First of all, we need to clarify the definition of NCMO. NCMO stands for Non-Committal Make Out, which refers to two people agreeing to make out with each other with no expectation of commitment to each other. In other words, they are making out (kissing passionately and for an extended period of time) with each other outside of any kind of dating relationship or intention to enter into such a relationship in the future.
Many people have responded to the post defending kissing in general. We do understand that there is a big difference between a peck or appropriate kiss on the lips and making out. We are certainly not condemning kissing appropriately in dating relationships as it has been declared as appropriate by many prophets and apostles. When we refer to NCMO, we are specifically referring to passionate kissing, which has been prohibited by the church before marriage. For the Strength of Youth says, “Before marriage, do not participate in passionate kissing …” (36). So, what is passionate kissing?
"Passionate kissing has to do with the kind of kissing that goes well beyond a peck on the cheek or briefly touching lips. It's more intense and lasts longer than a brief kiss, and it's often a step along the path to more serious kinds of physical intimacy, which is why you are warned against it before you're married." --(lds.org)
Additionally, several people have missed that we are speaking of making out outside of committed relationships, not just making out in general. Yes, passionate kissing is prohibited outside of marriage in general, but you add an extra degree of seriousness when you are expressing physical affection to someone you explicitly expressed having no emotional connection with or emotional intention for (hence the non-committal part of NCMO). Elder Holland referred to such expressions of physical intimacy outside of the commitment of marriage as "counterfeit intimacy and deceptive gratification." I'll delve into this issue in greater detail below.
Here are the 4 most common issues raised with the NCMO post:
1) Calling NCMO abuse minimizes or trivializes abuse.
We can certainly understand how people feel this way! Since we frequently work one-on-one with victims of all kinds of abuse, we truly understand the devastating effects that severe forms of abuse can have on a person's life, spirit, and heart. We would like to clarify that abuse exists in many forms and we believe that addressing less severe forms of abuse may prevent more severe forms of abuse in the future. Abuse exists on a continuum, from least harmful behaviors to most harmful behaviors.
"Some may be more heinous than others, but all are sin, in spite of statements to the contrary of those who falsely pretend to know. The Lord's prophets declare they are not right."--President Spencer W. Kimball
Some people have asked why we "waste" time talking about things that fall to the less severe end of the spectrum. Well, we certainly don't see it as a waste because we believe it necessary to send the message that we do not tolerate abuse in any form or at any level. Unfortunately, we often become numb to less severe behaviors because it's so "normal" in our culture to put people down, or catcall someone, or yell at someone during an argument. People who perform violent acts usually don't start off immediately doing things on the extreme end of things. They usually start off with less severe behaviors and become more harmful and more abusive over time because they get the message that they can "get away with" the lesser behaviors. Yes, we do everything we can to help the victims of severe forms of abuse, but we also want to do everything we can to prevent future victims of abuse by creating a culture that is intolerant to abuse in all forms!
"Affection should never be sought after as an end in itself, because this does violence to a person." --Bruce Monson, Speaking of Kissing, New Era, June 2001
So how is NCMO abuse? From a gospel perspective, our body and our spirit together make up our soul. So when we trivialize the body of another person--use their body and our own body to experience empty physical gratification--we are damaging souls. Unfortunately, many people have casual attitudes about passionate kissing and the effects it has on both parties involved. Even though a NCMO is consensual, the individuals are participating in an activity that God created and sanctioned to bring two people closer together--to provide emotional connection and to express deep love, respect, and affection--for the complete opposite purpose He intended.
"So partly in answer to why such seriousness, we answer that one toying with the God-given and satanically coveted body of another, toys with the very soul of that individual...In trivializing the soul of another (please include the word body there), we trivialize the Atonement that saved that soul and guaranteed its continued existence."--Elder Holland
2) You can do things physically (like making out) without prompting emotional/spiritual reactions.
"...we know the subtle but real connection between the physical and the spiritual. Fortunately, our spirits are affected not just negatively but positively by what we do to our bodies."--John S. Tanner, Ensign, July 1993
First, see the previous paragraph regarding the doctrine of the soul. Second, this statement suggests that we are somehow able to disconnect our physical bodies from our spirits when doing something physically gratifying (like making out). But, do we really want to participate in an activity that requires us to compartmentalize ourselves--to attempt to sever the sacred connection between the body and the spirit that make up our soul--to engage in any activity, regardless of how physically satisfying it is?
"Spirit and element, inseparately connected, receive a fullness of joy (D&C 93:33)."
Isn't it our eternal goal to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father and be resurrected so that our soul--our body and spirit together--can be reunited? So, why such casual attitudes about deliberate attempts to compartmentalize, to temporarily break apart, these two parts of our eternal selves?
"Fragmentation enables its users to counterfeit intimacy. If we relate to each other in fragments, at best we miss full relationships. At worst, we manipulate and exploit others for our gratification."--Elder Holland
There was once a man who spent his life separating his soul, deliberately committing sins that tore his spirit and body apart. With each soul-splitting sin, he became less and less connected to his humanity. Eventually, he became incapable of real love because he had fragmented himself so severely. His physical appearance even began to change to reflect the damage inflicted within. He became one of the emptiest, most inhuman figures in literary history. What if our appearance on the outside reflected the damage done on the inside if we continually attempt to break apart that which our Savior died to eternally unite? Even if we can't see it, the damage to our spirits will echo for many years to come.
"If you persist in sharing part without the whole, in pursuing satisfaction devoid of symbolism, in giving parts and pieces and inflamed fragments only, you run the terrible risk of such spiritual, psychic damage that you may undermine both your physical intimacy andyour wholehearted devotion to a truer, later love."--Elder Holland
Elder Holland succinctly express why the church places such emphasis on sexual transgression, "The purchase price for our fullness of joy, body and spirit eternally united is the pure and innocent blood of the Savior of this world. We cannot then say in ignorance or defiance, 'Well, it's my life,' or worse yet, 'It's my body.' It is not. 'Ye are not your own,' Paul said. 'Ye are bought with a price.'"
"Our use of the physical world and the body must not be twisted out of the divinely ordained purposes for which they were given. Physical pleasure is good in its proper time and place, but even then it must not become our god."--John S. Tanner, Ensign, July 1993
3) Kissing and making out don't have to communicate "I want to be with you forever."
This is true. Kisses don't always communicate commitment, love, and fidelity. But when they don't, what do they communicate and what should they communicate?
"Kissing has...degenerated to develop and express lust instead of affection, honor, and admiration. To kiss in casual dating is asking for trouble. What do kisses mean when handed out like pretzels and robbed of their sacredness?"--President Spencer W. Kimball
Prophets and apostles encourage honesty in all of our communication, including our nonverbal communication (i.e., kissing). Elder Bruce C. Hafen encouraged, "During the time of courtship, please be emotionally honest in the expression of affection. Sometimes you are not as careful as you might be about when, how, and to whom you express your feelings of affection."
"If you are emotionally honest you should mean what you say but also mean what you do. Because our expressions of affection send such powerful messages, they involve powerful feelings."--John Bytheway
As much as we would like to think otherwise, kissing DOES send a powerful message, even if we have gone into it with the expressed intention that we don't want it to express any message at all.
"I am aware of plenty of counsel concerning honesty in our actions and treating others with respect and kindness. Casual attitudes about expressions of affection such as kissing can cause much grief and heartache." --John Bytheway
"Kissing and other expressions of affection communicate powerful messages of commitment that others may believe and act on. If you don't have a commitment, your actions are dishonest and likely harmful. Two thousand years ago, someone else's actions didn't match his words either. Listen to the stinging rebuke: 'Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?' (Luke 22:48). Judas used a symbol of affection as a tool of betrayal. We should not leave others feeling betrayed by our actions."
4) You are making a way bigger deal of this than necessary...
"The sacredness of the kiss and affectionate relationships...ought not to be indulged in by those who are only seeking the thrill of the moment. It has come to be a sort of custom among many young people (I regret to say even among us), that they feel at liberty to promiscuously engage in embracing and kissing each other when there is no thought of anything serious so far as engagement or marriage is concerned--only the thrill they get. I protest against it and say to you that there is danger in it and that the fire will burn those who play with it." --Elder Melvin J. Ballard
The apostles and prophets of the church have made their stance crystal clear. Physical intimacy, in any form, is sacred and should be treated as such. To develop, maintain, and defend casual attitudes about any kind of inappropriate physical affection in non-committed or premarital relationships is playing with fire.
At the end of the day, the standard we should meet is this, "Would I be comfortable doing this in the presence of my Savior?" Regardless of everything written above, it becomes difficult to rationalize or justify inappropriate behavior if we consider if our Savior would be pleased with our choices and actions. It just doesn't seem possible to participate in a NCMO and retain the presence of the Holy Spirit. We believe that our Savior would not approve of, appreciate, or condone dishonesty in what should be an expression of affection, for He, too, was betrayed by a kiss.