A Need for Articulate Advocacy of Chastity — Neal A. Maxwell

Prophet Statesmen, Neal A. Maxwell

It is important for you to be philosophical defenders as well as practicers of chastity. Articulate advocacy is surely needed now with regard to some of the damaging balderdash we see and hear in the world pertaining to immoral life-styles.

Austin Farrer warned, “Though argument does not create conviction, the lack of destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned.” (Light on C. S. Lewis, Harcourt and Brace: New York, 1965, p. 26.) Peter said, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).

The other day on national television I heard a psychologist pushing the notion that, since the old ethics of our American society are no longer reconcilable with our behavior, we ought to adjust our ethics downward. My mind at once recalled another age and another advocate who pushed the carnally convenient notion that “whatsoever a man did was no crime” (Alma 30:17).

This psychologist was saying, in effect, that because young people mature today at 12, on the average, and don’t marry, on the average, until they are 22, the idea of abstaining from fornication and associated wrongs is unrealistic. With the avoidance of pregnancy seemingly being the only real challenge for this psychologist, very heavy petting was encouraged and all the things associated with it as a safe substitute.

Once they are driven off the high ground of principle, so many people then settle for being “practical.” But immorality is so impractical! Provisional morality always emerges once people desert a basic truth. Such individuals are for ever falling back trying to develop substitute rationales, drawing new lines beyond which they vow they will not be driven, only to abandon these also under the pressure of growing evils. It is like providing people with methadone instead of heroin—the addiction remains, but is transferred to something that is seen as less bad. There will always be those who will think themselves quite clever for suggesting such ways out of dilemmas that, of course, are not “ways out” at all but, rather, “ways in”—into more cul-de-sacs.

Moral uncertainty always leads to behavioral absurdity. Prescriptions which are value-free always prove to be so costly. Unprincipled pragmatism is like advising someone who is hopelessly mired in quicksand not to struggle—so that he will merely sink more slowly!

Yet absurdity is achieving a certain momentum today. It is somewhat like the cumulative intimidation experienced by some when the escape of Napoleon occurred. As supposedly recorded by journalists, these successive newspaper headlines read: “The Monster has escaped from his place of exile.” Second, “The Corsican werewolf has landed at Cannes.” Then, “The Tyrant has reached Lyon.” Next, “The Usurper has dared to advance within 150 miles of the capital.” Then, “Tomorrow Napoleon will be at our gates.” Finally, “His Majesty is now at Fontainebleau.”

As disciples we cannot so cave in. We have been given the commandments concerning chastity before marriage, fidelity after, and the avoidance of homosexuality. We have even been instructed with regard to the perils of mental unchastity (see Matt. 5:28). The trends of a particular time cannot alter the eternal laws of God, nor can we give up just because there is a general giving way before the march of some Napoleonic notion.

I have long believed that inside some of the hardest doctrines, deep inside them, are some of the greatest truths and the most precious principles. But these are not to be discovered casually or irreverently. Obedience actually brings both blessings and additional knowledge as Peter promised; obeying correct principles accelerates knowing (see 2 Pet. 1:8). Such is the case with the seventh commandment.

Read the full text of Neal A. Maxwell’s 1979 thought provoking and inspiring defense of chastity here.

Neal Ash Maxwell (July 6, 1926 – July 21, 2004) was an apostle and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1981 until his death.