"Chastity and virtue are now, always have been and always will be 'most dear and precious above all things,'" said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve during the Saturday afternoon session of general conference.
Physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth and an intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in the premortal existence, he said.
"Thus, our relationships with other people, our capacity to recognize and act in accordance with truth, and our ability to obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are amplified through our physical bodies. ... Simply stated, there are lessons we must learn and experiences we must have, as the scriptures describe, 'according to the flesh.'"
The unique combination of spiritual, physical mental and emotional capacities of both males and females was needed to enact the plan of happiness, he said. Men and women are intended to learn from, strengthen, bless and complete each other. Also included in that plan of happiness is the power of procreation.
"The means by which mortal life is created is divinely appointed. … Thus, marriage between a man and a woman is the authorized channel through which premortal spirits enter mortality," he said. "Complete sexual abstinence before marriage and total fidelity within marriage protect the sanctity of this sacred channel."
Because the power of procreation is spiritually significant, specific guidelines for the proper use of the ability to create life are vital elements in the Father's plan.
"How we feel about and use that supernal power will determine in large measure our happiness in mortality and our destiny in eternity," he said.
The Church has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality, Elder Bednar explained. "Intimate relations are proper only between a man and a woman in the marriage relationship prescribed in God's plan. Such relations are not merely a curiosity to be explored, an appetite to be satisfied, or a type of recreation or entertainment to be pursued selfishly. They are not a conquest to be achieved or simply an act to be performed. Rather, they are in mortality one of the ultimate expressions of our divine nature and potential and a way of strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife. We are agents are blessed with moral agency and are defined by our divine heritage as children of God — and not by sexual behaviors, contemporary attitudes or secular philosophies."
Further, he said the precise nature of the test of mortality can be summarized in the following question: "Will I respond to the inclinations of the natural man, or will I yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and put off the natural man and become a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord?" That, he declared, is the test.
Every appetite, desire, propensity and impulse of the natural man can be overcome by and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, he said. It is also through the Atonement that individuals are able to be forgiven from misuse of their bodies. It is the Savior, the "Great Physician," Who makes it possible to be healed from any "injury or wound."
"From the Atonement of the Savior flows the soothing salve that can heal our spiritual wounds and remove guilt," he said. "However, this salve can only be applied through the principles of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance and constant obedience. ... I promise that obedience to the law of chastity will increase our happiness in mortality and make possible our progress in eternity."