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Encylopedia of Mormonism (Bryce J. Christensen)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie

by Bryce J. Christensen

Adultery constitutes a grievous violation of the law of chastity. For Latter-day Saints it is defined as sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her legal and lawful spouse, while fornication involves two unmarried parties. Both transgressions fall under condemnation in scripture and in the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Lord forbids adultery in the ten commandments and elsewhere in the Law of Moses (see, e.g., Ex. 20:14; Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22). Both in Israel and in the Western Hemisphere, Christ commanded his followers not to commit adultery in thought or deed (Matt. 5:27-28; 3 Ne. 12:27-28). In this dispensation, the Lord has again prohibited adultery, and "anything like unto it" (D&C 59:6), while reproving even adulterous thoughts as an offense against the Spirit (D&C 42:23-26). In an official pronouncement in 1942, the First Presidency of the Church decried sexual sin—including adultery, fornication, and prostitution—as an offense "in its enormity, next to murder" (IE 45 [Nov. 1942]:758; MFP 6:176).

Because adultery or fornication breaks baptismal covenants and temple vows and may involve other members of the Church, penitent offenders are to confess the sin to their bishop or other Church authority, who may convene a disciplinary council. (See Disciplinary Procedures). After prayerful deliberation, the council may excommunicate or disfellowship an adulterer, or implement some type of probation to help the offender repent. The excommunication of an adulterous priesthood leader is almost certain. A disciplinary council usually requires the adulterer to seek forgiveness from the betrayed spouse and from anyone drawn into the sin. By demonstrating an abhorrence for past sin and a commitment to righteousness, the repentant adulterer may, after an adequate period of probation, become fully reconciled to Christ, rebaptized, and reinstated in the Church and find forgiveness from God (D&C 58:47-48).


Kimball, Spencer W. "The Sin Next to Murder." In The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 61-75. Salt Lake City, 1969.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Adultery

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

by Elder Bruce R. McConkie

1. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." (Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18; D. & C. 42:24.) Sex immorality stands next to murder in the category of personal crimes; it is "most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost." (Alma 39:5.) Anciently the penalty therefor was death; "the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:21-29.)

In the initial day of judgment, at the Second Coming of our Lord, Christ "will be a swift witness . . . against the adulterers," and they shall be burned as stubble. (Mal. 3:5; 4:1.) Adulterers shall be cast down to hell to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire; and their eventual destiny -- after suffering the torments of the damned until the second resurrection -- shall be that of the telestial kingdom. (D. & C. 76:103-106.) They shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11.) Adultery opens the flood gates of wickedness in general. Physical disease, divorce, illegitimacy, violence, broken homes, and a host of evils always attend adulterous acts. There never was an adulterer, for instance, who was not also a liar; the two always go together. Adulterers are sign-seekers (Matt. 12:39; 16:4); their spirits are diseased so as to hinder them in recognizing and accepting the gospel truths and thus becoming heirs of salvation.

Adulterous acts are born spiritually before they are committed temporally; they proceed out of the heart. (Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21.) As a man "thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Prov. 23:7.) Therefore, "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matt. 5:27-28; 3 Ne. 12:17-28.) "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 and shall fear." (D. & C. 63:16.)

When the day comes that men live again -- as they did in the golden era of Nephite history -- the perfect law of marriage, then "whoso shall marry her who is divorced" shall be guilty of adultery. (3 Ne. 12:31-32; Matt. 5:31-32.) "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery." (Luke 16:18; Matt. 19:9.)

Is it possible to repent of adultery and gain forgiveness of sins so as to be saved in the celestial kingdom of God? Yes in most cases; No in some. Forgiveness with resultant celestial salvation depends upon the light and knowledge of the one guilty of the grossly wicked adulterous relationship. Worldly people who repent with all their hearts, accept baptism, and then conform to the Lord's law shall be saved even though guilty of adultery before accepting the truth. (1 Cor. 6:9-11; 3 Ne. 30.)

Speaking to members of the Church in 1831 -- prior to the restoration of the temple covenants and ceremonies -- the Lord said: "Thou shalt not commit adultery; and he that committeth adultery, and repenteth not, shall be cast out. But he that has committed adultery and repents with all his heart, and forsaketh it, and doeth it no more, thou shalt forgive; But if he doeth it again, he shall not be forgiven, but shall be cast out." (D. & C. 42:24-26.)

After a person has advanced in righteousness, light, and truth to the point that the fulness of the ordinances of the house of the Lord have been received so that he has been sealed up unto eternal life, and his calling and election has been made sure, then as expressed in the Prophet's language, the law is: "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." (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 81; Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, pp. 92-94.)

2. In a spiritual sense, to emphasize how serious it is, the damning sin of idolatry is called adultery. When the Lord's people forsake him and worship false gods, their infidelity to Jehovah is described as whoredoms and adultery. (Jer. 3: 8-9; Hos. 1:2; 3:1.) By forsaking the Lord, his people are unfaithful to their covenant vows, vows made to him who symbolically is their Husband.

Mormon Doctrine, p. 24
Copyright by Bookcraft

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