marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Wendy Watson-Nelson's Four Tips for Great Marriage - Commentary - Truth #4

 Click here in case you missed  Truth#1, Truth#2  or Truth#3

Truth #4:  For true marital intimacy, the Holy Ghost needs to be involved.

It is simply not possible to have the kind of intimate experiences outside of marriage that you can have within, because the Spirit will not be present. Elder Parley P. Pratt taught that the Holy Ghost has the ability to “…increase, enlarge, expand, and purify all the natural passions and affections.”

Just imagine…He can purify your feelings! Therefore, ANYTHING that invites the Spirit into your life and into the life of your spouse and your marriage will increase your ability to experience marital intimacy. It really is as simple, and as profound, as that.

On the other hand, anything that offends the Spirit will decrease your ability to be one with your spouse. Things such as anger, lust, unforgiveness, contention, immorality and unrepented sin will reduce your attempt for marital intimacy to be something that’s nothing more than a sexual experience.

What an amazing insight and concept: we can literally be sanctified and more worthy to have the Holy Ghost with us by having sex with our spouse – if we do it the right way. This turns the world’s reasoning on its head, where the worldly peak of experience involves having the ‘best’, most involved, non-vanilla physical experience possible. The secular world doesn’t consider the spiritual aspect of our lives at all, or even try to use the physical to access the spiritual. It can’t be done that way.

But this is what the gospel promises (and delivers on). Those who trade that promise away for mere physical experience in the wrong context are only cheating themselves. Those who focus strictly on the physical in marriage, or seek worldly sources for learning without incorporating spiritual improvement, often find themselves equally frustrated.

So to recap…

While worldly sex is under the influence of the world and the Adversary, and involves carnal, sensual, and devilish passions, God ordained marital intimacy as under the influence of the Spirit and involves Spirit-enhanced and purified passions.

She makes reference here to scriptures such as Moses 6:49 which says “Behold Satan hath come among the children of men, and tempteth them to worship him; and men have become carnal, sensual, and devilish, and are shut out from the presence of God.”

The point to pay attention to here is “shut out of the presence of God”. If you’re being sensual and physically intimate with your spouse and can still feel the Spirit, you don’t fall into this category. You’re not shut out of the presence of God and therefore are not being carnal, sensual or devilish in the context the scriptures give.

There is nothing carnal, sensual, or devilish about having sex with the person you’ve legally and lawfully married, nor is that desire for the physical expression of love a bad thing at all.

The truth is, the more pure you are, the more marvelous your marital intimacy will be.

With worldly sex, anything goes. With marital intimacy, exquisite care is taken to avoid anything and everything, from language to music to movies, that offends the Spirit, your spirit, or your spouse’s.

I would make a slight adjustment here for married people. I agree that we should exclude anything that has been warned of explicitly by the General Authorities in canonized talks and the scriptures. For example, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel as far as profane erotica goes – it’s all bad. The warnings are clear and plentiful.

However, in the practice of sexuality, some trial and error will need to be undertaken by each couple, as some things are more a matter of preference than commandment. If we happen upon something as a couple that shouldn’t be part of our marital intimacy, then we repent and move on, but someone else might be able to do that same practice and all parties (both spouses and the Spirit) are just fine with it. What works for one may not work for another, and that’s okay. There’s lots of activities to choose from. Sexual practices are not ordinances, nor are there doctrinal guidelines for what to do. So there’s some ‘spirit of the law’ wiggle room in here to allow us to make individual adaptation.

While worldly sex is lustful, and kills love, marital intimacy generates more love.

A good way of telling whether something should be in your repertoire as a couple is to watch for the ‘fruits’ of that practice. If love starts to wane and die, that’s a fruit of something we’re doing or experiencing. If love grows, that’s a fruit too.

Worldly sex degrades men and women, and their bodies, degrades the body as a plaything, while marital intimacy honors men and women, and celebrates the body as one of the great prizes of mortal life.

The “worldly sex” she is referring to here is sex outside of marriage. However, even in marriage the law of chastity still applies. In the married context, adultery, spouse swapping, sex in public places for the thrill of “we might get caught”, public nudity, etc… is defiling the sacred.  In marriage, our bodies and the sex act are still sacred and should still be treated as such.

Think of the temple. Just because we have a recommend and received our ordinances does not make it okay to practice those ordinances outside of the temple. We still have to keep them sacred and in the appropriate place.

With worldly sex, individuals can feel used, abused, and ultimately, more lonely. With marital intimacy, spouses feel more united, loved, nurtured, and understood.

This is what leads me to believe that when she say’s “worldly sex” she means sex outside of marriage. Just giving your sex away to someone who has not covenanted with you to be your spouse leads to the feelings she mentioned. 

However, if we abuse our spouse or exercise unrighteous dominion[i] (yes women can exercise unrighteous dominion too) it can also lead to these feelings of despair. This in turn chases the spirit away and robs us of the full intimate symphony we could be experiencing.

Worldly sex ravages and eventually ruins relationships. Marital intimacy strengthens marriages. It supports, heals, and hallows the lives of spouses and their marriage.

Having belief systems that don’t allow you to be happy is behind a lot of this ravaging and ruining. We must be sure our beliefs are truly in line with the gospel, which requires staying close to the Church and the gospel and studying and learning the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The purpose of marriage is to teach us to become more like Christ. How can we possibly do that if we have no idea how he behaves, and how he expects us to behave? That’s all built into the priesthood and the Relief Society, in the Sacrament, in the Atonement. Are we forgiving each other as Christ forgives us? Are we as worthy of each other when we partake of each other sexually as we should be when we partake of the Sacrament? There’s a connection there: See my article (“Sexless Marriage and the Sacrament”)

Worldly sex has been likened to the toot of a flute, while marital intimacy has been likened to the grandeur of an entire orchestra.

The nice thing about married sex is that it doesn’t have to be orchestra all the time either. There’s nothing wrong with the toot of a flute – sometimes that’s okay. Sexually sometimes, we may want a snack instead of a four-course meal. What she’s saying is that, if you’re not married or not living your covenants or engaging in activities that chase away the Spirit, you don’t get to the option of a four course meal. All you get is the snack, all the time.

Michele Weiner-Davis mentions this when she speaks of sexless marriages[ii] – she makes the point that sexless marriage doesn’t necessarily mean no sex. It means you’re not getting the kind of sex you need to be fulfilled as a whole person. I believe that’s what Wendy’s saying here as well when she uses the term ‘marital intimacy’ as a contrast to ‘sex’ – the gospel allows for the full spectrum of human expression, while the world’s version can only ever be a cheap physical knockoff.

Marital intimacy is not just intercourse. It includes sex, but it’s not just sex. It’s all the functional forms of love, operating together as part of that full symphony of intimacy. Marital intimacy is the coming together of a man and woman, sexually, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. United in purpose and heart and mind and spirit.

Worldly sex becomes a total obsession, because it never fulfills its promises. God-ordained marital intimacy is glorious, and will continue eternally for covenant-keeping husbands and wives.

There’s no way to replicate marital intimacy outside of marriage – you might be able to wiggle in the temporal aspects of sexuality, but there are laws that must be followed to get to the spiritual. There’s no guru for it. We can’t buy it. We can’t get special training or take a special class. There’s no equivalent temporal counterfeit.

The secular world has lost almost all understanding of the spiritual. What the world calls ‘spiritual’ may be a movement or manipulation of chakras or energies, but even that is not equivalent to the Holy Ghost. I’m not knocking such techniques as tantra – such things can add to our marital intimacy symphony, but it can’t replace the Holy Ghost. For that, we either follow the Lord’s law, or we don’t get that benefit.

Those who follow the world’s dictates will always feel as though something is missing from their experience, even if they can’t say exactly what it is, and always be reaching and trying to reach that through various physical means or experiences, and always end up chasing rainbows.

Notice her very important point here – marital intimacy continues into eternity. Sex doesn’t end in this life, but only those who marry in the Lord’s way and keep their covenants will have that privilege for eternity. Marital intimacy is that important to the Lord’s plan of salvation. Some popular Evangelical beliefs would lead us to believe that there will be no need for sex after this life, but that is untrue.[iii]

In short, marital intimacy is endorsed by the Spirit, is blessed by the Lord, and is sanctifying.

Creating a strong, happy marriage is not easy. I can attest to that. But it will bring you joy.

For our tenth wedding anniversary, I wondered what I could give my husband to represent the joy our marriage has brought me. This is what I gave him – a swing!

I struggled a little with her representation of the swing as a symbol of her marriage, and she didn’t enunciate on that metaphor. To me, it seems to incorporate her joy with him, that incorporates all the forms of love from the innocence of childhood onward, and is expressed in its fullness in their marriage.

It was something very simple, even innocent. It may not have done anything for her, but it gave her pleasure to give him that moment of pleasure.

Since our sexual gratification design is so different from each other as males and females, that’s what marital intimacy often is in marriage – a selfless joy of giving each other pleasure and getting pleasure from knowing you can help the other spouse feel good.

My dear brothers and sisters, whom we love, if you will intentionally implement these four truths, I’m confident that you can build a happy marriage that will sustain and comfort you forever. A marriage that will allow you to become more than you could ever be on your own. I testify that marriage is one of the greatest privileges God gives to His children, that marriage can be the source of unparalleled joy, and that personal purity is the key to that joy.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[i] Doctrine and Covenants 121
[ii] Weiner-Davis, Michelle. Sex Starved Marriage. Simon & Shuster. 2004. Pg. 8.
[iii] Packer, Boyd K., The Plan of Happiness, April, 2015, General Conference. "The power of procreation is not an incidental part of the plan; it is the plan of happiness; it is the key to happiness."

Monday, February 6, 2017

Wendy Watson-Nelson's Four Tips for Great Marriage - Commentary - Truth #3

 Click here if you missed Truth#1 and Truth#2

Truth #3:  As an important part of the expression of their love, the Lord wants a husband and wife to partake of the wonders and joys of marital intimacy.

This truth makes me very happy to hear, coming from both a marriage professional as well as an influential member of the Church. It’s a very profound truth.

Marital intimacy is ordained by God. It is commanded and commended by Him, because it draws a husband and wife closer together AND closer to the Lord.

This is a major key right here. The purpose of sex is to bring husband and wife closer together. If it’s pushing us apart instead, we’re doing it wrong.

True marital intimacy involves the whole soul of each spouse. It is the uniting of the body AND the spirit of the husband with the body AND the spirit of his wife.

This is another reason why profane erotica is not the best prescription as an arousal tool in marriage. It splits us and our affections, as we make love and give our feelings over to something not our spouse.  If we’re watching or reading or listening to profane erotica before we make love to our spouse, we not only lose the spiritual element of it, we won’t be thinking of our spouse. We’re instead thinking about the couple on the screen, or in the book. So spiritually we’re not connected and mentally we’re not connected. Where is the profound symbol in that?

That ‘soul-full’ union represents just how united a husband and wife are in all areas of their lives. They work together as partners, they pray, play, struggle, grow and enjoy life together. They sacrifice for each other, and encourage each other to be all they were born to be.

My dear brothers and sisters, marital intimacy is sacred. In fact, a husband and wife can be drawn closer to God when joined in true marital intimacy.

Procreation is an important reason for marital intimacy, but not the only reason, nor the most important reason. (Handbook 2, 21.4.4) The building and creating of a strong, intimate family unit that’s close to the Lord is the first and best reason for marital intimacy.

If procreation were really the first and best reason, then what would happen to those couples who could not have children? Their relationships would, by that secular and temporal perspective reasoning, die off out of lack of reason to even exist.

But this is not the case. In an eternal perspective, any couple who, for whatever reason, is unable to have children in this life can still go on to a glorious future full of increase if they work together to build their love for each other and the Lord here in this life.

So, how can you prepare for such intimacy? You will need to live righteously, so the Spirit can be the companion to you and your spouse. This leads to truth #4.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wendy Watson-Nelson's Four Tips for Great Marriage - Commentary - Truth #2

 In case you missed it, click here to view part 1

Truth #2:  Personal purity is the key to true love.

The more pure your thoughts and feelings, your words and actions, the greater your capacity to give and receive true love.

The first thought that came to my mind when I heard this was, ‘What kind of love is she talking about? Which of the seven different kinds of love is she referring to?’

On the surface, it sounds like she’s specifically referring to eros and/or mania in this talk, but it truly follows that all the forms of love improve in quality as we improve our personal purity.

If you’d like more clarity on this perspective and what different kinds of love exist, the first of my series of articles is here: (Love = Love? Which Kind of Love?)

… every time you pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father in prayer, and then listen…every time you study the scriptures seeking answers to the questions of your heart…every time you avoid anything that would wound your spirit, such as pornography…every time you worship in the temple…every time you find an ancestor’s ordinance-qualifying information…you are choosing to increase your personal purity.

She refers to pornography here. I prefer to use the term ‘profane erotica’ because it’s more specific, but considering her audience, pornography will be the more widely-used term to most people right now.

Your future spouse will thank you, because in that very moment, you will be preparing for true marital intimacy.

So if you’re single, and wonder how best to prepare for true love, the answer is, do whatever it takes to keep your thoughts, feelings, words and actions pure. Invite the Spirit to guide you; He will help you. And if you’re married, my counsel is exactly the same.

She couldn’t be more right here – I resound with and second this thought. Sometimes singles may feel that maintaining their virtue, and thus coming into marriage without any sexual experience, is a disadvantage.

To me, and from my experience and research, nothing could be further from the truth. From an eternal perspective, it’s a huge advantage to stay pure before marriage.

The best thing any single member of the Church can possibly do to prepare for the best possible sex is to live the gospel to the very best of their ability, and then they as a couple can learn about sexuality together.

Any sexual knowledge we bring to our marriage should not include active experimentation until we have a spouse to experiment with, because no two people are alike. Whatever we learn sexually with one person, as far as likes and dislikes, we must learn all over again with the person we finally marry.

All we need before then is a basic knowledge of anatomy, the temporal and spiritual consequences of sex outside of marriage and perhaps some knowledge of limerance. They need to know what it is, and how to handle it, and to focus on living the gospel and being obedient to the Lord. We really don’t need much more than that.

As you work to become more pure, you will have the Holy Ghost with you more and more. Your ability to receive personal revelation will increase, which means you’ll have clearer direction for your life.

You’ll feel more at peace, and have more joy. Less lonely, and more hopeful about your future. You’ll also have increased mental clarity as you study and work, and, in addition to these great rewards for working every day to be just a little more pure, you’ll be increasing your ability to experience true marital intimacy.

This is why pornography is so devastating. Contrary to what all of its promoters claim, pornography will actually prevent you from experiencing the most marvelous kind of intimacy.

If you haven’t already, I really hope you will take the time to read my article about profane erotica (link here). Even the word ‘pornography’ is such a devil’s snare as a term. It’s a secular term that’s best avoided whenever possible.

Any marriage therapist who tries to prescribe profane erotic materials to solve the short-term problem of low libido has no idea what they’re doing, or the long-term consequences involved in doing that.

Profane erotica is a great way to make us horrible lovers to our spouses. It promotes the body’s control of the spirit, instead of the other way around. It leads to spiritual death and all its attendant consequences and it makes us unworthy to hold the priesthood and attend the temple. Everyone involved in it, from the viewer and their families and friends, to the actors and producers, to the society at large, is in some way twisted or harmed or feels the  negative effects of its influence. It’s not just X-rated movies anymore. Every movie, every song, every magazine and novel, even children’s shows today show the effects of those who are influenced by profane erotica. It should be avoided under any circumstances, married or single, just as the General Authorities say.

Having said all that, I want to emphasize that the acts performed in profane erotica – many, if not most of them, are in and of themselves holy and sacred. Those who are involved are defiling something that is sacred, but their actions do not change the sacredness of sex. Those will always be sacred. Context is everything here.

Stay tuned for part#3