If I could ask them one question . . .
Come Follow Me, Lesson 30
For Come Follow Me, lesson 30, Jul 27 - Aug 2, Alma 39-42
If I wanted to encourage thought and try to understand devout believers better, I might ask:
“Is sexual sin really comparable to murder?”
Things to consider:
- Alma’s son, Corianton, had a sexual relationship with the harlot Isabel, and Alma asks him (presumably rhetorically) if he did not know that this was “most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood …” (Alma 39:3-5).
- There’s not much detail about Corianton and Isabel’s affair, so we cannot rule out that Corianton committed adultery or rape, but the context would suggest those crimes and betrayals were not what Alma was concerned about. It would seem that a consensual sexual relationship between single adults was the sin Alma compares to murder, but since we don’t know for sure, let’s see what the modern Church teaches on the subject.
- The Gospel Principles manual teaches, “Unchastity is next to murder in seriousness.” Prior to that statement, it also teaches that, “We have been taught that the law of chastity encompasses more than sexual intercourse. The First Presidency warned young people of other sexual sins: ‘Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not allow anyone to do that with you. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body’” (Chapter 39, The Law of Chastity).
- “Chastity means being morally clean in our thoughts, words, and actions. … The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder or denying the Holy Ghost” (“Sexual Purity Blesses Our Lives”, Ensign, July 2010, pp. 10-11). If you read this article in full, you’ll notice all sexual sins are categorized as more serious than any sin but murder; a fleeting impure sexual thought is grouped with masturbation which is grouped with adultery which is grouped with rape as being next to murder.
- Here’s one in case you think the Church doesn’t consider some of these minor indiscretions a sin. “[M]asturbation is considered by many in the world to be the harmless expression of an instinctive sex drive. Teach your children that the prophets have condemned it as a sin throughout the ages …” (A Parent’s Guide, Chapter 5, Teaching Adolescents: from Twelve to Eighteen Years).
- The idea that sex is next to murder is so important to the Church that many prophets have taught that “Your virtue is worth more than your life. Please, young folk, preserve your virtue even if you lose your lives” (Spencer W. Kimball quoting President David O. McKay, Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 63).
- And, if that doesn’t seem like a shameful, harmful teaching, consider how the Church’s culture of sexual shame may contribute to this kind of set up for victim blaming: “It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle” (Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 196).
- I realize sexual activity even between consenting adults is full of risks and potential pitfalls from emotional betrayal to sexually transmitted infections. Also, there are certain sexual acts like adultery, sexual assault, and rape that are truly horrific. But, the Church is categorizing passionate kissing and arousing “those emotions in your own body” in the same category of sins next to murder.
- In case I haven’t yet made my point, I’m going to make this personal. My grandparents on one side of the family had sex with each other before marriage. My parents also had premarital sex with one another. I have a sibling who had premarital sex with their spouse before marriage. None of them were ever Mormon, so none of them ever “repented” for this. If you accept that sex outside of marriage is next to murder, aren’t you telling me you think my family is full of folks who are akin to murderers? Do you really accept that? May I suggest that if you do, you might want to reconsider what you’re using as a moral compass?
Other observations about this lesson’s reading:
- The last of only three Book of Mormon women makes her debut and finale in a mere two verses (Alma 39:3-4). And, I observe that her name seems very problematic.
- I comment that a teaching about “outer darkness” may seem to contradict the Church’s current teaching, but I don’t think it’s actually a problem (Alma 40:13).
- However, the order of resurrection does seem to present a contradiction (Alma 40:16-19).
- The apparently ambiguous or misleading term “endless” is used to describe happiness, misery, and darkness (Alma 41:4, 7).
- Since D&C 19:6 teaches us “eternal” does not mean without end, but it means of the Lord, Alma may not be saying the life of the soul has no end, but rather that the life of the soul is God’s (Alma 42:16).
- An appeal to fear (Alma 42:19-20).
- The good news of … Human sacrifice (Alma 42:23).
- I question how freely we may partake of the waters of life offered to us a result of Human sacrifice (Alma 42:27).
If you could ask believers questions about the scriptures for this lesson, what would you ask?
Have fun studying!
If I could ask them one question, Lesson 30