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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Week 4: Virtue

This title gives away the subject. There is no clever build up to it; no question posed; just the week and the subject. To be honest with you, I find it rather boring and anti-climatic, but it does prepare you for what you are about to read. Often times the definition of virtue is often associated with having High moral standards, especially chastity, and this subject keeps entering into my mind, so I thought I would study deeper into this subject and post about it this week. I am aware I have mentioned this subject before, but it seems to be a growing issue. The largest group it seems to be affecting is the youth (though, the older generations are feeling it too). I felt I needed to "speak boldly to you because anything more subtle doesn’t seem to work." Just as Elder Jeffery R. Holland said a while back.

 Will and Ariel Durant noted, "No man [or woman], however brilliant or well-informed, can... safely... dismiss... the wisdom of [lessons learned] in the laboratory of history. A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; [but] if he is unchecked by custom, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life before he ... understand[s] that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group." (The Lessons of History, 35-36)

The author of Proverbs wrote, "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?" (Prov. 6: 27-28) Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles after quoting these two sources asked, "Why is this matter of sexual relationships so severe that fire is almost always the metaphor, with passion pictured vividly in flames?" To help us understand this destructive behavior, our prophet, and president of the Church, Thomas S. Monson shared a story of his childhood.

"When I was growing up, each summer from early July until early September, my family stayed at our cabin at Vivian Park in Provo Canyon in Utah. One of my best friends during those carefree days in the canyon was Danny Larsen, whose family also owned a cabin at Vivian Park. Each day he and I roamed this boy's paradise, fishing in the stream and the river, collecting rocks and other treasures, hiking, climbing, and simply enjoying each minute of each hour of each day. One morning Danny and I decided we wanted to have a campfire that evening with all our canyon friends. We just needed to clear an area in a nearby field where we could all gather. The June grass which covered the field had become dry and prickly, making the field unsuitable for our purposes. We began to pull at the tall grass, planning to clear a large, circular area. We tugged and yanked with all our might, but all we could get were small handfuls of the stubborn weeds. We knew this task would take the entire day, and already our energy and enthusiasm were waning. And then what I thought was the perfect solution came into my eight-year-old mind. I said to Danny, 'All we need is to set these weeds on fire. We'll just burn a circle in the weeds!' He readily agreed, and I ran to our cabin to get a few matches. Lest any of you think that at the tender age of eight we were permitted to use matches, I want to make it clear that both Danny and I were forbidden to use them without adult supervision. Both of us had been warned repeatedly of the dangers of fire. However, I knew where my family kept the matches, and we needed to clear that field. Without so much as a second thought, I ran to our cabin and grabbed a few matchsticks, making certain no one was watching. I hid them quickly in one of my pockets. Back to Danny I ran, excited that in my pocket I had the solution to our problem. I recall thinking that the fire would burn only as far as we wanted and then would somehow magically extinguish itself. I struck a match on a rock and set the parched June grass ablaze. It ignited as though it had been drenched in gasoline. At first Danny and I were thrilled as we watched the weeds disappear, but it soon became apparent that the fire was not about to go out on its own. We panicked as we realized there was nothing we could do to stop it. The menacing flames began to follow the wild grass up the mountainside, endangering the pine trees and everything else in their path. Finally we had no option but to run for help"

The thought processes of the young fascinate all who have lost their "young mindset" amid all of their years of experience. The "young" lack understanding of consequences which come as a result of their actions. The author of proverbs stated, "Whoso committeth adultery... lacketh understanding [and] destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away." (Prov. 6: 32-33) I am warning, and forewarning you. There are psychological, physiological, and spiritual consequences after striking that match, and setting that parched June grass ablaze. The purpose of this post (and blog) is to share our understanding (see description). I wish to help answer the question "why do I have to follow the Law Chastity?" with sharing what the Lord has revealed to His servants, the prophets, and to me by His Spirit.

Elder David A. Bednar told the world, "The eternal importance of chastity can only be understood within the overarching context of our Heavenly Father's plan of happiness for His children. 'All human beings--male and female--are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and ... has a divine nature and destiny' ("The Family: A Proclamation to the World").

We are spirits who have existed for an eternity before we were placed on this earth. We were with God, from everlasting to everlasting (Abraham 3: 18). A very important part in God's plan of happiness is our receiving a physical body. Elder Bednar explained, "The Father's plan enables His spirit sons and daughters to obtain physical bodies, to gain mortal experience, and to progress toward exaltation... Our physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth, and an intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal existence. Thus, our relationships with other people, our capacity to recognize and act in accordance with truth, and our ability to obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are amplified through our physical bodies. In the school of mortality, we experience tenderness, love, kindness, happiness, sorrow, disappointment, pain, and even the challenges of physical limitations in ways that prepare us for eternity. Simply stated, there are lessons we must learn and experiences we must have, as the scriptures describe, 'according to the flesh' (1 Nephi 19:6; Alma 7:12-13)." Hence, we are dual beings. We are spirits and we have bodies. This combination of spirit and body constitute what the Lord calls "soul of man." (D&C 88: 15) which is essential for us to be happy, and exalted in the next life.

"After the earth was created, Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden. Importantly, however, God said 'it was not good that the man should be alone' (Moses 3:18; see also Genesis 2:18), and Eve became Adam's wife and helpmeet. The unique combination of spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional capacities of both males and females was [necessary] to enact the plan of happiness. 'Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord' (1 Corinthians 11:11). The man and the woman are intended to learn from, strengthen, bless, and complete each other." Marriage between a man, and a woman signifies a total and complete union. "Marriage was intended to mean the complete merger of a man and a woman--their hearts, hopes, lives, love, family, future, everything. Adam said of Eve that she was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, and that they were to be 'one flesh' in their life together... physical intimacy is not only a symbolic union between a husband and a wife--the very uniting of their souls--but it is also symbolic of a shared relationship between them and their Father in Heaven... we seek ways even in mortality whereby we can... gain some access to both the grace and the majesty of His power... These are moments when we quite literally unite our will with God's will, our spirit with His Spirit... At such moments we not only acknowledge His divinity but we quite literally take something of that divinity to ourselves. One aspect of that divinity given to virtually all men and women is the use of His power to create a human body, that wonder of all wonders, a genetically and spiritually unique being never before seen in the history of the world and never to be duplicated again in all the ages of eternity." (Elder Jeffery R. Holland, Personal Purity) Elder Dallin H. Oaks has stated,"The power to create mortal life is the most exalted power God has given to His children."

"Can you see the moral schizophrenia that comes from pretending you are one, pretending you have made solemn promises before God, sharing the physical symbols and the physical intimacy of your counterfeit union but then fleeing, retreating, severing all such other aspects of what was meant to be a total obligation?" (Elder Holland)

In the sacred matters of physical intimacy, you MUST wait. "You must wait until you can give everything, and you cannot give everything until you are legally and lawfully married. To give illicitly that which is not yours to give (remember, "you are not your own") and to give only part of that which cannot be followed with the gift of your whole self is emotional Russian roulette. If you persist in pursuing physical satisfaction without the sanction of heaven, you run the terrible risk of such spiritual, psychic damage that you may undermine both your longing for physical intimacy and your ability to give wholehearted devotion to a later, truer love. You may come to that truer moment of ordained love, of real union, only to discover to your horror that what you should have saved you have spent..."

Elder Jeffery R. Holland declared, "one who uses the God-given body of another [including ones own] without divine sanction... abuses the central purpose and processes of life, 'the very key' to life, as President Boyd K. Packer once called it. In exploiting the body...--one desecrates the Atonement of Christ, which saved that soul... And when one mocks the Son of Righteousness, one steps into a realm of heat hotter and holier than the noonday sun! YOU CANNOT DO SO AND NOT BE BURNED!"

Those who know of the Plan of Salvation, and break the law of chastity are in rebellion (see Mosiah 2:36-37; D&C 64:34-35) and deny their true identity as sons and daughters of God. "Beware of scars that spiritually disfigure, that come to you in activities you should not have undertaken, that befall you in places where you should not have gone. Beware the wounds of any battle in which you have been fighting on the wrong side," Elder Holland warns.

"All of us have experienced the pain associated with a physical injury or wound. When we are in pain, we typically seek relief and are grateful for the medication and treatments that help to alleviate our suffering. Consider sin as a spiritual wound..." (Elder Bednar) We know the wound or sin is there because it causes us guilt or, as described by Alma to his son Corianton, "remorse of conscience" (Alma 42:18). Elder Bednar observes that, "Guilt is to our spirit what pain is to our body."

If you are carrying such wounds--and I know you are--to you is extended the peace and renewal of repentance available through the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. "The Atonement of the Savior is the soothing salve that can heal our spiritual wounds and remove guilt. However, this salve can only be applied through the principles of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, and consistent obedience (AKA the doctrine of Christ)."

In such serious matters such as this, the path of repentance is not easily begun nor painlessly traveled. But, we have a bishop or branch president. They are "the spiritual physician's assistant who is authorized to help you repent and heal.... Serious spiritual wounds require sustained treatment and time to heal completely and fully, and "the Savior of the world will walk that essential journey with you. He will strengthen you when you waver. He will be your light when it seems most dark. He will take your hand and be your hope when hope seems all you have left. His compassion and mercy, with all their cleansing and healing power, are freely given to all who truly wish complete forgiveness and will take the steps that lead to it."

The doctrine described will seem to be archaic or outdated to many who increasingly mock the sanctity of procreation and minimize the worth of human life. But the Lord's truth is not altered by fads, popularity, or public opinion polls.

Paul cried, "Flee fornication!" (1 Corinthians 6: 18) and "anything like unto it. (D&C 59: 6) as the Lord adds. "Virtue originates in your innermost thoughts and desires." Preach My Gospel reads, "Focus on righteous, uplifting thoughts and put unworthy thoughts that lead to inappropriate actions out of [your] mind. Obey God's commandments and follow the counsel of Church leaders. Pray for strength to resist temptation and do what is right." And, "Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God." (D&C 121:45) When we live the law of chastity, the Lord promises us confidence, charity, and hope, which are just a few of the blessings in store. Elder Russel M. Nielsen said, "When we master our appetites within the bounds of God's laws, we can enjoy longer life, greater love, and consummate joy... A strong human spirit with control over appetites of the flesh is master over emotions and passions and not a slave to them. That kind of freedom is as vital to the spirit as oxygen is to the body! Freedom from self-slavery is true liberation!" I add my testimony to theirs, and do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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