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Nov. 4, 2015
Column #1,784
Chastity Impacts Marriage
By Mike McManus

Salt Lake City - Chastity is more than a Christian ideal. It can virtually guarantee a lifelong marriage according to new research by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) of the Family Research Council.

At a World Congress of Families meeting in Salt Lake, the first in the United States, attended by 3,350 people from 60 countries, participants debated many strategies to strengthen marriage, family and the future of children.

MARRI Director Patrick Fagan argued compellingly, "What undermines marriage the most is the number of sexual partners one has. The percentage of first marriages that are still intact after five years of marriage, for men and women whose only sexual partner was each other is 99% for men and 97% of women.

"However, for women who had one other sexual partner before marriage, the percentage of intact marriages drops to 62%, and if she has had two partners, it drops to 50%." The slope of decline is somewhat slower for men, but is the same for both sexes after 5 additional partners.

Therefore, chastity before marriage is the single most important guarantee of a lifelong marriage. Modern statistics back up Scripture!

"Flee from sexual immorality," Paul wrote to the Corinthians. "All other sins a man commits are outside of his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body…Therefore, honor God with your body" (I Cor. 6: 18-20).

If a girl has her first sexual partner at age 12, she will have 21 sexual partners with a 75% probability of an out-of-wedlock birth and welfare. Sadly, that's a description of the black culture. Only 17% of black children are living with married parents.

The key to developing a commitment to chastity is weekly worship. "Worship impacts chastity. Chastity impacts marriage. Marriage impacts society as a whole," Fagan asserted.

It was more than a coincidence that the World Congress was held in Salt Lake City, home of the Church of Latter Day Saints, commonly known as Mormons. Chastity is a cornerstone of their faith. Mormon children grow up dreaming of a "Temple Wedding," held in the ornate, white Mormon Temple with multiple spires. However, during marriage preparation, both men and women are asked separately if they have been "pure," having a relationship without sexual relations or touching of sexual organs. If either person acknowledges that has taken place, the couple can marry - but not in the Temple.

"In my church, 90% of our marriages were Temple Weddings," a former bishop proudly told me. In an LDS church, a bishop is like a pastor in a Protestant or Catholic church, but is unpaid.

By contrast, most Christian churches never even preach on chastity. When did you last hear a sermon on remaining pure until marriage? Indeed, nearly two-thirds of U.S. weddings are cohabiting couples. They are not only sexually active, but living together.

Result? America has had one divorce for every two marriages for 40 years. In 2013, for example, there were 1.15 million divorces and 2.2 million marriages.

How can this trend be reversed?

As a panelist in a World Congress workshops I outlined an answer. I noted that my wife and I personally helped prepare 61 couples for marriage in our home church in the 1990s. Of the 61, only 10 were chaste. We asked the others to consider signing an "Optional Premarital Sexual Covenant," in which they pledged to remain chaste until their wedding. I showed the couple a chart from a 1991 study reporting that the sexually active premarital couples are two-thirds more likely to divorce than those who married as virgins.

I turned to the young man, saying "You can't become a virgin again. But you can become chaste, which would dramatically increase your odds of a lifelong marriage. Why not play by God's rules over the next three months till your wedding?" Of the 51 couples, how many do you think signed the Covenant? Write down a number before reading the next paragraph.

About half signed it when we met two weeks later. But we asked others to reconsider. Ultimately, 43 couples signed it. We know of only one divorce of the 61 couples. That was only one element of marriage preparation. We also administered a premarital inventory of 150 statements like this: "Sometimes I wish my partner were more careful about spending money."

Of 288 couples our church prepared by marriage in the 1990s, 58 decided NOT to marry - a big 20%. However, of the 230 couples who did marry we know of only 17 divorces - virtual marriage insurance.

And chastity was an important element.
 

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