Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What is Sacred if not Sex?

For the duration of this post I will be quoting quite heavily from a particular talk given by one of my favorite apostles: Jeffrey R. Holland's "Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments." The full piece may be accessed here.

All my life I had been taught that sex was sacred. Never bad or dirty or something to be laughed about. It was only when I entered high school that I realized with horror and dismay how twisted and misunderstood something as sacred as sex had become.

I will never forget a particular instance in high school. A couple of boys were skeptically questioning my best friend and I about why Mormons refused to have sex before marriage. I immediately and boldly, almost reflexively, declared: "Because sex is sacred." I thought everyone knew that. Or at least I thought everyone should. I have never been laughed at so cruelly and mockingly as I was then. I felt humiliated because their callous laughter made my skin crawl with the mocking significance and emptiness of it. A hollow emptiness reflected in their eyes. They could not even comprehend the idea.

Could not even comprehend it.

I felt some shame because I could tell that even my Mormon girlfriend was uncomfortable and wished I hadn't said it. I didn't blame her. Their laughter had been particularly harsh. But I could not understand. How could something so true be so wholly rejected by our society as a whole?

Elder Holland compares the sins of murder and immorality, identifying immorality as second in seriousness only to murder. Tragically and unsurprisingly these two most serious sins have formed an inseparable bond in rampant abortion now being passed off as perfectly normal and harmless - back up birth control. How have we become so blind to the light of Christ? How has the devil deceived us so? Even so, at least we still have laws outlawing most murder, except for of the most innocent and helpless among us. Elder Holland gave this particular talk in 1989 though:

"No, fortunately, in the case of how life is taken, I think we seem to be quite responsible. The seriousness of that does not often have to be spelled out, and not many sermons need to be devoted to it.

But in the significance and sanctity of giving life, some of us are not so responsible, and in the larger world swirling around us we find near criminal irresponsibility. What would in the case of taking life bring absolute horror and demand grim justice, in the case of giving life brings dirty jokes and four-letter lyrics and crass carnality..."

I do believe that there is nothing Satan desires more than to see us abuse, animalize, and laugh about the most sacred gift we have been given - our bodies and the ability to create life. These are God given gifts. And just because they have been given to all men, even to animals, does not give us the right to abuse and animalize them. Far too often we see sex trivialized with:

"Any animal can have sex. It's not special. We shouldn't have to restrain ourselves. It's only natural. It's my body. But don't tell me not to destroy the body growing inside me. I'm not a breeding horse. I can do whatever I want with my body, regardless of how it might harm others or myself."

Elder Holland hit the mark when he called it a destructive "moral schizophrenia." Because it is not my body. It is a gift - a priceless gift given us by God. One that we take so very for granted.

"Our soul is what's at stake here--our spirit and our body ... The purchase price for our fullness of joy--body and spirit eternally united--is the pure and innocent blood of the Savior of this world. We cannot then say in ignorance or defiance, 'Well, it's my life,' or worse yet, 'It's my body.' It is not. 'Ye are not your own,' Paul said. 'Ye are bought with a price.' So in answer to the question, 'Why does God care so much about sexual transgression?' it is partly because of the precious gift offered by and through his Only Begotten Son to redeem the souls--bodies and spirits--we too often share and abuse in cheap and tawdry ways. Christ restored the very seeds of eternal lives (see D&C132:19, 24), and we desecrate them at our peril. The first key reason for personal purity? Our very souls are involved and at stake."

Sex is meant to bind people together. To create love and life. Is there anything more beautiful and divine than that? And yet, we use it as a weapon. We equate it with eating a meal - just a normal, trivial bodily function. We act horrified and wronged and immensely burdened when it creates an undesired life because we can not even connect the sacred act of sex with it's main purpose - to create life. Instead, it is all too often used to utterly and completely destroy countless lives and precious bodies. Soul and body tossed to the wind with a mocking, scornful laugh and shrug of the shoulders. No wonder we suffer from so many addictions and psychiatric conditions further crippling our society.

I can not conceive of anything more incredibly selfish and blind than acting like "it's no big deal" because we're too afraid and weak to confront the truth. We are not animals. We are children of God and we have a responsibility to act as such. But instead, so many of God's precious children would rather debase themselves to mere animals driven only by instinct and lust rather than accept the responsibility and immense consequences that immorality entails.

For those who might contest that marriage is but a mere slip of paper and so long as two people are committed and in love sex is healthy and right. I would contest: how can we possibly devote something so incredibly sacred to another person - the potential to create a child with them and seal our souls together - if we are not willing to enter into a public declaration and binding of our commitment, to promise our entire lives and beings to each other first?

Elder Holland summarized it perfectly when he said, "Such an act of love between a man and a woman is--or certainly was ordained to be--a symbol of total union: union of their hearts, their hopes, their lives, their love, their family, their future, their everything. It is a symbol that we try to suggest in the temple with a word like seal."

When I was pregnant I was fascinated by the type of video they show you in high school biology. The one where you watch the creation of life from conception to birth. I was in awe that something so miraculous was taking place inside of me. And for the duration of the video I had tears streaming down my face. Admittedly, I cried quite a lot while pregnant, but never before had the miracle of life struck me so intensely as it did while I was actively participating in that blessing. When I watched the DNA from the sperm unite with that of the egg to create a completely unique human being, and not just any human being, but a literal testament of the sacred union and eternal love and commitment my husband and I promised each other I was completely overcome. I sobbed, and continued to cry as I watched and felt that miracle come to life. A miracle that has my nose and my husband's smile. A literal physical union of both of us.

I truly believe that children need to feel and know that they were created out of love. Not just sex, and especially not casual sex, but love. It is incredibly empowering and beautiful.

It blasphemes not only our own bodies and the Atonement, but it mocks God's ultimate power and purpose - the creation of love and life - to take sex lightly.

"Sexual intimacy is not only a symbolic union between a man and a woman--the uniting of their very souls--but it is also symbolic of a union between mortals and deity, between otherwise ordinary and fallible humans uniting for a rare and special moment with God himself and all the powers by which he gives life in this wide universe of ours. ...

I submit to you that you will never be more like God at any other time in this life than when you are expressing that particular power. Of all the titles he has chosen for himself, Father is the one he declares, and Creation is his watchword--especially human creation, creation in his image. His glory isn't a mountain, as stunning as mountains are. It isn't in sea or sky or snow or sunrise, as beautiful as they all are. It isn't in art or technology, be that a concerto or computer. No, his glory--and his grief--is in his children. You and I, we are his prized possessions, and we are the earthly evidence, however inadequate, of what he truly is. Human life--that is the greatest of God's powers, the most mysterious and magnificent chemistry of it all--and you and I have been given it, but under the most serious and sacred of restrictions. You and I who can make neither mountain nor moonlight, not one raindrop nor a single rose--yet we have this greater gift in an absolutely unlimited way. And the only control placed on us is self-control--self-control born of respect for the divine sacramental power it is."

And so to all of those like those teenage boys who have laughed at me, or those who were never taught, or those who have shied away from the responsibility it entails I testify with unflinching certainty: Sex is sacred. And I will not stop saying it.


  1. Wonderful post, Rachel. You expressed these sacred feelings very clearly and well. Unfortunately, as the world continues to run toward degradation, this message will not be heeded by many, but it should be. I appreciate your willingness to stand for truth.