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“The Lord delights in the chastity of women” is out. “The Lord delights in men who obtain their partner’s free and full consent” is in [FN 1]. While participating in the discussion after my post dated November 11, 2022, Rethinking the Law of Chastity, what crystallized for me is that the law of chastity should center on principles of consent rather than principles of purity. Comment after comment talked about ideas of bodily autonomy and consent in various contexts. I’ve distilled those comments down to keep these Suggested Revisions similar in length to the Church’s current teachings about the law of chastity.

If you didn’t read the previous post, I strongly advise clicking on the link above and reading the post and the comments to gain a better context for this post.

Readers who think the current law of chastity is fine, before you skip this entire post and scold me in the comments, please notice that the Church’s current law of chastity fits easily into these concepts. I have added language so that it’s clear that nonconsensual sex with anyone is a much more serious sin than two unmarried individuals having consensual sex with each other. I’ve written out the purity culture language and replaced it with consent culture. I’ve also added language to acknowledge that not everyone is heterosexual and it’s better to find out now than after you’re in a heterosexual marriage. You can incorporate all of these ideas and still teach that individuals should wait until marriage to have sex.

Principles of consent extend to any sexual relationship, whether the participants are gay, straight, cis, trans or any other gender or orientation. Undoubtedly, the Church will continue to teach that sex is primarily for procreation. My personal opinion is that the Church ought to be more realistic and accepting about non-procreative sexual activities by consenting adults who aren’t procreating, whether they are gay or straight, but I’m not going to completely rewrite any sections from the Church Handbook. I’ve kept these revisions compatible with current Church teachings. They add an important focus that is missing from the law of chastity, and make certain principles very clear. 

I did not include abortion or adoption in this post. I also don’t specifically address transgenderism. My personal opinion is that trans men are men and trans women are women, and principles of sexual consent apply to all men and women and non-binary people.

With that introduction, here is my rewrite of certain sections of the law of chastity contained in various Church settings.

Temple Definition

The current law of chastity as taught in the temple: You shall have no sexual relations except with your husband or wife to whom you are legally and lawfully married.

Revised temple definition: You shall have no sexual relations except with your husband or wife, who has freely and fully consented, and to whom you are legally and lawfully married.

For the Strength of Youth

Current: Sexual feelings are an important part of God’s plan to create happy marriages and eternal families. These feelings are not sinful—they are sacred. Because sexual feelings are so sacred and so powerful, God has given you His law of chastity to prepare you to use these feelings as He intends. The law of chastity states that God approves of sexual activity only between a man and a woman who are married. Many in the world ignore or even mock God’s law, but the Lord invites us to be His disciples and live a standard higher than the world’s.

Revised: Sexual feelings are an important part of God’s plan whether or not you get married and have children. These feelings are normal and natural; they are part of having a body. Learning how to respond to your sexual feelings in a healthy way, without harming yourself or anyone else, is an important part of our life on earth. Some sexual activities can result in a pregnancy, and therefore should take place only between a man and a woman who are married, and who have fully discussed and consented to the sacred procreative process. In every situation, both before and after marriage, consent to any sexual activity must be sought. Do not do anything with a person who has not consented, or who otherwise appears to be uncomfortable with what you are doing. You have the responsibility to ensure your partner’s consent.

New Paragraph: You have the right to say no. Any individual may say no at any time, even if you have previously said yes. If someone says no, you must accept their answer as final and treat them with respect. Any ridicule or pressure in response to a ‘no’ answer is inappropriate. No one is entitled to someone else’s body.

Current: Keep sex and sexual feelings sacred. They should not be the subject of jokes or entertainment. Outside of marriage between a man and a woman, it is wrong to touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body even if clothed. In your choices about what you do, look at, read, listen to, think about, post, or text, avoid anything that purposely arouses lustful emotions in others or yourself. This includes pornography in any form. If you find that situations or activities make temptations stronger, avoid them. You know what those situations and activities are. And if you aren’t sure, the Spirit, your parents, and your leaders can help you know. Show your Father in Heaven that you honor and respect the sacred power to create life.

Revised: Differing feelings about sex are to be expected. Not everyone has the same sexual feelings. Different people find different things arousing. Most people are sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex. A minority of people are attracted to members of the same sex, or to members of both sexes, or to no one. Pay attention to your sexual orientation; it will not change after you are married. It is important to know what you do and do not find attractive so as not to create undue challenges in your marriage. Do not stifle your sexual feelings; doing so will not make your marriage better and may create obstacles to having a good sex life with your spouse. Recognize that you should not act on your sexual feelings without getting the consent of your partner, both before and after marriage. It may be appropriate to engage in some non-procreative sexual activities during a serious dating relationship so that both partners can learn principles of consent and communication about sexual activities.

Current: Living the law of chastity brings God’s approval and personal spiritual power. When you are married, this law will bring greater love, trust, and unity to your marriage. Obeying this law will make it possible for you to progress eternally and become more like your Heavenly Father. Your confidence will grow as you live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Revised: Understanding your sexual feelings and committing to live by principles of consent and respect brings God’s approval and personal spiritual power. These principles are designed to strengthen your relationship with your spouse. Obeying these principles will make it possible for you to progress eternally and become more like your Heavenly Father. Your confidence will grow as you live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

New paragraph: Seek help for compulsive sexual behaviors. Some individuals may find that they have developed some unhealthy sexual habits that interfere with their relationships and other activities, such as excessive masturbation or pornography use. If you are concerned about your behavior, know that there are many resources to help you understand and overcome your compulsions. Start with the resources on the Church’s website at

Current: I am attracted to people of my same sex. How do these standards apply to me? Feeling same-sex attraction is not a sin. If you have these feelings and do not pursue or act on them, you are living Heavenly Father’s sacred law of chastity. You are a beloved child of God and a disciple of Jesus Christ. Remember that the Savior understands everything you experience. Through your covenant connection with Him, you will find strength to obey God’s commandments and receive the blessings He promises. Trust Him and His gospel.

Revised: I am attracted to people of my same sex. How do these standards apply to me? Feeling same-sex attraction is not a sin. You are a beloved child of God and a disciple of Jesus Christ. Remember that the Savior understands everything you experience. These same principles of respect and consent apply to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. While not everyone has the same sexual feelings and sexual preferences, everyone is made in God’s image and is deserving of respect and happiness. He will guide your path. 

Current: I was abused, and I feel ashamed. Am I guilty of sin? Being a victim of any abuse or assault does not make you guilty of sin. Please do not feel guilt or shame. The Savior loves you. He wants to help you, heal you, and give you peace. Professional counselors, your family members, and your leaders can also help.

For the revision to this one brief paragraph that addresses abuse, see the new paragraphs added below. I think this paragraph is focused on the wrong thing and is rather dismissive. Before addressing victims of abuse or assault, I believe the FSOY should address the perpetrators, make the consequences clear, and then address the victims.

New paragraph: Any non-consensual sexual activity is a sin with serious consequences. You are responsible for ensuring that you have full and freely given consent for any and all sexual activity, including kissing and hugging. Do not sexually harrass anyone with words or actions. Do not take advantage of anyone who is unable to affirmatively consent, such as someone who is asleep, drunk or drugged, or who does not understand what you are asking. Do not force someone to undress, to kiss you, to have sex with you, or to engage in any other sexual activity. This includes physical force, verbal threats, blackmail, manipulation or any other form of coercion. These principles apply to your spouse as well. While repentance is possible, cooperating with law enforcement must be part of the repentance process. Professional counseling may also be required.

New paragraph: Any sexual activity with a child is both a serious sin and a serious crime. Never engage in any sexual activity with a child. Do not use a child for any sexual gratification whatsoever. Do not create, use or possess child pornography. While repentance is possible, cooperating with law enforcement must be part of the repentance process. Professional counseling may also be required.

New paragraph: Recovery from sexual abuse, assault and rape is possible. You are not responsible for the actions of the person who hurt you. Recovering from sexual trauma is complex and will take time and effort. The first priority is your safety. No one should ask you to be around the perpetrator, or pressure you to forgive the perpetrator. This is especially true if you are related to the perpetrator. Rest assured that your Heavenly Father takes these offenses seriously and will bring the person who hurt you to justice, whether in this life or the next. Professional counselors can help you rebuild your sense of self and learn to trust again. Victims of sexual trauma commonly struggle with compulsive behaviors or addictions. You are not sinning; you are coping with a terrible situation. Jesus Christ knows you and loves you. He does not condemn you. Your bishop can reassure you of God’s love, but remember that the best resource for healing is a trained counselor.

Church Handbook

The Church Handbook Section 2.1.2: Husband and Wife. [This section is several paragraphs and covers many good principles. I would add the sentence in bold to this particular paragraph:]

Cleaving also includes total fidelity between husband and wife. Physical intimacy between husband and wife is intended to be beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife. Tenderness and respect—not selfishness—should guide their intimate relationship. Neither partner should ever pressure or coerce the other in matters of physical intimacy; discuss this topic with your spouse to ensure that physical intimacy is a positive experience for you both. 

Church Handbook Section 38.6.4. Birth Control. [The full text of this section is about four paragraphs, and it basically says that decisions about birth control should be between the couple and the Lord. I would add MDearest’s concept of presiding over our own bodies to most of mountainclimber479’s statement:]

Bringing a child into the world is a huge commitment. Such a decision must be mutual with no coercion between partners. Desires for children and size of family should be discussed before marriage. Both partners should recognize that their partner’s desires may change over time for many reasons, including but not limited to, mental health, physical health, financial resources, personal goals, etc. Men acknowledge the additional burden and health risks that pregnancy means for women. A woman may choose to unilaterally delay or reject conceiving a child. Men and women each preside over their own bodies and have the right to make choices regarding birth control that their spouse should not override. 

Church Handbook Section 38.6.5. Chastity and Fidelity.

This section begins with this definition:

The Lord’s law of chastity is:

  • Abstinence from sexual relations outside of a legal marriage between a man and a woman.
  • Fidelity within marriage.

I would add a third bullet point:

  • Free and full consent each and every time.

The way the law of chastity is currently written, raping your spouse isn’t a violation of the letter of the law of chastity, though it certainly violates the spirit of the law. I would just take it up to the next level and clearly state that sexual activity must be voluntary; marriage is not automatic consent. 

That’s all of the Church Handbook that I’m going to go through in this post. There are several other topics that touch on sexual issues that I haven’t included.

Sexual Topics Essays

Many of the comments on Rethinking the Law of Chastity brought up nuanced opinions on sensitive topics. They were thoughtful and valuable comments, but I didn’t see a way to distill them down into the brief sentences that characterize the FSOY and the Church Handbook. I considered what might happen if the Church wrote lessons that tried to address the more sensitive topics. However, the risk of ‘teacher roulette’ could cause damage if the lessons were taught by a teacher who really shouldn’t be teaching sensitive topics. Instead of writing lessons, I thought a way to address specific situations would be to create a series of essays on sexual topics that would be available online. People could read what helps them; maybe the essays could be reviewed in a classroom setting, or maybe not. The essays would be presented something like this:

Introduction to Sexual Topics Essays: While the Church teaches that sexual relations are sacred and are to be saved for marriage, the Church also acknowledges that we live in a world in which people have to confront difficult sexual situations which have no easy answers. This series of essays on sexual topics were created with the help of trained counselors and both male and female ecclesiastical leaders. We sought input from individuals who have been in these situations. These essays are policy and guidance, not doctrine, and may be updated from time to time. The purpose of these essays is to help individuals understand that they are not alone in their experiences and that Heavenly Father knows and understands your specific situation.

Topic: Masturbation

Policy statement: Masturbation often accompanies lustful thoughts. Just as most people experience lustful thoughts, most people will masturbate at certain times in their lives. Church leaders should not ask questions about masturbation during interviews. 

Personal statements: This section of the essay would statements from individuals with the goal of reassuring the reader that masturbation is a normal part of sexual development, to varying degrees, and that masturbation is a personal preference and not a matter of sin or righteousness. At least one of the statements would be from an individual who felt his or her masturbation habits interfered with normal relationships and activities, and who sought help for a compulsive sexual behavior and was able to address the issue confidentially. Another statement would describe a typical teenager exploring his or her body, perhaps some concerns that this was wicked, and then self-acceptance and perspective about masturbation. Perhaps another statement would be from someone who tried masturbation and realized they don’t really enjoy it.

Topic: Pornography

Policy Statement: The Church discourages individuals from using pornography. Pornography creates unrealistic attitudes and expectations around sex, and its use may cause serious problems in marriage relationships. Individuals who use pornography do so for a variety of reasons, ranging from being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to insecurity, curiosity or exploration. Some individuals who use pornography are caught in a compulsive behavior that will require specialized help; other individuals may simply have a bad habit that can be broken. Church leaders and porn users must understand that marriage and the ability to have a real-life sexual relationship will not cure a pornography addiction or otherwise eliminate a person’s desire for pornography. Issues regarding pornography use should be fully resolved before marriage; the extent of the pornography use should never be concealed from a prospective spouse.

Personal Statements: This section of the essay would be quite lengthy and include a variety of stories, both from persons who used pornography and their spouses. At least one story would acknowledge that some people do not ever stop using pornography and that a spouse may decide to divorce. At least one story would be about someone who started using pornography after being sexually abused as a child and would acknowledge pornography as a coping mechanism and then speak about the healing process. At least one story would be from someone who just had a bad habit and was able to break it. And so forth until the essay contains a wide variety of experiences.

Topic: Confession of Sexual Sins

Policy Statement: While confession may bring relief to the confessor, priesthood leaders should never ask teenagers details about their sexual experiences. Certain priesthood leaders, such as bishops, may listen to information that a teenager volunteers, but should not ask follow-up questions. 

Personal Statements: Several personal stories would be included here. The first part would include several statements from teenagers who talked to a Church leader about a sexual experience and how they felt about that conversation — some might feel relieved, others might feel awkward. At least one story would be from a teen who repented without a detailed confession to a priesthood leader. A second part of the essay would be statements from bishops or other Church leaders describing how they respectfully handled a situation in which a teenager voluntarily brought up sexual experiences and made it very clear that the teen had no responsibility to answer questions or say anything that made them uncomfortable.

Topic: Recovering from Rape

Policy Statement: Rape is never the victim’s fault. The perpetrator has committed a serious sin and should face all the consequences. The Church’s first priority is to create a safe environment for victims to heal. Trained counselors should be consulted. A bishop’s duty is to reassure the victim of God’s love, but must be careful not to suggest that healing depends on forgiveness.

Personal Statements: There would be three sections of essays. The first section would be stories told by rape survivors about their healing process – what helped and what didn’t, how long it took, what they still struggle with. The second section would be stories by Church leaders who have helped rape victims, such as bishops, Young Women leaders and others. They would include how best to counsel a victim, what to do if they need to cooperate with law enforcement and things not to say. The third section would be written by family members and other loved ones who supported a rape victim through the recovery process, and would include examples of what is helpful and what to avoid doing or saying.

Topic: Recovering from Incest

Policy Statement: The Church strongly condemns incest. No one should engage in any sexual activity with a blood relative or a step-relative. Incest is both a serious sin and a serious crime. Any confessions of incest must be reported to law enforcement and steps immediately taken to protect the victim.

Personal Statements: This topic requires three sections of essays. The first section would be stories told by incest survivors, explaining how their family created a place of safety for healing, and recounting the typical emotions of survival and healing. The second section would be told from the point of view of the family member who is supporting the incest survivor in the healing process and will have clear language about how to prioritize the victim’s safety and trust over the perpetrator’s feelings. Any attempts to spare the perpetrator’s feelings, or to prevent the perpetrator from experiencing consequences, will cause harm to the victim’s healing process and the relationship with the family members who support the perpetrator. The third section would be from priesthood leaders, both about counseling victims and how to report crimes and cooperate with law enforcement. Throughout all essays, the emphasis should be on helping the victim heal – finding safety, rebuilding their self-image and learning to trust again. Forgiveness should not be raised until and unless the victim initiates the discussion. Incest victims should not be pressured to forgive the perpetrator, nor to be around the perpetrator. These principles apply to incest that happened decades ago, as well as more recent offenses.

Topic: Sexless Marriages

Policy Statement: Individuals are encouraged to seek their own personal revelation in these situations. Professional counseling may be very helpful.

Personal Statements: As with the other topics, a variety of statements should be sought. Some couples may be able to resolve the underlying issues; some couples may find a way to a middle ground; some couples may decide that divorce is the best option for them.

I thought of a few more sexual topics that I wish the Church would speak about, but I doubt it will ever happen. My hope is that the Church will stop constantly reminding everyone that they think certain activities are sinful, and silently accept that the topics are more complex than they’ve previously thought. The Church’s treatment of pornography is an example of a sexual topic that the Church spoke forcefully about for years, and then suddenly fell silent. It isn’t that the Church changed its opinion about porn (not at all), but the leaders seemed to realize that the unrelenting harangue was not doing any good; there are better ways to approach the issue. I’m not saying that these topics below are like pornography, just hoping that the Church will silently and unobtrusively stop talking about certain topics. Since the Church doesn’t apologize or admit to course corrections, that’s the best we can hope for.

Topic: LGBT Relationships

Policy Statement: Non-procreative sexual activity between consenting adults is not necessarily sinful.

Personal Statements: A wide range of individuals would tell their stories about dating and/or marrying in the LGBT community, including trans individuals. Several of the stories would include discussions of parenting.

Topic: Unmarried Adults

Policy Statement: Non-procreative sexual activity between unmarried and consenting adults is not necessarily sinful. 

Personal Statements: The essay would include a range of experiences from adults who have either never married, or are divorced or widowed and have not remarried, and who have decided not to remain celibate. The essay would include frank discussions about birth control.

Topic: Recovering from purity culture

Policy Statement: The Church’s previous focus on purity and advice to suppress all sexual feelings before marriage to the extent possible has made it difficult for some individuals to enjoy sex with their spouse. 

Personal Statements: Several people would tell their story about how purity culture repressed their ability to enjoy sex and how they finally overcame that. A few spouses would also describe their experiences in helping a spouse overcome purity culture repression after marriage.

Again, thanks to all who participated in the previous discussion. Please feel free to suggest edits – if we get at least a couple people wanting the same edit, I’ll make the change. I hope this post is a resource to people who find value in mixing society’s current understanding of consent and human sexuality with the Church’s standards on sexual issues.

[FN 1] Principles of consent apply equally to men and women. However, the scripture about delighting in chastity specifically mentions women and not men, so the rewrite mentioned men and not women to keep the language parallel.