… Anyone? (see comment 1)

Do Latter-day Saints have and practice a distinctive sense of the erotic? The question is relevant because anthropologists, such as Gilbert Herdt, have called for a comparative study of erotics. Mormons are, on the one hand, part of host societies while, on the other, they build a sense of separation and distinctiveness from the host society.

Sex and the erotic are part of the boundary. From an LDS point of view Mormons attempt to avoid indecency and build lives filled with the divine where the family and reproduction is a critical element. On the outside there are many stereotypes of sexuality that clam to delimit Mormons from ordinary Americans. These fit within a series of hyper-erotic images used to refer to minorities and competitors as the US expanded and consolidated.

Most recently these images raised their head in actions against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They stand accused of having beds in their temple that are used for sexual activity. I first heard this piece of folklore as a teenager that the Salt Lake LDS Temple was wall-to-wall mattresses. This was supposedly known because a woman escaped by jumping out a window into the Great Salt Lake and swimming away. Despite the ridiculousness of the story, narratives such as this and many others that purport to detail the hyper-sexuality of LDS women and men are told in the western United States, and perhaps elsewhere, as means of marking Mormons off as separate and distinctive.

The erotic both functions as a boundary and as a point of encounter, desired or real, between Mormons and mainstream society. This makes the task of grasping a Latter-day Saint erotics all the more difficult at the same time it is all the more important.

Generally anthropologists would do qualitative and quantitative research among people to find out how the sense of the erotic plays out in their lives and how they have organized it. I have done some of that. For now, though, I want to approach the issue by looking briefly at a key text by an LDS General Authority, because of the place General Authorities’ discourse occupies within Latter-day Saint practice and because the text itself is an ethnographic document.

To get to the text it is useful to locate it within the realm of American discourses on the erotic. The sociologist Steven Seidman argues American society has two divergent understandings of sex and its relationship with society. He called these ideologies libertarian and sexual romanticism. The first views sex “as a positive, beneficial, joyous phenomenon. Its expression is connected to personal health, happiness, self fulfillment, and social progress. Sex is said to have multiple meanings; it can be justified as an act of self expression or pleasure, a sign of affection, love, or a procreative act. Sexual expression is said to be legitimate in virtually all adult consensual social exchanges, although most libertarians place sex in a romantic, loving bond at the top of their value hierarchy.” (Steven Seidman, Embattled Eros: Sexual Politics and Ethics in Contemporary America. New York: Routledge. 1992, p. 5-6) In contrast: “The romanticist believes that to harness the beneficial aspects of sex, Eros must be connected to and kept intertwined with emotional, social, and spiritual intimacies. The romanticist holds that sex should always be a way to show affection and love. It should exhibit tender, caring, loving qualities, or qualities that are always respectable of the other as an integrated, whole person. Erotic pleasure should be limited and connected to social and spiritual feelings so as not to reduce the other to a mere body or vessel of pleasure” (p. 6). [This paragraph is borrowed from my paper “ On Mormon Erotics”]

Elder Jeffrey Holland, in his talk “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments” attempts to give positive reasons for LDS constraints on sexuality. He holds the sexual coupling of married individuals to be part of the advancement of souls, a symbol of full unity of heart and mind in the couple, and a sacrament involving unity with God. Although building on a romanticist notion of sex, the way this talk develops these themes already provides an argument for a distinctive Latter-day Saint sense of the erotic as symbol and sacrament.

Elder Holland though, in a long tradition of western discourse, begins by reducing the erotic to the giving of life, and argues a need for proper giving. He contrasts propriety with carelessness, which he assimilates to the taking of life. His concern is with the proper production of children and with the erotic as a sacralized vehicle for producing children. He claims children are “entitled” to birth within a proper family. Improper sex, therefore, becomes a breaking of the right of unborn children to proper LDS homes and families.

Elder Holland continues his argument of moral obligation by stating that using genitals outside the bonds of matrimony is to “give something that is not yours to give”. He says: “We cannot then say in ignorance or defiance, ‘Well it’s my life,’ or worse yet, ‘It’s my body.’ It is not. ‘Ye are not our own.”

While there are many ways of approaching and understanding these statements, one way is to note that they make a direct challenge to standard assumptions that the individual is the owner of their body and that sex, in the liberal discursive fashion identified by Seidman, can be a matter of self realization or self expression. Elder Holland challenges the individualist assumptions that rest under the Romantic notions. He sees the erotic as belonging to something outside the self, in this case the divine that sanctifies the Church.

This is a different erotic self than that allowed by American individualist erotics, whether romantic or liberal. It is a “self as obliged to something else” (Knowlton, “On Mormon Erotics”). It is an opposition to American individualism and sees sex as where a collective, the Church with divine sanction, is constructed as a response. To build this boundary Holland spends a great deal of time in a talk on positives developing dismissive negatives of other ways of being sexual. He builds a warning to Latter-day Saints of the “crushing remorse and guilt” he expects accompany a non-LDS erotics.

The attitude Elder Holland prescribes for understanding sex and the erotic is drawn from Mormon discourse of the sacred. It is reverent and serious. It also has strong limits on how it should be mentioned and when it should be mentioned in discourse. It should be anxiously serious and reverential in mood. Interestingly this mood constrains his discussion of sex and the erotic to something very brief. It is more alluded to than stated. This creates a curious gap in the heart of his talk that is laden with significance.

One aspect of this discursive gap relates to the place of sex in Mormon life and what should and should not be discussed. Sex is a strong ideological force within American society. The vast majority of Americans are sexually active outside of marriage. It is not surprising therefore that large numbers of Latter-day Saints are similarly active, although the percentage is reportedly substantially below that of the nation. There is a question of how people experience the difference between LDS views and common practices. How does this reality relate to Elder Holland’s prescription of “crushing remorse and guilt”?

I do not know, but I suspect that in this is a lot of the drama of inactivity of Young Adults within the Church. It is also a difficult thing to talk about.

Marriage is undoubtedly important. Yet within marriage Latter-day Saints have little, other than the weighty discussion of souls, symbols, and sacrament that can serve as a guide for married couples as they develop their erotic lives. I wonder if there is not some culturally created anxiety around that gap.

Elder Holland’s is but one of many discourses by the Brethren on the erotic and its place in life. Latter-day Saints live complex lives. I wonder how these discourses fit within them.

Comments

  1. Ardis Parshall says:

    You realize, don’t you, that I won’t be able to follow this discussion today because of filters at the Church Office Building? and that other readers will have the same problem at their places of work? Perhaps you could modify the title somewhat so that this will make it past the filters? Thanks.

  2. david knowlton says:

    Nope, I didn’t realize. Sorry I am an academic and literally was not aware. Oh well. It does emphasize one of the points I was making about discursive boundaries.

    I will modify the title. from “Erotics Anyone?” to “… Anyone?” Will that work? Do I need to go through the essay and remove words?

    Thanks for the heads up

  3. re your last paragraph: I may be wrong, but it seems to me that Elder Holland’s talk is one of a very, very few discourses by the Brethren on the erotic. Yes, we have talks warning against the “improper” use of sex, but where do we have the GA’s as straightforward on Mormon erotics as “Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments?”

  4. One more comment on the problem of filters. Their existence makes serious discussion of many issues problematic. In this case I use an academic term “erotics” that is not part of natural language–at least the spell checkers do not like it, in order to highlight an area and try to remove it from the debates and politics around desire, prurience, and, ironically, the sacred.

    If nothing else LDS thought argues that the unmentionable is critical for the nature of God and human emblematization of that nature, as well as the counterfeit of it. The un-speak-ability of things is an important part of the issue I am discussing.

    There are two concerns here: 1) filters; 2) the understanding of the sacred and the role of talk in relationship to it. How can one talk, and write, about such important things?

  5. Unspeakability.

    We take our cues on how we talk about sacred things from our leaders. Yet there are discursively structured silences around certain things we hold to be most sacred. That silence/secretness can, in fact, reinforce and even constitute the sacredness. That which is most holy, through which we most closely approach God/godliness, is guarded by formally structured silences. In the case of the temple, I believe the effects of unspokenness are wholly positive. In the case of sexual expression between spouses, I wonder if the overall effect is somewhat less positive. Granted, in the latter case, the silence is structured less formally and rigidly. But it is there nonetheless, and I wonder to what extent it weakens the ability of spouses to effectively communicate about their sexual lives.

  6. Steve Evans says:

    David, now your title conjures images of Ben Stein instead of the erotic. For some people that could be one and the same, but it seems unlikely.

    It occurs to me that we Mormons do a fair job of drawing boundaries around the erotic in terms of lopping off those sections of the ‘world’ that are unacceptable, but we are terrible at creating definitions of sexuality that are our own. That may have some parallel to our overall approach to praxis.

  7. The original question, (a), “Do Latter Day Saints have and practice a distinctive sense of the erotic?”, is a bit different than asking (b) how Latter Day Saints and/or LDS leaders talk about the erotic.

    As to (a), if you’re single, can only practice feeling guilty about anything erotic. Once you are married, I think there are heteregoneous ideas: most celebrate sex as positive and spiritual (rather than fallen or dirty), but also as intimate. (Presumably, even if you like dirty sex, (many?) Mormon respect the intimacy of the experience and keep a safe distance–Elder Holland may not, though.) Is it merely wishful thinking among singles that “once you’re married anything goes, between consenting spouses [and no on else]?” Or is there really a right way to approach the erotic once I’m allowed to?

    As to (b), our publicly preached/expected sense of the erotic:
    (1) is damnably one-size-fits-all
    (2) seems to vary from leader to leader*
    (3) must be simple and understandable enough to be readily communicated and enforced.

    –*Despite differences of opinion between leaders, each postures HIMself as very sure in his views. I don’t remember ever hearing talks about sex from women in conference or in YM/Priesthood. Maybe the idea is that if leaders don’t seem to have ‘moral clarity,’ how can morality be enforceable by leaders!? But that makes me feel a bit like Joseph Smith–which of them all is right? And how can I trust any if they are all so sure and opposed to each other’s understanding?

    As to the ‘inactivity of singles,’ I’ve spent nearly 3 decades firmly believing (rarely knowing anything, but believing and sincerely wanting to believe, putting things on the shelf, wading through doubts and troubles, experiencing great and evil things at church, and still being loyal–even addicted–to church). I’d never been inactive, I’d served diligently. But for the last months it’s become clear that the Church’s (public) posture on sex & sexuality makes it impossible for me to be active any longer–my mental health has suffered for more than a decade. One-size-fits -all seems to fit none of my friends, and not me either. So we all add up to 8% activity, despite desperately wishing we could reconcile life with expectations.

    Since November, I’ve decided I must try something else–while still attending church. I plan to be back–my doubts, etc. notwithstanding. In fact, I continue to attend; I just consider myself on hiatus.

    To Elder Holland I want to cry out, why do I feel “crushing remorse and guilt” along with anxiety, fear, depression, self-loathing and hate for my fellow-beings at being celibate and active in Church, where I feel no such thing, indeed feel freed of all of those things by merely stepping out activity for the first time in my life??

    Sex and the single man/woman, Sex and the single Mormon. . . these are complicated topics. I have little faith in myself to live according to our leaders ideas about sex (current or historical)–and that after truly living them for torturous decades. I have lessening faith in their ability to understand and communicate any divine truth in this area. But it remains a favorite topic and priority of theirs (and ours!)–and thus, a maddening one for me to grasp or attempt to live by.

  8. rereading my post, it sounds a bit like a screed. i did not mean it to be. perhaps i can narrow my point to this: as in other things, with the erotic, we LDS tend to (and especially leaders who feel a responsibility to provide answers tend to) want to have hard-and-fast rules about what is the appropriate/righteous/best/most-spiritual way.

    Yet, I think there are contexts where one-size-fits-all has to give way to personal growth and inspiration. I’m not ready to say that SEX is always such. But the erotic seems naturally to be such. That is, supposing that the erotic is placed in an appropriate context for LDS (= marriage), then, in general, I’m not sure that leaders ought to or need to give guidance on how one’s sense of the erotic should be.

    Nonetheless, Elder Holland appears to disagree with me–as have many others who seem to consider the erotic to be yet another area where there must be a “right and a wrong to each question.”

  9. mron,

    No, I don’t think your comment sounded like a screed. I appreciated the the way you were able to balance respect for the institution with honesty about your personal experience. Thanks.

  10. the drama of inactivity of Young Adults within the Church.

    Bingo. When I consider my now inactive Mormon peers, I think sex, or better put, non-sex, was the ultimate barrier to activity. Chastity is the gate to all proper Mormon activity: priesthood, mission, temple. But once broken, the price of full fellowship with the community is perceived to be too high. We expect Mormon youth to talk specifically about sex in only one setting — the confession to the bishop. For the young man who has fumbled around with his girlfriend, he has the option to offer a painful and embarrassing confession, or to simply bid Mormon life adieu. The latter seems to be the popular option.

  11. True dat, Ronan. Sex was the 600 lb elephant in the YSA thread a few weeks back. Of the myriad of inactive (uh, Churchwise) single adults I know, not a single one is hostile to the Church or disbelieving in its fundamental claims. Every one of them is sexually active, most of them in monogamous relationships, and most of those with other disaffected single Mormons.

  12. Brad,

    I rarely comment on many topics within the blogosphere, but have one question. I agree with your statement of things that are sacred are talked about very carefully, casting pearls before swine and such. In your last sentence you ask how this sacredness weakens the ablility of spouses to effectivly communicate. I wonder if you mean the communication between husband and wife, or communication of erotic ideals within small groups or friends.

    When discussing erotic ideas between husband and wife, open communication is the key. All things should be able to be discussed. An open discussion of erotic ideas between spouses would not weaked a relationship, but would strengthen it. Talkin about some of your deep secrets with your spouse build trust and communication. There needs to be open communication about all topics between spouses with the appropriate level of respect between them.

  13. Todd, I agree that open communication between spouses on sexual/erotic topics strengthens relationships. My question is whether the structured silence within an LDS discourse that construes sexual relations as a sacrament and a godly practice inhibits the kind of open communication we’re talking about.

  14. Brad and Todd,

    I agree that open communication is necessary. However, as to sex itself, could a sense of taboo accentuate intimacy?

    That is, while I imagine open-ness about sex in general is important in a relationship, doesn’t leaving some things unsaid/unspeakable (by the masses or the spouses themselves) enhance intimacy? said another way, maybe non-verbal communication can be more intimate or more erotic once we delimit proper sexual discourse.

    I am convinced that open-ness and honesty is crucial to a marriage. Perhaps ‘structured silence’ can also strengthen relationships–as those in the relationship may feel more of a team, in relief against the silence.

    If sex is a sacred space for married couples–then, to me, as with the sacred space of the temple, silence may accentuate the special-ness of that space. But having church leaders discuss that sacred space (de facto in the wrong time and place?) may feel like an inappropriate invasion.

  15. david knowlton says:

    Brad and Todd, I think Brad’s question is critical and in that is the crux of Mormon erotics. How do couples mobilize the sacredness of sex that Elder Holland’ articulates? I am not asking for particulars of their sexual intimacy, rather how does the idea of the holy and sacred play itself out in their relationship.

    In one way of looking at it, the idea of the sacred brings another person into the relationship, God. Yet the relationship is normally understood as being simply between two individuals. Doe that addition make a difference?

    I am also fascinated by Ronan and Mron’s comments about sex among unmarried Latter-day Saints. This is a very important issue for current Bishops and Stake Presidents as they exercise their pastoral calling,a s well as for individual un-married members of the Church. Is sex the main thing that brings tension into their relationship with the Church?

    How do people talk to themselves about the issue? And how is it talk about by Bishops and such as they counsel individual members.

    Finally what do people think about the notion that Mormon erotics, as articulated by Elder Holland, involve a challenge to American notions of Eros and individuality?

  16. david knowlton,

    “Finally what do people think about the notion that Mormon erotics, as articulated by Elder Holland, involve a challenge to American notions of Eros and individuality?”

    I am too used to the Church defining itself against a religious America. That is, in the church often our being a ‘peculiar’ people is set against the assumption that the rest of America accept and believe in the New Testament. That’s how we teach apologetics/missionary work/the importance of the BoM, etc. Whether looking back to Joseph Smith or forward to missionary work, we often get stuck in defining ourselves against other Christians, rather than America/World at-large. So, as relates to erotics specifically, I’ve heard more about the differences between LDS and other Christians. I also think that America is much too diverse in its attitudes for us to meaningfully contrast LDS erotics against “American erotics.”

    However, I’ve been exposed to Holland’s notion (including the contrast with American individuality/selfishness) for a long time. At EFY as a young man as well as in seminary (maybe this is a CES thing?), I was challenged to imagine constantly that the woman I would marry could see me now: Would she be pleased? Was I keeping myself clean for her? Do I want her to keep herself clean? etc. As if we were already each other’s property and sex were something that belonged to both of us already–but to neither individually. The idea that my body (and experiences) are not mine was common–as was the idea that it somehow belonged/belongs to my future mate.

    I do not think sex is the ‘main thing’ that brings tension between all single individuals and the church. But it probably IS the main thing (or near the top of the list) for singles who really want to be active in church. So, within the pews of a YSA ward, it is a big deal. For the membership rolls as a whole, perhaps not the biggest issue.

  17. Thank you for providing yet another example of “why modern-day filtering sucks” for my dissertation. :)

  18. I believe a key example of the Brethern demonstrating thier opinion with erotica practices is the temple interview question of oral sex in the late 80′s. After quite a stir it then was not to be asked. Did recomends get refused if oral sex was practiced?
    Now many LDS couples, like me, feel guilt that I am doing something wrong even though the church has revoked thier official position and it is something I have experienced to be healthy. Did the Church cave into peer pressure or were they expressing thier “natural man” views or did this idea actually come from HF? One of many concerns with the church and sex along with an earlier thread of beignt the sin next to murder and the one size fits all problem were teenage sex equal to mid age divorce sex. There has got to be some difference doesn’t there?

  19. @mron (#14)

    It all depends, but occasionally, yes, you do need to discuss intimacy in a very open and frank matter between you and your spouse. Sometimes keeping it quiet and whatnot is okay, but not always.

    As it so happens, when a marriage is going well, and intimacy expectations are matching then the need to discuss these things is generally quite low. After all, if there is congruence on this issue, then it stands to reason that there is little reason to discuss the issue, unless it relates to the desire of one person to bring children into the relationship…

    That said, it happens occasionally that expectations do not match. There is a reason that sex therapists have become popular in the secular world, and it is no consequence that this is in light of the movement that teaches that a woman has more rights to her own determination in sexual matters than has ever previously been expressed before.

    This has left LDS folks in an unusual situation, however, because LDS teachings are fairly clear about sex before marriage, but the guidelines about erotics after the W-day are so murky and varied as to leave pretty much everyone a bit confused.

    At one time in the 1970′s oral sex was viewed as forbidden (enough that at least some people were asked about this in temple-recommend interviews) and President Kimball was pretty much anti-birth control (self-control, not birth-control!).

    The problem is that while some people might not have liked those guidelines, at least they were clear. Now we have no clear guidelines, even with Elder Holland’s talk.

    I’ve heard various talks and ideas on the boundaries, but ultimately I think the church is going to have to come out and be much more clear not just with married adults, but also with the youth about what is going to be appropriate in a married relationship. Certainly not about particular sex acts, but about the nature of the relationships, and all that, which is something that the YM/YW need to be thinking about.

    For instance, I think one of the reasons (gospel according to me) that chastity is such a big deal is because of the nature of eternal marriage. In the light of an eternal covenant of marriage, we essentially state that once we are married to a person it is essentially as if they have always been our spouse. Thus any breach of the law of chastity now–in time before a person is married–could be considered a breach of the marriage covenant. It isn’t quite that serious, but it is close, I think. Note that considering it this way does not lessen the seriousness of a breach of the law chastity with someone to whom you are about to wed, largely because you are operating within the bounds of time and cannot be certain that will wed that person until it has already happened. If that seems paradoxical, then maybe it is. If you are uncomfortable with seeming paradox, then maybe you should consider what that says about you and your ability to deal with uncertainty, because the world is full of uncertainty (sorry to scare you like that–if that seriously bothers you, I strongly suggest you avoid quantum physics or psychology).

    Anyway, that’s my thoughts.

  20. Holland’s talk is good for explaining why you shouldn’t have sex and lousy at saying anything useful about sex itself. I agree with Brad — we start thinking about married couple sex as a sacrament and we’re not talking about pleasure and intimacy in a way that’s real.

    As far as I’m concerned, this talk gives me the heebie-jeebies. It’s stretching at doctrines in a way that would do nineteenth century Mormons proud.

  21. oh, and oral sex isn’t that big of a deal. Now if that’s the ONLY sex you are practicing and you are using it as a way to avoid pregnancy because you never ever want to have children, then this might be considered a problem.

    Does anyone have a source for when the questions about oral sex were actually asked–i thought it was the 70′s but someone else thinks 80′s. Since I wasn’t getting a temple recommend at either of those points, I can’t actually verify it. Anyone?

  22. @20–Norbert, I tend to think of it the other way…the encouragement in the church is to engage the holy and sacred as often as possible, right? (Go to the temple as often as circumstance permit…at least that’s the council I’ve heard.)

    Perhaps if you think of it like that, then consider sex as a sacrament in that light, the counsel then becomes one to engage in sex as often as circumstances reasonably permit as a way to strengthen marital bonds. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable interpretation, although it may not be exactly what Elder Holland had in mind…

    Then again, maybe it is…

  23. seriously, I am I, shorten your moniker, will you?

  24. On my mission in 1989 a ward mission leader got really upset that his bishop asked him this question so I know it was at least done at that time

  25. --I am I-- says:

    moniker shortened…didn’t plan to cause inconvenience for anyone, and I apologize if it caused problems…it was a random length anyway

    the points I made are still valid, I hope…

  26. See here for some history on the Church’s teaching regarding sex, including I am I’s question.

  27. sister blah 2 says:

    Did anyone else get the lesson about how ice cream is really yummy, but you don’t have it for every meal. If you have it all the time, then it would lose its specialness. So we only have it on special occasions. Thus, even in marriage, you aren’t supposed to have “ice cream” every day.

    That was in the Sunday YW lesson, then at the activity that week, our leader (a different one does the activity from the lessons) told us that she was very aghast that we’d been taught that. She said it wasn’t true and that our other teacher probably only said it because “her husband must not be very good.” Best YW Week Ever :-)

  28. As far as my single Mormon friends (mostly women in their 30s) that have gone inactive, usually disillusionment came first, then sex. Most of them felt like there was little to no place for them and then stopped going to church so much, and then afterwards got involved in sexual relationships. That’s only my anecdotal experience, but I know plenty of women that way.

    I don’t blame this on the church really but my attempts as a teenager and then into my 20s to squelch any sexual feelings because they might lead to something turned into a lot of shame about anything sexual in me. I’m married now, though recently. It’s allowed, a sacrament according to Holland, but the shame still exists. I know lots of other women talk about this too. For some reason it makes arousal pretty difficult for a lot of Mormon women, so sex remains unsatisfying and then there’s shame about that, too.

    One more thing (I don’t know if any of this is pertinent to your post David) there needs to be a segueway from teenage sex rule to adult sex rules. Seriously, I know women that are 35 years old that have to go tell a bishop close in age occasionally that a guy they liked touched their boob! I get it with teenagers. Sex/makeout (you know, heavy petting) for teenagers can whack them, create bonds they’re too immature to handle and/or get people pregnant. But 35 year old women!? I think rules need to loosen a bit as you grow into adulthood. Like you’re an adult, pre-marital sex keeps you out of the temple, so make your decisions about how to avoid it. We trust you.

    Ugh. This gets me irritable.

  29. Amri: segueway would have 3 syllables and sounds like a chant. Is this a future youtube anthem?

    the few mormon women that mention intimacy to me don’t have any shame associated with marital intimacy.

  30. When I was at BYU in the early 90s, our bishop decided the bishopric would visit each apartment of men and their wives would visit each apartment of women and have a sex talk, using Holland’s talk as the text. The best bit was when the details started getting sticky and the bishop blurted out, ‘Boys, sexual relations are sacramental!’ From that day on, ‘sacramental’ became synonymous with ‘hot’ or ‘sexy,’ as in, ‘She’s sacramental.’

    The best bit is that the wives aparently took the approach of being pro-sex, describing aspects of their ‘sacramental’ lives with enthusiasm.

    Good times, good times.

  31. Norbert, wow. Just wow.

    As horrifying as I find that to be, it is no stretch at all to see it happening.

    Is this the origin of you intimacy = wholesome recreational activities doctrine?

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    If you want to know what those old terribly invasive interviews used to be like, read that book Secret Ceremonies. Generally a silly book, but she does convey a sense of those interviews, and the ingrained ecclesiastical titillation/voyeurism that resulted. Having leaders ask for details about oral sex practices was an abomination, and the church was very wise to cut that nonsense loose pretty quickly.

  33. david knowlton says:

    The surveillance of personal worthiness is in itself an interesting ritual. It is part of a teaching pattern that arguably creates types of personalities attuned to it. The anthropologist Talal Asad has written about the importance of considering these kinds of disciplines for comprehending religions, instead of simply looking at the intellectual activity of belief.

    Sacrament. LOL. Norbert. I did hear the masturbation –> homosexuality talk from my bishop during the brief time I was a student at BYU.

    For amri and the segue from YA to adult and others, such as I am I. The issue of surveillance and the intrusion of authority and permission into intimacy is part of the structure. I wonder how many people, even married people, feel the need to address intimacy issues with their authorities.

    Thanks Sister Blah for the ice cream story. I wonder how many people feel like the instructor you mention.

  34. Story: While tracting around Vienna a long time ago, we passed an old ditch digger in a work crew. He asked if we were getting any. We responded, of course not, we were missionaries. He went ballistic! What a waste of youth and good looks, he almost shouted. Go get some!

    After long time passing and much virtue and constancy, I continue to reflect on what he said. I fundamentally believe that I chose the better path. To his point, however, recreational sex is really important, and those that do not practice it are much the poorer. Recreational sex is not sacramental, really. It is, however, really intimate and really wonderful. It is sacramental in that the partners should worship each other and a beneficent God that made sex so enjoyable.

    But what about Hugh Heffner? A man after the ditch digger’s heart. Wonderful sex all the time with absolutely drop dead gorgeous women who, although they do not love him, will do anything he asks. Would I trade my great children and deepest love of special women for that? I am glad I do not have the power to choose! And no do-overs.

    (In the early 70′s I was asked in the temple interview if I handled my wife in an “experimental” way. What a question. Of course not! It was not experimental, being strictly intentional.)

  35. I have wondered if certain stakes or areas were given certain questions to ask in the Temple Interview as test cases. I have had a recommend continually from the 60′s and have only had the one odd question.

    Maybe it was just that Arizona was considered so moral that they did not have to ask.

  36. I like amri’s observation that the standards of teenage chastity may not necessarily apply to adults. Let me be honest – I am among those YSA whose activity level and testimony have been affected by growing sexual needs. Like many LDS women I know, I have just hit 30, am intelligent and attractive, and have no marriage prospects within the church. Being celibate was fine at 16, but at 30 it’s becoming quite difficult to ignore the messages that my body is sending to me. I can identify with people who leave the church to pursue relationships that cross the bounds set by the church. In many cases it’s not out of rebellion, but the realization that to live the sexual standards of the church and to eschew non-temple marriage is to commit to a lifetime of loneliness and celibacy.

    I like Sister Dew as much as the next person, but I’m not aiming to be her replacement as beacon of faith and example to spinsters. I can’t muster much of a testimony these days for adult chastity – in the grand scheme of things, I just can’t see the logic. I LIKE MEN! AND I REALLY LIKE KISSING THEM! AND HUGGING! AND OTHER THINGS TOO!!!!!!! And I’m not ashamed to admit it (in total anonymity on the blogosphere).

    I’m not necessarily advocating this position, and open to the idea that sever oxytocin deprivation has impaired my judgment. Please feel free to set me straight.

  37. JaneW,

    Welcome to the mindset of your average 16-25+ year old male. Only at 30 you’ve got more experience and presumably self control…

    It’s tough trying to control your urges as a male (can’t speak for being female) but I’d never give up the ability to pee with accuracy while standing.

  38. OK, Jane, I think it is even worse being divorced in 30′s with many children, no prospects, and the church telling you “no sex” – having had lots of sex during the marriage. My solution was to go inactive, have lots of sex with some great friends, etc. Do I regret it? No, not one tiny little bit. Do I feel guilty? I used to, now I am just really, really glad I had my fun.

  39. JaneW, my solution for single men and women is to forget celibacy and get married – inside or outside the Church. Celibacy sucks – or doesn’t, however you want to look at it.

    Which brings me to my biggest problem with how sex is addressed in Mormonism – the thinking that discussing it is taboo. Some of the best puns ever imagined are sexual in nature; some of the funniest jokes ever told are sexual in nature – including one of the funniest Mormon jokes I’ve ever heard. We claim it is great and glorious and wonderful and important, but we can’t joke about it among ourselves – even if “ourselves” consists entirely of other married members?

    Some aspects of the focus on spirituality are just apostate and wrong. I understand concerns over real vulgarity, but sex itself and discussions of / jokes about it aren’t necessarily vulgar. Often, they are enlightening (#36 & others) and hilarious (#27 & #30).

  40. All right, Ray, what’s the Mormon sex joke?

  41. Wow, is all I can say to this discussion.

    Prayerfully get married and then do all in your power to make your marriage work. Enjoy your sex life in the bounds of marriage. In other words, after the fast, enjoy the feast.

    I know lots of people and the ones with the greatest pain are those who surf for porn–married or single. They allow themselves to be bound down by the chains of hell.

    By the way, surfing for porn isn’t limited to the internet as pointed out by Jane W..

  42. PS

    In days gone by I used to think when I got older I would appreciate not being distracted by attractive women. I’m old now, and still distracted, but I have a wonderful wife to go home to. Getting old doesn’t appear to be a solution for the law of attraction.

  43. …ultimately I think the church is going to have to come out and be much more clear not just with married adults, but also with the youth about what is going to be appropriate in a married relationship.

    Um, is this not where things like common sense come in? Not to mention personal feelings? It would be pretty ridiculous if the church had a pamphlet for married adults about what they can or cannot do in the bedroom!

    For some reason it makes arousal pretty difficult for a lot of Mormon women, so sex remains unsatisfying and then there’s shame about that, too.

    I find this so tragic. Females happen to possess the only body part that has no other function than to provide pleasure. Obviously it was intended for use!

  44. Jared – not sure where I mentioned porn at all, internet or otherwise. In fact I am revolted by porn entirely. And I’m not really interested in leaving the church or casual sex. For the record, I am currently active. I am a returned missionary and attend my meetings and pay my tithing and play the organ every Sunday. Also, I am not sexually active. In fact, I am as pure and chaste as the day I was born. Which by the world’s standards (and by world I mean normal nice healthy well-adjusted adults) is considered kind of strange.

    I really try to do the right thing, I’m not rebellious by nature. It’s just that lately, I sit through the relief society lesson on chastity and in my head i think “yawn…. this is kind of silly and old fashioned and I’m not SIXTEEN anymore and seems kind of trivial with everything else going on in the world. Does the Lord REALLY care that much about this? Or is this just a reflection of my religion’s tendency towards victorian sexual attitudes?” I’m not trying to rationalize anything, I just don’t really believe it anymore.

    The scriptures tell us that it is not good for man to be alone, and I don’t think it’s good for women to be alone either. It’s more than just wanting sex, it’s about wanting companionship and intimacy (emotional and physical) and a healthy fulfilling relationship and a family. Unfortunately for many LDS women, that’s not in the cards if we restrict ourselves to dating and marrying Mormons. The Lord made us sexual beings and we can only deny this for so long.

  45. #40 – Rob (and anyone else who wants to hear the joke): It’s not the slightest bit vulgar, but, in deference to those who might be offended, e-mail me. (fam 7 heav at juno dot com)

  46. JaneW—

    I agree with you about us existing as sexual beings, and that it is definitely a struggle to deny experimentation outside of covenants.

    I would suggest that sexual relations are parallel endowments for a particular portion of our characters, all culminating in true character as Heavenly children.

    We believe that gender is eternal (according to the Proclamation), and I believe that sexual feelings are meant to perfect us. The duality of man and woman suggests the accentuation of the sexes through unity by spirit, emotion, and bodies; meaning: female brings man to female perfection and man brings woman to female perfection, all preparation for realms not fully revealed or understood. I cannot speak for anyone else, but having my own sweetheart has brought me closer to the natural endowments of my soon to be wife. I am not necessarily suggesting that there are ideal man and woman characteristics, as I believe roles or functions differ greatly from characteristics and elements.

    Maybe I am being vague, of idealistic, but I believe sex, both as action and as identity, is meant to be a cohesive fluidity for eternal existence.

  47. Correction (sorry):

    “female brings man to female perfections and man brings woman to male perfections…”

    Perfections because of the multiplicity of celestial characteristics and diversity inherent in spiritual matter/beings that God the Father organized/begot.

  48. Hmmm… I suspect that the family models of the parents have a lot to do with conceptions.

    For example, when I was a senior in High School and my sister a sophomore, a group of her friends were sitting around talking. Somehow the topic shifted to the point that someone asked what they thought about the fact that our parents probably still had sex.

    Everybody else responded with an “Eewww”. My sister and I looked at each other, puzzled, and then said: “Duh!”

    My father was always flirting with my mother. We never saw anything awkward or wrong about that. That’s just married people do. It was perfectly obvious that they were still having sex- I mean, where did all my younger brothers and sisters come from?

    I keep trying to figure out what possible difference in behavior of the parents could leave all my peers with the idea that sex inside of marriage was some how dirty and gross.

    When I think of marriage, the first thing that comes to my mind is: “Commitment, Affection, Devotion”. It’s so entwined in my mind with marriage, that I can not conceive of having a sexual relationship without at least desiring marriage to that person.

    If someone wanted to sex with me but not marry me I would be very confused and repulsed.

    I have come to realize that my parents must be very unusual- but I never thought of them as particularly open about sex- I mean, other than “the talk” (and it was a one time talk) sex was never a subject in the house and we always understood that it was a private matter that you didn’t talk about- and I don’t think my siblings and I had ever discussed the subject of our parents relationship before that group of peers brought the subject up.

    It simply was. The same way the sky is blue and grass is green. You didn’t wonder about it- it simply was. Someone pointing it out as gross was just as strange as someone pointing to the sky and being weirded out because it was blue. Heck, just pointing it out at all was weird.

    My sister and I were curious enough about the differences in the response of our peers from us that we approached some of our other siblings and found that they too had never thought about it before, but their response too was: “Duh”, and they also couldn’t understand why other kids thought it was so gross.

  49. Great discussion. At Exponent, we’ve been having our fair share of sex talks as well. This thread is about singles and how perhaps “Responsible Petting” may be an alternative to celibacy or promiscuity.
    I have a few single friends near 30 who are going through this same thing. Since I got married 8 years ago at 20, I don’t know what it would be like to be a virgin for so long. But, I do know I can’t judge them if they decide to fulfill their sexual needs outside the rules prescribed by Elder Holland.
    Regarding the question, I’m also confused about how we should think of sex in the church (among married couples). We say the ‘world’s view’ is wrong, but we don’t seem to present a convincing alternate view. I hope this isn’t vulgar, but I just don’t get turned on by thinking about sex as a godly, holy thing, although I want to believe it is. There are other parts of my life when I can think “What would Jesus do?” or “How would the Prophet handle this?” but the bedroom isn’t one of them.
    Even for couples who stay away from the worldly view, the influences of a sex-crazed culture can get into the bedroom, with things like role-play, sex toys, or the need to create excitement in novelty. None of this seems very sacramental to me, but for me and my married friends, it seems to make for more enjoyable sex than the serious talk ala Elder Holland.
    I honestly do wish there was more guidance for married couples about how erotics should be holy and godlike.
    In my mind they seem so far apart. . .

  50. Ugh so many typos, but this one was the worst:

    When I think of marriage, the first thing that comes to my mind is: “Commitment, Affection, Devotion”. It’s so entwined in my mind with marriage, that I can not conceive of having a sexual relationship without at least desiring marriage to that person.

    The above should read:

    When I think of sex, the first thing that comes to my mind is: “Commitment, Affection, Devotion”. It’s so entwined in my mind with marriage, that I can not conceive of having a sexual relationship without at least desiring marriage to that person.

  51. I think that if you are going to talk about this in our culture, it’s important to recognize books that have come out on the topic, specifically designed for LDS couples. Elder Holland may be the only church leader who has given a complete talk on the subject, but silence does not now describe how this topic is handled in our culture overall. I don’t feel like your post really recognizes that, and I think it should. We are not so left in the dark as the post and some comments seem to suggest.

    I also think that silence on specifics from our leaders is possibly on purpose, or at least just what has to be. ESPECIALLY because there is SO MUCH variation in the way people come to marriage, what their pasts are like (upbringing, some with abuse in their pasts, etc.) there is simply no way under the sun that our leaders could give specifics on this topic.

    Besides, just like anything else we can study it out in our minds (and as mentioned, there are several books on the topic that maintain the religious perspective…some not LDS even) and then seek God’s help and guidance.

    Just as we aren’t given specifics about most other laws and expectations in the Church (how to keep the Sabbath day, how to decide on tithing, how to decide if you are really worthy for the temple, what multiply and replenish really means in your marriage, how to decide about charitable giving (with a nod to Steve’s recent post), etc. etc. etc), we are expected to seek God’s help. For something of this level of importance in the plan, I think we should not expect a pamphlet (channeling someone else’s comment). We have the gift of the Holy Ghost. We should use it, imo.

    Re: Sacramental language, etc.: Sex can be sacramental in purpose, and still physical, pleasurable in process. This isn’t the best comparison, but playing games and laughing and having fun outings with your family (say, a good, loud football game) doesn’t feel sacred in the moment, but time itself is sacred, even eternally important — focusing on the relationships that matter is of utmost importance. When we are nurturing our family relationships, in what ever way we do that, we are being more like God. And thus, doing good and right things in all facets of marriage and family life brings the Spirit.

    We can be connected with heaven in the most mundane, and in the most exciting moments of married and family life. In short, we don’t have to discard or ignore or discount the pleasure by considering the symbolic and sacramental nature of the sexual relationship in marriage. And that is all the more true when you consider that a key element of Elder Holland’s teaching on that subject was tying marital intimacy to the power of creation — which, in our world, is often decoupled (no pun intended) from sex. IMO, this makes it all the harder to remember the sobering sacredness and responsibility of this act, and the true power that God bestows on us. Sure, sex is fun, and it’s supposed to be, but there is more to it that I think has been lost over the years as birth control and unrestrained sexual freedom have taken so much of the sexual stage in our culture.

  52. m&m—

    Amen. I think you hit it on the head, wait… let me choose another idiom… Anyhow, sex helps us become like God is fundamental to Mormon doctrine. And to deprive God of the emotions He claims is not in our jurisdiction. We are like God, at least a bit, as His children, and we can have a good time whilst growing in lights and perfections. Run into the corner of the counter and you’ll cringe, but certainly you’ll laugh at it when you reflect on it 10 minutes later. I’d like to think Heavenly Father wants us to experience the joy, the bliss, of creative power and the great glory that comes from nurturing faith, pleasure, peaceful existence, and families that resemble the cosmology of celestial sociality.

  53. Correction (again):

    “sex helps us become like God and is fundamental”

    Sheesh. Must be all them drugs in the water systems. Oh Pfizer you ruin me!

  54. Re: Sacramental language, etc.: Sex can be sacramental in purpose, and still physical, pleasurable in process. This isn’t the best comparison, but playing games and laughing and having fun outings with your family (say, a good, loud football game) doesn’t feel sacred in the moment, but time itself is sacred, even eternally important — focusing on the relationships that matter is of utmost importance. When we are nurturing our family relationships, in what ever way we do that, we are being more like God. And thus, doing good and right things in all facets of marriage and family life brings the Spirit.

    m&m: I also agree with you. In my mind, the reverential and sacramental aspect of sex in marriage is best conceived in an action of giving thanks where thanks is due. I think it’s totally appropriate to thank HF for the pleasure of sex in an emotionally healthy, committed relationship. We don’t necessarily have to pray before and after sex, turning the act into some sort of ordinance or holy rite, but in reflection and contemplation, we should be grateful that we have been given physical bodies that are capable of joy and pleasure, and that these sensations can be shared with another.

    In terms of Steven Seidman’s binary system of sex and its relationship with society, my take sounds more libertarian than romantic. I would venture to say that romantic notions of sexuality, while exciting sometimes, import more gravity to sex than it deserves. I believe that part of America’s fascination with sexuality is its taboo, secretive nature. Sure, I don’t grope my wife in public, and don’t have sex in front of my children, but sex is sometimes an appropriate topic of conversation in mixed company (including in mixed LDS company), and it will be something taught as normal and natural when our girls get a bit older.

  55. sex helps us become like God and is fundamental

    Right on, Tod.

    I have come to the conclusion that the idea of bodies in eternity is really important. There is something about the body which can not be replicated in some “spirit” model. Foremost in that strange perception is sex and the pleasure which can only be obtained with a body.

    I am trying to picture what sex means with a perfect body and vastly enlarged understanding and telepathy. Hmmm.

    If it is mind-blowing here, what is it there?

    What about perfected sex?

  56. m&m. I did not mean my post to be exhaustive; instead it only emphasized Elder Holland’s post as a foray. It can be difficult, sometimes, to know what all counts as acceptable LDS. In some ways the terms is reducible to only what the Corporation of the First Presidency holds, but it can also be defined in terms of communities of members, in which case the other literature you refer to is germane.

    Perfected sex and celestial bodies: This is a fascinating area of Mormon thought on sexuality to explore; and it is also fun to think about.

    Part of my thinking about Seidman, Steve S, is that Latter-day saints do not easily fit into his binary. I suspect we are not alone among Americans in that non-fit, just that ours is driven by our religious community, in part.

    Back to m&m, sex is both understood, if I hear you right, as the most sacred, and yet it can also be the most profane. That play is complex and yet wonderful. I would love to hear more meditation on it.

    This somehow feels subversive to the binary of sacred and profane.

  57. “We don’t necessarily have to pray before and after sex, turning the act into some sort of ordinance or holy rite.”

    I thank God for that. Talk about a mood killer.

    “What about perfected sex?”

    In some things, perfection is attainable in this life. It just takes dedication, unwavering focus, experimentation and diligent practice. I also thank God for that. *grin*

  58. Part of the problem with sex is that it is so convoluted with our evolutionary nature. It is as important as eating and drinking in the grand scheme of things. It must be done no matter what. No matter the cost.

    Sex has assumed the form of aggression to most people. The F bomb is an example of this. This is the result of its absolute necessity. “Self pollution” and “self abuse” are reflections of this where sex is felt on an unconscious level as pollution and abuse.

    If it is experienced as abuse and pollution, then we try to hedge it in with fences and guards. To me, the idea of sacred sex is one of those guards, to keep it from being too aggressive, too polluting, too abusive.

    The structure of our unconscious mind is such that it buries much of this from our conscious view. We try to examine it but it can only remain buried since it is so important. It is protected from conscious intervention, mostly.

    It is the process of uncovering the unconscious that we can come to terms with sexuality. We want, I think, to become enlightened so that we use sex in the most conscious way possible. Only then can we treat our partners with respect and care. That we think of sex as pure and wholesome. That we think of sex as celestial.

    The whole question of sex and religion needs to be conflated with the structure of the unconscious in order to be sensible. No doubt.

  59. david knowlton says:

    BobW. Your meditation really stirs lots of issues. The application of the topoi of the conscious and unconscious raises critical issues, not least of which is the role of the unconscious for desire and orgasm as opposed to the conscious impeding of such, and the utopianism driven by rationalism such that the unconsciousness should be increasingly governed by reason.

    The issue of eating and drinking and drives, that are preconscious, or even autonomic, i.e. not driven by the mind, is also fascinating. Anthropologists have had lots of fun with eating, particularly, to show how deeply cultural reason is intertwined with this ostensibly biological need. I think this point important, for an LDS context, because it would argue that LDS practices can sink very deep tap roots into the person such that basic drives are not meetable without that canalization of the drive. I think several of the earlier posts talking about shame and feeling a separation between their sexuality and the sacred speak to this point. It may be that ideas, such as Elder Holland’s, are a second or third order elaboration of culture that enters into conflict in many individual persons, to the degree they are socialized accordingly, with a more basic Mormon schematization of the body and its function, such that the impure is inherently opposed in the very life experience of many people, with the idea of holiness involving sex.

    Another point, sex is evolutionarily complex. As a result of the ways societies and cultures entwine with that complexity they develop a grounding that appears to lie in the biological complexity itself. This is to say that religion takes on much more force and depth in individual’s lives, because of the way it becomes interwoven with basic drives such as sexuality. On the other hand, when this does not happen and sex is separable, as many have also commented above, then you have the makings of a primary force for weakening the hold of religion on people’s lives.

    On this point I am fascinated with Gary Horlacher’s research into gay Mormons. He has found two important variables determining where a person will find themselves. : 1) the strength of their sexual drive and 2) the strength of their commitment to Mormonism. Both of these variables are deeply found within many people, such that you find people who are Gay and will do anything to stay with the Church, some can embrace a celibate life, others not. You also find, perhaps the majority, who have broken with the Church but still feel, to one degree or another, its call within themselves, despite living, often, a vibrant Gay life. This is really intriguing stuff.

    Better stop, or I will find myself writing another post. LOL.

  60. If keeping singles of all ages from having pre-marital sex is such a priority, why are dances still the main activity for singles of all ages?

  61. Can we please, for just one moment, remember that these “victims” you call Young Single Adults comparatively have the red-carpet rolled out for them? It’s the singles over 30 who are the real victims here.
    Allow me to explain. First of all, love ‘em or hate ‘em, YSA Wards are funtional in that they AT LEAST get people together. Furthermore, it is SO EASY to create sub-activities within the singles ward…meaning that you don’t necessarily need a Constitutional Amendment to get a few people together, unofficial. This is rarely the case in the Middle Singles….By the way, I am reluctant to use the term “Middle Singles Program” because it actually does not exist on paper. In fact, it does officially exist. Rather, we have the Singles Program which includes anyone from age 30 to 110. (And we all know, this adds so much adventure to the program. That’s certainly one way to put it.)
    But I digess. What else to WYA have that Middle Singles don’t? On, there is the added bonus of college. There are several Mormon colleges and universities that exist partially to fulfill the dating needs of young single adults.
    Also, college years are the most free years in a persons adult life (no kids, limited bills, parent’s potential financial help, and spare time.)

    When you turn 30, guess what? No more Single Adult Wards…whether you like them or not (unless you live in those blessed areas of America where there are Middle Singles Wards. There are currently 12 spread out across the 50 States.) If they are worth having in 12 parts of the country, they are worth having for everyone…but that’s just personal opinion. I could be wrong.
    But just when life is getting complicated (more bills, maybe a few kids, a full-time job, no help from anyone), you are now subject to the nightmares of WHAT IS the Singles Program after 30. (No need to expand on that! Only one word needed: Dances.)

    So please, in the future when you are touting the many disparages of the morbid Young Single Adult Program, and the horrid perdicaments of the Young Single Adults…consider shifting your rhetoric and pity upward to age 30. Thanks.

  62. And we wonder why we have a morality problem in the Church…. and a retention problem in the Church…. and an occasional reluctance to do missionary work.

  63. am trying to picture what sex means with a perfect body and vastly enlarged understanding and telepathy. Hmmm.

    If it is mind-blowing here, what is it there?

    What about perfected sex?

    The idea of celestial sex is slightly absurd. I highly doubt that celestial beings will take part in something that dogs do.

  64. JZ,

    hear, hear. many singles love the basic tenets of the gospel but would not wish the single LDS experience on their worst enemies.

    coming back to the topic-at-hand, i’m not sure i would wish sacramental sex on anyone either. but i guess some people are into the whole Gothic thing.

    likening sex to drinking and eating as fundamental needs is an interesting thought–and one I fought against in the non-Western, non-Christian country where I served a mission. both drinking and eating can have elaborate cultural and religious accoutrement or regulation–but even ascetics must eat & drink.

    I thought it was strange that while orders of Buddhist monks took vows of poverty, rather than vows of chastity, they often had elaborate rules requiring-but-regulating sexual activity.

  65. SAP,

    don’t dogs also nurture, obey, exercise, eat and drink?

  66. Back to m&m, sex is both understood, if I hear you right, as the most sacred, and yet it can also be the most profane.

    That’s not actually the line of thinking I was on, although I don’t disagree with that at all.

    What I was trying to get at is this: I think we need to be able to think about the fact that sex is both sacred and downright fun, pleasurable, exciting (whatever word you want to use to describe it). We don’t usually associate sacred things with that kind of language (you don’t come out of the temple saying, “Wow! That was FUN!”) So we have to be able to accept the reality of the sacredness, be willing to consider the significant symbolism that is there, and not have that distract from the fun and pleasure. We don’t have to separate the two, but too often I see people trying to do that. “I can’t think of sex as sacred because it’s too physical (or something along that line).” That line of thinking does harm both to remove us from the eternal purpose of sexual relationships (procreation and strengthening bond between husband and wife), both of which are tremendously sacred.

    We too often associate physical gratification with sin, and within a pure and committed relationship, this is simply not the case. It can be a sort of disconnect.

  67. Steve Evans says:

    SAP, why absurd? Sex is dirty? Dogs do it? I envy your views on intimacy.

  68. Well said, m&m. We have no idea whatsoever what aspects of physicality will exist beyond mortality, but we have to fight the historical classification of *all* physical gratification in the here and now as sin.

  69. Steve Evans says:

    Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.

    ….but they don’t do it in heaven.

  70. Other things that dogs do:

    -Have families
    -Serve others
    -Speak
    -Play
    -Sleep
    -Roll over
    -Sniff their own butts

    Boy, if all of those are off-limits because dogs do them, Heaven is going to be an awfully boring place.

  71. Perfected sex in heaven? Right now, my expectations only go so far as to not having to rush home from work, gulp dinner, bathe, read stories and jam kids into bed (the youngest sleeping in a pack-and-play at the foot of the bed of my wife and I), clean the kitchen, throw one load of laundry in the machine, skim through work-related paperwork and emails, and only then have to attempt some semblance of the erotic in our marriage prior to one of us having to get up at 5 AM to find time to work out. Having an eternity with my wife, without having to hurry…now that sounds like perfection right there. Me, I’m going to send the eldest spirit kid off to go build a universe so I can take a little time with the mrs…

    Seriously, if our bodies, albeit mortal, will be perfected and we are to be married eternally, and sex on earth is sacred…I can’t fathom a rational for arguing that the sexual aspect of our relationship wouldn’t be eternal in some way.

    On a note related to the oral sex discussion, recently masterbation has been condemned several times in our ward. The first was in conjunction with a talk condemning pornography, by the Bishop. The second in a sacrament meeting on chastity. I got no beef with the anti-pornography message, or the limitation of sex to marriage, but at the risk of hijacking the thread, I think there is a fundamental difference between pornography and promiscuity and masterbation. For both practical (really, how effective is requiring every 16-year-old who has ever masterbated to meet with the Biship to confess for retaining the youth) and philisophical reasons (differences between acts that involve others and those that do not). At the same time, with the average marriage age getting later, is a prohibition on masterbation in sinc with telling the youth to keep it in their pants before marriage? My guess is this prohibition goes the way of oral sex. Anyway, this is purely a personal opinion…I don’t claim to have authority or definitive spiritual knowledge on this point.

  72. Maybe unrelated, but what about celestial dog mating? Animals will be resurrected, and if they inhabit the celestial kingdom don’t they continue to propagate their race? I recall that is the status of animals in the celestial kingdom.

    Anyhow… Dogs are great.

  73. #69 – I missed that Dr. Seuss book. Know where I can find it?

  74. Steve Evans says:

    Ray, you Philistine, that’s Cole Porter. Come back when you’ve developed some culture, man.

  75. Nice, Steve. From now on, I’ll make sure I reference the actual source before trying to be funny.

    On second thought, no I won’t. *grin*

  76. Steve Evans says:

    I’ll be sure to ban you whenever you try to be funny, then.

  77. Yeah, based on experience, if I’m going to get banned, those times are probably the best times to have it happen.

  78. A personal story about TR Questions in the 70′s and 80′s. In my recollection, those more intimate questions were not written down, and came apparently from verbal instruction and through CES (our SP was a CES institute level employee). The other members of the Stake Presidency (Davis County, Utah at the time) did not ask those questions, as they were not written down. Soon, it was discovered that people would call up and find out who was doing TR interviews on a particular night, and avoided going on nights when the SP was there. The difference was noted, and he asked his regional rep for advice, who told him to quit asking the questions that weren’t written in the TR book.

    I don’t remember ever being asked those questions during that time, myself.

  79. #78 – Necessity is the mother of invention. So many things can get fixed by just working around them.

  80. It seems I’m jumping into the discussion rather late here, but I would like to chime in on the particular use of sexual vocabulary within the church. I am currently a happily married 25 year old. Active in the church. Growing up, however, when chastity was discussed I honestly had no idea what anybody was talking about.

    Within LDS culture the vocabulary used to describe particular activities seems ancient, and rather old-fashioned, but most importantly I didn’t know what any of the words meant because they were derived from a culture, time and place that was completely foreign to me.

    I know what it means to “make-out” but I still don’t know what “petting” means! I still am not quite sure what “necking” means! I can come up with my own vague ideas, but who knows if they are the same ideas that the general and local authorities have when they use these terms.

    I have always found the language used within the LDS culture to discuss chastity completely incomprehensible, and I think the language used in the discourse deserves a fair amount of attention.

  81. I also think its important to note that after any discussion of chastity within in a youth group, I found many other youth scratching their heads, “Pssst! Do you know what “petting” means? No? Neither do I.”

    I have received similar baffling responses from other LDS adults with whom I have discussed the matter. There is certainly not a widespread understanding among today’s youth about what many of these terms that are tossed around actually mean. To discuss what they actually mean, however, would inevitably involve crossing the boundary into explicit detail; the very reason why these “safe” terms are used in the first place.

  82. have received similar baffling responses from other LDS adults with whom I have discussed the matter.

    I find this interesting, as I think our leaders have been really, really clear about what is and isn’t appropriate. For example, from True to the Faith:

    “[N]ever do anything outside of marriage to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not arouse those emotions in another person’s body or in your own body….Do not participate in conversations or activities that arouse sexual feelings. Do not participate in passionate kissing, lie with or on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not allow anyone to do such things with you.”

    This is pretty clear in my mind. ANYTHING that someone chooses to do that causes sexual arousal is wrong before marriage. (This is not to say that any arousal ever is wrong, but choosing to do something to arouse those passions is. Important distinction, imo.)

  83. I find this interesting, as I think our leaders have been really, really clear about what is and isn’t appropriate.

    Let me clarify myself somewhat. The confusion has never been over what is and isn’t appropriate in these discussions with other youth or members. That much can pretty much be gleaned from a handful of various sources within the church. The confusion I was referring to was due to the use and misunderstanding of a particular set of terms that come from 1950′s (or earlier?), such as “petting” and “necking” that many of today’s youth simply have no idea what they mean, and they most certainly don’t use those terms when talking with each other. (I’m sure there are other confusing and old-fashion terms but I just can’t think of them right now).

  84. Sam, it might have been confusing in the past, but it’s only confusing now if the current counsel is not being read and discussed. The recent leaders have been quite blunt, as m&M pointed out.

  85. Let me reiterate one more time, just to make myself perfectly clear: I do not think that there is any confusion about the standards themselves. In that regard I am in complete agreement with m&m and Ray.

    I am, however, pointing out that whenever old-fashion terms are used to discuss these issues (which they still are on many many occasions in both public and private counsel, although the church seems to have done much to clarify these instructions in their official publications and guidelines) that there is bound to be some youth who don’t know exactly what those terms refer to. This doesn’t make the standards themselves a point of possible confusion, it simply makes communication surrounding the issues rather inefficient. If you are using a language that your audience doesn’t understand then there is an obvious problem.

    Again, I don’t think that this creates any confusion whatsoever about what the standards actually are. It just makes particular statements containing words from a previous generation’s vernacular incomprehensible, and I think this is something that church leaders and parents should take note of. If you are using a word like “necking” to describe a particular activity then you ought to be sure that those whom you are addressing know what that particular activity is.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,784 other followers