Chastity

I’d like to address a question I have gotten from time to time regarding law of chastity violations and the ability to later go on a mission.  Many young people who have had issues with sexual morality want to repent and go on a mission, but frequently they don’t know if their prior actions will prohibit them from ever serving.

While it is far better to never engage in these transgressions, let me reassure you that they can repented of, and generally these young people can eventually go on a mission.  Law of chastity issues are very serious in the sight of the Lord, though, and if serious enough, or if not fully repented of, may disqualify you from going on a mission.

white-rose-purityWhat is the law of chastity?

The law of chastity is the Lord’s commandment that we keep ourselves sexually pure.  For young people preparing for a mission, sexual purity means refraining from sexual relations and other sexual perversions such as homosexual activity, masturbation, viewing pornography, and heavy petting (inappropriate touching). Here is a concise definition of chastity from the LDS.org Gospel Topics section:

Chastity is sexual purity. Those who are chaste are morally clean in their thoughts, words, and actions. Chastity means not having any sexual relations before marriage.

…In the world today, Satan has led many people to believe that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is acceptable. But in God’s sight, it is a serious sin. It is an abuse of the power He has given us to create life. The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder and denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:3–5).

Sometimes people try to convince themselves that sexual relations outside of marriage are acceptable if the participants love one another. This is not true. Breaking the law of chastity and encouraging someone else to do so is not an expression of love. People who love each other will never endanger one another’s happiness and safety in exchange for temporary personal pleasure.

Our Heavenly Father has given us the law of chastity for our protection…Those who keep themselves sexually pure will avoid the spiritual and emotional damage that always comes from sharing physical intimacies with someone outside of marriage.

For more information, check out my article that discusses the “Why” of Keeping the Law of Chastity.

elder-m-russell-ballardPriesthood leaders determine worthiness

As much as I want to and try to help young people who email me with law of chastity concerns, these issues must be worked through with priesthood leaders before a potential missionary can be declared worthy to serve.  Elder M. Russell Ballard, in a talk called The Greatest Generation of Missionaries (Ensign, November 2002) said, “as divinely appointed judges in Israel, the bishop and the stake president determine worthiness and resolve concerns on behalf of the Church.”  So if you are struggling with sexual sin, please, talk to your parents and make an appointment to go see your bishop or branch president.  They will love and support and help you through.

In that same talk, Elder Ballard went on to say, “Please understand this: the bar that is the standard for missionary service is being raised. The day of the ‘repent and go’ missionary is over. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you, my young brothers? Some young men have the mistaken idea that they can be involved in sinful behavior and then repent when they’re 18 1/2 so they can go on their mission at 19. While it is true that you can repent of sins, you may or you may not qualify to serve. It is far better to keep yourselves clean and pure and valiant.”

Raising the bar

Our former prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, also spoke of the need to raise the worthiness standards for missionaries. In fact, he commented on Elder Ballard’s talk saying, “Elder Ballard has spoken to you concerning missionaries. I wish to endorse what he said. I hope that our young men, and our young women, will rise to the challenge he has set forth. We must raise the bar on the worthiness and qualifications of those who go into the world as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ” (“To Men of the Priesthood,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2002, 57).lds-mormon-oakland-temple

President Hinckley further said, “the time has come when we must raise the standards of those who are called … as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. … We simply cannot permit those who have not qualified themselves as to worthiness to go into the world to speak the glad tidings of the gospel.” (“Missionary Service,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 11, 2003, 17).

Elder L. Tom Perry has also spoken on missionary worthiness, comparing these standards with those needed to enter the house of the Lord, the Holy Temple.  Said he, “Personal worthiness is the minimum spiritual standard for serving a mission. This means that you are worthy in every way to make and to keep sacred temple covenants.” (Raising the Bar, Ensign, November 2007)

bishop-interview2Worthiness interview

As I mentioned above, and as I talked about in my other posts on the Mission Application Timeline and the application process for Mission Papers, only a bishop (or branch president) can interview missionary candidates and recommend them as worthy to serve a full-time mission. In this interview, your priesthood leader will ask you if you meet the qualifications for missionary service revealed in section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants: faith, hope, charity, love, an eye single to the glory of God, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, and diligence.

Full-time missionary service is a privilege, not a right, and therefore, potential missionaries must be worthy in every respect in order to receive that privilege. If you have had law of chastity violations, your bishop and stake president (or branch president and district or mission president) will need to confirm that your repentance is complete prior to submitting your application.  They will make sure that you are prepared spiritually for your mission call and that you have been free of transgression for a sufficient time to manifest genuine repentance. If you have had multiple or serious violations of the law of chastity, this time period will likely be at least one year from the most recent occurrence.

Repentance

If you have had problems with the law of chastity, to prepare for a mission you will need to become worthy, and you will need to go through the repentance process. Complete repentance of law of chastity violations is necessary before a potential missionary can submit the paperwork. If you are afraid or unsure how to begin the repentance process, start by going to see your bishop. He will guide you through the steps of repentance and give you support along the way.

My young brothers and sisters, the Lord loves you.  If you have fallen into sexual transgression, He has provided a way back. The road of repentance is available thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  The Lord, your family, and Church leaders will help you repent and fully prepare for your mission.

For those of you striving and succeeding at keeping yourself clean and pure in spite of this increasingly sex-obsessed world in which we live, I applaud your faith and courage. If you always obey the law of chastity, you will be spared the hardships that inevitably come when we violate God’s commandments.  You will keep yourself worthy to become one of the Lord’s chosen representatives, and you will have immense joy and eternal blessings for the missionary work you will perform.

34 replies
  1. John
    John says:

    So if you masturbate, and watch pornography, not because you want to do it, but because Satan gives your body the desire to do it. Even if your brain doesnt want to. If you’re hormones are strong, you’re not allowed to serve a mission? I already turned my papers in, and this is happening to me.

    Reply
    • Jamed
      Jamed says:

      John don’t worry about it. I served a mission and masturbated nearly every night. I confessed to my mission president. I don’t want to talk about this on Internet but I’d like to share my story with you. Email me. James.miller71@live.com

      Reply
    • MM
      MM says:

      John,
      I applaud you for your desire to serve the Lord as a full time missionary. As a former bishop and stake president, I wanted to briefly respond to your post and question. First, please realize that sexual desire is a gift from God the Father and is meant to bless our lives and strengthen eternal marriages. That being said, if we use our free agency to view pornography and/or indulge in activities that lead to sexual arousal for selfish reasons or those specifically prohibited by the law of chastity, we misuse that gift and commit serious sin, making it harder and harder to resist as time goes on. Thereafter, even though we don’t want to give in, it can feel like we have little control over our “natural man” tendencies. Things can progress to the point of addiction. It is true that each child of God has a different and unique set of temptations and some struggle more than others (including real feelings of same gender attraction), but this does not excuse our responsibility to obey the Law of Chastity with exactness. The atonement of Jesus Christ is absolutely essential in obtaining forgiveness and healing as well as future strength to live by the covenants you made at baptism. Your bishop or branch president holds priesthood keys and will happily work with you and help you. Often, further resources such as addiction recovery groups or counseling can be of great benefit. No missionary should enter the temple or attempt to serve a mission with unrepented sin. I promise you that a very open discussion of your past and present challenges with your bishop will help you to have more hope and to start down the path of more complete reliance on the Savior. Hiding the problem and justifying sin by blaming Satan for “making me do it” will not lead to success or true happiness. Yours is an all too common problem in our day but help and forgiveness are readily available! You can do it!

      Reply
    • Joey
      Joey says:

      Serious question, is masturbation permissible on the mission so long as pornography is never viewed? Or is it an offense that calls for immediately sending the missionary home?

      Reply
      • Jimmy
        Jimmy says:

        Joey, masturbation is not permissible on the mission, but I don’t believe that it is generally an offense that calls for immediately sending the missionary home. Of course, the worthiness of a mission is determined by his priesthood leaders, so ultimately it is for the bishop, stake president, and mission president to decide. Please make an appointment and discuss this with your local priesthood leader as soon as possible.

        Reply
  2. Adam
    Adam says:

    I have heard that’ if you have participated in sexual intercorse then your opportunity to go on a mission is over. Is that true?

    Reply
    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      No, I don’t believe that is true. You will need to talk to your bishop, though, and work through the repentance process with him so you can know you are clean before the Lord before going on a mission.

      Reply
  3. Kaye
    Kaye says:

    4 years ago i broke the law of chastity. it was one time when i was inactive member of the church. after committing the sin i feel so guilty of everything. i was disgusted with myself. right now i am preparing to go on a mission. but i never talked about it with my bishop or even my parents.

    Reply
    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      Kaye, I am sorry that you have lived for so long with the guilt of having broken the law of chastity. I applaud you, though, for your righteous desires and living a good life that has brought you to the point where you want to serve a mission. I definitely think you should go talk to your bishop about everything you just told me. He will help you fully comply with the requirements of repentance, and he will let you about what your options are for serving a mission. I hope you become a great missionary and serve and help many people. Good luck and God bless you.

      Reply
  4. Bri
    Bri says:

    I have prepared for a mission and will be going on one at the beginning of the year, but I just had sex with my boyfriend two days ago. He asked if I wanted him to stop and I said yes, but he still kept going and I didn’t stop him. I felt no emotional connection with him and it just felt like a hook up. I’m scared I’m not worthy and I’m afraid I’ve prepared all this time for nothing. What do I do??

    Reply
    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      Bri, I’m sorry about what happened. I advise you to go talk to your bishop and your parents as soon as possible about this incident. They will love, and help, and support you. No matter what happens with going on a mission or not, the most important thing is for you to be clean and worthy before the Lord. May God bless and be with you.

      Reply
  5. Maddy
    Maddy says:

    So Ive gotten my mission call and I leave in a little over a month. I’ve committed a Sin and know I need to talk to the bishop especially before my mission. Will it delay the date I report to the mission? That’s the only thing I’m worried about. (maddsterpeace@gmail.com)

    Reply
    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      Maddy, Please go talk to your bishop without delay. Only he can tell you if your mission will have to be delayed or not. But most important is your worthiness and cleanliness before the Lord. You can’t be an effective missionary with the cloud of sin hanging over your head. Good luck and God bless.

      Reply
  6. Silver
    Silver says:

    Hey, my name’s Silver and like I have a question. Me and my boyfriend both had sexual relations 4 weeks ago, we’re both 16 and he’s Mormon and I’m not (I have no declared religion), he wants to serve a mission, what does what happened mean for him then?

    Reply
    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      Silver, Thank you for contacting me. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that physical intimacy should be reserved for a man and woman who are committed to each other in marriage. So first of all, the two of you need to agree not to engage in this kind of sexual behavior, or any kind of close physical intimacy, again.

      The next thing your boyfriend needs to do is to go confess his actions to his bishop. If you would like, I’m sure the bishop would also be willing to talk to you as well. The bishop is the head of the local Mormon congregation where your boyfriend attends church. The bishop will be kind and understanding and will help your boyfriend prepare to go on a mission when he turns 18.

      We believe that sexual relations outside of wedlock are a serious sin against God’s commandments. It will take time, probably many months, in order for your boyfriend to demonstrate his faithfulness to the commandments, but if he can do so, it is likely that he will still be able to serve a mission.

      I’m glad your boyfriend wants to serve a mission. Missions are not easy, but they are worth it. There is probably nothing better that he could do as a young man to prepare himself for the rest of his life than to serve a mission for two years. But to be a missionary requires a lot of preparation. Perhaps you can help him prepare. He should be reading and studying the scriptures, the word of God, each day. In our church, scriptures include the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Perhaps the two of you can read the scriptures together. Going to church weekly and praying daily will also help him prepare. Also, ask him if he is attending seminary. Seminary is a weekday religion class, a lot like Sunday School except it happens during the week, that Mormons in high school usually attend. Seminary is also a great thing for him to do to prepare for a mission, and you would be more than welcome to attend with him.

      I hope my advice is helpful. Good luck. And God bless you both.

      Reply
  7. Steairs
    Steairs says:

    Thank you so much for the article, as well as everything you have on this site. It’s all very helpful!

    In the past, I have had struggles, but i have worked with priesthood leaders, and I’ve been clean for a good amount of time. However it has not yet been a year since the last relapse, and my stake President still passed me through and submitted my papers (with heavy warnings). I guess I’m just a bit confused by this, especially since it was an issue that lasted for several years. Any insight?

    Also, he told me that he could feel that I had moved on and strived to do what was right, but there was still a dangerous fraction of the toxic relationship that was holding me back. We talked about cutting that final thread that still wrapped around me. Do you have any tips on how to severe the final link between me and my past?

    Thanks

    Reply
  8. Jen
    Jen says:

    I have waited for my mission call for almost 8 months and the last time I checked it with our branch clerk is that my mission appointment has already been made. As I assess myself earlier, I think my desire to go on a mission is loosing. I also have worthiness concerns…. What should I do?

    Reply
    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      Jen, I’m sorry your mission call has taken so long. Hopefully it will arrive very soon. I think the best thing for you to do would be to find some people to talk to about the situation. Your branch president and close family members and close friends in the church should be on the top of the list of who to talk to. I think you will find strength and encouragement by discussing your situation with these close friends. Of course, if there are worthiness issues, make an appointment to speak with your branch president as soon as possible. He will understand your situation and help you through it with loving kindness. Good luck, and God bless you.

      Reply
      • Jen
        Jen says:

        Thank you brother for the advice. I will follow it. Thank you for the encouragement. Hopefully this coming Sunday I will receive it

        Reply
  9. Jake
    Jake says:

    I’ve heard that sexual relations more than twice will kill your chances of going on a mission, I’ve already talked to my bishop about one of those times and have just gave in to weakness over the last year but I’m scared that it’s ruined my chances

    Reply
    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      Jake, I don’t think there is any such concrete rule. Of course, multiple serious violations of the law of chastity is very grievous and will require much repentance, but whether or not it prevents you from ever serving a mission is something that will be determined by your bishop and stake president, with the guidance and inspiration of the Lord. Please go talk to your bishop right away, and never give up on striving to do what is right, for the Lord has not and will not give up on you. Remember the words of the prophet Alma, “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you” (Alma 5:33).

      Reply
  10. Tanner
    Tanner says:

    I have receieved my mission call and I report to the MTC in 3 months. 4 months ago I had a porn and masturbation addiction. I repented and talked to my bishop about it and we got things all straightened out. A few days ago I slipped up and masturbated. No porn was involved. I’m wondering if this warrants a trip to the bishops office and if it will affect my mission in anyway. I’ve heard that you have to be free from mastubation for 6 months to go on a mission. I leave in 3. With this set my mission date back? Do I need to repent to my bishop or can I resolve this on my own with God?

    Reply
  11. Tanner
    Tanner says:

    I have receieved my mission call and I report to the MTC in 3 months. 4 months ago I had a porn and masturbation addiction. I repented and talked to my bishop about it and we got things all straightened out. A few days ago I slipped up and masturbated. No porn was involved. I’m wondering if this warrants a trip to the bishops office and if it will affect my mission in anyway. I’ve heard that you have to be free from mastubation for 6 months to go on a mission. I leave in 3. Will this set my mission date back? Do I need to repent to my bishop or can I resolve this on my own with God?

    Reply
    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      Tanner, It is impossible for me to say whether or not you should talk to the bishop about this. You need to be prayerful and seek the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord. I have personally never heard of the 6 month rule you mention below. But regardless of whether or not confessing this will set back your mission date, please have courage to do what is right regardless of the consequence. Be like Nephi in the Book of Mormon to whom God said: “Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.” Helaman 10:4

      Good luck and God bless.

      Reply
  12. 10 seconds gonna set me back? 20 f
    10 seconds gonna set me back? 20 f says:

    I just fininished my papers! Things have been going quick. I finished them in two weeks!! It’s been over whelming… but awesome. I had sexual sin a year ago and I am fully repented of that. But I met this guy on lds singles and we’ve been hanging out. We made out and I committed oral sex for not even 10 seconds I felt so bad after. I didn’t want to. He was foreceful but it’s my fault I went along with it… I told him my desires on a mission and things just went fast… i did it I stop then ran home. So is ten seconds really gonna set me back from a mission 🙁 I feel like someone needs me…:( I talk with my st president Sunday..

    Reply
    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about what happened. Of course you will want to be prayerful and follow the promptings of the Spirit of the Lord, but I have a couple of suggestions. First, if possible, break off contact with the guy you met. Second, definitely talk to your bishop and stake president about the situation. While this may or may not delay your mission, if you need to repent and do not fully do so, then it could lead to not having the Spirit with you and thus not being effective. Remember what the Lord said in D&C 58:42 “[she] who has repented of [her] sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” Talk to your priesthood leaders, accept and follow their counsel, and bring forth the “fruits of repentance” (Matthew 3:8 and Alma 13:13) and you will be worthy and blessed before God, and then you will be an effective missionary and be able to bless the lives of many others.

      Reply
    • Maria S
      Maria S says:

      If he was forceful, then this is NOT your fault. What he did to you was sexual assault. Do not let anyone convince you otherwise. Here are some resources for you:
      Effective prevention models regarding sexual assault consist of educational programs and community or bystander intervention programs. The educational programs focus on teaching about healthy and respectful relationships, what constitutes sexual assault, what constitutes consent, increasing reporting of sexual assault, and reducing vulnerabilities. The community or bystander intervention programs focus on uniting both men and women as a community in taking a stand against sexual and interpersonal violence.
      • It’s On Us: http://www.itsonus.org
      • Start by Believing: http://www.startbybelieving.org
      • Real Consent: http://www.real-consent.org
      • Live the Green Dot: http://www.livethegreendot.com
      • No More: http://www.nomore.org
      • Date Safe Project: http://www.datesafeproject.org
      • Can I Kiss You? http://www.canikissyou.com Book by Mike Domitrz

      Reply
  13. Jacob
    Jacob says:

    So today I was in my D&C class here at BYU Idaho, and we talked about excommunication, dissfellowshipping, etc. after the class a guy I sit next to, with whom I I usually exchange ideas came up to me after class he told me told he had a few questions he was afraid to ask. Now I don’t know if he’s talking about himself or a friend. But he asked me what’s happens to return missionaries who break the law of chastity like sex multiple times heavy petting and the whole bit, and theyre attending BYU. I told him to talk to the bishop since I wasn’t Too sure. HE said he didn’t want me to, because the bishop might think he is talking about himself. Any ideas you guys?
    Here’s my email: jacobdavidgibson13@gmail.com

    Reply
  14. Josh
    Josh says:

    I am 17 years old. I have a girlfriend of which whom. I committed sexual intercourse with. I wanna serve my mission and truly repent but am afraid to talk to my bishop as I have heard after sexual intercourse you can’t serve your mission .

    Reply
    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      Josh, I am glad to hear you love the Lord and His gospel enough to want to serve a mission. I understand the fear you feel regarding confessing your sins to the bishop. Remember what Mormon wrote that “perfect love casteth out all fear.” (Moroni 8:16) If you truly love the Lord and want to be part of His work, He can help remove that fear and give you courage. Seek the guidance of the Spirit of God and I believe you will be able to do what is right.

      I don’t want to minimize the gravity of your actions, but there is no firm rule that someone can’t serve a mission after having sexual intercourse. Of course you will need to talk to your bishop and he will be prayerful and determine if the Lord will allow you to serve. But in time and with full repentance, you could very well still be allowed to serve a full-time mission. Good luck and God bless.

      Reply
  15. Rodney
    Rodney says:

    Should I get rid of my phone? I’m trying really hard to stay worthy but every few weeks I sometimes mess up and look up immodest pictures of girls. It’s not exactly porn I think, but its like almost. Like girls in tight bikinis or spandex or look up the names of cute celebrities with the intentions of seeing something bad. And I feel really bad about it later. This also makes it harder to not do becuase it doesn’t feel as serious so it’s easier to do but I know it’s bad. It’s really rare but it seems to eventually come up from time to time. I’ve already talked to my bishop the first time but I did it again this week. What should I do?

    Reply
    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      Rodney, It sounds like you know what you need to do about your phone. The Spirit of the Lord is prompting you with ideas to help you avoid temptation and stay worthy. Continue to pray and read your scriptures and seek the guidance of God’s Spirit. Remember that the Holy Ghost “will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:5). Good luck and God bless.

      Reply

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