marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Secret Sexual Sins In Marriage - Part 3

Here's the links in case you missed part [1] and [2]  

Another view of ‘secret sexual sins’ would be the opposite of sins of commission. Instead of involving outside parties for sexual stimulation, it’s also a sin (of omission) to not seek the help of professionals or ecclesiastical leaders when we are having difficulties in our marriage that affect sexuality. 
Do Get Help or Instruction When Needed 

A mutually satisfying sexual relationship in marriage is part of the vital mortar that holds it together. Mark Gungor, author of “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, posted in a recent meme
“ Many people consider turning to others for help in marriage as a sign of weakness. But this is not weakness – this is life.”
A secret sexual sin of omission occurs if we’re having trouble connecting sexually with our spouse, but we don’t talk to them about it or seek to get help to correct the problem, even if that help comes from a book, such as Laura M Brotherson’s book “And They Were Not Ashamed,”  or Michele Weiner-Davis’ book “The Sex-Starved Marriage,” or reading the articles found here.

It doesn’t help a problem to ignore it, and it doesn’t improve your relationship to just avoid discussing sex and hoping your spouse’s intimacy needs will just go away. In many cases, avoidance can lead to the destruction of the relationship.[i] 

This may require swallowing our pride or humbling ourselves enough to admit there is a problem no matter how threatening it may be to our ego, our pride, or our ability to save face. In order for intimacy to exist, there must be conflict. When the couple lovingly and patiently work together to overcome the conflict, the intensity of the intimacy can be nuclear!

But know that most times where there is conflict (in regard to sexual intimacy in marriage) there is a smart, but usually not an easy or gentle way through it.

Dr. David Schnarch said

“Many authors and therapists believe that couples gradually achieve the degree of intimacy they want through accumulated experiences of mutual trust, acceptance, empathy, validation, and reciprocal disclosure.

In all my years of therapy, I’ve never seen intimacy unfold in this idyllic way. Certainly I’ve seen couples who tried this idealized perspective, but it just doesn’t work in the real world of marriage. Ironically, intimacy seems to develop through conflict, self-validation, and unilateral disclosure.”[ii]

The first person that should be confided in is the spouse themselves. This is part of what complete fidelity means. Fidelity means showing faithfulness through continuous loyalty and support.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught
 “Our concept of marriage is motivated by revealed truth, not by worldly sociology. The Apostle Paul taught ‘neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.’ (1 Cor. 11:11)”[iii]
Lack of trust in a marriage is not an edifying or bonding attribute. Complete honesty and disclosure is required, as these attributes hit very close to people’s hearts. If you find you need help in this area, when choosing someone outside the marriage to confide in, make sure it’s a person who will keep your confidences sacred, and work for your marriage, instead of someone who will side with one spouse against the other. Whenever possible, seek advice from someone who has an adequate understanding of gospel principles.

Tune in next week to read about how our spouse’s emotional life can be an element of secret sexual sins.

[i] Zaragoza, Samuel, The LDS Marriage Bed, The Four Marriage Killers – Silence,

[ii] Schnarch, Dr. David, Passionate Marriage, Henry Holt and Company LLC, 1997,103
[iii] Oaks, Dallin H., The Great Plan Of Happiness, Oct. 1993, Conference Report 96-102

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Secret Sexual Sins In Marriage - Part 2

Don’t Go Outside the Marriage

It’s important to remember that books written by General Authorities are not part of our doctrinal canon, but simply helpful life advice for their time. “The Miracle of Forgiveness” is a classic book that’s often quoted in our LDS culture as if it were scripture, mostly because there are so few books that refer to sexuality that are written by such an authoritative figure and in such detail.

However, while I would whole heartedly recommend The Miracle of Forgiveness, the Saints today must examine it carefully and recognize that not all perspectives are timeless. Such as parables and metaphors used in teaching that were relevant to a culture heavily dependent on horses for transportation or prevention practices important to a culture without modern day immunizations - such as polio. So to understand requires digging a little deeper into the individuals personal background.

We see that this quote that involves the phrase ‘secret sexual sins’ is located in his chapter about sins against the law of chastity. The section before this one references the sin of adultery.

In this particular section called ‘Love in Marriage’, he addresses those who are already married, beginning with a scripture that is an important key to understanding his meaning. He says that married couples who strictly keep this law will avoid adultery:

“Thou shalt love thy wife [husband] with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her [him] and none else. (D&C 42:22, italics added)

The italics added were Elder Kimball’s doing – and why was that?

A ‘secret sexual sin’ in marriage begins with the thought of adultery, not the action. It begins with a spicy new TV show or movie, or an erotic  romance novel, or the co-worker who likes a little ‘harmless’ flirting, or the free profane erotic site that pops up one day in an Internet search that we view out of curiosity.

When we begin to mentally and visually wander outside our marriage sexually, we are engaging in ‘secret sexual sins’. The emotional online affair with someone who’s ‘just a friend’ is a secret sexual sin. The occasional lunch alone with a co-worker, a car ride, or the sharing of a hotel room with a member of the opposite sex at a convention to save money, can be a ‘secret sexual sin’, if for no other reason than for what it looks like to others. (Avoid the appearance of evil – 1 Thessalonians 5:22)

An addiction to profane erotica is a sin, and hiding this addiction from our spouse definitely qualifies as ‘secret sexual sins’[i]. This is one example where, just because you’re married doesn’t mean we can do just anything we want sexually.

Watching profane erotica together to get turned on to make love is bringing a third party into our relationship. A party not part of our marriage covenant. In addition, it financially supports the profane erotica industry. The General Authorities have told us to avoid it as we would a plague, married or not. Using profane erotica to jump start our libido within marriage and not repenting for it not only programs us to be bad lovers over time, it also makes us unworthy to attend the temple.[ii]

Elder Ted E. Brewerton said “…profane (things that defile the sacred) words never edify.”(1983,1)[iii] It stands to reason then that anything profane does not edify and that those things that are sacred/holy are those things that do edify.

Such circumstances should be recognized for the spiritual dangers they present. Fortunately, they can be repented of quickly once we recognize their presence in our relationship. Our sexual activities should be strengthening our eternal marriage, not making it sick.

Stay tuned for part three and if you missed part 1, click HERE

[ii] Oakes, Dallin H.,Recovering from the Trap of Pornograhy, (2015),

[iii] Brewerton, Ted E., Profanity and Swearing, Apr. 1983 General Conference,

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Secret Sexual Sins In Marriage - What did President Kimball mean?

President Spencer W. Kimball said years ago, in the Miracle of Forgiveness:

“Even though sex can be an important and satisfactory part of married life, we must remember that life is not designed just for sex. Even marriage does not make proper certain extremes in sexual indulgence. (1969, 73)

This part I addressed in a previous blog entitled “sexual extremes in marriage”.

However, Spencer Kimball goes on to say:

“To the Ephesian saints Paul begged for propriety in marriage: ‘So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.’ (Eph. 5:28.) And perhaps the Lord’s condemnation included secret sexual sins in marriage, when he said: ‘… And those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.” (D&C 132:52.)” (Miracle of Forgiveness, 73, emphasis added).

I wanted to address this quote today because of the concerns I’ve been hearing that have plagued members’ marriages since 1969, when this book was published.

Separating Cultural Myth from Gospel Truth

Recently, I’ve received questions from married couples whose parents are now using the phrase “secret sexual sins” to justify telling their married children what sexual practices are and are not okay to do in marriage – even when many of those sexual acts are perfectly acceptable to the Lord for a husband and wife to do in the sanctity of their marriage bed.

One reader in particular was still troubled, even after her bishop had told her what they are doing was fine and that the local leaders have been counseled not to tell a married couple what they can or cannot do sexually in marriage, which was correct counsel.

Her mother’s advice contradicted the bishop’s, saying that any Saints that couldn’t live up to the doctrine indicated by Spencer Kimball’s quote and her interpretation of it were not strong enough to be Saints, leaving this reader not knowing who to believe.

What comes to mind with the phrase ‘secret sexual sins’?

I’ve seen the phrase ‘secret sexual sins’ slyly referred to as oral sex, anal sex, using a vibrator, sex in positions other than missionary style, having sex naked, and even having sex in places other than the bedroom.

In all my research, I have found nothing canonized in our gospel that says any of these are forbidden in the loving, consensual bounds of marriage.

So what did President Kimball actually mean by “secret sexual sins”? And how do we know whether or not we have committed them in our own marriages?

For that answer we have to read the statement in the full context it was given, look closely at the scriptures referenced in this section of the Miracle of Forgiveness, revisit what exactly the law of chastity is for those of us who are married, and ask ourselves “Is this a cultural myth or a doctrinal fact?”

Come back next week to discover more.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Virginity and Virtue - Which Is Greater?

My wife is part of a Facebook group of teenage mothers who commiserate and advise each other through the joys and challenges of raising teenagers. Most of these women are not members of the Church.

One day my wife was discussing with me a medical question one of these women had concerning her 17-year-old daughter, who has had frequent sexual encounters already.
While discussing some difficulties her daughter was having with a gynecological exam, the mother made a statement I found to be curious.

Her exact words were these:

“I think the main problem was the fact that she is technically a "virgin" (no penile intercourse) and she completely tensed up.”

This woman, who is not LDS, believes that (despite her daughter having had multiple sexual encounters) as long as she has not had penile intercourse, is still a “virgin”.

Perhaps in a sense, and even if only according to cultural norms, she is correct. But in a wider sense, an eternal sense, she is very much misinformed. Physical virginity and virtue is not the same thing.

My hope is that we in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints know the difference.

The World is Losing the Concept of the Sacred

The world in general (including the greater Christian world and even some in our own church) are losing the ability to detect the difference between what is sacred and what is profane. This concept is missing from the secular (non-religious) culture almost entirely.

This is why statements such as this – someone being ‘technically a virgin’ – can even be allowed to enter our language as a cultural norm.

Sex educators, such as Pan Stenzel, would stress that this is even a dangerous idea because it leads to the belief that as long as they are still “technically a virgin”, they are not really having sex. This is an idiom that has led to the rampant spread of  sexually transmitted infections (STIs).[i]

The placing of a greater worth of the physical over the spiritual is what leads to this. Sometimes, there is a complete rejection of the existence of the spiritual or the equalization of complete carnal fulfillment as being the “spiritual”. Those who chose this path are then lost in a fog of situational morality that continually clouds their judgment.

The link below this paragraph connects to an interview by Matt Lauer for ABC Television. It is with a female middle school teacher who was convicted of having a sexual relationship with her teenage male student.

Although there are mental issues involved on her side, there’s also an extreme lack of understanding about morals and virtue in almost everyone involved – including her lawyer and Mr. Lauer. Although the interview is entitled, “Crossing the Line”, it seems that where that line is, has become blurry for most people in the world.

A word of warning for those who may be sensitive as this interview is disturbing and gives some graphic sexual descriptions.

These sorts of misunderstandings and disagreements have their roots in a lack of understanding of what sort of behavior is sacred, and what is profane.

Misunderstandings in the Church Culture

Contrast the interview above with this TED talk, given by Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped and raped:

At her young age of 14, when she was abducted, she had been taught the gospel and was doing her best to live it, but when thrown into an extreme circumstance, she showed a lack of understanding as well, one that she has hopefully corrected.

It was the feeling that, once she had been raped, that was it. She was worthless, and not worth saving, because her virginity was gone.

This emphasis of where the value was placed is not correct from a doctrinal perspective.

What’s the Difference?

Virginity is a precious gift from our Father in Heaven. Saving our virginity for marriage can help a couple connect more strongly with each other than without it[ii]. Those who do not save it must work harder to focus on each other as exclusive sexual partners.

Virginity, just as other temporal things we put value on, can easily be stolen or end up thrown away and treated as being of no worth, such as in the example of Jacob and Esau.[iii]

But virtue, the greater gift, cannot be stolen, as physical virginity can.

It’s ludicrous to say that a person on a stolen recommend who sneaks into the temple of God can steal blessings from the Lord, or steal revelation. Likewise, virtue (no matter how many times you rape a man or woman’s body) cannot be stolen.

Sister Elaine S. Dalton said

“Virtue is a prerequisite to entering the Lord’s holy temples and to receiving the Spirit’s guidance. Virtue “is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards.” It encompasses chastity and moral purity.

Virtue begins in the heart and in the mind. It is nurtured in the home. It is the accumulation of thousands of small decisions and actions. Virtue is a word we don’t hear often in today’s society, but the Latin root word virtus means strength. Virtuous women and men possess a quiet dignity and inner strength.

They are confident because they are worthy to receive and be guided by the Holy Ghost. President Monson has counseled: “You be the one to make a stand for right, even if you stand alone. Have the moral courage to be a light for others to follow.

 There is no friendship more valuable than your own clear conscience, your own moral cleanliness—and what a glorious feeling it is to know that you stand in your appointed place clean and with the confidence that you are worthy to do so.”[iv]

Virtue is the strength and the power behind virginity and no physical means can take that power from us. Virtue and faith together can lead to great rewards from heaven.[v]

Only we can choose to value it, or let it go, through our understanding of gospel principles or the lack thereof.

Allow me to say that again. Virtue cannot be stolen, it must be given away to be lost or shared with someone who is worthy to receive it – such as a spouse.

Virtue Easier to Lose, But Brings Greater Blessings

If someone is raped, something precious has been taken that will never be returned – biologically it’s just not possible, and there will be physical and mental consequences to be endured and managed it is true. But if their virtue is intact, they’re still eternally in good shape – much better shape, in fact, than that of the offender.

However, if we’ve engaged in consensual sexual encounters of any kind outside of marriage as God has warned us not to do, at any level small or great, ‘technical virginity’ is irrelevant. In this case, it’s our virtue that is gone, which is far more precious and valuable than physical virginity.

We will have to fight hard to get virtue back, and the Atonement will allow us to get it back, but not without much pain and work on our part. When it comes to things spiritual, prevention is always easier and less painful than the cure. The Lord knows how to help us value what is most important, and He will not be mocked.[vi]

I hope each of us will teach our children the value of virtue over virginity through word AND example. Virtue and virginity are both of great value, but the former is far greater for our marriages and our children’s future marriages and families.


[ii] Mark Gungor, Christian pastor and counselor, explains what happens physically to those who have sex outside of marriage:

[iii] Gen 25:29-34
[iv] Dalton, Elaine S., A Return To Virtue, (2008,1),
[v] Luke 8:46; Proverbs 31:10-31

[vi] Boyd K. Packer, The Plan of Happiness, April 2015 Conference,

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Reply to question regarding sexual abuse and PTSD affecting sexual intimacy

April asked:

"What if the spouse has had severe sexual abuse and has severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Is she still supposed to just do it, regardless of consequences? Consequences to her I mean."

The quote in question was: 

"Some spouses wield monogamy like a bludgeon, battering their partner with their commitment in ways never intended by marriage vows.

They say, 'You promised to love me for better or for worse - and that includes my (sexual) limitations!'

Yes, we all marry 'for better or for worse,' but the assumption is that spouses will do everything possible to overcome their limitations - not simply demand their partner put up with them!"

- Dr. David Schnarch, Passionate Marriage

Hi April! Great question!

I believe the key phrase from Dr. Schnarch is "...the assumption is that spouses will do everything possible to overcome their limitations..."

I know of very few who get married to remain celibate afterwards. If there are issues such as sexual abuse or PTSD that happened before marriage and affect the individual's ability to be sexually intimate, wouldn’t you want this to be disclosed to you before you got married? Especially if sexual intimacy was something important to you?

That being said, people don’t always realize the extent of a problem before they marry. Sometimes marriage itself brings out repressed issues. Everyone comes with baggage. Making a successful marriage is about finding someone who loves us enough to help us unpack.

Through the covenants we make with God when we get married, we also have a responsibility to be sensitive to each other and help each other through life’s challenges. This is how we grow. Also, according to Dr. Schnarch, conflict is necessary for intimacy to happen. When we overcome the conflicts as husband and wife, that intimacy intensifies.

There are many couples who experience pain where sex is involved. Take dyspareunia, for example. This is where interaction with the genitals is just plain physically painful and sometimes penetration is even impossible without causing physical damage. Even though both may be aroused, common courtesy and the spirit of the Word of Wisdom says “do no permanent harm to the body.”

Both spouses still have the responsibility to troubleshoot the issue together and see what can be done. Even if nothing can be done, there are other options.

An emotional dysfunction is no less serious, but also doesn’t have to mean that sexual pleasure for both is unattainable. There is competent professional help available, and I would encourage anyone in these circumstances to seek that help.

Is this a challenge you are finding in your own relationship? If you feel this too private to discuss here, anyone may free to contact me privately at SAMZARAGOZA@SBCGLOBAL.NET. All conversations are kept confidential and my consultations are free.