Prophetic Counsel About Sex Within Marriage: A Brief History

AndrewLDS, marriage, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, sexuality 158 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

[2] Id. at 422.

[3] Id. at 421.

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

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

[6] Church Handbook, 1998.

[7] True to the Faith, 2004.

Comments 158

    1. I have always wondered from time to time about this topic because of the holy standards we are taught to live by and the taboo nature of the subject. Questions like: What sexual acts are considered morally “right” and “wrong” inside the holy institution of marriage? How do we know if a specific sexual act is labeled by God as “unnatural”? (Even if the act in question is done WITH your spouse, SEEMS to be benign or harmless in nature, or doesn’t have a specific answer yet) And Lastly, what are the dos and donts of sexual relations in marriage? First off, I think it’s very important to note that the dictionary definition of “unnatural” is as so: something that is CONTRARY to the LAWS or COURSE OF NATURE. Knowing that we must then reflect on all gods laws & commandments. Also, I think it’s VERY important to ask ourselves: What is the COURSE OF NATURE. Simply put; I like to think that the course of nature involves related topics such as God’s plan of salvation, PROCREATION(when married), Families, The Sanctity and Holiness of Marriage, The Spiritual & Carnal(unclean, wicked, worldly ways) Nature or states of man, and the circle of life and society. We’re all born here to grow, learn the gospel, share it, obtain physical bodies, START FAMILIES, HAVE CHILDREN, and live righteously so we can return to our Heavenly Father. But, Satan is very cunning and has a seemingly endless number of ways to try to screw up gods plan. He likes to start by Destroying families. Temptations, Urges, Sexual Thoughts and Fantasies, Internet, Drugs, Etc…are all tools he can use to undermine families and friendships…thus interfering with the course of nature or gods plan. Sooo from my understanding if the particular sexual act in question is, “Something that is CONTRARY to the LAWS & COURSE OF NATURE” then it is deemed unnatural because it deviates us from our laws and the norm…thus it could interfere with gods plan of salvation. If anyone is unsure of something…ask the bishop. If no one has a definitive answer just ask yourself a few questions: (With Examples)
      Question 1. Would Masterbating be ok with wife?
      Answer 1. No because even though it’s with your wife it is an unholy act BC it can pollute your thoughts and mind with unclean things, interfere with gods plan of salvation, lead to relationship intimacy issues, steer you away from spiritually minded things into the dark and dreary waste to be lost or lead you to that great and spacious building that inevitably falls in the end. Wouldn’t you want to pick the winning team?
      2.. I’m also wondering if sexual relations with your wife are only for procreation, and Marital Lovemaking. I suppose pleasure seeking in that form is bad because it can snowball into more problems.

      1. See my comments above; April 2017.
        As I pointed out, “m–” done by either the husband on his wife and/or the wife doing it to herself, each during foreplay, before penetration, is essential for most women to achieve climax and prevent painful intercourse.
        This is medical fact and basic human anatomy. Women were made this way!
        Grow up.

        1. Yes! I don’t understand this at all. Sex is fun, awesome, and exciting. I do it to fill a need, and it connects me to my partner. Love making, and carnal sex with my spouse are both awesome and have their place. Big deal!

      2. ALL OF THE STANDARD WORKS AS ALL OF THE PROPHETS IN THIS CHURCH AND ALL TRUE PROPHETS OF THE “OTHER SHEEP” AND ” OTHER SHEEP” AND HOW MANY OTHERS AGREE AND HARMONIZE WITH THE DETAILS. Each married couple’s goal is to become one flesh and so each is primarily accountable and privately involved in this unique to them private and sacred to only the two of them so all must be done HOLY and worthy and honoring each the other each and every time bodies souls SPIRITS involved of the two. Key words follow the Holy Spirit’s moment by moment direction and never hurt harm with habits or personal self seeking lust always love for oneself and each the other above oneself and it may not ever go wrong! Also the Scriptures define clearly unnatural UNCLEAN unholy FILTHY impure bestial acts hygiene and actions thoughts desires intents dreams sexual imaginations fantasies etc. to the detail just doing the exhaustive and comprehensive Scripture study is making and taking the time to search it out individually then coming together agreeing as “two cannot (do not will not NOR continue to do so) walk together but they are both agreed”💃


  1. Andrew,

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

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

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

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

    1. Something I’ve been thinking alot about is our church. And the Jew’s during Christ times. We have to protect our selves and our families, however, it was not designed to be like what the pharasis and sadducies were doing. Life is a beautiful thing! Creation is a beautiful thing! If your doing something in your marriage that makes your wife feel uncomfortable then absolutely don’t do it. However, we can not become like the Jew’s of old, or the puritans. Neither of them were living god’s will. There is a balance to everything. I’m not married,I’m 18 and hoping to go on my mission soon.

    2. To bfwebster,
      I grew up in that era, too.
      But since becoming a married adult and reading various articles on sexual techniques and different positions, I think that there are many LDS church members and other devoted Christians who are unnecessarily squeemish about the above simply because they were raised to be reflexively conservative on such matters, without asking themselves whether their reticence is truly due to DIRECT scriptural prohibition of the act in question or an assumption or inference made by them, based on acquired doctrinal biases, false virtue, and false guilt.
      I pity these folks; they are doing THEMSELVES AND EACH OTHER out of one of life’s most wonderful experiences: great marital sex!
      To think of relatively young husbands with still-active sexual needs feeling obliged to give up sex because the couple can’t raise more children is tragic and EROSIVE TO THE MARRIAGE AND FAMILY! So is a wife who hates sex because her husband refuses to provide the kind of foreplay she needs to climax! Wives like this refuse their husbands for months or years at a time. Most guys can’t take this sexual deprivation.
      AND, WHAT ABOUT HUSBANDS IN THE MILITARY OR WORKING IN JOBS THAT REQUIRE LONG SEPARATIONS FROM THEIR WIVES? It is cruel, naive, and shortsighted for church policy to forbid them from “relieving themselves” sexually. A couple can engage in long distance intimacy by each spouse providing the other with some racy-but-tasteful seductive photos (on a smartphone or pictures. Phone digital files can be hidden and locked.). Each spouse can then relieve themselves while looking at the pictures or videos of the other spouse or the two of them together. DO be careful with those pictures, though. “For your eyes only.” And NO pornography or adulterous fantasies! Also can include love notes, private phone calls with the above activity, etc.
      This has helped keep many a marriage strong and temptation at bay when spouses are separated by distance, illness, injury, and even differing levels of desire for intercourse.
      This is not immoral, unnatural, etc, and strengthens the marriage and enables the physical sexual well-being of the married couple.

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

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

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

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

    1. To Benjamin O,
      The human physiological reality is that a man NEEDS TO “LUST” after his wife to become physically ready for sex!
      What a reprehensible thing for the Church to do– to plant a huge guilt bomb in the minds of every married LDS man, and to scare LDS wives away from expressing their sexual selves and needs to their husbands!
      People need to reserve the right to be “SELFISH” in some ways, as long as they don’t do it to excess or with demonstrably harmful (versus merely theoretically harmful) effects. We all have human NEEDS as well as wants. The physical need for sexual relief is a legitimate need experienced by men and many women. Shaming people for having this need is inhumane and misguided.
      People also have needs for love, emotional intimacy, respect, etc.
      I was disappointed to read former President Kimball’s treatise on sex within marriage. His neo-Puritanical views were a product of the late Victorian era he grew up in.
      It saddens me to see how many LDS couples obediently hang on every word coming from misguided Church authorities and other members; many an LDS couple’s intimate lives have been ruined by these overly restrictive teachings that forbid foreplay, spontaneity, and generally enjoying oneself and being sexually satisfied.
      I’ve read online posts by many LDS husbands who are STILL UNABLE TO PERFORM SEXUALLY a year or more into their young marriages because of having learned to repress their sexual needs so effectively (weren’t allowed to “touch themselves” while single to obtain sexual relief) that they can’t function normally in the bedroom!
      These super-strict teachings are toxic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        1. He wasn’t saying that pornography is the only thing that results in domination and submission nor that those are the only result. He was merely pointing out some examples of his interpretation of unnatural. I think you missed the point.

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

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

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

    1. Men and women, but especially younger men, have intense, unrelenting sex drives DUE TO THEIR ANATOMICAL FUNCTION. A couple had better “satisfy their passions” with good marital sex, or they will each be at risk of committing adultery or becoming physically miserable and emotionally stressed and depressed.
      Just read the online posts of LDS and other Christian men whose wives refuse any sexual activity with them.
      Contrary to the Church’s line, you can’t ignore Mother Nature!

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. There is a time and purpose for everything. It’s good to keep things in perspective, and it really does matter where your heart is, but marriage, between a married man and a women, is ordained of god. I’m not saying that we are to fulfill are lusts on things, but we can’t become like the puritans. Or the sadducies/pharesies who took the law too far. I don’t know if this is too far, I trust my prophet on what he says, but the right to judge is given to every man. It all depends on your relationship with your spouse and god.

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

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

    1. Not only is it ok to have sex naked, it’s inappropriate to keep garments on during sex. Bruce R Mckonkie amongst others have touched on this very specifically. The garments are sacred for their own ordinances and not part of the sacred ordinance of sex.

    2. When I first was converted to the Church in 1975 at the age of 17, almost every Mormon woman I met told me that one was to have sex in marriage through the garments. I was so devastated by the puritanical views of these otherwise lovely people that I almost left the Church. This way of thinking seems to have died out, but I still can’t believe people were ever that prudish. Wow.

  13. #14…I have heard of such people and their Gs…but, I always chalked it up to urban myth. I was told that as soon as the coitus was complete, that we should get back in our Gs ASAP. I don’t feel the need to adhere to that one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  17. Andrew – great job. Well researched and interesting.

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

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

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

      1. Here’s the deal with nocturnal emissions: some guys have few or none of them. And the other guys don’t get them often enough to be of much help controlling excess semen pressure in the testicles and prostate.
        No joke– even a young guy can easily develop congestive prostate disorder, where the semen pressure leads to inflammation, swelling, and sometimes infection (prostatitis) and the inability to empty the bladder. Not to mention distracting testicular pain. And that other embarrassingly visible spontaneous event…
        Like your friend, I, too, was a premed major at Stanford. Males, especially younger ones under 35, overproduce semen. How much depends upon the individual.
        Wet dreams are usually insufficient to provide adequate relief from the buildup of sexual fluids. “Touching oneself,” or masturbation, is by far the best way, medically speaking AND morally speaking (yes, contrary to what most devoutly faithful people have been told to believe), for single males and husbands without access to their wives to relieve their physiological sexual needs. Add to that the fact that puberty begins earlier (10 to 12 for most boys) and adolescence is prolonged by the need for higher education and career establishment, and we’re easily talking 15 to 20 years of singleness before it’s a good idea for a man to get married. Early marriage and children can easily derail a promising career and sabotage completing one’s higher education.
        Touching oneself never got anyone pregnant and doesn’t transmit STD’s. The LUST angle can be avoided by NOT VIEWING PORNOGRAPHY or entertaining sexual fantasies about someone who is not your spouse.
        So, adding it all up, a blanket prohibition on doing the m-word is unwise, inhumane, and naive.

    2. Abrahamic (Christianity, Mormonism, Judaism, and Islam) religions are all about teaching males to SUPPRESS and ignore their sexuality in order to CONTROL it.
      Females are taught to try to reduce the sexual attractiveness of their appearance and deny to themselves that they, too, have sexual needs.
      Yes, needs, contrary to what one General Authority said about humans having NO “legitimate” need for sexual satisfaction and activity!
      Yeah, we’re more like the Muslims than we’d like to think!

    3. So, wet dreams are “filthy,” according to Kimball?
      What about morning male part tumescence?
      All this stuff is ridiculous and inhumane, because the human sexual response is as much biological and involuntary as it is psychological.
      I would HATE to be a guy growing up in the church because I’d be suffering constant testicular pain and prostate troubles, due to congestive prostatitis (inflamed prostate due to the fluid pressure buildup of unreleased semenal fluid). Sleepless nights and hoping for that too-rare wet dream. Trouble studying and living life because of the painful pressure and inability to urinate (yes, it can happen to teenage and 20s guys).
      Why do religions have to be so cruel? You know, there IS an easy remedy for these male unrequited sexual woes… And it can be done without use of pornography.
      Religions need to allow SOME matters to be private choices left up to the individual!

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

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

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

    1. I just did, Adam! See the last half of my post.
      It’s time for some good sense on this subject.
      Guys go through puberty at around 9 to 11 years of age, now. By 12 or 13 they’re likely going through He** because their bodies are begging for relief, but their minds are terrified of God’s retribution if they give in to their need to m********e. And their parents are removing their bedroom doors and spying on them all the time in their rooms to stop them from “touching themselves.”
      I joined the church as an adult, but I’m SO glad that I had my teens and 20’s outside the church! I would have gone crazy if I’d had no form of sexual relief. (Even then, I chose not to have actual premarital sex because I thought it was unwise for my girlfriend and me).
      It’s high time Christian churches recognize that the m-word, done by oneself, is a low-risk effective substitute for high-risk sex and fooling round, as long as porn is not used.
      Nuff said.

    2. Postscript: Married people can just as easily get addicted to sexual pleasure as a single person doing the m-word. Especially if they watch porn.
      But we can’t let our lives be held hostage to all sorts of scarry “WHAT-IF” fears! We have to be able to live our lives and– yes– enjoy ourselves. Just do so responsibly.

    3. My sister is in her late 40’s and has never been asked to marry or go out on a date. She’s not all that beautiful.
      Realistically, she probably won’t ever be asked to marry.
      She figured this out some years ago, and realized she would never have her sexual needs met unless she “took matters into her own hands,”
      She went and bought a vibrating massager and did.
      Life didn’t give her any other viable choice. She was tired of the physical suffering and the thought of never being able to experience a you-know-what.
      I wish churches didn’t stigmatize this done in this particular context.

  19. Re: #20,

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

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

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

  20. #19…I don’t recall that passage. That seems to fly in the face of Boyd K. Packer’s “assembly line” analogy: where we have a built-in mechanism to deal with too much semen (wet dreams).

    1. Good theory, but many guys get few or no wet dreams. I know: I was one of them!
      I would have gone nuts and gotten lower grades if I hadn’t “touched myself.”
      A couple other guys I knew had the same problem.

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

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

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

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

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

    Jamie Trwth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  27. Anon,

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

    For anyone looking for a wholesome place to discuss sexuality in the LDS marriage, or for advice in your own marriage, I encourage you to go to

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

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

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

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

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

  31. David T (#33).

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. You are so right!
      LDS church members are too “black-and-white” simplistic in their thinking and childishly unwilling to trust their own good judgement. They have internalized the doctrinal notion that because people have descended from the fallen Adam and Eve, humans are incapable of making sound moral judgements.
      Got to question those toxic assumptions. They’ll destroy your life while pretending to benefit you!

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

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

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

    1. I HOPE SO!
      This Spencer W Kimball book is misguided, vicious, and uninformed.
      Wet dreams are INVOLUNTARY. I’m sure that he had them as a young man. He fathered 4 kids.
      Maybe that’s why he cried uncontrollably while on the floor when he was first called to sit on the Council of the Twelve. (See Kimball’s Wikipedia entry.)
      He probably thought himself to be completely unworthy of the calling, and later wrote Miracle of Forgiveness in an attempt to gain favor with God for condemning what he himself had done.

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

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

  39. MoJim (42).

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Okay, I’m done for now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. Hi, Yet Another Anonymous.
      I am married to Thoughtful Observer. We have a close female relative in exactly the same position as you. She is also an active Church member.
      Some years ago, when she figured out that it is less likely that she will ever be asked to marry, she made an important decision about meeting her own physical needs for sexual release.
      She did not want to risk pregnancy, since she knew that all contraceptives have a real life use failure rate ranging from 8% to 14%.
      The logical and sensible choice for her was masturbation using a back massage wand that has adjustable vibration.
      She never watches pornography, and she doesn’t think about some handsome guy she saw at the beach.
      She meets her physical need for sexual release by climaxing with the massage wand and does it in a therapeutic, business-like manner, and then gets on with her day or evening. 3-6 days a week, max.
      Doing this is only fair for people a long way off from marriage or unlikely to marry.
      We have the right to attend to our other bodily needs, like using the restroom, eating and drinking, and sneezing.

    2. I was 35 when I married and a high-desire person. I agree wholeheartedly with your opinions. I also think it’s important to follow the Church’s standards on sexuality before marriage, all of them, but not because it’s evil that one greatly desires sex before one is able to be married. The Lord once told me that sexual desire is a righteous desire when it is pointed towards marriage. Without the strength of sexual desire, many of us would either never marry or purposely not marry for years and years. I can also testify that remaining completely chaste will bring down the powers of Heaven in our lives. I experienced that when I was SORELY tempted. I wish for you that you may find a good spouse with whom you will share many happy years of this life and life in the Eternities.

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

    1. Books like The Miracle of Forgiveness are insidiously evil in their own rite.
      They define almost EVERY form of mortal pleasure and satisfaction as evil, simply because they please the nervous system!
      Abrahamic religions are truly at war with our HUMANNESS.

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

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

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

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

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

    1. MoF is manufactured guilt and shame. Its purpose is to sell everyone on the idea that we need saving and religion fills the need.

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

    1. See my earlier posts. Husbands using the hands-on technique to satisfy their wives’ sexual needs and to help prevent painful intercourse is a vitally necessary part of foreplay.
      If God/Jesus can’t deal with that, then we need to ask ourselves why we are worshipping such uncaring deities!

    2. To Anon replying to AdamF#20:
      Mutual masturbation in marriage is not wrong!
      It is absolutely necessary as FOREPLAY for women and for some men who need a little extra help getting aroused. Or who have e.d.
      Sex is often painful and almost never satisfying for women who don’t receive manual foreplay from their husband or themselves.
      This is a biological fact.
      Also, if one or the other spouse is busy, away from home, or doesn’t want sex, masturbation either alone or together is a must.
      Just stay away from porn, smutty books, and adulterous fantasies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. This “if you have a question about so-and- so being appropriate, then don’t do it, see it, etc…” mentality is not helpful.
      It depends on the thought process which gave rise to the question. Some people who have been raised in an ultra- strict conservative LDS or Christian home may well have picked up the idea that nearly everything someone thinks or does is morally wrong, unless specifically told it is ok by a morally authoritative source.
      Overblown morality fixations are not only contrary to Christ ‘s teachings, they are toxic, overly mind-controlling and limiting, and impose false guilt in many instances.
      We need to learn how to use our own good judgement, coupled with the basic gospel teachings, to make our own decisions about conduct and belief and then TRUST in Chris’s atonement to cover our sins!

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

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

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

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

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

    1. Reinforce that caveat of specifically asking why the activity, entertainment, etc, is wrong. Often, devout Church members substitute their own moral and ideological a prioris (pet beliefs, hunches, prejudices) for the basic gospel teachings. These folks develop a sort of moral obsessiveness to where they have a compulsion to define as much as possible as wrongful.
      This is not true gospel and partakes of the highly strictured, obsessive tradition of the Pharisees.
      Again, as I advised in another post, trust your own good judgement plus the gospel basics and trust that Jesus’ atonement will do what he promised it will.

  55. Pingback: More bloggernacle posts about sexuality « The Visitors’ Center

  56. Pingback: More bloggernacle posts about sexuality « The Visitors’ Center

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

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

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

    1. To Jason:
      Sorry to hear that your wife sandbagged you on your wedding night and won’t do anything other than “missionary position” and doesn’t want orgasms!
      And immature, too.
      She’ll probably start cutting back on the quantity of “relations” until you are almost never doing it!
      Please take my advice and lovingly but firmly INSIST that you and she obtain marital sexual counseling from a qualified professional WHO IS NOT AN LDS CHURCH MEMBER OR MEMBER OF ANOTHER CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN DENOMINATION.
      If you have to, pull rank on her and point out that the Church teaches that the husband is the head of the home and has final say. But do try to be courteous.
      Don’t explain much about WHY you are having the two of you obtain “marriage counseling.” If you do, she has ammunition to use to start arguing you down from your position. At counseling, you should state your position comprehensively but succinctly. Emphasize how her behavior and attitudes about sex make you FEEL emotionally and physically, especially if sex is infrequent. Educate her that a man’s physical need for sexual relief is rea. It’s not just “because it feels good.” Life is too short for needless suffering and deprivation.
      Talk up the IDEA OF feminine orgasms. Describe the indescribable sensations of pleasure, satisfaction, and emotional intimacy that she will feel when she has one– or more. This is life’s penultimate joy. Why would she want to deny herself that. No one and nothing has the right to deny you that!
      She might also need an ob-gyn’s help, too. There are treatments now for low sexual desire in women. They include low dose testosterone and a medication called Adyii. These meds are safe when used as directed and don’t have bad side effects.
      Do the above. Your marriage and mutual happiness depends on it.

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

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

    1. No, Ray, Jason’s view that the Church’s rigidly conservative teachings on sex, per se, do have a lot to do with why many LDS women and men are too inhibited in the bedroom. Same holds true for Catholics, Muslims, and conservative evangelicals.
      How about a special premarital booklet given to Priesthood and Relief Society members who will be marrying soon. Also, given to couples planning marriage.
      People need to know about sex in enough detail to be able to decide if they are willing to do it! Some women can never get used to the idea of sex, even with marriage counseling. Their would-be husbands need to know this BEFORE they get married, in time to cancel wedding plans!
      And you know, other Christian churches and authors have written explicit books on marital sex, including how-to specific instructions, including foreplay. The books are in good taste, albeit instructive.

    2. Postscript to Ray:
      What I’m saying is that our church and many others raise people in an atmosphere of fearfulness and promote the idea that people must always be checking themselves, to make sure that they don’t do SOMETHING wrong.
      Moral paranoia and obsessiveness.

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

    1. Church members BEWARE: You are committing huge amounts of money, effort, and soul into serving a church with cruel taskmasters: God, Jesus, our Prophet, and the General Authorities.
      NONE of these individuals care about the temporal and psychological well-being of LDS members. Their only concern is that of achieving absolute obedience from every member. That’s what all the talk about “spiritual growth/progression” is really about.

    2. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve seen that booklet.
      What a ridiculous, toxic message!
      My dad read it and said, “Bulls**t!”
      And he never swears.
      When will the Church hierarchy wise up? They’re often doing more harm than good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. If guys can obtain sexual relief by touching themselves, then the pressure is off to marry, mate, and have kids!
      That’s why every Abrahamic church, including ours, villifies sexual self-gratification. And contraceptives.

    2. Good thinking, Jason.
      You’re right about your last comment.
      In an age-appropriate and tasteful but frank way, the Church should teach youth and adults that 1. adultery is extremely wrong, because it betrays trust, commitment, respect, and love ad well as being sex with someone you’re not married to, 2. premarital sex is wrong, because it risks pregnancy (no contraceptives are perfect, and abortion is murder) and disproportionately puts the woman at risk.
      3. Masturbation, if done WITHOUT PORNOGRAPHY or fantasies and no more frequently than 6 times a week (not on the Sabbath), is not wrong, harmful, shameful, etc, and is an effective way to relieve sexual needs without premarital or adulterous sex. When done alone in marriage, best to have spoken honestly about it with one’s spouse and don’t do it to deprive your spouse of sex (or mutual masturbation, if sex is uncomfortable or contraindicated medically).
      It’s also helpful for women, so they can learn what their bodies respond to best without the pressure of their husbands being present.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

    1. “Unnatural” means anything that makes the judger feel squeemish.
      For 11 year old girls, BOYS are gross and have “cooties.”
      “Unnatural” is a highly morally and culturally relative concept!

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

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

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

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

  68. 7 years later & I still find this article very helpful. I am newly married and had a lot of questions. I get very skeptical reading stuff like this online but found this to be an answer to prayers! Thank you!

  69. Why then does a man achieve sexual satisfaction on every occasion, but most women are deprived of that because most are not able share the same passion as there husband. I love my husband but we have little to none sex life.

    1. Donna,

      My wife and I have the same dilemma which was very frustrating early on in our marriage. Things got a lot better when we implemented a silly motto we found that said “sex is like Chinese food, it isn’t over until everyone gets their cookie.” Just because the high sex drive person finishes, doesn’t mean the entire sex act is over. This practice helped us ensure that we both achieved full sexual satisfaction every time. It worked for us, I hope it helps you and your mate.

    2. My husband is very kind to me and makes sure that I get my “cookie” first 🙂 You’ll probably have to help him figure out how to make it happen for you if you don’t know already. It’s a very common problem for women, I hear, as it is not necessarily common to achieve female satisfaction during the sex act itself.

  70. does anyone know if the info on the site listed below is legitimate or if this is a anti Mormon site?

    considering the name of the site I think it might be anti mormon literature but I’m kind of hoping to get a second opinion, and most people on here seem to be pretty respectful and down logical about this topic

    I and my fiance are trying to figure these things out before we get married. It is really confusing considering that a prophet said that it was wrong (and words of the prophets as far as what is righteous or unrighteous shouldn’t change right?). Yet no one has mentioned it specifically since the Kimball presidency.
    My fiance has the opinion that as long as partners are respectful of each other and as long as the act is used to express love and strengthen the relationship (rather than just fulfilling lusts) it would be ok. I am in the middle of the road but I wish I could get more information, mostly I just want to make sure I do things right and don’t end up making a worthiness mistake that disqualifies me from the temple. Considering that I grew up in a house where the subject of sex was taboo the whole topic is a little hard for me, I feel like the first few comments address this in the fact that some people might question even kissing as being ok if they were brought up in such a strict household.
    anyway, I went to see if I could find more info and found this side. I’m not sure if its a sound source though I cant seem to find where the origins of some of the info.
    any comments or ideas for my situation would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  71. Beth, as a wife of 8yrs, I’ve learnt:
    a) we are able to receive revelation for ourselves on any issue
    b) Ask your spouse. Discuss it. Pray about it, even. You will know for yourselves what to do.
    c) I encourage reading the most recent revelation regarding intimacy in marriage. I believe that revelation from our prophets is tailored for its time. In the 60s, there was a ton of confusion about what was acceptable, but that counsel got too personal for something so private and sacred (from what I hear, it was recalled). Nowadays, the counsel focuses on what we aim for, as opposed to what’s right and wrong. True to the faith sums it well for me. Trust those spiritual promptings.

    Ultimately, a healthy sexual relationship is based on trust and good communication. Sex IS (as far as I’m concerned) as important as a marriage strengthener as it is for procreation.
    Good luck in your discovery.

    1. I completely agree with your comments. Just to add, my understanding is that the foundational principle has never changed. The church leadership has never changed views, but wording can be interpreted in different ways. Gods view has always been the same 🙂
      To illustrate the importance of basing our behaviors on principles, I like the food analogy (by the way, I don’t agree completely with the analogy and interpretation in the article 100%):
      What is the MOST important, foundational reason for eating food?
      We would all agree it is to receive nutrition so our bodies function and grow stronger properly in fulfilling our purpose in life.
      The other question is, does God want us to just eat to be healthy but not enjoy it, or does he want us to get enjoyment and fulfillment from it in the moment as well?
      The answer, of course He wants us to enjoy it! How boring would it be if we didn’t enjoy the process of eating.
      I think what God, and church leadership, wants us to understand is that we shouldn’t lose site of the main purpose by indulging in “junk food” and getting addicted to the shallow focus on immediate gratification with “food” that will only satisfy our temporary physical “hunger” but lacks long term nutritional benefit.
      A person who eats crap inevitably becomes numb to the real joy and flavor of eating “real” food.
      For example, someone who’s used to eating artificially flavored food thats packed with bad fats and sodium is going to think a meal made up of healthy food tastes bland.
      In the same way, the counsel from our church leaders is meant to help us truly enjoy Gods gift of procreation on the foundational levels first, so that the “act” in the moment gives us even deeper pleasure, joy, peace, oneness, and fulfillment, and overall spiritual, mental, and physical health over our lifetime as husband and wife.

      1. Reminds me of Neil Maxwell’s General Conference talk in around 1996, when he warned church members against “pleasure-seeking.”

  72. This post is very helpful. Wondering if masturbation while husband is out of town is appropriate. I feel fine about it and so does he. It’s that or be totally sexually frustrated. Besides–it adds a bit of spice to our sex life here and there. I might add–this is a 3-4 times per year occurrence and usually involves him on the phone. It’s all about the intents of the heart from my perspective.

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  74. Let me just start out by saying that I am an active temple recommend holding return missionary who actively holds callings within the church and do my very best to follow the commandments and council from our church leaders whom I sustain; but I like everyone else on the planet (including church leaders) make mistakes and am so grateful for the opportunity and ability to repent.

    Now I do not know how many people on this blog are active members in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but let me just clarify that the Miracle of Forgiveness is not and I repeat NOT cannon. The only scriptures considered cannon are the Standard Works which are: the Holy Bible (as long as it is translated correctly), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price. If there are still any questions about that you can go explore two of the churches websites for more clarification which are and however Wikipedia is not a good source for clarification as it is NOT an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (for answers go to the sorce).

    I do however believe that the Miracle of Forgiveness is a wonderful book (hold your horses) when looked at and used in there right way. I’ll admit that the first time I read it I did not like it because it made me feel horrible because it felt like it was suggesting that just sneezing was a sin (sarcasm) but later on I thought about what I feel it was attempting to explain and help all of us understand. This is a no way church doctrine but simply my personal opinion… I believe that the purpose of Miracle of Forgiveness is to help us recognize that because we all sin; without the help of Jesus Christ there would be no way for us to make it back to live with our Father in Heaven so we were provided with a Savior who could atone for our sins and in that way extend to us the ability to repent and the “miracle of forgiveness.” Now I do have the concern that perhaps the Miracle of Forgiveness is perhaps to often a go-to for church leadership when in connection to trying to help others through the journy/struggle the repentance process often is. But I think we should trust our sustained leaders that we have put faith in to receive revelation on our behalf when such council is needed with the understanding that they are just men trying to receive/follow revelation and help as best as they can. On the other side of that same coin I feel that it is vital that those sustained leaders do all that they can to receive and undrestand that revelation for the members of their congregation as needed. Another great book that I would highly recommend as an alternative to the Miracle of Forgiveness is the book The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister.

    Now on the main subject of the blog it is my personal belief that sexual intimacy between man and wife is just that “between man and wife” and should be both sexual and intimate. It is between the couple to decide what they are comfortable with and feel is right in the sight of God. God made us sexual beings and there is nothing wrong with that as long as we keep those feelings and passions that aught to be found within such an intimate relationship within the bonds of marriage.

    I feel that sex is both for the building of families and also an expression of love. And I have never heard of an expression of love that is not fun and intimate so why should sex be any different? Like every other aspect of a relationship it requires respect, consent, communication, patience, and a good old sense of humor.

    I am thankful that God trusts us to receive personal revelation both for ourselves and as a couple by following the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. I feel that it is important that we first try to receive this type of Revelation and study it out on our own/as a couple before we seek the council of our church leadership and that we shouldn’t have to be told all the shouldn’ts and shoulds we are or aren’t aloud to do. If we can’t trust ourselves to make a right choice we might as well go back to living the law Moses and having to count and not exceed the number of steps we take in a day because we need some one to teach us had a live every aspect of our lives.

    While I and my wife may feel that anal sex and masturbation has no place in our marriage and never want to experiment with it and quite frankly believe that it is a sin as we feel it is contrary to Gods purposes and intentions for the use of sex in a relationship doesn’t mean that another couple might feel differently. Just as my wife and I feel that oral sex is completely acceptable another couple might be completely against the practice. And just because something isn’t a sin doesn’t mean we should do it. Sometimes it has to do with our own personal preference and what you and your spouse are comfortable with. For example just because my wife and I may feel that oral sex is not a sin doesn’t mean that either I or my wife should feel obligated to perform or receive oral sex if one or the other spouse is uncomfortable participating in such an act. It’s beyond important to have communication and respect for each other because if either the husband or wife are uncomfortable with the situation then you need to be able to express that and it needs to be respected by the other. In short I believe sexual intimacy within marriage is wonderful and completely between the man, his wife, and God and no one else and that such a sacred intimate relationship should be respectful, enjoyable, and passionate.

    Lastly parents cannot and should not rely solely on either their church ( no matter what faith you are) or their childrens educational systems (no matter where they attend) to teach them about sexual intimacy and if the parents don’t take an interest in their child’s sexual education then they are hurting their children by not helping them understand the reason so many organizations push abstinence before marriage and then help them understand that sex within marriage is wonderful and important to developing and nurturing and discovering one’s relationship with their spouse and how to be safe about it then those parents are neglecting a parental obligation. Maybe we just need to put more emphasis on the joy of sex within marriage and less on sexual intercourse outside of marriage without making it seem any less important.

    Anyway just some of my thoughts

    1. I should’ve read from the bottom to the top- glad to see that people think that what God thinks is important. Furthermore, I agree that parents need to take an regular and active role in discussion with their children about sex: the good the bad and the ugly. As the church has pretty clear expectations and commandments for youth who aren’t married- they should be explained and reemphasized by parents in a matter of fact way. We are bombarded every day by sex education (most of which is false, unhealthy, and inappropriate) Parents will need to follow up regularly with their children if they are interested in guiding them to a ‘guiltless’ sealing. I am not opposed to weekly interviews and one on one discussions. I furthermore am not opposed to regular interviews to children/children-in-laws who are married (although that would be more difficult to pull off appropriately). Just thinking out of the box.

      1. BTW, did you know that MOST of the content of our LDS Temple ordinances are a near-exact match for the ceremonies performed within the Freemason organization.
        This is surprising, but true!
        Will the Church eventually join together with the Freemasons?

  75. According to my understanding we are to have sexual intercorse for the unifying of cuples as well as for procreation. We however are not to simply satisfy our lustfull, sexual desires or degrade our companion or disrespect our ability of procreation in any form.

    Sexual intercorse can create a strong bond between people and can make individuals as one flesh through children and the making of bonds.

    If one had some desire for sexual intimacy that they hope to satisfy then they should not. They would be using their procreative organs and abilities inappropriately by merly giving in to temptation and therfore become more susceptible to even grater forms of sexual temptations.

    We should only love and respect each other, ourselves and the wonderful gift God has given us to make mortal vessels for our spiritual brothers and sisters. We should not be selfish in our actions nor should we be inattentive to God’s will and his desires. We should have him in our minds always and strive to be even as he is lest we brake our covanants and not become repented before him and lose the opportunity of eternal salvation with those we love.

    1. Question: How does a married man tell the difference between wanting to have sex for spiritually-appropriate reasons versus physical libido, arousal, and lust?
      Plus, a man has to be aroused in order to have intercourse. If not, he is impotent and cannot penetrate, etc.
      My point: SOME of a man’s motivation to have sex must be libido/arousal/CARNALLY-based!
      The Church, Bible, etc, are living in an unattainable dreamworld of chasing “perfection.”

  76. I didn’t have the stamina to sort through all of the comments. I made it about to 46. A key member of marriage seems to be omitted in the commentary: GOD. These comments haven’t brought me closer to determine what is rationalization and what is truth, I suppose there is no quantifiable amount of opinion that will help.
    D&C 58:26 “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.”
    D&C 59: 6 “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it.” Thessalonians 5:
    15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

    16 Rejoice evermore.

    17 Pray without ceasing.

    18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

    19 Quench not the Spirit.

    20 Despise not prophesyings.

    21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

    22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

    23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    If you are unsure about what is right- follow the large commandments: don’t commit adultery (being sexual with partners outside the sealing), don’t commit adultery in your heart (probably pornography), don’t coerce your spouse but respect their agency, follow prophetic guidelines, next PROVE ALL THINGS and HOLD FAST TO THAT WHICH IS GOOD. Once communication and consent is obtained with your spouse try the thing that is in contemplation- if it leaves you or your partner feeling cheep, dirty, or degraded then don’t do it again. (Repent) I call this spiritually experimenting (see Alma 32) if practice brings edification and an increase of love to your marriage then continue and nurture that practice; but if it leads to discord then stop. Pretty simple. Finally, don’t preach your findings of the ‘finer points’ of the law of chastity but encourage others to keep the solid commandments give them the liberty to ‘discover what is right for themselves.’ As members of the church we are to ‘Echo the prophets’ or to be quiet. We are technically authorized to share revelation to our stewardships but outside of that we shouldn’t declare our personal revelations as doctrine to the world.

  77. Well… subject on sexual what should do or shouldn’t do. It’s simple to tell. Discussion on sexual should only between husband and wife! When you become husband and wife, there is no guidance from lord how husband and wife doing in bedroom. In other word Holy Ghost, Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ will not want to know what u plan doing in bedroom. Between husband and wife decide on how sexual passion they want it’s power gift from God!!
    What I mean is there is no limitation in sexual in husband and wife.

  78. Love, mercy, and service and giving of yourself for others is the center of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith said we must be willing to sacrifice all things even our life if necessary for the Lord. (paraphrase)

    The scriptures repeat a few times: ask and you shall recieved, knock and it shall be open unto you. To truly show humility, a step toward correction is we must ASK.

    We hear every week in the sacrament prayer that we must be “willing” and “keep his commandments”. Faith without works… . There is the heart and intention of an act and also the physicality of the act. Both or more of that involved creates a greater sin. Ones willingness is as important as also the action the comes after.

    All that said, helping someone and serving them is best given after being asked, and best recieved when one wants to serve.

    So if the heart and intention and action is to serve, love and bring two people together and it is done because it is for the other person (not selfishness, say the other person asks or desires it) then it all is righteous.

    If it hurts, destroys, doesnt serve or love the other person or is for selfish reasons, doesn’t uplift or help, or serve, the other person, they don’t ask or desire it ….it is a level of sin. The sin/righteousness starts within the heart or ones intent and is then displayed or fulfilled with the action.

    I see these as gospel principals that apply to the sexual relationship in marriage towards what actions they do to show their love for each other. One same action could be a sin, or a righteous form of love depending on the hearts and desires of the two involved. That is why I believe the church doesn’t take a hard stance on which acts are sins and which are righteous. Again, the same act could be sin in one time yet righteous in another.

  79. I’m always amazed with the limitations we Mormons willingly place on our sexual lives. Search your scriptures. You’ll find NO RULES about sex other than keep it between you and your spouse. In fact, if you’re brave enough to search Song of Solomon, you’ll find many metaphorical references to oral sex.

    Let me simplify. If you and your spouse agree to it, and it stays within your marriage, DO IT! NO LIMITS! When the brethren ask for a key to my bedroom door, I’ll respectfully submit my name for removal from church records after I not-so-respectfully tell them to go to hell.

    Yes. NO LIMITS if you both agree and don’t with love and respect.

  80. There are two [4] references in the body of this post which refer to the Jan. 5, 1982 letter. However, the first of the two [4] references is talked about being from a 1976 First Presidency letter. What is the actual reference for this quote?

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

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