Sunday, March 13, 2011

An Appreciation of Chastity

Another thing I strongly appreciate about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is their strong emphasis on chastity, on abiding by God's intention for human sexuality:

God has commanded us that only in marriage are we to have sexual relations. This commandment is called the law of chastity. [...] We are to have sexual relations only with our spouse to whom we are legally married. No one, male or female, is to have sexual relations before marriage. After marriage, sexual relations are permitted only with our spouse. (Gospel Principles [1997], 248-249)

As an Evangelical, I agree! Sexual intercourse is something that God did not intend for us to engage in outside of the bonds of marriage, which is a sacred union in the sight of God and meant to last for life (and, for Latter-day Saints, beyond that as well). This is something on which Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals agree, and we both take seriously. It is also something that in contemporary American society has become a marginalized stance and an object of ridicule. Increasingly, it seems, sexual relations outside of marriage have become normalized, and those who believe that sexual relations are made for a certain normative context (i.e., the covenant of marriage) are disparaged as adherents of an archaic puritanism and worse. That is no excuse for us - whether LDS or Evangelical, or Roman Catholic or Orthodox for that matter - to kowtow to the demands of our prevailing cultural currents where God's decree on the matter is firm and contrary.

This has become very clear in recent days in light of the furor over Brigham Young University's decision to actually stand by its Honor Code by dismissing BYU basketball player Brandon Davies for engaging in premarital sex. BYU has been roundly criticized by those who just can't fathom an institution taking a stand on an 'archaic' moral issue. A recent post at LDS blog Millennial Star has lamented that it seems as though no one else is standing behind BYU's decision, not only to enforce its Honor Code, but furthermore to have that stricture in its Honor Code in the first place. (See also discussion here.) Latter-day Saints, you are not alone, even when it seems like it. As an Evangelical, I stand with you on the importance of God's intention for sexual relations within marriage, not outside of it. Even Evangelicals who are strongly critical of Latter-day Saint beliefs can yet affirm that "BYU should be commended for putting its moral principles ahead of winning basketball games". And even when I'm sometimes dismayed by insensitive and graceless lessons in both of our camps, I heartily appreciate the willingness of Latter-day Saints to remain firm on this culturally sensitive but scripturally mandated position.

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