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Kirby on Mormons and sex: Some things are personal

Published July 12, 2013 9:32 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the possibility of sex in heaven. Much of the response was what you might expect: Because I obviously wasn't going to heaven, what business was it of mine?

Good point. I rest your case.

Here on Earth, sex is a definite reality. Lots of people are having it. It's still some deeply personal business, though. If you're a believer in God, what you do in private is entirely up to Him, you, and the person with whom you're preoccupied.

Unless, of course, you also belong to a church. Then sex can be up to the aforementioned and a bunch of other people who might not necessarily want to participate, but at least want to have some say in what's going on in there.

Depending on which church, the who, what, where, when and why of sex have serious theological implications. You could go to hell if you get even one of them wrong.

My particular church (Mormon) focuses primarily on the who, when and why parts of sex. Who: man and woman (one each, adult). When: only after marriage. Why: procreation and marital bonding.

I'm OK with my church (or yours) strenuously reminding me (and everyone else) about the who, why and when of sex. I'm naturally inclined that way, so it's no big deal.

I'm considerably less cooperative about the church's participation in the where and what parts of sex. These two elements of human sexuality are my personal business.

It wasn't always that way. During an ecclesiastical interview in 1982, a local church leader tried to find out more about the what part.

We got through the boring interview stuff OK. Did I pay tithing? (Yes). Did I try to be honest? (Sometimes). Had I shot anybody lately? (Not on purpose).

Just when we were about done, he asked a very alarming question: "Do you and your wife engage in [use your imagination here] sex?"

My response caused him to backpedal immediately. He explained that the brethren were concerned about "unnatural acts" occurring between married couples. They sent out a letter about "what."

He suggested that I pray about it. I opted instead to stick with my original answer, which I admit was far less cordial than he was accustomed to. The interview, which I passed, was quickly concluded.

Later, I found out that I wasn't the only one asked that particular question. Concern grew until another letter was immediately sent out telling local leaders to stop prying into the "what" part.

But for many people the approved "what" part of sex is still a major concern. Isn't "what" every bit as important as when and with whom? Suppose they got it wrong by accident?

Two weeks ago, I attended a lecture on sexual behavior given by LDS sexologist Melissa Jones at the Blue Boutique in Sugar House. This particular one was on the incorporation of bondage and fetishes into a loving relationship.

The decidedly Relief Society-looking woman talked frankly (and a little shockingly) what loving couples can do for and to each other.

At the end of the lecture, I asked Jones how she managed to counsel people about "what" in an environment where talking about the particulars of sex before marriage was almost as taboo as having it.

"I tell couples to pray about it," she said. "To ask Heavenly Father."

I don't know. Maybe I'm actually more old-fashioned than I thought. I just don't see me praying to find out if dressing up like a sailor and getting paddled with a banjo is OK.

I think I'll leave church out of it altogether. "What" is my own personal business and as such is entirely up to my wife.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.