marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Love = Love? Which Kind of Love is Eros?

Most of us are familiar with the term “eros”. Culturally we think of romance or lust, or in terms of it being the root word of “erotic”.

Eros can be capricious this way, but the more we learn about it, (like the other forms of love we talked about) we discover it too has a light and dark side.

What’s in a word?

The word “eros” come from the Greek, and translates to mean “the love of beauty.”  It’s slightly ironic that it would be the root word of the term “erotic”, when erotic is defined as “of, devoted to, or tending to arouse sexual love or desire.”[i]

Or, is it ironic? Let’s take a closer look.

Sociologist John A Lee (1973) and Lasswell (1976) said:
“Because it is also characterized by powerful physical attraction, eros epitomizes “love at first sight.” This is the kind of love often described in romance novels, where the lovers are immediately love-struck and experience palpitating hearts, light-headedness, and intense emotional desire.
 Erotic lovers want to know everything about the loved one---what she or he dreamed about last night and what happened on the way to work today. Erotic lovers often like to wear matching T-shirts, identical bracelets, and matching colors, to order the same foods when dining out, and to be identified with each other as totally as possible.” [ii]

It sounds a little like limerance, [iii]and I hope you can hear the echos of it in there. As limerance is a kind of love, we will discuss it at length in later articles.

If eros is a love of beauty, then the erotic could be a manifestation of how we respond mentally, physiologically, and spiritually to certain kinds of beauty or what we feel attracted to, such as a favorite celebrity you may consider “eye candy”, for example.

Attraction to Beauty is Good and Worthy!

 In his address “To the Single Adult Sisters of the Church” (1998,96-97)  President Ezra Taft Benson said: 

“Keep yourselves attractive…Of course, he should be attractive to you…”[iv]

 The context in which this was given was that there are other qualities and characteristics that are important to maintain as well as look for in a mate, but for our purposes I give this quote to show that eros, or “the love of beauty” is part of God’s plan and does have a righteous purpose and place.

In this context, it is saying that some dessert should be part of a nutritious meal… but not the meal itself. There is a deeper nutrition that is lost if all we focus on is dessert.

Elder Holland said,

“A woman not of our faith once wrote something to the effect that in her years of working with beautiful women she had seen several things they all had in common, and not one of them had anything to do with sizes and shapes.

She said the loveliest women she had known had a glow of health, a warm personality, a love of learning, stability of character, and integrity. If we may add the sweet and gentle Spirit of the Lord carried by such a woman, then this describes the loveliness of women in any age or time, every element of which is emphasized in and attainable through the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[v]

May I also suggest that the same qualities of inner and outer eros can be developed in men who are living in the gospel as well.

The love of these types of beauty are also “eros” and can be “erotic” - the kind of sacred erotic that a man or woman has for their spouse.

When eros is profaned or defiled…

When eros is profaned, it is a sin before God…at least, to us as Latter-Day Saints.[vi]  What form the sin of immorality can take happens in many ways and on many levels.

“Bridle your passions, that ye may be filled with love…” is not a contradiction in terms. It is a prophetic plea to keep eros within the principles of obedience, happiness and trust the Lord has set. When we do, we can feel all forms of love more fully, and not go out of balance.

Elder Christofferson, in a speech at BYU regarding that which is sacred, once said:

“The importance of having a sense of the sacred is simply this—if one does not appreciate holy things, he will lose them. Absent a feeling of reverence, he will grow increasingly casual in attitude and lax in conduct. He will drift from the moorings that his covenants with God could provide. His feeling of accountability to God will diminish and then be forgotten. Thereafter, he will care only about his own comfort and satisfying his uncontrolled appetites. Finally, he will come to despise sacred things, even God, and then he will despise himself.”[vii]

The erotic is sacred, and there is “sacred” erotica

It was expressed to me by a member of the church that there is no such thing as sacred erotica; that all erotica can only express profane feelings and attitudes.

I have to respectfully disagree with this view. In my article, “Mormons Take Pleasure in Sacred Erotica[viii], I point out that all things that are erotic between a husband and wife, and in the bounds of the law of chastity, are sacred, and that these activities only become profaned, or defiled, when they’re pulled out of this protected framework.

Removing them from the holy framework of marriage makes them to seem cheap or common, but it doesn’t change the fact that these activities are still sacred. Think of the temple – if the ordinances were practiced by someone outside the temple, the individuals would defile themselves with their actions, but it wouldn’t make the ordinances any less sacred.

In continuing his thought on appreciating and respecting those things which are sacred, Elder Christofferson also said,

“On the other hand, with a sense of the sacred, one grows in understanding and truth. The Holy Spirit becomes his frequent and then constant companion. More and more he will stand in holy places and be entrusted with holy things. Just the opposite of cynicism and despair, his end is eternal life.”[ix]

What role does eros play in the LDS marriage bed?

Doing things that enhance our appearance and attractiveness to each other are sacred activities. Continuing to court one another helps maintain feelings of eros between a couple. Gratitude for each other, and a continuing appreciation for what is beautiful in each other, will bring feelings of eros without forcing or straining. Trying to be Christlike in our behavior towards each other and to others maintains those feelings of eros, as well as helps us keep our friendship with each other and helps us develop the trust that facilitates full sexual expression for a married couple.

Such things in an LDS marriage are not only guarded by standards and commandments and need to be kept between husband and wife, but should also be relished, engaged in freely, and even celebrated between the husband and wife.

Those feelings of attraction, appreciation of your spouse’s inner and outer beauty, and romantic love that often brings two people together was never intended by the Lord to disappear with marriage.

“ Our natural affections are planted in us by the Spirit of God, for a wise purpose; and they are the very main-springs of life and happiness – they are the cement of all virtuous and heavenly society …

There are not a more pure and holy principle in existence than the affection which glows in the bosom of a virtuous man for his companion;…

The fact is, God made man, male and female; he planted in their bosoms those affections which are calculated to promote their happiness and union.”[x]
~ Parley P. Pratt

In my next article in this series, we will examine the form of love known as mania.

[ii] Benokraitis, Nijole, Marriages and Families 5th ed. Pearson Education Inc. 2005, 149-150
[iii] Beam, Joe. The Truth About Limerance Affairs. Marriage Helper, Inc. Apr 30 2015.

[iv] Benson, President Ezra Taft, Ensign, Nov. 1998,96-97

[v] Holland, Jeffrey R. To Young Women. Ensign. October 2005.

[vi] See Guide to the Scriptures, Sexual Immorality:

[vii] Christofferson, D. Todd. A Sense of the Sacred. 7 Nov 2004.

[viii] Zaragoza, Sam. Mormons Take Pleasure in Sacred Erotica. 17 Sep 2013.

[ix] Christofferson, D. Todd. A Sense of the Sacred. 7 Nov 2004.

[x] Writings of Parley P. Pratt, pg. 52-53, as quoted from the Eternal Marriage Student Manual

Sunday, September 11, 2016

In Case You Thought Mormons Hated Sex

Please understand that I am a little more than biased when it comes to my readers. I think they are just so awesome!

Inspite of prejudice or online anti-Mormon gossip, many (if not most) married Mormons have a very healthy and positive attitude toward sex and their own self-esteem as sexual beings. The difference between us and secular permissiveness?

To us sex is sacred, but sacred doesn't mean we you can't talk about it ever or have to repress our feelings about it.

On the contrary. In marriage, we celebrate our sexuality. We embrace it. We talk about it with reverence. We also teach our kids that we eliminate shame, embarrassment, regret, guilt, resentment, hurt, and or fear because we reserve its use for marriage. Instead, it gives us joy.

Listen to this fantastic statement from one of my readers:

"All our kids are teens and above now. We don't try to hide it or let them control our intimate life. We have a 'Do not Disturb' sign we hang on our bedroom doorknob and they know when it is there that they can either go further way, use headphones or put up with whatever they hear. Yes, they sometimes make a fuss about it being gross to know their parents are doing it, but that opens up a teaching moment to make sure they know that sex is a wonderful, normal, important part of marriage"

~ Anon

Friday, August 26, 2016

Love = Love? Which Kind of Love is Ludus?

Ludus is another form of love that develops early on in our families.[i] It means ‘game’ in Latin, and its hallmarks are that of being playful and fun-loving. It isn’t a deep or connected love, and is by nature non-committal; even to the point of finding commitment “scary”.
Sociologist John A. Lee (1973) in his book, “Styles of Loving” defined ludus as “a carefree and casual love that is considered fun and games. Physical appearance is less important than self-sufficiency and a non-demanding partner. 

Young children and teenagers most freely exhibit this kind of love, usually in combination with philia, or brotherly love, within their families. The characteristics of ludus can continue with us into adulthood in a healthy way if we incorporate a Christlike love along with it. We can also become stunted in our growth and ability to be in a relationship if we choose to follow its full secular definition of ludus in adulthood. 

Appropriate Forms of Ludus
If we’re using it well, ludus helps in situations where platonic friendships are more appropriate, such as among family members, friends and co-workers. We can relax and have fun with each other, without other styles of love developing that might interfere with or interrupt our committal relationships.

We can use ludus in our family to help build stronger family ties and memories. Some of our strongest relationships from our early years often involve elements of ludus. If ludus doesn’t exist in a family, the desire to want to stay near that family (either in life or in eternity) can be compromised. 

Maintaining a degree of ludic love helps us avoid emotional fusion – which is the trap of taking your marriage too seriously, or giving away your agency to your spouse to make you happy. 

The healthy side of ludus allows us to be light-hearted and optimistic even if others don’t ‘feel like it’ or are ‘not in the mood.’ A ludic lover can allow themselves to enjoy being physically intimate even if their lover can’t – for whatever reason – and receive the gift their spouse is giving them. 

“Differentiation (which is helped by ludic love) changes monogamy by returning genital ownership to each [spouse]…Monogamy is a prison when it’s based on emotional fusion…[ii]

When Ludus Becomes Dysfunctional
When the surrounding culture encourages children to move on from ludus to other forms of love before they’re ready, problems can occur, including breaking of the law of chastity. The element of non-commitment needs to be honored when the child is too young for adult stages of love.[iii] The guidelines we receive in our church can help prevent this development phase from happening too soon.[iv]

However, practicing ludus exclusively beyond the point of childhood can also go too far, when the non-committal aspects of it prevent deeper connections from being made.[v]
John A. Lee described this in the following way:

“Ludic lovers try to control their feelings and may have several lovers at one time.
They are not possessive or jealous, primarily because they don’t want lovers to be dependent on them.
Ludic lovers have sex for fun, not emotional rapport. In their sexual encounters they are typically self-centered and may be exploitive because they don’t want commitment.”[vi]

This development is where the ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ arises from. It can be seen in young adults or more mature adults who are content with ‘hanging out’ or worse, ‘hooking up’, and marriage is never considered, for whatever reason. At its most extreme dysfunction, ludus unrestrained can lead an adult into sexual addictions.[vii]

Marriage, to those who know the Lord’s restored gospel, is an essential element of the gospel plan. It is required for salvation in the highest degrees of the Lord’s kingdom.[viii]
So for each of us, even though it may be tempting to avoid the difficulties that sometimes come with marriage and sexuality, it is a goal that we’re encouraged to prepare for and work towards. Ludus, at some point and with someone, needs to have romantic love added upon it, so that families may be formed and essential ordinance work can be received.

Is Ludus Simply a ‘Childish Thing’[ix] To Put Away?
This is not to say that ludus should be abandoned entirely as an adult. It should not. In fact, those people who see ludus as something that belongs in childhood only are putting themselves in great danger of either having their spouse commit infidelity, or committing infidelity themselves. 

 It is still a very viable and appropriate form of love to show towards others who are not intimate with us on a romantic or sexual level. It is useful for building relationships in our extended families, and amongst our children and grandchildren. I’m referring to the part of ludic love that is not jealous, possessive, or requiring another to be dependent on you.

If we never have ludus in our marriage – if everything is always serious and never fun – what happens? We exercise ludus with our friends, which many times develop into feelings of romantic love for those we are not married to. If we keep ludus in our most intimate relationship, the temptation to develop romantic love elsewhere is much less strong.[x]

Children are always watching after our examples. Showing children healthy examples of ludus in our families will increase the likelihood of their appropriate emotional development. A married couple who include some ludus in their relationship will increase the likelihood that their children will view marriage as a positive state to be in, and something to look forward to.[xi]

Developing Ludus in Marriage
The very best way to keep a marriage in a state of healthy ludus is to continue to date after marriage.[xii]

Some couples only date before marriage, thinking that the entire purpose of dating is to ‘get someone’ to marry them. Other couples cite challenges such as finances or time restraints or children, or illness as excuses to stop dating.

However, if you’re in a marriage that was a love match in the first place, ludus is part of that love. Dating is fun and exciting before marriage. Continuing to date after marriage helps bring those feelings of love and excitement back to the relationship over and over again throughout your lives and into the eternities.[xiii] 

 If your marriage isn’t a marriage that was a love match, activities that encourage ludus can help build romantic love over time.

Continuing the courtship helps to maintain all levels of love in a marriage. Plan to continue to date after marriage, or resolve to begin again if you have stopped. The benefits over time are more than worth the effort.

Next week, we’ll discuss the form of love most people in society recognize as love - Eros.

[ii] Schnarch, Dr. David. Passionate Marriage. Henry Holt and Company LLC. 1997. pg. 310-311
[iii] Taylor, Dr. Jim. The Disturbing Sexualization of Young Girls. Huffington Post. 9 Dec 2012.

[iv] See the ‘For the Strength of Youth pamphlet’ regarding ‘Dating’:
[v] Oaks, Dallin H. “Dating vs. Hanging Out’:
[vi] Lee, John A., Benokraitis, Nijole V, Marriages and Families 5th ed. Pearson Prentice Hall (2005,150)
[viii] Doctrine & Covenants 131:1-2
[ix] 1 Corinthians 13:11
[x] Harley, Willard F., Jr. The Risk of Opposite-Sex Friendships in Marriage. Marriage Builders. 1995-2006.

[xi] Brotherson, Laura. When Kids Grow Up They Want to Be…Happily Married. Strengthening Marriage. 17 Sep 2007:

[xii] McKay, David O. See comments on continuing the courtship. Teachings: David O. McKay. Experiencing Happiness in Marriage: