When we talk about being sexually pure, usually we discuss the dangers of pre-marital sex and the negative effects of pornography on our future relationships. I think most of us have been warned against Sexually Transmitted Diseases, unwanted pregnancies, addiction, and broken marriages. While we should continue to discuss these prevalent dangers to protect us from much heartbreak and pain, I fear that we equate sexually purity to staying away from sex outside of the bonds of marriage and pornography. We fail to include keeping pure, virtuous thoughts into the equation of sexual purity.
Our thoughts are so important because of two reasons. First, thoughts are the beginning of all our words and actions; no one has done anything that they have not thought of before. Second, thoughts dictate who we become. While others cannot see the effects of thoughts, how we think directly changes how we interact with the world and dictates our desires and goals in life.
The Savior understood and taught his principle during his ministry. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches “It hath been said by them of old time… that whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment of God; But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment” (Matthew 5:22).
While God had previously commanded Moses and the children of Israel not to kill, Christ taught that if we do not get angry with others, we wouldn’t be compelled or want to kill. If we control our thoughts towards others and try our best, we won’t be in danger of breaking the commandment not to kill.
Pertaining to sexual purity, the Savior taught similarly. “It is written… thou shalt not commit adultery; But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28) If we constantly dwell on the sexual attractiveness of those around us then it will lead to us go after satisfying those thoughts, resulting in adultery. Christ said “for it is better that you should deny yourselves of these things… than that ye should be cast into hell” or, pertaining to the here and now, to suffer through the negative consequences in this life of being sexually impure. While it may seem natural and harmless to have these thoughts concerning others, dwelling on these thoughts exposes us to doing things we would before never having considered have doing. Impure thoughts can be a slippery slope, resulting in serious sexual transgressions that will cause us heartbreak and pain.
Thoughts Determine Who We Become
Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ declares that “those things which were of old time… in me are all fulfilled… [and] are done away, and all things have become new. Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I.” In other words, Christ invites us to not only live the commandments of olden times such as not killing or not committing adultery but to take it a step further. He invited us to love our brother, to not think impure thoughts because this was the way we can become like Him. If we do the little things and strive to keep our thoughts pure not only will we stay away from committing sin but we will become closer to God and a better person.
I personally have felt this type of transformation over the last couple of months. As a single college student in Provo, Utah, I had recently felt like something was lacking from my dating experiences. I thought of what I could do to improve and I prayed about it. The answer I got from God was surprising: clean up your thoughts. I didn’t think I really had bad thoughts but after further reflection, I found myself dwelling on negative thoughts about others and that because of this, I had become too enveloped in others’ appearances instead of their personalities.
As I worked on controlling my thoughts, I found that my desires were changing. I found that I wanted to treat others better and tried get to know those around me more. I drew closer to God and found that I could gain more out of my relationship with him. Questions that I had been asking were being answered faster than they ever had before because I could listen to what God wanted me to learn. Although I had stayed away from sex and pornography, I missed out on so many spiritual experiences because I dwelt on unclean thoughts. Through this I learned sexual purity was not just what we do but what we think and how we treat others.
Take the time to involve God and plan how you can better control your thoughts. God will help you not only stay sexually pure but also to become a better person if you only do your best and have faith in his Son Jesus Christ’s healing and enabling power. I have seen this in my life and invite you to start today and see how being sexually pure will improve your relationship with God and your life.
Read about the ways I keep my thoughts clean in my second blog here.