Anxious and struggling…

I know you get this question a lot, and I know you don’t speak for the church officially, but I’m tired of the anxiety and depression that comes without knowing. Having struggled with pornography for a long time, I have just recently become clean. But the problem is that I no longer can tell the difference between what is ok between married couples and what is not.  I’m not married yet, but I really want to be.  To make things worse, I came a crossed a letter from the first presidency that was sent to the bishops in 1982, and it said that anything constituted as immoral, unnatural or unholy is sinful and should be discontinued, and how oral sex is one of those. I looked around and heard other general authorities say the same thing about sodomy, which I always thought to mean homosexuality, as when reading it in the bible it tells me to go there. I asked my parents about it and they told me that things change, because they were once discouraged to using birth control when they were first married. But why counsel in the first place? Are we going against the prophets? I read a couple of sites to further my research but it just lead to more confusion. One of the stories was of a man who basically said that elder Packer’s council against masturbation was a load of malarkey and it’s really beautiful.
I just have been sinning for so long I don’t want to be missing out on the blessings anymore by sinning, even unwittingly. If oral sex between married couples was once considered wrong, why is it now ok? Isn’t sex supposed to be for procreation only? Why does the church insist on monitoring even the bedroom? I just want to make the woman I marry happy. I guess I just can’t wrap my mind around the fact that they once said no oral sex or even talking dirty in bed, and now they leave it up to us. That’s like saying pornography and masturbation is wrong and then then turning around and saying go ahead and go crazy! I apologize if I digress or seem upset, I just want to be able to please my future wife sexually without feeling like I’m ignoring Christ and the prophets and sinning. I apologize for the length, and really appreciate you taking the time to review this.I left a donation for your time. I’ve been struggling with my testimony recently, and I’ve been afraid that I cannot tell the difference between my thoughts, Satan, or the Lord prompting me. I would worry about the “oral sex is bad thing” that was going around because it came from the first presidency. But, my parents, two bishops, and countless others have told me that it is not and the rule is no longer taught.  One bishop hadn’t even heard of any rule like that. Seems like enough to convince me, right? Apparently not, because the anxiety would return a little while later. So I began to wonder if the Lord is trying to get through to me that I am not receiving answers from him but from Satan. Even though when I feel like I’ve gotten an it’s ok from all these people and even the Lord when I prayed about it, why do I still feel anxious about the subject? My bishop himself said that I wasn’t disobeying the prophets, so why won’t the anxiety go away. I read that if you’re not in an authority position in the church than your revelations are not from the Lord. I just hate feeling good about it at one moment and the next like I’m receiving messages from Satan. 

Some thoughts:

  • No, sex isn’t only for procreation – it’s also for bonding and for pleasure.  
  • I believe the church has made a concerted effort to monitor what goes on between married individuals in the bedroom less and less.  Most of their current statements about marital sex speak to issues of infidelity, abuse or coercion.  In fact there is no mention of restrictions on oral sex within the official church handbook of instructions.  
  • Contradictions within church statements are unfortunately a large part of our history on a variety of topics.  As a church organization we are not immune to cultural and societal bias of the times.  This is why personal revelation and discernment are such key principles to being a healthy and mature Mormon adult.  The letter you refer to was, in my understanding, rescinded and never put forth as official church policy.  Our leaders make mistakes too.  One of the struggles even Joseph Smith talked about regularly is knowing when one is speaking in the name of God and when one is speaking from one’s own experiences and best intent.  I believe the majority of the council we get at church is of good worth, can benefit our lives and falls under the heading of “inspired.”  However, this does not make everything we hear over a pulpit infallible.  This is a dilemma for faithful latter-day saints who very much desire to follow the prophets and heed inspired direction.  Each member deals with this dilemma in uniquely personal ways taking into account their own circumstances, personality, culture, family, and relationship with God. 
  • If you look under “oral sex” in the blog topics you will find a lot more information that might be useful in helping you explore your own thoughts and feelings towards this topic. 
  • Great questions!  The fact that you were able to address behaviors towards pornography and that you are willing to ask these types of questions, leads me to believe you will be successful in your endeavors as a future spouse.  All marriages struggle.  Yet, when we can honestly question and face our fears we are in a better space to move forward in health.   
  • As far as your third paragraph, some red flags went up for me.  My guess, without being able to officially assess or diagnose you, would be that you might be suffering from scrupulosity – a form of OCD.  I would recommend seeing a psychiatrist and/or psychologist for a psychiatric evaluation and medication consult.    

These are some books you may find helpful if scrupulosity is an issue:

-I would also recommend that you listen to the podcast on Mormon Stories on this topic:

Your Heavenly Father loves you and cheers for your joy, progress and physical/emotional health.  I think at times we tend to forget that His teachings and guidance are there for our benefit, not His.  As a parent myself, I cannot imagine wanting or intending for my advice or teaching of correct principles to bring about depression/anxiety to my children.  I would only offer those things in hopes of buoying the exact opposite.  I would encourage you to explore this type of relationship with your deity.  

Good luck and I wish you the very best in the dating months/years ahead.   

  • Mrs. Froh

    I think it also helps (at least in my marriage) to have a conversation right from the get go about how we each view different acts. That way you both know what the other thinks is wrong, right, or in between. Keeping in mind that ultimately when it comes to your marriage the opinions and feelings of your spouse and self matter more than the feelings and opinions of speakers.

  • Gina

    I agree with Mrs. Froh. Being able to talk in a frank and mature manner about what each member of the couple is OK with.

  • Anonymous

    Hi there,I am a 21 year old single Male and have been dealing with OCD for about 5 years now. I have recently discovered, by reading your blog, that my conditions perfectly fit the description of hyper active libido. I have struggled with masturbation for much of those 5 years and could not figure out why I could not stop. I do not view pornography, and consider that a blessing. However my drive keeps me committing that sexual action of masturbation over and over. It happens at least a few times a week if not every day, depending on the week. Recently I was put on an upped dosage (30 mg) of lexapro for my depression, and it helped to lower the libido somewhat. However, I still mentally have the desire to commit the act. In one experience it took a whole half an hour for the orgasm to occur, this I attribute to the lexapro. However due to my OCD, I was constantly battling with my self wether I should be doing what I was doing while in process, though had no intention of stopping, as I felt I had to finish. This internal battle caused me to nearly faint with mental stress. My concern is, there is currently no specific doctrine from the church on this issue given the circumstance of having OCD and therefore hyper active libido. I constantly am feeling guilty during the process of doing the act, and it makes me feel miserable, yet somehow I can't stay away from it, even though I am not feeding it with pornography. I have recently found that I am more at peace because of counsel from a friend about the savior and his atonement, how he will cover the "sin" of my action whether it was due to illness or physical appetite, he only requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I realize i have kind of answered my own question, but I would love to see if you have any additional advice, I would love to hear it. Thanks LDS church member 9999

  • Anonymous

    Anxious and Struggling: Why do you wish to cross the marriage bridge before you arrive at it? WHEN you marry, your relationship will be between you and your husband and God. All others stay OUT. As long as you feel good about what you do, and your future wife feels the same, as long as neither of you feel degraded or humiliated or otherwise compromised, what you and she will do behind closed doors is between you alone. I don't share with my Bishop or with any other ecclesiastical leader what I do with my wife, or when or where or how. That is no one else's business! Period! I gather that you have grown tremendously, but that you aren't at all set yet, on what you believe and where you stand, regarding your own sexuality, alone and independent as well as interdependent once you are married. Regarding Oral Sex, I look at it like I'd look at Ice Cream? Some folks like NUTS, others don't. Some like Chocolate or even more extravagant flavors and others play it safe with pure Vanilla. One is no better or different than another. They are all just various flavors and who is anyone else to tell you what flavor to like or not to like?Ask the Lord and He will tell you what is right and He'll clearly point out to you where Satan may be distracting you.If you see confusion and a lack of clarity among several different church authorities on sexual issues, what does that tell you? You must reach out to the source, to get your own revelation about WHAT WORKS FOR YOU, and to heck with all the confusing opinions that may swirl around you. I firmly believe if you'll stay tuned here to Natasha's blog, and read Everything you can get your eyes on and ask questions, here and in blogs, among others, mormon and non-mormon too, you will see your thinking and behavior clarified, over time. Shame and guilt are important but I think that far too many in and out of the church are needlessly tormented by self-imposed grief and shame and guilt based on nothing. Lay every aspect of your life out before you and look to see if any guilt and shame are a bit unbalanced, considering all the good you do. You are too tough on yourself, from where I see you.

  • Anonymous

    A few things came to mind when reading your post. If you have talked to Bishops and know that the leaders are no longer specific on what goes on in the bedroom, trust that. Pray about the counsel you received from the Bishop, and if you feel peace, hang on to that. As members of the church, we know that certain principles or commandments have been set, and then later taken away (e.g plural marriage). It's ok for counsel to change as times change. We know for sure certain laws will never change. We also know that modern day revelation is what we follow. I believe that the sexual intimacy between a married couple is based on what they are comfortable with. It's something between you, your spouse, and God. Sex is for procreation AND the expression of love and commitment between a married couple. You know for sure that pornography is wrong. It's spoken of at every conference session. Unlike the information you dug up on oral sex, knowing if infidelity or pornography is wrong is very clear. Be comfortable with the counsel from the Bishop, when you are married discuss it with your wife.

  • Anonymous

    Anon 16May 12:04 am; You are correct. Some laws are immutable while others are interpreted according to the times and seasons. I think it's great that leaders are more flexible today than 20 to 30 years ago. Bonezsanchiro12 to chat on yahoo

  • Anonymous

    I am in the middle of a divorce and struggling with coming to grips with things my wife has done. My wife displayed many symptoms of a cluster 'B' personality. Our marriage counselor didn't want to go that far and pointed out that low to zero self-esteem can produce many of the same symptoms.My wife started growing very distant from me ten years ago. That accelerated five years ago. Just over a year ago, she adopted what might be called a scorched earth policy by telling friends and family terrible things about me, usually in ways where the listener would assume the worse. (For example, she accused me of being a sex addict, even though she was the one pushing me away–our marriage counselor got very frustrated with this since my wife would moderate her accusations during sessions to the point where the counselor was basically asking "are you kidding me?" and my wife refused to answer.)We had stopped going to church many years ago, though I never stopped her from going. Last summer she suddenly started going back to church. She eventually talked to her bishop who offered to have us get counseling through the church. She declined.The day after she asked for the divorce, she went to church and told me later that she talked to the bishop and that he said he's there to support her. She then indicated that she'd talked to the bishop many times, not just once before.Needless to say I'm livid about the whole thing. I tried hard to keep this marriage together and it now feels like my wife was never trying. Be that as it may, I'm really disturbed that the bishop never talked to me. I don't know why this bothers me so much (I am inactive after all), but it does. A lot. Should I talk to him in a non-confrontational way?(As for the rest. How does one cope when there are no answers. My wife has almost completely dissassociated herself from her past actions and absolutely refuses to admit any culpability beyond a generic "we're both at fault." It's maddening. It's only now I've discovered just how extensive her "scorched earth" policy was. I'm only discovering some of this now, way after the damage was done, and have no idea how to even begin to undo some of this, or if it's even possible.)

  • Anonymous

    Some thoughts for Mid-Divorce: After reading through your comments about your wife or rather soon-to-be ex-wife, it seems to me that you are making the right move to separate from her. She sounds disconnected from reality. Of course, we are just getting your side, but I have known friends in your position and in the position of you wife as well. Ultimately, you can only control you; what you think, what you do and say, where you go. You have no control over her at all. I reckon that when a marriage is a partnership, when it involves both partners working together, giving often more than they receive, then the relationship works and grows and strengthens. When it's two people moving quickly in opposite directions, it's really a matter of sharing rent and space and not a marriage at all. I can't imagine facing what you are now. It must be heart-wrenching. Until she grows up though, I don't see how you can maintain your own sanity in this current relationship. Most important is to look at and fully understand what went wrong with this, so that the future can be different. bonezsanchiro12 (yahoo chat)

  • Anonymous

    Gina & Ms. Froh: Two words come to my mind when reading your comments: Communication and Selfishness/Selflessness. Here's why. you both point out the vital importance of communicating, of sharing questions and ideas and exploring every aspect of a future and hopefully eternal relationship. Such an eternal bond can never survive the challenges of life unless based firmly on communication on every detail of life. Thanks for your comments!!Bonez/sanchiro12

  • Anonymous

    A follow up to my post on May 16, 2011 6:09 PM.After much thought I decided to write my now ex-wife's bishop. I stopped at the chapel to get his address from a tithing envelope and he was there, so I talked to him in person.To my great surprise, despite the insinuations of my then wife, she didn't tell him much of anything. He knew there were marital issues and that's it until January when she simply told him that the love wasn't there. Next thing he knew, we were divorced! It was a pleasure to talk to him and took a burden from my shoulders.(BTW, my then wife's comment is very revealing to me. This was in the middle of marriage counseling that I felt was working. Though the bishop was vague, I suspect my then wife's stated sentiments coincided with a counseling session where our counselor basically called her bluff of using innuendo and suggestion and pinned her down. My ex doesn't respond well to that at all, especially when she can't get away with her "but I didn't really mean THAT" excuse.I'm also sure my ex knew that this bishop wasn't going to let her get away with her innuendo; as he said, he would have called me in and then would have held my wife accountable for her exagerations and she wouldn't have been able to handle that.Unfortunately, this doesn't lift the mistrust I have now of several members of my family who heard even more outlandish claims than I was aware of from my then wife and said nothing.)Finally, I totally agree with Bonez that communication is important, but feel compelled to add that acting on that communication is critical. When James said that "faith without works is dead" he meant that if faith doesn't inspire you to do things that reflect that faith, it's not really faith at all.Toward the end of my marriage, my wife was barely communicating with me at all and when she did, her actions weren't reflective of her words. In short, she made lots of promises she didn't keep and actually argued with me that intending to keep them was good enough.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymouse:Touche! Yes, communication without action is ludicrous. I should have said that Communication is the vital starting point for change, followed by massive and committed action on the part of all involved. Direct response to 'sanchiro12' on yahoo chat or yahoo email