Doctrinal Question

Question: Does the use of pornography constitute a violation of the law of chastity?

Let me frame it in a scenario, if that helps. A man meets with his bishop and discloses regular porn use. His bishop feels that this man should not receive a temple recommend. On what basis is the recommend not given: because the man has violated the law of chastity, because the man has past sins that have not been resolved, or because the man does not consider himself worthy to enter the temple and partake of the ordinances? Which basis is most doctrinally sound? Which is most effective for the bishop to use as a means of counsel or judgment?

Comments

  1. In other words, is there a case to be made that pornography use is sui generis?

  2. Aaron Brown says:

    I’m not sure I understand the question. Aren’t the first (law of chastity violation) and second (past unresolved sins) options just two ways of saying the same thing? And as for the third, you’ve focused on the alleged sinner’s consideration of his own worthiness, while presumably the “basis” for the Bishop’s decision is going to be the Bishop’s determination as to the man’s worthiness, not the man’s own determination in that regard.

    I’m sure you’re trying to get at something more than what I’m seeing…

    Aaron B

  3. “Aren’t the first (law of chastity violation) and second (past unresolved sins) options just two ways of saying the same thing?”

    not at all, Aaron. You can still say porn use is a sin, without saying that you’ve broken the law of chastity.

  4. I would have to go with Chastity on this one. Jesus talked about the looking after a women and committing adultry in one’s heart. I don’t know if you can smoke in your heart, but the counsel is enough to catagorize it under chastity for me.

  5. and I use these three bases because they are directly tied to temple recommend questions.

  6. Stapley, I don’t think that Jesus was giving us anything more than an example of His new law by speaking to adultery in your heart. If we are officially stating that the law of chastity includes thought crimes, then why don’t we do this across the board, in keeping with that Jesus was getting at?

  7. p.s. I’m not trying to justify the use of porn. Note that in none of the scenarios I describe does the man receive his recommend.

  8. The difference is that with sex, more than any other thing (I think), there is a physiological response, i.e., you can mimick the response of sex, whereas you can’t do that with alcohol (no matter if you are an alcoholic). Moreover, one actually commits an act while viewing porn that in most people simulates sex.

  9. During a break in one of the training meetings I attended as a Church service missionary assigned to the pornography addiction program a couple of years ago, one of the LDS Family Services officials told me that a recommendation had been made to add a question specifically about pornography. A few months later, Elder Oaks addressed this in his talk on pornography:

    “Some have suggested that pornography should be a separate question in the temple recommend interview. It is already. At least five different questions should elicit a confession and discussion on this subject if the person being interviewed has the spiritual sensitivity and honesty we expect of those who worship in the house of the Lord.”

  10. DavidH, I agree entirely with what Elder Oaks is saying, and I think I’m trying to say the same thing — no matter what sin pornography is, it gets caught in the recommend interview as-is.

    However, Elder Oaks doesn’t answer my question, which is more esoteric: which question should it trip?

  11. Randy B. says:

    “which question should it trip?”

    Elder Oaks says there are five. My quesses at his list:

    1. law of chastity

    2. strive to keep all the commandments

    3. any sins or misdeeds that need repenting

    4. consider yourself worthy

    5. anything relating to your family that is not in harmony with the teaching of the church (though this one seems something of a stretch; perhaps there is a better candidate for #5)

  12. He does not say what the “at least five different questions” are that might lead to a discussion of seeking out and using pornography. I will take a stab.

    1. The chastity question.
    2. Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?
    [I have learned in my service that most wives feel almost as betrayed by a husband’s use of pornography as by an physical affair with another person. Most wives find that a husband’s pornography use impairs emotional and sexual intimacy.]
    3. Do you earnestly strive to do your duty in the Church; to attend your sacrament, priesthood, and other meetings; and to obey the rules, laws, and commandments of the gospel?
    [If a brother is in denial about pornography use, and not trying, or seeking help, to stop, he is likely not “striv[ing] to obey the rules, laws and commandments of the gospel” or “duty in the Church”.]
    4. Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?
    [Secrecy and deception are very common is pornography (and other sexual) addiction. In fact, the secrecy is part of what fuels the addiction and a sense of isolation. Honesty and “breaking the secrecy” are part of the solution.]
    5. Do you keep all the covenants that you made in the temple?
    [I won’t be discussing those, but I can think of more than one that might apply.]

  13. Julie M. Smith says:

    “If we are officially stating that the law of chastity includes thought crimes, then why don’t we do this across the board, in keeping with that Jesus was getting at?”

    Can you explain this a little? I don’t think I understand what we DON’T do across the board.

    “5. anything relating to your family that is not in harmony with the teaching of the church (though this one seems something of a stretch; perhaps there is a better candidate for #5)”

    Not a stretch at all. Find me a woman who would choose for her husband to be addicted to porn.

  14. 11-12, I understand how the possible interpretations work that Elder Oaks contemplates (though I agree with Randy’s list, not David’s). My question is a little different.

  15. Randy B. says:

    Julie, I don’t disagree with you on woman not choosing their husbands to be addicted to porn. Of course, if that were the test (i.e., what people would “choose” for their spouses), then I suspect most of us are in trouble for one reason or another.

  16. Julie, we don’t keep people out of the temple for smoking cigars in their hearts, or for any other sin committed in our hearts. Adultery is the one, because it was one specifically mentioned by the Savior. I’m saying that in terms of standards for receiving recommends, it’s not consistent for us to view the LOC as the one that includes thoughts, but not the others.

  17. Steve, even asking a question about pornography is probably a violation of the law of chastity. In the constantly expanding LDS definition of porn, I think it will soon encompass all forms of sin. Murder is a violent form of porn, stealing is lust redirected to objects, profanity is verbally offensive porn (profanity all relates to bodies or Satan, you notice), etc. So all sin is a violation of the law of chastity.

  18. Randy B. says:

    This does not, technically speaking, fully answer Steve’s in #6, but one response is that viewing pornography is an act, not unlike smoking, and not merely thought crime. (That said, I tend to agree with Julie’s point in the first half of #13.)

  19. Not that this is equivical at all, but couldn’t “secretly shopping on Sunday” also violate 2-5 on Randy B.’s list? There are lots of things that can potentialy violate those questions but that doesn’t resolve the question of whether they should or not.

    My point: I think the law of Chastity is the only question that can soundly trip the issue. And even then, we don’t really have a hard definition of the law of Chastity.

  20. 5. anything relating to your family that is not in harmony with the teaching of the church (though this one seems something of a stretch; perhaps there is a better candidate for #5)

    Like Julie, I don’t think that’s a stretch at all. Porn use certainly affects one’s relationship with one’s spouse, and most likely with one’s kids as well.

  21. Dave (#17), you’re getting at one of my main beefs here, which is the conflation of the law of chastity. I have no problem with calling porn use a sin — I believe it is. But I think we need to be careful in how we expand the definitions of sexual relations and chastity, no?

  22. Steve,
    I think that you are missing the point in insisting that pornography only happens “in the heart.” People are affected physically by pornography (actors get paid, etc.). Beyond that, pornography tends to warp the way one views sexual relations in particular and relations in general. People who are addicted to pornography are prone neglect their family and can try to push their spouses in directions that the spouse is uncomfortable with. That this is a “victimless” crime is a myth; so is the thought that it only affects the perpetrator. That is why I agree with DavidH’s list more than RandyB’s (although I would probably combine them, putting us at, at least, 7 possible triggers).

    Also, I wonder if the search for THE trigger is misguided. Although the results of addiction are remarkably similar, the reasons behind it and the experience of it are individual. What I am experiencing as the major factor behind my addiction may or may not be similar to another addict’s experience. To that end, we may have different triggers in a worthiness/temple recommend interview.

  23. Randy B. says:

    Copedi,

    What if the spouse didn’t care one way or another about about porn use? (That’s also my problem with DavidH’s #4 — you can use porn and be honest about it.) I agree that if you get to five, the question about family members is the best candidate. It just doesn’t strike me as a particularly good fit.

  24. Randy,
    Do you think it likely or common in an LDS context for the spouse to simply not care?

  25. Randy B. says:

    John Anon,

    Just ask Steve EM

  26. “Which is most effective for the bishop to use as a means of counsel or judgment?”

    Most men within the Church who regularly seek out and use pornography feel that it is wrong, and many feel large amounts of shame for not being able to refrain on their own willpower, even after having confessed, even multiple times, to priesthood leaders, or having seen a therapist.

    In most cases, in my opinion, it is not helpful for a priesthood leader to be perceived as “judg[ing]”, but as helping and providing encouragement. A most important thing, I think, for a leader to counsel is, “Don’t give up.” The Lord’s words to Oliver Granger–“when he falls he shall rise again” (D&C 117:13)–and the counsel in Proverbs 24:16–“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again”–are important concepts in recovering from addictions and compulsions.

    Of course, “ris[ing] again” after “fall[ing]” is much more than simply promising oneself to stop and continuing life as usual (prayer and scripture reading usually are not nearly enough to stop). It means learning from the slip, adjusting boundaries, and breaking secrecy. It may mean seeking different or additional types of help and support, working the twelve steps, adjusting sleep or eating patterns, exploring medications with medical professionals, and attempting to strenthen one’s personal “connection” to God and to others.

    All the therapists with whom I serve advise me that support from other human beings in a safe group setting is extraordinarily helpful in recovery. And that is what the literature says as well. Many brothers find that Phil Harrison’s book, Clean Hands, Pure Hearts, is very helpful.

    Again, in my opinion, in most cases, it is more important to provide hope than to attempt to increase guilt, which may lead to debilitating shame, increased self-loathing, and even giving up for a time.

  27. Rleonard says:

    Hi all.

    I think that Technically porn is not against the actual letter of the law of chastity but against the spirit. Its a sin by and of itself. The TR rec interview has several places to discuss this issue.

    Porn is a real problem not to be glossed over. My father in law has a porn addiction and it has had a devastating effect on him, his spouse and his children.

  28. Randy,
    I know what he would say. I am interested in your opinion (I avoided inserting an ‘aside from Steve EM’ in the original comment, because, really, its superfluous).

  29. Randy B. says:

    Steve (#21): “But I think we need to be careful in how we expand the definitions of sexual relations and chastity, no?”

    It’s hard to argue against being careful. Can you shed more light on what is worrying you though?

  30. Evans should start with the 10 commandments in coming to realize that “thought” sins are included all the time within God’s commandments. Off the top of my head, I would refer him to just two of the 10 commandments relating to “covetousness” and “having no other gods” before God. Pornography would clearly fall into these two violations of the 10 commandments. I also agree with prior comments to the effect that “pornography use” is an “action verb” that involves the betrayal of God as well as one’s spouse or future spouse.

  31. Evans will do just that, skip — why do you refer to him as if he were not here?

  32. Randy, good question. By and large I am concerned about the prospect of broadening definitions of conduct to the point that the law of chastity essentially becomes a sexual catchall provision. I don’t believe any plain reading of the law of chastity as found in the scriptures lets us treat it as a broad provision, designed to prohibit whatever sexual conduct we deem inappropriate.

    When we begin to enlarge definitions this way, I’m afraid we’re wresting the scriptures in a manner that isn’t sound. We’re a modern church, with ongoing revelation. If porn use is a sin, then let’s treat it as one, rather than feeling a need to wedge porn into a law that could not have foreseen it.

  33. I have become acquainted with dozens of therapists, inside and outside of the Church, in the sex addiction field. I am told that it is very rare for a heterosexual sex addict’s partner to be neutral about the sex addict’s usage of pornography (and that is true, I am told, even if the female partners themselves are part of the sex industry). And it is very rare for the addict, who is not in recovery, to have been honest about it.

    I agree, by the way, with the recommendation that pornography be added as a specific question on the temple recommend interview. But I can understand the reluctance of the Brethren to do so–how does one define “pornography”? Words? Pictures? Audio? How much use disqualifies? Under what circumstances?

    I am not sure whether pornography use is technically a violation of “chastity”. If it is defined as physical relations with another person, it is not.

    But, again, my understanding is that, just as most wives feel betrayed when a husband has an intense, nonphysical, emotional relationship with another woman, they feel betrayed when a husband has an intense “relationship” with sexual fantasy. I do not fully understand it. But I tell brothers in the recovery programs that just as women have a difficult time understanding the “pull” that many men feels towards pornography, most men have a difficult time understanding the sense of betrayal wives feel when a man spends time looking and becoming stimulated by “just a picture”.

    Steve, what would you think if the chastity question were modified as follows: “Do you live the law of chastity, defined to include avoiding pornography?”

    Also, in your hypothetical, does the brother object to being denied a temple recommend? Are you concerned that the bishop denied it only on the basis of an expanded chastity definition?

  34. Steve, you’re missing the point. In the Mormon approach, sin is not really founded on objective categories. Nephi chopping off a drunken man’s head then stealing his property was not a sin (according to LDS thinking) even though objectively it was murder and stealing. But drinking coffee is a sin because … well, because leaders say it is. So the assumption of a moral component to the Mormon definition of sin does not comport with LDS use of the word “sin.” Sin is whatever LDS leaders say it is.

    So trying to tie down why porn is so sinful by arguing about moral categories is the wrong approach for understanding current LDS thinking.

  35. I believe that people often interpret “sexual relations” as being any relationship founded on sex, whether physical or not. In general, I think people often set this under the “like unto it” clause.

    Dave,
    I am willing to go with “Sin is whatever X [says] it is” if you make the X God. Beyond that, I don’t think I’ll follow.

  36. Evans has raised an interesting question. Let’s see.

    First, let’s get definitional. What are we saying when we discuss porn use? Most porn use involves masturbation. So maybe _that_ is the sin. That’s a physical, sexual act which I think triggers the LOC.

    Is there a problem from porn, that’s not related to masturbation? Maybe. Suppose I’m looking at porn, but not masturbating. Well, then my activity could come within at least two categories.

    First, I could be looking at porn for purposes of arousal, but not actually masturbating. Gray area, and puts in the spotlight the question of what the sin is. I think this is probably a sin / violation of LOC, though Evans is right that the mechanics are unclear.

    Second, I could be looking at porn for some other, non-arousal related purpose. For example, I’ve come across porn stashes in document review. I looked at those e-mails (very briefly) to verify that they were not related to the securities allegations. There are other instances of non-arousal-related porn use. There was the Anna Kournikova case a few years ago where alleged topless pictures of her were printed in a porn mag. The judge, law clerks, attorneys, and so forth had to examine the images in question.

    I’m relatively sure that _that_ is not a violation. So the violation happens from viewer intent to be aroused, not from the act of looking at naked bodies.

    Interestingly, this means that if I’m aroused by some non-standard route, I could probably get myself in trouble, LOC-wise, without even looking at the normal naked-folks porn. If I’m aroused by feet, then I shouldn’t be browsing through the shoe catalogue in order to get aroused.

  37. Seth R. says:

    Steve,

    If the guy is using porn and unrepentant about it, I don’t see much point in him going to the temple in the first place. It’s not really going to do him much good and will probably actually be harmful. Unless he’s just getting the recommend so he can feel like a good Mormon and impress his wife/parents/friends. In which case, I really don’t feel bad about denying the recommend.

    If it were up to me (and confirmed by the Spirit), I would tell him to get this issue sorted out before getting a temple recommend.

    Who cares if it violates “the Law of Chastity?” It’s spiritually suicidal. What more do you need to know about it? It’s not like we’re going to get into Heaven based on a technicality under Rule 372(a)(4) of the Rules of Celestial Procedure.

    “You’re honor, I submit that the mere presence of Maxim magazine in my client’s nightstand is not admissible as evidence of an unchaste heart”

    Please.

    Let’s stop moping around wondering whether God loves us or not, and start asking instead whether our own actions show that we really love God.

  38. Also, everyone seems to be ready to lump Steve’s hypothetical porn “user” into the “addict” camp.

    Granted, addiction to porn/sex exists, and affects some people’s lives in a very negative way. However, I think it’s wrong (and reflects to some degree the recent demonization of the topic) to suggest that everyone who looks at porn is an addict. It also triviliazes the real problems that happen from _real_ addiction.

    It is fallacious and harmful to suggest that everyone who has ever gotten off with a Playboy is a porn addict.

  39. Didn’t Elder Oaks express the rule of thumb that if it is arousing to you, it is (or can be) pornography to you?

  40. John Anon (#35), it doesn’t really matter who X is. If you agree that “sin is what X says it is,” you’re agreeing that there’s no necessary connection between sin and morality. It’s an old argument.

  41. Kaimi,
    You raise a fair point. My impression that we were discussing addicts had to do with someone trying to handle this in a temple recommend interview (and, presumably, keeping it secret until then).

  42. Dave,
    I am aware of the dilemma. I just don’t know that LDS folk should agree with Socrates in it. I am sure that that is a threadjack waiting to happen, though.

  43. Julie M. Smith says:

    Re #16: thanks for clarifying. That makes sense, and is a very good question.

    Re #32: I’m just thinking out loud here, so I may be on the wrong track, but: If we define a violation of the law of chastity as any sexual experience that does not involve one’s spouse, then couldn’t we see porn as a sexual experience with images? In that sense, using porn violates the law of chastity. Does that work?

  44. But Kaimi,

    Can you occassionaly drink a beer and still get a temple recommend?

  45. Randy B. says:

    John Anon (#24),

    What if you are single?

  46. (cont.)
    even if you only drink one a couple of times a year?

  47. Randy B. says:

    Steve (#32),

    A fair point, though I’m not sure how serious a concern this really is. Suprisingly (at least to me), the term “chastity” is used exactly twice in the scriptures, both times in the BoM (Jacob 2:28 and Moroni 9:9). And I don’t see that expanding the definition of chastity to extend to watching porn does much violence to these two scriptures.

    I also looked up “chaste.” There are only five versus that use this term (2 Cor. 11:2, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:2, Jacob 2:7, and Article of Faith 13). I also don’t see a lot of room for mischief here. In fact, the verse in Peter discusses “chaste conversation,” meaning we are already beyond the limits of actual sexual intercourse here.

    Of course, the topical guide for “chastity” lists many, many scriputes, most of which use terms like “virtuous,” or “pure,” or “clean.” Should we not use those terms either in categorizing the “porn sin”?

    I still think you might be on to something in being concerned about enlarging the way we define “sexual relations.” I’m just not seeing how “wresting the scriptures” is all that big a concern here.

  48. Mark Butler says:

    Technically, no, because we have a formal definition of the law of chastity that does not include it, and the definition really ought to be changed to change the technical status of the question. However, pornography definitely falls in the category of things that are “like unto it”, “it” meaning adultery (cf. D&C 59:6), and also in the category of unholy and impure practices.

    In my area (Utah North) at least, a specific pornography question was added to the temple recommend interview a few years back (~1997), and it is current to this very day as far as I am aware.

  49. I guess my point being, you can’t right? So I think using pornography a couple of times a year, though not addicted by any means, is still problematic.

    (sorry about the three posts, baby in lap)

  50. Mary,

    Of course you can’t. But you’ve just reinforced my point:

    You don’t have to be an addict for a behavior to keep you out of the temple. A casual alcohol user will be barred from the temple, just like a casual porn user.

    I’m not arguing that the casual user of either should be allowed in the temple. What I’m saying is that it’s wrong (on both the descriptive and the normative level) to claim that casual users are addicts.

  51. Randy,
    Then presumably you wouldn’t have a spouse.

    Are you taking me as suggesting that pornography is only sinful for married people? That question could still apply if you think your parents/siblings would be disappointed in you and you are seeking to keep it from them.

    Do you see either of the above as the more likely situation in an LDS context?

  52. “I’m relatively sure that _that_ is not a violation.”

    lol, Kaimi. That reminds me of the scene in The Sentinel where a secret service agent is under a lie detector.

    Questioner: Have you had any contact with child pornography?

    Respondent: Well, I was working on this case where we where investigating…

    Questioner: Yes or no answer, please.

    Respondent: (sigh) Yes.

  53. Kaimi,
    If you are commiting the sin with regularity, you might want to consider adopting the addict label, even if it is only once or twice a year. Same time, next year and all that.

  54. Randy B. says:

    John Anon,

    What I’m saying is that one who is single and who uses porn is not, in my view, in violation of the “family relations” temple recommend question.

    Further, I am fairly certain that the test for the family relations question is _not_ whether my parents and siblings are “disappointed” in me or whether I am keeping things from them that would disappoint them. Too loose a test.

  55. Mark Butler says:

    I agree with Seth R. in terms of the attitude we should take – the reasons why “rules of celestial procedure” come into account is that TR approval / denial is a binary question, the Bishop is a judge, and furthermore that he does not have the same degree of knowledge of a persons heart that God himself does.

    There are all sorts of things that we should be trying to overcome that technically disqualify us from exaltation, but a bishop cannot judge too strictly or no one would qualify to go to the temple at all. Just because we meet a pertinent (and imperfect) standard of behavior does not give us a free pass to engage in anything that flies under the radar. It is the difference between justification and sanctification.

    One must be justified to a degree to go to the temple, but the very purpose of going there is to be sanctified through the making and keeping of covenants. The entry requirement cannot be perfection – some tolerance for the common foibles of mankind must be made, as long as the person is not *willing* to continue in sin, but rather striving to overcome any weaknesses he may have, and has progressed far enough to meet the entry level standard of the behavior becoming a Saint.

  56. John Anon,

    If the only factor there is regularity, then I disagree. There’s a big difference between regular use and addiction.

    Look at it in the alcohol context. I know a lot of people who regularly have a glass of wine with lunch or dinner, a few times a week or a few times a month. Are they all alcoholics? No, of course not. They’re mostly people who like the taste of wine with their lunch sometimes.

    There are a lot of casual alcohol users who have alcohol a few times a week or a few times a month. It is insulting and unhelpful to pretend like they’re all alcoholics, by virtue of the fact that they regularly have some alcohol. If my co-worker has wine twice a month, should I tell him he needs to go to Alcoholics Anonymous? Probably not.

    As with other sometimes-addictive behaviors like alcohol and drugs, porn creates far more casual users than it does true addicts. We don’t do anyone a favor when we blur the line and act like our occasional-wine-with-lunch co-worker is a raging alcoholic.

  57. Seth R. says:

    This isn’t about whether our hypothetical person is “allowed by others” to go to the temple.

    It’s about whether he or she will benefit from it. This isn’t about the Bishop. It’s about the applicant.

    You cannot stand in the presence of God without a conviction that the course of your life has been in accordance with God’s commands and has been such that you can lay hold on the mercy embodied in Christ’s Atonement.

    Can one unrepentant beer destroy that confidence, sow the seeds of self-doubt?

    Yes it can.

    Can getting off once with a Playboy do it?

    Yes it can.

    Unless you have repented of them of course.

    You keep yourself out of Heaven just as much as God does. Doubt and faith cannot both hold sway. The scriptures are fairly clear on this. Filthiness cannot exist in the Lord’s presence and there is no such thing in Mormonism as “no big deal.”

    Without repentance, you should not be there. You do not belong there. End of story. Whether you can get in there by being legally sneaky is beside the point.

    Just who do we think we’re fooling?

  58. Mark Butler says:

    I should add that the *degree* or type of pornography, indecency, etc., as well as *frequency* of exposure, as well as feelings / actions it engenders are all relevant. I would not say properly speaking that the type of stuff television is full of is *pornography*, but the potential for abuse is there, in degrees from what one might call general lasciviousness to absolute obscenity.

    In fact the proper and original definition of obscene includes anything that should not be seen (or heard) in public or at all, and much of what the world calls indecency is obscene in the proper sense of the word. But of course that all comes in degrees. One can surely have a serious problem with material that doesn’t technically qualify as pornography if one pursues it enough.

  59. Kaimi,
    I agree that self-destructive behavior is an element in addiction. Your once in a while alcohol drinker (or even regular) alcohol drink probably isn’t an alcoholic if they can easily choose not to when they don’t want to.

    That said, since, as we all understand, no sane LDS person, who has been raised in the church and understands temple covenants, would ever make a calculated decision to look at pornography simply for arousal (which, I believe, we all agree on), what do you do about those who do it once or twice a year with regularity? Is it safe to call them addicts in that context? Certainly, in an LDS context, any porn use (regular or occasional) is considered self-destructive, isn’t it?

  60. Steve, I don’t agree with your thinking that including pornography within the LOC constitutes an expansion of the LOC. I think it is simply a recognition by modern-day prophets of something that neither the ancient Israelites nor the mid-twentieth century Church had to deal with much, but now unfortunately we do, and that it squarely falls within pre-existing commandments against covetousness and the worship of false gods, as well as within several pre-existing questions on the temple recommend interview.

  61. Randy,
    I think that it is in the nature of the interview that the individual has to interpret the “looseness” or “strictness” with which they understand the individual questions. Certainly they can ask the interviewer for advice in answering, but only the individual and God consistently know how they care to define things like “chastity”. Since it is the individual who ultimately determines what triggers their guilt, etc. (barring occasional powerful impressions from the spirit of discernment), I can easily see the “family relations” item leading to the discussion. I could even go so far to say that, depending on the individual, it should. For instance, if I avoided participating in a baby blessing due to feelings of unworthiness, shouldn’t that trigger the question? Or if I lied to my mother in order to stop her asking questions about my staying up late, shouldn’t that trigger the question? I think that your strict definition of “family relations” may be too strict (and mine may be too loose). We may just have to agree to disagree.

    That said, you never answered my original question (from #24).

  62. Steve Evans says:

    It is interesting to me how deeply we associate the question of addiction with pornography use. It is not something I meant for discussion here; indeed I view it as something that’s been discussed elsewhere to death, and ancillary at best to my question.

    Seth R. and some others are missing my point. I am not asking whether pornography use should keep us out of the temple. I think it’s fairly obvious that it should. I am merely asking a question about appropriate rubrics for considering pornography, and I have serious doctrinal doubts as to tying pornography directly to the law of chastity.

  63. Steve,
    Why don’t you believe that it easily falls into the “like unto it” category with adultery/fornication?

  64. John, because I don’t think it is like unto it. Masturbating to pornographic materials is completely different from having a real-life sexual encounter.

  65. Randy B. says:

    John Anon,

    I think we agree about what the answer to your question in #24 is. What we disagree on is whether the use of porn by an individual necessarily implicates the family relations question regardless of what that person’s family circumstances are. On that front, we do seem to have reached an impasse.

  66. This is an interesting post. I can see where Steve in coming from with his question. Much of this thread has been devoted to the discussion of why pornography is wrong, I don’t think the pursuing of this question is of much worth, the vast majority of mormons (all of us included) believe it is wrong.

    The post by Seth R. in #58 embodies the vitriol that is common among mormons when discussing the sinful acts of other mormons. I think a little more mercy needs to be shown for those who are in spiritual trouble, and a little less peer inflicted justice.

    That said, I think that a new question in the interview would be a good addition. There are those who rationalize their behavior to keep their temple recommend; adding a question would force those people to deal with their problem sooner.

    I also very much agree with the statements of Kaimi, not everyone who views porn is an addict. Using the ‘addict’ label is largely used as a scare tactic. I think the bottom line is this: if you look at porn occasionally, you need to decide to stop and seek out your bishops help in doing so.

  67. Julie (#44): “If we define a violation of the law of chastity as any sexual experience that does not involve one’s spouse, then couldn’t we see porn as a sexual experience with images?”

    I agree with your conclusion under that definition, but I do not agree that the law of chastity prohibits “any sexual experience that does not involve one’s spouse.” There’s the rub, as it were.

  68. Steve,

    I’ve often wondered if viewing pornography violates the LOC. In my opinion, the way the LOC is stated in the temple ceremony does not lend itself toward the inclusion. Obviously pornography is sexual, but just because something is wrong and also sexual, does not mean it is wrong because it violates the LOC.

  69. Julie M. Smith says:

    Steve:

    How would you define the law of chastity, then?

  70. Seth R. says:

    OK Steve,

    That clarifies it for me.

    Jared E.

    I fail to see the vitriol. Perhaps you’re confusing me with someone else.

  71. Julie, the law of chastity is to have no sexual relations except with your spouse to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded.

  72. Jared E. (#69), that’s my point.

  73. Randy B. says:

    Steve, are you saying that an experience that does not involve at least one other live person cannot constitute “sexual relations” within the meaning of the LOC?

  74. Randy, I realize that this can seem like splitting hairs Bill Clinton-style.

    I do not mean to definitively remove pornography as a possible LOC violation – I have no authority to do so. I guess I feel that if there is a question, an ambiguity, why do we feel the need to expand definitions of sexual relations in this way? We already know that porn use is a sin on its own, so let’s treat it on its own and leave traditional notions of the LOC alone.

  75. You keep yourself out of Heaven just as much as God does. Doubt and faith cannot both hold sway. The scriptures are fairly clear on this. Filthiness cannot exist in the Lord’s presence and there is no such thing in Mormonism as “no big deal.”

    Without repentance, you should not be there. You do not belong there. End of story. Whether you can get in there by being legally sneaky is beside the point.

    Just who do we think we’re fooling?

    Seth R.,

    Perhaps you don’t see this as heavy handed, but I do. “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart”. Many of those who struggle with this problem are honest people trying to cope with a real shortcoming. Perhaps they would view your failings with the same amount of contempt? None of us “deserve” to live with God again, it is only through his mercy.

  76. Adam Greenwood says:

    I guess I just flat disagree that looking at p*rn for arousal isn’t a sexual experience in some way. What other reason would there be for p*rn?

  77. Steve, I think most Mormons consider any sexual transgression to be a violation of the law of chastity, despite clear wording to the contrary elsewhere (#72).

    I was at a fireside awhile back where a stake leader was at the chalkboard hosting a discussion of sources of threats to sexual morality and listing them on the chalkboard. People jumped on the obvious choices early — porn movies, the internet — then got creative. R-rated movies are almost as bad. Even some PG movies are pretty racy and porn-like. Television, of course. Do you know what people wear (or don’t wear) at the beach nowadays? Some photos in People magazine are awfully revealing and porn-like. It even got down to the Sunday paper, which you probably didn’t realize was porn, or even (for some papers) liberal porn!

    So there you go — everything is porn. Turn on the television, you’re sexually transgressing (if you’re not on KBYU — you’d be amazed at the things they show on secular public television!). Life itself is a sexual transgression, at least if you’re a man — women seem somehow excluded from the whole discussion, although soap operas are clearly a form of emotional porn that distorts healthy and normal relationships. I believe Freud would be proud of recent developments in Mormon thinking, which has finally caught up to his way of seeing things.

  78. Randy,

    As I recall it is worded as “sexual relations with anyone to whom you are legally and lawfully married”. If this is the basis which ties pornography to the LOC, then viewing pornography with your spouse is completely ok (which of course it is not). The argument is flimsy in my view. Porn is wrong, but not because it is tied to the LOC; it is wrong upon its own merits.

  79. Steve,
    I think that members and the Brethren generally tend to functionally replace “relations” with “activity” in the definition that you cite (which, incidentally, would effectively remove the possibility of legal solo endeavors, as it were). As to why we tie it into the LoC, presumably it is for the same reason we tie the prohibition on coffee and recreational cocaine into the WoW. It’s how it applies today.

  80. Adam (#77), education? LOL

  81. Dave,
    I agree with your sentiment regarding the ridiculousness of considering everything pornography. It is what the individual finds arousing that is in question and how that individual deals with it. Obviously, everything isn’t pornography, although almost anything potentially could be, no?

  82. John (#80), not so. Coffee and drug use have been explicitly indicated by subsequent revelation as violations of the word of wisdom. No such revelation has occurred to make the correlation for porn that you describe. And no matter what members generally tend to do, my covenant said “relations,” and I’m sticking to it.

  83. Steve,
    Please pardon my ignorance. Where are the revelations in question?

  84. Gilgamesh says:

    Steve,

    I think it is number 3 – the individual does not feel worthy and should not enter the temple. I say that, agreeing with Kaimi in #36 and particularly the last paragraph of #56. If an individual comes to the bishop and is repentant, which in your scenario seems to be the case, I would like to think the bishop would be encouraging this individual to increase wholesome activity such as temple attendance, to help in resisting the temptation.

    If perfection were the criteria for entering the temple, it would be a pretty empty place. Porn use is often a salve for guilt. To pull the recommend of a repentant user, in my opinion, may increase the problem, because the person now KNOWS he is no good. To reward repentant behavior with increased ability to be in a spiritual atmosphere would, again in my opinion, help solidify desires to remain pure and worthy for continued spiritual edification.

    Back to the issue of porn as a sin. I believe it is, however, it is often spoken of as vague. There is little direction given as to how strict or lenient one should be with those involved wkith porn use. One bishop may have a zero-tolerance take on porn, while another may see it with compassion – recognizing that factors such as childhood exposure to porn, abuse, relational tensions, sexual dysfunction, etc… can all lead to the use of porn and make it a difficult, if not impossible, addiction to cure completely. If that is the case, why exclude those that are trying their best to be pure, with an occasional slip, from entering the one place where they can be surrounded by the love of God.

  85. Gilgamesh,

    Well said.

  86. Randy B. says:

    Jared (#79),

    This is an interesting point. I suppose one answer to that is that it is inappropriate to engage with virtual sexual partners just as it is with live sexual partners, even if your spouse is a willing participant in both instances. The LOC can preclude both in an entirely consistent way.

    Steve (#75): “I do not mean to definitively remove pornography as a possible LOC violation . . . . I guess I feel that if there is a question, an ambiguity, why do we feel the need to expand definitions of sexual relations in this way.”

    Fair question. Brainstorming for a few minutes, I can see several possible reasons:

    1. Because they both involve sex, just different kinds and ways (this is essential Adam’s point, I believe).

    2. Because it is too messy to define the line that separates the two categories; easier to lump this all together.

    3. Because the emotions that the two forms of conduct evokes are so similar.

    4. Because the feelings of betrayal that result are so similar.

    I’m sure that there are more (and better) reasons than these.

    That said, Dave does make an important point. But I’m not sure what to do with it. Is the fact that some get carried away in defining porn a reason to give it its own category? Maybe.

    (BTW, What’s the speed record to 100 comments?)

  87. Randy, I dunno, but we’re on our way. I posted this up at 10:30 PST; it’s now 2:20. not too shabby!

    Like you, I can see the similarities. #2 you cite though strikes me as particularly dangerous from the point of view of interpreting doctrine — laziness??

  88. At the request of some concerned readers, let me try something else here–the question is very narrow. Is pornography use a violation of the LOC? Assume that the material in question is pornographic. Assume that everyone agrees (for the purposes of this question) that pornography, whether it falls under the LOC or not, is an evil. Assume pornography could fall under some other law. The question is only this: is pornography use a violation of the LOC? Why?

  89. In October 2004, Elder Oaks said “Specifically, we should avoid pornography, alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and always, always avoid violations of the law of chastity.” The construction of this sentence suggests that “pornography”, which “we should avoid” is different from “violations of the law of chastity”, which we should “always, always avoid.”

    Elder Oaks’ talk specifically on pornography the following April nowhere states that viewing pornography is a violation of the law of chastity (it does not look to me like it even mentions the word “chastity”).

    To the extent Elder Oaks implicitly included the chastity question as on the “five” questions, he might not have meant that seeking and viewing pornography was a violation of chastity, but that it was sufficiently related so that the question “should elicit a confession and discussion of this subject.”

    I agree that in many cases it may be counterproductive to assert in a recommend interview that viewing pornography directly violates the law of chastity, because that may only increase the shame and guilt the interviewee may already feel.

  90. Thanks DavidH. Very interesting. I wonder if Elder Oaks is looking at this same question from the lawyer’s definitional angle that I’m trying to do.

  91. I don’t know how helpful this is, but here is the “chastity” section of True to the Faith.

    Some highlights:
    “The Lord and His prophets condemn sexual immorality. All sexual relations outside of marriage violate the law of chastity and are physically and spiritually dangerous for those who engage in them.”

    “Merely refraining from sexual intercourse outside of marriage is not sufficient in the Lord’s standard of personal purity. The Lord requires a high moral standard of His disciples, including complete fidelity to one’s spouse in thought and conduct. In the Sermon on the Mount, He said: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27–28). In the latter days He has said, “Thou shalt not … commit adultery, … nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). And He has reemphasized the principle He taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “He that looketh on a woman to lust after her, or if any shall commit adultery in their hearts, they shall not have the Spirit, but shall deny the faith and shall fear” (D&C 63:16). These warnings apply to all people, whether they are married or single.”

    “Control your thoughts. No one commits sexual sin in an instant. Immoral acts always begin with impure thoughts. If you allow your thoughts to linger on obscene or immoral things, you have already taken the first step toward immorality. Flee immediately from situations that may lead to sin. Pray for constant strength to resist temptation and control your thoughts. Make this a part of your daily prayers.

    Stay away from pornography. Do not view, read, or listen to anything that depicts or describes the human body or sexual conduct in a way that can arouse sexual feelings. Pornographic materials are addictive and destructive. They can rob you of your self-respect and of a sense of the beauties of life. They can tear you down and lead you to evil thoughts and abusive conduct.”

    “If you are married, be faithful to your spouse in your thoughts, words, and actions. The Lord has said: “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else. And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out” (D&C 42:22–23). Never flirt in any way. As much as possible, avoid being alone with anyone of the opposite sex. Ask yourself if your spouse would be pleased if he or she knew of your words or actions. Remember the Apostle Paul’s counsel to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). When you stay away from such circumstances, temptation gets no chance to develop.”

    For what it’s worth.

  92. Costanza says:

    It is interesting to note, relative to the discussion of the definition of the law of chastity, that at least one change has already been made. The definition cited above, the origin of which I think we all know, used to be given as follows: “No sexual intercourse except with your husband or wife, etc.” It was changed because people, especially young people, were doing all sorts of things except what was specifically outlined in the definition. It is possible that other changes could be forthcoming.

  93. HP/JDC, is that helpful? I can’t tell.

  94. To be honest, neither can I. I see the conflation of issues that you are talking about. I think that they are putting everything under a rubric of “sexual immorality”. Perhaps breaking the law of chastity (in a temple context) is different than just plain ol’ “sexual immorality”.

  95. I think that section heading should be “Sexual Immorality,” not “Chastity.” Interesting cite, though — thanks

  96. Kevin Barney says:

    Wow, I go away to a preclosing and come back to a new thread with 96 posts already! The ‘nacle must have been due for a pornography thread.

  97. The problem with the current topic is the same problem that is commonly encountered when defining church doctrine in general. General Authorities do not rigorously define the subject about which they are speaking; they rely upon the assumption of cultural inferences by those to whom they are speaking. Few mormons are anal enough to try to break issues down into coherent definitions/categories.

    Porn is wrong, is it breaking the LOC? That probably depends upon the GA that is being questioned (although I suspect most would say it is breaking the LOC, but without much logic to back it up.)

  98. Wouldn’t the similarities found in Randy’s 87 and the broad definition in True to the Faith indicate that the Brethren define pornography as a violation of the law of chastity (setting aside the syntactic minutiae of Elder Oaks’ talk)?

  99. Steve Evans says:

    99, I came to the opposite conclusion.

  100. I’d be interested to know who wrote the following stub at Wikipedia.com, but it makes some interesting fine-line distinctions. After reading it and the other posts (including the excerpts from Elder Oaks and others), I would say that I was incorrect and that Steve is correct in his thinking on this subject. Perhaps an accurate summary would be to say that Mormon doctrine does not as yet hold that pornography use is a violation of the Law of Chastity, but is a “lesser” (albeit dangerous and potentially devastatingly addictive) sin that can lead to a violation of the Law of Chastity.

    Wikipedia Stub:

    “The “Law of Chastity” is a part of the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) belief system. The Law of Chastity states that men and women should have no sexual relations except with the person to whom they are legally and lawfully wedded. “Sexual relations” which is commonly defined as “sexual activity between individuals” is also referred to as “sexual relationships” in recent Mormon literature. Some activities that are a violation of the Law of Chastity are rape, incest, adultery, fornication, bestiality, homosexuality, sexual abuse, and when done with someone other than a legally and lawfully wedded spouse, sexual touching and cybersex.

    Obedience to the Law of Chastity is a requirement of membership in the Mormon Church, but it is not viewed by faithful members as the full extent of what they can do to please God in regards to the sexual aspects of their lives. They are encouraged by the teachings of Jesus Christ to avoid even the thought of the activities described above, including avoiding pornography like they would avoid a plague, and controlling their sexual passions such as refraining from self masturbation and sexual perversion.

    Importantly, Mormons believe that sexuality between man and woman lawfully married is divinely appointed and has two purposes: to “multiply and replenish the Earth” (Bible, Genesis 1:28) as commanded by God to Adam and Eve, and to strengthen the bond between man and woman that they might “become one flesh” (Bible, Mark 10:8), something many christian sects believe to be a metaphor for a strong, healthy, happy physical, and mental union. Also seen as meaning, sexual relations are not to be used just for creating offspring but also for the expression of love between husband and wife throughout their lives.

    Even though the violation of the Law of Chastity is considered a grievous sin before God, one who has violated the Law of Chastity, through proper repentance, can still be eligible to gain eternal salvation.”

  101. DavidH #90–do we care about the guilt and shame of the interviewee?

    I mean, if they’re sinning….

    I’m kidding. DEATH to GUILT and SHAME!

  102. Randy B. says:

    If you take Elder Holland’s talk “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments,” and apply his thoughts in this context, I think a good argument can be made that viewing pornography does in fact violate the LOC.

    He begins his talk by noting, after describing the prevalence of sex outside marriage, that “more widespread in our society than the indulgence of personal sexual activity are the printed and photographed descriptions of those who do.” He then continues:

    “In fact, the rise of civilization seems, ironically enough, to have made actual or fantasized promiscuity a greater, not a lesser, problem. Edward Gibbon, the distinguished British historian of the eighteenth century who wrote one of the most intimidating works of history in our language (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire), said simply, ‘Although the progress of civilisation has undoubtedly contributed to assuage the fiercer passions of human nature, it seems to have been less favourable to the virtue of chastity. . . . The refinements of life [seem to] corrupt, [even as] they polish the [relationship] of the sexes.'”

    Note the connection that Holland is making here between “fantasized promiscuity” (i.e., pornography) and chastity.

    The remainder of his talk deals with the reasons why sexual trangression is such a serious matter. His arguments apply most forcefully when addressing sexual intercourse outside marriage, but they also apply, it seems to me, to the use of pornography. He discusses, for example, the desecration to the “soul” of those involved (which would include the soul of those depicted in porn), the sanctity with which sex is to be treated, the fragmentation of sexual relationships, and the undermining of marital unity. There are more points that could be drawn out, but you get the picture.

    Given these similarities, is it really a stretch to describe viewing pornography as unchaste? I’m still not seeing the concern that Steve is worried about.

    (By the way, is it just me or does it feel like I’m channeling m&m here?)

  103. Steve Evans says:

    Randy, it’s not just you.

  104. Missed one fun wrinkle in the whatever-arouses-you-is-porn argument:

    If one is unduly aroused by interviews, then maybe the act of interviewing someone about porn is itself porn!

    It could all be porn. Scripture reading. Meeting attendance. Porn all the way down, for the right person.

  105. “Wow, I go away to a preclosing and come back to a new thread with 96 posts already! The ‘nacle must have been due for a pornography thread.”

    Come to think of it, I’ve always felt a strange stirring when I see a 100-comment thread . . . .

    You’re a pornographer, Evans! I’m adding BCC to my version of Net-Nanny. They’re right – porn really _is_ everywhere.

  106. Starfoxy says:

    I fail to see why expanding the definition of ‘sex’ and by extention the LOC is a problem.
    Aside from that I can really only see one situation where I don’t think porn use would violate the LOC, and that would be where if it was homemade and starring your spouse, because it is still only with your spouse. I also think that such use would be sinful. So perhaps there is a case for excluding porn use from the LOC, because you can concievably find a case where it doesn’t break the LOC, yet is still sinful.

    My question though, what category should it be under? And if it should be under a new category all by itself, why shouldn’t the same be true of other “new” sins (like the WoW, all health related sins get tossed into that category, though they might be not be proper fit)?

  107. Steve Evans says:

    Starfoxy, I’m arguing against categorization of sins in general, because it leads to meaningless categories. What does chastity mean to mormons? Apparently now the word refers to sexual acts of any kind.

    We love to categorize. It makes it easier to evaluate situations and give out consistent and correlated advice and judgments. At the end of the day though, I just side with King Benjamin: “I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish.”

  108. Has anyone addressed the issue of pornographic novels most often read by women? As in bishop interviews regarding masterbation (ie. How often are 12 year old girls asked about masterbation by there white haired bishops?) is there not an unfair bias towards the “evils” of male sexual behaviour in the Mormon church?

  109. Steve Evans says:

    Dust, that’s a heck of a threadjack. I recommend you write a blog post on that topic.

  110. If we are limiting the definition of the LOC to the temple covenant, does this mean that those that have not yet entered into this covenant are therefore unable to break the LOC?

  111. Mark Butler says:

    From what I can tell, LDS leaders have been preaching an expansive definition since the time of Joseph F. Smith. I think that is fine, except an expansive definition does not give any sort of bright line guidance as to the answer to the TR question.

    Here is an example of the conventional definition (the one used outside of the temple – why the one inside hasn’t been revised is hard to understand):

    “In this dispensation the Lord reiterated the commandment given at Sinai when He said, “Thou shalt not . . . commit adultery, . . . nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6; emphasis added). From the beginning of time, the Lord has set a clear and unmistakable standard of sexual purity. It always has been, it is now, and it always will be the same. That standard is the law of chastity. It is the same for all–it is the same for men and women; it is the same for old and young; it is the same for rich and poor.”
    (Ezra Taft Benson, Law of Chastity, BYU, October 13, 1987)

    The expansive definition propably ought to be called the principle of chastity, or highest ideal of chasity, as in “do you adhere to the highest ideals of chastity”, because “law of chastity” implies a yes/no answer with a definitive boundary, one that doesn’t exist, and properly so on an expansive definition, given the clear intent that we should avoid the taint, even the very appearance of sin.

    Maybe the question should be “How well do you adhere to principles of personal purity in thought and action?”. Bivalence asks us to be the judge, practically leaving the answer up to our imagination as to where the TR-denial boundary actually is or should be.

  112. Tim, that’s a very interesting question. I think we can say that most of God’s commandments exist independent of covenants; that is, if you kill someone, it’s a sin, regardless of whether you have specifically covenanted not to. And so it is possible for someone who has not entered into that temple covenant to commit sexual sin, even if it is not possible for them to break that covenant.

    The content of what any sexual commandments are outside of the temple covenant is an interesting question. I do not know the answer to it, though I think you can definitely look to D&C 59:6, as others here have done. Perhaps it is unfair to define the Law of Chastity in terms of the temple covenant; still, it is the instance in which it has been most definitively expressed to me.

  113. Steve,

    I agree. But you defined the LOC the same way the temple does. Is there anywhere else that defines it as such? Maybe there is, but I can’t think of one off the top of my head.

  114. Dust: Name a pornographic novel read by women. One that compares to the pornography I found years ago in my son’s room depicting acts of sodomy. Name me one.

    Those novels are romance. There’s a huge difference. There are pornographic works of fiction and perhaps women read them, but I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.

  115. Actually, now that I think about, I believe the old Missionary discussions defined the Law of Chastity the exact same way. Can anyone verify this?

  116. In the “For the Strength of Youth” booklet pornography is listed under “Entertainment and the Media” rather than under “Sexual Puruity”.

    The “For the Strength of Youth” booklet says the following, which seems to me quite sensible and relatively moderate (among other things, it does not use the word sin, says that viewing pornography can be a “curious indulgence” and says that pornography can lead you to sexual transgression, not that it is a sexual transgression):

    “Pornography in all its forms is especially dangerous and addictive. What may begin as a curious indulgence can become a destructive habit that takes control of your life. It can lead you to sexual transgression and even criminal behavior. Pornography is a poison that weakens your self-control, changes the way you see others, causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit, and can even affect your ability to have a normal relationship with your future spouse. If you encounter pornography, turn away from it immediately.”

    I think that this is a useful warning that takes into account the fact that young men who are on the internet regularly (which is most of them) will almost certainly encounter real pornography on a regular basis. To me it strikes a good balance between the need for a frank warning and the desire not to impose a level of guilt on the young that may be counter-productive. Some other statements by church leaders seem to me to be less balanced, possibly becase they are adressed primarily to married adult men rather than to the youth.

  117. Mark Butler says:

    Tim J, The paradox is that the temple definition should be *stricter* than the everyday definition of course, not the contrary.

    Once upon a time when I was a about thirteen or fourteen years old I was sufficiently bored to read a “young adult” novel that we were returning to the library for another family that had a young woman my age. I can’t tell you how shocked I was at the content and themes.

    In general I would say that any book that describes sexual immorality, immodesty, intimate relations of various sorts in any detail is hardly a “romance” novel, but rather the practical equivalent of pornography.

  118. nonamethistime says:

    Someone asked about single people in an early reply:

    I was in singles wards from college age to my early 30s. In these wards–of course with diffrent leadership–these events happened:

    1. A roommate of mine (I’m female) was denied a recommend for using a (rhymes with pie hater)

    2. The bishop held regular chastity talks (in a ward full of 20- and 30-something professionals, Ivy Leaguers, etc.) and said emphatically that:

    (a) even Sports Illustrated was porn
    (b) “if you masturbate, you need to talk to me–male or female, and you are not temple-worthy if you do (and he often wondered aloud why so few ward members went to the temple)
    (c) even hand-holding could be sexual, so if that arouses you, refrain…

  119. annegb: With all due respect I don’t think this is the right venue to name titles of pornographic novels. A quick search on the internet will reveal what you are after. I’m not sure what you define as romance, but the novels I am refering to are far from romance novels and yes, indeed, acts of sodomy can and are depicted in print form. I could be wrong, but is it not a well known fact that men are more visual than women, and women usually would rather seek arousal (that is what we are talking about here isn’t it?) from stories rather than pictures? I am sorry but I don’t see the difference.

  120. nonamethistime says:

    Oh, and I should add that especially for unmarried people: young men/women, young single adults, older single adults, the temple interviews can be prurient, intrusive, and somewhat pornographic in themselves.

    For a married, sometimes older male to ask or explain about an unmarried individual’s sexual practices, including masturbation, is ENTIRELY inappropriate.

  121. jjohnsen says:

    Dust: Name a pornographic novel read by women. One that compares to the pornography I found years ago in my son’s room depicting acts of sodomy. Name me one.

    Those novels are romance. There’s a huge difference. There are pornographic works of fiction and perhaps women read them, but I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.

    They may be called romance novels, but many include much more than “romance”. I was working as a librarian when I was younger, and started talking to my bishops wife about teh stack of romance novels she was checking out. She went on and on about how romantic they were, and how things weren’t like the description in those books anymore. She’d take a stack of ten, and have them back in a week for ten more.

    I grabbed one once after she returned them, just to skim through it and see what all the excitement was about. I don’t know how graphic the majority of them are, but this one was pretty graphic, describing parts being thrusted, other parts being grabbed, etc. This all went on for a page or two, all more graphic than anything I’d read before. Maybe not the same as Playboy, but I’m not sure you couldn’t call it a form of pornography. Just because women read them instead of men doesn’t make it any less pornographic.

  122. jjohnsen says:

    Oh, and I can’t remember a title name for you annebg(this was 8 or 9 years ago), but it was by Sandra Brown and had a red cover. Someone search Amazon!

  123. Mark Butler says:

    The Church has always had a standard that masturbation violates the law of chastity or its practical equivalent. There has been some variance as to how intense or frequent a practice constitutes a necessary TR-denial, but it is hardly a new thing or something some small fraction of bishops made up.

  124. nonamethistime says:

    The Church has changed or softened its stance, but some bishops didn’t get the memo, or else they enjoy harassing teenagers, embarrassing single women, or bordering on sadistic as they (married men, all) deride single men and women for daring to be sexual beings and enjoying the bodies God gave them.

  125. a random John says:

    About five years ago in my temple recommend interview a memeber of the stake presidency said that there was an additional question that the stake president had added that wasn’t usually in the interview and that the question was about pornography. I thought it was interesting both that the question was prefaced with an explaination and that the stake president could add questions for everyone.

    In a similar vein, interviews with my mission president were a bit unique as well:

    MP: Elder, do you masturbate?
    Elder: No.
    MP: Elder, are you worthy to go to the temple?
    Elder: Yes.
    MP: Here’s your recommend.

  126. mullingandmusing says:

    So, Randy, you been doin’ my job? (103)

    I haven’t seen anyone mention the following scripture, which, in my mind, could support the idea that pornography is a violation of the LOC at some level:

    From 3 Ne 12:
    28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her [that sounds an awful lot like porn to me!], hath committed adultery already in his heart.
    29 Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart;
    30 For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.

    I have to say that, with the regularity with which we hear about this issue, both at local and general levels, I imagine that porn problems are not infrequent (to say the least), and I am hard pressed to think that every person who confesses to viewing porn is without a temple recommend. It doesn’t seem possible to me. That pornography problems happen at different levels/degress/intensities makes an absolute tie with the LOC as it relates to temple worthiness challenging. When our bishop talked about it, he focused at one point on frequency, which would imply degree of addiction. I would suspect that if someone had one or two encounters with pornography but was able to stop, then it would be different than someone who was unable to stop.

    In the end, though, I think it is important to look at what the Savior said, however, regardless of the temple recommend questions or literal translations of the LOC. If He says looking lustfully is connected with adultery somehow, then I cant disassociate porn with the LOC, even if I imagine there is room for repentance and leeway with porn that most likely doesn’t exist with literal LOC violations.

  127. If you apple Elder Oak’s “Where will it lead?” test to pornography, using it violates the Law of Chastity:

    As an example of things to avoid, consider the terrible consequences of partaking of anything that can be addictive. This includes not only tobacco and the alcohol that enslaved my friend’s husband but also the avalanche of pornographic material that assaults our senses on the Internet and in popular entertainment, including movies and videos. Where does sampling this garbage lead? Church leaders and professionals alike affirm that it leads to the destruction of earthly and eternal family relationships—and sometimes even to prison sentences for abusive behavior. Get mixed up with this garbage and it will lead you to the landfill—the dumping ground of temporal dreams and eternal destinies.

    from http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=1689

  128. Steve Evans says:

    “If He says looking lustfully is connected with adultery somehow, then I cant disassociate porn with the LOC”

    The conclusion doesn’t follow from your premise, M&M, because you are comparing apples and oranges. Adultery is not the LOC, and porn is not the same thing as looking lustfully on a woman.

  129. It’s funny Steve, you keep saying the same thing over and over again. The problem with this discussion is that there is no agreed upon definition of the LOC. Some seem to think it is a prohibition against all wrong practices having to do with sex. For those who do think this, can you provide a source, which includes your conclusion with the phrase LOC?
    Mearly saying that a) the LOC has to do with sexual prohibitions and b) pornography is sexual is not sufficient. You must show that the type of sexual offence which pornography is, is specifically prohibited by the LOC.

  130. I know Jared, and there may not be anywhere to go with this. There IS an agreed-upon definition of the LOC; the problem is “sexual relations.”

    Of course this is all lawyers’ ephemera; at the end of the day, using porn is a sexual sin that if continued will keep anyone out of the temple.

  131. If the agreed upon definition for the LOC is that we have sexual relations with only those to whom we are leagally and lawfully married, then I see no basis for including pornography in the LOC prohibitions.

    Viewing pornography is having sexual relations with the pixels on a TV or computer, not any person.

    Now obviously there are other reasons why porn is wrong, and I am not going to argue against those points because largely I agree with them.

  132. Randy B. says:

    Jared E.,

    You realize you’ve now gone further than Steve was willing to go. See #75.

  133. Randy,

    I am not trying to “definitively remove pornography from a possible LOC violation.” If the leadership of the church wish to make a declarative statement redefine what the LOC is, I am fine with that. My point is that as the LOC as currently defined, in the temple and elsewhere, does not contain the necessary language for inclusion of pornography.

  134. mullingandmusing says:

    “porn is not the same thing as looking lusfully on a woman”

    Sure can be, though. No matter what the specific pictures are, porn IS lustful looking.

    “adultery is not the LOC”
    I think you are reading this scripture too narrowly. Adultery isn’t just commit-able by men, either, but this scripture is directed to men. The Savior is clearly commanding us to let nothing lustful enter our hearts. This is the “new law” that replaced the law regarding adultery. The breadth of what the Savior covers here seems completely relevant to this conversation. The Lord was saying that the literalness of the old law was not the limit of the new law. The new law of the gospel included the spirit of the law, encompassing much more than just the letter. Does that not apply to pornography at some level? In my mind it does.

    Another example would be an emotional affair. I would imagine that someone could lose a temple recommend for such an affair, even if the letter of the law of chastity had not been broken. I tend to think there is a whole lot of spirit in the law of chastity that we should all be concerned about in terms of our covenants, instead of just a mechanical definition.

  135. seven bohanan says:

    Porn use is sin. No one disputes that, right? Porn use is not a stand alone violation of the law of chastity — that is the issue. Every source quoted so far by both sides of the debate has very clearly indicated that porn use by itself is not a violation of the law of chastity but is a serious sin that can lead to a whole slew of problems, including eventual violations (of varying degrees of severity) of the law of chastity. If someone has a source that says something different, please post.

    I think the most telling source is the “For Strength of Youth” pamphlet. We cannot tell the youth one thing and then tell them something else five years later after they have heeded the advice we gave them. That is, we can’t say that limited porn use can be a curious indulgence and then tell them a few years later that they have unwittingly violated the law of chastity.

    I would hope the Lord would not create ignorance or misunderstanding and then exploit it.

  136. seven, it seems simple to say that because porn use is wrong it is therefore a sin. But is everything that’s wrong a sin? Is speeding a sin? (And we even hear counsel against speeding regularly from the pulpit!) Is being in significant debt (or declaring bankruptcy) a sin? Is eating meat to excess (as opposed to sparingly, as D&C 89 counsels) a sin? Is praying to Heavenly Mother a sin? Is wearing two earrings in the same ear a sin? Is opposing the proposed marriage amendment a sin?

    It seems like we need a new category or two. We’re asking the term “sin” to do too much work.

  137. “But is everything that’s wrong a sin?”

    Actually, I think it is.

  138. seven bohanan says:

    Yes, wrong = sin. The degree of the sin is a separate question, which is what Mr. Evans is getting at, I think.

  139. So if a kid takes a cookie from the cookie jar, you’d tell him he was sinning? Steve, tell me it ain’t so. Surely we’re conflating categories here. “Sin” implies religious significance that simply cannot be attributed to every wrongful action.

  140. Dave, sin is willing disobedience from the known will of God. That means that the breaking of any commandment is a definite sin, plus anything else that is the “will of the Lord” that isn’t necessarily a commandment. One could argue that all of your items listed in #137 could constitute sin, to the extent that they contravene the known will of God.

    But you see, the question of whether something is a sin or not is not really relevant — what IS relevant is the question of consequence. What if you speed, or do not support the SSM amendment? You have not followed the counsel of the Lord’s anointed. But then, you haven’t been murdering or pillaging, either.

  141. D. Fletcher says:

    Just a question, don’t all jump on me please. Can you watch porn while making love to your wife? Is it still the same sin if it is being used as a simple aphrodisiac? Because that’s all it is, really, useful to counteract flagging energy in the bedroom.

  142. I asked Mardell what she thought of your question, D. And then she threw the frying pan at me. (I only sustained slight burns from the bacon she was cooking.)

  143. If I have told you once I have told you a hundred times, dear. The answer is no. N-O.

  144. Steve Evans says:

    D., Mardell’s right. The answer really is no.

  145. Steve Evans says:

    p.s. I think I just barfed in my mouth a little thanks to you two. It’s called TMI for a REASON.

  146. Mark Butler says:

    Jared E, the sources I checked from Joseph F. Smith onward all have an expansive definition of the Law of Chastity. I quoted Ezra Taft Benson’s definition in #112.

    The current version of Gospel Principles has:

    “We have been taught that the law of chastity encompasses more than sexual intercourse. Elder Spencer W. Kimball warned young people of other sexual sins:

    ‘among the most common sexual sins our young people commit are necking and petting. Not only do these improper relations often lead to fornication, [unwed] pregnancy, and abortions–all ugly sins–but in and of themselves they are pernicious evils, and it is often difficult for youth to distinguish where one ends and another begins. They awaken lust and stir evil thoughts and sex desires. They are but parts of the whole family of related sins and indiscretions'(The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 65).”

    Growing up in the Church, I have (generally) always understood these kind of things, including masturbation, to be violations of the Law of Chastity.

    I have never heard pornography referred to as such a violation, but rather as separate category related to impure thoughts and lust inducing books, movies, television, etc. The language is ambiguous enough as it is. I could see considering pornography perusal for a married person to be a violation of the Law of Fidelity, but it sounds a little odd to consider it a violation of the Law of Chastity.

  147. Costanza says:

    Slight burns Kaimi? I won’t ask where.

  148. happysundays says:

    Here’s the most intelligent thing I’ve ever read about Mormons and pornography. I don’t know the actual identity of the person who posted it, but I’ll provide a link to the thread at the bottom:

    “I have come to believe that sexuality is a core issue in our humanity. It is not just a nicety or a way to propagate. Understanding it and using it appropriately is essential IMO to living fully and well. When it is misunderstood a man cannot understand the feelings associated with it and misuses the masculine energy that otherwise can be used to bless the lives of those around us. To use it properly would mean

    “1. Understanding the feelings associated with arousal and eroticism. I believe that what I have felt throughout my life is the need to be in balance; to bond with feminine energy in a way designed to be a blessing. Growing up in the church I was taught that these feelings were of the devil and were meant to be ignored or controlled. The more of them a male feels the more shame is heaped on him because he then interprets the feelings to mean that he is “tempted” and if he does not “succesfully” resist this temptation he will feel awful shame.

    “2. Once understood the boy/man needs guidance to know what the balance means and the ways to acheive it that will truly bless lives. In therapy I have dealt with many boys growing through the hormonal stages and needing to understand about balance. When all around us teaches that these feelings mean he wants sex he responds by wanting sex. If we give the guidance needed the boy can know how to seek balance by associating with females in open, honest ways. As a boy I did not receive any of this type guidance. All I was taught was that it was a shameful thing to feel and even more shameful to act on. Acting on it is almost automatic with boys. Wet dreams, masturbation the incredible fascination with anything feminine; these things are well known to most males. That is why there are so many jokes about boys and lingerie catalogs. Since acting on it is so common and automatic (virtually) the shame is inevitable. When the shame sets in boys have to hide their true self even from themself. This makes the open and honest bonding that leads to balance even more difficult; and the downward spiral begins.

    “3. When a boy/man does act on his feelings he needs further guidance to understand what happened and why. He needs an open, loving, accepting atmosphere in which to tell his story and be guided by wise men. Since there are no wise men in moland this becomes impossible and so the boy has to hide all his experience and cannot learn from it. If he does talk about it, it will often be to a bishop who most often just counsels him to stay away from anything that may “tempt” him to get involved in “wickedness” again. This further leads to shame of the feelings and hiding from self because there is no way to stay away from feminine energy. AND, the more he stays away the more out of balance he is; more downward spiral. Feminine energy begins to be seen as the enemy, males fear it and automatically want to dominate it. The church gives him plenty of opportunity to dominate feminine energy. When dominating the feminine energy he cannot bond with it in a way that give balance and down and down it goes.

    “4. With proper guidance a man can learn that balance is acheived by beholding the divine feminine in a way that is equal, respectful and worshipful. When that is done there is no desire to dominate the feminine because he will know that that will cheat him of the balance he needs.
    When the males around him (priesthood quorums) just continue the indoctrination, shame, confusion and lack of wisdom there is no way out of the downward spiral. Men wander around out of balance, dominating (or attempting to dominate) anything that scares them and without the balance of the divine feminine they rape–rape women, rape the environment, rape other people’s savings, rape other people’s dignity, etc. etc. etc.”

    http://www.postmormon.org/forum_vb/showthread.php?t=617

  149. Ya got me. There is a pornographic element to the descriptions of sex in some of those novels. But they don’t come close to that magazine I saw.

    Women are hungry for romance, not sex. Well, IMHO. I’m hungry for biscuits and gravy these days.

  150. I’m with Dave on this one. There can be a significant difference between mistakes and sins (even if quite a bit of overlap can just as easily exist). And even then, there are other deeds that may not be so easily classified by using either “mistake” or “sin.” But using “sin” as the all encompassing “everything that’s wrong” word just dilutes it into meaningless blabber (for me, anyway).

  151. Mark Butler says:

    A couple definitions:

    Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law
    (1 John 3:4)

    Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin
    (James 4:17)

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