Truth #4: For true marital intimacy, the Holy Ghost needs to be involved.
It is simply not possible to have the kind of intimate experiences outside of marriage that you can have within, because the Spirit will not be present. Elder Parley P. Pratt taught that the Holy Ghost has the ability to “…increase, enlarge, expand, and purify all the natural passions and affections.”
Just imagine…He can purify your feelings! Therefore, ANYTHING that invites the Spirit into your life and into the life of your spouse and your marriage will increase your ability to experience marital intimacy. It really is as simple, and as profound, as that.
On the other hand, anything that offends the Spirit will decrease your ability to be one with your spouse. Things such as anger, lust, unforgiveness, contention, immorality and unrepented sin will reduce your attempt for marital intimacy to be something that’s nothing more than a sexual experience.
What an amazing insight and concept: we can literally be sanctified and more worthy to have the Holy Ghost with us by having sex with our spouse – if we do it the right way. This turns the world’s reasoning on its head, where the worldly peak of experience involves having the ‘best’, most involved, non-vanilla physical experience possible. The secular world doesn’t consider the spiritual aspect of our lives at all, or even try to use the physical to access the spiritual. It can’t be done that way.
But this is what the gospel promises (and delivers on). Those who trade that promise away for mere physical experience in the wrong context are only cheating themselves. Those who focus strictly on the physical in marriage, or seek worldly sources for learning without incorporating spiritual improvement, often find themselves equally frustrated.
So to recap…
While worldly sex is under the influence of the world and the Adversary, and involves carnal, sensual, and devilish passions, God ordained marital intimacy as under the influence of the Spirit and involves Spirit-enhanced and purified passions.
She makes reference here to scriptures such as Moses 6:49 which says “Behold Satan hath come among the children of men, and tempteth them to worship him; and men have become carnal, sensual, and devilish, and are shut out from the presence of God.”
The point to pay attention to here is “shut out of the presence of God”. If you’re being sensual and physically intimate with your spouse and can still feel the Spirit, you don’t fall into this category. You’re not shut out of the presence of God and therefore are not being carnal, sensual or devilish in the context the scriptures give.
There is nothing carnal, sensual, or devilish about having sex with the person you’ve legally and lawfully married, nor is that desire for the physical expression of love a bad thing at all.
The truth is, the more pure you are, the more marvelous your marital intimacy will be.
With worldly sex, anything goes. With marital intimacy, exquisite care is taken to avoid anything and everything, from language to music to movies, that offends the Spirit, your spirit, or your spouse’s.
I would make a slight adjustment here for married people. I agree that we should exclude anything that has been warned of explicitly by the General Authorities in canonized talks and the scriptures. For example, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel as far as profane erotica goes – it’s all bad. The warnings are clear and plentiful.
However, in the practice of sexuality, some trial and error will need to be undertaken by each couple, as some things are more a matter of preference than commandment. If we happen upon something as a couple that shouldn’t be part of our marital intimacy, then we repent and move on, but someone else might be able to do that same practice and all parties (both spouses and the Spirit) are just fine with it. What works for one may not work for another, and that’s okay. There’s lots of activities to choose from. Sexual practices are not ordinances, nor are there doctrinal guidelines for what to do. So there’s some ‘spirit of the law’ wiggle room in here to allow us to make individual adaptation.
While worldly sex is lustful, and kills love, marital intimacy generates more love.
A good way of telling whether something should be in your repertoire as a couple is to watch for the ‘fruits’ of that practice. If love starts to wane and die, that’s a fruit of something we’re doing or experiencing. If love grows, that’s a fruit too.
Worldly sex degrades men and women, and their bodies, degrades the body as a plaything, while marital intimacy honors men and women, and celebrates the body as one of the great prizes of mortal life.
The “worldly sex” she is referring to here is sex outside of marriage. However, even in marriage the law of chastity still applies. In the married context, adultery, spouse swapping, sex in public places for the thrill of “we might get caught”, public nudity, etc… is defiling the sacred. In marriage, our bodies and the sex act are still sacred and should still be treated as such.
Think of the temple. Just because we have a recommend and received our ordinances does not make it okay to practice those ordinances outside of the temple. We still have to keep them sacred and in the appropriate place.
With worldly sex, individuals can feel used, abused, and ultimately, more lonely. With marital intimacy, spouses feel more united, loved, nurtured, and understood.
This is what leads me to believe that when she say’s “worldly sex” she means sex outside of marriage. Just giving your sex away to someone who has not covenanted with you to be your spouse leads to the feelings she mentioned.
However, if we abuse our spouse or exercise unrighteous dominion[i] (yes women can exercise unrighteous dominion too) it can also lead to these feelings of despair. This in turn chases the spirit away and robs us of the full intimate symphony we could be experiencing.
Worldly sex ravages and eventually ruins relationships. Marital intimacy strengthens marriages. It supports, heals, and hallows the lives of spouses and their marriage.
Having belief systems that don’t allow you to be happy is behind a lot of this ravaging and ruining. We must be sure our beliefs are truly in line with the gospel, which requires staying close to the Church and the gospel and studying and learning the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The purpose of marriage is to teach us to become more like Christ. How can we possibly do that if we have no idea how he behaves, and how he expects us to behave? That’s all built into the priesthood and the Relief Society, in the Sacrament, in the Atonement. Are we forgiving each other as Christ forgives us? Are we as worthy of each other when we partake of each other sexually as we should be when we partake of the Sacrament? There’s a connection there: See my article (“Sexless Marriage and the Sacrament”)
Worldly sex has been likened to the toot of a flute, while marital intimacy has been likened to the grandeur of an entire orchestra.
The nice thing about married sex is that it doesn’t have to be orchestra all the time either. There’s nothing wrong with the toot of a flute – sometimes that’s okay. Sexually sometimes, we may want a snack instead of a four-course meal. What she’s saying is that, if you’re not married or not living your covenants or engaging in activities that chase away the Spirit, you don’t get to the option of a four course meal. All you get is the snack, all the time.
Michele Weiner-Davis mentions this when she speaks of sexless marriages[ii] – she makes the point that sexless marriage doesn’t necessarily mean no sex. It means you’re not getting the kind of sex you need to be fulfilled as a whole person. I believe that’s what Wendy’s saying here as well when she uses the term ‘marital intimacy’ as a contrast to ‘sex’ – the gospel allows for the full spectrum of human expression, while the world’s version can only ever be a cheap physical knockoff.
Marital intimacy is not just intercourse. It includes sex, but it’s not just sex. It’s all the functional forms of love, operating together as part of that full symphony of intimacy. Marital intimacy is the coming together of a man and woman, sexually, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. United in purpose and heart and mind and spirit.
Worldly sex becomes a total obsession, because it never fulfills its promises. God-ordained marital intimacy is glorious, and will continue eternally for covenant-keeping husbands and wives.
There’s no way to replicate marital intimacy outside of marriage – you might be able to wiggle in the temporal aspects of sexuality, but there are laws that must be followed to get to the spiritual. There’s no guru for it. We can’t buy it. We can’t get special training or take a special class. There’s no equivalent temporal counterfeit.
The secular world has lost almost all understanding of the spiritual. What the world calls ‘spiritual’ may be a movement or manipulation of chakras or energies, but even that is not equivalent to the Holy Ghost. I’m not knocking such techniques as tantra – such things can add to our marital intimacy symphony, but it can’t replace the Holy Ghost. For that, we either follow the Lord’s law, or we don’t get that benefit.
Those who follow the world’s dictates will always feel as though something is missing from their experience, even if they can’t say exactly what it is, and always be reaching and trying to reach that through various physical means or experiences, and always end up chasing rainbows.
Notice her very important point here – marital intimacy continues into eternity. Sex doesn’t end in this life, but only those who marry in the Lord’s way and keep their covenants will have that privilege for eternity. Marital intimacy is that important to the Lord’s plan of salvation. Some popular Evangelical beliefs would lead us to believe that there will be no need for sex after this life, but that is untrue.[iii]
In short, marital intimacy is endorsed by the Spirit, is blessed by the Lord, and is sanctifying.
Creating a strong, happy marriage is not easy. I can attest to that. But it will bring you joy.
For our tenth wedding anniversary, I wondered what I could give my husband to represent the joy our marriage has brought me. This is what I gave him – a swing!
I struggled a little with her representation of the swing as a symbol of her marriage, and she didn’t enunciate on that metaphor. To me, it seems to incorporate her joy with him, that incorporates all the forms of love from the innocence of childhood onward, and is expressed in its fullness in their marriage.
It was something very simple, even innocent. It may not have done anything for her, but it gave her pleasure to give him that moment of pleasure.
Since our sexual gratification design is so different from each other as males and females, that’s what marital intimacy often is in marriage – a selfless joy of giving each other pleasure and getting pleasure from knowing you can help the other spouse feel good.
My dear brothers and sisters, whom we love, if you will intentionally implement these four truths, I’m confident that you can build a happy marriage that will sustain and comfort you forever. A marriage that will allow you to become more than you could ever be on your own. I testify that marriage is one of the greatest privileges God gives to His children, that marriage can be the source of unparalleled joy, and that personal purity is the key to that joy.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[i] Doctrine and Covenants 121
[ii] Weiner-Davis, Michelle. Sex Starved Marriage. Simon & Shuster. 2004. Pg. 8.
[iii] Packer, Boyd K., The Plan of Happiness, April, 2015, General Conference. "The power of procreation is not an incidental part of the plan; it is the plan of happiness; it is the key to happiness."