BOTTLED

  • Faith is always a gift of God to man, which is obtained by obedience, as all other blessings are. (Joseph F. Smith Gospel Doctrine, p. 212) ... Faith does not come without works; faith does not come without obedience to the commandments of God. (Conference Report, October 1903, p. 4)

Monday, July 3, 2017

POSITIVE PURPOSES

“We believe ….”
Basic beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are outlined in 13 brief statements called “The Articles of Faith.” Twelve of the 13 statements begin with these same two words: “We believe ….”


With this as context, an anecdote related by Brent A. Barlow, an associate professor of Family Science at BYU, is most amusing.

As a young missionary for the LDS Church, he and his companion “met a Protestant minister who invited [them] in out of the cold. After exchanging points of view on various topics, he asked [them], ‘And what is the Mormon attitude towards sexuality?’”

The young, unmarried Elder was speechless and sure his new companion, also single, “knew next to nothing on the matter.” However, when the minister inquired a second time, his companion “finally said, ‘Sir, we believe in it.’” (Ensign, September 1986).

My husband and I may laugh about this story for a long time.

We believe in it too!

STEWARDSHIPS OF SEXUALITY 

Sometimes people are embarrassed to openly discuss, 
  or learn about, human sexuality.

Research psychologist and author, Dr. Sean E. Brotherson, describes this lack of literacy regarding sexuality in his 2003 Meridian Magazine article, “Fulfilling the Sexual Stewardship in Marriage.”  He recounts, “President Hugh B. Brown, who served as a counselor in the First Presidency, wrote the following about sexual intimacy in his book You and Your Marriage:
Thousands of young people come to the marriage altar almost illiterate insofar as this basic and fundamental function is concerned. The sex instinct is not something which we need to fear or be ashamed of. It is God-given and has a high and holy purpose … We want our young people to know that sex is not an unmentionable human misfortune, and certainly it should not be regarded as a sordid but necessary part of marriage. There is no excuse for approaching this most intimate relationship in life without true knowledge of its meaning and its high purpose. (Bookcraft, 1960, pp. 73, 76).
Dr. Brotherson reports two significant parts of what many people learn;
·       the ignorance and hype of misguided and misinformed sensual images and expressions which “distort” or “sensationalize sexual intimacy,”
·       and the inhibitions imposed by “powerful and compelling warnings … seek[ing] to steer us away from pornography, sexual exploitation, and immorality in sexual matters” (2003).
He also outlines a “seldom heard or discussed" third part,
 the positive purposes of intimacy, as
  • the dialogue about the sanctity, power and emotional depth of proper sexual intimacy in the companionship of a married husband and wife.” 
If this third element is overlooked, “we may come to believe that the only kind of discussion about sexuality that is warranted is the dialogue about [temptations and taboos]” (2003).

Ezra Taft Benson, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve (1973-1985) taught: “Today, with the abundance of [information] available … Feed only on the best. As John Wesley’s mother counseled him: ‘Avoid whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, … [or] increases the authority of the body over the mind’” (“In His Steps,” in 1979 Devotional Speeches of the Year [1980], 61). (Lesson 23, SS manual).

As a young man, engaged to be married, answers for many of Brotherson’s own questions were determined in part by talking with his mother and aunt. After some private reading[i] about intimacy in marriage he “asked what that experience was really supposed to be like. [His] mother laughed and said that sometimes it was fun, sometimes it was comforting, sometimes it was romantic, sometimes it was spiritual, and sometimes it was just a willingness to love. [He] still think[s] that's about the best answer [he has] ever heard on that question” (2003).
  
ASK AND ANSWER

My father taught that physical intimacy between a man and woman is sacred, not secret, and should always be a very personal demonstration of affection as each give of themselves in ways learned and shared only between them, within the permanence of marriage. He taught that genuine intimacy involves every aspect of a person; the spiritual and emotional as well as the physical; the joining of two minds, and two hearts, not just two bodies.

Dr. Brotherson affirms this sacred unity by quoting the teachings of President Harold B. Leeeleventh president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1972 -1973):

The divine impulse within every true man and woman that impels companionship with the opposite sex is intended by our Maker as a holy impulse for a holy purpose, not to be satisfied as a mere biological urge or as a lust of the flesh in promiscuous associations, but to be reserved as an expression of true love in holy wedlock. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church, 2000, p. 112; emphasis added)
A Parent’s Guide,” one of my favorite Latter-day Saint resource manuals, assists parents to answer searching questions about intimacy in sensitive and appropriate ways. It reminds us:
 Both husbands and wives have physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual need associated with this sacred act. They will be able to complement each other in the marriage relationship if they give tender, considerate attention to these needs of their partner. Each should seek to fulfill the other’s needs rather than to use this highly significant relationship merely to satisfy his or her own passion.
Couples will discover differences in the needs or desires each partner has for the relationship, but when each strives to satisfy the needs of the other these differences need not present a serious problem. Remember, this intimate relationship between husband and wife was established to bring joy to them. An effort to reach this righteous objective will enable married couples to use their complementary natures to bring joy to this union (chapter 6).


My parents were open and frank. I knew I could ask them anything I was curious or concerned about, and they would answer my questions. The human body, with all its functions was not a forbidden topic.

I have eyes and ears, fingers and toes, and many other body parts. Some are visible and others are sacred and private. It is important to care for and know about the proper use and purpose of all parts of my body.

TEACHINGS of PROPHETS

Spencer W. Kimball, twelfth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1973-1985), taught:
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 (1975).
We urge, with Peter, ‘…Abstain from fleshy lusts, which war against the soul.’ (1 Pet. 2 :11) No indecent exposure or pornography or other aberrations to defile the mind and spirit. No fondling of bodies, one’s own or that of others, and no sex between persons except in proper marriage relationships. This is positively prohibited by our creator in all places, at all times, and we reaffirm it. Even in marriage there can be some excesses and distortions. No amount of rationalization to the contrary can satisfy a disappointed Father in heaven (1974).
Sex is for procreation and expression of loveIt is the destiny of men and women to join together to make eternal family units. In the context of lawful marriage, the intimacy of sexual relations is right and divinely approved. There is nothing unholy or degrading about sexuality in itself, for by that means men and women join in a process of creation and in an expression of love (1982).
To me, the creation of another human being—part of each spouse united in a child—is the ultimate expression of the wholeness and permanence of marriage and sexual intimacy.

IDEALS

Although marriage and family relationships in this world may be imperfect, there is an ideal; God is an omnipotent father, and we are His children—children of a Heavenly Father and Mother—a perfect pattern.

Howard W Hunter, fourteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1994-1955), taught:
“Tenderness and respect–never selfishness–must be the guiding principles in
the intimate relationship between husband and wife. Each partner must be considerate and sensitive to the other’s needs and desires. Any domineering, indecent, or uncontrolled behavior in the intimate relationship between husband and wife is condemned by the Lord” (1994). 
God provides commandments, and promises that we can learn to live in love and happiness.

Do we always succeed?
No! We’re  practicing.
We often feel far from our ideal.

When we married, my husband placed his hands on my shoulders and held me at arm’s length as if to memorize every feature of my face.
I laughed.

This is his favorite picture. 

Myself, I like the photo of us side by side, ready to walk forward together, focused on covenants to consecrate ourselves to each other, and only each other. Covenants and promises made  in a house of God—a temple, with Heavenly Father, to build an eternal family—an ideal family.


Together, both perspectives contribute strength to our marriage; remembering, and moving forward ... holding tightly to covenants.

Can marriages and families become ideal? 
Yes—and it may take time.

“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Mathew 19:26). 

“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).


REFERENCES

Barlow, B. A. "They Twain Shall Be One: Thoughts on intimacy in marriage,": Thoughts on intimacy in marriage", Ensign, Sept 1986, 49.

Brotherson, S.E. (2003). "Fulfilling the Sexual Stewardship in Marriage." Meridian Magazinewww.meridianmagazine.com.

President Howard W. Hunter, Ensign, Nov. 1994, 51

Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, May 1974, 7.

President Spencer W. Kimball, “The Lord’s Plan for Men and Women,” Ensign, Oct. 1975, 4).

President Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 311



[i] Dr. Brotherson provides a reading list of “[q]uality resources on sexual fulfillment in marriage that most Latter-day Saints could comfortably read …. [T]here are some excellent sources of information that provide a sound starting point. These are well-written, practical guides on sexual intimacy for couples by a well-recognized sex therapist and his spouse.”

Brotherson states, “I should note that these are not the only books on this topic, but from my perspective they will be comfortable and informative reading for any Latter-day Saint who wishes to pursue more understanding in this area. Additionally, many other books in the LDS marketplace that deal with marriage have one or more chapters dealing with the topic of sexual fulfillment in practical and insightful ways.”

Six sources are listed here as a point of further reference:

1 - The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love by Tim and Beverly LaHaye. Excellent, Christian-based book on sexual love in marriage, frank and wholesome. Great for engaged or newlywed couples, as well as couples at any other stage of marriage.

2 - Between Husband and Wife: Gospel Perspectives on Marital Intimacy by Stephen Lamb and Douglas Brinley. Solid and interesting perspective on marital intimacy from a Latter-day Saint gospel perspective. Very good resource.

3 - Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat. Book by a Christian MD and therapist with his wife, very insightful and well-done.

4 - The Sex-Starved Marriage by Michele Weiner Davis. Well-known therapist and marriage educator has written an engaging and positive book about dealing with sexual challenges in marriage. Brand new, a great read.

5 - Purity and Passion by Wendy Watson, a BYU professor and marital therapist whose book on intimacy is grounded in gospel understanding and purpose. Nice resource.

6 - Couple Sexual Awareness or Sexual Awareness: Couple Sexuality for the Twenty-first Century or Rekindling Desire: A Step by Step Program to Help Low-Sex and No-Sex Marriages, all by Barry and Emily McCarthy.