- "And also it grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech concerning you, before your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God;"
- Whoredoms more serious than pride.
- "For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women."
- Sexual sins are second most serious kind next to murder.
- "And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of our people in Moriantum. For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue--"
Book of Mormon Usage
The word, "chastity," only appears twice in the Book of Mormon; Both times in the context of apparently coerced sexual activity.
The word, "chaste," appears once, appearing to be a synonym of tender and delicate.
The typical guilt-heavy idea of losing one's "chastity" does not seem to be present in the Book of Mormon's usage of the term. I'd be inclined to consider the idea of losing one's chastity, in the Book of Mormon, with the idea of being sexually scarred, or mistreated, possibly also relating to the semitic idea of dishonesty, which describes the idea of using deception to lay a trap. Hence, chastity might be lost when a woman is trapped for the purpose of sexual exploitation, which doesn't lay guilt on the woman, but the loss of chastity is still considered bad just as we consider rape bad today. There's significant speculation in this, as we only have 3 samples to work with in the text. Whatever the meaning might be, it's important to be aware that word usage in any translated text may not perfectly match one's cultural expectations.
Common Church Usage and Reasoning on Definitions
Within the Church we have the concept of the "law of chastity" which can be a very specific thing that doesn't seem to relate to sexual coercion at all, and even in its most vague explication, still doesn't have much to do with sexual coercion. Within the context of marriage, western sexual hangups often led to couples being condemned for their sexual behavior that some individuals found shocking.
Within marriage, the Church has clarified that bishops are not to be asking about specific sexual behaviors, and many understand that the only sexual behavior between married couples that is really condemned by the Church is spousal rape, which practically seems to align well with what the Book of Mormon has to say on the subject, even if the word, "chastity", itself, and the way we use it, does not align very well. Still, there is a lot of individual variation in what is considered acceptable.
Outside of marriage, the definition of the law of chastity gets a bit murky. Certainly behavior that is clearly identifiable as "sex" is forbidden, and inasmuch as the law of chastity, in part, could be seen as protecting the right of children to be born within a stable and supportive family, any activity which would lead to a child being conceived would be forbidden. Certainly, "outside of marriage" could include a married person seeking sexual pleasure from someone who is not their spouse, which draws the idea of "adultery" into the law of chastity. This begs the question "is adultery a simple subset of the law of chastity" and if so, does this imply anything about the law of chastity for people who are unmarried. For example, we would generally consider a married man engaged in passionate kissing to be "cheating", even if it does not meet the definition of adultery. A fairly explicit definition of adultery is given in D&C 132, but even this is a bit vague, using the term "be with". This is vague enough, indeed, that perhaps passionate kissing is considered adultery, though that is not how I would normally read it. However, it also seems clear that cheating him out of the marital agreement she entered into, to bear his children, is a major portion of what constitutes adultery. Hence, any passionate act tending towards sexual conduct sews doubt as to whether she is upholding her end of the deal, even is she does not conceive a child. The way adultery is reasoned and defined the other way around (ie. what is adulterous for a man) is actually not symmetrical, which makes sense if her obligation to bear children is the foundation for the definition of adultery. (But then, the definition holds even if she is post-menopausal, or has had her uterus removed. What foundation is there then? Perhaps this has more to do with establishing the eternal pattern which the section refers to.) Anyhow, what then can we take from this, if anything, regarding the even more vaguely defined law of chastity? Is passionate kissing between an engaged couple an abomination? Petting? Mutual masturbation? On the one hand, this seems to describe something of a slippery slope. On the other hand, it would seem that eliminating all expression of sexual tension would incline toward producing couples with mismatched libidos. (Perhaps, though, the push and pull between the strength of the vague taboo and the libido actually make it more probable that couples will have matched libidos, since couples with poorly matched libidos will find that the individual with the smaller sexual appetite is shocked by the behavior of the individual with the larger sexual appetite, whereas, in more libertine cultures, it is not unheard of for a partner to feign sexual interest in order to help secure a commitment.) However, even with matched libidos, research shows that a man's desire increases after commitment and a woman's desire decreases, so some amount of mismatch seems inevitable.
- Chaste - Webster's Dictionary 1828
- Chastity - Webster's Dictionary 1828
- Chaste - The American Heritage Dictionary
- Castus (Latin) - Witionary