Dear 100 Hour Board,
As a YSA in the modern dating world I'm torn when I find out that a woman I'm interested in or have been seriously pursuing has a past. Sometimes I find out that someone isn't a virgin. Other times I have found out that someone I've been on multiple dates with has broken the law of chastity in some other serious way. Is it right to walk away from someone if you find out that they have some history? My experiences have made me really value the words of several of the prophets. I take comfort in knowing that prophets like Heber J Grant have taught that “There is no true Latter-day Saint who would not rather bury a son or a daughter than to have him or her lose his or her chastity – realizing that chastity is of more value than anything else in all the world.” or that President Kimball said that “Also far-reaching is the effect of loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation when there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one's virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.” Before you start calling me some hatemongerer I've known actual people who have been rapped. And they can be as worthy as a firstborn lamb but I do not believe that they will ever be as pure as a umblemished lamb because they have blemish. I believe that virtue is something that is lost and that it is completely different from worthiness. I read scriptures like Moroni 9 and now knowing from real lived experiences that this is true. Marriage is the most personal of choices. When someone breaks the law of chastity with someone (especially a woman) then a piece of her heart and sole will always be with that man. Should I just accept this and move on or should I stick with the prophets and only marry a virgin?
You know, I was going to write this whole big answer about the atonement and how it matters more the direction that people are headed instead of where they've been. It matters so much more that in many cases where they've been becomes irrelevant. Even in cases of breaking the law of chastity. However, I think that regardless of how many more up-to-date quotes I find about how women aren't to blame for getting raped, or how sexual sin is in no way worse for women, or saying death is better than living through any kind of sexual interaction outside of marriage is horrible and NOT AT ALL true, I won't be able to change your mind. Besides, who you decide to date is up to you. And if you are going to forever hold it over the head of a woman for having done something in her past, then she deserves better than what you will give her.
While you are at complete liberty to decide whether or not you want to date someone, please, please never tell anyone they are less. Even if that is what you believe, never ever say it to someone else. And try your best to treat them as a fellow comrade in this journey of life--a person whom you are no better than with all your flaws, and who is always worthy of your respect.
As you can probably see, your comments are quite upsetting. I don't feel the need to harp on you or tell you how wrong you are because I feel everyone else has done their fair share of that. I hope you don't feel like we are bullying you - perhaps our reactions are a bit harsh, but you should certainly realize how extremely problematic and sexist the things that you have expressed are.
However, each person is entitled to their own feelings and opinions, so as wrong as I feel you are, it is my duty to respect your agency. It is also my duty, as a Board writer, to answer some of your questions. I believe in this case, this is best done through investigating some of the doctrinal flaws that I see in your opinions. Many of these are repeated by the other writers, but you should take special note that the focus here is on the Atonement and it's cleansing power, something that I believe you have sorely misunderstood.
Christ teaches us in D&C 64:9-10 "Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin... I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men."
In my studies about this scripture, I have come to know that it is not just about letting grudges go. It is not just about being kind and respectful. The reason that it is a greater sin to not forgive people is because you are damning them. When you reduce someone only to one sin or one way they have wronged you, you block them from progressing and changing. In any interaction with them, you have dehumanized them, seeing only their sins, and not the whole person that God loves. In doing so, you refuse to accept their ability to change, repent, and become better. You are doing exactly what Satan would do, telling them they are no better than the worst thing they have ever done. Damning someone by judging them and refusing to forgive them of their past mistakes, therefore, is a far worse sin than what one of these women may have done.
Additionally, we have been taught about the boundless, infinite, merciful, perfect Atonement. It is a central tenet of our faith. When you choose to say things about how these women that you find out about can never fully become clean, you - a mere mortal man - are placing your own limits and bounds on the Atonement. What gives you that right? Did you suffer the pains of every person to ever live? Did you bleed from every pore, shuddering under the weight of anguish that Christ did? Did you plead with your Father to take that cup from you, because the hurt was so great it was nearly unbearable? Did you die for the sins of the world? No. We cannot comprehend the love that Christ and our Heavenly Parents have for us. You, Tom, do not get to tell God what the Atonement does and does not cover. You do not have the authority to condemn any other person or tell them that the Atonement cannot cleanse them. That is not your right, nor is it at all accurate. You did not create the terms of the Atonement. You do not get to choose who or what it covers. It is selfish and prideful to assume that is your power or responsibility. Doing so is, essentially, arguing against the glory, goodness, and power of God.
These women you are judging so harshly have probably been in the pits of woe. They've felt shame, regret, confusion, and anger. Some of them have had extremely hard times, been through the process of repentance, and come to feel the comfort and forgiveness of God. They are good enough for our Heavenly Parents. They are clean. As they overcome their mistakes, virtue is something that CAN be regained. Virtue is a state of mind, not the state of your hymen.
I hope, too, you see the blatant misogyny in your comment. To believe that 'women especially' leave behind a part of their heart and soul when they have sex with a man is flat wrong. First, it suggests that men have sex with women with absolutely no care, love, or feeling for them at all. Isn't that worse than doing something because you love someone? Second, it assumes that women who have been raped feel connected with their assaulter, which is perhaps the worst thing I have ever heard and is flat wrong. To say that women who have been sexually abused and assaulted have lost their virtue is some of the most damaging, sexist, and shameful logic I have yet encountered. I think President Nelson's words from the last women's session of conference are important to mention here, to teach us how we should feel about women who have endured such painful and awful experiences: "It grieves me to think that any of you have felt marginalized or have not been believed by a priesthood leader or have been abused or betrayed by a husband, father, or a supposed friend. I feel deep sorrow that any of you have felt sidelined, disrespected, or misjudged. Such offenses have no place in the kingdom of God." These women are pure, they are valid, they are virtuous, and they deserve love and care beyond the scopes of what it seems like you are willing to give them. Take it from the current prophet, Tom. If a woman has repented and is worthy of her temple recommend, your judgments have no place in the kingdom of God.
The other writers have embraced the story in John of the woman caught in adultery, found in John 8. I strongly suggest you review it, as it is clearly relevant here.
Do you recall that Christ looks at her and shames her for what she had done? Huh, because I don't recall that either. In fact, if anything he draws in the sand to bring attention away from her to bring her peace. He tells her to go, and sin no more. She is loved by him, he forgives her and charges her with the responsibility to continue in progress and do better. God does not condemn her. He does not reduce her to her sins. I only imagine the love that she felt and the tears she shed that day.
And what of the men who think they are so high and mighty? Ye who are without sin, cast the first stone. Some of us are guilty of lapses in judgment that result in breaking the law of chastity. Some of us are sinners for refusing to accept the Atonement's power in other people's lives. Some of us are guilty of telling God what he should do with women who aren't virtuous. Regardless, nobody gets to cast the stones, because EVERYONE is imperfect. Think about who you are in this story. Are you dragging the woman to God, trying to convince Him of her worthlessness? If you really think it's better for an unmarried woman who isn't a virgin to die, are you better than those who are trying to stone the woman? If Christ was in front of you as you spoke these words, what do you think He would say to you?
I would encourage you to learn what it means to deny the power of the Atonement. Participate in a deeper study of God's infinite love, and spend some time thinking about your own shortcomings. Think about what it means to think that a woman is better off dead than forgiven of having sex when she was young and naive. I worry for your future daughters. My heart aches for any women you may have openly shamed for things like this. They deserve love and support just as much as any other. They still get it from Christ, even if you refuse to offer it to them. Are you mightier than He?
Perhaps for your sake, and for the sake of your future wife, it is better that you find and marry a virgin, so she doesn't ever have to feel like you think she's a licked cupcake, or not worth as much as some other woman. I can only imagine what that does to a marriage. I expect our chiding will not have a substantial impact on your opinions. And as much as your opinions and question pain me and make me quite upset, I can't wish evil on you, and I would want you to find a happy marriage as well. I wish you the best, but also hope that you open your heart to the charity of God and develop a deeper understanding of the Atonement.
In the immortal words of everyone's favorite rotund, inflatable personal care assistant, "I have some concerns."
I take comfort in knowing that prophets like Heber J Grant have taught that “There is no true Latter-day Saint who would not rather bury a son or a daughter than to have him or her lose his or her chastity – realizing that chastity is of more value than anything else in all the world.”
Yes, President Grant said this. But how literally are you really going to take it? Is chastity really more valuable than anything else in all the world? What about faith, or hope, or charity? Last I checked, the first great commandment was love of God, and the second was a reflection of that love for our fellow men. Paul and Mormon both teach explicitly that charity is so supernally transformative and so critical to our quest to develop Christlike character that without it we are nothing. That sounds a lot more important than chastity to me.
But is that a contradiction? God commands us to cleave unto our spouses with our whole hearts and to no one else at the same time that He says, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26, New Revised Standard Version). Are those not both true principles, and yet in conflict? What's going on here?
The point is that your approach to the gospel as reflected in this question is uncritically absolutist, black-and-white, and frankly, dangerous. If every church leader's statement is literal, unfiltered, unadulterated Truth with a capital T, then the gospel is at least wildly contradictory if not totally incoherent. You can take a single line of text as your proof and make it say anything if you really want to. Jesus said He came not to send peace, but a sword; clearly He was a bellicose dictator and all that mumbo jumbo about loving one another was just an act. Except that's nonsense; of course it wasn't.
So it is today. Not every word out of a prophet's mouth is meant to be taken completely and totally literally, even if the principle of the statement is true and valuable. Even prophets, because they're human, are prone to exaggerating, assuming incorrectly, and misstating things. They're humans with their own biases and inclinations, just like us. That means not every single thing they say will be perfect, literal, "pure" doctrine that we can trust to be absolutely and perfectly accurate in some deeper sense. President Grant says we should rather bury our children than see them commit sexual sin. Does this statement mean we should be engaged in some form of honor killing? I don't believe that for a moment--but as guppy of doom points out a little too gruesomely for my taste, that is what the literal words of his statement suggest, if you're inclined to take them that way. In learning from the words of our prophets, we're not fundamentalist Protestants defending a perfect, harmonious canon--although some members of the church certainly want to believe that we are.
Your quote from the late President Kimball is problematic for similar reasons. Believe it or not, even modern prophets are still men of their time, and not every single thing they say or believe is divinely revealed truth. In The Miracle of Forgiveness, President Kimball says that it is "not right" for women to wear pants in public, which is an idea I don't think I have ever heard anyone in my life ever support. Should we sternly call the Missionary Department and tell them they ought to sustain the words of the prophets and revert changes to the dress code for sisters? Or is it possible that some of what President Kimball said, as well as the way he said it, was an opinion born of his time, and we ought to look to our modern prophets for further guidance?
The same thing applies to Moroni 9. I believe Mormon was an inspired and mighty prophet of God. However, there is also no question that he grew up in a patriarchal culture, and I do not for a moment agree with his assessment that a woman can be forcibly deprived of her chastity and virtue by being raped. Chastity and virtue are deeply personal, self-determined attitudes. They cannot be taken from you. Rape is a horrible, painful, traumatic experience--but it has nothing to do with one's personal virtue or chastity. That attitude is, in a word, antiquated, and frankly, I have no problem accepting that even prophets of God may not have been perfectly attuned to moral questions several thousand years ago. We now know better--or at least we surely ought to know better--than to connect a woman's worth and virtue to her status as a virgin. Women have as much intrinsic value before God as men do--regardless of their sexual behavior or whether they've been victims of sexual assault. Men also engage in promiscuous behavior, suffer sexual abuse, and so on--none of these things are unique to women, not even rape. Does a sexually active man's worthiness diminish before God, too? Are they forever "blemished" by pornography or other sexual misbehavior? Does a part of a man's soul remain with a prostitute or an ex-lover? If not--why not? And if so--where is this idea anywhere in the teachings of the Church?
I don't think it does any good to be angry or biting or spiteful, and the other writers have made their ire with your question quite clear. I don't know if anything said here will change your mind. But I would caution you to engage in some introspection and rethink the way you understand the law of chastity--because "chewed gum" object lessons aside, there is nothing in the scriptures or the teachings of the restored gospel that suggests anyone--let alone women as a sex--are permanently blemished in some way by sexual behavior. (For further reading, I suggest the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet's remarks on chastity, as well as Doctrine and Covenants 58:42 and Isaiah 1:18.) Remember Corianton? Remember how he abandoned his missionary assignment to have sex with a harlot? Not only does Alma not pronounce him blemished from then to forevermore, his repentance process apparently changes him and he goes on to be a successful and valiant member of the Lord's church. How's that for an inspiring ending we never tell in Sunday School for some reason?
One final comment on chastity, which I hope will help all readers and not merely the asker of this question. Chastity is not merely a behavioral laundry list of do not's that stops applying once you get married and anything goes. We often colloquially speak as if it is, and "breaking the law of chastity" refers almost exclusively to the actual act of having sex. This fundamental confusion is what underpins such nonsense as the idea that sexual assault deprives one of one's virtue and that you are damaged or blemished goods once you've "crossed the line," so to speak, and experienced sex.
To be blunt, this is nonsense. When we commit to live chastely, we are committing to God that everything we say, think, and do will be chaste. We forswear pornography, lustful fantasizing, masturbation, and all forms of behavior, speech, and thought that evoke lust. David's sin began when he watched Bathsheba washing herself and not a moment later--he had already sinned well before she conceived a child with him. Why does this matter? The point is that all of us have been unchaste to some degree, whether we've actually had sex or merely followed a chain of lustful thoughts or crass humor a little too far. That is precisely why the Atonement of Jesus Christ was performed--to renew us spiritually so that we could live with God again. If no unclean thing can enter God's kingdom, how then can those who have committed a sexual sin--which is nearly all of us--hope to enter God's kingdom? But more importantly, how can we possibly remain blemished when He has pronounced us clean? Is that not the whole point of Christ's expiation of our sin?
I don't know that I've changed your mind. But I would very strongly urge you to consider the disagreement you've been met with and examine your attitude towards chastity and how it relates to women in particular.
I just wanted to say that it feels like you are picking and choosing quotes and that feels disingenuous to women and men everywhere. I don't have a problem with you (or any other person) wanting to marry a virgin. Who am I to tell you not to do that? However, I do have a problem with you saying that people who are raped or have otherwise lost their virginity before marriage are forever blemished. I disagree that you would be "sticking with the prophets" by refusing to marry someone who is not a virgin.
It's concerning to me that you really believe that although someone can or has repented of breaking the law of chastity (obviously being raped is not breaking the law of chastity) they are no longer completely whole. That would be like saying you can never be trustworthy after you have told a lie regardless of your repentance. Yes, sexual sin is not to be taken lightly, but neither is the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
So whether or not you marry a virgin, can I recommend that you be a little less harsh? It appears that you don't fully understand the true power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I would also recommend that you re-read the New Testament, especially the story of the woman who was "caught in adultery" (or in other words: not a virgin). Does Jesus say that she should never marry? Does Jesus tell her that she will remain blemished, even after her real repentance? No, he does not. And if you believe the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints agree with your argument in your question, then I think you are wrong.
I hope that helps!
-Sunday Night Banter
Cast the first stone.
A Very Horrified Josefina
You know, I'd been getting downright arrogant, thinking that I'm a worthwhile person because I'm smart and hard-working and have other good qualities. Thank you for reminding me that my ultimate worth is defined only by the state of my hymen.
While you may take some sort of perverse "comfort" from believing that women's entire worth is wrapped up in their sexual past, and that they're better off dead than having had sex outside of marriage, I personally take comfort from knowing that people like you, with beliefs like yours, are a dying breed.
I completely agree. Everyone who has ever had sex before marriage or was raped would be better off dead. In order to best follow these statements that provide you so much comfort, I think we should murder everyone who was raped or who broke the law of chastity. We can use social media posts, interviews with bishops, and police reports to find everyone who has been raped or had sex before marriage, round them all up, and kill them all. In fact, because 90% of Americans today have premarital sex (source), and because all true Latter-day Saints would prefer to "bury a son or a daughter than to have him or her lose his or her chastity," I think we need to kill all unmarried people, because statistically speaking a super majority of them will lose their chastity, and killing them is far superior to having them lose that, as it is "of more value than anything else in the world," far more valuable than their lives.
Tom, you said it so well - we all know that these people, who may be worthy, can never be clean again because they have blemish. There is nothing that God has ever done to cleanse people from sinning. There is nothing God has done to heal people who have been hurt by others' actions. God knew some people would have their agency ripped away from them and feel devastated due to others' actions, but He decided to do nothing to fully repair, heal, and clean them. They will simply never be whole or clean ever again. Some might say that's an oversight on God's part, but you and I know that God knew just how important the law of chastity is, and so He made sure there was absolutely no way to ever be truly clean after that. Just like a stick of gum, a woman who has been chewed, whether willingly or against her will, will never be the same ever again. After all, didn't Jesus join with the Pharisees in stoning the woman who had been found in adultery? No? Well, he should have.
I completely agree that you should never choose a woman who has been raped or broken the law of chastity. After all, isn't that the whole reason you're marrying it? You want a clean, hymen-included woman who has never been touched by another man. It needs to be absolutely pure, belonging to you and only you, and it can never, ever have given any part of it to another man, ever. It doesn't matter about its "personality" or "devotion to God" or "brain," just about how clean it is and how much it belongs to you. In fact, because you only want to be with someone who is completely clean and completely belongs to you, you shouldn't marry anything who has committed any sin and has ever had any boyfriend. God said that the smallest sin will keep us from His kingdom, and we shouldn't have any less standards than God. As there's no way to "ever be as pure as a umblemished lamb because they have blemish", you clearly shouldn't marry anyone who has ever had any blemishes. We know the impact that lying, stealing, cheating, thinking poorly of others, gossiping, ignoring the Spirit's promptings, not paying tithing, and not obeying the Word of Wisdom have on our souls, and that kind of blemish is not something you want to be married to for all eternity. And you're completely right that your future wife should never, ever leave "a piece of her heart and sole" with another man, so clearly you need to marry someone who has never had a boyfriend, or a crush, or any male figure who has ever had part of its heart. While it may be hard to find a woman who is fatherless, has no brothers, and has never given a second glance to another man in her life, I believe that you can find that woman, because it is clearly so crucial that it only ever 100% belongs to you.
So yes, Tom. Stick with the prophets. Only marry a virgin.
-guppy of doom
All of my very smart and talented fellow writers have already explained in great detail why you should reconsider your present stance, so I won't reiterate what has already been written.
I have only one thing to add:
Heads-up, this answer contains a traumatic story.
It's an extreme example, but an actual cautionary tale from someone I know personally. My cousin--a grown man--was obsessed with the idea of sexual purity, fixated on it. He didn't think people could return to cleanliness through repentance, not really, and one day, while very drunk, he raped his own three-year-old daughter. He doesn't remember it happening, but happen it did. He's in prison now, for a long while. I'm not going to project the awful realities of this situation onto anyone else, but I wanted to share what his sister-in-law discussed with me: his years-long fixation on virginity and sexual "purity," his obsession with some principle he felt was completely irrettrievable fed a situation where he hurt someone he cared about and someone who should never have had to experience what she did.