marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wholesome Married Sex

At first glance, the two words ‘wholesome sex’ together may seem like an oxymoron, but is it possible to have a wholesome sexual relationship?

Growing up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I heard the term “wholesome” my whole life. Eat wholesome food, engage in wholesome activities, use wholesome language, and watch wholesome shows…these were some of the phrases that were commonplace in my ward and in my home.

The term even appears in the For the Strength of Youth booklet:

 “How you speak says much about who you are. Clean and intelligent language is evidence of a bright and wholesome mind…”[1]
If you are like me, you hear a lot of this sort of terminology in the church, but took it for granted.

I learned how important it was to take the time to look up these words and understand their meaning when my understanding of the terminology began to conflict with what I believed. I’m finding that some of the intimacy problems I’m seeing in the couples I coach come from their misunderstanding of the meaning of some of these Mormon terms.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides the definition of wholesome as “promoting health or well-being of mind or spirit.”

So based upon this definition, is it possible to have “wholesome sexual activity” in your life?

Douglas Brinley, who has a PhD in family studies and is the author of “Between Husband and Wife” recently wrote an Ensign article called “What Happily Married Couples Do” where he said:

“Intimate relations were designed by the Lord as a sacred opportunity to renew marriage covenants, provide therapy, and keep you two in love. It is essential in a stressful world that the two of you enjoy your physical and emotional relationship.

Intimacy is not to be abused. This is your spouse, companion, confidant, lover, and therapist all rolled into one, and you two should enjoy the privilege of sharing your masculine and feminine traits in a wholesome way.

Of course, the relationship must be healthy if this part of the marriage is to be cherished. Intimacy should not be used as a punishment or a weapon to hurt the other spouse or reward “good behavior.” It is also important not to solicit behavior that is offensive to your spouse. Rather, loving, kind interactions facilitate greater unity.”

For greater clarification, let’s break this down.

Does sex promote health of the body, or the well-being of the mind? Let us consider the following from WebMD’s article "10 SurprisingHealth Benefits of Sex:"

Does sex in marriage promote health or well-being of the spirit?

“The expression of our procreative powers is pleasing to God…”[2]

 “…Participation in [sex] offers an experience like nothing else in life. When entered into worthily, it combines the most exquisite and exalted physical, emotional and spiritual feelings associated with the word love. Those feelings and the lifelong need for one another bind a husband and wife together in a marriage wherein all of the attributes of adult masculinity are complemented by the priceless feminine virtues of womanhood.
 That part of life has no equal, no counterpart, in all human experience. It will, when covenants are made and kept, last eternally…”[3]

Can these benefits be obtained outside of marriage? Perhaps for a time when it comes to physical or mental benefits, but even these cannot last long-term.

If you ever question whether or not sex outside of marriage can truly be wholesome, may I suggest reading Mark Gungor’s article, entitled ‘It’s Not Just a Bunny’.

To Mark’s article, I would like to add that, for those who may have already transgressed the law of chastity in some way, that repentance and forgiveness is available to us through the Atonement of our Lord and Savior.

He can take away the pain and regret that we may feel from such sins, but consequences can remain. The physical and mental consequences that Mark Gungor talks about can linger, even after proper repentance. Medical or mental or legal counseling, learning new habits, and/or an additional measure of discipline can be required to manage the fallout from sexual sin.

It is always better not to sin in the first place.

Is sex in marriage a ‘wholesome’ activity? You be the judge.

[1] For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, pg. 22
[2] Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, Nov 1993
[3] Boyd K. Packer, The Fountain of Life, Things of the Soul, pg. 105-17