Elder Bednar Talks About S-E-X

Elder Bednar’s Saturday morning talk was about chastity.  Let me start by saying I’m a believer in chastity.  I believe that premarital sex creates a lot of hassle, at minimum, and generally speaking I’m against hassle.  It can result in much worse than hassle in its worst cases – eroded self esteem, teen pregnancy (that I oppose even in married form), STDs, and bad patterns for future relationships.  I believe that extramarital sex (infidelity) destroys families, irreparably harms children, and is very human and very selfish.

E. Bednar’s talk centers on divine nature and destiny.  He talks about the necessity of physical experience – not specifically mentioning sex as one of those experiences.

In the school of mortality, we experience tenderness, love, kindness, happiness, sorrow, disappointment, pain, and even the challenges of physical limitations in ways that prepare us for eternity.

He then goes on to talk about the complementary nature of men and women in this experience.

The man and the woman are intended to learn from, strengthen, bless, complete, and perfect each other.

How did they get those rings interlocked like that? It’s magic!

I’m not a fan of the 1/2 + 1/2 = 1 argument of gender essentialism implied by the word “complete,” but I’m going to let it roll.  I do agree that spouses perfect each other in providing external input on behavior and support for growth.

Next, E. Bednar talks about the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth (just returning from India it occurs to me some places are fairly “plenished” already, but the intermountain west still has a lot of open space to fill I guess).  He speaks of the “authorized channel” (marital procreation) through which spirits enter mortality, and the need to protect this sacred channel.  From this point forward, the talk refers to sex as the “power of procreation” and details proper uses for this and improper uses for this.

Since the church is not anti-birth control (I checked the CHI – we aren’t), and I’ll go out on a limb and say that most people committing adultery or having premarital sex aren’t trying to make a baby, this talk seems best understood if we assume that by “procreative power,” E. Bednar really means “having sex.”  If he really means “procreative power” (sex that results in baby-making), then this talk implies that only sex to make babies is permitted, which makes me sad for any who believe that, but it is not the church’s position and is likely an imprecise word choice.

Up to this point, E. Bednar has talked about the complementary nature of men and women in creating life.  His next point, though, refers only to males creating with no mention of females:

Our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son are creators and have entrusted each of us with a portion of their creative power.

You can’t say procreation without “creation.”

I must admit I nearly did a spit take on that one as I fully expected him to refer to our Heavenly Parents as an example.  After all, this talk is specifically talking about sexual creation.  I’m kind of speechless about this remark, but again, I’ll assume it was just a missed opportunity to refer to Heavenly Parents.

Lest the “sex for procreation only” crowd think that E. Bednar is justifying such a joyless stance, this statement clarifies somewhat (emphasis mine):

Such relations are not merely a curiosity to be explored, an appetite to be satisfied, or a type of recreation or entertainment to be pursued selfishly.  They are not a conquest to be achieved or simply an act to be performed.  Rather, they are in mortality one of the ultimate expressions of our divine nature and potential and a way of strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife.

Although one could argue that sex within marriage should at times be recreational entertainment (cheaper than movie night, for example), or at times simply an act to be performed, the above statement does not support the idea that sex is only to be used for procreation which some have inferred from the talk (and indeed which could have been clearer).

Next, the talk veers into “natural man is an enemy to God” territory.  E. Bednar admirably makes sure to address his remarks to both men and women in admonishing them to be men [and women] of Christ, “temperate and restrained” as well as “benevolent and selfless.”  He frequently uses the term “bridling passions,” although he does not expound on the analogy.  Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I had a lot of occasion to ride horses (and smell pig manure – lucky me!).  Horses are powerful animals.  They need regular exercise.  Bridling a horse helps you guide its direction, but the horse is still an awesome force to be reckoned with.  Bridling it doesn’t mean castrating it and forcing it to do pony rides in the hot sun until you eventually send it to the glue factory.  You are taking that horse somewhere if it’s bridled; it can sit in the stall unbridled all the live long day.  Bridling is for taking it out on gallops.  King Benjamin’s speech against the natural man is tough to square with the idea of bridled passions as the emphasis seems on bridling with no acknowledgement of the passions themselves as having a worthwhile purpose.  However, in this case, both analogies (natural man and bridled passions) are left without elaboration.  They seem to be simply standard Mormon cliches associated with chastity.  There is a reference to Satan’s ironically use of our physical bodies to tempt us to spoil what the body-less adversary covets.

Sorry, Barry. This talk’s not for you.

The talk concludes by reminding us of the blessings that come from chaste behavior and a caution to repent if one has been unchaste.  E. Bednar refers to the Savior as the Great Physician and bishops as a spiritual physician’s assistant authorized to help with healing and repentance.  The analogy makes it clear that bishops are not the ones who forgive, only who help to diagnose and dole out medications.  Of course, I’ve been to the doctor a few times, and physician’s assistants all have a variety of bedside manners.  Some are great; some are terrible.  It’s a crapshoot.  That’s one reason so many people turn to WebMD nowadays.

E. Bednar concludes by cautioning us not to be taken in by fads, popularity or public opinion polls that trivialize procreative power.

As with all talks on chastity, I am left to wonder whether it’s possible to speak to such a broad audience without specifying life situations.  Clearly, married people’s sexual behavior should bear little resemblance to that of singles or the divorced.  Without that clarification or distinction, people can take a message that is worded broadly and assume it is more restrictive than it needs to be.

The talk is no Barry White album, nor does it intend to be; don’t expect any Mormon baby booms in nine months.

Comments

  1. Wow, when I was a youth I’d heard many a leader talk about the “bridling” analogy, but your version has so much richness to it. (It’s great when a writer’s first-hand life experience and thoughtful insights combine so well!) Really enjoyed that part of your post. Thank you.

  2. I think you conflate sex and sexuality with procreation. Those are simple functions of biology that we share with every animal. Procreation provides physical bodies for the spirits of Heavenly Father’s children. It is participation in the eternal plan of salvation. In my view, they are not simple equates.

    Chastity is appopriate regard and reverence for procreative powers. The world no longer understands or teaches such moral values, if it ever did. Elder Bednar’s counsel clarifies this idea, as it stands in contrast to worldly values.

  3. “I think you conflate sex and sexuality with procreation.”

    The post is crystal clear that Hawkgrrrl doesn’t conflate them.

    I’ve said for years that we simply must acknowledge that we live in a world now where it is easy for sex to not be about “procreation” at all. Modern contraception and surgery can make a focus on making babies almost obsolete – and almost irrelevant for many people. We have to talk now differently than we did back when it was much harder to avoid the possibility of pregnancy. If we focus exclusively on procreation, it leaves the door wide open for people to justify extra-marital sex when they know or are confident pregnancy will not occur.

    Elder Bednar doesn’t focus exclusively on procreation in his talk, but he also doesn’t acknowledge openly that sex without fear of pregnancy now is a standard of our time – and I believe that open admission is important, as is the willingness to say “sex” and “sexual intercourse” and so many other things when that’s what is being discussed.

  4. Capozaino says:

    Please, Ray. Let’s keep it to “marital congress” for those of us with delicate sensibilities.

  5. Things could be far less complicated if The Fifteen were capable of saying the S-E-X word.

    And I’m awfully confused by the whole use of the “sacred power of procreation.” Are the two dogs across the street currently engaged in a sacred act? How exactly is the Father and Sons creative act analogous to human (or animal–or even plant) procreation? And I won’t even touch the incestual implication of his comments (even though I just did).

    And Bednar spoke Saturday afternoon, not morning.

  6. @Ray – I think the use of the term procreative power, encompasses what you’re saying. I suppose you could look at it as a more heavenly description of biological terms. Procreative powers misused could refer to actions designed to produce a “sexual stimulation” that is reserved for use within the bounds the Lord has set.

    Specifically, when some aspect of sex feels good or desirable, or illicits some other strong biological response/urge, that’s part of the “procreative power”. You may not actually be procreating, but you’re either using or misusing that power.

    If I’m correct, perhaps it needs to be more specifically stated. But I think this analysis would stand up to his statement that we are not defined by our sexual behaviors (hello straight,LBGT misnomers) but by our diving heritage as children of God.

    He’s not denying other terms exist, are commonly accepted, or even frequently used. But he’s speaking for God. God does not want us to reduce the power he has given to his children as merely an act for entertainment, etc. It’s part and parcel of the procreative process, even though it does not always have to result in procreation.

  7. I don’t disagree at all with most of your comment, kaphhor – and I’m not going to elaborate on the points where I see things a bit differently. I just wish we could talk collectively about it much more openly, directly and candidly. I believe we are way too Victorian in how we deal with sex and sexuality, and that is most obvious in our unwillingness to call a spade a spade and use common terms when we discuss all things sexual.

    “Self abuse”? (Don’t get me started.) Call it masturbation. “Procreative act”? Call it sex or sexual intercourse. “Same sex attraction”? There are so many examples, and General Conference is supposed to be comprised of messages to “the World” as well as “the Church” – to teenagers as well as adults – etc. Let’s use words everyone can understand and quit being so squeamish about sexual terms.

  8. Ray, hear, hear! I taught GD for several years before my current calling with the YM. The parents were more squeamish than their sons to use simple and direct terms related to this topic. On a few occasions during lessons I took a perverse pleasure in backing one of the uptight adults into a conversational corner where they had to say the word “sex” in front of the class. Now that I teach the boys, I can see why some of them are uncomfortable with frank discussions.

  9. I believe that premarital sex creates a lot of hassle, at minimum, and generally speaking I’m against hassle.

    I suppose I think this is the key. Despite Bednar’s talk, the law of chastity is clear “no sexual relations” (though the meaning of relations is somewhat vague). At the end of the day, for me, there are good reasons to keep the law of chastity. But they don’t have much to do with “procreative powers.”

    The best (only?) talk on the topic of sex and its sacredness is Holland’s “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments,” though I confess I found it unconvincing. Since we’re not going to let go of the stranglehold on chastity any time soon, I agree with Ray that we should just start talking about sex and why it might be best to wait until marriage. That’s a positive message, and we can avoid associating violation of chastity with murder, driving away the spirit, etc. etc. which do nothing more than breed shame and guilt.

  10. Ray (9:44 am),

    To be honest, I didn’t mind it. There were several instances in other talks with references to “sexuality” and each time, I looked at my 4 and 6 year old children. I want them very much to think and speak properly and maturely about these subjects, but I also want them to be 4 and 6 year old kids and not be burdened by those topics _just yet_ in their lives. So, for another year or two, I’m fine with “procreative power” or whatever else will go completely over my kids’ heads.*

    *Thanks to my son’s brilliant school, they already all know that “sexy” is an “inappropriate” word because of the genius idea of play “Gangnam Style” repeatedly at various school events (school is for K-8!). This idiotic idea was compounded by their decision to have point out that “Hey, Sexy Lady!” is “inappropriate” and taught them to some ridiculous euphemism. Ugh.

  11. @Ray, but I’m saying that words mean something. I used to feel the same way as you and I’m increasingly changing that thinking. Words do mean something, and while we may lose some accuracy, you also set the not only the tone but the deeper meaning of the word.

    I’m not saying there is no middle ground here in being clear what we’re talking about when appropriate. But I imagine a world where Apostles start using biological terms like sex, orgasm, ejaculation (or even quasi-slang like climax, etc).

    Procreative powers and procreative process and the act of procreation now becomes divorced from the higher connection with God and is strictly about biological/physical response. Do that for a generation or two and I think there are pedagogical consequences. The “mental branding” so to speak for these terms becomes redefined.

    Again, I’m not arguing for inspecifics where necessary to make sure effective communication is accomplished. But we also have to keep in mind he’s not trying to control behavior but communicate God’s standards.

  12. I don’t have much to add other than I really liked this post, hawkgrrl, and agree with your commentary. Sex is about much more than baby-making, and marriage is about much more than sex.

  13. I too wish they would just call sex, “sex” more often. It’s like some odd Voldemort-ish “the act which shall not be named” thing.

    As opposed to the comment from Jim above, I don’t think there is any definitional difference between having sex and “procreative power” in Mormon-talk. The latter is just a euphemism for the former in my opinion.

    I was a little surprised that our ability to have sex was described as a very special gift from God that we children of God get, though. I mean cats, dogs, rodents, insects, etc all get that very special gift too, right?

    Last, I actually think that “same sex attraction” is not a euphemism like “procreative power” in Mormonism. Rather SSA serves as very important parsing phrase which separates the attraction from the behaviour. I don’t think such parsing language exists in the mainstream.

  14. I get that, kaphor, and I’m not advocating for an elimination of more religious and euphemistic terms. I apologize if that appeared to be what I am saying. I’m just saying that when we rely exclusively on those terms and can’t talk openly about sexual things in a way that is clear and unambiguous, we lose much – and we talk in such a way that many don’t understand. Usually, ironically, it’s those who need the message the most who don’t understand the presentation we use – and we then turn around and criticize them for not getting it.

    I’m a teacher by training, and understanding euphemisms requires a background and education in them, but without a foundational, factual understanding of the things to which the euphemisms refer, confusion and misunderstanding occurs naturally. Ironically, therefore, saying, “Don’t have sex outside of marriage,” is a much more effective foundation for children than telling them, “Use your procreative powers wisely and in a sacred manner.” Adults should be able to understand and appreciate the more religiously-worded euphemisms, but not providing the factual foundation first can have serious negative effects.

    As an example, I have worked in areas of the United States where extra-marital sex is beyond rampant – where the out-of-wedlock birth rate is staggering. Telling young men to “bridle their passions” when they have no clue what a bridle is and, honestly, in many cases, when passion isn’t even much of a part of sex for them, is nearly pointless unless you start with the simple statement, “Don’t have sex outside of marriage, because . . .” We want to live in the clouds, so to speak, when it comes to sex, but we forget too often to build the ladder that allows us to ascend to the clouds in the first place and, instead, end up doing nothing more than clouding the issues.

    I want a balanced, comprehensive discussion, not a different extreme.

  15. Nice post Hawkgirrrl,

    Conservative political philosophy suggests that a strict society of chaste women who require marriage in advance of sex bridles her husband placing the reigns firmly in her hands because sex largely isn’t available to him elsewhere. So he must comply with her wishes to enjoy. This arrangement strongly supports families and society in general by applying the carrot and stick to the basest of human instincts and tying the man to the woman’s anthropological drive rather than his own. In less strict societies this leads to the so called “double standard” allowing him to experience some of his anthropological drive on the side while retaining the appearance of her’s. This concept of the incurably wayward man gives rise to a similar idea that men need the priesthood to be good and practice their religion. In a more permissive society enlightened egalitarian relationships stay together for more far more mature reasons of attraction and love.

  16. *Thanks to my son’s brilliant school, they already all know that “sexy” is an “inappropriate” word because of the genius idea of play “Gangnam Style” repeatedly at various school events (school is for K-8!). This idiotic idea was compounded by their decision to have point out that “Hey, Sexy Lady!” is “inappropriate” and taught them to some ridiculous euphemism. Ugh.

    That’s a pity. “Hey, lady with the sacred power of procreation” is much less catchy.

  17. So, I suspect it is conservative political philosophy that drives the strict law of chastity and sacred power of procreation as Joseph didn’t seem overly concerned about them. From what I understand the prudish piousness of the church came about as backlash to polygamy.

  18. So you don’t think Joseph Smith was all that opposed to or concerned about things like fornication, Howard?

  19. Parsing the contents of GA’s talks would probably be much more helpful if it were accompanied by seeking the Spirit’s guidance to help one understand how to apply the guidance. When that is done, we don’t need to stress about what, exactly, the message is meant to say to us, individually. If we find ourselves in the position of having to help others understand it for their situation, we can likewise encourage them to seek the Spirit as they contemplate the meaning of the message.

  20. John Harrison says:

    In teaching the YM, in an effort to prepare them to be missionaries, I (and the people I’ve taught with) have been very frank about sex. Two reasons:

    1. They need to understand the basics of the Law of Chastity and beating around the bush isn’t the best way to accomplish this. The bottom line is: no sex outside of marriage. This means no sex before marriage and once you are married, sex only with your spose. Once they understand the rule, you can talk about why the rule is a good idea.

    2. In preparation for a mission, they need to be absolutely comfortable teaching this principle to investigators in plain and simple language. People without a background in Mormon vernacular have no idea what “the sacred procreative power” means.

  21. I don’t know where he stood on fornication Geoff, do you?

  22. Also, I won’t apologize for thinking that in general conference euphemisms are just fine.

  23. Not really much disagreement Ray, but this comment of yours made me think…

    “Don’t have sex outside of marriage,” is a much more effective foundation for children than telling them, “Use your procreative powers wisely and in a sacred manner.”

    Sex and pro creative powers could be two very different things. Pro creative power, seems to imply not only the act of sex, but the entire “sex drive” and behaviors that accompany and/or lead to sex.

    Using your procreative powers wisely, is a much more expansive concept. No sex outside of marriage is a law of Moses approach. Here is the law, here are the terms, follow it to the letter.

    If we understand that procreative powers are those feelings and actions which when, acted on in their fulness leads to the sex act which makes pro creation possible, then “pro creative powers” is a much better religious description of what’s going on.

    Of course, at some stage, we should always define what encompasses the range of procreative powers. But a case needs to be made it’s much more than sex.

    To use a specific example, if you’re at the beach and see a woman in a revealing bikini don’t stare and start fantasizing or imaging various sexual possibilities. In doing so, you’re not only objectifying one of God’s children, but making use of that power (desire) within you in a way that misuses it the way God intended. (to be fair, it’s not the end of the world, but dwelled on and continually engaged in really does misuse a certain aspect of the procreative power — these literal powers of attraction and physical feelings do have a specific function within God’s plan for us) These feelings and desires are part of the procreative powers, which are meant to culminate in a relationship between husband and wife.

    Quite frankly, I’ve never put this degree of thought into it, and I think it’s helpful to do so. So I guess what I’m saying to add to your point is I don’t think “only” more specificity is needed, but a greater discussion and understanding of what the procreative powers are and what they are for.
    We’ll wait and see if we get part 2 in next conference.

  24. Mike, fwiw, I agree totally with your comment about seeking personal revelation. Neither the OP nor any of my comments contradict that message.

  25. Howard,

    I am confident that Joseph Smith, like all the prophets before and after him, was highly opposed to fornication. That’s because fornication is, you know, a sin. Do you have any reason to assume otherwise?

  26. I agree, kaphor – and your last comment is a great example of what I am trying to say.

    There is a difference between memorizing a beginner’s manual and operating a machine properly to its greatest capacity – and each has its place in developmental learning. Without the first, trying to do the second can be disastrous . However, limiting the teaching only to the beginner’s manual also can be disastrous.

    I’ve seen too many disasters to want to continue teaching only one or the other.

  27. Also, just to be clear, most of my commentary on this thread is not a criticism of Elder Bednar’s talk in the context of General Conference, even though I would like more direct language even there, when appropriate. It’s much more an extension into one cultural aspect common in the Church.

    I should have made that point earlier and more explicitly.

  28. Geoff,
    Are you referring to a W&T thread where I posed the question: Adult, adult fornication that does not result in an unwanted pregnancy or STD is a victimless “sin”. Where exactly is the sin in a victimless “sin”?

    Can you answer it?

  29. kaphor,

    “Sacred powers of procreation” is a euphemism used for sex and all sexual activities because there are lots of sensitive ears out there, not because they have different definitions. The problem with euphemisms is the people who need to hear the message most sometimes have no idea what the euphemism really means (as Ray noted).

    Our high school kids hear sexual talk of the crudest nature at school every day. If they then go to church (or home) and never even hear the word “sex” in a religious setting it should be no mystery that too many kids never make the connection that the kids at school and the leaders at church are talking about the very same thing.

  30. Howard,

    I’m not ever sure what W&T is. (Maybe that Wheat and Tares blog?).

    You claim that fornication that doesn’t lead to pregnancy is a victimless sin. I dispute that claim that it is “victimless” because there are always consequences to sexual contact even if they are readily or quickly observable. But in the end we Mormons consider fornication a sin because God has explicitly forbidden the practice in both ancient and modern times. If you don’t have faith in those revelations that’s your own deal. But our instructions from God on the subject have been consistent and clear.

  31. “Fornication” is a euphemism too.

  32. So is “chastity”.

  33. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”

    When someone gets this intense about a subject like chastity, I often get suspicious. I wonder who the stern talk is really being given to….

    From my perspective, conference is about messages for the attendees (no one outside the active faithful really cares too much). So unless all the actives are currently sleeping around, I would have thought a more uplifting talk would have been better. (or maybe one day, a revelation :) )

    Jim

  34. Jim, you don’t think it’s possible that someone, somewhere, will either read or hear this talk who is struggling with related issues?

    Isn’t your comment akin to “all is well in Zion, yeah, all is well . . .”

  35. Geoff,
    Yes I know the church considers fornication a sin but I wounder if it was more of a sin long ago when there was a greater risk of unwanted pregnancy or getting an STD without available medical treatment. You wrote: …there are always consequences to sexual contact even if they are readily or quickly observable. Well I can’t think of any? Can you? Is it possible that modern medicine is making fornication less of a sin?

  36. Mike,
    Yes, I suppose that is possible. But it’s not like these standards haven’t been spelled out before. Meanwhile, a million others watch and endure.

    It’s not that I think “all is well”. I just think fear is a bad motivation technique employed by many of our “spiritually enlightened”

    Jim

  37. Jim,

    I guess the challenge, as I see it, is that general conference talks are geared toward addressing the “lowest common denominator.” I’m sure the GAs are aware that there is always going to be someone who disagrees with their approach because they find it offputting, offensive, irritating, annoying, etc.

    If I don’t think something applies to me I ignore it. Or if I think it applies to me, but only as modified, then I do that. I’m not sure that I can demand that they approach all of their GC talks in a way that ideally appeals to me.

  38. Mike

    Sure. I get that. But then I feel like skipping conference because all you get are either fear-based talks or very “milk-like” lowest common denominator fare.

    To be honest, I think the approach these days is more about avoiding controversy (from mention of our weird doctrines) and sticking to the most basic Principles (but of course with heaped servings of praise for the leadership and “the plan”)

    Jim

  39. Jim Cobabe,

    Neither fornication nor chastity are euphemisms. They are fairly archaic words, but they aren’t euphemisms.

  40. Jim,

    I don’t want to argue with you about this (and what basis would there be? You don’t like conference and I’m not going to convince you that you do). Having said that, there may be others reading these comments, and so for them I say that I believe there is plenty in 2 days of general conference to appeal to all types of people. You may have to dig a little, but there’s something there for everybody.

  41. Howard,

    Hawkgrrrl mentioned a couple of the possible negative consequences of fornication in her opening paragraph: “eroded self esteem, … and bad patterns for future relationships”. But people are free to choose so do whatever you want. Faithful Mormons will continue to follow the instruction given in the revelations.

  42. Jim: “But it’s not like these standards haven’t been spelled out before.”

    Just because you have heard them before doesn’t mean everyone has. Nor does it mean the fundamentals should not be taught. Just last week the question I got in the Sunday School class full of 14 year olds was “what is the Law of Chastity?”

  43. Geoff J

    “Just last week the question I got in the Sunday School class full of 14 year olds was “what is the Law of Chastity?””

    But that’s my point. Was your answer, “Wait till Conference and they’ll define it for you?” Of course not. Sacrament, SS, YM/YW and their parents take care of that.

    I just have this crazy notion (that I’m asked to confirm a couple of times a year) that these guys are seers, and revelators, and prophets. How about some info on world events like the good ol’ days? What does God think about the North Korea situation? Are there any lands about to be hit by natural disasters? When will we get to building the temple in Independence? Does The Lord even care about that anymore. Seems Utah can’t get enough of them. Give us a revelation on the gay issue. And the list goes on. Right now it’s just 10 hours of Sacrament Meeting.

    Jim

  44. Jim,

    Don’t watch if you don’t like it. Problem solved!

  45. Sorry — that was too snarky.

  46. Geoff J

    And “not watching” is exactly the choice I’m faced with. Thanks for crystallizing it for me. I guess I now have two weekends off per year. Woohoo :)

    Jim

  47. Jim,

    It isn’t 10 hours of sacrament meeting. It is a 10 hour preview of what will be repeated in sacrament meeting for the next 6 months.

  48. Oh good grief.

    Why stop at two weeks, big guy? Covenant breaking is all the rage nowadays. (Even though it is as old as the hills.)

  49. I love the fact that the church places video of conference on the website so I can go back and re-watch talks again and again. I obviously pick and choose what I’ll watch, but I always find something that helps me.

  50. John H: LOL

    Geoff J

    Thanks for the encouragement. Seems Conference has brought out a great spirit of charity and concern.

    I don’t know where you get the idea that I’m a covenant-breaker. And I don’t appreciate the allusions to my weight. :)

    Jim

  51. Go Mike! Way to get things back on message! :)

  52. I assume you aren’t a covenant breaker, Jim. Thus my sarcastic comment it being all the rage. I was thinking you were probably a general authority visiting here incognito.

  53. You got me Geoff J! Tommy “don’t forget the S” Monson asked me to stir things up a little. Good to see you’re holding firm!

  54. It’s background info for his new reality show, “So You Think I’m a Prophet”

  55. Nice to see you again Geoff J! :)

  56. Thanks Howard. I seem to have gone a little bloggernacle inactive in the last while but here I am, surly as ever. ;-)

  57. Great! Welcome back!

  58. Thanks Hawkgrrrl for the new insight (for me) on the meaning of “bridle.”

    I have always conflated the word bridle with “completely and absolutely hold in check all your passions.” I strongly prefer this much deeper meaning (and more realistic), that we are to steer or guide our passions within God’s limits.

  59. My favorite typo from Twitter during General Conference was “bridal your passions.”

  60. That certainly fits a lot of talks, Steve, especially in the Priesthood session.

  61. I reiterate Elder Bednar’s assertion, “The doctrine I have described will seem to be archaic and outdated to many people in a world that increasingly mocks the sanctity of procreation and minimizes the worth of human life. But the Lord’s truth is not altered by fads, popularity or public opinion polls.”

    Perhaps shifting the focus to other issues is beside the point.

    There is nothing in particular in Elder Bednar’s talk that is uniquely partisan or exclusively characteristic of political conservatism. This is the doctrine of the Lord’s kingdom, not a political campaign.

  62. Geoff - A says:

    Love your version of “bridaling your passions”

    When I heard the talk I thought it was a between the lines attack on gay marriage with enough lines to allow deniability.

    I this the most important message for the church?

  63. Jim Cobabe,
    I wasn’t suggesting it was a political campaign or politically motivated, rather the church’s position on these issues appears to closely follow conservative political philosophy probably because given humankind’s current lowly state of the natural man this method incentivizes strong support for the family and for a stable society.

    Actually I think polygamy is the doctrine of the Lord’s kingdom because polygamy when practiced by BOTH genders for a few generations has the potential to refine people to a level of selflessness that necessary transcends jealousy, possessiveness and selfishness and of course stable selflessness polygamist relationships support both male and female anthropological drives simultaneously, ending the need to bridle the male for the good of family and society. Why selfless? Because if you don’t reach that point of personal growth you will be very, very unhappy sharing your mate!

  64. or not

  65. There is nothing in King Benjamin’s address about chastity or bridling natural passions and appetites. The opposite of the “natural man” is the “spiritual man.” It has to do with becoming a new creature in Christ. The spiritual man is “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love.” The “natural” man, then, would be disobedient, prideful, impatient and hateful. The spiritual man is sanctified in Christ through the birth of the spirit.

    In my opinion, the phrase “put off the natural man” should never be used in connection with sexuality, unless one wants to imply that such natural human sexual activity is inherently hateful, prideful and lacking spiritual purpose.

  66. hawkgrrrl says:

    Steve Evans: “bridal your passions” would make an excellent slogan for David’s Bridal. It’s kind of like “modest is hottest” but for weddings.

    It seems to me there’s almost always at least one talk in Gen Conf reminding members to repent if they’ve been unchaste. This one was particularly oblique in its references. Maybe Bednar just drew the short straw this time. Somebody’s got to give the talk!

    Jim: ““The lady doth protest too much, methinks” When someone gets this intense about a subject like chastity, I often get suspicious. I wonder who the stern talk is really being given to….” I’m going to assume you’re referring to Bednar with this remark. If you’re talking about me, I’ll see you at the flagpole.

  67. Hawkgrrrl

    LOL – oops, I wasn’t meaning you. Sorry. Not sure what meeting at the flagpole is. Could be painful.

    Jim

  68. hawkgrrrl says:

    Jim – In that case, a tip of the hat for referring to E. Bednar as a lady! We need more gender equity around these parts.

  69. Hawkgrrrl

    Good one. I was just trying to stay true to Hamlet.

    Actually, I enjoyed reading your perspective on his talk. I went back and now listened to the whole thing. You’re right about the cliches. Just so many statements that don’t really mean anything or, taken to their logical conclusion, sound a bit weird (a portion of their creative power?).

    Why is E. Bednar so intense about this topic? Those who are irresponsible with sex will usually reap the natural consequences of their action anyway. (and they are most likely not listening)

    Christ gave no more attention to the adultery commandment than he did the rest of the 10 commandments. But he did have some special advice for the wealthy and the hypocrites. When will we have one of those talks? :)

    Jim.

  70. Immorality is rampant. Or, to be more specific, lots of people, including members of the church, are having sex and sexual contact outside the bounds the Lord has set. Lots more people are on the path toward committing that type of sin. I can’t prove that to you, but I believe it. And if it is true, then a talk on this subject is appropriate and timely.

    Every conference there are a handful of talks I really enjoy, and some others that I don’t pay much attention to. I’m not sure there’s a need to criticize the selection of topics, however. Moreover, I believe that the selection of topics is inspired.

  71. Immorality is rampant. Unsupported alarmist statements like this nag at my mind! We hear them often from the pulpit as if they are self evident truths, but are they true or are they hyperbole? Rampant means flourishing or spreading unchecked. So if immorality were to spread unchecked in a short period of time there would be NO morality left. Is that what we find? No. So the truth is the spread of immorality has probably about plateaued, in other words immorality and morality must have about reached some balance. So the term rampant can really only apply to periods of growth in immorality and cannot honestly be applied on-going as it seems to be in the church.

  72. That statement is an opinion, based on my experience growing up, being immoral myself, but having to make an effort to find it, then later being in a bishopric seeing the destruction in people’s lives, and working as an attorney, watching the same thing.

    Choose whatever word you wish, but I find it quite silly to suggest that the church leaders should have better things to do than to devote one talk out of 5 sessions to immorality.

    If you are offended by Elder Bednar’s words, don’t listen or read. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have an opinion or express it, I find it incredulous to suggest that there is no problem with immorality in the world at large and among the members of the church.

  73. Mike, I’m not offended nor am I attacking you. Attorneys are word smiths, don’t you appreciate the correct use of words? I tire of being manipulated by church related alarmist statements aimed at controlling behavior via. fear, guilt, shame, hellfire and damnation. It’s all hyperbole! Isn’t it time we moved up from *enforcing behavior* based on O.T. Mosaic law to Christianity’s sermon on the mount and plain to *encourage charitable attitudes* via positive affirmations?

  74. Settle down, Howard.

  75. It may be a flawed proxy, but 95% of Americans have sex before marriage. This trend extends back a few decades now. When I first saw this research, I didn’t believe it. So I dug up the data and ran my own analysis. Turns out it was quite accurate.

    So if you are going to consider immorality to be sexual relations outside of marriage, based on what we know, I’d have to agree that rampant is a good term.

    Source: http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2006/12/19/index.html

  76. Benjamin,
    Well based on that article you’re right. Premarital sex (fornication?) is not only rampant, it’s become normal and has been for decades!

  77. Dave K. says:

    Giving an address in any general meeting for all members is just plain tough. It’s like trying to serve the exact same dinner to all members of the family even though they have different maturities, needs, and especially wants. The baby has no teeth; neither does grandpa. Jimmy can eat and eat and is still starving. Sarah is lactose intolerant. Phil’s a picky eater. Jane is on something called a “fruit cleanse”. Mom can’t keep anything down because she’s 2 months pregant. And Dad is working late so his meal will have to be re-heated. What exactly do you serve to make everyone happy? My family has 5 kids and we struggle to meet everyone’s needs (forget the wants). Imagine a family of 14 million.

    Personally, I would like a lot more meat and less milk. Many people on this board – mature adults with years in the church – likely feel the same. But we must remember conference is a general meeting for all members. I forgot that once when I was in a bishopric. I asked the speaker to address chastity issues for adults and teens. She did. She didn’t pull any punches. Afterward, the Primary President approached me and mildly (is there any other way for Primary Presidents?) mentioned that the talk was too strong for the children in the ward – including my own children. She was right. In my zeal to have plain teaching for mature members, I’d forgotten that sacrament meeting is a general meeting for all.

    Looking at the Savior’s example, I see a few ways to address this dilema. One is to teach in parables. Take the good samariatan. For the “lowest denominator”, they get a nice story about being kind. But for the more mature – particularly those willing to ask and seek – they get a more nourishing lesson about prejudice and discipleship. This method takes a lot of work, but I see many leaders pull it off.

    Another way is to have different meetings for different maturity levels. Priesthood session is often more “meat” because there are no young children there. Perhaps conference could be more adapted so that 2 sessions were general, one was geared towards teens and another geared towards adults? No system is perfect, but maybe the plusses of more focused sessions would outweight the minuses of fewer members attending all the sessions. For the time being, I will trust our leadership’s judgment and try to get as much nourishment as possible.

    PS – I’m an attorney too so I apologize in advance for word-smithing. And for being snarky.

  78. Mike: “Why is E. Bednar so intense about this topic?”

    I take it you are new to Mormonism… Elder Bednar was no more intense than the scores of other apostles and leaders who have preached to us on the same topic for many decades. The leaders of the church preach repentance. The focus on the sins and temptations they believe people need to avoid or need to repent of. How is that so hard to understand?

  79. Oops — that “Why is E. Bednar so intense about this topic?” quote was from Jim earlier today, not from Mike.

  80. I have to admit that I am with Howard in some respects. I really dislike the use of the evil “world” and its continuing decline. Rates of sex before marriage are high. However, they have been really high for a long time. Here is a nice graphic of age of first intercourse by decade. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1802108/figure/F3/ An update to this shows that there has been almost no movement since 2003. Most people now before they are 24 have less than 3 sexual partners. Many have only 1. A small minorty have many. That hasn’t changed very much. So things aren’t getting worse, but you can make a case for things being bad. While I do agree with hawkgirl and others that sexual intercourse even without pregnancy or disease has consequences, many of which are negative, for many people it simply isn’t that negative. Should they repent. Definitely. Should we counsel against it. Sure. Should we absolutely villanize committed couples who are monogamous to each other and act as if they are really bad people? I am not so sure. I understand why the leaders don’t want to talk about this in shades of gray (tee hee) especially for youth, but one of the results is that it really short circuits mature discussion of sexual matters and complicates repentence processes.

    There have been steady declines in teenage pregnacy and abortions. Marriage rates have actually been rebounding in the last decade. Also on the decline are domestic abuse and almost every measure of violance whether it be violent crime or war. Racial and gender discrimination are down almost all across the board as are racism and sexism. What is definitely going up almost everywhere but especially in the US is inequality and what is declining is socio-economic mobibility. You would think those major, Book of Mormon-related trends would get some attention. Turns out they are also driving things like young people putting off marriage (who actually want to get married) and families putting off having kids (who want to have kids).

  81. The issue, from the standpoint of what is preached in GC, is not whether the same number of people are having premarital/extramarital sex; the issue is that the numbers aren’t going down, and that means that for a significant number of LDS people this is an issue they’ll grapple with. The topic is still timely and appropriate for GC.

  82. …the numbers aren’t going down… So you believe GC talks will put the genie back in the bottle?

  83. No. I believe that there are people who either listen to GC or read the talks, who have either committed sexual sin or are on the path toward it, who can change course if the words and spirit touch their hearts.

    This reminds me of my wife. She says I’m wasting my time nagging the kids about jumping on the furniture. I say the “nagging” makes a difference because they don’t jump on it as much, and the furniture has lasted longer than it otherwise would.

    Just because nobody at BCC is moved by Elder Bednar’s words doesn’t mean nobody has been or will be.

  84. I know an innocent young man who actually believed what he heard from the pulpit. Then along came an attractive older LDS girl who wanted him, seduced him and because he felt so shameful and guilty for what they did after more than a year of repentance married her because he believed it was his duty. They had a child but didn’t get along and divorced. It ruined his life! Maybe hers too. He is still recovering from it. Let’s get over fornication, let’s not create victims from the pulpit over a victimless sin.

  85. So Elder Bednar is going to cause people to enter into bad marriages that end in divorce? Please. Reminds me of the logical fallacy that the number of churches in a town cause high crimes rates (when the truth is that high populations increase the number of churches built and the crime rate). .

    Let’s not ever preach righteous living because someone, somewhere has a screw loose and can’t figure out how to apply guidance in their lives.

  86. “Just because nobody at BCC is moved by Elder Bednar’s words doesn’t mean nobody has been or will be.”

    Now Mike, that’s really not very fair, is it? Do you want to take another crack at your statement? Defending Church leaders doesn’t require you to talk that way. Mostly it sounds like Howard (who will shortly stop it) is getting a rise out of you, and you’re letting it happen.

    Howard, stop it.

  87. A screw loose? How compassionate.

    No not Elder Bednar necessarily but there is a balance to jawboning these things for instance Elder Packer has often strongly expressed folklore opinion that may have passed when he was growing up but is clearly out of place today and we need to reduce the hyperbole in GC and local meetings so that truth comes from the pulpit in place of exaggeration and shame and we should express more charity and empathy for young impressionable sinners particularly when their sins are victimless. If we did we might reduce their exodus from the church just as they are coming of age. We often sound like an Old Testament church!

  88. Sorry Steve we cross posted but I think it was okay wasn’t it?

  89. Howard: “along came an attractive older LDS girl who wanted him [and] seduced him”

    Snort! Too bad this kid/victim didn’t have any choice in the matter…

    Breaking news: We all reap what we sow. (Thus God’s servants continue to admonish us to sow the seeds of happy lives like the admonishment to actually obey the Law of Chastity — even when we are tempted to do otherwise.)

  90. Compassion is overrated.

    I deal with people everyday whose energy seems to be expended on finding others to blame for their predicaments.

    Some people came back from Vietnam all messed up. Others came back and adjusted very well. If it was Vietnam that messed some up, why didn’t the others turn out the same?

    When preaching a message to 14 million people (plus the world), you don’t stop because a few people want to blame the message/messenger when they don’t seem to understand it and apply it correctly.

    Sorry Steve. I think you have it backwards. I seem to be getting a rise out of Howard.

  91. OK, Mike, then you knock it off. Both of you are forbidden from commenting any more on this thread.

  92. Yes, dad.

  93. Making it a talking point about purported euphemisms for “sex” is a pretty pitiful argument in the face of the terms popular culture is accustomed to using. Sorry to be stubborn, but the “procreation” that Elder Bednar references is simply not in the same genre of reference.

  94. Hence the need to use the Spirit to help one understand. It is religion we’re talking about, after all.

  95. Actually, Jim, I view such euphemisms and the vulgarity I and my children hear all around us as opposite sides of the same coin – not talking about sexual matters openly, frankly and modestly. Modesty is moderation – an avoidance of extremes, and we often mistake the opposite extreme to what “popular culture is accustomed to using” as modesty when it is not modest at all.

    That is a large part of my problem with how we deal with all things sexual – that we tend to approach it in a relatively extreme way in the name of modesty.

  96. hawkgrrrl says:

    I want to comment on the poor word choice of “procreative power.” I didn’t make that up. There were many people who took his talk that way. Discussion boards lit up with the question: “Did E. Bednar just outlaw birth control?” and “Did E. Bednar say we can only have sex to make babies?” This was as he was saying it. Word choice matters. I am a nitpicky person by nature, but I didn’t invent the misunderstanding.

  97. Woman waking up to the realization of chauvinism and misogyny and how they work against her often creates a feminist of some sort having woken from a naive stupor often she assumes her sisters to still be sleeping. But are they? I suspect some are and some aren’t. In other words I think there are TBM women who actually “know” and feminist women who actually “know” but what they know and care about are vastly different.

    Conservative political philosophy suggests that a strict society of chaste women who require marriage in advance of sex bridles her husband placing the reigns firmly in her hands because sex largely isn’t available to him elsewhere. So he must comply with her wishes to enjoy. This arrangement strongly supports families and society in general by applying the carrot and stick to the basest of human instincts and tying the man to the woman’s anthropological drive rather than his own. If you assume that the family is the basic unit of society and it would be in the example above, then the woman is placed in charge of the man and the man is charge of the world or some portion of it. So this model of society is something of a collective matriarchy. Presiding is then the appearance of being the head of the family but the real power is manifest via feminine wiles in the boardroom. Comfortable privileged TBM women probably know they run the show and have a leg up in this system so don’t want to change. Working women threaten this model in a variety of ways.

    So feminism and egalitarianism not only directly challenges the brethren and traditional church practice, it sets up a power struggle with comfortable privileged TBM women who well may see the injustices feminists are objecting to but they choose look the other way. If not then they must still be in a naive stupor, not a pretty choice is it?

  98. Well, darn. Elder Bednar was trying to be politically correct, you know, by not calling a spade a spade, or sex sex. And we all know how the Church hates PC speak, a la Elder Oaks. Where does this leave us, sheep? On the horns of the dilemma, which we say when we politely refer to being SOL.

  99. Howard: One caveat to your observation. There are two strains of feminism when it comes to sex. (I had to read up on this because I am a little too old for women’s studies to have been offered when I attended uni). Anti-pornography feminism seeks equality by restricting male sexuality. Sex-positive feminism seeks equality by creating more female sexual freedom.

    Frankly, I think you can find doctrinal support in the church for both positions, so long as you add “within the legal bonds of marriage” to it. This talk fell more on the “anti sex” side, but given that we are a faith that believes in (as one of my non-LDS friends put it) eternal cosmic sex, there’s quite a bit of sex positivism precedent in our teachings as well as embracing our physical nature, certainly in comparison to other strains of Christianity. We don’t believe we’ll be strumming harps on a cloud somewhere as spirit beings. We shouldn’t be hating on the bod so much. That’s my humble opinion.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,786 other followers