An interesting and calendar-appropriate article in a non-LDS venue by two professors at Brigham Young University:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is commonly mocked for its supposedly outdated and prudish notions of chastity and sexual self-restraint. Here’s a relevant reflection from Will and Ariel Durant, written after they had completed ten of the eventual eleven volumes of their Pulitzer-Prize-winning work, The Story of Civilization:
No one man, however brilliant or well-informed, can come in one lifetime to such fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or institutions of his society, for these are the wisdom of generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history. A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; and if he is unchecked by custom, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life before he matures sufficiently to understand that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.
Will Durant (1885-1981) was also a philosopher (with a Ph.D. from Columbia University). He was listed as the sole author for the first six volumes of The Story of Civilization. His Russian-born wife, Ariel (1898-1981), came on as co-author for the final five volumes.
The quotation from the Durants — particularly its first sentence — puts me in mind of a wise passage from G. K. Chesterton. It appears in his 1929 book, The Thing, in the chapter entitled, “The Drift from Domesticity”:
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.
Which reminds me of yet another remarkable passage, this one from the fourth chapter of Chesterton’s 1908 book Orthodoxy:
Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.