Saturday, April 2, 2016

Meeting w/ My Area President: The Truth About Sex

Late last summer I had an extremely concerning experience with my Stake President. More can be read about that, here. In response, and in an effort to seek a resolution, I recently wrote a letter to the First Presidency, which can be found here. It took about a month and a half, but this past Sunday I received a call from my Bishop informing me that my Area President wanted to meet with me.

A subsequent meeting was arranged for 5:00PM that evening.

My husband went with me. He has lent his strong arm from the beginning of all this, by listening to me, supporting me and validating me. I really don't know how I could have managed without him.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

My Area President is a nice man. Very inviting, warm and comfortable. Although I was nervous to meet with him, I felt safe. We stood outside of the building with him for a while, because my Bishop had not yet arrived with the keys to let us in. He asked how we met, our jobs, our family. He made effort to get to know us and establish a connection.

Once settled in my Bishop's office, he let me know that the First Presidency had received, and personally reviewed my letter. He said that they took it very seriously and thus passed it down to a member of the Presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy, who also read my letter and then reached out to my Area President for more personal follow-up. When my Area President received the assignment to reach out to those involved, he was specifically asked to pass on the following message to me; "Tell Sister Agla that she is in our prayers."

There is something incredibly validating in that message alone. 

My Area President went on to express that he also had taken the time to review my letter, and had actually re-read it multiple times in an effort to understand where I was coming from and what I felt. Not only that, but he also spent a good amount of time researching the Church Handbook in an effort to prepare and educate himself on the topic.

He also mentioned that he'd already taken the time to meet with my Stake President and my Bishop, sharing the same of which he was about to share with me. He expressed that he wasn't there to take sides, correct, find fault or place blame, but to simply reiterate what he found in the Handbook.

It was at this point that he pulled out his iPad to share the two excerpts he had found that addressed my concern. Leaning forward so my husband and I could follow along, he began to read.

Found in section 21.4.4 of Handbook 2, located here.
"Married couples should also understand that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a way of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife."
Divinely 'approved.'
Not obligated.
Not required.
Not mandated.
Not requisitioned.
And not even commanded.

Sexual intimacy is not a have to, it's a get to.

No one else governs that choice.
No one else governs my body.

I have the right to say no if I feel unsafe or disconnected in any way.
I have the right to say no if I don't feel the Spirit, or if I feel my actions may offend the Spirit.
I even have the right to say no without a reason.
Most importantly, I have the right to have those boundaries honored.

The second excerpt that he read can be found in section 1.3.1 of Handbook 2, located here.
"The Lord has commanded husbands and wives to cleave to each other (see Genesis 2:24, D&C 42:22). In this commandment, the word cleave means to be completely devoted and faithful to someone. Married couples cleave to God and one another by serving and loving each other and by keeping covenants in complete fidelity to one another and to God (see D&C 25:13)."
Cleave does not mean 'have sex with,' but is an emotional and spiritual connection between two souls. My husband once said that we, as a society, tend to look at this sex/love/intimacy thing backwards. We think the more sex we have, the closer we will grow. However, the truth is quite contrary. The more we cleave unto one another, the closer we grow spiritually and emotionally; and the more safety and connection we nurture, the more we create an environment in which healthy sexuality will naturally develop. 

Even though my husband and I don't necessarily have sex all the time, that does not mean I don't cleave unto him.
In fact, I do.
I don't lust after other people like I used to.
I am physically and emotionally faithful to him.
I keep my covenants to him.
That is the essence of cleaving, and that is all the Lord requires.

My progress is my progress, and our progress is our progress, neither of which should be compared to the progress of others.
We are all individual.
We are all unique.
We are all progressing and growing and developing at different rates. 

My Area President also mentioned that "the First Presidency is not willing to step any further into sexual relations between husband and wife than what is stated in the Handbook." Ultimately, sexual connection between husband and wife is found at the most intimate and personal levels, and should never be dictated by the personal beliefs of church leaders. However, I feel that although this experience was painful, there was still purpose in it, for I have been granted the gift of empowerment through enlightenment. Now I know exactly how the church stands on this issue, regardless of what I may be told.

The beautiful, and somewhat surprising, thing about being made aware of these two excerpts from the Handbook is that I didn't actually feel validated by my Area President. In fact, other than what I have already expressed, his opinion didn't seem to sway in either direction. But, most importantly, I did feel validated by my Father in Heaven, because I know He inspired the words written therein. And I know He inspired my Area President to find them.

What my Area President shared with me only supported, validated and confirmed what I already knew to be true; that my value, and the value of us all, extends far beyond the function of our bodies.

I recognize that there is a chance that my Stake President will never change his view. The gospel is perfect, but its leaders are not. We find evidence of such throughout all of scripture. However, what makes one faithful is not in never making a mistake, but in the humility and accountability expressed after mistakes are made. That is the type of person I want to be and that is simply who I hope my Priesthood leaders will be. But, if for some reason they choose otherwise, well, it is in those moments that I will likely learn the most, if I let God teach me.

Gratefully, the Lord has instilled in me the ability to extend unconditional forgiveness, and I have since been released of all negative feelings surrounding this experience.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

For additional quotes from church leaders regarding sexual intimacy, visit my good friend over at Make My Burden Light, here.

7 comments:

  1. This is for you and the many other wopas whove experienced the pain of having someone tell them sex with their husband's was their responsibility ❤ I think you'll enjoy these quotes:) Good job for standing up for what you believe Sidreis!


    President J. Reuben Clark Jr

    “There is some belief, too much I fear, that sex desire is planted in us solely for the pleasures of full gratification; that the begetting of children is only an unfortunate incident. The direct opposite is the fact. Sex desire was planted in us in order to be sure that bodies would be begotten to house the spirits; the pleasures of gratification of the desire is an incident, not the primary purpose of the desire.” And then he says further:

    “As to sex in marriage, the necessary treatise on that for Latter-day Saints can be written in two sentences: Remember the prime purpose of sex desire is to beget children. Sex gratification must be had at that hazard. You husbands: be kind and considerate of your wives. They are not your property; they are not mere conveniences; they are your partners for time and eternity.” (Conference Report,General Priesthood Conference, October 1949, 

    Elder Spencer W. Kimball

    “Even though sex can be an important and satisfactory part of married life, we must remember that life is not designed just for sex. Even marriage does not make proper certain extremes in sexual indulgence. And perhaps the Lord’s condemnation included secret sexual sins in marriage, when he said: ‘… And those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.’ (D&C 132:52.)” (Miracle of Forgiveness, 73)

    David o Mckay:

    "A woman should be queen of her own body. The marriage covenant does not give the man the right to enslave her, or to abuse her, or to use her merely for the gratification of his passion. Your marriage ceremony does not give you that right” 

    Elder Spencer J Condi

    "Unfortunately, some married couples fail to realize that sexual experiences were never intended by the Lord to be a mere plaything or merely to satisfy passions and lusts. When couples engage in physical intimacy devoid of emotional and spiritual intimacy, or when they participate in unholy practices, what should be a spiritually bonding element in their marriage may actually become a disruptive force.
    “Finding Marital Unity through the Scriptures,” Ensign, Jul 1986

    Elder Larry E Dahl

    "What is really meant by “lusting after” someone, or committing adultery “in [one’s] heart”? Lust is defined as “sexual desire often to an intense or unrestrained degree." In the scriptures, the heart has to do with the core or essence of a person—his real intent and unfeigned desires.

    If we imagine ourselves involved in improper things, our thoughts may influence our heart’s inclination and perhaps even our future behavior. Dr. Maxwell Maltz underscores the connection between our thoughts and our body’s nervous system: “Experimental and clinical psychologists have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the human nervous system cannot tell the difference between an ‘actual’ experience and an experience imagined vividly and in detail.”
    The Higher Law
    https://www.lds.org/ensign/1991/02/the-higher-law?lang=eng

    Elder Brent A Barlow
    "....There are couples who seem to feel that the only reason for sexuality is physical gratification. These people become so obsessed with the achievement of sensation that the emotion of love is all but forgotten. Still others use sexuality as a weapon or a bargaining tool. This is not only a misuse of a God-given privilege, it shows great selfishness on the part of one or both partners and makes sexuality a destructive rather than a unifying element in marriage.

    It wouldn't let me post all of them, heres more:
    http://makemyburdenlight.blogspot.com/2016/04/is-it-my-responsibility-to-have-sex.html?m=1

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  2. Beautiful :)also, I love the quotes shared above

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  3. Thank you for being so open about this HUGE problem. I wish your story was an outlier but it's just another one of many sad scenarios that makes me think our local leaders have this "boys club" where they all just support each other no matter how wrong it is. I love the gospel with all my heart, and I am glad someone was sent to meet with you, that at least means someone at the top gets this. Thank you for sharing, I absolutely love your response to your SP, written in another post. I would not have had such a Christlike response.

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  4. H. Burke Peterson, “Unrighteous Dominion,” Ensign, Jul 1989, 7 “The letters and phone calls the Brethren receive from faithful wives and children … are heartrending…It is tragic that too often husbands and fathers, even those who hold the priesthood, conduct themselves in their own homes in ways that would be censured in any other social setting. Countless heartaches and misshaped lives result from this unrighteous behavior.…Exercising unrighteous dominion can follow many patterns… Examples of Unrighteous Dominion…Another sister called on the telephone. Her concern was that her husband regularly purchased pornographic magazines and that every night he watched explicit videos and movies and then made inappropriate and offensive demands of her. Despite this culpable behavior—kept secret from priesthood leaders until his wife’s anguished telephone call—this man had served as a temple worker… Misunderstood and Misused Scriptures …1. Too often, scriptural teachings are taken out of context by those who are guilty of unrighteous dominion….Do I insist that family members obey me because I am the father or husband and hold the priesthood?… If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then we may need to evaluate our relationship with our family members. For one who holds the priesthood, the best test as to whether he is trying to control the lives of family members can be found by examining his relationship with the Lord.”
    Elder Joseph B Wirthlin, “…the principle of compensation. The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.” (October 2008 Come What May, and Love It).
    “Because sexual intimacy is so sacred, the Lord requires self-control and purity before marriage, as well as full fidelity after marriage…Tears inevitably follow transgression. Men, take care not to make women weep, for God counts their tears.” Thomas S. Monson, “Standards of Strength,” New Era, 10-08, 5

    “As we live on earth we must walk in faith…‘I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold I will heal thee’ (2 Kings 20:5). Some of the healing may take place in another world. We may never know why some things happen in this life. The reason for some of our suffering is known only to the Lord.” —James E. Faust, “Where Do I Make My Stand?” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 21

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. You have so much strength and such a great attitude!

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  6. I just found your blog today. Thank you for having so much courage. I knew deep down I could not be the only LDS wife/mother who struggles with these issues.

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  7. Fantastic story, so much truth in what was shared. I agree with everything said above. I think what the Stake president said was more than likely interpreted correctly by you. To maybe give some thought from where the stake president may be coming from I also think there are some instances where the male unrighteous dominion can go in the other direction as well.
    One particular husband, a friend of mine, was, I'm not sure of the word, but he felt a bit belittled or unloved for to be sexually active with his wife. There's obviously a lot of deeper issues going on, but on one spectrum when he thought he was being respectful and going without sex for several months at a time, trying to be good, when he approached his wife it required the commitment of various deeds, from buying a car to washing dishes and bathrooms for the next two weeks, etc. I'm not saying a man shouldn't do those things, and while I didn't live with them to know, he expressed that he considered himself one who volunteered this type of help anyways. He wanted to go to a bishop for help but thought it wouldn't do any good, asked me what I thought I'd do. I didn't know what to say, so I said maybe you should tell her how it makes you feel to "earn" sex, like you feel like you disgust her and will only do it for favors.

    I only bring this up as maybe there's a little of this happening out there and guys don't know how to express it? Also I'm sure that much of it is also lust driven. While I agree a person has the right to say no, I also feel a yes shouldn't require extra deeds, but rather a recognition of deeds already done and love already expressed and a type of celebration of that connection, not a hostage to favors.

    What you've said is right on, what your husband said is right on. Kudos to you two. I hope what I've posted only adds to the discussion on this topic and not take away.

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Thank you for sharing a moment with me:-)

Ezekiel 34:11-12,16

"For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick"