marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Is It Okay To "Lust" After Our Spouse?

A reader writes in this week:

Dear Coach Sam,

Is it lusting to desire my spouse sexually? I read these blogs that talk about the dangers of lust, and I’m wondering…What’s the difference between the lust the scriptures warn about and my ‘lusting’ after my spouse? Am I displeasing the Lord somehow?

Unsure Husband

Dear Husband,

That’s a valid question to consider. Is it good to feel lustful for our spouse in an LDS marriage?

I have yet to find a positive context in the scriptures for the word ‘lust’. But we do have to look at it in the context that it was given.

For example, Christ said, “He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”[i]

Since it’s impossible to commit adultery with someone we’re married to, that gives us our first indication that lust doesn’t quite apply to our sexual desires for our spouse.

We know from Romans 7:7 that lust is a related sin to coveting, which Bruce R. McConkie defines as ‘an eager, extreme and ungodly desire for something’[ii]:

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”

However, Paul also shows us there is also a righteous context for coveting – if we covet the things of righteousness.

“…covet earnestly the best gifts…”[iii]

If there’s a righteous context for coveting, is it possible that there’s a righteous context for lusting as well?  Well…sort of.

There may be some who would consider sexual desires and activity in marriage to be lustful. It may look or sound or feel the same as lust. But when the focus of our desire is our spouse – that is no longer “lust” but instead true love.

When sexual desire is combined with covenants and commitment, it leaves the profane; carnal, worldly realm of lust, and enters the sacred, holy and God-blessed realm of love.[iv]

Faithfulness and fidelity, and exercising those desires in marriage, is not lust.
Lust is the unbridled rebellion against commitment, loyalty and love, by allowing our hearts to wander outside of or away from our present or future marriage relationship. It is instead coveting something God has not licensed us to take.

We can still lust in marriage if we choose – by viewing profane erotica materials, or by fantasizing about people other than our spouse – and if we do find ourselves getting into the habit of doing these things, we do have need to go to the Lord with humility and realign our lives with that of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

However, if we feel attraction and powerful sexual desire towards our spouses, there is no shame in that. This is Love. It is Eros, or romantic love. It’s Storge or the committed kind of love. This is not lust. Lust does not bring joy and progression and eternal increase.[v]

[i] Matthew 5:28
[ii] McConkie, Bruce R. Mormon Doctrine. Bookcraft. 1 Apr 1958. See ‘Covetousness’, page 168.
[iii] 1 Corinthians 12:31
[iv] “Someone said once that true love must include the idea of permanence. True love endures. But lust changes as quickly as it can turn a pornographic page or glance at yet another potential object for gratification walking by, male or female.” – Jeffrey R. Holland, “Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul”. April 2010 General Conference.
[v] “There is a great difference between love and lust. Pure love yields happiness and engenders trust. It is the foundation of eternal joy. Lust will destroy that which is enriching and beautiful. A husband must have no private, hidden agenda that is kept secret from his wife. Sharing everything about each other’s personal life is powerful spiritual insurance. When you travel, take along a picture of your wife. Set it before you. Remember how you are loved and trusted. You will not be tempted to contaminate your mind or violate your covenants.” – Richard G. Scott, The Sanctity of Womanhood. April 2000 General Conference.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Seven Types of Masturbation

WARNING: This post contains a topic of a sacred sexual nature and is intended for married couples only. Viewer discretion is advised.

A reader says,
I`m afraid I have to disagree with you somewhat here Coach Sam. The leaders of the church have been very clear that masturbation (aka: self abuse) is wrong.

Never once is there anything said to even hint that it is OK if you are married and your spouse is OK with it, or that there is any other situation where it is OK. President Kimball said to abandon the practice, he did not say put it off till you are married and get your spouse`s permission and have them present when you do it.

The current Handbook 1 (my calling gives me access to it) lists it along with not paying tithing, not keeping the Word of Wisdom, using pornography etc. as a violation of the standards of the church that a Bishop can usually handle informally rather than call a church court.

I understand that from a husband-wife relationship perspective what you say makes sense, but from a moral sense it is contrary to what the church teaches. Our sexuality is a divine gift and it is not to be used in that manner.

…Marriage includes sex, but it does not eliminate the need for sexual self control.

Dear LDM,
Thank you for your comments, I always  appreciate my readers’ insights and the time they take to read my articles and share their experiences.
I do acknowledge your right to disagree with me – I am not the prophet, and I don’t speak for the Church. Never claimed to. I do however ask my readers to support their arguments with references, so we can all benefit and understand each other during a discussion.
I’m not sure you and I fully understand each other yet on this topic, so let me ask you something.
How many definitions for the word ‘masturbation’ do you think existed in President Kimball’s time?
Probably one, maybe two, right?
Is there still only one or two definitions of that same word today?
Not anymore.
Seven Kinds of Masturbation…?
Just as there are many variations for the word ‘love’ (See “Love = Love, What Kind of Love?), there are many varying circumstances for the term ‘masturbation’. I counted seven different variations in the term ‘masturbation’ when I counted how many kinds of practices I’m familiar with. This may be the answer to our differences on this topic.
Solo Masturbation
First, there is the definition of masturbation as ‘stimulating yourself sexually while alone’. There are two variations of this as well – either with nothing but the tool of stimulation, or while using profane erotica as a mental stimulant in conjunction with the action.
This definition, when done by those who are single, the Lord prohibits[i]. It increases the control of the body over the spirit, and is a spiritually weakening habit.[ii] In particular, those who are preparing to serve missions should stop the practice at least a year before serving, and if they engage in it while on their mission, the official policy is that they are to be sent home immediately.[iii]
President Kimball could have had this definition in mind when he said, ‘Latter-Day Saints are urged to avoid this practice.” as he did in the 1980 New Era when he specifically addressed the youth of the church.[iv] Was this the reference you mentioned? Let me know if you were thinking of another one that was addressed to the married members of the church.
In marriage, using masturbation to relieve oneself sexually, alone and especially without the knowledge or consent of one’s spouse, interrupts the bonding that should happen between a husband and a wife, and is also prohibited by temple covenants.
Both these versions of this practice are sometimes augmented by using profane erotica (what some erroneously call pornography ( See “Mormons Take Pleasure in Sacred Erotica”), and single or married, this practice will make a person less worthy of the Spirit and their rightful blessings as members of the Church. Both practices can lead to further, more serious sins down the road, and quick repentance of these practices is encouraged.
However, there are other versions of masturbation as well.
Mutual Masturbation (AKA – Heavy Petting or Foreplay)
President Kimball mentions mutual masturbation in the Miracle of Forgiveness, but only in the context of homosexuality, which is outside the Lord’s accepted form of marriage[v]
But just because some people do it outside of marriage, doesn’t make it any less sacred or accessible to those who keep the Lord’s laws. Doing it outside of marriage only defiles/profanes this sacred act.
Within marriage, not only is mutual masturbation acceptable, it’s a form of foreplay for many couples. So this form of masturbation can be done with approval from the Lord in this context. It is a “sexual relation with our husband or wife…”
Remote Masturbation and Common Consent
There is another form of masturbation available to married couples…but (I feel) before we can discuss it, it is important to understand a principle of order known as ‘common consent’.
It’s the same principle that we invoke in church to keep order. When we raise our hands to sustain the prophet or others called to various callings this principle is applied. This principle also extends to the family, and to married sexuality. How?
If we look at 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, Paul offers some specific scriptural words of sexual wisdom to those who are married:

“1…It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”

So we see in the beginning, when we are not married (verse 1), we are to refrain from all sexual contact of any kind.

However, marriage is provided by the Lord as an appropriate space to express powerful drives of sexuality, and the Lord expects both married men and married women to continue to render due benevolence – to practice kindness and consideration and continue the courtship – while in marriage (verse 3)

In verse 4, we see that a man is not free to do what he likes with his body and neither is the wife – we are to operate as an eternal team. Speaking then in terms of sex in marriage, could a husband steal away to masturbate without his wife’s knowledge or consent and please the Lord? I don’t believe so. That’s how I understand verse 4 in this context.

However, verse five, which Joseph Smith translated as ‘depart not one from the other…’ instead of ‘defraud…’[vi], allows some flexibility for married people. This is where I see the concept of common consent in sexuality entering into the picture.

Common consent in married sexuality is this:
If one spouse wants a certain sexual practice, and the other is not comfortable with it, they are not to do it unless both of them freely consent

If, for example, Brother and Sister Smith engage in a sexual practice, and one or both feels uncomfortable about it, they may get confused. They might go to their bishop for counsel. He’s going to look at Handbook 1 (at the list you mentioned) and may counsel them to stop doing that practice, because at the very least, they’re violating this principle of common consent by doing so[vii]

The bishop is concerned about their spirituality. If that practice affects a couple’s ability to feel the Spirit, or if doing that makes them feel guilty for some reason, he’s going to tell them to stop, at least until they figure out what’s going on. The Smiths then have the responsibility to discuss the matter between themselves and try to figure out what is wrong in their marriage, if anything. They should work together to resolve the issue, even if it requires outside professional or ecclesiastical assistance.[viii] They may also find they need to discontinue that practice altogether – not every sexual practice works for every couple.

However, if Brother and Sister Jones both consent to the same practice the Smiths had trouble with–  both Brother and Sister Jones are aware of the activity and they feel at ease with it physically and spiritually – then the principle of common consent is satisfied. They still feel worthy before the Lord. The sexual practice is kept sacred within the context of their marriage. The bishop has no need to know what they are doing, because no sin has occurred, and there is nothing to repent for.[ix]

Satan Will Tempt Married People through Their Time Apart

When couples need to refrain from sexual intercourse, as sometimes circumstances require, it’s important that they do something to redirect that sexual energy. Perhaps they’ll choose different sexual practices instead, such as using sex toys together, or engage in oral or anal sex. Perhaps they’ll agree to masturbate, apart or together. Some may do as Paul suggests, and use ‘fasting and prayer’ to redirect sexual energy, which sometimes works for some people. It depends on the couple to consider their options and go with whatever the Spirit dictates as appropriate for their circumstances.[x]

Also notice, in verse 5, that Paul also insinuates that this time apart should be as short as possible, so that the Adversary will not have an opportunity to tempt them during their excessive time apart.
 Remote masturbation can sometimes be a short-term solution when intercourse is not possible (such as after childbirth or some kinds of surgery, or when traveling keeps a spouse physically away for a time, or when a woman needs time to learn about her body). However, this interval needs to be as short as possible, with the awareness that powerful drives left unfulfilled can lead to powerful temptations. Making a spouse wait months or years for physical intimacy can turn to unrighteous dominion, even abuse.[xi]

The Proclamation to the Family also recognizes this principle of common consent in the context of marriage:

“…Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities….”[xii]

Allowing ‘remote’ masturbation between consenting married couples, which is yet another version of masturbation, falls well within this framework the Lord established. If common consent in sexuality exists, spouses who do this are being faithful to each other, and offering respect, and love, and compassion to each other when they are unable to meet each other’s sexual desires for a time. 

In a Nutshell…

So, to sum up, there are seven different known variations of masturbation practices:
  1. Solo masturbation while unmarried (not approved)[xiii]
  2. Solo masturbation while unmarried using profane erotica (double not approved)[xiv]
  3. Solo masturbation while married, alone and in secret (not approved)[xv]
  4. Solo masturbation while married, alone or with consent of spouse, with profane erotica (super not approved; the use of profane erotica for masturbation is always wrong and damaging under any circumstances, married or single)[xvi]
  5. Mutual masturbation outside of marriage with other people who are single or married (not approved)[xvii]
  6. Mutual masturbation within marriage (sanctioned by the Lord)[xviii]
  7. Remote masturbation within marriage using the law of common consent (approved – not the best sex in the world, but sometimes useful for temporary separations)[xix]
It’s the Lord’s Church, Not Ours

I want to tell you something that my bishop shared with me; I found it very helpful. 

When I asked him about the list of offenses in Handbook 1 you mentioned (and I’m paraphrasing him, of course, when I say this. He also doesn’t speak for the church as a whole – he’s just a very humble man who serves as my bishop), he told me that the bishop is a judge in Israel, but it’s not the bishop’s church.

The bishop is the conduit for the guidance of the Lord’s spirit for his ward. Thus, sometimes the circumstances brought to him will necessitate individual adaptation (just as the Proclamation to the Family mentions in terms of a family). Two people committing the same offense might merit different penalties or counsel, depending on what the Spirit says. 

The Handbook 1 and 2 are not the Jewish Talmud of the LDS Church. They’re not meant to give legal, precise definitions and cover every circumstance that could possibly happen. They give basic guidance to bishops and other leaders, but the Lord will determine how that guidance is applied through the Spirit, person by person.

Therefore, it is not possible for us to say that masturbation, or any other sexual practice in marriage, is always wrong under any circumstances. If the bishop can’t say it, if the prophet won’t say it then I’m not comfortable making that assumption either.

I’ve not found anyone in General Conference mentioning masturbation since the 80s, and I’ve yet to find any counsel ever that says masturbation [or a substituted term] in marriage as wrong. In fact, I’ve found just the opposite.

Sex Is the Higher Law

Is masturbation wrong for the youth of the Church? Clearly, it is, but this same prohibition doesn’t apply to married couples in the same way. Married people are not single people living in the same house. 

Married sexuality is a higher, holier, and more difficult law to live than abstinence. To say that the general authorities have even suggested that it is more holy to be celibate in marriage than it is to have sex in marriage is unfounded, as well as a complete contradiction to actual doctrine.

President Packer gave us the most wonderful quote on just this topic before he passed away, in his last talk:

“…The power of procreation is not an incidental part of the plan; it is the plan of happiness; it is the key to happiness.” – The Plan of Happiness, April 2015 General Conference

There it is, so simple. 

I may be misinterpreting your intentions when you said this, but I felt some concern when I read your last statement – ‘Marriage includes sex…”

And we may have to agree to disagree, which is all right.

But to my mind, according to President Packer in the quote above, which is now part of our scriptural canon, marriage is connected in every way to sex. The gospel (or the plan of happiness) is all about “…the righteous exercise of this power”.[xx] The procreative process from beginning to end - is – sex. 

How Are Married People Different From Single People?

The only thing that makes our marriages different from every other relationship we have in life…is that in marriage, we have sex.[xxi] Sex is neither an incidental nor unfortunate part of marriage[xxii] that we can set aside or outsource, as the Victorian mindset goes, nor is it an all-out profane free-for-all as the pagans would have us believe.[xxiii]  

When we understand that fact, and live from a place of gospel centeredness instead of looking to the outside culture for our cues, we have the chance to really find a deep kind of happiness that only the righteous can truly know. 
Thank you so much for your comments – each comment makes me wrestle a little with my own beliefs, to make sure they are still within gospel guidelines. Worldly beliefs can sneak in so easily. I myself have learned much from our discussion here. 

If anyone else has a question on this or any topic regarding LDS married sexuality, please send it to

[i] “Never do anything that could lead to sexual transgression. Treat others with respect, not as objects used to satisfy lustful and selfish desires. Before marriage, do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.” – From the pamphlet ‘For the Strength of Youth: Sexual Purity:

[ii] D&C 29:34-35. Many in the world find no fault in masturbation, and endorse it as a healthy sexual practice. But we in the LDS Church refrain from sexual practices outside of marriage, not just because of any physical effects, but mostly for the spiritual, which those in the world often either ignore or deny.
[iii] Handbook 1 (a guidebook available to bishops and other leaders of the Church). You can ask your bishop about it if you’d like to confirm the reference and/or the policy, but it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Keep reading, and you’ll see.
[iv] President Kimball spoke out against the youth engaging in solo masturbation in the late 70s and early 80s, and this is still Church policy today:

[v] See page 78 from the Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball (Bookcraft: 1969)
[vii] Another scripture, which can also apply to sexuality as well as family and Church administration, says that ‘If ye are not one, ye are not mine.” (D&C)

[ix] Galatians 5:22 – if you’re not sure if you’re still worthy after engaging in a certain sexual practice with your spouse, look for the fruits of the Spirit Paul mentions.
[x] D&C 9:7
[xi] “There are many good Church members who have been divorced. I speak first to them. We know that many of you are innocent victims—members whose former spouses persistently betrayed sacred covenants or abandoned or refused to perform marriage responsibilities for an extended period. Members who have experienced such abuse have firsthand knowledge of circumstances worse than divorce.”:

[xiv] “With this priesthood comes a great obligation to be worthy of it. We cannot indulge in unclean thoughts. We must not partake of pornography…” – Gordon B. Hinckley (one of many references to profane erotica he made in Conference talks):

[xv] “Where there is respect, there is also transparency, which is a key element of happy marriages. There are no secrets about relevant matters in marriages based on mutual respect and transparency.” – L. Whitney Clayton:

[xvi] “Marriage is both a commandment and an exalting principle of the gospel.12 Because it is ordained of God, the intimate physical expressions of married love are sacred. Yet all too commonly, these divine gifts are desecrated. If a couple allows lewd language or pornography to corrupt their intimacy, they offend their Creator while they degrade and diminish their own divine gifts.” – Russel M. Nelson:

[xvii] Again, this is made clear on page 77-78 of the Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball
[xviii] “True love requires reserving until after marriage the sharing of that affection which unlocks those sacred powers in that fountain of life. It means avoiding situations where physical desire might take control. Pure love presupposes that only after a pledge of eternal fidelity, a legal and lawful ceremony, and ideally after the sealing ordinance in the temple are those procreative powers released in God’s eye for the full expression of love. It is to be shared solely and only with that one who is your companion forever.” – Boyd K. Packer:

[xix] Again, see 1 Corinthians 7:5.

[xx] Ibid.
[xxi]– read the entire article, again and again and again. Groundbreaking insights.

[xxii] “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…” – Hugh B. Brown, You and Your Marriage, page 75, also in Achieving a Celestial Marriage Student Manual, CES, Salt Lake City, 1992, pg. 218.