A brief review of Mormon intimacy

The early anti-Mormons that lampooned the citizens of Deseret could never have imagined that their targets would one day be recognized as paragons of puritan sexuality. The caricatures of Mormons as sexual miscreants have, for the most part, ceded to images of anachronistic sexual constraint. An historic review of Mormon discourse on intimacy reveals that just as others’ perceptions of Mormon intimacy have changed, so too, though to a lesser degree, is our own self image dynamic.

Chastity is a virtue that has always been emphasized in Mormon thought. Historically, physical intimacy was viewed pragmatically with polygamy casting aspersions upon the concept of romantic union. Brigham even threatened that, “[i]f the plurality of wives is to pander to the low passions of men and women, the sooner it is abolished the better. ‘How far would you go in abolishing it?’ I would say, if the Lord should reveal that it is his will to go so far as to become a Shaking Quaker, Amen to it, and let the sexes have no connection.” (1) It is not until the 20th century that romantic union has been sacralized.

Counsel regarding physical intimacy within marriage has been rare until recently. In 1978, the First Presidency added a statement to the Temple recommend questions that indicated that those who had not repented of “impure, unholy, or unnatural sex acts” could not receive a recommend. (2) This obviously led to some uncomfortable conversations with bishops and the First Presidency released another letter in 1982 that stated that bishops “should never inquire into personal, intimate matters involving marital relations between man and his wife.” This counsel is still contained in Temple Recommend instructions. (3)

There is no doubt that President Kimball had certain behaviors in mind when considering these “unnatural” acts. A letter that was briefly circulated by the first presidency in 1982 included oral sex to be considered among these acts. (4) This counsel, while not officially rescinded, has not been reiterated since and is generally unknown. Starting in 1985, the Temple recommend question was simplified to, “Do you live the law of Chastity?” (3)

President Hinckley categorized as spousal abuse the “demand [of] offensive intimate relations” in the priesthood session of 1990 April conference. Further, he stated that “You must judge within your heart whether you are guilty of any practice that is unholy, impure, or in any way evil before the Lord.” (5) The current General Handbook (1998) states that “sexual 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.” This, effectually, leaves the considerations of intimacy to couples and God.

As stated in the title of a 2004 BYU NewsNet article, “LDS Church [is] not opposed to birth control.” While the LDS church once promulgated counsel that denigrated birth control as sinful, this is no longer the case. Justin, at the Mormon Wasp, has an excellent review of this counsel as it relates to fertility rates. The current general handbook states that “[t]he decision as to how many chldren to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.”

Extra-marital petting and masturbation are not mentioned specifically in the General Handbook of Instruction and pornography was added in the 1998 edition. The GHI also offers no counsel on how Bishops should handle cases of in indiscretion; however, these activities have been generally viewed as sinful throughout Mormon history.

Masturbation wasn’t mentioned in general conference until 1956, where it was referred to as “self-abuse” (6). It wasn’t referred to as “masturbation” until the 1960′s. Not much is recorded about 19th century perceptions of the practice, however, all extant reference condemn it. It is recorded as the cause for the case of at least one re-baptism (7) and was condemned in the 1883 school of the prophets (8). William Clayton, secretary to Joseph Smith, recorded with millenarian fervor:

Recklessness, apostacy, vanity, whoredoms, self-pollution, rebellion, covetousness and kindred evils, are rampant, on every hand. These will have to be purged out before the Order of Enoch can be a success, and that the day of reckoning is close upon us I am as fully satisfied, as of anything in existence. (9 – “Self-pollution” is another euphemism for masturbation)

At a meeting in the Temple with the Twelve, Joseph F. Smith was recorded as stating in 1902:

that the practice of masturbation was indulged in by many young people in the church schools. Pres. Smith remarked that this was a most damnable and pernicious practice, and the face of every apostle, president of a stake, and high councillor [sic] should be set as flint against it. The priesthood should be called together at the stake conferences and the brethren and parents should be instructed and warned in relation to this matter. (10)

Elder Clawson recorded several instances where apostles heeded this counsel (11). Recently, there has been some focus on the act, however pornography receives the overwhelming majority of attention. A search for the terms on the church website illustrates this trend (masturbation: 20 references; pornography: over 300 references).

While Mormons were once considered aberrant hedonists, we are now considered aberrant ascetics. Despite our own changing perspectives about specific practices, the sanctity of the marriage covenant has always been maintained as the border that circumscribes the sexual union of men and women, even in the most extreme examples in our history.

___________

  1. JD vol. 9 pg. 31
  2. First Presidency letter, June 9, 1976, Church Archives; General Handbook of Instructions, supp. 3 to #21 (March 1, 1978), pg. 4 as cited in Kimball, E. L (2005) Lengthen Your Stride, Working Draft.
  3. Kimball, E. L. (1998) The History of LDS Temple Admission Standards. Journal of Mormon History Spring pg. 135-175.
  4. Kimball, E. L (2005) Lengthen Your Stride, Working Draft. chpt. 9 pg. 4.
  5. Ensign vol. 20 pg. 52.
  6. Delbert L. Stapley, Conference Report, October 1956, Afternoon Meeting pg. 121
  7. White, J. B. Church, State, and Politics: The Diaries of John Henry Smith pg. 106.
  8. Salt Lake City School of the Prophets Minute Book, 1883 (Palm Desert: ULC Press, 1981), 54.
  9. Allen, J. B.Trials of Discipleship: William Clayton and Mormon Millennial Expectations of the 1860s, p. 302
  10. Larson, S. A Ministry of Meetings: The Apostolic Diaries of Rudger Clawson, p.411; see also the counsel of Reed Smoot at a similar meeting on pg. 414 where it was called a “secret vice.”
  11. ibid., pg. 518, 520, 622, 635 and 638.

Comments

  1. “This, effectually, leaves the considerations of intimacy to couples and God.”

    In the late 1990′s I served as bishop of our ward. I was intitally troubled when many individuals and couples came to me and asked me about “the rules.” The subject matter stretched from paying tithing to keeping the Sabbath Day holy to other, more personal issues as well. About 6 months after I became the bishop we had a regional conference attened by President Hinckley and Elder Dallin Oaks. Elder Oaks was the first to speak and the very first words out of his mouth were, “In our church we don’t have rules. We have doctrine and we have principles.” He repeated that line and then proceeded to explain that so much of our behavior in the church boils down to our personal relationship with God. We receive guideance from the Prophet and from other leaders but ultimately the interpretation of that guideance is a matter between us and our God. Certainly that doesn’t mean we can irresponsibly act to satisfy our own selfish, or even deviant, needs but it does mean that the details or the interpretation of the guideance we receive is left to each of us as individuals. If we stay close to God in spirit and in practice, we will know when we have crossed the line. “I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.”

  2. It is interesting how the pendulum swings. Once mormons were considered very liberal and some would have wondered if it were possible to be a good mormon and a republican. Today it seems we are on the other side of things.

    Man, am I glad I’m not a bishop!

  3. That is an interesting point Lamonte. For a while, back in the 80′s, Bishops were councilled to respond to questions about specific intimate acts with, and I paraphrase, the idea that if they were concerned enough to ask the Bishop about it, then they probably aught to stop it.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    I think the Church has been wise in so many areas, such as this one, to get out of the business of trying to micromanage everything and leave the specifics to individuals and couples. The “institutional voyeurism” that used to be embedded in bishop’s interviews (before my time, thankfully) was deeply offensive to many Saints, and rightly so.

  5. Hmmm. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with you, J. Guilt over specific acts could be an unfortunate consequence of social conditioning that these sex acts are “bad” instead of part of a healthy sexuality.

    I’m not sure I’d trust my bishop (or most bishops) to offer particularly useful advice on this subject. Asking a bishop (who probably has his own sexual hangups, and probably has no formal training to offer competent advice on sexual matters between a husband and wife) for affirmation may not be the best gauge as to whether or not your sexual behavior is “normal”.

    But I do agree that people should determine what “normal” is based on their own comfort level. If you’re not comfortable with something your partner likes to do, ask yourself why and try to work things out – don’t immediately jump to a conclusion that it must be something “bad”.

  6. Elisabeth, perhaps I wasn’t very clear. You are not disagreeing with me; in fact, you are agreeing with my personal perspective. That said, this post and my subsequent comment outline the instatutional history.

  7. a random John says:

    J,

    I can certainly see how the advice you mentioned can lead to trouble. I can think of all sorts of questions about stuff that is without question OK that would be condemned by that advice.

    I am interested if you have any info on “the talk” given to couples getting married in the temple. Nobody said anything to my wife and me, but I know that my brother got it and that my parents did. My impression is that they wish they hadn’t been told anything.

  8. I think J.’s comment #3 is essentially the same thing I was saying in comment #1. But I agree with Elizabeth that:

    1. Most Bishops are not qualified to counsel couples on sexual matters.
    2. Couples have to determine what is ‘normal’ in their own relationships – but I think couples should be cautioned to be sensitive to the needs and desires of their partners and always strive to stay in tune with the Holy Ghost to ultimately determine what is appropriate in their behavior.

    If a bishop answered a couple’s or individuals’s probing question with “If you’re that concerned…” as suggested by J. it might lead one to believe that what they are doing is wrong, as suggested by Elezabeth. But for me, I will take the Bishop’s advise and weigh it along with all the other factors (what I’ve been taught, what I feel in my heart, what my partner desires, etc.) It’s not that I’m discounting the Bishop’s counsel, he is, afterall, called as a judge in Isreal and, I’m sure, has my best interests at heart. And I don’t think that statement is an indication of his attempt to counsel couples on matters of sex. I think it just indicates his advise that the couple should give it some serious thought and carefully consider their physical relationship.

  9. Nice post, but a much simpler explanation for the modern LDS over obsession with the LofC is a backlash against polygamy/polyandry. You neglected early GA quotes that reflect much looser 19th century LDS sexual mores, such as BY’s bit about understanding that a man could make a mistake and bed a women once, but if he does it ten times, then he’s committed adultery, clearly tolerating some trial premarital intimacy as the norm in human relations. That’s one thing about old BY, like FDR, if you search long enough you’ll find a quote that supports whatever position you want them to advocate. You also neglected the old fashion toleration of quietly bringing another man into a marriage to attempt to impregnate the wife if hubby wasn’t getting the job done or was indisposed for long periods of time (which was probably the objective of some LDS polyandry). With modern sperm bank technology, we would consider the old fashion method adultery today, even though both accomplish the same objective.

    Oh, as I’ve already over-commented on the fmh sex thread, the anti-masturbation badgering crap was dropped some time ago, at least in all the wards my kids have attended. Now today’s anti-porn rant may be partially a euphemism for chronic, obsessive masturbation, but in my day, I had Bishops and MPs obsessed with even occasional plumbing adjustments. We’re clearly beyond that BS. Now the prostate gods are taking their revenge on those old masturphobes of yesteryear.

  10. Steve EM, please cite your sources when attributing comments to Church leaders and general praxis. As far as I can tell, your Brigham citation is fallacious and see no evidence for your assersions of insemination. Actaully, better yet, we all know how you feel – just leave it be.

    ARJ, I’m not sure about what Temple Presidents have been instructed. From what I understand it is very little. Consequently, I know from private conversation that the Church heirarchy is constantly trying to purge personal oppinion from Temple administration.

  11. a random John says:

    Steve EM,

    You neglected to mention that “modern sperm bank technology” is officially discouraged today.

  12. For a while, back in the 80’s, Bishops were councilled to respond to questions about specific intimate acts with, and I paraphrase, the idea that if they were concerned enough to ask the Bishop about it, then they probably aught to stop it.

    J.,

    I’m pretty sure that is still the case.

  13. If I understand correctly, masturbation is a sin because it is like unto fornication and because it is always accompanied by lusting after a woman. As such, it drives away the Spirit and offends God, just like any other sexual aberration. God demands righteousness, not fulfilling orgasms.

  14. (That, of course, was written from a straight man’s perspective of lusting. The lusting part remains whether you are speaking of a woman committing that sin or a gay man or woman.)

  15. J., good post.

    I’ve only got a minute, but I want to say that I’m uncomfortable with the whole pat ‘if you’re concerned about it enough to ask, it’s probably wrong’ attitude. First off, I don’t think it’s always true. I mean, some college-age kids at BYU think that kissing the opposite sex before engagement is wrong. Do we really want to encourage that kind of neurosis?? I mean, we LDS are already overly guilt-ridden as a group, why exacerbate the problem. Rather, have enough openness, respect, and maturity to discuss the problem if it needs discussing. I realize lots of the people in question are not confident or comfortable with doing this, so I think it’s important that the church leaders and those who train/support/advise them should encourage this kind of environment, while still making sure they don’t make the individual even more uncomfortable. it would be a delicate balancing act, to be sure, but I think it’s one of the responsibilities of leadership.

  16. masterbation doesn’t always include lusting. it can be completely focused on physical sensation.
    but it is nonetheless wrong as a perversion of the sacred gift of sexuality, which is to be given in marirage- not used on yourself.

  17. Steve EM,
    I think a much simpler explanation for the modern LDS obsession with the LofC is Alma 39.5: “Know ye not, my son, that these things (sexual sins) are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?

  18. a random John says:

    J.,

    Regardless of what instruction temple presidents are currenlty given I know that individuals getting sealed used to be sat down for “the talk” and that it wasn’t with the couple. I believe that later this was changed to talking to the couple together since the earlier method caused problems. I was relieved that nobody took us aside for this on our wedding day, but I don’t know if this was an oversight or if things have changed.

    It is my understanding that this talk has caused more problems for couples than any conversations with bishops. Am I the only one that thinks this is an important aspect of the discussion?

  19. Seriously, the ‘bloggernacle’ has become utterly obsessed. Get over it who the hell cares what some random bishop says or what the churchs stance was before you were even born. You know whats ok and whats not, you know what you like and what you dont, why do we have to bring the church into our bedrooms? Seriously this is getting tiresome.

  20. J, Stapley,

    First, I really do like your post. Now I know this is a very orthodox site with low tolerance for free thinkers that aren’t knee jerk apologists for every church leader and practice. But are you in denial about early LDS polyandry because I didn’t reference a citation? And what about all the modern examples of looser sexual mores in the 18th and 19th centuries, such as most African American being mixed race, all the modern non-marital descendents of many of America’s founding fathers, etc. And I suppose to be welcome here I have to cite medical journals regarding the well publized male health benefits from frequent ejaculation?

    Gomez,

    Alma was engaging in hyperbole to convey the seriousness of fornication/adultery. I can think of dozens of sins more harmful than fornication/adultery but shy of murder. And just how did some LDS mix masturbation into Alma’s rant? What I meant about over emphasis is, to quote J. Giliam, for many LDS, on the LofC and the WofW rest all the law and all the prophets. It’s hardly a Christ centered gospel focus.

  21. ARJ, I’m familiar with the systamized lecture at the vail that is no longer part of the liturgy, but I have never seen reference to “the talk” codified anywhere. My wife and I didn’t recieve it, which is consitent with your experiance. I’ll do some digging to see what I find…but I agree with you that it is good thing that it is not normative.

  22. Artemis – J. clarified his position on this in #6.

    As far as members going to the bishops for sex advice, it’s not surprising that people seek guidance on this, especially from a trusted source of authority. But I agree that the trust in authority is probably misplaced here – and that it’s probably best to visit a trained counselor or read books instead of relying on someone who may have the best of intentions, but no real expertise on the subject.

    And, generally, I’d be interested to learn more about how different religions deal with sex. Any good resources out there? A sexual history of religion or something?

  23. Steve EM,
    I don’t think Alma is using hyperbole because I don’t think he is talking specifically about fornication, rather sexual sin as a whole. I think the sins shy of murder you mention are sexual in nature.

  24. Elizabeth,

    I wasn’t going after J. in my comment about the “if you’re that concerned” comment, but I can see how you’d read it that way. I wrote in a hurry. Sorry. Rather, it was a general comment on the practice, and as several people had mentioned it and I’ve experienced & seen that attitude myself, I was responding to how I feel about said viewpoint and practice.

  25. All right, Artemis, I’ll let you off the hook this time, but let it be known that anyone messing around with J. Stapley has got me to answer to. :)

  26. Come-on Gomez, what’s sexual about drunk driving leading to manslaughter, felony murder, armed robbery, mugging, assault, armed assault, revenge murder, warmongering etc. There are many sins worse (meaning more delirious impact) than sexual sins, but shy of the worst form of murder that Alma cites, the taking of innocent blood. Alma was dealing with a group of people who didn’t give a rat’s ass about their sexual sins, and he used hyperbole to get their attention regarding the seriousness of the matter. Most LDS take the sin next to murder thing out of context.

  27. Exclude sins that involve taking somebody else’s life, (manslaughter, felony murder, revenge murder, warmongering) which I consider included in Alma’s statement “murder”, and then point to a sin wosre in its impact than rape or the sexual abuse of a child.

  28. I recently heard a story about a stake president who added a follow-up question to the temple recommend question about chastity. In essence, the question he instructed his bishop to ask was: “What does the law of chastity mean to you?” It sounds innocuous, but it led to many drawn out discussions about intimate marital relationships. Apparently when the higher-ups found out he was reprimanded.

    I think bishops should generally stay out of the bedrooms of their parishoners, unless of course they are spending time in more than one bedroom.

    On another note, when I had my vescectomy several years ago (after having one more child than intended) several members of my ward chastized me and told me that I was not supposed to do so without “consulting” with my bishop first. Of course I thought that was preposterous, but I understand there is some instuction that members should avoid it in the GHI. Given the Church’s enlightened position on birth control, why does it still frown on vesectomies and similar operations?

  29. J.,

    I think many folks go to the bishop for advice on what’s “appropriate” in sexual relations. I did. I asked the bishop what the “boundaries” were and was very pleased to here him say that there were no “boundaries.” He then qualified what he said by suggesting that those “boundaries” ought ot be determined by my spouse and I with thoughtful consideration for eachother and to the spirit.

  30. Here’s one more thing to consider. Imagine the potential emotional/spiritual pain the masturbation = gross iniquity rhetoric takes on for those married couples trying to fulfill the “multiply and replenish the earth” command but are dealing with infertility. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that most fertility treatments require the male provide a sperm sample, in a controlled setting, gathered via masturbation. (Maybe things are different in the BOM belt, but not where I live.) Perhaps the brethren have softened the counsel (for adults) with this in mind. Don’t know if it’s true but I recently found a reputable fertility website that stated 20% of married couples hoping to reproduce will face a fertility problem. I personally know over-zealous “Miracle of Forgiviness = Doctrine” members that chastised a married couple over the matter. Truly sad and pathetic, and that’s why black and white pronouncements cause problems, IMO.

  31. Gomez,

    Alma didn’t say murder, he picked the worst kind of murder to put next to sexual sins, which leads to another point of various sexual sins have various deleterious impact. I don’t consider masturbation a sexual sin, since there’s no sex. I’ve never heard anybody refer to it as autosexuality, for example. Homosexuality isn’t as serious as fornication, because reproduction isn’t an issue. Likewise, sexual relations shy of intercourse are less seriuos. Adultry is far more harmful than fornication. Repentance is far easier for the fornicator: stop or get married.

    Rape, pedophilia, incest, etc have a more violent than sexual component to them, and fall into an entirely different realm of sin, far worse than the purely sexual sins.

    Anyway, Alma wasn’t perfect and needs the atonement like the rest of us. We shouldn’t hang on every word he says, and we certainly should take the words out of context, like so many LDS have done.

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    Porter, I had a vasectomy like 15 years ago, and I know of other guys in my ward who have had the procedure. It’s no big deal. Yes, as I recall there is some cautionary language in the Handbook, but I don’t live my life by the Handbook.

    It would never occur to me to go to my bishop for counsel regarding sexual matters. I think sometimes our use of such high and mighty titles as “bishop” causes us to lose fact of who these guys are. They’re just ordinary joes like you and me. They are in general very good men trying to do an overwhelming job in their spare time. They don’t have doctor of divinity degrees with required core classes in counseling or therapy.

    You might as well ask your plumber for advice regarding sexual matters as your friendly neighborhood bishop. We no longer live in the 19th century, where the word of the bishop was the end all and be all of existence.

    Just my opinion, of course.

  33. Steve Em said, “Alma was dealing with a group of people who didn’t give a rat’s ass about their sexual sins, and he used hyperbole to get their attention regarding the seriousness of the matter. Most LDS take the sin next to murder thing out of context.”

    As apparently do you. You realize that Alma is talking to one person when he makes that statement, right? And that that person is his son?

    I suppose that you could argue that the sermon has been altered for later public consumption (a real possibility, I think), but it is presented as private correspondance.

    Also, for what it is worth, it is probably appropriate to note that Alma doesn’t really focus on his son’s sins (whatever they were) but instead focuses on his son’s questions regarding the reality of the Atonement. Oh, and his son isn’t excommunicated, he is sent back out into the mission field (or something like thereunto).

  34. J strikes again!

    Great stuff here J, so very interesting. It’s always so intersting after the wondering and the specualtion, to get some solid meating information. You’re the best.

  35. Merrill on M says:

    A couple of people commented they regard masturbation as a sin, someone else commented it isn’t. I don’t think it is.

    When the issue has come up with my sons , I’ve told them “Masturbation is a pretty normal activity, but the thing to keep in mind is that your body becomes sexually mature years before you are emotionally ready for sexual activity, and years before you get married and should actually engage in sex. So, just try to keep things in perspective. If you masturbate it occasionally, no big deal. If you do it 6 times in a day, it’s time to redirect your efforts to other life activities, like homework, lacrosse, etc.”

    I’ve told my sons that if they’re asked in a church interview whether they masturbate, while they should feel free to answer however they like, a fine answer would be, “My father has told me that he is not comfortable with me discussing such issues with you. If you’d like, you can talk to him about it.”

    When I was 18, I was interviewed by my Bishop as part of submitting my papers to go on a mission. One of the interview questions was, “Do you live the law of chastity?” I answered yes. Then, my stake president asked me in his interview, do you masturbate? I said yes (I didn’t and don’t consider masturbation a violation of the LoC). He suspended my mission application for 6 months, said he was instructed by his leaders that such issues had to be vetted one-by-one with the area presidency.

    Six months later I went on my mission. While in a leadership position, I was aware that over several months various Elders came to the mission president to confess that they had masturbated. At least one expected to be sent home for this. My MP’s response in such situations was pretty much along these lines: “This activity is actually quite normal, it isn’t necessarily a perversion, it’s not necessarily a sin. But, it can become both, if you spend too much time practicing the act or thinking about sexual matters. So, go back and focus on your missionary work. If “it” happens once or twice, don’t worry about. If it happens 6 times in a day, you’re probably focusing on the wrong things, so dive deeper into your missionary work.”

  36. John C, Thanks. Yeah, I mentally made the transfer to a public discourse since it ends up as a written canonized account. My mistake, but it doesn’t detract from my point about Alma employing hyperbole to make his point and that we shouldn’t hang on every word of the statement like it was part of the ten commandments.

  37. Rather than discussing sex, why not discuss euphemisms? “Intimacy”? Come on. It’s either sexual intimacy, or non-sexual intimacy. But do we have to spoil “intimacy” for other uses by using it unmodified as a discription of sexual relations?

    We’ve come to the point that nobody can say that Intercourse is his or her favorite town in Pennsylvania without somebody in the peanut gallery snickering. Imagine what conversation were like if “sexual congress” had become simply “congress.” We could never discuss that august group of public servants without without thinking about sex.

    And what about “intimate” apparel? I don’t recall ever having had an intimate relationship with any of my underwear, but maybe it’s just the lack of underwire and lace talking. Or not.

  38. Elizabeth II says:

    Yikes! Could masturbation keep a boy (my son) from a mission now, with the new “raise the bar standards”? I don’t think so, but #35 raises the question.
    If that happened to my son, I would go mother-bear-protecting-her-child ballistic.
    Has anyone heard of recent incidences where masturbation has been regarded as diqualifying someone from a mission?

    Here’s what the Gen. Handbook of Instructions says on the subject of masturbation: ” ”
    In other words, nothing.
    But, there’s this from the paragraph on “Chastity, Fidelity, and Moral Cleanliness:”

    “God’s standard for sexual morality has always been clear: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex- odus 20:14). In modern and in ancient times God has commanded all of his children to lead strictly moral lives before and after marriage- intimate relations being permissible only between a man and a woman legally and lawfully married. Accordingly, intimate relations outside of marriage are out of harmony with God’s eternal plan for his children.
    To be morally clean, a person must refrain from adultery and fornication, from homosexual or lesbian relations, and from every other unholy, unnatural, or impure practice.”

    I don’t see that as condemning masturbation (which, if the conventional studies showing the incidence of masturbation among mailes are to be believed, is anything but “unnatural”), but I could see how John Fowles would argue that it does, because in his view masturbation is “impure.”

  39. There’s a reason it’s referred to as intimacy. Because it’s personal, intimate, not for public discussion. This is the one time I realize how old I am compared to the rest of you.

    The other day I took my mother into the rest room. The handicapped stall was occupied, so we squeezed into a smaller one, Mom and me. She kept saying, “don’t leave me” and “I have to pee.” I prayed she could pull her pants (depends) down herself.

    And we are in very close quarters there and suddenly into my mind popped that blog subject, I think it was on Times and Seasons and I thought you know, I am so not up to this.

    I don’t even have a good sense of smell, but these threads somehow smell nauseating to me. Just nauseating.

    And I only read the first few. I’m nauseous. Intimate: private, not to share with the whole world.

  40. I mostly based my earlier comment on D&C 63:16, which says And verily I say unto you, as I have said before, he that looketh on a woman to lust after her, or if any shall commit adultery in their hearts, they shall not have the Spirit, but shall deny the faith and shall fear. Also, numerous General Conference talks have condemned the practice, if I am not mistaken.

    As for your son, I think it will depend on the bishop. Some bishops might be like the mission president mentioned above and will say, just try to avoid it and leave it at that. I think you will probably find other bishops who will feel obligated to suspend the mission start date until the issue is dealt with. I think it is in the discretion of the bishop at issue. But I might be wrong about that, having never been a bishop.

  41. Okay, I must have been on drugs, my last comment was pretty much incomprehensible. And I dare not try again.

    Except to say, that I don’t think J meant for this to be another big ol masturbation debate. It’s obviously a debate people want to have, but here probably isn’t the best place. Although I suppose J can speak for himself.

  42. . . . a much simpler explanation for the modern LDS obsession with the LofC is Alma 39.5

    I think Gomez is correct that the Alma passage has been used to support the modern “obsession” with the LofC. And Steve EM is right to suggest that we stop applying Alma as a blanket condemnation of anything connected with sex. Otherwise, lust becomes equivalent to rape and pedophilia in seriousness.

    Kimball’s condemnation of homosexual behavior as being a sin “next to murder” in seriousness, “The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature,” in the MofF clearly derives from such a blanket reading of the Alma text.

  43. How can everyone be so sure that President Kimball was wrong about that?

  44. Re: #27

    …sins worse than adultery/sexual sin…

    How about torturing an innocent person (a child?) in unbelievably hideous but non-sexual ways?

  45. How can everyone be so sure that President Kimball was wrong about that?

    First, I don’t know about everyone else, but as far as I can tell there is nothing criminal or altogether unnatural about homosexual behavior, as it is observed readily in nature.

    Second, common sense tells me that murder and sex are worlds apart. Simply because homosexual sex is outside the usual pattern cannot possibly cause it to be considered next to murder as a moral aberration. Such a conclusion is beyond reason. What can possibly be so abominable and detestable about two people of the same gender expressing intimacy, for one to consider it next to murder?

  46. Yep fMhLisa, you got it right.

  47. Kevin Barney says:

    If a bishop suspends a young man’s mission call for six months because he masturbates, he might as well just throw the call in the wastebasket. It is almost impossible for a young man who masturbates to stop; six months isn’t going to make any difference. You know the old saw about how 90% masturbate and the other 10% lie about it.

  48. Thinking about that quote from President Kimball. Was he the prophet? Because Joseph F. Smith (or Fielding, I can’t remember) said some things that have been disproven. Like that men would never walk on the moon.

    But that was before he was a prophet.

  49. What’s a pingback?

  50. MikeInWeHo says:

    Are the bishops really that inconsistent in the way they handle the issue of masturbation, when interviewing/approving mission candidates? Wow. Highly problematic, IMO.

  51. annegb, a pingback is a way to keep track of other blogs that refer to your posts. It’s saying Bloggernacle Times refered to this group of postings.

  52. “You might as well ask your plumber for advice regarding sexual matters as your friendly neighborhood bishop.”

    Not that this has anything to do with anything, but my bishop is the friendly neighborhood plumber!!

  53. Thinking about that quote from President Kimball. Was he the prophet? Because Joseph F. Smith (or Fielding, I can’t remember) said some things that have been disproven. Like that men would never walk on the moon.

    But that was before he was a prophet.

    This is somewhat of a sidetrack, but there’s no guarantee that once someone becomes President of the Church that they are immune from making inaccurate, unscientific, or even undoctrinal statements. Good old Brigham said a lot of things as President of the Church that wouldn’t fit into our modern perception of the gospel.

  54. Now I know this is a very orthodox site with low tolerance for free thinkers…

    My experience is that an accusation of failure to “free-think” is usually tantamount to nothing more than a failure to agree with the accuser.

    As for the original post, I think the author might be looking at the poles with the mistaken belief that we have always been peculiar as to sexuality. Let’s not forget that for about 75 years we were right in line with mainstream thinking on American sexuality. That is, after polygamy, but before the sexual revolution, our monogamous ways were (generally) right in line with the rest of the country.

  55. That is an interesting assertion, jimbob. It may be true, though I think a better window for such a possible window of being “in line” would be from the 1920′s to the 1960′s. That said, and this isn’t my area of expertise, but I have read many who have concluded that upon forsaking polygamy, the church swung way accross to embrace some idealic victorian perception of sexuality that was never really mainstream. But really, I am not sure…it is a safe conclusion, however, that popular conceptions of Mormonism have swung as outlined in the post.

  56. Just because the President of the Church says something doesn’t make it doctrine. Official Church doctrine is proclaimed by the First Presidency of the Church. The President can (and does) say a lot of stuff that is not necessarily 100% (or even 1%) accurate.

  57. Non-sexual child abuse is worse than certain sexual sins. Non-sexual spousal abuse is worse than certain sexual sins.

  58. jimbob,

    You and I have exchanged a few comments on various threads, and I don’t recall implying that you had to agree with me to be thinking on your own, even though your opinions tend to be orthodox and mine not.

    It was simply been my observation, this site’s reputation to the contrary, that BCC is a very orthodox site. Even M*, although the posts are generally conservative, is more open regarding comments.

    J.,

    I was talking to my wife yesterday, and she said I got that BY, a man can make a mistake……but if he does it ten times, business from a Quinn book a relative lent her. We don’t have it anymore. Maybe someone else can properly site the source of quote and whether it is properly attributed to BY.

    But I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who assumes the modern LDS over obsession with the LofC is a backlash against polygamy/polyandry. How else would church authorities have avoided some LDS thinking the Manifesto was a political document and that underground polygamy (aka adultery) was ok? Wasn’t underground polygamy widespread anyway until the fundy Mormon groups went off on their own? Didn’t at least one LDS Apostle get caught doing it?

    On the other side of the coin, the US gov’t expectation that existing polygamous unions be dissolved rather than grandfathered, was unreasonable, cruel and completely unrealistic.

  59. Steve EM: “it was simply been my observation, this site’s reputation to the contrary, that BCC is a very orthodox site”

    Steve, you are known for your unorthodox observations, but your personal dislike for BCC/Steve Evans/Aaron Brown and all things associated with them is tiresome. Quit yer whining, already.

  60. Point taken Anon. I should have let jimbob’s comment pass. However, I wasn’t thinking of SE or AB when I made the “very orthodox” comments.

  61. Brigham’s “10 times” adultery quote Steve refers to is found in Quinn’s The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power. Appendix 5; “Selected Chronology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1848-1996″

    This is it:
    Jan 14, 1848 – Brigham Young instructs Seventy’s meeting: “For the first act of adultery you may forgive a man, but if a man beds with a woman and does it 10 times he is guilty.” p. 746

    A couple of other Quinn notes incidents roughly along those lines:

    11 Mar, 1848 – Benjamin Covey is excommunicated for having sexual intercourse with two girls “less than Twelve years of age” who are his foster daughters. He is re-baptized and serves as bishop of Salt Lake City Twelfth Ward from 22 February 1849 until 1856. p. 746

    8 Oct, 1859 – Brigham Young from the pulpit tells bishops to give Melchizedek priesthood to eighteen-year old boys, even if they “have been sowing their wild oats for years.” P. 758

    7 Mar, 1875 – Apostle Joseph F. Smith’s wife writes to him that “you know how brother (Apostle) [Albert] Carrington thinks a deal of women.” In Dec. 1882 Apostle John Henry Smith writes President John Taylor that maid at British Mission headquarters “found Bro. Carrington lying upon the lounge and Sarah Kirkman lying upon top him.” Upon Brigham Young’s inquiry about other women in 1873 and John Taylor’s inquiry about Sarah Kirkham in 1883, Carrington denies serious wrongdoing. he is not excommunicated until 1885 when protests from Sarah’s husband become too insistent to ignore. p. 770

    7 Oct, 1898 – At general conference Apostle John W. Taylor reports that in one rural area in Utah, 80 percent of LDS marriages involve pre-marital sex. p. 800

    10 July 1901 – Apostle Anthon H. Lund reports to apostles that during six-month period, 58 percent of LDS marriages in rural ward were “forced.” 803

    23 Nov, 1902 – Apostle John W. Taylor tells stake priesthood meeting that “those who have sexual intercourse with their wives or touch any dead body are unclean until the evening, and therefore during that day should not enter the temple or officiate in any ordinances of the gospel.” P. 805

    Some incidents showing less flexibility with sexual indiscretion:

    3 Mar, 1849 – At council of Fifty meeting, Brigham Young speaks concerning thieves, murderers, and sexually licentious: ” I want their cursed heads to be cut off that they may atone for their crimes.” Next day, the council agrees that man has “forfeited his Head,” and decides it would be best “to dispose of him privately.” Instead, they allow him to live. p. 747

    29 April, 1849 – First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve make following decisions concerning sex in marriage “not to unite with woman in view of impregnation till 7 days after the cessation of the menstrual discharge in order for the most healthy procreation. Also that after childbirth if delivered a son she should continue 40 days in her purification [without sexual intercourse with her husband]. If daughter she [the new mother] should be 70 days separated as unclean for a man. As to sexual connection during pregnancy, do just as they please about that – suit themselves.” This is the earliest known LDS discussion of what is appropriate in sexual relations of married couples. These rules are based on Book of Leviticus, rather than on current medical writings. P. 747

    18 Oct, 1851 – Trial of confessed murderer (and newly returned-missionary) Howard Egan. His lawyer Apostle George A. Smith popularizes phrase “mountain common law” and argues: “The man who seduces his neighbor’s wife must die, and her nearest relative must kill him!” Fifteen minutes later jury finds Egan not guilty of murder. Church authorities print Smith’s closing argument in Deseret News, in two church pamphlets, and later in Journal of Discourses 1:97. Egan is one of Brigham Young’s enforcers. P 747

    16 July, 1854 – First counselor Heber C. Kimball recommends decapitation for adulterers and preaches from the pulpit concerning “unclean” women: “we wipe them out of existence.” P. 751

    5 Mar, 1857 – Brigham Young permits woman to select faithful elders to act as “proxy” to father children for her sexually impotent living husband. Young performs polyandrous ceremony “for time,” and the relationship lasts for several years producing two sons, (1858, 1861). Mother’s legal husband raises boys with her, and later tells them he loves them as much as if they were his natural sons. Both boys grow up to become devoted Mormons and polygamists. This is last known case of authorized polyandry. P. 754
    2 June, 1857 – Brigham Young says from the pulpit, “I feel to sustain him,” when informed that the bishop in Manti. Waren S. Snow, has castrated twenty-four-year-old Welchman, Thomas Lewis, for undisclosed sex crime. “Just let the matter drop, and say no more about it,” Young writes Snow in July about the castration, “and it will soon die away among the people.” Snow’s counselor confides to his diary that this poor young man “has now gone crazy.” P. 754

    27 Jan, 1858 – Judge Hosea Stout describes with no disapproval how Mormons “disguised as Indians” drag a man “out of bed with a whore and castrated him by a square and close amputation.” P. 757

    2 Dec, 1890 – Apostle Lorenzo Snow tells the Quorum of Twelve that “he expects to see the day when a man’s blood is shed again for the crime of adultery.” P. 792

  62. Steve EM: “this site’s reputation to the contrary, that BCC is a very orthodox site. Even M*, although the posts are generally conservative, is more open regarding comments.”
    I second this comment. In BCC, the posts are typically engaging, but often the commenters insist on a strikingly narrow view of Mormonism, and seem to insist that their view is the only viable one.

  63. I wonder, Andrew E. (#62), if the information you present describes a pattern, or just aberrations. I don’t doubt Quinn’s scholarship, but I wonder if he’s found all the odd comments, lumped them together, and made them look like that was the rule. Any thoughts?

  64. re 63, that has not been my observation.

  65. jimbob, I think that your hypothesis is likely correct. Edward Kimball’s history of the Temple recomend cites the injunction against premarital sex for temple attendance during the 19th century. Chastity was consistently preached. The aberrations are an interesting insight into the period, though.

    As it relates to Birgham’s quote about adultry, that is pretty consistent with modern church discipline.

  66. I was personally held back from my mission during the final interview with my stake president because I masturbated (although infrequently). I found it impossible to stop it all together throughout a two year period and eventually gave up on trying to go on a mission. I felt such guilt and such pain. I felt horrible for the simple fact that I was attracted to women. Over the years, I had been taught that lusting after a woman was essentially being attracted and enjoying the attraction (as appossed to being attracted and shunning it). So, the combination of these two things made me feel hopeless.

    My parents didn’t want me to move out of the house until I went on a mission and was pressured to not go to college (unless it was BYU), which I wouldn’t qualify for, since I still masturbated. Throughout all of this, I attended many counseling sessions with church sponsored therapists that might help me learn to quit.

    Unfortunately I could never do it. A few times I’d get close and even go a month or two without doing it, but inevitablly I would wake up in the middle of the night in an erotic dream, semi consciously and masturbate.(for which I felt immense guilt). I now realize those were just wet-dreams, but at the time I would give up on myself and lose hope of progression. I couldn’t understand why the atonement wouldn’t work for me, when it had for people who had stolen, cheated, been cruel, or even had sex. I was jealous that they could change and move on, but my behavior, which was less vial, but repetative kept me from progressing. I figured maybe it was I who could’nt work for the atonment, which caused me despair.

    I hated myself that I couldn’t be as good as all the other boys who went on missions. I set such a high standard for myself and wanted to be so good that I could never acheive it. I didn’t realize until years later that I was like nearly every other boy who went on a mission. I was like every other boy in the world who was just growing up as a teenager trying to deal with puberty. I just never knew it was okay. I wasn’t willing to hide the fact that I hadn’t completely mastered it, and no one ever told me it was okay to be working toward the mastery (a life time process) and still go on.

    At the time, I saw no hope of ever stopping the behavior unless I got married. I could never get married in the temple because of the masturbation. I married a member, but outside the temple. She ended up having an affair two years later. After this I began to feel so terrible that I blew everything by not getting married in the temple. I wish I would have lied, so that I could have gone on a mission. Surely that little lie could have been repented of.

    I told myself that if I was going to be crucified for masturbating I might as well be a bit more deviant. I ended up having sex one night with a girl (easy to do since I had already been married and done it many times.) I also thought I was being held up in my progression just as easily with masturbating, I might as well go all the way.

    Stupid logic I know. It was at that time I met a bishop who straightened me out. Helped me to realize that there is a big difference with things you can handle and deal with between yourself and with God, and with serious sexual transgressions, ie: procreation, fornication, adultery, etc. These things are outright violations of covenants. The other things are counseled (not commanded)to be avoided and to keep us clear of the serious sins. They are not the serious sins themselves.

    I’ve since remarried in the temple and have found new hope and faith in the church, because of the research I’ve done that has given me the confidence to realize that there are good people in leadership positions that are trying to do what is right, but are prone to error. Their opinions do not constitute doctorine. “Sexual Relations” defines “Sexual Intercourse” in the strict sense.

    However, I also realize that there are varying behaviors that are not within the spirit of the law and should be controlled. This comes through maturity. My contention is this:

    There are many sins of varying types. They all qualify for repentance, which is a process through life. Any sin, short of serious should not prevent honestly believing good people from progressing through development in the church.

    LDS members allow for some sins to work on and still continue their journey (such as laziness, bad tempers, over eating habits, etc), but when it comes to others, there is no tolerance. This, despite the fact that all sins will equally keep you from Celestial Heaven, at least until repented of, it will keep you from feeling the spirit. There are no degrees of sinners in the strict sense that all sinners need christ, and he is the one that gives us weakness to grow.

    For a time, my life was destroyed because I could not go on a mission or get married where I wanted, or go to school where I wanted. I couldn’t fulfill my parents expectations of me. Now I realize that every day and every week I become clean through my faith in christ for all sins, not just select ones. Sure, serious sins require confession, but things that go on inside and with yourself don’t constitute those. If you want to talk to a bishop, it would be for advice, not for confession.

  67. The church may not condemn masturbation from the pulpit at general conference anymore, but that doesn’t mean that it still has nothing to say about it. Here are some quotes on the topic from manuals that the Church CURRENTLY uses, i.e. it endorses all of the content therein:

    “The law of chastity is not limited to just adultery, however. It extends to all improper uses of the divine power of procreation. Among the other ways man misuses this sacred power are fornication (including living together without marriage), homosexuality, abortion, and masturbation.” – Gospel Principles and Doctrines

    ““Masturbation … is not approved of the Lord nor of his church, regardless of what may be said by others whose ‘norms’ are lower” (President Kimball Speaks Out [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], p. 10).” – Aaronic Priesthood Manual, also quoted in the Young Women’s Manual

    “The Lord specifically forbids certain behaviors, including all sexual relations before marriage, petting, sex perversion (such as homosexuality, rape, and incest), masturbation, or preoccupation with sex in thought, speech, or action. …” – Marriage and Family Relations Instructor’s Manual

    ““A boy should be taught about the power of creation within his body and that the Lord intended that this power should be used exclusively in marriage. He should be cautioned against sexual self-stimulation (masturbation).” – Family Home Evening Resource Book

    “The Lord has made it clear that immorality involves more than extramarital sexual intercourse. Some other things that the Lord has clearly told us to refrain from include necking and petting, masturbation, pornography, and homosexuality.” – Family Home Evening Resource Book

    “One example: masturbation is considered by many in the world to be the harmless expression of an instinctive sex drive. Teach your children that the prophets have condemned it as a sin throughout the ages and that they can choose not to do it.” – A Parent’s Guide

    “The sin of masturbation occurs when a person stimulates his or her own sex organs for the purpose of sexual arousal. It is a perversion of the body’s passions. When we pervert these passions and intentionally use them for selfish, immoral purposes, we become carnal.” – A Parent’s Guide

    If these are not convincing enough, read the most recent iteration of the “For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet”: “Do not…touch the private, sacred areas of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not allow anyone to do that with you. Do not arouse these emotions in your own body.”

    In my opinion, the reason why masturbation is a sin is because it is an inherently selfish use of the sacred power of procreation that God has given us. Sex and procreation are incredible powers; sex gives us the power to take part in the creative process. Sex is a bond between married couples that ties them together. The Lord has entrusted us with a great power and masturbation is an extremley selfish manifestation of it. It is not a proper or a healthy manifestation of this power. Sex, properly used, should draw a couple closer to each other and closer to the Spirit. Selfishness does not draw us closer to the Lord. If masturbation was a good thing it would be of God and draw us closer to Him. After all, the Book of Mormon does say that all good things are of God and will draw us closer to Him. I know it seems like there are ‘gray areas’ that don’t seem to drive us one way or the other, but when it comes to something as sacred as sex and the procreative power therein, I have a feeling that there is not a gray area whatsoever. It may go on ‘inside yourself’ but it certainly is serious and while it may be on the low end of the sexual sin continum, it is not something that should be dealt with lightly. Casual treatment of sacred things is Satan’s number one tactic.

    And yes, it is possible for a boy that masturbates to stop. I had a problem with it when I was a teenager, but I was able to stop and haven’t done it for years. Should it keep him from a mission? That is between the bishop and the Lord.

  68. Regarding the comments on Alma’s counsel to Corianton, there is some scholarly thought that Isabel (connections to wicked namesake Jezebel, the Phoenician land of Siron, etc) was a temple harlot, and so the sin Alma was condemning was not just fornication, but ritual prostitution defaming the temple. It is perhaps easier to see the gravity of that sin in the rankings.

  69. I had an interview with the temple president on my temple marriage day (marriage not sealing). The question asked was simply had we kept the law of chastity since our interview with our Stake President? (It was a long trip to SLC). We could answer yes so the interview was over. But if we had said no, I was under the impression that anything less than full intercourse would have been delt with then and there (repentance) and the marriage would still be on.

    I think it was good and approperate. If there was anything else we needed to repent of, get it out so that we could be forgiven and go into the cermony without guilt.

  70. First of all, those posting who claim that homosexuality is ‘justified’ b/c Alma’s quote just doesn’t make sense to them are scraping for excuses. What type of logic is that? You can ignore COUNTELSS comments on this practice from the Old Testament to the modern day Prophet, then cite ONE scripture which you YOURSELF even claim that you don’t understand entirely– and then use that as justification for your choices??? Face the music . . . you are in serious denial. Your choices belong to YOU. Own them.

  71. Supergenius says:

    J.A.T., you are the bee’s knees, man. Don’t ever change.

  72. Alma’s philosophical thesis is based on predicate logic which relates to his previous comments (verses and chapters). It is a summation of a very long lecture. You have to read it in context. I’m a librarian, and it is easy for me to see how his two statements about murder and sex- are categorical umbrellas for all other possible sins. We call those sorts of words, ‘main subject headings’. They can be short words (not a long list) which relate to all the minor subject headings and various groupings of things. It’s pretty clear that those two words are main descriptors, not litanies. (Jacob told us why church leaders don’t often go through the long lists o’ sins . . . it offends those who aren’t sinning and don’t want to hear about all the possible perversions. Besides, when you are chiseling away on precious metal- who wants to write down the infinticimil ways man can devise to sin?)

    Those who have studied rhetoric and writing also know that Alma is summing up his lesson and recapping what he said. This is usually a time for using categorical words which envelop the entire discussion. He is relating parts to the whole.(Enter main subject headings!)

    Yes, included in those lists are incest, rape, child molestation, torture, etc. As a matter of fact, the Savior said that those who offended little ones would be better off if a millstone were hung around their necks and they were dropped in the lake. That’s kinda like saying, “The judgement awaiting you is soooooo bad that I’m not even going to describe it. You can’t imagine and we’re not even going to go there in this discussion. Let’s just say that ‘you’d be better off dead’” My words make this situation seem sarcastic and comical, but in reality- this can’t be more stone cold serious or packed with eminent justice.

    What seems to be missing from our blog conversation is a reflection that God, our Eternal Judge, is good and fair and knows each of our minds and hearts. Whether or not we understand scripture completely (that’s something we can work a lifetime to do and still have more to learn) we know what we are doing in our souls. God knows. We know. Even people who rationalize away their actions don’t truly escape those two realities in their souls.

    Liz

  73. What about phone sex between married couples?

  74. That would fall under President Hinkley’s council as cited in footnote 5 of the original post.

  75. Just came across this and thougt I would ask if has anyone considered what role masturbation within temple marriage might play. All of the liturature about masturbation seems directed at the youth and unmarried of the church but never mentions how things change after marriage. Masturbation in this sense has nothing to do with porn and only with thoughts and feeling towards your spouse, plus aquiring the added health benefits both physical and physiological in nature. Just looking for others experiences and insight.

  76. Gene talks about the selfishness of masturbation, and Pete asks about masturbation for married people. What about selfishness of a spouse not satisfying the other’s needs, pushing them towards masturbation? Which is the greater sin?

  77. This discussion is something I have wondered about for some time. I was particularly interested in Pete L’s comment on August 27th. I too have observed that virtually all of the discussion and condemnation of masturbation is directed at youth. But what about after you’re married, and as part of a healthy marital relationship? It is my understanding that most women are not able to experience orgasm without masturbation, or some similar form of stimulation, which is often part of perfectly legitimate physical intimacy between spouses.

    To be completely honest I am very confused by all this, and am trying to find dependable answers. I am genuinely curious, for example, about the propriety of oral sex as part of perfectly legitimate physical intimacy between spouses.

    My own personal opinion is that once your married, the “rules” change. But I’m interested in a more definitive statement. I saw that someone had commented that there aren’t rules, only doctrine, and principals, but frankly I find them to be vague, ambiguous and confusing.

    Based on a legal education and background, I know something about the problems of vagueness and ambiguity. I also know that most generalizations have exceptions. How does and should all of this apply in this context? If this is a big issue that is going to potentially keep some good people out of the celestial kingdom, shouldn’t it be addressed?

    Instead of using the word “rules,” what about “standards?” Heaven knows along with doctrine and principals, we also talk about standards. What are the standards for physical intimacy, including such things as masturbation and oral sex within marriage, between spouses?

    I’m not talking about teeage boys here! I’m talking about standards for physical intimacy between mature married spouses.

    Again, if this is a big deal, that is going to impede a bunch of people’s eternal progression, why don’t we get some more concrete direction about it?

    Is it because it isn’t a big deal? It isn’t going to impede a bunch of people’s eternal progression — because it’s essentially all fair game within the bounds of marriage?

  78. I just think that sex between a couple is a very personal thing. It isn’t anybody’s business-they are consenting adults. If a couple has to go into their Bishop to ask what the “rules” are about sexual relations with their spouse, then I feel sorry for them. If they are that weakminded then maybe they shouldn’t be married.

  79. I have made these matters a serious matter of study and prayer and discussion with my husband of whom I have been married nearly 30 years. I thought I was doing things the right way most of my marriage, but came to realize, thanks the Laura Brotherson’s inspired book, “And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage Through Sexual Fulfillment” that I was struggling with the “Good Girl Syndrome” that many good members of the Church struggle with. She is masterful in how she helps you recognize and overcome these crippling tendencies. You can get her book from her website http://www.StrengtheningMarriage.com or through Deseret Book. She is a popular speaker at BYU Education Weeks. She also taught this subject through Church Education Classes in Boise, Idaho. She turned me around and I am eternally grateful. She is very careful with quoting Church sources and scriptures. She helps you realize that it is God that designed us to enjoy sexual relations with our spouses and we should learn how He intended us to do it not avoid it in marriage. The Spirit is the great educator. Parley P Pratt said, “The gift of the Holy Spirit . . . quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use…” (Key to the Science of Theology, p.100 ‑ p.101
    I have asked the very questions Rick T mentions above. My husband ansd I through careful study and prayer have come to the conclusion, that these matters where there is no clear answers, it is between husband and wife. If it does not chase away the Spirit or cause you to lose your desire for Spiritual things, and it draws you closer together, or are things we know to be wrong, it can be considered to be perfectly acceptable to the Lord.

  80. I meant to say, “And are not things we know to be wrong”. I did not convey what I was trying to get across in my last post.

  81. I just read my last post as well as Rick T’s. I cannot find anywhere where there are clear answers for married people about certain sexual practices that are current, except for fornication and adultery and of course avoiding pornography. I used to think any stimulation outside of intercourse was wrong. I used to think any thoughts about sex were wrong. I used to think if I desired my husband sexually, that I was guilty of lust. As you can see, I must have caused my husband a lot of unnecessary grief. Laura Brotherson woke me up. After a LOT of prayer, fasting, attending the temple for answers and a lot of study, my husband and I have found some answers that work for us. However, when I read church leaders comments about sexual relations I start heading back to my old ways of thinking. I wonder if I misinterpret their comments. When they give vague comments, it is hard to understand what they mean in today’s world where there are so many voices and ideas and where the world can make black seem white and visa versa. We are told to get educated, but where can you go that is a safe place? It is easy to get desensitized as well. But, it is also really easy when you are trying to do the right things, to go over to the extremes and become out of balance and deny yourself and your spouse the joys that come through sexual intimacy with your spouse in the way the Lord intended.

    It is easy to feel guilt for things that are perfectly fine…I know, I have done so for nearly 30 years of marriage. I think we get it into our heads that what the youth are taught is what is for all. Just because we are married does not magically help us have a healthy attitude about sex. Teaching YW most of my married life helped me develope the idea that I needed to live like I was teaching them to live, only I was married and sex was perfectly okay with my husband.
    Also, if God ordained sex then why do we make it so unthinkable and not something we can discuss openly? I am not talking about our personal intimacy experiences, but in general terms. It is very frustrating. We are told to discuss sex with our children, but where do we go for answers? When we do not know what is okay, how can we teach them? My married sons got taught from a young couple who sat them down and had “the talk” with them. I was grateful, because we honestly did not know what to tell them.
    I know as we grow in our sexual intimacy with our spouses we will grow and gain greater insights into what a Celestial marriage is. I have a strong testimony of that. I just wish I had more clarity of what is and is not acceptable to the Lord. We are told to seek Him out but why is it when I do and I get answers, I often feel I have sinned? Is it the Spirit telling me that or my improper and imperfect programming? A year ago, my husband and I made a serious attempt to gain a clear answer about something we wanted an answer to. One night while we were reading the Book of Mormon together, like we do every day, I had a burning in my bossom that permeated my whole body. I gained insight into how the Lord viewed that intimacy. I was not prepared to recieve such a powerful positive answer. My feelings about the Lord and our Father in Heaven grew tremendously during that time. My experiences and understanding of temple ordinances grew tremendously during that period of time when I was truly seeking for enlightenment and applying what I was learning.

    When I first got the answers, I wrote them down as best as I could understand them. I did not share them with my husband at that time because I kept feeling I needed to wait until he got his answers.
    I asked him the next day if he had gotten an answer, to which he replied that he had not. I asked if he wanted to hear my answer. He said he did, later telling me that he was asked by the Spirit if he trusted his wife to which he answered that he did. I shared the powerful answers I got.

    I have never felt closer to my husband than I did after following the Spirit on that one.

    It is interesting how I started feeling guilty again. I asked for a Priesthood blessing. I was told not to doubt the answers I got from the Lord. I was also told not to counsel the Lord. That morning I had started doubting my answers and started telling the Lord why I felt that way. I was slipping back to my old ways of thinking. I was told in the blessing the Lord was proud of my growth and not to backslide. It has been hard for me but as I put my trust in the answers I get from the Lord and not my imperfect understanding from years before, I find my husband and I have started acting more like newly weds. So, the things we are told about seeking the Lord out and trusting our answers work. The journey is painful, and like any other Gospel subject, we must make it a serious matter of study and not worry that it is pornography. Just be careful of the places you go to get educated. Don’t let prudishness guide your actions. But let enlightenment and guidance from the Spirit guide you and as you do, you will find hidden treasures that will bring you and your Spouse closer than you ever dreamed possible.

    I promise the Lord is more interested in your sex life with your spouse than you could ever dream possible. It will shock you how interested He is and how He will help the both of you. I also promise it will be one fo the most painful journeys you have been through, but it iwll be worth every bit of it. And be patient, like any other growth, it is line up one line and precept upon precept.

    God bless you and your spouse as you build your Celestial marriage. Let’s work together to bring sexual relations back into the Lord’s territory.

  82. Hey Teresa, thanks for your posts. I hadn’t been back to look at this for awhile. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one in the world who struggles with some of these questions. Your experiences and insights are helpful. Thanks.

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