Thursday, April 28, 2011

A word on Monogomy and Mormons

*note: The subject matter of this post may be foreign to individuals unfamiliar with Utah and Mormon culture.

*note #2: I am a practicing member of the LDS faith and believe that the overall doctrines of the LDS church – like most organized religions – contribute to a happy and fulfilling life.

The other day I was at a dinner party when the subject of Monogamy came up. A brief discussion arose on whether being in a monogamous relationship forbids a person from kissing individuals other than their significant other or merely outlaws extra-relational sexual activity. The overriding sentiment was established that yes, MONOgamy precludes a single romantic partner regardless of the spectrum of physical intimacy.

Having arrived at a conclusion, the question of Monogomy in regards to the LDS Law of Chastity (LoC) was presented. To clarify, the LoC is a doctrine in the LDS faith that condemns sexual activity occurring outside a legal and lawful marriage. There are other stipulations – about modest dress and comportment – but for simplicity sake we will leave it at that: for Mormons, abstinence only.

My friend's questions, then, was what the church's stance would be on LDS individuals who "make-out" with multiple partners. Promiscuous chastity, if you will. I replied that while local leaders may council against such a practice there is nothing doctrinally "wrong" with it and those individuals would remain in good standing with the church.

He replied "That's bull----"

After more thought on the subject, I can't help but agree. Not with the church's doctrine, but with the hypocrisy with which members of the church turn up their noses at their sexually active peers.

Let me illustrate using two real world examples (names have been changed).

My friend Whitney is in a committed, healthy, loving relationship. She and her boyfriend have been dating, faithfully, for two years including long periods of time when the two were geographically separated. Whitney is sexually active. Whitney's family is LDS but understandably in recent years Whitney has distanced herself from regular church activity while still remaining respectful and cordial to church members and their beliefs. Were Whitney to desire a return to full activity in the LDS church she would be required to undergo a process of repentance that while simple and straightforward is nonetheless emotionally taxing.

My colleague Sarah, on the other hand, is not sexually active (to the best of my knowledge). She holds a leadership position in her local LDS unit (or ward) and attends weekly church services. Sarah is not sexually active and yet uses her sexuality as a tool for manipulation and deceit. She is perennially pursued by multiple male individuals who are led on by her allure and an illusion of obtaining a meaningful relationship. Some of these men she kisses, careful to stop before the elusive and ambiguous Mormon "naughty" line, others she does not, stringing along with false promises and half truths until they no longer serve an advantage in her life.

I know, because I was one of them. I would also note that while I am referring to a specific individual the scenario is not an isolated incident. Many (not all, mind you) attractive "active" LDS young women act in the manner described above.

Were Sarah to desire it, she could walk into her Bishop's office tomorrow and, with little more than a smile and a handshake, obtain a recommend (a document signifying LDS worthiness) to enter any of the hundreds of LDS temples around the world.

Now ask yourself, which scenario is truly the best? I suggest that the average non-LDS parent would prefer their 20+-year-old daughter to be in a committed and responsible, albeit sexual, relationship as opposed to a series of shallow, meaningless (and let's not kid ourselves, quite physical) romantic trysts.

The problem occurs, though, in that many contemporary Mormons view the LDS doctrines as a series of Do and Don't Do bullet lists and give little thought to the principle behind them. Yes, Mormons believe in abstaining from pre-marital sex, the issue is black and white. They also, however, believe in being chaste and responsible in romantic relationships. Too many young LDS adults (again, I'm not talking about teenagers. They're gonna go hog wild no matter what) view the LoC as a "License to Play" as long as the clothing stays on.

It's hypocrisy, as I see it, in it's purest form. I've picked on women in this scenario but there are plenty guilty men. The difference I see, however, is that having participated in the culture from some time I see men mistreating women out of immaturity, irresponsibility, and (pardon the expression) douchebaggery. I see (LDS) women mistreating men, however, under the guise of "righteousness."

Frankly, I envy my sexually active friends who always seem to be in a rewarding relationship and who never seem to have to put up with this garbage.


  1. AMEN. I always wondered how people who behave like "Sarah" expect to build a healthy, safe relationship. I've also never understood how people with a good understanding of LDS Doctrine and who associate themselves with the church fail to see that blatant hypocrisy. Rubbish.

    Nice work.

  2. Well put...agree. Heavens knows I've been a few of those situations before with girls playing me like an old fiddle... As you well know

  3. I think you bring up a good point when you compare making out to having sex-- since both are seen as cheating. The line the law of chastity draws is thin and in shades of gray (if you don't read "For the strength of youth" anymore). But there's no question that sex is on a whole different level of intimacy than making out-- and, this might just be me, but I can definitely understand why it is considered a more serious sin-- with more serious consequences and repentance process, to boot.

    On that note, I have a lot of friends who have never been Mormon and are waiting for marriage, but make out with randoms all the time. It's a huge deal to everyone outside of Utah when they lose their "v-card" (whereas most non-Utahns had their first kiss at 12 years old, and don't tell their "losing VL" story anymore cause it's lame). Everywhere else (and here), sex is seen as something important and special- much moreso than kissing. I could probably forgive someone I'm dating for kissing someone else-- whereas sexual relations with another would be absolutely inexcusable. And I absolutely agree with you on most of your points, but think it depends on the person and how "far" they are allowing themselves to go. When it gets to the point that the physicality forgoes sincere emotions for each other and you are "committing adultery in your heart" (regardless of the number of partners), then people need to repent of that the same way they would if they actually had sex (regardless of number of partners).

    I don't condone either of these girls' behavior, really-- only because of the knowledge they both have. And I'm far from being a high and mighty judgemental Mormon, since most of my dearest friends are not members, and I've had my moments. But who are we to condemn, really? It's not for us to decide for anyone else when or why they need to repent. We can only decide for ourselves.

    Thanks for posting this, Ben. I always love reading your thoughts.

  4. @Kate ... thanks for making me realize why it was that I was thinking while I read this that indiscriminate kissing (making-out sort of kissing, at least) is not okay. It is a sign of that "adultery in your heart." More than that, it is a beacon that such is within you and you don't have the shame to cover it. As Christians we are commanded not to commit adultery and Christ seems to make it clear that the most important realm of sin is in the heart.

  5. Ben, while I do agree that some people's actions can be hypocritical, I believe it is the person, not the church that is the problem. And I know from experience that it is possible to be in a rewarding relationship as you described without breaking covenants. One or two life experiences does not make the whole pool bad, and this may sound cheesy but I know if you look in the right place you'll find someone who will clear out that sad cynical side of you :)

  6. Hey this is the from the girl to whom (who? I never fully understood that rule) you would sing "Never been kissed..." to - I agree that people need to take kissing more seriously and the emotional and connecting bond it could/should have (I won't name names...). I do think that sexual promiscuity is a whole new level - but agree that the concept is the same - treating physical intimacy as something special and appropriately chaste - whether that be the kissing stage or the sexual stage. I had my heart broken by the kiss and runners - I can only imagine how much more heartbreaking it would be to have someone be sexually unfaithful. And it's good to hear you defend this from the guy perspective, because it seems like you're kind of in the minority. The more casual kissers do tend to be men - but maybe that's just a stereotype and because those are the ones I knew.