The Different Sides of Single and Chaste

SingleFive years ago I posted this article here on Exponent II. I thought this (singles series) would be a good time to re-post it with a few updates.

I was almost 21 years old (just pre-mission) when I went through the temple for the first time and covenanted to “live the law of chastity”. At the time, I assumed I would have to “contain” my sexuality for a few more years – and then stay faithful to my husband for all the years after that. I didn’t think it would be very hard.

But, here I am, more than 20 years later – and I’m still on the “contain my sexuality part”. Because I stayed single, I’ve had to make the choice about staying chaste (according to the LDS temple covenant) many times. It is not an easy choice. And it is not an easy lifestyle.

In 2011, Nicole Hardy wrote an article in the New York Times called “Single, Female, Mormon, Alone”; it generated a lot of discussion among my single friends.  In her article (now a book), Hardy describes her decision to leave her celibate, Mormon life and explore sexual experiences. Her choices are different from mine, but that is not what bothers me about the article. I am bothered by the fact that she sees choices other than becoming sexually active as adolescent and even foolish.

She writes: “Most troubling was the fact that as I grew older I had the distinct sense of remaining a child in a woman’s body; virginity brought with it arrested development on the level of a handicapping condition, like the Russian orphans I’d read about whose lack of physical contact altered their neurobiology and prevented them from forming emotional bonds. Similarly, it felt as if celibacy was stunting my growth; it wasn’t just sex I lacked but relationships with men entirely. Too independent for Mormon men, and too much a virgin for the other set, I felt trapped in adolescence.”

Hardy’s experience may tell one side of the story, but I have another. Rather than feeling that my choice of chastity leaves me stuck in adolescence or handicap, I feel it heightens my consciousness around my own body.  I consider my sexual feelings deeply because I am compelled to consistently reconcile my beliefs and my desires.  I have considered my choices and fully own my sexuality. This depth of feeling creates, for me, keen consideration of intimate relationships – and a confidence that I am choosing for myself.

I am tired of the word “virgin” being tied to ideas like naive, simple, scared, fragile, and ashamed.  I would like to see the word make a shift to connect with ideas like courageous, determined, strong and sound … all attributes of a fully aware and responsible adult.   Making a choice is empowering. Gone are the days when I live the law of chastity for fear of my Bishop or the Lord. It is my choice – and I can own that. (And I can feel comfortable with my single friends who make other choices – and own those as well.)

There is still another side to this story. I give the Hardy credit for describing a situation that has my complete empathy: living chaste, at arms length with ones sexuality, into mid-adulthood is a hard way to live.  Sex is a normal part of adult life.  It is, however, a missing part of my live or the lives my friends who live single and chaste.  We are not only missing the act of sex, but the intimacy of shared living.

Many adults live without sex for a few years into adulthood while they finish college or “find the right one”, but we live without sex for an additional 15, 20 years or more. Over time, this physical isolation changes us; creating a wound in body and spirit. It is a dark hurt of longing, unsatisfied yearning, aloneness, and insufficient closeness.

The situation is exacerbated by the feeling that this wound is invisible to our married brothers and sisters who see only the benefits of a chaste life.  It seems that for them there is no real difference between chastity at age 17 and chastity at age 40.  Their sermons about the benefits of “saving ourselves for marriage” don’t fall on deaf ears, but seem to lack understanding. It seems that married leaders equate their 20 year old single experience to our current situation. We do see the benefits of living chaste, but our situation differs for that of a youth. Making sensible choices in a passionate moment is not as difficult in mid-adulthood as it once was.  We’ve had practice with drawing boundaries and are fully aware of consequences.  The harder part is the living; making the choice every day as the loss of a shared bed and a life companion grows. We miss intimacy into the deep parts of ourselves and know that some of those losses cannot be restored.

While choosing a chaste life comes with its price, I still believe it has been a powerful choice for me.  I feel strong. I feel free. I feel whole. And the scope goes beyond myself, which gives me reason to continue choosing it. On its own, the law of chastity may fall short on benefits, but combined with all the principles in the gospel of Christ, it holds greater weight.  All of these principles, together, create a tight weave in the fabric that connects me to God and to others in my faith community. It provides a sense of safety that spreads throughout my life.

Living chaste allows me to participate fully with my community of Saints – and holds me in solidarity with them. This community sustains me with their own faith and trust. I am better and live richer because I am whole with them.

By choosing to live chaste, I sacrifice parts of myself and am built stronger in others parts. My relationship with Christ allows me to believe that His atonement will, in time, heal my wounds and deepen my understanding.




  1. This is a thought provoking insight into what chastity really means. Not only does it help those who are married understand better what it means in the lives of older singles but should also hep them appreciate more fully what they have. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Your thoughts on this are so powerful, Suzette. I’m especially moved by your assertion that we have to stop linking virginity with fragility and naivety. Certainly neither of those words apply to you, my dear friend.

    Thank you for this! Lots to think about here.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I hope this will give new insights to many people who think of “virginity” or other things in only ONE way.

    • Indeed. Fragility can still exist in an individual who has crossed the threshold of physical relationships, and celibacy I believe is all too common even in a marriage bed. It goes both ways. I echo the call, it only gets harder. Sleeping next to someone who never touches you will change you, too.

    • I think both chastity and virginity are misunderstood — and that the power of both slips through our grasp as a result.

      Virginity is not merely a pre-sex state. It is a declaration of loyalty and love to one’s future spouse and to God. It is build the eternal commitment to become like our Heavenly Parents.

      The same is true with chastity. It is not a set of “Don’ts” — it is a way of building absolute unity of purpose and commitment. Can someone who is absolutely chaste in mind, soul, and body be disloyal to his companion?

      For the unmarried, be chaste with all those with whom you associate — and develop loyalty and unity with this group.

      For the married, chastity hasn’t ended. It is more important than ever. You will not have sexual intimacy every time you want it; nor will it be wanton when it does. Have the strength to be absolutely committed to your partner — to put them first and your appetites a distant second. Remember that doing the dishes and providing a break from hectic children might be the kind of “love” you need to make tonight. Remain a virgin to all sexual activity outside the bounds the Lord has set.

      If you want to become like our Parents in Heaven, absolute unity and commitment are crucial — and chastity is a keystone that makes it possible.

  3. Suzette, well written and powerful commentary. I am LDS and teach Sexuality at the graduate level. How do you measure the power of virtue? I greatly appreciate your strength and testimony.

    • That’s very interesting – sexuality at the graduate level. If your class is in DC, maybe I’ll show up in the back row sometime. Sounds pretty cool. 🙂

  4. I hope this is not too out of place. I have not been single for many years, but I have been celibate for the last several. My wife just has no interest in a sexual relationship. Some of your thoughts around choosing to stay celibate resonated with me. Sure there are opportunities to seek out a mistress or perhaps separate and find another woman or whatever other option there is. But I choose to stay with my wife to honor my covenants to her and to God to respect this relationship.
    When Elder Holland did his face to face, he was asked about homosexuals. He deflected the specific question, saying we needed to focus more on chastity than on gender (I don’t remember his exact words). In one sense, I will agree with him — we need a better, more complete dialog around chastity. So much of our dialog is focused on “adolescents”, that I don’t think we fully appreciate, understand, and apply the law of chastity. What does it really mean to be chaste as a single adult? What does chastity mean to homosexuals who, if they are faithful to the Church, will never marry (in this life, I guess needs to be added)? What does it mean for asexual members of the church? What about us married folks?
    It might a different way of saying the same thing, but, in response the SCOTUS decision that legalized gay marriage last summer, the Church wrote a letter and in it they said that “Homosexual behavior … is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality….” As I consider my own sexual frustrations, those of faithful singles like yourself, those of other sexual orientations, and all of the ways that human sexuality gets abused and misused, I have often reflected on this phrase. What are the purposes of human sexuality? I’m not sure I know the answer to that, and that lack of knowledge sometimes makes it difficult to recognize truth from error, right from wrong in sexual matters.

    If nothing else, thanks for the series of articles about singles in the Church. I have found it enjoyable, and I hope I have been able to learn something to apply to my relationships to my single brothers and sisters of all ages.

    • Thanks for your sharing your thoughts. Your situation is different from mine, but it’s nice that so many ideas can apply to us both. I’m glad you’ve liked the series. And I hope for better days ahead for all of us.

  5. I think we (as a society) do need to think about virginity and sexuality differently. As a feminist, I refuse to use the term “losing virginity.” I hate the implication that something is lost, when in fact, sex is a shared experience. What is lost or gained in the experience, whether new to sex or not, depends on the individuals and circumstances involved.

    That being said, I don’t quite agree that Hardy only sees virginity in one way. For me, her essay and her book were simply her experiences as an older single/virgin. That she felt she was in a state of arrested development was her reality, even if that does not reflect the reality of someone else in a similar situation.

    I’ll admit that I was moved by Hardy’s essay and glad it was published. It was the first time I read something that gave voice to my own experience as a 30-year-old LDS single with no prospects and little hope. Finally, instead of telling me to pray more, serve more or wait until I’m dead, the essay acknowledged that I could make a different choice. Leaving the Church was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m not sorry I did it. I couldn’t bear the thought of a life without the possibility of emotional and sexual intimacy. But that was my choice and my individual experience. Many others in the same circumstance choose to stay and I respect that choice. I just hope there can be more compassion and understanding for those who singles who leave. Love and sex are messy and complex (virgin or not).

    • A lie is never “REALITY”.

      The only job of the adversary is to distract us and lead us away from Heavenly Father and His commandments, placed for our protection and ultimate happiness.

      Because the adversary doesn’t want us to be happy.

      And wickedness never was happiness.

      Sex will only ever lead to happiness by remaining within the parameters God has prescribed.

      Impatience is never a great excuse to “build and worship the Golden Calf”.

      That being said, a great many have been conned by the adversary. So yes…compassion must be utmost in our minds and hearts for those who have succumbed.

      The REALITY of God’s commandments does not change.

      But the good news is that neither do the saving ordinances.

      “It matters not how completely ruined our lives may seem. It matters not how scarlet our sins, how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts may be. Even those who are without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God can be rebuilt. Save those rare sons of perdition, there is no life so shattered that it cannot be restored.

      The joyous news of the gospel is this: because of the eternal plan of happiness provided by our loving Heavenly Father and through the infinite sacrifice of Jesus the Christ, we can not only be redeemed from our fallen state and restored to purity, but we can also transcend mortal imagination and become heirs of eternal life and partakers of God’s indescribable glory.”

      President Dieter F. Uchtdorf April – 2016

      Then Tabby, you can too can be chaste…courageous, determined, strong and sound … all attributes of a fully aware and responsible adult.

      And follow the brave example of Suzette.

      • Darwin – I don’t think I need to be called out as “an example” … I’m just sharing my lived experience – and I am happy with what I have chosen. If Tabby and I have made different choices, I don’t think it makes either one of us “wrong” …. just different. Thanks for sharing your testimony.

        • There is wright and wrong

          “May we choose to build up within ourselves a great and powerful faith which will be our most effective defense against the designs of the adversary—a real faith, the kind of faith which will sustain us and will bolster our desire to choose the right. Without such faith, we go nowhere. With it, we can accomplish our goals. …

          “May we maintain the courage to defy the consensus. May we ever choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.

          “As we contemplate the decisions we make in our lives each day—whether to make this choice or that choice—if we choose Christ, we will have made the correct choice.” President Thomas S. Monson – April 2016

          “Please remember tomorrow, and all the days after that, that the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them, who cherish Christlike virtues and strive to the best of their ability to acquire them. If you stumble in that pursuit, so does everyone; the Savior is there to help you keep going. If you fall, summon His strength. … He will help you get back up. He will help you repent, repair, fix whatever you have to fix, and keep going. Soon enough you will have the success you seek. …Elder Jeffrey R. Holland – April 2016 General Conference.

          Thank-you for your article.

      • Darwin,

        I know you meant well but I found your comments dismissive.

        In fact, I no longer believe in God or “the adversary.” I am a fully aware and responsible adult. I am committed to living a self-determined life and I am capable of making my own informed decisions pertaining to my sexuality and relationships. My beliefs and choices are different than yours but they are no less valid.

        • va·lid·i·ty
          the quality of being logically or factually sound; soundness or cogency.

          If everybody’s belief was “valid” then the world would be flat…but that belief doesn’t make it any less round.

          Hope the best for you.

    • Thanks for sharing. I agree that love and sex can be complex and messy. Everyone has hard choices to make. Though it sounds like we’ve made different choices, it also sounds like we’re happy in the choices we’ve made. And I think that’s a good thing. I think living with integrity (to yourself and God) is what brings us closer to God. And “living with integrity” may play out in different ways, as it has for us. You sound like a strong woman who has made her own courageous choices. Thanks for the comment.

      • Thank you for your kind comment. I am glad for your series and the good things you are doing for members (single and married both) to raise their awareness of some of the issues singles face.

        Best to you!

      • Political correctness has permeated everything. Let’s not pretend that choosing to abandon faith and embrace sin is an equally valid choice. It is a weak and indulgent choice. We all make weak and selfish choices in our lives and we all need repentance and change of heart. We have that in common, but let’s call a spade a spade and not distort the truth in order to seem compassionate or risk offence. We cannot overcome anything if we can’t overcome our own failings. We can’t overcome our own failings if we can’t call them failings.

      • I think Tabby is calling a spade a spade. She’s pointing her out her choices, which are working for her. They are different from mine, but that doesn’t mean that we are not both guided by God.

        PC can be a good thing. It reminds us to be more Christ-like. 🙂

  6. Thanks for your beautiful, sensitive reflections on human sexuality. It is filled with deep respect and honor for living chastely. Chastity is much more complex than having sexual inercourse only within traditional marriage. You have enhanced my understanding.

  7. I joined the church when I was almost 25 and a virgin. I remained single and chaste until I was married at 41, three years ago. I am a very honest person who does actually filter what I say but that isnt always apparent especially in an LDS setting. Most members assumed because I had joined the church in my mid 20s that I had ‘experience’ and this led to a few inappropriate ‘I’d take you as my second wife ‘ conversations. I had very little experience before I joined the church for the very same reason afterwards – I’m a very self-contained, introvert who feels fine about myself. I don’t feel the need to connect with people for the sake of connection but do so because I feel a bond with them and this never happened before I met my unexpected, totally different from me husband. My sexuality was never contained or suppressed, I expressed it as I saw fit and marvelled at the world’s and the church’s narrow definition of feeling sexuality. To me sex is always spiritual but not always in the same way the church views intercourse as a sacrament. Sexuality is part of our breath, our movement, our appreciation, our peace as an individual human being. I always was and always am a sexual person because I’m flesh and spirit. The shame comes from a puritanical societal construct of which the church tends to subscribe to, it also comes from a place where males control the concept of what is sexuality. People, males and females need to let go of this ‘act of sex’ concept that can be contained and realise that sexuality of a depth of physical feeling that is spiritual, it comes from the pleasure of nature, of peace, of oneness, it may or may not be from touch or physical contact. And having read all that, yup I’m a hippie ?

    • I totally agree, even though I have yet to experience that level of joy in my life. What a walking contradiction I am…

  8. I agree with a lot of this article except one point…I am sixty and have been celibate since joining the church at 24. I was not sexually active before…I had my boundaries as my mother taught me to respect myself enough to not get involved in those kind of situations…I also saw many friends become unwed mothers or who had the fathers leave soon after. The part I disagree with is the deep wound part…yes being celibate is never easy and I know that. I am a person with very powerful emotions and keeping that part of me in check is something I have to do every day. I go to the temple and make the covenants again and they remind me to focus on the amazing love I have around me…family, friends, children and now a beautiful grandchild. It may seem confusing to say that I have children but I am a retired child care worker and private caregiver/nanny and I have a lot of “heart” children, five that are especially close to my heart. When one of them became a mother(she calls me her “other mother” as I helped raise her for the first eight years of her life…I became a baba…something I wasn’t sure would every happen. I thought I was going to become a stepmother once and was fine with that but it didn’t work out. Broken hearts heal. Celibate hearts are stronger because of all the fighting they have had to do to heal that hole and make it smaller than it used to be. Is it still open to possibility? Of course! We’re not made of wood! The love of my Savior is so deep and all encompassing…He is the best companion I will ever have on this planet and for Him, I am grateful more than words can say or heart can hold. As a convert, this kind of relationship is even more special to me for it is one I can trust in with everything in my heart…

  9. I’m in my late 30s and got divorced a few years ago (and I’m still active in the church). Living the law of chastity as a divorced person is vastly different from living it as a young adult pre-marriage–I was unprepared for how much harder it would be to suddenly never have sex again, or have any outlet for sexual feelings. Staying chaste before I got married was relatively easy, because even though I had feelings and desires, my imagination could only take me so far. Now I’ve had more than a decade in an intimate relationship with someone, and just shutting off those feelings and desires is really, really hard. I’ve never heard anyone talk about this much, although once I was talking to a divorced friend who mentioned how much she missed sex, and I felt so relieved to talk about it! Like you point out, leaders that have been married for a long time and only remember being chaste as teenagers or young adults can have a hard time relating to the challenges of older single adults.

  10. Suzette, this is stunning. One of the most thoughtful pieces on this subject I’ve yet encountered. I am all the more grateful that I found it through LDS Living. I hope it’s getting the wide readership it deserves.

  11. Interesting article but it misses the point of making covenants. Once made it doesn’t have to be reviewed or challenged unless you were not sure about the covenant when you made it. I am living the law of chastity since my divorce in 1998 after 24 years of marriage and has not been difficult for me because I made that covenant with Heavenly Father and my Savior. I compare being without sex similar to those who are unable to have children of their own…they cannot change that physically but spiritually can be comforted by the promises we know are true. There is a difference in missing the physical act of sex and the intimacy that is missed. It’s really the intimacy that is missed most of all and what defines that sacred act within the bounds of marriage. Don’t buy into what the world says about it being hard…if you believe that it will always be hard. That is a different path from the Savior’s. I am grateful for those sacred marriages that I see all around me that have made that covenant and live up to that promise. I want what our Heavenly Father and Mother has and nothing less. I am a daughter of God…I should not expect less of myself or others. I tell my children and grand children that I live by the YWYM values because no matter what age your are if you are single for whatever reason it’s the best direction to live by to find the true happiness that living the gospel gives you.

    • Wanda – I appreciate where you are coming from, but please please tread cautiously when you find yourself dismissing other people’s personal experiences. It is wonderful that you are able to make a covenant and no longer experience difficulty, but please do not assume that this is the only right way to do covenants. You don’t have to buy into the world saying something is hard, to experience it as hard. And above all, we should be careful when judging others’ sexuality and experience of sexuality. Heavens to Betsy, what a basket of diversity that is. I remember the story of a Bishop who never understood why so many men in his spiritual care struggled with masturbation. He had simply made a decision as a young man not to do it and he never did. Not as a missionary, when so many of his companions struggled, not ever. As a Bishop he counseled again and again – just don’t do it! This is not hard! Then in middle age he was diagnosed with a hormone imbalance and began taking testosterone to treat it. And whoa Nelly. So THIS was what everyone had been talking about! He was chastened by his simplistic and uncomprehending counsel to so many men now that he was getting a taste of the powerful urges they had been experiencing since youth. So – we all have different challenges in this life. Let’s not tell each other which ones should and shouldn’t be hard.

  12. Your a fool to commit to 40 years to being a virgin. Their are no perks to being chaste. Trying to live the temple covenants is overrated. I tried in the past to maintain temple worthiness, and i became more miserable in the process. I’m glad i quit trying

  13. Perhaps the answer to a person who finds themselves in this circumstance, is a “marriage of convenience”. There are many professional people, who only wish a a marriage for the legality of sexual relationship, and for appearances with their peers. Maybe she should look for one of these, either LDS or non-LDS. At her age, children would not be a good idea anyway.

  14. Being a virgin “in the world” is really no different to adhering to any other gospel standard. We are ALWAYS going to have the occupants of the great and spacious building mocking and making you feel like you are naive, stupid, unfulfilled— the gamete. Is it any different from the way we are shamed for not drinking or watching R rated movies, etc etc.

    I guess for me to say that sex is highly over-rated and some people are more than a little tired of it is like complaining to an infertile woman about the drudgeries of child raising. It’s insensitive so I won’t. But if I were to broach that subject, I would tell you there are a lot of women (because of course it’s not fodder for the opposite sex for discussion) who are just so done with it. Yeah I know it should probably not be that way, but in or out of the church, that’s the reality for many.

    I understand that probably what you miss most is simple companionship. I do feel for you and appreciate your insights.

    Lastly, I wonder how fulfilling it was for the gal (Hardy?) who left the church to be sexually active. That’s generally an empty, sad kind of thing. Just having sex for the sake of it, whether or not she’d admit to that.

  15. Congratulations! I love your thoughts and insights! You are a great example to those who think their desires contol them. Thank you!

  16. Thank you, sincerely from the bottom of my heart. You arranged a complex web of thoughts, feelings and the structure of the soul and body together into poetically crafted words. You spoke for my soul the words I didn’t have the strength to utter. Every individual’s life is packed with a variety of experiences, so the reasons for a life lived alone cannot be so easily summarized. But the reasons for holding tightly to a divine command and covenant can, and you have done so.

    You’re a beautiful soul, and have done a wonderful work for so many.

    Personally, I was married at 19 and my new husband promptly became abusive. I fled after a few months from that small town to UT and all my attempts at divorcing him have failed. Now a drug addict, he is in hiding and I can’t have him served and can’t afford the huge fee for having him served via publication. As a result, I have been married to him since 2001. I’ve been distracted by debilitating illness and brain cancer and just gave up. At this point I don’t see the purpose of burdening another man with a wife who is disabled with cancer. It is bad enough having no family in the first place (abusive parents, I was put into foster care), and actually that makes ithe feelings of isolation worse. The way I see it, I’m just sparing anyone from more grief. Being alone, struggling financially, no one to share my life or bed with, no children to love and raise… The pain is exquisite. I endure it nevertheless. Not for a moment do I regret keeping my chastity.

    It is harder to go without sex after marriage, and I don’t believe it is much more or less than going without sex after years of enjoying it compared to abruptly halting a honeymoon stage. I really do admire women who live for decades as widows. It is so hard to lose one half of your soul, but at least they have the healing balm of children and family to fill their lives.

    I hope your message reaches all the souls that need to hear it, both for validation and due chastening. May you be blessed with all the good things of this world, and have a long, happy, fulfilling life.

    • Alexia, you would be no burden to one who found love with you. So yes, you still have reason to get a divorce. Remember, being sealed in the temple to a man who loves you means that you will be together longer without the cancer than with it, because you will be together forever.

      Along with the faith, what sparkles is HOPE. It is good for your soul.

      In my reading of the scriptures, I have discovered that LOVE is the true fuel of miracles.

      You have my prayers on your behalf.

      • Thank you for you kind and sweet comment. Should I be able to scrape the money together, I plan to get it finalized so I can at the very least experience freedom from bondage.

        • Hello again Alexia!

          I have some things to share with you that have helped me immensely…and my prayer is that they help to uplift you as well.

          “The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.”

          Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (1917–2008), “Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign, Nov. 2008, 28.


          “Forgiveness requires us to consider the other side of the Atonement—a side that we don’t think about as often but that is equally critical. That side is the Atonement’s power to satisfy our demands of justice against others, to fulfill our rights to restitution and being made whole. We often don’t quite see how the Atonement satisfies our own demands for justice. Yet it does so. It heals us not only from the guilt we suffer when we sin, but it also heals us from the sins and hurts of others.

          It is critical to understand that forgiving others is not just a practical virtue. It is a profound act of faith in the Atonement and the promise that the Savior’s sacrifice repays not just our debts to others but also the debts of others to us.

          In our live-and-let-live society, we may believe that being forgiving is just etiquette and good manners. It is not. We may think that forgiveness requires us to let mercy rob justice. It does not. Forgiveness does not require us to give up our right to restitution. It simply requires that we look to a different source. The non-judgmental worldly phrases “don’t worry about it” and “it’s no big deal” are not illustrations of the doctrine of forgiveness. On the contrary, when a person sins against us, it can be a very big deal. The point is that the Atonement is very big compensation that can take care of very big harms. Forgiveness doesn’t mean minimizing the sin; it means maximizing our faith in the Atonement.

          My greatest concern is that if we wrongly believe forgiveness requires us to minimize the harms we suffer, this mistaken belief will be a barrier to developing a forgiving heart. It is okay to recognize how grave a sin is and to demand our right to justice—if our recognition triggers gratitude for the Atonement. Indeed, the greater the sin against us—the greater the harm we suffer—the more we should value the Atonement.”

    • Alexia! I had supplied two quote to you but I only gave the reference for one! My apologies!

      For the quote: “Forgiveness requires us to consider the other side of the Atonement—a side that we don’t think about as often but that is equally critical. That side is the Atonement’s power to satisfy our demands of justice against others, to fulfill our rights to restitution and being made whole. We often don’t quite see how the Atonement satisfies our own demands for justice. Yet it does so. It heals us not only from the guilt we suffer when we sin, but it also heals us from the sins and hurts of others.

      It is critical to understand that forgiving others is not just a practical virtue. It is a profound act of faith in the Atonement and the promise that the Savior’s sacrifice repays not just our debts to others but also the debts of others to us.

      In our live-and-let-live society, we may believe that being forgiving is just etiquette and good manners. It is not. We may think that forgiveness requires us to let mercy rob justice. It does not. Forgiveness does not require us to give up our right to restitution. It simply requires that we look to a different source. The non-judgmental worldly phrases “don’t worry about it” and “it’s no big deal” are not illustrations of the doctrine of forgiveness. On the contrary, when a person sins against us, it can be a very big deal. The point is that the Atonement is very big compensation that can take care of very big harms. Forgiveness doesn’t mean minimizing the sin; it means maximizing our faith in the Atonement.

      My greatest concern is that if we wrongly believe forgiveness requires us to minimize the harms we suffer, this mistaken belief will be a barrier to developing a forgiving heart. It is okay to recognize how grave a sin is and to demand our right to justice—if our recognition triggers gratitude for the Atonement. Indeed, the greater the sin against us—the greater the harm we suffer—the more we should value the Atonement.”

      The reference is: “Faith to Forgive Grievous Harms: Accepting the Atonement as Restitution.” by James R. Rasband – who was dean of the BYU Law School when this devotional address was given on 23 October 2012.

  17. I just discovered Exponent through “LDS Single Friends” and am reading through a few of your articles. I’m 51 and have never had the opportunity to marry. My decision to be chaste was made at the time that I gained a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’ve never questioned that decision. Likewise, I’ve also recognized that it’s MY decision, MY choice. In fact, although I’ll point to my religion and one of my reasons when questioned, I also state unequivocally that it is also by choice; just as not drinking is my choice regardless of my belief in The Word of Wisdom. What has been interesting to me is the reaction I get from non-Mormons once they realize that I’m a virgin (not that I go around wearing a sign, but it does come up from time to time). They are typically surprised but also express how difficult that must be for me. They’ve been mostly supportive of my choice even though it is so extreme in today’s environment. The sad truth is that they’ve been more supportive than most Mormons. In my experience, most married Mormons have totally forgotten what it was like to be single. Like you said “It seems that for them there is no real difference between chastity at 17 and chastity at age 40.” They’ve forgotten the difficulties in dating. They’ve forgotten how it felt to not have sex. Worst of all, they just expect adult singles to be chaste without encouragement or support – without thought as to its level of difficulty. Then I’ve had divorcees tell me how it’s just so much harder for them…. How do they know? Have they lived through BOTH lives? For supposed Christians, Mormons can be extremely thoughtless. I’ve never thought to say to someone that maintaining my virginity is harder than what they’re going through in life, but obviously that has not been reciprocated. Why do we always need to compare anyway? All I know is that it has been extremely difficult for me, but I do agree with what many have said here – it’s the intimacy that I long for the most.

    I found your article to be very interesting and Politically Correct; however, I guess I’m not as impressed by PC and all the shades of gray that the World wants us to not only swallow, but respect. While there are many choices in life that are not black and white, such as where to move after college, many are black and white PERIOD. The Gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t say “stay celibate as long as it’s easy.” The fact is that when I look around at the many, many examples of promiscuity around me – they do NOT strike me as being truly happy. They may insist that they’re happy, but the longer I’m around them the less I believe it, especially when compared to examples of happy marriages (not only Mormon) around me.

    I have many friends who have chosen not to live a chaste life and I love each one of them, but it is very difficult to watch them jump from bed to bed while claiming to be happy. Watching others as a teenager, young adult helped me not only claim my choices as my own and more than just following religious rules, but CLING to them more and more as I got older. That type of life seems more than unfulfilling, it’s meaningless. An inactive friend of mine and I were talking about a more promiscuous joint friend of ours once and how unhappy she seemed and how she appeared lost, like she didn’t even know who she was anymore. My inactive friend then said that she could understand certain aspects, because when you wake up one morning and realize you’re in bed with someone and you don’t even remember the night before because you drank too much… yeah, her feeling would be “holy crap, what have I done?” Yet, she would time after time feel like she needed to now do her best to make this “relationship” work because of the intimacy shared, not due to any foundation built, but simply because they had sex. She admitted that she’d wasted a lot of time on doomed relationships because she fell into bed with someone, or because she drank too much. She was very surprised by the realization and I’ve often hoped that the revelation she had that day helped her make better decisions.

    Sin requires justification. We all do it. Especially, when we decide to sin deliberately, we find that we have to justify that sin to ourselves and/or others. One of the easiest ways to justify is to attack those who are not sinning, thereby making ourselves feel better by attacking those who make us feel guilt for our choice to sin. Free-agency is essential and everyone needs to make their own choices, but it seems that nowadays the aspect that gets left out or forgotten is that choices come with consequences and those consequences don’t go away just because we justify our decision to ourselves or try to justify them to the world around us (by, like, writing a book). One question I’ve asked a number of non-Mormon friends – how does promiscuity add to or help build a sense of community? Each and every one of them has sat there thinking and ended up having to say – it doesn’t build a community at all, it just tears the community apart. But the world isn’t about building communities anymore – it’s only about doing what feels good, doing whatever each individual wants to do. Gone is the concept of self-control, the notion of restraining the natural man. If it feels good, do it. That’s the world we live in now. The consequences may not come in this life, but come they will. So, what is the bottom line? It really comes down to a choice of temporal “joy” now or celestial JOY later.

    • WOW…and Yes!

      And WOW again!

      You are so right.

      As well, it is so very true: people can choose their actions but they cannot choose the consequences HOWEVER hard they work to justify their choices to themselves or try to justify them to the world.

      As you stated: ” So, what is the bottom line? It really comes down to a choice of temporal “joy” now or celestial JOY later.”

    • Thank you for your kind words – and your story. It sounds like you’ve found a happy way to live – and I’m glad for that. Me too.
      However, I do love PC – and I do believe that all choices, including chastity, are gray. I have friends that have chosen another say and I believe they are happy. We all must follow God in the way he leads us.
      I am sharing my story, but I know it is not the story of everyone.

      • Suzette, quoting you: “However, I do love PC – and I do believe that all choices, including chastity, are gray.”

        “But one thing is certain: the commandments have not changed. Let there be no mistake about that. Right is still right. Wrong is still wrong, no matter how cleverly cloaked in respectability or political correctness. We believe in chastity before marriage and fidelity ever after. That standard is an absolute standard of truth. It is neither subject to public opinion polls nor dependent upon situation or circumstance. There is no need to debate it or other gospel standards.” from Elder M. Russel Ballard- Like a Flame Unquenchable April 199 General Conference


        “In our time one does not often choose to speak of the influence of Satan. Perhaps it is not popular to address this subject, but I choose to do so anyway. Someone said: “I have heard much about the devil. I have read a great deal about the devil. I have even done business with the devil, but it didn’t pay.” We live in a day when many things are measured against the standard of social or political correctness. I challenge that false doctrine of human behavior. The influence of Satan is becoming more acceptable. Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “The devil’s most devilish when respectable.” However, as Shakespeare said, “He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf.”
        Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil By President James E. Faust Second Counselor in the First Presidency – First Presidency Message September 1995

        First Presidency Messages are scripture.

        Scripture is from the Lord.

        The Lord has said that political correctness is “false doctrine of human behavior.”

      • Darwin, you are completely entitled to your black-and-white worldview. I feel I should tell you, though, that it will never be convincing to those of us who once held black-and-white worldviews of our own, but now see shades of grey and brilliant colours.

        • It’s not a “worldview”.

          It’s the Lord’s view.

          Not only did the Lord say that political correctness was false doctrine (therefore NOT Christlike) but also that it was the influence of Satan.

          The Lord also stated that there are no shades of grey in gospel standards.

          You and everybody else who would rather play in shades of grey will be held accountable before God.

          This site can be reported as teaching false doctrine., which would curtail referenced traffic from LEGITIMATE sites and also filter down to your local leadership.

          It’s your souls on the line.

          I have simply countered false doctrine with the truth.

          I’ll pray for you.

        • You are most welcome.

          And I remind you, as we all often need reminding, you are most worthy of love.

          The thing is…it is not sanctimonious…because I in no way feel superior.

          I fumble about, trying to serve other people…happy when I can share something I have learned as others have been loving enough to share with me.

          Charity, which is the pure love of Christ, is what touches every aspect of the lives of those who trust in God alone for their reward. As such, they do not care if their service is accepted by or held in esteem by men.

      • Well we can agree on charity, at least. It is the most important part of our existence on this earth.

        I would encourage you, though, to focus on your own soul and your own relationship with God, rather than making assumptions about others’. Charity doesn’t need to be rooted in presumptions about the personal righteousness of others.

        • We are only here to love and serve others by teaching eternal truths.

          I am somewhere on my path exampled by the Sons of Mosiah, in Mosiah Chapter 28:

          3 Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.

        • Just got back from going for a walk with my 83 year old Dad…he had a stroke this past fall…so exercise is good for him! I look after him and Mom.

          So…yes…I live with my parents and I HAVE worn a fanny pack.

          These are the things that make women go weak in the knees.

          Okay…that’s not really true. That’s not how things actually are. Even if it might be nice if it were so.

          You may be, as you say…”teaching the truth as we know and believe it to be” but not as the Lord has revealed through his mouthpiece and authorized representatives here on Earth.

          So your beliefs are not how things actually are.

          Since your beliefs, as here stated, are not going to carry you to celestial glory, then what… pray tell… is the point?

          “Thus sayeth the Lord” will always be THE best option.

          Everything else is false doctrine.

          Wishing it otherwise does not make it so.

  18. There are so many assumptions at play here. You are assuming Church leaders are infallible and that “Thus saith the Lord” and “Thus saith such and such Church leader” are one and the same, both of which assumptions are demonstrably untrue. You are assuming personal revelation can never contradict the teachings of Church leaders. You are assuming a lot of things about my (and others’) personal righteousness and fate in the afterlife. And you are assuming that the Celestial Kingdom as described by many past and some present Church leaders sounds like anything but Hell to me.

  19. “YOUR assumption is that God is unaware and the Lord doesn’t have a clue and that you know better.”

    Nope. I do not believe that God is unaware. I do not believe the Lord doesn’t have a clue. But I believe that a lot of what has been taught about the Celestial Kingdom is dead wrong, because I believe in Heavenly Parents that give a damn about Their daughters. I believe the voice of my Heavenly Parents speaking quietly to my soul.

    The meaning of “feminist” is “advocate for the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” I have no idea where you’re going with the rest of that point.

    No, I don’t believe women leaders are infallible.

    The rest of your little rant is rambling and all over the place.

    • Quoting you: “The rest of your little rant is rambling and all over the place.”


      As well, I apparently missed the “offensive” part of the Celestial Kingdom in Sunday School.

      Everything God has with Heavenly Mother…seems great.

      I am divorced now…so since I need an eternal companion for the highest degree of Celestial Glory, that is…of concern…but not of panic.

      As a matter of perception…”grey” areas to me…come in the form of more than one female who taught by both precept and example: “It shouldn’t matter who I give my body to as long as my heart belongs to you!”

      For the record? It does matter.


      My basic response was: “If you REALLY believe that, then go away. Far away. And next time you are in the neighborhood and you are passing by…please do.” (See what I did there?)

      I am VERY wary of so-called “grey areas”.

      NOT to insinuate that you would ever do such a thing. You seem WAY too intelligent for that. But “grey areas” are used to justify too much in the average person. Best to avoid teaching such things.

      • If you’re genuinely interested in knowing the problems with LDS theology on the Celestial Kingdom where women are concerned, I’ll be happy to share them with you, but if not I won’t waste the time since it’ll be a long post and I really ought to be packing at the moment.

        I have similar views on cheating – in my own view, cheating on a spouse is not a grey area. In a relationship with an expectation of monogamy, betrayal of trust would be, for me, unforgivable and the termination of that relationship completely reasonable.

        When I refer to “grey areas” and colors beyond black-and-white, I am alluding to a willingness to not be so certain of anything that I am unwilling to scrutinize it or acknowledge contradictory evidence. I’m okay not knowing “with every fiber of my being” or “beyond a shadow of a doubt,” because I know from experience that black-and-white certainty is very brittle, and the repercussions of it shattering are devastating. I embrace nuance now, and as a part of that I try not to make assumptions or judgments about anyone’s righteousness or relationship with God except my own. I understand that you have been personally hurt by someone who thought that betraying your trust was a morally grey area, but having a nuanced view doesn’t have to lead to that. It takes more active effort and constant reevaluation to maintain a nuanced view of the Church, etc. than a black-and-white view, but for me nuance is the only sustainable option.

        • Genuinely interested in your thoughts.

          But you ARE packing.

          I am certain we shall meet again…I will probably find you on a thread and pester you. grins

          But I should let you know that I was not born into the church, nor was I tracted out by missionaries.

          God invited me.

          He led me through my own comparative religions study…guided me as I prayerfully developed my standards…when I turned 18 He directed me to an article about Church members…asked me to look up the Church in the phone book…after which I met two sister missionaries on a Wednesday, got the first discussion, met the Elders, got the second discussion on Thursday…got the baptismal challenge on Friday and I was baptized on Saturday.

          Sunday I went to Church for the first time.

          I have had a relationship with God since I was two years old.

          Black and White is my jam.

      • Alright, remind me on some thread or other later and I’ll write you a dissertation on the subject.

        But for now I must pack. For I am going to Disney World.

        Good night!

        • I will remind you!

          Looking forward to the dissertation.

          Have …uh…fun? Packing…

          And I am excited for you going to Disney World! I have many Disneyland (my fav) and Disney World youtube videos…

          Stay safe…

          Good night!

  20. Suzette, thank you for this. So many people assert that it is unreasonable, even cruel for a religion to expect celibacy from its unmarried members. Sex is thought to be as essential to healthy living as eating and sleeping. Recently I heard a man state angrily that the Church expected unmarried members to be “sexual anorexics.” But as difficult as celibacy can be, no one ever died from not having sex! As you shared at the end of your post, the fact that a certain way of life is difficult doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.

  21. Dear Suzette thank you for sharing, i very much appreciate you being so bold on telling this story, it was like reading my own story and i’m so glad someone had the courage te tell it as it is. It means a lot to me that you did so as sometimes i feel like i’m the only one going throgh this challange… Thanks like a ton, God bless

  22. Thank you for your article. Finally, someone who gets it. It’s hard explaining this to people who got married at 19. They have no clue.

  23. I came back to church 7 years ago, and went to the temple about 5 years ago. Living the covenants that we made in the temple, I thought, would all be easy. The toughest is living the law of chastity. You are right when you called it a open wound. Best description I’ve heard. But, like some others mentioned here, it’s not just the sex. It’s the physical nurturing that everyone craves. Being able to hold someone as you drift off to sleep, and still be holding them when you wake up. It’s the long lingering hugs. And yes, it’s the dealing with hormones. Laying awake at night wondering what’s wrong with me that I can’t find someone. Longing for that physical nurturing. And the ever present thought of, “if I flirt, I have to convert” if you meet someone who is a non-member. And let’s not forget the concern of what blessings as I missing by not being married? The only comfort that I can find in this is knowing that all things happen in the Lord’s time and if I don’t get married here, there’s still the millennium. I know that I have to trust the Lord. His plan for me is far better than any plan I could have for me. But that doesn’t stop the sleepless, wanting nights. I call them the night aches.

  24. Suzette, as always, you have written a well articulated article. I too miss sharing my life with someone. The need for physical intimacy is burning, but the emotional intimacy is as absent and trying.

    In an above comment, someone mentioned marriage of convenience; this life isn’t for me. It isn’t just about the sex. I want to share my life with someone. I want the whole package. I think one without the other would be as empty as I am now, different, but still empty. I am no ones’ first choice. I have those who truly love me and care for my well being, but I’m not top priority or pick for anyone. This is a lonely life as well as exhausting. All decisions are mine, for good or bad. All chores are mine, for good or bad. All duties, tasks and so on. Yes, sometimes it is awesome and I’d probably say most of the time it is awesome, but it is exhausting too.

    On the physical note there are the lonely nights, weekends, holidays and moments I ache for love. With that said, I am chase for me. I was taught the principal of chastity as a young girl, but through my adult life I’ve examined my commitment and reason for it. I do not wish to share all my reasons and purposed here, but I remain chase for me. I echo your words, “I sacrifice parts of myself and am built stronger in others parts.”

    Thank you

    • I agree with you 100%, Heather! You have articulated what I was thinking as I read this wonderful article.

      I am 56, and never married. My parents and only sibling (she also never married), are gone. While I do have some extended family, I feel quite alone in my life.

      I long for companionship. I long for somebody to be there for me, in my corner, no matter what. I’ve never come first in anyone’s life, ever. I feel like I have missed out on the opportunity to grow and learn to work together with an eternal companion, with a common goal of reaching the Celestial Kingdom. I’ve missed out on learning compromise and selflessness. I’ve missed out on GIVING love, trust, companionship, support, as well as receiving it.

      I’ve missed feeling the product of that love grow inside me. Missed raising children to be strong and wise and kind. Missed spoiling grandchildren. It was a sad day for me when I realized the opportunity to have children had passed, and my body no longer had the ability to nurture new life.

      I too, wonder what could be wrong with me? I have barely even dated in my life. The longest relationship I ever had lasted less than a year. It’s probably been over 15 years since I went on a date. The aloneness, the lack of any physical affection, is sometimes more than I feel I can bear.

      To be truthful, at this point in my life I’m not entirely sure that even if I were to meet my eternal companion, that sex itself would be that big of a deal to me. At least it wouldn’t mean as much to me as the spiritual and emotional connection I would get from a husband.

      Learning to trust in Heavenly Father’s timing has been hard. Also trusting that what we are denied on earth will be made up for is something I struggle with, especially since I feel I have missed out on the growth that would occur with a companion by my side.

      Thank you Heather, and Suzette, for putting the things I have been feeling into words.

  25. I think that you hit the nail on the head. There is no such thing as a get rich scheme or free lunch.If you want to build a solid online business, it would take hard work, dedication and lots of time.At the end of the day, it will be all worth, if its financial freedom you after. I look forward to checking out your site and learning more.RegardsRoopesh

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