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?
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. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/place-no-more-for-the-enemy-of-my-soul?lang=eng
[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. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2000/04/the-sanctity-of-womanhood?lang=eng