In a post entitled, “Why Was Corianton’s Sin So Serious?”, dated July 20, 2016 on Book of Mormon Central, Michael R. Ash is sourced as teaching that the traditional interpretation of Alma 39:5 is perhaps incorrect.
Book of Mormon Central is referencing a Sunstone article entitled “The Sin ‘Next to Murder’: An Alternative Interpretation”, where Ash states,
This verse seems to be the impetus for the LDS belief that sexual transgressions are second only to “murder” in the eyes of the Lord. . . . I believe there is a more logical interpretation of the “sin next to murder”—a sin that doesn’t involve sexual transgression.1
Is Brother Ash correct in his interpretation? Note that the First Presidency and Presidents of the Church are extremely clear that sexual sin is next to murder, in seriousness.
First Presidency Statements
Read the full First Presidency message here.
“The doctrine of this Church is that sexual sin — the illicit sexual relations of men and women — stands, in its enormity, next to murder. The Lord has drawn no essential distinctions between fornication, adultery, and harlotry or prostitution. Each has fallen under His solemn and awful condemnation.” (First Presidency Message of October 1942)
Presidents of the Church
Joseph F. Smith
We accept without reservation or qualification the affirmation of Deity, through an ancient Nephite prophet: “For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.” (Jacob 2:28.)
We hold that sexual sin is second only to the shedding of innocent blood in the category of personal crimes; and that the adulterer shall have no part in the exaltation of the blessed.
We proclaim as the word of the Lord: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” “He that looketh on a woman to lust after her, or if any shall commit adultery in their hearts, they shall not have the Spirit, but shall deny the faith.”—Improvement Era, June, 1918, Vol. 20, p. 738; Doc. and Cov. 63:16.2
And now we desire with holy zeal to emphasize the enormity of sexual sins. Though often regarded as insignificant by those not knowing the will of God, they are, in his eyes an abomination, and if we are to remain his favored people they must be shunned as the gates of hell. The evil results of these sins are so patent in vice, crime, misery and disease that it would appear that all, young and old, must perceive and sense them. They are destroying the world. If we are to be preserved we must abhor them, shun them, not practice the least of them, for they weaken and enervate, they kill man spiritually, they make him unfit for the company of the righteous and the presence of God.—Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 37, p. 400, July 1, 1902.3
The man and the woman who engage in this ordinance of matrimony are engaging in something that is of such far-reaching character, and is of such vast importance, that thereby hangs life and death, and eternal increase. Thereupon depends eternal happiness, or eternal misery. For this reason, God has guarded this sacred institution by the most severe penalties, and has declared that whosoever is untrue to the marriage relation, whosoever is guilty of adultery, shall be put to death. This is scriptural law, though it is not practiced today, because modern civilization does not recognize the laws of God in relation to moral status of mankind. The Lord commanded, “Whosoever sheddeth innocent blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Thereby God has given the law. Life is an important thing. No one has any right to take life, unless God commanded it. The law of God as to violation of the marriage covenant is just as strict, and is on a parallel with law against murder notwithstanding the former is not carried out.4
Harold B. Lee
Satan is trying to inflame these people to engage in sexual relations, outside holy wedlock, the sin which the Lord has said is next to murder in its seriousness.
Clothe yourself with the armor of righteousness. Don’t give way in a moment of weakness. Safeguard that citadel of purity. Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, if you will keep it clean and pure. (73-06, p. 4)5
Spencer W. Kimball
It was Alma who said there is no forgiveness without repentance. There is no repentance without suffering. (Alma 39:6.) Many people feel a little sorry and offer one or two little prayers to their Heavenly Father for forgiveness. But that is not enough when they have committed a serious sin. Breaking the law of chastity is one of the most serious sins next to murder.6
One crime seems to demand another, and sometimes cowardly people, because of possible scandal and social ostracism and not having the courage to meet and solve problems, add to their sexual sin that crime of destroying an unborn child. These twin crimes rate very high in the category of horrible ones, next to murder, according to the scriptures.7
Next to Murder in Seriousness – The enormity of this sin is underlined by numerous scriptures, and particularly by Alma’s words to his immoral son:
Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost? (Al. 39:5.)
The Lord apparently rates adultery close to premeditated murder, for he said: “And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife; nor seek thy neighbor’s life.” (D&C 19:25.) To a young man seeking help who had allowed himself to indulge heavily in fornication but was not quite yet repentant, I wrote:
… Your sin is the most serious thing you could have done in your youth this side of murder.8
The Church of Jesus Christ has gone forward with its policy of progress and development. Its teachings are designed by God to give to men an abundant life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come. It teaches that men should be honest and upright, and that they should love their fellowmen next to God. It teaches a single moral standard by which men and women everywhere should adhere to the high standard of chastity. “Immorality is next to murder,” is a statement frequently made by its leaders.9
Ezra Taft Benson
In the category of sins, the Book of Mormon places unchastity next to murder (see Alma 39:5). As Alma states, “Now . . . I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, . . . for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Alma 39:9). If we are to cleanse the inner vessel, we must forsake immorality and be clean (see Alma 60:23).10
“Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and also, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:14, 17). Here God gives the great law of chastity that lies at the base of purity of family blood and the undefiled home. When the ancient prophets desired to excoriate Israel for her sins, they did it by comparing her to the prostitute. In the category of sins, unchastity stands next to murder, nor may we forget that growing crime of abortion, which often follows unchastity.11
I think also that our Heavenly Father expects the youth of our church to become exalted in the celestial kingdom. We’re not striving for the lower kingdoms. We’re not candidates for the telestial or terrestrial kingdom. The young people of this church are candidates for the celestial kingdom and the highest degree of glory in that kingdom. That requires a great deal that has to do with our day-to-day standards. This means not just being married in the temple; not just being a good citizen; not just being happy, as measured by the world. It means living every standard of the Church fully.
To our young people it means keeping themselves clean in body and in mind. It means that they go to the marriage altar pure and clean. It means that they will reserve for the marriage relationship those sweet and intimate associations which the God of heaven intended should be a part of marriage, and not be indulged in outside the marriage covenant. The curse of this age is unchastity—next to murder in the category of crimes.
No, we cannot let down our standards. We cannot indulge in promiscuous relations outside the marriage covenant without suffering ill effects from it. Any time we break a law of God, we pay the penalty in heartache, in sadness, in remorse, in lack of self-respect.12
Immorality is next to murder in God’s category of crime, and always brings with it attendant remorse. A person cannot indulge in promiscuous relations without suffering ill effects from it. He cannot do wrong and feel right—it is impossible. Anytime one breaks a law of God, he pays a penalty in heartache, in sadness, in remorse, in lack of self-respect, and he removes himself from contact with the Spirit of God. Is it any wonder that those who indulge in sex relations outside of marriage deny God?13
Gordon B. Hinckley
The Church lays great stress on the sanctity of the home and teaches that children are a blessing from the Lord. There is no principle on which the Latter-day Saints lay greater emphasis than the sacredness of the marriage covenant. In Mormon theology adultery is next to murder in gravity. Strict morality is taught, and the Church has used its means and facilities liberally to teach its youth the necessity for moral cleanliness and the blessings of happy marriage. (What of the Mormons? pamphlet, 1982, p. 11.)14
Little commentary is needed. The statements of the leadership of the Church stand on their own in regard to sexual sin.
In reaffirming the position of the Presidents of the Church in regard to sexual sin we are in no way diminishing the seriousness of the sin of destroying faith as cited in Michael R. Ash’s article, “The Sin ‘Next to Murder’: An Alternative Interpretation”. Destroying the faith of the unsuspecting has also been emphasized by the Lord in these words:
“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)
- Michael R. Ash, “The Sin ‘Next to Murder’: An Alternative Interpretation,” Sunstone, November 2006, 34–43.
- Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 310.
- Ibid. 275.
- Ibid. 342.
- Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 215.
- Amsterdam, General Session, pp. 4–7.
- Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972], 177.
- Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], .
- Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 150.
- CR April 1986, Ensign 16 [May 1986]: 4-5.
- Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 277.
- Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], 195 – 196.
- Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 122.
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 5.
It seems that this sin is as open as all the others now. More and more you see the casualness people have towards this act, disregarding anything to God and His laws. But God will not be mocked and this sin is serious, as it destroys the family unit, the core of society. One just needs to spend 5 mins in the scriptures to understand the consequences of breaking His laws.
I think your quoting of Presidents of the Church is a pretty weak argument. It doesn’t prove anything other than these men believed sexual sin is next to murder. But it doesn’t answer the question if sexual sin is REALLY next to murder. Could it not be that all the Presidents you quoted were raised to believe in the incorrect interpretation of these verses? If yes, then we can hardly rely on their statements as trumping the verses in the Book of Mormon. A quote from Joseph Smith would hold a bit more weight as he was the one who translated these verses and probably had more insight than anyone else. Is there a quote from him about this?
This subject is not cut and dried and simple. Please don’t take the following statements found on this wiki (http://www.josephsmithacademy.org/wiki/adultery/) out of context or assume we are saying more than we are saying. We are using these statements to show that adultery, when individuals have made covenants, is extremely serious.
I agree (and I believe the prophets through the ages would) that the Prophet Joseph Smith knew more about this subject than any man, save the Lord only and he had strong words to say about it. You can find this quote on wiki that was linked but I think it merits a place here.
“I was present with several of the Twelve, and gave an address tending to do away with every evil, and exhorting them to practice virtue and holiness before the Lord; told them that the Church had not received any permission from me to commit fornication, adultery, or any corrupt action; but my every word and action has been to the contrary. If a man commit adultery, he cannot receive the celestial kingdom of God. Even if he is saved in any kingdom, it cannot be the celestial kingdom.
…I condemned such actions in toto, and warned the people present against committing such evils; for it will surely bring a curse upon any person who commits such deeds.” (HC 6:81)
I understand this doesn’t directly speak of the verse we are referring, but as far as I know Joseph Smith never wrote a commentary on the Book of Mormon as it is written “in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” (2 Nephi 32:7). That plainness can often be sharp. (2 Nephi 1:26) The Lord is not trifling with us. Where will we draw the line? We cannot afford to overlook the gravity of such sins or we will promote the loose wantonness and irresponsibility the world has adopted. Sexual sin does not merely damage testimonies though it indeed does that. The harm it causes certainly does not end there. It poisons conscience, dulls the spirit and will reap awful and tangible consequences. To the mind, body and soul. Solomon (said to be the wisest man in the bible) Samson (said to be the strongest man in the bible) and David (said to be a “man after God’s own heart”) each fell to the same fate because they let their guard down to the seriousness of this transgression. Life is not a game. The Lord does not treat lightly the taking or creation of life and neither should we. No matter how enticing and ameliorating a modern supposition may be, a correct interpretation of Alma 39 is the only way to not only prevent but actually assist those who have slipped.
If you can’t quote the Presidents of the Church as your argument who can you quote? These quotations are clearly from times when these prophets were acting as such. Either you accept that they speak for the Lord and their word is scripture or you reject them as false.
Yes. Read Joseph Smith’s words in the King Follett Discourse in which he clearly states that there is no sin (other than that of denying the Holy Ghost) which is irreversible in the Lord’s eyes in this world or the world to come. I think it’s very dangerous to teach this subject matter without the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
In case some people think it right to condemn sexual sinners to hell, this was published by BYU
Joseph Smith declared: “If a man commit adultery, he cannot receive the celestial kingdom of God. Even if he is saved in any kingdom, it cannot be the celestial kingdom” (HC 6:81). This troublesome statement has caused some to feel a hopelessness because of their transgressions. However, after making a thorough review of scriptures on repentance revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Spencer W. Kimball observed: “Going back to the Prophet’s original statement, had he inserted in it the three words I believe it implies ‘and remains unrepentant,’ this statement would fit perfectly in the program as given in the numerous scriptures, many of which came through the Prophet himself (Miracle of Forgiveness 350).
It is also important to note that President Spencer W. Kimball was not justifying the serious danger of such actions.
“In offering these suggestions let it be understood that I have no intent to minimize the seriousness of the sexual sins or other transgressions but merely to hold out hope to the transgressor, so that men and women of sin may strive with all their power to overcome their errors, wash themselves “in the blood of the Lamb” and be purged and purified, and thus be able to return to their Maker. Those involved must not relax because of the possibility of forgiveness. Let me repeat that it is a serious and solemn matter when people permit themselves to get into sexual sins, of which adultery is only one of the more serious ones.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness p. 351)
Dismissing the severity of transgression is extremely perilous. The prophets had good reasons to warn us about the repercussions and it’s not to condemn anyone to hell but to keep them from the regret that will come when it’s treated as “no big deal”. I would submit, it is only when we face up to our sins and take responsibility and repair the damage that we prove to be truly penitent. As an addendum, the scriptures, particularly Alma 39, is the playbook for anyone caught in this snare. First recognize the seriousness of the crime and not seek to dismiss or excuse it (Alma 39:3-6). Such reflection will be painful, but will turn to your good. (Alma 39:7) Next it is imperative to “repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things.” (Alma 39:9) Then seek the counsel with those who can help you (Alma 39:10)
Finally Alma instructed his wayward son, “That ye turn to the Lord with all your mind, might, and strength; that ye lead away the hearts of no more to do wickedly; but rather return unto them, and acknowledge your faults and that wrong which ye have done.” (Alma 39:13). They were written for our day and the answers to all the complexities and problems in our world are within.
An easy answer for more wicked times. If you don’t like what Joseph taught then don’t you dare study what John Taylor taught about members who have been to the temple and then commit adultery.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we as a people would accept God’s Torah or instructions /commandments as the light and truth that it is, and accept the interpretations of Prophets as the same as God’s word, and further, quit trying to wrest (twist like a wick in a lamp, which twisting is where the word wickedness comes from) God’s word and mingle the mocking ways of Babylon or the world to create false flattering interpretations probably for the purpose of gratifying their own sins and gaining praise of other wicked men or maybe for money? That was a long sentence. We should all immediately recognize the fruits of all sexual sin including but not limited to ALL of it! Immodesty, pornography, homosexuality, adultery, etc. etc. can and do destroy the soul, family, body, everything. We treat lightly the teachings of our Father and we need to repent! There should be no argument with this, but instead we should be grateful that we have these teachings.
Do we not believe any more in what the scriptures clearly say, or the prophets teach? “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by my own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38)
Thank you for clearing that up Margaret. I am glad that was brought up simply because dismissing the Prophets as “mistaken” or “misquoted” is clearly a process of justification. Especially the early Prophets, being much closer to Josephs time. If we point out supposed “misquotes” of the Prophets on this subject, why would I not excuse myself by saying the same with any other subject?
Also, would a subject serious as this not be continually thought of, studied and prayed about by these leaders?
I am amused, more than anything, by those who take umbridge with your true, sober and beautiful post, Brother Stoddard. It is a mild, sweet lullaby compared to my own. I can’t help but think, with these apparent dissenters, of the line, “Methinks thou protests too strongly…” https://oilstories.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/he-shall-be-destroyed/
How could quoting several prophets of God, whom one must guess that you’ve sustained each year, is a weak argument?
How could Joseph Smith’s quote be troubling?
Either you believe them to be called of God or you don’t.
In my experience, of 63 years, the only ones who are bothered or offended by the truth are the guilty.
I don’t believe that this is a debatable issue. If one prophet says something and is then contradicted by his successors then we know that he was not speaking by the Spirit, if all agree and you still don’t accept/believe: who most likely is wrong?
I thought that those sins were on par with one another simply because it is impossible to make restitution for either of those acts. Repentance requires making restitution. Murderers cannot give back the life, mortal experiences and missed opportunities of their victims, let alone the progeny they would have had. Those who commit sexual sin cannot restore their own or others’ chastity, or erase the memories of that experience.
When used properly the sexual act is a life giving creative power. Akin to Godhood. It is also an expression of love between husband and wife.
When used improperly the sexual act prostitutes the powers of life and lust is involved not love. Hence its seriousness. Just as murder takes life, sexual sin, since it involves the powers of life, is next to murder in seriousness.
Chastity and virtue on the other hand protects this creative and life giving power. The Holy Ghost will be your companion and, Parley P. Pratt taught us, the powers of the Spirit are intelligence and life, by living a chaste life and using the power properly will invigorate “the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.”
Chastity is a sacred gift from God, and is intended to be lived on a daily basis. He wants us to clean and pure all the time, developing charcter.
Sexual sin is a very broad rubric. If we are going to understand sexual sin we need to tighten our definitions.
While not found in the Scriptures I prefer to define Adultery as a man and a woman, whom he isn’t married to, engaging in sexual intercourse without the knowledge or permission of her husband. Fornication I define as a man engaging in sexual intercourse with a single woman without the knowledge or permission of her father. I derived these definitions from a careful reading of the Old Testament which shows that Adultery is much different than Fornication. Adultery was so serious that those guilty were subject to stoning which supports so the quotes by our Church leaders. Fornication on the other hand was treated in a much different way. Those men who were guilty of fornication were faced with a choice. They could either marry the girl or pay a dowry the father of the girl.
You can see this difference in section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants as well.
Today this difference plays out in how the Church handles either sin. In the case of Adultery the usual punishment is excommunication. In the case of Fornication if the girl is pregnant then a civil marriage is encouraged. If she isn’t pregnant and the couple wants to marry in the Temple then there is a one year waiting period.
I guess I’m late to the discussion, but feel strongly compelled to weigh in. What I have to say will not be popular judging from the bulk of responses written here.
We do not hold to the doctrine of infallibility in our church. While we respect the general authorities when they speak by the spirit, opinions and human interpretations of doctrine do creep in.
No one is immune from the influences of the adversary. In fact, we should expect the efforts would be channeled at authoritative figures. It was instructional to hear President Nelson in general conference describe how Satan had managed to subtly remove the name of Jesus from our church. This occurred at the highest levels of leadership among multiple leaders! It reminds me of when the announcement was made about blacks and the priesthood. Bruce R. McConkie declared at that time that any statements made by the brethren prior to the announcement were invalid, and that many earlier statements made by himself and others WERE NOT INSPIRED.
Jesus warned the 12 apostles in the Old and the New world that Satan would try to deceive them: “…ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him.” (3 Nephi 18:15)
I don’t believe Satan would attempt a frontal assault on a general authority, but he can work in very subtle ways to twist things. The Joseph Smith translation of Luke 22:31 illuminates the problem. In the original verse, Jesus says: “…Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired you that he might sift you as wheat.” Joseph Smith corrected it to say:
“…Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired you, that he may sift the children of the kingdom as wheat.” (Luke 22:31 JST) It shows that the deception of Peter would not have the greatest effect on him personally but would be used by Satan TO SIFT THROUGH HIS FOLLOWERS.
Herein lies the crux of the problem. I don’t believe any of the general authorities are blatantly corrupt, but they must be very careful what they say and how they interpret doctrine.
Such is the case with Alma chapter 39. I believe the interpretation by Michael R. Ash is spot on.
We all understand the seriousness of moral sin, and abortion is murder, but to correlate the seriousness of all moral sin to murder just doesn’t feel right. This idea has permeated our culture, being quoted over and over, and especially in the strength of youth pamphlet, which is given to every youth in the church. It is understood that it might be helpful to put the fear of God into our youth to discourage experimentation, but there are some who are so riddled with guilt that they cannot even function intimately once they do get married! This has been recently emphasized by Elizabeth Smart, who states that the church needs to change the way it teaches morality. The culture has taken something inherently beautiful and made it ugly. And no surprise, the heinous nature of moral sin has been perpetuated over the pulpit.
Let’s take a closer look at Alma chapter 39. Alma is chastising his son Coriantan for boasting in his own strength (Vs2), forsaking his ministry and going after a harlot (Vs3). In Vs. 4 He says that the harlot had stolen many hearts, but that was no excuse for him as he should have tended to his ministry. In Vs. 5, Alma says: “Know ye not that these things are an abomination in the sight of the lord; yea most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of blood or denying the Holy Ghost?”
Like Ash states, “these things” Alma is referring to includes to a greater degree, Coriantan’s pride and forsaking his ministry for lust- perhaps approaching a denial of the Holy Ghost. There is every indication that Corianton was single, and thus not under covenant to a wife, and we are not told the level of his testimony in the account. One might assume his testimony was substantial, thus explaining Alma’s sharp rebuke. If he had his calling made sure, it would go a long way in explaining these verses. But there is a greater reason why Corianton could be considered a murderer. His ministry was to prepare the children of those present for the coming of Christ in the flesh. (Alma 39:16) This was around 73 B.C, which meant that some of the second generation would be present when Jesus would appear to the Nephites. Remember, just before the appearance of Christ, 16 cities were destroyed because of wickedness. Alma was speaking prophetically because Coriantan’s bad example could destroy the people spiritually and ultimately bring about their physical destruction. In fact, Alma himself used this very terminology when he described to Helaman his own condition before being converted: “…I had murdered many of his children, OR RATHER LED THEM AWAY UNTO DESTRUCTION…” (Alma 36:14)
The problem arises when an entire dogma is based on one verse of scripture. Perhaps the greatest evidence that Alma 39 has been badly interpreted comes from the example of the Savior himself.
We all know the account of the woman taken in adultery- in the very act. The punishment by Mosaic law, the law Jesus himself gave, was death by stoning. He did not condemn her- he taught a higher way. But perhaps a greater example is the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
Jesus had intentionally separated himself from the disciples in order to meet alone with the woman there and ask water from her. She asked why he, being a Jew, was interacting with a Samaritan. Jesus replied that if she knew who she was talking to, she would ask of him and he would give her “living water.” The Greek verb “Zao,” translated in the scripture here as “living water,” has the possible definitions of: “to pass life,” “to live,” or “having vital power in itself;” obvious references to the powers of procreation. The woman then replies that Jesus has nothing to draw water and asks if he is greater than Jacob himself. Jesus makes the classic statement: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14) The Greek word used here for everlasting life also means “without end.” The woman then asks him to give her some of that water. He replies: “Go and call your husband to come hither.” Why would he say that? Because the principle of everlasting life or living water deals with Celestial marriage and eternal increase. Interestingly, this point, perhaps the most important of this entire encounter, was completely missed by Talmage in his classic book, Jesus the Christ, where he states that Jesus changes the subject when making this request of her. Quite to the contrary, Jesus was still on point! The Samaritan woman replied to Jesus that she had no husband, whereupon he answers: “Well said, for you have had 5 husbands (you have been sexually involved with 5 men), and the man you are involved with now is not your husband.” (Vs. 18) The woman then says, “I perceive that you are a prophet.” Jesus explains that she doesn’t know who she worships but the Jews do. She replies that when the Messiah comes he will tell them how to worship. Jesus replies that he is the Messiah. It’s significant to note this is the first time in his ministry that Jesus clearly reveals he is the Messiah-to a woman considered by most to be a sinful fornicator. But she believed him and went about declaring to everyone in town that he told her “all things that I ever did.” It is likely she had a reputation in that town, but many Samaritans became believers through her testimony such that Jesus tarried there two more days. FROM THE STRICT PERSPECTIVE OF OUR CHURCH CULTURE, THE SAMARITAN WOMAN WAS A MURDERESS 6 TIMES OVER!
To hammer the point home, the lineage of Jesus himself passed through two sexually explicit relationships:
The gospel of Matthew begins by delineating the generations leading to Jesus Christ (through his stepfather Joseph). It passes through two illegal unions. The first is Phares, begotten by Tamar who, posing as a harlot, was impregnated by Judah. The second is Solomon, son of David from his adulterous union with Bathsheba, the wife of Urias. And, of course, Urias was conveniently disposed of by a contracted murder. What is this telling us?
We need to be teaching the youth not about how bad sex is, but how good it is- such that it should be respected. More in line with what Parley P. Pratt taught:
“Some persons have supposed that our natural affections were the results of a fallen and corrupt nature, and that they are ‘carnal, sensual, and devilish,’ and therefore ought to be resisted, subdued, or overcome as so many evils which prevent our perfection, or progress in the spiritual life. In short, that they should be greatly subdued in this world, and in the world to come entirely done away…Such persons have mistaken the source and fountain of happiness altogether. They have not one correct idea of the nature of the enjoyments, or happiness of heaven, or earth; of this life or any other…. Our natural affections are planted in us by the Spirit of God, for a wise purpose; and they are the very main-springs of life and happiness-they are the cement of all virtuous and heavenly society-they are the essence of charity, or love; and therefore never fail, but endure forever…. There is not a more pure and holy principle in existence than the affection which glows in the bosom of a virtuous man for his companion.” (Autob. of P.P. p. 297-298)
More recently, Jeffrey Holland has made some interesting statements in his book, Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments:
“Sexual intimacy is not only a symbolic union between a man and a woman—the uniting of their very souls—but it is also symbolic of a union between mortals and deity, between otherwise ordinary and fallible humans uniting for a rare and special moment with God himself and all the powers by which he gives life in this wide universe of ours. . . .And I submit to you that you will never be more like God at any other time in this life than when you are expressing that particular power. Of all the titles he has chosen for himself, Father is the one he declares, and Creation is his watchword—especially human creation, creation in his image. . . . Human life—that is the greatest of God’s powers, the most mysterious and magnificent chemistry of it all—and you and I have been given it, but under the most serious and sacred of restrictions. You and I who can make neither mountain nor moonlight, not one raindrop nor a single rose—yet we have this greater gift in an absolutely unlimited way. And the only control placed on us is self-control—self-control born of respect for the divine sacramental power it is.”
This is an interesting statement made by a man who married his second wife at an age well beyond her ability to bear children!
Thank you for your comment. Also, to the woman in adultery, Christ did not condemn but invited her to go and sin no more.
I really struggle thinking that a young unmarried couple giving in to temptation and having sex outside of marriage is really worse than something like, say, beating a child or stealing the life savings of an elderly widow or…well, SO many other things!