William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Propriety Of Bringing Up Ongoing Fornication In Private Church Interview

The question was put:

"I have a friend who joined the Church in like 1989 and was marginally active to inactive all these years. In the last two years he has started coming out again and attends as many extra curricular meetings as he can. He lives with his girlfriend-who does not want to get married, he does, she does not. The Girlfriend comes out to Church although she is not a member, I think she is taking the lessons off and on or something. The bishop and the rest of us think that exeing him would be the wrong move so there is a don't ask don't tell policy, just in regards to chastity. As far as I know he believes everything and pays his tithing, I know because once he showed up with like over$80 in change and my brother had to count it all-he has no life I think! He can pass sacrament and has given one or two talks. On sunday they announced that the ward is having a Temple trip and I said to him are you going, and he said that he would like to but was ineligible. He is not a Melchizedek Priesthood holder. My query is what harm would be done if he went just to do baptisms? Maybe if I was the Grand poo-bah of the ward I might let him in. What do you think, would you let him go? Am I too liberal?"

To which I responded:

Liberal as I am, in my opinion, it is a reasonable thing to ask that people not engage in sexual intercourse on an ongoing basis outside of a committed relationship between consenting and competent adults. Therefore, I think it is fair game for the church to question this brother on this issue and ask that he make an effort to change his behavior to be more socially responsible.

By contrast, I think it wholly unreasonable and improper to demand that unmarried people have NO sexual outlet whatsoever in order to be "worthy." Single people, and married people in sexless or virtually sexless marriages, will have to get by on masturbation to relieve their urges. This does not make them unworthy.

And one person commented:

"Social standards are a bit lower than church standards, priesthood standards are higher than church standards, and temple standards are even higher still.
If I understand you correctly, then it would/should be okay to have sexual relations outside of marriage as long as each partner is commited to the relationship. How do you reconcile this position with that of the prophets - no extra-marital sexual relations?
Part of the reason we are here on this earth is to master our physical desires and appetites, not to be mastered by them, so I don't think "self-service" would allow anyone to be temple worthy."

To which I responded:

Suppose one were stranded indefinitely on a desert island with one other person of the opposite sex and no preacher to wed them. I can't imagine God condemning sex in that situation. Sex is a very important part of an intimate relationship. There is some utility (admittedly also downsides) in finding out sexual compatibility before getting married. I don't pretend to have all the answers. Neither do I think the prophets have all the answers, nor do I consider church doctrine to be infallible. I do not favor adultery as a general rule, nor do I think that it is wise to treat sexual relations too casually.

So, turning to the question, "how do I reconcile," I feel like it does not need to be "reconciled." I feel no need to have my opinions be totally consistent with current church leaders. I would point out, however, that it appears to me that Judaism's doctrines about sex as revealed in the Old Testament do not seem to resemble the puritannical versions of the "law of chastity" found in the church today.

By that reasoning, why don't we all deny ourselves every pleasure of the flesh? Why not circumcise women to make sure that they have no lustful pleasure when having intercourse with their husbands? We will never each chocolate or sweets. In fact, we could deny ourselves the pleasures of eating altogether by just hooking ourselves up to feeding tubes that give us all the nutrition we need. We will never sleep in, because idleness is a sin. Women will all wear burkas in order to prevent any lustful thoughts (or accidental erections) by men. In fact, I'll bet we could figure out some clever ways to get rid of lustful thoughts entirely. Castrate the men, and have some sort of technology that allows sperm production for procreative purposes only. Ban makeup (we'll never see women's faces anyway), cosmetic surgery, and massages. Ban jetted tubs. Ban television except for the BYU channel. Ban pillows (we can do without them). If you can't agree with these propositions, perhaps you are not sufficiently in command of your desires and appetites, and are being mastered by them.

Obviously the above paragraph's propositions are ridiculous. But my purpose is to illustrate the following: mastering our appetites and passions is only a virtue to a point. No loving God expects us to live miserably by constantly feeling tempted to engage in some activity which is pleasurable. Pleasure is NOT a sin, and a huge part of our mortal existence is intended for us to experience pleasure, as well as pain. "Self-service" is something that can bring great pleasure without the baggage and negative consequences that actual intercourse can bring. The benefits generally far outweigh any negative consequences which puritans conjure up.

And in response to my initial comment, another person skeptically commented:

"That's what dreams are for. Last I looked, having a sexual orgasm did not rank up there with eating, breathing, and sleeping in the hierarchy of needs. Who says?"

To which I responded:

For those lucky enough to have them on a regular basis. People can survive without having sexual orgasms. But why should it be necessary to live life having only what is absolutely essential for surviving. God did not send us to Earth just to survive, but to thrive. To minimize the importance of sexual pleasure just because one's heart can keep beating without it is ridiculous. You could survive without praying or going to church or reading your scriptures, but you would not want to give those things up because you value them. They bring you pleasure. Sex also brings pleasure. Your question suggests that the truth of the statement depends upon who says it. You're trying to imply that because I am not authoritative, people should disregard what I say to the extent it is inconsistent with what church leaders say. It does not matter who says it. I believe it to be true and careful consideration, thought, and study have persuaded me. If you think that divine proclamations of church leaders are any more reliable, I think you have a hard time explaining inconsistencies in doctrines and practices over time.

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