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.


zachary.stucki said...

Here is another interesting article from the Liahona.

CoachSam said...

Thanks Zachary! That article is excellent! Hope everyone will take the opportunity to read it.

Love this quote from it:

"Having appropriate sexual feelings toward your spouse. Those God-given feelings help strengthen, fortify, and unify a marriage. But it is possible to have inappropriate feelings toward a spouse. If we seek fulfillment only for our own sake, or only to gratify our own cravings or feelings, we might be slipping into lustful desires, and that can be damaging to a marriage relationship. The key to seeking and maintaining appropriate physical intimacy in a marriage is pure and loving intent."

Latter-Day Marriage said...

But a young couple who are engaged (or close to it) are going to feel strong sexual attraction and urges too. Several leaders of the church have said that such feelings are part of God's design to help bring men and women together to form families.

From this I would take it that a single person can feel sexual desire for somebody they are not married to without it being lust. What IMHO makes the difference between that and lust is the priority you give it. If you put sexual stimulation and satisfaction as a higher priority than keeping the commandments of God, then you are lusting. To feel sexual desires for a significant other but have a greater desire to obey God is not lusting.

MrShorty said...

A good response and one I can mostly agree with. A couple of reactions:
1) I like the comparison between lust and covet, thought I might go beyond and ask if there is a distinction between the two? I recall an essay like this that suggests that the English words covet and lust are translations of the same Hebrew/Greek words/concepts. Perhaps the distinction only exists in English but not in the original languages of the Bible.

This led me to reflect on Tevye's little diatribe "If I Were a Rich Man" (musical Fiddler on the Roof). Is Tevye sinfully coveting wealth, or merely daydreaming while tending to his chores? If he is sinfully coveting, where does that leave us who likely all dream of a better life (or dream of retiring early to Hawaii after a bad day of work)? If he is not sinfully coveting, is there a similar distinction between lust and sexual daydreaming? I don't have adequate answers.

2) I recall reading the Oct 2016 article on lust, and I also was impressed by that paragraph. My reaction to that paragraph was and is that, after years in a sexless marriage, I can no longer distinguish between seeking sexual "fulfillment only for [my] own sake" and "pure and loving intent".