By Laura M. Brotherson
(This article is excerpted from the forthcoming book, And They Were Not Ashamed-Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment, Chapter 2, “The Sanctity of Sexual Relations in Marriage-Building a Foundation of Faith.” To be published March 2004. Visit www.StrengtheningMarriage.com for further details.)
For Latter-day Saints, the most critical sources of insight and understanding for issues of importance are the Holy Scriptures and the teachings of the prophets. When it comes to marriage, one topic in particular requires a healthy understanding of the Lord’s perspective-physical intimacy between husband and wife. Yet too often the world rules the dialogue on this subject, ruining our perspective on sexuality.
Satan has surrounded sexuality with mists of darkness, clouding our vision and that of our children. Even within the divinely ordained sexual relationship in marriage, darkness remains. Satan’s preeminence on this topic allows him to spread his perspective like wildfire without much hindrance. There is barely a faint whisper to counterbalance the world’s distorted perspective. Great is the need for God’s plan and purposes for physical intimacy within marriage to be heard above the roar of the world’s philosophies. The Lord’s divine design of marital sexuality needs more airtime.
The purpose of this article is to share faith-promoting statements and scriptures to restore light and truth to sexual relations in marriage, building a foundation upon which sexual fulfillment can flourish. As you read and ponder the affirming scriptures and statements, they will strengthen your belief in the sanctity, holiness, purity and virtue of sex, and wash over you like a flood of pure and living water. As we begin to change the collective energy about sexuality to a more healthy and positive force, great blessings will result.
Understanding Physical Intimacy in Marriage-A Gift from God
Most people have heard newlyweds express concern about having sexual relations even after they are married. Referring to their honeymoon, young couples have been known to wonder, “Are we in trouble for what we did last night?” or “Are you sure what we did was okay?” In response to these types of concerns, President Spencer W. Kimball stated, “Husband and wife . . . are authorized, in fact they are commanded, to have proper sex when they are properly married for time and eternity” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 1982, p. 312).
John and Brenda had been married early in the morning. Later that day John walked into the church alone to help set up decorations for the evening reception. His uncle was surprised to see him there alone. The uncle inquired as to where his new bride was, and the young groom confided that they had planned to arrive separately so that no one would think anything inappropriate was going on. The uncle shook his head in disbelief. “You’re married now,” he said. “It’s a commandment.”
A troubled understanding of physical intimacy and its proper role in marriage may also exist for couples who have been married many years. After 35 years of marriage and eight children, Bernice announced to her husband that there would be no more bedroom activity. “I’m not going to corrupt myself with any more of this. Sex is an ugly, unholy, carnal act and I’ll have no more of it.”
The two stories shared above identify some of the heartache, distorted beliefs and difficulties couples face in the sexual dimension of marriage. For some, sex is positive. Others understand this intellectually, but don’t really feel it in their heart. Shame, guilt, and other negative feelings remain associated with sex, even though they “know” it is approved within marriage.
Our intellectual knowledge must go deeper. We must overcome the “Good Girl Syndrome,” which is the negative conditioning, teaching-or lack of teaching-that leads to negative thoughts and feelings about sex and the body. We must shift our focus from the evils and warnings regarding sex to the proper and divine role of sexual intimacy in our lives. To gain this heavenly perspective can be an absolutely transforming experience.
Traci found hope and help in the inspired words of the scriptures and church leaders. Traci “knew” sex was approved and necessary in marriage, but she didn’t really believe it. After attending a few marriage classes filled with affirming scriptures and statements on the sanctity of sexual relations in marriage, she began to feel a change of heart. She realized that sex is a vital aspect of a happy and healthy marriage. She began to see that sex can-and should be-wonderful. She acknowledged that fulfilling sexual relations were APPROVED by God and necessary to achieve the marital oneness she sought. This knowledge transformed her attitude, filled her heart with renewed hope and encouraged her to seek improvement in this area of her marriage.
To overcome the negative effects of the Good Girl Syndrome and to create the oneness in marriage that God intended, husband and wife must come to know that sex is good-and of God. To those married, sexual intimacy is a “rightful gift of God” (Ellsworth, Ensign, Aug. 1979, p. 24). Couples must come to feel the divine permission, power, and potential of pure and virtuous sexual relations within marriage-the way God designed them to be.
People don’t talk much about sex. Even appropriate dialogue between parents and children, husband and wife, or adults in general is rare. Some reasons for this may include discomfort and embarrassment with the subject, not knowing what to say, or thinking sex is too private and sacred to discuss, even in general. Many young people grow up wondering if sex is bad or if something is wrong with it because adults never seem to talk about it. It all seems very hush-hush. And if the subject ever surfaces, it is usually quickly and uncomfortably shut down.
Have you ever asked a parent or Church leader a question about sex and then felt the air cool suddenly while they squirmed and stuttered before stammering out a quick statement? Many imitate the discomfort and embarrassment they observed in their parents and leaders when they were younger.
One reason some may not have a solid conviction of the sanctity of sex, much less an understanding that it really is okay after marriage, is that they haven’t been taught, nor have they sought the Lord’s wisdom on it. Some may think sex doesn’t need any further discussion, but experience suggests otherwise. The Lord’s prophets and the teachings of the scriptures can teach us a great deal about physical intimacy in marriage.
The Teachings of the Prophets on the Sacred Nature of Physical Intimacy in Marriage
President Spencer W.
Kimball stated, “Husband and wife . . . are authorized, in fact they are commanded, to have proper sex when they are properly married for time and eternity” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 1982, p. 312).
Elder Boyd K. Packer identified the goodness of the gift of sexual relations in the following statement, “This power [of creation] is good. . . . It is a sacred and significant power, and I repeat . . . that this power is good. . . . It is a gift from God our Father. In the righteous exercise of it, as in nothing else, we may come close to Him” (Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, 1975, pp. 259-61).
Sex is sacred. The word sacred describes something “regarded as holy; consecrated to God; worthy of or regarded with reverence” (Webster’s Dictionary, 1993, p. 456). We know “marriage is ordained of God” (D&C 49:15). But do we believe sexual intimacy within marriage is also ordained of God? In the Proclamation on the Family God’s living prophets have confirmed this truth, “We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). This is an important principle to understand and believe.
Let’s look more closely at the words used in the Proclamation. Means is the “method” or “way” (Webster’s, 1993, p. 699) something is brought about; divinely means “godlike, holy, sacred, spiritual, exalted;” (Webster’s, 1993, p. 634); Appointed can be defined as “determined, established, prescribed, commanded, decreed, directed, ordered, required” (Webster’s, 1993, p. 594). If we put this together, we see that the means (or way) that mortal life is created (the sex act) is divinely appointed (prescribed, decreed or required by God) making it sacred, godly, holy and even sanctifying. In other words, God approves.
President Ezra Taft Benson stated, “Sex was created and established by our Heavenly Father for sacred, holy, and high purposes” (Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 1988, p. 409). Note that he says purposes (plural)-not just one purpose. Procreation is understood as the primary purpose for sex, but there are other purposes as well. Some of the purposes of sexual relations in marriage beyond procreation include expressing love, providing mutual pleasure and enjoyment, experiencing physical, emotional and spiritual bonding and oneness, healing wounds in the relationship and rejuvenating the mind, body and spirit.
Sex is a sacred blessing and gift from God to husbands and wives. It is a means of strengthening marriage. The light of God can transform sex from something seemingly inappropriate to something ordained of God.
Scriptural Teachings on Physical Intimacy in Marriage
We’ve discussed several inspiring statements affirming the divinity of sexual relations in marriage. But, there is additional light and truth we can glean from the scriptures on the sanctity of sex. Let’s go on a scriptural journey to see what we can find.
We know that marriage is ordained of God (D&C 49:15). God created marriage. God approves of marriage. The footnotes of D&C 49:15 lead us to Genesis.
In Genesis 2:18 we read, “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone.” Why? Is there something eternally important about a man and woman being together in marriage? In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 it says that two are better than one because they have “reward [blessings, an inheritance] for their labour.” And if one spouse stumbles or falls, the other will lift him up. In verse 11 it says that two, together, create warmth. And if one spouse should be prevailed upon, then husband and wife shall withstand him. Think of all the learning, growth and blessings that come from the combining of two lives in marriage.
After declaring that man shouldn’t be alone, God took one of Adam’s ribs (“bone of his bones, flesh of his flesh”) and made a woman (see Gen. 2:21-23).
In Genesis 2:24, we are told that man and woman are to leave their parents and cleave (or join) unto each other and become ONE-“one flesh.” This same phrase is repeated six other times in the scriptures (see also Matt.19:5-6, Mark 10:8, Eph. 5:31, D&C 49:16, Moses 3:24, and Abr. 5:18.) These seven scriptures in which we are commanded to leave our parents and become “one flesh” are confirmation of the importance of the marital unit.
A temple sealer emphasized this fact during a marriage sealing where he reminded those present that in eternity we will not be grouped in family units of father, mother and children as we commonly assume, but in units of husbands and wives. This does not mean parents and children will have no association, but rather it places a high emphasis on the primary importance of the marital relationship. Elder Bruce R. McConkie declared, “Our marriages will continue in the realms that are ahead. We shall get into the paradise of God, and we shall be husband and wife. We shall come up in the resurrection, and we shall be husband and wife” (McConkie, New Era, June 1978, p. 12).
Notice that the scripture in Genesis doesn’t say we should become “one heart” or “one mind,” though those are also important. It clearly says “one flesh” which means we cannot and must not gloss over the fact that we are talking about something physical. We are commanded to become one flesh, that is, to participate in physical intimacies with each other. This is a vital component of husbands and wives becoming ONE. So, how did the Lord plan to accomplish this?
In Abraham 4:28 we read, “And the Gods said: We will bless them. And the Gods said: We will cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth” (emphasis added). Notice the phrases “We will bless them;” and “We will cause them.” God apparently felt it was a blessing not only to have the power to procreate, but also to give husbands and wives sexual desires for each other. This suggests God purposefully planted within husband and wife the attraction they feel for each other. He gave us these feelings on purpose to bless us and “cause” us to desire each other. This scriptural insight into the origin and purpose of our desires for each other sheds light on how God intends sexual intimacy to bless us both as the means of procreation and as an expression of marital love.
Remember the seven scriptures commanding us to be “one flesh?” As if the words “one flesh” are not descriptive enough, following three of those scriptures is the statement, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25, Moses 3:25, Abr. 5:19). At this point Adam and Eve have become husband and wife, (since the scriptures refer to the “man and his wife”). They have been commanded to be “one flesh.” In other words, after blessing us with this physical desire, God then commanded us to follow through on those desires within marriage.
Perhaps we may apply the response of Adam and Eve at this point to our own orientation toward physical intimacy in marriage. That is, we need not be ashamed of our nakedness, and more specifically, of sexual relations within marriage.
Shame is usually associated with sin, but shame continues to surround sexuality even when there is no sin. It can be very challenging in the marital relationship if spouses have a sense of shame, embarrassment or fear of sharing their bodies as God intended. We might ask how shame and fear became associated with that which the Lord has approved in marriage-the sexual oneness of husband and wife?
We know that the glory of God is intelligence or light and truth (see D&C 93:36-39). God’s light and truth are needed for us to understand His intended role for physical intimacy in marriage. Furthermore, we know that light and truth forsake the evil one (see D&C 93:37). It is Satan that erodes our understanding of light and truth. If we ask why shame is associated with sex-even sex within marriage-we can see in the following verse that Satan has removed light and truth from sexuality, causing many to confuse sex with sin.
In verse 38 we read, “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God” (D&C 93:38). And in the next verse, “That wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth” (D&C 93:39, emphasis added). God’s light and truth surrounded sexuality in the beginning, when Adam and Eve were in a state of innocence. But look at the scripture again. Even after the fall, because of the Savior’s atonement, man became again innocent before God.
From the footnotes in verse 39 we learn that it was through the following: lack of understanding (see Matt 13:19), unbelief (see 2 Cor 4:4), hardened hearts (see Alma 12:10), disobedience (see D&C 93:39 and Alma 12:9), false traditions or lies passed down through generations (see D&C 93:39 and Jer. 16:19) and treating lightly that which we have received (see D&C 84:54) that light and truth was taken away. Satan left in their wake shame, embarrassment and discomfort as inhibitors of the exultant ecstasy God intended in marriage. When God’s truth about physical intimacy is not fully understood and internalized, it inhibits the natural God-given response intended.
We can restore light and truth to physical intimacy in marriage by following God’s command to “bring up [our] children in light and truth” (D&C 93:40). God’s perspective provides a healthy and divine understanding of physical intimacy in marriage, in which there is no shame or embarrassment.
In Hebrews 13:4 we read, “Marriage is honourable in all. . . . ” I interpret that to mean ALL parts of marriage are honorable-including sexual relations. Honorable means “noble, admirable, upright, virtuous, proper, right” (Webster’s, 1993, p. 669). The scripture continues, ” . . . and the bed undefiled” (Heb. 13:4). Undefiled means “clean, spotless, unsullied, innocent and pure” (Webster’s, 1993, p. 775). Therefore, the marriage bed, representing sexual intimacy in marriage, is clean and pure.
In Proverbs 5:18-19 the Lord assures us of His divine favor in husband and wife finding joy in their intimate relationship, “Rejoice with the wife of thy youth . . . be thou ravished always with her love.” The term “rejoice” suggests that husband and wife are to enjoy one another and this part of their relationship in a spirit of love, enjoyment, fun and gratitude. Being ravished with each other’s love suggests that we are to love each other fervently and passionately. The footnote to verse 19 refers to Doctrine and Covenants 42:22, which reminds couples to love one another with all their hearts and to cleave unto each other and none else.
In the scriptural context of Proverbs 5 men and women are counseled to find joy in their spouse in order to avoid immorality. This suggests that as husband and wife learn to find joy and fulfillment within their intimate relationship, they will be blessed and the allure of illicit sexual temptations can be minimized and avoided.
There is even more to the intimate act of joining our bodies during sexual relations than we may realize. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we read, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God . . . therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Is it possible that as husbands and wives keep God’s command to be “one flesh” and be “not ashamed,” they will increase their understanding and be able to transcend the physical into the spiritual? Is it possible that in becoming one flesh, they glorify God with their bodies and their spirits?
Surely a husband and wife, both possessing the Holy Spirit of God, when they join their bodies together physically not only become one body and one flesh but also one in spirit-one spirit “joined unto the Lord” (1 Cor. 6:17). God’s command to cleave unto each other and become one flesh (see Gen. 2:24) allows husband and wife to become ONE spiritually with God through the intimate act of joining their bodies, which is where their spirits reside.
Look again at Matthew 19:5, which is one of the seven scriptures that refers to man leaving his father and mother and cleaving to his wife to become one flesh. We read in the following verse, “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). Asunder means to tear apart or into pieces (Webster’s, 1993, p. 47). We know God wants us to remain together as husband and wife. It appears that we should also refrain from letting Satan or man put asunder or defile that which God has created and called good-such as sexual relations in marriage.
Satan does not want us to seek or understand light and truth. He does all he can to keep us in darkness away from happiness. We read in the Book of Mormon that “because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. . . . ” (2 Ne. 2:18) “that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Ne. 2:27). Satan has found that distorting the divinity of sexual relations in marriage is an effective way to destroy happiness, marriages and families.
Miraculous things will happen as we put light and truth back into sexual togetherness. It is good and is of God when correctly associated with the light and truth that have always been there from the beginning.
If you would like to provide any thoughts or feedback to Laura Brotherson, you may send them to [email protected]“>[email protected]. For further information on her upcoming book, And They Were Not Ashamed-Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment, visit <a href="https://www.
<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ />strengtheningmarriage.com/”>www.StrengtheningMarriage.com.
Benson, Ezra Taft. The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson. 1988. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.
Ellsworth, Homer. “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Aug. 1979, 23.
Kimball, Spencer W. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball , Edward L. Kimball, ed. 1982. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
McConkie, Bruce R. “Celestial Marriage,” The New Era, June 1978, 12.
Packer, Boyd K. Teach Ye Diligently. 1975. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.
Webster’s Universal Dictionary and Thesaurus. 1993. Montreal: Tormont Publications.
Wheat, Ed and Gaye Wheat. Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage. 1997. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell.