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David O. McKay Diaries – “Chastity”

Below you will find diary entries on the topic of “Chastity.” You can view other subjects here.

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Thurs., 3 Apr., 1958:

“2:15 to 2:25 p.m. – Elder Harold B. Lee came to my office at my request, and I discussed with him the presentation at the General Priesthood meeting next Saturday evening of the moral standards campaign of the Church.  It was decided that Brother Mark E. Petersen would make this presentation.”

Sun., 3 Jan. 1960:

‘Sunday, January 3, 1960

Speech Delivered by President McKay to

      225,000 youths of the Church

Courtship and Marriage

By President David O. McKay

(Address delivered by President David O. McKay to the youth of the Church assembled in the Salt Lake Tabernacle and by closed-wire circuit to approximately 170 groups in 290 stakes of the Church, Jan. 3, 1960, 8 p.m.)

Courtship and Marriage

President Clark, President Moyle, President Joseph Fielding Smith, and other General Authorities of the Church and their wives, General Superintendency of the YMMIA, General Presidency of the YWMIA, and members of the Youth of the Church:

I greet you on this important occasion, and congratulate you upon your opportunity of having heard the excellent messages rendered by those who have participated on this program.

My responsibility comes under the heading ‘We Live Our Religion.’  I know of no activity in which we can demonstrate that fact more impressively than in the subject assigned to me as a topic for tonight: ‘Courtship and Marriage.’

While listening to the messages tonight from the young people, these lines came to me:

‘You ought to be true for the sake of the folks who think you are true.

‘You never should stoop to a deed that your folks think you would not do.

‘If you are false to yourself, be the blemish but small, you have injured your folks; you have been false to them all.’  (Edgar A. Guest)

Perhaps there are few, if any, subjects of more interest or of more importance than courtship and marriage.

Eternal Pronouncement

When in the processes of creation it was opportune for man to assume mortality, he heard the eternal pronouncement ‘Thou Mayest Choose For Thyself.’

Thus man, among all other created things, became a recipient of the divine gift of FREE AGENCY, and with it the accompanying RESPONSIBILITY.

As a principle ever to be kept in mind, to the tens of thousands assembled tonight I repeat to each one:

‘You are the person who has to decide 

Whether you’ll lead or will linger behind –

Whether you’ll try for the goal that’s afar

Or just be contented to stay where you are.’

Edgar A. Guest, Selections for Public Speaking, 

Scribner’s, 1930.)

In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord clearly sets forth the significance of marriage: ‘And again, verily I say unto you … marriage is ordained of God unto man.’  It is, therefore, not a ceremony to be entered into lightly, to be terminated at pleasure, or a union to be dissolved at the first difficulty that might arise.

To members of the Restored Church, marriage is a divine ordinance, and when directed by intelligent parenthood, the surest and safest means for the improvement of mankind.

‘To build a happy fireside clime

for weans and for wife,

That’s the true pathos and sublime

O’ human life.’  (Robert Burns)

When Jesus referred to marriage, He associated with it the lofty command:

‘What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.’

Universal Desire

With few exceptions, marriage is a universal desire.  Every young person at some time or another looks forward to the consummation of that event.  Professor Henry C. Link, psychologist, corroborates this as follows:

‘Within the past three years I have, in connection with certain nationwide studies among college students, asked the young women such questions as:

‘What career in life is most important to you?  Do you consider marriage and helping a husband in his career more important, less important, or equally as important than a career of your own?’

‘From 90 to 95 per cent of the college women have answered that a career as a wife and mother is their primary aim, and that helping a husband in his career is more important than a career of their own.  The growing belief among college women that the making of a home, the raising of a family and furthering the career of a husband are in themselves a career of major importance, indicates a wholesome return to fundamentals.’

I believe that condition prevails generally among our young people of the Church, notwithstanding prevailing economic changes that are threatening the permanence of the home, necessitating wives to work and mothers to leave their children with babysitters.

Let us never lose sight of the fundamental fact that home is the basis of civilization and that members of the Church have the obligation to build ideal homes and to rear exemplary families.  With this obligation in mind, I now name five conditions contributing to a successful marriage:

1.  An Unsullied Reputation

A successful marriage begins before you even approach the marriage altar.  It begins when you are accepting invitations in your teen-age years to attend social parties.  It begins with the manner in which you say goodnight to your companion.  Maintaining an unsullied reputation during courtship contributes to a solid foundation upon which to build a happy home.  This is illustrated by the experiences of two girls as follows:

Temptations, Problems

‘Being a teenager is quite confusing to me because there are so many temptations and problems which seem to come all at once.  One of these problems which has bothered me a great deal concerns dating.  I have heard so many different ideas and explanations on this subject that I am quite confused.

‘But I have gone out with boys for a good year and a half, and I have learned many things.  I have felt that I would like to save my affection until I meet the man that I am to marry.  However, several of my friends seriously disagree with me and feel that I am being an extremist.  They have made me very unhappy because of many things they have said, and I have begun to wonder if some of my ideas might be wrong.

‘Nearly all of us agree that it is wrong to sit and kiss and spoon for long periods of time.  I am completely against that, but they tell me that after a boy has taken me out several times and shown me a good time, I should show my appreciation by a good-night kiss.  I have never felt this to be true.  Several boys that I have dated have been quite offended, and feeling that I did not like them, have quit asking me out.  When I do finally meet the man I should marry, I shall want to give him all my love and affection, and I believe that the kiss will mean more if it has not been thrown to all the other boys too.’

Incident Number Two

Incident Number Two is a story of a girl who did not believe in being true to her future husband.  She thought she would win the favor of young men by yielding to their advances:

‘She is a pretty girl, and she dresses well.  She rarely lacks for a date in the middle of the week.  She is never free on weekends.  But her dates come and go with the regularity of the ocean tides, and for the most part they are just as impersonal.  Fellows date Sally for the single reason that she is well known as an easy mark.

‘To be seen with her several times bolsters a man’s reputation as a Casanova who knows his way around.  But few fellows date her any longer than it takes to find congenial replacements all their own.  The new girl may not be so attractive or stylish or all the things that Sally ironically owns up to, but her date will feel that she is his alone, not inclined to neck with Tom tomorrow as she did with Frank the day before.

‘A good reputation may sound stuffy, but it is something to cherish.  The decision is up to you.  The average fellow never takes advantage of a girl he really likes.’

II.  Group Companionship and Sociability

      Important Factors in Teen-age Years.

A second important factor is choosing a congenial companion.

Choosing a Mate

The problem of choosing a proper, congenial mate is very vital.  During the period of courtship young people should mingle with one another and become acquainted with one another’s dispositions.  The young girl inclined to music who learned to play an instrument, or who sings, is more likely to find a good mate than one who sits at home refusing to go out in society.

The boy who participates in athletics is more likely to find a congenial mate than one who sits by the television or radio.  In other words, associations are conducive to happy marriages because young folks become acquainted with one another and have more opportunity for choice.

Here, young people, let me sound a note of warning against ‘going steady’ too young.  It is true that a young girl finds in it a sense of present security so far as dates to public functions and social parties are concerned, and it may be the determining of a final union, but ‘going steady’ too early in life is fraught with handicaps with which hopeful, fiery youth should not be subjected.

In the first place, young people are very susceptible – quick to ‘fall in love,’ and being immature in jugment, may not distinguish between fascination or passion and true admiration or genuine love.

Limits of Going Steady

In the second place, ‘going steady’ limits, if not excludes, girls and boys from having the opportunity of becoming acquainted with one another.  For example, dancing with the same partner during an entire evening proscribes the social spirit of the ballroom.

But the worst of early choosing to ‘go steady’ is that it gives to the young man a sense of familiarity or ownership, and to the young girl, a feeling of belonging, a rapturous state to be consummated rightly only by marriage vows.  But when experienced by unbridled, daring youth, becomes like fruit plucked before it is ripe, something unsavory, uncontributive to connubial joy.

Some day you may discover that your choice of your ‘steady’ was premature.

Ever be mindful that following childhood, youth has other obligations besides choosing a mate or having a ‘good time.’  He must determine first of all what kind of character he will develop.  He must decide what his trade or profession will be, and if and when he chooses a wife, how he will support her and the children.

‘Going steady’ may so enchant the couple that these other associated obligations may be given too little consideration.

III. Sacredness of a Promise

The third ideal I name as contributive to the happy marriage begins when you kneel at the altar, each convenanting to be true to the other.  A man who gives his word, if he be honorable, is bound more than when he signs a contract, because his word is his bond, and so is that contract of marriage, and particularly when the couple kneels in the House of the Lord, signifying that each is worthy of the other.

The young girl knows that he to whom she gives herself is just as worthy of fatherhood as she of motherhood, and she is justified in thinking so.  Each is free from any memory of the boy who ‘had his fling.’  It is a glorious feeling to know that each is only for the other.

Share in Love

Marriage offers an opportunity to share in the love and care of children, the paramount purpose of marriage.  ‘Without children – or without believing that children are important – marriage is incomplete and unfulfilled.’

True, children take time, give trouble, and require more patience than we sometimes have.  They interfere with freedom, good times, and luxury.  But the children are the real purpose behind marriage.  If  we do not put the proper value on parenthood, we are not emotionally or socially ready for marriage.

Young people, marriage is a relationship that cannot survive selfishness, impatience, domineering, inequality, and lack of respect.  Marriage is a relationship that thrives on acceptance, equality, sharing, giving, helping, doing one’s part, learning and laughing together.

Violation of the marriage vows proves the violator to be one who cannot be trusted, and ‘to be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.’

Always keep in mind the fact that the covenant you make is a fundamental factor to your happiness in marriage.

Factors in Marriage

So, thus far we have as contributing factors in marriage, (1) A Good Reputation, (2) A Congenial mate, (3) Honor at the Marriage Altar.

IV.  Self-Control

A fourth factor is self-control in the home.  During courtship, keep your eyes wide open, but after marriage, keep them half shut.  What I mean by this may be illustrated by the remark of a young woman who said to her husband, ‘I know my cooking isn’t good.  I hate it as much as you do; but do you find me sitting around griping about it?’  This ‘griping’ after marriage is what makes for unhappiness.  A wise mate learns to control the tongue.

‘Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds –

You can’t do that when you are flying words.

Thoughts unexpressed sometimes fall back dead,

But God himself can’t kill them once they are said.’  (Will Carlton)

Do not speak the complaining word; just walk outdoors.  I once heard of a couple who never had a quarrel, for they decided that whenever one lost his or her temper he or she would go out and take a walk.  He spent most of his time walking.


Under this heading of self-control, indulgence in tobacco, failure to master appetites for alcoholic stimulants, have been a source of unhappiness in otherwise happy homes, and changed into tragedy many an otherwise useful life.  In courtship and marriage neither taste tobacco nor tipple in strong drink.

V. Courtesy

A fifth contributing factor I name is courtesy.  During courtship each is pleased to anticipate the wishes of the other, and, within the bounds of propriety, to take joy in granting those wishes.  Too many couples look upon the covenant at the marriage altar as the end of courtship.

It should be the beginning of an eternal courtship, and that means the same consideration in the home for the wife that was given to her as a sweetheart in courtship; the same consideration for the husband, even though he sits behind the paper in the morning and doesn’t say a word.  Life become hum-drum, but that ‘hum-drum’ is broken if we remember that ‘if you please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘pardon me,’ are just as approrpiate and as much appreciated after marriage as before.

In the home blessed with children, children seeing father courteous to mother, and mother to father, partake themselves of that attribute, just as they breathe the air of the home, and thus become refined and cultured children, for the essence of true culture is consideration for others.

Do not forget, when difficulties arise, when debts begin to pile up and taxes have to be paid, when babies require coddling and perhaps feeding at night – that courtesy after marriage is a contributing factor toward harmony and peace in the home.

Courtesy, Punctuality

Nothing is more becoming in a great man than courtesy and forbearance.  Be punctual with your wife and with your children.  If duties detain you, do not hesitate to apologize and explain.  Punctuality and consideration after marriage are important factors of a congenial home.


I conclude by giving you a glimpse of the significance of an ideal marriage ceremony.  The bridegroom kneeling at the altar has in his heart the dearest possession that a husband can cherish – the assurance that she who places her hand in his in confidence is as pure as a sunbeam, as spotless as the newly fallen snow.  He has the assurance that in her purity and sweetness she typifies divine motherhood.  Now, young man, you tell me, will you, whether that assurance, that complete faith and confidence, is not worth everything else in the world.

And equally sublime is the assurance the young girl has that the man whom she loves, to whom she gives herself in marriage, comes to her with that same purity and strength of character which she brings to him.  Such a union will indeed be a marriage ordained of God for the glory of his creation.

This is your heritage, Youth, as you contemplate an eternal partnership, and I pray that you may realize it, and find the true joy and happiness of such a cherished ideal, in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.”

Mon., 4 Jan. 1960:

“7:45 a.m.

Elder Mark E. Petersen came in and reported regarding the great youth conference of the Church which was held last evening.  Said that it had been a great success – it is believed that 225,000 youths participated and listened to the program.  Brother Peterson asked for permission to have the talk I gave on Courtship and Marriage published in pamphlet form.  This was done later (See January 3 for a copy), and distributed by the block teachers to every home in the Church.

Fri., 10 June 1960:

“8:30 a.m.

The First Presidency’s meeting was held.  One matter of importance was the reading of a letter of instructions prepared by the First Presidency for the General Authorities of the Church, setting forth the action of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve on the subject of interviewing prospective missionaries.  The letter was approved as prepared.  A letter was also read and approved (a copy of which is being sent to Stake Presidents and Bishoprics) setting forth new qualifications and standards for young men and women being selected to serve as missionaries for the Church.  (see copies following)

I reviewed instructions relating to the interviewing of prospective missionaries and explained that young men who are found morally unclean will not be called on missions.  I stated that Bishops have the responsibility of interviewing boys before they are ordained deacons, teachers, and priests, and that these interviews give opportunity to create an atmosphere in which the boys will live and grow up to manhood.  It is hoped that they can be influenced to keep their lives clean and to accept the responsibility of protecting the moral cleanliness of themselves and of the girls of the Church.

Aaronic Priesthood

At our meeting with the Presiding Bishopric this morning I told them that yesterday at the meeting of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve, a decision was made pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood as follows:  That a boy should be a deacon for three years, commencing at age 12 until his 15th birthday; that he is to be a teacher during the years 15 and 16; and that he is to be a priest from 17 until his 20th birthday, unless these boys are found worthy to be ordained Elders prior to the age of 20, for such reasons as being married in the temple or to serve a mission for the Church.  These ordinations can take place any time after their 19th birthday if they are otherwise qualified and worthy.  I said the young men are under the direction of the Bishopric and when the Bishop recommends a young man, he should know him well.”

Friday, June 10, 1960


Dear Brethren:

It is very important that bishops and stake presidents, as well as General Authorities follow the same basic principles in passing upon the moral worthiness of a young man or woman to receive a call from the First Presidency to go on a full term mission away from home.

Prospective missionaries must be asked specifically if they are virtuous, morally clean, and free from any form of moral or sex transgression, or other impure practice, law breaking, or other irregularities.

Local and General Authorities must satisfy themselves thoroughly before recommending men or women for mission calls, that they are morally clean, that is to say, that they have not been guilty at any time of fornication or comparable offenses.  It they are not thus clean, they must not be recommended for full time missions.

Strict adherence to this rule is imperative.  There must be no departure from the stipulations made herein, and no discrimination nor partiality shown.

Conferences between General Authorities, stake presidents and bishops are in order when deemed necessary in instances where there is serious question about an individual under consideration.  Such collaboration should be had before recommending or rejecting the applicant.

In all cases the seriousness of transgression in the mission field, with its inevitable punishment of excommunication, should be brought to the attention of all candidates interviewed.

Neither the bishop, nor stake president, the missionary nor his family, should announce the consideration of a mission until after the call from the First Presidency has actually been received.  This will save embarrassment to the missionary, his family, and all concerned.

Any individuals who do not qualify for full term missions in the above respect, but who have demonstrated through a reasonable period of time their total repentance and who are otherwise worthy, may be called into stake missionary service.

There is, of course, generally speaking, less temptation within the stake, and in addition there is the benefit of home environment which will further strengthen the individual.  This is a means of giving those who desire to do missionary work, but who cannot be called on full time missions, an opportunity to serve.

Any bishop or stake president who feels that a given case justifies special consideration because of his belief that true repentance has been shown over an adequate period of time, may confer with a member of the Council of the Twelve who, alone, have the sole right to consider and determine any deviation from or exception to this rule.

Sincerely your brethren,

David O. McKay

J. Reuben Clark, Jr.

Henry D. Moyle

The First Presidency

    Friday, June 10, 1960

June 13, 1960  

President Joseph Fielding Smith


Dear President Smith:

We suggest that the following statement of a recent action taken by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve be given to each of the General Authorities for use in instructing the bishops and stake presidents at all quarterly conferences they attend during the balance of the year.  We request that the General Authority read this letter verbatim to the stake presidency and bishops.

Instructions to General Authorities

It is very important that General Authorities as well as stake presidents and bishops, follow the same basic principle in passing upon the moral worthiness of a young man or woman to receive a call from the First Presidency to go on a full term mission away from home.  There must be no departure from stipulations made herein, and no discrimination nor partiality shown.

Our records clearly demonstrate that generally missionaries who are guilty of sex transgressions in the mission field were guilty of such transgressions before being interviewed for their calls.

Missionaries who enter upon their labors with a clean record througout their lives in this respect have the power to resist whatever temptation confronts them while they are away from home in the fulfillment of their duties as representatives of our Heavenly Father in preaching His gospel and officiating in the ordinances thereof.  Missionaries with clean hands and pure hearts advance the work of the Lord in the mission fields.  When morally unclean, their presence abroad among our missionaries and saints generally retards the work and often leads to real tragedies.

Before recommending men or women for mission calls, local and General Authorities must satisfy themselves thoroughly that they are morally clean, that is to say, that they have not been guilty at any time of fornication or comparable offenses.  If they are not thus clean, they must not be recommended for a mission.  Strict adherence to this rule is imperative.

As soon as the people realize the seriousness of violating the law of chastity, some may try to conceal and not disclose their past transgressions.  Interviews should be conducted with this possibility in mind.  In those cases where there are any doubts, efforts should be redoubled to arrive at the whole truth.

Conferences between General Authorities, stake presidents and bishops are in order when deemed necessary.  By comparing notes, it is probable the truth can be found before action is taken either in recommending or rejecting any applicant.  In all cases, the seriousness of transgression in the mission field, with its inevitable punishment of excommuncation, should be brought to the attention of those interviewed. 

Neither the bishop nor stake president, the missionary nor his family should announce the consideration of a mission until after the call from the First Presidency has actually been received.  This may save embarrassment to the missionary, his family and all concerned.

Such individuals who do not qualify for a full time mission in the above respect, but who have demonstrated through a reasonable period of time their total repentance, and who are otherwise worthy, may be called into stake missionary service.

There is, of course, generally speaking, less temptation within the stake, and in addition there is the benefit of home environment which will further strengthen the individual.  This is a means of giving such individuals who desire to do missionary work an opportunity to serve.

Any bishop or stake president who desires to present any case for special consideration because of his belief that true repentance has been shown over an adequate period of time, may confer with a member of the Council of the Twelve, who alone have the sole right to consider and determine any deviation from or exception to the above rule.

Faithfully your brethren,

David O. McKay

J. Reuben Clark, Jr.

Henry D. Moyle

The First Presidency”

Fri., 3 May 1963:

“8:45 to 10:30 a.m.

Meetings of the First Presidency and Presiding Bishopric were held.

Among many other items, we considered:

3)  Prayer – Baleful Effect of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling, Attitude of Students about Pre-marital Sexual Relations

President Moyle commented upon the criticism of a University of Chicago student paper regarding the rules established by the University officials for the control of the school’s dormitories and restricting women students from visiting men’s dormitories.  The student paper said that what the University students do about premarital sexual relations is none of the School’s business.  The University was founded as a strict Baptist school by the Rockefeller Family.  The situation has created a great deal of criticism and the University seems to be helpless.

This was mentioned as indicating how far adverse conditions in the world have gone.

I mentioned the baleful effect which the Supreme Court ruling on prayer in the schools has had.

Tues., 11 Jan. 1966:

Immoral Trends, counteracting – Statement from First Presidency

There was read to us a letter from Eldin Ricks, Chairman of the Utah County Council for Better Movies and Literature, referring to the moral issue facing the City of Provo, and stating that the Provo City Commission are seeking to enact an ordinance in the interest of stemming the tide of immoral and obscene motion pictures and magazines, that a public hearing was held on this problem December 20, which was attended by two-hundred people, most of whom indicated that something must be done to correct the situation, that another public hearing is scheduled to be held January 31, at which it is expected that the theatre people and those opposed to such an ordinance will be among those who will express their views.  Brother Rickes requests that the First Presidency ask all Stake Presidents in the Provo area to communicate their interest to Mayor Dixon in favor of the drafting of an ordinance that might protect youth and others in the community, also that the First Presidency ask all Stake Presidents in Utah County to solicit the cooperation of the Bishops in their several wards to get people out to this public hearing for the purpose of protesting against such pictures, literature, etc.

In discussing this matter, we agreed that we should make a statement to the entire Church, setting forth our attitude regarding these moral issues, appealing to all of our leaders to use their influence to counteract this and the dissemination of immoral and obscene materials that is becoming such a menace to the observance of moral principles.

Such a statement will be made and submitted for approval.

Sat., 19 Feb. 1966:

“Spent the day at home.

First Presidency Issues Statement on Pornography

Statement issued over the signatures of the five members of the First Presidency calling upon members of the Church and all other right-thinking people to help stamp out pornography.  We proclaim to all people everywhere that even homes are being debased by purveyors of salacious material.  (See newspaper clippings for full statement.)

A number of people have written letters commending the Church for its stand on this pernicious evil which is spreading throughout the land.  (See copies of some of letters received following.)  (See also following copy of statement on pornography signed by religious leaders in America, which President McKay also signed.)”

Wed., 18 May 1966:

“10:00 a.m.

Went over to the Church Administration Building with Sister McKay and our daughter Emma Rae and viewed a series of films on pornography.  Several of the General Authorities were present.  I was shocked and disgusted that there is so much literature and magazines allowed on the market, and that men are making millions of dollars in selling such trash and filth to the public.”