Anxious and struggling…

Anxious and struggling… May 11, 2011
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.   

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