Why is virtue more important than our life?


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Guest talianstallyun

Why is virtue more important than our lives (according to Pres. McKay, Pres. Kimball, and Elder McConkie)? Is it because sexual sin temporarily disqualifies us for eternal life until we repent, and the sin is so dangerously difficult to repent of? I appreciate any insight as I try to better keep my covenants and help others do so. Thank you!

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I recall reading, in The Miracle of Forgiveness, something to the effect that... we'd rather our youth came back from their missions (or somewhere) on a bier (coffin) rather than be sullied by the stain of sexual immorality.

I thought is was a horrible horrible thought.

I have read that book twice and I still struggle with it. Even putting things in perspective like when it was written, what was going on socially when it was written, the intended target audience for the book, I still can't come to terms with it.

It is meant to humble, and it does that well. But when you talk about the atonement, the Savior, the plan of salvation, the restored gospel and church, you can't accurately communicate what these things mean without including hope. And I can't walk away from that book with hope for anything.

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If they come home in a coffin and were serving honorably, then we assume that they have been called home to their eternal reward. While family will miss them on Earth, they have "made it".

Missionaries who come home due to serious sins are not in for an easy road to get back to full fellowship. Is it possible - of course it is, but it is difficult and many that fall while on missions do not come back to full fellowship at all. The shame and embarrassment make coming to church difficult after leaving a mission early. They are also not able to claim the coveted title of RM that young women are encouraged to seek after in their mates, making a social life more difficult.

As a parent, I would like to have my children alive and with me, but I do understand the reasoning behind the statement.

Edited by gopecon
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Both our lives and our virture are very important, but if we were to put them on a ranking scale in the grand scheme of things, our virture is the only thing that is eternal and is therefore of "greater" value. Think of it this way- we are all someday going to die. That simply cannot be avoided. But, sin CAN be avoided. When we sin and lose our virtue, it is because of our personal choices, and though we are all Fallen and imperfect, we are all capable of choosing virtue over sin.

Death separates us from this life, while sin seperates us from God and salvation.

As said before, this life IS important, but when we look at the big picture the purpose of our life boils down to only one thing:

Alma 12:24

"And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead."

and Alma 34:32

"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors."

The longer we live, the more time we have to prepare, so prolonging our lives is a good and important thing. However, sinning, or the loss of virtue, does not "prepare us to meet God". It pulls us away from Him. So, if we are ever faced with a situation where we must choose between our lives and our virtue, it would be better to choose our virtue. It would be a very hard decision to make and one, I admit, I don't know if I would be personally capable of making. But when we look at the big picture, it is much easier to understand why our virtue is of greater value than our lives.

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The longer we live, the more time we have to prepare, so prolonging our lives is a good and important thing. However, sinning, or the loss of virtue, does not "prepare us to meet God". It pulls us away from Him. So, if we are ever faced with a situation where we must choose between our lives and our virtue, it would be better to choose our virtue. It would be a very hard decision to make and one, I admit, I don't know if I would be personally capable of making. But when we look at the big picture, it is much easier to understand why our virtue is of greater value than our lives.

I see your point (I just said basically the same thing in my prev post) but this begs the question, if it would be better to die than to lose our virtue, what would the point of being here be? Isn't this very thing the reason we have the atonement? We can chose, we can chose incorrectly, but there is a way back, and there is a great deal to learn on that way too. If we just chose death, we wouldn't learn anything. Isn't that a big reason why we're here?

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I see your point (I just said basically the same thing in my prev post) but this begs the question, if it would be better to die than to lose our virtue, what would the point of being here be? Isn't this very thing the reason we have the atonement? We can chose, we can chose incorrectly, but there is a way back, and there is a great deal to learn on that way too. If we just chose death, we wouldn't learn anything. Isn't that a big reason why we're here?

I think the statement is to put the gravity of sexual sin into perspective. The world wants you to believe the law of chastity is not a big deal.

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I think the statement is to put the gravity of sexual sin into perspective. The world wants you to believe the law of chastity is not a big deal.

Very true, but I think he was being literal. I'm questioning this whole thing as if it were literal, which is where I struggle. Because that doesn't make sense to me. Even putting things in perspective metaphorically, I still don't think it's an accurate perspective. If he were talking about blaspheming against the Holy Ghost, well then it certainly would be better to die. You can't come back from that. As serious as sexual sin is, there is forgiveness.

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I see your point (I just said basically the same thing in my prev post) but this begs the question, if it would be better to die than to lose our virtue, what would the point of being here be? Isn't this very thing the reason we have the atonement? We can chose, we can chose incorrectly, but there is a way back, and there is a great deal to learn on that way too. If we just chose death, we wouldn't learn anything. Isn't that a big reason why we're here?

Yeah, I didn't see your previous post until I submitted mine, because I was working on it before you posted ;).

The atonement is there because we will mess up, yes. But it would be even better if we didn't mess up at all, yes? Protecting our virtue in its entirety would imply that we have not at all sinned. It would be better to protect that than protect our lives. But, since we all make mistakes and are not capable of completely protecting our virtue, the atonement is necessary, as is this probationary period (our lives)....

I guess I feel like I'm kind of talking in circles with this question, as it really is a rather circular question. We need time to work on our repentance and improve our virtue, so it would be good to live a nice long life with plenty of time for preparation... But all the time in the world will do us little good if we are not moving forward on the path God directed. Sullying our virtue takes us the opposite direction and causes us to require even more work.

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Is it because sexual sin temporarily disqualifies us for eternal life until we repent,

Isn't this true for all sin, though? (1 Ne 15:34 -- No unclean thing can enter the kingdom of God. Alma 45:16 -- the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance). So, why should we make such a statement about sexual sin rather than iniclude all sin? No, I don't think this is why they made such statements

the sin is so dangerously difficult to repent of?

maybe it depends on what "dangerously difficult" means, but sometimes I think the small sins might be harder to repent of. Either we say that it isn't hurting anyone, or everyone else is doing it, or "the Lord will justify in committing a little sin," or "I'll be beaten with a few stripes, but at last be saved." (2 Ne 28:8). Sometimes I think the small sins might be more "dangerous" and "difficult" because it can be harder to find the motivation.

Another thought on "difficult and dangerous" How much of this difficult is social/cultural stigma. I recall the part of Pride and Prejudice where (spoiler alert, if you need it) Lydia runs away with Mr. Wickham. I find it interesting how the entire family sweats and cries and worries about the stigma that will be attached to the entire Bennett family because of Lydia's indiscretion. (Doesn't Mr. or Mrs. Bennet even say something similar to "I would rather she'd died than done this." I'll have to look when I get home.) With this kind of social stigma, maybe it is better to die. If anything, though, we who understand the atonement and grace and forgiveness should shun stigma like this and extend encouragement and hope to the sinner.

In short, I don't think "difficulty of repentance" is a good reason for such a statement.

As RMGuy said, I'd rather my kids come home where I can tell them, "come, let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlett, they shall be as white as snow." The atonement is real.

On to possible reasons for such a statement.

Maybe rhetorical hyperbole? The brethren in question were all preaching during the sexual revolution of the '60's and '70's. Perhaps in their desire to counter the world's messages about sexual promiscuity, they felt a need (intentional or unintentional) to balance or "overcorrect" for the world's messages. In this context, perhaps the statement isn't to be taken literally, but rather as a way of emphasizing the seriousness of sexual sin.

In the church (and most religions it seems) we have a love of martyrs (Joseph and Hyrum, Abinadi, Peter and Paul, Christ). Martyrs are faced with the question "Will you disobey God (ie sin) by denying your testimony (or other sin)? If not, then we will kill you." Martyrs have the faith and strength of character to respond, "I would rather die than sin." For this, rather than reading this as "death is a good coping strategy for sexual sin," we commit ourselves to "Do what is right [and] let the consequence follow" even if death is the consequence, if necessary. In terms of "keep[ing] my covenants and help others do so," the idea here is to increase our desire and resolve to keep our covenants. In hindsight, maybe there are/were better ways to say this, but I think this is likely what these brethren were trying to convey -- make keeping your covenants a top priority.

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How much of this difficult is social/cultural stigma. I recall the part of Pride and Prejudice where (spoiler alert, if you need it) Lydia runs away with Mr. Wickham. I find it interesting how the entire family sweats and cries and worries about the stigma that will be attached to the entire Bennett family because of Lydia's indiscretion. (Doesn't Mr. or Mrs. Bennet even say something similar to "I would rather she'd died than done this." I'll have to look when I get home.)

No, that would be Mr. Collins, the comedy relief, writing in "condolence" to the Bennets: The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in comparison of this. I don't think it's either meaningful or instructive to compare prophetic words to those of a fictitious blithering idiot.

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Why is virtue more important than our lives (according to Pres. McKay, Pres. Kimball, and Elder McConkie)?

When I think of these quotes, and how they have totally dissapeared from church publications in the recent decade or two, I consider two elements:

1- We have a duty to raise our kids to be chaste and virtuous. We wish to instill in them the strength to resist temptation and the strength to resist evil. And we wish them to have the courage to stand and fight to keep themselves virtuous. We understand that one instance of sexual sin can cause multiple generations worth of suffering and heavy burdens.

2- Humans mess up and sin. We have a duty to help people avail themselves of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who gives a way to relieve ourselves of our sins and be washed clean through His blood. The atonement is available to everyone - sexual sin or other.

My two cents:

For the history of the human race, most civilizations that put effort into such things, tend to have put it all into the first thing, and totally ignore the 2nd thing - or worse - revile/dismiss/ignore/cast out/banish women falling in the 2nd category. Guys, not so much. Women - well, the human race has a lot to be forgiven of. Check out the roots of the word 'hysterical': From Greek hysterikos "of the womb, suffering in the womb". Originally defined as a neurotic condition peculiar to women and thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the uterus." Basically, women who yelled rape were considered crazy or delusional in certain civilizations. For a long time.

This mindset started changing in the '70's and '80's. Many of us started growing the heck up and have been grappling with the realities like raped women still exist - and need help. I remember in the '80's, giving a paper on spousal rape, to one of the first generations who believed such things were real. Common knowledge from the dawn of time to somewhere in the '80's, was "a husband can't rape a wife - she's a wife!"

Anyway, those quotes from those church leaders tended to focus solely on the people in the first group (kids needing to stay virtuous). I'm guessing it eventually dawned on our church leaders that folks in the 2nd group (sinners looking for repentence) were also reading their quotes. And those are pretty crappy quotes to show someone from the 2nd group. "I'm better off dead? Ok - thanks for nothing mormons!"

These days, our leaders produce quotes on virtue that emphasize the blessings of remaining virtous, while being careful to not destroy the hope of those who have something to repent of.

All that is my two cents. I have no clue if I'm actually right about any of it.

LM

Edited by Loudmouth_Mormon
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I guess I feel like I'm kind of talking in circles with this question, as it really is a rather circular question.

It is, I was struggling to try and make sense of what I was trying to say. I see your point more clearly now, though. It is absolutely better to not sin in the first place than to sin and repent. I'll stop there because I think that is the ultimate point in this. And trying to explain it beyond that creates a paradox for me :cool:

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No, that would be Mr. Collins, the comedy relief, writing in "condolence" to the Bennets: The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in comparison of this. I don't think it's either meaningful or instructive to compare prophetic words to those of a fictitious blithering idiot.

You should get mad about it :P

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How much of this difficult is social/cultural stigma. I recall the part of Pride and Prejudice where (spoiler alert, if you need it) Lydia runs away with Mr. Wickham. I find it interesting how the entire family sweats and cries and worries about the stigma that will be attached to the entire Bennett family because of Lydia's indiscretion. (Doesn't Mr. or Mrs. Bennet even say something similar to "I would rather she'd died than done this." I'll have to look when I get home.)

Mr. Collins says something to that effect to the Bennets, and in a letter written after the shotgun wedding tells Mr. Bennet that the family should have basically cut her off--a proposition Mr. Bennet finds rather unchristian.

[EDIT: Oops, I see Vort beat me to it. :blush: ]

--

Another consideration regarding President Kimball's standpoint is that he was also apparently the one behind the "Lock Your Hearts" speech (whose provenance, I admit, is somewhat shady). I personally served in an area where an elder was popularly believed to have gotten a local girl pregnant less than a year before--and the speech's comments about such a city being "absolutely closed" were dead-on. And I've handled enough paternity cases to know what an ongoing child support obligation can do to someone's future prospects for education, career, and family.

It's not just a matter of "repentance". It's the fact that the consequences of the decision can continue to haunt the penitent--and those he involved in his error--for the rest of their natural lives.

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Guest mormonmusic

I remember reading the Miracle of Forgiveness and feeling like a worthless dolt afterwards. I raised this with my Bishop and he said "Well, the Miracle of Forgiveness if a very hard interpretation of sin".

That was the first time I realized that you have to run everything you read, hear, and experience at Church through your own lens, judgment and spirituality, just as this Bishop did. Draw your own conclusions and rely on God's mercy in the end. He did create us as agents unto ourselves. I will take him up on that vision.

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Mormonmusic, excellent post.

This is a very touchy subject for me. Though it was many years ago....and I am not suggesting in anyway that this is right, I had a good friend of mine who as dateraped. Her parents had used this statement to explain in FHE and family discussions the importance of the LOC and maintaining virtue.

Now I believe that we are all responsible for our own actions, but my friend decided to take her own life. Her note indicated that she felt it was the only way that she could repent of what had happened. It wasn't even her fault....it was rape. Yet in part because of the stance her parents took, and how they communicated it to her, she felt she had not choice.

Now I know that isn't what the quote says, and I also would state that it was never even the intent. But it is what my friend got out of it, and why I made my initial post.

As for me an my house I'll believe that the Lord meant for the atonement to be used, even for the most heinous of sins. That doesn't in any way excuse poor or immoral behavior. But I am with Mormonmusic here. We need to discerne what we read, hear and expeience and then act accordingly. Because of my previous experience this statement is just a bit to over the top.

-RM

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I think a problem with this thread is that Pres. Kimball was not presenting a choice that a missionary might be faced with. Few if any missionaries are faced with a have sex or die choice (and if they were, they would be a victim of rape - not a violator of the LOC). NO ONE is saying that people who violate the LOC should drop dead! This statement was emphasizing the seriousness of the sin - especially for a representative of the Lord. We mourn the loss of missionaries who die on their missions, but we can rejoice for their eternal welfare. A righteous person who dies has been called home. The eternal state of a dishonorably discharged missionary is in doubt, pending repentance. We are eternal beings having an earthly experience. Where we end up in the end is what truly matters from an eternal perspective.

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Why is virtue more important than our lives (according to Pres. McKay, Pres. Kimball, and Elder McConkie)? Is it because sexual sin temporarily disqualifies us for eternal life until we repent, and the sin is so dangerously difficult to repent of? I appreciate any insight as I try to better keep my covenants and help others do so. Thank you!

Others have done a great job explaining, so I just want to add my two cents.

We are told that no unclean thing can come before God, and that He abhors sin of every make and stripe so much that not the least degree of sin can enter into His kingdom (Alma 40:26).

Nevertheless we know that some sins are worse than others. We are told that sexual immorality is the "most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost" (see Alma 39:5).

Now, we know that all things are cleansed through the blood of Jesus Christ, which was shed for the sake of the world (John 3:16), and know that there are terms and conditions set that we must meet if we want to qualify to be covered by the Atoning Blood. We also know that this temporal life is guaranteed to end in death (except for the few who are translated, and they would testify that in their lifetime they were given tasks so grievous to bear that they would have preferred death at the time).

Upon death our souls are not magically wiped clean of all filthiness, but the same soul that inhabits our mortal body here will inhabit our spiritual body after death and in the ressurection (Alma 34:34), and the guilty will be restored to a perfect rememberance of their guilt upon their ressurection and will still be filthy (2 Nephi 9:16), and will be even more condemned than they were in mortality (Alma 41:15).

Now, when we put these pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together, and we remember that "whosoever shall lose his life" for the Lord's sake shall find it, we see that it is better, in the long run (i.e. it will take less repentance) for a person to lose his life than to willingly give up his virtue.

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willingly give up his virtue.

With the utmost respect, and even submitting that I believe that was indeed the intention of the quotation so cited....that is NOT what it says. It does not address whether virtue was willingly given up or forcibly taken, and there are many in the church that have tended to identify virtue as synonymous with virginity. Hence the case of my friend illustrated above.

I mention this because I think your caveat is an important one, not because I am casting aspersions your way.

-RM

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I've read through this thread and I'd like to ask a somewhat retorical questions. The reason for these questions is that the seriousness of sexual sin has been so diluted in our world.

Who is hurt by sexual sin? Just ourselves? Can the hurt caused by sexual sin be undone? Can you fix it?

When we stop to think about everyone who is hurt when there is a sexual sin from the partner, the victim, the child born without both parents being involved in his life (or worse).... I think that it puts the OP question in a different light.

Sexual sin can't be undone. Repent? Yes! but not undone. Even though we don't blame the rape victim there is still a hurt there that can't be undone. You can offer therapy and other ways to help but in the end the victim lost something precious that can't be given back. You can't send back the child born out of wedlock. We can do our best to give that child parents, but even with adoption (provided the mother agrees to adoption) that child doesn't have his/her biological family. The grandparents and other relatives of that child lose a family member. You can treat sexually transmitted diseases with antibiotics in some cases but you can't undo the damage they cause before you realize you have one.

I could go on, but I think that's enough to get the picture.

Just as in losing a life, losing our virtue is something we can't undo no matter how hard we try. The consequences go on for a lifetime for more than just those directly involved in the sin.

I would also like to point out that when you realize that this life is just a small piece of our existence and couple that with the knowledge of just how serious it is to play with the powers of procreation, you then realize why Pres. Kimball made the statement he made. I believe it applies more today than when he made it. The only thing that has changed about all of this is societies views on sex and when its ok and when its not. Our Heavenly Father hasn't changed his laws about it....but we as a society have changed.

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With the utmost respect, and even submitting that I believe that was indeed the intention of the quotation so cited....that is NOT what it says. It does not address whether virtue was willingly given up or forcibly taken, and there are many in the church that have tended to identify virtue as synonymous with virginity. Hence the case of my friend illustrated above.

I mention this because I think your caveat is an important one, not because I am casting aspersions your way.

-RM

RMGuy:

I'm on a netbook, and didn't see that this conversation had gone on for more than a page (10 comments) when I posted. I also had to cut short the ending and leave immediately, as a friend was here to pick me up to go volunteer at the Bishop's Storehouse. I wouldn't have posted what I had (something that bypasses all discussion to give a direct response to the OP) if I had known the conversation had gone on so long, and I certainly would not have been so abrupt with the ending had I seen the scenario you had posted.

My post was not intended to comment on the "return with honor or in a casket" comment, but on the doctrine in general, as it seemed the gist of conversation was that many believed Pres. Kimball's father (which, I believe, was the source of the "return with honor" quote from 'Miracle of Forgiveness') was saying he'd prefer Spencer to die if he gave up his virtue. When I read Miracle of Forgiveness, that was not the feeling I got, but I interpreted it similar to gopecon.

I am very, very sorry for the loss of your friend. I really don't know what to say. That's rough. :(

God bless.

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