WARNING: This post contains a topic of a sacred sexual nature and is intended for married couples only. Viewer discretion is advised.
There is an apocryphal letter that has been passed around for years regarding the LDS church’s standing on oral sex between a wife and husband who are legally and lawfully married. My comments can also be applied to any other sexual practice in marriage.
I’d like to address that letter and clear it up once and for all. I also invite any of my peers and any Church leaders who wish to comment and give additional clarification if they feel it is needed.
First off, the letter cannot be found anywhere on any official church sites. To find this letter one would have to go to anti-Mormon or other questionable sources. This one came from http://theboard.byu.edu/index.php?area=viewall&id=6853
Letter to all Priesthood Leaders, January 5, 1982.
Married persons should understand that if in their marital relations they are guilty of unnatural, impure, or unholy practices, they should not enter the temple unless and until they repent and discontinue any such practices. Husbands and wives who are aware of these requirements can determine by themselves their standing before the Lord. All of this should be conveyed without having priesthood leaders focus upon intimate matters which are a part of husband and wife relationships. Skillful interviewing and counseling can occur without discussion of clinical details by placing firm responsibility on individual members of the Church to put their lives in order before exercising the privilege of entering a house of the Lord. The First Presidency has interpreted oral sex as constituting an unnatural, impure, or unholy practice. If a person is engaged in a practice which troubles him enough to ask about it, he should discontinue it.
Anyone guilty of verbal or physical child or spouse abuse should not enter the temple. . .
N. Eldon Tanner
Marion G. Romney
Gordon B. Hinckley
A letter by the First Presidency was submitted, but you must read it carefully and understand the background of this letter.
Notice that this letter was "Letter to all Priesthood Leaders." Having personally served as the clerk in a Bishopric, I can tell you that the Bishops and Stake Presidents of the church are sent letters from the President of the Church all the time. Some are meant to be read to the congregation and some are not. This letter was never meant to be read to the congregation, nor was it established as the official doctrine of the church.
Notice the phrase "The First Presidency has interpreted..." The President and his counselors were asked a question and are entitled to their opinion. Anyone who studied President Kimball's writings will read for themselves that President Spender W. Kimball admits to giving his opinion at times and that it's not necessarily from God.
The official Church guidelines on this topic can be found in the Bishop's Handbook of Instruction, which states that the church cannot tell a husband or wife what they can or cannot do sexually in the bonds of marriage.
A fact about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is that we do not have paid clergy. Your local bishop could be a plumber for a living - with NO training in family issues or counseling. The impression I get from this letter was that in the 80s a lot of members were asking the question about oral sex to their bishop in their temple recommend interviews.
The Bishops didn't know what counsel to give to the married members and took it up with the First Presidency. This letter was their reply, but the letter or the statement was never repeated nor was it given as an addendum to the temple interview questions, nor have I ever heard it asked in a temple interview question.
The last statement "...If a person is engaged in a practice which troubles him enough to ask about it, he should discontinue it." is more consistent with the teachings of the church and gospel. We're instructed to pray about it and follow the Spirit. If we desire to engage in a sexual act as a couple, and we're not sure about how it will affect our standing with God, we are to investigate it, discuss and pray about it as a couple, and follow what the Spirit directs.
One constant you will find about the LDS church - if it is a serious problem and intended to be doctrine from God, you will hear about it over and over and over and over again.
This is just not the case in this circumstance. To us Mormons, what happens between a husband and wife sexually is sacred, and what happens in other people's bedrooms is not our concern. If Adam and Eve wanted to have anal sex while hanging from their disco mirror ball and playing funk music, as far as we're concerned, it's none of our ding-dang business. As it says in Genesis, the Lord married them and left them ALONE in the garden.
The only sin regarding sex in marriage is the coercion of one spouse over another to engage in a sexual act that the other is uncomfortable doing.
As Mark Gungor (a Christian marriage counselor and author of “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage”) teaches, in order for sex to be great, you must have a turned-on husband and a turned-on wife. If this chain is broken, great sex cannot be obtained. This is true no matter what the sex act is.
Sex is intended to bond a husband and wife and bring them closer together in every aspect. Coercion only defeats this – thus the sin isn’t sexual, it’s selfishness and unrighteous dominion (D&C 121). Marriage was intended to create eternal family relationships. Any activity that pushes you apart will defeat the plan God laid out for a marriage.
In turn, any married sexual activity that is not done to the exclusion of creating and bearing children, and tightens the bond with your spouse, is the very definition of what is natural, holy and pure.
Use common sense though. If you both as a couple desire sexual acts that cause damage to you or your spouse’s body or threaten your lives or health, it may be time to re-evaluate the benefit of the sexual practice. Our bodies are still sacred to God and must be protected and respected.
In a later blog I will be addressing how the gospel defines unnatural, unholy and impure practices. Seems we need some clarification.
( Be sure to read my follow up article: The question of oral sex in LDS marriage: Part II )