Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Sex and Exaltation

We Latter-Day Saints have a unique perspective on marriage.  That in turn give us a perspective on marital intimacy that is also unique, but I think in many cases we do not fully appreciate the importance sex when it comes to our own exaltation in the kingdom of God.

Now I can tell from the stats for this blog that there are more than a few visitors that come here from Christian marriage websites that are not LDS, and that is great.  I hope you feel welcome here.  Most of the things I've posted have been principles that are pretty universally accepted across all Christian faiths, even if I do quote from sources that a non-Mormon would not consider authoritative.

This post will be different.  I'm going to delve into some doctrines unique to Mormonism and how they relate to the intimate side of marriage.  Those of you who are not Mormons are welcome to read on, and I'll try and make it understandable for you as I can by explaining and linking to sites that will explain concepts you may not be familiar with.  There are some things however that you may find hard to accept or even offensive.  I hope you will use this as an opportunity to understand Mormons better.  If you have questions you can post them as comments and I'll be happy to address them, but disrespect, hostility, trolling etc. will not be tolerated.

Right From The Start
We believe that before mortal life our spirits lived with God, and he created the earth for us to have a place to obtain a physical body (among other reasons).  We do not know much about our premortal life, but one thing we do know is that even as premortal spirits we had a gender.  The Proclamation on the Family states:  "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose."

Consider the implications of that.  Your gender is not solely a physical characteristic, your spirit itself is male or female, matching the gender of the body (barring genetic abnormalities), and it was like that even before your birth.  The Brother of Jared saw the premortal Christ and thought he was seeing a man of flesh and blood, yet Christ told him that the body of his spirit was as his physical body would appear after his birth (Ether 3:8-16)

In Paradise And Mortality
In the creation God made Adam and Eve, who were male and female beings.  He made them husband and wife to each.  They were sexual beings, married and able to lawfully enjoy sexual intimacy when the earth was still a paradise untouched by sin.  In fact they were commanded other to have children, become one flesh and to cleave to each other. (Gen 2:24-25)  This again underscores the eternal nature of our sexuality, and also indicates that the ideal eternal state desired by God is for a man and a woman to be together as husband and wife in a marriage that includes sexual intimacy.

From all this we can see that our sexual nature doesn't end with the death of the body, it is an eternal characteristic of who we are.

Salvation, Exaltation and Sexual Intimacy
Thanks to Christ`s atonement, at some point after death comes the Resurrection. Every person who has ever lived will be resurrected and have a perfected and immortal version of their physical body having the same gender they were born with. (Alma 11:44).

Right after the Resurrection comes the Final Judgement.  While Christ`s atonement saves all mankind from death unconditionally, salvation from sin comes on condition of repentance (Luke 13:3).  Those who have been washed clean in the blood of the lamb are judged and will be assigned to one of the Three Degrees of Glory (or Three Kingdoms of Glory) according to their works (Rev 20:12).  Anybody who makes it to any of those kingdoms is saved from sin and death, but only those who make it to the highest glory are exalted.

One thing that really sets Mormonism apart from other Christian faith is our belief that because of the atonement we have the potential to become like God.  This was actually something that several early Christian fathers like Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen and others taught in the early days of the church.  Only those who make it to the Celestial Kingdom will be able to obtain exaltation but they also need to be in an eternal marriage (D&C 131:1-2).  Often we think of that only in terms of having the temple ceremony done to seal a marriage for time and all eternity, but really there are 3 components that are needed for a marriage to be eternal.

1) The willingness of both the husband and the wife
2) The sealing ordinance performed by Priesthood authority
3) The sealing of the covenant by the Holy Spirit of promise

It is only after the Holy Spirit of promise seals the marriage that it truly is eternal, and that doesn't happen until the Final Judgement.  Being married in the temple by itself doesn't mean anything if spouses do not keep their covenants, or if their life together is so unpleasant that they no long wish to be together forever.  If either spouse is no longer willing on judgment day, the Holy Spirit of promise will not seal it and the marriage will come to an end there (D&C 132:18).

Couples who do qualify for the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom receive the greatest blessings possible:
Doctrine & Covenants 132:19-20
19 
And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection;... and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fullness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
 20 Then shall they be gods, because they have no end;... (D&C 132:19-20)
God's law is that sexual relationships must only take place between a husband and wife, and because of that sex has been called the defining characteristic of marriage.  From the above however we can see that in the eternities sexual intimacy is also a defining characteristic of godhood itself.  Only those who are exalted to that level will have a spouse, and through that intimacy they will have 'continuation of seeds forever and ever' and 'have no end'.  This point was also touched on recently by Sister Nelson speaking at a recent YSA Worldwide Fireside where she said "God-ordained marital intimacy is glorious and will continue eternally for covenant-keeping husbands and wives."

Putting Sexual Intimacy Into An Eternal Perspective
This is why sexual intimacy is such a sacred thing.  It is why abuses like homosexuality or fornication or adultery are serious moral wrongs, because they desecrate something sacred and godly. It is also why it is important for spouses to work out how to have a mutually satisfying intimate relationship with each other. 

It is so much more than finding a way to live together happily in mortality.  It is a stewardship we will have to account for, and like in the parable of the talents a spouse is expected to put they God given sexuality to good use, not bury it like the unprofitable servant.  The bottom line is that when spouses work to improve the intimate side of their marriage they are working towards their exaltation and preparing for eternity.  Perfection will not be achieved in this world in this or any other area, but working to improve in this area is something we should take as serious as working to improve our faith and obedience to God.