Bednar’s talk on chastity most significant of April LDS conference

(To see Cal Grondahl’s cartoon, click here.) The media coverage focused on the first LDS woman to give a prayer in LDS General Conference and the sight of a very old Apostle Boyd K. Packer rasping — from a chair — about the “tolerance trap” and virtue gone sour.  However, the most significant discourse was provided by a younger apostle, David Bednar. His Saturday talk, “We believe in being chaste,” is another salvo in the church’s forceful attempt to reverse a consistent decline in adherence to traditional morality, particularly among younger people.

Bednar reiterated the LDS belief of  ”complete sexual abstinence before marriage” and that “marriage between a man and a woman is the authorized channel through which premortal spirits enter mortality.”  While these are familiar messages for active Mormons who pay attention to conference, they are principles that are no longer considered morally wrong by a majority of Americans.

According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans regard premarital sex as morally acceptable. As to births outside of marriage, 54 percent regard that as morally acceptable. (Read) It’s not unreasonable to assume that higher percentages of Americans 30 and under regard premarital sex and births out of wedlock as morally acceptable.

The LDS faith’s “Law of Chastity,” which opposes fornication and regards marriage between a man and a woman as the preferred structure in which to raise children, used to have the implied consent of most Americans. That’s not so any more. Elder Bednar acknowledged as much, saying, “The doctrine I have described will seem to be archaic and outdated to many people in a world that increasingly mocks the sanctity of procreation and minimizes the worth of human life. But the Lord’s truth is not altered by fads, popularity or public opinion polls.”

How this cultural change in the definition of morality affects younger members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, in my opinion, of more interest to LDS Church leaders than gay marriage or whether women can hold the church’s priesthood. I think the biggest concern of church leaders is making sure that teenage members and young adults, as they embrace the independence of adulthood, remain active, faithful Mormons. The lowering of ages for missionaries for both sexes provides a quicker transition from high school, to a mission, and presumably, to a temple marriage and children.

Bednar’s talk made it clear that the LDS church regards popular culture as predisposed to a secular distaste for traditional values, and assigns it as a chief culprit in helping lead members into sexual sin. What’s interesting is the contrast he draws of proper sexual choices as being part of a divine heritage. What he describes as the body’s divine procreative qualities are, paradoxically, turned into potential avenues of sin due to man’s natural state on the earth and Lucifer’s desire to leave men and women “alone, in the dark, and without hope.” To achieve that, Bednar states, Lucifer urges people to violate the Law of Chastity, and deny their duties as God’s children.

In the talk, Bednar says, “We are agents blessed with moral agency and are defined by our divine heritage, as children of God, and not by sexual behaviors, contemporary attitudes, or secular philosophies.”

LDS Church leaders are clearly focused on efforts to keep younger members active in the church. They see the rise in inactivity, as well as changes in attitudes on traditional values, and regard it as Lucifer winning the battle over young souls. Softer rhetoric on gay marriage and baby steps for female inclusion in male-dominated rituals are a part of that effort, but the main focus is on combating what is regarded as a popular assault on chastity. That battle will remain long after Elder Packer has left this world. To hear Elder Bednar’s talk, click here).

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20 Responses to Bednar’s talk on chastity most significant of April LDS conference

  1. Asa says:

    Those Gallup stats you quote Doug are sad and depressing to me.
    Our Nation seems to have completely lost its moral compass.

  2. Michael Trujillo says:

    Three points.

    1. The Gallup poll surveyed 1,018 adults in the U.S. That is an infinitesmally small percentage of the approximately 238 Million adults in this country.
    2. Using the term “Moral” or “Morally” in a question to people of various backgrounds is going to elicit a variety of responses which may contradict expectations. You linked a Catholic news site as the survey source. As you know, Elder, Catholics and Latter-Day-Saints have slightly different opinions about what constitutes moral behavior. Therefore, there’s going to be some varience in how the questions are perceived.
    3. You didn’t share all of the issues that the poll solicited responses about. For instance, 69% of those surveyed view divorce as “permissible” according to Gallup. Latter-Day-Saints have always viewed divorce as permissible. Catholics have always believed that divorce is almost never permissible. it seems to me that this would lead one to believe that many people in the U.S. are swinging over to the LDS view on this topic.

    • Spex says:

      Statistical studies show that 1000+ samples, if they are truly random, are surprisingly true to the actual population’s distribution. Check all polls. It is a waste to go over a thousand because it fails to provide a significant increase to accuracy.

  3. Having fought hard for decades to create a more libertine environment for myself, I am heartened by these statistics.
    It would seem that at least for the short term, morality will increasingly mean what I say it means.
    I also applaud the LDS Church for keeping the their torch held high; they serve as a potent and worthy bellwether for new rebellion.

    Long live rock and roll.

  4. Observer says:

    Virtue was a big issue in this conference. Elder Bednar tells us that the decline of traditional sexual morality is regrettable, and yet the church’s own website shows that Joseph Smith married other men’s wives while they continued to live with their previous husbands and lied about these relationships for many years. Apologists say that these marriages were generally, or completely, asexual. But that would mean that they violate dthe Book of Mormon and D&C 132, which collectively say that the ONLY purpose for polygamy is to raise up righteous seed and that polygamy is ONLY okay if the plural wives are virgins and the first wife approves the later marriages. Then there was poor Henry Jacobs, who lost his wife first to Joseph and then to Brigham Young. There is no way that these men met the scriptural standards for polygamy. That the Mormon Church would, given this history, decry the decline of traditional marriage is surprising, to say the least.

    Then there was Elder Packer’s speech about virtue, in excess, becoming vice. I guess this makes sense coming from a man who once told church educators that telling the truth about church history is a sin if that history is embarrassing. Some truths, he said, are not very useful; and telling them to the public is a violation of one’s temple covenant to give all–apparently including personal integrity–to the service of the church. He did not, parenthetically, explain how his view of the danger of perfect honesty and openness comports with the temple recommend question as to whether the applicant is honest in his dealings with his fellow man, a standard that does not have the caveat “unless it is inconvenient to the church.”

    These men embody the relativity of virtue. People must abide by traditional sexual mores–unless they are Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. Members must be honest in their dealings with their fellow men–unless it is embarrassing to do so. Every time I hear these men speak of morality, I see Elder Holland lying to the BBC about Mitt Romney’s temple covenants and President Hinckley telling Larry King that he does “not know that we teach” that God was once a man and man may become like God, a doctrine that remained in the Gospel Doctrine book for years after that televised dissimulation.

    As Pontius Pilate might have said, “what is virtue?”

    • Dovie says:

      I love your post, especially the fact that it seems to concentrate on hypocritical MEN for a change. There is an obvious connotation to the word “chastity” – it applies to women.

    • wes says:

      thank you for a well-stated response. The double-speak of mormon authorities is overwhelming at times and the hypocrisy unbelievable. But i guess that is what you get when a bunch of egotistical old men get together and try to control others.

  5. Jim Cobabe says:

    “To achieve that, Bednar states, he urges people to violate the Law of Chastity, and deny their duties as God’s children.”

    Something about this sentence does not scan quite rightly…

    • Doug Gibson says:

      The he refers to Lucifer, but if it’s not clear to readers that’s my fault, so I have changed “he” to Lucifer.

      • Lasvegasrichard says:

        First off … there is no such entity named Lucifer . If you don’t believe it , research any of the 11 complete copies of the Book of Isaiah found in the Dead Sea Scrolls . Second … back to the speech . Anybody who would buy a pair of shoes without trying them on first , deserves the pain and misery that comes from a bad fit .

  6. E B says:

    Good point. However, I think there are other significant speeches besides those concerning morals and chastity that are worth mentioning to the public as well: particularly those about faith. Secularists don’t understand that religious knowledge doesn’t come from physical means such as the scientific method; it comes from the proverbial “leap of faith,” if you will. Seek and ye shall find. Faith is like a little seed, if planted it will grow – etc.

    Now, if secularists don’t want to take that leap of faith to gain spiritual knowledge, that’s their business. However, when they ridicule or make it harder for religious groups to live their faiths, then they have overstepped their bounds. Moral relativism is popular because it is easy, but I believe (as a Mormon) that God gave His children commandments not to keep them from “having fun” but to bless them with true, lasting peace and happiness. The kind of deep joy that only occurs when someone knows he or she is doing right before God – the peace that comes alone from God. That inner peace is worth more than the price of any slander or ridicule that comes my way. Faith does not go unanswered.

    • Observer says:

      There is certainly a difference between knowledge by rational inquiry and knowledge by leap of faith.

      It would be easier to respect the latter if the standards embraced by the faithful were constant. And yet that is not, at least for Mormons, the case. The standard used to be polygamy; without abiding by that “everlasting” covenant no one would enter the top level of the celestial kingdom. Now the standard is monogamy. The old standard was no priesthood for black people or interracial relationships. Now that rule has gone by the wayside. The old standard was alcohol, tobacco, and meat in moderation. Then it was no alcohol or tobacco and as many Chuck-a-Rama buffets as you want. The old standard, quaint remnants of which can be found in the temple recommend questions, was that one must be totally honest. The new standard is that it is a sin to be honest about inconvenient truths.

      Are we really to believe that the higher road is faith that leads to adherence to moral standards that constantly change? If that sort of life brings you personal joy, that’s great. But for those of us who thought God does not change, the continual redefinition of His will is troubling. The bottom line is, is there any standard that stays the same over time other than obedience to whoever is in power at any given moment?

  7. matt says:

    Dear Mormon people: Please read The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault. In this preeminent work, you will find that when you tell people to not have sex, it makes them have sex. Then please consider asking your leaders to stop using rhetoric that does not work. Best regards.

    • Jean says:

      Dear Matt, Oh really? Don’t ever mention sex to your children or talk about it and lets see what happens……

      • Michael Trujillo says:

        Interesting, Jean, that you interpret “tell people not to have sex” as not talking about it at all. One would surmise, then, that the only time you talk about sex, it’s to tell people not to have it.

        Interesting. Must make for some boring discussions in your circle of acquaintances and some misinformation gleaned by “your children.”

        But, as far as “lets (sic) see what happens …” goes, it has been found that children who are provided with no information about sex or who are given only prohibitions about sex are more likely, statistically, to engage in sex.

        So, I think the “see what happens” has been adequately examined. You can Google it and find out for yourself.

  8. Tom says:

    Ye Gods Doug!
    What in jumpin Jehoshaphat has come over your cartoon guy? The one he did for this piece is down right sinful, salacious and scandalous! If your office is close to his, I highly recommend that you move as far away as possible as soon as possible – maybe take a short vacation. Surly there is gonna be lightening striking him at any moment.

    • Lasvegasrichard says:

      Cartoon ? What cartoon ? You have a cartoon on your site ? I think I got shorted . And ‘ ye gods ‘ ? Isn’t that something a ditzy blond would shriek in an old movie from about 50 years ago ? Alzheimer’s be damned .

      • Tom says:

        The first sentence in this article contains a link to Grondahl’s cartoon. I think this is the case with all of Doug’s entries on this blog.

  9. Dovie says:

    Interesting Boyd K Packer comments. I did think of a compromise position with Mark Saal, who so enjoys monitoring the board for “anti-Mormonisms”. It occurred to me that I would be perfectly comfortable with “Boyd K Packer fans” instead of “Mormons”. I suppose that lets the 5% of Mormons who aren’t BKP fans off the hook.

  10. Pingback: Classy Marriages | Wheat and Tares

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