(The following is an excerpt from Jack B. Worthy’s The Mormon Cult: A Former Missionary Reveals the Secrets of Mormon Mind Control. Near the end of his mission, former Elder Worthy fell into unworthiness. Here, he describes the Mormon attitude toward sexual “sin.” We’ll run further excerpts from the book over the next few days.)
Better Dead and Clean than Alive and Unclean
It may be hard for nonmembers to comprehend just how serious Mormons consider my sin [sex outside of marriage] to be. Former prophet Spencer W. Kimball said that “[e]ven mortal life itself, when placed upon the balance scales, weighs less than chastity.” In his 1969 book, Miracle of Forgiveness, President Kimball quoted two other Mormon prophets: David O. McKay said, “Your virtue is worth more than your life. Please, young folk, preserve your virtue even if you lose your lives” (not at all a pleasant thing to believe for rape victims who are overpowered but not killed); and Heber J. Grant said, “There is no true Latter-day Saint who would not rather bury a son or a daughter than to have him or her lose his or her chastity” (both quotes on p. 63). Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, in the 1966 version of his classic Mormon Doctrine, put it bluntly: “Better dead clean, than alive unclean. Many is the faithful Latter-day Saint parent who has sent a son or daughter on a mission or otherwise out into the world with the direction, ‘I would rather have you come back home in a pine box with your virtue than return alive without it.’” (p. 124)
Many members take all this very seriously. One example is the story mentioned in this book’s preface about Brother Borden’s reaction to his son Bradley having been stabbed while serving a mission in Russia. Bradley suffered knife wounds to his upper intestines, liver and pancreas. An article in The Arizona Republic (October 19, 1998) reported the incident. It describes the reaction of Bradley’s mother, Myrna Borden, as follows:
[W]hen the 20-year-old recovers from the stabbing, his mother said Sunday, “I know he’ll want to go back to Russia” . . . “Being a missionary is the best thing a young man can do,” Myrna Borden said. “It’s what the prophet of our church has asked our young men to do.
The article said this about Brother Borden’s reaction:
[T]he young man’s father added that there are worse things for a Mormon missionary than wounds or even death.
That must have put a tremendous amount of pressure on Bradley to overcome any fear he may have had of returning to Russia after his recovery. Then the article said this about the family’s reaction:
[Mr. Borden] said that when their church president came to their home Saturday and said, “There has been a problem with Bradley,” the family was “worried that he’d done something unworthy.”
They were apparently relieved to find out that Bradley hadn’t done what I had done, but had instead merely been stabbed by drunken Russians. Quoting from Apostle Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine, Brother Borden explained why they were so glad to hear this:
You see, we’d rather have him come home in a pine box than do something unworthy,” Dale Borden said, battling to hold back tears.
Tears coursed down Borden’s cheeks as he explained the importance of his missionary son “choos[ing] the right, do[ing] what is right, return[ing] with honor.”
[Bradley’s brother] Christopher said he recently had come home from a mission in New Zealand.
[Christopher] related how he and fellow missionaries were told that in ancient Greece, Spartan mothers told their sons to come home carrying their shields or carried on their shields—to have fought well or to have died fighting well.
“We want Bradley to return with his shield, or on it,” Christopher said.
That’s pressure. If Bradley was frightened enough by his experience to not want to continue his missionary work in Russia, his family would probably not have been supportive, especially after having gone public with their views. And if, instead, Bradley had succumbed to the tempting invitation of a pretty Russian girl who fell madly in love with him, and he with her, his family might have actually preferred that he were dead.
Quoting from the article again, we learn:
Bradley Borden was stabbed once in the stomach, and his fellow Mormon missionary, José Manuel Mackintosh of Nevada, was killed.
We are left wondering what the Mackintosh family thought of the Borden family’s preference that Bradley come home in a pine box rather than “do something unworthy.” Perhaps the Mackintoshes would rather have seen their son come home outside of a pine box, even if he had done something so human as to commit a “sin” as defined by the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.