Dear 100 Hour Board,
Someone just asked about in-vitro and whether there was anything in the Church handbook about it. That reminded me of a time when I heard my former Bishop say that "oral sex is an abomination to the Lord, even within the bonds of marriage." But I don't think I've ever seen anything in the handbook against it nor have I heard any of the Brethren speak out against it. The Bishop in this story was actually saying it to a friend of mine as counsel and he was saying it like it was official doctrine of the Church, which seems kind of wrong to me. Seems like he (the Bishop) should let the guy and his wife decide. So, I'm not trying to make anyone uncomfortable with this question but I'm curious, was that Bishop out of line? and where does the Church stand on this issue?
That's one of those things that is between you, your spouse, and the Lord. Last I heard (we had a discussion on that in class last year) there was no official doctrine besides that which says you should not do anything which takes the Holy Ghost away. If having oral sex with your spouse feels wrong to you and takes the Spirit away (or feels wrong to your spouse), don't do it. If not, it's up to you (and your spouse).
I found a lot of interesting history out about this topic when researching my answer. The Church's official stance has changed from very black and white to more gray.
I copied the following two quotes from the LDS Marriage and Family Relations student manual (the yellow version) from the article "The Gospel Perspective on Morality" page 240.
"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... 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). "The First Presidency has interpreted oral sex as constituting an unnatural, impure, or unholy practice" (Letter of January 5, 1982 to all Stake Presidents, Bishops)."
"If it is unnatural, you just don't do it. That is all, and all the family life should be kept clean and worthy and on a very high plane. There are some people who have said that behind the bedroom doors anything goes. That is not true and the Lord would not condone it (Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings, p. 312)."
I also hear that less than a year after the First Presidency sent out the letter I put the quote in bold from in, they sent out another letter cautioning bishops/stake presidents not to pry into people's bedrooms. But temple recommend interviews included a new question on refraining from "unnatural, impure, or unholy practices." The definition provided for those who needed one statued that the brethren had determined that both oral and anal sex were "unnatural, impure, or unholy practices." In 1986 the question was removed.
I also have had at least one BYU religion professor (Brinley) teach in class that oral sex is wrong. He pointed out a quote in the current marriage manual that (of course) I can't find anymore in my copy, that talked about women whose husbands want them to perform "unnatural acts" or something along those lines, and my religion teacher's comment was, "He was being sensitive and didn't come right out and say 'oral sex,' but that's what he meant." I also remember hearing someone else in the last year say the same thing. If I don't have real quotes by the time this is posted, maybe someone else knows what I'm talking about.
I wrote Bro. Brinley, asking him for sources. This is what he sent me:
Letter from President Harold B. Lee marked confidential:
May 17, 1973
I am directed by President Harold B. Lee to acknowledge your letter of May 10, 1973. Normally, your letter would be referred to your Bishop who would counsel with you and give you answers to your questions. In this instance, however, in view of the intimately personal nature of your inquiry, a reply is being sent to you direct. In answer to a similar inquiry which President Lee recently received, he responded as follows:
I was shocked to have you raise the question about ‘oral lovemaking in the genital area among married couples.' Heaven forbid any such degrading activities which would be abhorrent in the sight of the Lord. For any Latter-day Saint, and particularly those who have been taught in the sacred ordinances of the temple, to engage in any kind of perversions of this sacred God-given gift of procreation, would be sure to bring down the condemnation of the Lord whom we would offend were we to engage in any such practice.
Trusting that this information will be helpful to you, I am
D. Arthur Haycock
Secretary to President Harold B. Lee
Letter to all Priesthood Leaders, January 5, 1982.
Married persons should understand that if in their marital relations they are guilty of unnatural, impure, or unholy practices, they should not enter the temple unless and until they repent and discontinue any such practices. Husbands and wives who are aware of these requirements can determine by themselves their standing before the Lord. All of this should be conveyed without having priesthood leaders focus upon intimate matters which are a part of husband and wife relationships. Skillful interviewing and counseling can occur without discussion of clinical details by placing firm responsibility on individual members of the Church to put their lives in order before exercising the privilege of entering a house of the Lord. The First Presidency has interpreted oral sex as constituting an unnatural, impure, or unholy practice. If a person is engaged in a practice which troubles him enough to ask about it, he should discontinue it.
Anyone guilty of verbal or physical child or spouse abuse should not enter the temple. . .
N. Eldon Tanner
Marion G. Romney
Gordon B. Hinckley
Response of the First Presidency if you write them about it today:
This response was sent to a woman who wrote them about summer of 2002. I have included her response before she quotes from the letter she received from the 1st Presidency:
On the issue of oral sex, it became so heated before he left that I finally told my husband I would write to Salt Lake if we could just find an answer that would satisfy us both. Up to this point he discredits the information you sent because his Stake President gave him the idea of "anything goes" in marriage. He takes a current Stake President over a dead prophet. Anyway, I thought I would share with you the reply I received back from Salt Lake. I would like to know your opinion when you get time.
"As you know, the subject set out in your letter is of a highly personal nature and one for which the First Presidency has not provided detailed response. The Brethren have counseled those who conduct worthiness interviews to avoid explicit questioning beyond the scope of what is contained in the temple recommend book. Persons who have been through the temple are aware of the responsibility to keep their thoughts and actions pure and, furthermore, have been counseled to avoid any unholy, unnatural, or impure practice. If a person is engaged in a practice which troubles him or her enough to ask about it, he or she should discontinue it. With this in mind you can, through your personal supplication to our Father in Heaven, receive the guidance you may feel you need." The letter is signed "Michael Watson".
Michael Watson is the secretary to the First Presidency.
Seeing as the Church's stance seems to have changed a little over time, I guess if one spouse is bothered by it, it's wrong--at least for them. I think it's important that a couple not do anything one of them is uncomfortable with, but I also think it's important for them to remember that not "everything goes" behind the bedroom doors.
Probably so. If a bishop makes his opinion seem like official doctrine, (which has not been the case for two decades) then there is a problem. As far as what sexual practices are appropriate, ask two simple questions:
(1) Is it potentially dangerous?
(2) Does it make either person feel objectified?
These may seem vague, but they're clear to each couple. As applied to oral sex, rule #2 here applies for many couples. Many others are just not interested. If a married couple feels that this is an appropriate expression of love, then they shouldn't worry about it.
p.s. This question should serve to remind everyone that they should discuss sex with their betrothed about a month before the wedding.
I hesitated to respond to this question, but after some encouragement, I will make remark or so.
FCSM's reference to the 1982 letter by the First Presidency was the first that I had heard of it. Even with the several classes I have had that have focused or touched on intimacy in marriage, I hadn't heard that letter discussed. Since I read her comments, I have found a copy of the letter and read it. The letter is straight forward and clear. However, the lack of any specific references to it seems to reinforce the fact that the letter's intent and message was countered by further counsel at a later time.
What I have heard referenced numerous times is an article by President Howard W. Hunter:
"Tenderness and respect-never selfishness-must be the guiding principles in the intimate relationship between husband and wife. Each partner must be considerate and sensitive to the other's needs and desires.I have also heard the quote by President Kimball that FCSM mentioned, though not as much. There is a quote by Elder Packer:
"Keep yourselves above any domineering or unworthy behavior in the tender, intimate relationship between husband and wife. . . . Any domineering, indecent, or uncontrolled behavior in the intimate relationship between husband and wife is condemned by the Lord." -Ensign, Nov. 1994, p. 51.
"I must include a caution to you who are married. A couple may be tempted to introduce things into your relationship which are unworthy. . . . If you do, the tempter will drive a wedge between you. If something unworthy has become part of your relationship, don't ever do it again! Now, what exactly do I mean by that? You know what I mean by that, and I will not respond to any questions about it. We do not, in our counseling, enter the bedrooms of members of the Church." -The Fountain of Life.While the church seems to have done much in retracting the official statement that oral sex is sinful, they have left us guidelines to instruct us on what is appropriate and what is not. Does the unnatural or unworthy behaviors that we are cautioned against encomapss bondage (simulation of rape) and sadistic/masochistic (infliction of pain on others or self in sexual gratification) behavior? Does it encompass anal sex? Does it encompass oral sex? Referring back to the last last sentence of Elder Packer's quote, the church will not come out and say.
Does this do much to answer your question? I hope that it does much in helping you answer your own question. As a final thought, let me quote you the line final line in the paragraph of the letter that FCSM quoted from at the start of her post: "If a person is engaged in a practice which troubles him enough to ask about it, he should discontinue it."
My marriage prep teacher who used Brinley's information and curriculum used the "if it's unnatural or uncomfortable or takes the Spirit away, don't do it" approach. She specifically stated that as of now, "unnatural" was not defined, but some obvious things could be extrapolated, like anal sex and threesomes being obvious no's because they violate other parts of the rules. The teacher also said the same things Eowyn mentioned. I wonder if Eowyn was in my class.
It's possible. It was a marriage prep class I heard that in. I took it in the summer a year or two ago....
We'll have to figure that out at the next Board party.