Editor’s Note: This is from a talk given at a gathering of young single adult sisters. Click here to read the companion piece for the young single adult brothers.
2 And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.
4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her;[i]
You’re beautiful. Do you know that? You’re supposed to be.
Artists since the beginning of time have painted your figure on walls, papyrus, ivory, copper, stone and canvas. They have sculpted you all over the world. Writers have attempted to describe your beauty in literally millions of words through all time. Composers have created the most beautiful works of music about you.
Men, on the other hand—with the exception of David by Michelangelo—are depicted for power, strength, war, dominance, intellect or virility. But, almost never for beauty. (In fact. I think the story of “Beauty and the Beast” tells it all: he “konks” people over the head to protect her, while she patiently civilizes him.)
So, it is little wonder that men look at you, admire you, and to one extent or another, lust after you. They—we–notice just about everything about you, including how you dress. We notice how much of you is showing on the outside. If:
- You wear a dress cut low enough that they can see even a part of your breasts, the brethren (over there) cannot help but look. You’re beautiful in our eyes.
- If your dress shows a lot of your legs, we admire them.
- If you wear something without sleeves, some male eyes will see any movement that shows your bra.
- If you lean over and you reveal your upper body, Beast will see whatever Beauty reveals.
Because God created you to be beautiful in Adam’s sight. It’s called “attractive” because it “attracts” our eyes and more. And, it has worked for 6,000 years.
And so, you want to look beautiful, interesting, and yes, desirable. God intended it that way. When He said a man shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh, he wasn’t talking about mud wrestling. He was talking about intimacy, the most trusting relationship between a man and a woman.
On Being a Woman
From the “Proclamation on the Family” we learn that:
2. All human beings-male and female-are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
3. In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
4. The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife. [iii]
How Men See You
There are some differences between how you see the issue of modesty – or immodesty – and how men see it. Men and women are simply different; they process images differently.
What you are marketing, the message you are sending—and the message men are receiving—when you dress immodestly to be more attractive are two very different messages. And, here rests the challenge you face when determining how to dress and how to act.
What you may see as being simply more attractive-desirable–by being less modest than you have been taught, men will see as an invitation to touch, to enjoy, to “lie with you” as David did when he saw Bathsheba. (Not coincidentally, not only “lie with you”, but probably “lie to you” as well.) Remember: David desired her by only seeing her. He knew nothing about her.
All too often, when I counsel with a sister about improper behavior, she says “I thought it meant as much to him as to me. Now, he doesn’t want to see me at all.” Desire, or lust, and love are two different things and often mean different things to the two people involved.
What men see they want to possess. So, what you show they desire. The more you show the greater the invitation to them, as they see it, to do something they should not because the message received is that it is OK with you or you wouldn’t be dressing, or undressing, that way. Whether you intend it or not, that is the message they believe you are sending – an invitation to do much more than simply admire. An invitation to caress and possess.
Do not believe that lust will make him love you. I have counseled too many of the brethren who are currently in a lustful relationship doing things they know are wrong including improper touching and oral sex. When asked, “do you love her? Are you thinking of marrying her?” the heartbreaking answer is “no.”
When a sister tells me she doesn’t want to take out her endowments because garments restrict her wardrobe, the message I receive is much larger than garments and wardrobe. It is about where she is in committing to live her life God’s way, rather than the world’s way.
(I understand the inconvenience garments are for women because of the other things you wear. I’ve lived with a woman – a very modest woman – who is as beautiful to me today as she was when I married her more than 41 years ago.
So, I see what it means.)
But, that is different from the issue of garments and modesty.
The Question: “Do You Live the Law of Chastity?”
I point this all out because the issue of sexual morality is a very broad one, and one that must be viewed as an issue of desire, not just of actions.
The question on the temple recommend is “do you live the law of chastity?” This question refers specifically to the covenant made in the temple regarding strict fidelity in marriage and abstinence in all other circumstances.
While it may seem simple to answer “yes” or “no”, the question of intimacy for us all is actually far more complex. All too often the question I am asked regarding the law of chastity is: “how close can I come to the edge of the cliff without falling over? What can I get away with and still answer “yes” to this question on the temple interview?”
I would respond by saying: let me ask you a question first before I answer that: where does the law of chastity begin?
Infidelity or impurity does not begin with the final act.
- Does the law of chastity begin when a young woman decides just how short her skirt can be and still not be considered too immodest?
- Does it begin when a young man decides just how far his hands can wander on a sister whom he is dating before he has entered forbidden territory?
In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, we read:
The law of chastity applies not only to behavior but also to dress, speech, and thought. Latter-day Saints are counseled to dress modestly, to use dignified language in speaking of bodily functions, and to cultivate virtuous thoughts. Accordingly, they are to avoid anything pornographic in literature, movies, television, and conversation. Though many outside the Church regard [self-abuse] as normal, LDS leaders teach that the practice is wrong, one that feeds base appetites and may lead to other sinful conduct. Similarly, unmarried couples who engage in petting or fondling are breaking the law of chastity, and stimulating impulses that may lead to other sin.[iv]
So, I am here today to counsel you as someone who wants to see you receive the joys I have experienced in a lifetime of loving and being loved.
If you have not made the decision to dress and act modestly, do so today. Be attractive. Dress attractively. As the songwriter Johnny Mercer wrote:
I have been told that my remarks today should be like your dress: long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting.
So, I’m not asking you to look like the Amish or wear a burqa, I’m asking you to be conscious of the message you are sending, and to send a message of interest and intrigue, yet modestly and wonderfully attractive.
After all, I would wager with you that in 90 percent of the cases, the next young man with whom you are affectionate will not be your husband. So, you will be allowing someone else’s husband to share intimacies and he will be sharing intimacies with you, someone else’s wife. Make sure you have no regrets by doing something you shouldn’t – starting with the message you are sending.
Please don’t take anything I’m saying as blaming one side or the other. As my grandmother used to say: “you can’t keep the flint in one drawer and the stone in another, and ever get a spark.” I don’t mind some sparks, I just don’t want any flames.
I’m asking for caution, so you don’t get hurt or be taken advantage of.
Sex is Natural
Sex is natural. It is basic. It can be overpowering. You do not need to advertise it. We know it’s there.
Do you remember that the Prophet Joseph taught us that we always existed. Always. First as intelligences, and then as spirit children of our Father in Heaven. But this life, right here and now, is the first time, in all of these eons of time in which we have existed, when God has given us the power to create; his very own power. So, it is sacred and eternal. And, if we use it properly, it will be ours for all of eternity. If not, then we will lose it again forever.
Let Me Be Direct
So that there is no misunderstanding about what I am saying, let me be both blunt and indelicate:
- Do not allow him to touch your breasts or below the waist. You are to stay away from his private areas.
- You are not to lay on top of each other, and you are not to pretend sex with your clothes on or off. Sex is sex . . . whether there is penetration or not. It may not be intercourse, but it raises the same emotions, and is intended to, or you wouldn’t be doing it.
- No oral sex.
- No self-abuse together, or alone, or on the phone, etc.
- Keep all of your clothes on. Leave his on him. He is not to place his hands on your clothes or under your clothes in any area that I have just described as forbidden.
- Pornography and self-abuse are violations of the moral code just as any arousal of sexual passions outside the bounds of marriage are.
- In any circumstance, when affection turns to arousal, you’ve gone too far.
Honor His Priesthood
Help him honor his Priesthood by honoring your sisterhood. I’m counting on you to make him better than he thinks he can be. Good women have made men better from the beginning of time.
David Brooks, in the New York Times in 2009 wrote this interesting opinion piece:
Two things happened to Sandra Bullock this month. First, she won an Academy Award for best actress. Then came the news reports claiming that her husband is an adulterous jerk. So the philosophic question of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?
On the one hand, an Academy Award is nothing to sneeze at. Bullock has earned the admiration of her peers in a way very few experience. She’ll make more money for years to come. She may even live longer .
. . . Nonetheless, if you had to take more than three seconds to think about this question, you are absolutely crazy.
Marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being. If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy. If you have an unsuccessful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many career triumphs you record, you will remain significantly unfulfilled.[vi]
God is counting on you to marry well, and raise up righteous children in holiness to the Lord. In order to do that you must date well. Here are some rules that I think are essential to doing this.
When on a date:
- Date out not in. Go out and do interesting things, not stay in an apartment.
- Nothing good happens after midnight. Go home or send him home.
- When affection becomes arousal, you’ve gone too far.
- There is never any reason to be in each other’s bedroom.
- Keep your clothes on and hands out of private places – and keep his hands out of your private places.
- Keep your feet on the floor and the rest of you vertical not horizontal. Don’t be lying on top of each other.
- Never allow yourselves to be in a circumstance where you know no one will walk in on you. Always leave a slight doubt – and the door open.
- When all else fails, follow the Joseph principle. Just leave. If you’re too embarrassed to leave . . . tell him “I’m leaving not because I don’t like you . . . but because I do.” Then leave.
7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
9 . . . thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
12 . . . and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.[vii]
And so, in answer to the question: “do you live the law of chastity?” I would ask you to carefully review your actions, your thoughts and your desires. Be faithful in your covenants to those who love you: to your parents and family and to your Father in Heaven and Savior. Exercise your agency for holiness. If you need to see your bishop about issues in your life, heed the counsel of Alma:
31 Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.[viii]
The Prophet Isaiah put it this way:
So, often I have members who come to me to share their sorrow, guilt and anguish over sin who conclude by saying “Bishop, I’m damaged goods. Why would any worthy young man (or sister) want to marry me? I give them two answers.
First: Together your Savior who atoned, your bishop who is here to guide you, and you yourself, will get you worthy for the temple. And, when you are—and I promise you that if you will follow the guidance here, you will be—as you walk through the door of the temple and look up at the words “holiness to the Lord,” you will be as worthy as every other worthy person who enters the temple to perform sacred ordinances. There is no such thing as “damaged goods” in the Celestial Kingdom.
Second: Do not live your life in guilt. Once you have completely repented, and are worthy to enter the temple. Let the Savior do His job. He is the one who atoned. Your sins are in His care now. Do not try to do His job by living in guilt. Accept His atonement completely, gratefully, and then do what He has asked:
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.[x]
And, what is His yoke? First, remember that a yoke is a strong piece of wood that is put around the neck of two oxen so that they will be able to pull wagons or carts. It binds them together in pulling the load, and multiplies their united strength many times greater than if they were to do it alone.
So, the Savior’s yoke ties us together with Him, working side by side for His Father, our Father. And because He is there beside us, pulling with us, his yoke is easy for us, and the burden we are pulling is light. We are not laboring alone.
Now, let me conclude with some additional counsel, things that have been hanging around in my head for some time as it deals with the brethren across the hall.
- What do they call it when two people who are just friends decide to make out just to get a little affection? Well, whatever it’s called, do you really think that is right? You know it is not.
- Do not allow yourself to be emotionally abused.
Hanging Out; Friends; Not Dating
If a relationship is over, he’s no longer your best friend. He’s your former boyfriend. Get on with your life. While there’s nothing wrong with seeing him as a friend, you’re just hurting yourself if you don’t move on.
Do not assume that attention equals interest. Just because he spends time with you hanging around, it seldom develops into anything else. Many of the brethren are afraid of commitment, so the best way to have a safe companionship is to make female friends – friends — and spend a lot of time with them. Their inability to make a commitment also makes it hard to break off even if there is nothing going on. Accept that fact.
Almost never does this lead to dating or a relationship. Guys make that decision in the first 30 seconds—well, maybe not 30 seconds—but certainly not six months later.
So, don’t keep getting your heart up when in reality it is not going to happen.
I decided the first time I saw my wife across a ball field at a single’s ward picnic in Rock Creek Park in Washington, D. C. that I wanted to ask her out. Guys are like that. Dating and hanging out are two different things. Don’t confuse the two.
The guy you marry will not be perfect. He probably won’t be in this life, so stop looking for the perfect guy. Stop looking for perfection. Look for someone with the potential to be better if you will love him enough to want to spend your life making him happy.
The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote:
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
You can only have that life of love by making good decisions about who you are right now.
- Be modest. Please. Accept only appropriate affection. Please.
- Be honest in evaluating your relationships with the brethren. Please.
And finally, take the initiative to expand your circle by introducing yourself to new brethren when they move into your ward. Or, if necessary, while still fulfilling your assignments and attending your activities here, don’t be afraid to visit other wards from time to time to meet new friends. Most of the marriages in this ward in the past five years have been between a member of this ward and a member of another ward.
Now, before I conclude, let me share with you my deep and abiding appreciation for you, your goodness, and your hopes and dreams for a good marriage, a righteous husband, a family that drives you crazy that you love to death, and an interesting and rewarding life together.
That’s what I want for you.