Thursday, February 26, 2009

Some essays worth reading

While you wait, here are some of the things I have been reading lately - the first two are particularly good.

Bearing Our Crosses Gracefully: Sex and the Single Mormon (scroll down the sidebar until you see it - this one is worth it)

BYU Magazine Protecting Purity (likewise excellent)

When Virgins Collide

The Dedication of a Lifetime - Elder Oaks - CES fireside

Dating vs. Hanging Out - Elder Oaks

Why it is not good for Man to be alone - Larry Barkdull - mentioned if only because he is recent. He is not so wrong in fact, as he is dreadfully wrong in perspective. Some points that are true, but applied sloppily where he does not comprehend the struggles of an LDS single adult.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chapter 4: Worldliness and the Sacred Body ~ The third characteristic of Virtue is receiving the Holy Ghost, leave worldliness, and becoming holy

Chapter 4: Part A

In order to be virtuous, we must have the Spirit of God with us as a constant companion and if we do not have the Spirit with us, we are not fully virtuous. In order to do this, we must forsake the things of this World, and treat our bodies as truly sacred.

In order to be virtuous we must not have the Spirit only occasionally or often, but continually. A temple is a holy place where God will not only visit, but where both He and his Holy Spirit will permanently stay. We were meant to be temples. And like as defiled temples were destroyed anciently, we must be virtuous or we will be destroyed, most likely by ourselves.

In other words, the crux of virtue is the Spirit of God and we are truly virtuous (as opposed to merely not being unvirtuous) in proportion to the amount we have that Spirit. Once we tie as significant a quality as the Spirit of God to virtue, the quality of virtue has suddenly become much larger subject and suddenly encompasses far more than it seemed to before.

We have long been taught that we cannot serve two masters and that like as Zion is a type and pattern of Heaven that we must exemplify, Babylon is likewise one we must purge ourselves of.

What do we mean when we say 'Babylon' or 'Zion'? The scriptures ….... {{I will expand upon this more properly later, in order to explain the great distinction between Babylon and Zion – the interested reader could look at the first chapter of (or indeed the entire book of) Hugh Nibley's Approaching Zion in the meantime}}

Babylon is both a culture and a worldview that does not willingly co-exist with Zion – the Heavenly Order that God desires of us, nor does God look kindly upon the ways of Babylon.

Of the world, the scriptures say, “I give not unto you that ye shall live after the manner of the world” D&C 95:13

And also of Zion, we read, “Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.” D&C 105:5

Time and again in the Holy Writ, what trounces an established Zion, is embracing the World or compromising with it, most often by attempting to synthesize it with the Gospel.

The essence of it, is putting things we should not, before God, hence the great command, Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Ex. 20

Likewise, we are told that the reason that “Many are called, but few are chosen” is “Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson - That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.”
D&C 121:34-36

In a word, when we speak of the World, of Babylon, or of the Great and Spacious Building, we speak of idolatry and a worldview for whom the things of the Gospel are pure foolishness. It is putting other things before God. Is this too much to say and terms too strong to condemn with?

Speaking of the unrepentant, in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says,
For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;
They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.
D&C 1:15-16

Of particular interest to us, is what Abraham writes of three royal virgins who “were offered up because of their virtue”, because he explains, “they would not bow down to worship gods of wood or of stone”. Abr. 1:11

Virtue, in a word, was in rejecting the things of the world, and putting God first.

The things of this world are naturally in opposition to what God demands of us, much as the Great and Spacious Building in Lehi's dream was in opposition to the Tree of Life and the Iron Rod and those fashionable people

In order to have the the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, we must forsake the World and become holy ourselves.

Once we take this into consideration, Ezekiel 16:49-50 makes far more sense. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were memorable for their unbridled sexuality and legally attempted gang-rape in Gen. 19. Yet, in a chapter devoted to adultery, what the Prophet condemned them primarily for was Worldliness.

Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
Ezekiel 16:49-50

We can not cling to the things of this world and simultaneously embrace the Spirit of God any more than we can stand near the great and spacious building in Lehi's Dream, and still hold to the iron rod – they are at odds with each other. The things God asks of us are deliberately meant to bring us our of our mortal obsession with the very temporary world we inhabit.

After the tremendous outpouring of the Spirit and numerous spiritual manifestations after the dedication of the Kirtland temple, there came a time of temptation where many apostasized. Eliza R. Snow wrote,
“Many who had been humble and faithful to the performance of every duty—ready to go and come at every call of the Priesthood—were getting haughty in their spirits, and lifted up in the pride of their hearts. As the Saints drank in the love and spirit of the world, the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from their hearts.”

Prosperity often knits a man or women closer to the world. Just when he thinks he is really beginning to find his place in the world, it is the World finding a place in him. Why is it that prosperity tends to go hand-in-hand with immorality? This is pattern is shown again and again in the Book of Mormon, and unless we make a very conscious effort to focus on Christ above the day to day concerns of the World, we will make the same unconscious errors the Nephites made over and over until they were destroyed.

Very often we spend a lot of time talking about delaying sexual gratification, but how much time do we spend on delaying immediate gratification of other things in this world? Considering that up to 90% of divorces stem from finances, and not literal infidelity, this is no minor worry.

There is much in the spirit of immorality that is strives to coexist with Worldliness, in a kind of symbiotic relation. By 'Worldliness', I mean an inordinate focus on the present, and on self. And not merely a focus on self, but on self-will – what we call pride, is an underlying cause. What parades itself so loudly as love, is in reality stems from enmity towards God and not God only , but man also. It is evident in those who insist that a certain sexual choices must be legitimized and accepted, by both society and the church. It is evident in those who continue their actions regardless of the teaching of modern prophets.

We must not therefore, be surprised when the same society that winks at immorality, becomes more callous and less caring, more focused on the mortal body and less on the soul, more on the spirit of the times, than the Spirit of God.

A righteous society may become wicked by sexual obsession and rampant immorality, but how does such a sex-obsessed society become more wicked? More obsession and more sex? Perhaps sometimes, and perhaps even often, but more often, it just becomes increasingly self-centered. There is less sex, not because it is more moral, but because people are busy with careers and money, and the things of this world. There comes a prudishness, not born of restraint or desire to keep the commandments, but of pride, of enmity to those who are deemed less and/or simply less worthy of interest than work matters. Notice well, how many measures of immorality, such as the divorce rate, are improving, but largely because people are not marrying. Our world is more wicked than the the 1960's when the Sexual Revolution happened – yet sexual activity rates are lower now.

We live in a culture, not of pre-marital sex, but one that does not correlate sex and marriage at all. 
I would not call it pre-marital, because “pre-” implies something that happens before marriage. In much of society, marriage is never even considered.

Now, you may say, I would never do all that. But important thing to realize is that the same spirit that drives an over concern with the world, drives them all. Lucifer is not interested remotely in our happiness or freedom, except only when it helps to promises future disappointment and trouble.

We can not fulfill the purposes and blessing God has in store for us, while carrying the cultural baggage and attitudes of Babylon

Continuing the quotation of Elder Maxwell in Ch. 2,
”A sex-saturated society cannot really feel the needs of its suffering members because, instead of developing the love that looks outward, it turns men selfishly inward. Imperviousness to the promptings of the still small voice of God will also mean that we have ears but cannot hear not only the promptings of God, but also the pleas of men. .... preoccupation with sensual things can cause us to lose our capacity to notice. Sensuality reminds us of our own needs so much of the time that we pass others by and "notice them not." The selfishness of sensuality is at least as intense as the selfishness of riches. When we listen only to the loudest things and act only in response to rage, we will lose our capacity to hear that still small voice.”

Rejecting worldliness is a good first step, but we need more than that if we are to cultivate actual virtue. We need to have the Holy Spirit as our constant companion. In a word, we each need to be a temple. We know a bit of what we should not be – but what is it that we should be? We know the world, because we live in it. But what is it we should strive after instead?

Holy temples
Our bodies have been called temples, but if that concept seems awkward, let me put it a different way. We are children of God. And so there is a bit of that divinity in us. Out of all God's creations, we have that particular honor. And not only we ourselves, but those around us, have to potential to be like our Father and Mother in Heaven. CS Lewis reminds us, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship”.

Elsewhere he said:
He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly . . . His own boundless power and delight and goodness.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. <>

This is what we are suppose to be – that is our true natural spiritual state.

Now with all of this in mind, how do we treat what is holy? This human body that was created in the image of God – we should not take that lightly. The Jews, according to the Law of Moses, even held the body of criminals sufficiently holy that they would not allow dead bodies to remain hanging over night, either from a noose, or on a cross. Deut. 21:22-23; John 19:31

Hence, our most common ordinance, is the sacrament of the last supper, where weekly we remember the body and blood of Christ. Further, that is why we have the Word of Wisdom, as well as commandments about gluttony, sleep and health. Above and beyond that, that is why the Resurrection central to and the final glorious culminating act of the Atonement. We are not some kind of neoplatonists that regard the body as evil or indifferently at best. True enough, in its present form, it is subject to sin, but is still a mark of our royal birthright. Remember the devils that Christ cast out into a herd of swine – those disembodied spirits vastly preferred even a pig's body, to having none at all.

The Sacred Body
if we do not regard our bodies as sacred, then we can not regard truly regard ourselves as children of God, for they are one and the same. Further, the way we see others, is a reflection of the way we think of ourselves, at the deepest level. Personally, I never fully trust someone who despises his fellowman.

And yet, with all this divinity, how do we treat those around us? We are in a society of potential God and Goddesses. Do we see ourselves as holy or as children of Deity? Do we treat others that way? If we do not treat either ourselves or others as holy, is that not a desecration? Can we desecrate others without desecrating ourselves?

But just to be clear, how would we desecrate ourselves or another? Anytime we treat the body as less than sacred – anytime we treat ours, or others bodies casually or flippantly, we are treating people the same way. Thus, sexual union, without the serious binding marital union, is a mockery. It promises everything, but discards the other person, if not the next day, then eventually. Its hallmark is impermanence and avoiding commitment. Stereotypes aside, this is hardly just a male issue.

BYU Prof. Van C Gessel explained, “How to make mortals regard the human body as less than holy? Very simply, just strip its sacredness of all its modest coverings and parade it to public view; batter it and explode it and riddle it with bullets; and display it nakedly engaged in its most intimate activities to make sure the viewer or listener comes to consider public performances of sexual activity as commonplace. What our Father in Heaven regards as the Holy of Holies Satan treats as an open-set film studio. You can almost hear the fiendish laughs of the demons over every depiction of the physical bodies they so desperately envy being exposed to public view and treated like so much meat in a butcher’s shop.”

Is it any wonder then, that the prophets have even spoken on such mundane topics as tattoos or excessive piercings? It is less the fact that one set of earrings on woman are ok, than it is that the body is to be held as sacred – not something to be casually marked or pierced according to the whims of the world. Nor is it something to be sexually exploited one moment (either in person, or by inappropriate viewing), and discarded the next. Or to be exploited before we are serious enough to properly eternally sealed. If we do not love the other person enough to see to it that there is no spiritual harm, them we are putting our own needs and desires ahead of their good, and is exploitation. 'Consenting adults' merely means mutually agreed upon exploitation. Whose good is each party looking out for?

Exploited is a harsh word to use, but in the final analysis, isn't that what it is? Is it possible even to exploit these bodies we have been given? Yes, actually it is.

We have grown so used to this in our own culture (and most of us read too little of other times and cultures) that we are used to this, and think of it as normal. But it is not.

Much of the Gospel centers around the sanctity and importance of the body.

Next week: Part B
Sanctity of Sex
How Sex is spoken of
To be virtuous is to have the Spirit of God

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Webpage

A blog is a great thing to read whatever has been written last - but for long articles, it can be a pain to read. The column is too narrow.

So I am opening a webpage in parallel with this blog. I should be much easier to read and navigate.

The Meaning of Virtue webpage


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Chapter 3: Carnal Nature ~ the second characteristic of Virtue is overcoming our fallen nature

Chapter 3: Carnal Nature

Links to Skip ahead
The meaning of carnal, sensual and devilish
We have two natures in conflict
Our bodies are built to reproduce
Effects of reproductive selection on our bodies
We can not overcome our physical natures by ourselves
Willpower alone is not enough: we must be born again
We are virtuous as we have the Spirit of God
The Spirit of God will guide us to what we need

Since the Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden and 'fell', mankind has struggled with the opposition between the Spirit of the Lord and our own fallen natures. If we are to become virtuous, we must overcome the Fall. Mere innocence is not enough – But while the Fall makes us susceptible to sin, it also affords us the opportunity to become excel by way of opposition. (2 Ne. 2:23; D&C 29:39)
The scriptures tell us that because of the Fall, we experienced a spiritual death, that we were cut off from the presence of the Lord, and specifically we became “carnal, sensual, and devilish”. (Alma 42:9-10; also Mosiah 16:3; Moses 6:49; 5:13; D&C 20:20) Even that because of the Fall, our very natures have become evil continually. (Ether 3:2)

While 'devilish' means pretty much what we would expect, what do carnal and sensual mean exactly?

Carnal refers to things pertaining to the body and its passions and appetites. It means not only the natural man (Alma 41:11) but also that which is [σαρκικός (sarkikos) or σάρξ (sarx)] simply an animal appetite or our nature that comes from the flesh, as in Romans 8:7 “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. ”. That already puts a great gulf between us and our Eternal Parents.

'Sensual' seems a bit odd to modern ears because it sounds as if it should exclude a great many good things that are sensory pleasures – everything from sunsets to sex itself. The word used in the New Testament for sensual is ψυχικός (psychikos). The same word is translated as 'natural' in “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. ” 1Cor 2:14 The word psychikos conveys the meaning of what we have in common with animals, in that we are subject to appetites and passions. Sensual is also used in modern scripture where we can defer to modern definitions; “Devoted to the gratification of sense; given to the indulgence of the appetites; lewd” or “ pertaining to the flesh or body, in opposition to the spirit; not spiritual or holy” (Websters 1828 dictionary))

Thus, sensual refers to a preoccupation of the gratification of our appetites, particularly with sex. It suggests not merely a focus on, but a devotion to gratification of those senses. It may seem quite strange as God has given us both bodies and appetites, yet these can distract us from what is really important. Even from what is necessary to fully enjoy them, both in this life and in the next.

Are all our impulses and desires wicked then and something to be despised? Not at all. That would likewise be a preoccupation with the senses, and hence, carnal. But if we want to fully enjoy it, it is something we need to put in its proper place.

Yet on the other hand, we know that our bodies are temples. But what does that mean? The temple is a sacred place where we can feel God's Holy Spirit and come closer to him. It is a place where the Spirit of God is always present. But on the other hand, “what temple is defiled, God will destroy that temple”. Our bodies were meant to be filled with the Spirit of God but they were created with certain weaknesses inherent in them.

But here we have a problem, we are both spirit and body, and our bodies were built in such a way that the carnal and sensual is what comes naturally. The Brother of Jared in the Book of Ether said, “Because of the Fall, our natures have become evil continually” (Ether 3:2) Just how deeply ingrained is this?

These two natures, our bodies carnal nature and our spirits spiritual nature are in opposition to each other. That is not to say we have no choice, but we must pick which nature we will cling to. No man can serve two masters. Peter specifically warns us of “fleshy lusts which war against the soul”, and like no other sin, lust is addictive. It is built deeply into every one of us. Our bodies are tuned to emphatically direct us towards reproduction. Does this mean we can not escape our biological imperatives? Of course not. God has given us the tools to overcome. And when he has not given the tools we need, we can pray for what we need. (Which is not always what we expect we need.) A greater understanding of our bodies would do well to help us understand this temptation and how to withstand it.

Now, many have looked at the biological facts or of evolutionary lineages and concluded that because biologically, we are animals, we have every right to act like one. That is far from the truth. If we take that as a spiritual fact, we have completely missed the point. Regardless of the details of how we were created, evolved or not, the Creation story in Genesis teaches what we are spiritually. OR in other words, the Scriptures teach the lesson we should learn if we truly had all the details. You don't have to watch many murder mysteries or comedies to realize that facts do not always illuminate. For a more physical example consider Lookout Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona. From the southern base of Lookout Mountain, the entire greater Phoenix area looks like a tiny mountain town. Part way up the mountain you begin to get a hint of city beyond the foothills surrounding it. It is not until you reach the summit, that you can see Phoenix for what it is – a very big city and that the city surrounds the hill you are on. But you don't have that point of view until you reach the summit.

Spiritually, we are children of God. Our bodies, though weak, are meant to be temples.

Biologically, however, we are built to reproduce. This is true regardless of your position on evolution. Even if Adam's DNA was more perfect than what we have now, it has had plenty of time for this kind of adaptation. Sexual selection can happen much faster than simple selection of the fittest, and often in a different direction. For instance, a peacock's tail makes him much easier to be seen by enemies and to be caught (and/or eaten). But females (pea hens) mate preferentially with males with big feather displays so the genes for big displays is selected for, even though predators would make it a liability. The feathers are, in essence saying, I am such a great peacock, that I can expend extra effort and energy on this, and still live.

It happens in virtually all animals. Elk, for instance, are favored if they have large antler displays. Those that have large displays win more fights with rivals, and breed more often. Runaway selection can make changes that are not always optimal for survival, if they are optimal for reproduction. Females eventually begin to prefer elk with large antlers regardless of how well it helps them. Elk antlers persist because of reproductive advantage even if they become a liability due to catching in trees in trees or even become too large to fight effectively with.

There are many ways that our bodies are built for reproduction. It happens in the kind of mates we tend to look for and the way we approach the opposite sex. It happens in specific ways that our bodies are built. It even comes in the organization of the nervous system itself. I must point out, that many of these traits that are selected for, depend on the environment they come from,

However, just because our bodies have become a certain way, by evolution or any other means, that does not make certain tendencies that come with it, good. That is called the naturalistic fallacy. We as well say that dying of plague, or being bit by a rattlesnake, is good, because it is natural. It is equally natural for us to gorge on sugar and high-fat foods and put on large rolls of fat, and yet, none of us would call that good! In contrast, to think that what should be, is what actually happens, is called the Naturalistic fallacy.

Our bodies are built to reproduce. Those with genes that were better at it or just more determined at it, had more children than those who were less interested. So, while we have many wonderful ancestors, we are also the children of those in whom this drive was strong. If affects the way our bodies are built, the attractions we experience, even the way our minds are hardwired.

The effect of reproductive selection has impacted the shape of our bodies in several ways.

For instance, one place reproductive selection has been particularly prominent, is testicle size and semen output. In the animal kingdom, some animals form lifelong bonds, while others are highly promiscuous as well as everything in between. If females are coupling with other males, then the genes that has the sperm that fights the most successfully, are the genes that are passed on to later generations. Among species, testicle size in males is proportional to female promiscuity. This phenomena is called “sperm competition” as the semen volume to tries to outcompete others that may be present in the vagina.

We can get a sense of how much this has affected our genes by comparing similar species. Gorillas have proportionately tiny testicles because you don't mess with an alpha male's harem more than once and live to talk about it. Gorilla harem members are faithful. Likewise, gorilla sperm are as weak as gorilla testicles are small because they have not had to compete with any others. On the other hand, in chimpanzees, while the male will try to prevent other males from coupling with his females, the females are wildly unfaithful (as much as 50 times a day). In both proportionate testicle size and semen output, humans fall somewhere between gorillas and chimpanzees. In other words, in human history, there has been significant infidelity, but not among all.

Even the shape of the penis in humans, and the way it is thrust, is designed to displace foreign sperm. Likewise, men's sperm production peaks after returning home from a trip.

Teste size: across species female promiscuity proportional to teste size and semen output


Speciestestes % of body massvolume of semenFidelity


Gorilla0.02 %50 milfemales fully faithful


Human.04 to .08 %250 milsomewhere in between, but closer to gorilla


Chimpanzee0.3 %600 milwildly unfaithful

Or have you noticed, that on average, men are 8% taller than women? Men are also 20% more massive. This difference between male and female, called sexual dimorphism, is proportional to the number of mates a male has. Swans, which are quite monogamous, are identical is size and appearance while alpha male gorillas are twice as big as females and have harems of up to six. The southern elephant seal male weighs around nine times as much as the female and average harems are around fifty. Thus male bodies not completely built to be monogamous.

Of course, when I mention these gender difference, these are averages. Obviously all of us know of some women who are taller than most guys, and some guys who are shorter than average. There is a lot of natural variation. What is of interest to us, is why Nature picks or encourages certain outcomes in the majority of cases.

Many other sex differences are used to advertise what a good mate the owner is. Many of the things that attract men to women, such as youth and beauty, are correlated with health and fertility. Once again, this is an average. Of course, the irony is, that the primitive parts of our minds are often fooled with cosmetics and plastic surgery.

Even so, our bodies and brains come preprogrammed to be attracted to certain things. Of course, this can be modified by culture, experiences and many other things. On average, men tend to be attracted to youth and beauty. And not only do they tend experience such attractions, it tends to make them stupid. A study by Wilson and Daly that showed that when men were shown pictures of the attractive women, and then given a choice between some money now or a larger amount of money later, they chose the smaller amount now. But when shown unattractive women, they picked the larger amount later. In other words, the sight of a beautiful woman, influenced them to make a stupid choice. While looking at attractive men did little for the women in the study, looking at attractive cars influenced them to make a stupid choice, though it was a less significant effect compared to men.

A paper by Bram Van den Bergh reached a similar conclusion, measuring the effect on men viewing women in bikinis, or even just handling lingerie had on choices in general. It effected some men more than others. The effect is particularly strong when sexually aroused, or “in the heat of the moment”.

However, as messed up an men can be, don't think you ladies are completely off the hook either. Across cultures, studies have shown that women have a strong attraction to wealth and power, and tend to ignore men they deem below a certain financial status. (Averages again! I am sure we all know exceptions) Just ask any guy who has tried to date when unemployed.

Even more interestingly is attraction to the so-called “Dark triad” of personality traits-narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Ignored nice guys and jilted women call them 'jerks'. In a word, think 'James Bond', or 'Sawyer', off of the TV show, 'Lost'. Men who exhibit these traits - narcissism (self-obsession and hedonism), Machiavellianism (deceitful to exploit and manipulate others for personal gain), and psychopathy ( impulsive, thrill-seeking, often with charm, and a grandiose sense of self worth but callous to others) – are both more successful with and more attractive to women.

The point of all of this, is not to condemn or mock, either gender. I bring it up purely so we can realize weaknesses and better understand the “natural man” that all of us, male and female, must overcome. As the ancient Greek saying goes, “Know thyself”.

But this is not all. The very way the brain is wired, is encourage both lust and sex effect the brain, and in particular, the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine's job is to reinforce behaviors, which makes it a key element of addiction. And while not all people become addicted, our judgment is certainly distorted by it. It is implicated in all kinds of risky behavior. Orgasm is the largest source of dopamine that is legal. Sexual arousal is not at all unlike heroin or other similar hard drugs in the effects it makes on the brain. We are literally wired for addiction before we even start. It is the addictive aspect in both overeating and illegal drugs. If rats are given the opportunity to self-administer dopamine releasing drugs like amphetamine or cocaine, they will do so in preference to food or water. They will keep going until they starve to death. Dopamine is that strong of a effect on behavior.

Our brains are set up with powerful reward mechanisms that are activated during sex and will try to override intelligent thought when the opportunity presents itself. Hence, large number of incredibly stupid things people do when they are in love, or simply in lust. Our brain has a number of subsystems. The more 'primitive' systems, such as the limbic and the so called “reptilian brain” are shared with the most primitive animals, while our most advanced brain parts are either shared with only a few primates, or are simply unique to homo sapiens. The neocortex is unique to mammals and is the seat of rational decision making. But other parts of our brain are continually geared towards sex and those emotions, and will override the neocortex if we let them. For instance, the hypothalamus portion of our brain is activated within 185 milliseconds of viewing an erotic image, long before we even can recognize what the image is. It will even introduce blindness around a fifth of a second while the brain focuses on the erotic image.

In the book “The Selfish Gene”, genetics expert Richard Dawkins explained,
“I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave. … If you wish to extract a moral from it, read it as a warning. Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature. Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have a chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.”

Elsewhere he said,
“Much of the message of my first book, “The Selfish Gene,” was that we must understand what it means to be a gene machine, what it means to be programmed by genes, so that we are better equipped to escape, so that we are better equipped to use our big brains, use our conscience intelligence, to depart from the dictates of the selfish genes and to build for ourselves a new kind of life which as far as I am concerned the more un-Darwinian it is the better, because the Darwinian world in which our ancestors were selected is a very unpleasant world. Nature really is red in tooth and claw. And when we sit down together to argue out and discuss and decide upon how we want to run our societies, I think we should hold up Darwinism as an awful warning for how we should not organize our societies.”

And this from one of the world's foremost atheists.

But our own fallen nature, inherent in the body itself, is no small thing to overcome. Let me re-emphasize, overcoming our fallen nature (not just good temporary behavior) is not just hard, but a sheer impossibility without the Atonement. In the book of Ether we read, “because of the fall, our natures have become evil continually” Ether 3:2. How on earth can we overcome the fact our natures are “evil continually”?

The Spirit of God is intrinsically associated with virtue. D&C 42:23 and D&C 63:16 both warn us that we can not commit this sin, and have the Holy Spirit with us. Likewise, Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians, that if we will “Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16) These two are diametrically opposed and where one exists, the other will not stay. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other”. I will go further and say, that the Spirit of God and Virtue are linked, so that if we have one, we have the other. And to fully become virtuous, we must overcome our own carnal nature.

This carnal nature is present in our mortal bodies, and also, to some degree in our spirits, because our bodies and our spirits are linked and what affects one, effects the other. Hence the word of God to Adam, “in that day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die”. (Gen. 2:17) And we shall, both physically and spiritually. Jacob goes so far as to say that without the atoning work of the Savior, “our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself” (2 Ne. 9:8-9) Paul was no less bold when he wrote, “in me (that is, my flesh) dwelleth no good”.(Romans 7:18) This spiritual death that the Fall brings us is very real and by ourselves, we are not only cut off from the presence of God, but from the source of all good. And slowly but inexorably because of our fallen natures, we would degenerate to the state of devils.

Sounds pretty bad doesn't it? So is all hope lost? By ourselves, the short answer is, yes. But that is hardly the full message of the Gospel is it? From the scriptures we learn, that not only are are fallen from our previous premortal glories, when we lived with God, but that we also may return to the presence of God, by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. I emphasize the extent of our weakness so we may better appreciate the reach of the Atonement, and the depth to which we need it in our own lives.

The prophet Alma taught his son Corianton,
[because of the Fall] man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man. And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will. ....and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death. Therefore, as they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature, ....And now remember... if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord. And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience ... And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence. And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also. Alma 42:6-15

There was no way that Adam and Eve could fix their own problems. Like us, they had to rely on Jesus Christ.

King Benjamin eloquently explained,
“And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. ... men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” Mosiah 3:17-18

There is no way, no way at all, we can do it ourselves. We are stuck and (without Christ) only going downhill and the sooner we learn that, the better. Worrying about behavior is not enough; we must have our nature changed through Christ. King Benjamin further explains,
”For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. “ Mosiah 3:19

There is not room in this book, or even several books to fully explain all the ways that our genes thwart our good intentions, or that the this spiritual death limits us, but we will learn the lesson we need if we learn this – without Christ, we can not overcome.

Specifically now in the context of virtue, what does this mean for us? Is willpower the answer? Certainly we need it but without the Spirit to help us, willpower alone is not sufficient to withstand temptation. Far from saying temptation must be given into, I am saying we can not save ourselves from our carnal, sensual, devilish natures (Alma 42:10). The scriptures are emphatic, that to be carnally minded, is death while spiritual minded leads to life. (2nd Nephi 9:39) To be spiritually minded is not mere nice thoughts, but a mighty change that comes through the baptism of fire, through the Holy Ghost. (Mosiah 5:2)

The only way to win this battle with temptation, is to deny it battle. The longer you think about it (even thinking about not doing it) the more likely you are to do it. This is true of sexual perversions, as well as the more garden-variety sex. Worry and obsession can increase our inclinations.

If you want to withstand this temptation, you need to focus on Christ, and receive the Spirit of God. This may well involve great effort. But the effort needs to be to come to Christ, and He will help you with any temptation or anything that disturbs you.

Our natural bodies are very strong this way and unless we have the Spirit, and diligently seek the Spirit of God, it will overpower us. There is temptation that can tempt us more than we can bear by ourselves, but God has promised he would provide a way for us to escape temptation. We are just as accountable for escaping temptation as we are resisting it. Much of that responsibility, is avoiding even the least degree of sin.

The Prophet Alma likewise counseled, "Pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear. . . ." (Alma 13:28.)

It is not enough to merely try and do the right thing, without the Spirit of God. Unless we have the Spirit, and our natures are changed, then we will fail. The natural man is so ingrained in our bodies, that we must continually have our nature changed, or we will act according to our fallen nature. Note, this does NOT necessarily mean overt sin. The Pharisees, taught us that much.

We can fight against our own nature, but if we do not seek Christ, and to have our nature changed, then we are setting ourselves up for defeat. We can only win by denying battle to our fallen natures. We must have our fundamental nature changed. This is the primary danger of misapplied evolution theory, that we are fundamentally nothing more than animals. Biologically, they may have a point, but if we do not remember the teaching of the Savior, that we must be “born again”, then we will have been led far astray.

CS Lewis had this to say,
The right defense against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.
CS Lewis, Men without Chests emphasis mine

Unless our nature is changed, sooner or later, our famished nature will be avenged and we will succumb to temptation, in one extreme or the other. This is what Jacob meant in 2 Ne 9:7-10, when he wrote that were it not for the Savior’s redeeming work, we would all fall eventually. Our own fallen natures would bring certain death, like slow poison. Or course we can fight it and must fight it, but what we need most in this fight against the Fall, is the Spirit of God – it is the second birth. We need to be reborn. We need a new spiritual nature and that can only come through the Savior. This is what is called the baptism “with fire and with the Holy Ghost.”(3rd Ne 9:20)

I am not saying that just because a person is not a member of the church, or even believes in Christ, that they are not virtuous. There are many without the full knowledge of the Gospel who are more obedient to the light of Christ (their conscience) than many members are, who have more light and knowledge. Remember, it was the Lamanites and not the Nephites who were the great examples of virtue in the Book of Mormon. (Jacob 3:5-9)

To emphasize the Savior's power and how his ways differ from the ways of mankind, President Benson stated "the Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. . . . The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.

And among our cultural philosophy of careless physical intimacy, sex obsession in media and decaying or non-existent families, we must go to the root of our problems. We have spent too long trying to solve our problems by ourselves. And while we must make that effort ourselves, in the end we need the Lord's guidance and saving grace.

His guidance is needed because it isn't even all just disobedience. We need His guidance to learn what the commandments really mean. “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth through disobedience from the children of men, and because of the traditions of their fathers.” D&C 93:39 Many of our problems are “traditions” or things we take for granted. It is obvious to us they are true... even if the are not.

Human nature MUST be changed. Part of that change is knowledge of the Gospel.

Human nature CAN be changed through Christ. He is the salvation from all of our problems.

Is it possible to over emphasize the importance of the Spirit of God? Perhaps, but doubtful. For while the words of Christ will tell us all things we should do (2 Ne. 32:3), it is the Holy Ghost that will show us all things we should do. (2 Ne. 32:5)

A few years after the death of the prophet Joseph Smith, Brigham had a dream, or a vision if you prefer, where Joseph appeared and talked with him. When Brigham asked for counsel for the saints,
"Joseph stepped toward me, and, looking very earnestly, yet pleasantly, said, 'Tell the people to be bumble and faithful, and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small, still voice; it will teach what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to convictions, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, strife and hatred, and all evil, from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness, and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord, they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in heaven, before they came into the world. Our Father in heaven organized the human family, but they are all disorganized and in great confusion.'
"Joseph then showed me the pattern, how they were in the beginning. This I cannot describe, but I saw it, and saw where the Priesthood had been taken from the earth, and how it must be joined together, so that there would be a perfect chain from Father Adam to his latest posterity. Joseph again said, 'Tell the people to be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, and follow it, and it will lead them just right."'
(Manuscript History of Brigham Young: 1846-47, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pp. 528-31.) Emphasis mine

Likewise, President Woodruff was visited by the late Brigham Young and when asked if he had a message for the Saints, said "Tell the people to get the Spirit of the Lord and keep it with them.".

But be forewarned He has no intentions of just curing us of one particular sin only, as if He were medicine that stays in the medicine cabinet only brought out to cure a headache. He will not be satisfied, and may even put off help with temptation, until we have completely come to Him.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chapter 2: Love ~ The first characteristic of Virtue is Love ~ Love of Others, Love of God, Love of Self ~ selfishness is the antithesis of love

Chapter 2:

Links to skip ahead
The great lie of porn
our sexual passions are closely tied to our ability to love
Like virtue, love is a proactive quality
How lack of virtue skews dating
How lack of virtue skews marriage

A General Authority once stated that pornography was created by Satan in order to destroy sealings, that is to say, temple marriages. This may seem odd, as this appears in some ways, to be the least of this large class of sins. Yet pornography has within it the essential DNA of immorality's destructiveness and virtue's importance.

Notice that pornography was not created to vex teenage boys, taunt those divorced or lonely, or frustrate unmarried people in general. (I am trying to keep this as gender-neutral as possible, because while males traditionally have been the primary consumers of pornography, statistically females are rapidly catching up.) True, it is engineered to created lust but even more than the acts it glorifies, or titillates with, porn teaches a subversive lie – one so subtle that it is easy to miss.

Of course, it teaches many lies; some more significant than others.
Pornography often lies about what real men and women look like.
Pornography also lies frequently about what women and men either act like or should act like.
Pornography lies about what is normal and appropriate.
That is just a start.

But then it will be argued that very little of Hollywood is realistic, from any of its children's cartoons to the popular movies of today. Honestly, if movies were to be believed, the average bent fender would be enough to make any car explode in flames. Just what is the danger here, especially if we are aware of it?

Yet, the greater danger is in a completely different lie. It is all the more deadly because it is not preached in words, rarely overtly at all, but is preached in actions; both by actions that are suggested by the porn itself, and also by actions that all who view it willingly must do. It is taken for granted as true by all those associated with it.

The great lie of porn is that it teaches us to please ourselves first and foremost, instead of serving God or loving others. It teaches us to seek our own pleasure is what is right and to focus on ourselves. In a nutshell, it is self-centeredness.
I suppose many will ask, “How can this be? It has not made me an evil person.”.

I doubt that many of those who partake believe it is that troublesome, if you were to ask them, yet we become what we do. Actions, far more than words, no matter how sincere, will mould the mind and spirit. It is the kind of actions that change us to the core.

The problem with porn, or any media, is that we tend to subconsciously absorb what it tells us. If the example of porn seems too extreme, consider the more inocculous romantic comedy movies that Hollywood tends to put out. Inappropriate and sex scenes aside, what is wrong with that? This is not intended here as a criticism, but as a scientific observation about how they unconsciously affect us.

The problem is that people who watch them tend to end up believing what the movies show, as normal, even if they first admit Hollywood does not show realistic relationships. Let me repeat that - even when intelligent people see unrealistic relationships on TV or movies, and know they are unrealistic, they still have their attitudes and expectations gradually molded and changed. Research by Bjarne M. Holmes and Kimberly R. Johnson showed that many of the relationship myths that hurt our love life, or set it up for unrealistic expectations, stem from movies we have seen. Further, that we are more likely to believe these things after we have seen them.

Dr. Bjarne Holmes explained,
"We now have some emerging evidence that suggests popular media play a role in perpetuating these ideas in people's minds. The problem is that while most of us know that the idea of a perfect relationship is unrealistic, some of us are still more influenced by media portrayals than we realize."

The point of mentioning romantic comedies is not to particularly condemn them (this should apply to all movies – but I am not saying we should give up every movie), but to point out a measured effect of watching them. And if we can measure the effect of a movie that is in comparison relatively harmless, then we need to be all more aware of what pornography can do. The attitudes subconsciously espoused are all the more subtle because putting self first – as your own highest priority, is becoming a more and more a majority opinion. So much so, that it is hardly even questioned – few can imagine it otherwise.

And as this lie is is assimilated, if the former lies are not believed, they will certainly be taken for granted.

Is it avoidable? No it is absorbed subconsciously. Only personal interest matters. No commitment is required. The focus is wholly on the self. Nothing is required of the viewer save, perhaps some money. And it is all the more dangerous, because it is reinforced biologically.

We can only avoid ingesting this lie by denying it battle. It is because we are what we eat, and this is true both of the food we chew and swallow, as well as the things we see and read. In the words of Alexander Pope, what is “seen too oft, .... first we endure, and then pity and then embrace” when what we really need is to pray as Nephi did “may I shake at the gates of sin”.(2Ne 4-ish) What we see too often, we begin to endure, or put up with things we are opposed to. Extended exposure softens us to sympathize, (not merely with people), but to things and ideas we should not. We begin to unconsciously think these things are normal. Sympathizing with ideas opens us, however slowly, to embracing. To view pornography, is to embrace that lie because it is putting yourself first, with nothing required of you.

Pornography's focus on the wants and needs of self (either of the male or female variety) and their by twists the kind of relationship that should exist between a couple. It erodes intimacy even as it exploits it. It isolated relationship between the sexes, or more accurately, it replaces the proper relationship of love and mutual affection between husband and wife with focus on self. It converts what should be a selfless act of love between husband and wife into an object of selfish desire and lust. Never mind if it is 'consenting adults' -- mutual selfishness is neither celestial or even terrestrial.

Many of those whom porn entrances, are simply the lonely and stressed, who have no intention of either selfishness, or any kind of infidelity. While that may make it all the more understandable, a broken leg is still a broken leg. That is to say while a fascination is often not due to any wrong intentions, the same lies are (without realizing it) still being integrated and the same mental and neural pathways in the brain are being built up. Its spiritually diseased consequences remain. Even if it does not start off with apparent self-centeredness, it will slowly and gradually, move the soul that way because virtue is intrinsically linked to our ability to love.

Even when these lies are seen for what they are they will be absorbed and assimilated as the body becomes acclimated it what is it exposed to. A stoner may stop taking heroin, and an alcoholic, may stop drinking, but we can not simply stop taking hormones or thinking ideas! We must master them through Christ, be doing what he has asked of us.

Often this self-centeredness is called 'sexual objectification' but too often this is understood in a way that pins the blame on a relatively minor issue, and not the root. It is not seeing others as sexual objects that is the primary issue, as bizarre as that sounds. It is the desire for self gratification, with no thought for others. It is dealing with others with no concern for them.

Objectification happens with porn because you can't interact with a picture. It is likewise a problem in a emotionally disconnected relationship. You can't deal with them as you do real people, yet it brings up our deepest and most intimate passions. You can't have a relationship where anything is required of you. There is no listening to their problems, no calls for help at inconvenient times, no time spent on their behalf. Perhaps that sounds nice, (some days it sounds very nice!) but it is a Devil's bargain. There is none of either the satisfaction or growth of a real relationship. You can only interact with any of those images as objects, because that is what a picture (or book or movie, etc) is. Nor is it even a matter of how much one sees. A single unvirtuous image is detrimental in and of itself. And as much as you would avoid toxic chemical exposure, avoid this.

This is not an effect of porn only, but it is the result of a broken law. When people merely become ways for ourselves to have fun, or they became replaceable, then the result is the same. People become things, objects to be discarded if they no longer matter to you. Is it any surprise then, that the sexual excesses of Germany preceded its spiritual decline into Nazism and the Holocaust. If we have taught ourselves a thousand times by our actions, that even the closest sexual intimacy (either with a person, or with any kind of media) render others unworthy of attention, --- If we don't care about others, beyond the moment of passion, that is same spirit as those who don't care if others even live. It is what leads even to such horrors as genecides and the Holocausts. The difference between not caring and a fully out genecide is a matter of degree, not kind. Can so little a thing have so great an effect? Yes, it is out of small things, that great things, or even very great problems, come. The change of a single bit (just a 1 or a 0) is capable of keeping an entire computer

There is a peculiar feature that is prominent in both Israel and the state of Utah, as though God put his people there so they always had a reminder in front of them. Both areas have a fresh water lake that feeds a hyper-saline lake. In Israel, you have the lively and vibrant Sea of Galilee which feeds the Dead Sea. Utah Lake, like the Sea of Galilee, is well stocked with fish and feeds, the Great Salt Lake, which is too saline for almost anything other than some hardened brine shrimp. The Dead Sea will grow which nothing except a few hardy bacteria and algae. What is the difference here? Why is one lake alive and the other dead? Both sets of lake share the same climate and rainfall and input of water from rivers. The reason is that both Utah Lake and the Sea of Galilee give out where as the Dead Sea and the Great Salt Lake are terminal lakes. No water flows out of either of them and any salt or minerals that do come it, are trapped. There is abundance of life only where there is a dedicated outlet.

Lest any misunderstand the seriousness of pornography, allow me to clarify. Like few other sins, pornography both teaches and physically reinforces a lie. It is all the more subtle because it is a skewing of the our most fundamental drives. It is enhanced and reinforced by our very own hormones. And because it is natural, its camouflage is all the more perfect. Yet, while it is natural, it is separated from its essential companion – dedicated love. This separation of genuine intimacy and pleasure is the essential element in what makes sex go from compelling to addictive. Any by dedicated, I do not mean a current favorite girlfriend or boyfriend. I mean an eternally bound couple. I mean a dedicated marriage. That is what a river that always runs represents.

Yet, the cascading effects of this sin are far more than merely physical. If the sin of adultery were primarily physical, why did the Savior so strongly warn us about committing adultery in our hearts? Lust is not concern – it is desire. It is a hunger; not a hunger to help or assist but for personal satisfaction. For certain, there are a large number of physically significant reasons for chastity, such as unwed pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease. But these are not the reason the law was given. They are the weighty side-effects of a broken law. The law can be broken whether or not there is a chance of pregnancy, sexual transmitted infection, or anything else. This is a physical sin, but its spiritual aspect is more damning and less easily noticed than the physical part of it. We do not sin for lack of a better condom.

Our sexual passions are closely tied with our ability to love. Alma counseled his wiser son, Shiblon, “Bridle your passions, that ye might be filled with love.” Alma 38:12 If we live this law as commanded, we will be able to love more deeply and completely. But the converse is also true; if do not govern our passions, we can not be filled with love. Quite the contrary, if at our deepest and most intimate, we have no lasting commitment or even lasting relationship, what will we be with everyone else? If the depths of our love are no deeper than 'loving and leaving', or 'viewing and then forgetting' then there is no way we can live the great commandment to love our fellowman, or crucially, even ourselves.

The law of virtue is intrinsically linked to our ability to love. This love is not only our spouses or romantic interests, but all mankind (including ourselves as well). It should not surprise us to read that “because iniquity shall abound, the love of men will wax cold”. Matt 24-ish. The news we see daily of frightening levels of self-centeredness- shootings, rapes, theft, beatings, etc are a direct result of hearts waxing cold. I say 'self-centeredness' because deep down, that is the only thing really really matters, or it matters more than it should. It is people not caring about other people. Or in other words, because of immorality, people's ability to love has been dulled and diminished, and as a result, people act in a way that shows they simply do not care about other people at all. They have acted as though intimacy meant nothing, only to find that any love they had means nothing at all either.

Elder Maxwell wrote,
“Our capacity to feel controls our behavior in many ways, and by inaction when our feeling prompts us to do good, we deaden that capacity to feel. It was Jesus’ striking sensitivity to the needs of those about him that make it possible for him to respond in action.
At the other end of the spiritual spectrum are individuals such as Nephi’s erring brothers; Nephi noted their increasing insensitivity to things spiritual: ‘[God] hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.’ [1 Nephi 17:45] . . .
A sex-saturated society cannot really feel the needs of its suffering members because, instead of developing the love that looks outward, it turns men selfishly inward. Imperviousness to the promptings of the still small voice of God will also mean that we have ears but cannot hear not only the promptings of God, but also the pleas of men.”
Neal A. Maxwell, A Time to Choose, p.59 - p.60 emphasis mine

Or in the words of CS Lewis, "more often [a man] feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and in the long run, the less he will be able to feel." (Screwtape Letters, Letter 13, pg. 57.)

When we feel, we must act or we reduce our ability to either act, or feel. The problem with immorality, is that feeling and acting are so completely separated. Images viewed or read, or persons made love to are not actually loved, there is no selflessness, there is no service, as a husband might take care of his wife when sick. One night stands and short-term relationships do not provide a way to act on the physical love felt. In such a way, those feelings become falsehoods themselves, because they are not accompanied by actions. If two lovers do not love each other sufficiently to already have those binding ties in place, and to have made those sacrifices to have a permanent relationship, then notwithstanding their motives however pure, their actions are an admixture of more selfishness than genuine love, no matter how it parades as pure love.

What of a couple who has every intention of love? They sleep together before marriage because it is seen as the thing to do. No selfishness at all is meant. The law still holds, and the result of a broken law will weaken the individuals in proportion to the impermanence of the relationship and the degree to which love and service are supplanted with personal concerns. God puts marriage before sexual intimacy not because He is out of touch, but because He understands what will make us happy.

There is a reason that the First and Great Commandment (to love God with all our hearts, might, mind and strength) is not equal with or placed next to, but comes before the Second Commandment (to love our neighbors as ourselves). The first commandment must come first if we are to be able to obey the second commandment. It is the first commandment that teaches us how to live the second commandment. We must put God first, if we want to be able to love our fellowman, or even the best intents will finally twist themselves into something far less than what God intents for us, or even what we would find acceptable to ourselves. It is worth remembering that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). Even more than this, John the ancient Apostle, writes, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments.” (1 Jn. 5:2)

Like virtue, love is a proactive quality. You can not have it, or keep it, without it acting on it.

Just as there is no virtue without becoming filled with love; so likewise, there is no love without virtue. This is taught plainly in the scriptures. When Paul (or also Mormon) enumerates the aspects of charity, virtue is chief among them. (1 Cor. 13) Our actions that degrade our virtue likewise degrade our ability to love. It also deadens our sensitivity to the Spirit in the same way it deaden our love.

The subversion of immorality manifests itself in dating, and as well in marriage. Sexual intimacy is treated too casually. It is not merely recreation for which there are no significance – it can not exist but affect the soul, for good or ill. True, many engage without apparent ill effect, much as an experienced smoker no longer coughs from the smoke he breathes.

That is not say, there is no place for fun, triviality, or even silliness, but not without the right circumstances or commitments. When physical intimacy becomes separated from from the actions that accompany genuine lasting affection, then we are “feeling without acting” and the love that is supposed to be associated with sexual intimacy is proportionally vitiated.

When we hear the lurid details of those deeply fallen in sexual sin, the degree of self-focus can be shocking. I am not merely speaking of the sensational rapists and child molesters, though they certainly should be included too. I am speaking of concern for self that this leads too. On one end of the spectrum (forgetting for a moment, the spectacular wickedness of a few) we have one night stands and causal sex. The underlying current of all of this, is “What do I want?” as opposed to, a concern for others happiness in life and their long term well-being. Even if it does not start that way, it will inevitably progress and powerfully change the soul. It is the nature of God to be selfless and the doctrine of devils to “put number one first”. It is a matter of no small significance as to who is being put first, and how firmly and sincerely love is felt. It is no small matter because in terms of change, it is more akin to gravity than mere speed and direction. In other words, no matter how hard I throw a rock in the air, it will always fall to the ground. Unless Christ, through the power of the Holy Ghost regularly purifies our souls, gravity will eventually win.

Some remain single because marriage would disrupt their lives and finances. Others, are excessively shallow in both whom they pursue, and in their relationships. Others claim to be exploring their sexuality. One increasing popular phenomena has been “friends with benefits” or simply (it deserves no dignified a name) 'f**k buddies'. In short, it is convenient sex with friends, without even the effort of a romantic relationship. It maximizes personal pleasure, will avoiding either responsibility or effort to pursue a committed relationship. The “mormon” version of this, while paying a modicum of attention to the letter of the law of chastity, is the so-called non-committal make-outs (NCMO) of varying degrees of intimacy. The common thread running through all of these is that they are predicated on satisfaction of ones self, and no one else. Merely trying to sensually please another is a far cry from concern about anything else in their lives.

Likewise in dating, the great fault of 'players' and 'gold diggers' is that they take no thought or concern for God, or crucially, other people. One is focused on sex, and the other on money and gifts. Their focus is on themselves. All other faults stem from this one.

The degree to which we discount the body or soul of another as simply something to be used for our own pleasure, we denigrate its inherent value, and thereby denigrate all those around us, ourselves included.

This concern of self over and above love of God and others, is pride, and as such pride dovetails itself into this sin at every opportunity. It is a state of opposition to God, and man. Pride hardens those who sin, so that they become rebellious, and refuse to repent.

There will, of course, be much talk of pleasuring your partner, of pleasing your lover, or of making love,(or of learning how to) but unless we have put God (and His laws) first, the primary motivation is still selfishness – the self-will to do what you want, instead of what is commanded or what others need. Any love felt is restricted to a single activity and only for a short period of time. After the climax, it is simply so much empty talk. Any motives that were right will be diminished as this lie is acted out: our bodies and brain chemicals are saying one thing, while we do another afterwards.

Now, I need to be clear – no one should think intimacy is bad, in and of itself. What it is, is sacred and powerful. Kissing, if it helps you, may be thought of as a language. If we kiss when it does not express our true and lasting feelings, then we have been dishonest. If we have expressed unworthy feelings by kissing, then we have 'spoken' things we should not have. Compare Elder Holland's counsel on governing our tongues (no pun intended!) in the April 2007 General Conference. And like our passions, words are also symbolized with fire. We need to be careful what our kissing expresses. I am not saying all kissing should be momentous, but if a kiss means nothing, then so does the intimacy that goes with it. And if that intimacy means nothing, then by equal measure, the person with whom intimacy was shared means nothing.

The physical intimacy must have a real connection, or it does more harm than good. Look at the difficulty retired prostitutes and porn stars have forming relationships and experiencing genuine intimacy.

It has been hotly debated, sometimes even in LDS circles, if pornography is permissible within marriage, because after all, it is rationalized, all the sex that happens, happens between two married people. Yet this would be the one place where its the corrupting influence of porn is most dangerous. This is specifically what it was created to destroy. Those who would encourage it are like those who would warm a house by setting it ablaze, rather than stoking a fireplace. But what of those who have an unsatisfactory sex life in marriage? That is a deep subject that I can not answer fully here – yet marriage is what virtue is all about. We do not become married simply in order to not break the law of Virtue; we are virtuous in order to have an eternal marriage.

If we will come to Christ, he will teach us what we need to learn. Sex is good. God invented it, not only for procreation, but also for bringing a couple together emotionally. He wants us to enjoy it. Adam and Eve were sealed and “one flesh” long before the Fall happened. But marriage is far more than just sex.

It is a clear signal that modern priorities are skewed, that as we worry more and more about self-gratification and "what's in it for me" / "are MY needs being met", that divorce and marital disharmony rates have increased. We can not have the kind of relationships we are, or should be capable of, when compatibility with self is our highest priority.

Elder Oakes of the Quarom of the Twelve said,
I strongly urge you and those who advise you to face up to the reality that for most marriage problems, the remedy is not divorce but repentance. Often the cause is not incompatibility but selfishness.

Many, seeing the rising rates of divorce, are worried about future sexual compatibility. There are, of course, differing statistics about the cause of divorce. Some place the blame on disagreements about money, and others on differing sexual desires. The common root here is focus on personal desires, as opposed to sacrifice on others behalf, (though it may only take one person to ruin a marriage). If the sole purpose and measure of marriage was sex, then “kicking the tires” before you “bought the car” would make sense. The problem is, compatibility is made, not simply found. It is neither automatic, nor is it unchangeable. (Not that all of this makes dating as a single adult easy!)

This corruption of the proper relationship of husband and wife is the center of loss of virtue. In place of sacrifice of time and effort that characterizes a healthy marriage, everything here presumes the pleasure of oneself is the most important thing. Because many of these same hormonal systems are activated in a married relationship, context is crucial (and will be discussed in greater depth later). In place of the binding ties that unite a married couple, that which is immoral requires nothing of either party. Fleeting encounters, either with printed page or real person, replace the Eternal. Focus and love of your spouse is replaced with focus on self, even while it proclaims itself as focus on others. Mutual exploitation in place of mutual love. It is acting a lie when we and our bodies (and brain chemicals) are saying love in the heat of the moment, and no commitment after climax. It is a relationship based on self-gratification.

But this law has tremendous potential for both good and bad. We must bridle our passions, if we want to be able to handle the kind of love that our Father in Heaven both asks of us, and that he wants us to be able to receive. True intimacy is not for the faint of heart. There is a reason that the law of chastity is given after both the laws of consecration and sacrifice in the temple. Likewise, Sealings occur after the endowment because for this law to be properly and completely lived, it requires a coming to the Father, and the Son, in a profound sense. In fact, in the eternities, only those who have fully and completely come to Christ, with no reservations, will be able to maintain their marriage. If you want an eternal marriage, or even to be able to love the love-of-your-life, when you do meet him or her, you need to be virtuous.