Mormonism, like most religions, has many teachings about sex and intimacy. But, like everything else, teachings interact with persons, each with her or his own temperaments and autobiographies. As a result, the same teaching can strike each of us differently. For some, messages about embodied Gods, male and female, is incredibly empowering, even a help to them in developing positive attitudes toward their own sexuality. For others, the same teaching (and all its extensions) can trigger negative reactions as they imagine lives of eternal sex and childbearing, or find other extensions of the teaching problematic and disempowering. For some people, the Law of Chastity becomes an important element in their value system, leading them to take a healthy look at and make empowering choices regarding their sexual desires and actions. For others, it becomes a burden, something imposed upon them, and they end up making choices about sexual practice out of fear—fear of God, parents, church leaders—and as attempts to please others. Name the topic, and we Mormons, like everyone else, can end up in all sorts of emotional and spiritual spaces regarding sexuality: many positive, but many quite confused and inhibiting to intimacy in general, and/or an enjoyable and empowering sex life.
In this two-part episode, a wonderful panel of marriage and family counselors who also have certifications in and/or a great deal of experience with sex therapy—Natasha Helfer Parker, Shannon Hickman, Kristin Hodson, and Kristin Marie Bennion—join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a terrific discussion of the issues surrounding sex that are quite common in Mormonism, and among the general public. But, as the title of the episode suggests, the main focus is on the sex-positive messaging that exists in Mormonism, and how we can better include it in our own thinking about and experiences of desire and physical intimacy. How can we create a gospel-based value system that incorporates LDS teachings about the goodness of our bodies, and that sex is not just about procreation but also pleasure and connection and relational intimacy? How do we incorporate and find the proper balance between messaging about the spiritual aspects of human sexuality and the intense and bodily driven emotions and activities that are a key element of sexual fulfillment? The panelists also address LDS teachings about pornography, as well as finding healthy ways to integrate our sexual pasts with our present sex lives—everything from the messaging we grew up with and absorbed into our views about ourselves and our bodies, to guilt over past sexual experimentation, to healing from unwanted sexual advances, even abuse.
This is a powerful episode. Please listen and then join in the discussion in the comments section below!
Links to Items and Events Mentioned in this Episode:
“Intimacy in Mormon Marriage” Workshop, 28 December 2015, Orem, Utah. Co-sponsored by Mormon Matters and A Thoughtful Faith podcasts.
The workshop information and registration links are about half-way down front page. You can also learn about the workshop and register here.
Related writings by Natasha Helfer Parker:
“Sexuality and the Mormon Marriage,” Segullah blog, 31 January 2011
“Teaching Chastity to the Relief Society,” Mormon Therapist blog, 21 September 2013
The Healing Group, Kristin Hodson’s therapy practice website
Kristin Hodson, et al, Real Intimacy: A Couple’s Guide to Healthy, Genuine Sexuality (Cedar Fort, 2012)
“Who Moved My Desire?“: A Support Group Exploring Female Desire
Dallin H. Oaks, “Recovering from the Trap of Pornography,” Ensign, Ocober 2015
“What Should I Do When I See Pornography?“, LDS.org video for children
Kristin Hodson, “Ten Sex Positive Things Worth Noting in the LDS Church Video on Talking to Your Kids About Pornography,” Cultural Hall Podcast blog, 16 November 2015
Intimate Connections Counseling, Kristin Marie Bennion’s therapy practice website
Shannon Hickman Counseling, Shannon Hickman’s therapy practice website
“The Birds and the Bees: Parent Education Event” flyer for Shannon Hickman workshop to be held 11 January 2016 in West Jordan, Utah
Taylor Petrey, “Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Winter 2011
Utah Sex Therapy Association website