Unspeakable, or Hallowed?
I was attending a class this weekend in which the topic was how missionaries should teach the law of chastity.
I took the time to note the feelings, emotions and energies exchanged in the room as we discussed teaching investigators about sex outside of marriage, profane erotica, and the procreation of children.
As soon as these topics were mentioned, there was a strong feeling, emotionally and spiritually, that swept through the room. A feeling I knew all to well from my youth.
I, and I’m sure many others who have felt this feeling, could easily interpret that feeling as “I may be doing something wrong and I’d better shut my mouth.”
I know there are many parents who feel this way when it comes to talking to their children about sex and sexual matters. Sometimes, spouses feel this even with each other.
What I’ve come to realize is that the feeling we are experiencing is not a warning that we are doing something wrong, but rather a prompting that we are treading on holy ground and it’s time to take off the proverbial shoes.[i] As we would be entering into a discussion about a sacred topic, it would be appropriate to remove the shoes of worldly, lustful, or irreverent thought and language.
The World Has a Sense of This, But May Struggle to Accept
So why then do members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints consider the use of the powers of procreation to be so sacred and holy when the rest of the world seems to regard it so easily as meaning…..nothing?
The answer is, they really don’t. Very few are immune from those same promptings.
A few years ago I was having a discussion with a co-worker about the Church. He was not religious. In fact, he was vocally pretty anti-religion, and talked about how comfortable he was drinking his alcohol and living his lifestyle choices.
Then he related to me a story about a trip he took to Las Vegas. He told me that he and his friends always go to the late night adult shows, and that every time he did, he always left feeling dark, dirty, and gross.
If that feeling of defiling the sacred is only something we’re brainwashed into as Latter-Day Saints, then why would a non-member, who has made no covenants and didn’t intend to, feel a similar prompting in a place that openly profanes the procreative powers?
In my studies about human sexuality in our culture, one thing that I’ve observed is that there are many groups of people who engage in ‘swinging’ or other forms of adultery and fornication. What I’ve also observed is that many of these people take special classes, and go to special camps to help them learn how to “overcome their inhibitions” so they can feel ‘more free’ about engaging in these activities.
If sexuality is not sacred and those feelings are only reserved for LDS members, then why do those who don’t belong to any religion, or never attended any religion feel a need to pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars to take courses to help them overcome their inhibitions about their body and sexuality in order to engage in profane activities? Something that the teachers of those courses say should come freely and naturally?
The answer is that the Spirit of Christ, given to every man, tells us those procreative powers are sacred. We can ignore or disregard or push past that feeling, but that sense of the sacred is nevertheless still there.[ii]
What is Sacred? What is Profane?
To illustrate just how sacred it is, we members of the church are taught that the Lord considers the use of those procreative powers to be so sacred, he restricts us from using them until we have entered into the covenants reserved for the highest ordinance in the temple…the covenant of marriage.[iii]
The powers of procreation are that sacred to us. That means that our bodies are that sacred too.
This means that the visual portrayals, whether on stage, television, or film, of the use of these procreative powers are often a profaning (defiling) of something we hold sacred.
This means that open disrespectful and lustful displays of the human body are a defiling of something we hold so very sacred.
This also means that writing or speaking that discusses or makes light about the use of our bodies and or procreative powers (in an irreverent manner) is a defiling of what we should reverence as so very sacred.
Conversely, we can profane the sacred by avoiding or neglecting the powers of procreation for what they were intended to be used for…a sin of omission, if you will.
Rejoicing in (Not Ignoring) the Sacred
There are many who have taken that first feeling, that I discussed earlier, to be just that. Something, that if we come across, we should just avoid and keep our mouth shut about, or quickly change the subject. Some will take this belief even into their marriages.
I believe this is because they may not have been given the example of how to speak of sexuality in a reverent manner. It is indeed something that has to be learned.
To illustrate, imagine you and your spouse receive your temple recommends. You personally look forward to attending the temple as often as you can. You enjoy the sweet peaceful spirit that is there. You enjoy serving, listening and learning from the instruction that is taught there. You look forward to sitting in the celestial room, so you can feel the calm peace and obtain knowledge that only the Holy Ghost can teach you there. It’s a very precious and sacred time for you.
Now imagine your spouse telling you “I need to get my temple recommend, but I will never attend ‘that place. It is far too sacred for me to even talk about. I went through my first time, but I just plugged my ears during the session because the things taught there are far too sacred, and when we went into the celestial room I quickly hurried myself out because it was far too sacred a place to even look at. I find it obscene to hear others talk about how they love to discuss with each other in the temple the things they’ve learned.”
Sound ridiculous? Yet you may be surprised to learn that there are many who feel that very same way about the sacred sexual relationship with their spouse. By neglecting the use of that procreative power as valuable tools to not only create children, but to build a relationship with our spouse, we are neglecting that sacred gift out of a mistaken assumption that it’s ‘too sacred to discuss under any circumstances.’
Just like when we’re worthy to attend the temple, in the bonds of marriage we are free to bask in the joy that our procreative powers give us. We are free to discuss and learn with our spouse about the use of those procreative powers.
Just like the temple, we defile those procreative powers when we discuss with others who will not treat the sexuality of our marriage with reverence and respect. It would be the equivalent of casting our pearls before swine. They will take something precious and trample it in the mud under their feet by looking for ways to stir their own lust or to find a way to mock or make a joke of it. We should always use wisdom and caution when deciding where and with whom you enter into a discussion about sexuality – especially your own.
Look to the Temple
I believe the temple is our best model when wondering how to discuss or learn about sexual things. Look to the temple. Remember how we learn to reverence it. Let this be your guide in matters of sexuality as well.[iv]
When we teach others about chastity, including our children, a better thing we can do than focus on “sex outside of marriage”, “what exactly counts as 'pornography'”, and “the scriptural evidences of masturbation” is to help them understand the difference between what is sacred and what is profane. I believe this can have a much more profound ability to guide them in their choices than to just focus on the “thou shalt not’s" of the law of chastity.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints know they should only exercise and use our procreative powers in marriage. We do this because we believe that power is a sacred trust. We keep it sacred by regularly using it to nurture our marriage relationship and build our eternal families. Telling people only what they shouldn’t do invites ‘why’ questions that can easily be satisfied by teaching and exemplifying the concepts of what is sacred and what is profane.[v]
[i] Exodus 3:5
[ii] Packer, Boyd K., The Light Of Christ, Apr. 2005 Gen. Conf., https://www.lds.org/ensign/2005/04/the-light-of-christ?lang=eng
[iii] Packer, Boyd K. Things of the Soul, 105–17
[iv] Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, https://www.lds.org/manual/preparing-to-enter-the-holy-temple/preparing-to-enter-the-holy-temple?lang=eng
[v] Lev. 10: 10-11