Prophetic Counsel About Sex Within Marriage: A Brief History

March 17, 2008
By

Rodin’s The KissOver the years, the LDS First Presidency has made various statements about sexual relations between husband and wife. Unsurprisingly then, Mormons seem to hold divergent views on this topic. But it is unclear which are the prevailing attitudes today because Mormons are typically tight-lipped when it comes to sexual matters.

A review of First Presidency statements over the past century reveals some interesting historical trends that may shed light on the origins of prevalent attitudes among Mormons today about sexual relations within marriage. In 1905, when Joseph F. Smith was serving as President of the Church, the First Presidency made the following statement:

[T]he Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has formulated no special rules governing the associations of married people. . . . [A]s to their mutual conduct in the marital relation, so far as sexual intercourse is concerned, they are left entirely free. [1]

This view apparently continued to prevail for nearly three-quarters of a century. For example, in 1971, when Joseph Fielding Smith was serving as President, the following response was given to an unspecified question posed by a female church member:

The Brethren feel that the question which you raise is such as should be answered by you and your husband and in accordance with your own convictions. The Church has never believed it necessary to issue instructions pertaining to intimate relations between husband and wife. [2]

However, the First Presidency’s laissez-faire attitude toward sexual relations between married persons changed during the administration of President Spencer W. Kimball. In 1975, the First Presidency began admonishing married couples against having casual views about sexual relations within marriage:

The union of the sexes, husband and wife (and only husband and wife) was for the principal purpose of bringing children into the world. Sexual experiences were never intended by the Lord to be a mere plaything or merely to satisfy passions and lusts. We know of no directive from the Lord that proper sexual experience between husbands and wives need be limited totally to the procreation of children, but we find much evidence from Adam until now that no provision was ever made by the Lord for indiscriminate sex. [3]

Another First Presidency statement issued in 1976 suggests this tightened guidance was a reaction to the so-called “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960′s and 70′s : “We live in a culture which venerates illicit sex, streaking, trading wives, and similar crazes. . . . We call upon all of our people to do all in their power to offset this ugly revolution.” [4]

Under President Kimball’s leadership, the First Presidency provided increasingly specific guidelines to local leaders about questioning members concerning their sexual purity in temple recommend interviews. Local leaders were urged to allow married persons to determine their own purity in regards to their sexual relations with their spouse, but at the same time, the First Presidency took the added step of identifying certain sex acts as being “unnatural, impure, or unholy” practices:

Married persons should understand that if in their marital relations they are guilty of unnatural, impure, or unholy practices, they should not enter the temple unless and until they repent and discontinue any such practices. Husbands and wives who are aware of these requirements can determine by themselves their standing before the Lord. All of this should be conveyed without having priesthood leaders focus upon intimate matters which are a part of husband and wife relationships. . . . The First Presidency has interpreted oral sex as constituting an unnatural, impure, or unholy practice. [4]

It appears this guidance left local leaders confused about whether to allow married persons to determine their worthiness according to their own personal interpretation of “unholy practices,” or to impose and enforce the First Presidency’s interpretation of it. Just three months after the letter quoted above was issued, the First Presidency issued another letter admonishing local leaders to “never inquire into personal, intimate matters involving a man and his wife,” to stick to the specific questions in the temple recommend book, and to counsel married persons to discontinue sex acts that caused them enough anxiety to ask about their propriety. [5] It seems this relatively brief detour from the guidance offered by previous First Presidencies on this topic was brought to an end more or less with the death of President Kimball.

For the past two decades, the First Presidency’s guidance about sexual relations between married persons has typically been phrased in terms of the appropriate purposes of sexual relations between husband and wife, as opposed to addressing the appropriateness of specific acts. Here are a couple examples:

[S]exual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a means of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife. [6]

Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love within marriage. [7]

Taken collectively, the view that seems to emerge from the statements quoted above is that married persons should have sexual relations either for procreation or to achieve some abstract, non-physical benefit (e.g., “strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds”), but not to “play” or “satisfy passions.” By analogy, one might say it is appropriate to eat food to gain energy to perform one’s labors or to live a long life of service, but not to enjoy its delicious taste or to satisfy one’s hunger pangs.

While the precision of any analogy is always open to debate, it seems safe to say that faithful Mormon couples may find it difficult to implement the above-quoted prophetic counsel on a practical level. Within the context of marriage, it seems extremely difficult to identify the invisible dividing line between sexual relations that create “spiritual and emotional bonding” and those that “satisfy passions.” Likewise, it is unclear what constitutes “indiscriminate sex” between a husband and his wife.

Moreover, despite the First Presidency’s discontinuation of the “Kimball approach” to this subject, one occasionally encounters lingering vestiges of the Kimball administration’s more restrictive views on sexual relations between married persons. Mormons seem to hold differing views about whether married couples are obligated to keep their sexual relations within the more restrictive bounds articulated during the Kimball era. For example, should married Mormons feel obligated to conform to the Kimball administration’s interpretation of “unholy practices,” or its admonitions against “indiscriminate sex” and having sex to “satisfy passions”?

I interested in hearing your views about how faithful Mormons should implement the prophetic guidance quoted above in their marital relationships. I may be unduly naïve and trusting to proffer these questions for discussion, but I truly hope they can be addressed in a respectful and mature manner.

Endnotes:

[1] Gary James Bergera, Statements of the LDS First Presidency, p. 423.

[2] Id. at 422.

[3] Id. at 421.

[4] First Presidency letter, Jan. 5, 1982.

[5] Gary James Bergera, Statements of the LDS First Presidency, p. 422.

[6] Church Handbook, 1998.

[7] True to the Faith, 2004.

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83 Responses to Prophetic Counsel About Sex Within Marriage: A Brief History

  1. March 17, 2008 at 5:27 am

    Andrew…this is one of the best posts I have seen. Well done mate..your research is awesome!!

    I prefer the…”leave it up to the individual couple to decide” approach.

  2. Jeff Spector
    March 17, 2008 at 6:15 am

    Andrew,

    Just excellent! Interesting but delicate subject. I suspect President Kimball was reacting to the mores (or lack thereof)of the day and was concerned that Church members might be influenced but what was going on around them. But still, it seems odd that they would have taken such a more explicit role when it was so vague up to that point.

  3. March 17, 2008 at 6:19 am

    During that ‘brief interlude’ back in 1982, I had a friend — a BYU professor and a former bishop himself — who said to me, “I’ll start discussing my sex life with my bishop only after he discusses his sex life with me.” I pretty much agreed.

    In fairness — and as someone who grew up during the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 60s and 70s — I think the Church was responding to a legitimate concern that some members were getting a bit out of bounds in their sexual practices. In particular, from what I could tell, the Church was concerned that a lot of LDS wives were being pressured by their husbands to participate in sexual practices that they (the wives) were not only uncomfortable with but in some cases truly (and probably correctly) felt were inappropriate. (I speak as one who knew of some wives during that period who were going exactly through that, tied usually the flood of sexual ‘gymnastics’ texts and videos, plus the mainstreaming of pornography.)

    But the effort to delve into a specific practice — oral sex — really did cross the line, and that was shown by how quickly it was abandoned. Besides, as the same BYU prof/former bishop observed to me, there were a lot of bishops and stake presidents — the ones who had to ask these questions — who themselves followed such practices in their own marriages; I suspect that’s where the real push-back came from. ..bruce..

  4. March 17, 2008 at 6:26 am

    I had a member of a stake presidency tell me rather bluntly that if you asked a general authority about specific acts that they would pretty much refuse to answer the question these days. And he would know, as he’s been around for a while.

    I personally think that its between a husband and wife, and I don’t see much of a functional difference between ‘emotional and spiritual bonding’ and ‘satisfying passions’ except for one minor detail–the focus, which actually leads to a more satisfying experience anyways. Satisfying passions seems to be self-focuses, while emotional and spiritual bonding seems to be other-focused. I don’t think I should need to elaborate on which one is going to provide a more interesting and overall more pleasuarable experience in the long run as long as both the husband AND the wife are in this mode.

    However if one of them slips into a self-focused mode, and only becomes interested in satisfying their own passions, then there will be disfunctional relationship. Often times this leads one to believe that they have no little or no desire for sex, or the other to believe that they want or need sex much more frequently than the other, and if they cannot agree on this it will lead to grief. It is unfortunate, but very true. I think this is one of the reasons that the church is so down on pornography (although I can think of very deep philosophical reasons, but I won’t go into that right now). Essentially it changes the basic expectations of the viewer expects, generally without the non-viewer’s consent. If both are viewing it, their reactions may be different as well (along the lines of interest vs. aversion), which will actually push the couple apart. This is apart from scriptural injunctions about lustful thoughts being close to the actual sin [although I personally liken this more to the point where one starts to seriously fantasize about a particular woman, rather than having a passing thought, but that might just be my dirty mind rationalizing out my lifetime of thinking the wrong thing].

    All right, I’ve said enough. Any more and I’ll start going into details that just aren’t appropriate for this type of discussion. You did say something about keeping it respectful and mature, and frankly, for an internet discussion about sex, that’s asking a LOT.

  5. Anon..
    March 17, 2008 at 7:16 am

    My father sat me down a month before marriage and told me, face to face, that oral sex was forbidden in a righteous marriage. It seemed rather odd at the time, and I have thought about it many times since.

    After 11 years of marriage, I tend to agree with #1. I think there are some things that might require some good ol’ fashioned bridling (fantasies about other people, swinging, etc…), but other than that, it is our marital bedroom.

  6. March 17, 2008 at 7:43 am

    You might want to add the issue with the fact that at least one letter on the topic was issued while the tentative author of it was incapacitated and was followed by a letter telling leaders to dispose of it. There are many kinds of tempations in the world …

  7. March 17, 2008 at 7:50 am

    I’ve heard that some Stake Presidents had once asked about oral sex in their interviews, but frankly I’ve never cared about that, and I will say that unless the church starts asking what I’m doing with my wife, I have no plans on telling my bishop about anything! If she feels uncomfortable with something, she’ll let me know, and frankly, that’s the way it should be.

    Anon (#5), I agree, there are some things (swinging & fantasies about others) that are certainly crossing the line. But I’d say that anything that involves JUST you and your wife and BOTH of you are entirely comfortable with is your business. Of course, it also means that you need to have the kind of relationship where you can be certain that she is going to tell you if she’s comfortable with something or not, but that’s a slightly different but certainly related issue.

  8. Last Lemming
    March 17, 2008 at 7:54 am

    I think it would be wise for the brethren to state that any form of coercion in sexual activity is unholy. That would give spouses (usually wives) an excuse to say no to whatever they’re uncomfortable with, but leave those who are comfortable with those same acts alone.

    Anybody know where the “unnatural” comes from? The source of the “unholy and impure” part is pretty clear.

    • c man
      May 29, 2013 at 12:09 am

      I think the “unnatural” part refers to some of the strange things that can come from trying to act out fantasies. You hear about the whole dominator / dominatress roles and such that come from the pornography industry right? I think things like that and other strange sexual fetishes that wouldn’t normally occur without exposure to pornography and the like are good examples “unnatural.” I ‘m sure that doesn’t nearly cover all of it but I hope that gives a direction at least. Oh and by the way I am impressed that everyone is being mature, respectful and open about all this. I looked it up very wearily but was pleasantly surprised to find appropriate and applicable answers to my question. I figured it’s good to know before I get married.

      • Guest
        January 19, 2014 at 3:48 pm

        Domination and submission have been around a lot longer than pornography. Marque de Sade – S & M

  9. March 17, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Here is some additional information that you may be interested regarding the topic.

  10. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 9:29 am

    I believe maybe we worry too much about specific wording. It’s always difficult to take a thought and put it to words. Thus the correct thing to do is to seek what the intent was and not worry too much about the legality of the wording.

    I think this is a good example. The fact that it’s wored in such a vague way that you can’t really tell the difference between “spiritual and emotional bonding” and “satisfy passions” is undoubtedly because there is no legalistic way to tell the difference in words. It really just boils down to personal intent between you and your wife. Any attempt to put it into words would simply create legal loop holes that go against the original intent.

    But it seems natural to me for the church to put out a statement to cause some people to pause and think about if they are taking things too far even in marriage. It seems particularly natural for them to have done it at the time they did and under the circumstances they did.

  11. Anon..
    March 17, 2008 at 9:47 am

    unnatural is a legal term…most of the anti-sodomy laws contain the wording “unnatural copulation.” Those who did something that was “unnatural,” meaning that it would not lead to procreation, could be in violation (think oral/anal). What’s interesting from another standpoint, is that these anti-sodomy laws were NOT in response to homosexuality. They initially were meant to deter birth control and the like.

  12. March 17, 2008 at 9:57 am

    I’m a believer that a local leader’s only concern in this regard is to ensure that there is no abuse, period. Plus, I imagine most Bishops would cringe at the idea of having to ask about the intimate details of a couple’s relationship.

  13. March 17, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Men are that they might have joy. So said Father Lehi, while winking at his wife Sariah.

    Sexual intimacy is one of life’s great joys, right up there with old Woody Allen movies and $30 seared ahi tuna.

    Those that would reduce sex to something that is only holy or spiritual would also rob food of its spice and savor, and entertainment of its mirth and laughter. Sex should be playful and passionate. We should approach sex with the same ravenous lust we attack a rib eye steak on Sunday evening after fasting for two meals.

    Read Cetti Cherniak’s two-part article “The Theology of Desire” from the Spring and Summer 2007 issues of Dialogue. She “gets” the sensual and erotic aspects of Mormonism in a way Joseph would applaud, and Spencer would blush.

  14. Steve M
    March 17, 2008 at 10:53 am

    I’m definitely of the opinion that the Church should mind its own business when it comes to a married couple’s bedroom.

    But I’m only half-joking when I say that I would welcome some kind of official declaration that it’s okay to have sex naked. The semester before my wife and I were married, we took a Marriage and Family course at the Y. I can’t tell you how surprised I was when my professor reassured us that, although we could certainly decide not to remove our garments when “being intimate,” we were not obligated to keep them on. Prior to that time, I thought it was pretty much a given that removing garments for sex was appropriate. It blew my mind that people thought otherwise.

  15. Anon..
    March 17, 2008 at 11:09 am

    #14…I have heard of such people and their Gs…but, I always chalked it up to urban myth. I was told that as soon as the coitus was complete, that we should get back in our Gs ASAP. I don’t feel the need to adhere to that one.

    and, what about masturbation during marriage? I have searched some resources, and found little to no “officious interloping” from the church on the practice. I did a tour in Iraq and was away from the missus for 6+ months. For obvious reasons we couldn’t IM each other, or privately speak over the phone…but, the desire to be with each other was unmistakable. We worked out a mutually agreeable/pleasurable arrangement, and we even talked about the “spiritual” implications. We felt fine about it. But, when I returned back to the states and had our temple recommend renewal interview, I wondered if we should confess the practice. We spoke about it as a couple, and felt that it was not the church’s business.

    I wonder if the church will ever feel the need to address intimacy in a different way, especially when it comes to addressing the youth. For me, I had so many mixed metaphors going through my head as a teen (OK, sex is like driving a carriage on a mountain too close to a ledge, or rafting down a river, or purchasing a woman for a cow) that I was a curious teen. And,I wasn’t getting any straight answers from YM.

    As far as the couples go, tho, I think it is better to leave the marital bedroom as a sacred bubble that should not be pierced by the Brethren.

  16. Steve M
    March 17, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I have heard of such people and their Gs…but, I always chalked it up to urban myth.

    I also would have thought it was mere myth. However, the same professor indicated that, as a bishop, he had counseled several young couples who had asked him about the appropriateness of removing garments for sex. He also said that he received regular questions about oral sex and other sexual behaviors. He always told these couples that it was between them and God.

  17. March 17, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Let’s put it this way: there are a lot of people with some SERIOUS hang ups about sex in the church because we put so much emphasis on sex being forbidden before marriage that when kids get to marriage they don’t realize that it’s okay to have fun and all that.

    If I were a bishop (thankfully I’m not) and I were counseling a young blushing couple about to get married, I would absolutely sit them down and say, “Look, I don’t know if anyone else has talked to you about this, so I will. In the church we spend a lot of time telling unmarried folks to stay away from sex and as far away from it as possible. Now let me tell you something different. Once you are married I don’t think that there is anything wrong with enjoying a very active intimate relationship. Don’t be shy with each other, and have fun. With that in mind, be respectful, and if something makes you uncomfortable, leave it alone for a bit. You may find that some things that make you uncomfortable now will be enjoyable in a few years. I will tell you this: a healthy and active sex life can bring you closer together and keep you close. At the same time this should not be an area in which there is any tension. Finally, keep in mind that one of the purposes of marriage is ultimately to bring children into this world. While I do not recommend that you do so immdediately, the timing of children should be left between you and the Lord. Just in case you’ve been listening to some old-fashioned advice, however, sex is not just for procreation, so make sure that you are taking effective measures to control your procreation. Any questions?”

    If they weren’t thoroughly embarassed at that point, I’d see what else I could do to embarass them. I’d consider my sacred duty, after all.

  18. Jeff Spector
    March 17, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Some folks in the church, in spite of their agency want a specific answer given to them for just about everything. So, they ask the question. On the other hand, Most are also sincere in wanting to always do the right thing, so they ask. It is better for them to ask the question and be told it is their own busines, then to fear that they should have asked, done something and now feel a need to confess that something to someone.

    We had a Stake President who used to be very blunt with young married and told them to enjoy themselves, but to be considerate of the other in their requests. He also told the young unmarrieds what they could and could not do, in explicit language that left no ambiguity.

    Questions are better answered in most cases, then left to speculation.

  19. hawkgrrrl
    March 17, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Andrew – great job. Well researched and interesting.

    I have often been troubled by the passage in Miracle of Forgiveness that condemns “filthy dreams” (if I’m remembering the phrasing correctly). Because it’s canonical, it’s not as easily dismissed as things in Mormon Doctrine (IMO there are quite a few things there to question). I hope I don’t surpass the delicacy threshold, but here goes. I often wondered if this was a condemnation of nocturnal emissions/wet dreams (which are a biological function) or of deliberate sexual lucid dreaming (which seems like a really small audience for the comment and one could argue a somewhat harmless practice, if rare).

    Any thoughts from the sex-perts out there on this passage?

    • Jony
      August 8, 2012 at 11:39 pm

      My reading of the Miracle of Forgiveness quote (and most significantly my personal bias and opinion based on my own experience as a male having nocturnal emissions) is that the quote does not condemn sexual dreams and the resulting nocturnal emissions.  You elude to the biological function of nocturnal emissions… I happen to think that sexual dreams and even the manner in which males seem to be quickly aroused by visual images (although women are aroused by visual images, it seems to me that men tend to become aroused quickly and more easily by visual stimuli… I hope that I am not offending anyone- this is an aside to my main point here) function to facilitate sexual dreams and nocturnal emissions which, to my limited biological understanding, are necessary to rid the body of excess seminal fluid.  Nocturnal emissions most frequently occur during REM sleep.  When I was away from my wife, I recently had a sexual dream about my wife and nocturnal emission on day 9.  I also had sexual dreams and nocturnal emissions on the mission, but I never felt like I was able to control the content (lucidly).  I sometimes felt guilty, but a non-lds pre-med major friend once explained that this was a natural function of the body, and I felt less guilty.  I am familiar with lucid dreaming, and I would argue that sexual lucid dreaming is not necessarily a sin.  Like many things… it depends, and there are various ways of lucid dreaming (with varying content) and I think that one’s heart is most important.    

  20. March 17, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Anon #15 – “We worked out a mutually agreeable/pleasurable arrangement, and we even talked about the “spiritual” implications. We felt fine about it.” Obviously there is nothing wrong with arousal etc. in marriage. The problem with masturbation in marriage is that it can become a substitute for intimacy, and in some cases people can become addicted to their own pleasure. Pleasure is a part of sex in marriage, but not the only part, for sure. I don’t think in your case it was done in a way that would drive you and your spouse apart.

    Maybe this is a good topic for another post, if I can build up the courage for it. :)

    Or maybe someone else will tackle it. I think it is a very important topic that affects many people in the church.

  21. Steve M
    March 17, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Re: #20,

    I think the Brethren are gravitating away from the topic of masturbation (unless, of course, it is implied in the current discourse on pornography). Rarely is it mentioned in official literature these days, and members’ and local leaders’ thoughts on the topic are becoming more diverse.

    If someone becomes “addicted” to masturbation (in other words, they compulsively masturbate), it probably has more to do with underlying psychological problems than with pleasure. The medical community has arrived at a consensus that, under normal circumstances, masturbation is a normal and innocuous (not to mention nearly universal) practice.

    For an interesting read, you might want to check out this article: “Historical Development of New Masturbation Attitudes in Mormon Culture: Science, Secular Conformity, Counterrevolution, and Emerging Reform,” by Mark Kim Malan and Vern Bullough, in Sexuality & Culture, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Fall 2005), pp. 80-127.

  22. Chris
    March 17, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    #19…I don’t recall that passage. That seems to fly in the face of Boyd K. Packer’s “assembly line” analogy: where we have a built-in mechanism to deal with too much semen (wet dreams).

  23. March 17, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    On two occasions, fueled be religious fervor, I threw out my record collection. I did this because I thought God viewed ‘The Smiths’ as devil music. Well, I didn’t view it as such but Church leaders did and told us we had to get rid of the devil music in our collections(Meaning any secular music. Including Amy Grant). Ever since the last time I did this I have spent hundreds of dollars replacing the music I was told was evil.

    So, when I joined the Mormon Church and read statements by LDS Church Leaders stating specific sexual acts were considered worse than ‘Fornication or Adultery’ I didn’t think twice about discontinuing our current sexual practices. There are too many sexual hang ups in American Society. And maybe there is an underlying sexual suppression happening more in the Church than in normal everyday culture.

    In my opinion I view sexual exploration with your spouse a healthy way to be married. As opposed to sneaking pornography, having affairs and frequenting prostitutes.

    We should have the freedom to do what we want to do as long as it doesn’t hurt each other or interfere with our individual free agency. I would not feel embarrassed discussing our relations to any Church Authority. I would however keep it sacred and not speak of it unless there was a completely rational reason to speak to Church Leaders about such subjects.

    In the case of healthy sexual exploration with your spouse, I believe, life is too short to hold yourself back.

    Jamie Trwth

  24. Seldom
    March 17, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    My wife and I were married in the 80′s and our bishop received his training during President Kimball’s era. In an interview, just prior to our marriage, our bishop’s advise included vague warnings that some things were still wrong even after marriage. I remember nodding in agreement, but we were naive and had little idea what he was talking about. His obvious discomfort with the subject discouraged any request for clarifications. Lack of specific knowledge of “right” and “wrong” practices led to a lot of “healthy sexual exploration” without any guilt. I believe it made our marriage better.

  25. Anon
    March 17, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    After my wife and my marriage almost ended over an affair I got to see a very unattractive side of the Church. She had got involved with a couple who were friends of ours whose wife talked to my wife about how they would like her as a sister wife in the “hereafter” because I did not attend the temple and was “not worthy” of her. This relationship subtly progressed and eventually grew quite perverted, where sexual relationships were justified because it was helping them avoid pornography, masturbation, or just create a “safe overflow” for seeking sexual fulfillment when things weren’t so good between them or between my wife and I.

    It’s not that it wasn’t scandalous when it broke–it was; we’ve had to work very hard to restore trust in our relationship. It was living hell for both of us. We still have to work every day to nurture one another more actively. Not just emotionally. We have also had to become more open and communicative in matters of sex.

    What made healing harder were some very strange, hurtful things we encountered in the aftermath with the church:

    While the bishop condemned the affair he did not condemn the polygamous overtones that were a part of it. Though the affair was condemned, I was grilled as to what my wife and my sex relationship was like–as if being not completely active an church and having a less than ‘perfect’ intimate relationship was my fault as a man that this happened. My wife was grilled very explicitly, and advised that she was too outgoing and friendly with others and ‘flirtateous’ in her attire. The bishop said a number of “these kinds of things” (meaning sexual affairs) have been happening in the stake. We asked to transfer to another ward, since these friends were part of it still, and both he and the S.P. advised us to “sit in a different seat, and try to ignore them.” We were both advised to read “The Miracle of Forgiveness” even with the Bishop admitting that it is very strict and painful; it would just be “good for our spirits.” Going to LDS Family Services the first time was also, shockingly, for a so-called professional agency, a very invasive and unprofessional experience, that we now realize was so bad because we found productive independent professional marriage counseling elsewhere.

    In sum the “counseling” we received from our local leaders, LDS Family Svcs, and the excommunication process for my wife were hurtful, unprofessional and insensitive. We don’t fault the church for excommunicating–serious sin was committed here by three persons– and that’s their right and duty to respond. However, I think in the way that leaders are not trained; a very interrogative, patriarchal church leadership culture exists; plus magnified with a very repressed sexual culture, that bad things are bound to happen when these kind of personal tragedies –sins– happen. My wife and I both believe strongly in personal accountability. Still, when people err, there needs to be good lifelines, support and processes in place. God’s love must be available and emphasized to the penitent, not harsh and invasive inquisition. At least in our experience there was no direct good to be found in church “support”. And it’s not that it just wasn’t helpful– it was harmful.

    The indirect good is that our experience encouraged us to find help elsewhere, to fight harder to save our marriage when we both felt abandoned and unloved by God. We did find Him not long after, which also has greatly helped. We will also not take for granted the kind of relationship we will have with a church ever again.

  26. March 17, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Jamie, throwing away Smiths albums is an act of holy desecration for which there is no repentance… I’m afraid you have little to look forward to but the hot, slow-burning coals of hell and an unquenchable thirst.

    That said, I’ve heard a rumor that throwing away Kenny G records or bad country records (is there any other kind?) will offset the sacrilege of throwing away Smiths records, but I don’t think it has been confirmed. It’s worth a shot though. My wife has a few country records I’d be happy to donate to your cause.

  27. March 17, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Tonight I will say goodbye to all my Kenny G Cassettes, Cassette Singles, and 45s. Far-The-Well master of the weird looking saxophone.

  28. Jeff Spector
    March 17, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    if it is any consolation, Kenny Gorlick (G) made very good music with Jeff Lorber. But I never trust Jewish kids who made Christams albums!

  29. hawkgrrrl
    March 17, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Throwing away Amy Grant cancelled out the wickedness of throwing away the Smiths in the way that drinking diet coke while eating cheesecake cancels out the calories.

    Anon – harrowing story. It is tough when church disciplinary processes are not handled well, although it’s a tall order given the range of issues they deal with and how many leaders fill these difficult roles. I know of stories from both sides of the house on this one: leaders who were truly inspired and others who were true cautionary tales. Best wishes to you both.

  30. Mikeutah
    March 17, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Anon,

    That’s quite the experience you and your wife went through. I hope that if I am ever in a position of a Bishop or Stake President, that I will have a more compassionate method of walking someone down the path of repentance, even where excommunication is required, so as to lead them by the hand with tenderness (as Joseph Smith once similarily quoted).

    For anyone looking for a wholesome place to discuss sexuality in the LDS marriage, or for advice in your own marriage, I encourage you to go to http://www.ldssexuality.com/forum

  31. Ray
    March 17, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Anon (#25) – As someone who has been on the investigation / decision side of disciplinary councils, I feel for you. It should not have occurred that way.

    One of the greatest things about the Church is the growth possible for us as normal members through the responsibilities we receive in our branches, wards and stakes; one of the biggest weaknesses of the Church is the certainty that all of us will make mistakes as we experience that growth. I wouldn’t change the equation for anything, but I also advocate for better and more organized training by all who have stewardship for others in their callings. Many of these things could be mitigated by more attention, but it’s a hard balance to strike among those who are not paid for their time and for whom every moment away from family is precious.

  32. Rigel Hawthorne
    March 17, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    I like the way Joseph F. Smith put it best. Healthy expressions of intimacy strengthen marriage and strong marriage is a part of LDS culture. Therefore healthy expressions of intimacy should be a part of LDS culture. The newly married couple who learn to make it the “most healthy” will have the advantage over the couple who do not find compatibility. If “oral sex” has been frowned upon by the First Presidency, then consider the term “oral foreplay” in it’s place. Don’t ask and don’t tell, as long as the couple is ok together with it. If some husbands need to incorporate this in order for their wife to achieve climax, then it seems like it is a “natural” solution to an “unnatural” conundrum. And if its a natural solution for some, then it really shouldn’t be unnatural to the rest. The issue of masturbation seems, also, to reflect intent. It is considered acceptable for a man to use the practice to collect a semen sample for fertility testing or treatment. In that circumstance, it is not considered sinful. It would seem, therefore, that sin comes from other aspects potentially associated with the practice.

    Speaking of myths, has anyone ever heard the one about the rural Utah couple who, after having been married for a period of time, went to see their bishop because of inability to conceive. After asking a few questions, he realized that they had no idea that sex was involved with conceiving a child. He, therefore, counseled them carefully on the “how to’s” and instructed them to go try it. They were not only successful in conceiving, but thought the whole thing was really great. So great, in fact, that the wife, with gratitude, described the experience step by step in testimony meeting. Heard that one from a college roommate and have my doubts if it is anything more than myth, but if you’ve ever heard it, perhaps you can comment.

  33. March 17, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    I remember when the “oral sex” question was included in the temple recommend interview and then, like a thief in the night, disappeared. This is the first time I heard the First Presidency had a hand in it, though. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall during that revelatory reproof. Absolutely, I’m in the camp that believes what goes on between a married couple is their business… but then I think about auto-erotic asphyxiation.

  34. March 17, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    David T (#33).

    Hey, if that’s what makes them happy (auto-erotic asphyxiation), then fine, but I’d say that in most situations it is ‘unlikely’ that they got to that point without one of them feeling uncomfortable at some point. Then again, who knows. Another thing that members need to keep in mind when they marry converts is that converts are quite likely to have broader range of exposure to sexual experimentation. Something that the church may want to consider.

    As for oral sex, I’d say that a LOT of women need additional stimulation to achieve climax, and to be a bit blunt about it (because that’s how I am) both partners should receive equal satisfaction the majority of the time.

  35. March 17, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    #33 Well if you want auto-erotic asphyxiation. You SHOULD really do this with your spouse. Think of Michael Hutchence. Any meaningless death is a tragic death.

  36. Anon
    March 17, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Thanks for the kind words about our experience. While I do appreciate such words of support I mentioned our experience to address weaknesses that come from the LDS formula of lay leadership and a culture of less-than-great openness about sexual matters. While I was not a full believer, in that I didn’t attend temple, I did participate in a ward calling. I always had the attitude ‘the church is an institution of man, and sometimes divinity peeks through in spite of its best intentions.’ Normally life worked okay around that little compromise, allowing me to have a lot of charity for when church matters didn’t quite go the best. However, in a serious situation like ours, the church process really hurt us. Speaking for my own feelings, I felt twice victimized. It hurt to the core to find my little compromise was brutally true, and that in this case it felt like God had left me alone with a cruel and unproductive church counseling system.

    In fairness, our sexual, emotional and spiritual life could have been a lot better, especially in how we communicated. When my wife wanted to try more daring things in our sex life, instead of finding an appropriate way to address those fantasies, she, unfortunately, got involved with some very perverse people. But realizing my part in our distance did allow for more compassion for my wife, and together with good help, I think we are finding a more rewarding intimacy, a more open and honest marriage. Maybe it is partially strengthened more just because we almost lost it all.

    As said, God did intercede in our lives by way of some great people in our life, such that we did find the help we needed. My advice and reason for posting are to those couples with sexual issues: please find help and don’t allow the religious mores to get between the very frank and direct way that marital issues need to be handled. I can’t completely hate what we’ve been thru. While I wish we could have gotten to where we are now thru a better course, we’ve grown stronger in ways we may never have otherwise. I’d hesitate for others to take the risk we did, because I’m sure the chance was greater we weren’t going to survive, hoping that our issues would just solve itself.

  37. Ray
    March 17, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    “My advice and reason for posting are to those couples with sexual issues: please find help and don’t allow the religious mores to get between the very frank and direct way that marital issues need to be handled.”

    AMEN!

    Anon, this was one of the most profound comments I have read anywhere on any blog on any topic. Not a direct comparison, but a man I admire greatly lost a daughter unexpectedly and shockingly. He has been a bishop, a high councilor and a member of the Stake Presidency. He is a college dean – and an incredibly, astoundingly humble man. We were discussing “things I’ve learned” in a HP group lesson, and he said that he had learned that we can draw closer to God in our greatest trials. He then added something I will never forget – an exact quote, it hit me so hard:

    “I’m grateful for that lesson, but I wish I had not had to learn it the way I did.”

  38. Chris
    March 17, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    A friend of mine in an SLC singles’ ward said that his Bishop gave the congregation a “twice a month” ceiling for masturbation…said that doing it twice a month was fine, but anything more than that and it was questionable. I am sure his rationale was that he’d rather his parishioners gratify themselves than push themselves too far with the opposite sex and placing their membership in jeopardy. But, apparently this didn’t last too long; he was repudiated shortly thereafter.

    The anon guy in #14 brings up an interesting point: is masturbation WRONG when you are visualizing your spouse and you would be having intercourse with the person but for the distance? Do we look at intent like #32 mentions? Or, is masturbation PER SE (or malum en se) a sin? I don’t know the answer to the question. I know when I have been on business trips for an extended period of time that those phone calls to the missus can get awfully hot late at night. I have never felt that this was wrong…especially considering the alternative (go Marriot hotels and their p0rn!). But, perhaps I am just making excuses for my sinful conduct!!!

    Gotta love the ingrained guilt-o-meter given to us IRT sex!

    • Jony
      August 9, 2012 at 12:04 am

      “That which is wrong under one circumstance,
      may be, and often is, right under another. God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill’; at
      another time He said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on
      which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the
      circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God
      requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason
      thereof till long after the events transpire.” Joseph Smith

      I think
      the hard part is that we have been given the Holy Ghost and should faithfully obtain contextual revelation.  It’s much easier when something is “wrong” or
      “right” across the board from a prophet, but even so we have been instructed to pray about whether the prophet is speaking under the power and influence of the Holy Ghost. We often presume that all teachings of the prophets are specific for our circumstance.  The Holy Ghost will confirm all true to those that seek in faith.  Context is important (and no one is in our shoes).  I know an LDS person with sexual reproduction organ abnormalities that neccessitates  adaptations in sexual interaction with spouse.  

  39. March 17, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    I didn’t really like the analogy about eating food but not enjoying it. Maybe an unhealthy relationship would be having too much food because you love the taste so much. I think sex should be enjoyed; if not, how would it strengthen relationships and express love?

  40. March 17, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    I had assumed the oral sex business was settled but when Lamb and Brinley’s book, Between Husband and Wife:Gospel Perspectives on Marital Intimacy, came out about seven or eight years ago the index referenced oral sex to the chapter titled “Crossing the Line”. The interesting thing was that the words “oral sex” never appeared in the chapter. The level of guilt associated with sex dramatically increased after The Miracle of Forgiveness and I think is directly related to people in the LDS Church being unable to trust their own judgements as to what is good or evil as regards sex. Even raising the question suggests that if some particular practice is suspect then it’s evil by default. It seems to me that some of us have this need to be told what to do and what is ok and if we step outside that comfortable box, then disaster will strike. And I think this is all very sad. We’re excellent followers.

  41. hawkgrrrl
    March 17, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    I found the MoF quote in wikipedia of all places: “Little reward can be expected for a tiny effort to repent, for the Lord has said that it must be a total repentance “with all his heart” and the error must be forsaken fully and wholly, mentally as well as physically. The “filthy dreamer” of the day or night, or an adulterer who still has desires toward the object of his sin, who still revels in the memories of his sin, has not forsaken it “with all his heart” as required by holy scripture.” (p. 333)

    I suppose it would be possible to just emphasize the “revels” part of the sentence and forget the “or night” portion of the sentence, even though that last sentence has two totally independent clauses for subjects, but it does beg the questions I raised in #19.

    The wikipedia entry on Miracle of Forgiveness is pretty openly disparaging of the book, btw. I was surprised given FAIRwiki’s vigilance of LDS content. Is there some chance MoF is going to be un-canonized?

  42. MoJim
    March 18, 2008 at 5:13 am

    hawkgrrrl, the MoF article on Wikipedia actually has very little content. It didn’t seem to be disparaging or positive. The artcile just had a small quote from the book (not the one you mention) and a chapter list.

    I’m curious what you mean when you refer to MoF being “canonized.” What is your definition of canon? I had thought the LDS canon solely consisted of the Bible, BoM, D&C, and PoGP.

  43. March 18, 2008 at 6:22 am

    MoJim (42).

    I think a LOT of people look at MoF as nearly canon. It is, as near as I can tell, as close to being canonized as possible without having actually having been officially canonized with only one other book* really being closer in fact but not practice.

    I think this is because Kimball resisted writing a book for so long and really didn’t write much. Unlike many other GA’s he wasn’t a prolific writer from what I can tell. This means that he did write is well liked. On top of that it is a very useful book when properly considered.

    *The other book I’m referring to, of course, is Jesus the Christ by Talmage. It may not be perfect, but when you consider that it was:
    a) commissioned by the First Presidency;
    b) written by a scholar who was then ordained to the Twelve;
    c) voted on and accepted unanimously (spelling?) by the Twelve and FP as essentially correct;
    d) and written mostly in the SLC temple,

    I’d say it’s as close to being canonical as possible without the LDS church coming out and saying ‘this is scripture, live by it.’ I think the ONLY reason they don’t do that is because it is NOT purporting to be either of the two (or maybe three) things that we tend to think of as scripture at this point in time: original history or original revelation/doctrinal explanation. We do not seem to accept as scripture scholarly research, which is the category that that work falls under, whereas MoF would be more in the area of ‘original revelation’ or ‘doctrinal explanation’. Personally I think it is a shame because of the two books I find that Jesus the Christ was more edifying and made me want to strive harder to do good and be a better person.

    Back to the subject at hand, I think that guilt is easy to come by in the church, especially in regards to sex, precisely because throughout our youth we are taught that anything to do with sex needs to be avoided (and let’s face it–that’s incredibly difficult!). As a result I think that many of us go through a period when we are first married when sex is a great new discovery for a long time, but then we realize that we’ve either got to change our long-standing attitudes about it OR we have to give up this new toy. Some people can’t handle that, and end up with serious problems. Bishops need to be very careful in handling this–telling couples that sex is an important part of marriage, and that its not only okay, but encouraged to have fun.

    Frankly, I think that young people need to understand that sex is something that they can appropriately say, “yes, when I’m married that’s something I look forward to.” Right now, I think we try to tell youth, “don’t you ever think about sex!” I’m sorry, that simply doesn’t work. As a young man I don’t think a single day went day went by where I didn’t think about sex to some degree (who am I kidding–I’m not that different now…). That’s just the way it works. Anyone who thinks that young women are that much different are fooling themselves. Oh the form and the fantasy are different, certainly, but the desire is certainly there.

    Okay, I’m done for now.

  44. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Fwiw, I hate it when people say that MofF is canon. Benjamin’s explanation of why it is viewed that way by some is good, but the book is NOT canon. It has not been accepted by the voice of the people by common consent.

  45. March 18, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Andrew, you used all the right quotes. Good job. I would say, however, that the current policy statement (which, as you know, comes from the section of the Church Handbook of Instructions on birth control) does not contain an implied prohibition of certain motivations. I had an institute instructor who was also a family counselor and who taught that men sometimes get a bad rap when it comes to the relative importance they place on sex in a marital relationship. The stereotype is that women desire more emotional bonds, whereas men are just animals who want physical satisfaction and don’t care about emotions. Well, this institute instructor taught that for men, sex is emotional. Their emotional well-being, self-esteem, and feelings of closeness to their spouse are as tied to sex as a woman’s are to communication, snuggling, and watching Jane Austen movies together. Anyway, I can’t really believe that the Brethren want us second-guessing our motives in intimate marital relations. They’re happy to stay out of our bedrooms, thank you very much.

  46. Rigel Hawthorne
    March 18, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    The Wikipedia entry was an interesting perspective. I’m not sure what you looked at MoJim, but try this link.

    http://www.mormonwiki.org/Miracle_of_Forgiveness

    Here is one quote that wiki attributes to a Mormon reader:

    “When I read it it left me depressed and I had attitudes about the Gospel and repentance that have taken a toll.”

    I loved President Kimball. I thought that the quotes from MoF that were pulled for the 2007 Teachings of the Presidents of the Church instructional manual were excellent. After reading the book itself, however, I had feelings that related well to the comment above. It’s reassuring to know that others share that experience.

    For those bloggers who are in Bishoprics and others who will be future Bishops, I think it is good to know that this response exists. When new Bishops go to Bishopric training and are instructed regarding church discipline, they are instructed to give members in the repentance process a challenge to do a number of things, including possibly reading MoF. Whether this book suits the needs of the individual is a question that Bishops should ask themselves before they challenge them to read it. I think the story of Alma the Younger or Jesus and the woman taken in adultery are excellent alternatives, but they are very brief. Anyone have suggestions from conference talks or other materials that they have found to be helpful in this regard? It would help if MoF wasn’t the only thing to fall back to and used exclusively because of tradition.

  47. hawkgrrrl
    March 18, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    I stand corrected about MoF being canonical (happily corrected). It is not canonical (per my husband–I can’t find my copy), but I’m convinced since he could list all 5 that are (see below).

    My MoF is canon statement stemmed from what I heard at a BYU religion class and in the MTC that books with the church’s publication stamp are considered canonical or part of the Standard Works. When I served my mission, they were the only permitted reading material in addition to the standard works and missionary guides. There were 5: A Marvelous Work & a Wonder, JtC, AoF, Gospel Principles and Truth Restored. NOT MoF. However, some missionaries did have MoF under direction of church leadership to give them that extra shot in the arm when they were backsliding, I guess. So–whew! Filthy dreamers, dream on . . . unless they are lucid dreams, in which case, shame on you.

    I agree that bishoprics should be aware of some of the reactions to MoF and prayerful in deciding on who should read it. The one that leapt out at me in the wikipedia entry was the one linking it to suicides.

  48. Yet Another Anonymous
    March 20, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    What a refreshing post! First off, let me say that I am an active female member, never married, (read: I’ve never had sex) in my early 40s. I’ve often wondered what the Church’s stance is for what’s acceptable sexually in a marriage. I was always afraid that the things I think I want would somehow be considered wrong. I feel much better after reading this post.

    Here’s my view on sex in marriage: Sometimes sex is to make babies. Sometimes sex is because one or both of us are horny. Sometimes sex is healing – uniting us after an argument or some other difficulty in our relationship. Sometimes sex is forgiving – one or the other has been betrayed and sex is a part of rebuilding trust. Sometimes sex is an expression of love. Sometimes sex is just for fun. And, I’d imagine, that there will be times where a sexual encounter fills more than one of these roles. How’m I doing so far?

    I’d also imagine that there is some level of compromise involved. Sometimes I’ll want to and he won’t; sometimes he’ll want to and I won’t. Sometimes it’ll be more important to participate even if I didn’t originally feel like it, and sometimes my need or desire to not will be more important. I guess I figure it’s up to me and my husband to have the communication lines to deal with all of this.

    I’m pleased to note that the general consensus seems to be that whatever my husband and I are both comfortable with is appropriate. I know there are certain things I won’t ever want to do. But I also think there are many more things that I do want to do that – when the time comes – I can enjoy guilt-free.

    And if you think being a teenager is hard these days, try to have adult hormones raging for a couple of decades with no outlet! Ugh. If you think women aren’t thinking about sex, think again. Plenty of us are. I’ve even reached the point where I pray about it. I haven’t been bothered by being single, but I am certainly more marriage minded in the last year or so. I ask for the blessing of finding a companion, in part, because I want to have sex.

    Thanks again for this post and how utterly NORMAL it makes me feel!

  49. Yet Another Anonymous
    March 20, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    BTW, I hated Miracle of Forgiveness. Don’t own it. Won’t own it. Hated the way it made me feel. Nice to be validated.

  50. Ray
    March 21, 2008 at 12:15 am

    I vote for #48 as an instant classic. Thanks, YAA, for putting a real and seldom heard voice to this topic.

  51. Cicero
    March 21, 2008 at 1:56 am

    I have often felt that those parts of Miracle of Forgiveness that cause people to feel so guilty are supposed to have the purpose of making us feel humility.

    I can’t help but wonder if there might be a generational issue. We don’t do humility very well in our generation- guilt and shame seems to be a much more prevalent response to some one pointing out how weak and worthless we are, even when it’s God pointing it out (or His mouthpiece). While my father and grandfather’s generation seem to respond with a sense of humility and gratitude, and an increased motivation to do better.

  52. Anon
    March 21, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    My wife and I found our broken marriage humbling. We found the need to turn to God humbling. We found that a grace-emphasis at church helps us feel humbled in our need for God’s continuing rescue.

    When I was a missionary, our M.P. told us that reading the MoF was highly discouraged. We all interpreted that as meaning it was banned. Which means many of us read it anyway. [Maybe that was his intention.:-) ] Anyway, my perspective is that Kimball confused humility with humiliation.

    And knowing this, that our bishop was so dense as to assert the need for us to read the MoF together, even admitting that some parts “are pretty tough” shows to me how much “canon” it has been given. Broken-hearted sinners need to know the majesty of God’s love; the unconditional gift of that love; that this love is closer than they ever thought; that the unique message of Christianity is God coming to fight in the trenches to save each of us. Miracles happen through a changed heart. IMO, Kimball didn’t teach from this emphasis. It seems he was preaching in MoF to sinners whose hearts haven’t already been broken by the wages of sin. Does some book like his help someone reach that point? I think there are much more productive methods.

  53. Anon
    April 19, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    AdamF # 20 So can anyone just start another post on this? If so, tell me how and I’ll be the brave one. If not, then I admonish you to be brave and start a post about consensual masturbation in marriage. It bothers me that anything I feel like I need answers about should automatically be wrong. If I feel the need to ask my bishop about this, then I guess it is automatically wrong so I won’t bother. But, I would like some answers to this, and it seems many others would like to continue talking about it.

  54. hawkgrrrl
    April 19, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Anon – there is a post called “The Big M – Steve Wellington” (referring to masturbation) currently active on this site. You might want to check there. General consensus was within marriage pretty much anything consensual between husband and wife goes, although I could be confusing that with other LDS posts on this topic on a different site.

  55. April 20, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Anon – Steve Wellington’s post is a good place to continue this aspect of the discussion.

    “It bothers me that anything I feel like I need answers about should automatically be wrong”

    This is really interesting… I have heard quite often (and I’m sure most of us here have as well) that if there is a question about something than it is wrong. Maybe I’ll write a post on this idea. Perhaps we have questions that stem from anxiety or culture rather than the spirit or a sense of right or wrong. Discovering the root of why we need the answer may be important here.

  56. April 20, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    I think that the MoF has greatly shaped our culture and I *do* think that it has been accepted as canon by a good portion of the American membership. I haven’t been in a ward where the book wasn’t handed out like candy.

    I believe it to be detrimental to any soul seeking love and grace, mercy and understanding from his Creator, who promises such in the standard works. And I don’t see that detriment going away any time soon.

  57. hawkgrrrl
    April 20, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    AdamF: “I have heard quite often (and I’m sure most of us here have as well) that if there is a question about something than it is wrong.” Gosh, I’ve never ever heard that before, but here are two of you quoting it as common. Sometimes I think I’m a bit out of the loop (or I don’t “hear” certain things), so I am very interested in your upcoming post!

    MoF is an interesting topic. It is not considered official canon, and while it is doubtless very helpful for some individuals, others have found it very detrimental. We discussed MoF at length on one of these posts. There is also an interesting Wikipedia page on it.

  58. April 20, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    hawkgrrrl – here’s a “common” source for it–Have you been reading your For the Strength of the Youth like you should be? lol:

    “if you have any question about whether a particular movie, book, or other form of entertainment is appropriate, don’t see it, don’t read it, don’t participate.”

  59. Ray
    April 20, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    “It bothers me that anything I feel like I need answers about should automatically be wrong.”

    ““if you have any question about whether a particular movie, book, or other form of entertainment is appropriate, don’t see it, don’t read it, don’t participate.”

    Those are two VERY different statements. I disagree vehemently with the first one; I agree completely with the second.

    The first is just ludicrous. There are things we need answers about because we are human and don’t know everything. It’s not more complicated than that, and not everything is self-apparent. Anyone who says about EVERYTHING, “If you aren’t sure, it’s wrong,” is over-applying a limited standard in ignorance. They are taking the easy way out – plain and simple.

    The second is awesome advice **about entertainment** – as long as you follow up your questions by asking them. The answers probably will reinforce your need to avoid those things, but there are instances where they probably will help you understand that they really are ok.

  60. Ray
    April 20, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Btw, my last comment is not meant in ANY way to disparage Anon in #53. It is pointed at those who say what s/he mentioned.

  61. Jason
    May 12, 2008 at 11:37 am

    One very problematic aspect of the way the Mormon church and Mormon leaders teach about sexuality is that it masks the problem of differing sexual desires between spouses. This is further amplified by a tacit belief that deeply wanting sex is seen as perverse. Point being that the hornier spouse, to be blunt, is seen as the one with the problem, not the withholding spouse. This problem is further exacerbated by avoiding the topic of candid sexuality and sexual expectations during engagement. Talking from personal experience it is quite alarming to think you’ve been candid only to find out on your wedding night that your spouse will only do it in the missionary position (and, after hearing how women loved foreplay, to find out your wife doesn’t.)

    This isn’t to say that such problems happen in relationships from all walks of life, but for a church that places so much emphasis on marriage and so much penalty on breaking those bonds, you would think they would have a much healthier outlook on sexuality and a much more progressive view on teaching about that sexuality.

    Of course, we can’t be naive. Religions are largely reactive to its members. The core of the LDS church is made up of descendants of Victorians who didn’t understand it was all a carefully orchestrated charade. (The entire attempt to make marriage a sacrament and so forth has long struck me as an attempt by active members and leaders to justify their own base horniness and even, I believe, to cope with wildly different sexual expectations in their own marriages.)

  62. Ray
    May 12, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Jason, unless you can articulate a way for “the Church” to teach about these things that will be appropriate for all, I can’t accept anything that implies it is the Church’s responsibility to teach what positions are ok and not ok and try to draw a line between sexual rigidity and “horniness”. That’s for parents and couples to work out.

    It’s not the Church’s fault if someone’s wife is frigid and limited in what she will do. To imply that such is the norm due to the Church’s teachings is simply wrong, imho.

  63. May 12, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Jason does have a point. When I was either engaged or newlywed (I don’t recall exactly when), my former wife and I received an Xmas gift from her parents, consisting of an LDS-produced booklet. As I recall, the title was “Guide to Parents.” Among the advice given was a section on what to do when one of your children is about to get married. It was all very nice in terms of suggesting a special family home evening to teach younger siblings about marriage, etc. Unfortunately, it went further, indicating that parents should counsel their about-to-be-married offspring that it was “inappropriate” to have too much sex during the honeymoon. It went on about how the honeymoon should be a time to get to know one another better, etc. Evidently getting to know your spouse physically/emotionally wasn’t seen as part of that process.

  64. May 12, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I should note, for clarification, that my former wife’s parents had a rather odd penchant for using free or low-cost LDS publications as holiday gifts. Gradually, they moved on from that. Until the last few years of my marriage, I quite regularly received items which they obviously had obtained as “free gifts” with magazine subscriptions and the like. (Yes, I know, it’s the thought that counts…)

  65. Jason
    May 12, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    The church teaches that any sexual contact between unmarried people isn’t just bad, but akin to murder. Leaders then give wildly differing, and even contradictory, teachings on sexuality and marriage. As Nick points out, for years there has been the tacit suggestion from the pulpit that too much sex is bad. I can even remember a talk during general priesthood meeting where an apostle (I believe) clear suggested that for a man to request anything sexual from his wife that she is resistant to is wicked. Now, I don’t disagree that there is a point where a spouse can become abusive with a request, sexual or otherwise, but even taking discussing something in a relationship off the table for fear is counterproductive to making marriages last.

    The last time I heard a sex discussion in church in a for-couples-only meeting, I don’t recall the word “sex” actually being used, but do remember being told that “there are something things even married couples should never do.” That’s bogus. You simply can’t say that there are things God disapproves of and not say what they are!

    Ray, I didn’t use the word frigid since that has a much more specific meaning. I was specifically talking about expectations. Every marriage counselor will tell you that differing expectations going into marriage cause many difficulties, whether it be sex, work, number of children, money, where to live and so forth. My experience is that the church does a very poor job with this. Since this discussion was about “Prophetic Counsel About Sex”, I kept it to that category.

    Does anyone remember the “Especially for Youth” programs? Especially, the small booklet the church produced in the mid-1970s that was basically an anti-masturbation screed, but never used the word nor described in any clear way what they were talking about. How about the chastisements from Spencer Kimball in the mid-1980s about couples who have sex even when their relationship is rocky.

    My suggestion; say “sex outside of marriage is wrong”, and leave it at that. Or, sit down with the best and brightest marriage and sex counselors and create a program and stick to it. Either way, drop all the weird euphemisms, the horrible analogies, and use proper words and be honest about it. (And if you’re going to make masturbation wrong, explain why, because I can’t figure out the reason)

  66. Ray
    May 12, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    “The church teaches that any sexual contact between unmarried people isn’t just bad, but akin to murder.” *sigh*

    Jason, I agree with much of what you are saying, but starting that way doesn’t help.

  67. Thomas Parkin
    May 12, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    “And if you’re going to make masturbation wrong, explain why, because I can’t figure out the reason”

    I don’t know that it is talked about much. Is it? I haven’t been a teenager in a long long time. IIRC, even the MoF didn’t make much of it. But, I’d say, to the degree that it it wrong it has more to do with what is going on in your noggin than the act of gratifying yourself. The kind of thoughts you find youself delighting certainly grow stronger when tied to intense physical pleasure. There is more than a little danger in it. The near universality of masturbation then … how do you solve it? It’s just part of becoming whole (holy). We change slowly by degrees as we put off the natural man and become a saint through Christ. The new man is NO LESS erotic, but the whole tenor changes. I’m mayeb only glimpsing it – some of the time I’m still the old natural man, but I no longer take great pleasure in that. The fixation and selfishness of much sexual expression slowly has become unbearable to me. I simply do not want that in me anymore. Many thoughts I used to indulge in with great relish are now almost physically painful to me. I know, in my body, the wrongness of them, having extensive expereience in them and, by now, considerable experience in being free of them. I see quite clearly the damage that natural man has done in the lives of people I’d never dream of hurting. They are serious sins.

    ~

  68. Kent
    May 12, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Thomas, thank you, I really appreciate your comments.

  69. Thomas Parkin
    May 12, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Kent,

    Thanks for saying thanks. ;)

    ~

  70. PapaD
    August 26, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    My wife and I converted shortly after marriage and one child, in 1973; we were aware of the immorality of fornication, adultery, and pornography. A few years later we were shocked at the new questions pertaining to oral sex within marriage. We were young and open with one another and had enjoyed what we considered good wholesome sex–nothing we considered perverted.
    I was a totally obedient in every aspect of the Church and I read Church books voraciously. I took the First Presidency’s Council (that they consider oral and anal sex to be . . . ). All I want to say about this is that it is a sacrifice that I wish we had not been asked to make. I think it was at this point that my wife and I began to have uncertainties about our own views of the rights-and- wrongs regarding these matters which consequently led to much unrest and conflict between us regarding such. The matter was further complicated by the seeming non-retracted retraction–and nothing to ever be heard about this matter again in nearly forty years or so since.
    My rational became a somewhat bitter feeling of, “If the matter is of such consequence as to be ‘second only to the shedding of innocent blood’, we would not be left to our own devices concerning a clear statement about what is right.” There certainly is no gray area regarding other issues of such importance, and less–murder, adultery, smoking, dishonesty, stealing, etc.
    My wife tends to be much more literal than I am about many things. Never once did I ever feel any guilt before, nor do I think I would I now, regarding cunnilingus. However my wife has had mixed feelings about converse opposite act. I’m okay with that. However, what does “unnatural” mean? From ancient to modern texts, these acts seem to be natural enough to be universally practiced by most cultures. If is practiced by some other mammals. Besides, I thought that it was the acts of the “natural man” that were to be avoided. It causes no harm or disease that I am aware of, within the bounds of marriage as is the case with intercourse–and much has been said about the health benefits of said acts from everything from reducing morning sickness to assisting older couples to continue intimacy when the other ways no longer work. Kissing has been said to be more unsanitary–given basic hygienic practices.
    We have been tempted and we have succumbed on a very few occasions over the years. Any guilt we have suffered seems to have come from a failure to be strong enough to always have avoided these seemingly natural urges–having been so long ago told not to engage in them–by a First Presidency whom we revered.
    Further, how would young couples even know about these standards if there is no current specific references to it in Church literature. What are we to teach our kids and grand-kids? The challenge that we should just know, by The Spirit, merely seems to further erode our own abilities to recognize the promptings of The Spirit. I just wish the leaders of the Church would spell it out and say that it is okay, is not okay, or they don’t know–or even that it is up to couple’s own devices and personal revelations or choices to determine how they behave in the bedroom. It would relieve much unnecessary angst and marital friction if they would–it seems to me. Stil, in lieu of specific statements,I feel that we can only ere on the side of caution, despite what personal problems it may cause.

  71. Confused
    April 11, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    Is masterbating after you are married wrong? My husband thinks it is okay for me to do when he is not home?

    • Carl
      April 13, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      How do you feel about masterbating? My wife and I discussed our masterbating while i was on deployment for six months. We took some sexy not sleezy pictures of ourselves. So if we were going to lust it was about each other. When I did masterbate it was my wife I thought of. It wasnt the same as being with her, but it got me through some rough nights.

    • Carl
      April 13, 2013 at 8:41 pm

      I have prayed, never felt remorse or guilt. But we do not masterbate alone, it is part of our sexual relationship when i am with her.

    • carl
      April 13, 2013 at 9:12 pm

      The responses are posting in reverse chronological order, so it isn’t coming out right. my wife and I favor masterbation, so long as we lust only for each other when seperated. When we are together, we use masterbation as foreplay or sometimes instead of sexual intercourse. depending on our mood and playfulness Sorry if I confused u.

  72. Eric
    June 25, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Interesting, thanks for the input. I struggle with this issue myself. It seems though that they have not enitirely reverted back to the Pre-Kimball era that the statements you used seem to suggest existed. The statements were interesting and thought provoking. I admit I have not thoroughly read your blog, just skimmed it. I have wondered whether my concern over the issue is because I am addicted or whether it is because I don’t want natural curiousity extinguished. I can only move forward if I choose to not see oral sex as a black and white issue. It should be noted though that you can go on LDS.org today and read in the current marriage prep institute manual a statement by Elder Boyd K. Packer(talk is from 1992). The talk is titled “the fountain of life”. As I recall, he warns couples (those preparing for marriage) that they might be tempted to introduce unworthy behavior. He warns those preparing for marriage to not change the natural use into that which is against nature. The penalty for doing such a thing is to have a wedge driven between the couple. I personally question the interpretation (something I’m allowed to do as a Latter Day Saint) because the scripture in Romans is clearly referring to homosexuality. I also think it might discourage honest seeking and asking. Obviously President Kimball wanted couples to seek their own guidance as to whether they were worthy or not. It is a tough question indeed, especially for one who stumbled upon graphic pornography at the age of 15 and grew up in a society that did not talk about sex. When I told my bishop as a youth that my parents had not talked to me about sex he counseled me to go talk to my father. I think of the beer commercial, the most interesting man in the world, among his noteworthy achievements was giving his father the talk. I have a lot of pent up frustration. Another fun experience was getting to hear President Kimball label masturbation as a damning sin as a very young man(under 14) and having my Bishop tell me I could not give into masturbation but neither source explained to me what it was. The dictionary served that purpose and for me it was a natural outgrowth of youthful curiousity. Yes marital intimacy is better than masturbation when both people love each other. As for me I remain single at age 39, still working to overcome pornography. Finally in my twenties and having developed severe sexaphobia which was manifested through OCD my parents started to open up a little bit about sex. The conversation was basically that it was alright to have sex if you were married and that is about all I can recall, I recall much better their anger that I had found porn on the internet after having returned from the mission,. I had a devil of a time trying to serve a mission and came home really messed up with OCD symptoms. It is frustrating in a society that approaches sexuality and specifically sexual sin from the viewpoint that it is a sexual problem. Really, my forays into porn are not about sex so much as about escape from difficult issues. One can honestly question, when has the natural use been changed to that which is against nature? We still have warnings in the church leadership manual to refrain from all unholy, unnatural and impure acts. I have heard this warning in the church on differing ocassions. It would be nice if along with the warnings that sexuality could be discussed in a clear way without having to feel a need to repent in sack cloth and ashes. I don’t know that it will ever be an issue that can be defined clearly in a religious context. Suppose the brethren were to say, oral sex is alright. That could potentially lead a man to say to his wife, well the brethren approve. I really wish the conversation would center more around, kindness, respect, etc rather than terms such as unnatural, against nature which seems to be advice given through Moses to those wandering in the wilderness. I am no expert though on the legal and religious basis for the unnatural idea or why it was given. I could be wrong on that. Maybe some things have to be accepted with faith as the advice to obey the word of wisdom had to initially be accepted on faith with the idea that the reasons behind it would become clear in time. What makes oral sex unnatural? I know for sure
    If I’m acting the same as alot of what I have seen in porn then I would agree, it is out of line, way out of line. It can be challenging to not fear sexuality and look deeper, especially for one who has experienced a lot of negative emotion in connection to it. I suppose I have to see the legitimacy of the warnings and ask the Lord for help. It is obvious that sexuality is an issue where we as weak mortals stumble.

  73. James Burnham
    December 12, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    great post. This is exactly what I tell people but I needed the research to back the validity of my statements. Now I have it.

  74. Will
    December 27, 2013 at 4:21 am

    I wish as a kid my local church leaders wouldn’t have been so vague and mystic about sex. The “Especially for Youth” pamphlet was cryptic, big worded, and seemed to make the effort to sound philosophically confusing. After trying to read and re-read it I was left with a headache and feeling more lost than inspired. Isaiah in the Old Testament seemed less cryptic and more straight forward to me as a youth (too bad he didn’t write a pamphlet on sex).

    I think my first grade teacher would have done a much better job writing a church pamphlet. She taught us: don’t touch people where they wear their swim suits; and don’t touch people without their permission. It was easy playground rules for a five year old: wonderfully simple, easy to understand, not cryptic at all, and easy to follow without slowing down life any.

    If she had written a pamphlet on marital sex I’m guessing it would have been something like: don’t touch your spouse where they don’t like, don’t encourage your spouse to do things your spouse doesn’t want to, get your spouse’ permission/approval before engaging in sexual activities, go play and have fun together.