Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Male Chastity

Male Chastity

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 11, 2010

Most of the lessons posted on Keepa, when not meant for a mixed Sunday School class, have been lessons directed at women – I haven’t yet figured out why it is so difficult to find lessons aimed at men, whether it’s because they just weren’t written and published as often as women’s lessons, or whether it’s some peculiarity in what has been put on the library shelf instead of in the less accessible depths of the library.

In any case, I’ve run across a 1940 quorum manual for what used to be called Adult Aaronic, the group of men who fell into inactivity in their youth but who, as adults, had resumed contact with the church and were being prepared for the Melchizedek Priesthood and for full participation in the church. (Do they still have such a group under some other name, or do such men associate with the Elders’ Quorum and get their catch-up lessons in Sunday School’s Gospel Essentials class?)

Here’s a lesson from that manual, directed to adults who presumably are in the class not because of coercion from parents or the habit of the regular churchgoer, but because they are actively and anxiously seeking to become fully Mormon men.


“No unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God.” (Alma 40:26.)

A. – How Grossness is Manifested.

Grossness has its foundation in thoughts and desires, and is made manifest in actions. A gross person is vulgar, coarse, low, unrefined, rude, mean, even obscene and vile. All these evils have their origin in mental conceptions which for our purposes may be called thoughts. When the mind once conceives vulgar thoughts, the next step is a natural longing to enjoy the thing conceived, which is desire. Desire once created, the next step is action to obtain. These steps are natural; and teach the great lesson of the supreme importance of forming right thoughts or conceptions in the mind. Thoughts or concepts come from impressions, or perceptions, made upon the mind, or spirit, through the senses: hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and feeling. From this again we learn how very important it is on the one hand to hear chaste, polite language, see only choicest actions, writings, and associations; and to be kept, on the other hand, from tasting, or coming in contact with any object that is calculated to stain and pollute the impressionable mind, with the manifestations of grossness. The mind in youth may be likened to a phonograph plate. Placed in a position to receive impressions, these are ineradicably stamped upon its surface to be reiterated at the pleasure of the operator. So with the youthful mind. That which is impressed upon it by the five senses remains forever. And if interest and attention accompany the impression, nothing heard, seen, tasted, smelled or handled will be forgotten. Under such conditions there is no forgetting, or ridding the mind of impressions once so made upon it. They will forever come to the surface, in thought, desire and action, either to curse, if they are gross and evil, or to bless the possessor, if they are chaste, choice, refined and pure.

B. – How Chastity is Manifested.

Chastity is revealed through the processes of thought, desire and action. A chaste person is pure in morals, manner and conduct; virtuous in his relations with the opposite sex, free from vulgarisms, polite, select, refined in language. He delights in good books, clean company, pure foods, and useful work. Chastity manifests itself in hatred of all vulgarism and all that is coarse and low; it is innocent, modest, refined and undefiled.

Chastity prevents impure thoughts from arising in the mind to create desire; it controls desire and governs the actions.

C. – Chastity is Natural, Unchastity Unnatural.

Chastity is natural. By this is meant that it is the condition fixed and determined by nature. It belongs to a person’s native character. Chastity is just as natural to a person as any of his normal characteristics. It is not a foreign condition, assumed and artificially put on, but it is regular, it is inherent in man as much as any law of nature – growth, motion, heat, strength. On the other hand, unchastity is acquired, it is put on by one’s own effort, it is unnatural.

When, therefore, a man uses foul language, we are justified in saying he has learned it of his own free will; he has acquired it. If his conduct is evil in other directions – in thought, word, or deed, if he has fallen into many foolish lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition, it is so by his own choice. he has permitted himself to adopt the example and teachings of the impure. But observe this: Man has power in himself to withstand unchastity. The Lord has given us a very valuable key, in this connection: (James 4:7.) “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” So, evil resisted, is evil overcome. “O man of God, flee thee things; and follow after righteousness; fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Tim. 6:11, 12.) “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a cancer.” “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Tim. 2:15, 16 and 22.) By this course, we shall keep in harmony with the laws of spiritual growth.

D. – Historical View of Chastity.

We shall find by referring to history that the greatest and most respected characters of all time were chaste; that chastity brought the blessings, and unchastity the curses of God.

The Lord was with Joseph and he was a prosperous man, who found not only grace in the sight of Potiphar, his master, but favor with God. He was a chaste and pure man, as is proved by his resistance of temptation. (Read Gen. 39.) Though falsely cast into prison, “the Lord was still with Joseph, and gave him favor, and that which he did the Lord made it to prosper.”Because of his purity, he was made more than the peer of kings – the ruler of the Egyptian nation – the father of nations through Ephraim and Manasseh who, according to the promise, have grown into multitudes in the midst of the earth. Because of his virtue, Joseph became the “fruitful bought whose bow abode in strength; and the arms of his hands were made strong by the Mighty God of Jacob.” (Gen. 41:41-56; 48:12-20; 49:22-26.)

Turning to old Pagan civilizations, Confucius, born 550 B.C., a Chinese sage and moralist, who impressed his character and principles on more than three hundred millions of people, was a man who taught his followers the value of virtue, in the broad sense which covers chastity in all its ramifications. There is perhaps no heathen teacher whose influence and work has been more widely extended and permanent than his. His teachings, of course, are immeasurably inferior to those of Christ in loftiness and spirituality, but there is not a sentiment in them which may be called demoralizing. “He married,” says Dr. Lord, “when he was nineteen years of age; and in the following year was born his son Le, his only child, of whose descendants eleven thousand males were living one hundred years ago, constituting the only hereditary nobility of China – a class who for seventy generations were the recipients of the highest honors and privileges.” (Beacon Lights, p. 148.) This is as great a blessing as could come to any man, and it was doubtless a reward for his purity and virtue. He was finally made ruler under a duke over a province or state, and made many splendid reforms. His fame spread so that strangers came from neighboring states to see him. Neighboring princes were annoyed, and jealous, and to undermine the influence of Confucius with the duke, “these princes sent the duke a present of eighty beautiful girls, possessing musical and dancing accomplishments, and also 120 splendid horses. As the duke soon came to think more of his girls and horses than of his reforms, Confucius became disgusted, resigned his office, and retired to private life.” The unbridled licentiousness and debauchery of courts filled him with indignation, and he is said to have exclaimed, “I have not seen one who loves virtue as he loves vice.” Dr. Lord says further of Confucius that he was moderate, temperate, simple, sincere, straight-forward, humble, striving after virtue and perfection. His mission appears to have been to transmit to his time the wisdom which had made remote generations wise and virtuous, and in doing so, he made them so clear, and was so blessed of God, because of his chaste life, and efforts, that his work lives on.

E. – the Direct Commands of God.

Direct commandments from God in ancient and modern times enjoin chastity, cleanliness, and purity of life as cardinal virtues, and pronounce blessings upon those who possess and practice them. Because they are commandments is a leading reason why they should be obeyed. Here are some commandments cited:

The ten commandments. (Ex. 20.) “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord, or who shall stand in his holy place, He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” (Ps. 24:3, 4.) “Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” (Prov. 30:5.) “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8.)

Review Questions

1. Show the value of having the mind rightly impressed. 2. Name a few things to be avoided by the pure. 3. What specially delights a person of chaste habits? 4. What is a valuable key to enable one to withstand all evil? 5. What is the greatest blessing that came to Confucius apparently because of his chastity? 6. Show that chastity is a direct command of God.



  1. Probably because there have been so many chastity lessons on the docket since I’ve been teaching Gospel Doctrine, I read this as if I were preparing to teach it. As a teacher, a lesson is much easier to teach when it is a positive set of behaviors and attitudes to cultivate than when it is a negative list of behaviors to avoid. I appreciated that about the structure of this lesson.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 11, 2010 @ 7:40 am

  2. Wow. I found the passage on chastity being natural particularly interesting, especially in light of present opinions.

    Comment by SilverRain — August 11, 2010 @ 8:37 am

  3. In answer to the Adult Aaronic question — no, prospective elders now generally meet with the quorum similar to their age (elders or high priests), and in many wards are now overseen (that is, home taught) by high priests.

    Agree with #2’s comment about chasity’s being “natural” esp in light of the teaching “the natural man is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19).

    Comment by Paul — August 11, 2010 @ 9:13 am

  4. I found the considerable amount of space given to Chinese confucian moralism interesting. Our lessons today don’t tend to take that approach.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — August 11, 2010 @ 10:00 am

  5. Reminds me a bit of Allen’s As a Man Thinketh (1902).

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 11, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

  6. The lesson does give Confucius backhanded compliments…heathen, pagan, inferior to Christ. No one argues that most, if not all, teachings don’t measure up to the teachings of Christ. But his teachings do run in the same vein as Christ and that was 550 years before. Very interesting take on the subject. Not so old fashion as we think.

    Comment by Mex Davis — August 11, 2010 @ 1:53 pm

  7. On the point of chastity and its attending being natural, I think it’s matter of using a term that, although accurate, mixes with another use of the same term.

    Fortunately, we have another term to describe the inherent “nature” of our goodness without having to use the word “natural.”

    And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man. Moses 6: 65

    I LOVE that term. It implies that the goodness we’re talking about goes even deeper than nature, because it’s older than anything we’ve ever seen and called “nature.”

    Comment by Paradox — August 11, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

  8. *attending goodness

    My bad.

    Comment by Paradox — August 11, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

  9. Wow, so much to disagree with in such a short lesson. This idea in A. that you can only remain pure and chaste by sheilding yourself from all exposure to things vulgar gives the impression that we are advocating a situation where a person is chaste but would fly to pieces if exposed to any temptations. Not exactly the strength of character I would advocate.

    And of course, that first paragraph of C. is plain poppycock. Chastity is a law of nature like unto growth, motion, heat, and strength?!? On what planet?

    Comment by Jacob J — August 11, 2010 @ 3:51 pm

  10. The way I read it, A. is the 1940 equivalent of today’s anti-porn discourse. They aren’t saying that any exposure to vulgarity will make you fly to pieces; they’re saying that chastity involves the mind as well as the body. Controlling the mind is the ultimate strength of character, I think.

    I think Paradox puts it so well.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 11, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

  11. Interesting article and comments by everyone so far. I think the lesson points to many truths that may or may not be taught as pointedly today as they seem to be in this lesson. I applauded Elder Holland’s recent talk in Conference (Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul-Apr 2010) because it was so blunt! We, as a society, need that directness. Try as we might, in today’s society, we are constantly assaulted by images that do not portray chaste behaviors, but like Elder Packer has previously stated (To Young Men Only-October 1976), let’s sweep them off the stage of our minds by whatever means works, so that they are not indelibly imprinted and left as images in our memories to resurface through out our lives. Yes, the images are all around us but we can choose NOT to let them linger.

    Comment by Cliff — August 11, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

  12. Ardis,

    Right about the mind as well as the body, I agree. Look at this sentence though:

    From this again we learn how very important it is on the one hand to hear chaste, polite language, see only choicest actions, writings, and associations; and to be kept, on the other hand, from tasting, or coming in contact with any object that is calculated to stain and pollute the impressionable mind, with the manifestations of grossness.

    Hear, see, taste, come into contact with. The paragraph suggests that we control our mind by controlling our environment to make sure that nothing tempting is introduced to our mind. Why, because once introduced we’ll inevitably long for the evil thing being presented to our senses:

    When the mind once conceives vulgar thoughts, the next step is a natural longing to enjoy the thing conceived, which is desire.

    In my mind, the place to emphasize in the process is our reaction to a temptation once presented. We control our thoughts despite their being exposed to temptation. It’s all well and good to say we should go out seeking temptation, but A. seems to go far beyond that to suggest that being sheltered from exposure to temptation is the primary way to remain chaste. As it says:

    That which is impressed upon [the youthful mind] by the five senses remains forever.

    …Under such conditions there is no forgetting, or ridding the mind of impressions once so made upon it.

    The emphasis is all on the exposure to temptation and its permanent impact on the person. I personally don’t agree with the view and I certainly don’t think it a great lead in to a lesson on the power and efficacy of repentance.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 11, 2010 @ 4:39 pm

  13. Ai. It’s all well and good to say we should NOT go out seeking temptation…

    Comment by Jacob J — August 11, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

  14. Jacob, I read all of those points as being primarily positive — choosing the good things to see, hear, taste, come in contact with *before* a temptation is encountered, so that there’s nothing to repent of. I probably read it that way in light of B., which is so very upbeat in its consideration of chastity as something we manifest by behavior and thought, rather than the absence of something we avoid.

    Anyway, I found that aspect so encouraging and positive that it overrode any negative interpretation from me, although I can see from your response how and why you found it to be otherwise.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 11, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

  15. #12-14 — Ardis, I agree that it’s a positive admonition — if there is anything…of good report, we seek after those things.

    Jacob, I remember being taught by my mission president who was taught by Elder Sill back in the day of a poster he (Elder Sill) had seen during the war (WWI?). The unsavory image came to him in the temple, uninvited. The message to us missionaries was once the image was in your brain, you could not expunge it, so better to avoid those images.

    I think that’s the point of the lesson here, as well (as you say): don’t go looking for temptation. Do all you can to avoid it in your speech, your companions, your environment. Not too different from today’s counsel to youth and adults alike to avoid unsavory influences in entertainments and speech.

    Comment by Paul — August 11, 2010 @ 7:12 pm

  16. I wonder what in the world is meant by pure food? Did our people used to think that being unchaste made you acquire a taste for certain kinds of food? If so, what kinds?

    Comment by Mark Brown — August 11, 2010 @ 7:30 pm

  17. Mark, the phrase “clean living” that was used so heavily in the mid-20th century was an umbrella term for chastity, Word of Wisdom (including the food aspects), speech, dress, and deportment in general. That’s very likely where the “pure food” remark comes in — when one aspect of clean living is under discussion, all the others are “incorporated therein and made a part thereof by reference.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 11, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

  18. Pure food means staying away from chocolates, strawberries, and oysters.

    Comment by queuno — August 12, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

  19. I have been in primary for so long I didn’t realize there were so many chastity lessons outside of Young Womens. Hmmm. This was interesting.

    Comment by floridagirl — August 13, 2010 @ 5:26 pm

  20. I didn’t notice how many chastity lessons there were in Sunday School or Relief Society until I seemed to be teaching them every second or third week.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 13, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

  21. I know it has been a couple of years, but in case someone else stumbled across this later, I will add my two cents. Well, really they belong to my husband, since he was the main contributor to the conversation.

    My husband is in his late 30s and has not yet been a member for a year. He had LDS friends in high school, but hadn’t had any real contact with the church, after graduation, until my kids told him that he liked me enough to ask their permission to marry me, he should probably come to church a few times so he would get lost.

    He just finished the ten week course that the teach for men who are older than 21, and not yet Elder’s. (Under 21 go to missionary prep.) The class was taught during Elder’s Quorum by the Elder’s Quorum President and a member of the Bishopbric. The lessons were pulled from the missionary prep handbook, the last official version of the manual that had all of the ordinances of the priesthood laid out, and a number of conference talks.

    Everyone in the class was also taking the Temple Prep class during the second hour. To start the two classes you had to have spent a total of 6 months in Gospel Doctrine, and time as an investigator counting as long as you were there most of the time. So most of the people in the class had either been baptized within a few months or had reactivated during that time. (All of the people in his class fell into those categories, but if there had been less than 8, they would have invited other Elders or High Priests to join them.)

    The lesson on chastity was pretty focus on what wasn’t acceptable, and things that can be done if you are struggling. The two examples he remembers are if porn is a temptation, instead of fantasizing about other women, talk with your wife to find sexual experiences that are good for both partners. (I thought this was much better than humming a hymn.)

    The other instance was if you find the dress of a woman to be distracting or spiritually annoying, and you can’t avoid the contact (like she works with you) to first be upfront with her about being distracted. The Elder’s Quorum President shared an example from the year after he got off his mission and worked with someone who tended to show a lot of skin. When he talked to her, she was honestly surprised and said she thought that was what men liked. He told her that some men might, but he didn’t. Then he asked her what kind of man she wanted to date or marry. After several discussions she ended up going shopping with his mom for flattering but more appropriate clothing. They then brainstormed other things to try if the direct approach didn’t.

    What I like about the second example is that it assumes the best in both men and women. Men want to respect women, and women want to be respected. Sometimes it really could be a breakdown in communication. I remember I boy that I had a huge crush on in middle school taking me aside and asking me if I knew how tight my shirt was. I said that I thought that was the style (and since I went up a cup size during the first three months of school I honestly did not realize just how tight they had become. (I didn’t have a mirror in my room, and the bathroom mirror ended at my neck.) When I looked at myself in the mirror on my mom’s closet door I was sooooooo embarrassed. I talked my mom into three new t-shirts that night. I will always be glad he like ME enough to let me know that my appearance wasn’t giving off the same signals as my mind and heart. Thanks Corey!


    Comment by Julia — August 30, 2012 @ 10:51 pm

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