all humans, He is blessed and nourished by love. Don’t treat God as so distant that you think He doesn’t want or need your love. Treat Him as if He were as near to you and in need of attention as your closest friend or relative.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article has illuminated one way that we can more fully love God by keeping his commandments.[119]


Question: What does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teach about modesty and what is its importance?

This page is still under construction. We welcome any suggestions for improving the content of this FAIR Answers Wiki page.

Introduction to Question

Questions about the Church’s standard of modesty have arisen in recent years. This article seeks to be an exposition of everything we should know about modesty and the reasons for practicing it as well as a response to certain criticisms that have arisen about it. There is a large amount of groundwork that needs to be laid down in order to have an organized and effective conversation about the Church's standards of modesty. We'll start with the definition of modesty, then discuss some cultural and historical facts about modesty in dress, then address the specific questions that have arisen.


Question: Why does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider the practice of masturbation sinful?

Introduction to Question

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints views the practice of masturbation to be sinful.[120] The Church's current handbook for leaders (2020; 2021) lists abstaining from masturbation as among the standards of conduct placed on Church members. But it states that "a church membership council is not held for" it. "However, a council may be necessary for intensive and compulsive use of pornography that has caused significant harm to a member’s marriage or family," which usually is accompanied by masturbation. The rulebook for the Church's missionaries (2019) says to "avoid any thought or action that would separate you from the Spirit of God. This includes but is not limited to adultery; fornication; same-sex activity; oral sex; arousing sexual feelings; inappropriate touching; sending or receiving messages, images, or videos that are immoral or sexual in nature; masturbation; and viewing or using pornography (see 7.5.3). See For the Strength of Youth (2011), 'Repentance,' 28–29, for additional information." The youth pamphlet For the Strength of Youth (2011) has said to "not do anything…that arouses sexual feelings" and to "not arouse [sexual] emotions in your own body."[121] True to the Faith (2004), a doctrinal reference work written for Church members of all ages and approved by the First Presidency, tells members to “[d]etermine now that you will never do anything outside of marriage to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not arouse those emotions in another person’s body or in your own body.”[122] Church leaders have long been clear that masturbation should not be regarded nearly as bad as other sexual practices, but that it is bad enough to require sincere repentance.[123]

Many have wondered why the Church takes this stance. Much of the modern scientific community views the practice as normal in humans of all ages. Many benefits are associated with masturbation such as improved sleep, a better immune system, a better cardiovascular system, reduced stress, and reduced sexual tension—especially when a partner is not available, whether by their own choice or not, for sexual relations. Certain health professionals recommend masturbating to mitigate tension in relationships where one partner has a higher libido than the other and doesn’t want to demand intercourse of the lower libido partner (or the lower libido partner doesn’t want to accept demands). There are a number of health issues that can cause pain (aka “dyspareunia”) for one or both partners during sex. A number of psychological issues can also limit someone from enjoying partnered sex such as trauma. For some of these conditions, there are certain health professionals that recommend masturbation as a form of treatment for the patient or as a release for their partner. Prior to marriage and after engagement, it is sometimes recommended that men and women masturbate in order to explore their bodies and determine what kind of touch they would like during intercourse. There is at least some evidence (though currently inconclusive) that more frequent ejaculation in men can result in reduced risk of prostate cancer.[124] Limited evidence suggests that orgasm might help females relieve pain from menstrual cramps and increase their pain threshold.[125] Orgasm has also been correlated with relief from headaches in some individuals.[126] A 2008 study at Tabriz University of Medical Sciences in Iran found that ejaculation in men can help reduce swollen nasal blood vessels (nasal congestion).[127] Masturbation is seen as having an evolutionary utility in that it flushes out low motility sperm in men so that higher motility sperm will compete to more quickly reach a female egg and fertilize it. In earlier days of human evolutionary development, men competed for females to mate with. Women would be inseminated multiple times by different partners. Thus, evolution allegedly instilled in men a need to masturbate in order to have have agile sperm and get offspring before other men. For women, masturbation can change the state of the cervix, vagina, and uterus and make chances of conception more likely if climaxing one minute before insemination and 45 minutes after. It can increase acidic content in the cervical mucus as well as move debris out of the cervix to protect against cervical infection.

This article will explore why the Church might take the stance that it does on masturbation even given the potential benefits of it. Almost all of these points apply to a discussion about pornography. This article can thus be considered a response outlining the Church’s potential rationale against masturbation as well as pornography.

Response to Question

Sexual Desire is a Fundamentally Good Thing

Before we proceed with the rest of our response, it should be first noted and emphasized that our sexual desires are fundamentally good things, given to us by God to be used for “strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife” and bringing children into this world.[128] As For the Strength of Youth says, "[p]hysical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife."[129] Thus, sexual desire in and of itself should not be considered bad. Indeed, it should be celebrated.

As Parley P. Pratt once wrote:

Some persons have supposed that our natural affections were the results of a fallen and corrupt nature, and that they are 'carnal, sensual, and devilish,' and therefore ought to be resisted, subdued, or overcome as so many evils which prevent our perfection, or progress in the spiritual life … Such persons have mistaken the source and fountain of happiness altogether.[130]

All this said, since sexual desire has a proper use, it follows that it should be exercised or put to use for that purpose and that boundaries should be in place to guide us towards fulfilling that purpose. It is not a sin to have a sexual desire. It is sinful, however, to exercise that desire in illicit ways as defined by God. It is also sinful to begin to plan to exercise that desire in unrighteous ways.

The Act is Bad. The Person is Not.

Another thing to be emphasized is that the person that engages in masturbation is not a bad person. The act is bad. We are not "good people" and "bad people." We are people that do good things and bad things. It is true that Jesus says that a good tree cannot produce bad fruit and neither a bad tree, good fruit.[131] But, for Jesus, it is not who you are that will determine what you do; it is what you do that will determine who you are. What you do creates proclivities and habits that become parts of you. Undoing one or more of those and becoming a different creature requires deliberate and sometimes ongoing self-restraint and change. This change can happen for everyone and Jesus lovingly invites us with open arms to make that change if those habits are not in line with God's will as outlined in prophetic teaching/revelation.

Jesus' view of identity is similar to that of Parable of the Two Wolves told here:

The Scriptural Case Against Masturbation

The scriptures are the law to govern the behavior and beliefs of the whole Church.[132] Citing James 4:17, the Church argues on its website that "sin is to willfully disobey God’s commandments or to fail to act righteously despite a knowledge of the truth[.]"[133] It is logical, therefore, that if we wish to establish something as sinful, that we make our best scriptural case—since scripture contains revealed truths from God—for it actually being such. We will generally examine passages in the order they appear in the canon of scripture. Only those passages that the author believes have relevance to the question of the morality of masturbation will be cited and discussed.

The sexually relational telos of men and women. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle considered all things to have a telos or purpose for which they were created/designed. He believed that things (including human beings) flourish when they adhere to their telos. Telic thinking (aka "teleology") became the foundation of Aristotle’s theory of morality (known as “virtue ethics”). According to Aristotle, human excellence consists of adhering to their telos to be virtuous.

The scriptures and other official pronouncements of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a similar view of human sexuality. They teach that men and women are designed to be united with each other sexually after marriage. Scripture repeatedly affirms that men and women are meant to be united sexually—becoming "one flesh."[134] Individuals, communities, and nations flourish when men and women adhere strongly to this “telos.” Sexuality is thus a relational (rather than isolated) act between married men and women for Latter-day Saints.[135] Any act that takes men and women away from living in accordance with that design (or at least has a high probability of taking them away from it) is going to be viewed as immoral by the Church. This understanding of men and women's sexually relational telos will pervade much of the rest of our response.

C.S. Lewis wrote:

For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself…After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.[136]

One may still wonder why we have this telos and why it is so important to make sexuality relational as much as possible. Latter-day Saints believe that one of the central purposes of marriage is child-bearing and rearing. Doctrine and Covenants 49:17 states that one of the purposes of marriage is to fill the earth "with the measure of man [i.e. the amount of spirit children created by God in the pre-mortal existence ], according to his creation before the world was made." Sex is obviously the action taken by a mother and father in order to produce children. However, it is also the act of a husband and wife. Sex acts as a means of strengthening the emotional and spiritual bonds between husbands and wives so that they can stabilize/fortify their relationship as fathers and mothers and thus attend better to the needs of their children. Sex is the most complete union that any human can achieve with another human. It involves uniting the hearts, spirits, minds, and bodies (the sum total of a person) of a man and a woman into their complementary, reproductive roles so that they can achieve the goals of motherhood and fatherhood. Isolated sexual activity, like masturbation and pornography, accomplishes the goal of bonding a person to themselves and hyper-sexualized, dehumanizing, fictive fragments of other people. Relational sexual activity, and especially that between a husband and a wife, accomplishes the goal of uniting a person to another person; another human being.

Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her. There are two verses that have been used most frequently to justify abstaining from masturbation and they are Jesus' in Matthew 5:27–28:

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

These verses are echoed in 3 Nephi 12:28, Doctrine and Covenants 42:23, and Doctrine and Covenants 63:16.

Jason Staples, an assistant teaching professor in philosophy and religious studies at North Carolina State University, has argued persuasively that Jesus is not condemning sexual desire in and of itself here. Rather, he is condemning planning to exercise that desire in unrighteous ways and "fixing one’s desire upon obtaining something that is not rightfully one’s own." Furthermore, according to Staples, "lust" is better translated as “covet.” So, if you are making plans to engage in unlawful sexual activity (without actually engaging in that activity) with someone while either you or they are still married (or both are married to other people), you are, according to Jesus, committing adultery in your heart.[137] It's the difference between feeling a sexual desire towards another, on the one hand, and saying in one's mind "I should go talk to her/him and flirt with her/him to see if she'll/he’ll be turned on by it enough and come home with me" on the other. This passage, though, doesn't seem to clearly address the question of whether or not masturbation is an appropriate outlet for desire. Is someone who is married making plans to commit adultery by masturbating to the image of someone besides their spouse? Is someone who is not married making plans to commit adultery by masturbating to the image of someone who is married? Dr. Staples says this:

While I don’t think the Bible condemns masturbation (the usual interpretation of the Onan story doesn’t get it right), it also doesn’t seem that masturbation is “one of the proper outlets,” either. Actually, Matthew putting “and if your right hand causes you to stumble” [Matthew 5:30] immediately after this statement about coveting a woman may be seen as an indirect reference to masturbation. It’s not entirely clear, but it’s the closest thing in [the Bible] you’ll find to a statement about masturbation. Given the general outlook on sex in [the Bible], though, I’d say masturbation would not be included among the “proper outlets,” which are limited to heterosexual marital relations whenever discussed.[138]

A few notes regarding this comment by Dr. Staples:

  1. Regarding Jesus' words about the right hand causing us to stumble, Dr. Will Deming, a professor in theology at the University of Portland, makes a lengthy and compelling case for interpreting this passage as referring to ancient rabbinic commentaries on the Old Testament (specifically the Mishnah) that discuss how one could commit adultery by masturbating.[139]
  2. If masturbation is a form of adultery, then it follows naturally that it can be an example of fornication as well.
  3. Biblical scholar Lyn M. Bechtel confirms Dr. Staples’ understanding of biblical (more specifically on the Old Testament; but the Old Testament's outlook is reflected in the New Testament as well as modern Restoration scripture) sexuality in Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible. In her words:
In Hebrew Scripture sex has two primary functions: the production of progeny which lead to salvation, and the creation of the strong ties or oneness which are essential for holding the household and community together. Sex is the physical bonding together of what appears physically different in order to produce life, suggesting that the uniting of opposites is both creative and essential to the divine life process. In Gen.1 God creates by separating what is different into a physical (a child) and psychological unity...There is also casual sex or sex that does not create marital or family bonding and obligation (e.g., Deut. 22:28-29) or that violates existing marital or family bonding and obligation (e.g., vv. 23-24). This kind of sex is considered foolish and shameful, an "inadequacy" or "failure" to live up to internalized, societal goals and ideals because it violates the purpose of sex and therefore does not participate in the divine life process...Sexual intercourse in ancient Israel is intended to be an activity that builds the community first and therein fills the needs of the individual.[140]
Masturbation, since it doesn't build the community and does not create marital or family bonding (and more especially for those that do it while single) is outside the biblical outlook on proper sexuality.

A case study from Corinthians. Here's another example that we can point to that gives good evidence that masturbation is not seen as proper. 1 Corinthians 7 opens with Paul talking about the sexual immorality of the Corinthians. He recognizes that cases of sexual immorality had taken place among them. In order to ameliorate this problem of sexual immorality, what does he do? He tells the Corinthians that they should marry and have sexual relations with their spouse. Paul does not encourage self-stimulation. He encourages monogamy and fidelity within marriage (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). It's not absolutely probative; but highly suggestive.

Masturbation and love of others. Masturbation most often affects the way that you look at others similar to how pornography does—even if only temporarily. When masturbating, one makes use of others or the image of them as the object of their own self-gratification. With repeated masturbation and over time, this can condition you to regularly see others as potential objects of your own pleasure. Especially with porn, pornographic actors and actresses allow others to objectify them. Some may believe that there exists such a thing as “ethical porn,” but such views are mistaken. There will never be a time in which you are viewing pornography and/or masturbating to pornography when you will not be objectifying the actors/actresses or they will not be objectifying themselves. Using others as merely a means to an end and treating them as an object—as well as viewing them as mere objects (even when they facilitate that objectification)—is contrary to the Lord's command to love our neighbor as ourselves.[141] While you’re only using people in your mind, masturbation still requires that someone be an object of your passion instead of a full subject; a full person. It “requires conjuring a pseudo-relational stimulus, replacing a real human being with a fantasized sexual fragment.” [142] You must abandon, even temporarily, the attitudinal aspect of love: seeing the beloved individual as of merely instrumental rather than intrinsic and absolute value. As we know, love is both an attitudinal and an active virtue. Abandoning one or both halves of this is engaging in an inherently unloving act. In this way, it isn’t virtuous. God and Christ, through their prophets, have taught us that thought is the birthplace of virtue.[143] Virtues such as charity must be practiced in our thoughts as well as our actions.

Some may believe that you can have masturbation without inner mental fantasy, or masturbation without pornography, or pornography without masturbation; but as Dr. Mark H. Butler—a professor in the school of family life and addiction specialist at Brigham Young University—and Misha D. Crawford—a master’s student in the marriage, family, and human development program at BYU— have observed "[w]e cannot decontextualize or ignore the stimulus–response linkage between sexual soloing and pornographic images, scripting, and fantasizing. Sexual arousal and experience do not exist in some pristine isolation but in an increasingly tightly bound stimulus-response (S–R) equation."[142]

Masturbation and love of self. We've established above that men and women have a sexually relational telos. Jacob 2:21, for instance, tells us that we were created unto the end of keeping God's commandments and glorifying him forever. Doctrine and Covenants 49:15-17 tells us that one of God's commandments, one of his laws, is for us to be married and become "one flesh" as husband and wife. Well, Christ also tells us that revealed law is grounded in teaching us how to love God and love one another as ourselves in Matthew 22:34-40. Therefore, any commandment is going to be some instruction in the meaning and proper exercise of love. We've argued elsewhere on the FAIR site that part of the definition of love is to use something according to the purpose it was designed for. Loving ourself would then, arguably, include not masturbating since masturbation is not adhering to your telos of keeping God's command to be one flesh. It would be, definitionally, an unloving act towards yourself.

It will be important to adhere to this telos of becoming one flesh and not only for the fact that not masturbating facilitates greater marital unity with a future or current spouse, but also because masturbating can have a debilitating psychological impact on us. We can start to view ourselves as slaves to our passions and out of control. We will recognize that a force that is threatening to neither our life nor health is overcoming our agency. We will feel like our sexuality isn't an integral part of our personhood that we get to choose when to express and exercise. This can cause deep feelings of embarrassment, anxiety, and depression. Being placed over our desires and mastering them can help us embody a fuller self concept and make us feel like the divine beings we are and meant to become. We can start to feel like an object of passion just as much as we make others the objects of our passion while we masturbate. As the Book of Mormon says, the natural man is an enemy to God and has been since the fall of Adam. The only way to overcome this is by listening to the enticings of the Spirit and putting off the natural man. We can’t engage in recreational, indulgent masturbation and consider ourselves as putting off the natural man. We are indeed distancing ourselves from the Spirit and the joy we feel when close to it.[144]

Masturbation as part of the definition of other words in scripture. The scriptures contain a constellation of words that describe unlawful sexual activity. Among those that are perhaps most relevant to this discussion (including their derivatives) are "adultery,"[145] "carnal," "chastity," "concupiscence," "fornication,"[146] "lasciviousness," "lewdness," "lust,"[147] and "sensual." An exhaustive scriptural concordance of these words and their derivatives have been placed in Appendix 2 of this article. Readers are encouraged to read each occurrence in their original scriptural contexts (preferably following this approach articulated in another article on the FAIR wiki). Given that the scriptural outlook on proper sexuality (as discussed above) includes only marital relationships between husband and wife, any sexuality that falls outside of those bounds (including masturbation) is likely being condemned in scripture. Masturbation likely falls under the definition or the penumbras of the definition of all of these words. If it does, then it is condemned in scripture and we are bound to follow those injunctions to abstain from it (seeing as how scripture is the law to govern the behavior and beliefs of the Church established above).

As an example, let’s take "lasciviousness.” Doctrine and Covenants 1:24 states that God gives commandments to his prophets after the manner of their language so that they can come to understanding. The 1828 edition of Webster's Dictionary (which records the definitions of words as they would have been understood by Joseph Smith and thus the intended meaning behind many words in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) defines lasciviousness as "[l]ooseness; irregular indulgence of animal desires; wantonness; lustfulness." If masturbation falls under this category of lasciviousness (and it likely does) then masturbation is condemned scripturally.

Other scriptures that may justify refraining. Other scriptural injunctions that may support abstaining from masturbation include being able to bridle your body and passions as taught by Alma and the author of James,[148] being a peculiar people so as to encourage interest in the Church and thus success in missionary work,[149] to keep unspotted from the world,[150] to abstain from all appearance of evil,[151] practicing meekness/lowliness of heart/humility/easiness to be entreated before the prophets who have implored us to abstain,[152] following the commandment to receive all the words and commandments of the prophet as if from the mouth of God in all patience and faith,[153] being anxiously engaged in a good cause without God compelling you to do something by explicit revelation,[154] and ridding ourselves of "inordinate affection" (πάθος "vile passion") as encouraged by the author of Colossians.[155]

A note on likelihood. In the foregoing discussion on scripture and masturbation, we have used the word "likely" a lot in order to establish interpretation. Some may be tempted to think that just because we have used this word, that we don't know for certain and can't know for certain whether masturbation is condemned scripturally. This is not true. Academic disciplines like history and scriptural exegesis are most often not in the business of telling us what is absolutely the case but what is most likely the case. What is most likely the case is taken as what is the case and translated to religious practice. We believe that we have established that masturbation is most likely condemned in scripture.

If nothing else, choosing to masturbate when the prophets have repeatedly implored us to abstain and called it a sin is going against the revealed commandment of being meek and easy to be entreated. Particularly when done if single or married and not directing your thoughts to your spouse, it does not qualify as adhering to your telos and makes you fix your desire on what is not yours as taught by Christ and illustrated by Dr. Staples. Since, as Butler and Crawford observed, you cannot decontextualize stimulus from arousal, there will almost never be a time while masturbating (while single or married and not centering thoughts on your spouse) where you will not be fixing your desire on what is not yours.

Personal revelation justifying practice of masturbation. It’s possible that some feel like they’ve received personal revelation telling them that masturbation is okay; but such revelation, given prophetic teaching and revelation on the subject, is almost certainly coming from false spirits. There are some scenarios that may rightly necessitate the use of personal revelation to determine what is right. We discuss those below.

Some have argued that masturbation is not unchaste given that it doesn't fall under the Church's definition of the Law of Chastity. In its handbook for leaders, the Church defines the Law of Chastity as merely (1) abstinence from sexual relations outside of a marriage between a man and a woman according to God’s law, and (2) fidelity within marriage. Given the scriptural outlook on sexuality as we've outlined in the foregoing sections, those that make this argument may want to reconsider their stance.

How Masturbation Might Take Away from Marriage

An addiction is a behavior you knowingly and compulsively engage in that both causes harm to you and interferes with other objectives you wish to accomplish in life. So, if you masturbate enough that you lose your job because of it or your grades suffer because you're losing too much time with it, or if you lose a healthy relationship with your spouse because of masturbation, and you know that this harm is being inflicted but you engage in the behavior anyway, it is likely that you have an addiction.

While masturbation does appear by most metrics to be harmless when done sparingly, it does have the much-greater-than-merely-possible potential to become addictive or at least compulsive.[156] When turning addictive (or compulsive), masturbation can quickly become a deterrent from having normal sexual relations with a spouse. It can become more pleasurable to the person engaging in it over other relationships. Taking away sexual relations from a spouse can cause deep dissatisfaction and distrust in the relationship—thus potentially leading to the breakup of marriages and families.

Donald L. Hilton, a Latter-day Saint neurosurgeon based in Texas, relates how, during any stimulation of the genitals and orgasm, chemicals such as dopamine, vasopressin, and oxytocin are released in the brain. Oxytocin and vasopressin in particular have been linked to emotional bonding mechanisms in humans and other animals. When oxytocin was selectively blocked in voles, for example, it was observed that they don't mate for life or bond.[157] Hilton cites American counselor Patrick Carnes who says that one stage of recovery from addiction is grief where the person says "goodbye" to their addiction. Hilton writes that "[i]t may be a combination of craving for dopamine and yearning for oxytocin-bonded pornography, among other things, that pushes a person to act out and view pornography."[158] Thus, according to Hilton, you can actually develop an emotional attachment to your masturbation/pornography problem. If he's right about this, we'd do well to ask "why don't we do more to keep sexual stimulation within marriage so that we can direct our oxytocin and vasopressin-driven emotional bonding towards our spouse and thus more fully recognize and adhere to our sexually relational ‘telos’?"

Masturbation and Escalation

The highs that one gets from masturbation and the ensuing addiction that might follow from it can result in escalation of that sexual behavior to include viewing pornography, attending strip clubs, requesting various forms of local prostitution, and even forced sexual advances on the unwilling.

Some will be tempted to immediately apply the slippery slope fallacy to this argument. “Masturbation doesn’t necessarily lead to escalation of sexual behavior.” The author would respond with applying the fallacist’s fallacy. While it is true that masturbation doesn’t necessarily lead to escalation, the argument is that it can lead to escalation; that it has the much-greater-than-merely-possible potential to lead to escalation.

Deriving the Benefits of Masturbation Elsewhere

But what about the many benefits of masturbation? Shouldn’t one care about the risk of prostate cancer at least? The problem is that the benefits of masturbation can be derived elsewhere and there is no net detriment to one's health while abstaining from masturbation. Indeed, masturbation is not even among the top things typically recommended by professionals when wanting to derive most of these benefits. We can take the potential benefits one by one and see what is recommended to reap them to demonstrate.

  1. Improved Sleep: The Mayo Clinic suggests six things to improve one’s sleep. These include sticking to a set sleep schedule, paying attention to what you eat and drink, creating a restful environment, limiting daytime naps, including physical activity in one's daytime routine, and managing one's worries.[159]
  2. Improved Cardiovascular System: Heather Shannon of UC Irvine Health recommends that one exercise, quit smoking, lose weight, eat heart-healthy foods such as guacamole and vegetables, have some chocolate in moderation, not overeat, and manage stress in order to have a healthy heart.[160]
  3. Improved Immune System: Harvard Health recommends that one not smoke, eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, get adequate sleep, wash hands frequently, minimize stress, and keep with current vaccines in order to maintain and improve one’s immune system.[161]
  4. Reduced Risk of Prostate Cancer: The Mayo Clinic recommends that one keep a healthy diet (such as doing a low-fat diet, increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat each day, and reducing the amount of dairy products you eat each day), maintain a healthy weight, and exercise most days of the week to reduce risk of prostate cancer.[162]
  5. Sexual Tension/Differing Libidos: This is a question that is best left between the couple and God through prayer (and maybe the local bishop or stake president). That said, if one is struggling with something like hypersexuality and truly trying to lower their libido, Janet Brito and Daniel Yetman recommend focusing on your diet, getting medication, focusing on relationships, and stopping illegal drug use.[163]
  6. Dyspareunia/Psychological Impediments: Approaching treatment for any case of dyspareunia and/or other psychological impediments to partnered sex are best left between husband, wife, God, qualified, reputable medical professionals, and maybe local leaders. More information on treatment options that fit with your values can be found online or by contacting your local doctor.
  7. Menstrual Cramps: The Mayo Clinic recommends taking pain relievers like ibuprofen, looking into hormonal birth control, getting surgery, exercising regularly, using heating pads, using dietary supplements, reducing stress, acupuncture, acupressure, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and herbal medicine as potential treatments for menstrual cramps.[164]
  8. Headaches: The Mayo Clinic recommends (among many other things) using pain relievers, using hot or cold compresses, resting in dark and quiet rooms, and other stress-reducing therapies for treating headaches.[165]
  9. Nasal Congestion: R. Morgan Griffin and Carmelita Swiner recommend using a humidifier, taking steamy showers, drinking lots of fluids, using saline nasal spray, using a neti pot, putting warm and wet towels on your face, avoiding chlorinated pools (while symptoms persist), propping yourself up on more pillows while you sleep, and using decongestants, antihistamines, and pain relievers for treating nasal congestion.[166]
  10. Low Motility Sperm: Atli Arnason and Jillian Jubala recommend taking Vitamin C supplements, getting Vitamin D, incorporating maca root and ashwaganda into your diet, and taking D-aspartic acid supplements to improve sperm motility.[167] Since, in a monogamous marriage, males are not competing for females like the earliest humans did in the evolutionary scheme, you don’t have to have the most agile sperm in order to conceive your own child.
  11. Preventing Cervical Infection: Menstrual cycles and orgasms during sleep/dreams have the same evolutionary utility for women. The vagina and cervix are self-cleaning organs. Douches can also be helpful but should be used with caution as these can sometimes increase chances of infection. Brenda Goodman and Traci C. Johnson recommend using condoms during sex (when not trying to conceive), limiting the number of people you have sex with, not having sex with a partner who has genital sores or penile discharge, making sure both you and your partner have been treated adequately for sexually-transmitted diseases, not using feminine hygiene products, and taking good control of your blood sugar if you have diabetes to lower your risk of getting cervicitis.[168]
  12. Exploring Body: This aspect of sexuality can certainly be discovered by husband and wife during partnered sexual activity with good communication as well as patient trial and error. Mark H. Butler and Misha Crawford have an excellent discussion of this in their article cited above. Click the blue endnote to the right of this sentence to jump to a link to their article.[142] The discussion of sexual discovery is had under the subtitle "In the Married Years."
  13. Facilitating Conception: These benefits can obviously be derived in partnered sexual activity.[169]
  14. Increasing Pain Threshold: Jacquelyn Cafasso and Elaine K. Luo recommend doing yoga, performing aerobic exercise, vocalization (saying "ow" when you experience pain), using mental imagery to shrink the pain, and biofeedback in order to increase someone's pain threshold.[170]

All the potential nuances/exceptions to the general prohibition most likely come when fostering or nourishing the relational, tender, committed, married, and man-woman sexuality outlined in scripture and/or as specifically prescribed by a qualified, reputable professional for a particular health reason. We should approximate this ideal as much as possible.

Benefits of Not Masturbating

But are there benefits for not engaging in masturbation? We've expressed many so far, but it may be helpful to restate them clearly and in one place.

  1. You are able to have a more unified relationship with your current or future spouse
  2. You get to embody a fuller self concept by mastering your desires and making your sexuality an integral part of your agency and personhood
  3. You avoid any addiction or get to heal from it
  4. You get to learn something crucial and important about love
  5. You can avoid any guilt, embarassment, or cognitive dissonance that comes from not living within your values and those of your faith

Mark H. Butler and Misha Crawford enumerate the following benefits in their article:

  1. Avoiding sexual soloing helps impressionable youth and adults alike stay away from pornography use and habituation, steering clear of pornography’s fetishization of anti-relational, toxic sexual imagery, scripts, and fantasizing as the basis of sexual arousal. Avoiding sexual soloing helps hold that “flight” from takeoff until the “copilot” is on board, preventing the sexual arousal template (SAT, conditioned patterns of sexual arousal) from veering off course.
  2. Avoiding sexual soloing promotes healthy social development before marriage, laying the groundwork for relationship and sexual well-being in marriage.
  3. Avoiding sexual soloing can promote a relational sexual template and lead to strengthening marriage relationships, both sexually and generally.
  4. Avoiding sexual soloing helps ensure that the sexual flight is copiloted safely and surely in marriage toward its relational destination.
  5. Avoiding sexual soloing makes it easier to stay away from, habituate to, or fetishize toxic sexual fantasizing. Avoiding sexual soloing prevents an inherently relational flight from lurching off course toward sexual fetishization.
  6. Avoiding sexual soloing holds open space for a relational sexual template and the development of holistic marriage relationships that are deeply aware and caring, strengthening marriage both sexually and generally.
  7. Avoiding sexual soloing and practicing sexual restraint promotes the development of positive coping strategies.
  8. Avoiding sexual soloing can promote sexual self-mastery, a competence crucial to couple relationship and sexual well-being.
  9. Avoiding sexual soloing prevents mapping sexuality to a distorted hedonistic template, or at worst the anti-relational, anti-attachment pornographic template.
  10. Avoiding sexual soloing confirms and strengthens a relational and attachment-oriented sexual arousal template (SAT) anchored in “being for the other.”[142]

Is there something within us that biologically determines us to masturbate?

Some people construct an identity around the practice of masturbation. People say that “we’re sexual beings” (which is true) and “masturbation is a part of our natural development.” What these people often mean is that “engaging in masturbation is a behavior that is biologically determined and thus prohibiting it goes against who and what we are. It serves as a net detriment to our well-being.” We often construct these identities to justify bad behavior and protest against certain standards that go against these identities. Thus, the imposition of a prohibition on masturbation starts to feel like an assault to our personhood. This is one reason that General Authorities of the Church so often stress that our fundamental identity is that of children of God: if we construct identities around sinful behaviors, we will quickly embroil ourselves in habits that are contrary to the will of God and his nature and feel that any call to repentance is a crusade against us. We can thus squeeze ourselves out of faith and find ourselves in rebellion to the Lord's anointed. If we center our thinking about our essential identity in the fact that we are infinitely beloved, spirit sons or daughters of Heavenly Parents, then we will be much more open to changing our behavior so as to foster closer relationships with them and the rest of their creation. Identity construction is one of our most common forms of denial as human beings. We need be careful in how we construct our identity.

The truth is that we are not merely sexual beings. We are marital beings. Marital beings are sexual beings, but they are not merely sexual beings. We are built with the purpose of being joined maritally and, after marriage, sexually as man and woman; husband and wife. We were designed for a relational, tender, married man-woman sexuality and we should create our norms to funnel us towards that as stipulated by scripture.

There actually is one biologically determined function that both men and women experience that serves the purpose people might think masturbation serves: nocturnal emission. We don’t need masturbation to pull double duty.

But what harm does one really do when engaged in isolated sexual acts?

But do isolated sexual acts really hurt anyone else? The foregoing analysis should be sufficient to demonstrate that masturbation can very likely have adverse effects on others. However, another point to make here is that, as humans, we are remarkably bad at creating and being faithful to norms that are based on the delayed consequences of our actions. We are really good at creating and abiding by norms that are based off of the immediate, obvious consequences of our actions. For example, all of us agree that it is wrong to kill an innocent person. We would do well to ponder more about how we can create and more diligently abide by (still important) norms based on delayed, less-obvious, and even unseen consequences of our actions.

What do I do if I'm struggling with masturbation?

Christ lovingly and with open arms invites all who are struggling with pornography and masturbation to come unto him.

If you're struggling with masturbation, there is always help and hope for you. The first thing to do will be to disclose your struggles to those you love and trust most. It may also be a good idea to speak with your local ecclesiastical leaders. You should thoroughly discuss the prospect of whether or not you actually have an addiction. Many people unfortunately are diagnosed as having an addiction wrongly and end up spending a lot of money unnecessarily on professional help. If you have trouble diagnosing the problem on your own, it may be helpful to seek professional counsel. There will very likely be many wonderful, qualified professionals in your area that will be eager to help you. These might include marriage and family therapists, sex therapists, and addiction recovery specialists.

The Church provides addiction recovery programs for individuals interested in overcoming addiction. There are some resources available online by Latter-day Saint individuals that help with recovery from pornography addiction including Sara Brewer, Danny Poelman, and psychologist Cameron Staley.[171] Any good addiction recovery specialist is going to help you on addressing limiting core beliefs that keep you from recovery, understanding the brain science behind addiction, and setting daily boundaries that help address your core emotional, physical, and spiritual needs as well as take away about 80% of potential relapses.

Any good marriage and family and/or sex therapist is going to help you address your problems according to the objectives that you set. So if you go in with the firm and explicit objective of not engaging in recreational, indulgent masturbation, they are obligated by their professional ethics (of allowing individual self-determination) to provide you the best therapies that help you accomplish those goals and are conducive to your ultimate well-being. If they don't help you move towards those objectives, then they are not acting ethically and you should consider seeking other help.

Conclusion

While masturbation is not an avenue of sexual exploration or expression that will be wholly endorsed by the Church, it is still encouraged that parents have open discussions with their children about the beautiful, sacred nature of human sexuality, that everyone read out of the best of books about how to have more fulfilling sexual relationships with their partner (future or current), and that, generally, we make sexuality a topic of open discussion among those that we love and trust most. We often spend too much time in church talking about illicit sexual behavior that we often neglect defining and discussing what healthy, righteous sexuality is and how we can engage in it. That’s not always a bad thing. Talking about all the minutiae of sexuality is most often not going to be tasteful in Sunday School and other public church meetings. That said, among our families and others that we love and trust most, it can and should be much more comfortable. Sexuality is a topic that everyone should become an expert of at the right time so that we can all better understand how to reach and live in accordance with our divine destiny and identity.[172]

There may be those that still doubt the conclusions of this article. Your best testimony of this principle will be gained as you experience the benefits of not masturbating for yourself again. The author echoes the words of Jesus: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”[173]

It is the author's hope that this article will serve as a point of hope for those that would like to discontinue masturbation and remain in line with the Church, as a point of clarity on the Church's stance of masturbation for those that are confused about it, and as a source of great insight to those that are generally looking to understand the utterly sacred and beautiful nature of human sexuality.

APPENDIX 1: Additional Content

APPENDIX 2: Scriptural Concordance of Words Referring to Unlawful Sexual Conduct and Relevant to Considerations About Masturbation

Adulterer

  • Leviticus 20:10
  • Job 24:15
  • Isaiah 57:3

Adulterers

  • Psalm 50:18
  • Jeremiah 9:2
  • Jeremiah 23:10
  • Hosea 7:4
  • Malachi 3:5
  • Luke 18:11
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9
  • Hebrews 13:4
  • James 4:4
  • 3 Nephi 24:5
  • Doctrine and Covenants 63:14
  • Doctrine and Covenants 76:103

Adulteress

  • Leviticus 20:10
  • Proverbs 6:26
  • Hosea 3:1
  • Romans 7:3

Adulteresses

  • Ezekiel 23:43
  • Hosea 2:2
  • Matthew 15:19
  • Mark 7:21
  • Doctrine and Covenants 63:14

Adulteries

  • Jeremiah 12:27
  • Ezekiel 23:43
  • Hosea 2:2
  • Matthew 15:19
  • Mark 7:21

Adulterous

  • Proverbs 30:20
  • Matthew 12:39
  • Matthew 16:4
  • Mark 7:21

Adultery

  • Exodus 20:14
  • Leviticus 20:10
  • Leviticus 20:10
  • Deuteronomy 5:18
  • Proverbs 6:32
  • Jeremiah 3:8
  • Jeremiah 3:9
  • Jeremiah 5:7
  • Jeremiah 7:9
  • Jeremiah 23:14
  • Jeremiah 29:23
  • Ezekiel 16:32
  • Ezekiel 23:37
  • Ezekiel 23:37
  • Hosea 4:2
  • Hosea 4:13
  • Hosea 4:14
  • Matthew 5:27
  • Matthew 5:28
  • Matthew 5:32
  • Matthew 19:9
  • Matthew 19:9
  • Matthew 19:18
  • Mark 10:11
  • Mark 10:12
  • Mark 10:19
  • Luke 16:18
  • Luke 16:18
  • Luke 18:20
  • John 8:3
  • John 8:4
  • Romans 2:22
  • Romans 2:22
  • Romans 13:9
  • Galatians 5:19
  • James 2:11
  • James 2:11
  • 2 Peter 2:14
  • Revelation 2:22
  • Mosiah 2:13
  • Mosiah 13:22
  • Alma 16:18
  • Alma 23:3
  • Alma 30:10
  • Helaman 4:12
  • Helaman 7:5
  • 3 Nephi 12:27
  • 3 Nephi 12:28
  • 3 Nephi 12:32
  • 3 Nephi 12:32
  • Doctrine and Covenants 42:24
  • Doctrine and Covenants 42:24
  • Doctrine and Covenants 42:25
  • Doctrine and Covenants 42:75
  • Doctrine and Covenants 42:80
  • Doctrine and Covenants 59:6
  • Doctrine and Covenants 63:16
  • Doctrine and Covenants 66:10
  • Doctrine and Covenants 132:41
  • Doctrine and Covenants 132:41
  • Doctrine and Covenants 132:42
  • Doctrine and Covenants 132:43
  • Doctrine and Covenants 132:44
  • Doctrine and Covenants 132:44
  • Doctrine and Covenants 132:61
  • Doctrine and Covenants 132:61
  • Doctrine and Covenants 132:62
  • Doctrine and Covenants 132:63

Carnal

  • Romans 7:14
  • Romans 8:7
  • Romans 15:27
  • 1 Corinthians 3:1
  • 1 Corinthians 3:3
  • 1 Corinthians 3:3
  • 1 Corinthians 3:4
  • 1 Corinthians 9:11
  • 2 Corinthians 10:4
  • Hebrews 7:16
  • Hebrews 9:10
  • 2 Nephi 28:21
  • Mosiah 4:2
  • Mosiah 16:3
  • Mosiah 16:3
  • Mosiah 16:5
  • Mosiah 16:12
  • Mosiah 26:4
  • Mosiah 27:25
  • Alma 22:13
  • Alma 30:53
  • Alma 36:4
  • Alma 41:11
  • Alma 41:13
  • Alma 41:13
  • Alma 42:10
  • Doctrine and Covenants 3:4
  • Doctrine and Covenants 29:35
  • Doctrine and Covenants 67:10
  • Doctrine and Covenants 67:12
  • Doctrine and Covenants 84:27
  • Moses 5:13
  • Moses 6:49

Carnally

  • Leviticus 18:20
  • Leviticus 19:20
  • Numbers 5:13
  • Romans 8:6

Carnally-Minded

  • 2 Nephi 9:39

Chaste

  • 2 Corinthians 11:2
  • Philippians 4:4
  • Titus 2:5
  • 1 Peter 3:2
  • Jacob 2:7
  • Articles of Faith 1:13

Chastity

  • Jacob 2:28
  • Moroni 9:9

Concupiscence

  • Romans 7:8
  • JST Romans 7:8
  • Colossians 3:5
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:5

Fornication

  • Ezekiel 16:26
  • Ezekiel 16:29
  • Isaiah 23:17
  • 2 Chronicles 21:11
  • Matthew 5:32
  • Matthew 15:19
  • Matthew 19:9
  • Mark 7:21
  • John 8:41
  • Acts 15:20
  • Acts 15:29
  • Acts 21:25
  • Romans 1:29
  • 1 Corinthians 5:1
  • 1 Corinthians 5:1
  • 1 Corinthians 6:13
  • 1 Corinthians 6:18
  • 1 Corinthians 7:2
  • 1 Corinthians 10:8
  • 2 Corinthians 12:21
  • Galatians 5:19
  • Ephesians 5:3
  • Colossians 3:5
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3
  • Jude 1:7
  • Revelation 2:14
  • Revelation 2:20
  • Revelation 2:21
  • Revelation 9:21
  • Revelation 14:8
  • Revelation 19:2
  • Jacob 3:12
  • 3 Nephi 12:32
  • Helaman 8:26
  • Doctrine and Covenants 35:11
  • Doctrine and Covenants 42:74
  • Doctrine and Covenants 88:94
  • Doctrine and Covenants 88:105

Fornications

  • Ezekiel 16:15

Fornicator

  • 1 Corinthians 5:11
  • Hebrews 12:16
  • Doctrine and Covenants 42:77

Fornicators

  • 1 Corinthians 5:9
  • 1 Corinthians 5:10
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9
  • Doctrine and Covenants 42:76

Lasciviousness

  • Mark 7:22
  • 2 Corinthians 12:21
  • Galatians 5:19
  • Ephesians 4:19
  • 1 Peter 4:3
  • Jude 1:4
  • Jacob 3:12
  • Alma 16:18
  • Alma 45:12
  • Alma 47:36
  • 4 Nephi 1:16

Lewd

  • Ezekiel 16:27
  • Ezekiel 23:44
  • Acts 17:5

Lewdly

  • Ezekiel 22:11

Lewdness

  • Judges 20:6
  • Jeremiah 11:15
  • Jeremiah 13:27
  • Ezekiel 16:43
  • Ezekiel 16:58
  • Ezekiel 22:9
  • Ezekiel 23:21
  • Ezekiel 23:27
  • Ezekiel 23:29
  • Ezekiel 23:35
  • Ezekiel 23:48
  • Ezekiel 23:48
  • Ezekiel 23:49
  • Ezekiel 24:13
  • Hosea 2:10
  • Hosea 6:9
  • Acts 18:14

Lust

  • Exodus 15:9
  • Psalms 78:18
  • Psalms 78:30
  • Psalms 81:12
  • Proverbs 6:25
  • Matthew 5:28
  • Romans 1:27
  • Romans 7:7
  • 1 Corinthians 10:6
  • Galatians 5:16
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:5
  • James 1:14
  • James 1:15
  • James 4:2
  • 2 Peter 1:4
  • 2 Peter 2:10
  • 1 John 2:16
  • 1 John 2:17
  • 1 Nephi 3:25
  • 3 Nephi 12:28
  • Doctrine and Covenants 42:23
  • Doctrine and Covenants 63:16

Lusted

  • Numbers 11:34
  • Psalms 106:14
  • 1 Corinthians 10:6
  • Revelations 18:14

Lusteth

  • Deuteronomy 12:15
  • Deuteronomy 14:26
  • Galatians 5:17
  • James 4:5

Lustful

  • Doctrine and Covenants 88:121
  • Doctrine and Covenants 101:6

Lusting

  • Numbers 11:4

Lusts

  • Mark 4:19
  • John 8:44
  • Romans 1:24
  • Romans 6:12
  • Romans 13:14
  • Galatians 5:24
  • Ephesians 2:3
  • Ephesians 4:22
  • 1 Timothy 6:9
  • 2 Timothy 2:22
  • 2 Timothy 3:6
  • 2 Timothy 4:3
  • Titus 2:12
  • Titus 3:3
  • James 4:1
  • James 4:3
  • 1 Peter 1:14
  • 1 Peter 2:11
  • 1 Peter 4:2
  • 1 Peter 4:3
  • 2 Peter 2:18
  • 2 Peter 3:3
  • Jude 1:16
  • Jude 1:18
  • 1 Nephi 22:23
  • Alma 39:9
  • Mormon 9:28
  • Doctrine and Covenants 46:9

Sensual

  • James 3:15
  • Jude 1:19
  • Mosiah 16:3
  • Alma 42:10
  • Doctrine and Covenants 20:20
  • Doctrine and Covenants 29:35
  • Moses 5:13
  • Moses 6:49


Question: Why does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strongly discourage their members from getting tattoos?

Introduction to Question

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strongly discourages its members from getting tattoos. Why is this?

Latter-day Saint discomfort with tattoos goes back far. Latter-day Saint missionary William Orme Lee served in Samoa and published several articles in the Improvement Era magazine about his experiences. He wrote in the November 1899 edition of his frustration with the Samoan people for not banishing the practice of tattooing their body with cultural tattoos—calling tattooing a "heathenish custom, contrary to the laws of God, and of good society."[174]

In this article we will explore this question. We will present teachings from top leaders regarding tattoos. They will clearly explain their position and reasoning for it. Next, we will explore teachings from the official canon of scripture of the Church and the morals taught by it that might support the Church's discouragement of tattoos.

Teachings from Top Church Leaders

What follows represents an exhaustive listing of everything top general leaders of the Church have said regarding their strong discouragement of tattoos. Some references are from official Church settings such as General Conference and others are from unofficial settings such as books authored by the leaders (though this likely reflects official Church position/attitudes towards tattoos).

Bruce R. McConkie - 1958

In Mormon Doctrine, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:

Tattoos are permanent marks or designs made on the skin by puncturing it and filling the punctures with indelible ink. The practice is a desecration of the human body and should not be permitted, unless all that is involved is the placing of a blood type or an identification number in an obscure place. (Deut. 14:1.) Latter-day Saint servicemen in particular are counseled to avoid the pitfalls of tattooing. Persons who are tattooed are not, however, denied the ordinances and blessings of the temples.[175]

Bruce R. McConkie - 1966

Elder McConkie retained the above entry on tattoos in its entirety in the second edition of Mormon Doctrine.[176]

Vaughan J. Featherstone – October 1999

Aren’t you proud that the Church teaches us the truth? We don’t have to wonder about earrings for boys and men, tattoos, spiked hair, the four-letter words, and obscene gestures. We have prophets who model the standards.[177]

Gordon B. Hinckley – November 2000

In a discourse on teaching children true Gospel principles, President Gordon B. Hinckley stated the following:

Teach your children self-respect. Teach them that their bodies are the creation of the Almighty. What a miraculous, wonderful, and beautiful thing is the human body.

As has been said here tonight, Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, declared: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:16–17).

Now comes the craze of tattooing one’s body. I cannot understand why any young man—or young woman, for that matter—would wish to undergo the painful process of disfiguring the skin with various multicolored representations of people, animals, and various symbols. With tattoos, the process is permanent, unless there is another painful and costly undertaking to remove it. Fathers, caution your sons against having their bodies tattooed. They may resist your talk now, but the time will come when they will thank you. A tattoo is graffiti on the temple of the body.

Likewise[,] the piercing of the body for multiple rings in the ears, in the nose, even in the tongue. Can they possibly think that is beautiful? It is a passing fancy, but its effects can be permanent. Some have gone to such extremes that the ring had to be removed by surgery. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have declared that we discourage tattoos and also “the piercing of the body for other than medical purposes.” We do not, however, take any position “on the minimal piercing of the ears by women for one pair of earrings”—one pair.[178]

Gordon B. Hinckley – November 2000

The practice is growing among young people of tattooing and piercing their bodies. The time will come when they will regret it, but it will then be too late. The scriptures unequivocally declare:


“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:16–17).

It is sad and regrettable that some young men and women have their bodies tattooed. What do they hope to gain by this painful process? Is there “anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” (A of F 1:13) in having unseemly so-called art impregnated into the skin to be carried throughout life, all the way down to old age and death? They must be counseled to shun it. They must be warned to avoid it. The time will come that they will regret it but will have no escape from the constant reminder of their foolishness except through another costly and painful procedure…We—the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve—have taken the position, and I quote, that “the Church discourages tattoos[.]”[179]

For the Strength of Youth – 2001

The 2001 edition of the youth pamphlet For the Strength of Youth, written and approved by the First Presidency, states that one should "not disfigure [themselves] with tattoos or body piercings."[180]

M. Russell Ballard - 2002

Elder M. Russell Ballard wrote the following in his 2002 book When Thou Art Converted:

To you who are still in your youth: please know that we understand how difficult it can be to set a good example among your peers and associates. Many of you find yourselves on the front lines in the battle against those who intend to do things that are morally wrong. I firmly believe that there are certain things we cannot do if we are to stand for truth and right. President Gordon B. Hinckley has urged us to respect our bodies and not inflict permanent damage on them with tattoos and body piercings, reminding us that "the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Corinthians 3:17).[181]

Margaret D. Nadauld – April 2002

The kind of young woman who can be a terrific torchbearer has high standards all the time, not just in her prom dress, but every, ordinary day. There are so many of you who are like that, and I salute you tonight. You have made modesty your way of life. It is more than how you dress. It includes at least six things that I can think of: (1) your behavior is decent and modest, and yet you are very fun to be with; (2) your language is never crude but happy and interesting; (3) you are well groomed, and that is appealing; (4) you are focused on developing your talents and achieving your goals, not piercing and tattooing and flaunting your body; (5) you play sports with gusto but never lose control; (6) you don’t seem to care about what the latest pop star wears or does because you have a certain style of your own. In summary, you do not imitate the world’s standards because you know a higher standard. You know who you are, and that puts you at a real advantage. You know that you really are a daughter of Heavenly Father. You know that He knows you and that He loves you; you want to please Him and honor His love for you. You know that even if you make foolish mistakes, He will help you if you turn to Him.[182]

True to the Faith – January 2004

True to the Faith, a doctrinal reference work written for members of all ages and approved by the First Presidency, states the following;

Latter-day prophets strongly discourage the tattooing of the body. Those who disregard this counsel show a lack of respect for themselves and for God. The Apostle Paul taught of the significance of our bodies and the danger of purpose- fully defiling them: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16 –17). If you have a tattoo, you wear a constant reminder of a mistake you have made. You might consider having it removed.”[183]

Henry B. Eyring – April 2004

So many these days disfigure their bodies with tattoos. How shortsighted. These markings last for life. Once in place, they can not be removed except through a difficult and costly process. I can not understand why any girl would subject herself to such a thing. I plead with you to avoid disfigurement of this kind.[184]

Earl C. Tingey – April 2004

In the For the Strength of Youth booklet, the following standards, among others, are like a North Star to you: choose friends with high standards, do not disfigure your body with tattoos or body piercings, avoid pornography, do not listen to music that contains offensive language, do not use profanity, date only those who have high standards, remain sexually pure, repent as necessary, be honest, keep the Sabbath day holy, pay tithing, keep the Word of Wisdom.[185]

Julie B. Beck – April 2006

When you know who you are and what you should be doing with your life, you don’t want to hide your light. For instance, you would not want to “hide your light” by wearing clothing that diminishes your royal potential. You would not use improper language or stories or mar your body with tattoos or other procedures debasing for a daughter of royal birth.[186]

Gordon B. Hinckley – April 2007

At the April 2007 General Conference of the Church, President Gordon B. Hinckley said to “[b]e clean in body and dress and manner. Do not permit yourself to be tattooed. If you do, someday you will regret it. Only a painful and costly procedure can remove the tattoo.”[187]

Elaine S. Dalton – April 2008

The precious gift of your body enables you to exercise your agency and put your faith and obedience into action. Have you ever noticed that nearly all of Satan’s attacks are directed at your body? Pornography, immodesty, tattoos, immorality, drug abuse, and addictions are all efforts to take possession of this precious gift. This was a gift that was denied Satan. Obedience to the commandments and standards enables each of you to be steadfast and immovable in protecting the precious gifts of your agency and your body.[188]

James J. Hamula – October 2008

So, as we enter the final climactic stages of the war against Satan, be sober, my young friends. Understand that you cannot partake of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. You cannot participate in pornography or other immoral activity. You cannot lie, cheat, or steal. You cannot use false, demeaning, or dirty language. You cannot deface your body with tattoos and other piercings. You cannot do these things and be victorious in the battle for your own soul, let alone be a valiant warrior in the great struggle for the souls of all the rest of our Father’s children.[189]

Boyd K. Packer – April 2009

Do not decorate your body with tattoos or by piercing it to add jewels. Stay away from that.[190]

Thomas S. Monsen – April 2010

Servants of the Lord have always counseled us to dress appropriately to show respect for our Heavenly Father and for ourselves. The way you dress sends messages about yourself to others and often influences the way you and others act. Dress in such a way as to bring out the best in yourself and those around you. Avoid extremes in clothing and appearance, including tattoos and piercings.[191]

D. Todd Christofferson – October 2010

Acknowledging these truths and the direction of President Thomas S. Monson in last April’s general conference, we would certainly not deface our body, as with tattoos; or debilitate it, as with drugs; or defile it, as with fornication, adultery, or immodesty. As our body is the instrument of our spirit, it is vital that we care for it as best we can. We should consecrate its powers to serve and further the work of Christ. Said Paul, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1).[192]

Elaine S. Dalton - 2011

Then-Young Women General President Elaine S. Dalton in her 2011 book A Return to Virtue:

I know that you want to be happy. Maybe you worry about your circumstances. Don’t worry. We have the plan of happiness, and keeping the commandments will make you happy! As part of that plan, you were given a body. It is a precious gift whereby you can exercise your agency and put your faith and obedience into action. Your body houses your eternal spirit. Have you ever noticed that nearly all of Satan’s attacks are directed at your body? Pornography, immodesty, tattoos, immorality, drug abuse, and addiction are all efforts to take possession of this precious gift. This was a gift he was denied. Care for yourself; be modest and be clean. Do everything you can to be free from anything that would harm your body. Be strictly obedient to the standards in For the Strength of Youth. Virtue yields strength, and the blessings of being virtuous are freedom and happiness.[193]

For the Strength of Youth – 2011

The 2011 edition of For the Strength of Youth, echoing the 2001 edition, clearly states that one one should "not disfigure [themselves] with tattoos or body piercings."[194]

Elaine S. Dalton – April 2013

When you came to the earth, you were given the precious gift of a body. Your body is the instrument of your mind and a divine gift with which you exercise your agency. This is a gift that Satan was denied, and thus he directs nearly all of his attacks on your body. He wants you to disdain, misuse, and abuse your body. Immodesty, pornography, immorality, tattoos and piercings, drug abuse, and addictions of all kinds are all efforts to take possession of this precious gift—your body—and to make it difficult for you to exercise your agency.[195]

Dallin H. Oaks – February 2019

The Deseret News reported on February 10, 2019 that President Dallin H. Oaks told 65,000 at a devotional to avoid "tattoos, piercings, immodesty and pornography, calling such things 'grafitti on your personal temple.'"[196]

The Scriptural Case Against Tattoos

The scriptural record does not have much to say explicitly about tattoos. That said, we can still defend the Church’s standard from them.

Leviticus 19:28

The only explicit reference to tattoos is in Leviticus 19:28 which tells us “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” The New Revised Standard Version translated this verse as “You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” A similar injunction against cutting oneself is presented in Deuteronomy 14:1. While this prohibition is associated with the Mosaic Law which was done away with Christ's atonement, this scripture can still be instructive for why Church leaders have felt spiritually moved to strongly discourage modern Saints from participating in this practice.

The Catholic Study Bible notes that “[t]his prohibition probably refers only to the common ancient Near Eastern practice of branding a slave with its owner’s name as well as branding the devotees of a god with its name.”[197] The question would then become “Why would God not want the Israelites to tattoo themselves in devotion to Him?” It must have something to do with their collective identity as a people. This was a common practice in the ancient Near East and God asked the Israelites to stand apart from their contemporaries. This will be important moving forward in our examination. That God at one instance has cared about tattoos is telling.

This standard also likely had to do with merely disfiguring the body and corrupting the beautiful gift of God given to them. Regarding this scripture, the NKJV Study Bible notes that “[t]he human body was designed by God, who intended it to be whole and beautiful. Disfiguring the body dishonored God, in whose image the person was created. Cutting one’s flesh for the dead and tattooing (or perhaps painting) one’s body had religious significance among Israel’s pagan neighbors. In Israel, such practices were a sign of rebellion against God.”[198]

1 Corinthians 3:16–17; 6:19–20

Top general Church leaders (as can be seen above) have most often cited a pair of scriptures from 1 Corinthians about our bodies being temples of God.

1 Corinthians 3:16–17 reads:

16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

This scripture isn’t the best to use when justifying a prohibition on tattoos since Paul is here speaking to the local Church in Corinth. The scripture is making a warning to those from outside the Church that bring violence or other harm against those in the Church. It’s only in 6:19-20 that the word “temple” actually refers to the individual believer.[199]

1 Corinthians 6:19–20 reads:

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

This is a much better scripture to use when justifying a discouragement from getting tattoos. It testifies that our individual bodies are temples of God where the Holy Spirit can reside. By disfiguring them with tattoos we are disfiguring the creation of God. We should do what we can to take care of our bodies.

Becoming a Peculiar People

The scriptures repeatedly testify that God’s covenant people should be a peculiar people (Deuteronomy 14:2; 26:18; Psalms 135:4; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9) and that we should be unspotted from the world (James 1:27; Doctrine and Covenants 59:9). By being given and following a strong discouragement on tattoos, we can achieve the goal of being peculiar. Not having tattoos becomes a social identifier—signifying that we are the Lord’s people and wish to be separate from the world.

This separateness can be essential in moving missionary work forward. People are interested in the Church because of the Church’s prohibition on tattoos (and other things obviously). Thus, we can achieve more convert baptisms by doing things that go against cultural grain. We can also achieve greater member retention. Indeed, one of the concerns of those that leave the Church is that they perceive that the Church isn’t unique enough among the world’s organizations, and they go elsewhere seeking to be unique and to be seen. Not getting tattoos, while annoying for some at times, can have delayed and even unseen consequences that can be beneficial for us as a people. It can help all of us be psychologically and spiritually primed to be led to higher levels of spiritual devotion and greater shows of faith.

Jesus said that we should be a light on a hill and show forth our good works among men and women (Matthew 5:16). This is one way we can do that. The success of being peculiar is demonstrated in how many people give us attention for this standard we hold to.

Becoming Meek, Humble, Lowly of Heart, Easy to be Entreated

Obeying this standard gives us a chance to practice being meek/humble/lowly of heart/easy to be entreated—a virtue we are bound by scripture to practice.

Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–5

Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–5 reads:

4 Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
5 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

This scripture binds us to giving heed unto all of the prophets words and commandments. Not getting tattoos when the prophet asks us to is one way we can apply this scripture.

Doctrine and Covenants 58:27–29

Doctrine and Covenants 58:27–29 reads:

27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.

Lovingly accepting the prophet's challenges to not get tattoos without having to have an explicit scripture given by modern revelation bind us to keeping this particular counsel is an excellent way we can apply this scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 58.

Responding to Objections

Cultural Tattoos

Some have said that the Church does not have a like discouragement for members of, for instance, Polynesian cultures that get tattoos as a symbol of rank and status among one’s tribe. As evidence of this, they point to the costumes and tattoos of performers at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

The director of the Polynesian Cultural Center, P. Alfred Grace, was asked about this topic in 2016. His reply was insightful:

The cultural tattoos are actually something that we discourage our employees to use, because while there’s a good cause for it, a good reason, we also feel that there is a higher law, which is to recognize our bodies as temples. And so we’re comfortable with that. For some cultures, it’s still a very significant part of their identification from a rank and status point. For example, in Samoa, the full body tattoo from the chest down to the top of the thigh is still a significant recognition of chiefly rank, so we’re sensitive to that. And while we don’t encourage employees to go away and get it and then return to the PCC, if they come with those kind of markings, we accept it as part of their culture.[200]

Thus, there’s no real allowance or exception of members to get these tattoos. There’s a strong discouragement as there is in other nations where the Church is founded. There is merely a question of not ostracizing those that do get tattoos and come into the Church with them.

Plastic Surgery

Some have protested that those that get plastic surgery on any part of their body are also “disfiguring” their bodies. It may be said that there is a difference between the graffiti placed on the body and disfiguring of it that comes with tattoos and the refiguring of it that comes with corrective surgeries. On the other hand, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has warned Latter-day Saint women to not get caught up in beauty fashions of the day that they feel that they have to change every part of themselves to fit in.[201]

Cosmetic Tattoos

Some have pointed to the existence of women who tattoo eyebrows for beauty and balding men that tattoo their heads to give the appearance of a hairline. The Church hasn’t mentioned this specifically in its literature; but a response similar to the one about plastic surgery may be given here.

Medical Tattoos

Some also point to the existence of medical tattoos and suggest that these might be acceptable should the person need it. However, bracelets are a good replacement and are the official recommendation, for instance, for the Church’s missionary force.

1 Samuel 16:6–7

Some have said that the Church's standard is against biblical teaching. These critics cite 1 Samuel 16:6–7. Samuel is being directed by the Lord to anoint a new king over Israel among the sons of Jesse: David. Samuel finds Jesse and sees one of his sons Eliab. Samuel then states while looking at Eliab "Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him." To this the Lord responds "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

Those who criticize the Church on these scriptural grounds assume that the scripture is justifying getting tattoos because what is most important is that you don't judge other people for expressing themselves.

The scripture here does not justify making love only attitudinal. The Lord has sized up the heart of Eliab to see if Eliab will do whatever the Lord asks him to in the position of king. This stance taken by critics deemphasizes the need to show love to the Lord and the prophets by being meek and lowly of heart and respecting the gift of our bodies that God gave us. It deemphasizes love for the prophets by encouraging us to not receive all of their words and commandments in all patience and faith and, as we learn often in Church, faith is a principle of action. As Christ said in John 14:15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Love, to Jesus, is about action. I can say I love God and the prophets until I'm blue in the face but it won't actually mean anything until I do something to show my love for them.

While we should never withhold friendship or love from those that convert to the Church with tattoos already placed nor from those that are already members and still get tattoos, we also shouldn't be permissive of breaking prophetic counsel.

Doesn't Hurt Others

A final objection to the standard is "It doesn't hurt others, so why should it be so strongly discouraged?" This objection seems to assume that the only things that can be considered right or wrong must have immediate, obvious consequences. But there are many norms that we hold that have delayed, unobvious, and/or sometimes unseen consequences. We're pretty bad as humans at holding to the latter and being patient. Those who have this concern should seek to identify the delayed yet beneficial consequences not getting tattoos provides for us. The moral goods described by the scriptures above are a good place to start.

Changing Policies of the Past

Some have argued that the Church has changed policies/doctrines of the past such as its historical practice of polygamy or it’s restriction on members of African descent from holding the Church’s priesthood and entering its temples. Particularly in regards to the latter, it’s common to hear people say that the leaders of the Church were simply wrong there so why can’t they be wrong about tattoos?

However, it’s not justified to reject a current prophet’s counsel just because it might change in the future or the prophet might be wrong. Only if it actually is wrong. But we have good reason to believe that the prophet is correct about this. It’s not how we should operate as members of the Church. While the counsel might change in the future, it is the prophet’s prerogative and not ours to decide when we as a Church will change this practice.

Other Reasons to Not Get Tattoos

There are some other reasons to not get tattoos.

Donating Blood and/or Blood Plasma

One is that you can't donate blood plasma for at least a year after you get your tattoo. That is if you get your tattoo at a parlor that is not state regulated. When getting them at a state regulated parlor, you may be able to donate blood and/or plasma immediately after.

Job Employer Trust

While stigma surrounding tattoos has decreased dramatically in recent years, it is still a common preference among employers for their employees to not have tattoos. Not having tattoos will enhance your likelihood of obtaining jobs among employers who do not prefer tattoos and those who are indifferent to them.

Conclusion

While we may occasionally get annoyed at certain standards that come from the Church, when we humbly follow what the Lord’s prophets have asked us to do, it can bring feelings of peace and comfort as well as success in building Zion.

Further Reading


Question: Do Mormons really believe that drinking tea (or alcohol, etc.) is "morally wrong"?

The abstinence from tea and coffee is a moral issue for Latter-day Saints in that following it is a sign of keeping promises they have made with God

Mormons don't drink tea regardless of temperature, because they believe God's prophet and the authoritative interpreter today says, "Don't drink tea." It is a sign of covenants and promises they have made.

When someone makes a promise to another, they want to uphold that promise. Keeping promises is a sign that someone loves the person that they've promised something to. Latter-day Saints have promised God that they will obey the Word of Wisdom. In exchange, God has promised that he will provide health to them and that he will count them as among his people (Doctrine and Covenants 89:18–21).

Latter-day Saint thus count keeping the Word of Wisdom as a moral issue because they follow Jesus' ethic of loving God with all your heart, might, mind and strength by keeping his commandments and loving their neighbor as themselves (Matthew 22:37–40).

Members of the Church do not follow the Word of Wisdom strictly because of health reasons, but also because God, speaking to prophets, has given these instructions to his people today as a social identifier

It is a common misconception, among both members and non-members, that the Word of Wisdom exists primarily, or only, to promote the health of the members. Health protection is an important benefit of the Word of Wisdom. This is made clear by verses 18-20 of the revelation. But an equally the most important reason for the Word of Wisdom is the promise given in the last verse of D&C 89, in which the members are told:

And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.(D&C 89:21)

This refers to the last curse put on the Egyptians prior to the Exodus from Egypt. The Israelites were to mark their houses with lamb's blood at the first Passover. Houses so marked were protected from the "destroying angel." (See Exodus 12:1-30.)

Is lamb's blood "magic?" Does it repel angels like garlic does vampires? Hardly. Rather, we understand the blood to be a symbol of the covenant between God and Israel, and Christians understand it to be a foreshadowing of the culmination of that covenant as the blood of Jesus Christ protects from sin and destruction those who enter into a covenant with Him.

Thus, the Word of Wisdom functions in a similar way—it "marks us" as people under covenant to God. Consumption of coffee and tea is a common practice in many cultures—when others notice a member of the Church abstaining, it sets them apart as willing to forgo something that is culturally popular. This reinforces our duty to keep our covenants in both our own minds and in the eyes of others.

Some question why it is that we interpret "hot drinks" as only pertaining to coffee and tea. The answer is that that is how Joseph Smith, the prophet who received this revelation, interpreted "hot drinks" in his mind while receiving the revelation. Joseph Smith's model of revelation is one in which God can select mental content that we have previously produced as something that he would like to teach or emphasize to us (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8–9). It is also one in which God speaks to prophets according to their own language and understanding so that they can comprehend His commandments (Doctrine and Covenants 1:24).

Latter-day Saints also believe that this is a moral issue because of "of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days[.]"

The third verse of Doctrine and Covenants 89 states that the Word of Wisdom was given (at last in part) "[in] consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days[.]"[202] Thus it may be that the Word of Wisdom is about the health benefits or detriments of coffee and tea in and of themselves, but of the health detriments brought about by what other people will do to coffee and tea. We may consume these products unaware of how they have been altered to harm us in some way. If these products do harm to us, there is potential that we are not able to keep all of God's commandments and in the way that we would have us keep them.

Drinking things that impair your judgement can be morally wrong

In the case of alcohol, it can impair your judgement and make it so that you hurt others. It might be argued persuasively that engaging activities in which you may or may not hurt others (and when you really don't know that it won't hurt others) is a morally wrong thing to do.


Question: Why does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have rules for facial hair?

Introduction to Question

Beginning in the 1960s and 70s, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has imposed certain restrictions on facial hair for male students at church schools like BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, Ensign College, and elsewhere. There are also restrictions imposed on general leaders of the Church such as bishops, stake presidents, area presidents, seventies, apostles, the prophet, and all their counselors. Why do they do this? This article seeks to answer this question.

Response to Question

The Only Reason: The Prophets Have Asked Us To So That We Can Create A Shared Identity

The only real reason that this has happened is because the prophets have asked us to. Why do the prophets ask us to? Mainly because they want to create a shared identity and be a peculiar people from the rest of the world. Making the absence of facial hair normative for Church members gets a lot of attention and this, in turn, can spark interest in the Church for potential investigators. There’s scriptural mandate to support becoming a peculiar people, unspotted from the world.[203] There’s also scriptural injunctions to practice meekness/lowliness of heart/humility/easiness to be entreated before the prophets who have implored us to follow this counsel,[204] to receive all the words and commandments of the prophet as if from the mouth of God in all patience and faith,[205] and be anxiously engaged in a good cause without God compelling you to do something by explicit revelation.[206] The effectiveness of this standard is manifested in the numerous movements that have been organized and publicized in places like the New York Times to change it.[207]

Conclusion

These types of little rules have delayed consequences that can be beneficial for us as a people. We should be patient and humble as we submit to these standards humbly and see Zion be built over time. Jesus cared about the little rules. Prior to his doing away with the law of Moses with his Atonement, the Savior said that “[w]hosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”[208] If Jesus can care about the little rules and can show us how they can help us grow as a people as we follow them, then we, as disciples of Christ, can follow them humbly in all faith.


Question: Why are men encouraged to wear white shirts to Sunday services in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Introduction to Question

Male members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to wear a white shirt to Sunday worship services.

Why is this? Should Latter-day Saint men follow this encouragement?

This article seeks to answer this question.

Response to Question

The Church’s Official Policy Regarding This

We would do well to first restate what the Church’s policy is for boys that pass the sacrament.

Those who administer the sacrament should be well groomed and clean. They should not wear clothing or jewelry that might detract from the worship and covenant making that are the purpose of the sacrament. If the bishop needs to counsel a priesthood holder about such matters, he does so with love. He also takes into account the person’s maturity in the Church.

The general handbook had previously stated that “[t]ies and white shirts are recommended because they add to the dignity of the ordinance. However, they should not be required as a mandatory prerequisite for a priesthood holder to participate.” It no longer says that.

All we are required to do by official policy is be well-groomed and clean. We are not required to wear white shirts. That said, there are still special considerations to make that should encourage us to submit to leaders that have encouraged us to wear white shirts.

The Conveying of Sanctity in the Ordinance of the Sacrament

Wearing a white shirt for those that prepare, bless, and pass the sacrament can certainly signify the sanctity and holiness that the ordinance holds.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:

In that sacred setting we ask you young men of the Aaronic Priesthood to prepare and bless and pass these emblems of the Savior’s sacrifice worthily and reverently. What a stunning privilege and sacred trust given at such a remarkably young age! I can think of no higher compliment heaven could pay you. We do love you. Live your best and look your best when you participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.


May I suggest that wherever possible a white shirt be worn by the deacons, teachers, and priests who handle the sacrament. For sacred ordinances in the Church we often use ceremonial clothing, and a white shirt could be seen as a gentle reminder of the white clothing you wore in the baptismal font and an anticipation of the white shirt you will soon wear into the temple and onto your missions.

That simple suggestion is not intended to be pharisaic or formalistic. We do not want deacons or priests in uniforms or unduly concerned about anything but the purity of their lives. But how our young people dress can teach a holy principle to us all, and it certainly can convey sanctity. As President David O. McKay taught, a white shirt contributes to the sacredness of the holy sacrament (see Conference Report, Oct. 1956, p. 89).[209]

President David O. McKay taught:

I am not going to say much about the dress. We are not a people who look to formality, certainly we do not believe in phylacteries, in uniforms, on sacred occasions, but I do think that the Lord will be pleased with a bishopric if they will instruct the young men who are invited to administer the sacrament to dress properly. He will not be displeased if they come with a white shirt instead of a colored one, and we are not so poor that we cannot afford clean, white shirts for the boys who administer the sacrament. If they do not have them, at least they will come with clean hands, and especially a pure heart.


I have seen deacons not all dressed alike, but they have a special tie or a special shirt as evidence that those young men have been instructed that “you have a special calling this morning. Come in your best,” And when they are all in white, I think it contributes to the sacredness of it. Anything that will make the young boys feel that they have been called upon to officiate in the Priesthood in one of the most sacred ordinances in the Church, and they too should remain quite, even before ethe opening of the meeting.[210]

Parity with Other Members of the Church

Another reason to wear a white shirt is to establish a feeling of parity and equality with other members of local congregations. We come from diverse economic and social backgrounds. Having every male member wear a white shirt may establish a sense of connection or parity with others. This is certainly one of the beauties of temple ordinances is that we all wear clothing that is similar and this can powerfully symbolize the scriptural truth that all human beings are equal in worth before God.[211]

Scriptural Reasons for Wearing a White Shirt?

The scriptures do not have any explicit injunction to wear white clothing when performing ordinances or attending church. That said, there are other solid, scriptural reasons to follow this encouragement from Church leaders. Wearing white shirts can help us in being a peculiar people so as to encourage interest in the Church and thus success in missionary work,[212] to follow the injunction to keep ourselves unspotted from the world,[213] practicing meekness/lowliness of heart/humility/easiness to be entreated before the leaders of the Church that have asked us to do this,[214] following the commandment to receive all the words and commandments of the prophet as if from the mouth of God in all patience and faith,[215] and being anxiously engaged in a good cause without God compelling you to do something by explicit revelation.[216]

Conclusion

While this may be one of those encouragements from the Church that we roll our eyes at from time to time, it is till one that, if we follow it, can have delayed but still meaningful and beneficial consequences for building up Zion in these latter days.


Question: Are Latter-day Saints really commanded to avoid r-rated movies?

Introduction to Question

Many wonder why Latter-day Saints avoid R-rated movies. This article reproduces another from LDS Living from author Elizabeth Summers. She provides valuable commentary on this issue.

Response to Question

I once attended a testimony meeting where a man stood and related an experience he had with his co-workers. One day after work, several of them invited him to go see a movie with the group. The film in question was The Wolf of Wall Street, which was critically acclaimed but also contained gratuitous displays of drug use, sexuality, and other mature content. In his testimony, the man announced to the congregation that he had declined the invitation of his coworkers. “I wanted to go,” he said, “but it was rated R.”

Since that meeting, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the relationship between Latter-day Saints and R-rated movies. Many Latter-day Saints avoid any film with the rating like a plague, believing that it’s against the commandments. Indeed, it could accurately be said that in Latter-day Saint culture, ‘R’ has become the scarlet letter of the movie rating law.

But why is this? It’s been my experience that if you ask a Latter-day Saint why they don’t watch R-rated movies, their response will be some variation of “because the prophet said not to.” But follow-up questions (Which prophet? What exactly did he say? In what context?) aren’t likely to be answered quite so readily. This article will seek to provide answers to these questions, as well as others that may be helpful when selecting what media to consume.

Who Said It?

With so much cultural emphasis on movie ratings, it might be surprising that not much prophetic insight (not necessarily given as a specific commandment or as doctrine) has been given about them in a formal setting. In fact, the entire pantheon of past prophets has only mentioned R-rated movies in general conference once—three decades ago, in a 1986 talk by Ezra Taft Benson entitled “To the ‘Youth of the Noble Birthright’.”

As you may have deduced from its title, President Benson’s talk was directed toward the youth of the Church—specifically, the young men attending the priesthood session in which the talk was given. “Tonight I would like to speak directly to you young men of the Aaronic Priesthood,” he started his talk. Then, acknowledging that others were present, he added that he would like the fathers and priesthood leaders listening to hear his message also.

Many of President Benson’s words (admonitions to attend seminary, earn an Eagle Scout award, prepare for a mission, etc.) were not directed to adults, but the parents and leaders present were encouraged to help the youth live by this counsel. With that in mind, take a look at the full quote from President Benson’s talk:

Consider carefully the words of the prophet Alma to his errant son, Corianton, “Forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes.”

‘The lusts of your eyes.’ In our day, what does that expression mean?

Movies, television programs, and video recordings that are both suggestive and lewd.

Magazines and books that are obscene and pornographic.

We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterward. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic.

I find it interesting that the counsel to avoid R-rated movies was directed specifically to youth (six months later, President Benson delivered nearly identical advice to young women), who often need more specific guidelines to aid their decision-making. It’s also interesting that this counsel is mentioned under the umbrella of avoiding media that promotes lust. Given this additional information, we know that this sound, righteous advice was directed especially to youth, but could also apply to their leaders and all who heard the talk.

Rather than nit-picking through these statements and who they were directed at in an attempt to either condemn or justify our decisions, however, it’s better to focus on the why behind it, and make sure that we are not casting judgment on other based on our own specific ways of living the gospel. As President Uchtdorf said in his 2009 conference talk, “The Love of God:”

Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles . . . complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of ‘good ideas.’

Choosing Wisely

So what is the eternal principle behind not watching R-rated movies? Going off of what was said before, while we should never look down on others for not following commandments and doctrine, it’s especially harmful to make such judgments when the standard is an individual one and not doctrinal.

In addition to not judging, we need to be careful not to put words into the mouths of our leaders, sometimes spreading “false doctrine” by incorrectly citing religious authorities as the source of cultural taboos we follow like doctrine. In fact, Elder Lynn G. Robbins illustrated this in a 2013 BYU devotional, using Ezra Taft Benson’s remarks on R-rated movies.

In 1986, President Ezra Taft Benson warned members of the danger of anything ‘R-rated’ or beyond. The members thought he had drawn a line. I know that because I have heard many members of the Church say, ‘Oh, we can watch that movie. It’s only a PG-13. The prophet gave us permission.’ They don’t say that last part, but that is what they are thinking, because they thought he posted a speed limit, so to speak.

He then illustrated the point with an analogy:

Let’s assume that the two ends of the basketball court here at the Marriott Center represent the two extremes of movies that Hollywood produces. We will have this end area at my extreme right represent G-rated movies. At the other extreme to my left is what Hollywood calls ‘adult entertainment.’ In between the two extremes, the MPAA gives movies ratings of PG and PG-13. We will have this pulpit represent R-rated, then NC-17, and adults only. In between the two extremes, where do we draw the line over which it would be dangerous to cross? It is risky for the Church to draw a line. If the speed on the freeway is 65 miles per hour, how fast will people drive? Well, they will feel free to drive as fast as the limit. If the Church were to draw a line with movies, that would be like giving permission to watch everything up to the line. President Gordon B. Hinckley never drew a line. Neither has President Thomas S. Monson. But the prophets have taught us principles.

Judging by Inappropriate Standards

On some level, it’s surprising that we even rely on rating systems to decide what media is appropriate for us to consume. As explained by Elder Robbins, movies are rated by a Hollywood entity called the Motion Picture Association of America, an organization which has been widely criticized for its inconsistency and skewed values. In fact, Latter-day Saints are usually some of the first to lament Hollywood’s negative influence in the world, so why on earth do we put so much stock in what they have to say?

While the prophets have not given a definitive word on the specific subset of R-rated movies, they’ve been loud and clear about what kind of content should be avoided—and the content of a movie is the same regardless of what letter Hollywood puts on the poster. The MPAA gives out ratings on the basis of “mature” content—and “mature” does not necessarily equal “offensive.” This means that an uplifting, inspiring film could potentially be given a restricted rating for containing realistic depictions of war, while a movie that would be inappropriate by Church standards might slide through with a PG-13.

So rather than fervently clinging to a worldly, rating-based line, might it not be more prudent to simply judge a movie by its content? This is more possible than ever in the internet age; the websites IMDb, ScreenIt, Kids-in-Mind, and OK.com are just a few of many resources that allow users to know beforehand about any objectionable content a movie contains. These solutions are a simple way to meet your own personal standards as you decide what media to consume, and Hollywood has nothing to do with it. Focusing on content instead of rating will remove a dangerous, culturally-imposed line and replace it with a method of discernment far more aligned to both the letter and spirit of prophetic counsel.

As I’ve pondered over this issue, I realize that it was probably wise for the man in the testimony meeting I attended to avoid seeing The Wolf of Wall Street, but I hope that his decision was based on the film’s content, and not simply on its rating. Joseph Smith was once asked how he was able to effectively govern so many people—he responded, “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” We should not allow a worldly rating system to govern us, nor should we allow ourselves to govern others—but the prophets have taught principles, and we should now govern ourselves. As a culture, we can and must develop a greater sense of spiritual self-reliance.[217]


Questions: Why do Latter-day Saints not swear?

Introduction to Question

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints try not to swear. Why is this?

This article will offer scriptural, ethical, and pragmatic reasons for not swearing.

Response to Question

Scriptural Reasons

Proverbs teaches us that “[d]eath and life are in the power of the tongue; and [we] that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”[218] Jesus taught that “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”[219] He also taught that it is “[n]ot that which goeth into the mouth [that] defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth[.] This defileth a man.”[220] Paul taught the Corinthians that “evil communications corrupt good manners.”[221] Paul taught the Ephesians to “[l]et no corrupt [σαπρὸς (sarpos) "unwholesome"] communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”[222] The author of 1 Peter says “[b]ut as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.”[223] King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon teaches us that if we do not watch our words then we will perish.[224] The prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon taught that, at judgement day, “our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God[.]”[225] Doctrine and Covenants 136, given to President Brigham Young, told the Saints to “let your words tend to edifying one another.”[226]

Ethical Reasons

Swearing can foster enmity between people. As a body of people that have been commanded to love our neighbor as ourself,[227] we should be exemplary in how we treat others and avoid language that leads to fractured relationships.

Pragmatic Reasons

Swearing can be a sign of an unrefined mind. There are many other things that we can say in any given situation to be funny, to speak clearly, and to speak professionally.

Little Rules

We may think that Christ didn’t care about little rules but he did. Prior to performing the atonement, he told those living under the law of Moses and its 613 little rules that “[w]hosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”[228]

Conclusion

The scripture and reason tell us to watch our mouths. We should do our best to follow these commandments and see the blessings that come from it.


Question: Why do Latter-day Saints often partake of the sacrament with their right hand?

Introduction to Question

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ceremonially eat bread and drink water each week in remembrance of the atonement of Jesus Christ and as a renewal of sacred covenants that they have made with him and God. This ceremony (or “ordinance” in the preferred vernacular of Latter-day Saints) is called the sacrament. For much time, Church members have insisted on grasping the small bread strips and cups that hold the water with their right hand before being consumed.

Why is this such a common practice among Latter-day Saints? This article will reproduce another written on this subject in the Latter-day Saint magazine LDS Living by author Katie Lambert. Lambert very adequately addresses the history and significance of this practice and how Latter-day Saints might view it today.

Katie Lambert, “Why Members Are Told to Take the Sacrament with Their Right Hand and Whether or Not it Matters

As a Sun Beam in sacrament meeting, eyeing the bread tray as it made its way closer and closer to you, you probably didn't notice what hand most members were using to take the sacrament.

Brimming with the false sense of independence only a 4-year-old can possess, you reach eagerly for the bread once it comes to you with your left hand only to have your mom or dad whisper in your ear, "Use your other hand."

You obey without a second thought. But after a while, you begin to wonder: why do we as members take the sacrament with our right hands?

In The Church Handbook 2, there is no indication that members should take or pass the sacrament with their right hands. In fact, there's nothing in the handbook that says the Deacons should pass it with their right hands, either. However, some members firmly believe that the left hand should never be used to partake of the sacrament.

This could be because of the symbolism of the right and left hands. Scripturally, the right hand is a place of honor and a symbol of covenant keeping, as seen in Mosiah 5:8–9: "therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.

"And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God."

On the other hand, the word "left" comes from the Latin word "sinister," meaning unfavorable or unlucky. These meanings are sometimes used in the scriptures, like in the case of Matthew 25:33: "And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left." The sheep, in this case, are seen as preferred to the goats.

But this symbolism of left and right didn't translate to the passing of sacrament until the 1930s when the Great Depression was in full swing. According to an Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies article by Justin R. Bray, "Excessive Formalities in the Mormon Sacrament, 1928–1940," the preference was popularized after the Granite Stake published a directive in the Improvement Era magazine.

In the article, deacons were told to keep their left hands behind their backs "at all times" and "it is not proper to have a boy handling the sacrament with the left hand.[229]

In 1946, President Joseph Fielding Smith spoke out against having Deacons keep their left hands behind their backs but later clarified, "It is a well-established practice in the church to partake of the sacrament with the right hand and also to anoint with the right hand, according to the custom which the scriptures indicate is, and always was, approved by divine injunction."[230]

In a 1983 Ensign article, [Russell M. Nelson, then one of the Church's Regional Representatives and former Sunday School President] said:

"The hand used in partaking of the sacrament would logically be the same hand used in making any other sacred oath. For most of us, that would be the right hand. However, sacramental covenants—and other eternal covenants as well—can be and are made by those who have lost the use of the right hand, or who have no hands at all. Much more important than concern over which hand is used in partaking of the sacrament is that the sacrament be partaken with a deep realization of the atoning sacrifice that the sacrament represents."[231]

So although using the right hand to receive the sacrament does add symbolic meaning to the ordinance, it is not required by members. As President Nelson says, it is more important to focus on the Atonement and what the sacrament represents than which hand we take it with.

Other Scriptures that Might Support this Practice

Lambert’s article does not offer every scripture that might support this practice. Other scriptural reasons that one might want to follow this custom might be to be peculiar people so as to encourage interest in the Church and thus success in missionary work,[232] to keep unspotted from the world,[233] and to be anxiously engaged in a good cause without God compelling you to do something by explicit revelation.[234]

Conclusion

While this may be a cultural vestige that we can roll our eyes at, it can still have delayed, beneficial consequences for Latter-day Saints as a people in their continued efforts to build the Kingdom of God and to express their deepest love and devotion to Jesus Christ.


Question: Should we pay tithing before paying for food or rent?

The Quote: "If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing"

One critic of the Church states,

I find the following quote in the December 2012 Ensign very disturbing:

If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing. The Lord will not abandon you.

Would a loving, kind, empathic God really place parents in the horrible position of having to choose whether to feed their children or pay what little they have to a multi-billion megamall owning Church that receives an estimated $8,000,000,000 in annual tithing receipts?" [235]

The quote used is part of a story about a family in San Salvador that had joined the Church and was experiencing a great change in their lives. We will provide a bit more of the context:

The Vigils’ bishop, César Orellana, also saw changes in their lives. Soon after their baptism, Amado approached Bishop Orellana and said, “We want to pay tithing, but we don’t know how.”

Bishop Orellana explained that tithing was 10 percent of their increase. Amado was somewhat concerned. At the time, Evelyn had a job, but he did not. “We always come up short,” Amado explained to his bishop, “but we want to pay tithing.”

Bishop Orellana responded, “Brother, the Lord has made many promises.” Together they read scriptures about the blessings that come from faithfully paying tithing, including the Lord’s words through the prophet Malachi: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, … and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

After reading these scriptures together, Bishop Orellana looked at the new convert and said, “If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing. The Lord will not abandon you.”

The next Sunday, Amado approached Bishop Orellana again. This time he didn’t ask any questions. He simply handed his bishop an envelope and said, “Bishop, here is our tithing.”

Reflecting on this experience, Bishop Orellana says, “Ever since then, they have been faithful tithe payers.” The family received some commodities from the bishops’ storehouse during their financial difficulties. Beyond that, the Lord blessed them to be able to care for themselves. Evelyn received a promotion, and Amado found a good job. Evelyn later lost her job, but they continued to pay tithing and to receive spiritual and temporal blessings for their faithfulness. Once Bishop Orellana asked Amado how the family was doing financially. Amado responded, “We’re doing all right. Sometimes we don’t have much to eat, but we have enough. And more than anything, we trust in the Lord.” [236]

Choosing between tithing and food or rent

If someone is in the situation where they have to choose between tithing and food, it is of benefit to sit down and talk with the bishop as they have access to better training and employment opportunities as well as may be helpful in establishing a better budget so that such a conflict won't arise in the future.

With regard to self sufficiency, we are taught as well that we need to be part of our faith community and that requires of us time to allow others to serve us. It is a kindness to give others such opportunities, even when we don't necessarily need such help. There are blessings that come from being a charitable receiver as well as a charitable giver.


Question: Why should the poor and destitute pay tithing?

Biblical precedent for the idea that even those that are destitute will be blessed by the Lord if they pay their tithing

Critics of the Church often portray it as a business or corporation, with tithing being the method by which income is generated. If this were true, however, why would the Church be interested in the "widow's mite?" Critics often act as if the Church simply takes money from the poor and leaves them to fend for themselves. The reality is that the Church will not only support the destitute, but it will assist them in finding employment or means to create better circumstances in their lives. The Church does not force anyone to choose to pay tithing or to feed their children. The choice presented by the critics is a caricature which completely ignores the function of the Church Welfare program.

Paying tithing is a matter of faith. From a believer's perspective, a more accurate description than "pay what little they have to a multi-billion megamall owning Church" would be to "donate one-tenth of what little they have to the Lord."

There is a Biblical precedent for the idea that even those that are destitute will be blessed by the Lord if they pay their tithing.

Elder Lynn G. Robbins related the following at the April 2005 General Conference:

The Lord says to Elijah, “Arise, get thee to Zarephath … : behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee” (1 Kgs. 17:9). It is interesting that Elijah is not told to go to Zarephath until the widow and her son are at the point of death. It is at this extreme moment—facing starvation—that her faith will be tested.

As he comes into the city he sees her gathering sticks.

“And he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.

“And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.

“And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die” (1 Kgs. 17:10–12).

A handful of meal would be very little indeed, perhaps just enough for one serving, which makes Elijah’s response intriguing. Listen: “And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first” (1 Kgs. 17:13; emphasis added).

Now doesn’t that sound selfish, asking not just for the first piece, but possibly the only piece? Didn't our parents teach us to let other people go first and especially for a gentleman to let a lady go first, let alone a starving widow? Her choice—does she eat, or does she sacrifice her last meal and hasten death? Perhaps she will sacrifice her own food, but could she sacrifice the food meant for her starving son?

Elijah understood the doctrine that blessings come after the trial of our faith (see Ether 12:6; D&C 132:5). He wasn't being selfish. As the Lord’s servant, Elijah was there to give, not to take. Continuing from the narrative:

“But make me thereof a little cake first [the firstlings], and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.

“For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.

“And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.

“And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah” (1 Kgs. 17:13–16; emphasis added).[237]

Mark 12:41–44 gives us the story of the widows mite:

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.


Question: Why should members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pay their tithing to it when the Church already possesses immense resources?

Introduction to Question

On 17 December 2019, The Washington Post reported that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds over 100 billion dollars in a tax-exempt investment fund. The information was obtained from the brother of a former member of the Church named David A. Nielsen. Nielsen was an investment manager for the Church and filed a complaint with the IRS on 21 November 2019 “[accusing] church leaders of misleading members — and possibly breaching federal tax rules — by stockpiling their surplus donations instead of using them for charitable works. It also accuses church leaders of using the tax-exempt donations to prop up a pair of businesses.”[238]

A salvo of insightful responses were drawn from Latter-day Saints in light of this news and published in online venues. The pieces provide in-depth discussion about the ethics of holding that much money in reserve (and show clearly how the Church may very well be justified in its current financial practices).[239] The reader is strongly encouraged to read these.

This article doesn’t seek to defend the Church on the question of whether or not it is ethically justified to hold that much money in reserve (the author believes it does). Rather, the author wishes to answer a tangential question that has arisen because of this news: Why should a member of the Church give tithing donations to it when it already holds that much money and can accomplish so much with what it already has? Certain Church members have already written that they do not want to donate to the Church when it already holds a lot—feeling that the Church would be better served by donating their money to the poor before the members resume tithing donations.[240]

Response to Question

Several reasons can be enumerated for paying tithing even given the Church's current resources.

Obedience to God

The first and most important reason is that we have been commanded by God to donate tithes. Section 119 of the Doctrine and Covenants is the revelation that inaugurated the tithing commandment in this dispensation. It clearly teaches us to pay one tenth of our interest annually, that those that don't observe this law are not worthy to abide among the Saints, and that if we don't observe the law collectively as a body of Saints that we cannot be counted as the Lord's people.

The blessings for paying tithing are also said to be invaluable. The famous scripture from Malachi 3 teaches us to "[b]ring...all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."[241] The Lord has taught us to be obedient to all the words and commandments that proceed from Him through the mouth of the prophet in all patience and faith.[242]

George Albert Smith related the following story in the June 1947 issue of the Improvement Era magazine:

One day on the street I met a friend whom I had known since boyhood. I had not visited with him for some time, and I was interested in being brought up to date concerning his life, his problems, and his faith, therefore I invited him to go to a conference in Utah County with me. He drove his fine car (the make of car I was driving had not been received into society at that time). He took his wife, and I took mine. . . .

As we drove home, he turned to me and said: . . . "You know I have heard many things in this conference, but there is only one thing that I do not understand the way you do."

I said: "What is it?"

"Well," he said, "it is about paying tithing."

He thought I would ask him how he paid his tithing, but I did not. I thought if he wanted to tell me, he would. He said: "Would you like me to tell you how I pay my tithing?"

I said, "If you want to, you may."

"Well," he said, "if I make ten thousand dollars in a year, I put a thousand dollars in the bank for tithing. I know why it's there. Then when the bishop comes and wants me to make a contribution for the chapel or give him a check for a missionary who is going away, if I think he needs the money, I give him a check. If a family in the ward is in distress and needs coal or food or clothing or anything else, I write out a check. If I find a boy or girl who is having difficulty getting through school in the East, I send a check. Little by little I exhaust the thousand dollars, and every dollar of it has gone where I know it has done good. Now what do you think of that?"

"Well," I said, "do you want me to tell you what I think of it?"

He said, "Yes."

I said: "I think you are a very generous man with someone else's property." And he nearly tipped the car over.

He said, "What do you mean?"

I said, "You have an idea that you have paid your tithing?"

"Yes." he said.

I said: "You have not paid any tithing. You have told me what you have done with the Lord's money, but you have not told me that you have given anyone a penny of your own. He is the best partner you have in the world. He gives you everything you have, even the air you breathe. He has said you should take one-tenth of what comes to you and give it to the Church as directed by the Lord. You haven't done that; you have taken your best partner's money, and have given it away."

Well, I will tell you there was quiet in the car for some time. . . .

About a month after that I met him on the street. He came up, put his arm in mine, and said: "Brother Smith, I am paying my tithing the same way you do." I was very happy to hear that.[243]

We Want the Church to be As Powerful as Possible

Tithing's greatest function is ensuring the continued flourishing of the Kingdom of God on the earth. The Church uses tithing funds to build chapels and temples, fund missions, fund private scholarships, fund five different universities and colleges, fund the seminaries and institute program, etc.

There may be other things as well that top Church leaders will use the money for that do not include what we typically expect but that will still be vital for the continued flourishing of the Kingdom. In any case, we want top Church leaders to have as many resources as possible to do with it as they see fit.

If Church leaders make a mistake in how they invest their money, then the sin is on their heads. Our covenants still need to be kept while the Lord straightens out poor allocation practice.

No Evidence that Church has Used Tithing Funds Inappropriately

That said, there's no evidence that the Church has used tithing funds inappropriately.[244]

The Church already donates a lot of money as it is to charity and humanitarian efforts. An interview published by Tad Walch in the Deseret News on 14 February 2020 with the Presiding Bishopric of the Church revealed that the Church gives 1 billion dollars annually in humanitarian and welfare spending.[245]

If Wanting to Benefit a Particular Cause, The Best Thing to Do is Indicate it on the Tithing Slips Themselves

The slips where one records the amount of donation for tithing contain dedicated sections where one can indicate whether they would like funds to go to missionary efforts, humanitarian efforts, fast offerings, or other projects. The best thing that one can do is indicate on this slip where they would like their funds to go. The rest should be left in the Lord's hands.

Conclusion

It's not uncommon to have ethical questions like these. The Lord's program seems to always be that we should uphold our end of our bargains and then allow him to deal with those that don't uphold theirs. Our job is to love him with all our "heart, might, mind, and strength" by keeping his commandments and serving him.[246] He'll take care of the rest.


Question: Is belief in the Book of Mormon’s historicity essential to Latter-day Saint theology?

Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #480: Why Is the Book of Mormon’s Historical Authenticity So Important? (Video)

Introduction to Question

Beginning in the early 90s, theorists have surmised that the Book of Mormon does not need to literally be a historical account of certain ancient inhabitants of the Americas in order to be "true." The primary architect of this theory was Latter-day Saint Anthony A. Hutchinson in a book chapter on the subject.[247]

Hutchinson states:

My thesis is simple. I will state it as directly as possible for the sake of understanding and discussion. Members of [The] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should confess in faith that the Book of Mormon is the word of God but also abandon claims that it is a historical record of the ancient peoples of the Americas. We should accept that it is a work of scripture inspired by God in the same way that the Bible is inspired, but one that has as its human author Joseph Smith, Jr.[248]

According to Hutchinson, the Book of Mormon is the word of God in that God authored the text. Essentially, it is a revelation of God told in story form. Joseph Smith is not translating an ancient text but merely dictating it as he believed it came from the gold plates. Joseph Smith is then a kind of author of the Book of Mormon text. According to Hutchinson, words like "inspiration" and "translation" now need a retooling in the Latter-day Saint vernacular.

In his words:

“I believe that the word of God or the gospel of Jesus Christ is ill-served if not undermined to the degree that current LDS approaches to the Book of Mormon focus on its claims about itself and its value as a sign authenticating LDS religious life rather than on its unique message as a nineteenth century reworking of the biblical tradition.”[249]

Hutchinson didn't remain alone in his advocacy. Close to 10 years after Hutchinson's book chapter was published, Jesus mythicist Robert M. Price similarly argued that Joseph Smith should be viewed as the “inspired author” of the Book of Mormon.[250] There have even been those that have so pompously, foolishly, and, ironically, unreflectively proclaimed that believing in historicity is actually a lower form of religiosity![251] These types of arguments have thus been offered against belief in the historicity of other scripture that is a part of the canon of the Church. This article can then serve as a response to anyone who makes this type of argument against any book of scripture.


This theory in all its minor variations has come to be called the Inspired Fiction Theory (hereafter IFT) for the origins of the Book of Mormon by Latter-day Saint scholar Stephen O. Smoot.[252]

Is belief in the IFT a historically and theologically viable position for Latter-day Saints to take?

In this article, we’ll present a short answer to this question.

Response to Question

The Essential Argument Against the IFT

The late BYU professor of political science William J. Hamblin has produced the most succinct dilemma for proponents of any variation of the IFT:

  1. Joseph Smith claimed to have had possession of golden plates written by the Nephites, and to have been visited by Moroni, a resurrected Nephite.
  2. If the Book of Mormon is not an ancient document, there were no Nephites.
  3. If there were no Nephites, there were no golden plates written by Nephites; and there was no Nephite named Moroni.
  4. If there was no Moroni and no golden plates, then Joseph did not tell the truth when he claimed to possess and translate these nonexistent plates, and to have been visited by a resurrected man.
  5. Hence, Joseph was either lying (he knew there were no plates or angelic visitations, but was trying to convince others that there were), or he was insane or deluded (he believed there were golden plates and angelic visitations which in fact did not exist).[253]

The Book of Mormon Loses Spiritual Potency with the Loss of Historicity

Many people can believe that the Book of Mormon is an inspiring document without being true. We as Latter-day Saints consider the Quran to be a book inspired by God but not the book that will lead you to the true God. One of The Book of Mormon’s central purposes is to convince the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ. The historicity of the appearance of the resurrected Christ to the Nephites here in the Americas is thus essential.

Actuality Over Details

More important about the Book of Mormon is that many of its most important events actually happened. It is less important to worry about how they happened. This is similar to Joseph Smith's First Vision: it is more important that God and Jesus Christ actually appeared to Joseph Smith rather than what color the leaves were that day, what temperature it was, whether or not the light around Joseph Smith was fire or just light, etc.

Other Arguments Put Forth By Latter-day Saint Scholars

Below is a Further Reading list that one can use to discover additional reasons that Latter-day Saint scholars have put forth to show the incoherency of the IFT.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this will encourage Latter-day Saints and other interested readers to look into the scholarship that has been written on the Book of Mormon so that they can more articulately defend the book’s historicity. There is a large amount of literature that is easily accessible to interested parties.


Question: Is The Family: A Proclamation to the World against feminism?

Introduction to Question

In 1995, top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints introduced a nine-paragraph proclamation regarding the family called The Family: A Proclamation to the World. In it, the divine institution of the family is described and defended–– including primary gender roles for a man and wife in marriage.

This document has invited a lot of criticism from some of the more progressive critics of the Church. It has also been the source of confusion for many regular members of the Church that have feminist leanings since the document prescribes ideal gender roles. The question has been: Is the Proclamation against feminism?

This article explores the question.

Response to Question

Two Lines that Affirm Male and Female Equality

The document contains two lines that affirm male/female equality––thus demonstrating that the Proclamation is not against feminism.

The first is this:

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.

The second is this:

Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.

Notice the assumptions behind the lines: that males and females are capable of performing the same tasks and are encouraged to share each other’s loads.

Now, it is true that the Proclamation prescribes ideal gender roles (that is, roles that change not on preference but out of necessity) based upon what we are naturally ordered to biologically. This shouldn’t be offensive. Gender complementarianism is scientifically defensible and is a philosophy that affirms the moral equality of the two genders.[254] We should seek to fill our roles as prescribed by the Proclamation. But the Proclamation doesn’t exclude feminism. Notice that the second line assumes that wives will be able to take over their husbands’ responsibilities. Women should therefore have potential for lucrative careers to support their families––including those careers traditionally held by men.

The Proclamation may indeed be against certain strains of feminist thought--such as gender being merely a social construct. But it is not inherently against notions of moral equality of the genders. It does not say that females are fundamentally incapable of performing any task they wish. All the Proclamation intends to state is that there are psychobehavioral and physical differences between men and women that are both biologically and spiritually-determined and that these differences are optimized for producing, nurturing, and protecting children. It encourages us to fill the roles that we were most naturally ordered to so as to glorify men as men and women as women--not holding one to the other's standard of excellence.

Conclusion

It’s unfortunate that this has become such a common misunderstanding about the Proclamation; but hopefully this article will allow both “progressive” members and “conservative” members to find some common ground as we both seek to understand how both men and women can reach their fullest potential as children of God.


Question: What does the Family Proclamation mean when it says fathers “preside” over their families?

Part of family proclamation addresses general gender roles given to men and women. Fathers, it says, are to “preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.” Mothers “are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” In these responsibilities, it says, “fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

The definition of the word “preside”

The etymology of the word “preside” is interesting. It traces back to the Latin words “prae” and “sedere.” When combined, they literally mean “to sit in front of.” It was used in Latin to signify “standing guard” and “superintending.” Thus, the word carries the dual meaning of protecting something and leading something (or someone). That is why the word is included in others like "president."

Husbands preside in the home

Church leaders have consistently taught that men preside in the home. Paul taught in Corinthians that “the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”[255] The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, "It is the place of the man to stand at the head of his family."[256] President Joseph F. Smith reemphasized this when he taught, "In the home the presiding authority is always vested in the father."[257]

The appointment for the man to preside comes from heaven, as taught by President Howard W. Hunter: "Of necessity there must be in the Church and in the home a presiding officer (see D&C 107:21). By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priesthood holder (see Moses 4:22)."[258]

Husbands lead their families

The Church's General Handbook teaches:

Presiding in the family is the responsibility to help lead family members back to dwell in God’s presence. This is done by serving and teaching with gentleness, meekness, and pure love, following the example of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 20:26–28). Presiding in the family includes leading family members in regular prayer, gospel study, and other aspects of worship. Parents work in unity to fulfill these responsibilities.[259]

Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught:

The scriptures tell us, "The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and … to administer in spiritual things" (Doctrine and Covenants 107:8). Brethren, this means that we are to take the lead in our marriage and families in attending to the spiritual as well as physical welfare of our wives, children, and even extended family. . . .

Unfortunately, in some homes it is always the wife and mother who has to suggest—even sometimes plead—that the family gather for prayer or for home evening. This should not be. The women in our lives have the right to look to their husbands to assume their duty and to take the lead. A husband should counsel continually with his wife about the welfare of each of their children. … Most sisters are willing and eager to counsel with their husbands and can provide many helpful insights and recommendations, but it will be easier for them if their husband takes the initiative to talk with them and to plan together.[260]

Husbands work in unity with their wives

The goal of this life, as taught by scripture, is to become "of one heart and one mind."[261] Elder Boyd K. Packer taught that "[i]n the Church there is a distinct line of authority. We serve where called by those who preside over us. In the home it is a partnership with husband and wife equally yoked together, sharing in decisions, always working together.”[262] Elder L. Tom Perry taught, "The father is the head in his family. . . . Remember, brethren, that in your role as leader in the family, your wife is your companion. . . . Therefore, there is not a president or a vice president in a family. The couple works together eternally for the good of the family.[263]

Presiding in righteousness

In all cases, men are to preside in love and righteousness. From the General Handbook we learn:

This [priesthood] authority can be used only in righteousness (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:36). It is exercised by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love, and kindness (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–42). Leaders counsel with others [and parents counsel together] in a spirit of unity and seek the Lord’s will through revelation (see Doctrine and Covenants 41:2). . . . Those who exercise priesthood authority do not force their will on others. They do not use it for selfish purposes. If a person uses it unrighteously, “the heavens withdraw themselves [and] the Spirit of the Lord is grieved” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:37).[264]

A husband can lose the efficacy of his priesthood power if he is not keeping his life in accordance with the moral laws and other statutes laid out in scripture. That is made clear in Doctrine and Covenants 121:36-44 which includes telling men that they cannot act in "unrighteous dominion" over others. Thus, if a man's family is to receive guidance from God, he is obligated to act in accordance with the commandments. He should strive to include his wife in the leadership of his family as much as possible. His authority is not equivalent to a dictatorship.

Paul counseled married men to “love [their] wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” “So ought men,” he says, “to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church[.]”[265]


Question: Was “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” drafted by lawyers in Hawaii in response to legal concerns the Church had over the legalization of gay marriage?

The main concern of Church leaders, and the only one that they seem to have had in consciousness when they first started drafting the proclamation, was a conference held in Cairo, Egypt in 1994 on the family that did not mention marriage

It is claimed by some that “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was drafted by lawyers in Hawaii in response to legal concerns the Church had over the legalization of gay marriage. Mormonr.org documents how "[i]n 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court began hearing a case on gay marriage, known as Baehr v. Lewin (later Miike).[266] In 1994 the brethren begin the process of writing the proclamation in a 'revelatory process' with members of the Quorum of the Twelve."[267]

Dallin H. Oaks' new biography In the Hands of the Lord: The Life of Dallin H. Oaks (2021) authored by Richard Turley provides additional context:

During the fall of 1994, at the urging of its Acting President, Boyd K. Packer, the Quorum of the Twelve discussed the need for a scripture-based proclamation to set forth the Church’s doctrinal position on the family. A committee consisting of Elders Faust, Nelson, and Oaks was assigned to prepare a draft. Their work, for which Elder Nelson was the principal draftsman, was completed over the Christmas holidays. After being approved by the Quorum of the Twelve, the draft was submitted to the First Presidency on January 9, 1995, and warmly received.


Over the next several months, the First Presidency took the proposed proclamation under advisement and made needed amendments. Then on September 23, 1995, in the general Relief Society meeting held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle and broadcast throughout the world, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” publicly for the first time.

During the period that the proclamation was being drafted, Church leaders grew concerned about efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in the state of Hawaii. As that movement gained momentum, a group of Church authorities and Latter-day Saint legal scholars, including Elder Oaks, recommended that the Church oppose the Hawaii efforts…[268]

The above quotation from Dallin H. Oaks' biography notes that the initial impetus for drafting the proclamation came from Boyd K. Packer. Boyd K. Packer related the following about the origins of the proclamation at a devotional given at BYU in 2003:

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve issued a proclamation on the family. I can tell you how that came about. They had a world conference on the family sponsored by the United Nations in Beijing, China. We sent representatives. It was not pleasant what they heard. They called another one in Cairo. Some of our people were there. I read the proceedings of that. The word marriage was not mentioned. It was at a conference on the family, but marriage was not even mentioned. It was then they announced that they were going to have such a conference here in Salt Lake City. Some of us made the recommendation: "They are coming here. We had better proclaim our position.”[269]

We note that the United Nations indeed held a conference in Beijing, China (the Fourth World Conference on Women) from the 4–15 of September 1995 and one in Cairo, Egypt (the "Cairo Conference on Population and Development") from 5–13 September 1994. The Beijing Conference probably had little to no impact on the drafting of the proclamation given that the proclamation had already been drafted, substantially edited, and was about read to the Church by Gordon B. Hinckley on 23 September 1995. The Deseret News reported on 14 March 1995 that the United Nations was holding a conference celebrating the International Year of the Family that week in Salt Lake City.[270] 5 days later, the Deseret News reported the alarmist speech of a member of the John Birch Society before a gathering of about 400 in Salt Lake City. The speaker, William Griggs, warned of what he perceived were the United Nations' attempts at "redefining the family out of existence[.]"[271]

Thus, this is the potential narrative that arises:

  • 1 February 1994: The First Presidency releases a statement saying "[w]e encourage members to appeal to legislators, judges, and other government officials to preserve the purposes and sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and to reject all efforts to give legal authorization or other official approval or support to marriages between persons of the same gender."[272]
  • Fall 1994: Boyd K. Packer read the proceedings of the conference in Cairo in 1994. Concerned about the conference coming to Salt Lake City in March of the next year, he provided encouragement for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to write a proclamation.
  • Christmas and New Years 1994: This initial drafting took place, according to Dallin H. Oaks' testimony, during the Christmas and New Years holidays of 1994. During this time, Church representatives grow concerned over the efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaii and, with the encouragement of Latter-day Saint legal scholars and Dallin H. Oaks, decided to formally oppose those efforts.
  • 24 February 1995: The Associated Press reports that the Church had announced its petition to intervene in the case.[273]
  • 4–15 September 1995: The United Nations' conference in Beijing happened and Church representatives attended the conference. Sometime after their being at the conference, they reported on their findings to top Church leaders. Minor edits (at best) are made to the proclamation.
  • 23 September 1995: Gordon B. Hinckley reads the proclamation at the Relief Society meeting in response to these concerns.
  • 1997: In 1997, the Church included the proclamation as part of an amicus curiae brief regarding the case to the Hawaii Supreme Court.[274]

It's very likely that the Church knew about the efforts in Hawaii prior to Packer providing the initial impetus. But, according to the testimony of Packer and Dallin H. Oaks, those efforts probably weren't in leaders' immediate consciousness when initially drafting the family proclamation.

Economic and Social Concerns with the Breakdown of the Family in the 80s and 90s Motivating the Proclmation

Another Latter-day Saint, Walker Wright, wrote an insightful post outlining the economic and social costs of the breakdown of the family including the rise of fatherless homes being observed in the late 80s and 90s that likely influenced the final shape of the proclamation.[275] Leaders couldn't have been concerned with just same-sex marriage. The proclamation addressed a wide range of issues. President Gordon B. Hinckley was asked by a reporter what his greatest concerns were as President of the Church as he celebrated his 85th birthday in June 1995. He replied: “I am concerned about family life in the Church. We have wonderful people, but we have too many whose families are falling apart. … I think [this] is my most serious concern.”[276] Just three months after, he read the family proclamation to the General Relief Society Meeting. "It was no coincidence[,]" writes Bruce C. Hafen, "that this solemn declaration was issued precisely when the Lord’s prophet felt that, of all the subjects on his mind, unstable family life in the Church was his greatest concern."[277]

Even if the proclamation were drafted with the Hawaii case being the primary concern to be addressed, two things must be kept in mind

Even if the proclamation were drafted with the Hawaii case being the primary concern to be addressed, two things must be kept in mind:

1. Legal documents can still be revelatory

The first of these is that legal documents can still be revelatory and authoritative. Some sections of the Doctrine and Covenants started out as (1) council minutes, (2) official statements of church policy written by lawyers like Oliver Cowdery, (3) letters written by Joseph Smith, (4) excerpts from peoples’ notes recording things that Joseph Smith taught. Examples include D&C 102, 122, 123, 128, 129, 130, 131, 134, and 135.

Those who are bothered by a revelation or doctrinal disquisition being first drafted by others may be comforted knowing that many different kinds of documents have been ratified as binding, holy, and authoritative even when they weren't traditional, dictated revelations.

2. The doctrines contained within the Proclamation are doctrines long taught by the Church

The second is that the doctrines contained within the proclamation are doctrines long taught by the Church. We've addressed this in other articles on the FAIR Wiki. This shows that, regardless of how the doctrines were embodied in the proclamation, they have long been concerns that the Church has had. The doctrines of the proclamation were not created ad hoc in order to justify an irrational homophobia.


Question: What sort of scriptural support is there for the doctrines of The Family: A Proclamation to the World?

Introduction to Question

Many have asked what sort of scriptural support exists for the Family Proclamation. This article provides a resource that can answer this question.

Response to Question

Scriptural Insert

A website has been created called thefamilyproclamation.org. This website provides scriptures, general authority quotes, scientific research, and stories about applying the doctrines of the family proclamation. They have an annotated scriptural insert of the family proclamation with scriptures that can support virtually each line of the proclamation. That insert is pictured below:

Family Proc Scipture Insert 1 .png
Family Proc Insert 2.png

Line by Line Analysis

The same website has a section that provides line-by-line analysis of the family proclamation. Scriptures are listed in support of its doctrines.

Conclusion

The Family: A Proclamation to the World is a divinely inspired document. Its authors have repeatedly testified to its revelatory status. We should follow its teachings and see the rewards that we reap because of our obedience to it.


Question: Why do women not hold priesthood offices in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

During the early years of the LDS Church, no provision was made in the revelations describing the priesthood along with its offices for the ordination of women

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints positions in the leadership hierarchy are generally connected directly to offices in the priesthood. During the early years of the LDS Church, no provision was made in the revelations describing the priesthood along with its offices for the ordination of women.[278] Consequently, when the Church received revelation describing the authority structure of the Church in terms of priesthood offices and roles, women were not included. This situation changed to some extent between 1842 and 1844. During the last two years of his life, Joseph Smith both organized the Relief Society and began introducing the temple ordinances (in particular the endowment) to the larger membership of the Church. Both of these developments had consequences for the view of women’s roles in the Church and in discussions over the relationship between women and the priesthood. Joseph addressed the Relief Society six times—the only sermons which he delivered exclusively to women in the Church—and these sermons (found in the Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book) continue to frame the discussion of the role of women in the Church and their relationship to the priesthood.[279]

A Theory as to Why Women don't Hold Priesthood Office

Besides these revelations stipulating that only men hold the priesthood, we can develop at least one theory as to why women do not hold the priesthood. This is not necessarily the official position of the Church.

We learn that God, in the beginning, created Adam and Eve and pronounced that they should become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). They remained in the Garden of Eden. The Israelites used the Garden of Eden to represent the presence of God.[280]

After Adam and Eve partake of the fruit, they were cast out of the Garden of Eden and Adam is told that he will "rule over" Eve (Genesis 3:16). This represents the tragic disintegration of the one flesh equality that man and woman had while in the Garden. While in mortality, it has been men who have been given official priesthood offices (Doctrine and Covenants 107:40). This is consistent throughout scripture. Today, men are called to preside over and receive revelation for their families (per documents like The Family: A Proclamation to the World). The authority that men have is contingent upon how righteously they exercise it (Doctrine and Covenants 121:36-37). This hierarchy of authority is incredibly important because it organizes who can and cannot receive genuine revelation for specific stewardships. For example, an Elder's Quorum President can receive revelation on behalf of the Elder's Quorum, a Bishop can receive revelation on behalf of an Elder's Quorum, but an Elder's Quorum President cannot receive revelation on behalf of the entire ward like a Bishop can. This is explained more depth in this article.

In the temple, Latter-day Saint men and women who receive their endowment are told that men represent Adam and women, Eve. We learn from Joseph Smith's revelations that men and women who are sealed become gods and goddesses in the next life as they enter into the Celestial Kingdom where God resides (Doctrine and Covenants 76:62; 132:19-20). This is something no other faith teaches: men cannot be exalted without women. Thus, just as Eve led Adam out of the Garden (the presence of the Lord), by the ordinance of sealing and other ordinances, she will lead us back into it.

Thus, granting women priesthood office might upset Church governmental structure in harmful ways that lead to confusion and might ruin the beautiful narrative that is written out by Joseph Smith's and other prophets' revelations.[281]


Question: If same-sex attraction is something that occurs naturally, why can't God and the Church accept it by allowing sealings of LGBT couples?

Introduction to Question

Some have brought up the sensitive question of why gay marriage and other LGBT relationships can't be accepted by God and the Church if the characteristic is innate. Some struggle to find a purpose in the command to not engage in homosexual behavior. Some secularist critics and even members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who support same-sex marriage co-opt this issue as a means of openly and directly challenging the Church's opposition to same-sex relationships and marriages. This article examines that sensitive question/criticism.

It must be understood that some people are very sincere when asking these questions and that the questions deserve to be treated as such when sincerity is sensed. Others simply want to emotionally manipulate people into faith crisis over this issue. Great discernment is needed to know whether one is the former or latter in any given situation.

Response to Question

Feelings are Not Being

It is important to remember that just because something occurs naturally, that doesn't mean that it is therefore a good thing. This is what is known as the Is-Ought Fallacy in philosophy. There are plenty of things that occur naturally that we don't consider good such as depression, anxiety, and so forth. Many animals kill each other after mating.[282]

Brigham Young University professor Ty Mansfield pointed out something important in regard to feelings not forming identity:

“Being gay” is not a scientific idea, but rather a cultural and philosophical one, addressing the subjective and largely existential phenomenon of identity. From a social constructionist/constructivist perspective, our sense of identity is something we negotiate with our environment. Environment can include biological environment, but our biology is still environment. From an LDS perspective, the essential spiritual person within us exists independent of our mortal biology, so our biology, our body is something that we relate to and negotiate our identity with, rather than something that inherently or essentially defines us. Also, while there has likely been homoerotic attraction, desire, behavior, and even relationships, among humans as long as there have been humans, the narratives through which sexuality is understood and incorporated into one’s sense of self and identity is subjective and culturally influenced. The “gay” person or personality didn’t exist prior to the mid-20th century.

In an LDS context, people often express concern about words that are used—whether they be “same-sex attraction,” which some feel denies the realities of the gay experience, or “gay,” “lesbian,” or “LGBT,” which some feels speaks more to specific lifestyle choices. What’s important to understand, however, is that identity isn’t just about the words we use but the paradigms and worldviews and perceptions of or beliefs about the “self” and “self-hood” through which we interpret and integrate our various experiences into a sense of personal identity, sexual or otherwise. And identity is highly fluid and subject to modification with change in personal values or socio-cultural context. The terms “gay,” “lesbian,” and “bisexual” aren’t uniformly understood or experienced in the same way by everyone who may use or adopt those terms, so it’s the way those terms or labels are incorporated into self-hood that accounts for identity. One person might identify as “gay” simply as shorthand for the mouthful “son or daughter of God who happens to experience romantic, sexual or other desire for persons of the same sex for causes unknown and for the short duration of mortality,” while another person experiences themselves as “gay” as a sort of eternal identity and state of being.

An important philosophical thread in the overall experience of identity, is the experience of “selfhood”—what it means to have a self, and what it means to “be true to” that self. The question of what it means to be “true to ourselves” is a philosophical rather than a scientific one. In her book Multiplicity: The New Science of Personality, Identity, and the Self, award-winning science and medical writer Rita Carter explores the plurality of “selves” who live in each one of us and how each of those varied and sometimes conflicting senses of self inform various aspects of our identity(ies). This sense seems to be universal. In the movie The Incredibles, there’s a scene in which IncrediBoy says to Mr. Incredible, “You always, always say, ‘Be true to yourself,’ but you never say which part of yourself to be true to!”[283]

Thus, there is big difference between feelings and the meaning or labels that we assign to feelings. Thank goodness that feelings are not being. Couldn't we imagine a time where someone would want to change feelings that they didn't feel described their identity such as impulses for pornography, drugs, or violence? This does not mean that the author is comparing sexual orientation to bad impulses, this is simply to point out that feelings do not inherently control identity. We assign identity to feelings.

The Latter-day Saint Argument for Marriage

We should turn to Latter-day Saint scripture to figure out why the Church values marriage as much as it does and why is refuses to acknowledge same-gender sexual behavior and romantic relationships.

In 1831, Joseph Smith gave a revelation to the Shakers living in Ohio regarding some of their beliefs. As part of their religious system, they forbade people to marry and made them celibate. This revelation reissues the Lord's definition of marriage to the Shakers:

15 And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.
16 Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;
17 And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.

This revelation makes several crucial points about the Latter-day Saint position on marriage:

  1. Marriage is ordained of God
  2. Marriage is defined as being between one man and woman
  3. We were designed by God to be married this way.
  4. Our design is not shown in the sexual orientation we have but our biological gender.
  5. We were designed in the pre-mortal existence to be married man and woman.

We might ask why this marriage arrangement is the ideal one? We believe that it is because the Lord endorses the conjugal view of marriage. What is the conjugal view of marriage? Another website explains:

The conjugal view holds that marriage is a union between a man and a woman who share a domestic life oriented towards child-bearing and child-rearing. In other words, procreation (creating new human life) is the unifying good of a marriage relationship. A “unifying good” is that activity that most completely unites the partners in the relationship — the purpose towards which they coordinate their joint activities.


Let’s illustrate what this means: Consider a boyfriend and a girlfriend who share a deep emotional connection and enjoy spending time with each other. They have no particular plans for the future, and have made no commitments to each other. They may be united by many things, including mutual enjoyment, or whatever shared hobbies they pursue. Imagine that the girlfriend suddenly becomes pregnant. At that moment, their futures change completely — a whole host of duties suddenly arise that fundamentally changes their relationship.

They are now united by something more than just mutual enjoyment and emotional connection — they are united by an innocent human person, who physically embodies their union. While their relationship may still involve love and a deep emotional connection, raising the child becomes that thing that most completely unites them. This is what it means to say that child-raising is the unifying good of the relationship. They will probably consider getting married, because that is what marriage is about. In fact, if they don’t get officially married, but continue to live together and raise their kids together, many governments will still consider them married anyway (in what is called “common law marriage”).

The change that occurred in their relation strikes at the heart of marriage, from the conjugal view. Marriage is when a man and a woman say to each other, in essence, “Let us extend our emotional union into something more permanent, by starting a family together.” That is, a married couple arranges their lives and joins their families in anticipation of child-birth and child-raising. A pregnancy may be an unexpected interruption to a boyfriend and girlfriend, which fundamentally changes their relationship. However, as much as a child might change the lives of a married couple, she does not change the nature of their relationship. Marriage creates that difference from the get-go (before children are ever conceived), by enwrapping the relationship in norms (expectations) of permanence and fidelity. This is because marriage is oriented towards procreation. It points couples that direction.[284]

There are some objections that people have raised to this that we address below.

Latter-day Saint scripture also provides some evidence that the union of man and woman creates the spirits people in the next life (D&C 132:63).

Objections to Church Standard

The Argument from Personal Revelation

There are often claims from members of the Church who identify as LGBTQAIP+ and other members of the Church who support same-sex marriage that they have received personal revelation that the Church is wrong about this issue and that it will eventually accept LGBT sealings, relationships, and so on in the future. Since this is a topic that involves the ontological makeup of the entire human family as well as their eternal destiny, this type of revelation does not lie within the stewardship of those that identify as LGBT or those that support same-sex marriage, but with the prophet of God (Doctrine and Covenants 28:2-4; 42:53-60; 112:20). The Savior told us that the one way we could protect ourselves against deception is to hold to his word (JS-Matthew 1:37) and he announces himself as the source of the revelation declaring that our telos as men and women is to be united maritally and sexually (Doctrine and Covenants 49:28). Thus, it is likely that these individuals, if they have indeed felt revelation occur, have been deceived by false Spirits (Doctrine and Covenants 50:1-2) and their testimonies should be disregarded. If someone were to receive a revelation like this, it would be given to them for their own comfort and instruction. They would also be placed under strict commandment to not disseminate their revelation until it accords with the revelation of the prophets, God's authorized priesthood channels (Alma 12:9).

The Argument from Priesthood Restriction

As an additional means of justifying opposition to the Church's position on same sex marriage, some point to the pre-1978 restrictions on people of African descent from holding the Church's priesthood or officiating in temple ordinances, including the Church's disavowed explanations for the restrictions. If the Church was wrong about their explanations for that, could it be wrong about this issue? This has been examined in another article on the FairMormon wiki.

Conclusion

Many LGBT members of The Church of Jesus Christ do not need to hear the points listed in this article. Many understand these points clearly but may simply need someone to love and empathize with their struggle. Members of the Church are placed under covenant at baptism to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort (Mosiah 18:8-9) and should be open to helping these good men and women when they need it most.

Alternatively, there may be some that begin to debate against the Church's position out of sincere frustration and sadness or simple spite. First, those who wish to help these individuals will need to dig deep and find out why these individuals are debating against the Church's position. Some may still need to simply have someone love them and empathize with them. Others may be past that and be debating, as mentioned, out of simple spite and emotional manipulation. In these instances, members of the Church should follow the other part of their baptismal covenant as outlined in Mosiah 18:8-9 and "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in[.]"

As a final word which we wish to emphasize:

FairMormon joins The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in unequivocally condemning the discrimination of any of God's children based upon gender (or gender identity), race, sexual identity and/or orientation, and/or religious affiliation..


Question: What is the scriptural basis for the restriction on homosexual sexual behavior in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Introduction to Question

In recent years, it has become an item of interest and controversy to know what scriptural grounds are for prohibiting homosexual sexual behavior in different Christian religions.

This article provides some resources for answering this question as well as other relevant scriptural texts from the Latter-day Saint canon for answering this question.

Response to Question

Resources for Understanding the Biblical Perspective on Homosexuality

For understanding the biblical perspective on homosexuality, there are three great resources online that explain it.

  1. Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (New York: HarperOne, 1996), 379–406 online at https://www.heartlandchurch.org/d/The_Moral_Vision_of_the_New_Testament_excerpt.pdf. This gives an academic, exegetical perspective from the New Testament about homosexuality, concluding that whenever homosexual sexual behavior is discussed, it is unremittingly negative.
  2. Justin W. Starr, "Biblical Condemnations of Homosexual Conduct," FAIR Papers, November 2011, https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/starr-justin-BiblicalHomosexuality.pdf. This paper gives an academic, exegetical perspective from the entire Bible regarding homosexual sexual behavior. It concludes that the Bible is against all homosexual sexual behavior.
  3. Robert A. J. Gagnon, one of the foremost experts on homosexuality and the Bible, has a website where he has links to his many articles and video presentations defending the traditional view from scripture.

Book Resources

The best book resource defending the traditional interpretation of scripture regarding homosexual sexual behavior:

  1. Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001).

These resources thoroughly refute any notion that the bible is either indifferent, silent, or in favor of homosexual sexual behavior.

Latter-day Saint Scripture and its Addenda to the Case Against Homosexual Sexual Behavior

Uniquely Latter-day Saint texts offer many important addenda to the conversation about proper sexuality.

  1. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle taught that all things were created with a telos or purpose. By adhering to this telos or being used according to it, things, including people, flourish. Along similar lines, Jacob 2:21 teaches that all men and women were created with the end of keeping God’s commandments and glorifying him forever. Doctrine and Covenants 49:15-17 teaches that the Lord’s definition of marriage is that it is between a man and a woman. Men and women are commanded to be married and have sexual relations. Scripture consistently associates keeping the commandments with flourishing and happiness. See, for example, Mosiah 2:41.
  2. Restoration scripture echoes Genesis in affirming that men and women should become “one flesh”—affirming the creative order discussed in Justin W. Starr’s paper above.[285] These are therefore affirmations of the created order whereby only relations between men and women are ethically proper.
  3. Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-2 teaches that one must enter into the covenant of marriage in order to reach the Celestial Kingdom.
  4. Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20 lays out more of Latter-day Saint theology of marriage. According to that section, men and women’s glory as gods consists in part in having “a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.” Thus, the capacity to have spiritual offspring is a necessary condition of becoming gods in Latter-day Saint theology. Doctrine and Covenants 132 teaches that only men and women joined together in marriage have this capacity. Verse 63 of the revelation teaches that men and women are sealed together in part to “bear the souls of men.” The revelation teaches that a binary sexual complementarity is required in order to achieve spiritual creation.[286]
  5. The Family: A Proclamation to the World teaches that all men and women were born of Heavenly Parents in the pre-mortal life. Latter-day Saint theology affirms the existence of a Heavenly Mother by whom the spirits of all of humanity from Adam to the present day has been sired.[287] It has been affirmed that the Proclamation came by way of divine inspiration and revelation many times.

Personal Revelation Justifying the Practice of Homosexual Sexual Behavior

Some have claimed that they have received revelation that homosexual sexual behavior is correct and use this as justification for not keeping the scriptural commandment of abstaining from them. This revelation, given its incongruity with scripture and other prophetic revelation, must be a form of false revelation from false spirits.

Scriptural Concordance of Words Relevant to Considerations About Homosexuality

Fornication is defined as any sexual activity between people outside of marriage. If one defines marriage as between a man and a woman, then any sexual contact between homosexual partners is going to be considered fornication. Below is a concordance of the mentions of fornication and its derivatives in scripture.

Fornication

  • Ezekiel 16:26
  • Ezekiel 16:29
  • Isaiah 23:17
  • 2 Chronicles 21:11
  • Matthew 5:32
  • Matthew 15:19
  • Matthew 19:9
  • Mark 7:21
  • John 8:41
  • Acts 15:20
  • Acts 15:29
  • Acts 21:25
  • Romans 1:29
  • 1 Corinthians 5:1
  • 1 Corinthians 5:1
  • 1 Corinthians 6:13
  • 1 Corinthians 6:18
  • 1 Corinthians 7:2
  • 1 Corinthians 10:8
  • 2 Corinthians 12:21
  • Galatians 5:19
  • Ephesians 5:3
  • Colossians 3:5
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3
  • Jude 1:7
  • Revelation 2:14
  • Revelation 2:20
  • Revelation 2:21
  • Revelation 9:21
  • Revelation 14:8
  • Revelation 19:2
  • Jacob 3:12
  • 3 Nephi 12:32
  • Helaman 8:26
  • Doctrine and Covenants 35:11
  • Doctrine and Covenants 42:74
  • Doctrine and Covenants 88:94
  • Doctrine and Covenants 88:105

Fornications

  • Ezekiel 16:15

Fornicator

  • 1 Corinthians 5:11
  • Hebrews 12:16
  • Doctrine and Covenants 42:77

Fornicators

  • 1 Corinthians 5:9
  • 1 Corinthians 5:10
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9
  • Doctrine and Covenants 42:76


Question: Since there are people that are born intersex, experience gender dysphoria, or identify as transgender, does this invalidate the Latter-day Saint doctrine of eternal gender?

The Criticism

Some secularist critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints point to the existence of intersex humans, people who experience gender dysphoria, or people who identify as transgender in order to invalidate the doctrine of eternal, binary gender.

Intersex people are defined as those that:

are born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals that, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies."[288]

Transgender people are those that identify with, dress as, and/or have gender-reassignment surgeries performed on them to become, identify with, and or act as a different gender than the one they were proclaimed to be at birth.

Gender dysphoria is the dissonance caused by not identifying with the gender (male or female) that one is proclaimed to be a part of at birth.

It is claimed that this invalidates the doctrine of gender as outlined by "The Family: A Proclamation to the World":

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.[289]

It should be noted here that "gender" is used synonymously with "biological sex".[290]

Our spirits are eternally gendered either male or female

One immediate point to make is that, according to the Family Proclamation above and the Doctrine and Covenants, our spirits are eternally gendered either male or female (D&C 49:15-17). A male or female spirit can still be housed in an intersex body. The existence of intersex individuals does not invalidate the possibility that we have male and female spirits only.

As it concerns transgender individuals, there are four logical possibilities:

  1. Their spirit has legitimately been housed in the wrong bodies by their choice.
  2. Their spirit has legitimately been housed in the wrong bodies by God's choice.
  3. Their spirit has legitimately been housed in the wrong body by the joint agreement of them and God.
  4. There is a deeper mental condition that doesn't allow their brains to accept that they actually belong to the right body.

We don't know which of these actually are happening. It's best to wait for science and revelation to converge. Eventually, we know they will. As President Russell M. Nelson has taught, "[t]here is no conflict between science and religion. Conflict only arises from an incomplete knowledge of either science or religion, or both[.]"[291]

Feelings are not Being

Some may be offended by the last possibility. It does remain a logical possibility.

Brigham Young University professor Ty Mansfield pointed out something important in regard to feelings not forming identity. He related it to sexuality but it can equally apply to gender dysphoria.

“Being gay” is not a scientific idea, but rather a cultural and philosophical one, addressing the subjective and largely existential phenomenon of identity. From a social constructionist/constructivist perspective, our sense of identity is something we negotiate with our environment. Environment can include biological environment, but our biology is still environment. From an LDS perspective, the essential spiritual person within us exists independent of our mortal biology, so our biology, our body is something that we relate to and negotiate our identity with, rather than something that inherently or essentially defines us. Also, while there has likely been homoerotic attraction, desire, behavior, and even relationships, among humans as long as there have been humans, the narratives through which sexuality is understood and incorporated into one’s sense of self and identity is subjective and culturally influenced. The “gay” person or personality didn’t exist prior to the mid-20th century.

In an LDS context, people often express concern about words that are used—whether they be “same-sex attraction,” which some feel denies the realities of the gay experience, or “gay,” “lesbian,” or “LGBT,” which some feels speaks more to specific lifestyle choices. What’s important to understand, however, is that identity isn’t just about the words we use but the paradigms and worldviews and perceptions of or beliefs about the “self” and “self-hood” through which we interpret and integrate our various experiences into a sense of personal identity, sexual or otherwise. And identity is highly fluid and subject to modification with change in personal values or socio-cultural context. The terms “gay,” “lesbian,” and “bisexual” aren’t uniformly understood or experienced in the same way by everyone who may use or adopt those terms, so it’s the way those terms or labels are incorporated into self-hood that accounts for identity. One person might identify as “gay” simply as shorthand for the mouthful “son or daughter of God who happens to experience romantic, sexual or other desire for persons of the same sex for causes unknown and for the short duration of mortality,” while another person experiences themselves as “gay” as a sort of eternal identity and state of being.

An important philosophical thread in the overall experience of identity, is the experience of “selfhood”—what it means to have a self, and what it means to “be true to” that self. The question of what it means to be “true to ourselves” is a philosophical rather than a scientific one. In her book Multiplicity: The New Science of Personality, Identity, and the Self, award-winning science and medical writer Rita Carter explores the plurality of “selves” who live in each one of us and how each of those varied and sometimes conflicting senses of self inform various aspects of our identity(ies). This sense seems to be universal. In the movie The Incredibles, there’s a scene in which IncrediBoy says to Mr. Incredible, “You always, always say, ‘Be true to yourself,’ but you never say which part of yourself to be true to!”[292]

Thus, there is big difference between feelings and the meaning or labels that we assign to feelings. Thank goodness that feelings are not being. Couldn't we imagine a time where someone would want to change feelings that they didn't feel described their identity such as impulses for pornography, drugs, or violence? This does not mean that the author is comparing sexual orientation to bad impulses, this is simply to point out that feelings do not inherently control identity. We assign identity to feelings.

These points demonstrate that we all have to seek out something else to determine identity that is enduring, real, and meaningful. Some of us turn to God for that identity. Others may subconsciously or consciously create some form of a platonic entity to ground our morality and identity i.e. "Love binds the universe. Love is my religion". But the basic point still stands—our feelings may be used to form identity, but that identity--the identity based in our feelings that we are having now--isn't enduring; and we must turn to the unseen world to form abiding and real identity.

The Argument from Personal Revelation

There are often claims from members of the Church who identify as transgender and other members of the Church who support transgenderism that they have received personal revelation that they are meant to identify as the gender that they currently identify as and/or that gender is not meant to be binary.

There are often claims from members of the Church who identify as transgender and other members of the Church who support transgenderism that they have received personal revelation that the Church is wrong about this issue and that it will eventually accept transgenderism and so on in the future. Since this is an important theological topic that involves the entire human family and their eternal destiny, this type of revelation does not lie within the stewardship of those that identify as transgender or those that support same-sex marriage, but with the prophet of God (Doctrine and Covenants 28:2-4; 42:53-60; 112:20). We should wait for the Lord to reveal more officially as to what is occuring with transgender individuals. As it regards those that have felt like they've received revelation that gender isn't binary, the Savior told us that the one way we could protect ourselves against deception is to hold to his word (JS-Matthew 1:37) and he announces himself as the source of the revelation declaring that gender is binary (Doctrine and Covenants 49:28). Thus, it is likely that these individuals, if they have indeed felt revelation occur, have been deceived by false Spirits (Doctrine and Covenants 50:1-2) and their testimonies should be disregarded. If someone were to receive a revelation like this, it would be given to them for their own comfort and instruction. They would also be placed under strict commandment to not disseminate their revelation until it accords with the revelation of the prophets, God's authorized priesthood channels (Alma 12:9).

As a final word which we wish to emphasize:

FairMormon joins The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in unequivocally condemning the discrimination of any of God's children based upon gender (or gender identity), race, sexual identity and/or orientation, and/or religious affiliation..


Question: Does D&C 132 state that polygamy is required for our exaltation?

The verse that is cited as supporting this cannot be logically read as a support of polygamy being required for exaltation

Some critics have claimed that D&C 132:4 supports the notion that polygamy is required for exaltation in the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[293] The text reads as follows:

For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory

There are a number of problems with the assumption that this supports polygamy. The following points should demonstrate the appropriate context and thus provide a better exegesis of the relevant passages:

  • An 1831 revelation through Joseph Smith defines the everlasting covenant as “the fulness of my gospel, sent forth unto the children of men, that they might have life and be made partakers of the glories which are to be revealed in the last days” (D&C 66:2; see also 133:57). All mortal who inherit celestial glory will enter into this covenant (D&C 76:101; D&C 131:2), which is comprised of bonds that cannot be broken (D&C 78:11).
  • The everlasting covenant existed even before the world was organized. “Wherefore, I say unto you that I have sent unto you mine everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning” (D&C 49:9; italics added). From the beginning, God has made covenants with mortals on earth and as they comply with them, they are blessed with exaltation (D&C 6:1, 14:7, 132:23). Compliance begins with baptism (D&C 22:1-4) and is completed through temple ordinances including eternal marriage sealings (D&C 131:2, 132:4, 18-20).
  • The Lord's pattern is to reveal the everlasting covenant to believers on earth. Then, when it is lost through apostasy, He reveals it again to a living prophet as a “new” covenant. That prophet is authorized to teach and is given priesthood authority to administer the requisite ordinances. Joseph Smith taught “…in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given” (D&C 128:9).
  • The scriptures indicate that this covenant was made with Adam (Moses 6:54-55), Enoch (JST Genesis 9:21-23, 13:13), Noah (Genesis 9:16), Abraham (Genesis 17:7, 13, 19), Jacob (1 Chronicles 16:17), and Moses and the Children of Israel (Leviticus 24:8, Numbers 25:13, Jeremiah 32:40). Although Christ came in the meridian of time, He is the mediator of this covenant (Hebrews 13:20). Joseph Smith taught that the everlasting covenant would be reestablished through him (D&C 1:17-22; see also 15) “to be a light to the world, and to be a standard for my people, and for the Gentiles to seek to it, and to be a messenger before my face to prepare the way before me” (D&C 42:9).
  • The first public references to the new and everlasting covenant of marriage came in May 1843 when the Prophet taught that “[w]e have no claim in our eternal comfort in relation to eternal things unless our actions and contracts and all things tend to this end.” Then two months later, on July 16, he became more specific. According to William Clayton, “He [Joseph Smith] showed that a man must enter into an everlasting covenant with his wife [notice the use of the singular] in this world or he will have no claim on her in the next.”
  • The verses surrounding verse 4 explain that once the covenant is revealed to a people, this covenant must be obeyed—that is, once the sealing ordinance is introduced among God’s followers on earth, they must marry according to that covenant or incur divine condemnation. The revelation reads:

4 For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.

5 For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.

6 And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.[294]
  • Later verses in the revelation demonstrate that the “covenant” that must be obeyed is eternal marriage, not plural marriage. Verse 19 promises exaltation to a man who marries a wife monogamously by proper authority and they live worthily. The threat of damnation in these verses is directed at individuals who have the opportunity to be sealed in eternal marriage, but instead choose a civil union or some other form of matrimony. They are “damned” in the sense that they “remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity” (D&C 132:17) and are not married in the next life. This threat of eternal consequences is similar to that accompanying other covenants and ordinances. For example, a person cannot reject baptism when the opportunity is presented and thereafter expect a second chance to accept it without penalties (see Alma 34:33-35; D&C 45:2).
  • The revelation further explains how a husband and “a wife” will be exalted if they are sealed by proper authority and they live worthily: “Verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, . . . [it] shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things” (D&C 132:19). Modern polygamists are all condemned because their marriages are not authorized. See D&C 132:18, 38.

Verse 19 does make use of the indefinite article "a wife" instead of a possessive pronoun (i.e. "his wife") or the definite article (i.e. "the wife" which wouldn't make sense grammatically), but that can simply be because both monogamous and polygamous marriages are in harmony with the covenant.

What all of these points should demonstrate is that the covenant of eternal marriage was necessary for exaltation and not specifically polygamous sealings.


Question: What is sexism?

Introduction to Question

It has become increasingly common from feminist critics of the Church to assert that many things about its practice, belief, and history are sexist. In order to adequately respond to this criticism, it will be necessary to define sexism so that we can all be sharp moral thinkers about important issues. Having something called sexist is a serious accusation to face and Latter-day Saints should be prepared to respond intelligently but also sensitvely to those that have faced sexism and perceive it in the Church.

In the October 2017 General Conference of the Church, Elder M. Russell Ballard taught that "[w]e need to embrace God’s children compassionately and eliminate any prejudice, including racism, sexism, and nationalism. Let it be said that we truly believe the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are for every child of God."[295]

The Book of Mormon boldly declares that God "inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."[296]

Sexism is condemned by the Lord.

With that in mind, let's explore the definition of sexism philosophically. Doing so may help ameliorate some concerns that women and men have regarding the Church and the perceived sexism within it.

Those who believe that they have substantive philosophical or scriptural objections to the argument presented in this article are free to make them to FAIR editors at this link.

Response to Question

First we should talk about justice because sexism can be easily defined as injustice inflicted on the basis of sex. To know what is just or unjust, we should define it. We're going to consider a few different potential definitions of justice. It might be frustrating to worry this much about a definition of sexism, but we want to be dealing with the best definition of sexism to review the Church's standards and also to evaluate sexism in the future. We want to be sharp moral thinkers.

DS1

We often think about justice in terms of stuff or opportunities to get stuff. For instance, if two children, one a boy and the other a girl, come to a person's door on Halloween and that person can intend to give both children candy but deny giving candy to one of the children when they see that that child is a girl. This would be an example of injustice and sexism. Similarly, we can deny one of the genders the opportunity of playing sports and competing for awards. Thus we can discriminate with stuff or opportunities to get stuff. Following these examples, we can define sexism as "belief in the increase or decrease of inherent moral worth between the two genders and/or denying stuff or opportunities to get stuff on the basis of sex." Let's call this definition "DS1" (definition of sexism #1). Important to note is the separation between the belief and the action based in that belief. I can believe that women are inherently of inferior moral worth but still give them stuff out of pity or benevolence. That is perhaps the correct definition of what is often called "benevolent sexism."

Following DS1, it will be soundly argued that it's sexist for the Church to, for example, limit women from going topless but allowing men to when they go to the beach or swim. Indeed, many argue that it's unjust for society to expect this and protest by going topless.

DS2

But let's consider this deeper and go back to our candy example. Say that the two children come to the door and the person simply doesn't have enough candy to give to both of them. They have one piece for one child and no more for the other. They don't have time to go to the store and get more because their wife suddenly went into labor and they need to get her to the hospital. Would we say that the person has done something sexist to the little girl? Of course not. And it's patent nonsense to even try to argue otherwise. Of course, it does suck for the little girl; but we wouldn't hold that person morally accountable for not giving that child candy. They didn't have any other option. The author is sure that we wouldn't say that that person has done something unjust or sexist. Thus another way we could define sexism is "belief in the increase or decrease of inherent moral worth between the two genders and/or not giving stuff or opportunities to get stuff on the basis of sex when giving that stuff or those opportunities is possible." We can all this "DS2."

DS3

But even DS2 might not be an entirely satisfactory definition of sexism. Let's consider things like scrunchies, bras, or panties for women. We typically provide all those things for women but not for men. Why? Because men typically don't want those nor even need those things. Or, returning to the candy example, say that all that we have as candy for the children are Heath bars. What if the girl simply doesn't want a Heath bar and refuses us giving it to her? Under DS2, a person not giving the bar to the girl anyways might be considered sexist. Thus we can define sexism as "belief in the increase or decrease of inherent moral worth between the two genders and/or not giving stuff or opportunities to get stuff on the basis of sex when giving that stuff or those opportunities is possible and when that stuff or those opportunities for stuff is wanted." We can call thus "DS3."

DS4

DS3 has a deficiency even though minor. Sometimes things are needed to preserve our health or life. Say there are two people, one male and the other female, that are stranded in the desert in need of water to survive. They stumble upon me and I have water to give to them. I give water only to the male and not female. Clearly something we would consider an example of sexism. Thus DS4 can be "belief in the increase or decrease of inherent moral worth between the two genders and/or not giving stuff or opportunities to get stuff on the basis of sex when giving that stuff or those opportunities is possible and when that stuff or those opportunities for stuff is wanted or needed."

DS5

Another deficiency to account for in order to have a satisfactory working definition of sexism. Philosophers often make a distinction between what we call need-based justice and merit-based justice. Need-based justice is giving everyone equal stuff as it is needed. Merit-based justice is giving everyone equal stuff when it is earned. Our thoughts about justice don't need to be mutually exclusive. For instance, we all agree that, in competitive sports, there is a winner and loser. The winner gets trophies and medals and the loser doesn't. Denying someone an award or medal when they haven't earned it can't be unjust. Thus, DS5: Belief in the increase or decrease of inherent moral worth between the two genders and/or not giving stuff or opportunities to get stuff on the basis of sex when giving that stuff or those opportunities is possible and when that stuff or those opportunities for stuff is wanted, needed, or, when appropriate, merited.

DS6

The last thing that we need to add to our definition its something about misogyny and misandry in connection to sexism. Misogyny is defined simply as the hatred of women generally. Misandry is defined as the hatred of men generally. If you have a hatred of all men or women, you are a misogynist or misandrist. If you have a hatred of a particular person because they are a man or woman, your are a misandrist or misogynist. If you have misogyny or misandry in your heart as an attitude towards women or men, you will, by definition, also believe yourself as superior to women or men which is sexism. You will also likely (but not necessarily) deny them opportunities on the basis of their gender. You will be slightly more likely to commit acts of violence against them or verbally hurt them. There are times when people can have misogyny or misandry in their heart that we can empathize with even though that misogyny or misandry is still wrong. For example, some man may have some misogyny in his heart because he has been hurt too many times by women who he has dated. He can exclaim loudly his disdain or hatred of women. His hatred will come with a reason that he's conjured in his mind. "I hate women!" "Why do you hate women?" "They're liars and cheaters!" We have a categorical statement from the man. All women are liars and cheaters.

Now, the vast majority of people who are in this type of situation quickly recognize that they've made a passionate and obviously wrong claim as they talk through their frustrations with someone. However, it still remains a fact that this man made a claim about women that comments on their moral worth as human beings and gives a reason for that perceived lesser worth. Misandry or misogyny is necessarily sexism. These people's hatred of women or men and the necessarily sexist beliefs they'll adopt because of that hatred are of course still wrong, but we can empathize with that misogyny/misandry and sexism to an appropriate degree and seek, with love and by the Spirit, to heal their hearts of the pain they've felt that is causing the very generalized, disdainful attitude of and belief about men or women. Thus we get DS6: Belief in the increase or decrease of inherent moral worth between the two genders, misandry or misogyny, and/or not giving stuff or opportunities to get stuff on the basis of sex when giving that stuff or those opportunities is possible and when that stuff or those opportunities for stuff is wanted, needed, or, when appropriate, merited.

The Connections Between the Belief, the Attitude, and the Action

We have this separation now between a belief (of an increase or decrease in inherent moral worth), an attitude (misogyny or misandry), and a particular kind of action (denying stuff or opportunities for stuff) given certain circumstances. Here are the logical connections to keep in mind about them.

  1. The attitude necessarily entails that someone holds the belief.
  2. The attitude will likely carry someone to the action but not necessarily. They may refrain from the action but still carry the attitude.
  3. The belief does not necessarily entail that someone has the attitude of misogyny nor will take the action given circumstances.
  4. The particular action given circumstances necessarily entails that someone has the belief and suggests that someone may have the attitude but does not necessarily entail that someone has the attitude.

Review

To review:

  1. DS1: Belief in the increase or decrease of inherent moral worth between the two genders and/or denying stuff to people on the basis of sex.
  2. DS2: Belief in the increase or decrease of inherent moral worth between the two genders and/or denying stuff or opportunities to get stuff on the basis of sex when giving that stuff or those opportunities is possible.
  3. DS3: Belief in the increase or decrease of inherent moral worth between the two genders and/or denying stuff or opportunities to get stuff on the basis of sex when giving that stuff or those opportunities is possible and when that stuff or those opportunities for stuff is wanted.
  4. DS4: Belief in the increase or decrease of inherent moral worth between the two genders and/or not giving stuff or opportunities to get stuff on the basis of sex when giving that stuff or those opportunities is possible and when that stuff or those opportunities for stuff is wanted or needed.
  5. DS5: Belief in the increase or decrease of inherent moral worth between the two genders and/or not giving stuff or opportunities to get stuff on the basis of sex when giving that stuff or those opportunities is possible and when that stuff or those opportunities for stuff is wanted, needed, or, when appropriate, merited.
  6. DS6: Belief in the increase or decrease of inherent moral worth between the two genders, misandry or misogyny, and/or not giving stuff or opportunities to get stuff on the basis of sex when giving that stuff or those opportunities is possible and when that stuff or those opportunities for stuff is wanted, needed, or, when appropriate, merited.

Deriving Other Definitions from This Analysis

What's interesting is that one can substitute the word "races" for the words "two genders", "hatred of a particular race" for "misandry or misogyny", and "race" for "sex" and have a very coherent, very defensible definition of racism.

One can substitute "people of a homosexual sexual orientation" for "two genders", "hatred of a person or group of people on the basis of homosexual sexual orientation" for "misandry or misogyny", and "homosexual sexual orientation" for "sex" and have a very coherent, very defensible definition of homophobia.

One can do similar substitutions for every other kind of unjustified prejudice and come up with very coherent, very defensible definitions of those terms.

Conclusion

It's the authors belief that many of the concerns that men and women have about perceived sexism in the Church will be helped by recognizing that certain opportunities may be denied them because of higher moral goods that supersede either their wants, needs, or merits. FAIR will likely author future articles under this definition of sexism as it seems to make sense of many accusations of sexism against the Church. Hopefully, this argument will continue to hold philosophically and this definition of sexism will help us to become sharper moral thinkers and be more intelligent as well as sensitive defenders of the Church.


Question: Is polygamy sexist?

Introduction to Question

It is claimed that the historical practice of polygamy as well as contemporary theology about polygamy and its possible extension into the eternities by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is sexist. This has been most passionately argued by Latter-day Saint poet Carol Lynn Pearson in her book The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men.[297]

The observation that allegedly grounds this assertion is that polygamy fragments women's emotional and sexual opportunities as a wife. As Brian C. Hales has argued:

In the case of a new plural wife who would have remained unmarried if monogamy was exclusively practiced, her “emotional and sexual opportunities as a wife” are increased from zero to some fraction depending on how many other wives the man has. However, the other wives’ opportunities are diminished as a result of the new plural matrimony.[298]

Do these assertions hold? This article will present at least one argument that they do not.

Response to Question

A Definition of Sexism

It will be most important to define our terms carefully and rigorously so as to have a good discussion of polygamy. FAIR has authored an article on sexism that may be illuminating for readers and which we encourage people to look at before proceeding.

The Higher Moral?

With that definition of sexism in mind, let's revisit a key scripture about plural marriage that we may have heard before in Jacob 2:27-30:

27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

We see here that polygamy is the exception where as monogamy is the rule. When polygamy is commanded, part of the reason will be that the Lord wants to raise up seed unto him. Could it be that the commandment given to Joseph Smith to practice polygamy in 1831 and instituted throughout the course of his prophetic career contains a moral good that supersedes a woman's want to have the exact same sexual opportunities as a man? Let's think about it: if the Lord wanted to raise up a covenant seed rapidly to himself, he would have to command polygyny (multiple women to one man) for the simple biological reality that a woman can be impregnated by no more than one man. It is the fastest way, and indeed the only way, to raise up a covenant seed rapidly.

Hales' argument above relies on a definition of sexism most similar to DS1 (see the article for explanation). Given DS1, polygamy would indeed be sexist. But given DS6, that's not the case.

Given that the higher moral law would be to practice polygamy, it would actually be immoral of women to be too reluctant to practice it here on earth. Given DS6, the logic of Pearson and Hales is flipped on its head. It's not immoral to practice polygamy. It's immoral not to practice polygamy when commanded by God for a higher moral purpose. God declared that there were other purposes for polygamy. These are outlined in this article:

The question now would be to rigorously defend raising up a covenant seed and other scripturally grounded principles outlined in that article as a higher moral good that supersedes women's wants, needs, and even merits because it's simply not possible to give women the same access to sexual opportunities given this moral good that prior Latter-day Saints were following. We should trust that God esteems all his children equally and wouldn't give a commandment that superseded their wants, needs, and/or merits unless he had good moral and/or practical reason to.

But What About Eternal Polygamy?

Now, the article on sexism and the analysis presented here really only applies to the practice of mortal polygamy or the type of polygamy practiced by the Church from the early 1800s to the very early 1900s. It does not, however, apply as neatly to the question of polygamy in the eternities. Brian Hales, however, offered perspective on this with which the author agrees and believes that others can agree with too.

Not only is polygamy here in mortality very difficult to practice, an associated fear involves the possibility of eternal plural marriage, which from our current view might be considered eternal unfairness. I have a daughter who has harbored the anxiety that if she dies before her husband (to whom she is sealed) passes away, he might remarry in the temple and she would become an eternal polygamist without her choosing. Here’s a few thoughts on the subject:


  • We know almost nothing about eternal marriage and even less about eternal plural marriage.
  • Worrying about eternal polygamy is worrying about the unknown.
  • Exalted beings are promised a “fulness of joy” (D&C 93:33) and “eternal happiness” (Alma 3:26). [The author would add Romans 8:28 to this reading list]
  • Worthy Latter-day Saints can trust these promises. [see, for instance 1 Nephi 9:6]

And there may be more to think about. President Joseph F. Smith taught in 1915: “If a man and woman should be joined together who are incompatible to each other it would be a mercy to them to be separated that they might have a chance to find other spirits that will be congenial to them. We may bind on earth and it will be bound in Heaven, and loose on earth and it will be loosed in Heaven.”[299] This counsel seems to apply to a couple in the early stages of marriage. It also acknowledges that righteous men and women have agency even after a sealing has been performed. In other words:

  • D&C 132:19–20 promises exaltation and godhood to a monogamous couple who live worthily and are sealed by the priesthood authority of the “one” man holding the sealing keys (vv. 7, 18).
  • The power to seal is also the power to loosen.
  • Lucy Walker remembered Joseph Smith’s teaching: “A woman would have her choice, this was a privilege that could not be denied her.”[300]
  • We are taught that vicarious (and living) ordinances will continue during the millennium when communication between worthy mortals and righteous spirits will be enhanced.
  • Agency and righteousness will allow all worthy beings to be sealed in joyful eternal marriages that they have chosen, even if some loosening and resealing ordinances need to be performed.
Section 132 speaks of eternal things that are difficult to understand and that are easy to misunderstand. The first third of the revelation talks of the power to seal families eternally together. This seems to be Joseph Smith’s zenith teaching.[301]

Thus, whatever the eternities look like, we can be assured that we'll see an outcome that we all desire. That would necessarily mean that sexism has not interfered and God is "no respecter of persons".[302]

Conclusion

It is the author's hope that this article will serve as a important insight into the moral thinking of men and women everywhere whether in or out of the Church and/or applying knowledge of sexism to the Church and its doctrine, practice, and history. Further philosophical work on this question may reveal additional, important insights into it.


Question: Why should Latter-day Saints not wear crosses?

Introduction to Question

Today’s members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have shied away from wearing the cross on their necks or displaying it in their homes as a symbol of Jesus Christ’s atonement and have encouraged others who convert to the Church to not wear crosses either.

The Church has, for a long time, held an institutional policy of not placing crosses on their chapels, temples, and other official buildings. This has, for a long time, caused confusion among some Latter-day Saints but primarily Christians of other faiths. Isn’t the cross a symbol of the resurrection?

Leaders of the Church have responded that we prefer to worship the living Christ and that the cross tends to symbolize Christ’s death. Leaders have also stated that the symbol of Christ and his atonement as Latter-day Saints should be our lives and the way that we conduct them on a daily basis.

But in more recent years, this discouragement from wearing the cross and/or displaying it has begun to be examined and challenged as a mere cultural accretion with no solid basis in either scripture nor the official statements of Church leaders— most notably through the work of BYU professor John Hilton III but also through the work of historian Michael G. Reed.[303]

Are these gentlemen right in asserting this? We examine this question in this article—concluding that there is basis in scripture and the statements of Church leaders for Latter-day Saints to adhere to this norm.

We’ll use a recent article by John Hilton III as the basis of our response. Dr. Hilton is correct in regards to his account of the history behind Latter-day Saints and their use of the cross. However, he is off about the normativity of not wearing and/or displaying crosses today.

Below is a full reproduction of the article that Hilton wrote for LDS Living which the editors published on February 9, 2022. We've retained Hilton's footnotes as well as links to the relevant sources where possible for easy access and comparison.

John Hilton III, What Church leaders and Church history teach about wearing and displaying the cross

Recently a Latter-day Saint woman shared the following story with me. She lived in the southern United States and invited a neighbor of another faith to attend her daughter’s baptism. The neighbor accepted the invitation and came to witness the ordinance. Afterward she graciously presented the 8-year-old with a gift: a cross necklace. Upon opening the gift, the child froze. She had been taught not to wear crosses. The mother also froze, feeling unsure out how to respond. Sensing the mother and daughter’s discomfort, the neighbor hastily took back the cross, promising to get the child a different gift.

Today, that Latter-day Saint mother looks back on this experience with regret, wishing she had seen it as an opportunity to rejoice with her friend in their shared belief in Jesus Christ instead of letting it be a source of discomfort and division. Experiences like these might make some wonder: What has the Church actually said about wearing the cross? Have Church leaders encouraged us not to participate in the practice? How should we view other Christians and even fellow Latter-day Saints who use the symbol?

Let’s explore these questions by examining any current, official Church statements; the historical viewpoints of early Latter-day Saints; and any statements made by Church leaders over time until the present. I’ll also share experiences that others have shared with me to help bring personal perspectives to the topic about why the cross is a beautiful reminder of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

Official Church Statements

A look at current, official Church publications shows that very little has been said about wearing the cross, either in favor of the practice or against it. So far as I have been able to ascertain, no Church handbook has either forbidden or encouraged the use of the cross.

We do, however, have a Gospel Topics article about the cross. It acknowledges that “the cross is used in many Christian churches as a symbol of the Savior’s death and Resurrection and as a sincere expression of faith.” It goes on to say that “as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we also remember with reverence the suffering of the Savior. But because the Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith.”

This article attests that the Church itself does not use the cross as a symbol of our faith; however, it doesn’t specifically say whether individuals should or should not wear one.

As far as I can ascertain, this is the most official and current comment from the Church on the subject. While some Church leaders have made additional statements either in private or in non-Church publications, these may not carry the same weight. We’ll take a look at some of these sources later. First, let’s discuss the viewpoints of early Church members to give some context.

Historical Viewpoints

The Church’s view of the cross as a symbol has a rich and complex history. Early Church members did not eschew the cross: in the 19th century, Latter-day Saint marriage certificates, quilts, and funeral programs sometimes featured crosses, as did the 1852 European edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.

The spine of the 1852 European edition of the Doctrine and Covenants features multiple crosses.

Crosses were displayed at the funerals of prominent Church members such as Eliza R. Snow and John Taylor,[304]:76–78 and even Latter-day Saint church buildings sometimes—though rarely—featured crosses, a practice that continues to the current day.[305]

The Deaf Branch chapel in Ogden, Utah, with one of several crosses along the exterior walls highlighted and enlarged. Wikimedia Commons

Early photographs indicate that prominent Latter-day Saint men and women wore jewelry featuring the cross, including Amelia Folsom Young, wife of Brigham Young; and Nabby Young Clawson, Brigham Young’s daughter (see image below).[306]

Males, including Benjamin F. Johnson (a former secretary to Joseph Smith), also wore crosses on watch chains or ties.[304]:80–83 The fact that so many early members wore such accessories when posing for formal photographs indicates that cross jewelry was relatively common. At that time there was nothing particularly unusual about Latter-day Saints wearing a cross.

Images of early Latter-day Saints wearing crosses, including Amelia Folsom Young (top left), wife of Brigham Young; and Nabby Young Clawson (top row, third from left), his daughter.

One of the best indicators of the early Church’s openness to the image of the cross in the early 20th century is the proposal to build a large cross monument on Ensign Peak in Salt Lake City. In 1916, Presiding Bishop Charles W. Nibley proposed that the Church have “the privilege of erecting on Ensign peak a suitable cross, the symbol of Christianity, as a memorial to the ‘Mormon’ pioneers who first established here that which the cross implies.”[304]:87

President Joseph F. Smith and one of his counselors in the First Presidency both agreed that putting a cross on Ensign Peak was a good idea.[304]:87–92 Speaking of the proposal, the Deseret Evening News stated, “The monument is intended as an insignia of Christian belief on the part of the Church which has been accused of not believing in Christianity.”[307]

However, some people in the Salt Lake Valley opposed the monument. Local rabbis argued that a cross failed to represent the multiple faiths in Utah, and some Church members inaccurately claimed it was a Catholic symbol.[304]:88–92 The project was ultimately shelved, but the fact that it was approved by the President of the Church indicates that during this time the cross was not viewed as an inappropriate symbol for the faith.

Use of the cross continued into the 20th century. The headstone of Elder B. H. Roberts of the Seventy, who died in 1933, was inscribed with a large cross.[304]:110–11

The headstone of B. H. Roberts features a cross. Courtesy of Megan Cutler

In addition, during the 1940s, a large stone cross was erected in Provo, Utah, near Y Mountain. Several stakes, together with Brigham Young University, sponsored interdenominational Easter services held at the cross.[308] In this same decade, Spencer W. Kimball shared experiences indicating he perceived the cross as a positive religious symbol.[309]

Shifting Perspectives

In the 1950s a shift began to take place in how some Church members viewed the cross. Much of this shift appears to come from an increased association of the cross with Catholicism. During this decade, President David O. McKay wrote in his private journal that he felt Latter-day Saint girls should not wear crosses.[310]

When searching general conference talks and other published writings of General Authorities,[311] I have been able to locate only three statements that speak about wearing or displaying crosses, although none of them are from official Church publications. In 1958 Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote negatively about wearing a cross, saying it was ”inharmonious” with Latter-day Saint worship.[312]

Then in 1961, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “If our Lord had been killed with a dagger or with a sword, it would have been very strange if religious people this day would have graced such a weapon by wearing and adoring it because it was by such a means that our Lord was put to death.”[313] He went on to say that “the wearing of crosses is to most Latter-day Saints in very poor taste and inconsistent to our worship.”[314]

Finally, in 1990 Elder Marvin J. Ashton more softly wrote, “We … try to teach our people to carry their crosses rather than display or wear them.”[315]

It’s interesting to note that these few unofficial statements discouraging Church members from wearing or displaying crosses are decades old. Clearly, we should follow the counsel of living prophets, seers, and revelators; however, we should remember that specific practices and applications can shift over time.

A Multifaceted Symbol

In the same article in which he wrote that “the wearing of crosses is to most Latter-day Saints in very poor taste,” President Joseph Fielding Smith nonetheless acknowledged that for many religious people, the symbol could be helpful: “We have never questioned the sincerity of Catholics and Protestants for wearing the cross, or felt that they were doing something which was wrong.” He continued, “The motive for such a custom by those who are of other churches, we must conclude, is a most sincere and sacred gesture. To them the cross does not represent an emblem of torture but evidently carried the impression of sacrifice and suffering endured by the Son of God.”[316]

This statement illustrates that how one views the image of a cross can vary. Some Latter-day Saints may agree with President Smith’s words that a cross necklace might be “in very poor taste,” while others might agree with his statement that a cross could represent the sacred “sacrifice and suffering endured by the Son of God.”

In a 1975 conference talk, President Gordon B. Hinckley explained the Church’s institutional practice of not having crosses in our buildings, but he did not directly discourage individuals from wearing or displaying crosses. In that talk, President Hinckley related how a Protestant minister asked him how Latter-day Saints could claim to be Christians while avoiding the image of the cross.

President Hinckley responded, “I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian brethren who use the cross on the steeples of their cathedrals and at the altars of their chapels, who wear it on their vestments, and imprint it on their books and other literature. But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the living Christ.” He continued, “The lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship.”[317]

President Hinckley’s statement emphasizes the worship of the living Christ—the importance of which cannot be overstated. At the same time, if we as members insist that the cross must exclusively represent a dying Jesus Christ, we ignore the fact that this symbol, like so many others, is multifaceted: symbols permit, even invite, layers of meaning.

To insist that our fellow Christians focus on Christ’s death by wearing a cross would be shortsighted, as illustrated by this experience of Eric Huntsman, professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University:

“I remember being surprised once when a … Presbyterian friend corrected me when I told her that we preferred to worship a living rather than a dead Christ; she responded that she did too. The cross reminded Protestants that Jesus died for their sins, but it was empty because He was risen and was no longer there on it. I was chastened by her response, realizing that just as we do not appreciate others mischaracterizing our beliefs, neither should we presume to understand or misrepresent the beliefs and practices of others.”[318]

In the 21st century, we have started to see some Church leaders commenting positively on the influence that crucifixion imagery can have. For example, Elder Edward Dube of the Seventy has said that one of the “defining moments” in his life occurred when he was pondering an image of the Crucifixion in a Catholic church in his native country of Zimbabwe when he was 10 years old.[319] For Elder Dube, viewing the image of Christ on the cross was a moving, spiritual experience.

Before Elder F. Enzio Busche of the Seventy joined the Church, he was hospitalized with a serious liver infection. Believing he was about to die, he began to panic, realizing that he had not prepared himself to meet God. He wrote, “On the wall of my [hospital] room was a cross with the crucified Christ on it. It was the only object on the wall, and as I focused upon it, I developed a tremendous hope.”[320]

A Question of Culture, Not Doctrine

To be clear: No Church statement has ever encouraged Latter-day Saints wear or display crosses. At the same time, no Church teachings should be used to judge or stigmatize those who do wear or display a cross.

Consider my friend’s experience—while I’m not suggesting we all need to do exactly what he did, I admire his willingness to defend others’ perspectives. He recounts:

“While I was serving in a bishopric, a family got baptized. The Primary-age girl came to church following her baptism wearing a cross necklace. Her grandma, who was not yet baptized, also came to church wearing a cross necklace.

“During a [later] visit with this family, they shared with me that the Primary-age girl was told by one of her classmates, ‘You shouldn’t wear that cross. It’s bad.’ The grandma was also told by an adult church member, ‘You shouldn’t wear that necklace at our church.’

“I asked the girl and her grandma to tell me why they wore the cross. They shared with me their gratitude for the sacrifice Jesus made for them. I told them, ‘Please continue to wear your necklaces. I will wear the symbol of the cross on Sunday as well.’ I purchased a pair of cross cufflinks and wore them each Sunday to church.

“On occasion I was asked by members of the ward about my cross cufflinks. One asked me, ‘Why would you wear a symbol of Christ’s death?’

“I answered, ‘The cross is not a symbol of death. It is a symbol of life. It is a symbol of the Savior’s triumph over death.’

“The member replied, ‘I have never thought of it like that.’

I’m grateful my friend was there to ease the pain of some people who could easily have been offended at the way they were treated. I wonder how many visitors or recent converts have left the church because of unnecessary comments made about a cross they displayed or wore. It doesn’t have to be that way.

The meaning of the symbol of the cross is more cultural than doctrinal; therefore, we should avoid making it an issue when fellow Latter-day Saints or other Christians use the symbol to remind themselves of Jesus Christ.

Whatever you personally think about the cross as a symbol, remember that no Church leader has made an official statement that members should not wear or display crosses. No Church handbook has ever forbidden this practice. For some the cross represents death, but for others it represents life and love. Understanding the multifaceted meanings of the cross can help us feel more love for Jesus and more deeply feel His love for us.

Response to Question

Hedging on Hilton’s Reading of Sources

The first thing to note in relation to Hilton’s article is a clear bias in how he interprets sources. First, the Gordon B. Hinckley quote. It’s quite counterintuitive to suggest that Hinckely is not subtly suggesting that all Church members should refrain from wearing the cross. Returning to his statement, he says that “[t]he lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship” (emphasis added)

Second, the statements from Bruce R. McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Marvin J. Ashton should be taken more seriously since, while their statements are not placed in official Church publications nor given over the pulpit at General Conference, they still reflect the position of top general church leaders about crosses and the appropriateness of Latter-day Saints wearing them. They give the interpretive lens that we should be viewing, for instance, the statements of Gordon B. Hinckley and the Gospel Topics article currently on the Church's website. Ashton specifically says "We [i.e. top Church leaders] … try to teach our people" to not wear crosses.

Third, there are other statements from official Church publications that Hilton does not bring up in the course of his article. Notably, there is this statement from the book True to the Faith authored and published by the Church. Keep in mind that True to the Faith is endorsed by the First Presidency in its opening pages, is hosted on the Church’s website, has been cited numerous times in General Conference since its publication, and is a part of the handful of books that the Church allows their missionary force to read and cite to answer the questions of those that are considering joining the Church. The Church has clearly endorsed the contents of the book. If this is not an official statement in an official publication, then there's no telling what is.

From that book:

The cross is used in many Christian churches as a symbol of the Savior’s death and Resurrection and as a sincere expression of faith. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we also remember with reverence the suffering of the Savior. But because the Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith. Your life must be the expression of your faith. Remember that when you were baptized and confirmed, you covenanted to take upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ. As your associates observe you, they should be able to sense your love for the Savior and His work. The only members of the Church who wear the symbol of the cross are Latter-day Saint chaplains, who wear it on their military uniforms to show that they are Christian chaplains (emphasis added).[321]

This is clear direction from the Church that they do not want their members wearing and/or displaying crosses.

Fourth, Hilton has misquoted his sources. The Gospel Topics article that he quotes near the beginning of his article contains this passage right after discussing how Latter-day Saints "do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith."

Our lives must be the expression of our faith. When we are baptized and confirmed, we covenant to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. The way we live our lives should demonstrate our love for the Savior and His work. [Emphasis added]

It’s clear that Hilton is misinterpreting and misrepresenting his sources and likely deliberately.

Why Follow This Counsel

Some may still be troubled by the counsel to not wear and/or display a cross and to encourage others to not wear a cross given that there is no indication from scripture that we should refrain from using crosses.

Perhaps the best scriptures that we can cite are Jesus' words about how it will be known that we are his disciples. As he said, "[a] new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."[322]

Following the standard can be supported by other scripture. Scriptural injunctions that may support refraining from using the cross include being a peculiar people so as to encourage interest in the Church and thus success in missionary work,[323] practicing meekness/lowliness of heart/humility/easiness to be entreated before the prophets who have asked us not to wear them,[324] and being anxiously engaged in a good cause without God compelling you to do something by explicit revelation,[325]

Returning to peculiarity, the scriptures repeatedly testify that God’s covenant people should be a peculiar people (Deuteronomy 14:2; 26:18; Psalms 135:4; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9) and that we should be unspotted from the world (James 1:27; Doctrine and Covenants 59:9). By being given and following a strong discouragement of wearing the cross, we can achieve the goal of being peculiar. Not wearing the cross becomes a social identifier—signifying that we are the Lord’s people and wish to be separate from the world.

This separateness can be essential in moving missionary work forward. People are interested in the Church because of the Church’s prohibition of wearing the cross (and other things obviously). Thus, we can achieve more convert baptisms by doing things that go against cultural grain. We can also achieve greater member retention. Indeed, one of the concerns of those that leave the Church is that they perceive that the Church isn’t unique enough among the world’s organizations, and they go elsewhere seeking to be unique and to be seen. Not wearing the cross, while annoying for some at times, can have delayed and even unseen consequences that can be beneficial for us as a people.

The success in being a peculiar people is found precisely in the protests against these "little, cultural rules" that we adhere to as a Church. We've succeeded in being peculiar when news media and even the broader religious world give these rules attention.

Jesus said that we should be a light on a hill and show forth our good works among men and women (Matthew 5:16). This is one way we can do that.

You may not think that God would give commandments just to have us stand out from others, but that's almost certainly what he did in the Old Testament with, for instance, its laws against tattoos in Leviticus 19:28. It very much is a part of the revelation on the Word of Wisdom in Doctrine and Covenants 89. In the last verse, the Lord alludes to when the Israelites put lamb's blood above their doors during the Exodus so that they could identify themselves as the Lord's covenant people before he sent the destroying angel over them. Parts of the Word of Wisdom are about health. The closing verses of the revelation attest to that. But it's also about being a peculiar people.

Why the Flip Flop?

Some may be concerned to find out that this practice has not been with the Church since the beginning. However, we do emphasize living prophets and their prerogative in changing Church standards. Hilton agrees. But also, recall Doctrine and Covenants 56:4: "Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the rebellious, saith the Lord." The Lord could command us all tomorrow to wear blue shirts indefinitely. We couldn't go anywhere or do anything without wearing a blue shirt. Two weeks later, the Lord could rescind the commandment and it would mean nothing about the validity of revelation. Changing commandments does not mean that morality is relative. It just means that there may be a reason for that commandment that we may not fully understand. In this case, what could that reason be? How about the scriptural reasons laid out above? President McKay clearly felt that we needed to distance ourselves a little more from Catholicism and Protestantism. Let's allow him and other Church leaders the authority to direct us. It can even be argued—and strongly!—that, given the historical and current moral scandals that Catholicism and Protestantism have found/currently find themselves in, that is is desirable to create one or more layers of separation like this to get away from being too closely associated with them. The cross is their quintessential symbol. What better way to create separation than by eschewing wearing or displaying it?

Why Can't we Just Focus on the Heart?

Some have said that the Church's standard is against biblical teaching. These critics cite 1 Samuel 16:6–7. Samuel is being directed by the Lord to anoint a new king over Israel among the sons of Jesse: David. Samuel finds Jesse and sees one of his sons Eliab. Samuel then states while looking at Eliab "Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him." To this the Lord responds "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

Those who criticize the Church on these scriptural grounds assume that the scripture is justifying wearing a cross because what is most important is that you don't judge other people for expressing themselves.

The scripture here does not justify making love only attitudinal. The Lord has sized up the heart of Eliab to see if Eliab will do whatever the Lord asks him to in the position of king. As we have learned, love is a matter of action for the scriptures: what you do.

This stance taken by critics deemphasizes the need to show love to the Lord and the prophets by being meek and lowly of heart. As Christ said in John 14:15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Love, to Jesus, is about action. I can say I love God and the prophets until I'm blue in the face but it won't actually mean anything until I do something to show my love for them.

While we should never withhold friendship or love from those that convert to the Church with an affinity for the cross nor from those that are already members of our Church and decide one time to wear one, we also shouldn't be permissive of breaking prophetic counsel.

How to Show New Converts or Visitors Love and Respect

Hilton's concerns seem to be borne out of concern and disappointment for the many times that people have decided that they didn't want to convert to our faith because they became offended at some of the comments from Church members regarding the cross. That is a totally valid concern and one we should pay close attention to. How do we relate to those that convert to our faith and want to wear the cross?

First, we should not make, as Hilton and Eric Huntsman rightly point out, the shortsighted argument that the cross only represents the dead/dying Christ. Symbols can and do have different meanings to different people. Of course, just because the cross means something important to them, that does not mean that we, as Latter-day Saints, can choose to view it differently and, indeed, the cross is a symbol of Christ's death. We can choose to emphasize that he lives today by rejecting the displaying or wearing of crosses. However, it may be best to entirely eschew the point in any discussion about the cross.

The best argument to make is this: "We recognize the cross as the place where Christ culminated his atonement and He is the center of our worship. However, our First Presidency has given us direction that we should not wear the cross and, recognizing them and the authority they have as our leaders, we choose to follow them. They have told us that the we should make our lives and the way that we conduct them the symbol of our worship of Jesus Christ."

Emphasizing that the way we live our lives should be the symbol of our worship of Christ is perhaps the most pastoral and effective approach in dealing with this issue. Indeed, it is also the way that Christ wanted us to symbolize our worship of him. As he said, "[a] new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."[326] We can share this scripture with our investigators and visitors when they have concerns about the cross.

Above all else, know what is true and then speak it with absolute love and by the Spirit.

Conclusion

While this is a standard that may be annoying at times, when we humbly follow it, it can have delayed yet still beneficial consequences in helping us build Zion and prepare for the Savior's Second Coming.


Question: Does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prohibit its members from using playing cards?

This page is still under construction. We welcome any suggestions for improving the content of this FAIR Answers Wiki page.

Introduction to Question

It is frequently asserted by both members and non-members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that the leaders of the Church have forbidden members from using playing cards.

This article gives history to this assertion as well as perspective for its normativity today among contemporary Latter-day Saints. We start by reproducing an article by Katie Lambert, an author that wrote on this question for LDS Living (the official magazine of Deseret Book, a Latter-day Saint book retailer owned by the Church).

Katie Lambert, Playing Cards: What the prophets have actually said

I noticed something on the packing list for my first Young Women camp as a Beehive that has since sparked my interest—a note to please not bring playing cards.

Though I have since noticed that some LDS members shy away from playing cards or do not have them in their homes for a number of reasons, one of the most intriguing reasons members give is that prophets have told us not to own playing cards. So what have prophets really said about playing cards?

As it turns out, prophets in the past have asked members to avoid playing cards, but it's not for the urban myths and modern-day context we may assume.

Before games like Speed, Go Fish, Uno, Old Maid, and Phase 10, playing cards were not associated with family games. Almost as soon as their conception, playing cards were associated with gambling, drinking, and unlawful behaviors. In fact, soon after playing cards made their way to Europe in the 1300s, authorities placed bans on the cards because of the anti-social behavior that ensued, according to the World of Playing Cards website.

These behaviors were especially prevalent in the 1800s, when playing cards were associated with gambling, saloons, and casinos. And almost from the beginning of the Church, LDS leaders and prophets were concerned with the negative effects and connotations surrounding playing cards, especially since many of these behaviors were not in line with Church doctrine. President Brigham Young was the first prophet to openly counsel against the use of playing cards, noting, "Card playing and all other games of chance should be avoided as the gate of destruction" (Excerpts from Spencer W. Kimball, "God Will Not Be Mocked," Ensign, November 1974, pg. 6-9).

President Joseph F. Smith addressed the topic of playing cards directly in a general conference, listing playing cards as a "crime," among visiting saloons and gambling (Teachings of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, Chapter 5: Liberty through Obedience, pg. 291).

And this was not the last time he spoke about playing cards. In fact, President Joseph F. Smith mentioned multiple times how playing cards are associated with behaviors that were not appropriate for members of the Church:

While a simple game of cards in itself may be harmless, it is a fact that by immoderate repetition it ends in an infatuation for chance schemes, in habits of excess, in waste of precious time, in dulling and stupor of the mind, and in the complete destruction of religious feeling. . . . There is the grave danger that lurks in persistent card playing, which begets the spirit of gambling, of speculation and that awakens the dangerous desire to get something for nothing (Excerpts from Spencer W. Kimball, "God Will Not Be Mocked," Ensign, November 1974, pg. 6-9).

Before he was called to be a prophet, President David O. McKay also mentioned playing cards in his October 1903 general conference address:

Those boys who sat, one week ago, in the rear room of a saloon, playing cards for hours, drinking whisky or beer, profaning the name of God—invited into their souls a malady that is more fatal than typhoid fever, or any other disease that can attack the body.

Throughout the next few decades, prophets continued to take a strong stance against playing cards.

President Heber J. Grant spoke on behalf of the Church when he asked members to, "let cards alone" in 1926.

President Joseph Fielding Smith even called playing cards "a habit that cannot too severely be condemned" in Doctrines of Salvation.[327]

It's important to note that up until this point, prophets advised members to avoid playing cards because the context in which they were used was associated with gambling, drinking, unlawful behavior, or wasted time.

As playing cards began to be used for more wholesome games that did not involve gambling or were not associated with drinking, saloons, casinos, or antisocial behaviors, playing cards began to become more widely accepted and the connotations surrounding the cards began to shift.

In 1943, Elder John A. Widtsoe gave the following response in regards to playing cards:

It must be added that relaxation from the regular duties of the day is desirable and necessary for human well-being. Wholesome games of recreation are advocated by all right-minded people. Moreover, the . . . objections [to card playing] are not directed against the many and various card games on the market not employing the usual ‘playing cards.’ Most of these furnish innocent and wholesome recreation, and many are really instructive. It is true that they may be played to excess, but in fact it seldom happens. This is true even when such cards are used in games imitating those with ‘playing cards.’ It is true that such cards may be used for gambling purposes, but in fact it is almost never done. The pall of evil seems to rest upon the ‘playing cards’ handed down to us from antiquity” (Evidences and Reconciliations, Murray & Gee, 1943, pp. 218–19).

However, the most recent comments from prophets about playing cards was 40 years ago in 1974 general conference talk "God Will Not Be Mocked" by President Spencer W. Kimball, in which he told members, "We hope faithful Latter-day Saints will not use the playing cards which are used for gambling, either with or without the gambling."

While whether or not Church members own playing cards is not a focal point of the gospel, prophets and apostles have cautioned against their use in the past.

In a 1984 Q&A published in the New Era, a former stake president from Ammon, Idaho, shared this advice:

While it is best to avoid the use of 'playing cards,' my personal experiences indicate that our family has enjoyed many benefits from playing games with cards. At a time when amusements are generally enjoyed alone, for example TV viewing and video game playing, we in our family like to play card games together. It has been both unifying and has provided the arena for much give and take. All in all, playing card games has given us many delightful moments.

Notes

  1. See for instance Strong's Concordance of the King James Bible and/or the concordances of the triple combination done by Gary Shapiro and Eldin Ricks.
  2. Alma 34:29
  3. Moroni 7:44
  4. Matthew 22:34-30
  5. See also Moses 4:3.
  6. Moroni 7:45
  7. Matthew 16:26
  8. Matthew 22:34-30
  9. Mosiah 4:27
  10. Moroni 7:8
  11. Doctrine and Covenants 70:14
  12. George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), 131.
  13. John 14:15
  14. 1 John 3:18
  15. Matthew 5:38-48
  16. Abraham 3:18
  17. Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20
  18. Genesis 1:26, 28; Moses 2:26-28; Abraham 4:26-28
  19. Hebrews 12:6
  20. Mosiah 4:26
  21. Doctrine and Covenants 59.6
  22. Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 19:3-9; Doctrine and Covenants 49:15-17; Moses 3:21-24; Abraham 5:14-18.There is controversy among biblical scholars as to whether or not the scriptures prohibit homosexual behavior. Interpretations of scripture that allow homosexual behavior are in the minority. For the dominant exegesis of scripture that prohibits it, see Robert A. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002); Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (New York: HarperOne, 1996), 379–406 online at https://www.heartlandchurch.org/d/The_Moral_Vision_of_the_New_Testament_excerpt.pdf. For another source accessible online that gives faithful and accurate perspectives, see Justin W. Starr, "Biblical Condemnations of Homosexual Conduct," FAIR Papers, November 2011, https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/starr-justin-BiblicalHomosexuality.pdf.
  23. Jacob 2:21
  24. 2 Nephi 2:25
  25. Romans 8:6,7
  26. Doctrine and Covenants 77:1-4
  27. Doctrine and Covenants 89:15
  28. Matthew 22:37; John 14:15
  29. Doctrine and Covenants 59:9-13
  30. Colossians 3:14
  31. Doctrine and Covenants 88:125
  32. Philippians 2:2
  33. Moses 7:18
  34. 1 John 4:8
  35. Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24
  36. Bennet Helm, "Love", in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta, https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/love/.
  37. For a concordance of the King James Bible, see James Strong, ed., Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009). For the triple combination, see Eldon Ricks, ed., Eldin Ricks's Thorough Concordance of the LDS Standard Works (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1995).
  38. Abraham 3:18
  39. Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20
  40. Genesis 1:26, 28; Moses 2:26-28; Abraham 4:26-28
  41. “Worthy,” Webster’s Dictionary 1828, accessed October 4, 2021, http://www.webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/worthy
  42. Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–5
  43. 1 John 4:8
  44. Romans 8:38-39
  45. The reference to the plan of Satan refers to the scene portrayed in the Book of Moses where the gods take counsel with one another before sending spirits into the world and Satan presents a plan for the spirits that was rejected. See Moses 4 in the Pearl of Great Price.
  46. ”Freedom,” Webster’s Dictionary 1828, accessed August 31, 2021, http://www.webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/freedom.
  47. ”Agency,” Webster’s Dictionary 1828, accessed August 31, 2021, http://www.webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/agency.
  48. For just three of dozens of references, see 1 Nephi 3:30; 5:13; 13:20
  49. Doctrine and Covenants 21:5. This revelation in context referred to Joseph Smith but easily applies to his successors.
  50. Doctrine and Covenants 121:16
  51. Doctrine and Covenants 1:25
  52. Doctrine and Covenants 1:27
  53. Matthew 22:34-40; Moses 7:18
  54. Dallin H. Oaks, "Criticism," Ensign 17, no. 2 (February 1987): 68. "Faultfinding, evil speaking, and backbiting are obviously unchristian. The Bible commands us to avoid 'evil speakings.' (See 1 Peter 2:1.) It tells us to 'Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you.' (Ephesians 4:31.) Modern revelations direct us to avoid 'backbiting,' 'evil speaking,' and 'find[ing] fault one with another.' (See [ Doctrine and Covenants 20:53–54 ]; 42:27; 88:124; and 136:23)."
  55. "Admonish," Webster's 1828 Dictionary, accessed June 16, 2021, http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/admonish. Emphasis added.
  56. Doctrine and Covenants 6:19
  57. Doctrine and Covenants 112:12
  58. Kent P. Jackson and Robert D. Hunt, "Reprove, Betimes, and Sharpness in the Vocabulary of Joseph Smith," Religious Educator 6, no. 2 (2005): 97–104.
  59. Oaks, "Criticism," 71–72.
  60. Doctrine and Covenants 42:12–13, 56–60; 105:58–59
  61. Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–5; Doctrine and Covenants 28:2
  62. Doctrine and Covenants 107:27
  63. Doctrine and Covenants 26:2; 28:13
  64. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 3:203–204.
  65. Russell M. Nelson, "The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life be Like without It?" Ensign 47, no. 11 (November 2017): 62–63.
  66. Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-29
  67. Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-6
  68. Doctrine and Covenants 107:99.
  69. Boyd K. Packer, “Prayers and Answers,” Ensign 9, no. 11 (November 1979): 19–20.
  70. Dallin H. Oaks, "Revelation," New Era 11, no. 9 (September 1982): 45–46.
  71. Doctrine and Covenants 68:3-5
  72. Doctrine and Covenants 68:22–24; 107:81
  73. Doctrine and Covenants 107:82–84
  74. Doctrine and Covenants 88:77-80
  75. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young: Second President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, comp. John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1954), 4. Quoting Journal of Discourses 11:375
  76. This article is largely adapted from Gregory Smith, “What Should I Do If I Think I’ve Received Revelation Different from Apostles and Prophets?” FAIR Blog, January 11, 2016, https://www.fairmormon.org/blog/2016/01/11/what-should-i-do-if-i-think-ive-received-revelation-different-from-apostles-and-prophets.
  77. Isaiah 5:20; Moroni 7:12-19
  78. Henry B. Eyring, "The Faith to Ask and Then to Act," Liahona 1, no. 11 (November 2021): 74–76.
  79. Dallin H. Oaks, “Teaching and Learning by the Spirit,” Ensign 27, no. 3 (March 1997): 14.
  80. Helaman 4:24; Doctrine and Covenants 112:20, 30.
  81. Doctrine and Covenants 50:1-3.
  82. Moroni 7:20-25; Joseph Smith - Matthew 1:37.
  83. Doctrine and Covenants 50:31-33; 52:14-19.
  84. Helaman 16:22.
  85. Alma 30:60.
  86. Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign 24, no. 10 (October 1994): 13–14.
  87. Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-28.
  88. Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 184.
  89. Doctrine and Covenants 28:1-7; Doctrine and Covenants 43:1-7.
  90. Doctrine and Covenants 107:99.
  91. Boyd K. Packer, “Prayers and Answers,” Ensign 9, no. 11 (November 1979): 19–20. See also Doctrine and Covenants 50:1-3; 50:31-33; 52:14-19.
  92. Dallin H. Oaks, "Revelation," New Era 11, no. 9 (September 1982): 45–46.
  93. Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, Charles W. Penrose, “A Warning Voice,” Improvement Era 20 (Sept. 1913): 1148–49. The canon of the Church is accepted as its official doctrine. Scripture is binding on all Latter-day Saints. See this page on the wiki.
  94. Doctrine and Covenants 136:31.
  95. 1 Nephi 2:16.
  96. Ether 12:6.
  97. Doctrine and Covenants 50:24.
  98. Matthew 7:7.
  99. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 18:247 (23 July 1874).
  100. Boyd K. Packer, “Revelation in a Changing World,” Ensign 19, no. 11 (November 1989): 16.
  101. Ether 12:6.
  102. Deseret News editorial, George Q. Cannon, editor, impression of 3 November 1869; reprinted in George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1974), 493.
  103. Dallin H. Oaks, "Criticism," Ensign 17, no. 2 (February 1987): 71–72.
  104. Articles of Faith 1:13; Doctrine and Covenants 121:16.
  105. Doctrine and Covenants 121:16.
  106. Doctrine and Covenants 12:2; Alma 42:21.
  107. Alma 12:9-10.
  108. 3 Nephi 11:29.
  109. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 4:288 (15 March 1857); reprinted in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 41
  110. Joseph F. Smith Correspondence, Personal Letterbooks, 93–94, Film Reel 9, Ms. F271; cited in Dennis B. Horne, ed., Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth (Roy, UT: Eborn Books, 2005), 221–222. Also in Gary James Bergera, Statements of the LDS First Presidency (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2007), 121.  Bergera indicates it is a letter from Joseph F. Smith to Lillian Golsan, 16 July 1902.
  111. Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report (April 1938): 66; see also Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 1:288.
  112. Philippians 2:2; 1 Peter 3:15; Moses 7:18.
  113. Amanda Freebairn, "Why I Wear the Temple Garment," Public Square Magazine, July 28, 2021, https://publicsquaremag.org/faith/why-i-wear-the-temple-garment/?fbclid=IwAR1Gm_AHhVKUxp7cZ_qy-_8LQJOFf5mfU8E1QGkSaAj_fhkf---5AUg6yCo. For recommendations on how to prevent yeast infections, see Traci C. Johnson, "10 Ways to Prevent Yeast Infections," WebMD, January 16, 2020, https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/10-ways-to-prevent-yeast-infections. For recommendations on how to prevent urinary tract infections, see Mayo Clinic Staff, "Urinary tract infection (UTI)," Mayo Clinic, April 23, 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447.
  114. Matthew 22:34-40; John 14:15.
  115. Matthew 5:16.
  116. Titus 2:14. See also 1 Peter 2:9.
  117. For the Strength of Youth (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), 31.
  118. Matthew 22:34-40
  119. John 14:15
  120. Wikipedia has an exhaustive timeline documenting the Church's attitudes towards masturbation over time and up to today. There is an aspect of the article that is misleading. The article states that most members do not believe that masturbation is a sin. But the research to support this assertion is an article done in 2005. It is simply not a reliable indicator for how Church members view the practice as of 2022 when this article was last edited.
  121. For the Strength of Youth (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2011), 36. While the pamphlet is more directly addressed to youth, it is clear from reading the actual pamphlet that Church leaders hope that youth will carry the attitudes and standards gleaned from the pamphlet into adulthood. This is confirmed especially when one looks at the injunctions identical to those in FSOY given in the publication True to the Faith: a doctrinal reference work written for all members and approved by the First Presidency. Thus, the pamphlet should be viewed as a relevant text for Latter-day Saints of all ages.
  122. True to the Faith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004), 32.
  123. See, for instance, Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), 77–78. President Kimball makes comments about homosexuality as he perceived they relate to masturbation here. For info on this, see under "Causing Homosexuality?" in Gregory L. Smith, "Feet of Clay: Queer Theory and the Church of Jesus Christ," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 43 (2021): 209–15. One can also see our wiki article on it here.
  124. For a positive case, see R. Morgan Griffin, "Can Sex, Masturbation Affect Prostate Cancer Risk?" WebMD, accessed September 11, 2021, https://www.webmd.com/prostate-cancer/ejaculation-prostate-cancer-risk. Literature reviews, however, have been inconclusive as to whether masturbation is the cause of reduced risk of prostate cancer. See Rui Miguel Costa, "Masturbation is related to psychopathology and prostate dysfunction: Comment on Quinsey (2012)," Archives of Sexual Behavior 41, no. 3 (2012): 539–540; Aboul-Enein, Basil H., Joshua Bernstein, and Michael W. Ross, "Evidence for Masturbation and Prostate Cancer Risk: Do We Have a Verdict?" Sexual Medicine Reviews 4, no. 3 (2016): 229–234; Zhongyu Jian et al, "Sexual Activity and Risk of Prostate Cancer: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis," The Journal of Sexual Medicine 15, no. 9 (September 2018), 1300–09.; Nathan P. Papa et al, "Ejaculatory frequency and the risk of aggressive prostate cancer: Findings from a case-control study," Urologic Oncology: Seminars and Original Investigations 35, no. 8 (August 2017): 530.e7–530.e13.
  125. Beverly Whipple et. al, “Elevation of pain threshold by vaginal stimulation in women,” Pain 21, no. 4 (April 1985): 357–67.
  126. Colleen Doherty, “Can an Orgasm Cure My Headache?” VeryWell Health, last updated September 7, 2021, https://www.verywellhealth.com/orgasm-headache-migraine-1718250.
  127. David Robson, “Masturbation could bring hay fever relief for men,” New Scientist, April 1, 2009, https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16872-masturbation-could-bring-hay-fever-relief-for-men/?ignored=irrelevant.
  128. David A. Bednar, “We Believe in Being Chaste,” Ensign 43, no. 5 (May 2013): 42.
  129. For the Strength of Youth, 35. This same attitude about sexuality is reflected in the 1990 and 2001 editions of the pamphlet. Other editions of the pamphlet do not have as extended of discussions as the 1990, 2001, and 2011 editions.
  130. Peter L. Crawley, ed., The Essential Parley P. Pratt (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), 124.
  131. Matthew 7:15–20; James 3:11; Moroni 7:11.
  132. Doctrine and Covenants 42:12–13, 56–60
  133. "Sin," The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accessed November 26, 2021, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/sin?lang=eng.
  134. Genesis 2:21–24; Matthew 19:3–9; Doctrine and Covenants 49:15–17; Moses 3:21–24; Abraham 5:14–18; The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Some may not believe that the Family Proclamation constitutes an official pronouncement of the church, but several facts contradict this view. See this page for more info. Another way to argue for this telos is to cite Jacob 2:21 which teaches that we were created unto the end of keeping God's commandments. Doctrine and Covenants 49:15-17 teaches that we are commanded to be married and become one flesh with our spouses.
  135. It may be important to mention the differences that Latter-day Saints have with Catholics in views of the human sexual telos. The Catholic Church's view of human sexuality makes almost no separation between the unitive purpose of sex (bring men and women together) and the procreative purpose of it (being open to the possibility of children resulting from the sexual act). This is why the Catholic Church formally opposes all birth control besides the rhythm method. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that sex should be used for at times procreative ends and at times unitive ends. When to have children and when to make use of birth control—as well as what method of birth control to use (besides elective abortion, which is generally condemned)—is between the couple and God through prayer.
  136. C.S. Lewis, Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C.S. Lewis (New York: HarperOne, 2008), 292–93.
  137. Jason A. Staples, "'Whoever Looks at a Woman With Lust': Misinterpreted Bible Passages #1," Jason A. Staples, August 20, 2009, https://www.jasonstaples.com/bible/most-misinterpreted-bible-passages-1-matthew-527-28/.
  138. Jason Staples, May 22, 2012 1:20pm, "Comment on," Jason Staples, “'Whoever Looks at a Woman With Lust': Misinterpreted Bible Passages #1” Jason A. Staples (blog), August 20, 2009, https://www.jasonstaples.com/bible/most-misinterpreted-bible-passages-1-matthew-527-28/.
  139. Will Deming, "Mark 9:42-10:12, Matthew 5:27-32, and b. Nid.13b: A First Century Discussion of Male Sexuality," New Testament Studies 36 (1990): 130–41.
  140. Lyn M. Bechtel, “Sex,” in Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible, ed. David Noel Freedman (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 1192–93.
  141. Matthew 22:34–40
  142. 142.0 142.1 142.2 142.3 Mark H. Butler and Misha D. Crawford, “How Could Avoiding ‘Sexual Soloing’ Be a Good Thing?” Public Square Magazine, September 20, 2021, https://publicsquaremag.org/sexuality-family/how-could-avoiding-sexual-soloing-be-a-good-thing/.
  143. Alma 12:14; Doctrine and Covenants 121:45
  144. Mosiah 3:19
  145. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible contains this entry defining adultery from an Old Testament perspective: "In the ancient Near East and the OT (Lev. 18:20; 20:10; Deut. 22:22) adultery meant consensual sexual intercourse by a married woman with a man other than her husband. However, intercourse between a married man and another woman was not considered adultery unless she was married. The betrothed woman is also bound to fidelity, but leniency is shown to a married or betrothed man (Exod. 22:16-17[MT 15-16]; Deut. 22:28-29; Prov. 5:15-20; Mal. 2:14-15). Some scholars distinguish between the ancient Near Eastern laws, where adultery was a private wrong against a husband, who could prosecute an offender, and the biblical laws, where adultery was an offense against God, with mandatory prosecution and a sentence of death, or, in some cases, atonement through a sin offering (Lev. 19:20-21). Others argue that biblical and ancient Near Eastern laws agree that adultery was an offense against the husband, with prosecution at his discretion (Prov. 6:32-35). Mistaken paternity and its effect on family inheritance, as well as protection of the husband's economic interest, were the primary reasons why adultery was a sin and included in the Decalogue (Exod. 20:14; Deut. 5:18). Adultery was also used as a metaphor for Israel's idolatrous and immoral behavior (e.eg., Jer. 3:6-13; 23:9-15; Ezek. 16:30-43; Isa. 57:3-13)." See Hendrik L. Bosman, "Adultery," in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, ed. David Noel Freedman (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 23–24. It should be noted that the New Testament takes a different perspective on adultery to include relations between a married man and an unmarried woman. See Matthew 5:27-28; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18.
  146. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible has this entry defining fornication from a biblical perspective: "In general, illicit sexual intercourse (Heb. zānâ), a sin violating the spirit of the Seventh Commandment (Exod 20:14), which was meant to protect the integrity of the family. Fornication (Gk. porneía) can be linked with adultery (Matt 5:32; 19:9) or distinguished from it (15:19 = Mark 7:21). Committing fornication is noted and rebuked (1 Cor. 6:18; 10:8; Jude 7). Paul advised monogamous marriage "because of cases of sexual immorality" (1 Cor. 7:2). Metaphorically, fornication can describe the corruption of God's people with pagan idolatry (e.g. Her. 2:20-36; Ezek. 16:15-43; Rev. 2:14, 20-22; 17:1-18; 18:2-9). Abstaining from fornication (unchastity) was one of the four conditions demanded of the Gentiles for their admission into the Church by the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15:20, 29)." See Allison A. Trites, "Fornication," in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, ed. David Noel Freedman (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 469.
  147. The Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible reads: "The word lust today is used almost exclusively to mean strong sexual desire. In the KJV usage it connotes intense pleasure or delight, or simply an inclination or wish. In the OT "lust" as a noun translates in the KJV a variety of Hebrew words and designates, among other things, an intense desire for holy war (Exod. 15:9), a craving for food (Ps. 78), a desire so strong that "stubbornness" would be a more appropriate translation (Ps. 81:12), and sexual desire (Prov. 6:25). In the NT Gk. epithymía is now more often translated "desire" for what in general in the KJV instead translates "lusts" (Mark 4:19). It can be used for a strong pure desire of Christ (Luke 22:15), a longing to be with Christ (Phil 1:23), a desire to do evil (John 8:44), and adultery (Matt. 5:28) and other impure sexual passions and practices (Romans 1:24; 6:12; Gal. 5:16, 24). In addition to epithymía to indicate sexual desire, the NT also uses Gk. órexis, thymós, hēdoné, and páthos. The context must always be considered in choosing the appropriate translation." See William R. Goodman, "Lust," in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, ed. David Noel Freedman (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 831.
  148. James 3:2; Alma 38:12. The author of this article says "the author" of James since it is not known whether James actually wrote James, someone else wrote James and then attributed it to him, or someone who was a close follower of James reworked material originally written by him into Greek literary style and form. See Timothy B. Cargal, "The Letter of James," in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, ed. Michael D. Coogan, 5th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 2165. Some may believe that the Alma passage has no relevance to masturbation, but the scripture comes right before Alma's letter to his son Corianton which, at the very least, has a lot to do with sexual restraint.
  149. Deuteronomy 14:2; 26:18; Psalms 135:4; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9
  150. James 1:27; Doctrine and Covenants 59:9
  151. 1 Thessalonians 5:22. The Greek word translated as "appearance" is better translated as "form." So the scripture is not saying to not do anything that might appear evil, but to abstain from doing anything that is actually evil.
  152. Moroni 7:44
  153. Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–5
  154. Doctrine and Covenants 58:27–29
  155. Colossians 3:5. The author of this article says "the author of Colossians" since it remains in debate whether Paul wrote Colossians, someone else wrote it and attributed it to him, or one of his followers adapted material that he had taught and/or written for the audience. Wikipedia has a decent discussion of the relevant issues.
  156. The existence of an addiction to porn and/or masturbation is debated in academia. Masturbation addiction is not listed in the DSM-5. It is more widely agreed that masturbation compulsion exists. On March 5, 2022, it was reported that the World Health Organization changed the ICD-11 to list “use of pornography” and “masturbation” to the diagnostic criteria for Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder. To see the criteria for CSBD from the ICD-11, see here. For information on recovery from excessive masturbation, see Matt Glowiak and Trishanna Sookdeo, “Masturbation Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments,” Choosing Therapy, July 14, 2021, https://www.choosingtherapy.com/masturbation-addiction/. The author believes masturbation and pornography addiction exists. For persuasive commentary and research on the reality of masturbation and pornography addiction, see Gary Wilson, "Research," Your Brain on Porn, accessed September 11, 2021, https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/research/. For a succinct summary of what Wilson's website uncovers, see Jacob Z. Hess, "There's One More Atheist in Heaven," Public Square Magazine, May 22, 2021, https://publicsquaremag.org/faith/theres-one-more-atheist-in-heaven/.
  157. Karen L. Bales, Julie A. Westerhuyzen, Antoniah D. Lewis-Reese, Nathaniel D. Grotte, Jalene A. Lanter, C. Sue Carter, "Oxytocin has Dose-dependent Developmental Effects on Pair-bonding and Alloparental Care in Female Prairie Voles," Hormones and Behavior 52, no. 2 (August 2007): 274–79. Cited in Donald L. Hilton, He Restoreth My Soul: Understanding and Breaking the Chemical and Spiritual Chains of Pornography Addiction Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ (San Antonio: Forward Press Publishing, 2009), 57.
  158. Hilton, He Restoreth My Soul, 58.
  159. Mayo Clinic Staff, “6 steps to better sleep,” Mayo Clinic, April 17, 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379.
  160. Heather Shannon, “7 powerful ways you can strengthen your heart,” UCI Health, February 9, 2017, https://www.ucihealth.org/blog/2017/02/how-to-strengthen-heart.
  161. ”How to boost your immune system,” Harvard Health Publishing, February 15, 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system.
  162. Mayo Clinic Staff, “Prostate cancer prevention: Ways to reduce your risk,” Mayo Clinic, September 24, 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prostate-cancer/in-depth/prostate-cancer-prevention/art-20045641.
  163. Daniel Yetman, "How to Decrease Libido," Healthline, October 28, 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-decrease-libido.
  164. Mayo Clinic Staff, “Menstrual cramps,” Mayo Clinic, April 8, 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menstrual-cramps/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374944.
  165. Mayo Clinic Staff, “Headaches: Treatment depends on your diagnosis and symptoms,” Mayo Clinic, May 10, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-daily-headaches/in-depth/headaches/art-20047375.
  166. R. Morgan Griffin, “How to Treat Nasal Congestion and Sinus Pressure,” WebMD, accessed January 24, 2022, https://www.webmd.com/allergies/sinus-congestion.
  167. Atli Arnason, “10 Ways to Boost Male Fertility and Increase Sperm Count,” Healthline, May 18, 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/boost-male-fertility-sperm-count.
  168. Brenda Goodman, "Cervicitis," WedMD, accessed February 7, 2022, https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/cervicitis.
  169. It should be clear that when the author says "partnered sexual activity", they do not mean that the only form of appropriate sexual activity is penis-in-vagina penetrative sex. It merely means sexual activity between husband and wife.
  170. Jacquelyn Cafasso, "How to Test and Increase Your Pain Tolerance," Healthline, last updated June 12, 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health/high-pain-tolerance.
  171. These individuals may have different beliefs about whether masturbation and pornography addiction exist and whether masturbation is sinful. Notably, Cameron Staley's dissertation advisor, Nicole Prause, is one of the most vocal proponents of the view that masturbation and pornography addiction do not exist. Discretion is advised if seeking for a professional that affirms your view. Regardless, any number of therapeutic modalities may be helpful in eliminating unwanted masturbation and pornography use, and for that reason all of these individuals are included here for selection of the reader.
  172. Doctrine and Covenants 132:19–20
  173. John 7:17
  174. W.O. Lee, "The Inhabitants of Samoa, Their Social Life and Customs. By W.O. Lee, Samoan Missionary," Improvement Era 3, no. 1 (November 1899): 49–50.
  175. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), 700.
  176. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 775.
  177. Vaughan J. Featherstone, “One Link Still Holds,” Ensign 29, no. 11 (November 1999): 13.
  178. Gordon B. Hinckley, “‘Great Shall be the Peace of thy Children’,” Ensign 30, no. 11 (November 2000): 52.
  179. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Your Greatest Challenge, Mother,” Ensign 30, no. 11 (November 2000): 99.
  180. For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2001), 16.
  181. M. Russell Ballard, When Thou Art Converted: Continuing Our Search for Happiness (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2002), 111.
  182. Margaret D. Nadauld, “Hold High the Torch,” Ensign 32, no. 5 (May 2002): 97.
  183. True to the Faith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004), 167.
  184. Henry B. Eyring, “In the Strength of the Lord,” Ensign 34, no. 5 (May 2004): 114.
  185. Earl C. Tingey, “For the Strength of Youth,” Ensign 34, no. 5 (May 2004): 50.
  186. Julie B. Beck, “You Have a Noble Birthright,” Ensign 36, no. 5 (May 2006): 107.
  187. Gordon B. Hinckley, “I Am Clean,” Ensign 37, no. 5 (May 2007): 62.
  188. Elaine S. Dalton, “At All Times, in All Things, and in All Places,” Ensign 38, no. 5 (May 2008): 107.
  189. James J. Hamula, “Winning the War Against Evil,” Ensign 38, no. 11 (November 2008): 51.
  190. Boyd K. Packer, “Counsel to Young Men,” Ensign 39, no. 5 (May 2009): 50.
  191. Thomas S. Monsen, “Preparation Brings Blessings,” Ensign 40, no. 5 (May 2010): 65.
  192. D. Todd Christofferson, “Reflections on a Consecrated Life,” Ensign 40, no. 11 (November 2010): 17.
  193. Elaine S. Dalton, A Return to Virtue (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2011), 125.
  194. For the Strength of Youth (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2011), 7.
  195. Elaine S. Dalton, “Be Not Moved!Ensign 43, no. 5 (May 2013): 123.
  196. Tad Walch, "President Russell M. Nelson tells 65,000 of the faith's 'Arizona battalion' to strengthen themselves and others," Deseret News, February 19, 2019.
  197. Donald Senior, John J. Collins, and Mary Ann Getty, eds., The Catholic Study Bible, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 160.
  198. Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen, and H. Wayne House, eds., NKJV Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 191.
  199. Ibid., 1801.
  200. Jannalee Sandau, “Why There Are Tattoos and Strapless Costumes at the Polynesian Cultural Center,” LDS Living, November 2, 2016, https://www.ldsliving.com/Why-There-Are-Tattoos-Strapless-Costumes-at-the-Polynesian-Cultural-Center/s/83359.
  201. Jeffrey R. Holland, “To Young Women,” Ensign 35, no. 11 (November 2005): 29–30.
  202. Doctrine and Covenants 89:3
  203. Deuteronomy 14:2; 26:18; Psalms 135:4; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9; James 1:27; Doctrine and Covenants 59:9
  204. Moroni 7:44
  205. Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–5
  206. Doctrine and Covenants 58:27–29
  207. For example, Anna P. Kambhampaty, “Beard Crusader,” New York Times, August 16, 2021; Julie Turkewitz, "At Brigham Young, Students Push to Lift Ban on Beards," New York Times, November 17, 2014.
  208. Matthew 5:19
  209. Jeffrey R. Holland, “’This Do in Remembrance of Me’,” Ensign 25, no. 11 (November 1995): 68.
  210. David O. McKay, Conference Report (October 1956): 89.
  211. 2 Nephi 26:33
  212. Deuteronomy 14:2; 26:18; Psalms 135:4; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9
  213. James 1:27; Doctrine and Covenants 59:9
  214. Moroni 7:44
  215. Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–5
  216. Doctrine and Covenants 58:27–29
  217. Elizabeth Summers, “R-Rated Movies: What Have the Prophets Actually Said?” LDS Living, September 16, 2018, https://www.ldsliving.com/r-rated-movies-what-have-the-prophets-actually-said/s/82659
  218. Proverbs 18:21
  219. Matthew 12:36-37
  220. Matthew 15:11
  221. 1 Corinthians 15:33
  222. Ephesians 4:29
  223. 1 Peter 1:15
  224. Mosiah 4:29-30
  225. Alma 12:14
  226. Doctrine and Covenants 136:24
  227. Matthew 22:39
  228. Matthew 5:19
  229. Field Notes,” Improvement Era 34, no. 7 (May 1931): 417.
  230. Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1957), 1:158.
  231. Russell M. Nelson, "Is it necessary to take the sacrament with one’s right hand? Does it really make any difference which hand is used?" Ensign 13, no. 3 (March 1983): 68.
  232. Deuteronomy 14:2; 26:18; Psalms 135:4; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9
  233. James 1:27; Doctrine and Covenants 59:9
  234. Doctrine and Covenants 58:27–29
  235. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director", 2013
  236. Aaron L. West, "Sacred Transformations," Ensign 42, no. 12 (December 2012): 38–39.
  237. Lynn G. Robbins, "Tithing—a Commandment Even for the Destitute," Ensign 35, no. 5 (May 2005): 34–35.
  238. Jon Swaine, Douglas MacMillan, and Michelle Boorstein, “Mormon Church has misled members on 100 billion tax-exempt investment fund, whistleblower alleges,” The Washington Post, December 17, 2019.
  239. See, for instance, Christian Sagers, "Kathleen Flake: 'Mormonism and Its Money' is a power struggle we've seen before," Deseret News, December 26, 2019; Aaron Miller, "The $100 Billion 'Mormon Church' Story: A Contextual Analysis," Public Square Magazine, December 20, 2019, https://publicsquaremag.org/faith/the-100-billion-mormon-church-story-a-contextual-analysis/; Sam Brunson, "So You Have $100 Billion," By Common Consent, December 29, 2019, https://bycommonconsent.com/2019/12/29/so-you-have-100-billion/; Jeff Bennion, "You Can't Spend Your Way Out of Poverty," Public Square Magazine, March 11, 2022, https://publicsquaremag.org/faith/church-state/you-cant-spend-your-way-out-of-poverty/.
  240. Jana Riess, “Jana Riess: Why I stopped paying tithing to the LDS Church,” Salt Lake Tribune, December 24, 2020.
  241. Malachi 3:10
  242. Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-5
  243. George Albert Smith, "The Story of a Generous Man," Improvement Era 50, no. 6 (June 1947): 357. Issues of the Improvement Era can be accessed here.
  244. Peter J. Reilly, "$100 Billion In Mormon Till Does Not Merit IRS Attention," Forbes, December 17, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterjreilly/2019/12/17/100b-in-mormon-till-does-not-merit-irs-attention/?sh=6a9b18045d5b.
  245. Tad Walch, "Church finances: Presiding Bishopric offers unique look inside financial operations of growing faith," Deseret News, February 14, 2020.
  246. John 14:15; Doctrine and Covenants 59:5.
  247. Anthony A. Hutchinson, “The Word of God is Enough: The Book of Mormon as Nineteenth Century Scripture,” in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, ed. Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 1–19.
  248. Ibid., 1
  249. Ibid., 2.
  250. Robert M. Price, “Joseph Smith: Inspired Author of the Book of Mormon,” in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, eds. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 321–66.
  251. Parsley S., "Liberating Ourselves from the Obsession with Historicity," Prodigal Press, no. 4 (December 2020): 5–8.
  252. Stephen O. Smoot, “Et Incarnatus Est: the Imperative for Book of Mormon Historicity,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 30 (2018): 125–62.
  253. William J. Hamblin, “An Apologist for the Critics: Brent Lee Metcalfe’s Assumptions and Methodologies,” FARMS Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6, no. 1 (1994): 453.
  254. Bruce Goldman, "Two minds: the cognitive differences between men and women," Stanford Medicine, Stanford University, May 7, 2021, https://stanmed.stanford.edu/2017spring/how-mens-and-womens-brains-are-different.html; David C. Geary, "The Real Causes of Human Sex Differences," Quilette, October 20, 2020, https://quillette.com/2020/10/20/the-real-causes-of-human-sex-differences/ ; John Stossel, "The Science: Male Brain vs Female Brain," YouTube, October 15, 2019, video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTEi2-FAEZE; David C. Geary, Male, Female: The Evolution of Human Sex Differences, 3rd ed. (Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2020).
  255. 1 Corinthians 11:3
  256. "Chapter 42: Family: The Sweetest Union for Time and for Eternity," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.
  257. "Editorial Thoughts: The Rights of Fatherhood," Juvenile Instructor 37:5 (1 March 1902), 146.
  258. "Being a Righteous Husband and Father," October 1994 general conference.
  259. "Parents and Children", General Handbook, 2.1.3.
  260. D. Todd Christofferson, “To the Brethren of the Priesthood: Your Spiritual Leadership,” Chile multistake conference, Aug. 26, 2018; as cited in Dallin H. Oaks, “Keeping the Faith on the Front Line,” Ensign, June 2020 [digital only].
  261. Moses 7:18; Philippians 2:2; 1 Peter 3:15; Doctrine and Covenants 38:27.
  262. Boyd K. Packer, “The Relief Society,” Ensign 28, no. 5 (May 1998): 73.
  263. "Fatherhood: An Eternal Calling," April 2004 general conference.
  264. "Exercising Priesthood Authority Righteously," General Handbook, 3.4.4.
  265. Ephesians 5:25-29
  266. Baehr v. Lewin (1993) was a case where three same-sex couples petitioned the Hawaii Supreme Court to recognize their unions.
  267. The Family Proclamation was published in 1995. Dallin H. Oaks explained that it was developed over the course of a year: "Subjects were identified and discussed by members of the Quorum of the Twelve for nearly a year. Language was proposed, reviewed, and revised. Prayerfully we continually pleaded with the Lord for His inspiration on what we should say and how we should say it." DHO offers an account of the Proclamation.
  268. Richard E. Turley Jr., In the Hands of the Lord: The Life of Dallin H. Oaks (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2021), 215.
  269. Boyd K. Packer, "The Instrument of Your Mind and the Foundation of Your Character," CES Fireside (2 February 2003).
  270. "World Focus on S.L. Gathering," Deseret News, March 15, 1995.
  271. Marianne Schmidt, "U.N. IS ENEMY OF THE FAMILY, EDITOR SAYS," Deseret News, March 19, 1995. Yet another Deseret News article appeared on 17 April 1995 from one Scott Bradley in North Logan decrying the perceived ways in which the U.N. was undermining family. "U.N. GATHERINGS THREATEN FAMILIES," Deseret News, April 17, 1995.
  272. "First Presidency Statement Opposing Same Gender Marriages," Ensign 24, no. 4 (April 1994): 80.
  273. "CHURCH JOINS HAWAII FIGHT OVER SAME-SEX MARRIAGES," Associated Press, February 24, 1995.
  274. "Amicus Curiae Brief of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1997), Baehr v. Miike," Mormonr, accessed May 10, 2022, https://mormonr.org/qnas/NqoXl/origins_of_the_family_proclamation/research#re-0Z2bwi-L8jzYb.
  275. Walker Wright, "Family Breakdown, the Welfare State, and the Family Proclamation: An Alternative History," Worlds Without End, August 1, 2015, http://www.withoutend.org/family-proclamation-alternative-history/.
  276. Bruce C. Hafen, "The Proclamation on the Family: Transcending the Cultural Confusion," Ensign 45, no. 8 (August 2015): 51.
  277. Ibid.
  278. The most significant revelations relating to the structure and function of the priesthood are found in D&C Sections 20:, 84:, and 107:. The language is almost entirely gendered. For example, 20:60 reads “Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him.”
  279. It is difficult to overemphasize the value of this record. A copy has been placed on-line at the Joseph Smith Papers website of the Church here.
  280. Matthew B. Brown, The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 1999), 26–29.
  281. The essential framework for this theory is inspired in part by Margaret Toscano. See Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblick, and Hannah Wheelwright, Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 133–44.
  282. Katherine Ellen Foley, "Some animals kill each other after sex because their distinction between hungry and flirty is blurred," last modified February 14, 2017, https://qz.com/909885/some-animals-kill-each-other-after-sex-because-their-distinction-between-hungry-and-flirty-is-blurred/.
  283. Ty Mansfield, "'Mormons can be gay, they just can’t do gay': Deconstructing Sexuality and Identity from an LDS Perspective," (presentation, FairMormon Conference, Provo, UT, 2014).
  284. "The Conjugal vs. Revisionist Views of Marriage," Discussing Marriage, accessed May 4, 2021, https://discussingmarriage.org/the-conjugal-vs-revisionist-views-of-marriage/#.YJG5gkhKjRZ.
  285. Doctrine and Covenants 49:15–17; Moses 3:21–24; Abraham 5:14–18
  286. It should be noted that Joseph Smith never appears to have taught in his public sermons that human spirits were birthed by Heavenly Parents in the pre-mortal existence. Indeed, he seems to have taught in his public sermons that spirits were never created. See Kenneth W. Godfrey, “The History of Intelligence in Latter-day Saint Thought,” in The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God, ed. H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1989), 213–36; Blake Ostler, “The Idea of Pre-Existence in the Development of Mormon Thought,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15, no. 1 (Spring 1982): 59–78. Although that is true, it is also the case that his revelations teach that men and women can create spirit children and that our spirits were at one point created. The Book of Moses teaches this doctrine of spirits having a moment when they were created and the majority of Latter-day Saint scriptural exegetes have recognized this. See Moses 3:5 and especially in connection to Moses 1:8 where Moses sees "all the children of men which are and were created." All scripture assumes real pre-existence instead of ideal pre-existence and virtually all Latter-day Saint exegetes with the exception of perhaps one have recognized this. See Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “Christ and the Creation,” in Studies in Scripture: Volume Two, The Pearl of Great Price, ed. Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson (Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1985), 88; Milton R. Hunter, Pearl of Great Price Commentary (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1951), 80–86; Richard D. Draper, S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes, The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse by Verse Commentary (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2005), 222; H. Donl Peterson, The Pearl of Great Price: A History and Commentary (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1987), 129–30; Shon D. Hopkin, “Premortal Existence,” in Pearl of Great Price Reference Companion, ed. Dennis L. Largey (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2017), 240–41; Hyrum L. Andrus, Doctrinal Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1973), 99–136; Aaron P. Schade and Matthew L. Bowen, The Book of Moses: From the Ancient of Days to the Latter Days (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2021), 153–54n30; Book of Mormon Central and Jeffrey R. Bradshaw, “Book of Moses Essays: #54 Moses Sees the Garden of Eden (Moses 3) Spiritual Creation (Moses 3:5-7),” The Interpreter Foundation, May 8, 2021, https://interpreterfoundation.org/book-of-moses-essays-054/; Terryl L. Givens, “The Book of Moses as a Pre–Augustinian Text: A New Look at the Pelagian Crisis,” in Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses: Inspired Origins, Temple Contexts, and Literary Qualities, ed. Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, David R. Seely, John W. Welch and Scott Gordon, 2 vols. (Orem, UT: The Interpreter Foundation; Springville, UT: Book of Mormon Central; Redding, CA: FAIR; Tooele, UT: Eborn Books, 2021), 1:293–314. It appears that all those who have commented on spiritual creation in the Doctrine and Covenants have accepted that spirit birth is a reality. Exactly how is not specified. See Roy W. Doxey, Doctrine and Covenants Speaks (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1970), 422; Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1978), 1:664.
  287. David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido, “‘A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings About Heavenly Mother,” BYU Studies Quarterly 50, no. 1 (2011): 70–97.
  288. "Intersex," Wikipedia, accessed January 4, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersex.
  289. "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accessed January 4, 2019, https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation?lang=eng&old=true.
  290. "General Conference Leadership Meetings Begin," Church Newsroom, accessed October 7, 2019, https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/october-2019-general-conference-first-presidency-leadership-session. “'Finally, the long-standing doctrinal statements reaffirmed in The Family: A Proclamation to the World 23 years ago will not change. They may be clarified as directed by inspiration.' For example, 'the intended meaning of gender in the family proclamation and as used in Church statements and publications since that time is biological sex at birth.'”
  291. "Elder Nelson: 'There Is No Conflict Between Science and Religion'," LDS Living, April 17, 2015, https://www.ldsliving.com/Elder-Nelson-There-Is-No-Conflict-Between-Science-and-Religion-/s/78668.
  292. Ty Mansfield, "'Mormons can be gay, they just can’t do gay': Deconstructing Sexuality and Identity from an LDS Perspective," (presentation, FairMormon Conference, Provo, UT, 2014).
  293. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" April 2013 edition
  294. Doctrine and Covenants 132:4–6
  295. M. Russell Ballard, "The Trek Continues!" Ensign 47, no. 11 (November 2017): 106.
  296. 2 Nephi 26:33
  297. Carol Lynn Pearson, The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men (Walnut Creek, CA: Pivot Point Books, 2016). For reviews that expose the weaknesses of Pearson’s position and approach, see Allen Wyatt, “Scary Ghost Stories in the Light of Day,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 23 (2017): 137–160; Brian C. Hales, “Opportunity Lost,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 23 (2017): 91–109.
  298. Hales, "Opportunity Lost," 97n4. Hales has repeatedly made this assertion in his publications. See another instance in Brian C. Hales and Laura H. Hales, "Lending Clarity to Confusion: A Response to Kirk Van Allen’s 'D&C 132: A Revelation of Men, Not God'," FairMormon Papers and Reviews 1 (2015): 4
  299. James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965), 4:330–31.
  300. Lucy Walker Kimball, “A Brief Biographical Sketch of the Life and Labors of Lucy Walker Kimball Smith,” CHL; quoted in Lyman Omer Littlefield, Reminiscences of Latter-day Saints: Giving an Account of Much Individual Suffering Endured for Religious Conscience (Logan, UT: Utah Journal Co., 1888), 46. The context was plural marriage, but the principle would seem to equally apply to monogamy.
  301. Brian C. Hales, "What Do We Do with Section 132?" FAIR Blog, November 10, 2021, https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/blog/2021/11/10/come-follow-me-week-46-doctrine-and-covenants-129-132-additional-post.
  302. Acts 10:34
  303. See John Hilton III, Considering the Cross: How Calvary Connects Us With Christ (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2021), 14–30; “What Church leaders and Church history teach about wearing and displaying the cross,” LDS Living, February 9, 2022, https://www.ldsliving.com/what-church-leaders-and-church-history-teach-about-wearing-and-displaying-the-cross/s/10418; Michael G. Reed, Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Momron Taboo (Independence, MO: John Whitmer Books, 2012); Michael De Groote, “Sunstone speaker attempts to explain LDS ‘aversion’ to cross,” Deseret News, September 10, 2009.
  304. 304.0 304.1 304.2 304.3 304.4 304.5 Michael G. Reed, Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo (Independence, MO: John Whitmer Books, 2012).
  305. Reed, Banishing the Cross, 73–74. At least one modern Church building, in Tennessee, features a cross. The building was purchased from a Christian denomination, and the cross was left intact.
  306. These images, along with several others are found in Reed, Banishing the Cross.
  307. Deseret Evening News, May 5, 1916, 2, cited in Ronald W. Walker, “A Gauge of the Times: Ensign Peak in the Twentieth Century,” Utah Historical Quarterly 62, no. 1 (1994): 14.
  308. D. Robert Carter, “Worshiping at the Easter Cross,” Daily Herald (Provo, UT), March 27, 2005.
  309. See Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1977), 194.
  310. David O. McKay, diary, April 29, 1957, cited in Reed, Banishing the Cross, 115–16.
  311. I searched the GospeLink database (gospelink.com), which contains thousands of Church-related publications.
  312. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), 160. This statement also appeared in subsequent editions of Mormon Doctrine.
  313. Joseph Fielding Smith, “The Wearing of the Cross,” Improvement Era 64, no. 3 (March 1961): 144. President Smith’s remarks were republished in Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 4 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1963), 17–18. This viewpoint echoes a similar statement from C. H. Spurgeon, an influential nineteenth-century Baptist preacher. See The Complete Works of C. H. Spurgeon, vol. 14, Sermons 788 to 847 (Woodstock, Ontario: Devoted Publishing, 2017), 326.
  314. Smith, “Wearing of the Cross,” 144.
  315. Marvin J. Ashton, Be of Good Cheer (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990), 31.
  316. Smith, “Wearing of the Cross,” 144.
  317. Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Symbol of Christ,” Ensign, May 1975, emphasis added. This talk was slightly modified to become a First Presidency message in the April 2005 Ensign and also appears in the March 1989, April 1990, and April 1994 editions of the Liahona. This phrase has been quoted more than twenty times in Church magazines, manuals, and other writings of Church leaders. Elders M. Russell Ballard and Bruce D. Porter have also made statements similar to President Hinckley’s regarding why the Church does not use the cross as a symbol. See M. Russell Ballard, Our Search for Happiness: An Invitation to Understand The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1993), 13–14; Bruce D. Porter, The King of Kings (2000), 91.
  318. Eric D. Huntsman, “Preaching Jesus, and Him Crucified,” in His Majesty and Mission, ed. Nicholas J. Frederick and Keith J. Wilson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2017), 73.
  319. Edward Dube, “Gaining My Faith One Step at a Time,” New Era 50, no, 4 (April 2020): 31.
  320. F. Enzio Busche and Tracie A. Lamb, Yearning for the Living God: Reflections from the Life of F. Enzio Busche (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2004), 52.
  321. True to the Faith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004), 45–46.
  322. John 13:34-35. Emphasis added.
  323. Deuteronomy 14:2; 26:18; Psalms 135:4; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9
  324. See the short index of scripture preaching meekness here
  325. Doctrine and Covenants 58:27–29
  326. John 13:34-35
  327. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1956), 3:204.