I grew up hearing Matthew 5:27-28 quoted to me as a young man.

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

28 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

It was mostly verse 28 that was drilled into our young minds. The interpretation implied for us was that if you look at a girl/woman and have any sexual thoughts, then you have committed adultery (the sin second only to murder!). The idea taught was that while the original law of Moses prohibited adultery, Jesus was expanding on that law, prohibiting even looking at a woman with lustful desires.

Well this obviously took a toll on my young mind, especially in my mid teen years where just about anything could trigger a sexual thought. One could argue that lust is much more severe than just a sexual thought, and it is taking it to an extreme, but that difference was never explained to us as 14 year old boys in Teachers Quorum. In my mind, any sexual thought outside of marriage was lust.

I did some calculating, and I probable “committed adultery” about 1452 times in my high school years. This would include almost daily while sitting by Susan in social studies my freshman year. All Fridays when the cheerleaders would wear their cheer outfits to school when there was a game that night. And I shall not forget Algebra 2 with Mrs. Whitman.

So you all can imagine my delight when I found out that Matthew 5:28 had been misinterpreted!

The Greek word that was translated as “lust” in Matthew (epithumeô) is the exact same word that was translated as “covet” in the 10th commandment

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Exodus 20:17

When you learn that in Greek there is no distinction between “woman” and “wife” (same word, gynē), then it becomes even clearer that Jesus was not expanding on the definition of adultery, but was just reiterating that the Law not only prohibits adultery, it also prohibits coveting (your neighbor’s wife) with the same severity.

Wow, this has sure been a load off my shoulders!

What has been your experience with this verse in a Mormon context?

Is this still taught today to the YM, and do the YW ever get the lesson (maybe in an LGBTQ friendly manner since it is only looking at women)?

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay