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Wendy L. Watson
Personal Purity and Intimacy
Wendy L. Watson has a Ph.D. in family therapy in gerontology from the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She is a professor in the Department of Family Sciences at Brigham Young University and serves as chair for the 19992000 BYU Women's Conference.
As women of the latter days, we believe firmly in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and virtuous. As women who have made sacred covenants with the Lord, we seek only after those things which are virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy. We, as spirit daughters of heavenly parents and as women of Christ, know that it is only through such persistent seeking that we will be able to endure the days ahead. And we, who are daughters of Eve, know that personal purity is the only way for us to bring life into this worldand to bring forth life and love in all our relationships.
I believe in the power of beliefsto focus our thoughts, to generate our feelings, and to influence our behaviors (Wright, Watson, and Bell, Beliefs: The Heart of Healing in Families and Illness, 1996). I believe that if the words of bedrock belief from the thirteenth Article of Faith were embroidered on sweatshirts, silk-screened on tote bags, cross-stitched on pillows, and most importantly, engraven upon our heartsso that we were increasingly honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and virtuouswe would have enough and to spare of intimacy in our lives.
We need intimacy. Our souls are enlarged when we experience deep-core caringinterpersonal connections which are heart-, mind-, and strength-sustaining. All relationshipsparent-child, husband-wife, grandparent-grandchild, sibling, friendall have the potential to be intimate, in developing mutual feelings of trust, emotional closeness, and the sharing of thoughts and feelings. Exclusively, those in marriage relationships have the privilege of enjoying an additional kind of intimacy, that of physical intimacy. I want to begin by speaking about the incredible intimacy that can be part of all friendships and family relationships. Later, I will address physical intimacythat unique and grand intimacy which is sanctioned only in marriage.
We, as women of faith, need true intimacy. No illusions of intimacy will do. And I believe that true intimacy is impossible to achieve in the absence of personal purity. In fact, through my more than twenty-five years of working with individuals, couples, and families in counselingmany of whom have been affected by the devastations of impurityI am more and more convinced that decreased personal purity leads to decreased intimacy. And conversely, I am more and more impressed that increased personal purity leads to increased intimacy.
What else have I come to believe?
That love is brought to us by the Spirit.
That lies about love are brought to us by Satan.
That love can be present only if the Spirit is present.
That love and the Spirit coexist. You cannot have one without the other.
I believe that personal purity increases intimacy. And it is clear that keeping the Lord's commandments with ever-increasing precision increases our personal purity. Thus it follows that keeping the Lord's commandments increases intimacy. What a marvelous and sure connection. We can do this! We can increase the experiences of intimacy in our lives, by doing what the Lord has asked us to do. It really is just that simple!
One major issue that affects relationships is the ability to show love to the other person in a way that means love to him or to her. The Savior has asked us to show love to Him by keeping His commandments (see John 14:15). And as we are faithful and diligent in keeping His commandments, He promises to encircle us in the arms of His love (see D&C 6:20).
His showing His love to us in such an affectionate wayencircling us in the arms of His loveincreases our desire to keep His commandments and our ability to show our love to Him in the way that He has asked. And thus this virtuous cycle gyroscopically spinsdrawing us, lifting us upward in our thoughts and feelings and actions, increasing our personal purity, and bringing us closer to the Savior. Our closeness to the Savior fills us with love, increasing our ability to love others and to feel love from others. Truman Madsen, in his Four Essays on Love, has said it so well: "You cannot love until you are loved. You cannot be loved until you are Beloved, Beloved of God" (Four Essays on Love [Provo, Utah: Communications Workshop, 1971], 29).
Not long ago, in my office a woman of great faith closed her eyes and described to her husband her feelings as she pictured herself being held by the Savior. "Brilliance!" she said. "More love than I've ever experienced in my life!" She instantly knew the feelings. Perhaps her soul was remembering.
Those light-filled, love-expanded feelings stood in stark contrast to those she had experienced for so many years in her relationship with her husband. She found his touch to be lustful. She felt like a thing, not a companion. Those feelings had been planted in her heart and mind when earlier in their marriage her husband had not kept the Lord's commandments and had broken sacred covenants. They were now facing the daunting, though not impossible, task of trying to achieve intimacy after significant exposures to impurity. The wife's closeness to the Savior fills her with love and a great desire to join with her husband in overcoming their past.
If you want to be filled with the love of the Lord, keep His commandments.
If you want to feel loved, keep the Lord's commandments.
If you truly love someone, keep the Lord's commandments.
If you truly want to experience intimacy, increase your personal purityby keeping the Lord's commandments.
I believe our ability to experience true intimacy of any kind in any relationship is directly related to how intimate our interactions are with the Lord. The First Presidency message given at the commencement of this year was a plea from President James E. Faust to "not just . . . know about the Master, but to strive . . . to be one with Him" (see John 17:21) and to seek to "have a daily, personal relationship with [Him]" (Ensign, January 1999, 2, 4).
I believe that a personal relationship with the Savior is the only way to achieve true intimacy in our relationships with others. Without close and very personal interactions with our Savior Jesus Christ, any and all of our interactions with others are found wanting. Without the Savior's influence, our relationships lack, and always will lack, the power to truly sustain our hearts and minds. Without the Savior's touch, there is no staying power to loving words and actions. Without the Savior's tutoring, there is no ability to see beyond the obvious, to look deeper into the soul of another and to see the lovable, the redeemable, the possible.
Without the love of the Savior in our lives, no other love can fill the void of being out of His presence. We lived with Him and with our heavenly parents before coming to this earth. What a gift it is to know that! What a heart-comforting thought it is to remember. No wonder we long for that feeling of deep-core love, of true intimacy.
We hunger to feel understood. We thirst for someone to really trust. We yearn to really commune. We long for an interweaving of our life with another'smentally, emotionally, socially, physically, and spiritually.
As women who increasingly strive to honor covenants we've made, we will never find intimacy in relationships that do not honor these covenants. When we find ourselves in relationships that neither remember nor honor our covenants, we are left bereftand we wonder what is wrong with us. Why can't we communicate better? Why doesn't he understand what I'm trying to say? Why doesn't she really care? Why do all our best relationship efforts, even those the world would applaud, not provide us with the palpable feelings we long forof really being known by another, of being connected with another, of really mattering, of really being loved, even adored? Why? Because true intimacy of any kind in any relationship must involve the Savior.
As faithful Latter-day Saint women we will never find intimacynot the true intimacy that sustains a spirit daughter of heavenly parentswithin marital, family, or friend relationships that don't involve the Savior. We will have loving and kind feelings for others. We will have our hearts drawn out to them. We will find great joy in sharing activities with them. We will experience episodic happiness because of their kindness to us. Yet the yearnings will always be there for moremore emotional connection, more trust, deeper sharing of thoughts and feelings.
A deep and abiding relationship with the Savior is indeed the only way to achieve true intimacy in our relationships with others. And because intimacy requires the involvement of both parties, each person in a truly intimate relationship must have a connection with the Savior, a connection that is strong and vibrant and growing. True intimacy requires that both parties' offerings of love are embedded within an intimate relationship with Him. All else will feel like a sorry substitute.
If you find yourself slipping into dark blue feelings as you reflect upon the present state of your relationships, that could be a very good signa sign that you are a seeker. If you are a seeker of everything that is virtuous, lovely, and of good report and praiseworthy, it means that you will be able to seek forand findeverything that may be praiseworthy, lovely, virtuous, and of good report in those with whom you want to build a more intimate relationship, a relationship in which the Spirit is present.
As you strive and work with your loved ones for an increasingly intimate relationship that is blessed by the presence of the Spirit, the distinction between the Lord's truth about intimacy and the adversary's lies will become increasingly clear. For truly, if there is anything impure, defiling, of an illicit nature, or obscene, the adversary seeks to generate these things and seeks to convince us that these things are normal, good, and part of intimacy. They are not!
Scholarly literature and research conclude that intimacy requires three things: reciprocal feelings of trust, emotional closeness, and the ability to openly communicate thoughts and feelings with another (Timmerman, 1991). I believe that true intimacy also involves at least one more vital ingredientvision. And when we approach the topic of physical intimacy, vision is even more crucial.
The story is told of a famous ethologist, Konrad Lorenz. One day in his backyard he experimented with imprinting baby ducklingsthat is, getting them to respond to him as though he were their mother. To do so he walked in the pattern of a figure eight as he crouched over, quacking without interruption while he glanced constantly over his shoulder. He was an older man with a long white beard. Dr. Lorenz was congratulating himself on his spectacular feat of getting these baby ducklings to follow him and attach themselves to him. At this moment of self-congratulation, he looked upright into the faces of a group of tourists passing by! They looked horrified! And then Konrad Lorenz realized that from the tourists' vantage point the baby ducklings could not be seen because at that very moment they were hidden in the grass. Consequently, what the onlookers saw was a crazy old man making circles and quacking. Without the fuller picturethat is, the ducklings and the intent behind Konrad's behaviora brilliant ethologist's imprinting experiment looked only like craziness (Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson, Pragmatics of Human Communication, 1967, 20).
It is true that something can never really be understood until the frame within which we are looking at it is enlarged to include all the elements that are relevant to that one thing.When we are seeking increased understanding about physical intimacy, which is so sacred, so powerful, we need wide-angle eternal vision and Spirit-enhanced depth perception. If our understanding of physical intimacy is presently based on a picture that is taken, developed, and framed by none other than the father of all lies himself, our experiences with physical intimacy will be deadly. We must mediate our understanding by the death-defying power in the Savior's atonement.
Satan's vision of physical intimacy is cunning, counterfeiting, and contorting. Lucifer offers his skewed view of physical intimacy through movies, magazines, and musicactually through any and all publications and productions known to humankindfrom stage plays to Internet chat rooms. When our vision clears and our frame is enlarged, we see the adversary's ploys for what they really are: elaborate and extensive maneuverings to capture our very souls. Lucifer covets your body and your spirit and those of your loved ones, and he is relentless in his sinister pursuit.
And now, if you wonder how really old the adversary's craftiness is, and therefore how really good he is at his craft, just read Romans 1: 2431 and 2 Timothy 3:16. There, in black and white, is what is available for you to see in living color in your own home, with the assistance of your television, VCR, and computer. Paul's accounting of what the people were involved inwho once knew God, yet turned awaysounds just like one night's worth of prime-time sitcoms (better said, "sick coms").
Here is Paul's report: "[And they were] filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity . . . backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful" (Romans 1:2931).
And now, listen to Paul's description as he writes to Timothy describing the last daysour days. As you listen, think about where you may have seen these things before: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:14).
And then the most chilling message of all. It's not bad enough that those horrible things are happening out there in the world. The worst part is that they come sneaking, creeping into our homes and influencing us.
Listen to verse 6: "For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women, laden with sins, led away with divers lusts" (2 Timothy 3:6).
Could Paul possibly be talking about afternoon soap operas and talk showsand how through them, all these offenses creep into our homes? And could he be describing those of us who watch them? Are we silly when we watch them? And is watching them leading us away into divers lusts?
Could Isaiah possibly be speaking to us, the Lord's women of the latter days when he says: "Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters" (Isaiah 32:9).
Have we been careless? Have we drifted far too much in the direction of the world's view, which is so saturated with Lucifer's lies about physical intimacy?
It is indeed time to rise up and be careful! Careful about everything that comes into our hearts, minds, and homes which pertains to physical intimacy. Could the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith apply to how in times past we have carelessly thought about, and talked about, physical intimacy? Joseph said: "How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversationstoo low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938], 137). We must be very careful with our language and our conversations about everything related to this sacred physical endowment.
On the other hand we need to be bold in exposing Lucifer and his lies. We need to rise up, and with ever increasing clarity point out his counterfeits, his deceptions, his trickery. I believe that all satanically influenced presentations about physical intimacy should be stamped "More Lies!"
To protect our minds and hearts, our homes and families from the intrusions of the devil's devices, perhaps we need big, bold warning signs on every book, magazine, videotape, audiotape, TV sitcom, movie, play, and so forth, which is coproduced by the adversary himself. Warning signs that would reveal his works for what they really are: angry protests against God and persistent, power-hungry efforts to obliterate the truth.
When I think about all the individuals I have had the privilege to assist, whose lives in one way or another were shattered and shackled because of the effects of moral transgressions, I want to post a forewarning on each and every satanically coproduced product about physical intimacy. The forewarning I would post is simple. It would read:
"If you choose to open this, you will be giving the adversary more power over you."
I have also thought of six other warnings that could be displayed on all of Lucifer's contaminated and contaminating material. As you read, note which warnings might form a protective barrier, encircling our families and shutting the adversary out.
Warning 1. To be stamped on the cover of his magazines: "Contents highly addictive. Extremely corrosive-to-the-soul materials enclosed. Be prepared to have your mind twisted, your views of love ravaged, your spirit shrunk. Be aware that the Spirit of the Lord will not be with you during or after viewing. Be prepared that after an initial rush, you will experience feelings of depression, loneliness, despair, and guilt. Nevertheless, with repeated exposures over time, you can numb those feelings and enter into an almost total amnesia about who you really are and about truth itself."
Warning 2. For the beginning of Satan's coproduced movies: "The following scenes are brought to you in the hope that you will think of yourself as being an animal. Actually the dung from an animal is more pure and would harm you less when taken into your system. Extreme caution needed. This movie will make you believe that lust is really love and that all love really isis lust. This movie will have its greatest effect if observed when you are feeling misunderstood, alone, blue, or just that you don't fit in. If you are not in any of these moods, viewing the movie will actually assist in getting you there. If you are in one of these moods, your spirit will be more vulnerable, and thus your ability to distinguish good from evil will be even more quickly extinguished.
Warning 3. For the devil's Internet connections: "Share the following with someone whose soul you would like to destroy. Complete success is ensured if you can offer it in the spirit of friendship and under the guise of love. By thinking and talking together about the content, all sweet pure feelings will be distorted into grand perversions. Pick a perversion, any perversion. That may be one of the very last choices you will get to make.
In fact, if you are tired of making choices just view the following several timesor keep immersing yourself in similar materialand your degree of freedom will be increasingly limited with each successive viewing. The irony is that you will be provided with a personalized illusion that your freedom is actually increasing. We've taken this way beyond the old smoke and mirrors tricksand the illusions that will influence your heart and mind will be stunning. Virtual reality is here to replace virtuous living.
Warning 4. To announce the adversary's influence on prime-time viewing: "How many lies can you find in the following sitcom? If you can't find any . . . Gotcha! In the following, we are going to offer you ideas that you have never before entertained. But with repetition and humor we will slowly dilute the initial recoiling of your spirit, and you will begin to forget that there was ever a time when you didn't believe these lies to be true.
Warning 5. A lie-busting warning for rented videos: "Fantasy only allowed here. Only erotic illusions contained. No empathic love depicted. No consequences noted. No impact on your body, spirit, relationships with God, family and friends addressed. Please note that interactions will appear much more splendid than they really are. This is not real life. But it is a really great lie. We have left out the gory details that would only ruin the subtle appeal this movie will have for you.
Warning 6. For videos purchased: "Congratulations! You bought the movie this time instead of just renting it. In fact, you are buying this whole schemehook, line, and sinker. Let's just have this be our little secret. No one needs to know. No one will ever be able to tell. When people tell you that you are looking different, darker, or talking differently, or that you are more difficult to get along with, just get angry at them and go buy another movie or magazine with similar contents. Actually, you will soon be ready to advance to our total-destruction-of-the-senses line. You, too, will soon be past feeling.
And the effect, if those six warnings are not heeded? Well, that brings us to an intermission announcement, which is "We will soon be taking a commercial break. You, on the other hand, who are now a bit more dull in your thinking, a little more under the spell of adversary-induced-amnesiayou are now primed for a different kind of break. How about breaking your covenants? Breaking your husband's heart? Breaking apart your marriage? Breaking your children's and parents' and siblings' and friends' hearts? All of these breaks that you never thought possible are now just a little more within your reach."
One client told me that it was after watching a certain popular movie that she first started thinking about having an affair with the man who was building her family's new home. She had the affair. Her home was built. Her marriage was destroyed. Those involved now live in three separate homes: the builder (it seems strange to call him that) with his wife in one home, the woman with some of her children in another, and her former husband and the rest of the children in yet another. No one lives in the home the affair destroyed. Now, this is a good woman. She was not a woman with no sense of right or wrong or of gospel principles. She served as a Relief Society president before this very difficult time in her life.
Lucifer loves good women and is poised and ready to intrude his lies into good women's lives. He's swift. He's very effective. He knows if he can take down a good woman, he can take down a whole family in one fell swoop. Talk about the economy of Lucifer. The devil's domino effect in action!
Sisters, it's time to make certain that Satan does not have a grip on our hearts, minds, homes, and families. If we find any evidence of his blatantly obvious or even his covertly subtle presence, we need to cast him out. We need to do more than just loosen his grip; we need to cast him out so that we can be taught by the Spirit the grand eternal truths about physical intimacy and teach them to our families.
The Lord has not left us alone. He has provided His truth about intimacy through His scriptures and His prophets. And as you prayerfully seek His guidance, you will come to know what you can do right now to determine if the adversary's impure influence is in your lifeand to know how to remove it, if found. It may just be time for some very serious spring cleaning. Only when our hearts and homes are cleansed from the adversary's filthy falsehoods can the Lord's words about physical intimacy lodge deep in our hearts and bring the sweet peace that truth always brings.
The Proclamation on the Family addresses physical intimacy and declares "that God has commanded that the[se] sacred powers . . . are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife" (Ensign, November 1995, 102).
Could it be any clearer than that? This declaration means that any and all other physical intimacies are outside of God's law. They're wrong. So when I speak of physical intimacy, I am speaking about it only in the context in which it is sanctioned by Godwithin the marriage relationship. God intended physical intimacy for only husbands and wives to share. Doesn't that one truth speak volumes about its sacred importance?
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland presented three eternal truths about physical intimacy years ago at a BYU devotional in his landmark address "Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments" (On Earth As It Is in Heaven [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 182-97). He reaffirmed those same truths as an apostle of the Lord in October 1998 general conference (Ensign, November 1998, 75-78).
Truth about physical intimacy often invites a paradigm shift. I love to watch clients when they experience paradigm shifts about physical intimacy after they read Elder Holland's talk. Those with eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts and minds to understand almost immediately take several giant steps forward in co-creating love, often for the very first time.
The three grand truths about marital intimacy offered by Elder Holland are, first, that physical intimacy is a soulful experience, involving the body and the spirit. The body is indeed the "great prize of mortal life" (Holland, On Earth As It Is in Heaven, 187). And we, as members of the Lord's Church, are doctrinally distinct in understanding that the body and the spirit are the soul of man (James E. Talmage, Conference Report, October 1913, 117). Physical intimacy should involve your soulyour body and your spirit, not just your body.
One righteous and articulate woman who is a wife, mother, and grandmother expressed it beautifully when she said: "I believe that physical union is a completion of the temple sealing. It is the completion of the temple covenantstruly consummating the love that brought you to the temple. Physical love is like a seal upon a seal."
What would need to be different for you and your husband to experience physical intimacy as a more soulful experience?
The second grand truth offered by Elder Holland is that physical intimacy is a symbol of the total commitment and union a husband and wife should have for each other in all areas of their lives. If the only time a husband and wife unite is during physical union, they are probably experiencing "counterfeit intimacy," as Victor L. Brown Jr. describes it. "Counterfeit intimacy" occurs when we relate to each other in fragmentsa fragment of a wife here connecting with a fragment of her husband there (Human Intimacy: Illusion and Reality [Salt Lake City: Parliament Publishers, 1981], 5-6).
So how do you and your husband unite in ways other than physical union? What needs to change in your life, in your relationship with your spouse, so that there is more uniting, more intertwining of your lives, more demonstration of commitment to each other in many waystalking with each other, working on problems together, learning to enjoy small moments and the joy of just being together. And how about learning to laughtogether, not at one another. One woman said pure laughter unites her heart with her husband's. In fact, she said, "I've learned that while anger kills my desire for physical intimacy, laughter gives life to it."
How united are you in your daily activities, such as teaching and loving your children, paying your bills? How united are you in your thoughts and feelings? I remember one couple who rarely overlapped in their activities or shared their thoughts or feelings. There was continual conflict and disagreement about everything. In fact, the only thing they could agree on was how very disagreeable their spouse was.
Could your physical uniting be enhanced as you and your husband do more things together? Your physical uniting is meant to be a symbol of your total union, not the total and only occurrence of union.
The third grand eternal truth is that physical intimacy is a sacrament, a time to draw close to God, a time "when we quite literally unite our will with God's will, our spirit with His spirit, where communion through the veil becomes very real" (Jeffrey R. Holland, Ensign, November 1998, 77).
That is a profound truth. Sadly, however, it is the exact opposite, the antithesis, of what far too many have believed. Influenced by the adversary's lying lens, they have supposed that they were never further away from the Lord than when joining together in physical union. Nothing could be further from the truth. So now, think of the real truth: Physical intimacy is a sacrament.
Elder Holland states that at sacramental moments "we not only acknowledge [God's] divinity but we quite literally take something of that divinity to ourselves" (Ensign, November 1998, 77). I wonder if the Lord's counsel for us not to partake of the sacrament of the Lord's supper unworthily (3 Nephi 18: 2829) because His blessings will not be there (in fact, damnation will be there) applies to partaking unworthily of the sacrament of physical intimacy.
In my clinical practice, I have worked with couples who have broken covenants of marital fidelity and couples in which one spouse has approached this marital sacrament with unclean hands and an impure heart. The outcomes are tragic and sadly predictable. I salute the husband who, following disfellowshipment, chose on his own to wait for physical intimacy with his wife until he was more pure. Following this self-imposed-self-restraint he read to his wife one evening from Doctrine and Covenants Section 46. Her heart was irresistibly drawn towards his. She experienced that moment as the most wonderfully effective prelude to physical intimacy they had ever shared in twenty-five years of marriage. Feeling spiritually more connected with her husband enhanced her desire to be connected with him physically.
On the other hand a woman spoke of times when her husband, ravaged by self-doubts and collisions with the brutal world, felt unworthy in almost every way. She then said tenderly, almost reverently, "In those moments, physical intimacy was the only way I could really help him feel lovedworthy of love, worthy to love." Perhaps there are many reasons why spouses can feel closer to the Lord as they unite in the marital sacrament.
When marital intimacy is embedded in personal purity, love is co-createdpure love, the kind of love Parley P. Pratt describes. Listen to Elder Pratt's words:
"I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I lovedwith a purenessan intensity of elevated, exalted feeling, which would lift my soul from the transitory things of this grovelling sphere and expand it as the ocean. I felt that God was my heavenly Father indeed; that Jesus was my brother, and that the wife of my bosom was an immortal, eternal companion. . . . "In short, I could now love with the spirit and with the understanding also (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979], 260).
I believe that the Lord blesses spouses who love each other purely. I believe He blesses spouses whose passions and appetites have been influenced by the Holy Ghost. We were given the gift of the Holy Ghost for exactly such a time as this. Is it difficult to believe that the Holy Ghost will help you express your love physically? He will. Pray for it.
Listen to what the Holy Ghost will do for you, as written by the hand of Elder Parley P. Pratt: "The gift of the Holy Ghost . . . quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use" (Key to the Science of Theology, Classics in Mormon Literature Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978], 61).
Isn't that wonderful? Let's talk about the first blessing: The Holy Ghost will make you smarter! That's a really good thing for lots of us!
I don't care what your IQ is, when we embrace sinin the slightest way, the Holy Ghost departs, and our intellectual faculties are not as sharp. We are just not as bright as we could be. And we behave in increasingly stupid ways. We start acting as if we are the center of the universe, and we calculate everyone's mistreatment and cruelty to us. I don't know about you, but I believe sin makes me even more than selfish. I believe that sin makes me stupid! Conversely and happily, as we seek to become increasingly pure, and therefore are increasingly open to the influence of the Holy Ghost, we can become brighter in every way and more benevolent, more empathicall great things for spouses and spouses-to-be.
Now, back to Elder Pratt's words: "The Holy Ghost . . . increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use." As we increase our understandings of these truths, we will never worry that increased purity might decrease our God-given passions. Those natural passions (and the operative word is natural) will be increased, purified, and adapted to their lawful use. Spirit-magnified and -purified passion will always be greater than lust. The ability to have our passions magnified, purified, and adapted seems to be something very worthy of prayer or even of fasting.
Whether married or unmarried, we need our natural passions and affections to be purified, and we need the wisdom to use them lawfully. And just think of the healing that could come to so many who struggle with the effects of their own moral sins or those of others. Think of the healing that is available as they seek to receive this blessing, this gift from the Holy Ghost.
As we seek the increased influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives, we need to do all we can do to overcome the temptations that so easily beset us. Elder Holland's address is filled with truths that can catch our attention and change our thinking and thus our behavior. I have offered clients the opportunity to reflect on some of those truths:
A woman who was perpetually tempted to behave in an illicit manner rehearsed in her mind a question when she felt herself weakening. The question that helped her was "If I were to remember that by acting on these illicit impulses I am actually toying with that person's very soulthe body and the spirit, both of which are sacredhow would I quickly manage this situation?"
A man who struggled with many financial problems and with loosening the bands of pornography from his heart and mind was assisted by the following question: "If I were to believe that by sinning morally, trivializing my own body and that of another's, and trivializing the Savior's atonement, I was also setting myself up for financial ruin, how would I manage these illicit impulses?"
Life is filled with unexpected events. "But if [we] are prepared [we] shall not fear" (D&C 38:30). And if we are prepared we will not be caught off guard and we will not succumb to temptation. How would you respond if someone you like and admire approached you to engage in something illicit? Perhaps we need to be prepared to say something such as "I am so sorry that you don't know that this is wrong. I am so sorry that you believe that this is a loving request. It is not. It will ruin both our souls, and it trivializes all that the Savior did for us through the Atonement."
And what if the person asking you to engage in something defiling is your husband, whom you love? President Boyd K. Packer anticipated this attack on personal purity from within marriage. He counseled: "A married couple may be tempted to introduce things into their relationship which are unworthy. Do not, as the scriptures warn, 'change the natural use into that which is against nature' (Romans 1:26). If you do, the tempter will drive a wedge between you" (The Things of the Soul [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 113).
Anything that offends the Spirit or either spouse's spirit will allow the tempter to drive a wedge between husbands and wives.
"I was talked out of my feelings." Those are the haunting words of a woman whose husband on their wedding night had introduced her to the consummation of their love in a manner that offended her spirit. For years they carried on the illusion of a marriage. That was the best they could do, for a woman who felt numb and a man who felt rejected.
One last word about Elder Holland's address. I believe our responses to truth are a reflection of our present spiritual state. Thus, "Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments" can serve as a Rorschach test of our present spiritual growth and development. These truths, like the truths in the scriptures, speak to us differently at different times, even changing on a day-to-day basis, depending on the light within us. Changes between how we respond to Elder Holland's apostolic offering today versus how we respond when we read it later could measure changes in our personal purity. As we increase the light in our lives, more and more is illuminated about these three grand truths: physical intimacy is a soulful experience, a symbol of total commitment and union, and a sacrament. The more pure our hearts, minds, and hands, the clearer will be our understanding of these truths.
The Prophet Joseph Smith spoke of this process. He said, "We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 51).
Sisters, we need to be women who increase in our understanding of these three grand truths about physical intimacy. We need to live by them. These are lifesaving, eternal truths for each of us and our families. As women of the latter days, we need to seek diligently to increase the purity in our lives by keeping the Lord's commandments with ever increasing impeccability. As women who have made sacred covenants with the Lord, we need to draw closer to Him and invite others to come unto Him. We, as spirit daughters of heavenly parents, need to ensure that Satan is continually cast out of our hearts, minds, homes, and families. We, as women of Christ, need to forge intimate relationships with others that involve Him. We, as daughters of Eve, need to distinguish good from evil and partake of physical intimacy only within the sacred ordinance of marriage. And as we do we will co-create intimate relationships that are truly out of this world!
Sisters, when our faith is tried, when we become weary and discouraged about our ability to do all we have been charged to do, perhaps remembering the sacred vision of Elder Melvin J. Ballard will help us never to waver. Elder Ballard records: "I was taken into the most splendid room. . . . Seated on a raised platform was one of the most beautiful and exalted beings I had ever beheld, and I was informed that I might be introduced to him, and I came forward, and as I did so he arose and descended to meet me, and the smile he extended towards me I shall never forget through all the ages that are to come, and as he took me in his arms and kissed me and hugged me to his bosom and gave me a blessing that made the marrow in my bones to melt, and as I kissed his feet I saw the prints of the nails. The feeling that came to me then was one that I cannot describe other than to say that I felt unworthy of that privilege. I felt, oh, how little I have done to receive such distinguished privileges as these. If the day will ever come that I may have that privilege I would be willing to give all that I ever may and ever hope to be. If I can only obtain that which I have felt and know as the joy and the privilege of faithful Latter-day Saints. It is no myth. I know it as I live, and it is worth giving everything for. These days when your faith may be tried, waver not, be true and faithful towards the word of the Lord. I testify to you that it is true, and every promise and blessing that has been sealed upon your heads you will realize. When you do, it will be beyond anything you have contemplated in this life" (Conference Report, October 1917, 112).
"Wherefore, my beloved [sisters], pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the [daughters] of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure" (Moroni 7:48).
(See Teachings About Sexuality home page; Conferences home page; BYU Women's Conference home page)
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